OpenSensors blog

Why office buildings should run like spaceships

Posted by Yodit Stanton on November 2017
Yodit Stanton


Reading time: 3 minutes

Quashing the myth around sensors in the workplace. There's limited knowledge in the industry of how sensor tech work and most are scaremonged into believing that big brother is always watching. This couldn't be further from the truth and the benefits of reduced corporate real estate costs, optimised workspace and a happier working environment for employees out weigh the false perception. 

There have been several articles in the press about sensors used to create a workplace characterised by pervasive monitoring, turning it into a panopticon, a prison where every resident's activities are subject to surveillance. That is certainly a risk, but it's driven not by the technology per se but by how management, whether executive management or facilities management, intends to make use of the information.

Sensors help you understand what's being utilised

None of the sensors we deploy for occupancy monitoring do more than count - whether it's how many people are in a meeting room or if a desk is occupied. What I liked about Christopher Mims' approach is that he focused on how sensors can help to make workplaces healthier and more productive for employees.

The entire article is worth reading but here are two quotes that will give you a flavor. First his opening sentence:

"If you have ever yearned to work aboard the Starship Enterprise, take comfort: The newest office buildings have more in common with spaceships than you realise."

I think this is a much better metaphor for the likely impact of sensors on the workplace when deployed by intelligent and caring executives.

"Scientists have been trying for decades to figure out how to help humans survive long-haul missions in orbit and to Mars. They take into account light levels, temperature, humidity and dozens of other factors including working styles. The biggest difference between that research and what’s happening here on Earth is that office optimisation isn’t about survival, but productivity—getting the most out of every worker."

Building an sustainable future

I would say our approach to office optimisation is to enable micro-climates or neighbourhoods that allow each employee and the teams they are members of, to be more productive using evidence based design and a clear understanding of the activities they need to engage in to get their job done.

Areas for people who spend a lot of writing may look different than those who spend a lot of time on the phone and work environments that enable intense ongoing collaboration will be different even more so.

Over the course of any given day or week an employee may spend different amounts of time in each area. Sensors help you understand what's being utilised and coupled with ongoing direct communication with employees, will allow facilities management and executives to continue to adapt and refine the environments to improve employee health and productivity.

Yodit Stanton quoted in the WSJ Article 'Why Office Buildings Should Run Like Spaceships' 8 Oct 2017.  Read full article here

Want to find out more on workspace occupancy sensors?

Learn more about how we help customers get a complete picture of workspace occupancy with our workplace utilisation data software to plan for future property investments. 

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Content topics: Enabling smart buildings, Facilities and Workplace trends

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