January 20, 2017

Guest blog: The evolving office with data – make your workplace more sustainable and flexible

Tuomo Saramaa

Director of Strategy and Service Excellence and Member of the Management Board of ISS Palvelut, ISS Palvelut

Today's digital environment means the workplace is changing I don't just mean the way people work - though that's certainly evolving as technologies such as mobile and flexible working become more commonplace. But the actual workspaces themselves are also undergoing a revolution in order to cope with the greater demands of their users.

The workplaces of tomorrow will need to break from traditionally-accepted designs if they're to support how people expect to interact with them in a more agile, digitalized environment. There's likely to be a shift away from dedicated desks to shared workspaces that are more task-focused. So, for example, offices will set up different areas for concentration and collaboration.  

Behind the scenes, things will change as well. When it comes to facilities management, there is a huge amount of potential to improve the efficiency of spaces, with everything from maintenance to car parking able to be revolutionised through the use of data, improving both the efficiency and sustainability of operations.

A more sustainable workplace

One of the key benefits delivered by improved use of data will be enabling facilities managers to reduce their use of resources and create a more sustainable environment.

For example, when it comes to areas such as heating and air conditioning, sensors that monitor activity throughout the building will be able to tell exactly when they will be needed in certain areas. If, for example, a sensor spots there is a regular meeting at a certain time in a certain room that is otherwise unoccupied, it could automatically set the temperature and lights to be ready for it, then turn them off again afterwards without the need for manual intervention. 

Elsewhere, even the operations of a building's canteen could be transformed through the use of sensor data. If a manager is able to tell exactly how many employees are in the building on a given day, they can optimise the amount of food they prepare, therefore reducing waste and unnecessary costs. 

Such activities that help improve the sustainability and environment are likely to become even more important in the coming years as the attitudes of building users change. In the future, cultural shifts in how people view sustainability could see the next generation of workers choose or refuse work at a company based on how environmentally-friendly it is. Therefore, getting this right isn't just good for the balance sheet or productivity, it's also hugely beneficial to a business' reputation.

Don't overlook the potential of staff

The wide range of sensors built into tomorrow's workplaces will offer a huge amount of potential for companies to make their operations more flexible and efficient, but they're far from the only source of information firms will have to work with.

In fact, in the coming years, employees themselves could act as a new generation of sensors thanks to technology such as wearables. This could, for example, give companies an insight into how people feel about parts of a building and what drives them. By measuring stress levels and identifying potential causes of spikes, this can help firms build environments that meet the expectations of users and help drive creativity.

Of course, if companies are pursuing this, it's vital to maintain an open dialogue with employees and give them the freedom to choose how much information they share via such sensors. But by being transparent and ensuring people aren't asked to do anything they aren't comfortable with, businesses stand to reap significant benefits.

These examples are just the start of a new generation of data-driven workplace. There are potentially thousands of applications for this technology that are as yet untapped. But as these solutions mature and offer improved ability for buildings to connect with end users, this presents a massive opportunity for facility management services and smart buildings.

Find more about Data-Driven Businesses and unwrap the opprtunities of the future data-driven world.

ISS Palvelut is the third largest private employer in Finland, and the leading facility services company. We produce Cleaning, Property, Security and Catering Services for companies and the public sector. Through our operations, we create qualitative and financial value for our customers’ business operations. Our annual turnover amounted to EUR 503 million in 2015, and we employ over 10 000 people. ISS Palvelut is part of the international ISS Group which has activities in 77 countries. www.iss.fi www.issworld.com

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