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IoT at work: How IoT empowers employee productivity

Most management teams set goals and strategies to empower employees to be more productive. There are hundreds of articles, books, even TED Talks focused on how to create a productive and motivated work environment, offering tips on how to clearly outline expectations, provide adequate feedback and create economic incentives. But one often overlooked strategy to promote productivity lies in the organization’s physical infrastructure and the technology that powers it.

Today, the intelligent, networked and fully sensored building is one of the most valuable applications of the rapidly-evolving internet of things. Be it in industrial spaces like manufacturing floors or more traditional office settings, the smart building has proven to dramatically increase employee productivity, engagement and happiness — a big win for both management and the brave new world of advanced infrastructures. Here’s how those sensor-based applications, from intelligent lighting to asset tracking technology (or even a combination of the two), make it happen:

Responsive or individualized environmental settings

Connected platforms can consider occupancy, time of day and available daylight in order to maximize energy savings without employee distraction. For example, intelligent lighting systems offer dim settings so that light only goes on in a section of a facility or is dimmed at a certain level or rate depending on staff utilization, occupancy or availability of natural light, which makes for a friendlier, less distracting environment. This is particularly useful for third-shift employees, as lights can be set to a level designed to help employees stay awake as they work through the night.

Additionally, connected lighting platforms with temperature and humidity sensors can integrate with HVAC systems and dynamically adjust facility temperatures according to time of day, outdoor temperature, etc., to ensure a pleasant working environment for a particular employee or group.

Advanced systems may also feature mobile-based controls that offer employees the ability to use their smartphone to create customized light settings, temperature thresholds and more within their own personal workspace.

Streamlining processes with data and automation

IoT-enabled building systems can provide real-time access to the location of employees. This data can generate important insights into workflows, occupancy and efficiencies (or inefficiencies), which management can take into consideration when mapping out inventory plans, recruiting practices and more.

For example, Google and Outlook calendars can be integrated with building networks to best utilize space and automate processes, from detecting occupancy in, and automatically booking, a conference room to automatic adjustments in lighting or temperature based on time of day or employee preferences.

The data collected by networked solutions can also create a more considered, and more aware, work environment. Office floor plans can be optimized based on traffic or assembly patterns, and designed to inspire better collaboration between teams, as well as provide easier access to business critical conference rooms or resources. The result? Fewer distractions for employees, and an environment that can be a subtle, but important, influence in an organization’s success.

Improved inventory and asset management

Another critical application the smart building offers for employee productivity relates to asset tracking via indoor positioning technology. By adding beacons to intelligent light fixtures and tagging assets, like inventory, managers can have real-time access to the exact location of the assets. This solves the “where is the box?” problem that many warehouses face, and allows facility staff to stay efficient and therefore more engaged.

Asset management technology can also contribute to the bottom line. One company saved millions when its building data showed that rather than purchase a pricey new piece of equipment, they instead needed only to rearrange workflow and production schedules (which also made staff more efficient).

Enhancing facility security and safety

Smart solutions not only increase the physical security of a building, but also safety of the building’s equipment and emergency systems. While it may be obvious that intelligent lighting platforms can prevent break-ins by turning on the lights when the sensors detect movement, they can also automatically perform otherwise tedious and time-intensive system testing on a regular basis, ensuring that if the power goes out, emergency lighting is turned on. This testing can be critical to both employee safety and federal compliance requirements.

Separately, as these systems offer heat maps and occupancy data over time, facility mangers can identify high areas of traffic that require special attention to employee safety so they can strategically plan asset pathways to prevent accidents and decrease potential employee safety risks. To further maximize security, managers are also utilizing occupancy sensing data to create virtual fences around particular areas within a facility, sensing and alerting the manager in real-time if any trespassing has occurred.

All of these IoT-enabled preventative measures not only make employees feel safer at work, but reaffirm that management cares for their well-being, making them more engaged and feeling like a valued member of the team.

The bottom line: Why management should care

Management should take these tips for employee productivity into account, whether in the midst of a smart building overhaul or simply considering how an IT infrastructure retrofit might benefit the business. Employee productivity directly impacts good work and therefore an organization’s success, and a smart ecosystem can also make for a smart management decision.

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.