Can Remote Workers Replace the Need for Smart Buildings?

The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated immediate adaptations to our operations, and Works has risen to the challenge. In a mere matter of weeks, we have successfully acquired the skills to function remotely, automate processes, and migrate to cloud-based technologies. Consequently, many of our office-based team members have successfully adapted to working from alternate locations.

Advancements in COVID vaccinations and our improved knowledge of the virus have enabled the world to make strides in the right direction. As a result, numerous establishments are eager to resume normal operations and welcome back their workers. Nonetheless, practicalities may make this a challenging endeavour.

Return-to-work (RTO) regulations have posed a challenge for businesses worldwide, as many employees are hesitant to resume in-person operations. Inevitably, this has caused highly qualified professionals to choose to work for organisations with more flexible RTO policies, rather than those with more rigid guidelines.

Could This Be the End of Traditional Offices?

When contemplating whether to return to physical workplaces, it is crucial to assess the reasons behind it. Constraints placed on in-person operations have been scrutinised for potential disadvantages to customer service businesses. Additionally, there has been scrutiny of the effectiveness of work-from-home policies by some individuals.

According to the International Labor Organization, employment rates soared by an unprecedented 4.9% in 2023. Despite the challenging circumstances of COVID-19 lockdowns causing emotional distress, this record-high employment growth points towards a highly productive workforce in spite of adversity.

In the event of an employee achieving success, it can be tough to find the motivation to return to in-person work.

A recent Envoy survey discovered that 67% of employees reported a surge in productivity while working remotely. Interestingly, 31% of participants identified bothersome distractions like loud co-workers or noise as the most significant deterrent to their workplace productivity.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has somewhat abated, we must remain mindful of the risk of infectious diseases. To minimise the spread of illnesses, it is crucial that appropriate measures are taken to maintain sanitary conditions. Individuals who are more susceptible to illness or responsible for caring for elderly relatives ought to contemplate taking the precautionary measure of remaining at home since even a single sneeze in a closed space could lead to an outbreak.

Although alternatives to the traditional office layout exist, there are notable advantages to this arrangement. Research suggests that isolation can trigger mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression. Therefore, some individuals value regular interactions with colleagues via in-person work, even if it means commuting to and from the office.

Returning to a Completely Transformed World

Sticking to traditional work hours can be problematic for me, given my tendency to be more productive during the late hours of the night. When restricted to set working hours, I find I am only able to complete around half the work that I can when granted the freedom to work on my schedule.

A worldwide survey has revealed varying levels of pre-existing neural networks in individuals. To better align with their habits, some individuals may want to complete job tasks outside of normal working hours. Organisations that can provide this flexibility are currently enjoying a significant competitive advantage.

To meet RTO requirements, companies must exhibit not only their flexibility but also cultivate a workplace culture that actively involves its employees. This entails supplying the necessary resources, security measures, and prioritising employee wellbeing.

To tackle this issue, the notion of constructing “Smart Buildings” with contemporary amenities and ease-of-use features is being explored as a possible solution.

Defining a Smart Building

Smart buildings have been in existence for quite some time. Thanks to the integration of data-gathering technologies and Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems, the Internet of Things (IoT) has provided workplaces with the capability of advancing technologically through the use of real-time data-driven decision-making.

Post-COVID, adopting smart building technologies can serve as a useful measure towards preventing virus transmission. A lockdown system that conducts temperature checks of individuals upon entry into an office and alerts security if temperatures exceed safe levels is a prime example of such measures.

To prioritise the health of those who enter a building’s premises, the integrated questions within the access system can be used to conduct a preliminary health screening. In the event that an infected individual gains entry, the building can be configured to support contact tracing, allowing us to promptly notify anyone who has come into contact with the infected individual and to disinfect any affected areas.

Using touchless technologies presents numerous biosecurity advantages. With the use of sensors and wave technologies, we can interact with our surroundings without the need for physical contact.

Our mobile devices and software offer the potential to create a more engaging experience with the environment. Imagine being able to order your favourite coffee with just a few taps on your device during your lunch break. All you need to do is log in to the app and pick your preferred blend, and your beverage is ready for you to savour.

Apart from the assurance of occupant safety, smart buildings may also offer a variety of services. HVAC systems, for instance, can be controlled based on external temperatures and the building’s occupancy rate. Window coverings such as curtains and blinds can be automated or remotely adjusted to regulate the amount of natural light entering the building.

The Digitised Infrastructure

Smart buildings are intriguing as they are more than mere physical structures; they contain a data infrastructure, which can be remotely accessed via smart devices.

Let’s say you have a hybrid working schedule, and you require a meeting room in the office on a particular day. By using a mobile app, you can effortlessly browse through available rooms without having to call ahead or book in advance. By simply selecting an option, you can inform your colleagues of the upcoming event and reserve the required room.

On the day of the meeting, the use of GPS-enabled smartphones can provide a clear picture of who will arrive on time and who may run late. To add a touch of elegance, coffee can be prepared automatically before the arrival of guests.

The idea is that the workplace is no longer restricted to a single environment; it has transformed into a thriving ecosystem that we can interact with, regardless of our location.

Power Transmission Organisation Policies and Smart Structures

Contrary to the article’s title, smart buildings are not a substitute for telecommuting. It is crucial to acknowledge the significance of allowing flexible work arrangements if we want to encourage employees to return to the office.

Smart Buildings offer several advantages such as greater flexibility, seamless connectivity between work and home, and increased biosecurity measures to mitigate disease transmission risks.

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