How Innovative Companies Use IoT Sensors to Build Better Workplaces

by James McDonald on November 1, 2017

The layout of your workspace either enhances productivity, communication and employee satisfaction — or it doesn’t.

The best way to improve your workplace is by looking at the actual data of how employees are interacting with your space.Unfortunately, knowing for sure whether or not your workplace falls into that first category is difficult. Employee feedback isn’t exactly a reliable source of intel because it’s inherently biased. Plus, employees may not even realize where they spend the most time or are legitimately the most productive. The only dependable way to gain vital insight and improve your workplace design is by aggregating objective data.

In order to collect this data and better understand how employees interact with space and utilize resources, many organizations have implemented an integrated workplace management system (IWMS). However, the most innovative companies are upping the ante by adopting and integrating sensors connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) into their IWMS platforms.

IoT sensors track employee activity and space utilization by using features like microphones and motion detectors to detect movement and sound. The data generated by this technology provides facilities leaders with even greater detail about how employees use space and resources. What’s more, it reveals information about employee activity, like how employees interact with one another, and how the environment impacts satisfaction and productivity.

Here are a few progressive organizations who are taking advantage of sensor technology in order to improve their workplaces.

Bank of America

One of the first companies to take advantage of sensor technology in the workplace was Bank of America (BoA). Curious about how group dynamics impacted employee performance, BoA recruited 90 call center employees to wear sensors for several weeks. The sensors didn’t monitor conversations, but they did monitor tone of voice and body movements.

After studying the data collected by the sensors, the company discovered that when employees took breaks simultaneously, they would collaborate together to solve workplace problems. To foster these types of team troubleshooting sessions, BoA began planning group breaks for employees. As a result of these additional opportunities for social interaction, productivity jumped by 10 percent.

Tyréns AB

Swedish-based Tyréns AB is a provider of urban planning and infrastructure consulting services. Recently, the firm decided to embark on a mission to not only achieve a more thorough understanding of how individuals interact with the buildings in which they work but also find a way to share this information with architects, building managers and property owners.

Per Bjälnes, Building Information Modeling and IoT Strategist at Tyréns, reached out to IBM to help the company with performing a real-life analysis of space utilization and the workplace environment. Tyréns worked with IBM Business Partners Intel, Yanzi and SVSi to install 1,000 IoT sensors in Tyréns AB’s Stockholm headquarters. Shortly thereafter, the sensors began transmitting data about workplace conditions such as temperature and humidity as well as employee activities like movement and light use.

With this information, Tyréns gained real-time visibility into every part of the building at all times, enabling the building manager to make data-driven decisions about improving energy efficiency and maintaining a comfortable workplace.

Cubist Pharmaceuticals

In 2012, Cubist Pharmaceuticals asked 30 members of its sales and marketing team to wear connected sensor badges, similar to those used by BoA.

The data from the IoT sensors showed that when employees had face-to-face interactions with colleagues, they had higher productivity. Unfortunately, during lunch employees would retreat to their desks to eat, read emails and browse the internet.

In an effort to encourage more socialization among the workforce, Cubist redesigned its cafeteria to be more inviting and removed all but one water cooler and one coffee station. As workplace leaders strive to better understand the intersection of people and workspaces, the ability to collect and make sense of real-time data will differentiate the innovative from the unresourceful. Workplace management systems integrated with IoT sensors create a remarkable vantage point over the office environment. With this perspective, deliberate, educated decisions can be made about the workplace and resources to optimize productivity and nurture employee happiness.

To discover how other leading organizations are using IoT sensors, check out our IoT sensors eBook


James McDonald

James McDonald is a sports enthusiast, brother in Christ and once swam in a tank with the infamous TV sharks.

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