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Where companies were once reluctant or slow to adopt innovative building technologies, the past couple of years have accelerated the demand for deep insights and a better understanding of the built environment – particularly spaces where large groups of individuals gather to work, collaborate or study.
Space underutilization or mismanagement of layout can significantly impact everything from productivity to well-being, energy efficiency, and profitability. This is where people counting analytics play a crucial role.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, hybrid or fully remote working models were swiftly adopted by organizations that previously required employees to be on-site every day. This has prompted some forward-thinking business leaders to consolidate or repurpose existing office space in a bid to minimize expenses and prepare for a future that requires considerable planning and redesign of office layout, addressing the glaring inefficiencies highlighted by the pandemic.
Understandably, many employees are reluctant to return to enclosed office spaces as concerns about social distancing, clean air circulation, and well-being remain top of everyone's mind. For this reason, informed business decisions are required to enable swift and effective optimizations, regardless of whether you're pursuing a hybrid work model or aim to have everyone back in the office full-time.
People will come out of the pandemic with a different view of their office space. The employer will have to [...] adapt.
Nick Stogdale, Irisys’ Customer.Success Director
Understanding the value of people counting in the workplace
When we talk about people counting in the context of office or commercial space, we're referring to a sophisticated approach that goes beyond simply understanding how many people are in your office or in a specific area of a building.
How does people counting work?
A people counting solution will use purpose-built technology, collecting and combining traffic data with other key performance indicators. The Irisys Vector 4D people counter, for example, when installed at an entryway, uses infrared time-of-flight technology to anonymously count people entering and exiting.
People counting sensors can also help you understand dwell time, desk occupancy and even distinguish between employee and visitor traffic. When all of this data comes together in real-time, high-level operational efficiency becomes achievable. Other integrated solutions can absorb this data and process automated decisions around lighting, HVAC, or booking systems.
People counting as a solution for safe and flexible workspaces
Although many employees are highly productive when working from home, there are vital elements of the in-office experience that contribute to better business outcomes and improved interpersonal relationships amongst colleagues.
Research by the UK’s Office of National Statistics shows that 85% of workers would prefer to work hybrid, which, in theory, is a fairly straightforward model to apply. But, in the context of recent events, implementing a hybrid working model also requires a high level of consideration about managing social distancing and preventing overcrowding. People counting sensors are indispensable in helping decision-makers accurately manage capacity and help workers feel comfortable and confident in their work environment.
In a recent interview with Business Reporter, Irisys Customer Success Director Nick Stogdale talks about the role of people counting solutions in creating dynamic spaces that cater to the workforce’s real needs.
The benefits of using a people counting solution
There are many people counting solutions to choose from; the one that works best for your enterprise will, above all else, be accurate and provide your team with a user-friendly platform that has remote access control. Here is a brief overview of the benefits that a people counting solution can offer:
A better understanding of the physical space's occupants operate in and how these spaces are utilized.The collection of valuable operational data can reduce costs by adjusting maintenance schedules to align with actual usage.For organizations with a customer-facing element, people counting solutions will provide the data you need to accurately increase customer service or scale down your workforce to accommodate peak times.Occupancy data helps decision-makers to identify opportunities for meaningful optimization that can enhance business operations.Provide access to real-time data from a specific location to help operations teams quickly pinpoint issues that may affect employee and public safety.
People counting is an unintrusive way to monitor utilization
It's important to understand that people counting analytics are not typically gathered through video surveillance. While some businesses rely on video footage to understand building utility or prevent crime, most organizations value and protect the anonymity of employees, in particular, because surveillance is counterproductive to creativity and engagement.
Irisys people counting sensors use invisible infrared light to measure people movement and understand how many occupants are in a given space. They can detect height and use this to help distinguish between adults and children, but they will not gather personally identifiable or private information. As a result, they are safe to use in privacy-conscious workplaces such as banking, pharma, and tech, as well as outside sensitive areas such as restrooms or break rooms, where understanding traffic to plan for cleaning or prevent overcrowding is essential.
What can people counting analytics do for your workspace?
Provide data to support the case for optimization
People counting solutions exist to verify how spaces throughout your office or building are used (or underutilized) to mobilize ROI-driven change and improve the employees' environment. They exist to help you build a case when requesting new facilities or buildings to be added to your commercial real estate portfolio and support the overall decision-making process. In the UK, National Grid, the globally recognized electricity and gas utility brand, was able to make savings of approximately $10million after implementing Irisys people counters to optimize their real estate portfolio, resulting in the elimination of two costly buildings.
Ensure that employees can access the facilities they need
People counting solutions take the guesswork out of your decision-making. For businesses that have adopted hybrid working, people counting analytics can be used to inform other workers when meeting rooms or workbenches are available. Employees can remotely log into your booking platform and reserve free meeting rooms or work areas before undertaking a journey to the office, only to find that the building is fully occupied. For businesses or large campuses, a similar on-site scenario can be mitigated by keeping people in the know about available spaces before they traipse through several floors or head for another building.
For organizations that have distributed their infrastructure amongst satellite offices, having access to a cloud-based occupancy solution makes managing these spaces easier and more transparent. Maintenance teams can also access the platform to check whether a particular service should be deployed and when
Make impactful improvements that address your employees requirements
If, for example, you're trying to understand why your teams aren't working collaboratively, you may uncover the answer in the way team members utilize specific areas within the building. If purpose-built facilities aren't being used, you'll now have the opportunity to delve deeper into the cause. In other instances, you may find that employees are concerned with the lack of space for social distancing and request that you add more facilities. But do you have enough information to justify the investment? People counters are a key component here because they help you gather the data relating to the specifics of traffic movement throughout the building.
Employees may be congregating around a preferred area simply because there is better light or the furniture is more suitably laid out for their needs. As more people identify this ideal spot in the office, it's likely to increase in popularity and quickly become cramped. This doesn't mean you lack space and now need to invest in a whole new building. It simply means you have to replicate these ideal conditions in the other areas of your already existing real estate.
Discover productivity and cost-saving gains
To achieve optimal productivity from your employees, it's essential to look at the big picture, and people counting sensors exist to do just that. For example, you can see how many people are repeatedly using your facility during irregular hours; you can check the average time that people stay at a workstation, and you can observe how often, for how long, and by how many people, meeting rooms are used.
All of this data can be aggregated to measure the average output of work produced by your workforce against the time spent on your premises. Perhaps you are maintaining a really expensive office space that only gets minimal use, or, despite the long hours that employees spend there, there is little to no benefit when it comes to productivity – this indicates that you have an opportunity to downsize. For example, you may be maintaining pricey office space in a town center, but your employees prefer to work from home, and few visitors bother to come to your town center premises because of expensive parking or other impracticalities. People counting analytics will provide you with an accurate picture of such a buildings’ utility so that you can make confident decisions about restructuring your real estate portfolio.
As more organizations look to embrace smart building technologies, people counting sensors and analytics will become a vital element in your IoT network. Investing in accurate and scalable solutions will pay dividends in the future as they have a helpful application in almost every undertaking to optimize and improve workspaces. If you’d like to learn more about workspaces of the future and how Irisys can help, we invite you to talk to an expert or watch an Irisys True Occupancy demo today.