Personal space – How can Smart technologies help keep us in control on a return to the workplace?

Over the past year, the good and bad of homeworking has been on full display. On the positive side we can finally gain some control over our workplace environment – able to turn up our heating when we feel cold, or open the windows to gain some fresh air. In an office environment, these customisations might not be so easy to make (or garner quick complaints from co-workers).

On the other hand, maybe it’s the things that you can’t control – the building work behind single glazed windows or the family being homeschooled from next door (which, by the sound of it, might as well be happening in the same room).

The question is, therefore, how can we can help people hold on to these new found freedoms – or escape unwanted intrusions – when they head back to the workplace?

This is where Smart technologies step in. Smart offers us the chance to retain control over our environment, even in a busy open plan office. Smart building management systems can communicate with everything from intelligent lighting systems – which can monitor CO2 and humidity levels – to fan coil units, varying the amount of fresh air taken into the building.

Usually tied to an app, or shared monitor screen, users can tweak the settings to set up a personal profile for their workspace, controlling temperature, light levels and even humidity. Most of us by now will have seen an account of a typical day in the life of a Smart building user, such as this article describing working at ARM headquarters in Cambridge. ARM hired Hilson Moran to provide a technologically advanced fit out service, with our design incorporating an ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) intelligent buildings platform. The building is a living testbed of innovative Smart technologies.


Gamification can bring an element of fun and friendly competition, as well as bringing some of the environmental benefits of Smart to the fore. It’s possible to show the upfront cost – in terms of both money and CO2 – that any requested changes would have, with league tables encouraging the most eco-conscious members of staff to compete.

Some of the principles of agile homeworking can even translate easily to the Smart office. Staff should have the power to move around the environment, to warm and cool zones, or zones with music or ambient noise, to find a space that works for them (much more effective than swapping between the kitchen table and home office!).

Smart technologies even have the potential to keep us safe. Contactless journeys can be enabled by buttonless lifts, or turnstiles that only shut if they need to; ultimately reducing touchpoints and the chance of infection.

For building operators, Smart technologies can be invaluable in understanding how buildings work. From LiDAR systems that can track anonymised movement throughout a building, to apps that plan out a personal schedule across an entire day, Smart systems provide a wealth of information about people flow and building usage. This information can translate directly to cost savings with custom programmes for lighting, heating and security.

Implementing smart technologies in an office has been proven to motivate staff and improve wellbeing. Research from British Land even suggests it can improve retention, with a 45% increase in employee loyalty in intelligent offices. As people across the country begin to return to the workplace, let’s keep them in control.

At Hilson Moran, we work with a number of forward thinking commercial clients to seamlessly integrate Smart systems into their project. For existing spaces too, our retrofit experts can create solutions to update and modernise outdated systems – implementing Smart may be more achievable than you think. Please get in touch with Stuart Bridges, Head of Smart Buildings, for more information.

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