Five Ways Occupancy Sensors Optimize Your Workplace

April 17, 2018


Save Money, Boost Productivity

As organizations move to the workplace of the future, with a focus on flexible, activity-based offices and campuses, one of the primary challenges they face is managing workspaces in ways that are both cost-efficient and user-friendly. Maximizing real estate significantly reduces overhead costs, but it needs to be done in a way that allows employees, visitors, and other users to still locate and use the workspaces they need. And for many, their current tools can't handle the demands arising from this knowledge-based environment.

A relatively new solution is emerging: occupancy sensors and beacons.

Once regarded as devices primarily for automatically turning on and off lights, their use has greatly expanded to include a variety of benefits for the modern office and digital campus. These items, which range from simple motion detectors to advanced devices that can both count the number of occupants and identify who is present via Bluetooth radio transmitters, can be extremely useful when combined with your business or campus resource scheduling system.

Here are five ways occupancy sensors will positively impact your digital workplace:

  1. More rooms and workspaces become available.
    Even if you’ve optimized your office or campus hoteling model and are using a robust reservation system, no workspace is immune to phantom users. Employees get sick, meetings get rescheduled at the last moment, and other unexpected events turn “full” rooms into empty spaces. Occupancy sensors give you a highly accurate, up-to-the-minute picture of resource utilization, allowing your organization to free up space for booking that might otherwise have gone unused.

    More significant is the fact that the policies you are able to implement because of sensors and beacons will lead to more available spaces in your buildings. Users would rather risk overbooking than not having an available workspace, so they reserve spaces “just in case,” book a room all day for visitors, and make long-term reservations as far in advance as possible.

    With sensors in place, you can set up procedures that require individuals to physically check into a space rather than checking in online, and then release rooms after a certain period of inactivity. You can also automatically send reminder notifications to prompt users to release unneeded workspaces.
  2. It gets easier to find and book a room.
    Sensors and beacons also make available spaces easier to both find and book. If your employees have room scheduling apps installed on their smart phones, beacons can communicate with those apps via Bluetooth, allowing walk-in users to automatically book rooms. And even if the individual doesn’t have an app, a sensor that is tied to your workspace reservation system can note a presence in that room or workspace and change the status in your system, effectively reserving the space and keeping others from double-booking it.

    As for finding open workspaces, sensors help with that as well. Consider the digital room sign, which typically displays one of two settings: available or reserved. Sensors allow you to add an “occupied” status that you can tie into and display via your digital signage. This gives you the added benefit of allowing an employee or visitor to look down a hallway and know at a glance whether any particular space is truly is available.
  3. Visitors can take advantage of wayfinding.
    Imagine you’re visiting a remote office or an unfamiliar part of campus, and you need to find a place to set up your laptop for the morning. You log into your mobile app, which identifies your location and prompts you to find a workspace. Once you select one, the app then asks if you need help finding the location, and it offers up wayfinding guidance.

    This efficient method for locating your workspace is made possible by beacons and digital map systems that are integrated into your meeting and scheduling platform. This type of wayfinding service can also be offered to visitors checking in at a front desk kiosk, making for powerful first impressions and a seamless visitor experience, especially for complex buildings.
  4. Your facilities team can track actual space utilization.
    Underutilized workspace is expensive. But without accurate data, it can be difficult to tell exactly how much that unused or misused space is costing your organization. Space utilization reports tell you how and when your spaces are being used, allowing you to make informed decisions about how to better allocate your real estate, and sensors and beacons can refine that data and improve the accuracy of your reports.

    Consider, for example, a handful of employees in search of a small space for a 10-minute standup. They scan the hallway and spot, via digital signage, a room that will be open for the next 20 minutes, so they pop inside. Because it’s just a quick check-in meeting, they don’t bother registering their use of the workspace—but the sensor records the usage, anonymously and effortlessly. This is just one example of the type of data that your organization can quickly capture with occupancy sensors that might otherwise go unrecorded.
  5. Your organization can realize cost savings on utilities.
    At their most basic level, vacancy sensors detect whether a room is occupied and then adjust the utilities accordingly. They turn lights on and off, control temperature and ventilation, and in general automate the process of making a room more comfortable for the user while eliminating money spent on wasted resources. The savings are considerable; an Environmental Protection Agency study showed sensors “can reduce energy waste by as much as 68% and increase energy savings by as much as 60%.”

    When the utilities are tied to room scheduling software, you can save additional money and improve the user experience. For example, you can set the lights to come on a few minutes before a meeting is set to start so that no one walks into a dark room. And if the meeting ends earlier than scheduled, occupancy sensors sense when all participants have left the room and can automatically turn off or otherwise modify utility settings.

Organizations are increasingly adopting occupancy sensors and beacons to automate reservations and to track actual space utilization, and the most successful ones are those who deploy these devices as part of a larger workplace innovation strategy. To learn more about how you can achieve higher workplace efficiency by integrating the use of sensors into EMS’s comprehensive meeting and scheduling platform, please visit our hardware integrations website.