Commentary

The benefits of working in smart buildings

Smart buildings reduce mundane tasks, make communication seamless, and create an office environment that is happier and more productive than in legacy office spaces.

February 09, 2017
Colleagues discussing a Green Energy project

This is made possible through the use of data and intelligence in your office buildings. Previously, smart buildings are about controlling operations, such as air-conditioning, lighting or fire safety. Smart buildings these days can mean personalization and mobility—with offerings, such as location sensors, to improve occupant satisfaction and productivity.

“As technology comes into play in a workplace, people become more efficient, and time is freed up for more engaging experiences,” says Jenny Soo, Regional Head of Workplace Experience at JLL Asia Pacific. “A smart building and thoughtful workplace experience create an environment that keeps people happy and builds a sense of belonging that can contribute to staff retention.”

In a smart building, for instance, employees can use mobile applications to reserve their workspace or meeting room as quickly as their needs change—completely cutting out any “middleman” in the workplace equation (and contributing to a more efficient, productive and cost-effective use of space in the process).

Smart building systems respond to real-time operating conditions—whether that means automatically turning off the lights when a conference room is empty, lowering the thermostat when the temperature outside rises, or even diagnosing a system malfunction and rectifying it immediately to enable facilities to operate at peak efficiency.

Research from the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) shows that offering a building’s occupants greater control over the temperature and lighting of their workspaces via a customized mobile app, for example, can contribute to direct productivity gains of 0.5 to 5 percent.

Advanced technology solutions found in smart buildings also provide your facilities management (FM) teams with the tools they need to automate workflow and deliver timely services more efficiently than ever before. Embedding smart technology as part of the FM service delivery streamlines the work order process, allows for more flexible, on-demand staffing and dynamic deployment, reinforces and documents compliance, and supports a mobile or untethered FM workforce.

Smart buildings for smart talent

Increasingly, remuneration and improved benefits are no longer enough to lure the right talent. It’s imperative to start seeking innovative ways to step up your branding and culture to attract and retain employees—and one way to do so is by optimizing the human experience with smart building technologies.

A global study conducted by MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte shows that “significant numbers of employees and executives are ready to leave companies that aren‘t keeping pace with digital change.” Thus, as the war for young top talent intensifies, keeping workers connected, engaged and productive provides a strategic advantage.

Moreover, it is pricey and inefficient to replace talent. According to a US research, it costs businesses about one-fifth of the employee’s salary to replace him or her. The cost, which includes severance, overtime for other workers, training costs of the new employee and lost productivity, is higher for the replacement of the highest paid employees.

Return on investment

Buildings that lack smart, connected systems are also more likely to suffer in terms of asset classification, valuation, rental rates or even brand perception (from both current and prospective employees and, therefore, ultimately from clients) compared to their more modern counterparts.

Today’s smart building technology is more readily available and affordable than before, with shorter payback periods and improved return on investment, says JLL. The cost of wireless sensors, for instance, has dropped below the US$10 per unit cost threshold. Meanwhile, the returns include happier staff, improved productivity and broader appeal to both incoming talent and forward-looking corporate tenants.

“A holistic blend of technology and personable service is key to nurturing great workplaces,” says Soo. So, how can you access smart building technology and reap its benefits?

Step 1: Review business needs

Step 2: Assess the gaps

Step 3: Identify the right tools

Step 4: Apply and adjust

While there is a generic framework, Soo advised that each business is different, and a customized approach is required.

“Our Workplace Experience team works with clients to review the business needs at each touch point and assess the gaps required to impact the workplace through service, productivity and technology. I like my alias title ‘Head of Happiness’—my aim is to keep our clients and employees happy. We provide the tools to enhance thoughtful and customer-centric environment, incorporating genuine hospitality that frees the people from distraction to help them achieve maximum productivity,” says Soo.

Want more? Talk to the team