Everyone who has worked in an office knows that environmental factors have an effect on productivity and wellbeing. We might struggle to concentrate in rooms that are too hot or cold, lose motivation in gloomy spaces, or be distracted by noise in open plan interiors.
Unfortunately, those effects rarely become actionable data. Instead they remain hidden in office conversation and isolated complaints – and so even if employers recognise the value of addressing them, they struggle to do so in a rigorous and accountable way.
We set out to solve that problem through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with facilities expert Mitie. The project builds on Sheffield Hallam research into how environmental factors can be quantified, and uses Mitie’s technology and industry experience to turn those insights into a powerful tool for facilities managers.
Our system uses sensors to track factors such as lighting and temperature, while portable and wearable devices feed in data about employees’ stress levels and productivity. Businesses can use that integrated data to drive automated on-the-fly adjustments, and interrogate it through an analytics platform to inform longer-term decisions about design, energy use and maintenance.
In effect, it gives facilities managers the power to optimise the working environment right down to desk level, helping to realise what Mitie calls the Connected Workspace:
‘The Connected Workspace is the pioneering application of our consultancy, systems integration, and technology expertise to help organisations improve the performance of their buildings and the wellbeing and productivity of the people within them.’
In competitive businesses, even a small productivity boost – say, 2–3% per person – can be worth millions. But the benefits of this approach don’t end there.
Better designed and managed working environments have an all-round effect on employee wellbeing, which can help businesses to hire and retain talent. They can also boost energy efficiency, improving sustainability credentials and driving down running costs.
Mitie has already tested the approach in its own offices in London’s Shard building, using it to demonstrate the benefits of an innovative Living Lab workspace with biophilic design and dynamic lighting.
As the three-year KTP enters its last year, our research-based process model is close to being rolled out commercially.