Across the UK, some office buildings have been vacant for more than eight months. According to research from Finder, 60% of us in the UK are now working from home with office buildings remaining closed for the majority since the start of the year.
Some offices will have had staff popping in to collect items left behind from the initial lockdown, whilst others may have been partially used by a skeleton staff who couldn’t work from home. With further lockdowns and restrictions imposed across the country, companies must look ahead and prepare for winter. There are little signs of a nationwide back to work strategy anytime soon with the current prevailing message to ‘work from home’ where you can.
Winter brings with it a new challenge for companies to ensure the building, which they have continued to pay for while the staff have been at home, is safe, secure, and not accumulating hefty bills whilst left dormant over the colder months. Businesses must also be prepared for when it is eventually safe to return to work, guaranteeing that the office is ready to welcome back staff.
In normal circumstances, many offices are already using sensors to monitor things like CO2 in office working environments to ensure their staff are comfortable and healthy. If too high, CO2 in an office can impact concentration among staff, making them feel lethargic and as a result less efficient, with more serious effects the worse the concentration. For obvious reasons, offices should continue to monitor this.
Now that staff are working from home and no one is able to man the office, smart and cost effective sensors and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies can be used to turn attention to locking down for winter and putting the office into a hibernation. Deferred rent payments from the first lockdown and loans taken to cover expenses are still due, and as we approach 2021 with no clear date of the end of the pandemic – the last thing companies need is to foot the bill for a burst pipe or an extensive energy bill accumulated from an office that wasn’t shut down effectively. With the use of sensors, a variety of operations can be managed remotely - shielding staff members from unnecessary visits to the office to check on facilities.
To reduce outgoings, companies should consider taking various actions, depending on their specific circumstances.
Locking off sections of their building which aren’t needed enables the HVAC system in those areas to be switched off or operated for shorter periods at lower temperatures.
Implementing remote monitoring can ensure ventilation, heating and air conditioning systems are operating as expected and programmed accordingly when the office is not in use, or alternatively when the office is still in use, to ensure maximum energy efficiency.
Sensors can be placed around the office as well as connecting to key services such as electricity, gas and water meters to easily monitor, provide usage readings and manage the overall environment, providing an insight into office usage patterns and, in turn, peace of mind that bills are as low as possible.
Another big concern for companies right now is the water running through the pipes. With normal office use on hold, toilets are not being flushed and taps aren’t run, as a result the stagnant water sitting in the pipes runs a risk of legionella disease. Smart IoT sensor solutions are available that will monitor water usage and temperature at appropriate points within the office and generate an alert when the temperature is outside of predefined ranges presenting a risk, or where manual intervention is necessary, for example alerting you to run a tap or shower or flush the toilet.
In a similar vein, with many offices closed for a prolonged time over the festive period they run the risk of frozen and burst pipes. Being able to remotely turn the heating on for a short time, manually or using a timer, can prevent burst pipes and a large repair bills – ensuring a quicker return to the office when rules allow. Sensors are available that can detect a water leak and automatically close the main water valve shutting off the water before any major damage is done.
There are a wide range of sensors and IoT technologies out there to prevent such situations occurring, and as winter looms, companies locking their office down to hibernate for winter can effectively manage their assets while keeping costs low and averting disaster.
A return to work doesn’t seem likely until the new year and, as the pandemic continues to put financial strain on businesses across the world, it’s important that we have as much control as possible over our assets, making cost savings where we can. This level of insight will continue to deliver real benefits when life returns to normal.