Reimagining the Physical Workplace & How to Keep Your Employees Safe


Businesses are focused on finding their “new normal,” and deciding exactly what that will look like. Employees who plan on heading back into the office after spending considerable time away have increased expectations for a supportive and inclusive working environment. Many of these expectations fall on facility managers and directors, who are finding their goals shaped by changing employee expectations.

What is the direct relationship between productivity, employee expectations, and your HVAC systems? In a word: Comfort. 

Top Goals for Facility Managers as Employees Return to Offices

Facility managers have two key concerns when it comes to ensuring a smooth transition back to working from the office:

  1. It is absolutely critical to keep people healthy. In the wake of a global pandemic, you cannot afford to have sickness sweeping through your workforce. The renewed focus on health and safety is leading to numerous new policies, but indoor air quality has never been more important.
  2. Employees must be kept comfortable. After more than a year of working from the comfort of home, some are less than thrilled to be returning to the office. Others, of course, are delighted to be getting out of their houses and apartments. Whether people have been dreading the return to an office or looking forward to it, their satisfaction and productivity will be shaped by the experience.

Both efforts will benefit from the addition of a building automation system (BAS). Before developing your building automation strategy, it helps to take a deeper look at both of these goals for facility managers.

1 – Control Indoor Air Quality as Employees Return to Work

Many employees have already started returning to the office, but according to a recent survey the majority of them (66%) say they have concerns about health and safety, 61% are specifically worried that their workplaces will relax or end COVID precautions prematurely. With so much concern about the health and safety implications of returning to work, you have an opportunity to reassure your staff by investing in air quality.

Building automation systems can be integrated with a broad range of sensors and equipment, including components that contribute to superior air quality. Questions and concerns about airflow in the building are easier to address with real-time data about how all of the responsible systems are operating. Because building automation controls can be added to existing heating, cooling, and purification systems, they allow building managers and business owners to demonstrate a commitment to air quality without installing entirely new systems.

2 – Comfortable Employees Are Productive Employees

The entire field of organizational behavior management (OBM) is dedicated to the study of how the work environment contributes to employee performance. Effective managers try to boost productivity through many initiatives, and implementation of some of those initiatives falls on the facility manager. Temperature extremes make it difficult for employees to perform at their best. Facility directors are often surprised to learn how much difference even subtle changes in cooling and heating can make.

An ergonomics study at Cornell University found that uncomfortable temperatures cause increases in errors and labor costs. Participants in the study confirmed that 68°F was so cold, it decreased productivity and increased error rates. Alan Hedge, who directed Cornell’s Human Factors and Ergonomics Laboratory for the study, saw a clear connection between temperature and performance in an office setting:

“At 77 degrees Fahrenheit, the workers were keyboarding 100 percent of the time with a 10 percent error rate, but at 68 degrees, their keying rate went down to 54 percent of the time with a 25 percent error rate.” 

The ideal heating and cooling settings may vary depending on the nature of the work and the workforce, but the takeaway is the same. Hedge claimed that businesses with offices kept at uncomfortable temperatures were wasting $2 per employee, per hour. Calculating for the rate of inflation since the study was conducted in 2004, businesses today would be wasting over $27 per hour for every employee kept at an uncomfortable temperature. 

When you multiply that by 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, and 1,000 employees in the building, it comes to more than $56 million lost per year.

Building Automation Works

The return to the physical workplace is one of many reasons to invest in a commercial building automation system. BAS controls can help ensure that heating and cooling systems maintain ideal temperature setpoints (as well as humidity and air quality) with exceptional accuracy.

How Automatic Controls Helps

Companies with an old BAS (or without a BAS altogether) are paying the price when it comes to employee comfort, which quickly translates to financial costs. Automatic Controls can improve energy efficiency and occupant comfort by bringing your current HVAC systems to their full potential. Our building automation systems are backward compatible, and can control A/C systems and furnaces from all manufacturers. 

After installation, our training educates facility managers on how to configure and troubleshoot systems quickly and effectively. This eliminates the need to rely on an outside partner to keep employees comfortable, at ease, and productive. Contact us today to learn more and schedule a demo.

August 9, 2021
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