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    The connected office is healthy

    Scalable systems and the office of the future, part 3

    In this series of articles, we've been exploring the key role that scalable smart systems can play in the transformation of the office and how we use it—a transformation that the pandemic, with its paradigm-shifting remote-work regime, has done much to speed up.

    We've explored how such systems can support the hybrid and flexible workspaces that will be a crucial part of the post-pandemic office. We've discussed, too, how connected systems support sustainable practices in office management. In discussing these themes, we've stressed that scalable systems let organizations deploy basic capabilities now and then supplement them with more sophisticated and comprehensive solutions in the future, in a way that provides both fiscal and practical benefits to organizations.

    In this last article, we examine how smart systems can help ensure employee health and well-being as employees begin to return to working on-site—whether full time, occasionally, or something in between.

    A trend toward feeling good

    Companies have been focusing on employee health and well-being for a while now. A healthy and happy workforce isn't just positive in itself, but it can also benefit the bottom line. Employees who feel good tend to be more productive: less prone to absenteeism and presenteeism, better able to focus, less likely to drive up healthcare costs, and so on.

    The pandemic is only strengthening the wellness trend. The danger for employees and employers has been acute for an extended period of time, and then there is the threat that potential future pandemics could pose. Business leaders are need to find ways to ensure that the disruptions of 2020 and 2021 will never happen again. Many also want to respond to the renewed interest in holistic health issues that the pandemic has kindled—note, for example, the recent boom in vitamin sales.


    Workers who are willing to return to the office, and especially those who will be required to do so, face a situation that is both fraught and uncertain. A successful transition back to on-site working depends in part on the conviction among employees that the office is healthy and safe. The attractive post-pandemic office will have to demonstrate its support for physical, mental, and emotional well-being, and prove that it not an arena of possible contamination.

    Scalable smart lighting systems can play a crucial role in employee health and well-being and in the policies, methods, protocols, and behaviors that promote it—just as they can do in fostering flexibility and sustainability in office design and deployment.

    The purifying power of UV-C light

    A scalable smart lighting system is key for effectively deploying UV-C lighting in offices. UV-C light is a powerful germicide that can eliminate microbes from both surfaces and the air. How powerful? A spring 2020 Boston University study confirmed that appropriate doses of UV-C can cut SARS-CoV-2 levels by 99.9999% within a mere 25 seconds.

    One challenge in using UV-C, however, is that the same lighting wavelength that eliminates coronaviruses and other microbes can be harmful to human tissue. This doesn’t matter when UV-C light is used for disinfect an office’s upper air, as UV-C luminaires can be pointed up at the ceiling. However, this very definitely comes into play when UV-C light is used to disinfect desktops and other working surfaces.

    With scalable smart lighting, you can integrate connected UV-C lighting fixtures into your system, then use scheduling and security applications to ensure consistent and safe disinfection. Motion detectors or presence sensors can pause or delay surface disinfection routines until the space has been cleared. Integration with a building’s security system can lock the premises while the UV-C lighting is turned on, then unlock the doors once the surfaces have been cleansed and the light has been turned off.

    Keeping protocols easy and unobtrusive

    For maximum safety, organizations should combine disinfection solutions like UV-C light with well-thought-out prophylactic regimes—regimes that might place limits on room occupancy or compel employees to move around campuses in certain prescribed ways. Such regimes will require employee buy-in. And buy-in will come easier if those regimes are unobtrusive.

    A smart system can implement exactly such unobtrusive regimes—all that's required is the addition of new components expressly designed to administer those regimes. The same indoor positioning system that signals when a room is empty before it's doused with UV-C light can underpin smartphone applications that enforce occupancy restrictions across a corporate campus, notifying employees about the best places to congregate and the places to avoid to keep groups small and human bodies well-spaced.

    That same occupancy information can also trigger signaling systems that, using vibrantly colorful LED lights, can delineate preferred vectors of movement, indicating to employees that they should move in this or that direction as density and other factors dictate. The system can also control access to certain areas not only by locking them down, as is appropriate in the case of UV-C light, but also, using a softer touch, by alerting users via their cellphones when it's safe to enter those areas and when it's not.

    Environments where people can flourish

    Tech solutions like are useful in more than the practical sense. As suggested earlier, they're also symbolically powerful, signaling to the people who work in an office that their employers take their health and well-being seriously. That psychic benefit is valuable not only for organizations who want to start coaxing workers out of their remote work environments and back to the office, but also for recruiting new talent.

    On the most material level, though—the level where microbes vaporize under the power of UV-C rays, sensors count bodies in enclosed spaces, LED beacons guide office workers to safety, and so on—scalable tech is establishing the basis on which the office of the future will function. In the end, the measure of a building is how well it can provide an environment in which human beings can flourish. Scalable smart systems can help a building do exactly that.

    About the author

    Jonathan Weinert, IoT and Connected Lighting, Signify
    Award-winning writer Jonathan Weinert has been been researching and reporting on LED lighting, connected lighting, and the IoT since joining Signify in 2008. 

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