The Office of the Future Will Have Worker-Controlled Thermostats

Office managers can now grant flexible temperature control to employees.

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The Internet of Things is growing by the day. Comfy, a smart thermostat app, recently raised $12M in Series B funding. Like other smart thermostats, Comfy allows users to change the temperature without leaving their seats. The catch? With the company’s integrated heating and cooling system, employees can individually set the temperature of their own work area.

Customized, per-cubicle thermostats are a dream come true for anyone who’s worked in a large corporate office. Tech-enabled thermostats have existed for years, but office managers have to pick a neutral temperature for the whole room, and they can’t possibly please everyone. On top of that, many offices err on the cooler side in the summer, for one reason or another. Businesses end up wasting money on air condition while making their workers uncomfortable.

It’s difficult to imagine how Comfy works without seeing it in person. For an easy example, imagine the layout of a large tech office or coworking space. A single floor would have a variety of conference rooms, brainstorming rooms, open work areas, and perhaps private/executive offices. Each of these enclosed spaces might be designated as a dedicated Comfy “zone,” with its own temperature controls. If a different team has a conference scheduled after lunch, they can adjust the temperature to suit themselves.

Furthermore, the company is allegedly working on using indoor positioning to allow a worker’s individual settings to move with them. This tech is inexplicable to me at the moment, and surely there will be a catch. Still, with location tracking and enough dedicated zones, it’s not impossible to imagine a worker’s ideal temperature and lighting settings following them into every room they set foot in. It’s a surreal thought right now, but this technology is feasible in some way, shape, or form.

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Broadly speaking, Comfy is part of the greater trend toward giving employees more freedom in the workplace. Managers and CEOs understand that flexible work schedules and environments help with productivity, and that regulating a worker’s options usually results in lower motivation. Likewise, office managers are coming to understand that physical comfort is not a one-size-fits-all issue. If technology allows it, it’s best to give each employee control over their physical surroundings.

As the Internet of Things grows wider, it will be interesting to see which products find a new use in the office. There may be basic comfort-control office accessories that we haven’t even thought of yet.