Smart Lockers Open Options for Workplace Wellness and Safety
Innovative vending machines put everything from bike parts to fire extinguishers at employees’ fingertips.
Employees at Hull & Knarr have no excuses to not pedal around on a bike. The Indianapolis-based financial services firm has opened the door to new wellness and team-building initiatives for its employees in an eco-friendly and accessible manner.
A brightly lit orange locker room with company-owned bikes, showers and personal lockers with bike equipment and accessories line the workout room for the firm’s workers to use at their leisure. Commuting to work and rides during lunch are the most common times the equipment is used, said Brad Ferrell, director at Hull & Knarr.
“Anything we can do to remove reasons not to participate [in biking] — we really try to remove all those obstacles,” Ferrell said.
Of the company’s 13 employees, Ferrell said five or six use the bikes daily. He said having all of the biking equipment easily accessible has created happier and healthier workers, which in turn has positively affected the workplace.
“We are creating a culture where people want to be a part of something, but it also gives them a cause and something to root for,” said Ferrell, who tries to bike at least twice a week. “It creates teamwork outside of the office.”
In the three years Hull & Knarr has used the smart lockers — which can track employee use and well-being by how many times lockers are opened and offer data for rewards and incentives — they have evolved to become more user-friendly and personal for anyone looking to balance work and wellness. While these locker trends are not new to corporate wellness, they are beginning to reshape workplace culture to give employees a healthy dose of activity and social engagement with others in their office and the larger community.
Much of this has stemmed from IVM Inc., the creators of the lockers and one of Hull & Knarr’s clients. The lockers can be used numerous ways — from IT help, snacks and medical supplies to fire extinguishers, according to IVM President Mike Pitts, who has seen the product’s growth since the company was founded in 1991.
IVM produces not only smart lockers but smart vending machines too, which thrive among big tech companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Facebook, and are made to improve accessibility of needed items in the workplace. By scanning an employee badge, those looking for headphones, a temporary computer or a new keyboard can get them immediately without using cash or coins.
Facebook, whose headquarter offices in Menlo Park, California, use IVM’s vending machines to sell bike parts to employees and promote corporate wellness. The machines replace the need for a campus repair shop and promote cycling across the board, giving employees instant gratification through IVM’s technology, Pitts affirmed.
The newest tool to the vending machine community are the fire extinguishers from WESCO Distribution, a longtime IVM customer. The company is getting ready to roll out the fire extinguisher application with a major electric utility. WESCO places IVM’s vending machines and lockers in utility and nuclear plants to distribute safety tools such as goggles, safety suits and gloves for employees to grab before starting their shift.
“That all came about from this culture of watching out for employees,” Pitts said of the upcoming deal. “[It’s] not just giving them the tools they need to do their job but the things that make their jobs safer and better to this far extreme of even the well-being of their employees.”
This kind of technology use in the workplace brings up the question of future technological assistance and how smart lockers are influencing the workplace. Pitts said he does not foresee any negatives as technology will positively affect productivity, accessibility and job security and will not eliminate jobs — similar to the continued growth of robotic technology.
“What you are going to see over the coming years is that these vending systems are going to be prevalent throughout all industries,” he said. “They are going to be used for so many different things that it staggers the imagination.”
Ariel Parrella-Aureli is a Workforce intern. Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.