This article was originally published by Mark Sullivan in Creator, WeWork’s daily online magazine.
It’s summer, which means the battle over the thermostat is raging in offices across the country.
Are you in that corner of the office where the air conditioning never seems to reach? Or sit right under the vent that pours out cold air? If you could control the thermostat, things would be different.
Now you can. Comfy is an app that lets you use your smartphone to adjust the temperature in your part of the office. The smart building software gives you three options: “Cool My Space,” “Warm My Space,” or “I’m Comfy.” It connects you to your building’s HVAC system, which responds instantly with about 10 minutes of warm or cool air, depending on your request.
And that’s just the beginning. Comfy, which has a satellite office in WeWork Dupont Circle, has enabled the software to learn your preferred temperature, as well as those of your coworkers. That means fewer and fewer complaints over time.
“Comfy improves workplace productivity,” says Kelly Shaffer, Comfy’s director of marketing. “People are more focused, comfortable, and productive when they have control of their workplace environment, and don’t have to hassle with layers of clothing or turning on space heaters in the middle of summer.”
This week, WeWork began a test run of the system in its Berkeley office space. Joshua Emig, head of research and development at WeWork, says that making sure members are comfortable is “one of the toughest issues” for the company.
“Our systems are designed to keep most people comfortable most of the time,” says Emig. “In the case of older buildings, older systems, or badly designed systems, that quickly turns into few of the people little of the time.”
Which is why Comfy is potentially a game changer. Emig says allowing members to control their environment is “really interesting to us.”
“Converse to the traditional ‘set it and forget it’ approach, the building becomes a dynamic system that adapts to the preferences of its users over time,” says Emig. “That results in higher levels of satisfaction and comfort and more optimized building operation and energy use.”
Lindsay Baker, Comfy’s president, has spent her career making buildings more energy efficient. She says that she and her team immediately understood what WeWork wanted to achieve. “Comfy shares a common vision with WeWork,” says Baker. “We ask ourselves: What would a space look and feel like if it was truly designed to help everyone do their best work?”
So far, the experiment has been a big success in the WeWork Berkeley office, according to Associate Community Manager Grace Nelson. “I’m so happy to see that members are excited about the technology and even more stoked that my team didn’t receive one single HVAC-related ticket,” Nelson says. “Not one single ticket!”
Comfy’s success hasn’t escaped the notice of investors. Last month, the Oakland-based company closed a $12 million funding round led by the venture capital firm Emergence Capital. Baker says the infusion of cash will help the company expand its offerings to include other areas that impact how a person feels at work.
“We are now working to extend our people-centric approach to improve more aspects of the office experience, such as personalized lighting control,” Baker says. “Like WeWork, we believe we have an ongoing responsibility to make folks comfortable and productive at work every month, every week, and every day.”