Compared to previous decades, the world has more innovative and safer cities that take better care of their citizens. A smart city represents an area that uses information and communication technology (ICT) to enhance administrative performance, disseminate information to the public, and boost the standard of services and the welfare of residents. A 2022 study reports that between 2000 and 2016, there was a global decline in the number of deaths from lower respiratory infections among children under the age of five, which fell by 54%, and roughly 13% overall.
Making a city smarter has been identified as the most effective method for enhancing residents’ quality of life and tackling urban challenges. According to a 2022 top from Ranking Royals, the smartest cities in the world have developed in the Nordic countries (namely Norway, Finland, and Denmark), Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan, New Zealand, Spain, Austria, USA, and South Korea.
Boosting Sustainability and Citizens’ Wellness
While getting smarter, urban regions have implemented sustainable systems and tools that contribute to the Green Deal agreement. The EU Green Deal’s primary goal is to achieve climate neutrality as the first continent by 2050. That will lead to a cleaner environment, cheaper energy, smarter transportation, new jobs, and a better lifestyle. The strategies of smart cities aim to improve life quality for inhabitants by using innovative technologies and saving resources.
For example, in Graz, a smart city in Austria, energy efficiency is considered essential for future developments. In 2010, the “Smart City Graz” project, whose purpose was to transform the territory into a sustainable and energy-autonomous urban district, was launched.
Denmark demonstrates its strength and sustainability level by covering the needs for energy production without using foreign energy resources. It secures its place as the greenest country in the world by continuously practicing a sustainable economy. For instance, a 2020 case study presents one of the wealthiest areas in the world, a Danish island called Bornholm. Bornholm’s wealth comes from developing new energy market mechanisms to control energy networks with a high proportion of renewable energy resources.
To support sustainable initiatives and contribute to citizens’ welfare, Vitoria-Gasteiz city (Spain), the European Green Capital of 2012, launched a secure bicycle parking network called VGBiziz. It is a low-cost initiative comprising 9 parking sites for around 400 bikes (including electric and cargo bikes). In 2009, Valencia, Spain’s largest city, joined the Covenant of Mayors, and in 2010, it announced its first Sustainable Energy Action Plan (SEAP). The agreement should reduce GHG emissions by 40% by 2030 in accordance with the goals set forth by the Mayors’ Covenant on Climate and Energy Program. By using the VLCi Platform, a global platform for smart city management, Valencia moves forward with its Smart City Strategy.
In the 2022 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) rank, Denmark received the highest EPI score (77.90), with 14.90 points increase compared to last decade. The Environmental Performance Index is a tool for measuring the environmental performance of a state’s policies. The United Kingdom earned the second position with a very close score, 77.70. Finland occupied the third place with 76.50 points, followed by Malta (75.20), Sweden (72.70), and Luxembourg (72.30).
How to Monitor and Improve Citizens’ Wellness
Sustainability concerns not only the welfare of the planet, but also the well-being of its inhabitants. The environment can positively or negatively impact human health. People need good resources to evolve and stay healthy: fresh air, good food, and drinking water. But how can people know if they have all of these? To evaluate life quality, municipalities usually use publicly available and updated key performance indicators (KPIs), such as:
- # Outdoor air pollution
- # Air quality complaints
- # Risk Management Index
- # Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI)
- % Households with a reliable supply of water
- % Drinking water compliance rate
- % Households with access to safe water
- % Satisfaction with food quality
Since respiratory infections are influenced by air quality, specific KPIs for measuring the air level of pollution should be included in weather updates. Individuals that suffer from chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are susceptible to the negative effects of air pollution. Asthma and COPD are aggravated and triggered by air pollution, raising respiratory morbidity and mortality. Also, cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid, and polio are just a few of the illnesses that can spread due to contaminated water and poor sanitation. People are exposed to health risks when water and sanitation services are absent, unsatisfactory, or improperly managed.
Leaders can use key performance indicators to improve quality of life and make decisions based on the results. Some KPIs, which they can consider are:
By monitoring the energy-related KPIs, community leaders can see if they can satisfy the needs of citizens, using only renewable energy resources. Additionally, KPIs such as # Initiatives promoting greater environmental responsibility and % Current environmentally friendly projects help raise environmental protection awareness.
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Agricultural practices have been continuously developing in the past years due to science and technology. However, progress comes with a cost. A 2021 study reports that food and agriculture are responsible for 25% to 35% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Modern agricultural systems are different compared to organic farming systems. The former uses heavily agrochemicals that increase pollution and negatively affect the underground water supplies. Most nutrients in organic agricultural systems come from biological matter additions, including manure, compost, and cover crops. These supplements feed not only the plants but also the land’s microorganisms.
Technological advancements influenced the agricultural sector as well. A method to monitor the impact of technology on the agronomical field is the use of key performance indicators (KPIs). While designed to make farming efficient, modern machines require energy use and other resources that could generate high emissions levels.
By using KPIs in the monitoring process, every farm owner will be aware of both its positive impact on the environment and the damage it may cause. FAO estimates that emissions from animal agriculture represent 14.5% of annual anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. By measuring the inputs and outputs, farmers can control and implicitly reduce emissions.
According to The KPI Institute, a KPI is “a measurable expression for the achievement of a desired level of results in an area relevant to the evaluated entity’s activity.” In the agricultural sector, KPIs increase productivity and profitability, help manage daily operations, and contribute to informed business decisions.
KPIs in Farm Management
The increase in crop yields has been attributed to modern agronomy, plant breeding, agrochemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers and technical advancements but at the expense of ecological and environmental degradation. Selective breeding and advanced animal husbandry procedures have enhanced meat output, but these methods have generated concerns regarding animal welfare and environmental pollution.
Some of the KPIs that should be considered in the agricultural sector are:
- # Farm size
- % Irrigated farming land
- # Pesticides consumption
- $ Cost per hire
- # On-farm trials and demonstrations
- # Area of land cultivated
- $ Cost of harvesting
These KPIs support the decision-making process and give an evolutionary overview of the farm. For example, monitoring the farm size over the years shows the dimensional growth of the initial placement (storage spaces, land, stables). Knowing the percentage of irrigated farming land gives insights into future costs (water supply, irrigation system). It can help approximate the time until the entire surface will be properly irrigated. Cultivated land area and costs for harvesting insights can predict future harvesting costs of a larger (or smaller) surface. Monitoring pesticide consumption indicates the level of soil degradation, water contamination, and the risks of accidentally killing beneficial insects and non-target plants.
Meanwhile, it is important to note that each farm type has specific KPIs based on their characteristics, goals, and operations. For example, farmers on a dairy farm should consider monitoring:
- # Milk yield per cow
- # Milk flow rate
- % Dairy calves deaths under 1-month-old
- $ Daily cow replacement cost
- $ Concentrate cost per liter of milk produced
- # Cows managed per person employed
Agricultural Productivity and Costs
A 2022 study affirms that through accessing finances, the U.S. agricultural sector sequestrated more carbon in 2020 compared to 2019. Overall, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions decreased from 2019 to 2020 by 10.6%. Thanks to technological advancements and innovation, farmers and ranchers maximized their productivity while using the same quantity of inputs.
When analyzing costs, a Market Intel article highlights that chemicals and fertilizer make up the largest share of on-farm expenditures, up to 17.5%. To optimize expenses and lower the contribution to environmental degradation, the use of these materials should be reduced.
In addition, a 2019 study concludes that effective scheduling of land preparation, plantation, and harvesting; use of early maturing crop varieties, seedbeds, and transplanting procedures for intensive land through crop rotation; selection of disease, insect, and weed control methods; and efficient irrigation and fertilizer use are all feasible measures to increase crop yield and production and revenue.
To monitor productivity and costs, farmers can use these KPIs:
- # Unit production time
- $ Energy costs per unit of production
- # Energy used per unit of production
- % Input waste materials
- # Production per day
FAO describes productivity “as a ratio of a volume measure of output to a volume measure of input use.” It can be determined at any geographical scale for a singular instance (farm, commodity) or a group of farms. Most ranches produce multiple commodities with many inputs that generate costs.
As previously said, advanced technological solutions that enhance productivity without increasing costs have emerged on the market. If the farmer does not have the finances to invest in these technologies, another solution would be to decrease the commodities types and increase the quantity and quality of produced items. This way, the brand focuses on a few product types, gains customers, and increases sales. While constantly developing a customer base, the commodities price could be adjusted to increase profit.
To acquire an in-depth understanding of KPI measurement challenges and ways to address them, join The KPI Institute’s certification program in KPI measurement. The KPI Institute provides toolkits, templates, case studies, and good practice examples from some of the world’s most successful firms, as well as thought-provoking exercises. Enrolled participants will also get free access to the smartKPIs.com premium content, the world’s largest library of documented KPIs.
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People have been working from home even before the pandemic, but their number significantly increased when the health crisis led to lockdowns and travel restrictions. Companies were forced to send their employees home to work remotely to comply with social distancing measures and keep the workforce healthy. Statista shows that before the pandemic, only 17% of US employees worked remotely for five days or more weekly. However, the number grew to 44% during the outbreak in 2020.
When the pandemic subsided and governments eased travel restrictions, some companies asked their workforce to return to the office while others offered the hybrid set-up. However, most employees still prefer remote work.
A poll conducted by Pew Research Center with 5,889 workers in America in January 2022 found that 61% of those who work from home said they avoid going to work by choice and 38% claim their office is closed. It represents a shift from October 2020, when 64% of people worked from home because their office was closed and 36% did so voluntarily.
In spite of that, 50% of leaders in information worker roles want to pursue getting employees back to the office full-time next year, based on Microsoft’s Work Trend Index 2022 report. Still, 52% of respondents say they highly consider becoming remote or hybrid in the year ahead and 80% claim that since remote or hybrid work arrangements were implemented, their productivity has increased.
How Remote Workers Can Be More Productive
According to the popular job site Flexjobs, one of the benefits of working from home is it increases “productivity and performance” as employees encounter fewer interruptions, have a quieter work environment, and have increased workplace comfort, resulting in more focused time.
In a research conducted in Latin America, they explored the relationship between remote work, work stress, and work-life during pandemic times. Researchers found out that by having flexible work schedules, the employees’ engagement and productivity levels increased because they could work at their most productive time. Privacy also plays a big role in employees’ efficiency. However, the productivity level is negatively affected when the worker is constantly interrupted by children or adults that need assistance.
A case study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine investigated the impact of family-work conflict, social isolation, distracting environment, job autonomy, and self-leadership on employees’ productiveness, work engagement, and stress experienced when working from home during the pandemic. The authors discovered that excellent self-leadership skills and autonomy positively impact the time assessment in a WFH scenario.
Results from a qualitative study by Danielle Tinneveld of Radboud University also show that productivity tracking facilitates the identification of process bottlenecks. The affected staff gets less anxious and annoyed when these difficulties are resolved, and overall production efficiency improves.
How Employees Can Track Their Productivity at Home
On a remote workday, people have to manage work and non-work-related tasks. To be productive, they have to master the art of time planning. Effective time management involves planning each activity in a time frame, considering priorities such as urgent work tasks and eating breaks. Individuals should fit their activities into 16 hours to get 8 hours of sleep each day to achieve great productivity. By monitoring the duration of their tasks, they can observe which actions can be improved.
To see if their time management strategy is effective, remote workers can use key performance indicators (KPIs). Some KPIs they can consider are:
- % To do list tasks achieved as planned
- % Time spent working
- % Time spent walking
- % Time spent relaxing
- % Time spent reading (non-work)
- % Time spent preparing food
- % Time spent eating
- % Time spent doing housework
By monitoring the percentage of tasks performed as planned, individuals can see if they reached their target or not. By knowing the percentage of time spent working, people have insights into the free time left for non-work-related tasks, such as going on a walk, relaxing, cooking, eating, and other housework activities (washing clothes and dishes, drying clothes, cleaning floors).
It’s a different story for employees whose companies have return-to-office schemes. Their organizations should rethink their performance management system to consider the new ways of working that employees gained during the pandemic. Evaluating the relevance of KPIs has become important now more than ever. To better understand KPIs, its nature, characteristics, and implementation, enroll now to The KPI Institute’s Certified KPI Professional and Practitioner course.