From ranks of office workers perched on stools at high desks, to staff holding meetings sprawled on bean bags, offices have changed drastically over the decades.
In the 1980s, offices and businesses underwent a revolution driven by the novel technologies of the day: the PC, the fax machine, the LAN. Today’s equivalents include the smartphone, wireless connectivity and IoT.
The office remains essential as a focal point for any organisation, but its role is changing in response to many influences. The pressing problem of increasingly expensive commercial real estate, especially in cities, is forcing organisations to maximise the efficient use of every square metre. The working practices of the current generation of employees is also driving change. Their insistence on a better work/life balance is driving businesses to adopt more flexible, often remote, work practices. Concern for the environment, or just frustration with commuter traffic, is also encouraging “greener” policies.
Smart offices make for smart businesses.
There are many benefits to creating a smart office. From working more productively and reducing operating costs, to attracting new recruits, creating an intelligent workplace is a sound investment and organisations which incorporate the latest technologies into their workplaces and work practices are reaping the benefits.
Increasing deployment of available and emerging IoT, virtual reality (VR) and AI technologies will ensure employees and businesses both see the benefits – everywhere from work/life balance to the bottom line.
VR tools, combined with faster networking, enable greater collaboration and smarter, more efficient use of equipment. Virtual whiteboards and pinboards are already available and teams can even work collaboratively on design documents overlaid on real-world objects.
Hot-desking– desks used on a first come, first served basis – has been around for a while, but IoT and data can make it even more efficient, by helping businesses to better understand utilisation and occupancy. They can also support employee health and welfare. Built-in sensors can enable automatic adjustment of desk height and chair to accommodate different hot-deskers and alerts can be sent to a user who’s been sitting or standing for too long.
Data drives design.
Building and office design can both be enhanced by the intelligent use of data. There’s nothing new about heating and air-conditioning systems adjusting automatically, responding to temperature and humidity. But sensors placed throughout a building can deliver data which enables so much more. For example, data analysed using AI can enable automated air-filtration systems to refresh air quality when it drops below a pre-determined threshold. Hospitals already use this technology. Smart offices will be next.
Aggregate data from sensors can also be fed back to the building design process. This can drive further environmental improvements such as retaining and recycling rainwater to reduce water consumption, improving lighting design and making buildings more energy efficient.
Reduced power consumption demonstrates an environmental awareness which will be highly attractive to the upcoming generation of workers. Businesses with environmental responsibility as a core value will find it easier to attract the best employees.
A more flexible and more pleasant working environment will attract more people who want to work there. They’ll also find it easier to work more efficiently. If the working environment is also a more sustainable one, then increased productivity will go hand-in-hand with reduced costs, through lower energy bills.
To support innovative working, offices must become as smart as the people and technologies inside them. Make your office as attractive, adaptable, sustainable and productive as possible, taking advantage of the latest technologies to make it smarter.