Smarter offices for 2017
Russell Bowes (Guest Author)
The office has seen many revolutions over the last quarter century, computer’s, email and the internet have all revolutionised the workplace. To keep up with this revolution and the emergence of smart office technology, successful companies will need to do their best to keep up with the increasing pace of change.
Over the past few years smart technology has seeped into every aspect of our lives with smart TVs, connected devices and artificial intelligence (such as Google Alexa and Amazon Echo) becoming part of many people’s everyday environment.
So far the modern office has lagged a little behind. 2017 could be the year in which established offices start to catch up with the dynamic environments which can be offered through coworking spaces or home offices. The modern office needs to evolve to stay relevant. To do so, employers need to offer the right smart office technology environment which is fully customised for the modern, interconnected workforce and which can maximise worker productivity.
Today smart offices can employ a large range of smart technologies including new communication channels, data management and segmentation and automation as well as artificial intelligence and the internet to disrupt their business model and sector. In many cases this can improve how smart technology offices run. As offices, coworking spaces and home offices undergo even more change, technology will create smarter offices and businesses by focusing on efficiency, interconnectedness, productivity and sustainability.
So what kind of smart office technology will be see in 2017?
1. The smart office will start to catch up with the smart home
With the ever quickening pace of development in smart technology and its inclusion in the home, employees are starting to expect greater use of smart technology to be integrated in their working environment. Google’s Home and Amazon Alexa/ Echo were top of many Christmas gift lists in 2016, helping to popularise the phrase ‘smart home’. At the same time 2016 also saw tech savvy millennials entering the workplace in even greater numbers. By 2020 millennials will form half the global workforce. This generation is much more at home with smart technology and now expects office environments to be as smart as the devices in their pockets and homes. In the USA 82% of millennials said workplace technology impacts their acceptance of a job. Offices which continue to work with 20th century technology and processes will struggle recruiting and retaining talented millennial workers.
2. Smart technology brings greater agility and personalisation
2017 will see smart office technology being implemented to give employees a greater level of personalisation in their roles and approach to work. Implementing technology such as software automation, artificial intelligence, real time collaboration beyond Google docs and shared DropBox folders and remote working will come together to create a more agile and efficient workforce. Along with the rise of coworking spaces and remote or home working, these technologies are allowing today’s employees to demand changes in how they interact with their workplace. Whilst employees need offices which adapt and respond to their needs through the day, around half don’t have access to workspaces and technology to do so. 2017 could see the emergence of smart building and workspace technologies such as remote working and cloud computing which give employees more control and customisation over their workplace by taking the workplace out of the office and freeing people up to work on the go or from home. Ultimately this should lead to improved productivity and just as importantly greater job satisfaction. Today’s millennial worker is creative, mobile and agile and needs their office to be flexible too.
3. Simpler and more intuitive workplaces
As office and coworking space smart technology will start to become more simple and intuitive which will have a greater impact on productivity. So far among older employees engagement rates for workplace technology are much lower than those for millennials. When technology is too complicated or makes people’s lives a little more difficult, people won’t use it. Happily the market is filled with a lot of consumer apps which are popular for ordering everything from lunch to a taxi. When an app or piece of smart technology is easy to use and delivers appreciable value, it is much more successful. One of the biggest and easiest ways to introduce more smart technology into work and coworking spaces is via speedier and more fluid ways to communicate. Email is starting to go the way of landline phones with the introduction of platforms which enable real time collaboration and social working through image sharing, voice chat, and video messaging being rolled into single platforms. Communication platforms are also integrating productivity functions such as file sharing, artificial intelligence and real-time collaboration into a single package. Today’s smart office can maximise integration to enhance productivity.
4. The environment, sustainability and energy efficiency
Part of the march towards a smart office, whether at your company, coworking space or home office is to seek more innovative energy saving and environmentally protective solutions around the workplace. Companies will work towards using more green office supplies and switch to greener, low energy, technologies around the office. In home offices people are installing smart meters to monitor energy usage and reduce their energy use (and energy bills). Office buildings are integrating renewable energy solutions like wind or solar energy into their buildings to save energy and reduce bills. Smart buildings are being designed to monitor total energy usage and apply ‘smart solutions’ to improve energy efficiency. By combining the installation of air conditioners and window controls with better building materials, offices are becoming smarter and greener at the same time.
5. Coworking spaces and smart technology
With more to invest than home workers and greater flexibility than traditional offices, coworking spaces may be best placed to quickly introduce and leverage the benefits of smart technology in an office environment. Coworking spaces enable and encourage collaborative working and networking and dramatically change the way people work.
Smart technology can be used to monitor the distribution of users across the working space through the day. Through smart heat sensors you can see which spaces need heating, lighting and power. Combined with a smart power grid and climate control, you can automatically reduce power in unused areas, cutting energy bills. Millennial workers have a greater preference for using their own devices and setting their own hours, eschewing the traditional nine-to-five work day. Smart technology such as smart locks and connectivity apps can allow users to access coworking spaces in a more flexible way, coming and going as they please.
Guest post By Russell Bowes