Wednesday, April 1, 2020

What to consider when creating a smart office

There is no denying that demand for smart offices is growing. The Global Smart Office Market is predicted to increase by 13% by 2026, reaching a value of almost $60 billion. This interest is warranted: smart offices can help facilitate productivity and provide a more creative and efficient work space, as well as automate time-consuming processes. Key to this are centralized workplace management solutions that enable organisations to effectively meet the needs of both the business and its workforce.

Automation and connectivity are at the heart of these new smart work spaces and can help organisations future-proof their businesses. However, results can fall short of expectations if not embarked upon with the right focuses. It is also important to acknowledge that the most effective smart offices don’t simply collect a range of ‘smart’ innovations for the sake of it; they need to integrate all hardware, software, networks, sensors and spaces in a cohesive system that complements workplace functions and can adapt and be built upon when required.

As such, to create an effective smart office, there are several aspects that stakeholders should consider.

The control and automation of connected devices

Regardless of the industry or size of the environment, effective control over work space devices is an important driver of efficiency. And, as businesses grow and become more global, there are more stakeholders, physical work spaces and devices to coordinate. In light of this, the capabilities of workplace management systems should be a primary concern for facilities and IT infrastructure management who wish to ensure adequate control over their ecosystem even as it expands. 

This comes with several benefits. For example, greater control over connected devices can improve visual communication. When controlled from a centralized system, digital signage solutions can be updated near-instantaneously, allowing managers to easily communicate with various teams across an office or multiple locations - which can be particularly valuable in emergencies, or for special events. For example, should a fire break out and require employees to swiftly leave the building, all display devices can automatically show visual warnings and/or exit routes. 

Additionally, stakeholders can create personalized experiences through automation. For example, sensors can detect when someone enters a meeting room, automatically booking it for them. Automated meeting and conference scenarios such as this are becoming an increasing focus for large enterprises looking to optimize daily work processes. 

Further, these innovations can assist with the creation of a more eco-conscious environment. Accenture research found that executives are looking to be more sustainable in their work spaces as they see climate change as one of society’s biggest challenges. These intuitive systems and connected devices can drive energy efficiencies with features such as automated on/off timers and gather data energy usage and air quality into a dashboard, which is useful for informing future strategic sustainability decisions.

Facilitating collaboration

When teams and tribes are expected to form, adapt and disband projects at speed, effective teamwork and communication are essential. Work space management systems can assist with this, helping teams come together and collaborate rapidly. 

Wireless content sharing technology can improve communication channels by providing seamless connectivity across the workplace. They reduce the need for IT teams to be called out to fix simple issues and alleviate the pains of delayed meetings due to incompatible cables and ports. Instead, workers can seamlessly share files from any device to multiple displays, enabling them to work together on document management in real-time. 

Future-proofing to meet evolving workplace behaviors The smart office has also become an appealing solution as organisations attempt to adapt to the changing nature of working styles. The globalization of work is increasing and as a result, businesses are becoming more reliant on technology to enable effective communication. 

In parallel to this, shorter meetings, a growing focus on collaborative working and a heavier reliance on visual materials are all fueling the need for more effective workplace technology. The smart office caters to such trends by boosting remote connectivity, streamlining collaboration and integrating common workflows - like room booking - into one intuitive system. Together, this allows work spaces to meet the evolving needs of a business. 

Likewise, as a new generation of workers enters the work space, the smart office is a way of attracting and retaining talent. Digital natives such as generation-Z actively seek to work for organisations that meet their expectations of being digitally integrated. Research from Harvard Business Review found that technologically driven brands are more successful in the recruitment of ‘gen-Z’ students. The skills brought in by the next generation are essential for any business to grow, so an interest in creating an attractive environment for future workers should be front of mind for all organizations.

A tailored approach is key

While it's evident that the smart office can unlock huge value across the entire corporate environment, it’s paramount to understand that without conscious consideration and clear purpose, additional workplace technologies can be a fruitless investment. 

Stakeholders should consider how best to integrate workplace management systems with ease and should not see them as a ‘one size fits all’ solution. Every business, team and individual has unique needs; working with expert providers and installers with proven experience in delivering tailored solutions is crucial. If an office can take into consideration the employee’s best ways of working this will support the optimization of their productivity. 

Historically, employees have had to adapt to whatever work space they are in. Today, smart work spaces have the potential to flip this on its head. If a smart working environment is thought-through and truly designed with its employees at its heart, it can be an incredibly valuable investment which will future proof the organisation for years to come.

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