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Smart Offices and Employee Benefits

Staff and physical space are two of our biggest overheads, so why not make them both smarter?

Jan 2017

Smart Offices and Employee Benefits

We often think about how to make ourselves or our team work smarter or harder but what about our offices? Aside from the decor and maybe a fancy new screen or two when we relocate, we rarely think about the setup and functionality of how our office works as a whole.

Over the last few years ‘office culture’ is the big thing everyone wants to improve. From office slides and pool tables to ‘breather’ spaces and quirky workstations, work from home Fridays and more.

Do we need all of these perks? Probably not. Do they make a huge difference to productivity? Who knows.

Company culture today rarely takes into account technology and its use outside of say, iMac or PC, iPhone or Blackberry. We see this about to change in a big way. 

The office is fortunately evolving, not dying and even with remote teams, connected office spaces could make the working experience more valuable and appealing. We drive to work in smart cars, we wake up in smart homes, so smart offices? They shouldn’t be that far off.

The benefits of creating or working in a connected office space

Here are some of the reasons offices which are smarter, are better and why we believe they’ll become the norm over the next few years. 

The connected office space is where we’re heading. 

For perhaps the first time ever, our homes are much smarter than our offices. This will change. When you think about it, we already have many of the devices in our offices that connected spaces make use of, from our PCs, to company smartphones and the large redundant screens sitting up on the walls. Connecting them all up, isn’t actually that hard.

It adds value and makes employee lives easier. 

The idea behind smart devices and smart spaces is that everything becomes more intune and more efficient. With devices such as smartwatches, smartphones, PCs, tablets and digital signage screens all hooked up, you get a much more connected, adaptable workforce. One where an employee working from home can use their smart TV to work better. Where content on your laptop can be pushed to the large screen without any friction. The result of which, is more reliability, more efficiency, better connections and more data to analyze on employee pain points and blockers.

Connected office spaces will be highly appealing. 

Future employees will gravitate towards offices that are connected, utilizing IoT to manage and control their environment. While free fruit is nice, telling a potential worker that you can create the environment which will enable them to create the best work of their career is immensely more valuable. While many believe that a smart office is still out of their price range, implementing one now will be a huge selling point on any job ad, leading to better talent acquisition and better work.

Smart offices make employees more effective.

The way we work on any given day can change at a moment’s notice. You may be working alone, then need to jump on a call with a remote team, or move to an area where you can collaborate with 10 others. Are our current workspaces built to respond to this? Probably not. 

Instead, most offices have one meeting room that gets booked and often runs over (or sees no shows). Or a break out space that doesn’t get used as much as it should because no one knows how long they might have it for. 

Even in flexible working spaces where employees can sit anywhere you have the opposite problem with lack of privacy. Smarter offices could help solve this with simple systems like sensors which tell you when people are in seats or digital signs that create and manage room bookings for you. 

Connected offices integrate systems.

We’re bombarded by systems; email, messaging, Dropbox, iCloud, Google Drive plus our own servers or intranets. These create organizational silos and increase time needed to move from one to another. 

Connecting these together has proved difficult, especially in a BYOD environment or an environment where employees are allowed to choose their own work devices. IoT and connected offices help reduce the friction between different systems. Perhaps you already use Slack to discuss projects and updates. Now you can use it to see when staff arrive or enter a meeting using badge sensor systems that talk to Slack. Perhaps you can turn up the lights with a simple /lights command or turn down the heater. You can vote on songs you want played, or tell a smart desk who needs it that afternoon. 

Connected spaces make all of these individual systems compile into one easy to use, intuitive system that makes sense to how we work today. 

Smart offices produce smart data.

When you think about it, staff and physical space are probably two of our highest overheads. Yet how much do we really know about how the space serves the staff and how the staff use the space? Very little. In fact, other than anecdotal staff feedback, it’s probably really difficult to get a handle on what’s going on. 

Data gives processing power and allows people to make better decisions. It finds blocks and can help navigate them - in an arguable way.

Should you create a smart office space for your employees? 

With the rise of the smart office of course there are data considerations and privacy issues. But isn’t this the same as any new technology or evolving office ecosystem? When messaging apps such as Slack and Skype were first brought in, employers had the opportunity to abuse this by checking up on when employees were ‘online’. Employees similarly, could simulate being ‘online’ when perhaps they weren’t. There’s a similar consideration with chairs which sense when someone is sitting on them and doors which monitor when staff walk in.

All of these scenarios come down to trust, not how smart the office is. 

For employees, the benefit of the smart connected office has to provide so much benefit and so much value that it outweighs the ‘Big Brother’ feeling of being watched. It has to make the employee's working environment so desirable, their work so much more meaningful and their time so much more effective that their only question will be; how could I ever have not worked in a smart office? 

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