How Smart Workplace Technology Can Boost Productivity
Technology| By Natasha Dragun | November 24, 2020
Setting up a connected office using smart workplace technology can save your business money, boost staff productivity and even help protect the planet.
Smart phones, homes, watches and cars are no longer just digital trends – our lives are packed with devices streamlining the way we play. What if we could work the same way and improve productivity in a connected office with smart workplace technology? Imagine walking into your office building and receiving a notification telling you which elevator will zip you to your floor fastest. When you arrive at your desk, it adjusts to your preferred height, intuitively knowing whether you prefer to stand or sit first thing in the morning. Later, during a meeting, the thermostat adjusts automatically, recognising how many people are in the room and what the optimal temperature should be.
Believe it or not, this is a reality for employees within the RBC WaterPark Place building in the Canadian city of Toronto. The uber-connected smart office building was designed to look pretty, because good office design means happy employees and enhanced productivity – but it was also constructed to be technologically smart for the same reasons.
Today’s “modern office” is much more than a space that has an open-plan layout, funky furniture and lots of sunlight – it’s also a space that streamlines everything that goes on within those four walls using highly intelligent technology that “communicates” in order to enhance the work experience for everyone involved. It’s something to strive for, whether you still work in an office, or in a less formal environment, like home.
Making Your Office Smart
For your employees to work harder and smarter, the office should be able to do the same thing. To achieve this, it needs to harness the “skills” of pretty much every piece of smart workplace technology in your office. Enter the Internet of Things (IoT), a concept that applies to devices that are connected to the internet, and to each other, allowing them to “talk” in real time to coordinate, manage and monitor optimal conditions around your office.
This goes well beyond computer networking systems, it involves connected environmental elements like doors, lights, curtains and air-conditioning, not to mention other humming – but traditionally not chatty – devices around your office, such as fridges, dishwashers and elevators. You and your employees are also connected, via smartphones.
Is It Really a Digital Trend, or Just a Gimmick?
It’s a thing. Smart technology in workplaces is expected to have a 20 per cent increase in the next five years, in financial terms the global market is expected to grow from US$32.62 billion in 2017 to US$61.4 billion by 2023, with more than 75 billion IoT devices floating around virtually by 2025.
What Are the Benefits of a Smart Workplace?
The goal of a smart office is to have your IoT technology ticking away in the background, automatically taking steps to solve problems, manage time and space efficiency and add value to your organisation. This might involve optimising the flow of people in elevators, adjusting temperatures based on occupancy levels, or pushing content from your laptop to a smart TV without you having to do a thing. It’s a win for employees – think fewer menial tasks and a more satisfying work environment – and a big win for employers, who can look forward to enhanced productivity, lower bills and streamlined operations.
For those still in office buildings, it can be more motivating if that space is a smart workplace – and it’s also attractive to potential employees. Happy employees will want to work for you – who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by highly driven fellow workers, in spaces that make it fun, easier, and let’s face it, downright cool, to do their job?
Employee Productivity Will Skyrocket
If you improve the air quality in your office (traditional or home), and ensure natural light is plentiful, you can boost productivity. A survey has found that 50 per cent of respondents said poor air quality made them sleepier and up to a third lost an hour of work a day due to environmental factors. A smart workplace can improve both air quality and natural light. It will also help provide more dynamic, collaborative areas to promote creativity and efficiency.
How does it do this, you ask? IoT devices contribute a vast stream of data that a clever analytic can massage and turn into meaningful reports that show you just how, and where, your employees are working. You can use this to identify patterns and develop strategic plans to capitalise on natural interactions and connectivity in the office.
On top of this, the mesh of IoT beacons, sensors and mobile apps will help employees perform menial tasks faster – there’s no longer a need to spend 10 minutes turning on every light when they walk into the office in the morning – so they’ll be able to concentrate on growing your business.
An Eco-Friendly Office Helps Save the Planet
Green offices can not only reduce costs in the workplace, they can also help to cut back on emissions by consuming less energy and resources. Studies show that almost 30 per cent of energy used in commercial buildings is wasted, whether that’s because air-conditioning systems run at full capacity even when there’s no-one – or, now, less people – in the office, lights stay glowing over the weekend, curtains remain open on sunny days, or dishwashers are turned on when there’s only one mug to be rinsed. Having IoT devices allows your gadgets to communicate: they know they can turn off if there’s no-one around, or start only when they’re full.
Work Efficiently and Eliminate Wasted Time
You don’t need to sit in sleep-inducing meetings for hours and hours every day. Using the same smart analytic tools that monitor traffic around the office, you can generate live business intelligence about your products, and create efficient plans and schedules that you and your employees can check every day, collectively monitoring progress to see where your business goals are being met – without a single boardroom involved.
How Do I Set up a Smart Workplace?
The good news is that you don’t have to be a large multinational company to be able to make your office smart.
The first step is to ensure that you have a strong wireless network across your workspace – one that will not drop out and can manage all your IoT connections (think hundreds, not dozens). Set up wireless access points in your ceiling – you won’t even know they’re there – as well as outdoors, so your employees can work seamlessly between spaces. And make sure you optimise your network with a powerful router capable of dishing out all those connections when asked. The Google Nest WiFi system is a great starting point for small businesses, as it delivers reliable internet in a scalable manner. If you have a lot of devices floating around, this nest is for you – you can connect up to 200 devices at once, while also using each WiFi point as a speaker.
Once you have this in place, set up other bells and whistles, like smart lighting, smart security cameras, smart smoke alarms, smart door locks and even smart plugs. You can also bring in a consultant to help with your data analytics and business intelligence, so all that new information starts working for you. You don’t have to do everything at once; go at a pace you feel comfortable with. That’s the smart solution.