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The Smart Office – 2022 & beyond

Apr 6, 2022

Introduction

With many businesses moving to more hybrid workplaces with smarter processes, smarter technologies and smart digital transformation, the concept of “the smart office” is growing in popularity. Businesses are looking for smart ways to secure a more efficient and sustainable future. It is time for businesses of all sizes to start considering the smart office in 2022 and beyond.

This article will cover:

  • What is a smart office?
  • What is the expectation around the smart office?
  • How will the smart office relate to people, technology, to the workplace and to business?

The Concept: The smart office in 2022 & beyond

Until recently, “the office” use to be a building or place where people went to do their work, whereas today, “the office” has evolved into a larger concept and even into a strategy. This concept is therefore called the smart office concept. 

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What is the smart office concept?

A smart office incorporates the collaboration of people, the workplace and technology, into an interrelated ecosystem of enhanced business operations and processes.

Within the smart office, the workplace becomes a strategic and connected resource, where the latest technologies and processes are adopted, to improve sustainability and increase productivity, wellness, and the employee experience, as well as to reach the business return-on-investment goals.

The smart office aims to support and enhance:

How does a smart office affect its people:

Since the global pandemic, there have been a lot of changes in how we work and how we do business. Organisations have transitioned to various working models like remote work, hybrid work, activity-based work, and even co-working. Whichever work model is chosen by the business, will undoubtedly change how people interact with one another as well as clients and office visitors. How they perform their duties and how they experience the business and their work, will be impacted.

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With people in mind, the smart office places emphasis on supporting the workforce, maintaining employee productivity, creating comfortable spaces, and improving the experience within the workplace. Employee experience is becoming so important, that some organisations have even implemented an overarching approach, where employees are seen as guests or visitors to the office, thereby looking for smart ways to completely revamp the coming to work experience. This is becoming increasingly important for the retention of staff and attracting new talent to the business.

Some great great articles have been published on this topic, by industry leaders

A few years ago, at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic Gartner predicted that “by 2022, 60% of hybrid workers will prioritise a wellness-equipped smart office over a remote office”.

As the worldwide lockdowns ease, there is a global trend in corporate real-estate that 30% to 50% of office spaces is either under-utilised or not used at all. In smart offices, if your business if one of them, it can quickly be identified and changed into more comfortable activity-based work areas that allows employees to choose from a variety of settings according to the nature of what they are doing Not only does this lead to a more efficient use of existing office space, but better communication and knowledge exchange, improved recruitment of top talent and superior retention numbers.

Smart offices look to provide the following types of workspaces for people to choose from, to support their work activities while at the office:

  • Phone-booths (quiet rooms),
  • Focus work rooms,
  • Shared collaborative spaces with content sharing displays,
  • Informal comfortable workspaces with couches, lounges, or recreational spaces,
  • Shared and open plan workspaces
  • Meeting rooms and conference rooms
  • Flexible desk booking
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A smart office encourages space planners, facility managers and human resources teams to adapt the workplace design and layout for people, to have a positive impact on employees returning to the workplace, staff retention, collaboration and teamwork.

The impact a smart office has on the workplace:

The workplace has been rapidly changing from rigid and standalone, into a dynamic interconnected place. Looking at the smart office; more organisations are moving to proactive workspace planning, booking, environmental and space utilisation monitoring. These efforts are used to promote flexibility, better workplace planning, management, performance capability and automation. The workplace is becoming increasingly intuitive and cloud connected, with both active and passive technology touch points examples of active workplace touch points.

Some examples within the smart office, requiring physical interaction by people:

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Examples of passive touchpoints, within the smart office, requiring no physical interaction by people:

  • Arriving in a vehicle, automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) systems can be used to help identify visitors, then to automatically open security gates, after identifying authorised vehicles from pre-registered arrivals.
  • Arriving on foot at the door, radio-frequency identification (RFID) access card systems can open turnstiles for people who were pre-booked.
  • Automatic host notifications of visitors can be sent to a host who is expecting a pre-registered visitor.
  • Even state of building systems like heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) which can auto adjust temperatures, lights, meeting room equipment and cafeteria, or pause area systems, can automatically be adjusted based on the occupancy levels received from IoT and occupancy sensors.

With continuous innovation and digital transformation, it is becoming unavoidable to consider and formulate a smart office strategy. The good news is that as the intuitiveness of technologies improve, it should become easier and more user friendly to adopt.

Data and interconnectivity in a smart office:

Data is becoming more important by the day, to enhance business visibility and capabilities. Office and facility data with analytics take organisations from the realm of guessing and estimation, to management with precision. Data is therefore paramount in the smart office. It is an enabler to a smarter and more sustainable business.

From an integration point of view, systems in smart offices combine information or data exchanged through API’s (Application Programming Interface). Forbes reported that enterprises with advanced API management processes, experience up to 47% better business results when compared to those with basic API management. Advanced API is used to help drive connectivity, collaboration, enhancing the customer experience, fueling innovation and extraction of value hidden deep in the data.

In smart offices, data is becoming more important to help with decisions in business, as seen in this recent Gartner article around data-driven decision making, where it was said that there is a trend that data and analytics leaders are shifting from tools and technology, toward data driven decision making, as a business competency. Diligent, a Gartner magic quadrant leader, said that “access to information can be your prime competitive advantage” and that an integrated management platform will give you visibility and deep insights to understand your organisational risk, provide assurance, and quickly report to executive stakeholders for more informed, data-driven decisions.

The smart office therefore places a high priority on data and analytics to support sustainable and smart businesses.

Using technology in the workplace:

The global pandemic has brought about many irreversible changes to the workplace. A lot of these changes were imminent as part of the fourth industrial revolution but were accelerated due to the impact of Covid-19. Adapting to many of these changes worldwide, would not have been possible without technology.

For businesses to remain efficient, profitable, and competitive, the smart office focuses on being ready and equipped for unexpected disruptions, as we experienced with the pandemic. Disruptions are not only caused by global events but can also arrive through disruptive technology solutions or by disruptive technology companies, that cause macro shifts in cultural and human behaviour, as well as change to “the way things used to be done”.

Examples of disruptive technology:

  • Uber changed the face of public transport as most of us know.
  •  Amazon, is revolutionising E-commerce, shopping, and now even households with Amazon Alexa,
  • Cloud meeting platforms Zoom and Microsoft Teams forced companies to move from on-premise to cloud based solutions in the workplace, which has many benefits.
  • Telecommunications and video conferencing in the smart office is migrating to online and cloud-based comprehensive solutions, to support the hybrid-work force.

Technology in the smart office should be cloud-based, accessible on personal devices, mobile, highly intuitive, driven by the employee experience, equipped with artificial intelligence and rich data analytics, to help with automated tasks and processes and ultimately increase overall organisational productivity.

There is no doubt that technology will always play a vital role in smart office strategies.

How will a smart office affect business:

Originally, any references to the “smart office” appears to refer to offices with smart technologies, when in fact it is much more.

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As seen in this article, the smart office is an approach with efficiency and sustainability as its goal, rather than a technology enabled office. This approach enables you to manage your business better. In the past, offices used to operate in silo’s, individually and disconnected, where as smart offices enable business to centrally manage offices, operations, expenses, performance, business rules, compliance, and governance, with dashboards, data, and analytics.

A smart office strategy can help business reduce costs and boost return on investment (ROI) by:

  • offsetting costs against hybrid-work and remote-work initiatives
  • reducing oversized offices and infrastructure
  • avoiding unnecessary maintenance and operating expenses,
  • not renewing leases unless really needed
  • reducing costs of HVAC, cleaning, maintenance, ICT, electricity, etc.
  • removing redundant, inefficient or manual processes

Summary

By adopting a smart office strategy, businesses purposely create a roadmap to “work and operate smarter”, setting a course for a future with sustainability in mind.

More resources:

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