By 2025, the smart office market is predicted to be worth over $57 billion, a considerable rise from its value of just over $22 billion in 2017. But what precisely is a smart office, should you be buying into this rapidly growing technology, and what benefits could the smart office of the future bring to your business?
What is a smart office?
A smart office makes use of technology to support productive and efficient working, whether staff are working in the office or remotely. Using analytics and Internet of Things (IoT) connected technology, the smart office provides an environment in which employees’ specific needs are catered to at any given time, and in which they feel engaged and connected, wherever they are working from.
What are the benefits of a smart office?
A smart office offers an array of benefits to both employers and employees. These can be summarised as follows:
- Enhanced productivity – repetitive tasks can be automated through smart technology, saving time and reducing costs
- Optimised office space usage – real time data shows how office space is being used so that layouts can be optimised to suit current needs, and better judgement made on future space requirements
- Control – the smart office gives individuals control over their direct working environment, and facilities and building managers general control over crucial building management elements, allowing for more accurate planning and improved budgeting
- Staff retention – smart technology makes it possible to enhance the working environment, boosting staff well-being and morale, resulting in greater staff retention rates and improved talent acquisition
Here’s a closer look at some of the more specific advantages of the smart office:
Improved visitor management
A streamlined visitor experience makes for a positive reputation. A good visitor experience in its entirety is crucial in this respect. From being able to find the building to locating a parking space, to getting through security and finding your way around, every element plays an important role. And in a smart office, every element is taken care of.
Automated visitor management is part and parcel of smart office technology. As a meeting is booked, so an invite is sent to the attendee comprising a map link, a car parking space number and an advance request for security credentials so that everything is taken care of in advance of arrival. On entering the building, wayfinding screens direct the visitor to where they need to be.
The smart office of the future is set to meet and greet visitors with virtual assistant holograms that automate the signing in process. The holograms will be multilingual and able to use sign language, making the entire arrival experience fully accessible, and easing the burden for front of house staff.
The corporate office is getting larger. In fact, many workspaces belonging to bigger organisations are more like small villages than offices. Google’s UK headquarters for example takes up a considerable 650,000 square feet, whilst Facebook’s office space in London occupies 247,000 square feet over seven floors. Quite an expanse to navigate on both counts.
What’s more, these days, with the rise of activity based working and all the many different work zones that come with it, it can be more challenging for employees and visitors to find where they need to be. Whether it’s a meeting room, breakout zone, telephone pod, cafeteria, social space, outdoor terrace, gym, locker room, bicycle storage area or the all-important men’s or ladies’ conveniences, it can be very helpful for building occupants to have some form of wayfinding assistance.
Thankfully, the smart office provides such assistance in the form of screens and apps, not just providing direction, but also showing who is where in the building, as well as real time availability of meeting rooms and other spaces.
Greater environmental control
At the heart of the smart office is the Internet of Things (IoT), an intelligent ecosystem that takes charge of a variety of environmental working conditions courtesy of sensors and other connected devices.
Some of the most useful smart office features highlighted by a 2017 survey were centred on environmental elements. These included:
- Automated lighting and window shades
- Automated heating systems
- The ability to personalise heat and light settings
- Natural daylight lighting systems
Employees have a desire to be comfortable within their workplace surroundings, and prefer to have some degree of control over their immediate environment, although they also like to see the environment manage itself too, in line with external conditions such as changing light and temperature.
Smart lighting for example is known to contribute to a healthy workspace, with research showing that altering lighting types throughout the day allows workers to feel more in control of their working environments. What’s more, temperature, humidity and ventilation are also a major influencer of building health and therefore employee well-being, making a smart HVAC system highly beneficial.
The great thing about smart lighting and HVAC systems is that they learn from user input, making automations all the more accurate in the future.
Automated environmental control also provides vast cost and energy saving benefits too. With sensors detecting when a room is unoccupied and therefore not in need of heat, light or air conditioning, there are no costly ‘accidents’ where systems are left running unnecessarily.
Enhanced employee engagement
Those employees who are happiest in their work take less time off due to sickness absence. They are also the ones who tend to stay the distance and who feel most engaged. They arrive at the office ready for the day, are creative and productive, and help to inspire other members of staff.
Engagement at work is buoyed by social interaction. A sense of community and togetherness within a building is a major plus point.
Depending on the specific technology employed, it may be possible to create that community environment within the smart office, virtually bringing together different teams and departments, and also different organisations within the same building. This would be made possible courtesy of smart office community features. Newsfeed style local events, special offers and even a community chat forum, all brought to users’ fingertips courtesy of a connected app.
What does the smart office of the future look like?
Whilst some of the current features of the smart office may seem innovative now, these really are just the start of something very big. Over the next few years, these innovations will evolve into highly sophisticated solutions that will eventually become such a natural part of everyday office life that no one will even give them a second thought.
Of course, the natural evolution of the smart office will bring with it notable changes. Eventually, smart visitor management will remove the need for reception areas altogether. Facial recognition technology will take over from human identification, and smart access control and CCTV will provide access to and monitor a visitor’s path through a building.
As sensors provide facilities managers with richer data on how the office is being used and how a space could be reconfigured to better suit the individual business needs, organisations will become more agile. And as staff and visitor numbers are monitored throughout the day and machine learning allows for predictive planning, energy consumption will be fully optimised.
How does Smart Spaces enhance the smart office experience?
Smart Spaces is a cloud-based, app-driven platform that uses internet-connected sensors to collate valuable data about the environmental aspects of a workspace. Used in conjunction with a building management system, it has the power to enhance the overall office building experience and provide all-round control of the various building networks and systems.
The app allows individuals to control their own personal workspaces and, when used in conjunction with the building management system, makes it possible for facilities managers to assess, regulate and maintain optimal working conditions as well as formulate cost, energy and time saving strategies.
What’s more, courtesy of the Smart Spaces Social Wall, occupants get to post, like and share content right across the entire building community, bringing everyone together and supporting that all-important sense of togetherness and engagement that is so crucial to the future success of any organisation.
To learn more about how Smart Spaces can support your office into the future, you are welcome to request a free demo or get in touch.