The office environment may not be exciting, but most organisations can definitely stand to make the workplace smarter. Creating a smart office benefits everyone, by building a better workplace that helps people do their jobs more efficiently. The smart office is increasingly becoming a reality, and it’s a concept that virtually any workplace can benefit from. But how do you go about making the workplace smarter?
What is a Smart Office?
Smart phones, smart watches, smart cars. Now, the smart office. Of all the facets of life that technology is changing, the office is one of the environments that has changed the most. Most workplaces are digital in at least one or two aspects, and some are going all the way, with software and equipment that is transforming the way we work.
The concept of the smart office has developed gradually over the last couple of decades. In the 1990s, it began with the introduction of mobile devices and laptops, which started to open up the idea of a more flexible and portable workspace. And as the tech has become more advanced, we’re starting to see an increasing level of digital integration in the workplace, improving efficiency, reducing overheads, and helping employees connect and collaborate.
This is essentially what a smart office is all about. It’s a workplace where technology is used to help people work more productively. That can mean different things according to the focus of the workplace. It might be about helping people do their work faster or more accurately, for instance, or about helping people work in groups more effectively.
Incorporating smart elements into an organisation can benefit employees and the business in a number of ways. For instance, a smart office can help you:
- Maintain better control over costs, by making it easier to monitor resource use and analyse where resources might be better spent.
- Maintain an office schedule, by helping you track how employees use their time.
- Keep better track of office data, by switching to cloud storage and using tools that improve data accessibility. The Internet of Things (IoT) comes into play here—as more devices have online capability, the data they generate is easier to access and control.
- Make important decisions faster and more accurately. When you have better access to crucial data, you’re much better equipped to make decisions.
- Making the work environment more pleasant with smart systems that control temperature, lighting, and ventilation.
- Create a workplace where employees enjoy being able to use tools that make their work more comfortable and more efficient—not only improving work performance, but also reducing the frequency and impact of absenteeism.
How to Start Building a Smart Office
There are no particular rules for making a workplace smarter. After all, the kinds of tech you need depend wholly on what kind of work is going on. Not sure what to focus on? Go back to basics and start with job descriptions. Look at what your employees are doing each day, and that can give you an idea of where improvements can be made. Better yet, ask people for feedback about what kinds of tech they think would make their jobs easier or help them be more productive.
Some ideas for making the office smarter include:
- Connect to the cloud. This is a critical first step for most businesses that want to incorporate smart technology. Using cloud services means making data more accessible for everyone who needs it, and businesses can get up and running quickly and easily.
- Use cloud-friendly software like Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business in Office 365, that allow employees to access the cloud, collaborate more effectively, work productively from any office location, and work remotely with equal efficiency.
- Integrate a digital scheduling and room-booking system that everyone has access too. A well-designed system will eliminate problems with employees who can’t be located, or rooms that are overbooked or unused.
- Enhance security with a smart security surveillance system, Wi-Fi-enabled deadlocks, or other kinds of security that exchange keys and swipe cards for digital security tech.
- Consider the smart environment. A simple tool such as a smart thermostat is a good way to start using the IoT, and being able to control the office environment from a single central location can help you cut costs while making everyone more comfortable.
- Another smart environment option is a centrally-controlled lighting system that allows you to control lighting remotely, or that automatically turns lighting off in rooms that aren’t in use.
- Using a voice-controlled virtual assistant such as Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s Assistant can help you integrate multiple smart functions into the same device, and control them all with voice commands.
Build a Smarter, Better Workplace, and Reap the Rewards
Making your workplace environment a smarter one benefits everyone in the organisation, from the ground up. And most workplaces stand to gain in some way from implementing smart technology. There’s no need to make drastic changes all at once—you can start in one or two small ways, and see how the benefits stack up!