New technology in the workplace is shaping everything from how we connect with far flung co-workers to how we maintain social distance from those in the next cubicle over.
Embracing the right technology is key to improving both the hybrid workplace and the employee experience. It is critical to both the future of remote working and the current return to the office.
And of course, the right technology can also improve employee productivity, support innovation in the workplace, and create a happier and healthier work environment.
In this article, we explore new technology in the workplace and how it can future-proof any office space.
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There’s no doubt we’ve experienced a digital transformation in recent years. Technological advancements now allow us to streamline almost every aspect of communication and workplace management. From simple file-sharing to complex algorithms and artificial intelligence, it’s the organizations that embrace new technology in the workplace that better support their people and their profit margins.
Specifically, when cloud-based software and other tools are leveraged to create a digital workspace, workers are able to do their best work from anywhere, at any time.
This is how companies are able to better support hybrid work and empowerment in the workplace. It’s also what allows for better facility planning and strategic space management.
For example, when facility managers (FMs) have new software that lets them improve space utilization, they can cut back on floor space without impeding workflows. This in turn can lead to more flexible working options in the office, like agile working and activity-based working (ABW).
Of course, if you give a mouse a cookie, it will want a glass of milk. And the more employees enjoy the benefits of flexible and hybrid working, the more flexible and hybrid working they will demand.
In this way, technological innovation in the workplace is a loop; technology changes the way we work, and the way we work leads to demands for new technology.
The target for any new technology in the workplace should be to support the future of work. Any modern workplace demands technology in the workplace like smartphones and web cams, as well as new software solutions. And a hybrid workplace demands even more integrated and collaboration options.
When choosing new technology for the workplace, choose wisely. It’s critical that FMs and business leaders not create a hodge-podge of software and tools. A sloppy network of random solutions to various problems can often create as many problems as it solves.
That’s why all new technology should be integrated with cloud-based ‘software-as-a-service’ (SaaS) options that are simple and easy to use and update.
Ultimately, the most important new technologies are those that improve collaboration in the workplace and the overall workplace experience. They typical fall into one or more of the following four areas.
Even in the most traditional of traditional offices, a large amount of work will always take place online. Good digital workplace solutions are therefore necessary to improve workflows, automate repetitive tasks, store data, and make communication with colleagues seamless—both in real time and asynchronously.
This will necessarily include good communication and collaboration tools. This can include video conferencing software, messaging and file-sharing apps like Microsoft Teams, and/or an intranet.
It may also include ensuring remote workers have the necessary hardware to do their jobs well. And equipping the office with good mics and cameras to foster better hybrid meetings.
Of course, more shared digital spaces and more workers connecting to their own networks creates increased cyber risk. A key part of any digital workspace will therefore include initiatives to boost cybersecurity for enhanced company protection of assets and information.
Given its popularity and success, we can only expect more organizations to embrace the hybrid workplace. Even after the pandemic is fully behind us. This means hybrid workplace technology will play an increasingly important role in the future of work.
The hybrid workforce needs a robust digital workspace, of course. Hybrid workers also have unique needs compared to their completely in-office or completely remote colleagues.
For example, hybrid workers may have trouble finding their way around an office they use infrequently. This means enhanced wayfinding may be in order. As we’ll cover further below, they’ll also need easy ways to book desks and meeting spaces for when they’re in-office.
And while virtually every office space could benefit from a visual directory, it can be particularly useful for hybrid teams where people are moving around so frequently.
“Hybrid workers need visibility around when they should and shouldn’t be coming into the office,” says Luke Anderson, VP of Product and Strategy at OfficeSpace. “Companies need to remove barriers to adopting the hybrid model.”
It’s also important to note that employee satisfaction jumps when hybrid employees have complete control over their hybrid work schedule. Specifically, we know from Cushman and Wakefield’s industry-leading Experience per Square Foot™ workplace experience survey that overall experience scores for hybrid workers jumps from 45% to 74% when they have complete choice over when (and where) they work.
That means smart companies will look for flexible workspace technology. They need tech that allows them to easily manage and support complex and perhaps always changing work schedules.
Like we’ve covered, improving space utilization is often the key to better workplaces. It’s also often the key to smaller workplaces. A better occupancy rate leading to cost savings and a reduced carbon footprint.
So, not surprisingly, many new workspace technologies center around using space better. This is best accomplished with real-time reports and analytics that offer a more complete picture of the workplace. In particular, having access to software that can improve room capacity calculations and headcount planning can make it much easier to improve space optimization now and in the future.
If this same software and analytics is also integrated with your entire integrated workplace management system (IWMS), it can also help with restacking the workplace, as well as move management and scenario planning.
Of course, this type of detailed facility planning is best accomplished by using IoT sensors. IoT sensors can provide granular insight into how employees are actually using their available space. Especially when these sensors are integrated with a badge system, organizations can use motion, speed, or vibrations to track building occupants in real time.
Ultimately, this is why companies need access to good workplace analytics to embrace workplace trends. It’s only armed with the right data and insights that organizations can make better decisions for their office spaces.
Finally, the end goal for any technology in the workplace should be to create a better work environment for everyone who uses it. According to Anderson, companies need new technology that will allow them to “focus on giving their employees what they really need, instead of spending too much time on things that don’t have value, like assisting employees who can’t get a desk booked.”
Specifically, companies should seek out the following technologies:
It needs to be easy for employees to find what they need, book desks, and feel comfortable and productive.Luke Anderson, VP of Product and Strategy, OfficeSpace Software
It needs to be easy for employees to find what they need, book desks, and feel comfortable and productive.
Note that these desk and room booking solutions will need to accommodate a growing number of flexible seating arrangements. These arranagements can include hot desking, hoteling, and free addressing. These usually work best with the same AI-based tech that can also improve other aspects of the facility.
Most challenges to new technologies in the workplace boil down to how well they are rolled out.
First, it’s important to ensure that any new technology or software will integrate easily with existing technology or software. Otherwise, things can get unwieldy fast.
Second, it’s also important to get buy-in from all team members. That’s why it’s often smart to include HR in any roll outs. This helps to ensure that employees are fully knowledgeable in all the ‘whys’ and ‘hows,’ and so that all their concerns can be addressed.
And of course, it’s also critical that employees be have the necessary communication and guides to ease adoption.
If they say ‘a man is only as good as his tools,’ then a workplace is only as good as its technology. It’s only with the right technology that organizations can give their employees the ability to actually do their jobs to the best of their abilities.
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Photos: John Schnobrich, Christina @ wocintechchat.com, Brooke Cagle, Annie Spratt