By Laura Gayle, Business Woman Guide
Smart technology is currently playing a significant role in shaping modern workplaces — so much so that projections peg the smart office market to reach a whopping $57 billion by 2025. The majority of workers spend approximately eight to 10 hours a day at work, so it makes sense that smart technology will have a significant impact in modern offices. With this in mind, companies wanting to keep ahead of the competition are looking at ways to integrate smart technologies into their offices. If you want to modernize your workplace, here are five top ways to do so.
1. Use cloud-based storage and applications. Companies that haven't yet invested in cloud-based storage and applications should make the transition a priority. Cloud-based technology offers several advantages:
- Cost-effectiveness. If used strategically, running off the cloud reduces expenses associated with running servers, performing data backup, and other miscellaneous hardware costs.
- Flexibility. Cloud-based work applications are appealing to remote workers or those on the go. Cloud tech enables companies’ staff to be more productive and collaborative, allowing workers to create an office from anywhere.
- Enhanced security. Small and medium-sized offices often don't have the personnel or resources to maintain a robust IT department. Investing in cloud tech allows companies to take advantage of its powerful security measures, ensuring that information is safe — and providing unprecedented options for backup and data recovery.
- Scalability. How the cloud is used can be adapted as a business grows and changes.
If you had to choose the most influential trend of recent years, the cloud would be it. Some liken cloud technology’s effect to that of electricity of 100 years ago, referring to how drastically electricity transformed society.
2. Integrate artificial intelligence. AI technology has been steadily transforming entire industries in recent years, with no signs of slowing down. Companies can use numerous AI functionalities to "smarten" their offices, benefiting both employees and customers.
- Chatbots: These useful features automate many processes of basic customer support. Adding chatbot capability to a website frees up valuable employee time, and customers like the convenience of having basic questions answered quickly and easily. Some predict that using conversational user interface will be a standard expectation for businesses by 2020.
- AI-customer learning: AI can provide a valuable resource for businesses endeavoring to learn exactly what their customers want. This is a powerful discovery tool to wield, giving a company a strong competitive advantage.
- Personalized recommendations: In the age of Amazon, customer expectations have risen dramatically. Offering a high level of personalization for customers during the shopping experience is one such expectation customers have come to rely upon.
AI is one aspect of tech to keep a careful eye on as it comes to full maturation; it holds so much potential that hasn't even yet been realized. Don't wait too long to take advantage of it, though: Businesses across all industries are quickly adopting AI’s different options, meaning yours could quickly fall behind the competition, both as an employer and a seller.
3. Utilize smart assistants. Offering technologies such as Siri, Echo, Cortana, Google Assistant, or Alexa in the office is a worthwhile investment that will appeal to top talent. Digital assistive technology offers advantages to the office experience in several ways:
- Streamlined admin capability. Employees can better multitask by using smart assistive devices to manage tasks, maintain calendars, and respond to data requests.
- Connectivity and communication. Workers can easily sit in on conferences from anywhere, whether a distant city or the next office over. Imagine a scenario where someone says "Alexa, start the meeting" — then participants are connected and relevant files are presented smoothly and seamlessly.
- Environmental control. Voice-activated devices can adjust lighting, temperature, and ventilation, as well as report any IT problems.
A voice-enabled office is an interesting perk today's workers appreciate. Since most people are already accustomed to using smart assistants on their phones and computers as well as inside of their homes, it's natural they'd appreciate access to this tech at work, too.
4. Add office amenities. Several technologies can add a level of convenience to the office environment while also affording savings on energy costs. Consider adding technological amenities such as:
- Keyless entry. When you’re balancing a computer bag in one hand, coffee and a bagel in the other, it’s surprisingly welcoming to have the office security system recognize you and open the door without having to also fumble for your ID card.
- Automated lighting. Similarly, lights can turn on in advance of a worker’s approach, adjusting to a preferred level automatically — and offering an effortless start to the workday.
- Conferencing technology. VR-equipped meeting rooms or 360-degree conference cameras are just some of the tech options expanding the possibilities within a conference setting.
- Climate control. Nest and other smart thermostats can track employees’ climate preferences, then adjust and create a comfortable environment with a minimum of input.
- Smart desks. Some variable-position desks alert employees to shift positions when they've been sitting (or standing) too long, enabling them to keep track of their patterns over the long term. Others let employees compete to see whose workplace habits are healthiest, adding an element of fun to the workplace.
These technologies can create an easier workday for employees, facilitating collaboration and boosting morale as well as productivity.
5. Reinvigorate the workspace. Many employees now prefer modernized office layouts, which are generally more open, airy, and relaxing than their historically cubicled ancestors. Hence, remodeling a workspace to bring it up to modern standards can be a great investment. Here are some appealing adjustments you can make:
- Shared worktables. Capacious shared surfaces allow workers to spread out but still maintain proximity, encouraging camaraderie and collaboration.
- Informal meeting areas. Sofas and other flexible seating options add comfort and encourage relaxed thinking.
- Nooks for privacy. Workers engaging in focused work or conference calls can take advantage of a few private, soundproofed nooks with doors that close.
- Cafés. Often used as another informal space for meeting or working, the company café can be even more attractive when it offers healthy food options.
- Natural light. Businesses are coming to understand just how much workers value natural light in their workspaces. Skylights and windows should be part of your plan.
Connectivity is essential in the endeavor to modernize the workplace. When creating these spaces, make sure your office Wi-Fi is both reliable and strong throughout your facility. Without solid connectivity, none of the above features will augment the workplace as well as they could.
While you might not want to go to the extent of microchipping employees as you integrate smart tech into your business, there are many IoT gadgets and AI-driven tools that can make your office a smarter and more desirable place to work. These tools empower and encourage autonomy for employees, which typically leads to higher levels of morale and productivity.