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  • Writer's pictureLynsey Woods

Workplace Technology - The Must Haves & Benefits

We’re in a workplace technology revolution with many businesses recognizing the need to adapt in a rapidly evolving business landscape; with the rise of AI, automation, and the demand for a seamless hybrid work experience, its critical organizations understand and invest in technology enhancements in order to stay competitive and relevant so they don’t get left behind.

(It’s not robots taking over the world, yet — but seamless ways to improve the workplace experience through clever automations and tech).

Today, workplace technology is breaking traditional barriers, going beyond basic IT systems and software that employees use daily. Businesses are now taking on a holistic approach via technology to improve all aspects of the working environment: productivity, efficiency, sustainability, wellbeing, and safety – to ultimately elevate the employee experience, save the bottom line, and future proof.

When these innovations are brought together, businesses see an increase in employee efficiency, retention, and happiness — all of which are key factors for success in a hybrid, work-from-home world. Microsoft finds that better technology experiences result in “15% higher employee engagement, 59% higher productivity, and a 121% higher rating of their employer” (via Qualtrics).

Driven by the need to create a healthy, and happy employee experience, the employee technology experience (ETX) is increasingly viewed as a way to bring value to your people — read more about that here, and to ensure employees have a positive workplace experience, smart tech offers the most promising way forward. Tech is being woven into the physical workplace itself — the very structure of the building, daily operations and new systems and processes, all crucial elements of the design process, and the benefits are ground breaking.

In this guide we provide you with a comprehensive overview of different areas and benefits of workplace technology, and the impact to workplace design in this context. Happy reading!

Workplace Technology – The Trends & Benefits + Impact to Design

Smart Office Integrations On the heels of the smart home — where simple automations are used to adjust the temperature or lighting at a certain time of day — offices are adopting similar technology to create a more comfortable, productive, and sustainable work environment, that saves energy and money.

While lighting and heating are two of many capabilities offered by smart technology, its benefits go even further in the workplace. Many smart office integrations are paired with artificial intelligence (AI) to collect data in the workplace, that can operate ‘on demand’, and allow systems to be adjusted accordingly. Functions can include:

  • Occupancy sensors to detect the presence of people in the room, that adjust lighting, temperature and more as needed

  • Air quality automations trigger ventilation or filtration systems as needed, ensuring clean, healthy air

  • Climate control systems detect preferences and usage patterns, then regulate temperature accordingly

  • Light sensors can detect levels of natural and artificial lighting in a room. The lighting is adjusted to ensure more natural and comfortable environments, reducing eye strain for employees

  • Sound masking allows speech noise to disappear into the background through an intelligent white noise system, creating a ‘hum’ in the workplace without any interference or buzz. Reducing distractions allows for sharper focus and better productivity

  • Environmental sensors keep an eye on invisible health and safety risks, including carbon monoxide, humidity, particle pollution and ground-level ozone

For more information about workplace AI, click here.

Privacy and Security

With the growing volume of data being generated and shared in the digital workplace, data privacy and security is now of paramount importance, and smart technology is being used to increase the safety and security of office buildings, for example:

Security – smart alarms can be armed and disarmed remotely, with a management system available on all devices, anytime. CCTV can be linked to the cloud and accessible anywhere, while security cameras offer insight into what is occurring in the building. Motion sensors can be set up to trigger automatic security systems, such as using cameras to detect movement. These smart monitor systems improve security and may reduce the need to hire after-hours security staff.

Building access – smart access control uses cloud systems to implement security credentials for the building, with monitoring available to HR and security teams. Staff can also use their smartphones to access the office, gone are the days of your white pass that is lost (and sometimes found) on a weekly basis.

Booking systems – seamless desk and room booking systems align with modern work practices by offering real time visibility and optimized space utilization; with the increase of hot desking and shared private spaces, this relatively cost-effective measure is easy to use, and implement.

Read more about smart workplace technology trends here. Wellness Technology

Did you know? Mental health conditions are costing Australian businesses up to $12B each year through absenteeism, reduce performance, turnover rates, and compensation claims – Black Dog Institute.

In recent years, many companies have made significant investments in the employee health and wellbeing space (due to the many upsides), with an emerging trend to use design and technology to enable a company’s wellness goals. According to Microsoft Work Lab, when health and wellbeing are actively promoted in an organization, employees are 8 times more likely to be more engaged, and the organization is seen as 4 times less likely to lose talent in the next year.

Wellness technology refers to the use of digital tools, applications, devices, and platforms to support and enhance overall well-being and promote a healthy lifestyle. It encompasses a wide range of technologies designed to monitor, track, and improve various aspects of physical and mental well-being, that include:

Smart desks and chairs can be equipped with sensors to maintain good ergonomics. These smart devices detect employee posture and movement, then provide real-time feedback to the employee. Some will adjust automatically, such as changing the height of the seat and backrest to suit the weight and body shape of the employee.

Fitness trackers and wearable tech can provide businesses with important health data on employees. While privacy should be considered, these apps provide health data that the building software can use to adjust air quality, lighting levels, temperature and more.

Wellness coaching apps may be provided to employees to offer personalized guidance on nutrition, exercise, and stress management. These apps connect with phones and wearable tech seamlessly and are one of the easiest ways to integrate wellbeing technology with your existing office environment.

With real-time data and feedback, wellness technology creates awareness about individual health metrics and behaviours, and allows your people to track their physical activity, stay on track, and make positive lifestyle changes. Additional features such as coaching, social communities, and educational resources can be particularly beneficial for individuals seeking assistance, encouragement, or expertise on their wellness journey.

By empowering individuals to take an active role in their health and providing businesses with a means to support their employees' well-being, wellness technology contributes to a healthier and more productive workforce. On the flipside, benefits to businesses include increased engagement and performance, reduced costs associated with absenteeism, and enhanced company culture.

Sustainable Technology

90% of millennials say working for a sustainable company is a top priority (with Gen X not far behind at 84%) – reported by Sustainable Brands, which is why prioritizing sustainability can be one of the easiest, yet most effective, ways to increase employee engagement and attract top talent.

By integrating sustainable technology practices and adopting environmentally conscious workplace design strategies, organizations can create work environments that reduce energy consumption, minimize waste, promote employee well-being, and contribute to a more sustainable future. Often aligned with broader ESG goals, if you’re not there already, here are four areas you should focus on:

The built environment – this includes using eco-friendly construction materials, implementing efficient insulation and ventilation systems, incorporating natural lighting, and designing spaces that encourage energy conservation and waste reduction

Smart grid integration – allows for better management of energy consumption within the workplace. They enable real-time monitoring and control of energy usage, optimizing energy distribution, and integrating renewable energy sources. This technology helps organizations reduce their carbon footprint and improve energy efficiency.

Responsible procurement – selecting eco-friendly and recyclable materials for furniture, flooring, and finishes is an essential aspect of sustainable workplace design. These materials should be sourced responsibly, have low VOC (volatile organic compounds) emissions, and promote circular economy principles

Waste management systems – this includes implementing recycling programs, providing designated bins for different types of waste, and utilizing composting systems. Additionally, adopting technologies that reduce paper usage, such as digital documentation and cloud-based storage helps minimize environmental impact

When it comes to workplace design, sustainability technology principles can be applied via biophilic design, efficient space planning and prioritization of environmental quality within the workplace, creating a win-win situation for both the organization and the planet by promoting environmental stewardship while also yielding economic advantages.

Virtual and Augmented Reality Meetings in the metaverse are no longer a Zuckerberg pipe dream. Tech giants like Meta, Apple and Microsoft are announcing their work to develop the metaverse, with the goal to facilitate a virtual-reality space where users interact with others. Many computer-generated environments are positioned to host meetings and collaborations, blending the physical office space with the virtual which is starting to take flight with some businesses.

Other innovations are using augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to:

  • Train employees on various tasks and situations – which has been found to facilitate higher retention rates than traditional instruction

  • Allow employees to learn new skills in a realistic environment

  • Simulate real-world scenarios for safety or emergency purposes

  • Improve design and prototyping by giving designers a realistic, hands-on view of the product

  • Enable remote collaboration, colleagues can come together virtually, share information, and interact as if they were physically present. This fosters better teamwork, communication, and knowledge sharing, regardless of distance

Overall, AR and VR provide transformative capabilities that can positively impact training, collaboration, safety, customer engagement, and overall productivity in the workplace. From a design point of view, offices can facilitate the use of these technologies by allowing physical space for them — for example, a flexible meeting room with large screens and empty space to move in. For more information on VR and AR in the workplace, see this article.

Enhanced Visual Experience

Audiovisual (AV) technology exploded into the public consciousness during the pandemic; in 2020 alone, Microsoft Teams experienced a 3,891% growth rate, while major advancements in AV and video collaboration saw other key players, such as Zoom, Slack and Cisco become household names (if only we all bought shares!). Now with the hybrid working model seemingly here to stay, smart AV tech is an absolute must have.

To enhance the AV experience in the workplace, developers are shifting towards software-focused solutions, allowing businesses to use multiple and diverse devices across different locations and meeting rooms. This provides greater opportunities for collaboration and increases flexibility in the workplace, not to mention, the best bit – allowing all parties an equal share of voice no matter the location.

Naturally, AV screens are improving, too, with developments in organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology further transforming the user experience. Significantly thinner and more sophisticated than standard LEDs, OLEDs light up using organic electroluminescent layers delivering greater clarity and better picture quality, not to mention they use less energy.

By prioritizing workplace design to support an enhanced visual experience, organizations can create environments that promote productivity, engagement, and employee satisfaction. Here are a few design considerations that will make or break the employee experience in this context:

  • Ergonomics

  • Lighting

  • Colour schemes

  • Spatial layout

  • Acoustics

  • Technology integration

  • Dedicated space

Getting Started? Start With A Strategic Approach...

And Us!

Today’s smart tech is shaping new ways of working and new possibilities within the corporate environment, and with so many game-changing ways to use technology in the workplace, it’s important to build a strategic approach — rather than piecing together new innovations as you go. A well-considered strategy will create a productive digital workplace and allow you to make the most of your tech in a way that suits unique business needs, and people. Encompassing a wide range of options in this space, phoning a friend (aka us) will make your workplace digital x design transformation journey a much more enjoyable one!

PALM Projects designs office fit-outs with a people- and purpose-first mindset, and we work closely with you to align your strategy and goals with the physical office space, from concept to completion, starting at spatial planning and workplace strategy, through to smart tech recommendations and implementation to help you make meaningful impact to the employee experience.

It all starts with a no-obligation chat with our experts. Drop us a note here.

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