There is no denying that technology is a huge part of our day to day lives, whether this be at work or in our social lives. Many workspaces now consider phenomenal technology as something to separate them from the competition. And, this can of course be a fantastic thing. But are some businesses choosing to implement certain technologies and create smart workspaces simply to keep tabs on their employees?
Smart buildings are almost a separate idea to smart workspaces. A building can have certain technologies such as sensors, face recognition, pink noise and interconnected operating systems. However, this only becomes a smart workspace once businesses implement them into their company process. And, the way they choose to do so is highly important.
The definition of a smart building is when it’s various components – air conditioning, heating, security alarms etc. are connected and controlled by an operating system. But the key to a successful smart building is to focus on what people need from the space. Does it improve productivity?
Rick Robinson, digital property and cities leader at Arup suggests to Raconteur that we should be asking, “How will connectivity improve productivity, engagement and wellbeing?” Smart technology is only useful if it enables people to move around and use the building more advantageously.
Another benefit to smart buildings is the one to the environment. Technologies used to make buildings ‘smart’ can also improve a structure’s sustainability and energy efficiency.
Having the technology to monitor the building’s usage and occupancy can allow things such as air conditioning to turn off and on in isolated areas whenever necessary. Mr Stone, a partner at the internet of things investor Breed Reply explains, “Sensors can … analyse energy use to improve efficiency. But if you combined weather data with this, then you could make a building react to weather conditions. Or by incorporating up-to-date transport information, you could predict when workers will arrive and then make adjustments.”
Turning Smart Buildings into Smart Workspaces
The desire for smart workspaces has become more and more popular since the rise of flexible workspaces and flexible working. Companies now look to their business environment to support and propel their enterprise, offering them better information, increased productivity and the ability to accommodate a variety of work styles efficiently.
Fora Space is one provider that has really developed the use of technology into their workspaces. They use sensors throughout their buildings to understand how each area is used and hence make educated decisions about future builds or events.
Fora Space also operate an app that is available to all its members, as do the well-known provider WeWork. It details different events and workshops that happens across the centre, allows teams to book meeting rooms or phone booths while also being a great tool for networking across their whole portfolios.
Fora Space’s Co-founder Katrina Larkin explains to the Evening Standard, “The app didn’t exist in the first year. Rather than designing an app for the sake of it, we looked at how it would facilitate and increase productivity for the residents.”
Similarly, WeWork are in the process of implementing smart technologies into their workspaces. Facial recognition to improve security is one feature currently in discussions. And, facilities such as smart desks are also in early stages.
The smart desk’s design allows it to recognise its user and in turn, adjust itself for maximum comfort. There is a sensor beneath the desk that firstly establishes when someone has sat down. Then, by simply introducing an ID card the desk automatically adjusts to meet your height and personal preferences.
Will Smart Workspaces Become Spy Workspaces?
Introducing technologies to workspaces is a great thing, if their aim is to improve the way we work and move within the building. However, many companies are now moving such technologies into other areas of their employees’ lives.
For example, many people receive their business e-mails onto their mobiles phone, whether personal or business phones. However, modern technologies now allow businesses to track the time and location that an employee has opened their e-mail app. Similarly, companies may track which wireless networks you are logging into i.e. in coffee shops or restaurants.
Its aim is to flag potentially suspicious activity and avoid hacking while also ensuring employees are achieving the right work-life balance. But many argue that this simply puts pressure on employees to check their e-mails more regularly.
Web traffic is another big focus for many companies. While watching which sites you visit at work businesses can ensure social media or unapproved sites aren’t causing too much of a distraction to your working day. Some businesses even incorporate software that is able to take a snapshot of your screen every 30 seconds to identify levels of productivity, hours worked and times spent at the desk.
The recording of phone conversations is another example. While businesses argue that monitoring calls improves training and helps them to identify experts in certain subject matters, many employees feel it jeopardises networking and important social interactions.
Despite this small undercurrent, with hundreds of buildings at least 20 floors high expected to join the London skyline by 2030, we think the need for smart workspaces is evident. The Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, machine learning and wireless virtual beacon technology are all contributing to this evolution and we at Officio cannot wait to see what the future brings for our workspaces.