Places People Prefer

The Office
Agenda

The Office Agenda brings together our extensive insight into what makes an office that people – from employees to the board – prefer.

Places People Prefer

The Office
Agenda

Technology

The workplace of the future

How will smart office technology change the workplace? To find out, we gathered together a group of entrepreneurs whose companies are making that change happen

British Land recently hosted a roundtable dinner on the topic of smart buildings. We were joined by seven founders and senior executives from start-ups and scale-ups across a range of sectors, all of them working on technological or organisational changes that will shape the workplaces of the future. Here are some highlights from the discussion.

First impressions matter

The participants began by discussing how a smart building can improve the experience of being in an office. Phil Woodward, Director at Ingress One, described how his app-based building entry platform makes it easier to sign in and screen guests in advance, streamlining the arrival process for host and guest alike.

The entrepreneurs agreed that a negative reception experience can ruin someone’s time in the office. Conversely, an interaction with a great reception starts off the experience on a positive note.

“It’s not just important to consider what the technology can do, but also the strategic justification for it”

Danny Lopez, COO at Blippar, spoke about how facial recognition technology could be used to seamlessly allow a pre-registered guest entry to a building without the need for them to log in. Hosts could then receive an alert when their visitor had entered the building, and there would be no need to worry about a guest pass.

A question of experience

The entrepreneurs agreed that it’s important to ensure that technology actually adds to people’s experience of their workspaces and isn’t just a gimmick. Several emphasised that it’s not just important to consider what the technology can do, but also the strategic justification for it.

Office space providers should start by asking themselves what different groups of people may want from the office. While a seamless recognition process may seem to be the ideal, it could potentially also be intrusive and lack personality. Innovations that alter the experience of people in the office space will shape perceptions of the corporate brand, so these should be considered particularly carefully.

Data-driven insights

Emil Hewage, Director of Alchera Technologies, explained how office providers can understand much more about how people are using their buildings if they look at the right data sources. His company tracks the flow of people within certain spaces in real time to help deliver insights and manage congestion.

Similar technology in a smart office could be used to track the specific journeys that people go on in their workplace. It could measure how people use space, where they meet and how effective the building is at facilitating interactions. Hewage explained that it isn’t necessary to know identifiable information about individuals in order to get this level of insight. The trick is having the right kind of data to establish a ground truth without having to use burdensome tracking technology.

Building for wellbeing

Alex Siljanovski is the founder and CEO of BaseStone, a mobile and web application that helps construction teams to access, capture and communicate information. He explained how the smartest buildings aren’t retrofitted to be like that, but have smart technology built into them from the moment they’re first designed.

Occupant wellbeing isn’t typically a high priority for companies building offices, but it’s entirely possible to gear a building around it, Siljanovski said, as long as that’s taken into account at an early stage of the construction process. The best engineering is unseen, but has a real impact on wellbeing.

Reducing stress

Rosa Glover, interim Chief Product Officer at BioBeats, is taking a data-led approach to reducing workplace stress. By using wearables to measure changes in heart rate, BioBeats can provide employees with detailed information about how their stress levels change at work. It also provides employers with anonymised, high-level details about how anxious their teams are feeling.

“Smart buildings geared towards employee wellbeing have the potential to reduce staff turnover and alleviate stress”

Employee stress is a major concern for many employers, said Glover. Smart buildings that are not only pleasant places to be in, but also contain tools for tackling this, could be a very attractive proposition.

Selling the benefits

The major challenge facing providers of smart offices is communicating the benefits to customers. Smart buildings geared towards employee wellbeing have the potential to reduce staff turnover and alleviate stress.

However, the group agreed that leases within smart buildings may be prohibitively expensive and that it’s easy to dismiss the technology as little more than a gimmick. To overcome this perception, it’s important for office providers to concentrate on occupant experience rather than the technology itself. Taking a data-led approach, and understanding how people use office space and how they would like to use it in the future, should form the starting point for any smart building design.

Tagged in: DATA, SMART BUILDINGS, USER EXPERIENCE, WEARABLES, WELLBEING

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