Guest blogger Steve Crabbe, Managing Director of CMIW, talks all about how office design and technology work hand-in-hand to create a connect workplace.
In our connected world, many modern workplaces are playing follow up when it comes to creating a connected workplace. Steve Crabbe of CMI Workplace discusses how office design and technology work hand-in-hand to help create a truly connected workplace.
Key factors influencing the use of technology in the workplace
There are numerous factors that are influencing the adoption of technology in the workplace, these include the following, many of which are geared towards an increasingly connected workplace.
- The on-going technological developments themselves, for example the introduction of the smartphone has revolutionised how we communicate the workplace.
- Generations Y and Z joining the workforce and bringing with them an inherent expectation that the technology provided in the workplace is in line with the technology they use on a day-to-day basis and this includes video calling, instant messaging and wearable tech.
- The reduction in cost and associated rise in availability of technology such as video conferencing, which was once reserved only for large organisations or leaders within a company.
- The move towards remote and smart working, which enables employees to work from anywhere and therefore requiring the appropriate technology to enable them to do so.
- The continued globalisation of the workplace, with companies having offices and doing business around the globe and therefore needing to engage with colleagues and partners in different locations and time zones.
How changes in technology are impacting office design
The rapid pace of change when it comes to technology and factors such as streamlining and standardising IT systems, embracing cloud computing and virtualisation, and introducing unified communications and collaboration (UCC) are having a huge impact on how the office environment is being designed and used. No longer is there a need for open plan offices filled with rows of desks for employees, dedicated offices for management, and large boardrooms and meeting rooms. Instead, compact PCs and laptops mean that workstations are becoming smaller and the adoption of mobile tablets and devices within the workplace means that employees are no longer tied to workstations. Couple this with the adoption of mobile and wireless connectivity thereby negating the need for wired connections, and you see the untethering of the employee from the workstation altogether, thus enabling them to work anywhere. Furthermore, the move towards cloud computing enabling cloud-based storage rather than in dedicated server rooms and paper-filled filing cabinets is freeing up office space to be utilised in other ways.
Instead of dedicated server rooms and fixed desktop PCs dictating how office space could be used, we can use the space in a much more flexible and fluid way. Now, offices can be designed with mobility and collaboration in mind: creating breakout areas, collaboration zones, huddle spaces and so on, which facilitate new and smarter ways of working are all now more achievable with the technology available.
Technology needs to be considered early on in the office design process
When designing a new office space, operational efficiencies, costs savings, collaboration, productivity and employee wellbeing are nearly always prime objectives. A common feature, which can have a positive impact throughout all of these elements is technology. Therefore, technology needs to be an important and key consideration early on in the office design process. This is becoming increasingly more important as the adoption of technology within the workplace continues at an exponential rate and the barriers, such as cost, to installing technology are removed. When embarking on an office design project, it’s important to ensure that the type and placement of technology to be utilised throughout the office space is carefully considered and specified early on in the process. Some good examples here are ensuring that all breakout spaces are designed with technology enablement or that all meeting areas are designed with video conferencing in mind. It’s often far better to have considered this and have the areas technology ready or enabled, even if the functionality is not required immediately.
Technology to make lives easier
With technology advancing a such a rapid pace, it’s important to ensure that the technology you use within your office space doesn’t become obsolete too quickly or is specified to meet the requirements of your workforce. Therefore, having a deep and clear understanding of how your employees work or intend to work and specifying the right technology to facilitate that way of working is essential. From a design perspective, that means engaging with employees throughout the design process and ensuring that the design takes both their needs and the technology offerings into account. We always recommend carrying out space utilisation audits, which help to identify how the office space is and isn’t currently being used. The audit enables real data to be gleaned, which will inform the office design thus ensuring that the design is based on fact and not assumption. From a technology point of view, this is an important step too as the audit can be used to identify which technology is currently not being used and where there is opportunity to introduce new technology to enable overall objectives to be met.
Is not just about connectivity within the office
Creating an office environment to facilitate a connected workforce also extends to working from anywhere. This invariably involves a complete rethink of working practices and adopting smart or agile working practices. As smart working consultants, we are fully adept at understanding how this can be facilitated through office design, technology, and culture and change management. For smart or agile working to be truly successful all of these elements needs to be considered and carefully integrated and managed.
Often, when designing smart working office environments, the working practices need to be taken into account as a whole and that means understanding that employees need to be enabled to work from anywhere. It also means that the office design is set up to facilitate being instantly connected when employees are in the office, from anywhere within the office. Therefore, carefully considering this as part of the office design is essential. Ensuring that integrated charge points, power adapters and multimedia facilities to enable instantaneous and seamless connectivity are designed into all breakout areas are examples of how important it is to ensure technology is considered through every element of the design.
Tech-free zones are also important
Whilst technology is important in the facilitation of a connected workforce, just as important in the design of a good workplace is the provision of tech-free zones. These are becoming increasing popular as the ‘always on’ mentality is leading us to crave and need regular digital detoxes. Linked intrinsically to employee wellbeing, organisations are recognising that it’s not good for their employees’ health and wellbeing to always be connected and so are actively encouraging employees to take regular breaks throughout the working day – and that means breaks from all technology too. Alongside integrating wellbeing areas into the workplace, companies are also specifying tech-free zones within the office to help achieve the digital detox and improve employee wellbeing.
The workplace as a destination
Companies are also recognising that employees are increasingly choosing where, when and how they work. The workplace is no longer a place where employees have to go to work, they can choose to work from anywhere, and technology has facilitated this in many ways. Even then need to collaborate is being assisted through video conferencing, unified communications and such like, all the while still negating the need to physically be present in the office. At the same time, many employees like and prefer to come to work as they wish to physically be with colleagues. However, the workplace needs to offer more than physically being located near colleagues, it needs to be a place where employees choose to go to carry out their daily working tasks, to collaborate, to be part of a community and social hub, to inspire and be inspired.
A good office design that is geared towards enabling smart working and a connected workforce should make provision for technology that delivers a truly connected workplace, with standardised operating and business systems as well as the right technology to enable instantaneous and seamless connectivity. Not only will this improve employee collaboration, it will also have a positive impact on employee satisfaction, wellbeing and retention.
Steve Crabbe is Managing Director of CMI Workplace. Steve and his team are truly passionate about creating intelligent office spaces that fire the imagination, increase collaboration and drive productivity, which in turn lead to greater employee satisfaction and substantial financial benefits. With clients such as Vodafone, Centrica and Office of National Statistics, Steve and his team have a broad understanding of the challenges and aspirations when it comes to effective office design and smart working environments.
CMI Workplace specialises in creating smart and efficient office environments that drive organisational performance as well as inspire productivity and collaboration.