How smart buildings are empowering the employees of the future

As we continue to embrace increasingly sophisticated technology in our personal lives in order to save us time and effort, such as Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa, we have developed higher expectations of the tech available in our workplaces. Innovations are available to help improve both efficiency and effectiveness, as well as support the implementation of smarter, flexible working, and these must be embraced to empower employees now and in the future.  

Companies that fail to recognise the needs of the employees of the future risk falling behind in the fight for talent. In fact – 81 per cent of UK employees would consider moving jobs for a more technologically advanced office that could streamline their working day.

Smart buildings help businesses stand out by catering to these needs. Unlike standard infrastructure, they have the capacity to build meaningful, two-way relationships between themselves and their inhabitants. They transform behavioural data collected from sensors that control internal operations; such as lighting, heating and ventilation, into actionable insights. Here’s how it works in practice:

Great expectations

We have become accustomed to the personalisation technology can provide, and, in many ways, this has made us more demanding as employees. However, it is for good reason as this facilitates productivity.

If we take temperature control as an example; 47 per cent of UK office workers have reported being uncomfortably hot or cold every day, 25 per cent say this is a distraction at least three days a week, and no one feels the temperature is perfect every day. This has a knock-on effect on productivity as it acts as a distraction and means employees are not as happy as they could be in their environment.

Smart buildings are capable of learning individuals’ preferences over time and creating the perfect conditions for them. For example, an integrated digital ceiling has the potential to not only know when a specific employee has entered a room but can then automatically tailor lighting, temperature and air ventilation to create the environment it knows they will find most conducive to work.

Flexible working

Over the past few years we have witnessed a significant rise in the demand for flexible working. The focus thus far has predominantly been on how we work outside of the office. However, in the coming years, we can expect to see flexible working move within the office environment through the creation of more fluid working environments. Ultimately, the days of sitting at the same desk, day in and day out, nine to five, are over and the age of working wherever, at whatever time, is in.

As office spaces become smarter, through new and different configurations of space, and employees become more mobile within this environment, a new set of challenges will emerge. Making sure the facilities have all the resources they need to be effective is a key requirement of any business looking to respond to and support their employee’s needs.

Smart buildings provide the overarching technologies that can overcome this obstacle by delivering a single sign-on frictionless experience. Meaning employees can enjoy the opportunity to be productive and creative without barriers or limitations.

Read: Data-driven businesses solving everyday problems

Furthermore, a smart network helps workers easily and quickly identify the closest available space to work in, such as meeting rooms or breakout areas, all without disturbing other teams. This means an end to workers not using a room, that turns out to be empty, just because it has been “booked”.

This will make a significant difference to employees’ output and satisfaction as currently a staggering three quarters of employees described booking a group working space as “difficult” and reported losing half an hour every week trying to locate a meeting room – amounting nearly 24 hours of productive work time (i.e. three days) wasted each year.

Collaboration

It is undisputed that the most successful businesses are those that have strongly connected employees. Meaning that the companies that embrace the technology that enhances these bonds will be those that succeed in the future. Smart buildings enable employees to find colleagues and visitors, as well as helping individuals find space, facilitating teamwork, and bringing the workforce together.

This happens in two ways. Firstly, the building can alert individuals to their colleagues’ locations, and facilitate finding them through intuitive wayfinding. This encourages cross-team collaboration, that may have not occurred before, through saving time and effort. This benefits both the employees as they widen their knowledge base, and their employers as their output will be greater as a result. 

Secondly, smart buildings enable inefficient spaces to be identified for re-use or disposal. Employees are physically brought closer together, creating the environment for bonding, developing support networks, and ultimately being happier and more productive.

Smart buildings cater to rising employee expectations of technologically advanced spaces that will adapt to their needs and help them achieve their goals – from having the right temperature to work in to being able to find colleagues and spaces in more diverse office environments through wayfinding apps. The workplaces of the future must utilise technology in order to truly, embrace and empower their employees to be the best they can be.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.

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