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Office Designs of the Future: A Tech-enabled 2020 Innovation supported by technology has changed office design and the entire approach to it, supporting the new-age workforce in achieving better productivity

By Akshay Lakhanpal

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New ways of working and workplace innovation are transforming the professional landscape today. The shift in focus from "technology' to "people' is leading to usage of technologies to create personalized experiences for its users. The advent of this experiential technology is influencing all aspects at work (including workplace design); 2020 is all set to break new grounds.

Innovation supported by technology has changed office design and the entire approach to it, supporting the new-age workforce in achieving better productivity through enhanced user experience along with physical and mental work-life balance. The three fundamental technologies holding the key to offices of the future are artificial intelligence, mobility solutions and automation. Not only does the workspace get a cool and edgy twist but is personalized in a never-before manner. We look at some trends that will drive the future of workplace design.

Technology as a Tool to Enhance User Experience and Personalization at Workplace

In todays' time, technologies exist to control lighting, air conditioning and audio-visual products, among others, through building management system deployed at some offices. In addition to that, there are visitor management systems, room-booking systems, etc., which work towards better productivity, ease of scheduling and simplified outcomes. However, these systems become exponentially effective if these are altered in two ways.

First, they start speaking to each other and work towards enhancing the experience of the user right from the time the person looks up a office address on Google Maps till the time the person leaves the office. This unified platform alters the way technology use-cases are understood at workplace today.

Second, the user is made in-charge of the environment around her. This is a mindset shift which would give freedom of adapting the micro-environment around the user based upon her preferences; air conditioning being the most apt example. Certain people feel cold at 24 degrees Celsius and others feel warm. Hence, if a user gets to choose the location in the office which is as per her comfort temperature, gone are the constant complaints of hot and cold conditions at the same temperature reading of 24 degrees Celsius.

Ultra Connectivity and Access

In an increasingly digital world, professionals are opting to work from home at least one day of the week. As this trend becomes more predominant, workplace designs in 2020 will emphasize on meeting the ever-changing needs and expectations of employees.

Employee logins are now switching from the conventional "swipe-based' access cards to Bluetooth-based access control systems. Employees can also access the company's network using biometric logins from any location in the world. Cloud-based connectivity has also enabled a large chunk of employees to work remotely from their homes and perform at par with on-premises employees.

Data Driven Design

The only way to give a "personalizable' work environment is to deploy smart sensor-based monitoring systems. These constantly read the intended parameters (air quality, temperature, occupancy, etc.) and give feedback to the technologies that adapt the environment within the set parameters.

While the aesthetic outcomes of workplace design are subjective, the functional requirements are extremely objective. In today's times, a good amount of time is spent in the pre-design stage to assess the functional requirements based upon interviews and observations in existing workplaces. The outcome of these exercises may or may not be accurate owing to the sample size, people not being available due to holiday season, understanding of questions and not in the right mind frame at that time, among others. However, this process is getting automated today wherein accurate data over a period of time is collated through these sensors and analyzed through business intelligence platforms to give tangible insights for the upcoming office design.

This provides for a robust functionally accurate design parameters to design. Overlay this data with artificial intelligence-based design tools and you would get an apt workplace design which caters to a large section of the functional requirements, without increasing the capital expenditure and saving time in the process.

Unification of Workplace Applications

With a drastic increase in deployment of applications for various functions at workplace such as CRM tools, HRMS, workflow apps, travel booking app and the addition of the workplace applications to the mix for room booking, visitor management and facilities management, it is impossible to keep track of passwords, etc., to manage these applications.

Consequently, it would make sense to deploy a single app unifying all workplace related applications on a single platform, not only to reduce the administrative effort but also to connect these together to give far-reaching outcomes. The power of these together would not be additive but would have a multiplier effect.

A Frictionless Environment

Focus, prioritizing and offloading non-value add tasks can help in saving time for a business. Considering this, more analog and digital elements will be merged into workplace design to enable seamless movement and work. For instance, customized furniture that can also be reconfigured easily. Another example is that of innovation in material science where you have chairs that will be able to respond to body inputs and adjust the height accordingly. Personalization will thus move beyond mere knick-knacks to more performance-oriented and more about performance-oriented designs that are functional and empowering for employees.

In Conclusion

2020 would see technology supporting creation of workspaces which are more inviting and promotes the tenets of community, comfort and shared values. Offices already include features such as cafes, comfortable furniture, game zones and fitness rooms. Going a step ahead, these features would now even cater to boosting employee morale, developing relationships and improving business optics for prospective clients.

As office designs evolve, competitive salaries will no longer remain the only factor for employees to evaluate job opportunities. The biggest contender will perhaps be the overall work environment, which makes a wholesome and well-balanced workspace extremely crucial—for existing organizations and start-ups alike. Technology is bringing about a paradigm shift and removing the age-old thought process of cookie-cutter offices. The outcome will be highly sustainable, ergonomic and seamless workspaces that support an employee's personal and professional needs at the same time, thus diminishing the differences significantly between a place they call their office and the one the call their home.

Akshay Lakhanpal

Regional Managing Director, Space Matrix (India)

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