Archive

Archive for April, 2017

Three Ways Technology is Improving the Office

We live in a changing world shaped by technology. From Uber to the iPhone, better technology has made our lives easier and made us more connected. Perhaps nowhere is this truer than in the modern office.

Workers enabled by mobile devices are no longer required to come into the office to do work. Videoconferencing makes even remote collaboration possible, for example. As a response we’ve seen work layouts change to reflect the new way that work is done. Desks may no longer be assigned, and employee to desk ratios are decreasing. It’s made the open office concept possible.

But for all that the office has changed, when it comes to creating a more technologically forward office, most are still lacking.

Employees don’t see it changing any time soon: a recent Dell and Intel study showed that globally, only 57 percent expect to be working in a smart office within the next five years. Here in Canada, we actually fared the worst, with only 39 percent of employees expecting this.

Complacency is dangerous in any aspect of life but for workplaces fighting for talent, the impetus to shift to more tech-forward offices is even greater. That same Dell report showed that almost half of millennials are willing to quit their jobs if a company’s office technology is not up to their standards. A larger 80 percent note that office technology it would have an impact on whether they choose to take a job.

However, while implementing technology in the workplace is important, tech for tech’s sake isn’t the right answer. It’s important to design with the right type of technology in mind and ensure it can actually enhance the work experience for users.

Where design fits in: understanding user needs

Users of a space don’t always know the options that are available to them and what is or isn’t feasible. Yet when they see something like wireless charging or smart sensor technology in use, they are blown away and wonder how they ever lived without it.

Like any good tech application, implementing the right mix of technology that can enable not only better experience for users, but also better performance. For designers, the question that needs to be answered is how that gap can be filled.

Making employees’ lives easier

Good technology should make the user experience in a workplace more enjoyable. I’ve seen this well-executed in a number of newer offices recently, and the solutions can be really simple fixes that add a ton of value.

Wayfinding

Some of the most effective solutions I’ve seen deal with helping employees actually find their way around the office. Wayfinding can take the form of simple signage — it doesn’t always have to be technical.

For example, at Deloitte’s new Toronto headquarters where no one — not even the CEO — has an assigned seat, signage is present across the space to make it easier for users to understand the new layouts and ways of working.

Meeting room booking is also huge in allowing employees to be able to properly utilize open concept offices and hot desking environments. It provides visibility into where people are and how they are using the space from both an employee and management perspective.

Power access

Another thing I see in almost every office today — even with the additional outlets available at individual workstations or raceways in desks — is the lack of effective power solutions. While everything in the office has changed, the best we can do so far is bring power outlets closer to occupants. Wireless charging technology is a game changer that is going to do a lot to support mobile work environments.

Consider the average day of an employee in a hot desking environment today. Many of these systems are based on utilization rates that allow for one to one-and-a-half desks for every two employees. When the mobile workforce moves in and out of the office, they’re often in face-to-face meetings or at unassigned work stations. Providing easy power access that doesn’t require them to bring a cord is one way that technology can help enable the new way work is done.

While organizations like Google were among the first to install ChargeSpot and adopt wireless charging technology for offices, more traditional firms are using it now, too. Banks in both Canada and North America have adopted the technology and are looking at expanding pilots. Law firms are using ChargeSpot to provide a better experience for clients and employees for example.

It’s a testament to the fact that workplace technology is now playing a large role in the battle for talent. With banks, insurance companies, and law firms competing with tech companies for the brightest talent, their workplaces must reflect a better experience.

Choice and flexibility

Choice and flexibility in the workplace are two ways that employees are being compensated for giving up personal space in the shift to the open office. However, creating true choice in the workplace requires more than just building multiple spaces within an office. Changes in layout must be supported with not only strong leadership and company culture, but also technology and ergonomic design considerations. These features ensure that choices are real and practical.

Lack of technology in a space can inhibit an employee’s ability to use it. Access to power enables mobility, lack of it inhibits it. Additionally, concerns like screen availability or booking room software will limit the functional use of any space. For example, if a presentation needs to be made and the capacity is not there, use is limited. Similarly, if employees have an issue securing a room with a booking system, that’s a deterrent.

These are both examples that limit an employee’s choice in using different spaces within an office. A Knoll report actually highlighted, anecdotally, that employees will generally use the meeting rooms with the best technology, regardless of the size appropriate for their meeting.

Considering the massive shifts going on in the workplace from individual to collaborative settings, equipping these with the right equipment is paramount for effective use and avoiding usage bottlenecks in the employee user experience.

On the horizon

There is technology being embedded in the backbone of the office right now. Deloitte’s Toronto Office has a concierge service to help employees not only use their office technology, but also replace lost or forgotten cords for employees throughout the day (mobile workers forget laptop cords at home). Their Amsterdam location, dubbed “The Edge”, is the latest in smart building technology, utilizing sensors that let staff know even then the milk in a coffee machine is low. Combining virtual assistants with sensor and booking technology means that Siri or Alexa could be helping employees throughout the day, not only in planning, but in executing meetings, and more.

Talking about AI and smart offices and their impact is very buzzworthy right now. It’s a hot topic because it’s interesting, but at the same time it is important to recognize that we must address some fundamental issues about creating better basic infrastructure around power before discussing AI trends in the workplace. In the world of the open office, a lot of buzz went into slides, cool lounge areas, and fully open funky style atmospheres. Yet now we see the perils of neglecting basics like acoustics and privacy.

The path ahead looks bright as top organizations are blazing the trail forward on what better technology in the office looks like, but it’s important not to forget the fundamentals.

This story originally appeared on the WorkDesign Magazine website.

About The Sundance Company
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

 

Categories: Uncategorized

How Much Does A Lyrical Good Time Cost?

 

About The Sundance Company
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

Categories: Uncategorized

Does Coffee Improve Your Productivity?

ig_coffee-copy

 

About The Sundance Company
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

Categories: Uncategorized

Office Design That Boosts Workplace Wellbeing

Wellbeing in the workplace is rocketing up the agenda for a host of reasons. White collar work is increasingly about ideas and collaboration rather than repetitive clerical tasks, so staff needs are changing. And for companies engaged in the war for talent, wellbeing can be a differentiator. These issues coupled with the costs of recruitment and falling production levels are having an impact on office design, layout and ergonomics.

Many of the changes are backed up or informed by recent academic research into wellbeing in the workplace and take into account the new WELL Building Standard, a system for measuring, certifying and monitoring the performance of building features that impact health and wellbeing. The upshot is a slew of new ways of working that are designed with the employee front of mind.

For office designers and employers, productivity levels are a particularly hot topic as UK productivity remains stubbornly poor. In response experts say we need to think of people not as units of production, but in terms of the whole person.

Office Wellbeing

In wellbeing terms, as long as staff have a decent office chair and a sit-stand desk, there’s less risk of physical injury. Instead, mental health issues such as depression and stress are major concerns. According to a report from the Health and Safety Executive, stress accounted for 45 per cent of all working days lost in the UK during 2015-16 due to ill health. So getting the workplace right is important to public health officials as well as employers and, of course, their employees.

Likewise, paying attention to wellbeing can bring down recruitment costs as staff are less likely to leave. The cost of recruiting a skilled person is estimated at £100,000, says Dr. Kerstin Sailer, reader in social and spatial networks at the Bartlett School of Architecture.

“If you reduce your staff turnover by a small percentage, you can save a lot of money and the design of the workplace is something people [potential new recruits] are increasingly wanting to see,” he says. Couple this with stiff competition among employers for knowledge workers, then wellbeing in the workplace comes into its own.

Offices designed with these issues in mind can make people feel better emotionally and physically, and can help them with concentrating and collaborating. The physical wellbeing of sedentary office workers is high profile because of all the data collected, explains Bob King, chief executive of ergonomic office furniture company Humanscale. “There’s been a recent rash of studies saying sitting still is the new smoking because our bodies were designed to move,” he says.

At the same time, open-plan environments are getting a bad press, with suggestions that they favor extravert personalities over introverts. Open plan has also become associated with stress and anxiety because of the propensity for disturbance and distraction.

“Everyone’s got headphones on, which is a cry for privacy,” says David Watts, managing director of human behavior and design firm CCD. “If open plan was meant to encourage interaction, it’s failing.”

Putting This Knowledge into Practice

As wholly open-plan environments fall out of favor, offices are being redesigned to accommodate more varied work settings, known as activity-based working (ABW), and more opportunities for movement.

Staff at Australian health insurer Medibank have more than 26 different work settings to choose from at its Melbourne headquarters. These include indoor quiet spaces, collaborative hubs, Wi-Fi-enabled balconies and places to work standing up. This ABW approach not only encourages people to move around, it can be good for the social and collaborative aspects of work.

Matt Blain, a principal at Hassell, which designed the office, points to the bold staircase which winds up the atrium. “The stairs were about movement throughout the workplace and getting people to travel between floors, so it broke down the silos and encouraged physical movement,” he says.

A similar approach was taken on London’s Southbank at Sea Containers House, the new 226,000 sq ft home of WPP businesses. “If you provide an environment with choice and diversity, then you have to facilitate ease of movement from one setting to the other,” says Colin Macgadie, creative director BDG, which designed the interiors.

BDG installed 12 new sets of stairs between floors, meaning some floors have three staircases. “That gives people greater interconnectivity between floors, without having to swipe a security card, and encourages them to be active,” he says. But it goes further than that. The steps in Sea Containers House are wider and shallower than normal; shallower to encourage people to move more slowly, and wider so they can stop and chat.

The Downsides

While more and more workplaces are getting on the ABW bandwagon, Dr. Sailer cautions: “People are not as flexible as everyone likes to think. I think people are creatures of habit. A lot of people just can’t be bothered to switch work settings.” And if they hot-desk, her research shows they are likely to return to the same spot each day to sit with their friends.

The irony is that some of these new settings may not be that good for us. Being slumped in a squishy sofa and working from a handheld device is not a healthy set-up for long periods. “We need to start thinking about making these informal, collaborative spaces healthy, productive environments to work in,” says Mr. King. Humanscale’s Diffrient Lounge Chair hopes to do that. It reclines so you can put your feet up and work almost horizontally. And it has a tray for a laptop, plus the option of a 27-inch touchscreen, where you can dock your phone or iPad.

Many workplace designers believe that we are only on the cusp of this new work environment. “The big organizations are adopting these principles and smaller ones will follow,” says Mr. Blain at Hassell. Next, it will be landlords and real estate developers hoping to attract multiple tenants.

BDG’s Mr. Macgadie adds that the workplace will borrow increasingly from the hospitality and leisure industries. This could be a yoga room for some stretching, a juice bar for a healthy smoothie or relaxing on terrace. “In the future, alternative settings will shift to be less about work and more about wellbeing,” he predicts.

This story originally appeared on the Raconteur website.

About The Sundance Company
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at www.sundanceco.com or 208.322.7300.

 

Categories: Uncategorized