Technology in the Workspace: Creating a More Effective User ExperienceDecember 20, 2019 No Comments
Featured article by Rob Newell, CTO of dancker
Technology is making the workplace relevant again. Recognizing this change – and the fact that tech is largely responsible for empowering a better, more productive work experience for employees – leading companies are adapting their office environments to support their workers. Spaces are remodeled, new paint is applied, and new furniture is brought in. But what about the technology the employees need?
Unfortunately, while technology is driving change, it is all too often an afterthought in the design process. And because IT teams aren’t consulted until late in the process, they regularly face a myriad of challenges when it comes time to install the technology. The result? Video screens are mounted in odd places. Sight lines can’t always be kept clear. Even brand new furniture must be cut and adapted to accommodate cables and wires.
The easy solution here would be involving IT and AV experts earlier. But there is more to it than that. Beyond technology, everyone from decision-makers to end-users agrees that to be most effective, collaborative workspaces are a must in today’s office environment regardless of the type of business or the employees’ demographic profile.
In order to create the right kind of workspace and fully integrate both interior solutions (such as furniture, lighting, wall systems, etc.) and technology, it’s important to start with the end goal. Exactly how is this space going to be used and what kind of work do you need to accomplish there? Is there demand for a traditional conference room or is the work to be performed better suited to a team studio that enables workers to share, develop, and evaluate ideas in a less formal setting? Do employees need huddle rooms – informal lounge spaces that support small groups as they work on projects – or flexible collaboration rooms which can be easily reconfigured so that users can switch tasks fluidly?
To support decision-making, some businesses are turning to occupancy and motion sensors placed discreetly throughout the workspace to measure when, how, and why spaces are being used. This passive system allows behavioral data to be compiled which will help in determining the effectiveness and efficiency of current space use and future needs.
With all that information in hand, businesses will be in a better position to determine what is needed – not what you want – in terms of furnishings and technology in order to create a collaborative workspace that provides a flawless user experience.
As part of this process, it is also important to make certain key people, from company leaders to end-users, are involved in decision-making. Doing so ensures not only that everyone has a voice, but also that the right problems are being addressed from the start. When issues are understood and resolved at the design stage, the resulting space configuration is much more likely to meet the needs of the people working there. This approach will also enable company leadership to better understand what is truly needed to adequately support employees while optimizing the space in question.
All of which brings us back to technology. Since technology is largely responsible for the resurgence of the workspace, it stands to reason that it is the major consideration after assessing the kinds of collaborative spaces required. While technological needs may vary based on the task at hand, tech must always be accessible and easy to use. Also, with up to five generations in a company’s workforce simultaneously – each with a different working style and different technological expertise – technology needs to be flexible so that all users have a good experience.
Each business should consider the type of information being shared and the level of security required. Depending on the answers, businesses will need to decide whether wired, wireless, or encrypted wireless options are the right fit for the way in which employees access content.
Similarly, companies must determine whether certain technologies are necessities or simply “nice to have.” These include: analog and digital tools, such as whiteboards, which can help team members collaborate by quickly capturing and sharing ideas; and presentation, audio, and video conferencing systems, which make it easy to collaborate with remote team members.
Regardless of the options chosen, it is important for power, charging, and cabling to be accessible, but neatly tucked away so as not distract people from their work.
Looking to the not-too-distant future, artificial intelligence (AI) will have a profound impact on the technology that will need to be built into this new, collaborative workplace. While the sky is the limit when it comes to AI, it’s already possible to see the impact AI has had on video meetings. Rather than entering an endless series of conference codes to start a meeting, for example, voice-enabled AI is allowing users to start or join a meeting simply by uttering a command.
On the very near horizon are solutions that allow video conferences to share and manipulate 3-D virtual holograms in real-time. Users will even be able to interact with these holograms. As a result, customers will not only be able to see a virtual model of a product which they may be interested in purchasing. They will actually be able to try that product through AI-powered visualization tools.
While that video conference is happening, AI will be able to take notes, leaving participants free to focus on what is being said. AI-based voice-to-text transcription also has the ability to identify each speaker at a meeting. After the meeting, users will be able to skim the resultant transcript, searching and analyzing it for specific segments or mentions in the script. AI can also be employed by sales teams to analyze and improve their performance in such meetings.
AI, in fact, will allow business managers to gain extraordinary insights into employee behavior, which again will influence the design of workplaces and furnishings. AI already enables companies to merge data with employee calendars and emails to determine if existing office layouts are promoting collaboration. AI is also helping business to determine how quickly workers are accomplishing specific tasks, and then assess whether improvements in the workspace will increase their effectiveness and productivity.
One thing is certain. The workspaces being designed today with an eye toward the future must empower, inspire, and help workers to unleash their potential so they can do their best work by collaborating, communicating, and solving problems. To do that, spaces must be agile and flexible, and fully integrate technology, architectural solutions, and furniture to spur productivity and deepen human engagement.
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