How do you transform an ordinary office into a smart space so that employees can work smarter not harder?

Smart office solutions are designed to transform a traditional office into a work-friendly space where employees can develop and grow. Whilst from the managerial point of view a justification to implement a smart office solution is cost optimisation. However, bear in mind, that changes in work organisation affect employees the most. To ensure that new solutions bring benefits, it is crucial to design it takes a holistic approach and consider people, processes and the physical space.

Offices are often full of unused, empty spaces. This is due to a change in behaviour caused by the influence of technology. Physical presence in the office for 100% of the time is no longer necessary and provides an opportunity for savings.

The time of one employee per one desk is passing. Although it may be difficult in small companies, the transition to flexible-working for organizations with more than 50 employees makes a lot of sense. And you can save around 30% of space through more efficient use.

So, you can make space where your employees work also work for you. How? By creating a productive environment.

Share a desk!

A 2018 report “Better use of office space” by SENION, a company that implements office productivity solutions, shows that only around 50% of desks are being used at the same time. Half of them are therefore useless, generating costs. Interestingly, employees don’t even realize that the actual use of desks is so small – in their estimation, it is around 83%.

According to a report by JLL, a company that creates efficient office spaces, a typical employee spends only 40% of his time at his/her desk during the working day. This data indicates that the concept of one employee on one desk is slowly becoming less and less accurate. In short, it’s a waste of money. And given the growing popularity of mobile work, office space will be used to an even smaller extent in the coming years.

The Factory office in San Francisco. Source of the picture: https://pl.pinterest.com/pin/517491813425957928/

Empty conference room = unnecessary costs

The problem of not using space efficiently also concerns meeting rooms. The usual case is that the rooms are not available for booking and not occupied at the same time. It is caused by people who book but no show up. As a result, the room is not only empty, but it also can’t be used for other purposes.

Optimise, a company that specialises in collecting and providing data on jobs, working style, and space use, in its report “Workplace Review. Global Workplace Insights 2019″ estimated that conference rooms are used less than 50% every day of the week. On Fridays, that rate falls to 38%. In light of this data, the creation of a productive office in which space is used efficiently seems necessary. How? A tailor-made solution must be implemented. So how do we implement a smart working solution?

Trend Micro office in Austin. Source of the picture: https://pl.pinterest.com/pin/235735361729359029/

Seven steps towards a coherent solution

Designing and implementing a coherent solution is a process that needs to be well planned. This is the best way to proceed.

1. Discovery phase

Start by talking to the people and analysing the current situation. Assess how much you’re using pace currently. The indicators most often considered by organizations are the level of utilisation of space, the number of vacancies, the concentration of workers, the cost of employment, and the mobility factor. Then examine and identify currently used systems for potential integration, e.g. Exchange, Active Directory, HR systems, and Skype.

2. Map existing processes and identify key problems to solve.

Robert Kaplan, a Harvard Business School professor, says “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Mapping is used to investigate the processes taking place in the company. This makes it possible to better understand what is happening in an organization and to identify areas where change is needed. The graphical presentation makes it easier to identify where certain processes aren’t working. The next step is to find out why this is happening. Based on this data, you can search for the best solutions for your company.

3. Design a new solution that uses technology.

Consider the needs of your employees. If you decide to switch to hot-desking and reduce the number of desks, you must establish the rules. Then you’ll need technology to support and visualize space and to book available desks and conference rooms. It’s also important to remember that for the whole project to succeed, you must also have space for collaboration and for rest. An effective system will avoid wasting time looking for a working place. Also, make sure that employees can easily find each other if needed.

4. Create prototypes and validate the concept at an early stage of implementation (Proof of Concept).

The purpose of the Proof of Concept is to examine whether an idea can be implemented. In other words, it’s early testing. Before you introduce a new expensive solution, make sure it’s accepted by your company. This way, you can see if what you want to introduce actually matches what your company needs. Ask your employees to help you test your new solution. Their involvement in the co-creation of solutions is very important; in the end, changes are meant to improve working conditions, not the other way round. Employees should be aware of this, so make them feel that they’re an important part of the whole process.

5. Collect feedback from employees and implement the improvements they propose.

When converting an office into a smart office, as with other IT and IoT projects, it’s good to consider feedback. I wrote about the use of feedback in IT projects here. Similarly, use other mechanisms to validate solutions for improving the efficiency of the office.

6. Create software incrementally according to Agile software development methodologies.

This is another point that will increase the likelihood that the changes will produce the expected positive results. Creating incremental software will allow you to control this process and react as soon as problems arise. The agile methodology requires a high degree of flexibility, the ability to adapt to changes, and continuous improvement. The transformation of the entire organization is a complex process that is influenced by many factors, including the most unpredictable people.

7. Attach the change management element as part of the solution. Identify what intelligent work is specifically in the context of your company and implement everything together, including technology, through user communication, training, and engagement.

Building a smart office environment is much more than just a few changes in office furniture. It’s the creation of a modern solution to facilitate the work of each employee. It’s the solution that you create together with your team. Your job is to make employees aware that they’re an important part of this change.

Work smarter, not harder

Intelligent buildings or devices are just tools to achieve the goal of increasing productivity. If you want to do great things, you need a solid, committed team that’s happy to do its job. Introducing the latest technologies and implementing the idea of a smart office is not only a cost reduction; it’s above all a new style of working that promotes efficiency, creativity, and job satisfaction. Effect: Your employees work better, they’re more efficient, and you bear lower costs. That’s really worth something, isn’t it?

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