We talk about the term "smart office" so much that it's almost become a buzzword. The first thing that springs to mind could be sensors installed everywhere to track movement and turn on the lights. Or it could be a team management software where employees can keep track of their assignments.
What does it mean to have a smart office?
While the points mentioned above and more are part of it, the most integral part of the smart office is the thought behind it.
A smart working space aims to provide the best experience for employees (the end-users), ease administration required and reduce costs for managers and owners.
It's not even a step towards the future, but instead keeping up with the present because today's employees expect it.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, integration of technology was starting to happen in some sectors of working offices. The growing need and expectation came directly from end-users, millennials entering the workspace. The office today needs to be optimized to be practical, sustainable and puts employees' well-being first.
Now mid and post-COVID, these needs and expectations have accelerated tremendously.
First, most sectors had to get used to working remotely and now, in many places, things are opening up, but there's no way we can return to the previous status quo.
It seems like hybrid workspace is the present and future of working, with some studies even suggesting that a four day work week could be more efficient and lead to better productivity.
There is no going back, and companies need to keep up with their employees' needs. For smaller businesses or traditional workplaces, this task might be daunting, the change is scary. Everything is happening all at once, and there's so much - where to even start from?
Allow your employees to work hybrid (if the nature of the job allows it), and then ask yourself what they need to give them the best working conditions. It will provide you with groundwork, time to adjust and help you plan the next steps.
Questions such as "Would you like to work in a smart office?" or "What smart features you'd like to have?" may not lead to satisfying answers.
What you can ask instead is something like, "During your workday, do you encounter any issues?", "When is it, and what is that issue?"
And if you already have some doubts about where the friction is, ask more specific questions.
Asking these questions in the form of anonymous questionnaires will put the pressure off of your team while giving you the best results at the same time.
Tip: The more specific you are with your questions, the better and more precise results you'll receive.
While it's scary to see how fast these changes are happening, rushing into things can only cost you your budget and allow space for mistakes you'll have trouble fixing. Go at your own pace, one small change at a time. When your team sees your effort, they'll surely appreciate it.
Manage your budget.
Big companies can go full-on smart with their spaces because usually, their budget is proportional to their size.
The good news is, not everything about smart offices is expensive to purchase or install, and some of the ideas are very low cost or no cost at all.
With careful planning and management, it's possible to provide the best experience for your employees while also staying on budget.
After doing the research into your employees’ needs, calculating the necessary budget will become even easier. For example, you find that employees don't want to use the hotdesks because they don't have a place to store their belongings for the day. Not everyone will prefer hotdesking. In that case, smart day lockers would be worth looking into. Check out this calculator of how much a smart locker system can save your workplace.
In conclusion, smart and hybrid working is the present and future of work, and while it can be scary for small businesses to adapt, it's definitely not an impossible task.
Careful and detailed planning, open communication with your employees and choosing your priorities will lead to a smarter, more sustainable and productive space for your team while also making management easier and reducing overall costs on your end.