What cannot be missing for a true smart office?
We cannot provide a definition of smart office without introducing the intertwined reality of smart working. Between the two, in fact, there is a strong and indissoluble bond: working in an agile (or smart) way does not mean doing it from home, as it has been repeated several times during the months of the lockdown, on the contrary, it means that work can be done from wherever you want and without time constraints, hinging on a strong empowerment based on the objectives to be achieved and no longer on the obligation of having to stay eight hours in the office. This is where the concept of smart office is born, it represents the reinterpretation and the intelligent rethinking of the way in which work is carried out throughout the inside the physical premises of the company which, even in times of strong remote working, continues to be used by connecting in an intelligent and interactive way different places, physical or digital, in which the company continues to live.
How to create an office for smart working
Creating an office for smart working means, first of all, redesigning the work spaces in order to create discontinuity with respect to traditional schemes and methods, but also to feed and support the culture of smart working itself. The physical space must be modeled according to the working needs of people, which represent the pivot around which the design of spaces and services revolves: Depending on the activities that people perform throughout the day (Activity Based Working), these are located in fact, to need quiet environments, then perhaps equipped areas to encourage collaboration, then spaces that allow creative thinking activities and, finally, places capable of encouraging sociability and moments of relaxation. It is clear that, in such a setting, the concepts of undifferentiated open space, rigid workstation or single office disappear, which in the era of smart working would be used little and badly, causing waste of space, growing costs and widespread inefficiencies.
The office becomes a smart work center
Connected to these issues and similar to the concept of coworking, in recent years the theme of smart work centers has also spread in Europe, i.e. workplaces designed to support an increasingly widespread and flexible paradigm. Smart work centers are offices designed and built not only to adapt - according to the aforementioned Activity Based Working model - to the various needs of company workers, but also to encourage maximum collaboration between people with different tasks. Consequently, and this is the connection with the concept of coworking, these environments are not only made up of open spaces, meeting rooms of various kinds, quiet rooms and individual work areas, but also of many common areas, bars and areas of sharing, where even just a casual collision can create collaboration and new opportunities.
Culture and technology, the cornerstones of the smart office
It is not possible to talk about a smart office without focusing on the technological aspect. After all, if smart working hinges on a virtuous synergy between culture and technology, smart office responds to it by aligning the layout, the design of the spaces, but also the management of the environments and the availability of services that it offers to the people who work there. and who manage the environment. Aims? Undoubtedly, promoting maximum productivity, but also creating a stimulating environment that offers the best employee experience and is optimized from the point of view of costs and efficiency. It is clear that all of this could never turn into something tangible without an infrastructure and a technological equipment at the height.
A new definition of smart office
This is why, adopting a different perspective, we could define smart office as the office where technology allows people to work better, with higher quality results, faster and with greater satisfaction, while those who manage the structure exploit technology to optimize spaces, services and costs. A “win-win” situation, one might say, in which technology acts as a stable foundation, as the lowest common denominator of an ecosystem that unites people, activities and spaces.
Smart Office: advanced services for those who work. And not only…
A smart office is conceived in the era of smart working, pervasive connectivity and remote working: this means that technology must connect, it must foster collaboration regardless of physical proximity: software and hardware must work in synergy to offer a perfect collaborative experience, which means in a practical and services oriented prespective, not only being able to book via the app a meeting room perfectly sized according to the activity and the people who will take part in the event, but also the fact that it is equipped with a smart meeting system also that all the people involved automatically receive the invitations, the materials that will be discussed in the meeting, the tools to prepare in advance, and can then collaborate directly on the documents and workflows during the meeting itself, while a software performs the immediate transcription of the speech, recognizes the speaker and, at the end of the meeting, shares the documents with everyone remembering subsequent appointments, perhaps collecting feedback on the progress of the meeting and collecting the "mood" with which the meeting was experienced by the participants (sentiment analysis).
For a truly smart office
Now, what has just been said is simply a hypothesis, an example, but it gives the meaning of the "smart" prefix well, which in 2020 does not end in a good Wi-Fi network, in a system that automatically adjusts the temperature and humidity in the rooms and not even in a SaaS collaboration tool. Rather, it represents a platform, an integrated ecosystem that leverages technology and the synergy between hardware and software to provide the best possible working environment, the most efficient one, which automates everything possible and avoids the endless distractions of traditional offices, which the more often than not they depend on finding the lost document or the colleague who doesn't know where he is.
Smart office and office management
Then, as anticipated, there is also the other aspect, namely the management one: technology for smart offices helps to analyze how spaces and services are actually used, so as to develop data-driven optimizations that take into account that delicate balance between productivity and costs. And therefore we can talk about AI and IoT sensors dedicated to automatic lighting control, monitoring of rooms, of people's paths, of the most used and least used areas (so as to suggest changes to the layout), of the most used services, all through the analysis of the immense amount of data that a smart office can produce precisely through that hardware / software synergy mentioned above, data concerning both the physical environment and feedback on how people live and feel those spaces. Results: a better place to work, more productive staff, less turnover, less costs but, above all, more engagement.