Without a productive working atmosphere that features energy saving efficiencies, businesses run the risk of losing out financially.
Employers are increasingly looking to smart buildings in a bid to create a positive and sustainable working environment, one that facilitates positive mental wellbeing and reduces churn rates.
What steps can companies take to embrace the shift towards smart, more efficient workplaces?
Smart building advancements
Advancements in smart buildings range from simple mood-setting measures such as improved daylighting and user controlled temperature, to better ventilation. All of which can help your business reduce energy consumption and create a more pleasant workplace.
"We talk about designing for creativity, or for concentration or collaboration. Sometimes there are times you just need to focus on your own, and sometimes not. The key is diversity of spaces. Then there's the look and feel of the space," says John Alker from the UK Green Building Council.
"Some people claim they react differently to different shapes and forms. Sharp edges, some designers argue, are supposed to be good for work that requires accuracy, while high ceilings apparently aid creative thinking."
A stimulating workplace
Aker stresses that although eliminating negativity is a key aim of smart buildings, they must also incorporate design that actively encourages positive thinking and mental stimulation.
He explains that the contrast of light and dark is useful in catching the eye and attention, giving a subtle and almost subconscious respite from work so that employees can concentrate better. The same approach can be applied to controlled airflow.
"A uniform airflow can be a bit monotonous. Breezes from open windows can be more stimulating. Actually, there is a bit of push back against overly engineered design strategies, and a return to basics," he explains."
"Office users tend to like opening a window for fresh air. So some of it is about mimicking nature, or building in biodiversity, be it roof gardens or office planting. Companies like Google are taking this very seriously."
A uniform airflow can be a bit monotonous. Breezes from open windows can be more stimulating. Actually, there is a bit of push back against overly engineered design strategies, and a return to basics.John Alker, UK Green Building Council
3. The next decade of smart design
How will smart offices evolve in the next ten years? Alker suggests that granular technologies will play an important role in developing a more productive workplace, allowing individuals to control the lighting over their desk, for example.
Employers are also beginning to integrate wearable technologies to monitor and improve their working environment.
"There have been a lot of experiments from forward-thinking occupiers who are tracking the movements of their employees," Aker concludes.
"They're looking at health indicators such as sleep patterns to build up a bigger picture of employee health and well-being and how it is impacted by the office. It really is the tip of the iceberg."
- Aker suggests that while saving money is a key reason for adopting the smart office approach, it should be balanced with the benefits of encouraging a happier, more focused workforce.
- Granular controls to change lighting, air flow, heating and other workplace elements can help employees create a workstation environment that enables them to stay comfortable and productive.
- Remote working can be a solution to keeping employees motivated while reducing stagnation, but Aker warns that this should be controlled to avoid offices that feel overly quiet or empty.