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DisruptCRE Chicago: A deeper dive into workplace technology

Consumer technology has made great leaps in the past couple of years: We can ask Alexa, Google or Siri to manage our thermostats and do our shopping. We can track the arrival of a rideshare service to the minute, or check into a flight before arriving to the airport. But most office space remains stubbornly stuck in 20th century technology. But that’s changing, and a few technologies are readily available that can make our work lives both more productive and more comfortable.

I participated in a panel discussion on emerging trends in building technology at DisruptCRE Chicago, last month. While much of the conversation revolved around how innovation in commercial buildings is lagging behind the technology we use in our daily lives, there wasn’t enough time to discuss all of the ways companies can deploy technology today to improve the employee experience.

In our Workplace Strategy/Occupant Experience practice, we focus on helping clients analyze and improve the alignment between place and people. Lately, we have been testing several easily deployed technologies to gather information and drive workplace decision-making.

Let's take a deeper dive

First, it’s important to outline your goals. The technology is just a means to gather information, not an end in itself. If your aim is a healthier workplace, for example, you might want to measure the ROI of encouraging employees to move more during the day or to actively use sit-to-stand desks. There are devices that integrate with sit-to-stand desks to encourage and remind users to alternate between the two positions at designated intervals (which is best practice).

If your goal is to optimize space utilization, there are discreet sensors that can be connected with light fixtures or seating to gather data on how often work spaces, meeting rooms or break areas are used, informing facilities managers where space could be redeployed for more efficient use. These sensors can also pull data on overall occupancy trends across the office footprint.

If your objective is to improve employee satisfaction, consider workplace applications that gather data on factors such as temperature, lighting, office supply levels and restroom cleanliness. For example, companies can use cellphone apps or install interactive touch screens in high-traffic areas to engage employees’ feedback on a real-time basis.

In all use-cases, it’s important to let employees know that data collected will be anonymized, to allay resistance and show that your goals are aligned with theirs – to create a more productive and comfortable workplace for everyone.

Expanding the use of technology in your office environment can help to improve older office space as you compete for talent and aim to enhance employee experience. These tools could also inform decision-making for future office renovations or relocations.

What technologies are you testing in your workplace? We would love to hear from you. Email me at DChappell@savills-studley.com.

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DeJeana Chappell

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