Lights that turn themselves on and off. Thermostats that adjust themselves based on climate and the presence of people. Motion-activated security cameras. Voice assistants. Trackers that observe employees' productivity and ensure their safety—wherever they are.
All of these and more are examples of smart technology, which is becoming more prevalent in office and business settings of all kinds. This technology is becoming increasingly sophisticated and is being applied to an ever-growing number of use cases.
From Managing Spaces to Sharing Places
For example, FLOW is a software solution from technology company Xovis that monitors the movement of people within buildings and can report back to office managers on mask detection, visitor statistics, occupancy and social distancing location benchmarking. It's technology that's being used to improve operational efficiencies in airports, exhibition spaces and more.
Kosy Office is another example—it's a virtual space that allows remote teams to work as if they were face to face, helping them be more connected and collaborative.
"Smart technology is having a significant influence on workplace connectivity, with BYOD [bring your own device] and the development of wearable technology now requiring employees to have more access to business data via mobile devices and remote places," said Yanis Mellata, CEO and co-founder of Kosy Office.
Smart office technologies don't represent one-size-fits-all solutions. Instead, companies will determine which technologies, in which configurations, to tackle which business needs, will work best for them.
How One Company Uses Smart Technology
Smart technology can have a significant impact on the work environment, said Michelle Hague, HR manager at Solar Panels Network, which uses smart office tech to:
- Track employee productivity through wearable devices.
- Provide employees with access to real-time feedback about their performance.
- Track location, speed and acceleration to prevent accidents and injuries.
- Monitor employee biometrics such as heart rate and stress levels to identify when they may be at higher risk for an injury.
"One of the benefits of smart technology is that it can be used to monitor employee productivity regardless of location," Hague said. "This means that companies can extend these applications to employees who are working from home."
While smart technology offers a range of applications and potential benefits for organizations, there are some drawbacks to be aware of.
Smart technology, Hague said, "can create a sense of competition among employees, which can lead to feelings of anxiety or stress." In addition, she added, if this technology is not implemented and used properly, it can be intrusive.
"It's important to weigh these potential drawbacks against the benefits before deciding whether or not to implement such technology in your workplace," Hague said.
It's also important to communicate clearly and thoroughly with employees about why the technology is being introduced and what its benefits are, not only to the organization but also to the employees. One important point to make is that this technology gives employees the ability to monitor their own performance and work environment and to make adjustments to be more productive, engaged and comfortable.
Smart technology can also represent added security risks—it creates additional endpoints where hackers can gain access to sensitive information belonging to employers or employees.
Communication and Training
When implementing any form of smart technology, communication and training are critical to ensure employees understand why it's being adopted, what it's intended to do and how to use it.
"If a company invests in new technology, it must equally spend on teaching its personnel how to utilize it," Mellata said.
In fact, at the outset, involving employees in considerations related to technology adoption can help drive acceptance and use while minimizing anxiety and potential mistrust.
"When employees have access to tools that allow them to monitor their own performance and progress, they are more likely to be engaged in their work and motivated to improve," Hague said. "In addition, smart technology can help managers identify areas where employees may need additional support or training. This can lead to a more efficient and effective workplace overall."
Lin Grensing-Pophal is a freelance writer in Chippewa Falls, Wis.