What makes your office smart?



September 18, 2017

##### Why the Internet of Things and the rise of chatbots will change the way we work

Think about how office technology has dramatically advanced in the last decade. Think back ten years ago, when you still used fax machines and a desktop anchored your environment. Now look around the office today: from laptops to smartphones to wearables, people are using many devices. What will it be tomorrow?

Office communication is constantly evolving, but does it necessarily mean that your office is way smarter than 10 or 20 years ago?

With the advent of connected objects, many people discuss the future of the workplace and the smart office. I thought it would be worth defining what smart means to build a vision for how workers will accomplish their tasks along with emerging technologies.

A smart office is not a combination of connected objects

Does the smart door in your office make you more productive? Is the printer intelligent enough to reduce your stress level?

Let’s start by stating what a smart office is not: a combination of connected objects. Gadgets don’t make your team more efficient; most of them divert your attention and add to the problems most of us experience: stress, anxiety, and forced multitasking.

Your office becomes smart when it collects and processes the right data to increase comfort. When it provides a range of tools that empower individuals and teams. I think two major trends are about to change the way we work again.

Intelligent infrastructures powered by the Internet of Things

New sensor-based technologies are revolutionising the way we provide a comfortable workspace.

By enhancing the old and outdated building management systems, developers and entrepreneurs can now build intelligent systems for office workers, and thereby increase comfort and productivity.

In fact, some studies show how office comfort impacts productivity. A smart office requires the right infrastructure to monitor indoor climate variables, such as heating, cooling, lighting or air conditioning, so that you can both provide comfort and achieve energy-savings.

Say goodbye to the constantly runny nose thanks to an ice-cold A/C, or the temptation to strip down to your underpants as the office heats up in summer.

You can already see it happening. Take a look at Snuk for instance, a WATTx startup that gives a new take on building infrastructures and equips facilities with accurate sensors. Snuk can host all smart building applications on their platform, from user-centric comfort control to asset-tracking apps. Snuk gathers these smart office applications in one place and connects their knowledge, to enable a truly responsive environment.

So your office becomes smart when you stop noticing that it is acting to make you feel comfortable. As the Internet of Things expands and data-driven systems increasingly meet user-centric solutions, smart environments will flourish.

The Edge in Amsterdam is a good illustration of connected spaces and smart environments

Empowering workers with chatbots in the workplace

The second aspect I see as part of an intelligent workplace lies in the interaction between coworkers and teams.

People are the engine that keep your company growing. Should fighting distractions and time inefficiencies not be at the core of an intelligent workplace?

We carried out desk research and conducted multiple qualitative interviews around this subject. What we have learned is striking: employees waste time recovering from distractions. The average employee deals with 56 interruptions per day. Knowing that it takes 2 hours to fully recover from it, how can you stay focused and do proper work?

Managers spend 30% to 60% percent of their time in coordination meetings. BCG Survey

We also found that meetings and administrative tasks consume too much time for employees, and that people have issues organising themselves due to insufficient planning and ineffective task delegation. The question is then: how can the workplace better address the range of distractions and obstacles that leave people feeling less productive?

In this regard, the rise of messaging platforms is an interesting phenomenon to look at. More and more companies rely on platforms like Slack, Microsoft Teams or Skype Business for their internal communication. Less e-mails, more chat: the trend is towards faster team communication and collaboration.

There’s more. These platforms not only revolutionise the way teams communicate, they allow the use of multiple integrations and in-app services too. For this reason, I believe they lay the foundation for less distractions and more productivity.

Think about it: how many tools are you using at work? How many software programs does your company rely on to deal with human resources, employee accountability, or administration?

What people really want are integrated tools that make it easier to do regular tasks in a comfortable and familiar place: within a conversation. - Chris Messina

AI-powered assistants and conversational interfaces have that power to integrate existing software and applications under the same roof. Why would you keep hopping from software to software when you can simply communicate with a chatbot in your office chat platform?

Empowering workers to do their job better and increasing team transparency has to be a key component of a smart office experience. Chatbots have that potential.

You can already build your smart office

In the end, it’s in your interest to create a workplace that is intelligent enough to support individual work and team efficiency.

A smart office is a place in which you can work faster, focus, and achieve more in less time. It’s not about buying smarter products and connected objects that won’t really make you more efficient.

The intelligence rather lies in the combination of new infrastructures and a unique workplace interaction. It is what can turn your office into a smarter one. One that empowers you to be more productive, to feel more comfortable, and to focus on what really matters: your work.

So the Internet of Things will certainly bring more comfort and interconnectivity in the workplace by replacing the old infrastructure. But be prepared to see messaging platforms and chatbots change the way we interact and perform at work, enabling collaboration and integrating existing work habits under one roof.