Many companies today have redefined their offices to increase productivity and worker happiness thereby getting an edge over other companies who still follow traditional office designs. It is important for companies to follow practices befitting the current era in order to flourish. Adopting smart office designs is one of the keys to success in the current world that is moving towards a hi-tech future.
A smart office is a concept that refers to a building that is environment friendly, energy efficient, technologically advanced and ergonomically designed to boost employee productivity and creativity. Smooth integration of technological elements with the office setting to bring everything under control with just a few devices is the mark of a truly smart office.
The requirement of smart offices comes from the need of the modern workforce to be trusted and empowered. Everybody needs to manage, organize and socialize themselves and traditional methods may no longer work.
Smart offices improve efficiency, eliminate redundancy and streamline operations. An efficiently designed office facilitates collaboration and interaction. However, their design is a challenge as office space planning is similar to urban planning where both public and private spaces need to be considered. The building should be healthy and efficient with good lighting , heating and ventilation. The designer should therefore make the best use of natural light sources and also accommodate the latest telecommunications and technology infrastructure while keeping the environmental impact to the minimum.
From the height of work stations to the angle of the computer screen and the seating, the office should be designed with long term comfort in mind. A large and wide desk allows employees to manage different tasks at once and square desks allow face to face interactions for continuous idea generation. Painted walls with multiple colors are better compared to single colored ones because vibrant colors fire off synapses in the brain to make employees more productive.
Acoustics is another consideration in smart office space design as noisy workspaces add to stress and lower concentration levels. The designer must use the right material in the right place to achieve better sound absorption. For instance, low ceilings can use tiles while high ceilings should be lined with fabric banners. Acoustical wall panels prevent sound bouncing off and placing high absorbent materials around the work desk can prevent the voice traveling too far. White noise equipment can be used to create a monotone background sound that will cut out unwanted noises through destructive interference. Strategic spacing of fans and air conditioners can also achieve similar effects.
Modern architects and designers can use office layout software available in the market to map out the workspace. These virtual designs are experimental ways to find out which type of design suits the available space. Maximum efficiency in the minimal space is the need of the hour and these software actually let the designers draw everything from scratch and look at them before going into the actual work.
Mobility is the biggest trend in modern technology. Therefore, transition from bulky workstations to space-saving mobile devices is a viable smart office design idea. Mobility also means that even if you are away from your office, you can take control of things there.
The things that can be controlled using technology include the lights, security systems, audio or ambient music, heating and cooling, motorized windows and electronic signs. Most of us power down the computer and turn off desk lamps only at the end of the day. However, if this can be done during lunch time and other breaks automatically, then it would save more power. There are occupancy sensors that can be programmed to shut down non-essential devices such as task light when the user is away.
Employees should be given access to their own lighting and air conditioning so they can control them as per necessity. Furniture in the office can also go hi-tech. Tables with charging stations, keyboard integrated chairs and the like can be called hi-tech furniture.
As mentioned in the beginning, the smart office building is environment friendly. Green energy and technology are part of today’s global concern about impacts of industries on the environment. Hence, getting green certified would be a good idea. Certifications such as LEED Core and Shell are highly reputed for an office space. Being called a ZCB (Zero Carbon Building) is a credit because such offices have no carbon footprint. These offices use recycled materials to the maximum for construction. The usage of non-toxic materials in furnishing and supplies is also a must.
Increasing natural lighting saves power and creates less carbon footprint. Reliance on daylight to illuminate the tables lowers the wattage of the workspace. Using windows and transparent cubicles will let more natural light in. If windows are not an option, then skylights can be used.
Smart power strips can reduce the power consumed by objects plugged into the power outlets. Using diffusers to amplify the overhead light is another way to reduce the number of lamps used in the office. Implementing solar panels on top of the building can reduce the power consumed thereby reducing electricity bills.
Smart offices are buildings where modern ideas are used to design the workspace for boosting productivity without harming the environment. The key to designing a smart office is to first know what you are aiming at and then working towards that goal. There is no such thing called a perfect design and the ideas discussed here are not the only ones to create a smart workspace. Optimizations should happen all the time and the office designs should be made in such a way as to accommodate future changes.