Technology

How can digital workstations improve the return-to-work experience?

From improving ergonomics to advanced booking systems, the digitalisation of desks can intelligently contribute to the post-pandemic objectives of companies and employees alike

As the world becomes increasingly digital, we are able to make sustained growth in the digital economy through enhanced connectivity, more financial inclusion and better access to public services. Global digitisation has also completely transformed the way we work and the future of the office. None more so than in this current period of constant change and flux where Covid-19 has altered the landscape of work significantly.

In all office spaces, desking and workstations are popular focus areas to improve the connectivity between employees and to increase productivity. These features become easier to manipulate and measure when they are digitalised. The digitalisation of workstations can be an invaluable tool to organisations as they can provide data on how the office is being used and how it can be improved in the future.

Recently, the concept of digital workstations has been reinvented. Workstations that are equipped with ergonomic and digital abilities have now been upgraded to realise interactive, productive and analytical functions. This realisation has led to the introduction of three core functionalities in office desking: accurate sensing, intelligent guidance and full-spectrum ability.

Accurate Sensing Capability

One of the key areas the pandemic has shone its light on is the importance of health and wellbeing in the context of work. As a result, employers are now investigating ways to elevate their employee’s health and wellbeing, as well as their general working experience.

One way to improve the physical health of employees is to use more ergonomic furniture. Many companies choose to upgrade their office desks to height adjustable ones to eliminate employee’s health issues and low productivity caused by prolonged sitting. But traditional height adjustable desks often fall short of being properly used due to long-formed sitting habits.

Research shows that offices that do not work can be considered a health hazard to employees, resulting in more days off work sick. Workstations should be smart enough to encourage users to stand more. Incorporating occupancy sensors is like giving the workstations ‘eyes’, and allows the workstation to know for how long the users have been kept sitting and notify them to change to standing position when necessary.

The ‘eyes’ do not mechanically or passively send messages to users at a given time, but they should simultaneously respond to users behaviour and make adjustments accordingly. This intervention is known as ‘accurate sensing capability’ as the sensors collect accurate occupancy data based on real occupancy status.

Intelligent Guidance Ability

The real occupancy status that sensors collect will then be transferred to a control centre to be processed into visualised data to help users optimise sit-to-stand habits and develop a healthy working style. Meanwhile, when a prolonged sitting behaviour is detected, the control centre instructs other digital devices to send a reminder message in a way that maximises notification and minimises distraction at the same time, to let users know that they should switch to a standing position.

‘The key to the future office is adapted to human interaction, not hardware dominance…’

The key to the future office is adapted to human interaction, not hardware dominance. Future office designers should put more interactive functions into action to avoid tech fatigue. The goal is to create environments that are as interactive as possible. The workstation should not only be a cubicle where individuals sit passively, but it should be a place where employees can build living environments that encourage creative thinking.

The mobility and interactive capability that a digital workstation possesses lets users know how to upgrade their working habits to achieve more health-related goals and allows users to intuitively and interactively adjust the desk height. The coherent sequence attributes to the digital workstation’s ‘intelligent guidance ability’.

The combination of accurate sensing and intelligent guidance ability can be also defined as the ability to draw accurate analytics and further provide insights through digital methods. The future office desk will not just rigidly be a place for work, but it should intelligently give people more information to intelligently guide usage and management. In this post-pandemic world, one question that is worth asking is how to keep social distancing while providing enough working space, and without investing in more administrative headcounts?

The intelligent guidance ability that a digital workstation has could perfectly keep the balance between employee requirements and company investments. The desk knows when it is occupied and makes the desk next to it unavailable by showing a red cross mark or slightly vibrate when someone wants to take it.

The increasing openness and connectedness of the office has enforced an activity-based working style across many organisations. This style of working allows people to choose their own combinations of interactions and environments at work. In the context of workstations, employees can use an app or check the floorplan to find a vacant desk before they come into the office or as they arrive, so there’s some comfort of knowing in advance that they’ll have a place to sit.

The thorough understanding of how people use each workstation as well as knowledge about the company’s flexible work policy are realised by the digital workstation’s IoT technology. This eventually leads to increasing administration efficiency and reducing real estate and management cost meanwhile.

Full Spectrum Ability

A digital workstation also has ‘full-spectrum ability’. Internally, the workstation’s brain enables the height adjustable workstation to be more versatile by connecting to and coordinating all digital devices, providing a seamless experience between all functions. Externally, we want to make the digital workstation more than just an office desk. Connecting it with more devices to incorporate more functionalities means it is capable of generating more business values and practical usage like keeping to social distancing guidelines, catering for on-demand assignment and desk hoteling, and cooperating with other collaboration software to leverage the capabilities of a growing digital ecosystem of devices, connectivity and data.

These three functionalities in workstations create a more fluid and borderless office environment. Recent research from office interior design firm Kinnarps supports the idea that increased digitalisation is transformation how and where we work within the perimeters of the office.

9am, a pioneer and leader in workplace digitalization, together with Microsoft announced the debut of HALO, a collection of digital height adjustable workstations that feature lights and controls that enable workplace digital transformation through the Artificial Intelligence of Things (AIoT). The new series reinvented and empowered the traditional office desk with interactive, productive and analytical functionalities. By attaching smart devices to the desk, employees are enabled to develop healthier working habits and managers are able to increase office usage rates while reducing costs at the same time.

This article was written in association with 9am. 9AM provides spatial data analysis services and the overall solution of digitalised height-adjustable workstations for enterprises, which will lead to data-driven workplace strategies and efficient and healthy new working methods.
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