Smart office buildings: what features do people really want?
How much do people really know about smart offices – and what features would they like to see? A British Land survey of more than 1,000 London office workers seeks some answers
Thanks to advances in technology, the smart office building is an idea whose time has come. It brings with it a host of tangible benefits for employers and employees alike, as described in a new report from British Land in partnership with WORKTECH Academy, Smart Offices: A 2017 Vision for the Future.
But what do people actually know about smart offices, what features would they like to see, and when do they expect to be working in one?
To find out, British Land ran a survey of 1,063 office workers in London (of whom 291 are fully involved in making decisions about the location of their organisation) to explore the appetite for – and perceptions of – smart offices.
The concept is certainly being discussed at the top level of organisations: 96 per cent of decision-makers have heard of smart offices, and only 23 per cent say they’re ‘aware but not knowledgeable’. It’s a different story for less senior workers: only 11 per cent are ‘knowledgeable’, although a further 47 per cent have heard of smart offices, even if they don’t know much about them.
What’s more, businesses largely appear to be convinced that a smart office is something they should be planning for: 90 per cent of decision-makers see a business reason for working in one and 87 per cent say they’ll require smart technology in their office the next time they move.
This high level of confidence in smart offices seems to be based on a perception that they will trigger benefits for an organisation. Decision-makers think the chief benefits of smart offices will be in raising productivity and wellbeing, bringing an expected 51 per cent increase in each, on average. Appeals to new talent and employee loyalty aren’t far behind, with average perceived increases of 48 per cent and 45 per cent respectively.
Respondents were also given a list of possible smart office features and asked which of those they don’t already have would appeal to them. The most popular were:
- Self-adjusting lighting and window shades (53 per cent don’t have this but think it would be helpful)
- The ability to personalise heat and light settings for one’s immediate space, and have those settings follow you around the building (53 per cent)
- Circadian lighting systems that mimic natural daylight (51 per cent)
- Heat and lighting systems that adjust automatically according to weather and occupancy (50 per cent)
This suggests that the bulk of employees are most interested in features that make their workspace more comfortable. Decision-makers also find these appealing, alongside smart features that might increase efficiency. The most appealing features to them were:
- An app for booking desks and meeting rooms (35 per cent)
- Meeting rooms where the screens work seamlessly with your device (34 per cent)
- Desk or room sensors that track usage to monitor efficiency (34 per cent)
- The ability to personalise heat and light settings (34 per cent)
- Heat and lighting that adjusts according to weather and occupancy (34 per cent)
Time to move?
So when are businesses likely to move into (or retrofit) a smart office? Asked when they would like to work in a smart office, workers said, on average, ‘within two years’ – but think it won’t actually happen for another four. Only 35 per cent of employees think their employer is prioritising smart office technology.
One factor that might be holding them back is cost: 58 per cent of decision-makers say this is an obstacle to implementing smart elements in an office. Beyond that, generational differences may drive the decision-making process. Older decision-makers feel that the building (45 per cent) and culture of the business (36 per cent) might not be ready, while among their younger counterparts, 36 per cent cite a lack of support for the concept from management.
Other obstacles highlighted were around privacy and security challenges, but here again there are significant differences between the decision-making generations. Among those aged 50 or over, only 25 per cent were concerned about privacy and vulnerability to hacking, compared to figures of 38 per cent overall for privacy and 34 per cent for hacking.
As often happens with new technology, the survey results suggest that the main impetus for smart offices may well come from a younger generation that is more accustomed to – and indeed expects – the changes to working practices that smart technology can bring.