The Smart Advantage: rethinking the tech-enabled workplace

In our weekly WORKTECH Wednesday Briefing, we look at the rise of the omni-channel worker, the vitality of the smart workplace and the digital innovations helping to bring employees back to the office

In the latest of our WORKTECH Wednesday Briefings, created to reach out to our 10,000-plus Academy members, WORKTECH attendees, speakers, partners and sponsors while WORKTECH’s professional live conference series paused due to the coronavirus pandemic, we share perspectives on the latest developments in work and workplace. This edition is posted 5 August 2020.

Death knell for dumb buildings

‘Covid-19 is the death knell for dumb buildings,’ according to Cormac Crossan of Schneider Electric, who took part in our latest WORKTECH webinar on 30 July 2020, entitled The Smart Advantage. Crossan, Schneider’s Global Business Development Director for Real Estate, debated the benefits and barriers facing smart buildings with Spencer Levy of CBRE and Jeremy Myerson of WORKTECH Academy, arguing that companies shouldn’t complain that they’ll have too much data to know what to do with. ‘You simply can’t have too much data,’ said Crossan.

Spencer Levy, meanwhile, who head Americas Research for CBRE, offered the neatest definition of a smart building we’ve heard for a while: ‘The smart building is the one that attracts the best tenants.’ The WORKTECH webinar was organised to mark the launch of a new report, Smart Working, which examines the role of the smart building in relation to the future of work in the post-pandemic era and is based on a collaboration between Schneider Electric and consulting firm UnWork. Catch up with the Smart Working report here and with a recording of the webinar below.

The omni-channel worker

WORKTECH chairman and futurologist Philip Ross was joined by Mirvac’s workplace experience leader Paul Edwards in the latest instalment of WORKTECH’s Kitchen Table Conversations. The pair discussed Australia’s unique head-start in its preparation for lockdown as most of its workplaces had adopted activity-based working practices and had systems and policies in place to accommodate for remote working. Edwards suggested that, just as the high street retail industry was challenged by technology in the 2000s, the workplace is now discovering its USP: experience.

The distributed workforce is now using technology to its full degree, but the workplace itself still plays a vital role. Edwards stated that ‘the omni-channel worker has been discovered’, where workers are not bound to one central place, but instead have the freedom and autonomy to choose where they work. This will see the workplace morph from a storage container of workers to ‘a powerhouse of human skill’. View the full discussion below.

Tech takeover on safety

In order to return to offices safely, tech firms of all sizes have been developing new technology from wearable devices to thermal imaging cameras to help businesses equip their office space in the post-pandemic era. Notably, Tharsus, a UK-based robotics group, has developed wearables for workers to wear around their necks to help with distancing themselves from other colleagues. The device, coined ‘Bump’, sends alerts to wearers every time they come into close proximity with another worker.

Telecommunications firm Vodafone has deployed heat detection cameras made by surveillance tech maker Digital Barriers. The cameras use infrared technology to detect radiating heat from a person and estimates their body temperature. The device uses real-time body temperature screening accurate to within +/- 0.3 degrees Celsius and can screen up to 100 people a minute.

Other innovations include the use of UV light to disinfect surfaces, an approach being trialled by global lighting firm Signify; and using touch-less technology such as voice-activated intelligent systems to enable work and meeting spaces. While many of these technologies are still in their infancy, it shows a definitive proactive step to help businesses attract employees back to offices as safely as possible.

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