What 2020 taught us about the role of tech in interiors
Office technology wasn’t idle while we’ve been away. On our return, it will need to work harder to create more experiential places for people
Whilst we’ve worked our way through lockdown, technology has been a vital lifeline to the outside world. It has done everything from keeping us connected with colleagues to enabling us to turn large-scale events virtual. Tech supports our daily lives too, from simple calendar reminders, through to accessing online content, ordering things instantaneously to our front door, managing our health and fitness and even control of our home environments.
All the while we’ve been out of the office, the tech we use at home has been getting more sophisticated, whilst the tech in our offices has been lying dormant.
Or has it? Some of the tech in our offices will not have been used, like the AV in meeting and conferencing facilities. However, some tech will still have been working in the background. Buildings still run. Security systems will still have been doing an important job to keep a building safe, even when at minimum occupancy. Systems will still be in place collecting data on the usage of the building and ready to fire back up to plan for and manage users returning to the workplace, so that facilities can be used safely.
Seeing the value
On this return to the workplace however, many will be questioning the tech in the building. People will not want to use any tech that does not give them the experience of being able to immediately connect and share content. The Big Data debate brings forth the question of the need to collect data. Just because we can collect data, does it mean we should?
The bottom line seems to be that people will engage with tech only if they see value from using it. You want to be able to book a clean desk that complies with social distancing? You want to be able to find people and facilities in the building safely via the most direct route? You want to change the flow and floorplate allocation of the building on different days? You want to control fresh air into the building? You want to use your own device? You want to control systems via an app on your phone? You want to use voice instead of touch control?
Well, you can. You can do all of this – and in many instances, buildings will already have in place the IT infrastructure foundation and equipment to help make this happen. Some fine tuning to existing systems may be all that is needed.
The need to switch off
What about tech free zones?’ I hear you cry. We need to switch off! Tech overload can be and has been a real problem for many of us. The digital wall of working from home can suck you up and spit you out. The lack of routine during lockdown for many has led to increasing difficulty to manage any kind of routine and keep track of working hours, exacerbating the ‘always on’ and fear of missing out effect. So, what about when we return to our offices?
The thing to remember is that technology in a building should be pervasive and not invasive. Yes, we can learn from our personal lives on how we want to do things in our buildings, but just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you have to. You might want to create impact and wow factor in some parts of the building, and absolute subtlety in others.
This means that the name of the game for our technology is flexibility. With a solid IT network infrastructure behind the scenes, your building will be sustainable and able to cope with moves, adds and changes to people and the technology that they use as we continue to pursue the roadmap out of lockdown.
Tech is an enabler
Tech will enable us to create different zones in our commercial interiors, from a project or huddle room with soft seating, through to high impact presentation, broadcast and conferencing facilities elsewhere. You might need a relaxation room with environmental and lighting control that still offers mobile connectivity to run your meditation app. Tech is an enabler, but it just needs to be in the right place at the right time.
One thing is for sure that many of us cannot wait to get back to our offices. We are missing human contact and there is no amount of technology in the world that can deliver that feeling. Our cities and buildings must open their arms and welcome us back, developing into more experiential places that put people at the very heart.