Workplace models are changing each day. What used to be the ideal workplace in the 1990s is no longer considered attractive today. As companies grow their workforce, the average working space per employee has shrunk from 250 square feet in the 1990s to less than 135 square feet1.
The pandemic has also created a new perspective on work-life balance, making offices less attractive to workers. However, collaborative workplace technologies are helping in enhancing employees’ satisfaction by allowing them to work from any location.
Technologies are helping employers not only retain their workforce, but also improve efficiency in operations. As Nai Kanell from SpaceIQ puts it, “Collaborative workspace design isn’t just about recognizing the needs of many, but fitting them together in an environment where every individual supports a larger goal.”2
The changing requirements of workplaces and the adoption of collaborative workplace technologies also affect the commercial real estate industry. Real estate developers must reimagine their construction plans to allow flexibility and accommodation of dynamic technologies.
What are Collaborative Workspace Technologies?
Collaborative workplace technologies refer to tools, software, and infrastructure that enhance teamwork for both in-person and remote workers. Technological advancements have made it possible for workers to do parts of their jobs from remote locations. However, there is still a considerable fraction of workers who operate from physical offices. That means most organizations, both in-person and remote, combine together to form one workplace.
The number of organizations adopting the hybrid workplace model is expected to increase even as the global economy recovers from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Great Resignation. Workers will continue to demand a work-life balance that allows them to work remotely and only work in-person as needed.
Organizations must, therefore, incorporate workplace trends in their design and planning to provide physical and digital infrastructure that can easily adapt with change. A workspace that can upgrade to new features while reusing existing systems is the most sustainable and cost effective.
Technologies such as the Gridd® raised flooring system allow flexibility and sustainable use of electric and network cables by allowing users to quickly reroute to create space for collaborative workplace technologies.
One pillar of the circular economy, reuse protects natural resources by extending the life of the built environment. Materials that stay in use are fundamentally a better investment that pay for themselves over years and even decades.
Adaptive spaces provide opportunities for work groups to engage. Easy access to software platforms, video conferencing over strategically placed display screens supports this dynamic. Use of collaborative technologies should augment operational efficiency and productivity of individual workers.
What Are Some of These Technologies?
Two-Way Telecommunications Technology
A collaborative workplace allows individual members of the team to communicate and keep in touch regardless of their location. Workers can communicate via voice, video, and data-based technologies. These technologies include:
1. Cloud Computing as a Collaborative Workspace Technology
Cloud computing technologies refer to the delivery of computing services such as storage and access to information through the internet3. Through cloud computing technologies, remote workers can access servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, and intelligence—over the internet. Simply put, workers can access their desktop from any location, complete tasks, and communicate with other workers.
2. Microphone Mist Technology
The Microphone Mist technology fills a room with virtual microphones that allow workers to communicate as if they are in close proximity4. Microphone mist allows remote workers to join a virtual meeting, listen and contribute to discussions as they would do if they were physically in the room.
3. Whiteboard Displays
The whiteboard display allows workers to brainstorm issues and share ideas from their different locations. Team leaders can add contributions and edit them as the meeting progresses on a real-time basis.
4. Tailored sound
The tailored sound enables users to get the right sound for specific sessions5. If the workers are in a virtual hall meeting, the tailored sound technology replicates a hall meeting. The tailored sound also mimics meetings of two individuals by creating the required sound and environment.
5. File Sharing Tools
Organizations deal with large volumes of data on a day-to-day basis. If the data was shared via emails, it would saturate the inboxes within no time. To avoid this, organizations invest in file-sharing tools like Dropbox and Google Drive.
Economic Considerations When Selecting Collaborative Workspace Technologies
Top managers and decision-makers should always consider the economic aspect of specific technologies before rushing to adopt them. The managers should assess the longevity of the technology tool in the organization. Before investing in a tool or infrastructure for one department, the organization should assess how the tool integrates with other departments. A collaborative tool or infrastructure should not lock out other departments, as this undermines the objective of digital workplaces.
If each department was to acquire its unique infrastructure and tools, the overall objective of the organization would become a mirage. Sustaining collaborative technology would also become costly, as each department will demand its standalone tools and infrastructure. Take a look at the marketing and production department, for instance. If the teams are not in constant communication, there would be a mismatch between what the market demands and what is produced by the company. To make economic sense, collaborative workplace technologies should integrate all the departments.
Sustainable Workplace Construction
Sustainability is the use of resources to meet current needs without jeopardizing the ability of future generations to meet theirs. In commercial real estate development, the term also refers to the use of construction materials past their shelf life. Given the trends in the technology industry, commercial real estate developers must design flexible structures that can adapt to changes in technology with minimal wastage. To accommodate these changes, real estate developers must reimagine their construction approaches.
Technology is dynamic. Whether it is an office premise or a home facility, the developer must accommodate the use of collaborative workplace technologies. Physical workplaces designed to enable the use and evolution of technology attract talent. This is the essence of sustainability and this is where the most competitive properties are focusing.