Workplace Tech And User Experience

Even when facility planners proactively consider employees' technology preferences, the result doesn't always connect with end-user needs.

By Luis DeSouza

The perfect workplace is planned with well-organized furniture (design) and state-of-the-art functionality (technology) to co-exist while promoting productivity, mobility, collaboration, and efficiency. But wait… does this actually exist in the modern workplace?

No matter what type of facility you manage — corporate offices, law firms, or educational facilities — chances are your workplace is not planned for these results.

A recent survey showed nearly 50% of employee respondents in the United States rank their office environment as the most critical element of job satisfaction. However, aspects of office space planning are often overlooked — and designing for the end user doesn’t always connect with their needs.workplace

Of course, we can argue that design is custom-made to what people want; however, it’s not always tailored to the end user’s needs. This is because designers tend to design by their own experience and perception even though the standard processes have been thought through when creating the space. Organizations and their facility planners may not always describe what’s right for the end user as well.

Here are three questions to consider when it comes to design versus function.

1.Does high-cost office design meet the basic needs of the end user?
Many corporations, colleges, and law firms I’ve visited have elaborate entrances and reception areas that lead to high-end open workspaces with significant investments made in digital wayfaring and multimedia equipment. Having made this investment, is the organization responding to the needs of the end user?

Does a balance between design and user experience exist? Architect John Capazzi, President of RSC Architects, offers his professional opinion. “The job of an architect is to create a space that is both aesthetically pleasing and functionally efficient. There is a hierarchy of needs from design to implementation that we consider while creating a design. Whether it be for a large government complex, new college building, or multi-media center, every design must meet basic level needs for the end user.

Once those needs are met, we can advance the design focus to address higher-level wants. Our designs are all custom developed but we always focus first on what will serve the end user best whether it be high-level ceilings or an open space and lobby,” states Capazzi.

So a workplace can be more than just well-designed space. It can also be a great way to increase flexibility for end users, for instance by providing an open office plan.

Let’s take it one step further with organizations offering hoteling or “hot desking” — the sharing of office space and desks, opening workspaces to employees on a “booking basis” rather than for regular use. Desks remain unassigned and are booked through a formal office reservation system each day for a set period of time.

The alternative might be to use on a first-come, first-served basis.

Achieving the right user experience is all about combining technology (e.g., meeting room management software) with the digital experience, and increasingly providing a mobile solution for the new generation of workers.

2. Are we putting enough emphasis on designing the right space for new ways of collaboration? Is spending mega bucks on high-end technology necessary?
We all know the right technology, combined with well-designed space, provides the right tools for the new ways of collaborating. But it does seem to me that although companies are spending a lot of money on white boards, digital signage, large screens for AV equipment, etc., frequently this technology is not fully utilized because the user experience is not great.

Availability and connectivity to technology is important for a workplace to be productive, but it needs to be easy to navigate in today’s fast moving world. Elaborate whiteboards and flipcharts are the traditional way of attaining shared brainstorming in the office, but there are so many new and easy collaborative tools available, such as writeable surfaces on tables or walls.

Today tablets and smartphones have become the most common informal collaboration tools. For example, tablets are ideal for drawing ideas and concepts to quickly share with others. Dashboards and analytical tools make it easier to read data, while swiping a tablet or phone in your hand is often more engaging than traditional tools on a desktop or AV screening tools.

Organizations would benefit from reviewing their investments in high-end meeting rooms fully equipped with technology — the evidence is clear that smaller rooms may offer a better solution for collaboration. Conference room scheduling software can eliminate confusion and is easy to use. These systems enable users to book everything from rooms, desks, catering, and VC with one touch.

With the growing number of smaller meeting rooms and informal collaboration spaces, easy access to the scheduling platform via a mobile device, kiosk, or Outlook provides a great opportunity for the end user to easily find the right space.

3. What is driving collaboration in the workplace?
Today, connecting the different elements of technology is the key to delivering a connected workplace which supports both collaboration and improved productivity. This means connecting scheduling with video AV and digital signage, and also potentially sensors and beacons.

It’s worth the effort. A connected workplace is a great place to work and can contribute towards:

Talent attraction: 64% of employees would opt for a lower paying job if they could work away from the office. Today’s workforce can do this if equipped with the right digital tools for effective communication and resource bookings.

Employee productivity: Organizations with strong online social networks are 7% more productive, acccording to a 2014 Cisco report.

Employee retention: When employee engagement increases, there is a corresponding increase in employee retention by up to 87%.

To encourage employee engagement, selective scheduling software finds and books a meeting space, add desks, catering, wayfinding, and more. It also integrates with video conferencing to reach numerous locations.

Communication tools: Workers prefer newer communication tools like instant messaging over more traditional ones like e-mail. This of course is the result of a fast paced environment due to the digital workplace.

Collaboration: To solve business problems and operate productively, organizations need the ability to share their knowledge across the company with online, seamless, integrated and intuitive collaboration.

Working outside of the office or at a fixed desk, a good room scheduling app does this from a smartphone or tablet. It saves organizations money on expensive real estate while improving employee meetings and productivity, and promoting collaboration.

Connectivity: Employees need tools that allow them to connect across the organization, share knowledge and gain information from each other. Whether it’s physically connecting in a meeting room, instant messaging, or video conferencing, connecting with the correct tools speeds up the process.

Room scheduling software is a tool that every organization should consider incorporating into its digital workplace. This type of tool not only finds the meeting space, books it, finds desks, and catering it also has sensors that can release the room when the meeting ends. Dashboards allow managers to quickly analyze usage patterns, saving time, and money.

So are you providing a workplace designed to promote collaboration and digitally connect workers anywhere and anytime? Besides providing productivity and efficiency you’ll keep top employees happy while saving on the bottom line.

workplaceDe Souza is group CEO and and founder of NFS Technology Group, which provides the Rendevous Workspace software as part of its offerings. He studied engineering and then completed his MBA at the London Business School. De Souza’s business career has spanned work in major Companies like Ford, McKinsey, and ITT, before founding NFS as a hospitality technology business more than 20 years ago.