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Physical Space and the Working Environment

Physical Space and the Working Environment


In many ways, offices would be better places to work if they were more like cars. New car models are embedded with technologies that make driving easier, safer and more fun. Sensors tell drivers if there is a truck in their blind spot or if they are about to back into another car when parking. Some cars allow drivers to safely take their hands off the wheel. Many are Wi-Fi enabled. The car doesn’t just provide transportation anymore—it actually helps people be better drivers.


So why can’t we embed technology in the office to help people feel, work and think better?


“Today, a lot of people drive a smart car and go to work in a dumb office,” says Allan Smith, Vice President, Global Marketing at Steelcase. “People used to think that technology would make offices obsolete—but the opposite is happening. Technology will be embedded in offices so it actually helps people work better, and makes the workplace even more relevant.” In the near future, Smith notes, a network of sensors and other technologies in the environment will help make work a much better—and more humane—experience. Technology will serve individual workers, teams and organizations. It will help people cope with the sense of overwhelm they often feel as work has intensified and the pace of change has accelerated. It will also help organizations design the kinds of spaces that workers love to work in versus have to work in.


Keeping it simple with today’s technology.


Getting work done used to be a lot easier: Get the right people in the right place with the right information—and then let the creativity flow. People mostly worked at their own desks, their teammates were physically nearby and they had the information they needed at hand. And then things changed. Today, mobile phones, laptops and Wi-Fi free up employees who used to be tethered to their desks. It’s liberating—people have more choices about where and how to work. But it is also harder to find the people you need. Technology and our working environment has transformed paper-based information into digital data, which makes it easier to share and create more diverse formats. But it has also caused information overload as data has multiplied exponentially.


“Work is fundamentally more complex than ever before,” concludes Smith. “For example, videoconferencing makes collaboration across time zones easier. But it also means that you can’t just book one conference room for a meeting— now you need to book multiple spaces for your global team’s video call. So collaboration got better, but meeting scheduling got a little more complicated.”

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