They used to call it water-cooler chat – the moments of unexpected collaboration people working in offices would gain while getting themselves a drink.
But that was in the old days – actually just a few years ago – when offices were divided into rigid spaces, everyone had their own desk and meeting rooms were mostly for formal occasions.
Today, chat still goes on around the water-cooler, but thankfully, supported by modern technology, enlightened working environments are now much more set up to encourage those moments of interaction that spark inspiration.
In a Connected Workplace, such as those NFS Technology helps to create, workers move about freely, using agile desk space, informal meeting areas and – yes – meeting rooms, but meeting rooms that can be multi-purpose.
The change has been driven partly by economics, of course. Office space is increasingly expensive, particularly in the capital, and it makes no sense to have more space than you actually need, or rooms that stand empty part of the time.
The changing demands of workers have also been a huge motivating factor in the shaping of the 2018 workplace. There are now many generations working together, all with their own requirements and preferences, and providing them with the right space to get on with their job not only improves their happiness and wellbeing, but also boosts their productivity.
So what elements help the 2018 Connected Workplace to function effectively for both the business and its people?
Flexible and remote working is a major trend, and in a recent survey a third of office workers said they wanted to be more trusted to manage how and where they work.
However, around the same percentage also said they did not have the tools and technology to work agilely – and two thirds said they would spend more time in the office if it had better facilities.
The savviest of organisations are turning to modern state-of-the-art meeting room and resource scheduling software to manage their working environments and automate mundane, time-consuming tasks.
Meeting room booking software offers them the opportunity to identify suitable space and book it easily online, even before they come into the office. Resources such as AV, video conferencing and even catering can be booked at the same time.
Naturally, keeping tabs on such a changing environment can cause headaches for office or facilities managers. Tracking genuine use of office space can be incredibly difficult, particularly across multi locations.
Some of the best systems use desk occupancy sensors to monitor space and desk utilisation in real-time, capturing accurate data that allows managers to make informed decisions about space.
These can now be linked with beacons – indoor positioning technology that is likely to revolutionise our workplaces.
With beacons, an app can detect – with permission, of course – whenever someone is standing near it. It’s simple but brilliant; for instance, if you’ve left your desk for a meeting, it could automatically re-route calls from the desk phone to where you are.
Beacons can also provide wayfinding guidance, helping meeting guests to find the right conference room, and make it possible for room technology to start dialling the conference call as soon as you enter.
With all these elements acting together, the Connected Workplace offers an unprecedented level of control over the working environment for staff.
And if you are in management, the data captured provides a valuable real-time view of whether your space is being maximised, and how it can be improved – it offers an early ROI by saving time and money in booking.
When competitiveness and productivity are at a premium, and talented staff are hard to find and retain, that can’t be bad for business.