Are smart offices game-changers for attracting talent?

The competition for the smartest workers is driving companies to create hyper-intelligent offices in a bid to attract them.
9 January 2019

Should we be looking at enhancements to our physical work spaces themselves? Source: Shutterstock

What if you could ditch your keys for a smartphone app that allows you to access your office, book meeting rooms and even order food? What if your lights could turn themselves on or off and your printer could tell you that it’s run out of paper?

What if your office had a brain of its own and could optimize its own administration, ensuring processes are run efficiently and your employees are working comfortably?

All this is possible in the office of the future. And come 2020, Berlin office workers will get a taste of what it’s like to work in a hyper-efficient, sustainable workplace powered by artificial intelligence (AI).

“The office building is the new company car. In my world, people do not want a car as a perk anymore,” EDGE Technologies Germany Managing Director, Martin Rodeck, said in a Reuters article.

“They look around and say, this would be a nice place to work.”

In a world where new technologies are constantly being trialed to improve lives and work processes, Rodeck’s words are gospel truth.

In Berlin, the demand for office space has been on the rise, driven by falling office vacancy rates (now at 1.5 percent) and the rapid growth of local start-ups from the likes of fashion retailer Zalando and Delivery Hero.

In response to the demand, two smart offices are currently under construction – ‘The Cube’ and the ‘The Edge Grand Central’ – with the former to be completed by yearend and the latter by 2020.

Both offices have a myriad of sensors that can track motion, temperature, lighting humidity and CO2, whilst being connected to a cloud platform.

In ‘The Cube’, for example, its ‘brain’ has self-learning software that optimizes how the building is run. Turning lights on or off and regulating oxygen levels in real-time based on occupancy rates can be done in a flash.

Users can use a smartphone app to access the building and get recommendations on seating arrangements if a meeting is going on, for example.

The app can even book meeting rooms, order food and navigate the building. ‘Hot-desking’, where employees do not have a permanent desk is facilitated, and lockers are available to store belongings as well— even the printers are smart enough to alert the building management system to refill paper.

For businesses, these intelligent offices make sense. Not only do they ensure building management efficiency, but better work environments also mean declining sick leave rates.

And the trend is catching on.

Zalando is due to open its new headquarters early this year, promising employees more flexibility in their work environments. For example, employees could choose the library for quiet contemplation, telephone booths for private conversations or living rooms for better interaction.

The company plans to install smart technology that will enable workers to reserve a desk from home, taking away the stress of arriving at the office and figuring out where to sit.

But as is the case with all things new, there are still those among us who may prefer the traditional fixed desks. According to a survey by CCL consulting and property agents Savills, 50 percent of those aged under 34 and 60 percent of those under 35 do not want to give up their fixed desks.