Why new technology can still make employees happier, healthier and more efficient

New technology can still make employees happier and more efficient

For many years, we became used to new technology being treated with excitement. Essentially, people thought technology made their lives better. More recently this consensus has been tested. On a very practical level, there is growing concern about the impact of everyday technology. ‘Screen-time’ has become a byword for anxiety and disengagement from the real world. Meanwhile, there is trepidation about the impact of future technology, such as the automation of jobs. Whilst caution is needed, there is a danger that we are forgetting the many benefits technology can bring. As an example, look to the workplace. Already, offices are gaining hugely from technology that benefits employee wellness and productivity.  However, we have only just begun to feel its impact. A ‘fast’ office may sound like an oxymoron. A building isn’t going to win a 100-metre race. Yet fast offices, which allow employees to control their immediate environment, are becoming increasingly common.

These workplaces contain technology that gives an employee control over their work station’s lighting, temperature and general ambience. This technology is much more than a gimmick. Our recent research report, Wellness Matters, highlights just how important an employee’s environment is to their wellbeing. Giving an employee control of their surroundings helps them work happily and productively.

Similarly, offices are beginning to implement sensors that can read the needs of occupiers and respond accordingly, adjusting the temperature and lighting depending upon the intensity of use. Workplaces had previously been static places but, thanks to technology, they can become flexible and responsive. We’ve all heard about the Edge in Amsterdam or the Dock in Dublin- both good examples of where technology can take us.

Outside of the office, remote working technology is developing every day. It’s important that this continues, since working styles are becoming even less static. Most of all, it is essential that remote working technology is secure, since employees using their own devices presents a real security risk.

The above developments are just the start. This year, we will continue to see the implementation of technology that was unimaginable just a decade or so ago.

So far, augmented reality has been mainly used in gaming. Pokemon Go, for instance. However, it could completely transform the workplace.

Developers are imagining a world where the worker only needs a keyboard and augmented reality glasses. The rest of their working world, such as monitors and diaries, will appear once the glasses are put on. People will hold meetings as if they are in a game, with everyone appearing in each other’s glasses, rather than as voices over a crackly conference call. Working from home will become simpler, with there being even less difference between home and office work.

This world is still a few years off, but big companies like Facebook, Microsoft and Boeing, as well as several start-ups, are busy developing their augmented reality workplace. Real progress will be made on this technology in the year to come.

As we know, the pace of technological advancement will only quicken. It’s important that landlords and employers don’t get left behind. That’s why next year will see the BCO launch a new research report looking at how digital technology can create new opportunities for the workplace industry, creating new value and functionality that enables us all to do our jobs better.

We cannot hide from technology, but we can choose to embrace it.


Elaine Rossall is Head of UK Offices Research, British Council for Offices (BCO)