The Cloud Experience Everywhere

Building a More Engaging, More Efficient Workplace: The Physical-Digital Meld


In a world where many of us can work from anywhere – home, coffee shop, airplane, whatever – do we still need office space? In other words, should companies still invest in that kind of real estate?

My answer is an emphatic yes – but maybe less of it. And definitely a different kind of workplace.

Why not have everyone work remotely?

As great as working remotely or virtually may be, humans are still limited in the fidelity of communication and decision-making they can achieve when they're not working face-to-face in a completely immersive, collaborative environment. A huge amount of information and energy flows through our body language and expressions. Technology can’t, at the moment, fully reproduce those, so it imposes a limiting factor on the way we collaborate, brainstorm, and dynamically solve problems. For sure, there will always be times when working remotely makes sense – it works well for repeatable, low-complexity tasks – but when you need to shift into that higher collaborative gear, there’s no real substitute for in-person interactions.

So the question is not so much, do we need physical workspaces, but rather, how can we design them to tap into the deep value of direct, full-presence collaboration? And how do we fine-tune our investment in that physical footprint with a view to, if possible, reducing underlying costs?

These questions are really two sides of one coin, and the answer turns out to be the same for both. We help users get more out of the work environment and we optimize returns by creating engaging, productive spaces that blend physical workspaces with digital tools.

As I mentioned in my earlier post on redefining the workplace, it’s crucial to keep employees firmly at the center of the picture, so that’s where we start. We design the digital architecture of the work space to do two things: empower users to do their jobs more efficiently, and help them engage more effectively with the physical environment and the activities within it that are most relevant to them.

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Empower and Engage

As work environments evolve from the cubicle era, they’re becoming more dynamic – but they’re also becoming a bit more chaotic. You opened up the floor space, so now my colleague Chris can sit wherever he wants. Great. But now I have a problem: Where’s Chris?

At the same time, the familiar, classic facilities frustrations haven’t gone away. Scheduling meeting spaces, for example, is still a paramount pain point for employees. How many times have you looked in the room calendar and found they’re all booked – but then you walk around the floor and find that 40 percent are empty! So now you're thinking, should I go in, can I not, what's the wait time? Is it on the 10 minutes use-it-or-lose it rule? And really, who wants to start their meeting 10 minutes late anyway?

Employees are constantly bumping up against time-wasters like these throughout the work day, and the effect can range from mildly annoying to stressful to flat-out exhausting. In a mobile, connected enterprise, nobody should have to wander around an unfamiliar space looking for a colleague or a printer. The workspace itself should provide the digital support to eliminate those friction points. 

The technologies that can do that – location systems, desk hoteling, wayfinding and room scheduling apps – are motivating and exciting in themselves, demonstrating the organization’s commitment to innovation. But more importantly, intelligent spaces can engage employees directly by surfacing interactions that are relevant to their real-time location and activity within the enterprise building. Security and safety events, for example. Wouldn't it be cool if you could blast out a notification to all employees if, say, there’s flooding in the basement of the building? “We have a pipe burst, it's a level one severity for that floor only. Exit out of the east wing door six.” Previously, there was no clean, streamlined way to do this, other than pulling on a fire alarm and causing unnecessary disruption.

Or let’s say your CEO wants feedback on an all-employee call. The comms system could follow up with a quick request: “How would you rate the effectiveness of the presentation, from one to five?” “Which of the following actions would you most fully support?” That’s much more effective and engaging than simply inviting e-mail responses.

Making space more productive

Once your digital workplace is aligned with how employees actually want to use it, you’re better able to understand the usage dynamics and costs of the facility. Intelligent workspaces enable evidence-based management of workspaces through enhanced data and analytics. Now you know the number of meeting rooms that are booked in any given period, the number of desks that people are checking into. Let's say you have a fleet of meeting rooms, each with seating capacity for ten. What percentage of that resource is used at capacity? What if all ten seats are regularly needed in 20 percent of the rooms, and in the other 80 percent people generally use only three seats? Maybe it makes sense to split some rooms into two. All of a sudden, you've increased the efficiency of the space by looking carefully at how it’s really being utilized. Add up a lot of incremental savings like this at scale, and maybe you can reduce your global real estate footprint by an entire building.

We make spaces even more productive by accelerating time-to-resolution for facilities issues. How many times have you used a meeting room where you’ve had to work around a broken remote, a loose wire or a non-functioning screen? And then you come back next week and it’s still not fixed, so you decide to just go find another room, leaving it empty and unused.

So who's looking after that room? How is facilities going to know that there's a problem there? It can take weeks or months for things to get fixed, simply because users have other priorities. When you need to get a quarterly sales meeting started, you don’t have time to find the number for facilities, get someone on the phone and explain that the left button on the right side of a projector is broken.

The right technologies can streamline the interaction between employees and facilities to eliminate these inefficiencies. Say you walk into a room and find that something's broken. All you have to do is open up your app on your phone, take a picture of the broken projector or whatever it is, and the app will automatically notify the right people to take care of the issue.

Businesses could easily be generating a lot more value from the usage data that their facilities produce – it’s a largely overlooked resource and a potential growth driver. I’ll have a lot more to say about that in an upcoming post. Keep an eye on this blog!

What we shared with customers in Vegas for HPE Disocover 

Interested to see how it all works? Take a look at this interview I did at HPE Discover in Las Vegas where I take you through our Intelligent workplace solutions and demos.

Learn more about intelligent spaces from HPE Pointnext.


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Global Solution Strategist