December 22, 2016

Guest blog: The future of the office - a more empathic building

Tuomo Saramaa

Director of Strategy and Service Excellence and Member of the Management Board of ISS Palvelut, ISS Palvelut

Recently, ISS and Tieto ran an innovation track at Junction - Europe's largest hackathon - hunting for new solutions for the intelligent building market. The two-day event was a great success, and I'm really excited to see how the insight we gained gets turned into real-world applications with Tieto's help.

What really struck me coming out of the event was how much innovations such as data and digitalization are transforming how we think about work in the future, and how the spaces in which we work will have to adapt.

What's clear from the innovations on show at the hackathon is that tomorrow's offices won't just be slabs of concrete. They'll be much more like living, breathing organisms in their own right, able to empathically respond to the needs of their occupants. And end-users themselves will become sensors as well to contribute to this, as technology such as wearables provide much more insight into how people are actually using a workspace.

A more flexible future

The key driver for this will be a huge transformation in the way we approach work in the coming years. The digitalization of many businesses, coupled with investments in better communication technology, have made working much more flexible - and this isn't just good for remote and home working. 

This change in our daily routines also impacts on the physical spaces of our offices. Tomorrow's workplaces will need greater freedom, flexibility and mobility, allowing users and visitors to rearrange their working day and use any free space based on their needs at any given moment.

So, for example, if employees need to meet customers or collaborate with colleagues, there should be suitable locations for this, while by the same token, there also need to be more formal, quiet spaces for intense, uninterrupted working.

Effective data sharing will be central to this. The ability for people to see in real-time what areas are free and which colleagues are available will help employees take better control of their working day and ensure they have access to the most appropriate environment.

A more empathic office

The key for many businesses in achieving this will be to create a building that is responsive and empathic to the needs of its occupants. While obviously, walls and floors themselves are still just concrete, the amount of data buildings collect can help offer much greater personalisation to users, bringing them to the forefront of building operators' and service providers' thinking.

A central question to be answered is: 'how can technology help improve an employee's day?' This means providing them with the right info they need at every point - from letting them know about traffic on their commute into work to alerting them when colleagues are available for a meeting, or recommending the most appropriate workspace without the need for an employee to specify what they require. It may even allow buildings to automatically change settings such as heating and air conditioning in advance so a room is always in the perfect condition when the employee arrives. 

This relies on a combination of inbuilt sensors, wearable technology and data derived from sources such as an individual's calendar to build a complete picture of their journey throughout the day, so service providers can support them from the moment they arrive to the moment they leave, and beyond.

Find more about Data-Driven Businesses and unwrap the opprtunities of the future data-driven world.

ISS Palvelut is the third largest private employer in Finland, and the leading facility services company. We produce Cleaning, Property, Security and Catering Services for companies and the public sector. Through our operations, we create qualitative and financial value for our customers’ business operations. Our annual turnover amounted to EUR 503 million in 2015, and we employ over 10 000 people. ISS Palvelut is part of the international ISS Group which has activities in 77 countries.

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