Property Australia

How technology can make our workplaces more human

March 8, 2022

Technology enabled people to work remotely, and technology is the secret to supporting the return to work, says Irina Lindquist, Stantec’s smart buildings leader. But before you ramp up your technology budget, Lindquist has some insights to share.

“The pandemic gave us the flexibility to build a lifestyle around our home. Productivity is no longer a company responsibility; it is an individual responsibility,” Lindquist says.

That personal productivity is now delivered in space that is finely tuned to each individual’s needs. The personal space may be a workspace adjusted to ergonomic perfection, a scattering of family photos and personal mementos, or a pet sitting under the desk. Whatever the preference, the office must now provide that level of personalisation.

Is it an impossible task? Lindquist doesn’t think so – but only with the help of technology.

“We need a continuous feedback loop to learn from the personal experiences of each building user or space occupant. Without that direct and continuous feedback loop, we are just guessing, and can jump to conclusions and make the wrong design decisions. We can only get that continuous understanding of personal experiences if we provide and encourage adoption of technology.”

Apps can provide insights into user satisfaction with the cleanliness of the bathrooms or air-conditioning set points, but Lindquist is quick to point out that smart building technology is about more than convenience.

“Technology can support one’s seamless transition between places and spaces, and create memorable experiences along the way. If my phone knows when I’m on public transport heading to the office, a workplace app can alert my favourite coffee shop to let them know I’ll be there in 15 minutes. My long black can be ready and waiting before I step foot into my office.”

This is just one example of a personalised “user experience” – and it is this user experience that occupies Lindquist’s thoughts. “At Stantec, we say smart buildings is all about people. If we understand people, we are more able to deliver the piece of technology that will create that personalised experience.”

Understanding the user journeys has never been more important, she notes. Each person’s needs have always been different – but never more than now in the hybrid world of work. “Technology can help us to understand these needs and how buildings must respond,” Lindquist says.

“We need to look at technology in a new and different way. The key is to plot the user journey to understand how people interact with technology, not how engineers design technology, and to make technology more user-friendly so that it doesn’t become the barrier, rather than the enabler, of the return to the office.”

Technology is certainly emerging as a point of competitive differentiation. MIT’s Real Estate Innovation Lab, for instance, has found that buildings classified as “smart, connected and green” command an 8.2 per cent rental premium and 23.7 per cent sale premium.

“But a smart building is not a collection of sensors and devices. A smart building uses technology to deliver a better experience,” Lindquist notes.

“Innovation, collaboration, human connection… these are the benefits that will bring people back to the workplace. Making this easier and user friendly is the role of technology. Not gadget by gadget. But by thinking holistically and by looking through the user lens.”

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