As the old concepts of what an office should be and how it should look and feel fall by the wayside, the concept of a “smart” office grows more common. But what is a “smart” office? Most people who hear the word smart used to describe an object, like a phone or TV, automatically think it is about technological advances that enhance or extend the usability of the item. While most will assume a “smart” office means the use of cutting edge technology, it really is a much broader concept that is being defined by some prominent companies and corporations.
The place to begin is by determining your company’s business objectives and strategic vision. What are the end goals and how should they be accomplished? Once these questions are answered, these criteria should be expressed in the Corporate Mission Statement. The Mission Statement will elucidate the firm’s core ideology and the vision of its goals. Once the strategic vision is defined, the company can begin to design and create a “smart office” that will bring the strategic vision to life.
- Corporate Culture – The Strategic Vision is the blueprint for the management’s concept of its corporate culture, defining how management and employees work, interact and conduct their business. The success of numerous companies has been attributed to their corporate culture. Apple and Netflix have a less structured management strategy which fosters creativity, problem solving and employee freedom. Spotify uses the principles of agile management which groups employees in teams to tackle company issues. Cisco has downsized their offices by adopting a mobile office environment, thus reducing the ratio of employees to work stations to six to one.
- Office Amenities – If the goal is to find, hire and retain talented employees, the office amenities are instrumental to achieving that goal. Google is most famous for its employee friendly corporate culture, offering amenities such as gourmet food, massages, laundry service, on-site doctors, flextime, and yoga. Their new London office will have an outdoor roof garden, football and a ride-in bike garage. While the elaborate perks that Google offers are not possible at all offices, playful perks such as foosball, ping pong and pool tables are doable; as are access to food and coffee throughout the office.
- Work, Life Balance – Today’s corporate culture encourages employees to blend their work life with their personal life. They should love coming to work. A relaxed dress code is standard, pets are encouraged and bikes are everywhere. The workplace should offer vitality and wellness by encouraging healthy food, exercise and access to natural light. Child care and personalization of work space are encouraged.
- Office Design – Collaboration occurs at shared food or bathroom lines, coffee bars, and other community areas. Transparency is created by using glass walls and perforated materials which provides natural light as well as increased employee communication. Areas for small private meetings which offer quiet escapes are equally important as the situation rooms for larger meetings and town hall-type events. The office furniture contributes to the office’s flexibility by offering standing desks, sofas, lounge chairs, coffee tables, and other options that create comfortable, collaborative areas throughout the office.
- Branding – Many tools are used to express the company’s brand. While branding for the clients is a standard practice, branding the office is equally important when recruiting new employees. Today’s offices are additional tools to attract and retain employees; pride in the brand should be evident in the office. A famous example is the design of Pixar’s Animation Studios. A fun atmosphere was created using a Hawaiian theme, motor scooters and a playful atmosphere. The brand has been instrumental in the success of Pixar’s animated movies.
- Accessibility – Most business plans want an office central to the location of its employees that provides easy access for all employees. The office should have close proximity to highways for employees who drive or carpool and also be near to public transportation for those who do not. Alternative transportation is accommodated by providing charging stations for electric and flex vehicles as well as access to bike friendly roads with onsite bike storage. Additionally, if the company mission statement’s goal is to attract millennials, then the surrounding neighborhood should have the cool factor. Good restaurants, bars and coffee shops should be available nearby as well as access to shopping, cultural and entertainment hubs to satisfy the social needs of its millennial employees.
The new 21st century office has evolved. It is being determined by the company’s goals, objectives and values that define the corporate culture and its brand. These decisions determine the office’s location, design, amenities, furniture and vitality. These characteristics enable the company’s office to become a tool to help the company grow and achieve success.