The future of office technology (and what it means for your business)

Young Entrepreneur Council
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How are you gearing up for these trends?

Office space is changing quickly, and it can be challenging to find the space that best suits your needs. Back in 2010, I was working in a financial role and looking for an office for my company. I realised, from the consumer’s perspective, that my options for finding one were limited. The industry was completely segmented, with brokers and landlords holding all the information, and thus, the power.

After consulting with my two friends who were working in the industry — my co-founders Jonathan and Justin — everyone confirmed my sentiment: commercial real estate was tech-averse and disjointed. We launched TheSquareFoot as an office listing platform, and later became a brokerage to help clients secure deals.

Since we launched, tech has become more prominent, information more accessible, and spaces more democratised. These changes lower the barrier to entry for working out of an office. An office legitimises a business and means you can hire more people — for the sheer fact that you have more space. Sharing a single office space, as is popular today, allows for collaborative environments with numerous networking opportunities.

Here are three of the most significant trends to be aware of — whether you’re a growing business considering office space, a commercial real estate company, or run a startup capitalising on the ways technology is changing workspaces.

Also Read: “Airbnb for office space” platform FlySpaces launches in Jakarta, home to 300K+ SMEs

The sharing economy will continue to grow

 

The startup craze has ignited a fire in office sharing. In 2015, devoted co-working spaces like The Yard and WeWork became increasingly popular, and so did other options for co-working: desk-sharing via PivotDesk, office spaces by the hour through sites like Breather, and space rental for events through Splacer.

Young companies don’t have the resources to lease an entire office but might consider renting out a few desks or a place in a co-working space for the interim. The well-established company can then take advantage of this demand by leasing out their unused space. Not only will this counterbalance costs, but it will also encourage collaboration beyond the confines of your business.

There will be a greater demand for the Internet of Things (IoT)

 

IoT encompasses any hardware that is connected to the Internet, from Web-ready television sets to doors that lock automatically via an app. If you have IoT-enabled audiovisual systems, for example, you can easily host a meeting between all your global offices. Beyond that, you can integrate the physical world with the digital world, for example, by controlling the climate or lighting of an office remotely.

As the workplace decentralises, the need for transparent information about different locations grows. With IoT connectivity, monitoring and managing this information becomes simple because it allows an administrator to view and manage all this information about every location, from anywhere in the world.

Not only will the options for IoT technology become more plentiful, but the tech to make and implement these features will also become more viable for offices. For developers of IoT technology, commercial real estate is the perfect industry to tackle because it promises enterprise-level contracts, and many businesses are of yet are technologically inept.

Despite demand for IoT, it will likely not become commonplace right away due to buildings not yet being able to support it. There are some simple IoT technologies that don’t require extra credentials, but if startups want to go full high-tech, they’ll have to find a special property and pay a premium. However, they may recoup this extra investment in savings since IoT tech is typically more energy-efficient than traditional tech.

As with any new technology, one of the challenges of IoT tech is maintenance, and any startup that uses IoT tech for essential processes — like lighting or security — should also have fail-safes in case of emergency.

Also Read: 6 tips for setting up your ideal first office space

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality could sneak into real estate

 

Virtual reality (VR) is a means of viewing a digital 3D world that does not exist in the physical landscape, while augmented reality (AR) is a means of viewing the real world, with digital components overlaid onto the physical landscape. These allow for remote office tours, office redesigns, and a greater understanding of architectural concepts.

Businesses should care about the convergence of VR into office leasing because it means greater and more realistic foresight into their offices in the future, which will allow these businesses to effectively map out the trajectory of their in-office growth. For example, Sage Realty Corp. has been offering VR tours for a building currently under renovation, which won’t be ready for physical tours until later this year.

The ability to visualise the workplace also provides an element of insurance against workplace issues like fire hazards or connectivity problems. To take advantage of these changes, companies should start requesting VR and AR mockups along with 3D designs when contracting office changes. This demand will drive the industry to make changes that will ultimately help all businesses plan.

Augmented reality poses some exciting potential too: imagine standing in your current office, putting on a headset and watching it morph into a design concept before your eyes. Being able to visualise things through a 3D headset will allow the viewer to imagine the transition and not just the final product.

Technology will continue to have a huge impact on commercial real estate and the office leasing process. Even as the co-working concept grows, technology will be there to help it grow faster. For startups considering moving into a new office, take into account these trends. By encouraging more connectivity between people, objects and visualisations, you will ultimately make your business stronger.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organisation comprising the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship programme that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

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