The context: The workplace has evolved over the decades due to changes in the nature of work, expectations, norms, and technology. So, it’s only right that our workstations change, too.
Most workers assumed factory roles 100 years ago. Personal cubicles became the norm in the 1980s and open concept floorplans took over commercial properties during the twenty-first century. Today, many companies have or are trying to create offices that contain a variety of setups, including collaborative spaces, quiet workstations, and open desks.
Smart workstations complement these modern setups because they are more customizable, considerate of employees’ health and wellbeing, and may actually help boost productivity.
Work environments have a direct impact on employee happiness and health
Most white-collar employees spend at least 1/3 of each weekday working at a desk. That’s a long time to sit in the same place. A poor work environment, including insufficient lighting, uncomfortable temperatures, unsupportive chairs, or badly positioned monitors, can do a lot of damage to employees over a prolonged period of time.
Workstations and environments that make employees feel uncomfortable can lead to reduced job satisfaction, illness or injury, and ultimately, absenteeism. This information isn’t new, but it can slip the minds of busy managers who are trying to juggle multiple projects and goals at once.
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Efforts in injury prevention and health promotion have led to the development of workstation advances, including adjustable sit-stand desks, ergonomic chairs, and monitors that move. However, these items can be costly. Workplace managers and leaders must look at these costs as investments; they contribute to the company’s bottom line in the long run.
Integrating sensors into workstations
Workstations need to be more than swiveling monitors – they need to serve the company culture. That means having workstations that are designed for different types of work.
Similarly, sensing devices and Internet of Things (IoT) technology can be integrated into workstations to create a smart desk for monitoring, controlling, and personalizing an employee’s micro-ecosystem.
Sensors are practical and versatile additions to any progressive workplace. The most basic ones use a type of technology called a passive infrared (PIR) sensor. This is the same type of sensor used in motion detection equipment. PIR sensors activate when there’s a measurable change. That could mean when an employee first enters the office or starts to slump in their chair.
Sensor technology is still relatively novel, but it may gain popularity in the years to come due to its versatility and increasing affordability.
The sensors can be applied to measure posture, count the number of occupants in a room, or even detect temperature (that type of sensor is more sophisticated). Feedback could be passive or prompts may be provided to help staff adopt healthier habits.
For example, passive feedback would tell a manager that there are 10 people in the office or inform an employee that they’ve been sitting for two hours straight. More proactive prompts may result in a temperature change if the sensors detect that there are fewer people than usual in the office, or a message might be sent to an employee’s phone telling them that it’s time to stand/take a walk break.
Offices that already use commercial property management software like Office Control to help create a system for flexible work and space booking may find that adding sensors augments the employee experience.
Potential applications of IoT in buildings include real-time performance monitoring, fault diagnosis of equipment, and optimization of indoor environments and employee comfort.
6 Ways Smart Workstations Can Make Your Team More Productive
Implementing workstations that cater to different types of work, and different employee preferences will have a variety of benefits. Some of the top advantages include:
1. Improved workflow
Productivity and efficiency are likely to rise because there is more than one type of station to support different work. A team that needs to talk for the afternoon won’t have to worry about disrupting someone who needs a quiet space because they can use a collaborative meeting room.
Similarly, a team member won’t have to wait to work on a project at home if they have the right workstation available to them in the office.
2. Employees can focus on the problems that actually matter
Smart workstations allow staff to make quick adjustments based on their height and posture preferences so that they can get to work right away. Instead of having to look for “the good chair” or find a stack of paper to put underneath their monitor, they can focus on solving problems that will contribute to the success of the company.
3. Smart workstations can do some of the thinking for staff
Sensors that actively work to improve employee health and wellness can provide cues and gentle reminders to them about when it’s time to stand or look away from the screen. Prompts could be built into the sensors or sent through a software system. This allows staff to devote more of their attention to company work while still maintaining healthier habits.
Interestingly, people are more likely to accept the technology’s suggestions based on the extent to which they understand and agree with why the automation is operating, as well as how the automation operates.
4. Staff don’t freeze or overheat
It has been estimated that potential productivity increases anywhere from 0.5% to 5% with improved thermal and lighting conditions. If sensors detect that there are more or fewer people than normal in a given area, they can work with the temperature control system to automatically make the appropriate adjustments.
5. Fewer injuries equate to fewer sick days
Smart workstations that promote healthier habits can also help reduce office workplace injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome or damaged spinal structures. As a result, staff will require fewer days off due to pain.
6. Happier employees lead to a reduced turnover rate
Even if staff is compensated well, they won’t stick around if their work environment makes them unhappy or unwell. The annual overall turnover rate in the U.S. in 2017 was estimated to be 26.3%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The cost of replacing just one employee can range from 1/2 to two times the employee’s annual salary. So, a 100-person organization that provides an average annual salary of $50,000 could have turnover and replacement costs of $660,000 to $2.6 million per year! That’s significant.
Keeping employees comfortable and happy is important. Not only will they be more motivated to work, but your best people are more likely to stay with the company.
It is a costly and time-consuming process to keep retraining and rehiring. Not to mention that it’s much harder to build a team that works well together when people are coming and going all of the time.
Smart workstations are not new; however, they are becoming more prominent as companies look for better ways to support employee productivity and wellness. Smart workstations come in many different forms.
They could be as simple as adjustable, ergonomic chairs, desks, and monitors, or could be more “intelligent” and incorporate sensors. The most important thing to keep in mind is these stations must add true value to staff, and support company culture, in order for them to encourage more productive workdays.
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