In 2023 workplace technology continues to advance at a rapid pace. From AI-powered smart buildings to health and safety tech, this article on the latest trends is focused on what’s happening in the workplace right now as well as a glimpse into the near future of technology in the office. This article explores current trends in workplace technology for 2023, including an enhanced visual experience, power-on-the-go capabilities, and the latest progress in space management and extended reality technology. We’ll also take a closer look at how solid light holographic projections are likely to revolutionise the way we collaborate and communicate in the workplace. Whether you’re an employer, employee, or simply just interested in the latest workplace technology trends, this article will provide you with a comprehensive overview of what to expect in 2023 and beyond.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionising the way we live and work. In 2020 adoption of AI by UK businesses was around 15% (432,000 companies). With the recent release of natural language processing models such as Chat GPT and Google’s Bard, we are likely to see explosive growth of AI across all facets of work and the workplace in 2023 and beyond Smart building technology and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies within buildings have a longstanding natural pairing with AI.
This starts with the sensors that collect data within the workplace and make adjustments accordingly. Some of these include occupancy sensors that detect the presence of people in a room or area and adjust lighting, temperature, and ventilation accordingly; air quality sensors that monitor air quality and detect pollutants, such as carbon dioxide, volatile organic compounds, and particulate matter; and motion sensors that detect movement and can trigger alerts or activate other systems, such as security cameras, doors or access control systems.
Smart systems within the office use AI to optimise various systems, including heating and cooling, lighting, security, and maintenance. There is a lot to gain from this, not least the improvement of energy efficiency of buildings and the reduction of energy consumption and costs. Some of the interesting applications of AI in the workplace include:
- Occupancy sensors – Occupancy sensors capture data using counter sensors for object recognition and passive infrared sensors (PIR)which are triggered by motion and heat. That can help to assess for example if pods and booths are free or whether a desk or room is left unoccupied.
- Space utilisation – better use of space in buildings and in turn optimise energy consumption by turning off or reducing the intensity of lighting and HVAC systems in unoccupied rooms. This can help in saving energy and reducing costs, while also improving the overall comfort of the space.
- Air Quality sensors – Since the COVID-19 pandemic, air quality sensors have been used to identify potential health risks, such as high levels of pollutants or allergens, and trigger ventilation or filtration systems to maintain clean and healthy air quality.
- Temperature and humidity sensors – Temperature and humidity sensors ensure that the office environment is comfortable and healthy for employees, which can lead to improved productivity and job satisfaction.
- Light Sensors –Detecting the levels of lighting in a room can be used to create more natural and comfortable lighting environments, which can reduce eyestrain and improve overall well-being.
- Motion sensors – can be used to trigger automatic security systems, such as cameras or access control systems when unexpected movement is detected.
- Acoustic sensors – make it possible to maintain a productive and comfortable acoustic environment, by adjusting sound masking or other systems to reduce distractions and increase privacy.
- Visual Sensors – Visual sensors can be used for a wide range of purposes, from security monitoring to space utilization analysis. For example, occupancy data from visual sensors can help to optimise office layouts and improve collaboration and productivity.
- Proximity Sensors – Proximity sensors can be used to trigger automatic systems, such as lighting or automatic doors, to improve convenience and safety.
- Power Consumption Sensors – Power consumption sensors can help to identify areas for energy savings and efficiency improvements, which can reduce costs and support environmental sustainability.
- Water Quality Sensors – Water quality sensors can help to ensure that drinking water is safe and healthy for employees, reducing the risk of illness and improving overall well-being.
2. Health and Safety Tech
Employee health and well-being are critical components of a successful and productive workplace. Through a combination of wearable technology, smart building technology and tech-embedded furniture, it’s now possible to monitor and improve employee health and well-being in real-time taking account of physical activity, air quality, and other health metrics, and providing insights that employers can use to promote healthier lifestyles and better working conditions.
However, they also bring about concerns such as data privacy and security. Let’s take air quality as one example. In the UK, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) sets guidelines for indoor air quality in workplaces. These guidelines state that the concentration of CO2 in the air should not exceed 1,500 parts per million (ppm) in order to maintain a healthy environment. Additionally, the HSE recommends that indoor air quality should be monitored regularly to ensure that it remains within safe limits.Research has shown that the risk of virus transmission can be heightened by reduced air humidity and stagnant air. In addition, studies have found that high levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) can cause issues such as headaches, dizziness, and nausea, which can be detrimental to the health and performance of employees. Conversely, it has been shown that individuals working in an environment with lower CO2 levels may exhibit up to a 60% increase in productivity.By utilising indoor air quality monitoring systems, companies can keep track of critical factors such as air freshness, CO2 levels, and air humidity in their office. This allows businesses to take corrective action to minimise virus transmission risks and enhance employees’ well-being. Air quality sensors in the workplace can also help businesses comply with environmental regulations, such as those related to air pollution and emissions. By detecting harmful pollutants and particulate matter in the air, businesses can take necessary steps to reduce their emissions and limit their impact on the environment.Some of the trends that we see playing an important role in the workplace in the future are:
- Wearable technology: wearable devices, such as fitness trackers and smartwatches connect to building software that feeds back health data. For example, CO2 emission trackers that integrate with Apple’s Health App. There are of course issues with this including the pushback from employees on air quality, noise levels, lighting levels etc. Other integrations include building access, points and gamification of work-related activities. With all these things we would argue there’s a level of cynicism and privacy that needs to be considered.
- Smart desks and chairs: Smart desks and chairs are equipped with sensors that can detect employee posture and movement, and provide real-time feedback to help employees maintain good ergonomics. They can also be programmed to adjust automatically, based on an individual’s needs and preferences. For example, a smart chair might adjust the height of the seat and backrest, based on an employee’s weight and body shape.
- Health data alerts: Health data alerts are notifications that can be sent to employees, based on data collected from their wearable fitness trackers or other health sensors. For example, an employee might receive an alert if they’ve been sitting for too long, or if their heart rate is elevated. These alerts can help employees take action to address potential health issues before they become serious.
- Wellness coaching apps: Wellness coaching apps can provide employees with personalized guidance on factors such as nutrition, exercise, and stress management. These apps can be customized to an individual’s needs and preferences and can provide real-time feedback to help employees stay on track with their wellness goals.
3. An Enhanced Visual Experience
The pandemic had a profound impact on the adoption of Audiovisual (AV) technology in the workplace. With remote working becoming the norm for many, the need for virtual collaboration has never been greater. To enhance the AV experience in the workplace, developers are shifting towards software-focused solutions, allowing businesses to use multiple and diverse devices across different locations and meeting rooms. This provides greater opportunities for collaboration and increases flexibility in the workplace.One major development in AV technology is the shift from traditional LED screens to Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) screens. OLED screens are significantly thinner and more sophisticated than standard LEDs, and they use organic electroluminescent layers to light up. This allows for sharper, brighter, and better picture quality than traditional LED screens. OLED screens also consume less energy, making them more environmentally friendly and cost-effective.The improved picture quality of OLED screens has numerous benefits for video conferencing and remote collaboration. High-resolution OLED screens with shaper pixels allow for greater clarity in video calls, making it easier to see facial expressions and read text on the screen. This can improve collaboration, and communication and reduce the risk of misunderstandings.The deepening relationship between cloud computing and AV has also allowed companies to transfer work into virtual spaces, while still enjoying collaborative proximity akin to working in the same room. This has made it easier to collaborate and work remotely.
4. Power-on-the-Go with Freedom to Roam
Portable batteries have become an essential component in modern offices, as they allow employees to work in all parts of the office without being tethered to a power outlet. In recent years, portable batteries have become more powerful, reliable, and affordable, making them a go-to solution for many businesses. They offer a high-quality and versatile charging solution for mobile devices in the office. They not only charge multiple devices simultaneously but also deliver fast and efficient charging.These portable batteries are designed for USB-C port connectivity, which is rapidly becoming a global, universal connectivity standard. They also have USB-A ports, which deliver best-in-class charging output across all ports. This makes them versatile and reliable solutions for charging mobile devices in the office. With portable batteries, employees can work from anywhere in the office, without having to worry about running out of battery power.
5. Hybrid Huddle Rooms and Hyper-Flex Spaces
Hybrid huddle rooms are a type of collaborative workspace that combines the benefits of both physical and virtual environments. These rooms typically include audiovisual (AV) technology, such as high-definition displays, cameras, and microphones, to facilitate communication and collaboration among remote and in-person participants. The technology in hybrid huddle rooms enables seamless collaboration and communication between team members, regardless of location.The trend of hybrid huddle rooms has become increasingly popular in recent years as more organizations embrace remote work. The technology in these rooms allows remote participants to be just as involved and engaged in meetings as those in the physical room. For example, video conferencing technology enables remote participants to share their screens, present documents and presentations, and participate in real-time discussions.One of the key benefits of hybrid huddle rooms is that they enable organizations to bring together employees, partners, and customers from across the world in real time. This helps to build relationships and foster collaboration, even when team members are physically separated. Additionally, hybrid huddle rooms can be used to facilitate training sessions, knowledge-sharing sessions, and presentations, making them an important tool for companies looking to enhance their collaboration and communication capabilities.
6. Space Management Technology
Space Management Technology is a set of tools and solutions that help organisations optimize their use of physical space. It includes features like occupancy tracking, space planning and reservation systems, and workplace analytics. As hybrid work arrangements become more common, space management technology has become increasingly important for organisations looking to optimise their space utilisation and design their offices for flexible work.
One of the key features of space management technology is occupancy tracking. This technology uses sensors or cameras to track how many people are in a given space at any given time. This information can be used to optimise space utilization and make informed decisions about office design and layout. For example, if occupancy data shows that certain areas of the office are consistently underutilized, those areas can be repurposed or reconfigured to better meet the needs of employees.
Another important feature of space management technology is space planning and reservation systems. These systems allow employees to reserve spaces like conference rooms or desks in advance, reducing the likelihood of double bookings and ensuring that employees have access to the space they need when they need it. With the rise of hybrid work arrangements, these systems have become even more important, as employees may only be in the office part-time and need to reserve space in advance to ensure that they have a place to work.
Advancements in space management techniques include the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to analyse data and make recommendations about how to optimise space utilisation. For example, an AI-powered system may be able to analyse occupancy data and make recommendations about which areas of the office could be repurposed or which spaces are most frequently used.
Space management technology has important implications for office design as well. As hybrid work arrangements become more common, offices may need to be designed to support a more flexible and adaptable work environment. This may include the use of modular furniture that can be easily reconfigured, the creation of more collaborative spaces that can be used for both in-person and virtual meetings, and the incorporation of technology like video conferencing systems that support remote collaboration.
7. Extended Reality in the Workplace
Extended Reality (XR) is an umbrella term that encompasses all forms of virtual, augmented, and mixed reality. While commonly associated with bulky headsets there are many other ways to create XR experiences without headsets. Most smartphones have built-in VR capabilities, as well as apps to experience 360-degree part-real, part-digital environments that the user can explore by moving their phone.
Another way to experience VR without a headset is through projection. Some companies have developed projection systems that can project virtual environments onto walls or floors. We imagine workplaces of the future where users can interact in a virtual environment through hand and body gestures in the real world.XR refers to technologies that create immersive experiences by blending the physical and digital worlds.
The increasing adoption of Extended Reality (XR) and Spatial Computing technologies in the workplace has the potential to transform the way employees collaborate and work together. XR technologies enable remote collaboration in a way that traditional video conferencing and communication tools cannot. With XR, users can interact with each other and 3D models in a shared virtual space, creating a more immersive and engaging experience
.As XR and Spatial Computing technologies become more common in the workplace, office design will need to adapt to support these activities. One potential design implication will be the need for specialised areas for XR-based activities, such as remote collaboration, and the creation of immersive and distraction-free environments which allow users to focus on specific tasks at hand.
For example, a company may set up a virtual collaboration room where employees can meet and work together in a shared virtual space. In this case, the room needs to be equipped with specialised hardware and software, such as high-quality VR headsets and haptic feedback devices, to enhance the immersive experience.
XR rooms could also benefit from special lighting and sound systems to create a more realistic and engaging environment, as well as mobile furniture and screens that can be easily moved to create a virtual collaboration space. As XR and Spatial Computing technologies become more common in the workplace, office design will need to adapt to support these activities.
One potential design implication will be the need for specialised areas for XR-based activities, such as remote collaboration, and the creation of immersive and distraction-free environments which allow users to focus on specific tasks at hand. For example, a company may set up a virtual collaboration room where employees can meet and work together in a shared virtual space. In this case, the room needs to be equipped with specialised hardware and software, such as high-quality VR headsets and haptic feedback devices, to enhance the immersive experience.
XR rooms could also benefit from special lighting and sound systems to create a more realistic and engaging environment, as well as mobile furniture and screens that can be easily moved to create a virtual collaboration space.
8. Solid Light Holographic Projections
Imagine being able to project physical objects in the office, or indeed ourselves, through holographic light projections. Holograms have been a feature in Sci-Fi movies for decades; from hollow chess in Star Wars to the immersive 3D data maps in Avatar. Finally, we have some indication of how that might work with prototypes of “solid light holographs” in 10 Billion pixels per sq/m in Ultra HD. The pioneers in this technology are Light Field Lab, which is backed by tech and communications giants such as Samsung, Horizon and Comcast.
Light Field Lab specialise in holographic displays, which project 3D images that appear to float in mid-air. These holographic displays don’t require headgear. Also, rather than using traditional methods like spinning volumetric displays (which create an almost 360-degree spherical viewing angle), or reflections on angled glass, solid light holograms are instead created using a phase guide that steers and focuses light into mid-air to create a single image that can be viewed and interacted with from multiple angles. In fact, the image is so sharp that you can hold a magnifying glass next to it and see an enlarged version of it.
It may take some time for the prototypes to be adopted but believe that the implications of this technology for offices and office design will be significant. Holographic image projection can be used to create immersive presentations and collaborative workspaces that allow teams to visualise and interact with complex data that can be expressed and understood in entirely new ways.
For example, workplace consultants, fit-out experts and designers could use holographic projections to create virtual models of buildings and spaces, allowing clients to experience and provide feedback on their designs before they are built – the so-called “digital twin” technology.
Holographic displays can also be used to create more engaging and dynamic presentations for sales pitches, product demonstrations, marketing packing and other various business applications. Instead of relying on traditional 2D presentations, companies could use holographic projections to create interactive experiences that allow customers to engage with products in new and exciting ways.
There are also applications for the office and hybrid working settings. A holographic image projection can be used to create virtual offices and remote collaboration spaces. With many companies moving to hybrid working, holographic displays could be used to create more immersive and engaging virtual meeting spaces, allowing remote workers to collaborate in real-time as if they were in the same room. We also imagine certain augmentations to the office itself such as the creation of 3D video walls and features in the office that enhance well-being, such as virtual waterfalls, augmented dividers in open plan spaces or biophilic elements that enhance the physical office space.