06/25/2024 • 5 min read

6 Technology Trends Transforming the Workplace

Unlocking potential through technology

by Eric Novotny

Work and technology have always had a reciprocal relationship. As the nature of work shifts, so too does the need for new workplace technology that supports these shifts—think about how remote work necessitated video conferencing technology. The changes in technology subsequently impact the nature of work itself, completing the cycle.

Following are the current shifts in workplace technology that are changing the workplace—and work itself—as we know it.

1. AI-Integrated Workplaces

It’s no secret that generative AI platforms such as ChatGPT and Microsoft Copilot are taking over the tech industry. What is less known, however, is how AI is changing almost all aspects of the workplace.

One example is how workplace architects and designers can leverage visual AI platforms to help them iterate concepts, from the exploration phase to launch. Design concepts that used to take many hours or months can now be accomplished with a few inputs and within a few minutes.

Another example is the ability of AI to optimize space utilization by employees. By gathering data on patterns in employee behavior, AI can facilitate desk sharing by booking the best space for an employee on a given day based on what work is being done, as well as other employee preferences.

Despite the powerful advantages AI offers, skepticism and mistrust of tech companies can hinder its adoption. It's essential to recognize that while there are valid concerns, the potential of AI to transform workplaces positively is immense. Trust is built through transparency and ethical use of technology, which can unlock new efficiencies and innovations.

2. The Expanding Role of Extended Reality (XR)

Extended reality media, such as virtual reality and augmented reality, create virtual worlds or objects that appear in one’s field of vision and that can be interacted with. This technology is nothing new—but its quality is steadily improving, and its utility in the workplace is being gradually uncovered. Many industries, including architecture, healthcare, military, education, and automotive, are leveraging XR for a variety of applications.

Some organizations are using VR headsets to immerse remote workers into a virtual space that is shared with coworkers, providing a greater sense of shared presence and connection.

Another application is employee training. Imagine the benefits of a surgeon being able to practice operating on a virtual human in a totally safe virtual environment that provides a sense of realism and the feeling of being in an actual operating room. Advances in this technology over time will only improve these immersive capabilities.

3. Advances in Wireless Power for Office Technology

As the workforce has become more mobile, there is a new demand for more flexible power solutions. Movement is an opportunity provided by the best workplaces, but to be fully realized, wireless power is an intriguing option.

At Haworth, we have made significant strides in this area. Our Belong Power 65W Modules offer improved wireless charging capabilities, ensuring that your devices stay powered throughout the workday without the hassle of finding an outlet.

We have also partnered with Pablo Designs to offer the Talia light, which features a built-in wireless charger. Talia not only provides efficient lighting but also ensures your devices remain charged, enhancing both productivity and convenience.

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4. Harnessing Sensors for Smarter Workspaces

Smart building technology" is now a common term in the world of work, referring to how a variety of tech tools and sensors are integrated into buildings to track environmental and operational data. Environmentally, tracking factors such as temperature, air quality, water quality, and humidity are some primary examples.

Operationally, occupancy sensors have gained in popularity in the workplace. These sensors monitor the number of people occupying a space at a given time and are valuable tools for understanding the degree to which each space is being efficiently utilized. Some of these operate through thermal imaging, sensing “hot spots” in the room where employees are situated.

Occupancy sensors can reveal misalignments in floorplan usage, such as uncovering that a 16-seat table is a poor use of resources if only an average of two people at a time are using that space.

5. Wearable Well-Being Technology: Enhancing Safety and Comfort

A recent surge of wearable technology has surfaced in the workplace. Also called WIoT (the Wearable Internet of Things), the function of these wearables is often to improve employee safety and well-being.

For example, “smart clothing” can track worker movements and postures and provide direct feedback regarding their ergonomic quality. Exoskeleton devices can be worn to improve support to users’ bodies during repetitive movements, assisting with lifting and maneuvering.

Finally, augmented reality (AR) goggles can project 2D images, text, and 3D models into the user’s field of vision. These could be useful for those looking to compare product options quickly. For example, a retailer could use these goggles to see pricing and information, as well as being able to manipulate colors and textures of the clothing they are displaying.

6. Assistive Technology: Empowering Inclusivity and Accessibility

Technology's role in the workplace is not just about enhancing efficiency and productivity but also inclusivity and accessibility. Assistive technology (AT) is designed to help individuals with disabilities perform tasks that might otherwise be difficult or impossible, thereby leveling the playing field and fostering a more inclusive work environment.

Speech recognition software allows individuals with physical disabilities to control computers and mobile devices using voice commands. This technology can enable hands-free operation of devices, making it easier for those with limited mobility to engage in digital tasks.

Screen readers and magnification software are vital for employees with visual impairments. These tools convert text on screens into speech or braille, ensuring that visually impaired employees can access digital information and perform their duties effectively.

Additionally, adaptive keyboards and mice are available for those with motor disabilities. These devices can be customized to respond to different levels of touch and movement, making computer use more accessible for everyone.

At Haworth, our passion for workplace design includes understanding both workplace technology and the nature of work itself. Work and technology will continue to change in a mutual fashion over time. Our aim is to continue to monitor these shifts and adapt accordingly. By embracing and integrating these various technologies, we can create more efficient, inclusive, and dynamic workplaces for all.

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