The work office ecosystem has kept pace as technology and societal needs have evolved. Technology has infiltrated every aspect of the office, whether it be the traditional office setting (large offices, large computer stations, cubicles, open seating), or the corner of the living room that has been repurposed as a home office. We are interacting with some form of technology whether we realize it or not.
The office atmosphere can be controlled by applications that, once programmed to requisite parameters, can maintain appropriate air quality, temperature and even smell. With the proper technology, the environment itself becomes an interactive component that can monitor conditions and react to what is taking place by adjusting temperatures for optimal thermal comfort or filtering for better air quality.
New technologies are even more sensitive and sophisticated. They can ‘read’ the environment (movements or conditions of the people in it) and automatically make adjustments for the activities that are occurring in that space. i.e. a conference room with sensors so fine tuned, they can sense temperature differentials within a half a degree and adjust so as to maintain the optimal temperature, brightness or freshness of the air for stimulating creativity or alertness.
New technologies connect the environment and the humans in it to maintain a healthy balance between the two.
Technology in the Workspace
Office lighting can be designed to keep workers alert with harsh brightness or ease overactive minds with a dim glow of pale yellow to de-stress us. Lighting systems that adjust according to the natural progression of the sun throughout the day helps us to maintain the rhythms that keep us balanced and productive. Proper lighting systems or lightscapes throughout the workspace or at our individual work stations promotes high visual acuity and lessens the chance of eye strain and mood swings.
Sounds can be muffled with standard sound damping tools for focused engagement in work activities. Soundscapes can be curated to provide a backdrop to enhance our creativity, interactivity, and wellbeing including our mental health.
Nature can be brought indoors to windowless offices. Gurgling water fountains can sit atop desks to soothe us as we work, and plants and nature images can provide us with visual respite or stimulation. We can simulate nature on our computer screens or replicate natural lighting changes throughout the day with special effects.
The layout of a workspace utilizes technology to dictate spatial flow for ease of access, economy of movement and process. Security systems monitor spaces to keep us safe, provide access to where we need to go and to what we need.
Technology for Work and Wellbeing
What about the technological tools we use to do our work? Computers, phones, cameras, monitors, and software. We are now so intertwined with our tech devices; they are almost an extension of ourselves. We also use technology to tell us when to take a break from technology: apps that remind us to take a break, drink water, meditate, or step away from our computers and get some exercise.
The remote working tools that have been catapulted to the forefront of almost every business in the world in the past almost two years are being used to get work done, keep workers collaborating, and keep information and knowledge flowing. Most important of all, these technologies are providing ‘human connection’ in the absence of in-person contact.
The chairs we sit in are ergonomically designed to combat the negative impacts of our sedentary lives at work. The monitors/screens we face use technology to mitigate the damage to our vision. The earphones we use are designed to limit hearing loss and control the disruptive noises around us. The keyboard and mouse we use are structured to lessen damage to our carpal muscles. We can use applications to monitor our temperature, mind condition and heart rate.
New technologies connect the environment and the humans in it to maintain a healthy balance between the two.Y. Burton & Y. Kawai
We are almost always interacting with technology. Our bodies and minds are attuned to and impacted by the technologies that saturate our lives. That has been a fact to varying degrees for decades. In addition to that, technology is now also a prominent tool that allows us to curate more human-centric environments. It allows us to monitor, personalize and engineer the environment to create spaces for well-being and enhanced performance.
In our next article, we discuss the alignment of different works with the environment.
(Written by Yoko Kawai and Yvonne Burton)