Think about a smartphone. Next, picture a smartwatch. That was easy, right? Now visualize a smart workspace. I bet that was a bit more complicated.

Because "smart" has become one of those words people arbitrarily tack onto the description of anything that utilizes technology, it can be difficult to know exactly what constitutes a smart workplace. Of course no organization wants to have a "dumb" workspace, but what does a smart one even look like?

Here's what you need to know about smart workspaces.

Smart workspaces are comfortable.

In any article discussing ways to improve the happiness, satisfaction or engagement of the workforce, inevitably some version of the phrase "office environment" will appear. However, it seems many of these resources have a laser focus only on the emotional and psychological aspects of the workplace environment.

But what about the physical needs of the workforce? After all, while employees may love their jobs, if they alternate between sweating and shivering, or being blinded by the afternoon sun and squinting to see in a nearly pitch-black conference room, it may take a toll on their attitude toward the organization.

In a smart workspace, the intelligent thermostat adjusts the office temperature based on outside weather conditions and seasonal changes. For example, in Texas during the spring it's not uncommon for the day to start cloudy and in the 50s, only to be blue skies and 80 degrees by lunchtime. Without a smart thermostat, your employees will either be bundled up like eskimos or trying to determine how much clothing they can shed while still being work-appropriate.

Smart blinds adjust how much of a window is covered based on its location on the building as well as the time of day and season of the year. Sitting next to a window has been shown to improve employee health and increase workforce productivity, and smart blinds ensure employees aren't baking in the sun or struggling with screen glare.

Smart workspaces are secure.

Wouldn't it be grand if your company was located inside an impenetrable bubble? An area with levels of protection that would make Fort Knox green with envy?

Alas, giant stone walls are expensive to build, drawbridges are a pain to open and OSHA likely frowns on forcing employees to cross a crocodile-filled moat every day. Luckily, smart technology can tackle common security challenges and help an organization protect its most valuable assets: its workforce and its workspaces.

Smart badging systems allow businesses to control access to an entire building or specific spaces within a building, such as secured areas or data centers. Badge systems can protect employees from unwelcome (and potentially dangerous) visitors and also protect the company from internal or external security breaches.

In spaces that must be environmentally controlled, Internet of Things (IoT) sensors can be installed to detect variations in temperature or humidity that can damage equipment or detect motion, which could indicate the presence of unauthorized individuals. These smart sensors can be tied to workplace management software, which notify important personnel who can take appropriate action.

Smart workspaces have smart technology.

Throughout the day, your employees will encounter obstacles that, for whatever reason, they cannot overcome. However, if you provide a smart workspace with smart technology, your workforce will have the tools they need to tackle more than a few of these challenges.

For example, in a smart workspace ...

  • IoT sensors feed occupancy data into room reservation software so the employee can book a workspace and be confident that the space is actually available and not currently in use by another team.
  • Wayfinding systems with digital signage show the employee exactly how to get to the break room or collaborative area she's looking for, without wandering around aimlessly.
  • Wireless presentation solutions and videoconferencing technology enable the employee to easily share information with her colleagues both in the room and across the globe, instead of struggling with display settings or trying to find the right adapter to plug her laptop into a projector.

Building a smart workspace isn't easy, and it isn't cheap. Don't haphazardly start implementing any and every available smart technology just because you want to avoid a "dumb" workspace. Consider what is best for your organization and your employees, and then approach it one element at a time.