Innovation That Matters

Top innovations to increase productivity in the workplace

Work & Lifestyle

The second instalment of our 'Future of Work' series considers ways to overcome the challenge of maintaining productivity in the modern workplace, ranging from innovative and customisable desks to AI monitoring systems.

The modern workplace is a changing environment. No longer confined to set hours or even a set location, the new generation of jobseekers value flexibility of hours and the ability to work from home. Studies have shown that despite less people being in the office during traditional hours, productivity hasn’t been sacrificed.

Such flexibility is instead driving efficiency, helping people fit commitments around their work and dedicate themselves to the job at hand. In Tokyo, on demand office spaces have opened at busy Metro stations for commuters to use at their leisure. Modern day societal norms mean people are never out of reach thanks to smartphones and tablets, so working on the go is an efficient use of time.

For these reasons, taking a step away from work can sometimes prove difficult and it’s not uncommon for workers to burnout. Taking holiday is a guaranteed way to recharge energy and enthusiasm to be productive, and initiatives such as Taab help employees and workers reap the mutual benefits. Taab (‘travel as a benefit) works by having both employees and employers contribute to travel expenses. Much like pension schemes, the employer matches the percentage of their paycheck staff are willing to contribute, and the money is then available for booking trips away.

The flurry of technological advances in recent years has had an impact on levels of productivity in the workplace, be it from an office to a construction site. Approaching an age-old device and putting a modern day spin on it is a popular way for innovators to launch new products, such as the creations by Spanish company Ergon Desk.

The company creates group tables and standing desks for the workplace, created with the aim of stimulating the productivity of its users. The group table doubles as six individual workstations and a meeting point, facilitating teamwork with the close proximity. Standing desks demonstrably boost concentration and efficiency, and Ergon Desk’s offering features electronic legs that can be controlled via an app to level at the perfect height. The app even tracks worker habits, a popular feature for the golden age of health trackers.

Distractions within the workplace are unavoidable at times, but a flexible environment can help adapt surroundings as required. Customisable work cubicles created by students at Switzerland’s ECAL University help companies build a workspace to cater to their requirements, helping to create quiet corners for those in need.

In recent years, the public has adapted to the role technology can play in their day-to-day lives, increasing rates of productivity. From tracking heartbeats per minute after a run to turning the heating on at home from a smartphone, technology is weaving itself into everything we do, often without us even realising it.

Even time management is a target for technological evolution. Sticky notes used to litter desks; now smart devices are now streamlining how workers plan their day. Replacing paper diaries on desks is the likes of Tiller, a USB device that acts as a physical reminder to track time spent on tasks. The tracking device connects to computers and works as a timer against different, self-allocated tasks for the working day.

A decade ago, such technologies would have been the workings of Hollywood fiction. But, as the capabilities of technology expand, the impossible is gradually becoming possible. A step along from robots, artificial intelligence (AI) gives machines the power to ‘think’. AI is everywhere, from the smartphone in your pocket, to top-of-the-range cars, and even to popular video streaming services. It is integral to companies looking to boost productivity, optimise results and streamline traditionally time-consuming processes.

Most notable is AI’s impact on the construction industry. Startup Doxel has created a system that utilises the technology to monitor construction projects and alert managers of potential cost overruns, inefficiencies and errors. When it is considered that 20 percent of construction projects take longer than planned, such technology could save millions of dollars.

Virtual reality is also filtering its way into how companies operate, offering another platform from which staff can expand their knowledge and skillset. The Virtualitics system is just one way such technology is being brought to the office, consolidating figures via a virtual reality data analysis program. Instead of a colleague reading the findings aloud in a meeting, the system brings the information to life through 3D, so employees conferencing around the globe can simply watch it.

Technology’s progression is productivity’s gain. As new smart devices and methods come into the market, it is for companies to decide how best to utilise the market to increase employee efficiency and get the best results possible.