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What do long queues, average coffee, inefficient technology, confusing navigation and freezing cold meeting rooms have in common? In an age defined by immediacy and gratifying experiences, these are all examples of bad ‘friction’ in the office. Increasingly unacceptable hindrances to a seamless and productive workplace experience.
It’s not just the 5.7 days a year that Australian workers are now losing to traffic congestion on their commutes. A survey conducted by David Finkel, a business coach and bestselling author, estimates we are wasting up to 21.8 hours every week on a range of seemingly small obstacles in our workplaces.
“While our lives at home have simple, easy and intuitive experiences,” said renowned US businessman John Donahoe, “our lives at work are complicated, complex and frustrating. [The] reality is, most things at work are complex because [they] require touching multiple systems, products and data sets to get anything real done.”
As the lines between our work and home lives continue to blur, the idea of creating a ‘frictionless workplace’ is in high demand for the modern office worker - fuelled by smart property technologies, human-centred architecture and on-site concierge services.
Some friction is good. It’s the physical phenomenon that starts fires or brings your vehicle to a stop when you brake. In the workplace, some level of friction can encourage employees to collaborate, remain engaged, challenged and accountable. Studies show that having constraints helps you grow, learn and force your brain to be more creative.
But too much friction can lead to reduced productivity – which impacts profits, performance and happiness. The results can lead to increased absenteeism, or presenteeism, and unhealthy work culture of distraction and stress. So what exactly does a workday without friction look like, and how do Australian commercial workplaces fare in terms of enabling it?
A day in the life of a frictionless workplace
The frictionless journey starts before you’ve even arrived at your office building. Imagine you’re approaching the end of your morning commute, a workplace app like Charli detects your location via GPS and pings you a message: “Would you like your regular coffee this morning?” You tap yes, a message is sent to your local cafe, and a flat white is waiting for you in the lobby on arrival – pre-paid and made to your liking.
Let’s say you cycle to work to avoid traffic and lower your carbon footprint - you step off the saddle at your dedicated bike space and hop straight into the warm shower in the 5-star end of trip experience. Once refreshed, you head upstairs and are greeted by a warm smile from the friendly concierge. A floral display in the lobby provides the signature welcoming scent of your building.
Building access is frictionless and cardless - with a simple scan of your smartphone, you enter the office and are immediately directed to your destination controlled elevator, where IOT sensors have been monitoring lift usage trends and prioritising certain routes to ease the vertical congestion. You’re whisked up to your floor in no time. Later, external guests are sent meeting invites with QR codes that they can swipe to enter, avoiding security sign ins and name tags - greatly improving client experience.
There are electric vehicle charging points in the car park, parcel lockers in the lobby and dry cleaning service on demand. It’s not just tech or facilities either - community-based programs provide inspiration and education for workers too. For example, it’s Wellness Wednesday and that TED talk on better sleeping habits is being screened in the ‘town hall’ space that integrates into the lobby. At lunch, you’re registered for yoga in the dedicated wellness area. At both of these events, you’re mixing with interesting people in the building, creating networks and nurturing a sense of belonging to something more than just your job.
Employees can now even curate the music that plays in the bathrooms. And technologies like the Comfy app give people the power to influence and personalise the climate and temperature of their workspaces in real time.
Even a 1.5 degree difference in air conditioning temperature can have a huge impact on your company’s energy consumption and your productivity inside office walls. Historically, 22.5 degrees was the “comfortable” norm - but occupants are increasingly comfortable with something closer to the temperature of the outside world. Enabling personalised climate control is therefore positive not only to frictionless wellness and comfort but to sustainability measures and a buildings carbon footprint too.
Studies also show that around 94% of millennials - who will make up three-quarters of the workforce by 2025 - want social purpose in their workplace; for their skills to benefit a cause. In Sydney, buildings like No.1 Martin Place are answering this call with a profit-for-purpose cafe that trains and provides employment opportunities for at-risk and marginalised community members in hospitality trades (such as barista work). As a result, occupants want to support these businesses for their favourable contribution to society.
Finally, what is really important is how the ecosystem of all these elements can work together to ensure the best possible workplace experience. As landlords, we have the ability to lead the way here and take on the responsibility of tenant comfort - leaving them with more time and capacity to do their jobs well. Ultimately we have to ask: how can we create a better workday by removing as many friction points as possible?