The commercial real estate industry has changed considerably over the past year and a half. Some of the short-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been devastating while the impact of others remains to be seen. However, when investors look to the future, there’s one thing we can all get excited about, namely the rise of the smart office.
Commercial Office Space in a Post-COVID World
When the COVID-19 pandemic first shocked the United States in April 2020, the majority of the American workforce still “went in” to work. In other words, they commuted into the office, plopped down in a chair, and performed their job duties in a corporate office. When shutdowns forced companies to get creative, everything changed.
Today, much of our workforce is now working remotely from home. Some companies have even decided to get rid of their corporate offices and go 100 percent virtual — a shocking 180-degree pivot that would have been unthinkable just two years ago.
Other businesses are choosing to return to the office but are making important changes and investments along the way. Listed below are a few of the early trends already unfolding.
- Office buildings are getting smaller as remote and hybrid positions reduce the need for square footage.
- With employees doing more work from home, many companies are turning unused office space into collaboration spaces for virtual meetings.
- Safety, proper spacing, and social distancing are fresh on the minds of businesses and commercial office space owners.
While the long-term ramifications of the pandemic on the commercial real estate world remain to be seen, one thing is certain. Businesses are getting smarter about how they optimize their offices for efficiency, productivity, innovation, health, and safety.
No, seriously — the buildings themselves are actually getting smarter. The smart office is emerging as the next iteration of office space. For those who are paying attention, there are several exciting trends coming down the pipeline.
Breathing New Life Into Commercial Real Estate — the Smart Office
We often throw around the term “smart office,” but what exactly is it? It’s more than just having technology in a building. It’s about the intentional use of the right technology.
“A smart office is a workplace where modern technology is leveraged to help employees work smarter, better, and faster. This can be achieved by clearing away hurdles for the employees,” Senion explains. “By removing menial tasks and unnecessary obstacles — activities that drain time and energy from the workforce — smart office solutions let employees focus on what really matters.”
When compared to the traditional office, a smart office offers its workers several distinct benefits. These include:
- Greater productivity. Technology offers many advantages for businesses, but increased productivity is probably one of the most important. By making menial, repetitive tasks faster and more efficient, organizations can better utilize resources, cut costs, and enjoy greater flexibility. This represents a solid win for everyone.
- More efficient use of square footage. As expensive as commercial square footage is in competitive urban markets, being more efficient with square footage is an absolute priority. Thanks to the intelligent use of high-tech office spaces, companies can turn static workspaces into flexible areas with two or three different uses. This allows businesses to lease or buy smaller office spaces and save money.
- Improved collaboration. Collaboration is extremely important, especially nowadays when most companies have some sort of hybrid workforce with some employees in the office and others working remotely. Utilizing smart solutions, it’s easier to communicate and engage with coworkers and employees — regardless of whether they’re in the same physical space or not.
- Better employee well-being. When your team feels supported and has the tools it needs to work efficiently, there’s better overall focus and satisfaction. In other words, mental health gets a boost. Plus, as you’ll see in the following section on smart office trends, there are certain smart office technologies that also make it safer for employees to interact in a face-to-face manner.
When you add these benefits up, it becomes clear why the smart office is becoming so popular. Although it does require a significant investment on the front end, the advantages are clear.
4 Smart Office Trends Worth Tracking
As with anything technology-related, trends come and go. What’s popular right now will not necessarily be the most viable option in 12 to 18 months. Having said that, here are four smart office trends making the rounds in 2021 and 2022 that are worthy of your investment.
1. 5G Networks
The next wave of internet connectivity and data connection is here. We’re talking about 5G, of course. It’s difficult to overstate just how much of an improvement 5G is over 4G. This new network reduces download times, speeds up connections, and leads to smoother streaming for virtual meetings and other forms of communication.
2. Flexible Workspaces
Regardless of whether companies choose to go back to 100 percent in-person working in the future, or stick with hybrid teams, one thing is sure: virtual is part of our new reality. That means businesses must be prepared to host and join virtual meetings with customers and clients, business partners, and employees. And — since first impressions are everything — businesses must take steps to integrate the right technology.
Another popular trend is the rise of flexible workspaces that double as in-person conference rooms and virtual meeting rooms. These facilities come equipped with advanced camera and audio systems, lighting, and even green screens for inserting virtual backgrounds into the mix. The overall goal is to create sophisticated, high-tech spaces that can be used by employees to maintain a professional image during virtual meetings.
3. Internet of Things (IoT) Sensors
IoT sensors and associated advanced technology is allowing businesses to increase their connectivity, flexibility, and responsiveness without the need for investing in complex systems, wires, or superfluous devices.
Some solutions are super practical, such as installing fire suppressions systems that don’t require access to a water supply or electricity. Other solutions are more complex, such as temperature sensors, proximity sensors, and touch sensors. In either case, IoT technology is changing the game for good. Manual tasks are being automated, people are staying safer, and the modern smart office is becoming an increasingly frictionless place to work.
4. Intelligent Sanitization
In a world where the COVID-19 virus is still a serious concern for millions of people, it would be remiss not to mention some of the smart technology that’s helping to create safer and healthier workplaces for employees who want the ability to interact face-to-face. More specifically, there’s a lot of exciting innovation happening in the areas of sanitization.
For example, consider air purification and air circulation systems. While these technologies have been around for some time, they’re now being integrated into IoT platforms. As a result, they’re able to work together with people-counting sensors to create safer and better-ventilated office environments that dynamically adapt to real-time circumstances.
Intelligent, automated UV disinfection is another technology that’s expanding beyond healthcare facilities and into modern smart offices. These systems use UV-C lighting to disinfect surfaces at regular intervals. Depending on system integration, some can automatically detect when people enter a room or leave a room. This allows the UV-C to kick in at just the right time.
Putting it all Together
For businesses that are committed to continuing to maintain a presence in a physical office space, the smart office is clearly the way of the future.
Thanks to newer technology such as 5G networks, IoT, cloud computing, and AI, it’s now possible to enhance productivity, lower costs, improve collaboration, and simultaneously keep employees healthy and safe. In a post-COVID world, where uncertainty is high, those are positive trends you’ll want to keep an eye on.
Image Credit: rodnae productions; pexels; thank you!
5 Ways To Grow Your Business With Technology
“I’d like my business to remain stagnant.” No entrepreneur, owner, or CEO ever uttered those words. You can be sure none ever will, either. That’s because corporate growth is always an overarching goal for any organization. Growing your business comes with its challenges, of course, like figuring out which steps will make it easiest for you to scale and expand.
One thing’s clear: You need to develop a clear-cut growth strategy. And technology needs to play a huge part in that strategy. After all, we’re living in a primarily technological world. If you’re not making the most of the tech at your fingertips, you regularly miss opportunities to strengthen your brand’s position.
Where can you start? Below are a handful of ways that you can leverage technology to grow your business’s footprint. Try these recommendations, whether you’re a micro startup or a mid-size corporation headed toward a Fortune 500 future.
1. Automate repetitive manual processes.
Is it worth automating all the mindless to-dos in your business in order to grow? Yes, especially if you do the numbers.
McKinsey research studied the ordinary tasks of several occupations. They concluded that around 33% of the tasks of six out of 10 jobs could be automated. For example, let’s say your company is modestly sized at 50 workers. If your staffers work a traditional 40-hour week, 30 of them are frittering away 13 hours. In other words, you’re losing nearly 400 hours weekly to pay employees to handle repetitive duties.
To be sure, not all tasks can be automated. However, you owe it to yourself to find ones that can. For example, is your finance department team processing payroll or inputting invoices by hand? Then, invest in software to remove the tedium—and reduce the chance of human error.
Check out your sales and services processes next. Do your salespeople or support agents have to cut and paste information? Are they forced to switch between two or more programs that don’t communicate? Look for ways to integrate those systems to free up everyone’s valuable time so they can concentrate on growth-based responsibilities.
2. Strive to make customer first impressions stickier with tech tools
Tons of articles highlight the importance of growing your business by retaining customers. It’s true that retention tends to be less expensive than acquisition. Nevertheless, you can’t hold onto your customers until you get them in the door. So put a premium on delivering impeccable first impressions that urge people to stick around.
The right type of technology can assist you in wowing your best leads via an unforgettable customer experience. Take first-time logins, for instance. Okta reports that asking a visitor to set up an account turns off 37% of prospects. So what can you do to overcome this friction point? First, you can rely on social logins to streamline the process. From the customer’s viewpoint, being able to login via already-existing Facebook, Google, or credentials is effortless. From your company’s viewpoint, you can begin marketing to yet another buyer or potential buyer.
A strong CRM can be equally beneficial to moving leads into and down your sales funnel. Once you’ve captured prospects’ data through a social sign-in, personalize future communications like emails, texts, and DMs. Only two years ago, McKinsey found that 80% of retail buyers valued the personal touch. So whether you’re in retail or not, strive for individualization to keep new buyers coming back.
3. Bring a virtual assistant to your team.
You may not have the funds to hire live customer service representatives 24/7. That’s okay. Chatbots can give your organization the ability to offer visitors self-service, even during non-business hours. And they can do it for a fraction of what you’d pay a live agent.
Not sure you’re ready to put your faith in a chatbot? A New York Times article explains that today’s AI-fueled chatbots are only getting smarter. They’re also gaining widespread acceptance, with chatbot growth poised to hit around 15% in 2022. One Gartner executive even predicts that a genuinely conversational AI chatbot program is just around the corner.
Already, some chatbots are inching toward humanlike responses. A University of Florida experiment found that about a third of people could not tell a chatbot from a real person. Consequently, there’s little harm in exploring the wide world of chatbots for your company. Your chatbot doesn’t have to be perfect to be appreciated by customers with questions who want fast answers.
4. Investigate tech solutions to tap into your data.
Tremendous amounts of data flow into your company. Yet it would be impossible for you and your team to make sense of it all. Does that mean you have to give up on finding a way to unearth your data’s insights? Not at all. You just need a tech-based data mining solution.
You have plenty of choices regarding software that can analyze data and find trends. First, though, determine where your data exists. Is it in your CRM? Or a legacy piece of software? Once you know where to find your data, you can search for highly-rated data mining systems.
Be aware that some data mining programs have been developed with specific industries in mind. These can include healthcare, finance, e-commerce, or manufacturing. It never hurts to see if something’s already been created for your sector.
5. Invest in a branded mobile app.
Mobile app use continues to rise. By 2025, one Forbes writer notes that the app market will approach $1 trillion. So why, then, doesn’t your brand have an app of its own?
This is the question a lot of business leaders are asking themselves. Offering customers the chance to interact with your company through an app makes sense. Not only does it give them an immediate connection to your organization, but it simplifies the purchasing process. At the same time, it helps buyers feel that they’re getting special treatment as you deploy push notifications and exclusive offers.
How can you make the most of your app once it’s been developed? First, make sure your customers know it exists. Lots of brands have apps that get very few downloads. The issue isn’t necessarily the app itself. It’s that they don’t know the app is available. Therefore, be diligent and consistent about talking up your app to drive higher usage and conversions.
You’re not alone if you feel that growing your business isn’t happening as fast as you like. Most leaders wish that they could get to the next plateau faster. One method to add a little speed to the process is to lean into the technologies you’re not using yet. Then, with the right combination of tech tools, you should begin to see a positive difference in your numbers.
Image Credit: Artem Podrez; Pexels; Thank you!
The Developer’s Guide to Mobile Authentication
Mobile app developers must ensure that the mobile app is effortless while keeping internal information protected and secure. Complex or repeated authentications can be frustrating for your mobile app users.
This article discusses various means of simple and secure mobile authentication, ensuring frictionless UI and UX of mobile authentication screens and data security.
What is Mobile Authentication?
Mobile authentication is a security method to verify a user’s identity through mobile devices and mobile apps. It caters to one or more authentication methods to provide secure access to any particular app, resource, or service.
Let’s look at the various mobile authentication methods developers can utilize depending on their business use case.
Mobile Authentication Methods
Email-Password and Username-Password are common types of password-based authentication. While utilizing these methods, developers should consider setting secure and robust password policies in their authentication mechanism, such as:
- Mandatory use of symbols and numbers
- Restricting the use of common passwords
- Blocking the use of profile information in passwords
These measures ensure better quality passwords and prevent user accounts from brute force and dictionary password attacks.
Limitation: Passwords are hard to remember, and typing in passwords on a small mobile screen degrades the user experience. Hence, developers must use authentication that does not compromise the security postures yet provide an appropriate user experience.
Patterns and Digit-based Authentication
The user must set a pattern or a digit-based PIN (typically 4 or 6 digits). Developers can utilize this as an authentication factor for their mobile application, as this authentication method is faster and more comfortable than entering passwords on a mobile screen.
Limitation: Both patterns and 4 or 6 digits PINs are limited. Also, users tend to use simple patterns and PINs like L or S patterns and 1234, 987654, date of birth as their password.
Users use an OTP received via SMS or email to authenticate themself. Thus, users do not have to remember a password, pattern, or PIN to access their account. At the same time, developers don’t have to implement password-based security mechanisms.
Biometric authentication uses unique biological traits of users for mobile authentication. Some common examples of biometric authentication are fingerprint scanning, face unlocks, retina scans, and vocal cadence.
Developers can implement pre-coded libraries and modules to enable authentication through mobile components like the finger scanner, camera (for facial recognition), and microphone (for voice-based identification).
It acts as a single sign-on authentication mechanism. Developers can implement this in mobile apps to use users’ login tokens from other social networking sites to allow access to the app.
Also, with social login, developers don’t need to worry about storing passwords securely and managing the password recovery option. It helps the user sign in to the mobile app without creating a separate account from within the app, hence increasing the user experience (UX).
User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) in Mobile Authentication
Login and registration screens are a gateway to your mobile applications; if they are a hassle, the user might not bother using the application. Thus, developers should pay a lot of attention to these screens regarding user experience and usage.
Here are some quick tips for mobile authentication screens:
- Simple Registration Process: Lengthy registration forms are a big no-no. Brainstorm essential information for creating an account via mobile application and only include those fields.
- External or Social Login: Allow users to log in via external or social accounts. This way, users don’t have to remember another password or credentials for your app.
- Facilitate Resetting: Include forget password on the login screen for good visibility and reach if the app provides password-based login. Also, setting the new password should be seamless and fast.
- Keep Users Logged In: Not logging out users on app close is helpful in a good experience. However, this depends on the type of app you offer. Developers should include MFA for better security if the app stores sensitive information or skip the stay logged-in feature altogether.
- Meaningful Error Messages: Errors and how they are handled directly impact user experience. Thus, developers should keep error messages meaningful and clearly state what went wrong and how to fix it.
Tip: Customize the mobile app keyboard for the type of input field. For example – display a numeric keyboard when asking for a PIN and include @ button when asking for an email address.
Considering the above points would result in a great and secure user experience for your mobile app users. However, if you feel executing these guidelines would take ample time, be informed that CIAM solutions are available in the market to handle all these requirements for you.
10 Practical Ways to Maximize Your After-Work Time
After work, you probably want a relaxing, stress-free night. And that makes sense. Planning activities like reading or meditating can help relieve stress when things get tough at work.
In addition, you can use this time to expand your knowledge or develop your skills. Additionally, you can engage in new experiences or pursue a passion.
The benefits of participating in these activities can range from increasing your productivity to improving your health and general well-being.
With that said, here are 10 practical ways to maximize your after-work time.
1. Tie up loose ends.
My mom had a tradition that she followed every evening when I was a child. As soon as we got home from school, we had to clean up the house. It wasn’t a long bit of cleaning — usually, she set a timer for 20-minutes. Obviously, we whined about this and the time trying to get out of it was likely longer than the actual time spent. But this effort and habit kept the house tidy and saved us from major cleanings if the cleaning had waited until the weekend.
After I finish working for the day, I will set a timer for 20-30 minutes and tidy up. Or, I can handle items on my to-do list I couldn’t do during the day. Even though that’s not a lot of time, you’d be surprised at what you can actually accomplish.
You can clean dishes, fold laundry, make a grocery list, clean your calendar, or send an important email. In addition, a timer can be a great way to tie up the day’s loose ends and help your transition from work.
2. Get a weeknight hobby.
Commit to an out-of-the-home activity after work. Some ideas could be an exercise class, volunteering, or a night out with friends. Then, rather than spending your time at home, you’ll have more time to do what you care about.
“By scheduling your time after work, you are more likely to stick to your most important ‘to-do’ items. Many people find that they are most productive when they have more to do,” says Dr. Lisa N. Folden, licensed physical therapist and naturopathic lifestyle coach, owner of Healthy Phit Physical Therapy & Wellness Consultants. “By having a scheduled event after work—especially one that can double as exercise—you have more accountability to avoid sitting around aimlessly scrolling through your phone or watching TV.”
3. Sweat it out.
Yes, I am aware. You’re well aware of the importance of physical activity. However, this still can’t be stressed enough. There is no doubt that a regular exercise program boosts your creativity, confidence, and resilience — whether in the workplace or the home.
In short, moving your body is one of the best things you can do to boost your productivity. After all, exercising relieves stress and relieves mental strain. The result? You’ll sleep better and be more energetic.
So, block out time at the end of the day — to go for a run, ride a bike, or join an exercise class. Other ideas would be playing with your pet or kids, dancing, or getting caught up on a chore.
4. Enjoy the company of those you love.
Spend quality time with those who are important to you, such as family, friends, and colleagues. Not only does it make life worthwhile, but it’s good for you too. It releases endorphins and lowers stress when you talk to your spouse, kids, siblings, parents, or friends. Even a simple phone call with a loved one can benefit your well-being.
What’s more, with friends and family, there are lots of fun things to do, such as;
- Go to a restaurant or host dinner at home.
- Visit a museum or art gallery.
- Go for a walk after dinner.
- Host a game night.
- Attend a concert or sporting event.
- Go to the movies.
- Participate in a group activity, like bowling.
- Attend classes together.
5. Address your needs.
“This may seem totally out of place in an article about getting a lot done after work, but hear me out,” writes Rachell Buell over The Muse. “While it’s very important to make the most of your time, the only way you will have enough energy to do so is by first attending to your basic needs.” Also, get plenty of sleep, eat, and relax. “By addressing these needs, you allow yourself the quintessential element to productivity: sustainability.”
“A few weeks ago, I had a serious moment of panic,” Buell shares. “Feeling completely overwhelmed by everything on my plate, I lost my cool.” Regaining my composure, I came up with a brilliant idea: a sanity list,” she added.
“The list included things like doing daily yoga and drinking 64 ounces of water every day of water and cuddling with my husband. Whenever I cross everything off my list, I feel like a million bucks, and I’m fired up for more.”
“After a long day of work, most of us need time to switch gears and give ourselves a mental break before we try to accomplish anything else,” Buell says. “Whether that’s plopping in front of the TV to catch up on the day’s news or going for a jog to take the edge off, take a moment and consider what you need to feel recharged during the week, and keep it on your sanity list.”
6. Write out your priorities.
Is there ever a time when you feel like something is a high priority when it’s not? When prioritizing productivity, it can be easy to focus on getting more done rather than considering what is really important.
At the beginning of each week, I find it helpful to prioritize everything on my to-do list. Then, during the week, I navigate my time more efficiently by determining how essential a given item is. Personally, I use the Eisenhower Matrix to assist me with this.
By figuring out where each item fits in, you can focus on where to begin. For example, when doing home projects, start with the most essential stuff — then move to the middle and lower priority stuff. With work projects, you can start the next day knowing what needs to happen in what order.
Best of all? Creating a list of priorities can help you feel accomplished even if you don’t start the project yet.
7. Get outside.
Are you familiar with “nature deficit disorder”? Initially, Richard Louv used the phrase in his book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder. Louv says our indoor lifestyles are causing a lot of health and behavioral issues.
Even if you think that’s a stretch, studies have found that we spend 92% of time indoors. And that can negatively influence our physical and mental health. Why? Because it’s a simple way to reduce stress, increase happiness, and live healthier.
Moreover, connecting with nature and the outdoors can replenish your energy.
With that in mind, Rachel Hopman, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at Northeastern University, suggests that you live by the 20-5-3 rule;
- 20-minutes. Twenty minutes is how much time you should spend outside, like at a neighborhood park, three times a week.
- 5-hours. Five hours is the minimum amount of time you should spend each month in semi-wild nature, like a forest, city, or state park.
- 3-days. You should go camping or rent a cabin three times a year to escape it all.
8. Power down.
In today’s culture, many of us are overly attached to social media and our smartphones. In fact, DataReportal estimates the average American looks at a screen for 7 hours and 4 minutes a day. So why’s that a problem? Research has found too much screen time cal lead to digital eye strain, impaired sleep, and diminished mental health.
Furthermore, too much screen time can result in information overload. And it’s also distracting when we’re trying to get things done.
Therefore, setting boundaries around your phone and social media use is vital. For example, set a timer to limit how long you play games, watch videos, or scroll on social media. If that doesn’t work, keep your phone in a different room or make sure you shut down all social media at a specific time each night.
Initially, this will be awkward. But you may be surprised how much more alive you feel when you’re away from screens. Eventually, you’ll feel re-energized rather than worn out after work.
9. Invest in yourself.
Did you know that the former CEO of Twitter, Dick Costolo, studied improv comedy? Why? Learning improv comedy improved his leadership skills.
Investing in yourself is vital to success, whether that means getting some coaching, participating in psychotherapy, taking a workshop, working on more hours for graduate school, or completing a certification program. You could also learn how to play a musical instrument, join a book club, watch a documentary, or take a language course.
Overall, you’ll succeed in your professional career whether you invest in your mind, body, or spirit.
10. Follow an evening routine.
“It’s clear that you need a specific morning routine to optimize each day and be more efficient,” writes Choncé Maddox in a previous Calendar post. However, “a successful morning routine actually starts the night before,” she adds. “Simply put, you need an effective evening routine to maximize efficiency and productivity the following day.”
So, what should your evening routine consist of? Well, that’s up to you. But, here are some suggestions worth exploring;
- Plan out your day. Look at your calendar to find out what’s on your agenda for tomorrow. Doing so gets you mentally prepared and makes any adjustments.
- Pick out your clothes. The task may sound insignificant. But it will save you a lot of time and energy that you could use elsewhere.
- Eliminate negativity and reflect. You can reflect on your day in the evening and choose gratitude over negativity.
- Read. Turn off the television and read a book while you wind down for the evening.
- Prepare meals. Mornings are already hectic. Save your sanity and energy by preparing your meals the night before.
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