While the Smart Home is the next great technological frontier, some offices appear to be stuck in a 1970s time warp and are in dire need of reinvention. Thankfully, there are multitudes of innovative and intuitive solutions that can serve the workplace, whether it’s a converted bedroom or a business catering for 200 employees. From smart lighting to devices that ease the pain of printing, here are seven ways to improve office productivity, boost security and cut down on costs.
Give everyone a personal assistant
“Are you mad? That’s going to double our payroll!” I hear you cry! However, believe it or not, even your personal assistants can have personal assistance for just $179. The voice-activated Amazon Echo speaker, via the Alexa assistant, can boost productivity in countless ways.
It can quickly answer questions without typing a Google search, remind users of calendar appointments and items on the to-do list. It’ll also read news and weather reports and bring accurate track traffic conditions to aid a commute.
Let’s not forget the Echo is also Bluetooth connected, meaning anyone on the floor can send a power-hour playlist from a mobile device. All except Barry in HR… no-one wants to hear the Dirty Dancing soundtrack again.
Let there be (Smart) Light
The annoying hum and subtle flickering of fluorescent strip lights can be the bane of the office existence. Studies have shown that it’s really, really bad for you. What you really need is an abundance of natural light… especially first thing in the morning. If your office is devoid of windows, a smart lighting solution like Philips Hue is a great idea.
The bulbs provide white LED light at up to 600 lumens, while users can create custom mood lighting from millions of colours and scenes as the day progresses. Everything can be controlled from a smartphone app, while the Bridge is compatible with a host of smart home platforms, making it easy to integrate other tech.
Equipping a home office or business office with security cameras and alarms can be a huge budget drain… unless you buy the Piper NV, an all-in-one wireless security system for $279. The accompanying app enables you to tune into a live feed from multiple 180-degree night vision cameras, while the two-way audio capabilities let you communicate with colleagues (and pets).
When away from the office, if motion/sound is detected, video can be recorded and a 105db siren sounded (trust us, it’s loud). The Piper also acts as a smart home hub, enabling control of bulbs, switches and door/window sensors. Unlike many rivals, there’s no monthly fee associated with using a Piper.
Rise up from the desk
Whether you’re sprawled across a couch, at a standing desk, in a traditional cubicle, on a shaded balcony on a summer’s day, at a high-top bar where the coffee flows as freely as the ideas, one thing remains constant; staying put all day is boring. It makes us restless and damages productivity. Recent studies have shown that standing for a few hours a day can fend off all manner of ailments and is even better for you than running marathons.
The expandable Evo Desk offers 250 positions, moving up or down at 1.5-inches per second at the touch of a button. Made with premium materials, there’s no sign of that nasty plastic laminate from the 1970s and, if you want to get really fancy, you can add a treadmill and a Harman Kardon sound system. Also, if you fancy a lie down, it’s capable of holding 355lbs (just kidding… sort of).
While so much of our office activity now takes place in the digital realm there’s always a need to print, copy, fax and scan. The new multi-function HP PageWide Pro MFP 477dw business printer has all of this boiled down to an efficient science with the sole purpose of maximising your productivity. Whether it’s serving a home office or 200 employees, the HP PageWide Pro MFP 477dw($699) offers the fastest first page out, fastest first page from sleep and duplex printing at 25 pages per minute.
Thanks to integration with Apple AirPrint and Android, it’s easy to print directly cloud-stored documents or photos from a mobile device, rather than waste time logging into a desktop workstation. The USB port on the front of the device even allows you to print multiple file formats when connectivity is limited, or scan directly to a USB memory stick. The extra-high yield HP Toner Cartridges with JetIntelligence will also give you 4x more pages, reducing the hassle of regular changes. It’ll change the way you think about office printers, plus it doesn’t take up more space than a baby elephant. Bonus.
No more Dashing out for coffee
Bright, airy spaces and natural lighting (and a PlayStation 4, pool table and bar?) Come on, boss!) can make your workspace an engaging, happy environment… but you’ll still need caffeine. If it weren’t for hearty supplies of coffee and tea our heads would be up in the cloud along with all of those documents. You can ensure supplies are plentiful with Amazon Dash buttons.
These Wi-Fi-connected, thumb-sized buttons ($5) can be attached to any surface and synced to a single product. When the beans are running low, just push the button once and a new batch of coffee will show up a day or so later. Genius! Sadly, they’re US-only right now.
Geo-fenced work communications
One final request – in our ideal office, work-based communications like emails and instant messages would be pushed to your phone only when you’re within a mile of the building (we’d say when you reach the door, but that last mile gives you fair warning over potential firestorms and the chance to turn and run like the wind.)
It’s not like it would be hard either. A Nest Learning Thermostat can be programmed to turn on the heat when the user is within a certain distance of the homestead. Starbucks members will see their digital card pop up when they’re close to a store, while some apps will deliver coupons to a phone if they’re close to a retail outlet. So why not adopt this for work email rather than chain people to their mobile devices? Make it happen, management!