Why do people head to a Starbucks or other environmentally stimulating environments to work? Is it because their workplace makes them unhappy? Given increased digital connectivity through access to mail, mobile, social media, and other web repositories of information and other common distractions in the office environment – other people’s conversations, phones ringing, machines clanging and the sound of passing traffic – we are increasingly finding it impossible to focus in the workplace. So is focus the main concern, or are we losing our creative edge when confronted with non-optimal environments?

Where we work impacts our satisfaction with what we do and how we do it. The work environment is already an established part of the expectations set between employer and employee and has even become a differentiator for employer recruiting. Consider some of the better known names in the technology sector – Facebook, Apple, Google – these are all at the cusp of providing cutting edge working environments, designed and laid out with organizational community building in mind.

Let me give you a bad example. I am currently working in a shared office space where most of the “walls” are glass and privacy is at a minimum. If someone has intensive work to do, they do not come into the office and work elsewhere or from home. You cannot make a personal call as there is no place to do so, as many offices lack VoIP phones, but have headsets for Skype calls or music listening. You see very few people talking or interacting. Frankly, I do not like coming in here as I feel both isolated and watched over. And I have doubts on Sunday night about coming in for a Monday morning if I have a lot of work to get through. So while many might say the workspace design does not influence their decisions, their subconscious might decide otherwise….

So how do folks like myself and others find their “happy” in a workspace environment, and how does a smarter office enable that?

Consider how much of the majority of a business’ operating costs are related to staff (salaries and benefits) as opposed to the physical office environment. It is then worth considering how the office environment can be designed to help workers focus on the task at hand and reduce the risk of enhanced stress levels.

This is where smarter workspaces can act as a filter from outside distraction.   Just as a smarter, or connected, office can provide the necessary tools and applications to maximize efficiency for the occupants, it can also filer out unwanted distractions with a temporary ‘out of office’ mail block, call rerouter or ‘phone on silent’ call activation, as well as specific instructions on how best to handle potential interruptions of cleaning staff, catering or other accidental intrusions.

Can your office play guardian for you to maximize your efficiency? Can you get an automated connected office that is also on your side as your efficiency administrator?  Time will tell if our workspace designs will take focus and creativity into account as much as they measure energy efficiency and environmental footprint. Tactile is nice, but productive is even better!