Firms ride tech wave to personalise employee experience

Real estate agency CBRE's new headquarters at Paya Lebar Quarter has various working spaces, such as (clockwise from above) the cafe and working area, a room which houses a state-of-the-art presentation tool called the Liquid Galaxy, and the team tot
Real estate agency CBRE's new headquarters at Paya Lebar Quarter has various working spaces, such as the cafe and working area (above), a room which houses a state-of-the-art presentation tool called the Liquid Galaxy, and the team totems area where the wall segregation structures create focused spaces for groups and individuals.ST PHOTOS: JASMINE CHOONG
Real estate agency CBRE's new headquarters at Paya Lebar Quarter has various working spaces, such as the cafe and working area, a room which houses a state-of-the-art presentation tool called the Liquid Galaxy (above), and the team totems area where
Real estate agency CBRE's new headquarters at Paya Lebar Quarter has various working spaces, such as the cafe and working area, a room which houses a state-of-the-art presentation tool called the Liquid Galaxy (above), and the team totems area where the wall segregation structures create focused spaces for groups and individuals.
Real estate agency CBRE's new headquarters at Paya Lebar Quarter has various working spaces, such as (clockwise from above) the cafe and working area, a room which houses a state-of-the-art presentation tool called the Liquid Galaxy, and the team tot
Real estate agency CBRE's new headquarters at Paya Lebar Quarter has various working spaces, such as the cafe and working area, a room which houses a state-of-the-art presentation tool called the Liquid Galaxy, and the team totems area where the wall segregation structures create focused spaces for groups and individuals (above).

Imagine a workplace where you fit right in as things can be programmed just the way you like them.

For instance, you can book a room in the office that will have the temperature preset to your liking when you enter it.

Feeling stuffed after lunch? Consider standing at your work desk, where the height can be adjusted with just one touch.

While these features are already available to employees in some workplaces in Singapore, real estate agency CBRE predicts that by 2030, all offices in Singapore will have some form of smart technology, such as beacons, sensors and apps, or scalable workplaces to meet changing needs or a combination of both.

CBRE is already walking the talk. Its employees moved into a new 32,000 sq ft headquarters at Paya Lebar Quarter last month that bristles with new tech gadgetry.

Staff can access a workplace app called Host that provides a single point of access to office amenities and services. For example, a worker can order coffee from the in-house cafe or let a colleague know about his whereabouts in the office, which can accommodate up to 480 people.

The app can also be used to book meetings rooms but sensors can determine if the rooms are indeed occupied. If not, the rooms are released for others to use.

CBRE Singapore managing director Moray Armstrong believes such features will help recruitment efforts. "With the continued convergence of professional and personal lives, the workplace experience is now viewed as a differentiator in attracting and retaining talent," he said.

Perhaps the most eye-catching attraction in the CBRE office is what appears to be a private home theatre. Called the Liquid Galaxy, it is a state-of-the-art presentation tool, in which large screens are used to create an immersive experience for clients viewing sites and office mock-ups.

Another company that wants to enhance employee wellness is engineering consultancy Arup, whose new office at Frasers Tower in Cecil Street features photo sensors to dim or brighten the space according to the amount of daylight.

It has a live monitoring system to measure indoor air quality based on components such as humidity and amount of carbon dioxide.

Co-working spaces are also muscling in with technology offerings for their offices. Spatial analytics helps local co-working giant JustCo analyse usage patterns to inform future office configurations.

Since March, the company has been partnering Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, to pilot a smart digital workplace at the JustCo Marina One centre.

The workplace data, which comprises heat maps among other things, looks for underutilised areas. JustCo founder Kong Wan Sing said these will help the firm respond to members' needs more effectively.

Some design firms are also positioning themselves to ride the technology wave.

Take Space Matrix, a company with a focus on office design, for example. Mr Rajeev Kumar, the workplace technology group's director, said personalising the employee experience is a key focus.

One of Space Matrix's clients, a global pharmaceutical company, for example, uses multiple sensors to control things such as temperature and lighting "in a more granular manner", providing clearer insights into user patterns.

This means that data, such as a certain employee's room temperature preference, can be used to customise conditions.

However, Mr Kumar said: "With many of these products and technologies being new, one of the key challenges is that they do not have many 'use cases' to demonstrate their effectiveness as yet."

To this end, he said Space Matrix has a focus group to provide feedback to tech developers to help them improve on developing products.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2019, with the headline 'Firms ride tech wave to personalise employee experience'. Print Edition | Subscribe