While some recent office construction plans have focused entirely on open-plan layouts and stand-up desks, one particular feature of the modern workplace has shot up the priority list of many companies – interactive technology.

Ten years ago, technology costs represented about seven percent of a company’s interior construction budget. Now, they can consume 25 percent or more of a total build-out cost.

Companies are much more focused on digitization and connectivity, with common examples including more sophisticated conference rooms featuring interactive audio/visual technology and smart TVs, as well as cloud-based solutions for employee mobility.

The focus on technology has influenced workplace design as well. “Spaces are being designed to accommodate what the technology can offer now,” says David Roberts, International Director at JLL.

“Pioneering workplaces consist of tech-enabled meeting and huddle areas, and employees can work seamlessly whether they’re in an office, cubical, meeting room – or even at home. The physical personal space matters less now while tech-focused spaces matter more.”

Of less importance to many of today’s offices are material finishes. “Materials, fixtures and finishes are getting less attention as the technological components of the workplace grow in prominence,” says Christian Beaudoin, National Director, Research & Strategy at JLL. “Offices are becoming more minimalist and decreasing expenses on millwork and granite, for example, so they can allocate more of the budget for technology.”

What a tech-enabled workplace looks like

One example of this is UI LABS, a first-of-its-kind research and development facility in Chicago dedicated to advancing high-tech commercial innovation. “It’s minimal in design but maximized in technology,” Roberts says.

Zurich Insurance’s North American Headquarters in Schaumburg, Illinois, has also created a tech-enabled workspace. The simple task of setting up a video conference call used to require at least a week’s worth of notice and several steps. Now, employees simply agree to a meeting time, walk into the conference room and touch a screen to begin the meeting.

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