AI in Workplace Design: Methods, Benefits & Limitations | Oktra
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  • How AI is Shaping the Design of the Future Workplace

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Patrick Isitt
Content Manager
Content specialist in office design and build.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) is making its way into practically every part of modern life, from virtual assistants in our homes to recommended products when shopping online. Workplaces are no exception, with AI becoming crucial to both the design and management of modern offices.

    The advantages of AI have become clear in recent years. AI can take care of a multitude of tasks automatically, saving time and improving outcomes. This includes collecting, processing and analysing data at lightning speed for invaluable insights.

    Concurrent with the rise of AI, we’ve seen a shift in the way offices are used. Gone are the days of the conventional office with everybody physically present. Now, many businesses have adopted a more dynamic model where people work in different places and at different times.

    In today’s dynamic hybrid work environment, AI has become an exciting tool in office design, for both remote and in-office work. In this article, we’ll discuss the role of AI in workplace design along with its benefits and limitations.

  • How is AI being used to design workplaces?

    When asked which technologies will have the greatest impact on real estate in the coming years, organisations ranked AI as second. But in terms of their current level of understanding, it came much lower. This highlights one of the biggest challenges for businesses looking to utilise this emerging technology – knowing what it does and how it’s used.

    Firstly, it’s important to note that AI isn’t replacing humans in workplace design. Much like its other applications, it’s being used to assist humans and make them better at what they do. In workplace design, it speeds up data analysis and takes care of repetitive tasks. This ultimately allows those in workplace design to spend more time on the creative elements of a client’s brief.

    Below, we’ll discuss how AI is helping architects and designers reshape how workspaces are planned, created and utilised.

  • Analysing usage data

    AI is now being leveraged to analyse how workplaces are used. Sensors are utilised throughout the workplace, with AI systems monitoring and assessing the resulting data. At the most basic level, AI can assess when spaces are used and how often they’re vacant. This is a vital insight at a time when the average workplace utilisation rate is around a quarter (26%) with a similar figure (25%) for desk utilisation.

    Going one step further, this process can also analyse who uses different spaces – specific people, teams or job roles – as well as how spaces are used. This includes different activities, event types and tasks.

    The resulting information can aid the design of new layouts and concepts. This allows designers to adapt their plans based on how a space has and will be used. The result is an office space tailored to how a business and its workforce operate.

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  • Predictive analysis and simulation

    AI isn’t just about data analysis. It can also be used to create simulations of real-world environments. In terms of an office space, this means testing how a design will perform in real-world conditions. That includes areas such as traffic flow, light exposure and even acoustics.

  • Why? Simulations can highlight potential problems that humans may not have even considered. It takes a completely objective approach, based purely on the information it’s given, and that minimises the risk of oversight.

    Predicting these issues before construction begins reduces the need for costly modifications further down the line. Crucially, it ensures the final design is wholly practical and fully aligned with the needs of the business and its teams.

    Read about how technology is improving the design process in our article ‘How Reality Capture Technology is Transforming Design and Build’.

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  • Enhanced visualisations

    Creating realistic models isn’t just useful to highlight functional issues, it can also give stakeholders a better idea of the final product. AI can produce high-quality renderings and virtual tours of proposed office designs to engage those involved in the project before it comes to actually seeing a space.

    These AI-powered renderings can generate photorealistic visuals that include complex textures, lighting effects and even reflections, which traditional rendering software might handle less efficiently.

    This level of detail helps clients visualise the proposed workspace more clearly, aiding in decision-making and design approval processes. It can also give employees the opportunity to complete a virtual onboarding of their new space before move-in day.

  • How is the use of AI benefitting businesses?

    It’s clear that AI can make the workplace design process more efficient and data-driven. But how does impact businesses and their employees? Here’s how AI helps create optimised, more personalised environments that drive productivity.

  • Optimised work environments

    We mentioned earlier how AI can analyse usage, so designs can be tailored to how a business operates. The result is a workspace that’s optimised based on how your workforce actually uses it. Here are the advantages of this approach:

    • Having employees closer to the facilities they need, reduces time wasted moving between different parts of the office.
    • Improving inter-departmental collaboration by having different teams strategically placed.
    • Redesigning underutilised spaces, allowing for expansion without the need to upsize.
    • Promoting greater agility by making spaces multi-functional.

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  • A personalised and elevated user experience

    It’s not just the design of workspaces where AI shines. It can also be used to improve how offices work to meet employees’ needs. While conventional offices were very much one-size-fits-all, the modern hybrid approach is focused on what suits each employee. AI goes hand in hand with this, adjusting lighting, temperature and even desk configurations to suit the individual ergonomic needs of each employee.

  • These environmental factors don’t just keep employees happy. They allow them to work at their best, improving both wellbeing and productivity. In a study on workplace lighting, 58.5% of workers said that it significantly affected their work efficiency. Meanwhile, height-adjustable desks were found to reduce discomfort in the upper back, shoulders and neck for 47% of people.

    Studies have also shown that productivity drops by between 35% and 76% when temperatures are too high. Similarly, colder temperatures have been found to increase the hourly cost of work by 10% based on metrics like typing errors and typing output.

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  • Operational efficiency

    As well as improving ergonomics, AI can optimise the way offices are run. It can be used to automate the management of resources like lighting, heating, ventilation and air conditioning based on real-time data.

    For instance, smart systems can adjust the environmental settings in different parts of an office according to occupancy levels and time of day. It does so automatically, without the need for a member of staff to continually manage it. Additionally, there’s no room for human error – your AI system won’t leave the heating on overnight when nobody is in the office, for example.

    As above, this provides optimal conditions for employees at all times with potential benefits for wellbeing and productivity. However, it also reduces energy consumption to minimise operational costs.

    PwC found that 71% of UK businesses expect high energy costs to reduce their ability to compete internationally. AI is one of the ways to mitigate the impact of rising energy costs on your office and your business.

  • What are the limitations of using AI in workplace design?

    Like any modern advancement, AI will be increasingly effective and useful in the future. By definition, AI is a work in progress because it continually learns from its own experiences and new information.

    Because of this, one potential issue is that the information it provides is too general. If you used AI to generate new ideas for an office layout, for example, the solutions might be influenced by generic trends that are predominantly found in other workspaces.

  • Another issue is regulation compliance. AI systems rely on the information that’s fed into them. As a result, they’re not always up to date with the latest regulations for the likes of construction and fit out.

    While AI clearly has its advantages, its use should always be overseen by humans – specifically, those who are aware of its limitations. This will allow you to navigate the limitations of AI and reap its rewards.

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  • Balancing technology and human insight

    When it comes to analysing and utilising data to help transform workplaces and support businesses, AI is unrivalled. Of course, we have to consider its limitations and strike the right balance between technology and human insight. With this in mind, the creative instincts and real-world experience of designers remain indispensable.


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