With new advancements in technology flying at us on a daily basis, the sheer velocity at which we are heading into a virtual, computerised, roboticised future is naturally a concern for all industries, and flexible workspaces are no exception.

Anxiety over increasing automation and its potential to make certain jobs obsolete is understandable and valid. But it is not that the technology itself is a harbinger of doom – rather technology – like online booking technology – is neutral, indifferent, and it is the way we collectively choose to employ it that will determine which path we go down.

Because yes, it’s technically possible that a workspace manager could turn around tomorrow and decide they were going to lay off all but the bare minimum staff and automate the running of the center from beginning to end – from letting users book the spaces they need online or via an internal portal, to automating digital payments and invoicing, to using AI bots in lieu of a help desk, to letting a horde of vacuum cleaner robots loose in the hallways after hours. Afterall, it would be more cost effective, and there wouldn’t be the same margin for human error… but is that really what users want? Are customers pounding their fists for efficiency and cost savings at the expense of seeing a friendly face at reception when they come to work in the morning?

So perhaps full automation isn’t the way to go – after all, if workspace centers can be automated, then other businesses can too, and then who would need to use workspace facilities at all? Robots don’t need comfy chairs and soundproof pods. The answer lies in finding the optimum balance between enjoying the benefits of technology while preserving the human core of businesses – and particularly ones based on fundamentals of cooperation and space sharing.

That’s how Falkirk Business Hub is approaching its use of technology in the running of their center. Rather than use their online booking system to do away with the need for human input, they use the software to support their team. Previously they took all reservations over the phone via their manned reception; what they wanted was a way to make room bookings quicker and easier without losing the personal touch their clients had come to know and appreciate. So, they found a happy medium that gives the best service possible to clients and makes operations quicker and more efficient for their hosts.

By providing the opportunity to view availability online, and make reservations at any time of the day or night, the technology adds value to the business, providing certain services that the in-house team alone could not. But by combining these additional functions with a human touch – which the technology could not replace – the service becomes more complete.

Rather than view our constantly improving technology as a threat to the existing teams who manage our workspaces, we should instead embrace the benefits it can give us. Far from taking opportunities away, it does in fact have the potential to give us many things, not least more time to spend on the things humans do best: building relationships, creating communities, and being that friendly face we all need.


Published on 1 February 2017