Now, I’m an iPad user myself and I know the benefits of these pieces of kit. In fact, I’m sitting on the train now typing this latest rant.

Chips, please

In particular, I have one gripe. I’ve often wondered how some folks would cope without their mobile phone. The idea that a phone that keeps you in contact at every moment of the day (unless you live in my part of the world where there must be some signal swallowing vortex hitherto unknown to the boffins), is an aid to enhanced productivity, is, in my opinion, a load of old interference.

In fact, I think the mobile phone has made us all lazy. We don’t plan our time as well as we used to and we don’t organise our workloads as well as we could. And that’s because we’re constantly revising our schedules. We’ve become more reactive and less proactive.

The mobile phone has contributed to our time frames becoming shorter because people can now get hold of us more easily. And that means their expectations are higher as well as they think you can produce their requirement more easily too. I’m forever hearing the mantra ‘speed stuns’. No, it doesn’t. Speed more often than not leads to an almighty cock-up.

Let’s be honest. Most of the conversations I hear on the train are people telling their partners when the train is due to arrive, which happens to be the same time as last night and the same as the previous three nights before that. Or what type of potato product they fancy with their reheated microtastic dinner.

We’ve all become a slave to those attention-demanding pocket devices. But just because a phone rings doesn’t mean you have to answer it, especially when you’re already in the middle of another conversation. And especially when I’m the other half of the conversation.

Going with the flow

That’s not to say that any of the latest workplace technologies should be discounted out of hand as being a new gimmick or fanciful distraction. Far from it. Despite my on-going battle with loud-mouthed self- obsessed mobile phone users there are many gadgets that do, and will, make all our work lives a lot easier, healthier and more productive. From the now common handheld device to the unit that monitors water flow on the taps, there are many technologies that interior designers have embraced to the benefit of a building’s occupiers.

One unit in particular has been a major success in our own office: A small piece of kit called a footprint tracker. This clever piece of technology monitors power usage and can display the information in many forms, including a simple thumbs up or thumbs down icon.

In our case, it helped us identify a faulty timer on an air-conditioning unit that powered up on a Saturday and back down on a Sunday. As the office is unoccupied over the weekend we were oblivious to this glitch but the spike on the monitor graphically illustrated that we had a problem. This has now been rectified, and has saved the business many thousands of pounds.

Saving energy

From the now commonly adopted passive infrared units attached to lighting systems to more efficient heating systems – the ability to reduce energy use through technology has seen the most significant advances. The increased costs associated with energy use have focused users’ attention on the potential benefits associated with swapping out an old system, and encouraged them to investigate more efficient technologies with easy to reconfigure control systems.

People are better educated as to the costs associated with leaving a computer active or lights burning. But when I’m looking across the London skyline at night, it still amazes me that the view is a twinkling mass of fully illuminated offices and flashing screens.

However, there is a little box of tricks that can sit neatly under a workstation, which can be linked to a number of computers and monitors, and can alleviate this problem. It enables a series of machines to be switched off simultaneously with a push of a single button.

And the clever bit is that all the information on the computers at the time is saved, and pops back up when the on button is pushed. This simple unit used alongside an intelligent lighting system alone would save a business a significant amount of money.

Even this technology however may soon be obsolete as the very latest trend is to discard desk top computers altogether. Technological advances mean that a desk-based worker no longer has to squeeze into a space between a pedestal and a bulky computer. The processing units can all be hosted remotely, freeing up expensive office space and allowing the user to work in a more flexible way.

And ever shrinking computer hardware and the use of Wi-Fi has also led to the freeing up of desk space, and enhanced the workplace as a flexible more interactive environment in which to collaborate. All these factors are contributing towards designers and employers reviewing new ways of working and reconsidering what constitutes best practice.

In the zone

Increasingly, the flexibility of zones within the workspace is becoming more important to the productivity of the employees. And functions taking place within the office environment and the ability to access data, colleagues and customers from anywhere is key.

This is only able to happen if a business embraces new technologies that do not tie an individual to an assigned workstation and have faith in the security and robustness of the solution. Ultimately they’ll see staff work more efficiently. It does of course mean that the mobile phone is critical to making this policy a success – and that’s to be encouraged.

But only if you dial in your dietary requirements for that evening before you place the handset in its recharge station and leave it firmly where it belongs: in the workplace.