Workspace agility isn’t new. For years companies have been aiming to become more agile, promoting remote working and flexible hours. As a result, real estate tenants’ requirements changed and new ‘flexible offices” emerged. This type of office space enables companies to scale quickly, as well as helping to attract sought-after talent, notably younger generations who prioritize flexibility.
This generation are looking for more than a high-quality workspace that offers bottomless coffee and a standing desk. They are looking for a culture of innovation, where they have the opportunity to socialize, collaborate and ultimately, learn. As a result, workplace data analytics and space utilization tools enabled by integrated building technology have been adopted to continually optimize the environment.
In the past couple of months, the global disruption has triggered building owners and facility managers to rethink their flexible workspace strategies. The world has moved to ‘remote’ in a matter of weeks, with many companies moving all but essential systems online. As many studies attest, working from home can prove more productive, while enabling a more flexible working schedule. The speed of this mass shift has caused employers, employees and building owners to question the validity of offices and office environment.
The next great challenge is the ‘return-to-work’. Strategies will need to consider new and different aspects of flexible working including, social distancing, office density, safety, wellness and team collaboration. But how can these requirements and co-working strategies adapt to a new future?
Social distancing and office density
Although most offices moved to open space layouts, employees now must maintain a set distance from colleagues. Sensing technologies and digital analytics will help employees to find unoccupied desks and visualize accurate information indicating when the space was cleaned since its last use and that it is two meters away from colleagues, for example.
Safety and Wellness in Workspaces
It is expected many will adopt standard procedures upon entering a building with questioning and thermographic temperature scanning. Non-invasive thermal camera technologies are available today and can be deployed in interactive kiosks in entrance lobbies. So called Thermal Fever Screening can also be a solution, with a thermal camera, systems can automatically detect people who might have an elevated temperature and notify them.
As we have already discussed, companies need to consider various elements as they prepare for the safe return to the office for their employees. This includes the use of which not only count the number of people but use the data to inform users in real time when social distancing requirements have not been met and provide alternatives.
This same ability to count people can also be used to drive Building Management System (BMS) adjustments to airflow settings and the volume of fresh air, helping to ensure rooms have individual control that supports a healthy environment in the office. Tenants can hold their building owners accountable to provide a safe and healthy environment so even those at higher risk can feel comfortable returning to their offices and buildings.
The key requirements of commercial real estate buildings will not fundamentally change and the need to provide productive, collaborative, comfortable and flexible space will remain. However, health and connectivity will be the focus of workplace strategies more than ever. Flexible, connected and healthy workspaces are the offices that employees are looking to return to and fortunately, many technologies that were being used to encourage employee productivity and manage space can help to ensure this new environment is possible.
If you are interested in learning more about the technologies that are available today to enable some of these changes, you may be interested in Schneider Electric’s Workplace Advisor, Connected Room Solution or the Engage Enterprise App, and if you want to find out more about how IoT will help Workspace’s of the future, listen to our podcast.