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Adapting Your Office Space for the New Workplace

Way before the global pandemic hit, enterprises were taking a second look at how to manage the changing workplace and use of office space. COVID-19 just accelerated the process.

Way before the global pandemic hit, enterprises were taking a second look at how to manage the changing workplace and use of office space. COVID-19 just accelerated the process. There are a few reasons for this: heightened health and safety protocols, more employee burnout and higher turnover rates, and unpredictable office attendance due to remote and hybrid workforce policies. Enterprises have had to re-evaluate how spaces are being used and how offices are designed.

These changes – plus employees’ increasing desire for more flexibility and autonomy in the workplace – have created a demand for data so that facility managers and building operations managers can take a new approach to designing and maintaining workspaces. Companies can use data and analytics to really put employee experience front and center.

Returning to the physical office 

An employee’s reasons for wanting to work in a physical office often differs by age and stage of their career. More senior employees or employees further along in their career are usually more likely to want to show up in the office to manage and direct people and projects. New hires or employees earlier in their career want to return to build their professional network and develop their foundation. For the employees in the middle bucket, remote work is a dream because they want flexibility, so they want to stay remote indefinitely.

We’ve seen this dynamic play out with customers in the banking industry, for example, which tends to be a very personable, network-heavy environment. But even in this industry, we’re seeing that those who are somewhere in the middle of their career may not want to return to a corporate setting, as they are established with their professional network already.

Overall, the most significant reason for having people return to a physical office, at least as a starting point, is to foster and support live, in-person collaboration. But enterprises need to think beyond collaboration, because some of that can be done through tools like Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

You need to create more compelling reasons to return to the corporate center of gravity. Enabling the physical office to be a fully collaborative, attractive and amenity-driven is critical. It’s not going to be enough to simply have a desk – a place to park – anymore. It’s not going to be enough to just have the necessary technology. Those will still be features, but they will be a part of the bigger picture of creating a truly collaborative environment in which employee experience is front and center and in-person interaction is.

Smart buildings and the new world of work

Enabling these types of amenities and appeal requires more use of smart building technologies. We’re seeing many companies still have antiquated building systems that are expensive, not energy-efficient and not suited to the new ways of working.

It really comes down to the whole instrumentation of the building. It’s not just about making a building intelligent; it’s about understanding everything that there is to know about the building. And then it’s about using all that data at your fingertips to share with users or leverage it to run your daily operations more efficiently.

Once you have data about every part of the building, you can start to automate things in interesting ways. For instance, meeting rooms are often one of the priciest elements in a corporate real estate portfolio, as they tend to use a lot of high-tech equipment. But they’re also some of the most underutilized spaces. There is a lot of opportunity to suggest or automate actions based on utilization, which brings us to the next point of how to actually use this data and analytics to transform the workspace.

Three use cases for data, automation and analytics in facilities management 

There are three main categories of improvement for facilities managers and building operations teams:

  1. Real-time occupancy data helps create a better workplace experience. For example, creating an agile seating strategy by connecting accurate, real-time desk availability with existing desk booking tools for employees empowers every worker to find the right space at the right time.
  2. Repurpose underutilized spaces with usage metrics. Real-time occupancy sensors help workplace leaders iterate workplace design quickly by understanding how space is actually being used by employees from day to day.
  3. Make better decisions for future efforts. You can use analytics about how employees are using the space to shape future decisions in terms of office fit outs or re-designs.

Empowering the employee experience

The shift to hybrid work has had a huge impact on where and how employees work, the way offices are used and how facilities managers and building operations teams do their jobs. Allocation of space and resources is tricky when you don’t know who’s coming into the office or when. Some workers are excited to return to an office setting, while others want to remain remote. It’s up to you to incentivize employees to come back to the office by emphasizing the employee experience. Collecting and using data and analytics enables facilities management professionals to do just that. This information empowers optimal use of all resources while safeguarding health and increasing productivity.

About the author

Rajesh Tamada