In these days where hybrid working has become a norm – even expected – it’s worth remembering how it used to be.
Pre-pandemic, for instance, 60% of workers in India told a survey that their work-life balance rated from average to terrible. It’s a story that could have been told anywhere in the world.
Today’s more worker-centric conditions are now giving facilities managers and office managers a big opportunity to put things right.
Organisations around the world are thinking hard about how they use their workspace, and about how to create a better employee experience.
It makes good economic sense to ensure desks and meeting rooms are fully utilized, and wellbeing is now high on the workplace agenda.
Staff are more demanding about their working conditions, and retaining the best talent depends on giving them a good experience that promotes wellness and productivity every time they come into the office.
Is the workplace still changing?
Absolutely – and it will continue to evolve as new working patterns become business as usual. Getting workers to come to the office is more difficult than before: a global survey by AWA of 80,000 employees found they are only in the office on average1.4 days a week.
So workplace leaders are making their offices more attractive places to be, reviewing the types of space they provide to make sure they fit the way their employees work today. Some firms are downsizing; others are reconfiguring to increase flexibility and collaboration.
Employers are also being encouraged to manage with empathy – something that could be noticeably hard to come by in the old days.
Gartner ® states: “HR leaders must create a new, human-centric model that is fit for the hybrid environment by designing work around employee-driven flexibility, intentional collaboration and empathy-based management.”
So what will happen next?
Every organisation is tackling hybrid success differently, but most are in agreement that our definition of the office and what we do there will continue to change.
Deloitte reports: “Increasingly, offices will be reserved for face-to-face interactions and team-based activities, and enhancing collaboration and innovation, while employees would continue to work remotely for more individualized tasks and assignments.”
That’s logical – but could be anarchic if not organised properly. It’s an issue in many workplaces: the Future of Work report by AT&T shows hybrid working will be the default by 2024 – but 72% of businesses still do not have a detailed strategy.
Recipe for chaos?
Industry champion Luis De Souza, CEO of NFS Technology, says: “It’s worrying that many organisations are implementing hybrid working without a well thought-out strategy.
“Ad hoc space utilisation in this hybrid world creates poor use of space and a disappointing employee experience that affects productivity, wellness and talent retention.”
Those making the easiest transition are those using workplace technology to support their agile workers. Their systems also capture data on how desks and meeting rooms are actually being used.
“Analysing detailed real-time information supports good planning decisions . These create an efficient, cost-effective working environment that flex as the requirements of the company and the employees evolve,” said Luis
Benefits of a hybrid working strategy supported by data
Improved utilisation of space
A enhanced experience for employees, encouraging collaboration, productivity and wellbeing
Rationalised real estate costs, with opportunities for downsizing or repurposing space
Better productivity, with less time spent on admin.
The technology toolkit for hybrid working
Workspace management technology is now an ecosystem that sustains and enriches any working environment. Elements include:
Desk and meeting space booking – agile workers locate and book the workspace they need via a mobile app. They check in and out with touch-free QR codes.
Meeting room scheduling – staff use an app to set up a meeting even across multiple locations. In one transaction they can book space and equipment, invite virtual and in-person attendees and add catering, parking etc. Changes are notified to everyone involved automatically.
Sensors – integrated with room and desk scheduling software these provide data in real time on utilisation, and can identify traffic flow, possible congestion and irregular airflow. Alerts can request responses from the FM team or feed into BMS.
Reverse hoteling – fixed desks convert automatically to hot desks when their users don’t need them
Colleague location – workers use the app to discover where and when their project colleagues are in the office.
Visitor management – enhanced entry into buildings and areas , with instant reporting for health, safety and security, for visitors and staff.
Wayfinding: digital signage helps employees and visitors find their meeting room or desk.
Integrated technologies – these include desk panels for automated check in and out; in-room panels where meeting attendees can make changes and place orders without leaving the room.
Success stories from around the globe
Organisations worldwide are seeing the rewards of workspace management technology. Here are just 4 examples:
A leading financial services firm consolidated two buildings into one, resulting in $500,000 annual savings, after utilisation data gave a clear picture of how the space was being used. Source: CBRE Global Occupancy Insights
Global legal experts Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner gave 25 offices easy control of meeting rooms across the whole estate, and gained detailed data on usage.
A major global financial firm thought it had a small meeting room shortage. Data capture showed some small meeting rooms were booked for full days but used for only 2 hours. Tackling this released over 40% of previously booked blocked space.
A US financial giant wanted to track how different teams used desks on different days, but many people were not checking in and out. Desk panels automated the process, capturing the required data and making the employee experience better.
Luis De Souza says: “PWC recently said ‘digital transformation is about people’, and our workplace industry is now highly driven by the needs and desires of workers.
“Organisations are starting to understand how their new hybrid workplaces must operate, and designing them to get good collaboration, wellness, productivity and talent retention.
“Leading firms have shown that the secret of success is underpinning every aspect of the workplace with supportive technology that captures actionable data.
“Hybrid working will remain a hot topic for some time. As a technology company, we are sure today’s new-look workforce can only thrive when technology is put at its fingertips – and we’ll continue to share practical advice gained from direct experience of what’s working for our clients.”
Gartner ®, 2021. “Redesigning Work for the Hybrid World: Opportunities for Knowledge Workers.” GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally and is used herein with permission.