Start planning now to succeed in the new world of hybrid work

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After months of doom and gloom, there’s finally good news – and with another effective vaccine ready to be released, now’s the time for a few new ideas on how you should plan your return to the office.

Some of these are short and medium-term measures you should take now to ensure staff have confidence that your workplace is safe – and at the same time, you need to be looking ahead and making plans for post-pandemic times when the way we use workspace has undergone a fundamental shift.

Define the new role of the office in #workplace2021

Post-pandemic, the role of the office is going to be transformed. While it will never disappear – for very good reasons – for the next few years at least the focus on other workstyles will become prevalent.

A recent survey by JLL found that “a rapid transition toward hybrid work” is taking place, where days spent remote working per week will increase from 1.2 days per week pre-pandemic increase to 2.4.

The survey also found:

  • 72 per cent of employees want to continue working from home post-crisis
  • The majority want to do so two days a week
  • 75 per cent expect their employer to support their work at home
  • 24 per cent want to work exclusively in the office
  • 50% want a hybrid approach

A study by Cushman and Wakefield predicts that in the next five years globally the number of homeworkers will double.

Yet the same study also concludes that in the next decade, due to an increase in population and increased knowledge work, offices will see occupancy leap to pre-Covid levels. Your long-term strategy should also be looking at ways of managing this.

Adopt a flexible approach now

The result of this shift in thinking means real estate leaders need to provide a workplace that is not “one size fits all”.

While offices may not enjoy 100% occupancy in the short term, it’s clear that nearly 75% of the workforce will still be going to the office – at least for some days of the week.

Many forward-thinking companies such as Google and Levi Strauss are already moving towards a hybrid approach.

Levi’s CFO Harmit Singh recently told a CNBC @Work virtual event that it had stopped investing in new commercial real estate during the crisis. He says:

“The myth that work from home is not productive has been busted. I believe we will settle into a culture where working from anywhere will be the new norm, with work from home or office or a hybrid arrangement.”

Get the right tools in place

Now is the time to look at how you can at how they can restructure your space and evaluate the technology you need to manage it.

We recommend that you look immediately at solutions involving screening, protection and tracing:

1. Screening

Prevention is better than cure. You need to evaluate solutions which can offer an easy to use, largely automated and secure solution for screening visitors and, increasingly, staff.

A robust visitor management solution enables you to pre-screen all visitors. With tight integration between the meeting room booking system and the visitor management solution, no one who is suspected of Covid 19 will be able to enter the building. For internal staff, the solution needs to alert the health and safety so track and trace can be put into place.

As part of a wider ecosystem, the solution also needs to integrate with visitor badges and entry systems while still providing a great visitor experience.

Check out our video for a practical demonstration of how this works:

2. Protection

Once visitors and employees have been approved, there is still the morning commute for many to negotiate – and no-one heading into the office wants to get there and find there’s no suitable workspace or meeting area available.

Technology can help here too. Desk booking technology based on easy-to-use graphical floorplans on a mobile device enables your “digital nomads” to easily book a safe workspace for when they are in the office.

And by safe we mean safe – all desk bookings are now made with cleaning times built-in so minimizing any fears that workers may have. Integration with desk panels ensures that no one sits at an unclean or unavailable desk and integration with Outlook ensures that desks are cleaned straightaway as service alerts are fired straightway to cleaning staff when a desk is vacated.

Integration with RFID technology also ensures that when your staff are in the office, they can access the building and check in to their desks with the minimum of touch.

The video below shows how easy it is to plan a safe day in the office using just a mobile device.

3. Tracing

An important consideration right now is being able to trace anyone who has been in the building and who they have been in contact with if there is a suspected infection.

This requires the triangulating of data from various data sets. This is an easy process thanks to technology.

Firstly, the visitor management system must be flexible enough to give the company health and safety officer the information they need as to who has externally visited and when.

Secondly, the room booking solution needs to be easily interrogated to give them information of who they have been seated with – so they can be contacted and isolated as necessary.

Finally, the desk booking solution needs to provide data on who has used the desks and who may have come into contact with them.

Check out our recent blog to see how data can drive effective visitor management and track and trace.

And what about long term?

While the impact of Covid will still be felt at least well into 2021, the return to the office will assume normality at some point.

When evaluating the technology to support your newly-flexible workforce, look for solutions that enhance both the agile working journey for your hybrid teams as well as well as providing the historical occupancy data that is required to inform future real estate decisions.

Sensor technology can also offer a particularly good fit in this scenario as it enables the ultimate no touch check-in/out process while also offering a wealth of accurate real-time utilization data. Meeting room booking and hoteling software can also offer great insight into how space is actually being used.

Conclusion

We are happy that there is light at the end of the tunnel. But in the short to medium term, real estate leaders need to plan far ahead, taking into account the health and safety of their staff as well as recognizing the shift in work styles away from the traditional office nine to five.

Technology will play a major role in getting ready for #workplace2021 while also preparing for a long-term future which may see office occupancy increasing in the next few years.

Find out more about how we can help guide you through this exciting transition – check out our agile working guide, our videos and our return to work microsite for more ideas.