By James Shannon, Chief Product Officer at flexible workspace technology specialists essensys:
Across all industries, employees are adjusting to a new and distributed way of working. And the real estate industry is no different. Many occupiers can now choose between a home office, corporate office, or a flexible workspace. Gone are the days where corporates would dictate where, when and how people would work. And if the commercial property landlords don’t react, they could face having a lot of empty space on their hands. And as we know, empty space begets empty space – it is imperative that landlords react to the changing seasons now, or they may quickly become outdated and irrelevant in today’s market.
Although we have yet to learn the pandemic’s full impact on the office sector, we can make a few observations around why the office is still relevant for a number of reasons – and how landlords can utilise space most effectively to remain relevant in the eyes of occupiers.
For one, the office is not dead.
The office environment is more than an overhead expense. It is a driver for talent acquisition and retention, and grants an invaluable opportunity for employees to collaborate, build community, and nurture a corporate culture. The workplace has also become a critical consideration when thinking about employee health and well-being.
Second, workspace providers face growing demand from occupiers for responsive, agile, and flexible real estate solutions.
Occupiers are looking to flex as a strategic workplace solution and the real estate value chain is evolving. Space providers, including asset owners and asset managers, are under pressure to adjust to market demands and engineer flexibility into their proposition. While some have figured it out, others are only just stepping in. The bottom line is, though, occupiers want spaces that are customisable to their needs, and are ready to move in quickly, while providing full connectivity.
Lastly, a space proposition should be compelling enough to justify a trip to the office.
A broadly fragmented approach to “the office” has inspired a more holistic consideration of the occupier journey. Challenges posed by commuting to and from an office post-pandemic include social distancing, longer queues, and limited elevator capacity, to name a few. Space providers must ensure an excellent experience once the end-user arrives. The environment needs to be both safe and better in the office, than it is at home. The office needs to provide real incentives for workers to attend. Due to the pandemic, remote working has seen us become very untethered – from both the business and each other – and that is a mindset that will be tackled only through providing an appealing place of work.
How can space providers and asset owners build a compelling space proposition?
Since the beginning of the pandemic, contactless payments, ordering via an app on your phone and accessing buildings through scanning a QR code has come into full fruition as a result of the need to keep a safe distance.
Smart access control ensures touch-less entry and tighter control over who is granted access to the facilities. Removing the need to touch doors, key cards, or interact with reception makes the arrival process seamless. Cloud-based access control solutions allow staff to manage user credentials remotely, accommodate frequently changing schedules, and empower occupiers to consume space and amenities as and when they need it.
Predictable digital experience
Employees will travel to the office expecting a better Wi-Fi and internet connection than at home, especially to conduct specific work such as uploading large media files, hosting a video conference, or performing monthly bill runs. The key here is having the ability to link directly to major cloud providers without multiple internet hops and having dedicated network access that ensures that other users cannot hog the connection. This can dramatically improve the user experience on all cloud applications – think no more “unstable connections” on Zoom calls.
Secure and reliable
As flex-space uptake among corporates rises, so too does service expectations – particularly when it comes to security and connectivity. Privacy and compliance assurances, SLAs, uptime guarantees, geo-redundancy, and security are part of a growing checklist of IT requirements. Space providers must consider how they offer peace of mind to enterprise tenants and protect their critical data to the latest regulatory standards.
Part of extending a premium work experience is the ability to offer services that enable productivity. With an influx of remote working, basic telephony and virtual office features can keep members connected and self-sufficient regardless of where they’re working at any given moment. For example, softphone functionality enables end-users to access voice services from anywhere via their mobile device while also giving workspace staff the ability to answer and manage clients’ calls remotely. In today’s market, continuity of services is a key differentiator.
Occupiers and providers must have visibility over how many people are utilising the space. Real-time occupancy can be measured by Wi-Fi and offers a view of who is in the office and where. This information facilitates the creation of new floor plans or tweaks to space layouts that help occupiers keep at a safe distance.
Creating a productive and safe office environment is a top priority. Technology can play a vital role in activating a compelling flex-space proposition.