Absence can make the heart grow fonder. It can also provide the distance required to see things from the proper perspective.
Since early 2020 many of us have been on a roller coaster of mixed feelings about our work locations. Many of us have simultaneously loved and hated the hybrid and work from home scenarios resulting from COVID.
Some are eager to go back to the office. Some do not want to return. Some are in the middle.
With Canada’s national office vacancy rate rising to 15.7% this 3rd Quarter of 2021, we are currently at an all-time high, even exceeding the global financial crisis rates. This signals for a complete turnaround of focus – how to make the workspace better post-COVID.
For better or worse, we have learned a lot about what we need from the places we work. Getting people back into our spaces will require more than open doors.
Workspaces will need to adapt – using technology – to meet the needs of their users.
The onus will be on the workplace to be a destination of choice. This shift will be led by technology.
So, where to start?
At Attain, we start by asking about the tenant experience.
What lessons can we take from the at-home or hybrid experience to make the workspace appealing? More specifically, how can we bring people from their homes back to the workplace?
Presence of Collaborative Tools
Software tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and JamBoards have facilitated communication amongst teams while working at home during COVID.
However, something that’s lacking from a wholly remote-working world is the difficulty of genuine social interaction. One of the things that people have missed the most during the pandemic is spending time with their favourite co-workers. It’s also been difficult to engage in real conversations and idea planning when working from remote locations.
Now that we’re ready to make a move back into the office, however, there’s a need for collaboration tools and audio-visual spaces where people, and conversation, can thrive.
There’s more desire than ever for technological, audio-visual solutions such as screens and boardroom fit-ups to support a collaborative working environment. The hybrid system is not going away anytime soon, and we need to adapt to bring these AV solutions during the early planning and interior design stages. This would enable tailor-fitting the infrastructure, electrical, and overall style according to the tenant’s demands without going over the budget and construction timeframe.
The right systems setup would definitely support the existing hybrid working model. Working from home with all the additional collaborative tools means empowering the workforce inside their workspace.
When working on a project as part of a team, having access to tools and technology makes the process much more effective. It means that no matter where people are working, they all have access to the same information and can be equally involved in the discussion.
Flexibility and Mobilization
We’ve all become used to being in our homes, yards, and cars 24/7. Home has become somewhere we both live and work and, by now, we’ve got ourselves set up in a designated workspace. Even if it is in the corner of the bedroom or the kitchen table.
For some, it’s heaven. For others, it’s stifling.
Getting back into the office gives people the chance to go beyond their own four walls. It’s an opportunity to be back in a “work environment” once again.
To encourage people back out into the outside world, there needs to be the option for flexible working, both at home and in the office.
Multitasking is easy when you’re working at home. You can do things you need to do around the house, go to the gym at lunch, and take your work out for a cup of coffee whenever you feel like it.
To make the move back into the office space desirable, there needs to be a replication of the flexibility and ease of multitasking.
Incorporating a gym or coffee bar in the office helps people to make use of these facilities and mimic some of the flexibility of working from home. It also helps people break up their workday. There’s also a desire to have things like walking desks that allow people to walk while they work so that they can exercise at the same time as doing their job.
An office workspace can (and arguably must) be redesigned to account for the need for multitasking, and this is what we take pride in doing. This time, it’s not just about the incorporation of amenities. We ensure work coverage throughout all sections of the workspace including the gym, cafeteria, hallway lounges, and break bays. You will be equipped and ready to do your job no matter where you are in the building.
Redefining the Workday
When does the workday start?
For some, it’s when the alarm goes off in the morning, and they check their emails.
For others, it’s when they park their car in the lot, walk into the lobby, or sit down at their desk with a coffee.
For our tenants, it’s about making sure they take control of their day.
Our building sensors and integrated systems allow users to check in on the workplace when they wake up, check-in on the traffic and coordinate their work schedule. With connectivity and integration between systems, this can be flexible enough that it works for everyone. A business system that allows people to work from where they like, and when they like, in the knowledge that they have access to everything they need, means that the workday no longer has to be 9-5 or from a set location.
When working from home, you can be as toasty warm or as freezing cold as you want to be. But the temperature regulation in a large office building can often run off a single thermostat – or worse, on a pre-set routine based on the time of year.
All it takes is an unexpectedly cool summer day or an unusually warm winter day, and suddenly the climate of your work environment is an unwelcome distraction.
With our Smart Buildings, it’s possible to fix problems that offices have traditionally faced. Smart Buildings use sensors and building controls to make sure the space is kept comfortable for everyone. Temperature, light, and humidity can all be managed to make sure the workplace is enjoyable. These changes answer not only the physical comfort but results in users being more focused in their work-conducive environment. The result? An increase in their productivity level as well.
This sustainable move to conversion from traditional infrastructure can also provide remarkable spending cuts through building efficiency. The inclusion of smart control of the environment can help answer existing energy-supporting mandates required of businesses.
Ensuring Work Safety
When we’re working from home, we can take control of what’s happening around us. This is one of the biggest considerations when people make the move back into the office in the post-pandemic era.
The space has to be safe to feel safe. Employees need to know they are secure and well taken care of.
But how do you do that?
Our innovative security systems aid in promoting safety in more ways than one. Not only are we making people aware of their working environment, but we are also giving them the power to make informed choices.
For example, knowing the volume of people at a specific time and place allows the facilitation of fast and flexible cleaning protocols. Access tools like security swipe cards provide data and allow inputs in managing and controlling traffic, preventing overcrowding. Our integrated room scheduling, and occupancy management systems offer comfort of security.
People can now make informed choices related to their environment, from workplace traffic to adaptable cleaning arrangements. The future post-pandemic is about making sure the building is secure, and more importantly, making individuals know they are safe.
Trying to cope with spotty internet, dropped calls and a dead data zone is incredibly frustrating when you’re trying to work from home.
When you’re in the office, they’re intolerable.
Buildings need to incorporate the right connectivity solution to make sure it meets the needs of the business. And unless you want to replace the hardware in five years’ time, the facilities available also need to be ready for advancements in technology as and when they happen (5G and IoT, for example).
We need universal connectivity. A good internet connection is not a want, but a need. It’s an expectation. But beyond this desire and expectation, smart technology can only work flawlessly if all systems are connected – including basements, stairwells, elevator shafts – and in line with the Smart Building’s network continuity.
With ubiquitous connectivity, tenants are access to a more fluid, flexible, and cost-efficient workplace.
If you build it, they will come. Right?
The important consideration for a move back into the office and the future of the workspace is the smart use of technology to make working from the office better than working from home.
What we want and need from the office has changed for good, and we now expect different things from the space that we occupy. People should feel like they want to go into the office – not because it’s where they need to be, but because it helps them to do a better job.
This is best achieved through the use of technology. An increase in the number of people working remotely and hybrid working means that there needs to be unfailing connectivity between people. Those not working in the office need to be able to work with those that are. The technology needs to account for a workday that looks different from how it used to. It should make it easier for people to be flexible in how they work.
Here at Attain, we understand how to equip office spaces with the technology they need for businesses and employees to succeed. To see how we can help you, please get in touch, and we can discuss your needs.