What is the future of the workplace?
Many organisations are planning a phased return to the office and looking at ways to ensure the safety and wellbeing of returning employees.
With large numbers of people working remotely during the pandemic, it seems the world’s largest flexible working experiment has been largely successful. This is likely to have a profound impact on the way we work in the future, changing the landscape of office space for good.
Many places are already looking beyond the traditional concept of ‘the office’, with more remote and flexible working planned. There may be a split between working from home and the office, and many companies will invest money saved on physical office space and overheads into transforming offices into healthier and more sustainable places where people will want to go and spend time with their colleagues. This will still be an important part of working lives, as interaction and collaboration face-to-face is a key part of successful working.
How can workplace tech support a safe return now and help to manage office spaces in the future?
It’s important for managers to consider tech solutions that support them both long and short term. Yes, they can stick up screens, but these can be a costly investment which won’t be needed forever. Smart sensor technology can be used to support a phased return, but also brings a host of benefits which will enhance post-pandemic working.
During a phased return, occupancy sensors can help make sure levels don’t exceed the recommended maximum. These can also be used while social distancing is in place, blocking out desks to ensure the correct spacing is used.
Extra cleaning is likely to be needed at least for a while. This technology can detect which desks and meeting rooms have been used, so they can be cleaned before the next person or team uses them.
In areas where risk of transmission is high, such as restrooms, discreet magnetic sensors can also trigger cleaning alarms – so the more often they’re used, the more often they can be cleaned. Sensor technology can also help to manage occupancy in these smaller areas.
Air quality is also a big factor in the return to work. Current recommendations are to have as much fresh air as possible circulating in enclosed spaces, so monitoring real-time environmental conditions can alert occupants to open a window to get more fresh air, or turn ventilation on.
Long term, sensors can help managers to plan their space more effectively, with real-time data supporting the optimum uses of rooms in the office. They can also help with energy savings, with accurate monitoring of HVAC meaning systems can be automatically adjusted and controlled – leading to long-term energy savings.
Communication is also key, especially for companies deploying new technology in the workplace. Retaining employees’ trust is vital, and so they need to understand why the technology is being used and what the benefits will be to them – ultimately a healthier and more productive workplace. So often we associate being at a desk with being industrious, but remote working has taught us that isn’t the case.
Many organisations are also realising the importance of wellness and wellbeing at work as part of talent retention. A pleasant working environment can have a huge impact in whether people want to work in a particular company.
There won’t be just one answer to everyone’s needs. It’s about collaborative working and learning, bringing technologies together to create a safe and sustainable space to work.