When people return to the office cautiously, some consensus is formed on what the new workplace should look like.
Outside of the cubicle farms, there are “huddle rooms” and “telephone booths”
Real estate owners strive to balance space consolidation opportunities by presenting remote work with the need to be sensitive to employee experience during unprecedented turnover.
“This is Wild West now,” said Brad Golden, Customer Success Manager at VergeSense, which develops technology to help business leaders understand workplace usage. “Many companies have return policies in their offices but do not know how many people are returning and how the space will be used.”
One of the clever variables is that people have different reasons for coming back, Golden says. “Some people want to come to the office for the feeling of cooperation, social communication and togetherness while others want a kind of boundary from home,” he said.
“The purpose of the office must be seen differently.”
VergeSense’s technology helps business executives and building owners understand the use and occupancy of buildings, floors, seating areas, conference rooms and individual desks to constantly tinker with layout and amenities to meet employee needs.
The company has seen a strong interest in “phone booths”, which are moving, enclosed rooms designed to be occupied by one person that provide a sense of privacy even in the middle of a large space.
Businesses are also embracing “neighbors”, a multifaceted workplace with booths, nooks, conference rooms and seating areas designed to encourage collaboration.
“Employee experience is as important as consolidating real estate space for overall business performance,” Golden said. “Good design influences staff experience.”
The interest of colleagues increases
In many cases, the office that people return to will not be the office they left two years ago.
Interest in peer-to-peer facilities, which provide rental office space for individuals or small groups, has grown over the past two years. As a result, according to peer-to-peer resources, the number of facilities is expected to double from 20,000 in 2020 to 40,000 by 2024.
“We thought peers were the wave of the future in 2019, but we thought it would probably last seven or eight years,” said Michael White, president of Venture X, which operates about 50 peer locations worldwide. “We are now where we thought we would be five years from now.”
Occupancy levels in each of Venture X’s 50 facilities have grown exponentially, and the length of tenancy has also increased, with many companies signing up for 12- or 24-month commitments, White said.
The trend is playing everywhere.
“Some countries are ahead of us; England adopted this model a year before us,” he said.
He says one reason driving the trend is the search for shorter travel times.
“People in the city market were willing to drive 20 to 25 minutes to get to work. Now it’s 10 to 15 minutes,” White said.
In addition, as tenant profiles have shifted from most entrepreneurs to a growing number of corporate satellite offices, Venture X is investing in expanded conference rooms and technology to support larger meetings. “In 2019, nobody paid much attention to that,” he said.
Awareness in the workplace
Whatever the new general office look, you can be sure that mobile apps will be a part of it.
Snyder Electric, which makes a wide range of environmental control products, has used the lessons learned from the epidemic to create an app that integrates building data into a health and safety dashboard for employees. Built on Modo Labs’ low-code platform, the EcoStruxure Engage app sends alerts when power outages and provides guided parking instructions, unique comfort controls, meal options and in-app communication.
Cloud identity management firm Okta used Modo Labs’ toolset to create a “digital concierge” app Atmosphere to return to the office and released it as a free download.
Users can use it to book conference rooms, identify amenities, reserve smart lockers, and report workplace issues when they receive real-time updates on events and peer schedules.
Wayleadr is dealing with the frustration of trying to find a parking space, a job that costs the average suburban car owner 17 hours a year and 107 hours for New York City residents.
Its software enables businesses to optimize the use of parking spaces by predicting occupancy, allowing spots to be saved and leaving designated spaces when people are out of the office.
The startup claims that it can improve parking lot space efficiency by 40% while eliminating one of the most exciting parts of many people’s commute.
All of this shows that while the last two years have been exciting, some good things have come out of the experience.
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