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How Smart Buildings Support Hybrid Working?

20 Dec 2021

A variety of research has revealed that following the pandemic, most workers have a desire to continue working from home at least some of the time. This has led to the evolution of the hybrid working model, which is seeing rapid adoption across many industries. In this article, we’ll be answering the question, what is hybrid working, whilst exploring the numerous considerations employers will need to make on introducing the model, and how technology, namely smart building technology, can streamline and support it.

Numerous studies, including YouGov survey and CIPD research, have revealed that, following the pandemic, most workers wish to continue to work from home at least some of the time.

Embedding new ways of working post-pandemic, a report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), shows that 40 per cent of employers expected over half their workforce to work regularly from home once the pandemic has subsided.

According to data from the Office of National Statistics, before COVID-19, only around 5 per cent of staff worked mainly from home. The pandemic, and the government requirement for people to stay at home, boosted this considerably.

However, according to the CIPD research, before the pandemic, 65 per cent of employers either did not offer regular working from home at all or offered it to a maximum of 10 per cent of their workforce. Following the pandemic, the 65 per cent is expected to decrease significantly to 37 per cent, demonstrating a major shift in ways of working, which employers will have no choice but to get used to.

While some workers have a desire to work from home permanently after the pandemic, the majority would prefer a balance where they are in the office for some of the week, and at home for the rest.

This desire has led to the introduction of the term known as hybrid working, a model which has led many organisations to think about what ‘hybrid’ means for them, how they will meet this new demand, and what they will need to do to be ready for hybrid working to be effective.

What is Hybrid Working?

Tenant Experience app

Hybrid working is where staff split their time between their workplace and working remotely. Remote working will usually involve working from home.

For employers, there are numerous benefits to allowing staff to follow this flexible working method. These include:

  1. Potential reduction in overheads due to a reduced need for physical workspace.
  2. Better work-life balance for employees, who will as a result feel more valued. This will generally lead to increased productivity and reduced staff turnover.
  3. Improved staff retention and talent acquisition due to a more engaged workforce, higher levels of job satisfaction and fewer absences.

Whilst the benefits of hybrid working are clear to see, employers will inevitably face challenges as they begin to roll it out. It will be crucial to find ways to maintain team and company culture; to work collaboratively; to mentor, manage and train staff; to ensure isolation does not become an issue; to ensure the workplace is an appealing place to be, and to keep a check on health and safety and mental health.

Practical issues such as cyber security, data protection, the provision of equipment for staff, and insurance, will all add to the new responsibilities that hybrid working will bring.

What to consider when adopting a hybrid working model?

Employers moving to hybrid working will need to consider the tasks that need to be done onsite, and which can be carried out at home.

Managing staff supervision and well-being and maintaining company values and culture are important, as are ensuring customers’ needs continue to be met and the reputation of the organisation is upheld.

Important considerations will include:

  • What are the core times for employees to work together?
  • How often should teams meet in person?
  • How will feelings of isolation be prevented?
  • How will teams communicate?
  • How will you make your workplace somewhere staff enjoy spending time?
  • How will you manage your workspace and desk or meeting room allocation?
  • How will you harness the power of technology to make hybrid working work for your organisation?

It is essential to balance the needs of your customers with those of your workforce when adopting a hybrid working model. Making use of technology will help to keep everything in balance. But technology is not just limited to improving communication channels. It can also be used to efficiently manage a workspace, which is something that could quite quickly become a burden with staff coming and going more.

The allocation of workspace, especially conference rooms, meeting hubs and desks that will inevitably come with hybrid working can easily cause an administrative headache, eating into valuable time and potentially having a negative effect on customer service. But workplace automation, a feature of the smart building, will help to ease the burden.

What is workplace automation and how can it support hybrid working?

Digital twin desk booking system

Workplace automation involves the use of Internet of Things technology to streamline a variety of tasks, freeing up administrative time in the process. Such tasks could be anything from checking in visitors to managing heating and lighting systems and controlling access to various parts of the premises. Desk and meeting room allocation can also be automated.

Staff use an app on their smartphones to book space for when they’re going to be in the office, so they’ll know in advance that they’ll be accommodated, leaving nothing to chance. They can also book parking spaces, access passes and more.

The beauty of smart building technology is the data that it relays. This is intelligence that can power strategic decisions that can cut costs, reduce energy consumption, boost productivity and enhance workplace well-being. Creating a healthy building becomes possible, which makes the workplace way more attractive and in doing so, helps to support the hybrid working model.

In the case of desk and meeting space allocation, the data produced can reveal which spaces are frequently unused, and could therefore be converted into breakout zones or meeting spaces, or something else that makes the workplace more attractive to staff. It could also show whether there is a case for downsizing to smaller premises.

Automating the process of allocating desk space and meeting rooms has more benefits than data production. It also has the ability to eliminate double bookings, leaving everyone all the happier.

Automated alerts can also be sent to cleaning teams once rooms are vacated, so they can be prepared in time for the arrival of the next occupants. Facilities management can be notified to replenish refreshments too.

With hybrid working becoming so popular, is it time to harness the power of smart building technology and workplace automation to support your organisation through the transition?

Smart Spaces: Powering the hybrid working revolution

Smart Spaces is an app-based platform that collates data from Internet of Things connected sensors fitted around a building. This data is fed into a central dashboard where it can be analysed, and artificial and machine learning applied to automate processes, many of which can support hybrid working.

To discover how Smart Spaces could help streamline your hybrid working model, you are welcome to get in touch or request a demo.

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