The wave of change brought by the pandemic has undoubtedly swept away what we were used to thinking of as our daily routine and office life. A way of life that is firmly a thing of the past with the last few decades suddenly morphing into something entirely different.
While there is not yet a clear view on what the future workplace will become, those of us slowly returning to the office and our new reality are experiencing the workplace in a different way and through a different lens.
A new-not-new trend is driving the change in the office space… Is the post-pandemic workplace Plug & Play?
What has changed while WFH?
Concerns about unsafe environments and the thought of long commutes are some of the legitimate reasons for the hesitation to make the change from home to office.
We also cannot fail to recognise that working from home has had quite a few benefits to our work routine. It has helped us fast-track digitisation and transformation of processes. We have embraced new technologies that facilitate everyday tasks and, sometimes, made them more efficient (Read more on The Role Of Digital Transformation During The Crisis).
We’ve got things done, but it’s not been rainbows and unicorns all the time.
This fast shift to digitisation has also shown us the shortcomings of remote working. It has demonstrated how vital a robust digital infrastructure is in supporting our working life day to day.
Workplaces run at full capacity, with high-speed connectivity and overall better technology available. We probably took this for granted until we had the pleasure of working from our sofa, video calling a colleague or a client, but then experiencing a significant connection fail. Poor connectivity or the sometimes outdated tech we have at home cannot replace the superior resources that office space can guarantee. Without even taking into consideration the cyber-security concerns that working on personal devices can pose.
What’s also become very clear with the absence of the office is the disconnect to the company culture. This state of things, along with a feeling of loneliness, has affected many people’s mental health and overall wellbeing. As social beings, WFH has challenged our need for connections, face-to-face interactions and feelings of belonging. Not being immersed in the creative and energy-infused office environment, lacking the daily banter with colleagues, has left many adrift.
From long-term to flexible, from vacant to Plug & Play workplaces
A certainty is that people want to go back to the office, but not five days a week, but preferably on a more flexible basis that balances our work and personal life.
However, it seems that returning to the office full time is a desire with recent research by Gensler showing that 88% of respondents wanted to go back to the office full-time. Another survey by WK Space had some interesting results, too (see here).
What’s coming out post-lockdown is a shift in the way office space is leased/acquired and the kind of office space required in today’s market.
The era of long leases may be over with market uncertainty and the push for scalability driving the real estate industry toward shorter leases and Plug & Play workplaces. Tenants want the ability to make ‘quick’ changes in a fluctuating market without having to invest heavily for the right space. They also need the security that their workplaces are healthy places to be in.
What is a Plug & Play workplace?
A Plug & Play workplace is nothing new. Calls for this sort of flexible, and time-saving solution, have been around for a few years. Mostly driven by companies such as start-ups, which require higher flexibility in their business models, these office spaces are now becoming the norm due to the continually evolving environment.
In short, a Plug & Play workspace is:
- Ready to be moved-in without any further work needed.
- A modern, fully furnished and often fully equipped office space that lends itself to be an attractive, efficient and cost-effective solution for a company to start business from day one.
- There is no imagining how the space will turn out once fitted. These offices are ready-made with electricity, HVAC, reception service, parking space, 24/7 access, fully equipped kitchen and more.
The evolution to all-inclusive, community-centric, people-first, Plug & Play office space
Workplaces must work around the community they host.
They must become places that help create an active and engaged community, offering lifestyle amenities that remodel the old concept of office space and make it become something more. Where occupiers, employees and their visitors are happy, inspired and want to stay, even outside work.
Technology is helping make human-centric future-proofed workplaces possible, and safe
Moving from a ‘static’ office to a ‘smart’ one gives occupiers control over their space, too. A Plug & Play workplace can be improved thanks to the integration of Plug & Play technology. The use of smart devices translates into a ready-made workspace which still feels tailored to the occupiers’ own needs.
Most importantly, in the wake of the pandemic, smart workplaces are making the return safe for everyone by offering touch-free access control to both occupiers and their visitors throughout the office building. Doors, turnstiles, lifts, and parking lots can be easily accessed via their smartphones and a dedicated app. Touchpoints are reduced to a minimum thanks to the wireless nature of the tech, providing that much-needed security in navigating the office space.
Enabling workplaces with smart devices means integrating the existing building management systems into a single, 360° smart app that offers occupiers control over their preferred temperature, lighting, smart blinds settings and more. This, in turn, leads to an improved comfort and wellbeing, and gives a sense of ownership over the personal space.
Also, the tech connects occupiers and their employees with their building community and helps build a culture of work-life balance, creating a place where employees want to be. The workplace becomes a seamless experience that doesn’t stop at an insular office but expands to the full built environment, opening up new social opportunities.
Smart devices also help organise – and keep to exacting standards – the cleaning routine, bringing efficiency for both facility managers and staff (Read more on how IoT Drives Efficiencies in Facility Management). Occupiers get instant visualisation of which rooms are clean and available for use, and the staff know in real-time what meeting rooms have recently been used and are next in line for sanitisation.
With Plug & Play technology, workplaces are future-proofed to take on future challenges. As a flexible tech, cloud-based born, smart technologies quickly adapt to the trends without requiring extensive work or heavy investments to be implemented.
Innovative technology in one single integrated workplace facility management platform
Smart Spaces is a smart building operating system and community-first engagement app which supports its clients in providing workplaces ready for the future. Get in touch with us to discover how we are de-risking the return to work.