As people return to work after the holidays, employers need to make their workplaces as attractive, efficient and productive as possible to encourage people back.
Hybrid working has become the norm thanks to the pandemic. That doesn’t mean the office is dead, though. With the cost-of-living crisis prompting people to reconsider working from home, the workplace is set for a renaissance. Dan Drogman, chief executive of smart building operating platform Smart Spaces – used by the likes of 22 Bishopsgate, Three Mobile, GPE, JLL, Norton Rose Fulbright, Workspace and Brookfield – explains how smart tech can improve building efficiency and help attract people back to the workplace.
How has the pandemic changed the way employees use the office
People want and need to feel in control. They want to be well-informed and clear about their boundaries. On our app, Sunday evening activity clearly shows us the level of staff engagement with the workplace. Everyone can now plan their entire week on a single platform. Companies that have already moved to hybrid working are asking colleagues to book desks and rooms in advance. This enables effective planning of team meetings, socialising and catering requirements, while minimising unnecessary journeys and food waste. Smart Spaces allows companies a level of transparency that was sorely missed during the working from home spell. This has greatly benefited individuals, too. They now feel empowered to not just negotiate but sometimes demand a level of self-determination in their working week, proving they can work from anywhere in lots of situations.
Why should businesses consider using smart tech?
I think the key reasons that a business would deploy a platform like Smart Spaces is the desire to drive sustainability and productivity, while balancing wellbeing to both attract and retain the best talent and meet their ESG agenda.
“You can understand where people are going to be and ensure resources are being maximised”
Despite the rise of new working models such as hybrid, for many employees, breaking free of the old mindset is still difficult. Companies need to give them multiple reasons to engage with colleagues in person, at the office, and that’s where smart tech really helps. You can now understand where people are going to be and ensure the resources you are providing, such as office space, rooms, facilities and so on, are being maximised, or decide whether you need a rethink.
It’s about ESG and making the most of the real estate they invested in. It’s expensive to move and everyone wants to get it right. Selecting space that’s fit for purpose is a top concern right now, especially with rising energy costs and grade A offices commanding ever greater premiums. The right smart platform will shine a spotlight on your assets and enable you to optimise all the resources you have and ensure your teams are working as productively and efficiently as possible. Optimise the physical space and your colleagues will use it more effectively.
One client had a huge office, but downsized it to a much smaller, more high-end space. They used the booking productivity tools and occupancy analytics to use that space as efficiently as possible. They actually worked out that not only did they find it easier to attract more talent to the business but that the business is operating more efficiently. They can grow into their space even more by looking at the sensor data in the app and determining that they won’t need to buy any more office space for another two years.
“The right smart platform will shine a spotlight on your assets and enable you to optimise all the resources you have”
How can companies use smart tech to engage with hybrid workers
Smart Spaces enables them to maximise their investment in the space. An app is a direct channel to the user, in their pocket and ready to use. And because our app is the access pass for the building, the whole company is exposed to the Smart Platform. We see smart tech adoption being driven by the magnetising effect of showcasing and promoting space-as-a-service to colleagues so they can make the most of their time at the office. This means companies can showcase content surrounding the office, send notifications and promote events to colleagues as they arrive or when selecting resource booking tools ahead of coming to the office.
What impact will the rise in energy costs have on the use of office space?
Another aspect of smart tech is its ability to drive significant efficiency with building management costs. What really resonates at this time is the cost savings because we have never seen energy costs like this. If you use our platform to make the workplace ultra-efficient, you could easily save up to 30 per cent of the energy costs straight away. And, if you can showcase that to colleagues, then they will make better choices about their energy consumption. We think that this winter, you’re going to see more people come into the office if they can save on their home energy bills. That’s better, because it’s more efficient to heat one space than hundreds, even thousands of homes. We can benchmark that on live dashboards as more people use office space rather than work from home.
What is the future of workplace tech?
I think the future is artificial intelligence, but don’t worry, not Hollywood AI. It has already helped us identify when there have been a lot of last-minute changes to a meeting where attendees decide to attend virtually, yet the meeting room never gets resized.
“As a business on the journey to net zero, you need to know exactly how much you’re consuming”
Thanks to our cutting-edge AI, we can automatically reallocate that room. It will cancel that booking, create a new booking for the appropriate size and then send out the new invite, fully automated. Our product can make decisions on your behalf and optimise the workspace for you, without you having to think about it.
What impact does smart tech have on staff recruitment and retention?
I think it shows that the employer is a tech-forward company. People want to work in a smart office. Everyone is becoming more conscious of the impact they’re having on the planet. And if you can truly understand what that impact is and you’re working for a company that’s actively addressing that, it’s fantastic. You can literally see how many kilos of carbon you’re consuming and what the financial cost of that is. As a business on the journey to net zero, you really need to know exactly how much you’re consuming. And then once you understand how much you consume, you can reduce it and optimise it. Smart Spaces will allow you to do that across your real estate.
How can Smart Spaces help businesses create a more productive and efficient workplace?
The key questions are: how do I reduce my carbon footprint? How do I make sure my staff are using the office as effectively as they can? How can I attract my staff to the office? Smart Spaces accesses the physical environment, allows people to book desk space, meeting rooms, car parking and wellness spaces. It can really maximise the value in a company’s real estate to ensure that it is as efficient as possible and make sure its employees are as productive as possible. It gives employees access to those resources in an easy-to-use, simple platform.
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