Wayne Liko on National Newswatch: How COVID-19 Will Spur Workplace Modernization

Horizant’s managing partner Wayne Liko offered his insights on how COVID-19 will change the way we work to National Newswatch. Read the article here >

In the article, Liko said that the pandemic will not only accelerate workplace modernization, it will offer some excellent opportunities for employers to save on real property costs.

Using the Canadian federal government as an example, Liko shows how the pandemic has accelerated the trend towards remote work, and how this aligns with existing goals.

The article from National Newswatch follows below.

From the Ashes of COVID-19 the Modern Government Office

This month the province of Ontario signaled the first steps of what will be a complex and challenging return to work with the opening of certain stores and essential services but closing schools until September 2020.

We face a lot of unknowns – but one thing is clear – the modern workplace as we know it will never be the same again. Industry will continue to lead change as exemplified by Shopify’s recent announcement to go virtual until 2021 while they rethink their workplace.

During COVID-19 we have seen a massive shift in the way people work. Within Ottawa and Gatineau tens of thousands of civil servants have responded by designing and delivering complex and unprecedented relief programs linked by powerful broadband networks from their home offices.

It is as if the change that many of us in the real property community have been envisioning arrived in the span of a few weeks. Over the past two years, Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) has set ambitious goals to transform their offices with Blueprint 2020 and the GC Workplace Initiative. COVID-19 has provided us with a once in a lifetime opportunity not only to accelerate the workplace modernization but also to create a more economically and environmentally sustainable property portfolio.

Canada’s sprint toward a hyperconnected world began long before COVID-19 impacted our daily life. The global workforce has been undergoing a dramatic shift driven by the accelerating pace of innovation, and expectations of new workers — who value quality of life and want to work in places that make them feel valued. The modern workplace has had to keep pace, blending technology and design to satisfy these needs.

Workstations are being rearranged, technology is being adopted to offer collaborative spaces designed for inspiration and comfort. And for employers that means increased productivity, better mental health, the ability to attract and retain talent — which has been a core goal of every Clerk of the Privy Council.

Today’s worker is mobile, either from home or at satellite locations that cut down commuting times. Organizations need flexible space for employees to collaborate whether they are visiting from another city, another part of the organization, or a different department. Availability of space, security, privacy, accessibility, and connectivity are still challenging, especially in shared spaces.

Research Co. and Glacier Media found that almost three in four Canadians (73%) expect more people to work from home than before once the COVID-19 outbreak ends.

The return to work will have to be phased, starting with a return of 20% to 30% of employees and gradually working our way up to 50%.

Employers need to reassure workers that their safety is the overriding priority. A recent ABACUS data study of Canadian workers identified trust in their organization as a primary driver for the return to work. The solution is to create work reintegration plans that are clear, and evidence based using existing data. Agile response to ever changing parameters is key.

An effective system will allow employees to signal their intent to be in the office by reserving either an assigned or unassigned workspace. Badge or swipe cards can validate attendance and maintain utilization targets. Desk sensors could also track utilization but would enable employers to apply enhanced cleaning protocols on utilized workspaces or limit availability to ensure that the COVID-19 virus is no longer present. Employees would receive reminders about physical distancing and be assured ahead of time that maximum occupancy guidelines are followed.

Workers would be kept safe with Incident Tracking and contact tracing. Risk and compliance can be managed with optimizing existing workstation layouts for physical distancing, even capping meeting room occupancy. Employers can apply enhanced cleaning protocols and manage associated service level agreements, even consider dynamic cleaning of collaboration space.

Post-COVID-19 the data will still be in place and managers will be able to assess and re-assess their needs, understanding how the work-from-home initiatives alongside how staff are using the office and meeting spaces will influence ongoing space needs. Using this same data, they will then perform space restacks and reconfigurations to optimize the portfolio assets.

The government is committed to achieving green building targets and ensuring the sustainability and resiliency of its real property portfolio. By 2030, 75% of domestic office lease transactions must be carbon neutral in situations where the federal government represents 75% or greater of the occupied space (m2). The inevitable “new normal” will drive a different use of space along with an increase in employees working from home, a unique opportunity to reshape the overall federal building footprint. What better way to use Fixed Asset Review data, achieve greening government targets and be fiscally responsible?

With an effective data driven real property strategy the Government of Canada can make important strides. A recent Treasury Board Secretariat report showed nearly 30 per cent of the 2200 federal-government-owned buildings in the National Capital Region have been rated as “critical” or “poor.” These buildings will need large costly infrastructure investments but, if we use the data to get it right, they could be phased-out as we focus on maintaining and upgrading our more environmentally sustainable buildings.

We may have reached the tipping point for the digital transformation of our society. During COVID-19, our entire education system and social life and for many of us our jobs have moved online. Health professionals have been guiding us with the data. Nobody knows for certain what is waiting on the other side of the pandemic but we can expect change to accelerate and create government property assets that can make us all proud. Let us use the data to guide us.

 

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