How intentional design and planning can elevate a workspace, into a workplace.
Shifting how your employees see your office and how they interact with it takes intentional design and strategy for both the physical design and how it will operate. Now this goes beyond a couple of ping pong tables and a free coffee machine.
Offices and buildings are getting internal upgrades to bring them in line with our current attitude of what we need from an office as people, not just as employees. Additionally, what we demand from a place we want to regularly return to for work has changed and so everyday practices will follow to reflect these needs.
Using technology such as IoT to help support the needs of your people and goals for your business can be a key component to cultivate a successful and sustainable workplace that can withstand future challenges.
Changes to how your workplace operates and people interact – by design is another step. However, listening to the data on how employees are using your office as well as making intentional changes to how people are treated and fostering human connection goes a long way in making the office a place they want to be.
Listen to the people
You’re not going to give your people the best office experience without listening to them, the people, on what they need, or want most. For many, they’ve been working from home for so long that they may not have a robust idea of what being in the office again actually entails.
Rather than asking them what they want from an office they haven’t been in for 2 years, if you want to get a better idea of what will benefit them, try asking what parts of their workspace at home helped them to do their job better or as well as before, and what areas they felt were missing from working at home.
People don’t know what they truly want most of the time. But they know what they don’t want, or what they don’t have. Hybrid offices are meant to be a supplement to remote work and asking your people what they’re missing and could benefit from is going to make filling the gaps and shaping the office into a destination for work a bit easier.
And listen to the data
If people are already in the office part time, consider integrating a space management or occupancy solution. Tracking metrics relevant to office use like key card scans, desk reservations, and who is in the office when gives you at least part of the picture of how the space is being used.
Combine input from people on what they individually need or are looking for in your new-look office, with the data and knowledge on how the space is already being used. Now you may be faced with a larger office overhaul than expected, here is where you must work from a place of longevity and sustainability.
Make sure the data you are utilizing covers a time period that is representative of your regular office functions. These changes are not meant to be short term band aids, but long-term solutions that will be used for the foreseeable future by your organization and will likely see technology be added in over time.
The right tools for the job
We’ve covered how to best use technology and set up your workplace, so now is probably a good time to tell you what these tools are. Deploying technology simply for the sake of it, without intention and purpose behind what it’s going to do, who for, and an end goal or purpose is not going to get you the results you need.
In the arena of optimizing your office and using technology to do so, workplace management technology is going to be the first thing on the list.
Deploying workplace technologies is going to work to both optimize and track key areas and capabilities of your office space. Occupancy and entry capabilities that include mobile key cards to enter the building track who is coming in and when, with mobile entry being a touchless and more accessible way to go about the process.
On the same track as mobile keys, mobile booking and ticket/service request support take two areas and makes them digital for easy tracking and submission of requests as well as confirmations. Leveraging technology across the board in any area that is routinely used by your people makes everyones lives easier. No more lagging IT or service tickets, with mobile booking functionalities for hybrid work support, just simple quality of life improvements that make the office a more welcoming space.
As stated before, a good complement to these tools is space management tools. Integrated with occupancy and booking usually, this makes use of sensors around the office that can see what desks, rooms, or working areas are being used how often.
The benefit to this is not to spy on your people but understand what they are using in the office and for what kind of work. If collaborative spaces such as open tables or conference rooms are seeing more use over time than the individual working desks and there is a surplus, changes in investments to resources can be made.
Providing the right space and physical resources for your people is going to be a huge step forward in creating a hybrid workplace that works for them.
Now the often forgotten about side of workplace tech and tools is things like heating, energy, the lighting systems. These are going to dictate what kind of work environment you have for your people.
Consider leveraging a software solution that measures and can actively control (automate even) these systems and their outputs to outlined levels for maximum comfort for the office. Ensuring there is quality air flow in an office to maximize health benefits, or that heating/cooling systems are operating at the right levels at certain times of the year can go a long way.
Maintaining these areas can’t be neglected, as downtime and repair costs can stack up if left unchecked. So, keeping tabs on this using a digital solution can keep your office running smoothly for the long haul.
OK, so we realize that may sound like a tall task, and a lot of different software.
Luckily, IoT makes connecting and maintaining these on a single system of record easy.
IoT refers to the internet of things, characterized by a network of systems that connect and automate several different areas at once while simultaneously collecting data from each other. Through this, and using the data collected, people can make more informed decisions while freeing up their time to focus their energy elsewhere.
IoT and your Office
These functionalities are emerging in more businesses and office spaces each year, creating what some have begun to call smart buildings or smart offices. These areas empower the employee and streamline processes across the board.
IoT in your office means more quality coming out of areas that are on the network. Digital key cards, easy to use booking systems, maintenance calendars, all supported on one network and that are automated in their work mean no human error and more responsive tools.
Smart offices help to create a space where all the “lower work” or small tasks that we might see as mundane are taken care of by a software or technology solution. Freeing up space for us to focus on business-oriented work.
These smart systems create a “smart environment” for people that is largely self-sustaining, with routine check-ins with reports of metrics and data as well as proactive maintenance making up the large part of the job.
With this also comes connectivity and productivity boosts between those who are at the office and those who are remote, once collaborative technologies are integrated. Smart offices and the efficiencies that come with them aim to form the basis for a workplace that is built on productivity and efficiency, one that has the tools and resources that employees need and make use of. A place that is used for work and that works for those who it is made for.
Nature vs Nurture?
When designing an office or workspace, it’s important to consider the reciprocal nature of how our environment impacts how we function.
We’ve all tried to do work in a place that isn’t intentionally built for the work we’re doing. A busy coffee shop, or in bed if you’re remote, or maybe even cubicles.
Designing and implementing an effective office space plan is going to go a long way.
Design and space changes
The term “hotel office” is gaining traction in places such as Silicon Valley and has some merit to the principles behind it. We may not see every building receiving lounges and convenience stores, but the inclusion of creature comforts and things such as fitness centres make up for what may be lost going from home to the office even part time.
The more people are in the office and attending work, the more collaboration and interaction and feeling of community there will be. This doesn’t have to be groundbreaking innovative business meetings, simply being around colleagues and having the social interaction that tops the list of “things we miss about the office” counts towards something.
Hence the inclusion of things like social areas and amenities that can contribute to that sense of community and gives offices something tangible to offer other than a desk in another place. Pivoting to focus on what people need, versus what the business needs from them, or what can boost that ever-elusive “productivity” metric all managers look for, will result in people wanting to be in the office and doing their best work while making use of it.
Create the office that works for you
Ultimately, creating a successful workplace regardless of if it is hybrid, or full time means adjusting from how things were done before. Finding out what your people need from an office vs what your office needs from your people is going to go a long way into getting people into the office as a result, creating a sustainable and positive workplace culture around it.
Workplace management, IoT, these solutions are layers of an overarching approach to creating a workspace people want to be in. Combined with a physical workplace that is designed specifically with supporting people in mind, the allure of going into the office will return, as will peoples excitement to be there.