We all need to think differently about our connecting Work Spaces

In recent weeks I have been thinking about our business environment differently. The past few months have forced the majority of us to work in different ways. We have become in a very short time “remote workers.” in necessity and need.

Yet for many “newbies” in remote working, who have been working from home in these last few months, are now facing the decision of when and if they can return to their old normal of their office. It is a difficult decision and one that needs careful consideration and clarification of “how safe is this and what will have changed in my old working environment?”

Going back to the business office is undergoing such a radical shift due to the pandemic and all of what it has forced us to do; social distancing, being in lockdown, minimizing physical contact. The environment we work in is not simply a physical one, it has become a psychological one to manage as well.

During this week I was listening to one of a series of discussions or webinars about the massive changes being undergoing in a new reality in our business buildings. These helpful discussions instigated by Comfy called “thinking beyond workplace re-entry” was timely, and very relevant to trigger my thinking a little more.

We all need to feel reassured it is safe to return to our place of work expecting the place of work has suddenly changed to something radically different. One where we will be managed differently, working from home for days of a week and treating the office space as a place to not go every day but for collaborative and team situations and meetings needed to attend, but in radically different ways by keeping physical distance.

What was accepted as normal in the past for bringing people together in a common working environment is undergoing fundamental change, and this needs managing and optimizing differently.

You have to also wonder at this point in time has the future of work we have all understood was coming towards us is suddenly, in less than four months, actually arrived? Like anything new, it is often messy and needs our thinking to evolve to adjust to a new normal.

Firstly, our working environment is radically changing.

Whereas in the past, the management of properties was concerned with maximizing their occupancy yield, utilization, and the density of space by driving these upwards of 85% plus in productivity and efficiency methods, today, the whole need has changed.

The new paradigm is where these working environments are safe. The density of space has pivoted to “making space” and “providing trust” with the returning employee looking at two essential points of concern.

Firstly, will I feel safe in returning to work? Secondly, how can I navigate my space to keep social distancing and know the environment is safe.

Presently there is a need to manage space utilization and density down at safe levels of 30% to allow for social distancing and providing reassurance and trust that the working environment, post-Corona Virus, is a safe place to go back too.

The health and safety of employees have become paramount.

The new norm in building and office management and office is to keep to our own safe spaces, to minimize overcrowding and physical contact. To achieve this, employers and building management have been looking at developing different ways, guidelines, and policies to navigate this change of giving you “personal safe space”.

It is not simply a matter of “just turning up” anymore, it is turning up at the appropriate times that allow for a collaborative environment that is safe, secure, and well-managed on all the health and safety issues we are learning about due to the Corona Virus. Our place of work needs greater scheduling, be it at home or in our old office environment radically different

Today, the management of this change in working environments has extended well beyond one office, it has become one that needs to function in multiple places. These include our home or spaces where work can be undertaken, including your old office building and this, requires a robust technology solution.

We need to migrate our different technologies required in this “at a distance” world to enable us to stay connected, fully engaged, and highly collaborative, and maintain our productivity. We need different tools to have a way to communicate, to schedule, to plan, to attend or not, and that again needs a series of technology platforms.

The conversation I listened too triggered a load of thoughts for me

  • Today our workspaces are not about “utilization and maximizing the density of space”, it is about safety, protecting the health of the employee, giving that right environment that they will be feeling safe.
  • It is all about knowing that having my space being well and thoughtfully managed so I can feel comfortable and believe my office environment is a “healthy building” that supports my needs and concerns and keeps me safe and well.
  • Each building has a lifecycle that needs constant management that connects with our needs in different ways- it becomes unique to each of us, and technology joins all of this up.
  • Our buildings are dynamic and adjusting. Actually, the building is now needing to adjust to us, not the other way round.
  • We still need to make a building intelligent so it all needs to be connected up. That takes time and as we move towards a new normal the essentials of connecting up a building will need to accelerate.
  • The new standards of connected building performance are keeping “us” safe and secure but they still have to optimize to give a different “yield” of performance.
  • If our utilization and occupancy readjust to only 30% density of floor occupancy what does that mean in rents, use, and a building’s economical future? That new uncertainty has yet to play out.
  • The shift we are undergoing is the person entering the building needs to feel safe and secure. The data collected will be far more informing them of their environment than ever before.

We are entering a world of new smarter connecting possibilities

Having services that respond to demand, even perhaps anticipate your needs, react to changes, or provide an environment where monitoring is for your security and safety, one that can give you not just a feeling of belonging but a “peace of mind” to allow you to simply just get on with the work you need to do.

It has been argued that providing a  comfortable environment positively improves our cognitive abilities; it allows us to concentrate and problem-solve and builds that feeling that we can be more innovative. To bring back employees we need to make that environment as safe, secure, and personal to their needs.

Managing our buildings intelligently is on a radically different plain now

Much of the change is ahead. For instance, you begin to appreciate the value of having a fully connected building and technology solutions that will I am sure going to evolve rapidly by technology companies like Comfy.

The value of the single app gives all those involved in the working environment a comfort to be fully connected up to get on with their assigned jobs.

Having office solutions that connect your environment is yet another “accelerant” to a digitally transformed world, dramatically brought on by the pandemic where technology will continue to give us even more space and utility to perform in new ways.

It is amazing how a webinar can trigger your thinking so much

Author: @paul4innovating

A transition advocate for innovation, ecosystems and the energy system

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