For over a year now, we have been working from home with many office buildings sitting dormant. While companies have felt pressure to downsize their real estate, the physical workplace is likely going nowhere.
The most plausible future of work is a flexible hybrid model. While this system may require less dedicated workspace, it does demand a change in how current building stock is utilised and how future offices are designed and built.
Quite rightly up to this point, real-estate and facility manager conversations have focused on workplace safety. However, while this will remain key, the next phase of the future of work goes beyond updating the building to make it a viable option. It requires a fundamental shift toward making the workplace as enticing, engaging and interactive as possible to improve attendance and productivity.
Creating a safe environment
Building controls integrated with other smart building technology and applications are key to simplify, improve, and automate safety, as well as risk management. These technologies can play a central role in monitoring the environment to ensure it is as safe and comfortable as possible.
Critically, building environmental sensors can monitor air temperature and humidity, circulation of fresh outside air, as well as water temperature and flow, to understand the risk transmission in buildings.
People flow counters, area counters, and occupancy sensors can also be used to detect a different type of threat. These technologies can be used to ensure occupants are adhering to social distancing requirements or staying away from areas that haven’t been sanitised.
Creating demand for a return to work
If building developers utilise and integrate smart building technology, the public will soon realise going back to work is safe. However, this will not detract from some of the perks working from home brings. To motivate people back to the office, real estate professionals need to fundamentally rethink the office environment and experience.
This starts with individual control. At home, we are used to technology making our lives easier and more comfortable. We must begin to recognise that smart systems – connecting Internet of Things enabled devices – are fundamental to improving the working experience, both for workers and employers.
In the future, building apps will create a more productive environment. Having true, live insight into air quality, office capacity and being able to control your personal environment cannot help but provide reassurance and motivation.
Building developers and managers must look to make the ultimate environment for employees – whereas table tennis tables and Friday drinks once passed for a good workplace, modern employees demand flexibility and control in every aspect of their lives.
The future of work is built on connectivity
Today, many of our buildings suffer from one key issue – the building data produced is siloed to the extent that actionable insights are almost impossible to gleam. For our workplaces to achieve their full potential, all systems need to be connected across the building infrastructure. By doing so employees can benefit from a comfortable, controllable and safe environment, while buildings managers can manage power quality and consumption, understand building performance, and save energy and costs.
For such change to come into effect, there must be buy in across the business spectrum, from company heads and real-estate managers, to facility and office managers. Critical smart building technology can no longer be an afterthought and must be included as a fundamental element in every building.