The pandemic has shifted our perception of the traditional office. Gone are the 8-hour work shifts and structured 5-days-a-week in the office. COVID-19 has required many businesses to reevaluate their working habits as well as their office space, and make some drastic changes. Some of the largest companies in the US announced that employees will work remotely with optional in-office time for the foreseeable future, including the likes of Slack, Twitter, Okta, Facebook, and Dropbox. When it comes to reimagining the workplace to ensure safety without sacrificing productivity, enterprise companies are looking to flexible workspaces and new technology tools to meet the challenges of a pandemic-proof office environment.
Creating a more flexible workplace starts with reimagining the way people get into the office, where they do their work, and how administrators manage the space. The key elements of successfully adapting the enterprise office post-pandemic will address social distancing at work, remote management tools, and the ability to automate processes with reduced overhead. The right technology tools can help you return to work safely now, and future-proof your space by streamlining day-to-day operations for long-term success.
While social distancing is one of the best ways to keep people safe during a pandemic according to the CDC, it adds a layer of complication when trying to return to the office. The recent trend towards open office layouts was great for fitting more people into less space—the opposite of what’s now needed for social distancing.
For many enterprise businesses, reimagining the office layout will depend on how many employees are coming back to the office. Even if the majority of employees are still working remotely, many enterprise companies see the benefit in having the option to work at the office, whether it’s to have access to office amenities they need, collaborating with cross-functional teams, or meeting with clients. Reimagining the space inside the office, and finding efficient ways to manage the number of people going in, are crucial before welcoming employees back to work.
Since it’s not possible for every employee to have their own individual office, reimagining the workplace layout is the best way to adhere to social distancing guidelines. For many enterprise businesses, this usually looks like reconfiguring the desk spaces to make sure there’s ample room between workstations for social distancing. For open layout offices, adding barriers between desks or putting an empty desk between each workstation can help make social distancing possible if the furniture cannot be rearranged.
If you’ve ever had to plan a seating chart, you know how much of a hassle this can be, especially across a multi-site enterprise. An interactive seating chart tool helps take the headache out of reimagining the office space, and eliminates the outdated spreadsheet method. With digital tools to create desk configurations, assign seats, and manage each floor, a virtual planning tool can save time and take the pressure off office managers. Plus, the virtual snapshot makes it easy to accommodate new hires, reconfigure the space for meetings, and gain a better understanding of office inventory.
Occupancy tracking tools are also a great resource for reimagining the office layout. Occupancy data tells you which spaces are used more frequently and for how long, helping you make informed decisions.
Taking a page from coworking offices, enterprise businesses are investing in reservation apps and software to manage how many people are coming into the office. Similar to an office with shared resources, the software requires employees to pre-book their workstations, conference rooms, and amenity spaces. Using an app minimizes extra burden on your administrative teams and streamlines the process. With all reservations made in advance, office managers are in-tune with how many people to expect at work, which spaces need to be cleaned, and which supplies are needed. Many apps will allow you to set limits on how many people can book at a given time, effectively managing the occupancy levels in your office.
Digital booking apps also improve the office experience for employees, as they’ll know exactly when they can go to the office and what spaces they have reserved—no more double-booked conference rooms or walking in circles looking for an open desk. Plus, when you know how many people to expect and where they’ll be, you can easily adjust schedules and plans accordingly to make sure the workplace maintains a safe occupancy threshold.
A mobile, cloud access control system is another future-proof investment for your office that can help manage workplace occupancy. A cloud access control system will let you view entry activity in real-time, making it easy to monitor who is coming into the office and when, and adjust permissions accordingly. With touchless access control like Openpath, you also have the ability to enforce social distancing guidelines with capacity limits for each zone or entry in the system. This allows you to automatically deny additional entries once the space reaches capacity. When integrated with a digital booking system, you can also deny access to anyone who has not pre-registered for a desk or conference room.
It’s no secret that commercial real estate is facing a rapidly changing leasing market. Employees have come to expect flexibility from their companies, and business owners need office spaces that can comply. Remote work, at least part of the time, is likely here to stay. According to a Gallup poll in October 2020, approximately 25% of US workers are going into the office occasionally, and 35% would like to return to working at the office. It’s clear that the way people use the office is changing. However, the office is still necessary.
So what can companies do to be more flexible, without incurring additional costs as far as their workplace real estate? It’s not just about downsizing or scaling up every time there’s a major shift. As more companies start to build strategies to accommodate the ever-evolving needs of their offices, rightsizing is a more future-proof solution.
Rightsizing refers to the ability to have the exact space needed to accomplish the work that needs to be done. In an office environment, this means evaluating what types of office spaces are required to accomplish everything your company does, and adjusting lease agreements to match. For example, some businesses may need access to large conference rooms for client meetings, whereas other businesses can operate with smaller offices equipped with video conferencing tools.
In a world of social distancing, remote work, flexible schedules, and needs that change almost daily, rightsizing is a little more difficult. The square footage needed for each employee varies widely by industry. And with many companies now operating with a partially remote workforce, it can be harder to determine what can stay, and what can go. However, utilizing adaptive technology can help businesses do more with the space they have.
The first step in rightsizing your office is to evaluate current space. Space management tools, when integrated with access control, give you a better picture of how people are using the office. Utilize data from your access control system and space reservation platforms to look at when, how often, and how many people are using the office and amenities. Notice any patterns that can help you adjust the current space, and strike the right balance between individual workstations and private offices, and shared group spaces.
For example, if the office is busier on Mondays, and emptier on Fridays, you can have outside vendors or clients come in on Fridays to minimize occupancy without interrupting anyone’s schedule. Similarly, if the data shows that certain office amenities, like a gym or break room, aren’t seeing high usage, that space could be turned into a multi-purpose area to allow greater flexibility in the future. Enterprise businesses with multiple locations may be able to consolidate by investing in shared workspace environments or subleasing unused space. Property owners can also use this data to find opportunities for lease adjustments based on their tenants’ activity in the workplace to increase ROI across their portfolio.
A few other things to keep in mind when reimagining the office space are technology and adaptive furniture. Large conference rooms are often a burden on office real estate in that they are seldom used, yet have a large square footage. With the rise of remote work, video conferencing tools and technology can make it easier to stay connected without dedicating unnecessary space in the office. Similarly, businesses can invest in adaptable furniture to increase workplace efficiency with less space. Large, bulky office setups are hard to move and adjust. So choose seating and desks that are easy to reconfigure to adjust to changing needs and space requirements.
The office of the future may function differently, but there are still core needs that will inform how businesses adjust to the new normal. Office buildings still need to operate efficiently (think HVAC and lighting), they need to be safe and secure, and the office spaces need to function according to how employees use them. A challenge facing many businesses right now is how to manage the office remotely, with less overhead and without losing efficiency. The way people use the office is changing, and that means the way we manage the workplace is shifting as well. Investing in technology with remote management features lets you run the office without having to be there 24/7. The right tools can all work together to make your office smarter, and make your life easier.
In reimagining the workplace and moving to a future-proof office, you need to eliminate on-premise systems. Even though some on-site systems offer web-based access control platforms, they will require more in-person maintenance and are not well-equipped to handle the changing nature of a remote workforce. Cloud-based access control platforms enable you to manage everything from anywhere, including software upgrades in the cloud. This is not only more convenient, it also ensures you’re running the most up-to-date security software. A web-based access control system that runs in the cloud will also be more adaptable to connect with other systems for a more efficient security platform overall.
To get the most out of your physical security, choose a fully remote access control system. For example, being able to unlock the door from your personal device if somebody needs access, like an employee working after-hours, maintenance staff, or visitors, is convenient without sacrificing security. Remote access control platforms have the ability to add entries, adjust permissions, and instantly add or revoke credentials, all from your own device. A web-based access control system with cloud capabilities creates a more flexible, adaptable physical security system that can scale with your business.
To effectively switch to remote office management, businesses need to know what’s happening in their space in real time. Most remote access control and space management systems have real-time activity reporting to help administrative and security teams understand how, where, and when people are accessing the workplace. Live activity dashboards are great for knowing who is at the office, and this data can also provide you with deep learning analytics to improve productivity and safety in the workplace long-term—all without setting foot in the building.
An office reservation system is an excellent resource for improving workplace management thanks to space analytics. For example, once employees check in to a desk or room, you can see how long they use it to make more informed decisions about scheduling shifts and office organization. This data is also important in optimizing operations. Discover data patterns in usage for more efficient staffing, ordering supplies, and maintenance schedules—all of which can reduce overhead costs. These key data points pave the way for building automations to streamline even further, such as with lighting, temperature control, and security. With analytics from remote management tools, there’s less burden on administrative teams, and an increased opportunity to make the workplace more efficient.
When reimagining the COVID-19 workplace, don’t forget about your visitors. With app-based visitor platforms, companies are making the office safer for guests and staff, and also improving the guest experience. Digital guest passes give visitors instant access to the space without having to worry about issuing a communal keycard in person. A remote access control system like Openpath offers customizable visitor permissions for certain times and entries for enhanced security.
The majority of businesses are requiring both employees and guests to fill out health verifications prior to arriving on-site. Screening visitors with a digital health questionnaire prior to arrival helps foster a safe, healthy workplace environment. Plus, with pre-registration for access, you know exactly who to expect and when they’ll be on-site.
Good communication is essential for the productivity and success of any business. While payroll is an important part of the engagement of the employees, it doesn't make up for everything. It’s no secret that people produce better work when they feel like part of the team. Between office layouts that spread people out and the increasing number of remote employees, teams are more distanced than ever. As this is unlikely to change anytime soon, managers need to be proactive in making sure teams are able to connect and collaborate in the new normal. To effectively manage an office remotely, all teams need to be set up with tools designed for seamless communication.
In reimagining the workplace after COVID-19, enterprise businesses can support both in-office and remote employees with virtual communication apps and video conferencing software. Choosing high-quality, modern solutions enhances cross-functional communication and fosters a more collaborative team environment. One of the benefits of using a web-based tool like Slack is that it runs on an open platform, allowing for a more integrated experience. For example, Openpath users can use Slack to trigger remote door unlocks and custom actions with a quick message in the app. Automating tasks at every level of the organization streamlines remote management of the COVID-19 workplace layout, giving administrators one less thing to worry about.
Every business with employees returning to the office should have a plan in place for what to do in the event an employee is diagnosed with COVID-19. Especially for large enterprise companies, being able to react quickly is essential in reducing the spread. But it can be hard to identify the right people to notify, especially in a flexible working environment where only some people are using the office. Utilizing the systems already in place helps identify who was at the office, where they were, and when they were there.
Detailed activity logs and occupancy tracking reports can give businesses the upper hand in the event of exposure in the workplace. With a web-based access control system, generating an audit of entry activity can be done quickly, whenever it’s required. Once somebody has been diagnosed, you can see when they accessed the building, and even which entries they used. You can also filter and export a report with all the other people who accessed the building at the same time, down to the hour, allowing you to quickly notify only those that were potentially exposed.
Businesses that require all employees and visitors to pre-register for access to the building can apply detailed contact tracing strategies in the event of exposure to COVID-19. A digital platform records who booked which spaces, and for how long, making it easy to identify any other teams or people who used the space at the same time, or may have come in contact with that individual. This also helps administrators determine the spaces and amenities that need additional maintenance to address safety concerns quickly and efficiently.
Reimagining the office of the future is a daunting task. However, now is the time to disrupt everything that wasn’t working in traditional office spaces. The post COVID-19 office should support both in-person and remote functions, and foster creativity and collaboration. A great example is the way Robin leans into technology at their Boston, MA headquarters.
To design a safer working environment that doesn’t hinder productivity and potential, Robin utilizes Openpath’s touchless access control and their own workplace experience software at their headquarters to prioritize flexibility and automation. Openpath’s mobile access system enables employees to get into the office whenever they need to. The touchless wave to unlock entry method is both convenient and safer during the pandemic, eliminating a common touch point at work. Plus, the remote management means Robin’s facilities teams can check occupancy, issue credentials, and make schedule changes without having to be in the office. Their employees book desks ahead of time in the Robin app, and administrative teams can adjust seating charts on the fly based on who’s expected at work that day. Instead of only focusing on solving for problems they are facing right now, these solutions offer long-term benefits:
When it comes to planning and effective strategy for reopening the office, cloud-based, mobile access control and a space analytics tool give better insight into the day-to-day operations in the office, as well as data for the big picture. Access activity provides a snapshot of occupancy levels and zone density, plus provides an audit trail of who’s in the office and when. Workspace booking apps help office administrators reconfigure spaces to meet social distancing guidelines, as well as provide daily usage reports to continue to optimize the space as needs shift.
Future-proof technology works smarter, not harder. Enterprise businesses can see improved efficiency across the entire operation by investing in automated smart office technology. For example, enforce social distancing in the office with access control that automates the process. Openpath lets you set capacity limits on each space, view real-time occupancy tracking data, and deny additional entries if the office is at capacity, without any extra effort. Choose technology with open architecture to allow for seamless integrations. With connected tools, you can manage multiple operations from a single interface, streamlining the entire enterprise security and admin ecosystem.
In an increasingly IoT-connected world, mobile technology leads the pack in adaptability. From an employee perspective, being able to use a smartphone to reserve a desk, complete a health screening, and access the office is more convenient, and the high levels of encryption ensure better security 24/7. For administrators and security teams, cloud-based, mobile systems are more nimble. In a time when businesses are being forced to pivot and make big changes quickly, it’s essential to have building systems in place that can scale up or back at the drop of a hat.
Openpath’s touchless mobile entry system is a great option for enterprise businesses, as the cloud-based platform allows you to manage your entire space from anywhere. Instantly issue or revoke credentials, adjust schedules, and view occupancy data remotely. Paired with an advanced hot desk and room booking system, you’ll know who is at your office, where they are within the space, and how long they are there. This is important for fast, reliable contact tracing, and can help streamline your business to reduce operating costs.
Looking for ways to reimagine the workplace for a safer, more secure office environment? Talk to the experts at Openpath to get started with remote access control, and see how the Robin Return space management software can help you reimagine your workplace. Future-proof technology solutions can give you the tools you need to reopen safely, and the peace of mind to prepare for tomorrow.