The future for corporate real estate

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With corporate real estate being the 2nd highest cost behind payroll, and the annualized cost of one workspace at around $18,000 right now, the general need to reduce the number of empty desks and shrink the real estate footprint is just good business sense. Add to that the realities of the new world of work, where under covid, many employees haf to work from home for the first time ever, and you’ve got a few rather imperative workspace-related issues to address.

“About 50% of employees want a hybrid work experience moving forward”

Complicating things further is the fact that a recent JLL study found that post-pandemic, three out of four employees want to return to the office in some capacity.  About 50% of employees want a hybrid work experience moving forward, with the ability to work from the office as well as from home, or anywhere else for that matter.  Only 25% of employees want to continue working from home full time, permanently.  Gone are the days of ongoing individual desk assignment.

And last but not least, while covid may be subsiding – again – we still have a need to manage population density and contact tracing in the workplace upon the return to work.

So how do you manage the actual use of space as employees return to work and have expectations of a new corporate environment?   How to you maintain the proper distance between employees as they come to work in the office, and what about employees who only want to come some of the time, perhaps to collaborate on a specific project or just get a taste of the corporate culture every now and again?  How will employees who want or need a workspace to go about getting the one that suits their needs at any given time?

Sure, most companies will need a flexible workspace strategy that includes specific return-to-work tactics under pandemic conditions.  Lots of companies are starting to think about office layout, purpose-built space, repurposing existing space, office furniture and partitions, flexible and modular reconfiguration, and controlling capacity.

As Chief Revenue Officer, Sean Scogin, of Vari, observed, “The workspace used to be a destination, now it’s a tool.”

So how do we best manage and utilize this tool right now and going forward?  We’ll need to manage the desk booking process – but how do we actually DO that?

Prior to covid, some companies were already mid-stream with a office-hoteling, hotdesking, or agile workspace program and were working past the difficulties that come with a newly-mobile workforce.

”The upfront cost of implementing a solution will be a consideration for many companies right now”

The rest of us have been thrown into this scenario and tackling “at some point” is no longer optional.  We have to do it now.  A solid, cost-effective, quickly-deployed, flexible, and easy-to-use desk booking solution is a must.

The upfront cost of implementing a solution will be a consideration for many companies right now as we continue to struggle with a down economy.  A solution that does not require heavy configuration or hours of professional services costs is ideal, as is a system that deploys quickly.

Getting something in place that requires only a handful of steps means that the desk booking system will be ready to go when your employees are ready to return to the office.  Trying to implement a new desk booking system during or after the fact will be chaotic, and even potentially dangerous to employees’ health.

There are regulations and laws to follow as people return to work.  Maintaining social distancing is critical.  The ability to make certain desks bookable while others are off limits will be crucial to controlling density in any given area of the office.  Being able to schedule in time to clean and disinfect a desk space between employee use is a mandate.  Compliance with all of this is not just a way to avoid fines and penalties, it’s also one of the key tactics to keeping your workers safe and healthy, and willing to come back to the office when really deemed necessary.

”Mobile apps are king”

The verdict is in on ease-of-use.  Mobile apps are king.  A simple, streamlined booking process right in your pocket is exactly what workers are after.  The ability to easily book, edit, or cancel desk reservations quickly from their own cell phones will save employees time and frustration.  And by using their own cell phones, workers don’t have to worry about who may have touched the screen before them.

Being able to check in upon arrival and check out when leaving will make the office run more smoothly and ensure that space is freed up when not in use.  Auto-cancellations will fill in the gaps if an employee forgets to cancel a booking for a space they no longer need.

These capabilities will also help facilities managers and corporate real estate executives get and keep a handle on space utilization and occupancy rates.  The ability for a desk booking solution to integrate with sensors is helpful both for the employees as well as for management.  Reporting and analytics take workspace data and insights to a new level. A solution that requires very little to no end user training is a must.

”Social distancing is built right into the scheduling process”

A simple but comprehensive mobile app that users can jump into on their own will help them control their own destinies when it comes to when they’ll head into the office, where they’ll sit, and for how long.  And it will give them peace of mind knowing that social distancing is built right into the scheduling process.

Contact tracing should also be a key capability of any desk booking system.  Should someone begin to feel unwell, knowing who was near that person and when will be crucial to helping slow or even stop the spread of covid and possibly other illnesses.

In review, an easily-deployed, cost-effective, desk booking app with a mobile component and the ability to manage workspace density and contact tracing is imperative to properly and successfully manage the return to work while also satisfying the new expectations that workers have in 2021.

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