Companies globally are asking questions on the challenges facing their business’s needs, their real estate footprint, and workforce strategy today and going forward.
Are you ready to return your organisation to the office? How do we strategically align our space to the new reality? And do we have the right tools and resources to address the needs of the workforce?
On Thursday (11 June) in a webinar entitled ‘The Office of the Future: Strategically Aligning Space to our New Reality’, workplace experts Katherine Huh, PwC’s advisory real estate director, and Simon Blenkiron, global partner director, products and technology, real estate and workplace at Trimble Inc, gave their analyses on how the Covid-19 pandemic had given new impetus to decision-making.
Huh, who leads PwC’s occupier services team within the real estate practice, said: “For some of our clients we saw that Covid-19 hit them very much directly – their business was shut down overnight.
“Communication was the key to safety planning and retaining business continuity.
“We’re now in the resiliency and reactivation stage – keeping your business afloat, keeping the lights on, and making sure that you have good cash management, good liquidity and solvency. If your business wasn't directly impacted, maybe some of your vendors or suppliers were.
“[But] It’s an ill wind that blows no good – for some organisations, this is a unique opportunity to reframe the way that they think about real estate, the workplace, how people work, and how technology is able to support that effort.”
Huh added that during lockdown many of her clients were seeing that productivity had actually increased with the reduction of commuting times, and the employees’ ability to be able to get “a bit more into a day”.
“A lot of our clients have been thinking, how do I pivot my business to being a bit more virtual or, you know, almost entirely virtual. Whether that means that my workforce is virtual or whether that means that I create more of a business enterprise online where people can access it online.”
She said four main types of workers could now be identified:
• Full-time office workers;
• Team workers, who can do much of their work remotely;
• Wanderers, in the office 30 to 60 percent of the time; and
• Rovers, who are rarely in the office.
A key question is what technology is actually needed for them to do their job, from printers to a comfortable headset to videoconferencing tools.
She said organisations would want to look at the new target density for different types of personnel, apply cost numbers and determine whether it is possible to bring down real estate costs.
On rethinking office portfolios, Blenkiron said he had drawn upon 20 years of challenging organisations to transform the way they optimise their real estate.
“I've been working with number of architectural firms, and they placed emphasis on reconfiguration of office space as opposed to putting up lots of Perspex barriers and so forth. It's regarded as helping with collaboration rather than fighting against it.
“[Trimble’s] 3D design component is great at allowing you to move seats from a conceptual perspective, and it places rules against what you can, and can't do within that conceptual design. You can train your 3D model of your workplace to help you understand that capacity as you start to take seats out, and you can populate your model with accurate 3D assets.
He added that organisations should be looking into some of the technology available to track both occupancy and use of their buildings.
“I think people that did not know what a track sensors were before are very intimately aware of what they are now making sure that you can track the flow of air into the space and ensuring that it is meeting the right volume per person is important. So defect sensors are definitely a top consideration for people right now, not just the flow of air into the room but also the section of air out of the room,’ added Blenkiron,
“Creating a ‘well’ space is super-important. Space planners and strategists must remain agile and above all responsive.
“We've got to help migrate the office from what it wants, to what it needs to be.”