MAGAZINE: Proptech backs office real estate

Technology providers argue that innovation can help improve the workplace environment and even secure its future.

Although the pandemic has been fully archived, not all of its effects have been neatly resolved, according to workplace experts. ‘We are still in the hybrid working experiment,’ says Tim Oldman, founder of Leesman, a technology company that specialises in measuring and analysing the experiences of employees in their place of work.

He adds: ‘As a result, as a society, we realistically will not understand the impact on productivity, knowledge transfer, career growth, staff turnover, and other impacts of hybrid working for another decade.

‘Personally, I worry about the impact on an individual’s future career potential. A focal concern for me is that the cumulative impact of years of remote working is very likely to affect a person's progression and learning opportunities. Whether this is only minor, or severe, is yet to be seen.’

Leesman data backs this thesis, suggesting that while hybrid working is here to stay, employees still get a lot out of attending the office. ‘Detail is everything when making decisions in regard to hybrid working policies,’ he notes. ‘With the overall experience on offer being the workplace, it is important to ensure the space is outstanding; meaning it is proactively designed to support what employees actually go there to do. When this is done, Leesman data shows that employees do willingly return to the office.

‘Indeed, employee tolerance for commuting times and distances directly correlates to the quality of the experience on offer at the end of the commute. The better the experience, the further employees are willing to commute before expressing dissatisfaction with that commute.

‘So, well-designed workplaces that empower employees to use them are ones that support the tasks they go there to complete. Developing intuitive and thoughtful workspaces like this provides a win-win for both employer and employee, and arguably also for society at large.’

Leesman helps companies develop hybrid-ready workplaces through data-driven analysis, creating ‘a predictive review of the likelihood of a workplace delivering an outstanding experience for its employees’, Oldman explains.

Employee tools
Employers and employees need to be ready for some permanent changes, ‘like accepting that in many workplaces, desk sharing is here to stay’, Oldman notes. ‘Employers will be required to think more intently about tools that they would never have needed to before. For example, small things, like intuitively designed desk booking apps, because employees will expect the quality of experience in the app that they might get on a B2C app.

‘But there are harder and longer-term realities, such as training managers in a new set of skills needed to manage a hybrid team. Organisations and their management teams will have to be far more intentional about building a sense of community, knowledge sharing, and brand loyalty.’

Technology consultancy NextRivet agrees that the technology backbone can be crucial for improving the office experience. Says Kyle Spencer, co-founder of NextRivet: ‘The successful use of office space, whether for letting or occupying, will continue to thrive based on the technology in place.

‘In the age of digitalisation, tenant engagement and experience platforms should be embraced by real estate owners/operators seeking to create an attractive office environment. To please workers, the workplace experience must be frictionless to match the ease of remote working. For example, numerous solutions can give occupants the ability to book meeting rooms, order food, and tap in and out with access control-based technology, amongst a variety of other benefits.’

Spencer suggests that tech remains crucial for sustainability matters, too. ‘As office managers seek to follow stricter legislation around sustainability and ensure they remain within budget, workspaces should implement technology solutions that provide of-the-minute insights to enable data-driven decisions to be made. These solutions will continue to be a driving factor in 2024,’ he concludes.

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