Safe and Smart Offices

Our workspace reinvented

Work From Home and Safe Smart Offices in a perfect mix

Something that organizations have learned in recent times is that the role of the traditional office is undergoing a major change. I’m going to the office’ has definitely been replaced by “going to work”. For the current office job it is no longer necessary to go to the office. Tasks can perfectly perform well at home or at another location. We believe that no one is going to stand in traffic jams five days a week to get to the office for work that can largely be done behind a laptop or PC.

It is not so much the organizations but rather the employees themselves who have recently learned that part of the work can be done perfectly and more efficiently without the need to travel.

Whether it’s a daily trip to the office or an occasional meeting on the other side of the country, we’ve learned to think just a little bit longer about whether getting in the car, on the train, or even on the plane is necessary for that day or that one meeting.

Gerrit Kraal

Senior Advisor, Atos

On top of this, preventing unnecessary travel by deploying proper digital support has travel has a great impact on decarbonization as well.

In addition, working from home proves more productive than working at the office. 55% of the 40,000 home workers in a survey by the Center for People and Buildings (CfPB) and Delft University, indicated to be more productive at home than at the office. On average, home workers rate their own productivity with a 7.7; office productivity was rated one point lower in the pre-coronavirus period. [1]

A number of organizations have now formalized WorkFromHome (WFH): For example, Twitter has let their employees know that if they want to continue working from home only, the organization will make that possible. Experience over the past year has shown that this is a workable model for Twitter.[2] Similarly, a Dutch insurer has converted the formal work location of employees from the office to the home address including the facilities for desk and chair and possibly an allowance for their own coffee.

Work-from-home

That WFH-only could work for companies, is proven by organisations like e.g. Gitlab which also promotes All-remote working [3]
They have been working without a formal office since 2011 with now employees in 65 countries.

Our view is that WFH-Only could be a successful for a limited group of organizations, within a specific branch like IT or Gaming industry. Only a small proportion of employees are qualified for full WFH and that only working from home will eventually be disastrous for organizations. The fact that the role of an office is changing as does not mean that value the office will become less important.

The right balance between working in the office and working at home is essential.

People also need to meet each other physically. Innovation and the innovative power of the organization is often linked to informal, chance meetings at the office where different disciplines come together.

Research showed that the innovation power of the organizations can partly be organized formally, but more often comes from informal face to face meetings. Innovation then arises where these spontaneous meetings are facilitated. With Workspace reinvented we will meet a redesign of the office space, but we need to address the workplace at home as well. If we want to offer a safe and healthy workplace to our employees, we need to take care on the home-office as well. The organization itself also has a responsibility here when it comes to health and wellbeing.

Even it is only to prevent workplace-related health issues. Support to employees, especially where is comes to Human Resource Management needs special attention for remote workers. Within adaptive organisations with a balanced home and working at the office, new roles are emerging like Chief Wellbeing Officer or Head of Remote Working.

From a digital workplace perspective optimal support should be provided to the WFH employee. Video conferencing / video calling should be the standard within the organization and of excellent quality. Even if it is just through a screen, colleagues must be able to look each other in the eyes. In addition, Intelligent Collaboration (hyperlink to this chapter) is our starting point for optimal digital collaboration.

Files are not stored locally, but always centrally in shares or Teams spaces and can easily be shared with colleagues and, where necessary, with external parties. Data classification should be enabled for all data. The further development of Microsoft Teams and VIVA, Medallia and NextThink are rising stars to support, both, the employee, and the organization. Our services like The Voice of the Employee will support this.

A still underexposed part of intelligent Collaboration is digital whiteboarding and the facilities from WFH to digitally participate in whiteboard sessions in a mixed meeting (mix of physical meeting with remote participants).

The Voice of the Employee

 

Facilitating digital white boarding, sketching or drawing equally for physical and remote attendees is part of the reinvented workspace.

Anchoring a conversation topic in visuals increases the recall rate by up to 65% and freestyle sessions are key in innovation processes. The WFH workplace should be equipped with a laptop or tablet with a pen in addition to a good additional screen.

Safe and Smart Offices

Over de last year, back-to-the-office applications and smart building solutions have proven their functionality and have been of great value to organizations in providing a secure workplace for its employees. The flip side of the coin was that practically every organization that has a service or product in the Smart Building industry rebranded their solution as a unique COVID-19 and post-covid solutions.

Real added value to organisations and their employees was seen were solutions for occupancy measurement or desk occupancy where in already and services for distancing could be easily put on top. In some cases, these services were extended with alerts for occupants or floor management. Desk reservation solutions that could add safety are available as well, like the ones with led indication for a free, reserved, or occupied desk. Innovative services on top were developed (e.g. by MakeZens) where an occupied desk turned to ‘blue’ by freeing up the desk with a notification to the cleaning services and after cleaning the desk, the led indication is flipped to ‘green’ again.

Within the Corporate Real Estate (CRE) community, vision papers and articles on a change in office buildings are published nearly weekly. These visions will range from a conservative ‘nothing will change’ to a dramatic decrease in square feet office space per employee.

For most organisations, WFH will be embedded in the normal way of working with impact on the office building itself. The reinvented office space will hold less traditional and even a lower amount of Activity Based Working (ABW) workspaces but with a serious increase in safe collaboration spaces. All these spaces. including traditional meeting rooms, need to be redesigned to support mixed meetings with attendees from in and outside the office space. For most organizations, this then leads to a digital upgrade of room and space and sometimes also to an interior renovation as well.

Most important on the digital upgrade is a qualified audio system with clear recording of voice in every corner of the space to serve remote attendees. Next to this is the replacement of traditional white boards to digital ones, preferable as a second screen positioned within the camera angle of the conferencing monitor. This monitor itself needs to be touch-screen for handling annotations to slides and presentations.

According to the room or spaces: these areas need to match the requirements that are developed for traditional conferencing rooms with adjustable lighting schemas and a closed back wall (the opposite position of the camera) with no glass in. The office building as reinvented and redesigned workspace could be smaller but needs higher standards in employee and digital services. Employee services to provide an experience that brings engagement and supports a culture based on the health and well-being of the employee themselves. High standard digital services need to be in to facilitate collaboration in hybrid meetings.

Workplace of the Future

The modern workplace with Employee Experience in the centre is already a mix of physical and digital form factors. Both with an impact on the health and well-being of the employee as well as a direct relationship to the individual and company productivity. Today’s Smart Offices can sense the use of spaces and adapt elements of that space, such as light and climate, to individual needs. But adapting a space to employee well-being is for tomorrow.

As noted in a World Green Building Council study [4], there is overwhelming evidence showing that office design affects residents’ health, well-being, and productivity. For the physical workplace and offices, we encountered the importance of nature in and around the office. Interior designers are embracing biophilic design principles and a trend for nature outside is the office move from city and business centres to more rural office hubs. This is driven by the awareness of climate impact of traveling and a need for decarbonisation, as well as the employees’ experience that a lunch walk in the park or a workplace nearby is preferable to traveling to the office.

In the Digital Employee Experience of tomorrow, we will meet the added value of combining data from smart offices and homes with personalized data of wellbeing from wearables or advanced sensors. A healthy and safe workplace will be more than just control for optimal light and climate conditions, but we must monitor and learn how to control the experience ourselves.

With a today’s view we see only privacy related hurdles. But Smart industries are ready to deliver and, in the end, it delivers individual benefits and business value to companies with a real focus on employee well-being.

Let’s start with some green walls and plants around our reinvented workspace.

Bio

Gerrit Kraal

Senior adviser Workplace and Smart Offices within the Digital Workplace group of Atos and certified consultant on Enterprise Social and Team Collaboration.

Advice and program management on Smart Buildings is based on Digital Employee Experience and the balance of People, Platform & Places. His vision on the ‘Future of Work’ is a process of continuous innovation of peoples work and work environment.

His vision was published in 2012 in the Atos whitepaper ‘Innovation at Work’ and in 2017 with a contribution to the whitepaper ‘Future of Work’ by the futurologist Richard van Hooijdonk.

Educated in Architecture and holds 15 years’ management of Knowledge management, ECM/SharePoint and Microsoft Technology units.

LinkedIn


Working from home more productive than office work. Large-scale research reveals the relationship between productivity and working from home.

Twitter has told staff that they can work from home “forever” if they wish as the company looks towards the future after the coronavirus pandemic.


GitLab is the world’s largest all-remote company with over 1,300 team members located in more than 65 countries around the world.


World Green Building Council

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