November 16, 2020 | Megana Natarajan, Enterprise Talk
ET Bureau: What, according to you, are the new requirements for work and safety?
Pranav Tyagi: The COVID-19 pandemic has hastened the shift in how and where organizations work, and the effects will likely be lasting. Pre-virus trends of open floor plans, high-density seating, and shared spaces are replaced with social distancing and workplace considerations that enhance employee safety and well-being, such as limited office capacity and air quality monitoring. Considering this new reality and to ensure a more sustainable approach, companies looking to return to the workplace, whether fully in-person or a hybrid model, need to adapt their workplace strategy and rethink the underlying real estate and facilities management technology they utilize.
Today, creating a safe, practical occupancy plan requires an entirely new understanding of work and safety requirements at the individual, role, departmental, and customer level. That means organizations must have the technology infrastructure to allow them to analyze employee needs not just from an overall workforce perspective but down to the individual level (e.g., whether an employee may be relying on public transportation, addressing personal safety concerns based on underlying health issues) while simultaneously enabling the flexibility and agility to adjust plans to shifting workplace safety guidelines.
To properly gather this data, organizations need to ask questions such as: Who needs to come back to the office? How often do they need to come back? How much space do they need, and how does this align with the space we have? What policies and procedures are required to support these requirements? To answer these questions and develop and execute an appropriate strategy, organizations are turning to new toolsets. Unfortunately, traditional approaches supported by real estate and facilities technology designed for the “old way” of doing things will not provide businesses with the necessary capabilities to adapt to these new realities. In short, organizations need solutions built for the new realities of where and how people work.
ET Bureau: How can enterprises safely implement social distancing guidelines in a comprehensive yet straightforward manner?
Pranav Tyagi: Creating policies and procedures that promote social distancing can be straightforward, but monitoring and governing adherence to new guidelines is difficult. Pre-COVID office strategies that focused on increasing occupancy density are no longer feasible. Although approaches may change once a vaccine is available and widely adopted, it’s likely the workplace of the future will be different than before. With the new work patterns formed since work-from-home guidelines were established, the future work will follow more of an omnichannel model. Similar to omnichannel retail, where consumer shopping preferences and behaviors shifted as a result of the rise of mobile apps and e-commerce, omnichannel work takes into consideration different employee needs and preferences, marries them with organizational requirements, and results in a hybrid model of work that’s performed both within and beyond the office setting.
Considering this significant shift, implementing a plan for the return to the workplace can be complex. Businesses need to assess the many personal employee situations that impact where and how they will clearly understand space and technology needs. For those employees going into the physical office, there is a need to reconfigure and remodel floor plans to foster safe, collaborative work and individual occupancy desks.
Advanced technology, like IWMS solutions with AI-fueled spatial recognition, auto wayfinding, and space optimization, empower businesses to more easily manage their workplace occupancy, redesign their floorplans in line with social distancing recommendations, and guidelines, and incorporate each department’s more specific needs and requests. They can identify office risk points within the current space layout and make necessary adjustments. Tools like this not only support current needs; they also ready the organization for future events. More advanced solutions are utilizing IoT sensors, such as LiDAR and blurred cameras, to provide a real-time view of where people are in the office at any given time. This enables proactive monitoring of social distancing efficacy, which greatly reduces risk to employees and employers.
ET Bureau: What is the role of technological infrastructure in ensuring uninterrupted productivity?
Pranav Tyagi: Technology has been critical for offices as they made the initial transition to remote work and will continue to play a critical role in helping organizations manage their physical and virtual workplace footprint. To remain responsive and competitive in this uncertain business landscape, organizations need a solution that covers the entire real estate and facilities lifecycle, reduces complexity, and is developed by a company focused on innovation.
In the short-term, technology will help facilitate remote work and safe re-entry into the workplace. In the long-run, technology will help seamlessly integrate in-office and remote work to accommodate the new hybrid omnichannel work model and accelerate the adoption of smart building technologies to support organizations’ environmental, sustainability, health, and wellness initiatives.
ET Bureau: Do organizations require agile planning tools and advanced technology to make a significant transition back to the office?
Pranav Tyagi: Yes. One of the major hurdles organizations face is a reliance on traditional legacy systems, which are archaic, expensive, and complex to use, and often have limited functionality that addresses just a portion of the entire real estate and facilities lifecycle.
To both survive and thrive in the post-COVID-19 world requires a different perspective and approach. Organizations need to stay ahead of the evolving workplace, connect their teams and data, elevate the employee experience, and optimize their workplace. They must look to technology that covers the entire real estate and facilities lifecycle, is user-friendly and oriented around the way people work, is tech-forward, and leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning to make faster and better-informed decisions.
Finally, the choice of partner is as important as the software an organization selects. It’s common for solution providers to say they can address the necessary business requirements in a client RFP, but what matters at the end of the day is a commitment from the technology partner to follow through on delivering business outcomes, as well as the approach and fundamentals the company and its software are built upon.