Episode #11

Workplace 2.0 Summit: Space in a Hybrid Workplace

At our 2nd annual Workplace 2.0 Summit, speakers from Arup, Impec Group, and ROI Consulting joined us in a fascinating roundtable discussion about the utilization and management of space in a hybrid workplace. Access the full summit on-demand: https://learn.tangoanalytics.com/workplace-2-0-summit-2021
Workplace 2.0
Workplace 2.0
Workplace 2.0 Summit: Space in a Hybrid Workplace
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In this Episode

At our 2nd annual Workplace 2.0 Summit, speakers from Arup, Impec Group, and ROI Consulting joined us in a fascinating roundtable discussion about the utilization and management of space in a hybrid workplace.

Access the full summit on-demand:

https://learn.tangoanalytics.com/workplace-2-0-summit-2021

  • Transcript

Episode Transcript

Bart Waldeck:

Welcome everyone to the next round table, Space in a Hybrid Workplace. As the name suggests this next round table, we’ll explore the impact of the emergence of a hybrid work environment on work itself and how it works today in space. So, Tango’s Brett Sample, will moderate the session and we’ll be joined by some leaders from Arup, Josh, thanks for joining, Impec Group, and ROI Consulting. So, I will turn it over to you Brett and let you facilitate the discussion.

Brett Sample:

All right. Thank you, Bart. I’m Brett Sample and vice president of Tango as far as sales goes, it may be more pertinent to this discussion, I’m the product manager for our space management module. I’m joined today by a group of incredibly knowledgeable individuals and I will let them introduce themselves. Maybe we’ll start on the left and go to the right if you wouldn’t mind. Josh?

Josh Cushner:

Sure. Thank you, Brett. Josh Cushner, I’m a principal of Arup based in the Bay Area. I lead the consulting practice, which for Arup means a whole suite of subject matter experts that cross engineering, planning, advisory. We’re focused on the built environment and I’m personally focused on the future of workplace and understanding it. We have a broad suite of clients across many, many markets. So it gives us some interesting insight into what’s happening in the marketplace. Our approach is more of a technical or advisory approach of what to do next for our clients. So that’s the space of we’re in.

Brett:

Great. Thank you, Josh. Simon, you want to take it away next?

Simon Davis:

Good morning. Good afternoon, depending on where you are. Simon Davis, I run workplace technology for Impec Group. Really the core of what we’re trying to achieve in the market is to become, or to be an agnostic advisor for clients around technology. So trying to understand pain points, issues, concerns, where they have those within their tech stack and helping them by recommending and advising on the right solution for their specific needs. So, excited to this conversation, obviously the whole space arena has certainly changed considerably. I think in all likelihood immeasurably for the long term as a result of everything we’re going to be doing post-pandemic. So it’s going to be a fun conversation. So, thank you for having me.

Brett:

All right, Bill, last but not least.

Bill Jordon:

Thank you. Hello and welcome everyone. I’m Bill Jordon, Principal at ROI Consulting Group, we provide consulting and implementation services for workplace solutions and certainly in the last year and a half, two years, this topic is where most of our conversations have been drawn towards. Looking forward to contribute to the conversation.

Brett:

All right, well, let’s get started. We’ve broken this section up into or this component of the three sections. The first one focusing on the hybrid workplace, got a number of questions. Maybe Simon, if you wouldn’t mind starting us off with an answer to this, and then we can pass it along and see if Josh and Bill wants to chime in as well. But I guess first and foremost, where are most of your clients landing on the concept of hybrid work and maybe as a second part to it, are your customers giving employees the choice to come back to the office or is it being more dictated too?

Simon:

Yeah, I think it’s a fascinating topic and this certainly a lot of postulating on where the industry is going to go there. There was an article that really annoyed me this morning on the BBC website called essentially saying we’ll return to a five-day work week. And I personally don’t believe that’s going to be the case. Predominantly because I think what we’ve seeing now is we’re seeing way more employee engagement in terms of those types of decisions. The letter that the employees Apple pen to Tim Cook yesterday, being a great example. I think frankly, as humans, what we’ve all wanted for a long time even pre-pandemic was choice. I think what’s happening as a result of this is people that in the past were maybe told, you can’t work in any avenue apart from the office because it just doesn’t work.

Now have an argument to say, well, wait a minute, we’ve just done this 18 months and the roof is on fire and the company hasn’t folded. So I think employees are certainly pushing back more in terms of what they want and what they want to see and I think that choice factor is certainly something that is going to be a key. You also have to remember that even pre-pandemic a very well used space was that maybe a 60% utilization. So even before the pandemic, nobody was doing this five days a week, everybody in the office. So, I would certainly see from my clients and I would also say from contacts in the industry good example, a great speaker, you had an earlier, Martin Byrne from Salesforce, their projection is that about 75% of the employees will be in the office two days a week or less, only 5% of employees will be back in the office full term.

So, I certainly think hybrid is here and I think flexible as well and flexible doesn’t necessarily revolve around place more around giving people the opportunity to work. I would say when and how they want more than the nine to five in a box that some companies have been used to. I’m certainly seeing the trend is more towards that flexible environment with a combination of likelihood of office home and some form of third space.

Brett:

Thank you. Well, Bill, anything you feel you’d like to add to that or do you happen to see anything different?

Bill:

I am seeing the same thing. I agree with what was just stated. I still think it is a fluid situation, what we say today there are the possibilities that it can change a week from now or two weeks from now. I really look at this as from the beginning, this was a forced experiment for years, even decades, companies have talked about remote workers and people have toyed with it, but doing it at a large scale was forced on us and it worked, people were more productive, people are actually working more hours. And if you look at people, the property and then profitability and put the three of those together, knowing that people in property are the two biggest expenses that any company has, the whole thought of being able to stay with a hybrid model has some cost savings that end again, could mean I can be more competitive because I don’t have to raise my rates by reducing costs elsewhere. I can stay, retain my clients and build on that.

Brett:

Well, Bill, I don’t know about you, I can only speak for myself, but I know I’m working more hours, just maybe no drive time. So I get maybe three or four more meetings in and seeing it for myself, that’s 100% truth. Josh, your client base is quite diverse. Are you seeing the same thing? Does it may be very bypass by industry or anything like that?

Josh:

Yeah, I mean, it totally varies by industry, but I mean, there’s clients that have been in their offices the whole time that’s a small percentage. There are folks that our financial industry clients in New York, or there’s an example I use is they ran back into the building as fast as they can, as soon as they were allowed to, because that’s their culture and their demands and some of their technology they use is there as well. And maybe the entertainment industry where you have folks doing production type stuff they can’t do at home after that it’s been the same where 10, 2%. The panel earlier that I was moderating rate at Austin had a number around 40% occupancy in their city buildings. New York was 15 and I just got off a call in the Bay Area with a client still hovering around two to 5%.

So, there’s this whole idea about providing choice is coming and I see it as there’s something around choice and permission here. And I like what Simon said where most companies were thinking about flexibility already. They recognized that people were traveling and people weren’t in the office and there was no need to have all these desks already. I think if you just take that idea of flexibility forward a bit, that’s probably the push and pull of the conversation that’s happening right now and over the next three months as we get to labor day seems to be a moment where everyone’s willing to say we’ll be back whatever back is.

I think that there’s a lot of testing right now of employers and employees. What about this model? What about that? I mean, you saw it with Tim Cook and then, we saw Facebook has changed their tune a couple of time on what their mode of going back to the office is going to be, so it’s fluid, it’s malleable, and it’s moving, it’s between this idea that productivity will not go up forever remotely. So we’ve had this moment where productivity from working from home has been massively increased over the past year. Has it reached the point where it was as productive as in the office? Will it go past that point? And there are people on both sides of this.

Brett:

Okay. So you segued me into the next one. Maybe Bill, I’ll ask you this one. In your experience to companies have a handle on what this new, this hybrid workplace means for them, or are they creating it more of as a learning period?

Bill:

Most of the companies are getting there now. Earlier, there was a back and forth, a lot of indecision. I am seeing the largest majority of companies going with a hybrid model that they look as permanent, the next phase and there’ll be a phase after that. They’re banking on, this is how we’re going to work from here forward. I see a lot of them looking at, okay, what are the adjustments that we need to make and going with a hub and spoke model where the scenario we had before where it was stated by Simon that companies saying two days a week is probably the best that we’re going to get. Well, those two days that you’re in you need to make the most of those.

You want to make the most of those and just having an assigned seat or a reserved seat isn’t good enough. The hub and spoke model is more of creating a whole neighborhood environment where okay, for those two days a week, let’s see if we can get our department and have the infrastructure in this small reservable space that has our conferencing area, our collaboration area and our breakout areas where we can do our own thing, make the most of that time in the office, take that away with us, walk back to our home offices and just keep producing.

Simon:

Brett, those magic words: you’re on mute.

Brett:

You probably knew what I was going to say, but I was going to say anything you’d like to add to that or Josh, either one and maybe… Go ahead.

Simon:

I think something that I heard today that, that has been used a little bit but again just from Martin from Salesforce in your earlier sessions was talking about intentional purpose. I think that’s going to be another thing. I think people are going to start looking more at why am I going into the office because of there are other reasons why am I not want to, and this may be more reasons now. I mean, it’s intriguing what we’ve been through because I think maybe less so in certain states, I mean, I’m in Arizona and frankly we’ve not been that terribly impacted from a work perspective. But if you look at something like the UK, UK is still not really out of lockdown and people have been working in an environment where it is still pandemic conditions.

So, I think when people start working post pandemic and they start being able to do things like see their friends, or go to the gym or spend more time with their family, then there’s going to be even more of that drive that really think about based upon the type of work you’re doing, where should you do it? And then from an office perspective, how should you be utilizing that space? So, looking at, I think this year is going to be one of tremendous experimentation for organizations and how are employees using what you’re giving them when they come into the office. What’s the best way to look at that and certainly data is going to be a big driver in understanding the benefits of how that’s worked.

Brett:

Okay. So really you’re saying too, it’s a learning period, as well as we go through this?

Simon:

Yeah. I think we used to see again, pre-pandemic there was a bit more of, let’s say in the US certainly in east west shift in terms of what they valued about activity-based hybrid or flexible work. Whereas now, again, with everything that’s happened, I think one of the biggest pushes is every CFO in the world is going to say, we’ve done this for 18 months without space, which as Bill mentioned is one of our largest costs. So, give me the financial justifications why we need space? There are clearly productivity, cultural, and just social reasons. And I don’t believe that office is ever going to die, but I think just the utilization is going to become more of that intentional purpose as opposed to I have to be in the office at nine because that’s what my boss said so.

Brett:

Yeah. Great point. So knowing we’re in this learning period, trying period, Josh, do you think that companies are starting to already place longer term bets on how much real estate they need, whether it’s expansion contraction relocate, or are they holding steady based on this kind of learning period?

Josh:

Yeah, I mean, it depends on who you’re talking about. So, if you’re a property developer, you’re only in the business of longer term bets. So, some of the early conversations with those folks were the pandemic is a blip and it’s going to pass and it’s not even under the timeframe that I can really worry about. If you’re on the tenant side, I’d imagine, I don’t know if it’s 100% of firms but the large majority are thinking about contraction and the capacity to do that. I wouldn’t imagine anyone’s and I’ve seen a couple of huge bets where people are just saying we’re 100% remote now, bang and those are the ones that we’ll see first if they pan out. But there’s a small number of folks are completely divesting their real estate if they have that opportunity. A small number of folks are just taking long-term capital views on this thing. Most people I would say are slowly divesting a little bit and testing the waters.

Brett:

And that’s at least a Tango. That’s what we’re seeing as well with our customer base is a lot of holding steady or treading water and maybe if there were some easy places to let go of space to do so, but otherwise–

Josh:

The data we’ve seen is where vacancy is not really moving a lot right now. Now that may change as well, but occupancy is different but vacancy is still up.

Brett:

Okay, well this was great talking about the hybrid workplace, but maybe we can move forward and talk a little bit about some trends and maybe Bill, you could start us off and I’d like all three of you to answer this question. We could probably spend 55 minutes on this alone, but what are the top three space trends you’re seeing with your customer base and the people you’re talking to Bill and the return to office?

Bill:

The first one is certainly the hybrid workplace, reservations module, or scheduling solution. It popped up here and there prior to all of this. Now I have to say it probably pops up 75% of every opportunity that comes our way. Easily, the biggest piece. Another one that is off the radar for a lot of people is, with this plan of staying hybrid and the fact that everybody has been out of the office for so long. Do I need to make a change? Can I get rid of all of that file storage that was on the floor and now replace that with lockers so people can have some stuff they can keep here and not have to bring everything back and forth. And then if you have things in files, paperwork and files, you can’t access that from a way we’ve all learned that lesson over the last year and a half.

I think the emerging one, that’s going to come to play. The one unanswered question that nobody has the answer to because we haven’t faced it yet. Just how important is the physical location from a social standpoint, especially after we’ve gone through it with everybody being in a non-social setting that may change how our workspace is going to look initially when everybody comes back, it’s just going to be almost ops, suite team seemingly social, Oh my gosh. I haven’t seen people in a year and a half. I actually shaved look, I’ve got real clothes on. That’s probably going to die down a little bit, but I suspect that with people still being at home two, three days a week, coming to work is going to be more of a social event than it was before, more social interactions.

Brett:

Simon, let me know your three trends.

Simon:

Yeah. Well, Bill took a couple of the big cherries there and my thoughts were certainly on the technology side. So probably the biggest trend I’m seeing is a massive increase in sensors. And the danger of this is that frankly, there is not a leader in that market and there’s not a product that’s very well known that can actually manage all of the use cases people are looking at from a sensor perspective. I think some of it is a bit of a knee jerk reaction and we have to have these things to track and trend. But in reality, you can get a lot of information from lower cost products or even using existing infrastructure like bad readers to give you that sense of who is coming back and when.

The other trend I’m seeing and it we’ll see more and more of as people do migrate back is a bit what Bill was saying, but that sort of whole employee experience perspective of, if I’m going to go into the office, I want to know things like, is Josh going to be in, is there a meeting room available? Even what’s on the menu and what’s my commute going to look like. So I’d wrap that all around employee experience. And then the third, which I think is going to be really intriguing is something that I would refer to as flexible strategic planning. And what I mean by that is, if companies to Josh’s point do start looking at real estate and potentially divesting of some of it, you’re going to have to plan for this. If everybody in your organization decides, if you decide you’re going to go flexible, and then everybody wants to come in Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, you’re not going to be able to get any of the cost benefit.

I’m starting to see tools that can actually take things like third place and corporate office space and plan and map for this to be successful, what the right calibration is for teams and individuals, so that you could actually maybe have some way of understanding what days, what certain times can individual teams be associated to a third place versus a home versus an office. I don’t know how far that’s going to go. It could blow up and it could be a blip, but I’m intrigued to understand more of the data, because if you can get the benefits of flexibility, the cost savings of divesting some of the portfolio and still maintain aspects of culture, productivity, and innovation that the office brings and allow people a shorter commute, because they have a hub and spoke model of offices then I think that could be the golden ticket, but we’ll wait and see.

Brett:

That’d be the win-win for sure. All right. Josh, I know we’ve got about five of them. We’ve covered here, any trends we haven’t talked about so far that you’re seeing?

Josh:

Yeah, I mean, I like what Simon was saying about the purpose of the office is more about community and searching out where you find that community and it breaks down at the team level if you don’t have everyone there, then you don’t have your community and what’s the point. I think that’s a lot of the conversations that are happening now and a big trend is implementation of your policy and does it stay consistent and integrated all the way through working at the team level? So, if you go to a hub and spoke, what does that actually mean for your team getting together and how and why you get together? So, there’s fundamental questions about how we achieve that state of community. I’d say that that’s trend one and that’s going to be a really interesting dialogue.

It’s a bit of a wild ride that everyone’s working through because certainly you can tell people to go back to the office, but the purpose and point I think is bound up in this idea of who your community is and then can you convince everyone to get together at the same time in the same way. I guess, two then is filtering out this concept of equity across people that will be virtual and live. So, whether or not you can figure out how to get together with your community in the office or how you’re going to do it. One of the trend directions is to figure out how remote and office worker have career paths that are similar access to leadership that are similar, all of those kinds of conversations.

There’s a lot of sociological, anthropological learnings to happen in the next three to six months that underpin the technology trends and the physical asset trends that there’s not a strategy for, because you don’t know what question you’re answering yet exactly. I think that’s where Simon’s mentioned about sensors everywhere, things like that. It’s not dissimilar to the beginning of the pandemic where everyone’s buying plexiglass and then they’re like, why do I have all this plexiglass? I spent a million dollars on plexiglass. It’s a solution without the exact problem. And we’re a little bit endanger of… I think that people got burned on that once. So, I’m a little surprised that people are super investing in sensors and technology yet because they don’t know exactly what they’re trying to seek and search for. But I see that as the next trend, once we start to sort that out.

Brett:

Gotcha. Talking about career growth or climbing the corporate ladder, talking about being in the office or remote and all of that can certainly play an impact on the best ways to do that moving forward. Talking about your growth path within the company. We had a question coming from the audience. I think it’s a good follow-up on this one. Maybe throw it over to you, Bill. How are you seeing companies managing space and occupancy in this hybrid workplace model? I know that talks a bit about sensors inside for, what’s your thought on this?

Bill:

Oh, it’s a combination of those. We have some people who are testing sensors prior to this and had to put them on hold, because they have nobody in the office to test them. But they’re looking at as soon as they come back in expanding on that. It is a critical piece having some type of technology, internet of things that can let you know when people are and who those people are. So, having that integrating with a scheduling solution or an IWMS solution. Also, the reporting, traditional reporting has been on space and assigned seating. Now’s that there’s that requirement from a capacity and occupancy, a utilization standpoint it’s hybrid. We’ve got some people are checking in and out. We have some people that are here all the time. We need to be able to get our metrics on all of that, get the appropriate KPIs.

Brett:

Simon, anything you would add to that?

Simon:

Yeah, I think a few things. One of the trends that I’ve seen is certainly some companies actually struggling to manage this because if you’ve gone from an environment previously where you were assigned space, you didn’t contemplate well, what happens when all of a sudden we want everybody to book their space because we need to know if you’re in the office or not. And then also organizations that may not have had the appropriate level of data around drawings and assignment in order to even manage that. I think there are still companies that they want, it’s going to be maybe some big relief for back, but okay now what do we have to do in order to really manage in this new environment, whether it be for contact tracing or whether it be for a flexible look at the office space.

I am seeing some companies that traditionally were more focused around everybody gets a desk definitely looking at hybrid capabilities, using neighborhoods and giving departments, divisions an allocation of desks based on what their projections may be and allowing them to manage, does Brett have a desk and Bill and Simon part of a team that are more flexible because they’re never in the office, what is the right makeup of conference rooms and of shared spaces and breakouts based on those neighborhood assignments. It’s a trend and I think that makes sense and that we may see continue because really the people who best understand how those groups work, all those groups and the people that manage those groups.

So I think the downside of having a large macro corporate policy is it’s not going to be applicable for every individual team, as Josh mentioned, if I’m a high end investment bankers with six monitors, I have to come into the office. If I’m a marketing or HR, or like I am sales, maybe I’m not in the office as much. So, I think it’s understanding the personas of workers and applying that to the space and then utilizing technology in order to understand if the hypothesis that you’ve gone for is correct. And then being able to adjust and move to give the maximum use of what you’re going to offer to employees going forward.

Brett:

Simon, are you saying that this might go down to like the manager level within the company?

Simon:

I think it can, depending upon the size, I think you’ll probably see a macro assignment and understanding of how much, or how often should, or could somebody be in a space based upon the type of role and what does that really mean? But then from a managerial perspective, they know the foibles and intricacies of their own teams. I mean, as an example, as a 23-year old living in London, I lived in a five-bedroom house with seven other guys, lots of fun stories about that I’ll tell you a different time. But the biggest thing from a work perspective is I would actually, maybe people would perceive that this is somebody who could work remotely, but I couldn’t because of the noise and the amount of people in the house.

So for me at that level of my career, I would have preferred to be in the office every single day. And I think that’s the level that you have to think about as Simon, it’s related to job duties, tasks, and skills, but I think that’ll also be a degree of understanding what that individual’s personal circumstances are in terms of how flexible they are to work and can they work in this new environment.

Brett:

Josh, I’ll switch gears just a little bit on this one, but it seems everyone expects the hybrid office to play a less critical role about me for an individual person and the more important like we or us more of a collaborative. Do you agree? And how will companies meet the challenge of this collaborative space meet or requirement in the office?

Josh:

Yeah. I think that’s certainly the big expectation. If we’ve proven we can work from anywhere largely and be productive the place where we need to go back to so that we can be with our people. We’re going to be looking at physical changes that support that. Now, do people want to get stuffed into a three-hour meeting in a 15 or 50-person meeting room that was designed shoulder to shoulder anymore? I think these are interesting questions that’s maybe where people are going to look for a sensor to say, we have fresh air in the space or something like that. So, I think there are responses both moving around the furniture, moving around walls, and then eventually implementing the technology and putting the bells and whistles on what that user experience wants or needs to be going forward.

If we have four people in the room and a little tiny screen that the next four people who are not in the room are trying to talk through, there’s all kinds of issues. So, I think there’s a moment here for facilities management really to adapt approaches that have already been used in a design of buildings, design software architecture. You need to know what you’re designing for. I don’t know how many, one size fits all approaches, there’s going to be to tackling the we part of it. I mean, you can certainly say less desks. That’s kind of a no brainer right now, but how to facilitate better collaboration, I think is going to be a really interesting learning experience and differ potentially greatly depending on that culture. And the type of you have.

Brett:

Yeah. I feel like we’re going to have to see what people do and see what works at least from Tango’s perspective, our customers. We’re not actually seeing a lot of people making massive changes to floor plans, maybe a 10%, if you will. Actually proactively going out and saying, we’re going to make massive changes. Simon, you’ve talked to a lot of people in addition to having customers existing, what are you hearing? Are people modifying it or keeping it as is and waiting to see how it plays out?

Simon:

I think a lot of it is very much still wait and see. I think people are managing to guidelines right now and I think most organizations are the larger companies that I’m working with looking at different phases as they bring people back. And then they’re going to see what happens. So phase one, maybe we bring in 20%. So, who all the most critical 20% to bring in. And then of course looking at how many of those 20% are actually coming in and it’s an area you can then start looking at what amenities, what areas are they using more than others? I think we’re going to have to ramp up probably the 50, 60% before companies will start investing any money in making significant changes to those footprints. Because we don’t know yet.

I think to Josh’s point, a couple of things that I think we will see is certainly taking advantage of some of those components and thoughts around design. We’ve all, everybody on this phone, no matter who you are, we’ve all been in a scenario where you walk into an office and there’s an eight person conference room, and there’s one person comes out in that. That’s the design aesthetic, that’s a design issue, but it’s or sorry, a design guidelines issue potentially and of course, teaching people how to use the space. I think the same sentences that people will start investigating to understand still enforcement of social distancing rules and how many people are physically coming into the office and is a floor busy and therefore I want to go on a different floor as a short term use case that same technology can be then utilized to say, okay, you know what? We’re building a new building. And actually based on all of our data our six person conference rooms are only used by more than three people, 25% of the time. So should we really be building 6% conference rooms in that way?

And for me, that’s where you have to think on the technical investment is, if you are investing in something like sensors, don’t just look at the short term potential look at, is this something that we can use longer term as a business driver and as a decision point?

Brett:

I know when I go to the office, I go to the office to collaborate, but I also want my best, you can’t collaborate the whole time. So, again, that means you need that collaboration space, but those people that are in the office also need a seat to go to. So how does that affect that total square footage and so forth? I guess Bill, I’ve got a question for you. Are you seeing any of your customers shut down areas of buildings floors within the building to consolidate people either temporarily to save money, anything like that?

Bill:

So, it ties into the last question and talking about real estate earlier, I am seeing some people doing that. I call it hedging their bets, as opposed to making a decision to fully relinquish real estate. I do have some clients who are looking at not changing the physical layout, but changing it from being assignable to reservable and moth balling a floor or two of a building so that they can save on some utilities. And then, as they learn more about what the new workspace has to be, perhaps those are opportunities to reconfigure those. And then in mothballs, some others or in the future relinquishing space. That is not the bulk of our clients. I’d say about a third are entertaining thinking about that with a small handful, starting to execute that now.

Brett:

I was looking at the Tango building and we have a number of floors with other tenants in it as well and throughout the whole pandemic, that thing was burning bright with lights and air conditioning in Texas. A lot of AC blowing yet with absolutely not a person in there. So I’m not sure how many people actually tried to save any money during that, but everything we’re talking about so far is talking about what might come in the future, what might happen, how much space we’re going to need, and really that’s going to boil down to at least for me, technology and data. So maybe we can segue over to some questions talking about the technology in particular. I guess Simon, I’ll jump to you. What types of technology are you seeing companies invest in as part of their return to office?

Simon:

Yeah. I think to follow on from what I was saying earlier, Brett there’s really those two areas that people are looking at. One is what do we need as more of a tactical solution to address the immediate impact of the pandemic? Frankly, what things do we need to have available? What data do we need to have, what capabilities do we need to have to make people feel more comfortable for coming into the office? Because the one thing that nobody’s really addressed in all of this when people make these macro judgments about whether or not people come in, is, that human impact of, you have to make your employees feel comfortable to come in. And what does that take?

Does that take, being able to show somebody the office isn’t very densely packed, does that take having technology to help you almost book an elevator in advance? So you’re not going to be too packed in. I think some of these concerns is starting to alleviate, or I would assume, based on vaccinations in certain parts of the country and the world. But in my mind, that is like a first phase that we’re probably partway through is looking at, okay, what do we need short-term? Second phase and I’ll talk about this on my session tomorrow is kind of looking at, okay, now we’re all back in whatever new terms we’re back in from a technology roadmap perspective, how fit for purpose is our tech based on what we’re doing now?

If we’re going from an environment where we were, one-to-one seats to people, and we’re now going to an environment that’s more hybrid, or even considering that kind of technology that we have in place support that. I think that’s, again, it’s something that people maybe have not thought about necessarily yet is, how will that work? Does the space management solution you have, for example, does it fit that purpose and that needs? I think we’ll also then look at some additional capabilities around things like workplace experience and providing more data to individuals. We’re almost going from a position where certainly from the FM side, what used to be a very backout office, keep out of the way service is not going to be way more front and center.

So, technology to show me that if I walk up to the desk, when was it last cleaned. Technology to show me how occupied all the restrooms that things that could pervade over more and more I think into the industry. And then the final part is really looking at, as I mentioned, those future technologies. So what are we looking at in terms of our strategies and organization to support the employee needs and the new models that we might be developing for work. So, a lot to unpack there, but yeah, I think there’s the model of immediate needs, the model of how do we modify our existing stack? And then what are we looking at for the future, based upon all of those aspects of change of almost the cultural aspects of how a company may run.

Brett:

None of those are easy, so each one of those topics individually is a challenge.

Simon:

Yeah, it’s a challenge I think that’s made even more complicated for the average user and consumer by the fact that the market by virtue of the interest has gotten so big over the last 12 months. The amount of products out there, the amount of solutions, then you take into consideration consolidations of companies, investments in companies. It makes it difficult for people to understand exactly what they really need from a tech perspective. Don’t get me started on vested interests now that you have service providers investing in technology that they’re then promoting which is even taking away more and more the traditional role of being a trusted advisor. I do, I think the market’s incredibly complex right now and is going to get even more so before it may be levels off.

Brett:

Hey, Josh. I was going to ask you the same question, but feel free to either answer technology you think they’ll need to invest in, or potentially a question from the audience. And that is how complicated do you think this becomes for companies that are operating globally with potentially very diverse responses to COVID and requirements by law and things like that?

Josh:

Yeah. Most of my clients do if not global, certainly national. For prints-

Brett:

International it can be quite different.

Josh:

Yeah, exactly. I think that at the outset it may not… Well, it depends on how standard you’re trying to create the experience for the people in your offices over your entire footprint. So, if you start with the idea that you want it to be consistent. I think that the number one has to be around taking the cloud-based collaboration tools that we’ve relied on for a year and integrating that into your office space in sensible ways. And if you think about what we had to do here in your home office, you had to, well, people need to see my face. I need to figure out the lighting. I need to figure out a better microphone. I need to figure out a better camera. Well, turn that into the office again.

So, there’s ways that we’re going to have to work through making plug and play access to these cloud-based communication services and plug and play decent lighting plug and play microphones. Just the capacity to have the type of meeting that we have now in the office often isn’t there. And then the ability to have that in your ad hoc meetings, it may not be the mode anymore where you work at your desk, you meet in the meeting rooms. So, I think there’s something around that to try to provide the type of flexibility, just to give the office experience. It’s kind of bizarre, but we’re trying to take some of the home experience that we’ve worked on and make it as easy in the office, which often it’s not like if you think about at the beginning of this, everyone had their mute button couldn’t figure out how to share their screen, anything like that. I think we’ll be in some ways, going back to the office, nothing works.

So, we’ll have to fix that as the priority and I think on a global scale, that’s mission one, if you have a large footprint. After that, I think depends on your goals. So, if your goals are around health and wellness in the office and things like that, you’re going to be seeing, experimentation with CO2 sensors and things like that. Unfortunately, there’s no standards, there’s no real level and threshold of how much is it good health and safe building. So I think that’s going to wobble around for quite some time now until there’s better guidance and standards around it.  So that’s going to be I think a big discussion point for global companies is like, how much do I invest in technology for health and wellness when I don’t know when to stop. How much is enough?

I think the other part that, that won’t go away, the sustainability is a giant theme for our clients who are global and national. They’re looking to drop their energy use, they’re looking to drop their carbon footprint. So, that was the promise of technology in the office before the pandemic was the capacity to understand space utilization, drop energy, drop carbon, increase productivity in the space that you actually have. So hopefully, the better technology we’re integrating the aspects around those sustainability goals come back into focus again.

Brett:

Thank you. Hey, Bill, any other types of technology that Simon and Josh, haven’t really talked about that you’ve seen your customers investing in, and if you have any thoughts to that I know some of your guys’ customers are global as well, and it is certainly a juggling act If you’re trying to compare an Arizona or a Texas, what you can do with something maybe in India right now or elsewhere in the world.

Bill:

I’m going to approach this from the facility management standpoint. I’ve been in facilities management for close to 40 years. I’ve been doing this only management solutions for a little over 25. In the last six months there’s been a dynamic shift. Contrary to what Simon’s experiencing, we are finding that all of our clients and all the people that we’re talking to are exploring their technology. 35 years ago, up to six months ago, every facility managers dream was to be able to get somebody on the C-suites ear. And it’s been, I’ve got to go through this person, this person, this person, this person. All of this happened those same facility managers are asked, “Do you have this data?” “No, I don’t.”

I think the C-suite has become so involved now with all this change and how important it is, they’re actually sitting in on the presentations and demos, something we had never seen before. And they’re taking a hard look, if the solution they have, whatever it be, the technical solution they have is doing it, they’re ready to say, okay, let’s find something that does. The other piece they’re doing is okay, we’re going to choose this, it does a great job at three to things, it does a so-so job at the other two. Okay. We’ll use it for the three things. Let’s find something else for the other two that does a great job and integrate with those.

The internet of things is become more and more powerful now where companies are realizing, trying to get something that does a good job at a bunch of things and a great job at a few isn’t good enough. So, let’s find something that is a great job at everything, and then bring all the data to a commonplace so we can report, do the metrics and confirm that we’re making the right decisions.

Brett:

Bill, If I asked you just, yes, no answer, are IOT devices, a must, you’d say yes.

Bill:

Yes.

Brett:

Even knowing the fact that Simon mentioned earlier that there are a myriad of offerings out there, each one that really does provide one piece of information very well, but doesn’t cover, talk to me about LIDAR versus a desk sensor. They’re very different animals.

Bill:

Yeah. You have to find the right solution. But the reality is if I come into my desk and I reserve, put my stuff down and I’m not at that desk for the entire eight hours, then why should it show up that I occupied that space? I did not. If that multiplies it multiplies it multiplies, you’ve got bad data.

Brett:

Yeah. Simon, I’ll try to give you a hard one here, but what’s the top workplace technology that companies should be focusing on now that they’re not, and maybe there isn’t an answer to this, but can you think of anything that most companies should be doing right now that you’re simply not seeing?

Simon:

Well, it’s a great question. I mean, I think it goes back to having fit for purpose solutions to help make the right decisions truly on the different use cases across occupancy. So, to Bill’s point looking at things like, proof of life and real technologies that can actually help and actually come back and say, you know what? Bill’s desk has had a chair and a coat on it for eight hours, he’s not there, so why does he have a desk? I think from my perspective, if you look at the big players in the sense of market, it’s traditionally been, we can either do entry grads, so we can check if you’re in the seat or not. For me, the solutions that are going to win out needs to be way less hardware focused. You’ve got real traditional hardware vendors trying to sell products.

I think the biggest winner in the whole workplace utilization, which is the missing point, is going to be a product that can actually assimilate data from a multitude of different IOT devices that can also bring in things like air quality and temperature and those other aspects as well. So yeah, to answer the question, what do I think is missing? I really think as truly democratized workplace analytics platform is where companies need to start looking and I think there’s a golden opportunity for technology vendors in building that and making it available, but not making it specific to certain senses.

Brett:

It’s an aggregator, if you will.

Simon:

Obviously. I think in the last couple of years, we’ve seen a growing trend around data visualization and business intelligence that can aggregate data from a multitude of systems, the same premise would apply and I think that that is something we’ll see a lot more of.

Brett:

Josh, any thoughts around technology that companies aren’t using? So same question that Simon got?

Josh:

Yeah. I think I completely agree with Simon about the downfall of all the solutions that are out as proprietary-ness and interoperability and it won’t stop until we can get to a common data pool situation where we can know that what we’re buying, we can scrape the data off it, and then we can use the analytics platforms of choice. And then those analytics… I mean the analytical platforms are getting better and better and better every day and more user-friendly every day and really dropping the obstacle to use down from computer software engineers to just smart people, to normal people who try to interface with it. So that’s working usefully, but they can’t access the data and you can’t get it out and you can’t even write an RFP to necessarily get what you’re asking for. So there’s a huge gap there I’d say. But hopefully it will close pretty soon. And then we can really start to leverage the analytics side and start to do automation and things of that nature that we can’t do.

And then you end up backing into, okay, then I just need a cheap sensor to do this last thing because I got three sensors to do this thing and they all aggregate to the same place. I think that’s a very sensible vision. In terms of anything else, I think there’s interest in augmented reality and to understand if there’s aspect of that, that takes what we’re doing now to another level of presence and if we’re going to continue to have a big proportion of our interaction with clients, a big portion of our interaction with teams outside of our coworkers and we’re not necessarily bringing everyone to our office the way we used to, we’ve all I think, agreed that Teams and Zoom and these things, they serve utility, but they’re actually not the best place to engage with everyone.

And there’s VR and AR I’d say very early stage things that you can imagine getting to a place where you have a better sense of presence, a better sense of being with everybody. And that might help move the needle a bit to this problem where we aren’t getting collaboration, we aren’t getting community. So that’s an interesting place. I don’t think it’s a must have, but I think it’s a must keep an eye on.

Brett:

Well, I tell our time’s up with park hopping on here. I just want to take this last second and thanks all three of you, Bill, Simon, and Josh. It was great having you guys on. It’s always nice when we can get people that have been in the industry forever and clearly know this stuff like the back of their hands. So thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us.

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