Tech-enabled workspaces will be more ‘flexible and connected’

The Covid-19 pandemic has just about changed the way businesses will continue to operate, and this more so relevant to the workspace sector; don’t expect things to be similar to the pre-COVID -19 days

Since the beginning of this decade, there has been some level of shift when it came to the way businesses perceived workspaces. Over the years, work-at-office gradually allowed for ‘work-from-home’ (WFH) as technology caught on and employee experience gained importance. Some companies (more so the IT and ITeS) began to implement the same in some form or the other with employees being permitted to work at home a few days a month.

Technology has slowly become an integral part of the workspace sector and now, continues to be indispensable. As we stand, ‘tech-enabled’ workspace seems to be the name of the game and promises to be the future of workspace sector.

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What is a tech-enabled workspace?

A tech-enabled workspace is that which is supported by technology to a more morph into a more ‘flexible and connected’ workspace that can be location agnostic. It is an environment whose barriers are broken down to connect employees and information in a seamless and smooth manner such that the experience of the workspace is elevated and enhanced. What else can you ask for when you also have higher operational efficiencies and reduced costs?

Arguably, three major technologies – Automation, Mobility Solutions and, Artificial Intelligence (AI) – have played a key role in the major shift towards a tech-enabled workplace even as companies across the globe look to invest in these.

Some of the main features of tech-enabled workspace are – High-speed Wi-Fi connectivity, Smart office solutions, High-end security equipment and other devices connected via Internet-of-Things (IoT), cross-connected work devices, etc., not to mention the customized and slightly amplified work environment to appease the new-gen workforce.

Why tech-enabled workspaces?

The future of workplaces shall be focussed on activity-settings, that is, a tech integrated flexible workspace that delivers a curated experience while providing the required comfort to the employees. Imagine an employee comfortably seated on a bean bag not very far from the coffee machine with high-speed internet connectivity that will help attend a virtual meeting over a Zoom call or a Google Meet.

Safe and secure are two keywords ringing loud in the ears of corporates more so during the pandemic phase; it has become essential to provide a safe environment. The futuristic workplace will have all the required safety measures in place (Ex: Social Distancing in the present Covid times) while enabling employees to have complete access to all that is required to do their jobs. In-person meetings would give way to virtual meetings which are easier and cost-effective to conduct. Virtual meetings are here to stay and perhaps, might prove more efficient thanks in part to technology. As remote or virtual meetings gain prominence, technology will be upgraded to ensure these meetings are conducted in the best possible manner providing the best possible experience.

Tech-enabled workspaces will also help companies save on costs and improve operational efficiency. With the help of AI and IoT, tech-enabled workspaces will run ‘live’ and can be controlled as far as power and equipment usage is concerned. Imagine the lights switching off soon as the meeting is done or the monitors getting into ‘sleep mode’ soon as the employee leaves the desk. Smooth, isn’t it?

Perhaps, the most watched-out for aspect of tech-enabled workspace will be its experience. The mobile, non-siloed, and yet smooth experience of working and being part of the work place will be ushered in with the infusion of AI, IoT, Connectivity, and Mobility. One of the many value additions will be a mobile app that will help employees connect to one the company’s inter-campus shuttles, order coffee and even check if the cafeteria is vacant enough for seating.

Building a Competitive workspace

How do we build a competitive workspace? By building it different and by stretching that extra mile.

There is not doubt that post Covid-19 certain things will continue to remain the same – hygiene, safety and security at work place will take precedence over most other things.

Safety of employees will undoubtedly become paramount and as we speak, measures are being put in place to ensure the pandemic is curtailed as much as possible. Basic norms such as compulsory masks, social distancing, cleansing of hands and usage of disposables will continue to be a part of the hygiene and safety protocols in companies. This will not only ensure better safety and hygiene standards but will also show as to how serious companies are, in protecting their employees.

Workplaces must be secure. Period.

Measures such as biometrics and swipe cards will ensure only the right people enter the right places resulting in employee privacy and systems security. Tech-enabled toughened measures will ensure no intruders or unauthorised personnel have a freeway into the work premises. Data security along with employee security will continue to remain a top priority and a tech-enabled workspace promises better data security.

Future of workspace

What might be the functional model of the future workplace?

Hybrid.

It is true that shared working or co-working has been seeing a greater trajectory and will continue to boom even as the new generation of workforce comes into play. Growing interest from large and mid-sized enterprise will add a great push to the growth of co-working spaces.

The pandemic has forced companies to resort to ‘work-from-home’ or ‘work near home ‘Even as the pandemic begins to recede and business begins to get back to ‘normal’, the workplace model will see a definite shift and will evolve.

As per a JLL research report, 24% of the employees preferred to work exclusively in office whereas 75% preferred to have some level of access to office. So, its not all WFH or office, there is now, and there will be in the future, a demand for working from office.

Based on employee / company need, distance to office, costs of transport and flexibility on timings the future of workplace will be a hybrid model. A model that would suit the work styles and work timings of the employees. While it is true that many companies found higher levels of productivity through WFH during the pandemic, the JJL survey does state that over time many employees wish to be ‘back-at-office’ for a more collaborative, in-person and out of home experience.

In the future, the office will become a central hub of sorts for employees to base their work out of but will also give way to co-working spaces and WFH options making it more employee centric than company centric. As Flore Pradere, research director with JLL opines, ‘’The hybrid workplace of the future will have to be more human than ever before to support the diverse, changing needs and work styles of employees.’’

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