The global pandemic has forced millions of people into working from home in the past year. Technologies and project management systems have become crucial for remote work. As we step into the new year of 2021, hope is on the horizon with the quick development and deployment of vaccines. All around the world, people are slowly going back to their offices. Amid these events, we sat down and curated some emerging technologies that may shape post-pandemic offices.
As we move into the post-pandemic workspace, several issues may come to mind: How do we ensure employees are safe within office premises? How can we make remote and distributed work effective? How can we make collaboration more efficient? In our search for emerging technologies, we found that the focus is on digitization, touchless, and seamless integration.
Building on our predictions for 10 Workplace Trends for 2021, we looked into specific solutions for specific problem types. These technologies are grouped into the two major categories: “Find, Design, & Build” and “Workplace Experience, Facilities, & Operations.” For a summary, you can refer to this list of new technologies compiled by CoreNet Northern California Technology Specialty Interest Group.
This article will explore specific solutions in the post-pandemic workplace. We will look into the two major categories of technologies, further discussing their importance and use for businesses. These discussions will also include a list of software and companies for your reference. (Scroll to the bottom to find a summary table).
Under this section, we discuss tools for planning workspaces. This discussion is especially useful if you want to know how you can do the following:
• Ensure my distributed workforce has suitable working spaces
• Find the best location for my business
• Keep track of my business construction remotely
• Redesign my office space remotely to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines
Before the pandemic, remote working was already on the rise — these comprise 4.7 million Americans or 3.4% of the workforce. The pandemic has made remote working regular and recommended, making people see its appeal.
Many companies can benefit from distributed workspaces to reduce overhead costs and long term leases, increase opportunities to attract talent, and provide flexibility for employees. Moving forward, these workspaces still need to be improved. For more information on these improvements and changes, check out 5 Ways How 2021 Will Reshape Coworking and Flexible Office Spaces.
Due to this growing trend, companies like Desana, Deskpass, Liquidspace, WeWork, Spacent, and Meetings Booker provide an extensive network of workspaces at affordable options. These platforms make it easy for employees to book their spaces and reduce the complexities of remote work.
Location intelligence uses geospatial data and spatial analysis to inform actions for businesses. You can find applications everywhere — from the best retail location and finding talent and workforce to constructing expansion scenarios. With companies like Esri, Emsi, and BeyondHQ, you can harness data to your business advantage.
Before the pandemic, companies like Fieldwire, OpenSpace, Reconstruct, and WakeCap have provided remote management tools for construction. These tools have helped reduce site visits and create a seamless integration of planning with construction.
The pandemic forced many construction sites to shut down, and several guidelines needed to be met for them to open again. These platforms have provided unique and effective ways of adjusting to this by offering features such as contactless attendance, distancing and controls, and real-time space measures to make the construction compliant to COVID-19 protocols.
Space planning and touring can be expensive and time-consuming. With the COVID-19 travel restrictions, these are made even more costly and complicated. Remote virtual space planning and touring is an excellent option for businesses to bypass these travel restrictions and reduce costs and time spent on projects.
Platforms like Saltmine and TheWild tackle remote design challenges head-on by providing an agile design process. Stakeholders and designers can use virtual space to communicate concepts and spatial features effectively. Remote collaboration and brainstorming are made seamless and real-time.
The workplace will entail a lot of new changes. Safety will be the prime concern for both employers and employees. It is something they have to integrate into the workplace experience, facilities, and operations.
One of the UK’s leading social entrepreneurs, Andrew Mawson, notes that “the true patterns of use of space post-pandemic are almost impossible to predict. My sense is that sensor technology will be needed to understand the true use of space by a different group and also to dynamically schedule space by individuals to optimize the use of buildings.”
This section is helpful if you find yourself asking how to do the following:
• Ensure the safety of my employees, whether remote or on-site
• Provide my remote employees with proper equipment for them to work successfully
• Maximize contact tracing within the office space
• Provide safe transportation for my employees
• Keep track of my employees’ experiences, especially those working remotely
• Monitor the use of spaces
• Enhance virtual meetings
Access control management for both employees and visitors will ensure contact tracing and effective management of people flow properly. Proxyclick, Proxy, and SwiftCTRL have responded to the pandemic situation and added contactless solutions and easy-to-use checks for COVID-19 related questions. These systems reduce wait time significantly for visitor registration and create a more seamless workspace.
Another impressive access control management is specifically used for cafeterias. HungerBox ensures safe food court premises, enhances food safety protocols, personnel screening, streamlined operations, and real-time surveillance.
In addition to access control, sanitation management is essential more than ever. Some exciting solutions we found are as follows:
• Dust containment and infection control through HEPA-rated filtration provided by companies like HEPACart.
• Streamlined cleaning quality through janitorial management is provided by software like Cleantelligent. They offer management tools for inspections, work orders, job scheduling, mobile surveys, and business intelligence.
• Safety and risk management and incident reporting through workflow management. Software like Aclaimant creates a central system to prevent losses and risks.
• Self-cleaning surfaces ensure safety in high traffic public touchpoints. Products like Nanoseptic make sanitation easy to implement into any workspace.
Despite the benefits of remote work, there are more things to consider in preparing and giving your employees the right equipment. With a physical office, supplying these are easier to audit since everything is in one place. Remote work requires more management for shipping, upgrades, maintenance, among others.
Platforms like FirstbaseHQ make it easier to set up your remote employees. They offer services that include the following:
• IT Provisioning
• Delivery of goods
• Maintenance and repairs
• Ongoing culture and perks
• Collection when a worker leaves
• Upgrades at the end of the product cycle
Healthy employees make up a healthy business. It is essential to ensure that a workplace is kept safe and any suspect COVID-19 cases are immediately controlled. Contact tracing is a tool with many benefits, such as:
• Mitigating risks by preventing high-risk individuals from entering the workplace
• Tracing exposure precisely, making transmission control easy
• Visualizing areas with the most significant risks and overcrowding
• Giving employees peace of mind.
Platforms such as Proxfinity, ClearMe, Appian, and PWC provide contact tracing tools that do all the above and include data privacy protection.
There is significant uncertainty of public health brought about by the pandemic. People have become hesitant about commuting to work. This created a substantial drop in public transit use. Nonetheless, several transportation options are in development, which include:
• Active commuting by bike and scooters
• Closed network employee carpooling
• Stipends for parking and ride-hailing services.
Ride-hailing services have considered these problems. Platforms like Lyft and Uber have recently created closed-network transportation programs for businesses. This allows safer employee commute, easier contact tracing, and reduction of transportation costs.
With remote working becoming the norm, it is vital to stay in touch with your employees and understand their experiences and needs. Distributed workforce and campuses need a unified digital experience to help employees and students be more productive.
Tools like Leesman Index, Cohesionib, The CX App, ComfyApp, ModoLabs, and Host can help you understand your employees’ current workplace experience. These are useful for different scenarios, ranging from campus and university to day-to-day workplace experience, business decision-makers, and corporate communications.
Wondering what other uses sensor technology have? With IoT Monitoring, tracking density, optimizing conference rooms, maintaining facilities and equipment, and measuring temperature are made easy.
We have found that IoT Technologies offer some interesting case-uses:
• Inventory, compliance, and warranty intelligence for facilities and equipment
• Density data to boost advertising and marketing, improve budget allocation, create a safe and responsive workspace, community outreach, among others
• Real estate and portfolio optimization
• Asset and activity tracking
• Temperature and humidity sensors
• Cleaning and safety monitoring
Companies like EquipID, Density, VergeSense, and Rigado give businesses complete infrastructure suited to their use cases.
Facility management is essential in every business, more so in a post-pandemic environment. This tool helps to cut costs, reduce waste, enable productivity and efficiency, and move management.
Standard features of space management tools include the following:
• Floor plan visualization made simple
• Space planning
• Facility maintenance
• Move management
• Desk booking
• Workplace reporting
• Hoteling and hot desks
• Support ticketing
Platforms like Spaceti, Pangeam, Avuity, Freespace, Spacewell, Maptician, IOffice, Condeco Software, SpaceIQ, OfficeSpace, and GoSpace are great software solutions you can look into. Some exciting innovations include remote workspace management, air quality assessment, and occupancy analytics through sensor technology.
Virtual meetings dominated 2020, made possible by video conferencing platforms like ZOOM. Some platforms explore ways to improve online sessions through immersive virtual rooms like Virbela. Others like Convene create more seamless engagement in virtual events. Meanwhile, Facebook Infinite Office creates a virtual office space.
You can expect similar platforms to emerge post-pandemic as we look for better ways to collaborate and meet remotely.
Emerging technologies for the post-pandemic workspace are continuously evolving, providing solutions for all kinds of problems. The majority of these solutions focus on digitization, as well as touchless and seamless integration with existing systems.
As you go through the list of tools, you may notice some of these can singularly provide for different problems. Now, the challenge is to find the right tool for your business.
Here at Open Sourced Workplace LLC, we are committed to providing and sharing information to maximize workplace productivity and employee experience. Since 2018, we have reviewed equipment, services, and technology. No matter how big the problems may be, people are always looking for ways to overcome them, innovating and adapting to any situation. If we can be of service in helping you manage these projects, contact us here.
Chief workplace and change strategist Neil Usher perfectly sums up our thoughts on emerging technologies:
“In many ways until Covid, it was the nature of the workplace and its entrenched habits that shaped the nature of workplace technology. It created demand for solidifying the ways we had typically always done things – measured, planned, delivered, and managed workplaces. Technology was developed to improve accuracy and efficiency in regard to each. Utilization measures, design tools, click-and-drag space allocation, desk and room booking, asset management, and PPM.
But Covid has – at last – flipped this. We’re entering an era of rapid and unpredictable change. The workplace will need to respond. As property leaders are asked by their leadership to simultaneously improve efficiency and effectiveness, they are looking to tech to see what’s possible. Yet the only technology that will shape the workplace in ways we haven’t yet seen is artificial intelligence (AI). It has the power to significantly augment human performance, to enable sophisticated scenario planning and scheduling through a simple, intuitive interface for the occupant. The ultimate workplace technology will be that we don’t even know is there.”
Need more ideas on what technologies you can consider? For more information about How Technology Can Grow Your Business, check this detailed article. If you have come across interesting emerging technologies, feel free to comment on our Discord Community.
With the many solutions available, it can be confusing to choose which ones to prioritize for your business. Before selecting any of the tools we mentioned, you need to first ask yourself a few questions about your business operation, your current information flow with customers, and if technology can minimize risk and improve business continuity. Identifying your specific needs and requirements will help you avoid unnecessary costs.
Increased dependence on technology should be coupled with a proper transition, which includes training, feedback, and continuous support.
Some key actions you can take are as follows:
• Incentivizing technology use
• Make sure to do the introduction of technology in small steps
• Host casual learning sessions
• Provide training and mentoring
• Help employees see the value for themselves
• Engage employees every step of the way
• Follow up after the initial training
• Make learning interactive
• Give employees time to adjust
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