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Navigating the Now Normal

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The challenge: navigating hybrid work and the return to the office. When companies shifted to remote work at the beginning of the pandemic, it was supposed to be a temporary change. Now, more than 18 months into the pandemic, remote work has become the norm. Most employees donít want to return to the office full time. However, most workers donít want to work fully remote either. This means building owners and occupiers need to adapt spaces and processes to support a new hybrid work model.

Hybrid Work and Changing Spaces

As mass remote work stretched from a few weeks to a few months with no end in sight, people began to predict the end of the office. They argued that remote work is here to stay, which negates the need for offices.

While many employees will continue to work remotely in some capacity, this shift to remote work hasnít ended the need for offices. Instead, remote work has changed how occupiers use space. Offices now need to compete with the comforts of home by offering something home workspaces donít.

Most companies no longer need their employees to come into the office every day. Because of this, occupiers donít need office spaces for individual work. Instead, companies want their offices to foster communication, collaboration, and company culture.

In this hybrid work model, offices allow employees to come together in person and experience company culture. Hybrid workspaces will likely have more collaborative areas, like conference rooms or group workstations to support this. Many companies will also likely opt for rentable desks instead of assigned desks. These changes help office spaces accommodate however many employees are in the office that day.

Office space is still vital to most companies. However, the way companies use their space is changing.

Shifting Occupier Needs

Before the pandemic, occupiers would choose office space because of factors like location and size. While these factors still matter, many occupiers are prioritizing now prioritizing flexibility. With the uncertainty of the pandemic and hybrid work, occupiers need to know their spaces will shift and change with them.

Companies are also looking for amenity-rich spaces. However, these amenities arenít the same as before the pandemic.

Occupiers want rentable spaces (like meeting rooms or coworking areas) that can add flexibility to their office space. And, companies want health and safety-focused amenities - like gyms, food and drink providers to limit having to leave the office, and more. Companies also want strong cleaning protocols and ways to make amenities safe to use (like monitoring how many people are using the amenity at a time).

With the uncertainty surrounding the return to work, occupiers want flexible spaces that will work for them regardless of what the return to work looks like.

Differentiating Properties

While most companies will return to office work in some capacity, thereís no guarantee theyíll stay in the same space. This makes it essential for owners to differentiate their properties and provide companies a reason to stick with them.

Before the pandemic, it was enough for building owners to provide things like power, water, and a lease and leave the rest up to tenants. Now, however, building owners need to provide a healthy and safe workspace thatís optimized for hybrid work.

To do this, owners need to understand how occupiers are using spaces. Occupier surveys can provide some insight. However, owners may spend weeks or months waiting for survey-based insight. By that time, tenants may already be using space differently.

Instead, owners need real-time data to understand not only understand how tenants are using the space but also to shift messaging, adapt amenities, and transform spaces to meet ever-changing tenant space needs. With real-time data, owners can differentiate their properties by constantly evolving to meet tomorrowís office needs.

Hybrid Work Enabled by Technology

Owners need to differentiate their properties to get and retain tenants and occupiers want flexibility. Technology can enable both of these.

The right technology can help owners collect the data they need to differentiate their property. Many property owners have adopted technology to some extent. However, often, this technology is siloed and lacks integration. This makes it difficult to get actionable insights.

Instead of a siloed tech stack, owners should adopt a converged network that connects all building systems. This converged network serves as the backbone of data collection and amenities that help connect occupiers to their work. With a strong network foundation, owners can easily get the insights they need and offer the right amenities, both of which help differentiate their properties.

For occupiers, technology can help make spaces more flexible. A converged network can make it easy for occupiers to move into more flexible spaces by offering internet, cloud access, and more on day one. This minimizes business interruptions and promotes productivity.

Plus, technology enables occupiers to book common spaces for collaboration. And, within the office, technology makes it easy for employees to reserve desks or meeting areas. Technology also empowers companies to monitor employee space usage to optimize offices for hybrid work.

Hybrid work is fundamentally changing how occupiers use space and how owners differentiate space. For companies to successfully adapt to hybrid work, they need technology that creates a seamless transition from home to office collaboration. And, owners need technology that makes spaces more flexible and connected, while enabling rich data collection. With the right technology, owners and occupiers will not just survive the now normal - but, instead, thrive.

Charles Stucki, Chief Marketing Officer, Join Digital
Charles was an early investor and advisory board member for Join. Charles was recently Co-CEO of a seed stage company developing advanced application-intent driven networking software for enterprises migrating to hybrid cloud. With nearly 17 years of leadership at Cisco, Charles most recently led development of automated software defined networking (SDN) platforms for Cisco, enabling Service Providers and Cloud companies to offer cloud-managed networking as a service to enterprises.

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