Why technology will be fundamental to the return of workers to flexible office space



Guest blog by Dan Jones, Global Research and Data Analyst, Workthere

With lockdown still in place in the UK and in many other parts of the world, current timescales for many of us to return to the office are still unclear. Yet while we continue to work from our kitchens, bedrooms and sitting rooms, flexible office providers are presented with a unique opportunity to ensure that, upon return, their spaces are not only Covid-secure but that they are also fit for a new way of working which is likely to ensue after the pandemic’s effects lessen.

There are many strands to this and while there will be a combination of changes to make, the one that binds them all together is arguably the most important; technology. We take a look at what providers have been implementing so far and what we’ll likely see upon our return to the office…

‘Appy workers

Although workplace apps are nothing new, they present an all-encompassing way to relay real time information to providers and users alike. Embedding features such as desk booking and employee sickness will allow providers to prioritise the health of users and the safety of the workplace at all times. While this is a natural next step following the impact of Covid-19, these apps have been in place in a number of locations prior to the pandemic. However, how they evolve and how the data from them can assist providers in creating the optimal environment will be an important step going forwards. It’s likely we will see companies and flexible office providers experimenting with solutions to find out what works best for them. As there is not necessarily a one size fits all approach, providers will have to figure out what suits their members best and how they wish to operate.

W is for Wellness

While we’ve mentioned that the implementation of apps can track sickness in and out of the office, while Covid-19 is still with us, pre-entry wellness checks in flexible office spaces will be paramount if we are to ensure a smooth staggered return. Temperature checks have been in place for a while, however we may see an automation of this process in order to help speed up entry into the building.

Once in the building, it’s likely we will see providers turn to sensors to help track densities and movement across the office floor helping to keep workers at safe distances initially and then, going forwards to help monitor any contamination. This is especially key in communal areas, which are likely to be more popular if a hybrid model of working from home/from the office continues. There are numerous start-ups developing this technology, such as Density, Outsight, Zensors and VergeSense.

Acceleration of digitalisation

It’s likely that we will also see a sharp increase in the digitalisation of objects around the office to aid the processes we have already mentioned above. Creating “smart” buildings by digitalizing existing infrastructure is no mean feat but is a permanent way to ensure employee health and safety. This could be anything from creating touchless entry for lifts, implementing smart air ventilation systems to filter out “contaminated air”. There are even other, more high-tech, solutions available to mitigate frequent cleaning of lifts, such as using UVC rays to kill any pathogens in empty lifts.