The Connected Employee: Could the Hybrid Workplace be more aptly described as Café Culture?
Written by Keith Jump
Has the office already evolved into a Venue for collaboration? I have attended a number of conferences, panel discussions, read many articles on the discussion of return to work, and helped clients implement solutions that enable a return to the office. Throughout all of that, what’s interesting to observe is how the employee experience is increasingly being considered prior to redesigning office spaces or implementing workplace technology. The “work from anywhere” model employees expect is impacting the physical workplace, creating a sustainable practice similar to what we see in Café Culture. And this shift in the purpose of the office is starting to increase attendance, productivity, and help reconnect people.
INSIGHT: A recurring theme currently is that of the Hybrid Workplace, however the most common subject of the debate is the HOW?
This article focuses on the foundational layer required for a successful hybrid workplace and the growing demand for smart connected workplaces that can foster collaboration, enhance remote and physical communication, help employees and employers adapt to the hybrid style of working, whilst recognizing it’s an iterative process.
Ultimately, we will need to evolve as a result of our experiences, taking on challenges such as the Great Resignation or Great Reshuffle as it has been recently referred to, as well as the economic, productivity, and technology challenges that will come and go.
Therefore, the key ingredient to a successful strategy will be data.
“Scientia potentia est,” a famous quote from the 16th Century, translates to “Knowledge is power,” and although in a different context, is very relevant to the 21st Century challenges of the Hybrid Workplace.
To gain knowledge, consuming information that enables informed decisions is a fundamental cornerstone to success.
Maybe we should change the quote to a modern-day version of “Data itself is power.” “Data ipsa potentia est,” perhaps. And for data regarding space utilization and employee preferences in the hybrid workplace, that saying is certainly apt.
This is not to say that we need to track people. Data protection and privacy are key considerations with anonymity.
Of course, instances where people opt in or voluntarily share data are important—and can be achieved through many routes. Indeed, this will form a key part of the data model you build, to enable the analysis of behavioral, environmental, and space analytics. Moving forward, data will be essential in enabling the workplace to adapt evolving demands of people, experience, business and economic drivers, governance, and sustainability.
INSIGHT: The smart building, with its connected spaces and people, will provide invaluable business intelligence through connectivity enabled by the digital layer, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), mobile and portable devices, network and building systems integration, software, and applications.
A people-centric design, for both the physical and digital experience, is essential to the engagement of the spaces and buildings, which in turn generates more meaningful data interactions and insights.
With the Café Culture style appearing more frequently within the physical design of spaces, to support the hybrid working style, a holistic connected digital experience is important for employees.
Café Culture raises its own technology challenges. We are witnessing the phasing out of the passive infrared style sensor mounted under a desk to detect presence, as spaces are designed more in keeping with cafés, home living, and a co-working style office design.
The changing landscape of office culture is seeing a new meeting etiquette evolve too, as people connect to meetings from home and remote locations whilst some of the attendees are physically present.
Remote workers have become less formal, embracing more casual settings and attire, whilst offices have more formal meeting room settings, with dress representative of location.
INSIGHT: Is there a Hoodie vs Collar mentality when remote vs physical, and if there is, does it really matter anymore? Single task-based activity can be highly productive at home, but collaborative output is greater when physically interacting with others.
Informal pre-meeting conversations often exclude remote workers, with booking a suitable meeting room for physical and remote attendees a tricky task. Again, connectivity, experience, and seamless practicality are key.
In this scenario, the physical and virtual meeting room must be truly connected through the digital layer, offering simple smart space reservation software, personalized notification and location services, with excellent collaboration tools being essential.
INSIGHT: Is Fear of missing out (FOMO) on pre or post meeting room chats, a motivator to attend an office or an impact to employee mental wellbeing? Global organizations have had this cultural challenge for years, now many companies are experiencing the same challenges.
A people-centric user experience, through an omnichannel style approach will be critical, connected to IoT and Building Management Systems (BMS), a building middleware solution can form the connecting layer as part of the digital and physical layers.
Services using Artificial Intelligence (AI) will grow within this sector, designed to automate the booking of space—based on user profile, preferences, and space availability. Accurate data will be the essential service providing the fuel for these services, provisioned through a connected IoT ecosystem within buildings, detecting usage, presence, and providing people-counting and space availability capabilities whilst providing wellbeing information through environmental sensing.
Additionally, communications are already transitioning from traditional impersonalized employee comms messaging to truly personalized information and notifications via an employee’s preferred digital channel. This can include live data for colleague locations, personalized workspace availability, and targeted messaging on digital signage based on an employee’s space reservation data. Again, all sourced and delivered through the digital layer throughout your buildings.
INSIGHT: So, data isn’t just required for historic and predictive analysis of behavior, environments or space—it’s an essential service to live applications, communications, building management and the economic challenges of owning or leasing real-estate.
The simple conclusion is that the connected employee experience is here to stay.
The workplace of the future is truly hybrid, connected and part of a living breathing data model of your corporate real-estate, intelligently suggesting actionable insights to property managers, actionable activity for users and trend data that can allow for informed decision makers to flex and change where needed, whether physical, virtual or technology-based.
And Café Culture will become the norm for workplaces across the globe.
INSIGHT: If “Data is Power” then “Connecting People to the Workplace” wherever that may be, is the answer to the “HOW.” By maximizing value from the information, knowledge, and actionable insights provided by the data your buildings, spaces, people, systems and services provide, you can unlock the way forward.
Data being generated from the workplace will also be essential to achieve ESG goals and accelerate efficiencies throughout the real-estate sector, with less space utilized by more people through an enhanced experience where employee comms, space management, and other services are augmented by AI.
The exciting next evolution is on its way, where IoT and AI will be the cornerstone of any workplace strategy, an operating system for the built environment, extending traditional services where people and the built environment are connected, harvesting data that shapes the future of work.
In partnership with FWI, Connect XP will look to organize a roundtable event in the coming weeks.
My next blog in mid-June, will explore the importance of Digital transformation and further detail examples of the hybrid workplace in action.