Jitesh Patel, CEO of Peldon Rose looks at the future of the office

With the mass vaccination programme being rolled out across the UK, there are at least some signs that society can consider a phased return to normality. For many of us, this means we’ll go back to working in the shared workspace, to some extent, in the not-too-distant future. However, when employees do return to the office the way we view hygiene and safety in the working environment has now changed forever.

From supporting with flexible working to helping to create a safer workplace environment, here, Jitesh Patel, CEO of Peldon Rose discusses the important role technology has to play in the set up and maintenance of workspaces.

Facilitating a safe return

The pandemic has instilled in us a heightened awareness of hygiene and cleanliness, and, with many employees being away from the office for almost a year, some may feel apprehensive about returning.

As a result, employees will want to feel reassured that their workspaces meet the highest standards. To create a safe and more comfortable working environment, we’ll begin to see offices move towards technology that facilitates a more touchless way of working. Whereas, in the past this may have offered convenience, it is now a necessity for businesses. By introducing hands-free technology where possible, such as contactless temperature monitors, automatic soap dispensers, sensor taps and automatic doors, the potential spread of bacteria can be reduced. Touchless sign-in systems are also another way to effectively manage visitors on arrival while saving your staff time and keeping them safe, it also means that there is a digital record of who is entering the building. We’ve already started implementing these measures in our Peldon Rose office, with thermal cameras to monitor the temperatures of our team upon arrival at the office.

Despite the vaccine programme, it may also still be a while until we feel comfortable getting closer to our colleagues again. In fact, data in Peldon Rose’s recent Office of the Future report backs this up, with only 6% of respondents stating they would choose hotdesking in the workplace, which suggests this once popular collaborative working style is now going out of favour. This move away from close co-working is further supported by almost half (48%) of respondents saying they now want a private office/co-working space with a quieter section away from noise and distraction.

Flexible spaces

Technology has served as our ally during the pandemic, it has proved to some extent that home working is possible, with many meetings able to take place online rather than in person. As a result, many businesses will now be applying this hybrid approach, mixing home and office working. In fact, the Office of the Future report revealed that 52% of respondents want a mixture of home and office working moving forwards.

This means, when it comes to the design of offices, spaces will need to be much more flexible and able to quickly respond to change. Workspaces will need to become wireless where possible so walls, screens and furniture can move and adapt to the changing needs of users.

For those managing spaces, utilising solutions such as property management software gives them the full oversight they need to easily measure the effectiveness of their spaces and quickly adapt them based on their utilisation needs. This is vitally important when customers have a portfolio of property. Digital technologies provide more agility — that kind of flexibility gives businesses the ability to pivot quickly to meet new needs and keep operations running smoothly, from managing leases to coordinating maintenance requests.

Technology to support maintenance teams

As well as the set up and running of an office space, technology has an important role to play when it comes to the maintenance of buildings. For example, we may see an increase in smart sensors that provide real-time performance data and remote BMS monitoring supervision which enable any required changes to be made quickly. This way, maintenance teams spend less time in the office itself, but are still able to collect reliable data.

Whether you’re an in-house facilities manager or work as part of an external team, working with your employees to create comprehensive, preventative maintenance regimes and cleaning routines ensures that the workspace remains as hygienic as possible. This is where we may see businesses adopting digital workplace management tools. The technology helps to plan better maintenance schedules by providing useful snapshots of workplace activity. For example, cloud-based access control systems can provide data and reporting in real-time and these analytics can help to advise when to schedule maintenance without disrupting your employees.

While technology has always played an important role in the workplace, it is now integral that businesses utilise digital tools and ways of working to facilitate a safe working environment for employees. As we continue to respond to the changing world we live in, technology is going to play an essential role to create flexible spaces which can easily be adapted to the needs of users.