Accruent’s annual customer conference brought together more than 2,700 customers, decision makers and industry leaders
By Thomas Allen, Senior Product Manager, Accruent
How is your organization coping with the shifting state of the workplace?
It’s an exciting time in the corporate environment – and full of uncertainty. We’re undergoing a sea change on many fronts:
- 45% of full-time U.S. employees now work partly or fully remotely, nearly double pre-pandemic levels.
- 4.4 million Americans quit their jobs in September alone.
- In the past 6 months, office vacancy rates have dipped roughly 28%.
As a result of all this movement, office design and workplace scheduling are gigantic dots on the corporate radar. Organizations aren’t just thinking about what’s next for workspaces. They’re getting down to the detailed planning and investments that will be necessary to give the modern office a meaningful form.
At Insights 2021, decision makers, industry leaders and practitioners dove into this discussion, exploring some of today’s toughest workplace management challenges. In “The Future of the Workplace,” Tom Ash, Regional VP of Sales at Accruent, and I discussed the lasting impacts of the pandemic, Accruent’s experiences helping customers navigate their path back to the office, and what’s next for the workplace. Following are the top 7 takeaways.
Takeaway #1: There’s no one “Correct” Method for Getting Back to the Office.
Return to work seems to be on a lot of minds these days, and it means wildly different things for different companies. Going back to the office is gaining momentum, but the exact shape and timeframe run the gamut among our customers. Several are now operating almost the same as they were 20 months ago, while others are taking a much slower approach. One customer I talked with nearly a year back had decided then that they wouldn’t return until 2022 at the earliest – and that was before the Delta variant emerged.
What these companies have in common, however, is that they are maintaining a strong level of safety. They are working with employees to survey their comfort levels and ask for their attestations before return to work. They’re limiting direct contact in the workplace and implementing stringent cleaning protocols. And they’re using technology like EMS to connect people safely and efficiently.
Takeaway #2: Yes, Employees Really do Want Collaboration.
No matter which survey you read or whom you talk to, one of the biggest reasons people want to be back in the office is to facilitate collaboration. Face-to-face meetings, in-person brainstorming sessions, informal conversations and the like provide benefits that are difficult to achieve through remote work, including increased job satisfaction. We’re seeing a big push on the employee side to return to the office at least part of the time. (More on hybrid work in a minute!)
As a result, we’re also seeing companies reconfigure their spaces to allow for collaborative work. For example, banks of desks have been replaced by huddle spaces, which are cleaned and sanitized after use so that other groups may gather safely. It’s a trend that has been growing since long before the pandemic, and it shows no signs of slowing down.
Takeaway #3: Hybrid work will continue to accelerate.
Another trend that shows no signs of abating is that of hybrid work. Remember just a few years ago when companies said employees couldn’t work from home because of compliance issues? That, for example, they couldn’t handle contracts remotely because papers needed a wet signature? Along came digital signatures and we all adapted.
The adaptation continues. Today, employers are essentially saying, “We’re going to let you do your heads-down work wherever is best for you. That could be at home, in our facility, or at your local coffee shop. And when you need to be in the office, there will be a place for you.” It’s no longer a binary decision of being at home vs. being at work. And when they are at the office, employees use desk hoteling software to book space as needed in the flexible, activity-based workplace.
In addition, companies are enabling office spaces under the assumption that every meeting will include remote employees, partners or customers. Meeting rooms are equipped with the tools employees need to perform collaborative activities, like remote whiteboarding and video conferencing software.
Takeaway #4: Enterprises are Getting Holistic with Their Real Estate.
You’ve likely heard this whole “the holistic real estate approach is happening!” message before, but there’s a new dimension to how companies are approaching their facility and office building needs. They’re taking a deeper look from a lifecycle perspective at several core areas:
- Locations. Enterprises are asking themselves where they need locations, what those buildings/facilities/offices will look like to support the work they want to do, and how they are going to manage all this going forward. There’s a lot more thought and strategy around overall portfolio management, lease administration and accounting, and whether to invest in new builds or refurbishes.
- Facility management. The facilities management (FM) market is growing. We’re seeing companies increasingly pay attention to what may have been a bit under-documented in the past. The high costs in the current FM environment have brought these concerns to the forefront, prompting management to take closer looks at the solutions they have in place and how their FM processes can be improved.
- Spaces. With hybrid work meaning fewer folks in the office on a day-to-day basis, enterprises are reexamining how much space they really need. They’re also taking a close look at how to organize and manage that space operationally so they can make the most of what is typically their second-highest expense.
Takeaway #5: A Delightful Employee Experience is not the Same as a Fun Office.
A few years back, it seemed like we were all talking about how to create a fun office to attract and retain talent. But with low employee engagement and widespread attrition plaguing almost every industry, employers are realizing they need to look at the entire work experience. They’re providing a variety of spaces so employees can choose the optimal places for getting work done.
I’ve also been hearing increasingly about how the employee experience extends into the ethos of the company. The workforce is questioning how aligned they are with company values, and being connected to the company mission is a primary motivator. Even when relatively satisfied with the job itself, a lack of alignment feeds into disengagement that simply getting a bi-weekly paycheck can’t fix.
Takeaway #6: All Mobile, All the Time.
The reality is that we are tethered to our mobile devices. For example, when I head into the office in Denver, I use a mobile app to buy my Light Rail ticket. I scan in when I get to the office via my mobile device, I order lunch from my phone, and I book a meeting space via the EMS mobile app. Mobile is immediate and everywhere.
My prediction is that companies will increasingly give employees power at work through their mobile apps. If they’re reserving a desk, for example, the app will consider their preferences behind the scenes. It might take into account that they like a particular seating area or a particular temperature, and that information plays into improving the employee experience.
Takeaway #7: Sensors and Automation Increasingly are Used as Wellness Tools.
Have you ever felt sleepy in an afternoon meeting and attributed it to post-lunch stupor? It’s possible the cause wasn’t the food in your stomach but the oxygen – or lack thereof – in the air around you. An O2 meter in a conference room or ventilation that adjusts based on the size of a meeting is one example of how sensors can make for healthier work environments, ultimately resulting in better employee wellness and higher productivity.
How Accruent can Help With Better Workplace Management
At Accruent, we’re committed to helping our customers take on tough workplace management challenges. Our EMS desk, event and room scheduling software for the modern workplace is designed to transform how your people and spaces work together.
To find out more about how EMS can power your workplace, visit our website. And to listen to the full discussion of the future of the workplace, along with dozens of other inspiring sessions, check out our on-demand content at Insights 2021 Virtual.