Guest Post by Cynthia Kantor, Chief Product Officer, JLL Corporate Solutions

Amidst the many profound disruptions of the past 12 months, it’s only natural for people to ask when things will get back to normal. But I for one see this moment as an opportunity to release old norms and make things better than normal in terms of workplace strategy. That’s because, more than ever, we have the technology to create a more human experience of work—and a dawning consciousness that work is something you do, not necessarily somewhere you go.

This period of remote-work has been a wake-up call in more ways than one. People don’t want to go back to the traditional work model, which so often entailed facing a grueling daily commute to sit for 50 hours a week at an impersonal desk, in a crowded office—even if you were sick—because that’s what it took to prove you were productive. This doesn’t mean the need for office space is going away but this reset has provided an opportunity to shape what the future of work, and offices, looks like going forward. By adopting a more human-centric approach, offices can become innovation and collaboration centers that employees want to come to.

Throughout 2020, we saw the largest-ever work-from-home experiment prove successful, in terms of keeping productivity even with the status quo. Now, that success can help real estate and workplace leaders shape real estate portfolios for a hybrid future, one that balances the freedom to work wherever best suits each individual with the riches of a vibrant, in-person community.

More than just another recruitment perk (although it is also that), giving employees this choice actively feeds their human experience. Blending flexible work programs with a vibrant shared workplace supports a better work-life balance, in addition to better supporting concentrated work and refreshing in-person collaboration. Embracing a hybrid workplace also gives organizations the opportunity to reassess their real estate footprint, create a more productive workplace, and save costs at a time when many companies are taking a closer look at their bottom lines.

Beyond embracing remote work, the last year significantly accelerated other workplace trends that were also already underway, including digital transformation and doubling down on health and wellness offerings to help employees feel safe and secure when they return to in-person work.

Technology has been key in all these advances, from supporting virtual collaboration to facilitating COVID-19 safety protocols. It’s also created a whole new world of possibility in occupancy management.

Tech-driven occupancy management for a worker-centric workplace

The workplace-centric approach worked just fine for decades—in part because it had to. But new occupancy management solutions enable companies to achieve a more fluid, flexible, and people-centric workplace, one that builds employee trust and confidence while sparking innovation and performance.

For example, using cutting-edge—yet accessible—artificial intelligence (AI) software, organizations can now drive dynamic resource and space allocations through intelligent, automatic seating assignment methods.

Combined with the right human expertise, companies can leverage these tools to expand and contract office and portfolio footprint needs on a real-time basis, with an integrated view on the demand for space. They can activate dynamic zones, rather than static space assignments, an approach that will grow or shrink based on the ever-changing number of people coming into the physical workplace. And they can provide a dynamic reservation management system that makes it easy for employees to request the space they want, when they want it—empowering collaboration and choice, while allowing occupancy planners to more effectively manage who is where, when.

Integrated with other advanced technology tools, such as workplace experience smartphone apps, dynamic occupancy management can also improve utilization data accuracy and uncover opportunities for space optimization and maintenance, as well as energy cost reductions.

These new technologies, powered by proven workplace solutions, will be nothing less than transformative as organizations work to foster performance and experience in the post-COVID-19 hybrid workplace.

The pandemic has amplified the need for a work ethos that puts people first. By harnessing game-changing technology to migrate from static management to an agile, ‘always-on’ approach, we can shape the role of the workplace. Together, we can create environments that enhance human experience, improve space utilization, and provide resiliency in the ever-evolving, post-pandemic environment.

Cynthia Kantor is Chief Product Officer at JLL Corporate Solutions