Guest Post by Jeremy Bernard, CEO, North America, essensys

COVID-19 is proving the workspace is not dead, it’s just different. As we journey through a new year, new opportunity arises as employers, teams, and landlords realize that productive and purposeful work can happen from anywhere thanks to technology. While workplace strategies and objectives have shifted, the change in how corporate real estate (CRE) leaders and decision makers operate presents a plethora of opportunities. Enter the autonomous workspace.

As companies transition to designing spaces that support freedom of movement and the ability to operate independently of human control, leaders will require robust collaboration tools and systems to keep their teams agile, productive and connected.

Technology is steering the autonomous workspace

Real estate has changed. But not just because of Covid-19. The pandemic has accelerated previously existing trends, compelling landlords to offer new propositions. While the work from home revolution has been positive for some, it is unsustainable for others. Tenant organizations are looking for flexible solutions to accommodate new and hybrid working models. But now, landlords need to deliver office solutions that are not just flexible and responsive but also autonomous. The autonomous workspace can adapt to changing occupier needs at the touch of a button and is firmly underpinned by technology.

Putting people at the core

In 2021, real estate will see a seismic shift from corporations dictating how office space is designed and managed to a model that puts individual workers’ needs at the center of the office experience. Distributed working practices offer employees a mix of office environments that support freedom of movement. From home and hub-and-spoke offices to meeting rooms and flexible workspaces, hybrid models are here to stay. The point is, landlords need to create and develop real estate platforms that offer it all, quickly and effortlessly. They must attract and retain tenants, who, in turn, need to accommodate what their employees want when they want it. The office remains essential for what I call the 3 Cs: culture, collaboration and cooler talk.

Only technology can unlock the autonomous workspace and coordinate the many elements that shape an individual worker’s experience. Imagine the possibilities if every step of the workspace user journey were operated and controlled seamlessly, with minimal human effort. It’s all about bringing together the physical and digital layers of the workspace and making them work together smoothly – not an easy task for landlords.

The tools that keep people productive

Flexibility is a core component of the autonomous workspace. Landlords must consider how to deliver space immediately while ensuring enterprise-grade and ready-to-use services measure up to occupier expectations. Basic productivity tools such as internet and Wi-Fi are table stakes. It is time to start thinking about digital infrastructure that offers robust connectivity, collaboration tools, and security so that tenants don’t have to. But it’s not as easy as buying servers and networking equipment from Staples and making it run straight out of the box. ‘Build your own’ is a risky strategy. According to IBM, the global average cost of a security breach is $3.84 million, not to mention the huge hit to brand reputation. For landlords, secure digital infrastructure is not just a question of output but a question of de-risking their business and offering the best possible experience to their occupiers. 

As the world of work changes, so does the way people use office space. To keep workspace users at the helm of where and how they work, landlords need to make space and services on-demand. Effective space management tools that help with inventory configuration and day-to-day operation of the space are critical. A flexible operation needs to provide tenants with self-service to book space, and access contracts, billing, and payments from a single application. In a post-pandemic world, touchless access control that lets users enter buildings and spaces with a mobile device is invaluable. Technology that goes with them and lets them interact with the space makes for a truly autonomous workspace experience.

Technology for next-generation real estate

The workspace of the past is long-gone, and how it’s operated should be too. If we want to deliver next generation real estate solutions, the technology must also be next generation. For landlords, this means having complete visibility and control over the management layer. This provides data into how space and services are used so they can make informed decisions about how to adapt to changing requirements. A single, secure platform simplifies the many operational complexities, so the workspace runs practically on its own. It is critical for landlords to make strategic technology decisions now to future-proof their portfolio for the longterm.

The autonomous workspace cannot operate without digital transformation. Technology offers the self-service and automation capabilities to cultivate agile and productive office environments. The powerful combination of hardware and software can bring a building to life.

Jeremy Bernard is CEO, North America, of essensys