Guest blog by, Erica Eaton, CEO, Comfy

The COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed the way we work, and one thing is clear: office centricity is a thing of the past. But for the majority of businesses, eliminating the physical workplace entirely is not an option. It’s clear that hybrid home/office working models will take center stage in the future of work. Not only will this achieve the smartest, safest and most efficient use of space for businesses, it will also empower employees to decide how they use offices to suit specific tasks. As we enter a new era of intentionality around office life, spaces designed for collaboration and culture-building will be increasingly important for employees choosing when and how to come into the office. Technology will be crucial to enabling and managing this new age of work. 

But even as some countries are approving vaccines, organizations with complex global real estate portfolios are facing continued uncertainty around safely returning employees to work, and defining their new working models. The three phases of a safe return to the workplace – crisis management, workplace re-entry and business continuity – are not a linear, one-time journey. Businesses are traversing back and forth between the first and second phases as a result of rapidly changing pandemic circumstances, while attempting to address timely communication, wavering employee trust, safety protocols, myriad technology investments and inefficiently utilized real estate.

By focusing on building a solid digital foundation to support both near and long-term workplace models, firms can create a trusted and resilient working environment to manage both a safe return to office spaces, and a flexible future of work.

What are the key considerations for business leaders contemplating a safe, technology-led transition to hybrid working? At Comfy, we’ve identified five critical considerations for firms to address.

Put health and safety first

Health-first is a mentality that will reign supreme long-term, and leaders should seek technology solutions which address both current and future needs, such as automated systems to monitor and limit building capacity for physical distancing. Health checks and contact tracing can also be managed with digital tools, and technology to create a touchless experience in the office will set firms up for healthy working environments in the long term.

Create comfort through communications

Communication has never been more important. For employees to trust the re-entry process we have to listen carefully and communicate frequently. When combined with the right technology, a good communications strategy will give employees accurate, locally-relevant information on evolving policies and guidelines across even global portfolios. Empowering employees to make informed decisions is crucial to rebuilding trust in the workplace.

Reconsider your working model

As we’ve seen with companies like Siemens, which has implemented a permanent, global flexible work model, there is a fundamental shift towards hybrid work. Creating robust hybrid working models will pay dividends now and in the future; data from workplace technology platforms will enable businesses to right-size portfolios for lower CAPEX, tailor office spaces to the needs of employees and position themselves as an employer of choice to retain top talent. 

Choose your technologies carefully

Not all technologies are created equal, and the key question should be: “how does this technology investment serve my business in the long-term?” Businesses implementing workplace technology for a safe return to offices must take this opportunity to look beyond the pandemic, to lay the digital foundations of their future of work.

Partner for tomorrow, not just today

The partners you choose for your digitalization journey should adapt with your business and its evolving needs, long after the COVID-19 pandemic. Scalable technology, a comprehensive partner ecosystem and global reach are all excellent attributes, as is the ability to capture, analyze, understand and derive value from workplace data. Ultimately, your partners are there to integrate your people, places and businesses into a cohesive digital ecosystem, which will grow alongside you.

About the Author:

Erica Eaton, CEO, Comfy

Erica Eaton is the CEO of Comfy, a workplace intelligence platform which supports safe, healthy and productive workspaces for employees, and efficiently utilized spaces for businesses. Erica brings a decade of experience in the building technologies industry to shaping Comfy’s strategy and products, developing strategic partnerships with stakeholders across the commercial real estate market and technology partners in the workplace experience industry. Prior to joining Comfy, Erica led open innovation and venture capital activity at a multinational building technology company, engaging with start-ups, VC funds, national labs and other market players to identify technology targets and investment opportunities.