Technology and the modern office

How modern offices are using technology to create balance between social distancing and developing teamwork.

02 Jun 2021

By Lindsay McQuillan

Covid–19 has opened a new world of design possibilities and has brought in both challenges and opportunities that will define how the real estate sector needs to align and adapt to these changing times. With stringent guidelines already in place, corporates and developers are relooking at design strategies across our living and work environment to ensure a safe and sustainable future of real estate.

Digital technologies will create smarter, more efficient buildings and a more connected employee experience including creating safer and healthier workplaces.

Occupiers increasingly report that remote and home-based work arrangements are taking a toll on team-based work, such as creative ideation, innovation pipeline development, impromptu conversations, and social connections—all of which are best achieved in person.

Measuring, monitoring, and visualizing critical health and safety information is an essential element of re-establishing the workplace as a destination. Building technologies enable transparent environmental monitoring, operational adjustments, and rapid communications to building occupants. In addition, technologies can be used to address energy efficiency and meet sustainable building goals. Mike Young, Senior Director Advisory & Transaction division at CBRE, commented, that “ICD Brookfield Place operates an intelligent central management platform that connects every building function into one digital system and is a prime example of how the building’s performance is optimized to enable proactive maintenance.”

AI along with AR, is being included in workplace key design elements, such as touchless technologies in office bathrooms, with light-activated sinks and hand dryers. Facial recognition for attendance and doors- elevators accessible through corporate badges will reduce employee contact and ensure safety. “Both occupiers and developers will relook at de-densifying the office space, installing furniture that supports individual or separated workstation, using collaborative spaces, or using hot seats. Digital technology will create smarter, more efficient buildings and a more connected employee experience including creating safer and healthier workplaces,” commented Nick Maclean, MD CBRE Middle East.

Technology applications are at the forefront of delivering intuitive solutions to employees to streamline their daily interactions within their community, workplace and even with each other. From scheduling health screenings and space reservations, to enabling a touchless experience, these apps are growing in sophistication and prominence.

The pandemic has clearly shifted our focus to health and wellbeing, and most specifically the air that we breathe. Studies have found that absenteeism, long term health and worker productivity can be affected by elevated levels of pollutants such as fine particulate matter and carbon dioxide.

Air quality sensor and filtration technology has developed to work more efficiently and provide accurate and reliable real time data. Mike Young, noted, “we expect best practices in the design of new buildings will evolve to place greater emphasis on the application of technology to provide good indoor air quality and again ICD Brookfield Place has been designed to have a positive effect on the health and wellbeing of its occupants with: 30% increased fresh air above the ASHRAE requirements, 140,000 sq ft of green space, a 31m high summer garden, and 95% of their occupied space has views to the outdoors for increased daylight, to help boost mental health.”

Over the medium to long term, occupiers will ned to align to a complex set of objectives among which will include acknowledging the change in the importance of health and wellness characteristics of buildings, with air quality a particular area of focus. Layout and configuration of working space, particularly the accelerated shift from personal assigned spaces to unassigned team spaces, and the need to provide sufficient range and proportion of different working environments. And lastly the increased importance of technology and data in enabling corporates to solve for the various benefits and trade-offs involved in these shifts in strategy.

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