Many employees are asking, why should I go to the office when I’ve been doing my job just fine for the past 20 months? This is causing employers to rethink the workplace as a destination, a place people will want to go — giving them a reason to be there because the workplace provides something employees don’t have elsewhere. It might be a place to do specific tasks, a place to collaborate, or hold workshops and face-to-face meetings, to work independently in a quiet place, or to have access to certain tools of the trade.

The workplace will never look the same

Activity-based work (ABW) is centered on the idea that you perform different tasks each day and need a variety of environments and technology to carry out your work efficiently and effectively. You might be working from home, a hotel, a rental home while on vacation, a coffee shop — the list goes on and on. But in each of those places, you need space and tools to best do your job. The new, activity-based workplace is all about flexible, dynamic spaces that can change as the needs of the business and workforce change. Many companies are now anticipating that people will be in the office 2-3 days a week and work from somewhere else the remainder of the time, or even go to the office for half days for a specific purpose or meeting. This is causing a shift from assigned workspaces to hotelling, where you reserve a desk in advance, and hot desking, where people select an available desk upon arrival—if they even need a desk for the task they came to the office to perform.

Watch: The Activity-Based Workplace

Implementing the activity-based workplace

The first thing to remember is there is no one-size-fits-all way to implement ABW. However, there a many different tactics you can deploy to help you determine what software tools and IoT devices and data you need to introduce to let you effectively plan for and manage your activity-based workplace.

For instance, IoT data from occupancy sensors and WiFi data that monitors real-time occupancy,can be used to allow employees to select spaces that have more or less people in them, as well as to monitor for spaces that are too crowded for physical distancing. Information like this is key so you can take action. If you focus first on the end goal — the positive and safe experience you want for occupants and the underlying services needed to make that happen — this can steer your choice of tools based on those goals. Deploying software that will not only support different styles of desk and room reservations, but also report on expected occupancy levels and manage cleaning schedules, for example, can help you achieve multiple goals with one tool.

Building resiliency into facilities management strategies

There are a lot of new solutions out there that solve one specific problem, like room booking or occupancy monitoring. But facility managers can achieve greater success with activity-based workspaces by using integrated solutions that solve a set of problems, like re-planning space, managing capital projects, and right-sizing real estate needs along with room booking and occupancy monitoring. It’s usually more expensive to pull together a bunch of separate solutions and try to force them to work together, rather than using an integrated suite that can do it all.

Nobody knows what the future holds. We’ve gone from one extreme of working in the office regularly to the other extreme of working from home for months, and it looks like we’re landing somewhere in between as we return to the workplace. Moving from traditional office environments to activity-based offices, requires the right mix of tools. What we know for sure is that facility managers need to be prepared for things to keep changing and to be able to make quick, data-driven decisions. The key to success will be to build resiliency into your facilities management and real estate strategies and then choose the right technology partners to support you.

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