The global pandemic and the switch to remote working has raised big questions about the future of working in traditional offices.
But as restrictions wind down and employers contemplate plans to reopen their offices, some see opportunities to rethink and recreate the workplace.
“I think it certainly is something that has opened people’s eyes a bit to the opportunity,” said Johnny Clemmons, SAP’s global industry director and chief engineer.
The central consideration is how commercial real estate developers, owners and company tenants plan to woo back the workforce.
Some changes already were on the horizon, but a confluence of opportunity and technology is moving them at a faster clip. As wireless providers upgrade their networks to 5G, the new ultra-fast data standard, the unwieldy tangle of cable connecting computers and printers and other equipment may start to disappear.
“It’s not a single event,” Clemmons said. “It’s a convergence of a number of things: the introduction of 5G technology combined with a new focus on sustainability, combined with the pandemic.”
Sustainability is now at the forefront in the minds of renters and employees willing to reward cleaner buildings. The concern is warranted, when considering that the building sector, including construction and operations, contributes to 40% of global carbon emissions, according to Deloitte.
“You know the amount of time that you run certain pieces of equipment in order to conserve electricity,” Clemmons said “There are tons of things going on with renewable energy. People are putting up solar on buildings, talking about solar glass, renewables and tracking the impact of all the components in there and what could be reused.”
Smart technology also can improve energy efficiency. With sensors and the Internet of Things (IoT), every smoke alarm will be able to alert the people affected.
New value-add services, such as a virtual concierge, are likely to become a “must have” for workers to order whatever their companies allow — food, drink or anything that can be delivered right to the office
“Most buildings have coffee break stations and amenities like that inside,” Clemmons said. “But there are certain people who just want what they want. Whatever services that that an individual might want or need — whether it’s personal or business — can be ordered and delivered from an app.”