- The threat of coronavirus isn’t going away anytime soon, which is why flexible workspace operators are considering investing in longer-term changes to their workspace environments.
- A panel of experts during GCUC Manchester talked about how operators can enhance the member experience in a post-Covid world.
- From strengthening internet bandwidth to partnering with childcare or wellness facilities providers, here’s what the experts are saying.
Flexible workspaces all over the world are in transition mode. Those that are emerging from lockdown are implementing short-term measures to enable clients and members to return to the office safely. These measures are mostly temporary, such as perspex screens, taped-off areas and sanitiser stations.
But it’s clear that the threat of coronavirus isn’t going away anytime soon. With that, many workspace owners are now considering and investing in longer-term changes to their environments to improve the member experience and instil a sense of confidence and trust.
What comes next? How do we move past sneeze screens and sanitiser to enhance the member experience post-Covid? How do we make the most of the lessons we have learned during the pandemic to create healthier and more engaging workplace environments?
A panel of experts tackled these challenges during an online discussion for GCUC Manchester on 25th June 2020. The panel was moderated by GCUC UK’s Tim Devitt and Third Door’s Shazia Mustafa, and featured:
- Rob Valentine: Director – Bruntwood Works
- David Kinnaird: Chief Operating Officer – essensys
- Jo Stevens: Managing Director – Oxford Innovation
In no particular order, here are Allwork.Space’s top 9 takeaways from the session.
1. Create opportunities for connection.
A priority for Rob Valentine from Bruntwood Works is “providing the best possible place to thrive”, with a particular focus on connection. “We provide programmes around connecting customers with other occupiers in the building, but also with the external network in the cities in which they operate.” This, he said, fosters community and support within their spaces but also enables members to market to other businesses in the area.
2. Internet connectivity and resilience.
It’s essential to provide an environment with constant connectivity. “Internet resilience is so important, especially at the moment with lots of Zoom calls taking place,” said Oxford Innovation’s Jo Stevens. This will entice people out of their homes and into the workplace, particularly while many schools are still closed and families are based at home, placing high strain on the Internet bandwidth.
For David Kinnaird, this is an opportunity to promote the strength of your workspace WiFi and to provide a “seamless, frictionless and touchless experience”, while Valentine noted that operators will need to evaluate the number and accessibility of connectivity points when planning and designing spaces to cope with additional demand for web-enabled communications, such as video calls, which have quickly become part of our new normal.
3. Help make change happen.
Members are thinking positive. “Every customer I’ve spoken to, is coming back with plans for change,” said Valentine. Whether these changes focus on wellbeing, work flexibility, business growth, team expansion, or simply a shorter commute, there is an opportunity for workspace operators to make a difference by helping clients and members overcome the challenges that stand in the way of positive change. “The operators who do that will be really successful,” added Valentine.
“Every customer I’ve spoken to, is coming back with plans for change”Rob Valentine, Director at Bruntwood Works
4. New work patterns to reflect the disappearance of the 9-5.
“The normal 9-5 is going, and we might need our front of house staff for different and longer hours to meet customer needs,” said Stevens. This, she said, reflects a priority shift from work-life balance to life-work balance, and a renewed focus on flexibility and wellbeing.
“We’re going to see lots of changes as people change their working patterns and the ways in which they want to work.” Adding to this, she noted the potential for partnering with providers of other services, such as childcare or fitness and wellness facilities, to improve the overall customer experience.
5. Make the commute worth it.
Knowing that their job can be done in a safe and controlled environment at home, many people don’t want to step back into cars, trains and buses to commute to the workplace. Therefore, the office has got to be worth the journey and the services you provide must be absolutely seamless, said Kinnaird.
“It’s a whole new world. If you’ve got 20 people who are all on Zoom calls to remote workers, can your WiFi cope over a single access point? Unless you think carefully about that, it’s not going to work.”
6. Collaboration will always be vital.
“Events, connections, access to business networks; collaboration is key to every business, that will never change,” said Valentine.
“Work is now an activity rather than a place, so that place has to give something else”Jo Stevens, Managing Director at Oxford Innovation
Our human need for social interaction underpins collaboration, and this will ultimately bring people back to the office. “It’s great that we can pivot to online but we are all craving proper human contact,” added Stevens. “We are social people, we want physical and human contact. But we also want choice.” This may come in the form of choice over where to sit, how and when to use the workplace, and even how to get there.
“We don’t want to squeeze onto cramped trains. Work is now an activity rather than a place, so that place has to give something else. That ability to connect and collaborate with other people will be the real linchpin of why our sector will thrive.”
7. Act like a small business to provide a more personal experience.
Asked if smaller workspaces have the advantage of providing a more engaging member experience, Kinnaird noted that “every workspace has a niche to play to” in their particular market or their location, that marks them out as different. But he acknowledged that smaller and independent spaces have a natural ability to provide a more personal experience, which larger operators try to imprint in their spaces.
“Every workspace has a niche that marks them out as different”David Kinnaird, Chief Operating Officer at essensys
8. Space is becoming more valuable.
There is a marked shift away from “battery hen style offices”, noted Stevens, driven by the need for more space for physical distancing. However this is also producing a more spacious and comfortable environment, which could become a longer term change.
As a result of physical distancing measures and the need to reduce capacity in shared spaces, Stevens added that Oxford Innovation is looking at ways to utilise outdoor areas, partly to enable meetings and events to take place but also to reflect our need for a more homely work environment.
“We’re looking at transforming grass areas and roof terraces. They will become more important for wellbeing and generally creating a nicer place to work.”
9. Focus on quality.
When it comes to providing a better work environment that draws people away from their home environments and makes the commute worth it, Valentine has a stark message about the absolute necessity of quality:
“Operators that deliver quality will succeed. For those that don’t, it’s a race to the bottom.”
A quality work experience is underpinned by seamless technology and connectivity, which is now more important than ever. “The move to online conversation is here to stay,” he added. “It won’t replace face to face, but augments the way we communicate with each other and enables us to be more flexible in the way we work.”