- Touchless access and occupancy management are key technologies, but operators must prepare for hybrid working models.
- With the abundance of solutions available, flexible workspaces need to offer more than hand sanitisers to attract workers.
- Tech writer Gemma Church spoke with various workspace operators and suppliers to find out what solutions work for their members and workspaces.
Thanks to COVID-19, digital adoption rates have moved forward by five years in a matter of weeks — and the world of flexible working is no exception. Spaces must embrace the robust and cost-effective technologies to create the best experience for members, while balancing COVID-based fears on the return to work.
“Everything needs to be both safer and better in the office setting than it is at home. Technology can play a big part in this,” according to David Kinnaird, chief customer officer at essensys.
What’s more, technology provides spaces with a key differentiating factor, as Bart Klaver, managing director at SALTO KS, said: “With the abundance of IoT and AI solutions available, flexible workspaces need to offer more than hand sanitisers to attract workers.”
This sentiment certainly rings true from the technology vendors and coworking operators I spoke with to find out what solutions work for their members and workspaces.
Touchless tech is an important offering for many spaces in our post-Covid world, with a focus on smart access systems. Dale Hersowitz, VP of coworking at Yardi, said: “Access control has been very important in allowing contact-less access to the properties and meeting rooms.”
Such smart access systems also provide operators with tighter controls over who is granted access to the facilities. Kinnaird explained: “Operators can remotely manage user credentials while members can consume space as and when they need it without relying on a physical card or multiple touch points to get to their workspace. All this needs to be tied back to the billing and management systems allowing space to be accessed and consumed when needed.”
“Smart access can also help alongside Wi-Fi to give real time visibility over users in the space. Real-time occupancy measured by Wi-Fi devices connected to the network can show them who is in the office and where. This can help engineer new floor plans and space distribution that keep people at a safe distance,” Kinnaird added. essensys recently launched its Smart Access system to deliver frictionless experiences for flex-space users.
This requirement to monitor occupancy levels, while balancing member access with robust security at a space, is important. Felena Hanson, founder at Hera Hub, said: “We installed security cameras in our spaces (something we didn’t feel the need for before) and expanded the use of our member management software (Nexudus) to limit the number of people utilizing the coworking space at any given time. Pre-pandemic, only private meeting rooms were booked out. We want to ensure members that the space will be under capacity when they arrive.”
Office Evolution uses the Greetly no-touch visitor system, where members and guests can check in using their smartphone. William Edmundson, chief operating officer at Office Evolution, said: “Not only does this protect our staff and members from having to engage in face-to-face conversation, if they prefer; but it also eliminates the risk of having people congregate around the front desk. This has been an important piece of technology that we have added in our locations.”
However, Office Evolution’s model isn’t like most other coworking models. “Our locations have a high volume of private offices, which allow for inherent social distancing. Our members appreciate that they are not only able to social distance by working in their own private office, but also that their workspaces foster productivity and are void of distractions that people may encounter at traditional workspace areas or when working from home,” Edmundson explained.
A cloud-based access control solution can also provide additional benefits, including “access for regular deliveries and maintenance, cleaning services, and members of the flexible workspace,” Klaver added.
“The SALTO KS Mobile Key allows a multitude of possibilities that make additional administrative tasks obsolete. With the help of BLE technology (Bluetooth Low Energy), you can carry out remote openings and send your member a secured message, therefore enabling him or her to open the door with their smartphone,” he explained.
SALTO KS is also an integrated solution and compatible with many third-party solutions. “Booking meetings, CRM, finances, and inventories are just a few areas in which integrations can streamline automation of processes for your flexible workspace,” Klaver added.
Antimicrobial technologies can also help provide reassurances to members. “As flexible workspaces are more susceptible to contamination, implementing hardware and appliances with antimicrobial technology can drastically improve the hygiene of common touchpoints and help to prevent cross-contamination of microbes. For nearly a decade, SALTO, in partnership with BioCote®, has incorporated antimicrobial silver ion technology in its smart electronic lock range and supporting product hardware,” Klaver added.
While the return to work continues, operators should be prepared for hybrid working models. Michaela Ivanova, content marketing manager at OfficeRnD, said: “Companies are downsizing their offices and most of their employees are returning to the office on shifts. This creates the need for technology that facilitates the management of shared resources like desks within a private office (or within a hot desk area) — e.g. make them bookable, apply capacity limitations, etc.”
Ivanova added: “Having visibility on who’s in the office and when is another essential focus. Member web and mobile apps like ours, that allow operators to keep their communities up to date and engaged, have been extremely efficient during the lockdown and currently. Of course, any type of HVAC and air-purifying technologies have also been hugely adopted.”
So, it looks like we’re not free from virtual meetings in the near future. However, alternative offerings are now available with Convene creating a new product called Convene Virtual Meetings, which is a digital meeting and event platform that’s an alternative to Zoom meetings and events.
Ryan Simonetti, CEO and co-founder of Convene, said: “It addresses many of the issues of online meetings thanks to our expert team of Virtual Meeting Producers who offer live human support to ensure everything runs smoothly. This technology is also integrated into our Hybrid Meetings offering so any on-site Convene meeting or event has a seamless connection to a remote audience.”
“Our ultimate goal is to facilitate a hybrid work experience — one in which employees feel empowered and enabled to work from wherever they want, whenever they want,” Simonetti added.
As a result, spaces may need to improve their videoconferencing facilities. “Improving meeting room AV solutions are also popular, to support customer’s needs for hybrid meetings and because meetings are a key reason for their clients to return to the office,” Jon Seal, managing director of technologywithin, explained.
As the world continues to adapt to the changes introduced by COVID-19, there’s one technology that stands the test of time. A good internet connection.
Seal explained: “With the likelihood of larger companies decentralising central city offices and reconsidering their office strategies, our customers are looking for high quality services which will attract corporates into flex space. This means that internet bandwidth management services which are flexible enough to meet their security protocols are key.”
“There’s an increased requirement for high bandwidth and cloud connectivity,” according to Kinnaird, who concluded: “Employees will travel to the office expecting a better Wi-Fi and Internet connection than at home to conduct specific work such as uploading large media files, hosting a video conference, or performing monthly bill runs. Having a provider that can link directly to the major cloud providers without multiple internet hops can dramatically increase the user experience on all cloud applications – think no more stuttering Zoom, for example.”