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The New Flex Office User Segment

By Amanda Fanoun
16.12.20 ·

At the recent Global Workspace Association Fall Virtual Conference, essensys proudly sponsored an educational keynote session delivered by Mick Heys, VP of IDC’s Future of Workspace and Imaging practice. Mick showcased a compilation of data as collected by IDC’s global research activity. His presentation offered macro-level insights into what the new flex office user segment is looking for and how technology is a key enabler to deliver it.

In the session, which you can view in its entirety here, Mick set the stage by outlining the sudden move from office to home working and the now gradual shift from home to hybrid working models. Mick highlighted insight from IDC’s recent survey results, stating that “50 to 60% of workers will head back to the office”. The pandemic was a wake-up call for many companies. It forced them to trust their employees working from home, it drove investments to equip home workers with the tech and tools necessary to carry out their tasks, and it paved the way for a hybrid working model.

The Changing Role of the Office

As productive as workers can be at home, Mick Heys stressed, “the office is the key place where organizations want their people to be.” That said, the role of the office and what people want out of the office is changing.

Office users are more enabled to be productive. They benefit from collaboration tools and opportunities, digital equivalency, and consistent tech performance, the morale-boosting corporate culture (a challenge to maintain remotely, especially for larger organizations), and security infrastructure that meets privacy and compliance requirements.

Hybrid is the Way Forward

Organizations are balancing the safety and productivity requirements of their employees. While the office continues to be essential, it will have to be both a safe and compelling experience to drive employees back. It’s increasingly important for space providers to ensure social distancing and contact tracing and measure space occupancy and other health components that foster trust in the workplace experience. Without the right technology in place, you can’t manage what you can’t measure. Mick emphasized the benefits of ensuring a smart and healthy office as hybrid models are rolled out; for starters, an improved employee experience, which in turn helps attract and retain the best talent.

Hub and spoke models will drive further adoption of flexible office. Organizations will look to downsize headquarter offices in central business districts and seek spoke locations in transport hubs and suburbs. This reduces both large gatherings in office spaces as well as the long, crowded commutes. The requirement is for resilient, move-in ready spaces that are flexible and agile enough to meet occupier requirements.

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What Occupiers Want

Economic uncertainty is accelerating the adoption of as-a-service consumption patterns. In the office sector, corporations are adopting space-as-a-service and are increasingly looking for turnkey solutions that cover the office experience from soup to nuts. Occupiers want to buy security and compliance, collaboration tools, telecoms platforms, digital workspaces, experiences, and tech infrastructure – all as a service.

For space providers, the implications of these demands are critical. According to Mick, infrastructure as a service is essential in meeting the needs of the new office user. Occupiers will prefer to pay as-a-service when they lack the investment capability for perpetual licenses, hardware, or long-term leases, for example. However, even if they had the money, they’re still likely to opt for the as-a-service model because they might lack the confidence to make long-term investment decisions at this point.

A tech-enabled, service-first portfolio can contribute to increased occupancy and greater confidence in the workplace experience.

Tech Investment to Drive New Office Model Adoption

The economic uncertainty experienced during 2020 is par for the course with a global pandemic. While the impact on businesses has been varied, Mick demonstrated five economic stages and how they correspond to business focus:

  • The onset of the crisis put companies into Business Continuity mode. The rush to invest in technology to enable employees with the resources and tools to prevent a lapse in productivity.
  • The ensuing economic slowdown revealed potential weaknesses and gaps, driving organizations to think about cost optimization and justifying tech investment based on the ROI.
  • When the recession kicked in, organizations were forced to think about long-term survival, business resiliency, and bridging gaps.
  • As the economy started to bounce back, companies began thinking about targeted investments; IDC found tech investment remained despite a 30% decrease in revenue.
  • The next normal as we know it is driving the future enterprise; a resilient and optimized company to cope with the changing world.

IDC insight shows that large organizations will increase their spend on business-critical infrastructure by 20%. With technology underpinning an organization’s resiliency to see its way out of both an economic recession and a global pandemic, it remains a critical component to meeting business and employee needs.

Collaboration in Flex Office

Technology is a priority investment for a safe return to the office, starting with hybrid models. Mick emphasized the importance of a technology investment and its ability to outlive an organization’s immediate needs in the same way that history has proven the lasting impact that previous pandemics have had on cities and buildings.

A few examples include: redesigning drainpipes to be more hygienic during the Bubonic plague in 19th century China; installing large radiators in front of windows to stay warm while circulating air in the space during the Spanish flu in 1920’s New York City; The geographical expansion of cities as people moved out of central areas when the Black Death hit Europe; the emergence of Modernist architecture featuring flat roofs and balconies to ensure sun reached patients while combating Tuberculosis in the 1930’s.

Returning to the topic of the office, the occupier experience is now firmly at the crux of the return to the workspace. The pandemic will have a long lasting effect on the use of the office, but it won’t eradicate it. Technology is critical to future-proof and underpin productive, seamless, and secure working environments.

IDC INSIGHT

The changing role of the office.

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