As companies embrace more flexible working models, innovative workplace technology is essential to enable better communication, collaboration and effective use of space. Find out how leading employers are understanding their teams' needs, and creating a seamless employee experience.

 

New solutions for a new reality

man working in a computer

Technology has played a crucial role in keeping businesses moving since the start of the pandemic.

Video conferencing replaced face-to-face meetings almost overnight and remote working became the norm, not the exception. The shift was, to a large extent, successful. People rose to the challenge and adapted accordingly even though many didn’t have a choice.

However, the next phase of staggered return to work will take skill and sensitivity to navigate. Some are excited to get back in the office, others are concerned they will be less productive. Crucially, Sodexo's latest Consumer Worklife Tracker showed personal health risks are the biggest worry for those returning to work, closely followed by the risk to family members.

We believe the next year will be defined by iterative learning about hybrid working, employee engagement and productivity. Workplaces will experiment with different forms of collaboration, dynamic attendance and experiential design initiatives to help their people connect and engage with ease.

New solutions are being developed and trialled using data insights and technology to unlock ways to support new working models and enhance employee experience.

 

Technology reshapes the workplace 

Julie Ennis, CEO of Corporate Services at Sodexo UK and Ireland, recently looked at the concept of elastic offices - flexible spaces that can stretch, reconfigure and contract according to the needs of the people who inhabit them.

It's an approach we have been modelling at Sodexo because it's dynamic and intuitive. Spaces can be physically changed, services are responsive and workspace design adaptability means teams are eager to be in the office to collaborate and utilise the facilities they need.

World-leading companies are investigating and trialling necessary office design and experience evolution, and planning the right technology is key to ensuring a truly seamless employee experience.

Platforms such as Loom allow users to leave video messages in documents, providing more context and direction than is possible with simple written instructions. Threads provides a forum for discussion that promises to help people stay informed and weigh in when relevant, while mitigating the risk of missing important messages.

With each of these technology solutions, the aim is to preserve some of the benefits of face-to-face interaction without forcing people to be in the same place at scheduled times.

These and other examples are explored in our new report - Breathing Space: A new workplace comes to life. Wx CEO and Co-Founder Yannick Villar is among the experts we spoke to and he highlights the need to ensure technology serves the right purpose.

 

Breathing Space: A new workplace comes to lifeReturn to work guide

Our report, we investigate why spaces need to be living, breathing and fluid to cater to these needs, and what firms can do to make them a reality.

Download the report to uncover the impact of technology in the workplace

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Wx is Sodexo’s workplace experience design consultancy which uses anonymised data to provide genuine insight. Where do people meet each other? How many are using a space? How are they using it? Sensors and monitors gather this data to paint an accurate picture.

In the past, consultants would use this information to create spaces that facilitated more effective communication and space utilisation. Now, companies can use technology to adapt to what they learn, almost in real time.

“Previously firms would have looked at data patterns for the last 12 months and replicated it for the following year, but the standard deviation has grown exponentially,” says Villar. “You now need much more powerful algorithms to predict what people will want.”

woman with iPadThese algorithms and technologies help to eliminate guesswork from the workplace design process, but they also provide employees with the peace of mind they need to know they are returning to the office safely.

Our Consumer Worklife Tracker revealed 67% of people consider cleaning protocols and processes important to their return. Wx data can be even be used to alleviate these simple, but important concerns, identifying places most in need of cleaning based on how they've been used, and letting people know where they can find a clean space to work.

Reassurance like this boosts confidence among those making a tentative return and it has led to a 15-point increase in employee engagement net promoter scores for companies using Wx. 

 

Setting the standard for sustainability

Our Breathing Space report also examines how companies are retrofitting their buildings with technology that will not only facilitate greater collaboration, but improve sustainability too. The latter is a key factor as fluctuations in the use of office space raise concerns over efficiency and waste.

Projects such as the University of Cambridge’s Institute for Sustainability Leadership are setting the standard. The university is adapting its 1930s former telephone exchange building into a space that is expected to reduce carbon emissions by 80% over its lifetime, compared to a standard refurbishment.

Crucially, this will be achieved while creating high-tech facilities and digital platforms designed to encourage collaboration between staff and support remote learning. The ability to balance these priorities will be key, as Sodexo research shows 73% of senior business leaders know sustainability has become more important to employees over the last 12 months.

“The way people interact when they're in these new spaces is going to be completely different.”

Sylvia Metayer, Chief Growth Officer, Sodexo

 

Consumerisation of the workplace

Greater consideration for sustainability and disparate working reflect the fact that market leaders are responding to (and anticipating) demand from employees, who are becoming more like consumers.

Employers have their own concerns, with more than 90% of business leaders surveyed by management consultancy Eden McCallum saying ‘casual and informal exchanges’ have become more difficult to facilitate, impacting culture and corporate connection.

Sodexo Chief Growth Officer Sylvia Metayer suggests hybrid working and the evolving workplace is an opportunity for companies to lead real change. Employees can be involved in the selection of new technology, as well as the design of flexible workplaces and this will foster engagement and collaboration.

Organisations have spent the last ten years redesigning their spaces to reduce cost. Removing physical and visual barriers to encourage communication and optimising according to the maximum possible level of demand, rather than actual.

Metayer reflects that this approach will no longer be enough, with Sodexo's research indicating companies need to provide fit-for-purpose space, or expensive real estate will be underused. The consumerisation of the working environment means it needs to inspire great work and connect people with the company culture, while reflecting the numerous reasons people want to come to the office.

“The interaction between the consumer and the service, which is provided by the employer, will become increasingly personalised,” says Metayer. “The way people interact when they're in these new spaces is going to be completely different.”

 

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October 20, 2021