Traditional ways of working have changed, probably for the foreseeable future. While the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the trend, we were already changing our working routines. Once the pandemic was upon us, millions of people lost jobs or were furloughed, and millions more adapted rapidly to working from home as many offices closed.
Fortunately, we now seem to be nearing the end of lockdowns. As we do so, there are calls from various sectors to return to the office, motivated primarily by the apparent need to revitalise city centres and boost the commuter industry.
However, many have discovered the multiple advantages of cutting down on commuting and working from home. For example, McKinsey reported in a recent survey that up to 25 per cent of the workforce would work from home at least three days a week, four times more than before the pandemic, and businesses plan to reduce permanent office space by a third.
Yet there are many functions an office can provide, even when people are partly working from home, for instance, cementing relationships, relationship building, and meeting clients.
Shared workspaces and co-working
Co-working and shared workspaces provide the usual range of conventional office facilities for a fee. The spaces include desks, meeting rooms, and direct access to other people. For many people, co-working provides a better experience than working from home. Workspace providers usually lease large spaces and divide them up into smaller areas which they lease out on a flexible time and space basis. Thus, individuals and small businesses can readily access affordable and convenient office space.
The trend of moving away from big cities is providing a big boost for co-working and shared workspaces. Before the pandemic, many start-ups embraced working in shared workspaces with opportunities to meet similarly minded strangers. Unfortunately, at the height of the pandemic, the co-working industry was severely affected. Occupancy levels fell by over a quarter. However, as we leave the pandemic behind, the industry is recovering and is predicted to overcome the downturn by 2022.
Shared workspaces in combination with working from home provide a hybrid working model that offers the best of both worlds. Teams can meet up in person on designated workdays, hot desks can be readily booked through a smartphone app, and social spaces within the workspace environment encourage teamwork and networking. In addition, some workspace providers now include creches and other facilities to improve life-work balance.
On the surface, co-working might be a real-world service that can operate independently from modern technology; however, in unison with the growing demand, we see advances in technology designed to streamline and generally improve the experience. Next, we will look at two examples: PropTech in general and Tenant Experience, a PropTech development, and how these transform the co-working environment.
If you haven’t come across the concept before, PropTech, short for property technology, refers to applying information technology and platform economics to the property market. One of the earliest implementations of the technology was Rightmove, a property website that receives over 130 million visits a month. A more recent example is Airbnb.
Over recent years we have seen a considerable surge in start-ups within the PropTech sector. These are digitally transforming both the commercial and residential property segments, providing huge efficiencies compared to the traditional estate agents. While almost 60 per cent of PropTech businesses are based in the United States, Europe is catching up with a 27 per cent share.
The Covid-19 pandemic has also been a significant driver of PropTech, though, even after the pandemic is over, the growth momentum will likely continue. The global real estate market is around $217 trillion, with real estate representing 60% of global assets, presenting enormous opportunities for future PropTech growth.
Drilling down a little deeper into what PropTech is all about, we can view it as having three main elements: information, transactions, and management. These are incorporated into PropTech’s three primary sectors:
- Smart real estate – technology platforms for the operation and management of real estate assets
- The shared economy – platforms to facilitate the use of real estate assets such as offices, shops, and storage
- Real estate fintech – platforms for trading real estate assets
While currently PropTech is underpinned by technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, the future will undoubtedly include blockchain technology, with some new start-ups already incorporating this in applications such as fractional property investment.
PropTech plays a significant role in the shared workspace economy. Typical applications include workspace automation which handles everyday tasks such as bookings, space utilisation, billing and payments, accountancy, and other back-office functions.
Another way the world has fundamentally changed over the last decade is the focus on customer experience. We no longer live in an era where providers provide what they think users want; today, customers set the goals, and providers seek to satisfy them.
An example of how this is working out in the co-working economy is the growing number of Tenant Experience software and apps that offer solutions for shared workspace providers and their tenants.
Tenant Experience software focuses on enhancing the experience for occupants while providing landlords with access to data on tenant satisfaction and how they utilise the space and amenities. As we return to a shared workspace environment, Tenant Experience software helps people return to the office safely while building a sense of community by staying connected.
Let’s look at some ways in which Tenant Experience technology is benefitting both tenants and landlords.
More than just an office
While workers require comfortable and convenient shared workspaces, these are not enough; they need far more. Individuals sharing work at home time with office time prefer an environment that provides a seamless environment between the two. By focusing on what workers want digitally to bridge the gap, landlords can enhance the tenant experience.
Physical control of the office environment is vital; workers need to customise lighting and heating to their needs and address any maintenance issues. Natural lighting control is also possible using smart glass windows controlled by a mobile app.
Digital displays and bulletin boards
Customisable digital displays and bulletin boards can provide a more efficient working environment than email, facilitating instant communications across and between workgroups.
Will we ever again feel comfortable using shared touchscreens and buttons? Although opinions are divided, there is a view amongst scientists that, as we will never eliminate the virus responsible for Covid-19, we must learn to live with it. As touching a virus-contaminated surface is considered a vital transmission vector, it is far better to avoid communal touch screens.
The Indigo solution – a touch-free digital receptionist for shared workspaces
Imagine providing a shared workspaces facility that incorporates a digital receptionist powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning. One that recognises the faces of your tenants that responds to voice commands engaging them in meaningful dialogue, controls a booking system, helps manage events, and carries out many other day-to-day office tasks, and all entirely contactless. That is the Indigo solution, taking Tenant Experience to the next level.
Indigo is a technology platform with massive potential. It is a first-of-its-kind technology that incorporates facial recognition and natural language processing in an entirely touch-free environment, a far more hygienic solution than those based on touch screens. Indigo provides the perfect landlord/tenant interface for shared workspace providers. It operates 24/7, has self-serve applications in many other areas, and costs just a fraction of a part-time receptionist.
Indigo is an exciting development that is generating considerable interest with enormous benefits for shared workspace providers. If you want to find out more, why not book a demonstration in your own office space? We would love to show you the power and potential of this unique solution to improved tenant experience in a post-covid environment.