It’s finally happening. After 16 months, people take off their home clothes, dress, and cautiously return to their long-abandoned office. Recent CNBC review found that 45 percent of large U.S. companies will implement a hybrid operating model in the second half of 2021, and 32 percent will return directly to personal office mode. Regardless of the approach, employers and their employees will return to office dynamics that have changed forever.
But that being said, change is good, and one tech startup is waiting with open arms to help corporate property managers get through this transition. Praising real-time data and human-centered offices, Zurich Location Since its founding in 2015, has helped offices to deepen their understanding of the use of space and has since unsuccessfully expanded its activities to the US market. CEO and co-founder Thomas Kessler says combining historical and real-time data helps create a more human-centered office space, which is a win-win approach for employers and employees, especially in a post-pandemic world – and this alone naturally leads to higher net income and a higher overall level of sustainability for the company.
“You can implement a large number of updated assets and technologies to lower operating costs for your organization and increase your employee satisfaction. If you provide the right type of workspace, rather than booths, but a more open-plan work environment, people will be truly happy. The third element is sustainability. Using less office space and therefore reducing CO2 emissions is great for tackling climate change and all ESG initiatives, ”says Kessler.
Wanting to enter the US market, Location opened an office in Brooklyn in February this year, just in time to support the corporate real estate community struggling to cope with the long-awaited return of employees. Kessler says that at a strategic level, companies are now grappling with the question of how much real estate is actually needed if the hybrid or WFH model becomes the new norm. And at the operational level, companies have a responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of a fluctuating workforce. In legal terms, this means complying with ever-changing health and safety regulations, such as the CDC social distancing rules, which dictate how many people can be inside a building at the same time.
But the task is much more difficult than finding a suitable distance between desktops. Kessler understands that the job of building managers inevitably gets harder as they try to manage the work environment in a post-pandemic world. “It used to be pretty easy. You can say I have 50 employees and I need 50 tables because they sit at their desks and do their job. These days, the organization doesn’t just think, “How can we get people back?” It’s about, “How can we empower people to create the right work environment?” Kessler says.
Using Locatee software, the office manager can determine in real time how many people are in the building and where they are, offering immediate insight into whether the building is adequate or not. However, the platform also provides continuous data and historical data since installation to help users track changes over time. Kessler and his team have watched companies reopen in controlled phases to avoid contamination, slowly increasing office throughput until a full refund is safe. “Since these platforms in real time, we can also show this data to employees so that they know how many desktops are still available in the office. The moment you enter the office, you want to meet your team. This requires data and technology that brings people together in different places. The office of the future is a place of cooperation, not a place of purposeful work, and this requires some coordination. “
Flexibility, safety and visibility
The end of the booth era was already near when the pandemic broke and the “work from anywhere” model of office became more and more popular. But for offices to truly adopt a more flexible style, construction stakeholders will need more information on building occupancy.
According to Kessler, “Employees no longer want to spend five days in the office. They really want to use this new flexibility. You need to start getting smarter about your workforce and real estate. And so now, more than ever, you need transparency. You need to understand how crowded your building is to avoid bottlenecks, and you need to provide the right space at the right time to the right people. “
Retrofit to win
While there are other players in the workplace analytics arena, many have to go to their client’s building to install thousands of expensive sensors and motion detection cameras that will track employee movements but also require onsite maintenance. However, the Locatee product can be deployed without ever entering the customer’s building. The company was able to install its product in more than 1000 buildings on six continents without the need for on-site visits, as the software only requires the use of the building’s existing IT infrastructure. Any building located anywhere in the world can be remotely equipped with Locatee software via existing IT infrastructure (Wi-Fi, Ethernet). Kessler believes this “retrofit option” is what sets Locatee apart in the market.
“We use the data we already have. No matter how old your building is, we can fully deploy our product without leaving the site. We can be sure that this is possible all over the world, ”explains Kessler.
Sharing space is a concern for the future
Locatee is divided into two categories – Portfolio Analysis and Workplace Operations. Portfolio Insights looks at how buildings are performing in a company’s portfolio, identifies specific areas for growth or consolidation opportunities, and monitors office occupancy trends, while Workplace Operations provides information such as seating and usage. But for all users, the essence of the Locatee platform is especially important: the ability to organize and reconcile real-time data, peak and historical data produced by building residents. Going forward, Kessler said, companies will use this data for a natural next step – sharing building utilization information to help each other.
Until Location currently helping real estate executives meet supply and demand (clients include Deloitte, UPC and Swiss Re), Kessler says the company’s continued growth in the company’s global portfolio allows the Locatee team to gain a clearer understanding of exactly how office space is being used in major cities around the world. And this knowledge can open up many useful opportunities for Locatee customers.
“We can take this data and start providing analytics and comparing buildings to each other. At some point, we may even allow organizations to share excess capacity with each other, ”explains Kessler. For example, if the data tells a Locatee customer that after three weeks the building will run out of space for any reason, employees can go to work in a building across the street, which is also Location customer and is known to have sufficient capacity for that day. “Balancing the capabilities of two different buildings will be a huge part of providing a more flexible work environment,” adds Kessler.
Applying this data-driven thinking to the challenges facing the corporate real estate industry remains Locatee’s mission, and Kessler is pleased that his team’s work is “building bridges between countries.” We provide a single glass pane to view the entire property portfolio. What’s happening in real time? Do you see how many people have already returned to the office or have people returned to the office in Australia? And I think it opens my eyes. From there, you can manage your real estate portfolio using the mantra of “provide the right place at the right time to the right people”. This is very important these days because we all understood that yes, we can work from home. But we also realized how important it is when we can meet with our colleagues in person and unite into one team. “