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Hybrid Work is Shifting Facility Focus From Square Footage to Purpose

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As the role of the office continues to evolve, the way enterprises measure the value of their spaces has shifted. Matt Harris, Workplace Technologies Product Manager at Okta said, “Previously our buildings were at capacity all the time. We were testing the limits; how can we squeeze every bit of value out of every square foot? Now it’s really about maximizing the purpose of the space.”

Matt shared this at the RETHINK Office Conference, part of a great discussion with other innovators driving technology for office buildings, spaces and work-from-anywhere support systems, all charged with the same task: deploying technologies that balance the needs of the enterprise and employees.

As the pandemic continues to impact return-to-office strategies, some enterprises, like Okta, are changing the way they look at space. In this environment, the challenge is in creating a frictionless, consistent experience for people across a greater number of smaller offices and remotely.

Okta was an early leader in dynamic work, adopting a hybrid model long before the pandemic accelerated the transition worldwide. They have created a robust mobile app, Atmosphere, using the Modo app-building platform, to be a companion to their dynamic model. With a simple data warehouse on top of it, Okta’s Modo Workplace app has also helped them address facility needs in a different way.

For example, with a focus on purpose vs. square footage, when looking at ‘getting back to full capacity’ facility managers now analyze how employees are using the space over the course of a week. Matt explained, “When we have an anomaly coming up by allowing people to register for a space in the office, we don’t have them reserve desks, and we don’t have them book a specific spot. We just say, ‘Tell us when you’re coming in and we’re going to tell you when your team is coming in as well.’ It gives them the guidance to decide, if a lot of my colleagues are going in on Thursday, I’m going in on Thursday too.”

Having this data enables Okta to level up other operational services like food and parking, to meet employees where they are.

Changing the way we look at space

This type of predictive data informs enterprises around the purpose of the office, which changes, vs. the square footage, which does not. “We don’t break buildings down every year. They stayed there for 40, 50 years, or even longer,” said Microsoft Smart Buildings and Campuses Director Emmanual Daniel. “In the past people would come to the office because that’s where you work, but you can work literally from anywhere now. Why are we building real estate when a person can work anywhere? Because the values of productivity, engagement, team dynamics, innovation, co-innovation are spurred when people come together. Designing a space that works for the interaction at that point in time becomes critical. And for that, we need data.”

Matt summed up the shift in thinking this way, “When going into the office was the everyday norm the thinking was that we’re going to give you all these things — we’ll give you a great experience — and then just kind of expect you to use it. Now we’re asking employees to tell us when and how they want to use the space, and we’ll meet them with our operational approach.”

Approaching your hybrid work technology strategy

For us, thinking ‘purpose vs. square footage’ was one of the most interesting and actionable takeaways of the RETHINK Office discussion on designing a technology strategy that supports the needs of enterprises and employees in the hybrid office. But here are some others, gleaned from all of the participants.

  1. Take a holistic view. Bring together real estate teams, IT teams, security teams and HR teams to come up with a ‘master operating system’ where all of the parts can interact vs bringing in specific point product technologies and implementing them in silos.
  2. Maintain people’s ability to choose. Make sure they can opt in/out, and use devices or desktops to access technology in ways that are comfortable to them.
  3. Design experiences for neurodiversity. We all have different ways we like to work.
  4. Once you implement a technology solution, test, analyze, and adjust, frequently!
  5. Build trust through transparency. Clarify how and what data you’re collecting, how you’re using it and how it’s stored. Balance privacy and convenience.
  6. Plan with certainty that there will be uncertainty.

Thank you to RETHINK Office and to the panelists who shared their insights and learnings in this discussion:

Moderator Laura Patel, Director of occupancy analytics platform Density
Matt Harris, Workplace Technologies Product Manager, Okta
Emmanual Daniel, Smart Buildings & Campuses Director, Microsoft
Kevin Powell, Director of Emerging Building Technologies, GSA
Francisco Ruiz, Global Infrastructure & IOT Strategist, Oracle
Peter Babigian, Partner at acoustical/technology consulting firm Cerami

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