Reasons why the world is looking at hybrid workplace as the future of work

Many things are easier said than done. Take for example, Memorandum M-21-25, jointly issued by the Office of Management and Budget, the Office of Personnel Management and the General Services Administration, which provides agencies with guidance for planning for the safe return of employees to their workplaces. The memo notes that OMB/OPM/GSA leadership expects many agencies will implement policies that support a hybrid work environment. Individual agency management teams that are planning for a mix of on-site and remote workers, often with flexible work schedules, now must determine how they'll actualize those hybrid workplace plans.

On a practical level, for mid- to large-sized agencies it may be impossible to implement and manage multi-location work and flex scheduling without leveraging indoor intelligence technologies. Fortunately, a relatively new breed of technology solutions -- often referred to as workplace experience apps (or tenant experience, employee experience, smart office or campus apps) -- have emerged to enable these new workplace models. Using an agency-branded app with advanced mapping and positioning plus third-party integrations, agencies can offer their employees, contractors and visitors the seamless experience that is critical to the success of the hybrid office model.

With employees working in a variety of locations, and varying their location day to day in some instances, it's critical to simplify their work experience and tools. The goal is to give employees a great work experience regardless of their location -- or in spite of their location. Employees should have their work needs well met whether they're in the office, at home, in transit or on a business trip. A workplace experience app does this and more by serving as a centralized hub to nearly all information and services employees need to do their job effectively.

Employees can use the app to reserve socially distanced desks, search for and book rooms that meet their spatial and audio/visual requirements, find and book seats near colleagues, navigate to colleagues and key destinations, order food, interact with news feeds and notifications, submit a work order and much more. 

Agency management can monitor occupancy metrics, send targeted communications to employees or groups of employees based on their geographic location or user role, perform space and flow planning and review and manage visitation patterns. Organizations can also host hybrid on-site/virtual events, with registration, streaming or on-demand video, content sharing and post-event analysis.

While the app implementation considerations are many, below are three tips for implementing a workplace experience app and navigating a successful back-to-office transition:

1. Optimize for employees and their phones

Sorry, managers of human resources, facilities and functional teams -- it's not about you. It's about the employee. By engaging staff with innovative technology that empowers them to do a good job, productivity will increase, turnover will drop and recruitment efforts will thrive. Agencies should deliver those tools in a single app, not only because the younger generations demand the mobile-first experience but also because a smartphone is the only device employees have on their person at all times. In the agile workplace, employees may be working in the office, at home, at a coffee shop or in transit. Meet them with information and services wherever they are.

2. Prioritize desk-booking capabilities

Permanent desk assignments are a thing of the past for many agencies. Hot-desking (drop-in, on-demand desk use) and hoteling (pre-reserved desk use for a specific period of time) are key features of the hybrid work model, which means agencies will need a solution with robust desk booking capabilities. Workspace-booking tools enable administrators to address the varying number of employees each day and to facilitate teammates meeting with one another. Desk-booking solutions also help managers set and monitor floor-capacity limits and to disable adjacent desks to promote distancing and safety. Identifying and booking a workspace with the desired attributes (time, area and amenities, such as an adjustable height desktop) is a standard capability. More capable space reservation solutions should support advanced business rules and know if employees showed up to their reserved space and when they vacated it using technology such as a Bluetooth beacon, NFC sticker, occupancy sensor, QR code or building access card.

3. Integrate and automate

An effective workplace experience app brings together nearly everything an employee needs and makes it all available in a single smartphone app. It's a purpose-built, centralized gateway to all business-related digital touchpoints presented in a unified, employee-friendly experience.

Having a single app can improve productivity and relieve app fatigue. Employees in large agencies may have 10 or more work-related apps, each with a different user interface and operating characteristics, which can waste time, impede workflow and productivity and deliver a poor experience. Conversely, the all-in-one workplace experience app integrates a wide range of office and worker productivity functions into a single mobile app utilizing application programming interfaces (API) and software development kits (SDK) that interact with specialized functions from other services, delivering a more streamlined and productive experience.

In addition to saving time and improving the employee experience, integrations also enable further automation. Some examples: employees arriving at the office and entering a designated geofence zone can trigger a location-aware pop-up message on their phone; a worker vacating a desk or conference room can trigger the creation of a janitorial cleaning ticket which, when completed, can release the workspace back to the pool to be reserved again; visitors that registered for and attended an event can automatically be pushed into the CRM system for follow-up communications. Smart automations can unlock not only exponential increases in productivity but also significant cost savings.

The stakes are high

Several recent research studies have reported that vast numbers of workers are considering leaving their employers. TechRepublic is calling it "The Great Resignation of 2021" and predicted that "the re-entry into the new hybrid will be messy and uneven and filled with problems." It's up to agency leaders to do effective planning, monitor sentiments and leverage technology to ensure their employees experience a successful reentry to the workplace.

A workplace experience app may be the right solution at the right time to engage and empower employees, to enable their effectiveness regardless of location and to give management personnel the appropriate situational awareness and decision-making data.

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