Like many familiar aspects of business life, the form and function of offices are undergoing rapid change to fit the new reality. Today’s challenges have been an opportunity for reflection and reinvention, in business as well as in our personal lives. As our business operations adapt to the new normal, office designs are shifting to accommodate new workstyles.
Hybrid offices are one example of a pre-Covid trend accelerated by the pandemic. WFH has been far more productive than expected, but teams still feel the need for face-to-face collaboration for certain tasks. Consulting firm Gensler describes the hybrid workplace as promoting collaboration through activity-based design, using advanced technology and unassigned seating within a hospitality-driven atmosphere. Teams work remotely, coming together in a hybrid office as required.
A few major organizations have been test-driving the hybrid office in a hub-and-spokes design. A centrally hub office in the city center provides room for larger group activities, while smaller outlying offices give support to WFH staff living nearby. Hybrid offices reduce office space in the expensive city center, while preserving a visible presence.
Repurposing office buildings’ lobbies is another new-normal trend. In a hub-and-spokes office, the spokes facilities can be integrated into the surrounding community, creating connections among WFH staffers, clients, and the neighborhood. Buildings’ public spaces offer a branding opportunity for tenants to underscore their community involvement, as well as a meeting destination for workers and visitors.
To ensure that these new workplaces function well, designers and office managers are applying the latest in digital technology.
WFH staff need access to project materials whether they’re at home, at a spoke office, or at the central hub. In the hybrid office, paper documents may be stored at the hub, with limited access. But imaged documents are accessible to remote workers no matter where they are. The paper originals remain safely stored in the hub office.
Touchless technology is another asset for the reshaped office. RFID-based apps enable safe touchless entry to secure areas. Touchless lockers provide personal storage for WFH workers traveling to spoke or hub offices. Designers can even use touchless lockers as a physical divider to guide foot traffic and maintain safe social distancing.
Gensler predicts that the new style of office building will be far less insular and self-contained, and far more responsible to its community through creating public spaces, support businesses, and a live-work-play environment. Technology that supports human capital will be the key to successful office design in the new reality.
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This is the final installment in a series exploring Dr. Kristen Lee’s (Northwestern University) nine lessons in personal and collective fortitude. Seen through the lens of a business operation, each lesson has application in the current national health and economic challenges, and for successful endeavors in the future.
We all thought we understood workplace stress. Then the pandemic came along and introduced us a whole new level of stress that we didn’t know existed. Now more than ever we have to build effective stress-management techniques. And it turns out it’s not as hard as you might imagine. One of the best strategies for stress reduction only requires two things. One: Stop multitasking. Two: Become mindful.
Stop multitasking. Everyone used to believe that the more multitasking you could do, the more productive you were. Multitasking gives us the feeling that we’re doing multiple tasks simultaneously. In fact, science has shown that our brains are giving only brief moments of attention to a single task in the multiple array of tasks, then refocusing on another single task in the array. It takes time for our brains to shift focus from one task to the next, then back again to the first task. These incremental losses of time add up. The result: We’re significantly less efficient even though we think we’re being super-productive.
Multitasking is not only unproductive, it’s incredibly stressful. The less efficient you are, the further you fall behind and the more stress you experience.
Start meditating. In the past decade, the practice of mindfulness, or meditation, has become mainstream. Management seminars and team-building retreats include mindfulness instruction. Major tech companies include meditation rooms in their offices. Businesses find that when managers practice mindfulness, they think more creatively, make better decisions, and accomplish more.
Mindfulness allows the brain to do what it does best: Focus. Whatever happened at the last meeting, whatever might happen in your next meeting, all becomes irrelevant. Only the current meeting is important, and nothing else. Right here, right now is what counts. The decisions and insights that come from a focused mind allow you to move forward confidently into tomorrow.
Taking time to engage in a meditative technique like deep breathing, for example, can spark a new idea or de-fuse a negative encounter. Wellness expert Dr. Troy Adams recommends these activities for workplace mindfulness:
- Pay attention to your surroundings – indoors/outdoors, warm/cold, quiet/noisy.
- Be present – experience each moment and look for the good within that moment.
- Accept yourself and treat yourself like you would a good friend.
- Focus on your breathing; even a minute of deep breathing is helpful.
People are the greatest resource of any business. Stress reduction through mindfulness will keep your people healthy and productive, and keep your organization at peak performance. Consider some of the ways you can encourage mindfulness in the workplace – Zoom meditation sessions? Quiet areas set aside in the office? Mindfulness retreats? If you meditate on how to support mindfulness, you’ll find the right solution.
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Museum designers have been working hard to change the musty, dusty reputation of museums, and RFID is helping with innovative applications. No longer is the hands-off “Night at the Museum” look the standard for U.S. museums. To attract new patrons, museums are bringing advanced technology to bear, including VR and RFID.
RFID in particular has been easy to adapt for new creative purposes. Many museums already use RFID to manage their collections, affixing unobtrusive RFID tags to art and artifacts. Doorway readers record when items are moved, whether from storage to exhibit, or from one room to another. Curators can check inventories as simply as walking into a room with an RFID scanner. Tags can be programmed to store a variety of data about the object: name, age, and collection information; restoration status; climatic requirements; maintenance schedule; and much more.
But beyond inventory management, RFID offers opportunities for interactive, immersive experiences for museum patrons. Some creative RFID applications:
- Washington, D.C.’s International Spy Museum uses RFID-enabled badges to let visitors take on a spy’s persona. Visitors test their espionage skills as the spy of their choice, and receive an online “debriefing” after their visit.
- Touring exhibit “The Science of Survival” allows visitors to make lifestyle choices in various sectors of the exhibit (transport, building, food and drink), collecting their answers via RFID entry badges. The results are compiled to forecast the future environmental impact of those choices in the year 2050.
- At the O2 in London, visitors at the British Music Experience “collect” their favorite items on museum-issued RFID cards. In-depth information about their favorites is then sent to them in a follow-up email.
- Visitors to the Horsens Prison Museum in Denmark can choose a specific guard or inmate to learn about – for example, a prisoner who escaped by digging a 59-foot tunnel. Visitors’ RFID badges activate videos and images related to each visitor’s particular subject, for a customized experience.
From museum managers’ point of view, RFID ‘s enhanced visitor experience helps to define and reinforce the museum’s brand, build visitor loyalty, and create publicity opportunities. From the museum patrons’ perspective, RFID creates a visitor experience that is far more personalized and immersive than the old-school museum walk-through. It’s fascinating, it’s imaginative, and most important, it’s just plain fun!
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Everyone is discovering the benefits of working from home (WFH), yet 94% of employees want the option of returning to their offices at least some of the time. How are businesses redesigning their offices to get the best of both worlds?
WFH really came into its own in 2020. Organizations with pre-existing telework policies and infrastructure were well-positioned to expand WFH when the pandemic hit. Others were able to pivot quickly to WFH, and they discovered the valuable benefits: Reduced office space requirements and increased employee productivity. Those benefits, along with greater employee satisfaction, translated into lower costs.
But 100% WFH isn’t practical for every business, nor is it practical for every employee.
A hybrid workstyle balances WFH and office time. Many businesses are downsizing their old offices to a central hub office, where teams meet on a rotating schedule – marketing on Monday, product design on Wednesday. Heads-down work remains WFH, without the interruptions and distractions of day-to-day office life.
To create this hybrid workstyle, prominent businesses like Deloitte, KPMG, and the Bank of Montreal are redesigning their offices into a hub-and-spokes form. A downsized central office serves larger group meetings, and houses centralized functions like IT and document storage. Smaller teams meet at satellite offices or co-working spaces, giving them a shorter commute as well as cheaper office space. With a small hub in the expensive downtown real estate market, and less costly spokes in outlying areas, these organizations are seeing valuable cost savings.
However, hybrid offices do not relieve businesses of the need to build WFH infrastructure. To realize the full value of the hybrid workstyle, WFH must be supported with e-devices, software, and most important, data access. Sharing physical documents is relatively easy in an office, but often the information in those documents is needed during heads-down WFH. Document imaging is an essential part of a hybrid office. With imaging, the data contained in physical documents becomes accessible to all team members, searchable for greater efficiency, and secure through multiple layers of redundancy and permissions.
“The office will shift to become less about sitting in a desk all day and more so as a safe place for colleagues to collaborate, engage and interact,” says Todd Burns, President, Project and Development Services, JLL Americas. The hybrid office offers the best of both worlds – the productivity and employee satisfaction of WFH, and the cost savings of downsized offices. But only if the WFH infrastructure, including document imaging, is supported and maintained.
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