How and where employees are working has changed. As a result, what tenants want from their office space has changed as well. Prior to the pandemic, many businesses relied on occupancy planners to calculate how much space they’d need. Maximizing density, which is the number of people that can fit in a given area based on the requirements of their role, was the primary objective. Today, providing a best-in-class employee experience is what matters most.
Workers want flexibility, and as a result, hybrid work models are likely here to stay. And when employees do make the commute to an office, increasingly they are expecting an environment that prioritizes their comfort, enables their productivity, and is designed with collaboration in mind. They also require a seamless technology experience wherever and whenever they are working.
As a result, tenants are assessing and changing their space to better meet the needs of their employees — and their business. Many are renovating their existing workplace or relocating to a more modern one. Open floor plans full of ‘cube farms’ designed for focus work are being replaced with comfortable living room-like environments and brainstorming areas featuring the latest tools and amenities. In fact, in a recent survey conducted by IDG for Panduit, 70% of respondents said they are planning to add collaboration spaces, and 71% are planning to expand existing meeting rooms.
Collaboration often calls for meetings and videoconferencing. Technology must be there to capture, distribute, and sometimes record communication in an inobtrusive a way as possible, allowing a smooth flow between the participants. If the technology is cumbersome than it’s a barrier to collaboration. Participants should be able to walk into a space, connect to the technology by cable or wirelessly cast, and begin the collaboration. Ideally, the technology in the room should sense they’ve connected or even entered the room and automatically activate lighting, screens, and control surfaces.
With these trends in mind, here are five key considerations for CRE leaders and facilities managers tasked with providing this type of workplace experience:
- Collaboration spaces
Collaboration spaces must support today’s hybrid work environments. Areas such as conference and meeting rooms must allow people to not only collaborate face-to-face, but also with remote attendees, and that means having the high-speed connectivity to support live video and audio conferencing. Participants expect easy-to-use speakerphones, cameras, and displays to seamlessly bring those attendees together. Robust wireless connectivity is also crucial for supporting multiple employee- and business-owned devices to facilitate the sharing of content with ease.
- Digital signage
Office managers need the means to communicate vital information, such as health and safety updates, location information, and room scheduling. Digital signage provides a flexible solution, but it also comes with unique infrastructure requirements, especially if the goal is to allow different monitors to display different content. For scalability, the infrastructure must support the transmission of audio and video signals throughout the entire campus, ideally over IP, from a centralized system.
- Wireless connectivity
The need for dependable wireless connectivity has never been more important. With workers often bringing their own portable devices into the office and hotdesking being commonplace, there absolutely must be campus-wide Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity. To achieve this, the networking infrastructure must consist of strategically placed Wi-Fi range extenders and distributed antenna systems, the latter of which can extend both Wi-Fi and cellular ranges.
- Power over ethernet
AV systems can make or break collaboration spaces, but other factors are equally important in keeping employees connected and safe as well. Lighting, ventilation, and window coverings are among the systems that can be automated for a touch-free experience. These systems can be Ethernet-connected, so they can communicate with each other and adjust automatically based on occupancy levels, light levels, or the power status of the AV system. An added bonus for Ethernet connectivity is the ability to power sensors and systems via Power over Ethernet, eliminating ongoing battery maintenance throughout the life of the sensor.
- Space optimization
More devices deployed in offices means more equipment in the server room to power and connect them. The exponential increase of connected devices has placed a growing burden on cabling infrastructure and network switches and routers, hence the need for modern structured cabling and high-density switches and server racks. Network infrastructure vendors must help to reduce the equipment footprint while helping CRE leaders prepare the building for the future.
Whether you are renovating an existing space to respond to changing workplace dynamics or are embarking on the development of a new office space, state-of-the-art AV technology solutions are key to improving the office experience. It’s also crucial to ensure that the underlying network infrastructure can power and connect people and places.
Panduit and Atlona (a Panduit Company) are here to help with insights, AV solutions, and the robust and reliable infrastructure required to make the modern workplace work.