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Building a SMART workplace that forecasts space needs and supports a flexible workforce: Deakin University

Building a SMART workplace that forecasts space needs and supports a flexible workforce: Deakin University

How IoT, data visualisation and a web application for booking helped one of Australia’s major universities transform their office spaces for a flexible workforce.


Summary

  • A consulting engagement to identify Deakin’s technology requirements and scope out a solution proposal
  • Installation and integration of IoT sensors to monitor occupancy of desks, meeting rooms, kitchens, and other communal areas
  • Development of a custom web application that enabled staff to book desks, meeting rooms and check-in on arrival
  • Live Power BI reporting with data visualisation on space and asset usage for analysis by a client administrator

Deakin University (Deakin) has a flexible workforce that utilises office buildings on interchangeable days with varying schedules.

With a finite number of desks, meeting rooms, and other communal areas, they needed to find a solution that ensured their existing workspaces could support a dynamic and growing workforce. This included the ability to forecast how many desks they would need for staff on an ongoing basis.

Failure to do so would result in a costly process of expanding their office facilities and inefficient use of space.

Unico engaged in an initial consultation engagement which identified that the best way forward for Deakin would be to:

  1. Implement hot desking as a workplace practice for designated office spaces
  2. Integrate a SMART spaces solution with asset booking and people counting capability

We also identified that this solution would have to be scalable and transferable to other shared spaces such as libraries to accommodate for future growth.

Our solution consisted of three major parts that solved Deakin’s problem of supporting a flexible workforce whilst optimising space usage of the building, including:

• Installation and integration of IoT sensors to monitor occupancy of desks, meeting rooms, kitchens, and other communal areas


• Development of a custom web application that enabled staff to book desks, meeting rooms and check-in on arrival


• Live Power BI reporting with data visualisation on space and asset usage for analysis by a client administrator

By adopting our proposed technology solution, Deakin was able to accurately forecast their workforce space and asset needs. This has driven a significant reduction in costs and optimised office space usage. Our platform also played a crucial role in enhancing the employee experience and supporting a flexible workforce model via our booking application.

Ramnik Singh

Business Development Manager

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Insights Partners

The future of the workplace – New ways of working and what it means for businesses and commercial real estate

The future of the workplace – New ways of working and what it means for businesses and commercial real estate

2020 was the year that redefined the way we work and shaped the future of the workplace. The global pandemic resulted in dramatic shifts in how businesses operate, and how people are safely managed across shared spaces. As we near the end of FY21, hope is on the horizon with vaccine rollouts in progress around the world.

However, international peaks in COVID-19 cases, second waves, vaccine supply concerns and the threat of new strains indicate there is a significant degree of unpredictability and health concerns to manage for years to come, and long-term impacts to consider.

Distinct changes in office behaviour and protocol once born out of necessity have given way to more enduring shifts in workplace policy that will outlast COVID-19.

The global pandemic has changed the way we work for good. Companies have not only pivoted to an immediate existential threat; they have reconsidered how they function and operate


Erica Volini , Global Human Capital Leader,  Deloitte

How is the way we work changing?

Initially, most businesses were thrust into remote working scenarios due to safety concerns surrounding a world amid a global health crisis.

Although the pandemic endures, and the public health impact will continue, there is growing evidence to suggest COVID-19 has permanently changed employer and employee expectations around the way we work. Employees are no longer married to the concept of working in the office five days a week. Fundamentally, this is the future of the workplace.

The removal of strict in office attendance requirements and presentism has blown open traditional recruitment that has been restricted to location and inner city talent pools. At Unico, we have seen firsthand that the widespread acceptance of remote working has opened up the job market, allowing us to employ team members in locations where we don’t typically operate.

A 2021 Roy Morgan Research poll found that in Melbourne alone three quarters of city workers are reluctant to go back to work full time. The same poll found more than 30% of respondents would prefer to work mostly from home and 42% would like some regular days in the office. Roy Morgan’s research also found that in January 2021 CBD traffic had reduced by 72% in Melbourne and 66% in Sydney compared to the same time last year.

On a global scale, recent data from Linkedin’s Workforce Confidence Index showed 47% of US professionals believe their companies will allow them to work remotely, at least partially after the coronavirus pandemic subsides. Employees in tech and finance had even greater expectations of flexibility with 73% and 67% of individuals respectively sharing this belief.

As workers have experienced the extra time and flexibility working from home affords, their desire for a ‘flexible working model’ has continued to grow. Documented benefits to working from home include flexibility to juggle life, creating work-life balance, limiting distractions, and home based child care. Exposure to a new way of working has undoubtedly changed the way staff work and employers need to listen.

Employees will demand greater flexibility and organisations will require it


Ashley Williams, Assistant Professor – Harvard Business School

In July 2020 a Gartner survey amongst global business leaders revealed 82% of respondents plan to allow employees to work remotely some of the time. Experimentation with remote working has proven these work models can work effectively in certain scenarios and build more resilient business operations. Companies are beginning to apply a more agile and creative mindset to work policies and realise the employee experience is not necessarily limited to a traditional office environment.

Big tech is leading the charge with giants like Facebook, Microsoft, and Salesforce embracing flexible work models. Salesforce recently declared the “9-to-5 workday dead” and cited the employee experience as being “more than ping-pong tables and snacks”.

In our always-on, always-connected world, it no longer makes sense to expect employees to work an eight-hour shift and do their jobs successfully


Brent Hyder – Head of HR – Salesforce

Salesforce’s Head of HR Brent Hyder emphasised that workers need ‘flexibility to be successful’ which means striking a balance between personal and professional obligations. For many companies embracing this philosophy could mean the difference between losing or retaining their best talent as flexible working fast becomes the norm, not the exception.

One of the most popular models that are being embedded into corporate life is the 3-2-2 model or flex work model. This model allows employees to come into the office one to three days a week with a typical focus on collaborative tasks, customer meetings, and presentations. Research indicates that models such as these offer many benefits to both employees and employers.

Flexible work policies also act as an effective tool for improving employee engagement through empowerment and indicating respect. Those engaged with their jobs miss fewer days of work, have less turnover, and have improved career longevity. Engagement is a proven way business leaders can improve the KPI’s of their employees if they proactively work at it. Years of Gallup research has shown that when employees are engaged their performance improves dramatically, highly engaged workplaces can claim 41% lower absenteeism, 40% fewer quality defects, and 21% higher profitability.

What does that mean for the future of the workplace? How does this affect businesses reassessing their workplace needs and the wider commercial real estate market?

In Australia alone, it is forecast that in 2021 half of all office workers will spend two days at home. Consequently, a fall in net demand for office space of up to 5% will be triggered. Similarly, Gartner found an increase in remote working due to flexible working policies will allow some organisations to support up to 40% more workers in the same amount of space they use today.

These statistics indicate some significant shifts in commercial real estate for businesses which can be separated into two key areas:

1) A surplus of space in existing tenancies will drive down demand for larger office spaces

Due to changes in workplace norms many tenants will reduce their leased space needs as they expire and renewals transpire or slow demand as surplus capacity is absorbed. Businesses may even make the shift to smaller, cheaper premises without necessarily reducing the size of their workforce. To persuade tenants who are not set on changing their lease, property operators and developers will have to provide additional value to convince them to stay. A marketable point of difference for building owners will make leasable spaces more appealing for both new and existing tenants. This could come in the form of IoT-enabled SMART spaces and technology that can enhance the tenant experience and protect staff. Such technology can be offered in the form of tailored tenancy packages.

2) A need to manage a dynamic flow of people in and out of the office

As flexible working becomes increasingly normalised, challenges emerge for businesses seeking to manage staff across multiple sites and environments. A consistent flow of staff in and out of the office will be highly demanding for HR departments and management as well as a strain on company resources. From workforce planning and coordination to asset booking and desk allocation, there is a range of tasks that will be made overly difficult due to flexible working.

Shifts to a hybrid way of working will involve remote and on-site staff having to collaborate together virtually and physically, often simultaneously. Ensuring high quality audio visual facilities exist in offices will be crucial for businesses seeking to maintain the benefits of flexible working without sacrificing productivity or creativity.

Hot-desking once declared dead, will now become essential for many larger businesses looking to support a flexible workplace that allows for a dynamic flow of people. In a world beset by COVID-19 tracking, managing, and protecting staff compliantly is crucial but unnecessarily complex without the right tools.

Technology is the answer to the future of the workplace. Workplace management platforms, software, and the data-gathering potential of IoT offer a highly effective solution for these challenges when combined.

What next?

COVID-19 has led to enduring changes that have changed how we work and how we use our spaces. The new normal is flexible working. It is hot desking. It is creating a safe environment for our team. It is being supportive of employee wellbeing.

Whenever a major external event forces us to change, new opportunities and challenges emerge. Businesses have to grapple with change and technology is the best resource to effectively and efficiently deliver the results needed.

If you are interested in what your future workplace could look like, or how technology can help you prepare for flexible working we are happy to guide you through our technology solutions including JourneyHub.

Head of Innovation

Categories
Insights

How will work change in the future? COVID, the catalyst for change

how will work change in the future

How will work change in the future? COVID, the catalyst for change

How will work change in the future? The post-COVID office and flexible workforce will drive lasting changes in the workplace that businesses need to prepare for.


The world is full of examples of innovators who sensed a need for change in their environment and used it as a catalyst for lasting improvement. Those visionaries took their teams through adversity and invented a new future. We believe that in the years to come we will see that the year that everyone would rather forget, 2020, was the year that lasting change was enacted in our lives and businesses.

In Australia, the most obvious manifestation of these changes will be the move to remote and hybrid ways of working. We have seen workforces successfully move to a remote working model, but we believe that the real lasting changes from this transformation are yet to come. Specifically, we believe that:

Remote working solutions will need to adapt to better fit a hybrid working future or flexible workforce

So exactly how will work change in the future? Today’s completely remote workforce will move to a hybrid model where employees once again seek the enhanced collaboration and social-bonding benefits of the office. Solutions that have worked fine for the fully remote workforce (e.g. desktop-based video conferencing) will need to be augmented with solutions that provide collaboration between mixed groups of remote and onsite team members.

post-COVID office
SMART technology & advanced booking systems have recently been combined with great effect to manage flexible workforces over multiple on-site and remote locations.

We’ve all been part of a meeting where collaboration has suffered and failed due to team members participating online and in person, or the person working from home wasn’t invited in the first place. These scenarios will become the norm in the post-COVID office, and SMART solutions will be a necessity as it is unlikely teams will ever fully co-locate again.

On-site working solutions required for a safe and compliant post-COVID world. 

The return of workforces to offices will require active solutions to balance staff sense of safety (is this building safe for me?), building practical usage limits (lift throughput, floor and meeting roaming occupancy etc.) and employers’ legal obligations (am I fulfilling my legal obligations) in an effective manner. 

Our team has significant experience in SMART office solutions, which started with SMART Desks a number of years ago. Due to COVID the team saw a need for a SMART Space solution – JourneyHub was born. JourneyHub is a SMART Space solution that allows landlords and employers to manage their office space safely and efficiently through IoT sensors, AI/ML and IT integration capabilities.  

Suburban and metro business adapting to a hybrid working future.  

One of the few positives of COVID has been the new life that has been breathed back into local high streets and community areas. Hundreds of thousands of people who traditionally spend their days in the CBD are working from home, potentially juggling childcare, and education responsibilities. This trend of flexible working and increased activity in suburban areas will provide opportunities for local businesses to flex to growing customer demand.

A good example is neighbourhood gyms, who are poised to benefit with the permanency of flexible working, resulting in increased demand for daytime classes and gym space. This will need to be balanced by addressing anxiousness relating to over-crowding by real-time updates and allocation of their equipment to their neighbourly customers who are using their newfound work flexibility to fit in a gym session between video meetings. 

To make this type of solution work, it requires clever integration of sensors to measure usage, CRM systems to keep track of customers, AI/ML modelling to predict usage and mobile applications to inform customers when the ‘coast is clear’. Unico’s SMART Space solutions are well suited to bridge the gap between innovative business ideas and technology allowing businesses to capture new customers.


Is your business grappling with the question “How will work change in the future?” If you wonder what the post-COVID office might look like and think that IT transformations can help you reach your goals, we might be the people to help you.

Get in touch below.


Mark Hannon

Head of Telco Sales and Pre-Sales

Categories
Insights

What is SMART Workplace Technology? And how can it help businesses return to the office in the new COVID-19 normal

What is SMART workplace technology? And how can it help businesses return to the office in the new COVID-19 normal.

SMART workplace technology has played a major role in the PropTech industry for decades, but what is SMART technology? And how can it help businesses return to the office in the new COVID-19 normal.


SMART technology and SMART workplaces have played a major role in the PropTech industry for decades and have gone through many transitions and evolutions over the years. A range of solutions exist on the market that are primarily focused on workforce management, workplace traffic management, analytics and access control. However, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a range of SMART technology options being adopted into a range of workplaces by both tenants and building owners.

So what is SMART technology?

SMART technology means “Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology”. This technology is used to provide cognitive awareness to objects, by making use of advanced technologies like internet of things, artificial intelligence, machine leaning and big data.

This workplace technology makes use of smart devices like sensors to collate, adapt and convey information about objects and environment, making the monitoring process seamless and self-governed.

SMART technology has recently been combined with new hardware capabilities such as thermal imaging technology to help identify COVID-19 symptoms.

SMART technology lays the foundations for what we like to call a ‘SMART workplace’ which can be defined as:

A digital transformation driven solution encapsulating products and systems, connecting employees and their work environments. A SMART Workplace is geared towards improving collaboration, increasing productivity for workforces and providing employee wellness and safety, thereby helping organisations to make effective and optimal utilisation of human capital and physical resources.

But how can a SMART Workplace help your business in the new COVID-19 normal?

1) Temperature scanning & safety gear detection:

Thermal imaging camera technology has been used across a variety of industries to help identify abnormally high temperatures that pose a health or transmission risk. However, the advent of COVID-19 has driven its widespread adoption in new areas such as retail and real estate. Most approved medical devices utilise infrared radiation to accurately measure temperatures. Placing cameras at designated entry points across a workplace means pedestrians can be monitored for unsafe temperatures that could pose health risks. This information can then be directly sent to users or staff via a mobile app, who will then enact internal safety procedures. Add in AI-enabled mask detection capability and you can systematically help prevent health threats, mitigating the risk of workplace outbreaks.

2) Workplace data & traffic management:

As additional safety procedures are implemented at scale across larger workplaces, the challenges of managing the capacity of people from the lobby, to the lift and into the office become increasingly apparent. Social distancing protocols mandate set lift capacities and other safety precautions that cause major lift delays in larger workplaces during peak periods. Consequently, it is essential that organisations maximise building capacity to make commuting as efficient as possible. By integrating sensor data, analytics and a mobile application, landlords and tenants can easily gather accurate insights on occupancy and utilisation. These are be used to safely manage lift capacity, track overcrowding and identify areas prone to overcrowding that pose health risks. Detailed data and reporting are essential for larger organisations looking to ensure staff can safely return to the office at scale and formulate a key component of a workplace traffic management plan. 

3) Social distancing management:

Some organisations will require social distancing protocols to be implemented and upheld throughout the workplace. Live reporting on usage and occupancy of space can help safely manage density across the workplace.

SMART occupancy sensors are IoT devices that can detect someone’s presence and location in real-time. Installing sensors across leased and communal areas allows management to determine with pinpoint accuracy how many people are occupying a specific space. This data can then be used to determine if individuals are within space capacity limits in areas such as lifts, common areas, meeting rooms or even individual desks. Combine this data with an integrated mobile app and you can enable real-time proximity alerts that notify staff when they have breached pre-set social distancing protocols or are at risk of overcrowding.

4) Mobile ID scanning and touchless technology:

High transmission risks within traditional work environments has resulted in the need for touchless alternatives to buttons and handles, as well as the reduced human interaction where possible. Hardware such as touchless buttons and mobile ID scanners can support a ‘frictionless’ journey throughout an entire building. By taking this one step further and integrating facial recognition or mobile authentication, physical interactions can be removed at selected access points. Add in a web application for guests or visitors and you can manage sanitary access control across an entire building.

5) Usage based cleaning:

Bathrooms, kitchens, desks and other high-touch areas pose a significant infection risk that can be greatly reduced through cleaning based on usage rather than schedule. ‘SMART’ occupancy sensors can register usage instances and alert tenants when cleaning or sanitation is required after a set amount of usage instances.


Are you considering utilising SMART workplace technology yourself or for your clients?

Unico develops and integrates a range of SMART workplace solutions and SMART technology for Australian businesses, building owners and developers.

If you would like to find out more get in touch with me today.


Evan-Harridge

Evan Harridge

Director of Innovation

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