The post-Covid office: what’s your property strategy for 2021?

Covid-19 has accelerated many things that were already happening, not least of those being the development of a corporate property strategy.

Long before talk of national lockdowns and 2-metre rules, organisations had realised the importance of developing a property strategy fit for the changing times. One that would radically rethink their approach to using physical space because of globalisation, rising property costs, technological advances, carbon footprints and various other factors.

There was also a desire to change how real estate is regarded and take a more proactive approach to managing it. Traditionally company premises have been seen as a burden, given that they are, on average, the second largest cost to a business after staffing. On the contrary, real estate should be viewed as an asset that will enhance the business and its objectives—when deployed strategically.

The problem is that strategic deployment of property in modern times is about increasing its flexibility and adaptability in an era of breakneck technological change. The fact that property is illiquid and not inherently flexible creates a dilemma that has tended to confine the development of a property strategy to the backburner.

But then Covid happened. Now we’re hearing that IT managers, facilities managers and security managers are keener than ever to get their property strategy in place. And while everybody’s thinking about their Covid-related priorities, they’re also thinking way beyond them.  

A new approach to space

Rent, fit-out, ongoing maintenance, security and facility management are the things that usually make property a company’s biggest cost centre after its people. Considering these costs against a backdrop of space-saving advances in technology creates a compelling argument for introducing alternative working environments and practices. However, it wasn’t until Covid forced a whole slew of other considerations on businesses that this compelling argument started translating into actual change.

Now businesses have to think about contactless entry, one-way systems, occupancy control, ventilation, regular cleaning of workspaces, and virus detection. And while they’re being forced to think about these things, many are thinking about other space-saving modifications at the same time. For example, hot desking, room booking systems, certain departments coming in on certain days, stand-up meetings, etc. What better time to start maximising the value of your office space than when you have to make sweeping Covid-safe changes to how you use it anyway?

Your office needs and wants

Developing a post-2020 corporate property strategy now revolves around two questions. What do we need our offices to look like? And what do we want our offices to look like?

One of the things Covid has shone a light on is that the physical office isn’t as necessary as it once was. We’ve spoken to businesses who’ve said that, post-pandemic, their finance teams aren’t going to come back; they’re going to be permanent remote workers. Covid has accelerated the realisation that for many businesses work is not a place but an activity. As a result, businesses are getting used to the idea of the home office, the mobile office and the flexible office instead of the fixed office. It means that because their previously full offices have all this extra space, they’re being compelled to change how they use it.

However, Covid-19 hasn’t—and won’t—defeat the need for office space. For many organisations, a totally remote workforce is not desirable or even possible. In the longer term, the post-Covid office will need to be a collaborative hub. One that connects employees and customers across physical and digital space.

How physical security systems can facilitate your property strategy

Physical security systems should be a topline consideration for any business developing a corporate property strategy, and not just because of security.

Access control systems can enable businesses to manage occupancy and facilitate social distancing. Facial recognition entry, infrared buttons and automatic doors reduce touchpoints in a building. Integrations with room booking systems can automatically update access control when a room is booked, allowing entry only at the allotted time. Systems can also be configured to restrict access to communal areas when they are at full capacity, predict more efficient cleaning schedules based on usage and demand, and facilitate track and trace reporting.

Meanwhile, video surveillance technology can help with behaviour management, e.g. notifying you when a person doesn’t follow a one-way system. It can also highlight flow issues, providing you with data on where people are mingling in large numbers and whether certain office items, such as coffee or water machines, should be moved to minimise risk.

And not just minimise risk but optimise space. Here’s where your physical security systems can help you make changes that transcend Covid considerations. Access control and video surveillance data allow you to see how your office space could be used more efficiently and effectively. And if you move your access control system to the cloud, you enable your security and/or facilities teams to administer it remotely, thereby contributing to a more flexible and agile working environment.

From burden to asset

Here at Welcome Gate, we’re helping clients develop a property strategy that harnesses and enhances the capabilities of their existing security systems to create innovative new workspaces. In effect, we’re building post-Covid offices that employees feel safe and happy to work in, and in the long term, empower organisations to thrive.

If you’re looking for ways to turn your office from burden to asset, contact Welcome Gate today for a free initial consultation.