How to Design and Maintain Workplaces in the Age of Super Mobility

29 April 2016

The modern workplace is changing. More people than ever are taking advantage of new technologies – from cloud computing to smartphones – to carry out their work from a variety of locations. The International Data Corporation predicts that mobile workers will account for nearly three-quarters of the US workforce by 2020.

This movement towards more flexible working hours, together with a need to accommodate new technologies, means that innovative approaches to workspace design and maintenance are needed. Here, we discuss some of the ways in which businesses can future-proof their workplaces as we enter the age of super-mobility.

Accounting for Super-Mobility in Workspace Design

Flexible work schedules

As more workers are able to carry out their tasks independent of location, workspace design will have to adapt – it will shift from being a 9-5 space throughout the working week to an adaptable environment. 

With flexible working hours and an increase in remote working and hot desking, everything from the number of employees in the office to where they then sit will often change day-by-day. 

The result? A push towards an adaptable workspace will mean that the one-size-fits-all open plan office space won’t be enough for most businesses. As a result, workspaces will designed to include quiet spaces, meeting rooms, collaboration spaces, as well as other leisure facilities such as cafes, gyms and games rooms. 

As such, workspaces of the future are increasingly being designed with the intention of facilitating a more collaborative and flexible company culture.

More devices 

More and more workplaces are introducing a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy. This facilitates remote working as it encourages the use of portable devices such as laptops, smartphones and tablets. 

However, future workspace design will have to accommodate the rise in such technologies – for example, by creating spaces for private phone calls, ensuring there is wireless connectivity throughout the building – and, of course, installing plenty of plug sockets.

Businesses may also want to consider reducing the number of desktop PCs which populate their offices, as this kind of ‘fixed’ technology will only limit how spaces can be used. 

Maintaining a Workplace in the Age of Super-Mobility

The challenges won’t stop once the workplace is designed; the next step will be how best to maintain the building.

Smart scheduling

More flexible working hours and mobile working will present businesses and facilities managers with a new set of challenges. As fewer people come into the office on the traditional 9am-5pm schedule, it will become harder for facilities managers to predict peak times of use and plan cleaning and maintenance rotas accordingly.

Fortunately, ‘smart technology’ may well be able to fill this gap. Tracking technologies and smart sensors could be installed across buildings – in bathrooms or offices – that automatically track use and generate cleaning and maintenance schedules to meet real-world demand, as opposed to the predicted needs of a space.

Responsive buildings 

Similarly, the rise in the Internet of Things (IoT) means that the workplaces of the future are likely to become a lot more responsive. This will be a great asset in meeting the needs of more mobile workers. 

It may be possible for the building’s systems to ‘learn’ the habits, routines and personal preferences of individual employees, using data gathered through tracking and sensors, and automatically adjust ambient conditions such as internal temperature, ventilation and lighting to account for these movements, in as efficient a way as possible. 

For example, the system may recognise an employee as she enters the building due to data from her ID badge, identify that she has arrived for a regular weekly meeting and, since the meeting room is already occupied, take no action. The system might then identify another employee, and recognise that when he does come in, he usually stays for the entire day, and so automatically direct him to an available hot desk in an area that is already occupied, thus minimising unnecessary heating and lighting across the building.

Mobile facilities managers

Finally, the same technological developments that are leading to a rise in mobile workers will facilitate a rise in mobile facilities managers. Due to advances in sector-specific apps, together with improvements in automated systems and robotics, we can expect facilities managers to be able to carry out an increasing number of tasks off-site over the upcoming years. 

For example, in the future, should an appliance in a workspace break down, the smart system embedded within it may well be able to detect and identify the source of the malfunction and automatically order a replacement part. The facilities manager will be able to monitor this from afar, and even book an engineer to carry out the repair using an app on their smartphone. 

Given that facilities managers are often responsible for monitoring multiple facilities within an organisation, this kind of on-the-ground insight will enable them to do their jobs more effectively, no matter which site they are based at.

As you can see, the future is filled with both challenges and opportunities when it comes to workspace design and maintenance in the age of super-mobility.

To learn more about the facilities management services we offer here at OCS, visit our facilities management services page or call us on 0844 846 7608.