By Mark Story 19 June 2017

The need to let staff operate in ways that suit their individual preferences best is behind the demand for extremely flexible workspace options.

Cultural diversity, differing work habits of the four generations who now populate the workplace –  Baby boomers through to Millennials – plus the myriad pressures confronting today’s businesses are just some of the factors reshaping what the office of tomorrow will look like. 

 

Activity-based work spaces (ABW), which have dominated the landscape in recent years, are giving way to demand for a greater variety of options. As well as complementing the needs of the business, more flexible workspace options also recognise that individual staff are more productive in working environments of their choice. 

 

The one-size-fits-all workspace no longer meets the needs of a fragmented and divergent workforce, and a growing number of companies are looking for opportunities to change where and how employees work. Staff mobility is a key part of the rethink. 

 

Workspace optimisation remains a fairly new phenomenon in Australia. It is larger firms, mainly in the banking, telco and professional services sectors that are leading the way, with a handful of landmark buildings across Australia’s capital cities home to the few examples that exist so far. 

The one-size-fits-all workspace no longer meets the needs of a fragmented and divergent workforce, and a growing number of companies are looking for opportunities to change where and how employees work.

Emerging smart technologies

Fortunately, thanks to emerging smart sensor technology, it’s possible to track energy use and office space utilisation. Together with other complementary technologies it's becoming easier to measure, analyse and redeploy wasted or underutilised office space. 

 

Having successfully trialled the use of sensor technology and analytics to monitor the use of space within its own offices at Australia Square in Sydney, Dexus plans to take what it has learned to improve workspace utilisation for its customers. 

 

Dexus Chief Information Officer Mark Hansen says companies literally can’t afford to have idle workspaces. “With many studies showing the utilisation of some workplaces is less than 50 per cent, the value that businesses get from every square metre of space becomes a key consideration in how they utilise their workspace,” Hansen points out. “It’s our job to ensure customers get the best results from their tenancy.” 

 

Sensor and other technologies are being used to detect the occupancy levels of floors; the movement of people; the use of space in each work place area; and the collaboration patterns between groups. 

 

There’s a growing awareness, adds Hansen, that the optimal workplace revolves around creating the right blend of flexible workspace options for employees, including a combination of ABWs, collaborative spaces, fixed meeting spaces, break out spaces, and focus spaces. 

 

“By collectively deploying these technologies, we’re able to create a better brief for the future occupants of the commercial spaces we build and lease,” says Hansen. “We can then analyse what the data is telling us to ensure a tenant’s workplace continues to evolve to maintain maximum efficiency.” 

 

As a case in point, if meeting rooms are consistently underutilised, why not convert them into collaborative spaces? 

 

“By creating flexible workspace options, each employee will find their way to the most effective environment for them to be productive in a way that complements their work style,” Hansen says. 

 

There are many more untapped opportunities, such as the benefit to health and safety, with emerging technologies capable of identifying the presence of individuals during an emergency.

Thanks to emerging smart sensor technology, it’s possible to track energy use and office space utilisation

Embed technology or deploy as needed

Analysing the utilisation of visitors to, and casual users of, the workplace is another challenge. Dexus continues to trial myriad technologies to achieve the right workplace solutions, says Hansen.

 

“Our research shows that we need to incorporate a variety of sensors in conjunction with other technologies including Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, analytics and door counters to get a comprehensive view of workforce movement.” 

 

It is planned for new sensor technology to be embedded within the built fabric of the development at 100 Mount Street in North Sydney, and Hansen expects these technologies to eventually be implemented within all new buildings.

 

However, given the ongoing need for existing tenancies to continually repurpose floor plates, he expects the service to eventually be provided to companies on a temporary or as-needed basis as a non-permanent fixture for point in time analysis.

 

Dexus is identifying the best partners and refining the technologies it plans to bring to the table in the light of new emerging standards for building systems, sensors and other technologies. 

 

“This type of service is another avenue for us to help our customers to future-proof their businesses,” says Hansen.

 

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