One thing that we’ve notice changing during 2020 – with all its stresses – is that questions around workspace optimisation have risen up the corporate agenda. When we talk to facilities managers and clients, there is now much more awareness that buildings need to be used as efficiently as possible.

Pressure to reduce property costs is a given, but there are many less obvious reasons why businesses need to optimise their workplaces – less obvious, but equally important. These include enabling innovation, attracting talent, improving employee wellbeing, and benefiting from the many intangibles that flow from creating an enhanced workplace experience.

In a useful report, JLL and Unwork predict that a number long term trends coming together are set to transform the way premises are used. These factors include increases in computing power, the spread of IoT devices, ever more effective connectivity, and the availability of vast amounts of data. The report paints a picture of a new digital ecosystem and, among other things, predicts that workplaces will increasingly need to provide previously unanticipated value.

Integrated systems are already an important tool to enable these improvements, and their role is set to grow.

The rise of agile working

Another trend accelerated over the last year is the rise of agile working. It was forced upon many organisations, with staff suddenly needing to work from home or having to be rapidly redeployed to cope with resourcing pressures. We saw this at its most obvious in the NHS, where we helped Trusts to add new flexibility to their site access and management systems, allowing ‘floating’ teams of clinicians to move more efficiently to wherever they were needed on the front line.

The same agility is being capitalised on by commercial organisations too.

And as we move out of the pandemic it seems likely that environments that offer flexible working spaces will become increasingly popular. They are designed for ways of working particularly suited to this time of change – with new enterprises starting up, and others having to reinvent themselves. Reduced workspace overheads, more productive environments, and greater freedom to adapt are just some of the advantages.

Facilities running more smoothly

All this make it more important than ever to manage facilities efficiently. It’s recognised that when processes don’t run smoothly – when visitors have trouble finding parking spaces, when employees struggle to book meeting rooms or when contract staff can’t access networks – that impacts employee morale and productivity as well as the visitor experience.

The answer? By encompassing advanced visitor management capabilities, security and building occupancy solutions can now drive new efficiencies and tangible competitive advantage.

Yes, implementing agile working spaces requires a shift in mindset, but the step is a clear and logical one. The technology is now available that can capture and analyse data from multiple systems and devices to provide an overview of workspace usage and, importantly, a deeper understanding of workforce behaviour down to team level.

Access control and video data, desk, lighting, and network sensors can all be integrated into futureproof platforms that will allow organisations to track how different departments and teams use space not just each year or month but day-by-day.  And it’s this aggregated data and business intelligence that will help plan fit outs with the right mix of desks and spaces, giving the ability to track efficiency, to make small incremental adjustments or quickly adapt to new operational demands.

Going beyond the minimum

Even a minimal level of integration (such as pulling together access control and surveillance) makes security and safety operations simpler to operate from a single interface and offers clear advantages. Not least it can provide a rapid, practical way forward for even for the most complex, multi-location organisation.

But going beyond this, organisations today can benefit from easy, off-the-shelf integration with dozens of building management systems – from elevator controls, fire detection and parking management to asset tracking – and streamline identity management by exchanging data with Microsoft’s Active Directory and other popular databases.

An easy-to-use, centralised system can reduce the burden of monitoring multiple, siloed tools and ensuring enterprise security from all angles. It can also eliminate the need to deal with repetitive challenges, such as managing and responding to alarms and processing and analysing data from disparate systems.

Integrated solutions also offer remote access capabilities which allow security managers to maintain oversight away from the control room. Single or multiple facilities can be monitored from any location.

With all this in mind, the fresh thinking that many organisations have been doing over the last year may soon prove to be highly beneficial.