Watch now: The technologies that enable a destination workspace

Watch the full recording of our latest webinar below where we share the latest insights from industry experts Condeco, TwistedPair and WorkTech Academy. Here they discuss, in more detail, the technologies that will support a hybrid approach to work.

Let the discussions begin

If this webinar has provided you with food for thought and you’re interested in having further discussions then get in touch with the team; we will be more than happy to help you explore what opportunities are available for your existing space.

Full Webinar Transcript

Matthew Cooper 

…if you haven’t come across Woodhouse in the past, we create workspaces that help businesses work smarter. And we’ve had an interesting journey over the past 12 months. And I’m sure a number of the audience will have had an interesting journey as well. We’ve enjoyed helping companies transition to new ways of working, some have done the transition some are in the transition. And some haven’t yet started. So, wherever you are on the journey, we are glad to welcome you to this next webinar around technology. The previous webinar we held was around a destination workspace: what is a destination workspace? It’s a space where people love to come to the office and use it to their advantage, as opposed to having to come to the office where traditionally you might have been in, it might have been part of your contract to be at the office full time. So that’s where you always went, but the destination is something new. A place where you can use the right environment for the activity you’ve got on hand. So, this webinar today is around the technology that enables a destination workspace. And we feel it’s one of the fundamental parts of having a great workspace; it’s having the right technology to enable you to work effectively when you’re at the office. So, we’d like everyone to be engaged, please use the Q&A function on Slido. And we’ll be bringing some of those in during the session and answering them live. We will also be running some polls. So please do join in with those. They’ll pop up on Slido and we’d be glad if you’d engage with those and give us your feedback. Next, we’ll introduce our speakers. So first of all, I’d like to introduce Poonam from Condeco. Thank you very much for joining us. Poonam.

Poonam Bharj 

Good morning. Delighted to be here. Thanks for having me. So hi, everyone, my name is Poonam and I’m part of the team here at Condeco. Very excited to be part of this panel this morning. I’ve had a pretty colourful career to date. It started out in health and fitness when I was fresh out of university, then I spent many years in real estate. Over the last five years or so I have thoroughly enjoyed, and continuing to enjoy, perhaps the best time really in technology. And the reason that I love working in this sector is that I’ve come from very traditional and corporate work environments, some that people – perhaps hopefully not now, maybe – are slightly familiar with: first one into the office, last one out in the evening, days off frowned upon, being judged by the number of emails that you receive, and how quick you are to respond. And at the same time, trying to raise two very young kids. When I then moved into technology, I was delighted to experience a completely different way of working, a modern way of working, and some of the terminology that we’re all using today – agile working, hybrid working. And now through my work at Condeco, I’m able to speak to customers every day, and introduce them to that type of working as well, and show them how technology can be, and should be, such an enabler. So, thanks, Matthew.

Matthew Cooper 

Great. Thanks for joining. We’re glad to have you on the webinar on the panel. And I’d like to now introduce Hannah. Thanks, Hannah, for joining.

Hannah Sharma 

Thanks for the invite. I’m Hannah Sharma. I’m the sales and marketing director at Twisted Pair. We are a technology partner to many brands that you’ll be very aware of. We work as a technology provider, we improve workspaces, make them smarter, and it’s all very much led around the technology which obviously over recent times has become even more paramount to how we work as Poonam says so very excited to join the panel discussion today and talk through some of those products and opportunities for businesses to move into the new era of work.

Matthew Cooper 

Thank you. We’ll be looking forward to hearing some of your experiences and how you’ve been helping other clients throughout this move to new ways of working. And then finally, Jeremy, thank you for joining us.

Jeremy Myerson

It’s a pleasure. Good morning, everybody. Good morning, Matthew. I wear two hats in this debate. The first is I’m a director of WorkTech Academy, which is a knowledge platform and network, it’s global. And we’re looking at the relationship between three things: people, place, and technology, in relation to the future of work. We study trends, we gather intelligence. And we’re particularly interested in what’s happening in technology, and how that’s affecting workspace. The second hat I wear is as a professor of design at the Royal College of Art, I’m an academic researcher, I have a research group that’s been looking for a long time at emerging scenarios for the future of work. And I have to say, I’ve never known a moment like this. We are at a tipping point, in terms of major change in the way we work. This webinar could not be happening at a more timely moment.

Matthew Cooper 

Thank you. Yeah, we, we’ve certainly seen that in the response to the invitations that we’ve sent out. A huge number of people signed up for this webinar and the previous one. And it just goes to prove your point that it’s a hot topic. And we’re glad to support that. So, I think now we’ll bring up the results of the poll that’s just been running whilst we’ve been hearing the introduction.

That’s very interesting to see that we have 79% saying that technology is high on the agenda when looking at the future of the workspace, and 21% on the radar, but not a priority. So just to prove your point there, Jeremy, I think we’ve definitely got an audience that are looking at the same topics.

Jeremy Myerson

Yeah, it’s exactly as I would expect it. Because we know that technology is going to be the piece that makes the hybrid world of work happen.

Matthew Cooper 

So, we will look at three areas over the next few minutes. The first one is how technology can support companies in the return to office. And by a return to the office, I mean, once we’re allowed to get back into the office and post lockdown, we can open up our offices for the staff to come back and use the space. And I’m sure we’re all in different stages of that journey. And you’ve all got different ways of doing it, which is fine. But I think it’d be great to hear from our panellists around how they’re supporting companies with that return to the office and making it as safe as possible and as easy as possible for the users of the space. The second point that we’ll be covering off is around how technologies can support the workspace for new ways of working. So, once we’ve got back to the office, the office is open again, for the staff to be able to use it. How can we help them to make it as easy as possible and work in a new way, where we assume that from the results of the surveys that are happening, the bulk of the population are wanting to work in a more flexible way going forward, post pandemic, and how can we support them with a more flexible way of working? And the last area that we’re going to touch on is technologies that enable people to remain connected. So, whilst we’re moving to this new, more flexible way of working, per se, that the users of the space can still be connected to each other with their colleagues, if, even though they might be working in different locations. I think we’ve probably all experienced these new challenges as we start reopening our workspaces and having people in different locations that we hadn’t, perhaps experienced previously. So first of all, perhaps we could start with you Poonam, about how you’ve been helping the customers of Condeco with a return to the workspace.

Poonam Bharj 

Absolutely. Condeco have been in the space for many, many years. And primarily our software supports employees pick the right space to work, find the right place to work, schedule it from anywhere; we’re a cloud-based technology, predominantly led via outlook. What we’ve kind of done post pandemic, is we’ve had a team of engineers work around the clock to enhance our desk booking platform. And as part of that, we’ve added a number of features to make it COVID friendly, so that when an employee is asked or is ready to come back to the workplace, they’re not so anxious about it. So, I guess some of the features that our customers are telling us that are most popular as part of that tech is the ability to self-certify before you schedule some space and say that you aren’t experiencing any symptoms of COVID, you haven’t been in and around anybody that has COVID in the last week or two weeks, so very much following whatever the government guidelines might be globally. So here in the UK, that’s physical distancing. It’s making sure that your space is clean before you book it. It’s the ability to put it into a sanitization state when you’re finished with it. And I guess most important for the employer is to be able to trace when the employee’s coming in, where they sit, who they sit around, should anything, unfortunately happen, the ability to quickly open and close spaces. So, the list is endless. But they’re just a few of the things that are really supporting our customers return under the current circumstances.

Matthew Cooper 

Thanks Poonam. And could you just tell us a bit more about how that works. So, when someone’s booked in using the desk, at the end of it…

Poonam Bharj 

So, we’re a mobile-led technology, we find 70-80% of our customers will book via a mobile app. So, they’ll find some space and secure the space using an app. You can also access it via a web browser. And as you check out that space, it automatically puts it into sanitization state, or at the end of the day, all spaces that have been used, automatically will be put into that state as well. At the moment, we’re suggesting that space is booked out for the day, so that it has the ability to have a deep clean. But hopefully, at some point, we’ll go back to the world of work where people can come and utilise the same space, you know, after a 15-20 minute clean or whatever it might be. Perhaps not quite there yet.

Matthew Cooper 

Yes. Okay great

Poonam Bharj 

One thing I should say about these features is they can be turned on and off, to a) whatever supports the culture, or b) whatever the guidelines might be at that moment in time.

Matthew Cooper 

That’s great. And I’m looking forward to hearing what Jeremy’s got to say in a moment. Poonam, with your booking system, have you had much feedback from customers about how the users of the space are wanting to be able to book into the office, if they are coming in, and what about the interaction with colleagues and knowing they’re in?

Poonam Bharj 

Yeah, that’s interesting because I mean, the data is only starting to come in now. But we’re finding already that access to meeting spaces and collaboration spaces seems to be the most popular. Perhaps previously, it was more a permanent type of fixed desk environment that people were coming into. So, there’s obviously a change, and the reason that people are now looking to come into the office. And as we all perhaps agree, collaboration is probably one of the top things out there. The other thing we’re finding is that people are coming in for access to specific tools, and specific attributes. So, it might be a dual monitor, or something that they haven’t got access to at home. So, there’s a specific reason to make that journey and come in now. But organisations are being aggressive on their fixed, permanent desk space. And I was just talking to an organisation yesterday, that’s looking to reduce that by 60%. So, we’ve learned many lessons over the last 12-18 months, that people can work remotely and work quite successfully. So, people are looking to shed real estate and that’s what we’re hearing.

Matthew Cooper 

Yeah, absolutely. We’re hearing a similar thing, I think particularly if you have an organisation, that pre-pandemic, might have had a desk per person, but their occupancy was probably only around 60% anyway, because of people being in meetings, people being out on holiday, off sick, whatever it was, that they had a lower occupancy, and now they’ve got a kind of double opportunity to improve their ratios. Jeremy, is this tying up with what you’re experiencing?

Jeremy Myerson

Yeah, I mean, what we’re hearing around the world tech network, is that there’s a lot of emphasis in the great return to the office which keeps coming and going and being disrupted by various new variants of COVID. But what we’re learning is that there are going to be a host of technologies deployed. I mean, Poonam talked about room and desk booking, which is incredibly important, because there isn’t going to be the free for all, you’re not just going to be able to rock up at the office in the way you did. Because there’s going to be quotas on numbers, different teams are being brought in on different days; there isn’t going to be the free address there was before the pandemic. And when you get to the building, you’re going to be confronted with different technologies, there are going to be pre-entry, wellness checks, checking your temperature, there may be COVID tests, there will be touchless entry, facial recognition technologies coming in, voice activation, at the entrance, but also in office kitchens, you’ll be able to talk to the office fridge. I think there will be a lot of social distancing sensors, which may bleep when there are too many people in a collaboration zone. By sending data to the facilities team that too many people are on this floor, we may need to spread people out, and so on and so forth. Also, dynamic stacking, shutting down floors, so that you’re not wasting heat and electricity, on days, when there’s low occupancy. What we’re seeing now is a return to the office, but not a full pelt return, we’re going to see huge variations in occupancy. So, there’s also a lot of work going on at the moment around cyber security, because with working from home and some people coming in, the perimeter of the corporate organisation that’s got to be protected from hacks is much greater. So, there’s a lot of work on cyber security. And the other thing I’d point out is the rise of robotics, we’re going to see more autonomous cleaning robots going into bathrooms and cleaning up. So, that the environment for when people do return is safe, it’s healthy, and it’s providing a level of psychological comfort. So, technology is going to be deployed for the most human reasons. And I think that’s a very interesting scenario.

Matthew Cooper  

Brilliant. I think it’s a really interesting move. And a great thing that can come out of the pandemic is that the shift in using technology to our advantage that can move us further forward. Thanks, Jeremy. Poonam, I think someone’s just put a question about what was the desk booking system called? Is there a particular name for the product that you use?

Poonam Bharj 

No, at the moment internally, we say, ‘Return to Office’. But no, there’s no particular name, no.

Matthew Cooper 

Thanks, and I can see a couple of people have commented with other brands in there, which is great. Hannah, if we might be able to come to you next, please. Can you tell us a little bit about how you’ve been helping companies with this kind of reopening and the move to a new, more hybrid way of working and perhaps pick up on some of these products?

Hannah Sharma 

Yes. So, I mean, very much in line with Poonam and Jeremy on this, that businesses are certainly looking for technology to supply them with data around utilisation of spaces. The facilities team, that leadership is in a state of flux, because we’ve gone from what was normal – and as you say, Matthew, that may well have been 60% occupancy to potentially five or 10. But we’re now in this really interesting transition window where potentially the next six months could see it go from five to 10% to 60, to 80, because there’s also now an expectation of, it’s very exciting to go to the office. It’s the old commute that became a drain is now something people potentially look forward to because it’s like a day trip, it’s got that element of enthusiasm reinjected. So, it really causes a lot of issues for that sort of facilities, workplace leadership team to say, we’re expected to give all of these employees, whatever resource they need, whether that’s a desk with a headset, and a webcam, for example, or a collaboration space. So, certainly from our perspective, we’re seeing, as Poonam suggested, a huge increase in requirements around collaboration. And interestingly I’ve heard a statistic recently that around 86% of meetings are going to be operating a hybrid team model moving forward. So, there is now a very heavy focus on enabling every participant, whether you’re in that room or you’re remote, to be able to participate, be involved, see everything that’s going on. And that often means from our perspective, when it comes to designing those spaces, that it’s not so much a fixed piece of furniture, a desk that people sit at, and then maybe you would have microphones in the desk or above that table, for example, but you’re now thinking about the fact you might have people stood at the back on a whiteboard, or a piece of collaborative technology. And that person is now not at that desk. So, where’s the microphone picking them up from and ensuring those far-end participants are getting a clear understanding of what that person is saying, is really important. Because we’ve all been on those calls, where someone sat a bit far away from the microphone, and you’re, you’re straining to hear them. And a lot of these collaborative sessions are, they’re not 40-minute sessions, they can be two to three hours. And that really causes fatigue for the participants, if they’re struggling to hear, or the technology, there’s poor bandwidth, video drops out, all those sorts of things. So certainly, collaborative technology, we’re seeing a lot of interest in a couple of products that are coming to the market now – there’s the Huddly Canvas, for example, which really improves your whiteboarding capability for the far end. We’re also seeing some very quirky, and potentially a bit niche, video technology. There’s the Owl Meeting room scenario, which is an owl looking device that sits in the middle of a circular table, that moves around to make sure that you get a bigger picture of the speaker. So, focus more on being able to read people’s body language and facial expressions. As well as obviously Zoom having their big kind of boom, recently. Neat products, which are aligned to the Zoom platform, are bringing out the neat symmetry product, which effectively if you have a panel, if you like, sat in a line that it cuts out all the dead space, so it enlarges the headshots, and again, focused on reading people’s body language, facial expressions, and, and making sure that becomes the focus to make sure that far-end participant has that best possible experience in a meeting environment.

Matthew Cooper 

Yeah, that’s so important, isn’t it? Because if you don’t quite get that, you just switch off, start doing emails, start doing something else, and then your productivity has gone out the window, hasn’t it?

Hannah Sharma 

Absolutely, and you become a distant participant and not somebody who’s truly in that room and operating with their colleagues.

Matthew Cooper 

Yeah, for sure. So we’ve been running a poll for the last few minutes. Perhaps we could just bring that up on the screen. Interesting to see the results there that we had 71% who are considering technology and infrastructure upgrades. And we’ve got 29% who have done the infrastructure, upgrades have it in place, and ready to go. But no one who is just going to return as it was pre COVID. So as expected, would you say Jeremy?

Jeremy Myerson

Yes, although I’m quite surprised that a third of the poll have got it all in place. Because there’s been a kind of wait and see approach with a lot of companies as to what type of ratio of hybrid model is going to emerge. We know that there’s going to be a mix of homework and third space work and office work. And I fully endorse that destination office thesis, Matthew, that you’re putting forward. The office as a magnet, you choose to go there because it’s so great. There’s great coffee, there’s great printing, you meet your colleagues and so on. And you have a choice to work elsewhere. But yeah, I am surprised that so many people have got it together as it were.

Matthew Cooper 

We’ll find some more speakers for our next event. So, thanks to everyone and thanks to Hannah, for what you were saying earlier that’s one of the key points isn’t it? It’s very elementary, but great connectivity has got to be one of the most fundamental parts of a good experience in a destination workspace where we’ve all been used to working from home, I imagine most people are now working off a laptop when you come back to the workspace (if you’re coming back) because it’s more about collaboration, more flexible, rather than sitting at a desk and plugging in the ethernet cable, it’s going to be more around the workspace. So having that excellent connectivity for doing video conferencing calls, connecting to the internet is going to be a fundamental. I think, Jeremy, you mentioned earlier around data. Can you just touch on a little bit more about how you think we’re going to move more towards having sensors maybe or data collection points to inform the way we work going forward and inform the estate team?

Jeremy Myerson

Yeah, I think it’s not just informing the estate’s team, it’s informing the employees as well, that’s the big move in data. But we’ve identified in Worktech Academy, a group of companies, we’re calling data drivers. And these people are putting a data strategy right at the heart of their corporate strategy and workplace strategy. And most of the data that’s being collected is around environmental performance, temperature and energy use and so on, but also occupancy and utilisation. And that data will then connect to workplace apps. And increasingly we’re seeing one of the big technology moves is a pivot towards the use of the smartphone as the main device for organising your workday and accessing your work. What we’re seeing here is the use of data, employees will come into a workplace and they’ll say a digital dashboard, it won’t just be in the room that’s seen by the facilities people, it will be seen by everybody. And it will say this part of the building is warmer than that part of the building. That’s if you fancy a cold temperature, work over there, you fancy a warmer temperature, work in this area, your app will tell you which colleagues are in and on which floors. So, data is going to be really the thing that drives the new workplace. And I don’t think we can underestimate this. We’re just on the foothills of a data revolution. The issue for the workplace industry is do we have the data skills? Have we got the data scientists? It’s one thing to collect data, it’s another thing to analyse it and make it into actionable intelligence. So, I think data is going to be a very, very big issue. And I think the technology providers such as Condeco have been very smart with this. And they’re understanding that data driven organisations are going to want a continuous flow. And this doesn’t just affect the maintenance and management of the building. It also affects the design of the building; designers used to work off the organisational chart, or a management brief or they might do a little bit of ethnographic research. Now they’re going to have incredibly rich data sets on who’s talking to who, who will collaborate; they’ll analyse room booking and desk booking data, email traffic, instant messaging, and they’ll be able to create a picture of how the organisation really works. So, I think tomorrow’s workplace designs are going to be much more tailored to how the organisation actually behaves.

Matthew Cooper 

Yeah, that’s fascinating, and really interesting to hear your insights there, Jeremy. Poonam, were you wanting to pick up on this?

Poonam Bharj 

Yeah, and I was going to say, I completely agree. What we’re finding now is that employers have been really keen to understand how employees are interacting with the workspace. And that’s what our technology allows you to do. So, in the world of tech in Condeco, you can see who’s booking space, when they’re booking space, what type of space they’re booking, what tools and attributes they’re booking to be in that space, when they’re in. Do they actually come to that space once they’ve booked it? What team members are they choosing to sit close to? All that sort of stuff is so powerful when they’re looking to make future decisions. Because it’s based on how people are interacting, as I mentioned.

Matthew Cooper 

Thanks Poonam, and I see a really interesting question, come in around how does data work in a service environment with multiple businesses within a larger space? So perhaps you could just be thinking about that question whilst we ask Hannah to join in with this interesting debate around data and how you collect data points and what are some of the products that you’re putting forward to your clients.

Hannah Sharma 

Similarly to the Condeco solution, there are additional software platforms that you can bring in that will look at, for example, your AV suite to understand the different products that you’re utilising there, because that’s the other thing: this is an evolving process. So, there’s the piece that Jeremy and Poonam picked up on with regards to which teams are engaging, how do they engage? What platforms do they choose? Is it email? Is it Slack, or any of these other project management tools? Is it as simple as WhatsApp? But then aside from that, it’s the engagement with the technology. So, within the meeting spaces, being able to identify, we’ve invested X amount of money on this type of technology, well, actually, that data sharing product, for example, in the room, we don’t utilise, because we utilise the features in the Zoom platform or Teams, for example. So, identifying areas where your employees are engaged, and the technology they’re utilising frequently, allows decision makers to then procure more of that product, or build that into more of their meeting spaces, expand that and potentially stop investing in technology that isn’t utilised as well, which fundamentally allows better decision making, saves the organisation money, and provides the workforce with tools that they’re actually using. A big hurdle that we often actually talk to customers about, and we workshop with them is around the fact that are the other rooms too technical? It’s a big thing, actually, with this return to work is, oh, well, we used to have on site technicians. And if I booked a meeting room, someone would come in and it would happen. And then I just joined the meeting. Well, those technicians are also now hybrid workers or potentially at home, they’re not necessarily a five-minute call, sat in one of the meeting rooms or on the open plan workspace. Well, how do I do that now? And so, a lot of customers are actually engaging us to say, can you come in and deliver some training? Or can you come in and do a review, understand what tech we are using and what we aren’t? Simplify so that everybody can use it because everyone’s now being asked to join meetings with far-end participants. And you can’t rely on necessarily an IT engineer or a facilities person. I can see Jeremy’s nodding.

Matthew Cooper 

Yeah, we’ve definitely all been there. I’d be interested to pick up in a minute, Hannah, a little bit more around the meeting room and collaboration and AV solutions, and the different products that are good for different suites that companies might use, but if we may just go back to Poonam, or, first maybe on this point around data collection in a service space, which Tom Lyons, thanks for asking the question. How does the data work in a service environment, such as WeWork with multiple businesses within a larger space?

Poonam Bharj 

I understand that our software is able to differentiate between different types of users. And as such, is able to collect data from wherever that data is coming from, via an organisation in a combined space, or an organisation in its own space. So, I’m probably not best to answer this question. Perhaps I can pass it on to one of the others.

Hannah Sharma 

Yeah, I can potentially help with that Poonam. WeWork is a customer of ours, and it would depend very much on which spaces you’re referring to there. So typically, the way WeWork works is, they sell out spaces – say they have got four floors, they may then sub-section each floor, and then counter sell that space on. If they did that, that would be under a termed agreement for say 12 months plus, and that would then section that part off to whoever that sub agent was. In effect, you’re breaking a four-floor building into smaller groups, which is exactly how any software platform would work around – let’s understand how the finance team use the space versus the sales team or the tech team, for example. So very similar to how these software platforms work from dividing the workplace up into departments. The challenge you would have is, if you were looking at something like the hot desking, co-working spaces. So, within a serviced office, or WeWork as an example, you would have typically a floor, which would be, if you’re a member, you can come in and use the space, often very busy with freelancers, smaller organisations and businesses that don’t want to take fixed desk space. Within that, the data would then be driven back to WeWork, because they fundamentally own that space. And therefore, that would be around them understanding what the data flow is, etc. So, I imagine from a member’s perspective, you wouldn’t be able to get that data, it would only be when you’re taking a lease in a subsection of their larger workflow. And in that case, it would work how it would when you’re splitting space departmentally.

Matthew Cooper 

That’s great. Thanks very much, Hannah. And perhaps we could just move on to the point around the meeting rooms and the AV solutions. I see there’s a question from P Stanley, thank you very much. It says with some people remote and some in the office, how do you deliver meeting equality for everybody? It used to be the remote person was second class citizen – felt like they could only watch and listen. And I think you’ve touched on that, Hannah, already. But perhaps there’s a couple of tips around that question and AV solutions.

Hannah Sharma 

I think a lot of this comes down to the kind of base blocks of video conferencing really. So best practice includes good network connection, make sure that you’re not getting jitter, make sure that those people are getting it in as real-time as possible. Good audio, and, this is more from the room, the hub, outbound to those participants, making sure that you don’t have to be in the room to get that best experience. So, the mics are picking up everybody in this space. Like I mentioned before, whether they’re stood at the back, interacting with a piece of Whiteboard technology, for example, or sat at the desk, it’s irrelevant, you should be able to still hear every participant clearly and crisp. And that comes down to good microphone technology, and premium audio. From a design aspect I would say acoustics is probably one of the biggest oversights we see, as a technology partner. Design has really worked against technology in lots of ways. Because a lot of spaces now have a very clinical feel, lots of hard surfaces, not so many fabrics that would absorb rebounding sound, for example. So, considering your acoustics to make sure that’s not impacting the far end experience. And then beyond that, it probably comes down to the technology. So, making sure people are always visible on screen; where possible far-end participants can always have their cameras on. That’s probably a big one, at the moment. I think a lot of people are experiencing the phrases ‘Zoom fatigue’, but you can get Teams fatigue and Google Meet fatigue as well. And so when they get like that often people choose to switch their video off. But actually, when it comes to engagement, making sure that you are fully participating, the easiest thing to do to then get distracted into email or other things. So, I mean, I would say at the moment that there are some technologies, some of which I’ve already mentioned out there that certainly help to give you a better understanding of what’s happening in the room around framing participants, enabling better body language and sort of how you’re responding facially to what’s happening in the meeting. But really, a lot of this is really the real base blocks around good video conferencing etiquette, really.

Jeremy Myerson

I would add to that I’d encourage participants to look at something from Google, which was unveiled in the New York Times recently, they’ve got a new meeting room called Campfire, where everybody who’s physically present sits in a circle, interspersed with large, impossible-to-ignore screens, which show the faces of the people dialling in. So, you actually create a circle. So, this is digital equality in action. And it’s worth having a look at that. And there are various variants on this being developed by different companies around the world. This is a very hot issue. And I think Hannah raised an amazingly good point about what the pandemic has done, it’s made us all into tech experts. Before the pandemic, we could be tech-pathetic, we could say, Oh, where’s the technician. But being at home, we’ve had to sort out Zoom and Teams and Google and we’re not going to go back to the old days of being hopeless, being tech hopeless.

Matthew Cooper 

That’s good. Thanks very much, Jeremy. And there’s another question come in which perhaps you could lead on with this: It seems like COVID has created a need to use technology to manage our return to work and employ a more hybrid way of working. But in reality, what we’re talking about is moving towards smart buildings. Did you have any more insights you could share with us, Jeremy, around, What’s the future of…?

Jeremy Myerson

This is a very, very good question. I mean, I think the smart building movement has had more traction in the last 12 months, than it’s had in the last 12 years. Companies talked about smart buildings, the technology has been coming. But they’ve hesitated at the gates; they’ve not wanted to invest. And now we’re getting major investment by large companies in smart buildings. Because we can no longer afford to have the workplace as a dumb container for work; we need to know who’s coming in, we need to know what they’re doing, we need to know how much energy is being consumed, you know, because sustainability is a big issue. We need to be working smarter, and our infrastructure needs to be smarter. So, I’m very, very interested in the idea of, if we’re going to have a flexible work environment, we’re going to have a flexible workforce, therefore we need flexible buildings. So, I’m very interested in technologies. For example, Schneider Electric, have got this connected rooms technology, where it’s a software driven, open system, where you can plug in devices, but you can alter the shape of rooms, you can give people local control, so they can open and shut blinds, they can control their local temperature. And I’m interested in this software-driven approach to the future of work, where when you’re in the building, it’s a flexible environment, and you can alter it.

Matthew Cooper 

Yeah, that’s fascinating. And if this is what it’s coming back to, it’s about the user experience, isn’t it, rather than just saying, here’s an office, it is what it is, go use it; this is around creating space, which users can curate their own space within it to suit them, and what they’re doing at that point in time. That’s really fascinating. And I think we are going to see more of this; as you say, there’s been a huge acceleration over the past 12 months. But it’s got to keep going. And our next webinar is going to be in July. And that’s going to be focused on modularity and flexibility of what goes within a workspace. Just to support what you’re saying, it’s right, instead of having just a four-walled meeting room, and it is what it is; can we have much more flexible workspaces so that they can be moved, changed, and you can flex up and down to suit what’s happening within the workspace and at the time. So, some really helpful insights there. Thank you, Jeremy. And, Poonam, if I may just come to you next. There’s another question come in, from Elizabeth Floyd. Thank you, Elizabeth. It says that the answer earlier around, how can we keep remote meeting participants included, was addressed from the inside out, not the outside in? What about technology that enables the remote person to get their say, and presence? Have you got any insights you can share with us, Poonam, on that one?

Poonam Bharj

Yeah, it’s a really interesting point, because, of course, you can design the office in such a way, as Hannah alluded to, in terms of being able to make that meeting more inclusive. But in terms of that person that is remote, how do they get their voice heard? And I guess it’s what sort of communication and collaboration tools you can inject into your meeting that helps that person remotely feel like they’re part of the meeting as well. They’re not dissimilar to the tools that Hannah’s just mentioned whether you access them internally or externally. The end game is actually the same thing and it’s being engaged and being present. But there are human elements that you can bring to it as well. The person that’s hosting the meeting needs to remember that there’s people that aren’t physically present and access tools so that they can look at perhaps, Q and A’s that are coming in and the way that they’re coming in right now and make sure that they’re being addressed. You know, those are the types of things that you kind of have to think about now as well. We talk a lot to different stakeholders in this day and age as well. Previously, we might have talked to heads of real estate and heads of facilities. But now we have HR teams that want to talk to us and say this is the way we are now going to work, how can we make this employee-led, employee-central, which is brilliant to be having such a wider audience that see the importance of getting this next step right and getting this way of working, a comfortable way of working for everybody that is ultimately going to be led by the employee.

Matthew Cooper 

I think that’s a really interesting point. And we have definitely seen a huge growth of people, Chief People Officers, HR teams, the kind of culture and people aspect of the business getting involved in this discussion over the past 12 months, which is brilliant, I think we should encourage it more. Historically it’s been a bit more facilities-led, or a bit real estate led. Now this is about people, it’s about culture, it’s about encouraging inclusivity. And so, there’s got to be a piece around training the users, training people that are hosting meetings, and encouraging some interesting policies around where you’ve got the chatter at the beginning and the end of the meeting that include the people that are remote. Or encourage people that are hosting meetings to host it remotely to drive a different feel for the meeting. So, there’s definitely a people aspect. And this is where it should be, what it should be led by.

Hannah Sharma 

I think there’s also some interesting thoughts that have come out around wellbeing, I mentioned Zoom fatigue earlier. A lot of the development that’s happening on some of those platforms are around unified communications. So being able to give people the flexibility when, for example, you’re on a two to three hour meeting, that if you are a remote participant, if you look at Zoom, that option if you also have the Zoom phone element, that you could feasibly move from your desk on a video call and say, I haven’t stood up for an hour, I need to go and make a cup of tea and continue to participate. And to have that option to just press on your headset and move to phone scenario to get up and walk around. Equally, if you’re in a creative session. There’s a lot of scientific evidence around the fact that if you’re in a creative session, changing your work environments, potentially even you know, wellbeing week, last week, all around nature, there’s a huge amount of information around the improvement that nature has on your ability to be productive and creative. So maybe even moving to your headset and sitting on a bench in the garden and participating from there. Sure, you lose the video element, but you may actually be offering more creative input into that session. And so, I mentioned zoom there. But obviously, Microsoft have a similar suite of products that do effectively the same thing. So, there’s a lot of choice out there for customers, depending on kind of which route their network and their IT systems are sort of based around. But they all offer that same level of, you know, varied experience.

Matthew Cooper 

Thanks very much, Hannah. That’s really useful insight. We’ve got a question come in, from Laura Meacham. Thank you, Laura – says, how does this work with many buildings in London, for instance, that are quite old and not set up at all for the depth of flexibility. Air con and temperature alone is a minefield in the office. Jeremy, perhaps you could pick up on that question. And then, yeah, after we’ve done this question, I’m just going to bring up the final points around, should we be having some tech free zones in the office, so feel free to lead onto that afterwards?

Jeremy Myerson

Okay, so first of all, old buildings, you know, I mean, we have got a large proportion of office building stock in London, which is over 20 years old and is expected to last for the next 50 years. So, we need technology systems which can be retrofitted into existing buildings, rather than, you know, going into Greenfill sites. And I think that the technology companies are beginning to get to grips with that and understanding if you have a software driven infrastructure, you can make changes. Ironically, the older the building, the more authentic it is, in terms of people’s views, people like older buildings. And you know, the Victorian warehouse, in some ways, is a brilliant architectural container for work because windows you can open in generous volumes. Successive decades, you know, we’ve gone down some blind alleys in terms of architectural design, but there is a problem with older buildings. And I think as the office becomes a destination this will be used more for training, mentoring, town hall meetings, innovation activities, and you go and do you’re sitting at a desk sending emails, or writing reports, you do that away from the office in a third space or at home. I think the more event based the office becomes, the easier it will be to adapt older buildings and get the load bearing right and so on. But I don’t underestimate the technical difficulties. On the question you asked about tech-free zones, I’m all in favour of them. I mean, you know, a lot of people on this call will remember a time when we had ‘breakout zones’. And they were called breakout zones in offices because we didn’t have ubiquitous Wi Fi. So, if you left your desk, you couldn’t access your work. So, you had a rest. What happens now, the Wi Fi extends to the breakout zones, so there is no real breakout. So, I’m all in favour of artificially instating dead zones, where you can’t get a signal on your phone, you can’t get your email, you can’t read slack. You’ve just got to lie on a day bed and look at a green wall. That would be great.

Poonam Bharj

And Jeremy, you know, you make such a good point as well, because whilst there’s so many studies showing how productive employees have been over the last year or so, there’s now studies emerging to say levels of burnout, because people have just been constantly switched on. And actually, by encouraging people to come back in the office, we can encourage a culture where they aren’t switched on 24/7; it completely know resonates with your point.

Matthew Cooper 

Thanks, Poonam. And, Hannah, any final thoughts around this?

Hannah Sharma 

Well, I think I agree with everyone, really. I think that offering some opportunity for people to have that cut out certainly improves those abilities to contribute more, it’s that whole kind of concept of when your glass is half empty, as opposed to glass half full scenario, that you do need to reboot windows. Typically that would have been the, ‘I’m going to go make a coffee’, ‘bump into a couple of other colleagues’ and maybe ‘have a 20-minute break from your desk’ work. At home, it is back-to-back meetings, you often don’t get that space. So, I think, almost re-teaching people that it’s okay to take a break may well need to come from a space that doesn’t allow you to engage with your technology and encourages you to be maybe present in a conversation; the amount of times you’ll be talking to somebody and they’re sort of looking at their phone and clearly distracted. Actually, providing or forcing that environment to disconnect from other things and be present in a real time conversation or, as Jeremy says, maybe just giving your brain a time to catch up and some dead space, I think absolutely needs to be part of, or considered as part of, these office redesigns.

Matthew Cooper 

Thank you very much, Hannah. I think that brings us pretty much to the close with just about on the hour. So, thank you very much for joining and for engaging with some fantastic questions. And I’m sorry, we haven’t answered all of them. There’s still a few more there but in the interest of time, we will make a note and we’ll be sharing some papers and follow-up details with yourselves, also a recording of this event, which you’re more than welcome to share with your colleagues or friends. We trust you have enjoyed the session. We had a poll just a few moments ago. I think it was showing us a similar result to the previous poll where we have 23% who are good to go. So, congratulations to those companies, you’re ahead of the curve. And we’ll be watching with interest to see how you progress and engage your people back into the workspace. And the remaining was changing slightly as we talk. It’s now 79% who are working on it. We would love to talk to you; we are supporting clients, as are Hannah and Poonam, with this move to a new way of working, in implementing technologies to make the user experience better, and to suit new ways of working. I mentioned a few moments ago, we have our next webinar in July, which is around flexibility and modularity within the office space. So please keep your eyes open for the invitation for that event. And finally, I’d just like to say a huge thank you to Jeremy and Hannah and Poonam for joining this morning. I found it fascinating and I’m sure the audience have found it very helpful as well. So, thank you very much, and have a great rest of your day. Thank you.