It’s certainly safe to say at this point that the COVID-19 global pandemic has changed the way that we all think about the workplace. As many of us continue to spend most of our days working from home, it’s time that we begin to consider how we will measure workplace performance in the future. Many lessons have been learned about work/life balance, productivity, employee health and safety which will all affect how we think about our facilities and how we will work in the coming year. New ways of thinking about measuring workplace performance need to combine with traditional tried and true methods if we truly want to measure the effectiveness of the workplace in 2021.
In the distant past, workplace and employee performance were primarily gauged by measuring “presenteeism”. In other words, if you were at the office and in your seat, you must obviously be working and productive. This approach began to change over the past several years as alternative workplace strategies began to sweep through organizations and new ways of working evolved supported by technology that enabled employees to work anytime and anywhere. Densification of floor plan layouts became the norm and occupancy ratios raced upwards as organizations realized that many employees spent much of their time away from their desks.
Many organizations held a collective breath as they waited to see what would happen to organizational productivity as employees were sent home to wait out the pandemic. Colliers conducted one of the first and largest surveys of global organizations and the results revealed that most organizations were experiencing no decrease in employee productivity and in many cases, an increase as employees gained time in the day from not commuting.
In 2021 we will see this trend continue as many companies and institutions re-evaluate their work from home policies and begin to consider how much real estate they will need in the future if more and more work can effectively be completed elsewhere.
One of the primary methods that organizations use to measure the performance of the workplace is tracking operating and capital costs of the facilities that they own, lease and occupy. Real estate costs will be under the microscope in 2021 as many employees will continue to work in a hybrid approach, sometimes from home and sometimes in the office. This will force organizations to take a close look at real estate costs and determine how to balance workspace needs with increasing flexible work from home policies. Traditional methods of measuring performance in the workplace will persist. Facilities and real estate leaders will continue to calculate operating and capital costs per square area (feet or meters) as they begin to determine the medium to long-term scale of their real estate portfolio post-pandemic. The importance of these considerations will come into play as current leases reach their end or renewal dates, and it will also affect how much capital organizations will be willing to dedicate to new facility construction as well as renovations and retrofits of existing facilities.
One additional area of focus on controlling and understanding costs will be closely tied to potential increases in the area of office services such as cleaning and sanitization. Organizations will develop a strong focus on health and wellness. Ensuring the availability of PPE and sanitized workstations will carry into 2021 and potentially beyond. Controlling these costs as a measure of workplace performance will be closely monitored as technology is applied to track real-time utilization to ensure that sanitization efforts are applied specifically to areas that were used and need to be cleaned.
Health & Wellness
Health and wellness have rapidly gained importance in the workplace as organizations develop return to work strategies for workers who have been sent home during the pandemic. This will continue through 2021 and a key measurement of measuring the performance in our workplaces will be to restrict or eliminate the transmission of the COVID-19 virus within our places of employment. The benefits of decreased density and social distancing as well as a greater awareness of the effects of transmission will ensure that organizations are more resilient then ever as a tremendous amount of focus will be placed on keeping our workplaces safe. Companies and institutions have gained expertise in managing a remote workforce; policies that ensure sick workers remain home and out of the office will be part of the new norm of how we measure health and wellness in the workplace.
Additional areas of measuring the effectiveness of health and wellness in the workplace will also include the availability of monitoring and reporting on Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). IAQ initiatives will require the availability of real-time data as well as measurements and trends over time as organizations become more aware of the impact that air movement and air quality have on the health and wellness of employees, including an impact on productivity.
The future of our workplace in 2021 will be more dynamic than ever as employees and organizations continue to realize the benefits of flexible, hybrid workplace strategies. Employees will be able to select on an almost daily basis when and where they will work to both meet the needs of their employers as well as ensure a better work/life balance. This also positively affects health and wellness as mentioned above. The true test will be to measure not only individual employee engagement but how engagement relates to collaboration and company culture as well. Many facilities and real-estate leaders will begin to evaluate the balance between individual versus group spaces (me vs. we space) within their facilities as we assess how to keep our employees engaged. This will include professional as well as personal engagement especially when there will likely be less direct person to person contact due to the more fluid nature of our daily work environments.
Technologies such as space reservation systems, occupancy sensors, mobile apps and collaboration tools such as Zoom and Teams will all provide data topped by analytics platforms to provide better insight into how we are engaging with one another, our teams and our broader organization within the workplace.
Learn more about our safe space solutions and how they can help you return to work safely and efficiently.