Office Reopen Dates Delayed, Smart Office Apps Remain At the Forefront

September 29, 2021 by David Xides
Read in 8 Minutes

While some may be ready to return to the office, many offices are pushing back official reopen dates. The Delta variant has gained prominence in the U.S. along with other lesser-known variants such as Epsilon and Lambda — many fear a resurgence of the main pandemic. Because of that, mask mandates are being reinstated, and companies are now being required to track vaccination status before making any big moves.

Companies are readjusting open dates to more realistic timeframes, to account for both the new requirements and the changing landscape. This also gives employees much more time to plan for their eventual return to work.

In a recent poll of 1,600 employers, conducted by the employment and labor firm Littler, 40% of respondents say they have delayed plans to return more employees to in-person work.

These events have irrevocably altered the average employee experience, changing how we interact with one another, our workspaces, technologies, and beyond.

The Transformation of the Employee Journey

Recently, Amazon announced that it intends to delay the reopening of its downtown Seattle offices until January 3, 2022. Originally slated to return September 7, the company moved back the return date by at least four months, citing potential health and safety concerns. Amazon’s human resources chief Beth Galetti says they “closely watch conditions related to COVID-19” to help decide what’s best for their team. It’s par for the course for most offices, actually, as many question whether it’s the right time to head back to work or not.

Most 9 to 5 desk jobs are gone, at least in the traditional sense. They’ve been replaced by more fluid and dynamic opportunities, where employees are free to come and go, as needed, while also being able to access services and tools on-demand. It’s a welcome change, especially in the current climate.

What’s more, access must be extended outside the normal boundaries, often including off-site locations like an employee’s home office, a local cafe, or even from their mobile device(s) while on the move. Still, that connection must remain secure, trustworthy, and stable.

Mobile-First Influence on Workplace Experience Platforms

Workplace experience platforms, also called employee experience applications, are absolutely necessary to streamline, manage, and support the kinds of dynamic and hybrid work environments we are now growing accustomed to. The “digital workplace” we’ve all envisioned is not something from the distant future, it’s available here and now. You should be able to walk on campus, reserve a workstation or office for the day, and interact with a majority of campus amenities — like ordering lunch or coffee. It should be seamless, it should be supportive, and most importantly, it should be enjoyable and engaging.

How does this tie into the general workplace experience?

For starters, it helps manage the employee lifecycle from onboarding to a final separation - where employees are participating and fully engaged from the time they join the company to the very day they leave.

Keeping an employee engaged requires a lot of different digital workplace capabilities, such as:

  • Real-time alerts about campus changes like road closures, new protocols, office enhancements, and more.
  • Relevant content production and releases, including interactive news feeds that can be tailored to employee interests.
  • In-app guidance to help visitors and returning employees find their way around campus, with turn-by-turn navigation.
  • Desk and meeting room booking solutions with workspace and occupancy indicators.
  • Campus population and area density indicators for crowding on specific floors or rooms, essentially helping people avoid busy segments.
  • A source or portal for employer benefits with assistance, information, and a ticket system for more advanced support.

Here's a quick overview on how mobile-first is changing the employee journey: 

Considerations For Going Mobile-First

The question on the minds of most decision-makers is how can businesses accommodate this new employee journey? How can they rise to the occasion?

The answer is a mobile-first point solutions that deliver on-the-go experiences for employees and visitors alike. There are several critical elements to consider when delivering an experience, via the digital workplace, with a mobile-first mindset. Let’s dig in and see why they are so vital.

Going Mobile-First: In a landscape where employees are free to go back and forth but must stay connected and tuned-in from remote locations, mobile-first is the only viable answer for supporting a hybrid workforce.

Managing A Shared Desk Model: Assigned desks, seating, or workspaces are no longer an option for most offices because people aren’t always working on-site. Therefore, establishing a hoteling or desk booking system that allows on-site workers to reserve physical spaces is necessary. 

Managing Physical Spaces: Not only do physical spaces need to be reserved, on-demand, but shared spaces, whether workstations or entire areas, must be appropriately managed, as well. That includes capacity and traffic flow monitoring to understand how rooms are being used and whether safety requirements are being followed.

Streamlining Multiple Use-Cases and Requests: Dynamic means ever-changing, which is required of the core platform, as well. It must be able to adapt to new scenarios, new use-cases, and new employee experience programs.

Delivering Meaningful and Relevant Content: Interesting, relevant thought leadership, news, and stories are a great way to connect employees back to a common cause/thread, but the content must be available on-the-go, on-demand, and at scale.

Incorporating Location-Aware Technologies: Navigating a large office or campus is confusing enough, but when it’s changing as often as a hybrid workplace, location-aware technologies provide truly useful support. They can help workers find desks or workstations, reserve nearby cubicles, find communal areas, navigate shared spaces, and much more.

Leveraging IoT Platforms: At the heart of it, is IoT providing an interconnected network of sensors, devices, and touchpoints for anyone on-site, as we see a consolidation of technology and services across comprehensive workplace ecosystems.

Company-Wide Transformation Starts with a Shared Vision

This is the future of work, and it’s happening now, as you read this very article, in fact. While the workplace experience will never go away, it has changed considerably to accommodate the anywhere workstation — no matter what you do, or where you work from, there’s always access.

It means that “employee-first” initiatives will be a major theme for 2021 and beyond, to resolve hybrid experience disparities. Everyone deserves the same experience, the same support, and the same tools, no matter where they are, especially for businesses that want productivity to remain consistent.

Return to work plans will continue to shift and evolve, but you need the right technology in place to support your employees and to scale with growing demands.

Schedule a 20-minute meeting with our workplace experience experts to learn how an employee app can help with office reopening.

David Xides is an Enterprise Account Executive based in New York with a wide range of experience delivering enterprise solutions and expertise in corporate indoor intelligence technology.