The last thing that most people want is another work application on their phone. The average workplace has 88 applications that employees have to use, depending on their role. There’s a lot of overlap between them, forcing employees to do mental gymnastics to figure out which app to use for what.
Rather than making people’s lives easier, building apps often add to this problem. Workers have one app to register a visitor, another to book a conference room, and a third to complain that the office is too cold. While the industry is collectively moving toward workplace apps that bridge the gap between building and office suites, those can still be arguably too complicated with their own adoption issues.
Removing the wall between building and tenant technology
A better move is for buildings to figure out how to help people interact with the building within the apps they already enjoy (or at least tolerate).
“The biggest challenge for building technology is finding a way to get what it has to offer into tenants’ existing workflows,” explained Todd Burner, Chief Product Officer at Kastle. Tenant experience applications are touted as the nirvana for bridging this gap. Still, if people aren’t in the office for most of the week, those apps are inherently less sticky than programs like Outlook, Teams, Google Workspace, or Slack.
Microsoft recently released a new hub designed specifically for the hybrid workplace. Dubbed Microsoft Places, the app puts new functionality for Office and Teams users directly in existing strongholds like Outlook. People will be able to use the app for workplace access but also can book desks, register visitors, and get wayfinding directions all within their calendars. Workplace managers benefit from better insight into how employees use the office so they can tailor the design of spaces, number of desks, etc. Microsoft is leaning into just how vast of an ecosystem they’ve created for the “connected workplace,” with logos from CBRE and JLL to Autodesk, Johnson Controls, and Kastle.
Burner stresses the importance of meeting people in the apps they use the most, “Access to amenities and spaces has to be available in the apps that people already rely on to do their jobs,” he said. “Even if a building offers all these great benefits, usage immediately tails off if they are forced to go to a separate app to sign up or discover what’s possible.”
The good news is that these enterprise software providers, once infamous for being insular, have never been more willing to integrate with other technologies. They each have hundreds of ready-to-install add-ons designed to make people’s lives easier, with an open framework for companies to also build their custom integrations.
The question of integration comes down to each tenant, particularly their IT team, not the apps themselves. That means buildings have to prove how their technologies, whether built in-house or purchased, can be trusted to provide real value to tenants’ employees.
Learn more about how commercial buildings can more effectively engage with workers by integrating workplace apps and building systems.
Download the guide: The Power of Connecting Workplace Apps to Building Systems
Insights that tenants don’t have
One of the easiest ways to convince tenants to make these connections a reality is the perspective they can provide about occupancy and space utilization. Companies may be able to see how often desks or conference rooms are getting booked thanks to reservation and booking systems, but they often lack bigger-picture data about how occupancy compares to their hybrid or flexible work policies. Those hot desks may be getting booked, but are people showing up on the days they reserved?
Occupancy data can also help companies understand how office usage differs by department, job type (collaborator vs. individual contributor), purpose (getting work done vs. attending meetings), and whether or not time in the office was planned (with a space booking) or spontaneous. The key piece of information that space reservation systems can’t measure is whether or not people actually come to the office that day.
Without this context, companies may get comfortable with false optimism about how successful their return to the office strategy has been. The ability to give people more control over the in-office experience ultimately is what will drive more people back to the office regularly. It’s not about productivity or adherence to an attendance policy.
The evolution of the landlord-tenant relationship
Moving towards this level of integration and collaboration means that the relationship between landlord and tenant has to evolve too. It has to move beyond the conversations about renewals and maintenance issues.
Once landlords prove they have the technical and security chops to connect to tenants’ business-critical systems, they should be sitting down with tenants to help them better understand how the workplace is functioning today and how it can be improved. They can take lessons learned across their portfolio plus insights unique to each tenant to make suggestions about space utilization, floor plans, amenities, and programming.
At the end of the day, landlords and companies with lease line items in their budgets have the same goal: figuring out how to prove the best workplace possible that matches how people want to work in the office now.
According to a 2022 Microsoft survey of 20,000 office workers, 82% of company leaders admitted that getting employees back in the office was a concern this year, even though most (78 percent) also said they needed a better reason to get people back in the office than expectations alone. Employees who participated in the study agreed that a policy in an employee handbook isn’t going to make the commute worthwhile. By better understanding how people interact with the office, companies can make more strategic programming, space design, and technology investments that enable hybrid work.
This refinement of the workplace (and how people interact with it via technology) can give buildings and companies alike the strongest opportunity to keep employees engaged and happy, no matter where they are working.
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