Recapping the breakout session on Building Futureproof, April 16th, 2020
On April 16th, we were part of the largest online conference with over 1500 participants: Building Futureproof, hosted by Holland ConTech & PropTech which support building and real estate companies with new technology, open innovation and digitalisation. Boy Lokhoff, our very own founder, hosted a break-out session on How to keep people healthy in a building during a global pandemic – what impact will COVID-19 have on the use of buildings in the foreseeable future. With the following speakers:
- Jos Broekman, Ditt Officemakers
- Huib Boissevain, Annexum
- Steve Longhorn, ISS
- Marco Vrijburg, The Flow (c)
To kick things off, Huib Boissevain came with a bold statement; “most buildings are not suited to the current demands.” He continued to talk about how to, in these COVID-19 centred times, we can keep unhealthy people out of buildings? We can use sensors of course, but in the long term, what do people want and what can they do? Previously people’s biggest concern in their office was climate control.
Boy Lokhoff interjected by mentioning that it’s very true that people expect buildings to have the perfect temperature at all times.
Huib: “It’s very interesting that whereas people used to complain all the time about the temperature in their office, and now that everyone’s working from home, there’s none of that complaining. Also, people should consider that climate control costs a lot of energy.”
The Home office is finally the third-place
This was supported by Marco Vrijburg, who also mentioned that people complain about lunch at the workplace but are now happy to eat a cheese sandwich at home. Taking it back to the topic at hand, “it’s very important to think about how to guarantee the health safety of people in the same buildings. Of course, this can be done with sensors at the entrances, we can even measure how many people are in the same room and make them aware if they are with too many. So tech can definitely support all that.” Also, we can also now fully see the advantages of embracing working from home. “The office might become more important as a place to meet.” The individual workers’ preferences need to become more important, everyone is seeking more optimal working conditions whether that’s at home or in the office. I’d expect that we’ll grow to a hybrid workplace environment.”
Jos Broekman, creative director at Ditt Officemakers said to be happy that the home office is now finally seen as a proper place to work. “Of course, it was born out of necessity, but people have come to realize that certain things can easily be done from the home. The home office as a third-place is more important than ever before.”
Marco fully agrees, “I’ve worked for large technology companies for most of my life and they’ve always been in the front line of creating optimal working conditions, wherever that may be. In the office that maybe climate control, but also benefiting from integrated tech solutions. We are now learning what works and what doesn’t when it comes to working from home. Meetings are shorter and more to-the-point, but many of us miss the social chit-chat or the creativity of offline sessions.”
Moderator Boy: “Yes, well, this is the biggest HR experiment ever conducted.”
Learning along the way, working from home is here to stay
Steve Longhorn added to the conversation that we need to look at all the options, what can we do and what can we learn from all this? Perhaps “we should reassess which people should really be in the office on a daily basis. Most companies have initially always said that their finance departments should always work from the office, but I’m hearing from those who do that they get so much more work done from home.” So maybe, looking at all departments and making some adjustments is not a bad idea, with having both dedicated and flexible teams.
Boy continued by asking Steve how he sees this in cooperation with HR departments, to which Steve replied that it’s more important than ever for HR, IT and FM to work together in managing the wellbeing of the remote employee. For example, something as easy as ordering a laptop-stand for someone’s home office might require cooperation and coordination from all three departments. These processes need to be rethought, simplified and most importantly communicated to the end-user.
This was backed by Marco who mentioned that ergonomics in the workplace is very important but you never heard anything about this from companies when it comes to the home office. For many people, their home office is not ideal. These people will not opt for working from home more when Corona is over. Also, Marco mentioned, “there are still a lot of managers who expect their team to work in the office from 8-5.”
“But, we have to agree, working from home is here to stay. So what is important when we slowly start thinking about reintegration?” Boy asked.
What will be the new normal after this?
Jos answered that from a design perspective, mobility and activity-based working will become more important than ever before. However, many have found that either repetitive or focused work can easily be done from home, in agreement with what Steve mentioned earlier. Jos: “the office will more and more become a place to work together.” To which Marco said that he has seen a lot of offices with a very hybrid interior and too much focus on the social aspect of work. “We should not forget that offices also need focus areas and is not just a place for meetings, social- or work-related. Not forgetting that managers should also trust their teams more.” This is where Healthy Workers has a great solution,” Marco said, “as they make insightful to managers how employees experience their work environment, whether at home or in the office. Measuring the experience is important because it offers transparency and insights for improvement.” Boy, as the founder of Healthy Workers, was happy to receive the compliment. He expresses his hope that this current understanding of the importance of measuring environments will remain, and will accelerate a more unified understanding of using sensors, tech and data to support requirements or improvements to buildings to increase wellbeing.
Trust and wellbeing go hand in hand
All were in complete agreement that when measuring certain aspects you need full transparency and a clear understanding of why measurement is important. The mutual trust must support having the wellbeing of all users of buildings as the principal focal point.