This past year has been monumental in marking a shift in the proptech industry. 2021 has shown us that the ways in which employees leverage the workplace is becoming increasingly unpredictable, and so successful enterprises are making spatial intelligence a C-Suite priority. Businesses will continue to lean on data on an even greater scale to understand their buildings and portfolios in ways that were previously impossible.
VergeSense’s customers represent over 40 million square feet of real estate across 29 countries and include 26 of the Fortune 500. Having built strong partnerships with this growing ecosystem of enterprise businesses, we continue to learn greatly from their workplace insights. With these in mind, here are our top 7 predictions for 2022:
1. Employees’ use of space will shift constantly
2021 saw a complete shift in the way that employees work. The pandemic, coupled with growing demands for flexible work, upended the traditional workplace and introduced hybrid work to nearly every company on a global scale. This meant that employees would go into the office for a specific number of days (or hours) in the week, and work from home with appropriate hybrid collaboration tools for the remaining time. The impact of this behavior is that workplace leaders didn’t necessarily know when employees would come into the office, for how long, and at what volumes of attendance. This introduced new challenges to typical building management processes and planning that needed to be overcome.
It is important to recognize, however, that this change in how employees leverage the office is not simply a one-time shift. Hybrid work and other workplace patterns will continue to change and evolve in new ways that we have yet to predict. For instance, with the coinage of the new term, “shybrid,” which refers to the constant delay in return to office plans, it is clear that the ways in which we work will be constantly reimagined and reinvented. Moreover, as the office becomes more agile, employees will occupy space more passively. Without tools in place to measure passive occupancy, we are left with unmeasured and consequently unoptimized space.
To truly remain adaptable to these changes, enterprises must have a way to collect employee data, and make continuous data-informed decisions.
2. Spatial intelligence will be a C-Suite priority
Many organizations have only begun to scratch the surface in truly understanding their physical space. This was sufficient when workplace norms, such as assigned seating and the 40-hour work week, remained consistent and dependable. In fact, many workplace leaders’ understanding of real estate operations and building management has been shaped by these norms, however now with seemingly unpredictable workplace usage emerging, leaders crave more insights.
Traditional workplace behaviors have been upended by a new norm: expectation of personal choice. Employees today are autonomous to choose when, how and where they would like to work, whether it be in their living room in a different country, or in a satellite office down the street. All the while, employers see it in their best interest to maintain that autonomy as a tool to attract and retain employees.
Spatial intelligence overcomes the uncertainty and unpredictability around work through the use of granular data collection and analysis to monitor, measure and synthesize employee work patterns and space usage in real-time. As spatial intelligence technology continues to evolve, workplace leaders will have the most comprehensive understanding of space that previously seemed impossible.
In 2022, one of the most crucial use cases of spatial intelligence will be to eliminate prescriptive working schedules, seating assignments, and manual room reservations, and instead implement autonomous, and even personalized recommendations improving employee experience and efficient office use. Spatial intelligence tools will make this possible, by enabling CRE leaders to truly understand the spaces they own, and work to make these spaces more frictionless. Moreover, investing in these tools will facilitate a more cost-effective and sustainable real estate portfolio.
3. Digital twin technology will be at the forefront of workplace investments
How do you operate, service and maintain the operations of a building when you are not within close physical proximity of the space?
Digital Twin Technology connects the physical and digital world through sensors, eliminating the barriers of distance and cost. This form of spatial intelligence produces a digital rendering of your building, and acts as an advanced product technician, with monitoring, analytical and predictive capabilities. Imagine a virtual copy of every physical asset in the world, accessible to you at your fingertips. Through digital twin technology, CRE leaders and workplace strategists can identify problems before they even occur through constant monitoring, and plan for future reinvestments.
We predict that 2022 will see the rapid growth and adoption of digital twin technology, as the Internet of Things (IoT) has made this form of intelligence far more cost-effective than ever before.
4. Virtual reality will create a more inclusive hybrid office
The pandemic forced enterprises to adopt various collaborative tools, including but not limited to Dropbox, Slack and Zoom. These tools have enabled employees to work collaboratively from all over the world, rather than being compelled to produce work only in the office.
However, as some employees are able to meet in person while others cannot, there remains an inequity in the ways in which teams collaborate in this post-pandemic world. Moreover, considering that this shift to virtual meetings was an almost-overnight phenomenon, employees increasingly struggle to feel connected to their co-workers.
Meta (previously Facebook) and Microsoft are working to eliminate these gaps through the creation of virtual and augmented reality tools that allow for an office metaverse where employees can take part in meetings through 3D avatars. Other companies are investing in VR tools for coworkers to experience a sense of camaraderie and teamwork that can only be emulated in-person, through virtual games and other social team experiences. Not only do these attempts at connection fulfill the objective of IoT and smart workplaces, but they also allow for inclusion in the office, as those unable to commute to a physical location are still able to succeed at work.
We predict that carbon counting will be a defining characteristic of CRE investments in the next decade. Investments in ESG are rising rapidly, and a CFA survey found that 65% of investors take these metrics into consideration when making investment decisions.
6. Predictive technology will completely change operations and building management
In 2022, we predict that building management will experience a monumental evolution in being able to reduce workplace friction through predictive technology.
Spatial intelligence will be able to automate all applications, ranging from desk and room booking applications to even operations and building management. Today, employees access desk and room booking software to select the prime time and location for them to use the office, based on their own needs and availability. In 2022, this step will be entirely eliminated, as spatial technology coupled with sociometric badging will learn and replicate employee decision making, reducing the need for individuals to consult their calendars to make attendance decisions.
7. The office will be more dynamic than ever before
As employees’ needs and expectations around the office continue to evolve, workplace leaders will update their office designs and layouts more frequently and efficiently than we’ve ever seen. Annual real estate audits will become a thing of the past and replaced by the continuous monitoring of physical space to make changes whenever needed. There will be high investment in office space A/B testing, flexible furniture, and movable walls.
Office utilization has become completely fluid and changing. And with the uncertainty of new variants, change is more likely to accelerate than slow down. Moving forward, it’s crucial that the office is agile and able to adapt to new employee behaviors and expectations.