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Plotting a strategy for the smart workplace

Deborah Hawkins of Keypoint Intelligence

Creating a smart workplace in a post-pandemic world remains a challenging task, with many organisations still in the process of working out the best balance between going into the office and working from home. 

During the ISE Smart Workplace Summit on Thursday, Deborah Hawkins, director at Keypoint Intelligence, provided what she described as five “must-have” qualities of the future workplace in order to ensure offices remain attractive in this new era of hybrid working.

The first is ‘purpose’, or ensuring that an office is a place where people want to be and be seen. The second is ‘culture’, or creating a structure that replaces more outmoded ideas such as a dress code for the office. “It is important that we lay down the foundation for hybrid working, so people can feel secure and happy,” Hawkins said.

The third is ‘automation’ and digital processes, which Hawkins said really forms that backbone foundation of everything so that we can work efficiently”. Next is ‘inclusion’, ensuring that “everybody is on the same level” whether they are at home or in the office.

Last but not least is the notion of ‘flexibility’, “and this is very much driven by the autonomy that we all experience from working at home during the lockdown period”, Hawkins said. 

“Flexibility is also about outsourcing,” she added. “If you don’t have the skills in-house, find a partner that does have the skills [and can] coexist with you.”

Hawkins and other presenters at the summit made it clear that creating a truly smart workplace that embraces office and the home is still a work in progress, but will be essential in order to attract and retain talent in future. As Hawkins explained, hybrid “doesn’t work for everybody. And there’s a lot of uncertainty out there in the marketplace.”

Shannon MacKay, GM of worldwide smart collaboration business at Lenovo, said one size will not fit all. “It’s what you have in the limitations you have to work with and how do you maximise that space.”

She does think that fewer desks will be needed in future. “It’ll be more of a hot-desking mentality. I think that footprints and real estate will change over time and probably shrink, and it’s already starting. But at the end of the day … [office-based work] will be around these collaborative spaces.”

Ken Dooley, chief product officer at Haltian, said he admired global workplace experts who fully admit that they don’t know what is coming next.

“I’m really proud that people have been saying, ‘no, you know, we have 2,000 staff in offices around the world and even we don’t know what’s happening’. There’s real courage coming from embracing the uncertainty,” he said.