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Will smart technologies replace the need for premium office space?
The COVID-19 pandemic has been instrumental in teaching businesses, particularly those within knowledge-based industries, how to operate in a more agile manner. Rapid deployment of technologies to cater for the early lockdowns and uncertainties caused by the pandemic meant that businesses were forced to accept and actively adopt change. The upside of this situation has been that staff forced to work from home have embraced technologies that mirror face-to-face collaboration, online workflow for approvals in existing practice management systems or best-of-breed systems, and remote services to access data that was only accessible to them from the office. Increasing data security has also become paramount when transitioning to the mobile work environment.
When speaking with our clients, many have highlighted that they have been surprised at how well they had adapted to working from home – with some not having the need to do so previously. Indeed, many have enjoyed avoiding peak-hour traffic or the public transport commute and as a result believe that they are now more productive. Less workplace distractions from work colleagues has also been cited as a benefit however distractions associated with the home environment such as pets, children and domestic chores somewhat offset this efficiency gain. Many have stated that they are now less stressed about work pressures than prior to the pandemic.
Armed with the knowledge that their workforce can actually work from home, some businesses have been casting an eye on the cost of real estate and whether it remains necessary to accommodate their entire workforce in premium office space. Office rent is typically the second highest expense so this opportunity warrants closer inspection. Where savings can be made on office space, we believe the opportunity is for such savings to be channelled into smart technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud-based business systems, integration and automation. Smart technologies promote workforce agility and mobility to boost operational efficiency, enhance client service and increase profitability.
The irony of the pandemic has certainly led to technology acceleration across businesses. If you have not advanced your operations to support the future and you need some help, give us a shout to discuss how we can assist.
Robert Wagner, Managing Partner, Harriss Wagner Consultants and Advisers