Don’t be caught unprepared to resume workplace operations

Read the POV from IDC Enterprise Applications on five areas critical for workplace resilience

By | 3 minute read | April 6, 2021

Large office buildings

Before the pandemic, most organizations operated mainly onsite, with some workers at home or in the field.  Since the pandemic, many knowledge workers have been working from home, leaving physical workplaces with very low occupancy rates. The challenge now is to achieve operational excellence in a flexible work environment with ever-changing demands.

How quickly an organization can respond to COVID-19 and other disruptions is partially determined by its digital maturity. Last June, IDC’s COVID-19 Impact on IT Spending Survey showed that 50% of organizations already returning to growth and operating in the next normal mode had an enterprise-wide digital platform. Such businesses had created a data-driven culture prior to the pandemic. In comparison, 75% of organizations in the economic slowdown phase had less mature, ad hoc, or opportunistic approaches to infusing digital into the business. When asked where they were investing in automation, 32% said they had high-priority investments planned for facility management, higher than sales, supply chain, and HR functions.

The pressure is on a company’s workplace operations, including its facility management, maintenance, and real estate teams, to deliver operational excellence. Moving forward, executives are simultaneously expecting savings from operating their buildings and having resilient spaces that can adapt to dynamic circumstances.

  • 35% of organizations were already realizing or expecting a reduction in real estate and facility management costs in August 2020 due to allowing a greater portion of employees to work from home. (IDC’s COVID-19 Impact on IT Spending Survey, August 2020)
  • 78% of CFOs whose companies are considering deferring or canceling investments are targeting cuts in facilities and general capital expenditures. (PwC US CFO Pulse Survey, June 2020)
  • 25% of technology expenditures for the next two years will go toward projects that address workforce, customer experience, or operations changes triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to C-level executives. (Future Enterprise Resiliency & Spending Survey, IDC, February 2021)

Organizations that will thrive in the “next normal” will be those that purposefully add intelligence, automation, and innovation to the way they operate their workplaces. Let’s look at five areas critical to workplace resilience.

  1. Lease management: Each company will need to make life-changing decisions about its real estate footprints. Many are eyeing flexible work models that will likely result in smaller real estate portfolios, an approach that must be carefully managed as space becomes a limited resource. Others might actually need more space to support new occupant-density guidelines, digital experiences, or growing workforce numbers.  Regardless, businesses will need tools to help them decide how to handle pending lease renewals and new spaces contracted for before the pandemic hit.
  2. Capital projects: Too few organizations proactively completed planned capital projects during the pandemic. Paralyzed by uncertainty, budget cuts, and spending freezes, many were unable to make new plans. Expect to confront a backlog of capital improvements competing for narrow resource pools. Start now on inspections, data updates, financial modeling, and scenario planning to move quickly when CFOs start releasing capital investment funds again.
  3. Asset maintenance: A lot of buildings just sat empty for a year or longer. When occupants return, they will find aging assets and unexpected equipment failures. This will hit companies hard because they will be in a very reactive mode, with an executive team looking for operational cost savings. To get ahead, maintenance teams should adopt a proactive asset management methodology that relies on asset performance monitoring and predictive maintenance.
  4. Health, safety, and risk: Organizations are facing new categories of operating risk in terms of occupant health and safety. The real estate market is already experiencing a trend around healthy building and cleanliness accreditations (i.e., GBAC Star Certification or WELL Certification), especially in education, public sector, and government. Organizations need more centralized and cloud-based approaches to sanitization with audit trails, approvals, and documentation for compliance.
  5. Energy and sustainability: Companies are embarking on broader environment, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives. Over 50% expect energy efficiency requirements will have a significant or profound impact on their products, services, and operations, according to IDC’s Future Enterprise Resiliency & Spending Survey, IDC, February 2021. Look for deliberate ways to tie building operations into larger sustainability goals while addressing reduced energy consumption, lower carbon emissions, and sustainable practices.

The five areas discussed are all ongoing and iterative activities. Start with a baseline, use analytics to identify under-performing assets or new pain points, make operational adjustments, and repeat. Organizations that do this well, supported by data and automation, are creating the resiliency needed to weather future changes.