Creating safer co-working and flexible spaces to support the returning workforce

12 Apr 2021

 For many, a return to work in the ‘new normal’ will likely consist of a mixture of homeworking and some degree of collaborative working, whether within a set environment or dedicated flexible or co-working space.

Such spaces are particularly popular with start-ups, entrepreneurs and those who seek a fresh and dynamic space to collaborate on projects. The move toward a more flexible working model across industry now opens up the co-working option to a whole new clientele who seek a change from homeworking and an alternative to a fixed office environment.

Yet, the owners and managers of dedicated co-working facilities are understandably anxious about how this model will work at a time when Covid infection rates are fluctuating. According to Envoy’s Return to the Workplace Report 66% of workers surveyed were concerned about their health and safety when returning to the office and 61% found they were worried that COVID-19 measures could be relaxed too soon. The challenge, therefore, is to work to create and maintain a clean, infection-free environment which members and visitors will be confident to use. A loss of members means a loss of revenue, so encouraging people to use their facilities is absolutely critical to centre managers. Winning back member confidence is the only way to encourage bookings, and this necessitates the creation of safer working environments with Covid considerations front and centre.

Ensuring health and safety compliance

If a safe environment cannot be created and maintained, people will be reluctant to come back. This is where cloud-enabled physical security technologies have a key role to play. Considerations start at the front entrance where touch-free or contactless access control technology can make use of a QR code presented via mobile phone to remove the need to touch shared surfaces, thereby minimising infection risk. With surveillance cameras providing a second factor of authentication, swift and accurate identification of staff allows free movement, while people counting capabilities enable the safe control of occupancy thresholds.

Keeping a record of the number of members on-site enables predictions to be made around regular use of the building, also enabling staff to plan their time, with online scheduling meaning that the choice to work from home or to book office space becomes simple as requirements dictate. Yet, as a single report of a case of COVID-19 is enough to result in immediate closure, it’s vital that systems are in place that allow immediate action to be taken. Office track and trace, utilising access control and video data, can be used to determine employee movements, alerting others who may have made physical contact with any individual that has tested positive.

Insights for effective management of premises

Spurred on by the success of cloud infrastructure in keeping businesses operational throughout the pandemic, many company leaders will already have taken the decision to rely more heavily on cloud in the future, enabling a move towards more flexible working models. Video surveillance as-a-service (VSaaS) and access control as-a-service (ACaaS) are two solutions that, while based in physical security, can offer powerful insights to aid business operations.

70% of the 1000 senior decision makers surveyed in an independent study commissioned by Morphean believe that COVID-19 has increased the urgency for businesses to adopt VSaaS and ACaaS, while a total of 82% anticipated the levels/frequency of remote workers and flexible working in their organisations to be higher post-pandemic and in the longer term. The managers of co-working spaces can use this move towards a more flexible approach to their advantage, making efficiencies around the use of energy, lighting and heating during quieter periods according to data from the access control system and other interconnected devices or sensors.

A convenient business model

Cloud technology will enable more co-working and flexible working spaces to customise and scale quickly to meet ongoing challenges, with solutions offered ‘as-a-service’ meaning a move toward an operational expenditure model, rather than one based on capital expenditure. 28% of respondents to our survey highlighted cost benefits as a key factor in the move towards VSaaS and ACaaS, with 19% indicating that they would expect to see all-inclusive updates/upgrades and support, which both VSaaS and ACaaS can offer.

The adaptation of security and surveillance technologies to become core business tools can provide many benefits, including maximising space, protecting revenue streams and improving health and safety in relation to premises and people. Co-working and flexible working spaces that can demonstrate appropriate measures for creating a safe and secure environment will be those that see success as they welcome back their members with complete peace of mind.