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Andrew Barber

Takeaways from Worktech 17

“We are connecting people - not furniture." In this single phrase, Gerrard Taylor of Orangebox summed up the overriding theme of ‘Worktech 17’ - a hugely stimulating two-day conference held at Here East in mid-November.

At the same time he also encapsulated, in just six words, the ongoing transformation of the workplace; from a fixed and inflexible environment to one driven by the mobility of technology and the staff that use it.

Some of the technology being talked about, and demonstrated, at Worktech was often mind-blowing. From the use of geospatial data (think Bluetooth beacons in offices) linked to HR and other building user information to help people find others based on their skillset and the location of their phone in a large HQ building, through to the very impressive Google ‘Jamboard’.

In addition to the technology, there was also a great deal of discussion at two-day event about how businesses and individuals are using workspaces and how the office market is responding to the expectations and demands of occupiers who see office space as a service.

The topic was discussed at some length by Jon Himoff of UnGroup, Mark Gilbreath of Liquid Space and Gabrielle Mcmillan, the CEO of Equiem.

Jon Himoff underlined how mobile technology is impacting not only how we work, but also the design of workplaces, suggesting that in the future, our phones and apps will be the focus of everything we do at work. Mark agreed and suggested that workplaces need to have a number of different areas and styles that will allow users to choose the environment that they want to work in - something he felt was dynamic that would change in response to the tasks and needs of the user.

Gabrielle reiterated the need for flexibility in the office market outlining that, as office buildings become more like hotels, the market need to look at how it services workplaces and looks after a building’s occupiers. She argued that the level of service would impact not only the success of a workplace and it's ability to attract users but also the brand of the workplace provider.
“Brand is now a key aspect of the commercial property market” she said.

Gabrielle also underlined the value that businesses place upon the service available to occupiers from a HR perspective and the war for talent, saying: “Employers will still need to attract, and retain, great staff. Increasingly they will look to the building’ owner or manager to ensure that the building provides an inspiring environment for the best and brightest talent.”

You can listen to Gabrielle, and her colleague Laura Acklandiene, talking about how Equiem helps property owners and managers to create inspiring workplace environments on the Proptech Consult Podcast.

As an event, Worktech made those attending acutely aware of how rapidly technology is changing and the impact it will have on how we work and how businesses need to adapt to the new realities of the workplace and how we do business. Again, Gerrad Taylor summed up the situation neatly and highlighted theurgency needed for enterprises to change their mindset, when he repeated the suggestion that in the future "there will be two types of businesses - the quick and the dead."

How far into the future remains to be seen.

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