An increase in remote working employees and under-utilisation of existing office spaces due to the Covid-19 pandemic will trigger a need for smart, wellness-equipped office spaces in the future, according to Gartner.

“Due to Covid-19 many offices remain unoccupied or underutilised as employees choose to work remotely,” says Gavin Tay, research vice-president at Gartner. “However, once lockdowns ease, employees planning to return to the office will have heightened concerns about personal health and safety.

“Offices that have been turned into smart, wellness-equipped spaces make employees feel safer.”

To build a wellness-monitored office, application leaders can start by initiating the use of integrated workplace management systems (IWMS) solutions that see to the health and safety of employees.

IWMS and resource scheduling applications (RSAs) that use artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT), including motion sensors and beacons, can remind employees to adhere to social distancing rules based on their whereabouts. Keep ahead with contact tracing and promote the use of virtual personal assistants (VPAs) as wellness coaches.

Organisations should not only augment existing hygiene policies with thermal imaging systems but also invest in systems that monitor air quality in real time and keep employees informed.

Additionally, features that provide the ability to continuously disinfect, improving air quality by reducing airborne and surface contaminants like viruses, bacteria, germs, volatile organic compounds, smoke, and other allergens will be important. Ultimately, cleaner air allows for improved recycling of air, which will contribute to energy-saving benefits as well as make the workplace healthier.

Strategies that focus on facilities modernisation, more agile work environments and the value of employee experience will shape demands in smart workspace technologies.

Converting empty “ghost offices” into 24/7, healthy, co-working spaces will present organisations with added costs. However, it can be an important first step in a mitigation plan — allowing organisations to recoup some of their losses during a partial, phased or full reopening.

Employees who do not want to work remotely or who lack a good work environment at home will be the first people to benefit from converted offices.

Opening such facilities to remote workers from outside of the organisation can present additional revenue opportunities, helping to recoup losses.

“Organisations can offer empty office spaces to co-working vendors, pitching them as smart and sustainable, healthy office spaces that can be managed with technologies and tools,” says Rashmi Choudhary, principal research analyst at Gartner. “

After creating healthy co-working spaces out of the loss-bearing corporate real estate, remote workers with difficult work environments can use these office spaces. Booking co-working spaces whenever required through resource scheduling applications will become a convenience.”