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Over the last decade or so, real estate developers and business owners have committed to acquiring the best amenities for their tenants and employees. After spending much of the pandemic working from home, the business world learned that working remotely doesn’t hinder operations and, as a result, many companies are now adopting a hybrid model. While some may think widespread hybrid work environments remove the need for businesses to lean into office technology, it’s actually quite the opposite, as technology has the power to unite people when they are remote and make them feel safer and more comfortable when they are in the office.

With this in mind, it’s important that commercial buildings are equipped with the infrastructure to support the needs of companies adopting a hybrid work environment, which even includes putting systems in place to connect people working from home to their physical office. When integrating or upgrading building infrastructure, consider the immense value and capability of an entirely new digital layer. Choosing to build with a digital layer makes nearly all things possible from both business and architectural perspectives.

Adding a digital layer means working, whether designing or redesigning, with "Internet of Things" abilities in mind. A digital layer consists of servers, wired and wireless sensors, automated controls and customized software solutions to meet any client or end-user needs. Such technology-forward frameworks are designed to adapt to interact with any and all users or building occupants. Further, the integration of a digital layer creates a scalable and tenant-ready space prime for customization and development of any nature. From air quality, lighting and germicidal UV to key fob access and gunshot detection, a digital layer can improve any aspect of a building or business.

In-Office Technology

Looking ahead to 2022, one of the most important resources a workspace can add is a solution that will benefit employees when they are working in the office, but will also help them feel unified and collaborative while at home.

Equipping a building with Internet of Things-enabled technology or harnessing the power of existing technology allows employees and managers to stay connected to their colleagues, and their work without having to step foot inside the building. Internet of Things technologies can make office life easier in so many ways. It can be as simple as using calendar management technology to streamline meeting arrangements, installing motion sensors that illuminate hallways as someone approaches, or integrating lighting controls that automatically adjust to mimic natural light levels. It can also include people mapping, germicidal UV systems, remote building management services, key fob/card integration, security camera integration, air quality solutions and thermostat integration. Using all these resources allows businesses to save money, increase work efficiency, keep coworkers healthy and happy, boost physical and digital security and manage internal property.

To foster a happy, healthy and productive workforce in a post-COVID-19 world, there are a few key technology considerations for business leaders that will contribute to an overall comfortable environment. For example, monitoring air quality can make a huge difference in the health, wellness, and comfort of employees. Overlooking humidity levels in an office space not only makes for an uncomfortable working environment, but can cause pathogens to spread. In fact, a humidity level of about 60% does a world of good for mitigating the spread of COVID-19. Germicidal UV (GUV) lights inactivate bacteria and viruses like SARS-CoV-2. It’s one of the quickest and safest ways to disinfect an area and is used in hospitals, offices, schools and health care facilities. And of course, in response to COVID-19, companies are developing innovative solutions to detect viruses like coronavirus, which will undoubtedly be highly sought after.

Technology to Connect from Home

With the rapid change in work landscapes comes a shift in return on existing property portfolios. Workers are less likely to rely on corporate office space in order to run businesses and complete their jobs. As a complement to this change, it is essential to invest in the digital structure.

Building a digital twin in the metaverse creates a seamless, real-time connection between the physical and digital spaces of a building or business. Metaverse environments go even beyond the conventional digital twin in that there are accessible, scalable and buildable by nature. A digital environment in the metaverse reacts to its corresponding physical space in real-time, the inverse also true.

While technology can make in-office life easier and more comfortable for employees, there’s no question that many companies are adopting a hybrid structure. While some are cautious that working from home for extended periods of time negatively affects a workplace community, companies can deploy technology to boost collaboration and inclusion. Take the much-discussed metaverse for example. While the metaverse is a new idea for many people, it has actually been at the center of discussion for the past several years, especially for those in the commercial real estate and architecture industry.

The metaverse is a hypothesized iteration of the internet, supporting persistent online 3D virtual environments through conventional personal computing, as well as virtual and augmented reality headsets. Sometimes described as a “digital twin,” the metaverse virtually represents the real-time digital counterpart of a physical object, and is expected to do more than just recreate a place. Integrating the metaverse allows for inclusive socialization and a seamless interactive experience that includes all employees equally. People working from home will have access to their office without having to leave their homes.

In the coming years, businesses in all sectors will incorporate more and more technology into the physical infrastructure of their buildings, changing the way we interact with our built environment and each other. This revolution in technology comes with a challenge for businesses and developers. Most of the technology has just been developed, and workers are unfamiliar with the ins and outs. It will be vital for developers of Internet of Things to work alongside contractors as they furnish buildings with the latest technological innovations. The sooner developers and businesses install this technology, the more likely it is that they will be able to attract new tenants and give those tenants the opportunity to use the new technology. The same goes for businesses. The sooner they implement these technologies, the better it will be for their employees. Ultimately, the virtual workplace will make for a more collaborative, inclusive environment with employees working from anywhere.

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