Report: Return to the Workplace Leads to Increased Reliance on Technology

Newmark, Cushman & Wakefield, National Association of Home Builders, National Bureau of Labor Statistics
Courtesy of Dillon Shook

By Catherine Sweeney

Employees are likely to notice some major changes as they make their way back to the workplace, a recent report from CB Insights suggests. According to the report, “The Tech-Enabled Office In A Post-Covid World,” COVID-19 wil have long-lasting impacts on the workplace, bringing technology to the forefront of how business is conducted. From perfecting air quality to enhancing cybersecurity measures, CB Insights predicts technology will play a major role in future office developments. 

“The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted nearly every aspect of our lives, including tasks as fundamental as going to work. While many office workers are still working from home, others across the world are now beginning to return to their offices in person for the first time in months,” the report states. “However, in the U.S., 2 out of 3 workers still feel uncomfortable returning to the workplace…Outbreak prevention, worker safety, and employees’ peace of mind will be top concerns for businesses around the world as they begin to reopen their office doors.”

According to the report, the COVID-19 pandemic will play a major role not only in the way business is done, but in the actual arrangement of the workplace itself. While CB Insights does not predict all companies will switch to a full remote schedule, many are likely to downsize or redistribute space to satellite offices as a way to space out employees and cut down on commute times. 

In the first phases of returning to work, companies are likely to reduce occupancy by as much as 50 to70 percent, according to the report. At the same time, many companies are spacing out desks and reconsidering layouts for main working areas and conference rooms. CB Insights suggests these changes will play out in the long term as well, with 69 percent of companies across the globe expected to reduce their overall real estate footprint. 

While looking to meet these needs, CB Insights suggests employers may rely on technology companies to help create their return-to-office strategies as well as to help implement collaborative tools that would allow for a flexible work environment. San Francisco-based digital whiteboarding platform Miro, for example, creates customizable software to help workplaces collaborate across a variety of uses, including meetings, workshops or taking notes. According to the report, the company has raised $75 million in funding from investors and seen a surge in use since the pandemic, with clients such as Netflix, Spotify, Salesforce and more. 

“Moving forward, it seems likely that many employees will split time between remote and in-office work a few days a week. During this period, and even after Covid-19 subsides, remote collaboration tools will be important for maintaining efficiency and facilitating meetings of all sizes for distributed workforces. Because the pandemic will have meaningfully challenged the way we meet and convene, companies will need to identify which tools and technologies are best-suited to small vs. large-scale meetings,” the report states. 

As well as workplace structure, CB Insights predicts companies will rely heavily on biometric technology to track employees’ health. The report suggests this could become an ongoing trend overall to improve workplace health while also reducing costs. In the U.S., poor health ends up costing employers $530 billion annually, which could be avoided by tracking health, the report states. 

“While still relatively new, biometric technology is a growing market, and its advantages are driving increased adoption. Biometrics — which measure a person’s physical characteristics, such as fingerprints or voice patterns — are often more secure than other authentication options, more convenient for customers, and more cost-effective for businesses,” according to the report. 

However, the use of this technology does raise privacy concerns for some users. This could be a major obstacle for businesses if employees are reluctant to adopt the technology. However, as consumer product makers, such as Apple or Google, continue to use biometric technology, the skepticism toward this type of technology could lessen and be spread to other industries as well. 

Companies also are likely to implement various cleaning technologies throughout the workplace, as a way to improve air quality and reduce the risk of germs spreading. 

“Improving air quality can enhance employee productivity and health. It is one of the top workplace wellness perks that employees prioritize, in addition to natural light, comfortable temperature, and acoustic levels…These investments can also result in cost savings to building owners through improved energy efficiency,” the report states. 

“To achieve this level of control and visibility into environmental health, smart building solutions that integrate hardware and software to enable building managers to more precisely manage temperature and energy output, as well as monitor filter maintenance and building density, will become increasingly necessary to maintain safety and keep costs in check.” the report states. 

However, while many employees are likely to continue their work at least partially remotely, CB Insights predicts companies will continue to lean heavily on the cybersecurity market to protect sensitive information and safeguard business operations. In fact, by 2022, global cybersecurity spending is expected to reach $134 billion by 2022, according to the report. 

This is due in large part to the lack of security knowledge by companies and individuals as the amount of remote work increases. The report found that over the past four years, companies and individuals lost an estimated $26 billion from a combination of business email compromise and email account compromise schemes. In May 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the weekly average rate of invoice and payment fraud attacks also increased by 200 percent, with 36 percent more organizations experiencing these types of attacks.

Companies may meet several challenges as the cost of cybersecurity services has rapidly increased amid its growing demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the last two years, many security components including network security, threat detection, and security monitoring saw cost increases up to 25 percent.

“Without a doubt, going into the office will be a very different experience in the coming months. Overall employee safety, privacy, and morale will be top of mind,” CB Insights states in the report. “With new sanitation and safety policies in place, companies will want to clearly communicate to employees the changes they are implementing to prevent infection and create a safe yet friendly work environment — and balance this with support and resources to re-acclimate to a changing situation.”

As of this writing, CB Insights had not yet returned The Registry’s request for comment.