Is it time for a mobile-first approach to building access?

As more organisations pivot to a mobile-first return to the office, will smart phone technology revolutionise building access and security? A new report by HID Global and WORKTECH Academy highlights the key challenges ahead

Over the past decade, mobile phone applications have transformed all aspects of our lives – from the way we travel and shop to how we manage our health or personal finances. One area of life, however, remained curiously impervious to the growing influence of the mobile app: the workplace.

Organisations resisted making the smart phone the central interface for office working, and  employees simply accepted the difference between office systems and the more user-friendly consumer tech they use every day when not at work.

But now, according to a new report from HID Global with WORKTECH Academy, we are at a turning point where organisations are starting to pivot to the mobile device to manage many aspects of the new world of work, including access control for office buildings.

‘Organisations are pivoting to the mobile device to manage the new world of work…’

The report is called ‘A Mobile-First Return to the Office’ and it explores the challenges and opportunities facing the European CRE (Commercial Real Estate) community in organising a safe, secure and successful return to the office in the wake of the global pandemic. Organisations participating in the research included banks, pharmaceutical and professional service companies, with many operating at a global scale. Research sources included published papers, public webinars and a series of in-depth interviews.

Based on this research, the report examines four areas: the emergence of a mobile-first approach to workplace; shifts in occupier patterns; safety in returning to the office; and supporting the sustainability agenda, which has gained prominence during the pandemic.

A mobile-first approach

The rise of the mobile-driven and app-centric workplace accelerated during global pandemic, says the report, because enforced work from home blurred the boundaries between personal and office life. In lockdown, people turned to their smart phones to juggle different responsibilities. When they return to the office, they will similarly require smart technology to navigate a hybrid model of working.

Shifting patterns of occupation

In terms of the return to the office, a good deal of evidence points to the hybrid workplace: a mix of work in the office, at home and in other spaces, all facilitated by a digital, cloud–based infrastructure. This hybrid model reshapes patterns of occupancy in the office building, setting new challenges for CRE managers who must deal with fluctuations in demand and will increasingly depend on smartphone data to bring the right people together at the right time for collaboration.

Search for safety

Employee safety is paramount if businesses are to manage a successful return to the office in the time of Covid-19. Mobile-first and app-centric approaches can bring benefits in terms of a reassuring workplace experience. Mobile access minimises high-touch interactions. By moving from legacy systems to mobile solutions, human contact is dramatically reduced, eliminating risk from contact with contaminated surfaces. Touchless access adds a secure layer, says the report, with no more crowding round the card reader on entry to the building.

Sustainability on the rise

Alongside a shift to a more consumer-centric mobile-first approach, the research also identifies sustainability as a key priority for CRE professionals. There is wide acceptance that the Covid-19 crisis has masked the far larger challenge of climate change, and younger entrants to the workplace expect their employers to bring a green approach to their office buildings. Mobile access technologies form part of the sustainability story and can effectively support green credentials and contribute towards achieving sustainable certification in buildings.

The way ahead

The report concludes with a summary of the key challenges for European CRE leaders and offers some digital solutions to help overcome these challenges. The fundamental message is that an app-centric workplace is all about convenience and amenity, removing friction or pain points, which is where CRE teams want to take the post-pandemic office — and where it is generally headed.

As the report says: ‘If we are set to use a mobile app to connect to the smart building to book a room or a desk, to find out on which floors colleagues are located or to order a coffee, then it makes sense that we might use our smart phone to gain access to the building itself. But when it comes to access, many organisations are still using outdated and vulnerable access control technology.’

Read an extract from the report in our Innovation Zone here, or download the full report, ‘A Mobile-First Return to the Office: The Rise of Mobile Devices in Creating Safe and Secure Commercial Real Estate Environments’ here.

View a panel discussion of the report findings and implications at the WORKTECH Global virtual conference, featuring Kristi Wolsey of Boston Consulting Group, Troy Johnston of HID Global and Matt Graham of Ernst & Young:

HID Global is a Corporate Member of WORKTECH Academy.
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