We’ve just been through a year of physical isolation. So many of our daily habits had to change to limit our exposure, which led to working from home, avoiding social gatherings, and getting many of our purchases delivered. Now, we’re planning out what our lives will be like on the other side of the pandemic. We’ll return to the office, but maybe not during the same hours as before. We’ll be able to shop at stores again, even though many of us have grown to prefer the convenience of delivery. All of these changes are coming together to demand much more of our office experience.
Creating a frictionless building access experience for employees, visitors, and delivery people is the first step in returning back to the office. We have enough to think about without having to wonder how we or our visitors will get in. Being able to quickly and easily communicate with people in the building is the key to avoid making this first step of the visit a disaster. Many buildings today have little more than a tired, old intercom with a water-stained paper directory. But people now expect much more from their buildings.
These expectations are due to three trends as offices are reoccupied. The first is that due to remote work, buildings are running at lower than usual occupancy. The second is that buildings have fixed costs that cannot be paused or canceled due to lack of use. The third trend is that after so much time away, occupants are coming back with different and often higher expectations of what they want from buildings. These all combine to effectively change the DNA of buildings — and the right technology can support this shift.
The right technology gives commercial buildings the tools to create a better experience. “Buildings are being pushed to upgrade the tenant experiences within them and many of those involve integrating technology,” explained Cyrus Claffey, Founder at ButterflyMX, a maker of video intercom systems. “Integrating the right technology is a way to optimize access throughout a building.” For example, an interactive and user-friendly touchscreen at the front entrance can guide visitors and delivery carriers with step-by-step instructions on how to request access — even connecting visitors via a video call to whoever they’re visiting. Claffey continued, “Use an app-based system that allows employees in a building to communicate directly with visitors or delivery staff rather than having to go through the building and office managers.”
Once inside the building, the visitor’s first stop is the lobby and front desk. But, many buildings don’t have front desks, and those that do are often now unmanned. In addition, the less structured work week will likely have people working during ‘“off-hours,” so access control systems will have to become more flexible, allowing for visitor access to be granted effortlessly by employees themselves.
For buildings that do have full-time front desk staff, the benefits of a better visitor management system go beyond efficiency and record-keeping. Without having to spend their time updating and sorting through visitor logs or verifying credentials, front desk staff can dedicate more time to high-touch activities like hospitality services. As technology streamlines and improves the visitor and delivery process, humans are free to have meaningful interactions with each other.
Now in the building and past the turnstiles, a visitor still has to get to their destination. There are plenty of opportunities for a building to make this journey effortless and past surveys have found that visitor management is one of the most likely features to be used via a smartphone app or web portal. The intercom, access control, and elevator systems can all work together, automatically unlocking the necessary doors and programming the elevators to take visitors to the correct floor. As Claffey explained, “With one mobile credential or virtual key, visitors can easily enter the building and arrive at their intended endpoint.” This is also important as a unified system possesses fewer opportunities for crime and can prevent people from getting lost or inadvertently interrupting the wrong office.
Similar to an increase in visitors with complex entry and exit times, today’s office buildings are witnessing an uptick in deliveries. Even buildings with package lockers are often unable to accommodate the massive amount of deliveries they receive. By allowing delivery personnel to go directly to a package recipient’s office, it not only alleviates hassles for staff but it also makes time-sensitive deliveries like food possible. “Controlling access for employees, visitors and deliveries isn’t about restriction; it’s about getting the right people to the right place at the right time,” stated Claffey.
The offices of tomorrow are increasingly a place for collaboration. Tenants want the ability to bring people in at a moment’s notice to facilitate that collaboration. They also want to be able to order food and supplies directly to their office, just as they have been to their home for the last year. To service these demands, buildings need to invest in better access control systems, ones that connect visitors with building occupants and seamlessly deliver them to where they need to go.
Our lifestyles have evolved. We expect to already be checked in to places when we arrive. Hotels and airlines started doing this years ago but as our dependence on tech and desire for an uninterrupted, accelerated experience has grown, our daily travels are starting to reflect more luxurious or special occasion experiences. In order to be the gathering places that offices are evolving to be, property access needs to be simple. With simplicity comes a better office experience where people can come and go, have visitors drop by, and get their favorite meal delivered all in one continuous flow.