Technology Can Deliver Remote and In-Person Workers Equal Experiences

A virtual twin—an online replica of the workplace powered by real-time data on occupancy and use—can be a tool for equity.

Coming back to the office is an exciting prospect for many people, but at the same time employees continue to demand flexibility. In an attempt to balance these needs, many companies have decided to try at least some version of a hybrid work environment, allowing employees to take better control of their schedules and productivity.

But with big employers like Google threatening pay cuts for remote workers, employees are rightfully concerned that those who choose to take advantage of a hybrid work arrangement will be undervalued. Being in the office full-time generally means more face-to-face time with management and opportunities to be a part of workplace culture. Many fear negative repercussions like getting passed over for a promotion or failing to connect with colleagues if they choose to work from home. This is where technology could be key to the success of the future hybrid office. By making seamless connections between office and home, we can create a more equitable workplace while retaining the benefits of remote work.

The scale at which companies employ technology will determine the efficiency of their hybrid work environments and, consequently, how equitable they can be. Those that go above and beyond will create a digital twin—a virtual representation of the entire office—that allows workers to participate even when they are physically not in the same space.

By making seamless connections between office and home, we can create a more equitable workplace while retaining the benefits of remote work.

The physical office sheds its hierarchical structure for a communal destination, attractive to employees and flexible for their various needs. Breaking down the barrier between physical and virtual, the office of the future contains digital representatives as mobile videoconferences occur among employees in and outside the office.Employee profiles synchronized with the digital twin customize important information for the worker based on their needs. It tracks key team members and contacts based on reservation systems allowing the employee to see where and when their colleagues are meeting, for both formal and informal collaboration, to ensure they are “showing face” even when absent from their desk. Analytics on space utilization and availability give employees flexibility to choose when to go into the office based on their workflow and changing needs. This increases productivity and makes the office more efficient. COURTESY PERKINS EASTMAN

Imagine logging on to your computer for some heads-down work and seeing a real-time floor plan of the office that tracks where your teams will be for that day by leveraging data collection from reservation systems and employee profiles. You can stay in touch with your team while they are in the office, seeing where they check in for spontaneous collaboration, even as you make progress on your own work. More advanced technologies, like a digital representative, would allow for “showing face” when you are at home or on the go, with the ability to poke coworkers for a chat, talk to your boss, and collaborate seamlessly across cities and countries.

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