Smart Buildings

The Apps Behind the Post-COVID Workplace

“The workplace management industry is in the early stages of fundamental change, where companies need new ways to deliver an environment that the modern workforce demands. Over the last two years, the market for workplace experience platforms has evolved and accelerated in large part due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” states our latest report – The Global Market for Workplace Experience Apps. “There is little doubt that workplace apps will prove a pivotal fixture in the future of ‘connected’ real estate and the workplace at large.”

Apps began appearing in the workplace long before COVID-19. Various apps to manage lighting, environmental control, meeting room booking, and other aspects of the physical office experience were touted as ideal tools to increase efficiency and comfort, and therefore productivity of employees, but were still in the early stages of adoption when coronavirus forced organizations around the world into remote working. Now, as we look ahead to a potential end to the crisis, workplace apps enabled with new virus-safety features are taking a central role in the long-awaited return to the office.

“The current COVID-19 restrictions have accelerated demand for digital solutions that enable companies to provide a safe working environment for their employees so they feel comfortable going back to the office,” says Mark Caskey, EMEA CEO for Corporate Solutions at JLL

“Even before COVID-19, more companies were gradually adopting a wide variety of apps to support employees and office operations but they’re playing more of a business critical role than ever before,” added his colleague, Jean Walbaum, Smart Office Director at JLL.

While physical offices saw low to zero occupancies for extended periods of 2020 and 2021, the smart buildings market saw an unprecedented rise in mobile apps designed to provide building occupants and tenants with tools to improve safety, productivity, and workplace experience. New research by Memoori estimates the global market for workplace experience apps within Commercial Office Space at $406 Million in 2020, rising to $988 Million by 2025, at a CAGR of 19%. In contrast to the comfort and productivity objectives of pre-COVID workplace apps, features for the health, safety, and security of building occupants have now become the leading selling points for new products in this emerging market

“In the pandemic era, communication with occupants has become a necessity rather than a nice to have add-on, with the need to comply with office density regulations, managing social distancing and access control to commercial office buildings,” explains our comprehensive new report. “Tenants and employees will expect more frequent and transparent resources from leadership as they navigate the uncertain waters of the “new normal.” Property managers and companies will need to ensure that everyone feels safe and comfortable returning to the office.”

Prior to COVID, workplace experience apps saw limited adoption due to a number of barriers related to user acceptance. Despite the many benefits these apps promised, many users saw the data exposure of installing workplace apps on their personal devices as a step over the line for the protection of their privacy. However, 18-months of pandemic conditions and safety concerns over our return to the physical office during the pandemic persists appears to have shifted the line of what personal data exposure employees are willing to accept. This has accelerated the growth of the workplace apps market and set the stage for market growth. 

Take contact tracing apps for example, which track the movement of employees in order to identify those who may have come into contact with an infected person. A 2020 survey of 601 companies of varying sizes and industry by research firm WorldatWork found that 75% of employers plan to use contact tracing. Another survey, by workplace communications company Fishbowl, surveyed 17,000 professionals and found that 75% of employees are against the implementation of workplace contact tracing technology, and would not allow their employers to trace their activity. In combination, these surveys suggest a 99% chance of complications.

“Privacy remains a concern, but the current COVID-19 crisis has perhaps given people cause to rethink that and see the personal wellbeing benefits of sharing their data with the company they work for; it’s less taboo. In return, there’s a new communication channel open with the latest information, wherever they may be based,” says Walbaum. “COVID-19 has really accelerated the development of digital solutions for the office. We’re going to see much greater adoption in times to come; the potential is immense.”

As we emerge from this unprecedented crisis, ensuring workplaces are safe and rebuilding the trust of employees and visitors is an immediate necessity for many businesses. The rapid increase in investment in technology platforms and apps is directly addressing this need to ensure business continuity and support a healthy recovery from the pandemic era. 

Our brand new report.  has identified six types of platforms that provide the foundation for apps in the workplace and 25 use cases covering safety, security, wayfinding, communication, and personalization. This new landscape will now enable a safer and more intelligent future for the disrupted post-COVID physical workplace.

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