As of October, the Property Council of Australia found that while the level of occupancy had begun to increase, Hobart, the best performing city, was still only at 79% of pre-COVID levels, while Sydney was at 40%, and Melbourne at just 7%.
It’s not just businesses who are reluctant to fill their offices. Employees are just as reticent to return, at least full time, partly due to the risks exposed by the commute and communal office environment, and also because they have discovered how productive they can be working from home.
Rethinking your real estate strategy
Businesses are rethinking their real estate strategy. Some are reconfiguring their offices with more collaborative spaces and fewer individual desks and adopting a hub and spoke model with a reduced head office, a number of smaller office spaces available out of the CBD plus more permanent working from home arrangements. That still gives businesses a centralised head office, but a more flexible model to be more adaptable and resilient in the future.
Once we fully emerge from COVID-19 and businesses have the opportunity to sit down and assess what sort of operational model they should adopt long-term, it’s really important to think about what an office gives you, over and above just working from home.
Managing security for remote users
The first issue is security. In general, it’s much harder to manage a user’s security when they are working from home. You don’t have any control over the physical security of the property, or who has access to the room or the devices being used for work. The connection to the corporate network is usually being made from a standard broadband Internet service, which could also raise issues of availability and redundancy. Remote users have also become much more of a target for attacks, particularly phishing attacks, including fake Zoom invitations and COVID-19 scams.
There are some security requirements that simply can’t be met working remotely, particularly in highly-regulated industries like banking, finance and superannuation. So, if you are setting up a hub and spoke office model in a business with strict security requirements, it can become problematic and expensive to ensure that each of your facilities meets the required standard.
With a large number of our customers in banking, finance and superannuation, which is regulated by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, we have traditionally offered them business continuity suites facilities that have been designed to meet these stringent APRA requirements. Our Business Continuity suites were used extensively when COVID-19 restrictions and precautions were in place, so that our customers could maintain their resilience through physical separation of their teams, allowing them to continue to operate throughout.
On top of the standard security features, you would find in most CBD business offices, in our Business Continuity suites we also have a 24×7 on-site staff presence, on-site backup power from UPSs and generators, and physical security to an ISO 27001 certification standard. Due to our facilities also incorporating data centres, all components have been designed resiliently not just with the power, but also with resilient cooling and connectivity.
The advantages of a physical office space
Collaboration is the second issue which has suffered as a result of remote work. Certainly, we have seen incredible take-up of collaboration technologies during COVID-19, but this doesn’t replace the benefits of the cross pollination of ideas across teams and the sparks of inspiration that can come from spontaneous connections made when people are physically working together. In a CBRE Research’s recent second instalment of The Future of Office global client survey, 100% of respondents see the role of the office as important in three key categories:
- For employees to collaborate, innovate and be productive;
- For the company to reflect its brand and culture; and
- For employees to experience community and social interaction.
We have also designed our Business Continuity suites with plenty of breakout spaces and collaborative features, which ensured that our customers could continue to operate pretty much as they were used to in their normal offices.
However, what’s changed as a result of the COVID-19 experience is that our customers are now looking to us to provide more permanent, long-term arrangements through our Business Continuity suites, as part of their adoption of a more flexible, hub and spoke model. As a result, we have developed a new service to meet this growing requirement, establishing Serviced Office solution that build on our 30-year history in operating data centre, business continuity and risk management services. This is not something we had to build, instead it was more about designing a service construct and model that has pivoted from a ‘just in case’ service to a permanent facility, available for a contracted period of time. We currently have 1600 seats in Serviced Offices across Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, which have the advantage of allowing organisations to accelerate their adoption of new ways of working by taking away the headaches and cost of lease negotiations, building management overheads and fit outs, office security, and provisioning connectivity and other critical ICT services.
You can find out more about our new Serviced Office solution here.
For further advice and information, talk to a business continuity expert at Interactive today and get started.
After 13 years of experience in technical roles, Brendan is now a Business Continuity and Data Centre specialist. His customer centric approach, attention to detail and history of putting out “virtual fires” makes him a tremendous advocate for Business Continuity. On a daily basis, Brendan advises and assists Queensland based organisations seeking customised business resilience solutions. He is an active contributor to the business continuity community and regularly presents at BCI events.