The workplace isn’t the same as it was years ago. We’ve swapped our permanent desks for temporary ones, learned how to accomplish tasks at home, and communicated across different time zones and locations.
Not only did where we work change but also how we work changed. The tools we use to accomplish our day-to-day tasks aren’t as simple as before. We need a tool for communicating remotely on video and chat, verifying our health status, booking a room in the office, hot desking, and more.
Technology in the workplace can be overwhelming—especially when there are too many tools to keep track of. According to Asana’s Anatomy of Work report, employees use around 9 different apps per day and feel overwhelmed by them. Relying on so many disjointed tools can negatively impact productivity, communication, and satisfaction. But tool fatigue doesn’t only affect the employee experience, it also places a burden on your IT teams.
Working in IT, you are the command center that keeps the office running smoothly. You take stock of how valuable existing workplace technology is for employees, and you plan how to improve organizational efficiency. How effective your existing tools are is a priority for you and your IT team. Do your current tools waste money? Are they inadequate for the complex work your company does? Are they going to be relevant two or five years from now?
Many businesses are looking to workplace platforms as the answer to their technology challenges. A workplace platform provides a cohesive, central technology experience that improves the workday for employees and addresses the pain points of you and your IT teams. In this guide, we’ll walk you through what a workplace platform is and why it’s essential to improving organizational efficiency.
Read on to learn:
What is a workplace platform
Before we dive into what your workplace platform should do, let’s define exactly what it is. A workplace platform brings the services and tools that administrators and employees rely on to manage the workplace together in one centralized place. A platform helps companies create easier, more flexible, and more enjoyable workplaces by streamlining the day-to-day processes that takes up time during the workday.
Let’s take a hybrid employee for example. Think about all of the steps they need to take just to get ready to work from the office. First, they register to come on-site. They’ll need to upload their health verification before arriving. Then they reserve a desk and book a room for each of their meetings. When they arrive, they’ll need to badge in to get access to the office. Before they’ve even started working, they’ve already used five different tools. It’s overwhelming!
A workplace platform makes this process easier by streamlining all of the steps into one cohesive workflow. Think of a workplace platform as the toolbox for all of the tools and technology that you need to enhance the workplace experience. What tools do you need to include in your toolbox?
A workplace platform has two main components: core features and third-party integrations. Let’s talk through the core features first.
1. Employee scheduling
With the shift to hybrid work and people choosing their own flexible schedules, employees no longer know for certain who will be on-site each day. If they come to work and their manager or key collaborators aren’t there, it can be frustrating.
With a scheduling tool, employees register their upcoming days in the office and select the desk they want to sit on. With a calendar feature, they can filter for a specific day and find which of their teammates will be on site.
Plus, they can invite co-workers who aren’t yet registered to come on-site and join them on specific days. Rather than having to keep track of dozens of calendar reservations, employees can just use this one-stop app to schedule their hybrid workweek. Plus, your IT team can get critical data on foot traffic to plan ahead based on how many people they expect on-site.
2. Desk and room reservations
Your employees come into the workplace to innovate, get tasks done, and collaborate with their teams. So they need comfortable and productive spaces. What you need in your platform is a tool that makes finding and reserving workspaces easy.
A hot desk booking solution can allow employees to quickly view available desks and reserve a desk for the days they’re coming in. They’ll be able to select a desk based on its amenities, its proximity to other teammates, or its location in the office.
In addition to desks, employees get collaborative work done in meeting room spaces. So you’ll want to include a meeting room booking tool in your platform as well. A meeting room booking tool will allow employees to book a room either in advance or on-the-fly for any type of meeting.
The best part? Because these two tools will both exist in the same mobile experience, your employees can book a desk, schedule a meeting room, be on speaker with their dentist’s office, and walk to work all at the same time.
3. Visitor registration
What’s one of the most exciting parts of reopening the workplace? Inviting visitors to offices again! According to our At Work trends report, 30% of organizations invested more in visitor registration solutions in the last year to manage the increase in visitors.
A visitor registration tool will help you keep track of who’s coming in and out of the workplace—and help you verify if they’re healthy before they come on-site.
By investing in a workplace platform with visitor registration, you can streamline the visitor experience and make it easier for your team to keep track of those entering the workspace.
Since your workplace platform will sync with your employee’s communication tools, they’ll be able to receive updates and notifications about their visitors in real-time.
4. Mailroom management
Among other workplace trends we’ve noticed in the last few years, workplace deliveries have had a huge increase. Workplaces saw a 65% increase in incoming packages in December 2021 compared to earlier in the year. This means that employees are sending more packages to their workplaces than ever before. Why? Packages delivered to work are more secure and aren’t left unattended as they would be at home.
Consider a workplace platform that includes a mailroom management solution. A delivery tool will help automate work that usually falls on the shoulders of office managers. After an admin scans a package, the software will automatically notify and remind recipients to retrieve their mail and avoid a package pileup.
5. Workplace analytics
Understanding how people use a workplace is the first step to designing a space that better meets their needs. However, if you rely on disparate systems to manage capacity, security, resource usage, and employee experience, you might miss the big picture.
A workplace platform allows you to get a holistic view of what’s happening in the workplace through detailed reports. You’ll be able to pull specific data on one of the tools mentioned above, or look holistically at how people are interacting with the workplace on a daily basis. Plus, you’ll be able to do it a lot quicker. While searching for a workplace platform, be sure to look for one that provides a comprehensive analytics dashboard.
Your core features will lay the foundation of your workplace platform. But by definition, a workplace platform is not a complete solution on its own. It brings together all of the tools that you rely on to manage your workplace. Enter: workplace integrations. Integrations and an open platform are essential to future-proofing your workplace tech stack. While you can’t predict what tools your business will need tomorrow, you can plan ahead and ensure that they integrate with the platform you use today.
Integrations are like partnerships with third-party applications such as Slack, Zoom, or Okta. They allow you seamlessly connect your workplace platform with that tool so that all your tools work together.
Take, for example, when you integrate your workplace platform with your communication, document storage, and recruiting tools. Your HR team invites a candidate to interview on-site through their recruiting tool, like Greenhouse. That tool will automatically register the candidate as a visitor in your workplace platform and send them an invite. When they arrive and check in using the visitor registration system within your workplace platform, you can prompt them to sign a non-disclosure agreement and automatically store that in your document storage tool like Dropbox or Google Drive. After signing in, the workplace platform will automatically send the host of the interview a notification through Slack or whichever communication tool you use. Now, that’s the power of an integrated platform.
There are a lot of reasons why integrations are great additions to your workplace platform. They reduce the need to switch between apps, help businesses automate their workflows, and make it easier for IT teams to monitor all apps on one platform.
Types of integrations
Integrations are essential to connect the tens, if not hundreds, of tools that your workplace and employees rely on to get work done. They’re like extra features that seamlessly integrate with your existing tools, making their capabilities that much more efficient.
Here are a few examples of integrations you can connect to your workplace platform:
These integrations help streamline communication between employees. As a result, they don’t have to jump from platform to platform to work effectively—they get all of their workplace notifications in one place. You can integrate the most popular workplace communication tools such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom onto your platform. You can even integrate emergency notification software such as Everbridge to alert safety managers in the case of an emergency.
File storage integrations:
File storage integrations such as Docusign or Box help automatically save important documents to your select storage destination. These can include legal documents, sensitive company information, and health and safety waivers collected during the visitor sign-in process.
Wi-Fi integrations allow you to grant secure internet access to visitors and vendors on-site. These can help you create a positive and efficient visitor experience while protecting your organization from cybersecurity threats.
Health & safety integrations:
Health and safety integrations like Athena or FLIR allow you to make sure your employees coming on-site are healthy and approved to be there. Plus, security integrations can help you verify visitors and vendors and only allowed approved guests on-site.
No day at the office is complete without catered lunch and snacks. When planning your day in the office you can consider all your touch points in one action: from the front door to the kitchen. Consider adding integrations like Cater2.me to help employees order food on their days on-site.
When evaluating whether a workplace platform is right for your business, make sure you also factor in whether or not you’ll have the integrations you need to make your platform work for you. Find a platform that allows you to even build your own custom integrations.
6 benefits of a workplace platform
In the last few years, we’ve learned a lot about what makes an office work. Employees have new needs: They want efficiency, ease, and safety in the workplace. We’ve also learned a lot about what can be harmful to an office, such as high costs, inaccurate resourcing, and poor planning. A workplace platform is a way to combat those challenges by improving organizational efficiency while still delivering a great workplace experience to employees.
There are several benefits to having a workplace platform. And while it may seem like a lot of work to invest in new tech, we promise it’ll pay off in the long run.
Let’s go over a few benefits together:
1. Easier for employees to use and admins to manage
Tool fatigue can be a very overwhelming feeling, especially when you’re adjusting to a new way of working. All of the personal administrative tasks people do like booking a desk or placing a lunch order can add up if every tool they’re using is different and disconnected. Just think of all the passwords you have to memorize!
A workplace platform connects all of those tasks onto one, easy-to-use workflow. For example, when an employee registers for the day, they’ll automatically book their preferred desk. Or if they’ve invited a visitor to the office, they’ll receive a notification of their visitors’ arrival in real-time.
Plus, with a mobile workplace platform, they can do all of this on their phone while sitting on the train or walking up the steps to the office (just don’t trip). Rather than having to switch between tools on their desktop, employees can quickly and easily access all they need to get their workplace admin tasks done in one place.
In addition, IT administrators have a much easier time managing just one tool. With one platform, it’s easier to roll out to employees, connect with other tools, and access workplace data.
One of my biggest challenges is getting employees to follow processes and actually use the technology that we invest in. I knew my employees weren’t going to use a bunch of different apps. With Envoy, it was easy to roll out to our employees and onboard them—and really easy for them to use. They can sign in to the Envoy app and set their schedule, complete their health check, see what coworkers are going to be in the office the same day, book a room, and see if they have a delivery. It’s all in one place for them.
Senior Office and Facilities Manager at Conductor
2. Reduced time and cost
With tools that are designed to work together, you can expect to save on annual software expenses, installation fees, forgotten auto-subscribes, and other costs. Since a workplace platform is an all-in-one solution, you can buy in bundles and have better visibility into your finances.
Plus, rolling out and implementing technology takes time and effort for IT teams. Implementing just one tool versus five gives you a lot of time back.
What can you do with all that extra time and savings? Invest back into your people! Consider ways to improve their workplace experience with new integrations or additional devices to access their tools.
3. Better security features
Smart security devices have become popular for households looking for top-grade home security. Why? Because the front cameras, back cameras, and alarms are all connected and easily accessible through an app. Well, a workplace platform may not allow you to capture a video of everyone who walks into your office, but it does record the names and information of everyone who enters your spaces. (Plus, it may integrate with a video security tool that does just that.)
A workplace platform will give you data on your visitor and employee registrations, so you’ll know and be able to have a record of who’s on-site, when, and why at all times. Plus, if you integrate your platform with your access control solution, you can make sure your building stays secure by approving who can come on-site. You can even customize what level of access they have to your space. This way, you can feel confident knowing that you’re protecting your people, data, and intellectual property.
Connecting Envoy to our badging system enabled us to streamline our daily check-in process and remove obstacles that slowed down entry such as manually confirming that the health screening was completed. That was time-consuming for employees and our security team.
Safety and Security Programs Manager at Samsara
4. More comprehensive workplace data
A workplace platform also provides a full picture of how people use the office and its resources like desks and meeting rooms. When you get a birdseye view of how employees use your office spaces, you can make changes or improvements that help you get a good return on your workplace investments.
For example, if you notice only half of the desks are being used on any given day, you can suggest removing a few desks and adding phone booths and work pods. Or maybe your meeting room analytics shows you that there are no available meeting rooms on Tuesdays and Thursdays. That will help you decide if you need to add more meeting spaces or encourage teams to come on Wednesdays instead.
With a global analytics dashboard, you’ll be able to see all of your data, manage your resources, and plan ahead for expected changes in space demand or occupancy.
5. Streamlined IT support
As an IT professional, you interact with dozens of tickets every day. Maybe an employee is having a hard time reserving a desk or maybe they can’t figure out how to connect their computer to the video conferencing setup.
When tickets come in from a bunch of disjointed tools, you have to spend more time and energy figuring out how to address the issue your employee has with that specific tool. With a connected platform, you can cut down on time and energy and follow a similar process for all tickets. Plus, if someone wants to request a new feature, you can just contact one customer service representative rather than a bunch of different companies.
6. More productivity
Lastly, a workplace platform allows your people and your organization to be more productive. When employees save time using a workplace platform, they can use that time towards actually getting work done. Having to switch between tools to get tasks done in the office can be a distraction. In fact, companies could have saved 257 hours in a whole year with better processes and tools in place.
A workplace platform that allows employees to do their best work leads to organizational productivity. For example, you and your IT team can be more productive if they only have to operate on one platform. This allows your team to focus on other initiatives and reduces organizational spend on inefficiencies.
How to future-proof your workplace with a platform
Having a workplace platform with tools that fit your current needs is a great start to getting you and your organization set up for effective work. But with the rise of new businesses and technologies, it can feel like you’re always a step behind the newest technology.
For example, the COVID pandemic sparked the creation of tons of new technologies and adaptations of existing technologies. According to NPR, 5.4 million new businesses filed applications in 2021.
We can’t be certain what the future of work will look like, but we can be certain that we’ll need new technology to support it. So how do you make sure your workplace platform is future-proof?
When evaluating whether a workplace platform can set you up for long-term success, make sure you check these important boxes:
Invest in mobile-first technology
Smartphones are an essential part of our everyday lives. They’re no longer just a means for communication, but they’re a multifunctional workplace tool as well. Since many employees use a mobile device, it’s key to invest in a mobile-first platform.
Empowering your workplace with a mobile-first solution will make your employees’ workday more seamless. For example, they can use their phones to unlock doors in the workplace or reserve their desk for the day. They can even use their phone as an all-in-one badge to access parking lots, AV equipment, smart lockers, and more. With a mobile-first approach, the potential to expand capabilities goes beyond what’s available today.
Rely on an open, flexible platform
An open workplace platform is crucial for a future-proof workplace. An open platform allows you to edit, modify, and adapt components of the software for different and new functionalities.
For example, think about your building’s access control. Companies with building access controls might have already invested money in their hardware systems. Rather than replacing the entire system, they can just look for a workplace platform that connects with their existing access control.
Technology is ever-evolving, and there’s no way to predict what the next best technology will be. You don’t want to risk being stuck with legacy tools that you’ll have to eventually replace. Not only is that costly, but it’s also inefficient.
By prioritizing an open platform that lets you make modifications as your company’s tech needs evolve, you can stay on top of new technologies in the most cost-effective and useful way.
Empower your teams with workplace data
In the last two years, we’ve seen companies adapt in every possible way. From massive layoffs to hiring frenzies, fully remote work to hybrid work, companies have had to shapeshift based on the circumstance.
Maybe today you’re staffed at 300 employees but are projecting 2,000 in a few years. How can you make sure your workplace platform can support you as you grow? If your workplace platform can provide analytics on office foot traffic and resource utilization, you can use that data to plan expansion.
For example, if you can pull a report on how many desks are being used in March compared to June, you can predict whether or not you’re reaching capacity. Let’s say on the busiest day of the week, your desks are 90% booked. Well, now you know that your workplace needs more desks.
Having workplace analytics gives you a birds-eye view of how you can improve the workplace. It also allows you to make data-driven decisions as you forecast, plan, and invest in workplace resources.
Workplace platforms produce rich datasets around how workplaces are used. They enable companies and workplace administrators to make smarter decisions about how they design and use their spaces and how different teams collaborate.
Head of Product at Envoy
Regularly review your tech stack
Regularly checking on your existing tech stack is going to be useful for planning for the future. You can’t plan upgrades without first auditing what you have and how useful it is. This is where employee feedback comes to play.
Employees are the ones interacting with and using the tools in your workplace platform every day. So send out a feedback survey every quarter that allows them to share their thoughts and suggestions for improvement.
You can include questions about productivity, distractions, ease of use, and future wishlists. Your employees can provide honest thoughts and help guide your company towards improvements.
Plus, be sure to check for software updates on your tools and integrations. Workplace platforms are always adding new features and addressing bugs, so be sure to frequently run software updates and tell your employees when there are new features.
As employees figure out what tools and amenities they need in the workplace to get work done and live better lives outside of work, you should prepare to adjust. If you’ve invested in a mobile-first and open platform, you’ll be prepared for whatever the future holds for you and your employees.