PropTech Workplace Technologies

Workplace Technology Strategies and the Flow of Business: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

March 2021

Written by Brittany G. Greer, Arenson

Moderator: Brigitte Beltran – Space Matrix, Head of International Client Solutions

Speakers: Tannaz Mohammadi, Director of Strategic Partnerships, ZO, Tishman Speyer

Ellen Albert, EVP Global Real Estate and Facilities, ViacomCBS

Katherine Huh, Advisory Director, PwC

Almost a year has passed since New York City went into lockdown. Many offices remain closed, while others have opened at a reduced capacity. CoreNet New York hosted a virtual event to discuss how technology can assist with getting employees back to the office and keeping them engaged in a remote environment.

Each panelist brought their unique perspective to this timely discussion led by Brigitte Beltran, Head of International Client Solutions at Space Matrix. Ellen Albert, Executive Vice President of Global Real Estate and Facilities at ViacomCBS kicked off the conversation, noting that health and safety are their top priorities as they navigate these unprecedented times. Many of ViacomCBS’s buildings have remained opened for essential employees, specifically in regards to production, pushing them to create safety protocols immediately. They created a digital health questionnaire that is filled out on a daily basis and grants the employee a check mark on their phone if they’re clear to enter the building. 

Katherine Huh, Advisory Director at PwC, discussed how their company has used technology to virtually support people that are no longer physically in the office. PwC is following the philosophy of their “Be Well, Work Well” initiative, which stems from the idea that if employees are healthy and happy, they’ll be more productive. With this in mind, PwC has set out to create community through technology, ensuring team members have access to child care and mental health resources. 

Tishman Speyer’s ZO platform is a hospitality initiative offered to their tenants that drives employee satisfaction and retention. The app is a resource for community events, virtual programming, and curated services. Tannaz Mohammadi, Director of Strategic Partnerships at ZO, explained how their team was able to use the existing platform and simply update it with virtual resources, such as live fitness classes and educational workshops. ZO can also be used to send push notifications with real-time information about safety practices, food delivery, and cleaning measures. The consensus of panelists was that centralized communication is key for teambuilding and trust. The technology will be most effective if it’s all coming from one place, rather than multiple platforms.

Even with technology, the remote work environment still poses new challenges. New employees may feel lost in an increasingly virtual world. Managers may have a difficult time leading over Zoom. Katherine noted a resource called The Forum, a virtual leadership boot camp. The Forum helps keep managers accountable as they lead remotely and teaches the culture of networking.

Overall, the pandemic has created a unique opportunity for landlords and tenants to collaborate in ways they never have, which will hopefully translate into a more inspiring experience for the employee. Sixty-seven percent of participants agreed that we will be returning to a hybrid workplace, challenging employers to provide an elevated office environment. ZO threw a socially distanced rooftop party with a live DJ, which they also streamed through their app. ViacomCBS is discussing new norms for remote workers, encouraging team members that breaks are okay, especially when there aren’t clear boundaries between work life and home life. PwC is exploring VR and holograms to bridge the gap for hybrid meetings. With a lot of hard work and help from technology, companies have a rare opportunity to make the office a place everyone can’t wait to get back to.