Facto is Holland’s leading facility management and corporate housing platform. They asked Michael Bouwens to discuss the trends for 2021.
The corona virus forced most of us to work from home, so it seems logical that the office environment is becoming less important. “No”, says Michael Bouwens firmly. “The opposite is true. If anything, the office will become more important.”
Maximum hospitality is the keyword here. “We’ll see a permanent shift from the traditional office into a hotel-without-beds”, the CEO and founder of bouwens& predicts.
Bouwens stresses that this trend started before the corona crisis. “For many of us, 2020 was the year we realized that the office will be more of a meeting place, a club house of sorts. But, actually, this was already happening before corona. The pandemic only sped things up.
The Hotel Mentality
“Sure, we can use our laptops wherever we want”, says Bouwens. “However, meeting new and familiar faces, exchanging ideas, catching up; it’s all done best in a suitable environment. The office can be such an environment, when it’s focused on interacting, creating, connecting, and cooperating. It should breathe the culture and values of the organization.”
How guests are welcomed in such an environment determines the image of a company, according to Bouwens. “And when I say guests, I mean visitors, but also employees, suppliers, interview candidates, service mechanics, couriers, you name it. It’s our craft to make all these people feel at home, the minute they walk in. They are all equally important and deserve a perfect service, from A to Z. This hotel mentality will become increasingly important for organisations across the board.”
“Business is not done between companies, right? It’s people doing business with people.”
Bouwens is convinced that this so-called hotel mentality is not merely an option. He believes it to be a simple commercial necessity. “Talent should be incentivized and nurtured. Clients should be cherished. Being sincerely hospitable could mean the difference between winning or losing.”
A key figure within the bouwens& hospitality process is the Host(ess). “They connect guests and employees in a safe, swift, and friendly fashion. The Host welcomes you, escorts you to where you need to be, arranges a good cup of coffee, checks in from time to time to see how you’re doing, and sends you on your way with a smile and a thank you. You are the guest. You should feel as if you’re being supported by a personal assistant.”
This is why ‘entrance management’ doesn’t do the job justice. Bouwens prefers the term ‘guest management’. “A guest journey starts at the entrance with the right signage before the parking barrier. It ends when guests leave the office. Throughout their visit, guests and employees should feel that our hosts are involved and interested. The guest should have their full attention.”
Health and safety
In this new office environment, health will be prominently present, even when COVID-19 is under control. “There was already a strong focus on healthy and responsible catering. Facilities concerning health and safety will be added to that. Offering everyone in your office a healthy and safe environment is a basic condition if you want them to return.”
Companies will require more hospitable security officers. “A Security Host ensures that social distancing guidelines are being followed, and does so in a friendly, understanding, and hospitable way. They don’t give instructions, they guide.”
Bouwens predicts that security, hospitality, and other responsibilities will be combined in one position. “Integration of responsibilities will become more popular. Not only to improve the quality of service, but also to cut costs.”
A warm bath
“We all know places where we feel welcome, safe, and at home; maybe a restaurant, or a coffee bar. This is the kind of space the office should become; a place you want to return to. I’ll even take it one step further. Ask yourself in which public place you felt most welcome. You’ll probably end up thinking about that lovely agriturismo in Italy, or that quinta in Portugal where they welcomed you so kindly, it felt like stepping into a warm bath. This is the sensation we should aim for in the office.”
“Safety, health, and hospitality come together in one position.”
Bouwens continues to explain how he expects companies to see the importance of ‘service with a smile’. “What else will motivate people to come to the office? What will bind them to you?” Without social interaction, without involvement, a company’s success will quickly crumble, according to the hospitality specialist’s founder. “Business is not done between companies, right? It’s people doing business with people.”
In an office environment that puts the user or visitor first, technology is an essential tool. For example, in meeting rooms which are gaining popularity at the expense of traditional ‘desks’. These rooms are equipped with beamers, screens, video call facilities, and IT-support. “Here, the same goes as in the rest of the office: we’ll have to bridge physical distance with personal connections.”
“It starts with visitor registration. It’s really not that hard to combine a warm reception with swift, effective, and safe procedures. Complex forms or questionnaires at the reception can be avoided by using an accessible app that announces their visit, includes a health check, and informs their appointment. These type of solutions will become more and more popular, because the more streamlined this process is, the more time is left to offer excellent service.”