• Brad Gibbon

FastOffice - The Safer Change Agent

The short term impacts of isolation, social distancing and lock-downs have been extraordinary for the work world. Factories are closed or working at reduced capacity, retail stores and malls are shuttered, people have started wearing masks as they line up (six feet apart) at their local supermarket or pharmacy, and commercial offices are eerily empty. In the meantime, those who can work remotely are doing so, and the meeting app Zoom has seen a 25-fold increase in daily users since the end of 2019.

However, as the initial shock of the pandemic fades, there is increasing debate and speculation about how to return to work safely, and what the “new normal” will look like once we do. How should offices be laid out? What guidelines such as intensive cleaning or use of PPE need to be put in place to reduce the risks of infection? How many people can actually be in an office environment that likely held many more before the pandemic? How will meetings be conducted? What happens when a vaccine is widely available? The list goes on.

FastOffice has a simple way to answer some of these questions, helping employees get back to work and landlords manage the value of their assets in challenging times.

Our technology was originally developed to illustrate to tenants how they might fit in a vacant office space, complete with furnishings and walls. It uses visualization, 3D virtual tours and furniture libraries, rapidly developed and editable in real time, to transform a generic space into something specifically suited to a tenant’s needs. FastOffice gives them the visual evidence to help them decide.

Many tenants, landlords and other vendors to the CRE space have realized that the same speed, utility and understanding built into FastOffice for leasing due diligence can be just as easily used to create a safer work environment. Using an as-built or vacant floor plan of a suite, FastOffice can within hours create a layout that addresses six foot social and working separations and provides suggested traffic patterns. The furniture, doors and walls can just as easily be edited on the fly, even during a virtual meeting with a tenant, to make sure it “works for work” while maintaining safer distances.

Tenants can use the outcome of the rapid visualization to make strategic decisions. If their lease is ending in less than two years, then a significant investment in new furnishings or reconfiguring space may not be sensible - the safer layout methodology visualized in FastOffice may simply be the relocation or removal of workstations, the repurposing of meeting rooms and consideration of staggered shift work for employees who will work remotely some of the time.

With a longer lease term, or for that matter, looking at new spaces, the layout and visualization processes are the same, but the layout might point to more significant alterations of walls, common areas or even furniture types to maximize the use of the space while maintaining separations. And, as part of the process, options can quickly be developed and visualized to see what the consequences of a vaccine are on the use of the space longer term. Will it be a return to older standards? A hybrid? Are enough people settled with remote working to make their situation permanent? How will an employer and staff use communal spaces?

The future is hard to predict, but getting us all back to work is essential. FastOffice accelerates the scenario development and decision making by making the outcomes visual and tangible. The discussion is no longer theoretical or hard to understand. In this way, FastOffice is becoming the safer change agent.

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