The 2019 workplace trend you cannot afford to ignore

You don’t have a second chance to make a first impression.

By Gregory Blondeau
Spring 2019
Tags: workplace design • visitor experience • corporate culture• workplace technology

A Conversation with Gregory Blondeau

The Article

Every year I sit down with workplace experts from across the globe to identify the top workplace trends that businesses simply cannot afford to ignore. The purpose is to help prepare workplace professionals for the future by collecting, assessing, and reporting the trends that will most impact organisations.

In 2019 one strong trend stands out from the crowd: the integrated workplace; and deeper than that, the integrated visitor experience.

As managers and business owners, we must factor multiple technology-driven trends into our strategies. However, getting the front-desk experience wrong can leave a shocking two in five customers and visitors with a negative impression of your brand. Can we as vibrant, growing businesses, risk leaving a potential 40 percent of customers with bad impressions? That’s a significant financial implication no business can afford.

First impressions count

The old saying rings true: ‘It takes over 100 good impressions to make up for one bad one’. As managers who have climbed career ranks know, you can never make a first impression twice.  And that goes for every single visitor who forms an opinion of an organisation within split seconds of entering its reception area.

And it is clear that despite the digital age we live in, the human touch is still king. Every day, more than eleven million face-to-face business meetings happen across the United States (busy professionals attend over sixty meetings every month). In parallel, face-to-face business is calculated to be worth £193bn annually to the United Kingdom economy.

Of the 2,000 US and UK office workers we surveyed for Proxyclick’s annual ‘Front Desk Experience’ survey, over seventy percent (71.5%) cited unfriendly receptionists, followed by over half (53.8%) naming a lacklustre welcome as a top reason for their bad experience.

What measures can businesses take to address this situation? In 2019, the concept of an “Integrated Visitor Experience” (IVE) is the approach many organisations are implementing to ensure their customers are treated as VIPs when visiting their premises.

What are we dealing with?

The entrance lobby is an organisation’s first opportunity to demonstrate how efficiently and professionally it operates. Certainly, no one likes to be kept waiting whether it is for that last restaurant table or that all-important call-back, and certainly not when they are arriving for an important meeting.

Forward-thinking businesses are now combining the latest visitor management technology (e.g. an iPad app for people to check themselves in with), with first-class front-of-house staff to ensure that the check-in-and-wait process is as smooth as possible.

To create great rapport and relationships, you must make clients feel welcome in your premises. Long queues in reception, repeated requests for ID’s, and security escorts through entry barriers are jarring experiences, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Many organisations are now taking a leap forward by integrating entire smart systems that create the ultimate, streamlined visitor experience: a visitor check-in app for arrival, automated gate systems for controlled access, and even meeting room management and catering.

Where are we now?

How have we arrived at such an exciting technological junction? It has been a while coming, and 2018 was the year that saw the rise of property technology, or “PropTech,” as the market finally began waking up to workplace digitalisation. Beautiful workplace environments are no longer enough; state-of-the-art technology must also be part of a modern office.

PropTech startups have started innovating the workplace with unprecedented solutions for visitor management, meeting room management, employee apps, indoor navigation, the Internet of Things, and access control, to name a few. I predict that in 2019 we will see the best-of-breed startups integrating their offerings with each other to deliver a truly modern workplace.

Welcome to the experience economy

We are moving from the service economy to the experience economy. It is no longer enough to provide a good service to your customers. You must deliver a memorable experience for it to have lasting value.

According to economists, experiences are emerging as the next step in the progression of economic value. Not five to ten years ago the definition of a visitor experience was simply how someone was received in a building or premises and how they are able to move around.

This view would typically involve an organisation’s Visitor Management Solution (VMS) or paper logbook to check them in, and various forms of access control/entry systems to securely guide them to their meeting location. Multiple systems used during a visitor’s stay worked separately, relying on human input to use each system individually. For example, booking a meeting room and any associated audio-visual equipment, emailing a calendar request, and then ordering refreshments or booking a parking space – each was a distinct process, with no digital connection to the other processes.

Today, the rise of smart buildings and developments in automation, open application programming, interface standards, and cloud technology, have changed the game. The Integrated Visitor Experience (IVE) can now begin the very moment you connect with your guest.

The IVE is about making every visitor feel like a VIP while also creating value for the organisation. Automated technologies now help organizations to ensure that communications are sent by the host so that services and facilities pre-booked and appropriate access is granted to visitors even before they arrive.

Organisations should be able to extend the same warm, special welcome to an expected business visitor as they would a guest in their own home. Integrated technological solutions are now capable of ‘talking’ to each other, to ensure that the safety and security of the organization remains paramount.

The cloud and Software as a Service (SaaS) now facilitate a smooth and seamless integration across multiple technologies. For example, VMS will sync with the Access Control System (ACS) to automatically grant the appropriate level of access to a visitor, without the need for multiple, clunky security checks.

Ultimately, the IVE is about creating greater efficiencies for both the visitor and the hosting organisation. Reducing time lost due to late starts or even cancelled meetings is a strong example. According to the University of Nebraska Omaha (2018), somewhere between 40 and 50 percent of all US meetings start late. And it has been proven that once meetings are delayed by 10 minutes or more, they’re likely to be significantly less effective. And what if it is your check-in procedures, security, or wayfinding that causes the tardiness?

The IVE also means being prepared for your visitor so (when possible) all the security administration is taken care of before a visitor is on-site. For an expected visitor, systems should recognise their arrival so gates and barriers automatically open, ensuring that they feel welcome and relaxed. The check-in process can be customized based on a company’s individual needs and the experience it wants to provide its visitors. One added touch, for example, can be the ability to pre-order their favourite beverage. Adding these kinds of special services is much appreciated after a hectic commute.

The experience is often the polar opposite when visiting buildings still running on more archaic security and building technologies, and without smart integration. This situation usually means additional time spent navigating and finding a space in the corporate car park, long queues to check in with the receptionist, and multiple security checks for different departments. Even something as simple as a drink of water can require a long wait.

How are integrated solutions delivering the smart visitor experience?

Best of breed solutions

As we move towards IVE, organizations are increasingly purchasing software from different vendors to obtain the best-of-breed offering for each application area. Simply put: no vendor can be the best at everything.

Today, many expert systems are in the second or third incarnation with tens of thousands of person-hours invested effort in development. Integration supports plug and play with the most appropriate products.


The most important outcome of converged systems is that safety and security are maintained, always. Historically, access control would only be accessible to employees, resulting in the need to always escort visitors throughout a facility. Beyond efficiency, however, the convergence of all of a visitor’s credentials onto a single card or device can greatly improve security and reduce ongoing operational costs.

As physical security and the cloud converge, a visitor pathway can be programmed and pre-authorised before arrival. Access can be as granular as a room, on a floor at a time; and any deviations from that route are recorded even when access is denied. This capability can be further extended to the realms of IT security, should an organisation wish to grant contractors/visitors access to IT equipment while they are on-site.

If a threat is detected, IT and physical security can work seamlessly to lessen risk. For example, if a visitor were to remove a computer, IT safeguards can identify its movement and immediately alert CCTV and access control to monitor the situation. If need be, they can even communicate a lock-down to the entrance or exit doors.


To create better rapport and relationships, visitors must feel welcome in your premises. This feeling can be achieved by integrating entire smart systems that bring together all the moving parts.

At Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation, integrated Visitor Management Systems (VMS) and Access Control Systems (ACS) enable the corporation to manage a closed perimeter for tenant security while delivering a first-class visitor experience to some of New York’s most prolific entrepreneurs. Waiting time is reduced and overall efficiency is improved.

Compliance and evidencing (e.g. the General Data Protection Regulation)

Did you know that within 10 seconds of visitors entering your organisation’s premises, they will encounter their first General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) touchpoint with you? To make sure your organisation is not in breach of the new data protection law that took effect in May 2018, it is critical that robust data management systems be put in place early-on.

With regards to front-of-house, collecting and storing a visitor’s personal data means holding personal information such as names, car registrations, and contact numbers – all of which could put you at risk of a data breach.

Differential value

People are ‘wired’ for human contact, and no technology can replace that personal touch. By automating the more menial tasks that usually consume a receptionist’s time, organizations can free their receptionists to focus on meaningful hospitality. Why have a receptionist taking name and number plate details during check-in, when they could spend their time providing guests with their favourite beverage or helping them log on to the wi-fi?

A Case Study: Integrated expansion at Brooklyn Navy Yard

(by Marc A. Cecere | Project Manager, Technology, at Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation)

Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation’s 300-acre site has become the City of New York’s home of urban manufacturing, supporting a vibrant community where manufacturing, design, and technology companies can grow.

The Challenge

Set to welcome over 10,000 new employees in the next five years, the Navy Yard site is growing rapidly. With seven entry points to the site, security personnel must manage a large volume of visitors, from pedestrians and staff vehicles to the local Metro bus and delivery trucks.

While it is imperative to have a closed perimeter for tenant security, we host some of New York’s most prolific entrepreneurs who welcome important visitors and deliveries every day, so it is critical that our access systems are efficient and do not hassle our tenant’s guests any more than is necessary.

We needed an integrated solution to combine our Visitor Management System and our Access Control System to enable us to manage both staff and visitor flow efficiently and securely.

The solution

Integrated experience: Each hybrid gate sports both drive-through and pedestrian ID card readers for staff, and separate barcode scanners for visitors. Some of our buildings also operate turnstiles that staff and pre-registered visitors can access.

When a tenant registers a visitor through our VMS, it generates a barcode and automatically syncs this with the access control system, pre-authorising the visitor before his or her arrival to ensure a smooth check-in process at the gate.

Managing transport link: On the face of it, our access control requirements are relatively simple. Yet when we add shuttle buses that have mobile card readers and barcode readers to the gates and pedestrian access requirements, the technology stack required to support such a large and growing network is significant.

Data insights: Using data drawn from our VMS, we can identify tenants with higher volumes of non-registered visitors and can now reach out to them and help them get up to speed. With reduced traffic as a major objective, it is vital that all tenants pre-register their visitors wherever possible, to cut down on both administration and security checks at the gate.

The future

To further streamline the visitor experience and relieve traffic further, we are keen to integrate licence plate scanning with our current smart system. I believe this integration will dramatically lower the volume of traffic at the gates. Integration between the ACS and licence plate scanner would also help solve an ongoing issue with deliveries. Pre-registering drivers is a problem, as we are often not provided with names. Pre-approving their truck plates would speed this process up.

What next?

In 2019 and beyond, the corporate world is starting to connect the dots between the technology experience customers expect when they visit corporate premises, and the apparent ‘disconnect’ there has been to date. As smart cities are developed and visitors use the latest technologies such as high-speed rail, driverless cars, and smart motorways, creating an integrated visitor experience will become a true differentiator.

Embedded smart systems will ultimately help corporate real estate and facility professionals redefine their role to one that is more strategic, freeing them from the daily grind of monitoring individual systems and managing multiple suppliers.

To achieve this goal, stronger partnerships between facility management, IT, and security teams are imperative. There needs to be a deep understanding of technology, people and processes, which can only happen when links between IT and security heads are strengthened. And the result? A robust, safe, and warm welcoming experience so that all our visitors feel like genuine VIPs.

Top 10 Workplace Trends to watch in 2019

(read more at:

  1. The Hybrid: Recognising that “all workplaces exist in a state of perpetual beta.”
  2. Business drives improvements: Business, not the workplace, needs to drive performance improvement.
  3. Agile solutions: The main drivers of this being economic and political uncertainty.
  4. Better tenant experience: As expectations of tenants rise, a better tenant experience must be delivered.
  5. Culture is the key: Investing in culture as the enabler for the workplace transformation.
  6. Divergent Creativity / Co-creation: Agile spaces foster environments for inclusive ideation and co-creation.
  7. End of one size fits all: Productivity and our personal satisfaction at work will rise as a result.
  8. Wellness: Having a Wellness strategy is essential in enhancing health and well-being to improve business outcomes.
  9. Smart Occupancy: Building and workspace intelligence must evolve to ride the waves in the changing workforce.
  10. Integrated workplace: Best-of-breed startups will integrate their offerings with each other to deliver a truly modern workplace.

Gregory Blondeau decided he had to be an entrepreneur at a very early age. After a few successful ventures during his school years that made him popular among his fellow students (to whom he sold boxer shorts and music compilations), he obtained a business engineering degree from KU Leuven (including Erasmus in Barcelona) and left his home country to work abroad.

He spent a decade between Munich, London, and Paris, working for the private telecommunications division of Siemens AG and nurturing his interest for European politics, culture, languages, and way of living. He returned to Brussels in 2000, working in two start-ups before co-founding Proxyclick. Since then he has been working tirelessly to develop the business first in Belgium, then across Europe, and most recently in North America.



Twitter:  @proxyclick

corporate cultureexperience economyfacilitiesfirst impresssionsvisitor experienceworkplace designworkplace innovationworkplace technology
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