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How to Use Workplace Software for Social Distancing

By Nai Kanell
Vice President of Marketing
SpaceIQ

Social distance policies govern every physical workplace right now—and will continue to long after the coronavirus pandemic ends. Facility managers need to look at these policies through a long-term lens. Beyond rearranging a few desks and building distance into everyday operations, FMs need to track and optimize these new workplace concepts. To do this effectively requires workplace software for social distancing insights.

In the same way workplace software helps FMs understand space utilization and efficiency, it’s paramount as they create new workplace parameters. The rules that govern the workplace have changed, but the means by which we create and manage an optimal workplace haven’t. Workplace software holds the answers.

What kind of software should Facility Managers use?

Social distance in the workplace depends largely on workplace design. To modulate distance through thoughtful design, FMs need to lean on software with floor planning and seat tracking capabilities. Features like stack planning and move management are also important. The obvious choice for office software and social distancing is an Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS). Computer-Aided Facilities Management (CAFM) software is also effective.

These two pieces of software give Facilities Managers the tools they need to identify proximity problems, tweak (or reinvent) seating arrangements, and oversee employee interaction with new distance-conscious workspaces.

Identify current capacity and modify for distancing

Before they can explore workplace physical distancing solutions, FMs need a baseline. That starts with a review of their current floor plan from a top-down view. Both IWMS and CAFM software provide floor plans at-scale, and allow managers to quickly identify areas where distance may be an issue:

  • Desking arrangements that are too close together
  • Communal areas where employees may congregate
  • Thoroughfares where traffic may become a concern
  • Workspaces meant to foster in-person, close collaboration

Redlining these areas on a floor plan shows facility managers where their priorities are as they modify the workplace. A few problem areas are easy to change; a floor plan full of concerns may need complete re-tooling for distance.

IWMS and CAFM software will also contextualize floor plans. A flex space with occupancy for 12 may only afford room for four hot desks with distancing measures. This information helps facility managers make conscious decisions when rearranging or recreating floor plans. It’s the key to understanding what’s possible and feasible within the confines of certain spaces and the workplace as a whole.

Create distance-conscious floor plans

With current floor plans in-hand and an IWMS or CAFM behind them, facilities managers have the office physical distancing tools they need to reimagine the workplace. Now it’s a question of approach: top-down or bottom-up?

A top-down approach considers macro changes first. An FM might look at a stack plan to determine dense departments or spaces operating at-capacity, and rearrange space to even-out the occupancy of different floors or workspaces. It’s also a smart approach for broad policy changes that affect how employees interact with the workplace. This approach benefits multifaceted facilities—offices spread over several floors or across a campus.

A bottom-up approach focuses on the smallest changes first and encourages a workspace-by-workspace adaptation of facilities. Can you move two or three desks instead of relocating an entire group of people? What space-specific changes can you make to create distance without disruption? Bottom-up approaches benefit organizations with smaller facility sprawl and those with already-distant desking concepts.

Regardless of approach, the result needs to be a new floor plan that’s built for social distancing in the workplace. While variables like room capacity and desk layout may change, the goal is still to provide a work environment that supports employees.

Manage the space and track modified metrics

Plug your new floor plan into your IWMS or CAFM tool to manage everything from the physical shift of your facilities to the way employees interact with them. Don’t forget the metrics, either! FMs need to know that employees are observing distance-focused changes and that the new workspace is efficient. Workplace software provides several key resources:

  • Seat delegation, assignment, and tracking tools, to enforce distancing policies
  • Workplace directory integration, so employees can quickly find one another
  • Workplace reporting metrics, to track key metrics in a modified environment
  • Wayfinding integrations, to help employees navigate the new workplace

All these features add up to better oversight and accountability in socially-distant workplaces. Facility managers can see the workplace, assign desks, enforce seating, and improve navigability—all without disruption. It culminates in a smooth transition from a workplace concept employees are familiar with, to one that’s necessary.

Software creates metrics and enables oversight

Social distancing may reduce your room capacity from 10 to six, or change the applicable desking concepts for your workplace—but that doesn’t mean you need to rebuild your workplace from nothing. Take what you have and adapt, and rely on the same workplace software you already use to help ease the transition.

Use workplace software to reimagine your workspace through a new lens: one that accommodates the new restrictions, policies, and concerns of a post-coronavirus world. Some changes will be major, others minor; they can all come together in harmony if you model them with the help of workplace software.

Keep reading: Modifying Your Workplace for Social Distancing

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COVID-19 Employee Training is Essential

By Katherine Schwartz
Demand Generation Specialist
SpaceIQ

The post-coronavirus workplace is a whole new ballgame. What was once familiar and second-nature to employees is now completely different. There are extra safety steps and new work processes—many of which might seem cumbersome. The workplace can seem foreign, even to long-tenured employees. COVID-19 employee training is essential to help them get comfortable with the changes and embrace the workplace as a familiar place where they can be productive.

What employees need to know spans all facets of change in the workplace—from a new floorplan, to expectations for interaction, to safety and health protocols. Whether they’re coming back after a COVID-19 halitus or adapting to changes on the fly, set aside time for training. It’s a straightforward way to address the newness of the workplace and get everyone on the same page about the changes—many of which are likely here to stay.

Workplace layout considerations

Chances are, you’ve changed your workplace to accommodate social distancing guidelines and to decrease opportunities for congregation. Don’t expect employees to automatically adapt! Show them how to properly interact in their new workspaces. Without guidance on how to use a new floor plan, employees will either revert back to what they know or do what they think makes sense… which might clash with others or the intent of the new layout. Take the time to go over the modified layout, new ways to use the workplace, and expectations for workspace utilization.

Coronavirus-conscious processes

Don’t congregate at the copy machine. No more than five people in the break room at a time. Stay six feet apart. Depending on your workplace, there may be a bevy of new processes that employees need to get up to speed on before they dive back into work. Take some time to go over these new processes and the expectations for them. It’s not enough to send a memo, either. Host a virtual all-hands meeting or go over these expectations one-on-one as part of a slow reintegration. Make them an everyday focus to engrain good habits—and to prevent old habits from creeping back into the picture.

PPE usage and hygiene expectations

Make sure your employees not only wear masks and other relevant PPE, but wear these items correctly. Employers have a duty to maintain a safe work environment, which extends to how individual employees protect themselves and others. Whether you supply masks or provide guidance on the types of face coverings allowed, make this information readily available and often-referenced. The same goes for hand-washing and sanitizing, and any other forms of personal hygiene. Provide clear expectations for employees to follow, so everyone meets the same high standards of personal safety and cleanliness.

Self-screening protocols

If your workplace implements an employee self-screening process, take the time to build out an entire process. Then, make that process broadly known to employees. Every employee should know what symptoms to check for, how to check for them, when to stay home from work, and how to inform the company of their absence. Make these guidelines clear and the protocol simple to follow—whether that’s working from home for a couple days or reporting the results of a COVID-19 test to return to work. There shouldn’t be any room for uncertainty when it comes to how employees handle their personal wellness screenings

Telecommuting standards

So much goes into training employees on remote work standards. If you haven’t already, compile a robust telecommuting guide for employees and standardize processes for granting access to remote employees. Then, take the time to train employees on how to do their job from home. It goes beyond communicating new methods and practices—training should also include cybersecurity best practices, acceptable working hours, communication expectations, and answers to questions about specific situations. If remote employees feel like working from home is a free-for-all, they’ll treat it like one. Training is the difference between a flexible telecommuting situation and a chaotic one.

Take the mystery out of the workplace

There may never be a return to pre-coronavirus operations, but that doesn’t mean the workplace can’t ever be as productive as it once was. Take the time to train employees and get them acclimated to their new surroundings and expectations. It won’t take long for them to adapt. When they feel comfortable and the workplace begins to feel like a familiar backdrop once again, productivity, culture, and morale will begin to pick up. It won’t be long until the new workplace feels like the old one.

Keep reading: Coronavirus Workplace Management Resources