COVID Leadership

By Reagan Nickl
Director of Partner and Customer Success

Business leaders face pressure every day. Pressure to deliver a product to their customers or to meet internal goals, for example. Good leaders shoulder this pressure and translate it into actionable direction. Their leadership shields front-line workers from stress and anxiety, while getting results. That said, the combination of COVID-19 and workplace leadership is brand new territory for most companies.

Businesses face prolific and unprecedented challenges due to coronavirus. In the face of new and still unknown obstacles, the workplace needs leaders more than ever. Good leadership in the time of pandemic goes beyond the ability to channel pressure to results. Leaders need to forge ahead and offer support in ways they might not be familiar with.

Emotional leadership

People are scared, frustrated, anxious, and a broad mix of other worried emotions. There’s no telling when the pandemic will end, what course it will take in the coming months, or how we as a society will respond to it. There’s a lot up in the air. It’s up to workplace leaders to keep employees grounded.

Good emotional leadership during uncertain times is a powerful force. It can boost confidence and provide clarity, and help employees focus when they might be prone to distraction. To be a good emotional leader you need to project stability. Encourage employees to focus not on what they can’t control, but what they can control. Their work is a great example. Show them the brighter side of the situation—they’re still gainfully employed at a company that cares about their wellbeing.

More than anything, leaders need to be emotionally available during the COVID-19 pandemic. Employee fears and uncertainties will creep up from time to time. When they do, they need someone to reassure them with honesty, confidence, and empathy.

Technological leadership

There’s been a huge embrace of technology since the pandemic started. Companies seeking adaptive solutions to telecommuting, workplace distancing, and modified operations have found it in technology. For employees, it often means a crash course in using new tech and rapid integration of new processes into their routine.

Workplace leaders need to assume the role of technocrats. Get familiar with the technologies you expect your employees to use and become an oracle who can answer questions when asked. Not only will this reduce the already-strained workload on the company IT department, it’ll expedite employee acclimation to new apps and processes. You don’t need to be an infallible source of software expertise—you just need to provide guidance to the extent you expect employees to use new tech.

Agile leadership

For many workplaces, every new day of operation during the coronavirus pandemic is a new day of uncertainty. New floor plans, decentralized teams, and evolving employee needs all require different management approaches. Leaders need agility to maintain order and clarity.

Critical thinking is the key to agility. Workplace leaders need to quickly address the needs of their teams under the mindset of a workplace operating during COVID-19. How can you provide employees the tools, resources, and support they need without deviating from safety efforts? How do you manage in-house employees vs. remote workers vs. their interactions with clients? What’s the hierarchy of priorities right now and how can you adapt to meet them? Leaders need to constantly adjust and pivot to keep up with the pandemic. Agility is paramount.

Policy leadership

Policy changes—temporary and permanent—are critical as workplaces strive to stay safe during the pandemic. For these policies to be effective, employees need to embrace and follow them. It starts at the top, with leaders.

Leaders need to not only observe new workplace policies themselves, but encourage others to mind them as well. Whether it’s social distancing policies, hand washing protocols, occupancy parameters, or any other policy meant to keep employees safe, leaders pave the way for compliance. When employees see senior staff following protocols, they’ll take them seriously and mind their own behaviors as well.

All this, on top of traditional leadership

As they navigate new technologies and act as stewards for new workplace policies, good leaders also need to fulfill their core roles. They need to keep business operations running smoothly, and to get the most out of their subordinates. They’re responsible for meeting the goals and expectations of the company, consumers, and stakeholders. They’re expected to shoulder the pressure that comes with their position.

Recognize COVID-19 and workplace leadership within your organization, and provide these leaders with as much support and as many resources as you can muster. Good leadership is what will help companies weather the pandemic and emerge strong after it’s over.

Keep reading: Workplace Resources For A Post COVID-19 Environment

Workplace Thought Leadership

Adjusting Workplace Strategies for a Post-COVID Future

By Laura Woodard
Real Estate & Workplace Program Manager (Ret.)

“…I believe scarcity breeds clarity: it focuses minds, forcing people to think creatively and rise to the challenge.”
Sergey Brin, Google Co-founder & President, Technology
2008 Founders’ Letter (May 2009)

Those words resonated deeply with everyone at Google at a time when the housing market crashed to record lows. Like the Dot-com bubble burst of the late 1990s and early 2000s, Google weathered the storm by embracing Sergey’s words: “Scarcity breeds clarity.” We ruthlessly prioritized, did more with less, and planned for the future.

The world faces a greater challenge in COVID-19. Yes, businesses are closing. But this time, people are dying from an enemy not interested in instant online business success or low mortgage rates. Companies of all sizes and types have closed their doors not because of economic strain; they’re shuttered to keep employees and customers alive.

As the business community prepares to reopen, its path remains fraught with perils we don’t understand, nor are prepared to face. Social distancing is defining a new workplace structure that may require a completely different work model based on remote employees, staggered shifts, and smaller footprints. But one thing is certain: we won’t go back to the way things were in January 2020.

Get out of the weeds

It’s easy to become mired in the day-to-day issues of getting back to business under COVID-19. You’ve got a lot of questions—but they may not be the right ones. Instead of only planning where to put hand sanitizer stations, you should also be asking how you’ll adjust to changes two to five years from now.

Crises will come and go, but how you adapt to the changes those emergencies foster is the difference between success and failure. There’s no crystal ball to guide your decision-making, but focusing on change management vs. crisis management requires big-picture vision.

First, create a cross-functional team including executive management, HR, people managers, and employees who work in lockstep on strategies that cover a two-to-five-year horizon. The team should meet on a regular basis to assess current strategies and make adjustments. Note: there may be an existing cross-functional team established already that you can leverage for this longer-term outlook.

Because there’s no one-size-fits-all change management structure, the cross-functional team should create a decision tree that identifies the strategies, tactics, and incidentals your business needs to succeed. Think of each branch as a different strategic path you take depending on the change that’s required.

Finally, plan for likely scenarios. Play the “If this, then that” game to identify and plan for internal and external circumstances. Your decision tree determines which of these tactics to use and the cross-functional team ensures the right work gets done at the right time.

These plans aren’t tabletop exercises based on imagination, but on data. Your cross-functional team should determine how to measure business success during the reopening phase. Specific metrics and outcomes will help clarify how a physical comeback to the office—even at a partial level—will support operations. Key areas to explore are employee uncertainty, the effects of social distancing on capacity, and long-term lease considerations.

The human element

Because the workplace is a microcosm of society, there’s a human element to consider as you reopen your business. You need to acknowledge that employees are dealing with a heightened state of individual fears as well as a sense of loss. In addition to anxiety surrounding their personal lives, they could be carrying residual stress from this extended shutdown and the negative impacts it may have had on your company.

As you welcome employees back to the office, offer clear communication channels for them to voice their concerns. Their apprehensions may involve workplace-related issues like the process of returning to the building, issues with public transportation, or private considerations about a family death, mental health, or a lack of access to childcare.

If your company has multiple locations, be aware that communications will need to be tempered for each site. New Yorkers, for example, are going to have a different state of mind than employees in areas where cases haven’t been as high. Tailor your response guidelines and workplace modifications to each city, county, and state to match the realities of their situations.

Managers should also be empowered to both receive and relay concerns from the frontlines. In a March Gallup poll, only 54% of employees felt strongly “that their supervisor keeps them informed about what is going on in the organization.” Managers are in the best position to understand individual concerns, as well as judge team morale. They know which roles can be done remotely, those unique to the office, and what technology solutions both groups will need.

End of crammed offices

Companies across every industry have long been reducing the square footage allocated for individual workstations. Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City, was once famous for adopting an open-office concept in a government building. Dubbed the Bullpen, employees were stationed at small desks configured in tight rows. But the practice of working shoulder-to-shoulder is—at least for the time being—a big no-no.

Business owners should determine if hoteling, hot desks, and benching can accommodate on-site workers under social-distancing rules. Even if you currently offer reservable desks, employees might be worried about who else sat there and for how long. Plus, there’s now a question of adding daily janitorial services to sanitize desks and other work surfaces.

One solution to alleviate overcrowding and improve cleaning efficiency is to implement A/B days. The first step is to determine where people normally sit, then calculate capacity based on distancing guidelines. Because social distancing significantly alters capacity, space planning software can show how to place people at safe intervals.

Remodel or renegotiate

Now, step forward 18 months. Theoretically, you should feel comfortable making permanent decisions about workplace strategies. We’ll likely have more clarity on a “new normal” and how that impacts workplace operations. Is social distancing still needed? If not, should you abandon hot desks for more permanent workstations? Can you design for capacity or is distancing required?

Changing the physical workplace is an expensive endeavor;it be done easily or quickly. Companies need to consider how long social distancing might last before committing to layout changes that require a remodel. It’s worth remembering that a construction project often depreciates over the length of the lease. If your lease expires in 10 years, 18 months is not that long to wait for a renovation.

The coronavirus pandemic has made companies even more cautious of committing to decades-long leases and costly buildouts. As businesses inevitably shutter during this period, turnkey office space at below-market rates is more readily available. It may be prudent to evaluate these options and take the opportunity to negotiate more flexible terms for your existing lease.

Look to the future

The end of the COVID-19 story is unclear; we have no way of knowing where each of us will be after this saga. But the silver lining for businesses is an opportunity to recalibrate. When everything has changed, it’s wise to pause and take a fresh look at the how’s and why’s of doing business.

Companies no longer have the luxury of holding onto the mantra of “We have always done it this way, so that’s the way we should do it.” That’s putting your head in the sand. Don’t ignore the facts that business has changed. Instead, rise to the challenge, throw out the old rule books, and get laser-sharp about our workplace goals.

Keep Reading: COVID-19 Wokplace Management Resources

Workplace Thought Leadership

A Brief History of Digital Workplace Technology

By Nai Kanell
Director of Marketing

There’s no succinct point in time when digital technology became an integrated part of the workplace. Some argue it’s when the first Lyons Electronic Office (LEO) I computer booted up in 1951. Others consider it to be 1971, when Ray Tomlinson sent the first-ever email. Regardless of when the digital workplace revolution began, it’s led us to where we are today. The modern office is rife with digital workplace technology.

To understand how we got here—and where we’re going—we need to look back. How did the Apple I evolve into the modern laptops we use for telecommuting? What pushed the Internet from a simple relay network into a behemoth of cloud storage and applications? Most importantly, where is all this digital technology going to take us next?

Here’s a look at a brief history of workplace technology. Though we could arguably go back to the 1950s and 60s, we’re starting in the 70s, with the introduction of the personal computer. Truly, this is the best place to understand the workplace of the future, from its humble beginnings.


1970s and 80s: Computers enter the workplace

What is workplace technology without the personal computer? The laptops and workstations we enjoy today had much more modest roots—early Apple computers and IBM personal workstations.

The Apple I hit the market in 1976 to minimal fanfare. Amazing? Sure. Practical? Not a chance. It was the first of its breed, but a necessary commercial failure to pave the way for the Apple II just a year later. Laughable by today’s standards, it boasted a 6502-processor running at 1 MHz, with an 8-bit microprocessor chip and 48 kilobytes of RAM. But, in 1977, this was a truly viable computer—part of the “1977 Trinity” alongside the Commodore PET 2001 and the TRS-80, both of which had similar specs.

In 1982, International Business Machines (IBM) upped the ante, taking business computers from 8-bit to 16-bit. The first IBM PC nearly quintupled the speed of the Apple II, and boasted an 8088-processor running at 4.77 MHz. Apple responded with the Apple III and thus began the personal computer arms race. It was the start of computing in the workplace and the earliest inroad to digitizing work.

1990s: The Internet connects us all

By the 1990s, business computers had made their mark and every major enterprise had them. The next step in digitizing the workplace came in the form of creating the digital landscape. Thus, the Internet was born.

While the concept of the Internet was actually dreamt up and tested as far back as the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, the World Wide Web as we know it didn’t hit businesses until the 1990s. Computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee created the concept of digital “destinations,” what we know today as websites. Businesses could finally host and share information, and even communicate digitally via email.

Internet adoption took off in a flash—perhaps too fast, judging by the Dot-Com Bubble of the late 1990s. It was a time when the ingenuity of business met the infinite possibilities of the Internet. The 1990s paved the way for everything from email to ecommerce, giving us a whole new way to interact with digital technology in the workplace.

2000s: The introduction of the cloud and big data

In the mid-to-late 2000s, workplace technology trends pivoted quickly to the cloud. Businesses realized that the more data they were able to collect, the more it informed their actions. As if overnight, major businesses started to digitize their data. Away went the file cabinets and dossiers, in favor of file archives and spreadsheets.

This is also the time when the physical workplace began to see change. With everything digitized and available in the cloud, employees didn’t need to always work on-site. The world began to shrink, in a sense. Jim could work on his project at the office, save it to the cloud, then pick up work at home, across town, across the country, or anywhere in the world!

Accessibility from anywhere fueled tangible tech. Smartphones and tablets became commonplace and extremely useful business tools, which led to another technological arms race. Today, competition is still astounding among smartphone and tablet makers, as well as cloud solutions providers.

2010s: Rise of the Internet of Things (IoT)

Coming off a decade of technologies designed to help employees work outside the traditional workplace, this most recent decade was equally as cathartic for those who prefer to work in an office. Workplace technology solutions of the 2010s came in the form of IoT devices. Beyond connecting laptops, tablets, and smartphones to the cloud, we’ve now connected anything and everything!

The workplace IoT exploded in recent years, giving way to better workplace data collection, automation, and an improved relationship between employees and their environment. Entire workplaces benefit from webs of sensors and beacons designed to simplify work, add convenience, and improve workplace governance.

From occupancy and motion sensors, to hardware and software integrations that enable complex workflows, the modern workplace is equal parts digital and physical.

2020s: The workplace of future

It all brings us to today: the year 2020. We’re on the cusp of concepts like quantum computing and edge computing, and we work in environments that blend the realities of digital tech and the physical world. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are exciting possibilities, as well—applications we’re likely to see in the coming decade.

Whatever digital technologies we experience in the next 10 years, they’re ultimately the culmination of the last 50 years. From the introduction of personal business computers to the rise of the IoT, the way we work has evolved significantly. It’s still changing today.

Keep Reading: How Remote Working Tech Transformed the Way we Work.

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The Best COVID-19 Workplace Design

By Katherine Schwartz
Demand Generation Specialist

Most companies structure their workplace concept around the type of work their employees do on a daily basis. Meetings and collaborative efforts need an open, free-flowing environment; head-down solo work warrants benching, pods, or hot desks. What most employers don’t consider when creating an office floor plan is the threat of a pandemic and the need for social distancing. Needless to say, a COVID-19 workplace design is likely different from your current one.

As employers scramble to reconfigure their workplace to meet safe working guidelines, they need to consider coronavirus safety precautions. Distance, sanitization, personal hygiene, and safe interaction are all paramount. Here’s how to incorporate these variables into a temporary workplace fit for operation during the pandemic.

Keep shared space usage to a minimum

The main goal of a coronavirus-conscious workplace is to reduce opportunities for transmission. Unfortunately, this means limiting employee access to shared spaces. It might be best to close down hot desks and small breakout spaces for the time being. For larger or essential shared spaces—like break rooms or meeting areas—monitor capacity and ensure routine cleaning.

The logic is simple: reduce access to reduce exposure. Jenny might be an asymptomatic carrier who spreads the virus to every shared workplace she visits. Even with routine cleaning, every person who uses the workspace after her is at risk. Keep shared space usage to a minimum not only to reduce transmission, but to create traceability. If the virus does pop up in your office, it’s easier to trace a reduced number of interactions.

Create distance and keep people apart

Social distancing guidelines mandate six feet of distance between people at all times. The easiest way to comply is to restrict access to shared workspaces that consolidate space. But that’s not always possible and there are parts of the workplace subject to shared use. In these areas, make adjustments to accommodate distance.

For a conference room that seats six, you might reduce the occupancy to three at a time. Likewise, reconfigure breakout spaces and open collaborative areas to keep employees more than an arm’s length apart. In other areas like breakrooms, limit capacity and create accountability through a sign-in sheet. Again, this improves traceability in the event an employee tests positive for COVID-19.

Keep traffic constant and controlled

Despite fewer shared workspaces and restrictions on commingling, employees still need to navigate beyond their desk. Control thoroughfares to keep them moving along to their destination, whether it’s the restroom, breakroom, or the copy room. There are several ways to accomplish this:

  • Delineate one-way traffic to prevent employees from passing each other
  • Ensure walkways offer a wide berth to accommodate distancing guidelines
  • Remove stopping points and alleviate areas prone to stoppage or congestion
  • Remind employees not to stop and mingle, and to keep moving to their destination

Beyond thoroughfares, employers should also pay attention to gathering areas. The copy room, elevators, water cooler, and other common areas need oversight to prevent congregation. Consider putting up signage to remind people of social distancing guidelines or mark the floor with tape to show appropriate distance.

Discontinue or adapt certain desking policies

If your workplace leans heavily in favor of shared desking arrangements, you’ll need to pivot or adapt. Hot desks are a great example. By rule, hot desks accommodate many different workers throughout the day. During COVID-19, this isn’t advised. As a result, hot desks will either stay occupied by a single employee all day or go unused. If you choose the former, prepare to disinfect after every workday.

Make new desking policies public and set clear rules for in-house employees. The best COVID-19 workplace design is one that adapts your current floor plan to coronavirus guidelines. It may mean discontinuing your hot desks in favor of employee-specific workstations, but that’s okay. Not only do your employees stay safe, you continue to utilize available office space in a constructive way.

The workplace may not function the same during the pandemic, but it can and should serve its ultimate purpose: to support employees.

Temporary measures could become new norms

Companies need to realize that temporary changes to their workplace might not be as short-lived as they think. The mindful changes made to combat coronavirus could very well become new expectations moving forward. Maybe conference rooms will become a relic as people get acclimated to Zoom meetings. Perhaps desk distancing will stick around. There’s no predicting the future, but it’s important to realize that we’re in the midst of change.

Recalibrate your workspace to accommodate employees during the pandemic, and plan for this configuration to stick around indefinitely. That is, design your workplace to be mindful of employee needs and work habits as you emphasize their safety.

Keep Reading: The Latest Workplace COVID-19 Resources


The Impact of Technology in the Workplace

By Aleks Sheynkman
Director of Engineering

Workplace technology is on an exponential curve. It wasn’t long ago we used fax machines and interoffice mail to work—now, even email seems outmoded. The impact of technology in the workplace is substantial and it’s changing everything from how we work to what tools we use to do our jobs.

The breadth of workplace technologies available to us today take two forms: workplace facing and workplace supporting. Technologies like messaging apps and room booking software are workplace facing: they’re the tools employees use to do work. Occupancy sensors and Integrated Workplace Management Systems (IWMS) represent workplace supporting tech—they govern the workplace construct, both physical and digital. Together, they represent the technologically powered environment that is the modern workplace.

Why do we need all this tech? A salesperson or accountant might have the same job description today they did decades ago, but what that work entails is so much more. The sophisticated evolution of work comes on the heels of workplace technology growth.


Improved interpersonal communication

How has technology changed the modern workplace? The simplest example to look at is interpersonal communication. Over time we’ve not only sped up the rate at which we communicate, but the scope of that communication. This is evident even as recent as the shift from email to messaging apps.

Jim needs to ask Sally a question about a project. He could send an email, since Sally is off-site today—or, he can message her through Slack. Through Slack, she gets the notification immediately and can reply in seconds. Jim’s question sits in the #project channel instead of buried in an inbox, and there’s a historical record of their conversation instead of a growing email chain. Jim gets his answer fast, and the two stay on the same page.

Examples like this are just the beginning. Messaging apps integrate with various other cloud apps, which puts communication front and center at all times. Employees can leave notes in a collaborative file or send a thumbs-up emoji to sign off on a memo. Thanks to modern interpersonal communication tech, employees communicate clearly and more often, with better results.

Speedier workflows

Quicker, better communication has spilled over into other areas of workplace transformation. One of the most notable positive effects of technology in the workplace is quicker workflows. It’s not only communication technology behind this agility—it also involves workplace planning and coordination software.

IWMS and Computer-Aided Facilities Management (CAFM) platforms quicken workplace management. It no longer takes days or weeks to repurpose a workspace or change the dynamic of an office. Facility managers can adapt the workplace in minutes to shave hours or even days off of project timelines and tasks. Moreover, there are fewer barriers and overlaps between employees.

Bob and John don’t need to wait for Michelle and Patricia to finish using a meeting space—they can find (or make) an alternative space in seconds. Steve can look at his calendar for the day, pop online, and reserve the right workspace.

Workplace tech simplifies the complexities of an agile environment, so employees can do more, faster. Work gets done quicker, better.

Broad asset accessibility

The business cloud is arguably the most important workplace technology of the last two decades. Not since the personal workplace computer has business changed so dramatically. Think about what the cloud offers: broad access to any digital assets, anytime, anywhere. This level of accessibility is so ingrained in what we do, we often take it for granted.

Mike saves his PowerPoint presentation at his desk on the fourth floor, then pulls it up from the cloud for his meeting on the ninth floor a few minutes later. Lily accesses the entire folder of digital project assets from her home office, to make last-minute adjustments before the big rollout. 

As much as the business cloud has changed the traditional workplace, it’s also the biggest catalyst for antiquating it. This level of accessibility allows people to work from anywhere. In fact, this tech is still growing more powerful today through innovations in edge computing and decentralized server networks.

More productive environments

Finally, we need to ask: how does technology affect productivity? If it’s not evident already, technology has been the biggest catalyst for improving our efficiency and productivity. Try to do your job without a computer or email. Without messaging apps or cloud storage. Without the ability to reserve a workspace or contribute to a shared document. It’s likely impossible to work without technology in today’s climate. Even if you could manage it, you’d be light years behind.

Technology touches every aspect of work—how, where, and even when we accomplish it. The result of ever-increasing technological advancements is evident in everything from how we communicate to the scope of our work we do on a daily basis.

Above all, the impact of technology in the workplace shows the profound flexibility of work habits. Thanks to workplace technologies, we’re ever-moving, always communicating, and consistently accomplishing, no matter where we are or what we’re doing.

Keep reading: Benefits of Technology in the Workplace.

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Employer-Specific COVID-19 Workplace Face Mask Guidance

By Reagan Nickl
Director of Partner and Customer Success

On April 3, the CDC officially recommended face masks or coverings for essential employees and anyone else venturing out into public spaces. In addition, the CDC also provided instructions for how to make fabric face coverings. While good information, the guidance left much up to interpretation. As a result, many companies are issuing COVID-19 workplace face mask guidance to help employees cope.

Employer face mask guidance should expand on the information provided by the CDC, while accounting for workplace-specific variables not mentioned in broad guidelines. Here’s a quick rundown of how to ensure employees understand and follow proper face mask guidelines at work.

Supply face masks or recognize proper PPE

First, ensure all employees have acceptable face masks and personal protective equipment (PPE). N95 respirators differ from surgical masks, which differ from cloth face coverings. The CDC recommends these face coverings (in that order), but the style of face coverings can vary greatly.

To prevent everything from pulled-up turtlenecks, to bandanas, to scarves and other oddities in the workplace, an employer’s best course of action is to provide standardized face masks or PPE. Standardizing face masks will come at an expense for the company, but will save headaches in the long-run.

Encourage proper usage

It’s one thing to wear a face mask; it’s another to wear it properly. Thankfully, both the CDC and OSHA provide clear and specific steps for how to wear face masks. Per OSHA recommendations:

  • It should fit properly, to cover the face from the bridge of the nose to the chin
  • Clean hands properly before putting the face mask on or taking it off
  • Only touch the cord or elastic at the back of the face mask when removing it

Provide mask-wearing instructions to every employee and enforce proper usage at all times. An office-wide memo and workplace signage are both great reminders. There are also guidelines for how to handle disposable vs. reusable face masks. Make these instructions easy-to-follow and readily available.

In addition, it’s also a good idea to provide guidance on what to do with masks when not wearing them. For example, don’t set them down in shared areas or collect them from people to throw away. Emphasize personal accountability when it comes to face mask use and etiquette.

Practice proper mask etiquette

Teaching employees how to wear masks is only the first step. Beyond that, educate them on good mask etiquette. This includes everything from how to talk to other people while wearing a mask, to not touching your mask obsessively while wearing it. Some of the chief points to hit include:

  • Don’t reuse single-use masks
  • When discarding, place masks directly in the trash
  • Avoid touching your mask absent-mindedly
  • Don’t touch anyone else’s mask for any reason
  • Don’t lift masks to breathe deeply past them
  • Don’t share masks for any reason

If these seem like common sense instructions, it’s because they are. They bear repeating if not for the sake of having steadfast rules you can point to as standard operating procedure. In much the same way employees know not to play loud music or walk around barefoot, mask etiquette should be second nature to them.

Address respiratory concerns

Not everyone can wear a face mask all day long. Be mindful of the needs of employees with respiratory conditions like asthma or COPD. More importantly, make exemptions to the standardized face mask policy clear and apparent, to ease the minds of those who qualify.

Ideally, these individuals benefit from remote work setups. When this isn’t possible, work to accommodate them with minimal invasiveness in the physical workplace. Try to provide an isolated work environment or create workstations away from high-traffic areas. Employers can also explore lightweight cloth face masks for individuals with respiratory concerns, which allow better airflow. Some sort of face covering is imperative, as these individuals have fragile airways that may be more susceptible to COVID-19.

Ultimately, it comes down to good respiratory etiquette for these individuals. Cough or sneeze into the crook of the elbow, and try to breathe through the nose whenever possible. Maintain at least six feet of distance at all times.

Post guidelines and answer questions

The simplest thing employers can do to encourage proper face mask usage is to post guidelines throughout the workplace. This can be a few signs in common areas or a poster at the entrance. Email memos are also effective reminders. Answer common questions and preempt confusion with clear, specific, actionable information. Employers that take the time to create COVID-19 workplace face mask guidance benefit from employees who feel confident and safe using PPE.


Why Agile Companies Need Online Communication Tools

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist

Agile companies are always evolving; they adapt to meet new challenges with flexibility and ingenuity. Quickness is a core trait of every agile business, but quickness only comes from crystal-clear communication. Everyone needs to be on the same page. The problem is, not everyone is in the same place, and agility means employees are always in motion. To stay fast on their feet, agile companies need to invest in online communication tools.

What are online communication tools?

Online communication tools are everyday programs, apps, and technologies most offices already use—only cloud-hosted. There’s significance to the “cloud-hosted” aspect. This is where agile companies truly benefit, since cloud-hosted programs come with certain inherent advantages.

First, online communication tools are platform and device agnostic. It doesn’t matter if you have an office full of identical workstations or a workforce divided between Mac vs. PC, laptop vs. tablet. Second, they’re real-time modes of communication. No more emails in limbo or documents stored on someone’s hard drive. Finally, there’s connectivity in the cloud. Just about any online app your team uses will integrate with every other, using the cloud as a buffer.

Online communication tools match the level of flexibility and dependability agile companies expect from their operations. In the same way we’ve taken workers out of cubicles and data out of silos, online tools put communication on a modern plane.

Decentralized teams need to collaborate

Agile companies leverage close-knit teams to accomplish tasks quickly. But the odds every team member is in proximity to every other are slim. Instead, they rely on online team communication tools to stay connected across different schedules and locations. Steve and Becky can chat via Slack regardless of their different time zones. Tom and Kayla can track changes in a shared document despite working opposite shifts. Even though they’re not in the same place, decentralized teams collaborate flawlessly thanks to cloud-based apps and tools. Everyone has an opportunity to contribute, which fulfills the simplest concept of what makes teams successful.

Dynamic work environments change hourly

Web based communication tools offer real-time benefits. The workplace might not look the same in an hour as it does right now, and it’s different than it was an hour ago. This level of agility means teams need to work together just as quickly, in spite of changing variables. Bailey needs to book a conference room via her wayfinding app and make sure Nick gets a meeting request right away. Online connectivity means this all happens in seconds, rather than the minutes or hours it takes to send emails, get confirmations, and manually book a conference room.

Nontraditional work schedules make sense

Abby works 9-5 every day. Chandler works 7-12, then goes home to work 4-7. Dave works from home and is loosely available from 8-8 every day. They all need to communicate despite their oddball schedules. How do they do it? Online communication apps like Slack and Zoom, which help them share their ideas and collaborate on concepts as if they were all 9-5, sitting right next to each other. Even when they’re on-the-go, these same technologies work on their laptops, tablets, and smartphones. They communicate as a group, without compromising their schedules, and maintain their agility as a result.

Organized communication creates clarity

Online tools bring new benefits to traditional communication. Think about email or phone calls. It’s easy to delete an email or for one to get lost in the ether, stuck in a spam folder. On the phone, you might mishear the speaker or have a poor connection. You’re left in a communication quagmire with missed details, poor information, and uncertain expectations. This is where communication in the cloud triumphs. Messaging apps archive the complete conversation and organize by topic. Video communication apps use low latency technology to deliver crystal-clear video and sound. Online file sharing apps back everything up thrice. It’s all clear, organized, and accessible, so teams can communicate quickly.

Business is in the cloud; communication should be too

Think about how much of business today lives in the cloud. Why not communication, too? As more and more of the workplace becomes digital, the way employees communicate with each other also needs to migrate.

We replaced snail mail with faxes, faxes with email, and now, email with online communication tools. The trend is clear—as the speed of business adapts, so too must our ability to communicate. The ability of agile companies to adapt depends on communication that’s just as quick, organized, and accessible.


Five Essential Types of Team Communication Tools

By Nai Kanell
Director of Marketing

We all know communication amongst teams is imperative for success. Teams that can’t communicate well don’t function as a unit. Responsibilities, expectations, and information become jumbled, which leads to any number of failures. Conversely, groups with a strong penchant for communication develop positive synergies. The difference-maker? Access to helpful team communication tools.

Often, communication issues aren’t for lack of effort. They arise because of gaps in communication modes between team members. John sends an email that Suzie doesn’t see. Patty works on a recent version of a document while Jerry works on an earlier draft. When people aren’t on the same page, they can’t work effectively together. Access to the right team communication tools can bridge these gaps and help people collaborate better.

Here’s a look at five essential types of team communication tools and some of the best options among them for teams, both in-house and decentralized.

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1. Messaging and chat apps

Messaging platforms are quickly replacing email as the de-facto form of communication. A team communication app like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Facebook for Work, or even an office group chat provides more functionality than email.

Emails show up in your inbox and there’s not much you can do with them other than flag them or sort them into folders. Messenger and chat apps offer a world of organization and interactivity for teams. Slack organizes conversations into threads for easy navigation. Microsoft Teams makes file-sharing simple across large groups. Facebook for Work makes communicating via GIFs and emojis easy.

Messaging apps go beyond email to bring teams a level of interpersonal communication that’s much-needed in high-functioning workplaces. Quick, succinct, organized—exactly what communication should be.

2. File sharing applications

Moving data and assets between team members is a hassle. Cloud-based file sharing apps give everyone access to the same information at the same time, so no one’s left out or left behind.

Today, Dropbox,, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive rule business clouds. They house infinite gigabytes (even terabytes) of data in a central repository where all members of the team can access them. Anytime you update a file, it’s updated for everyone.

File sharing apps make organization and collaboration easy. Apps like Dropbox and Google Drive allow real-time collaboration right in the cloud. These same apps also help distribute huge files in a pinch—those too big to send via email. No need to put files on a thumb drive; just upload to the cloud via a file sharing app and send the link.

3. Video conferencing tools

Decentralized teams are rarely able to meet in person. Mark’s home, John’s at the coffee shop, and Nicole’s at the office. While they can all collaborate through a myriad of tools, sometimes there’s no substitute for face-to-face communication. Enter: video conferencing tools.

Zoom is the market-leading team communication tool for video conferencing, but it’s far from the only one. GoToMeeting,, and Skype all offer their own iteration on video chatting. With features like person-to-person chatting, group chats, screen sharing, and even private chat screens, groups can meet the same as they would in person. Video chat fills the visual communication void that comes from an increasingly mobile workforce.

4. Document editing software

Working together on a single piece of collateral is tricky without cloud-based document editing software. Groups need a real-time, up-to-the-minute version of whatever document they’re improving. Modern collaboration software gives it to them. Forget printing multiple versions for the group to edit or trying to follow a never-ending email chain of drafts. Today’s teams put their stock in the Google Apps Suite, Microsoft 360 Online, Evernote, DocuSign, and many others.

The beauty of document editing software as a communication tool is the contextual feedback. Marking up a document is much easier than explaining it in an email or even trying to talk someone through it on the phone. Teams can also invite outside collaborators (like clients) to view and make notes directly in a document. With historical iterations captured and archived, it’s easy to see who’s changing what and even to go back if there’s an error. It’s another example of how invaluable cloud-based platforms are for group communication.

5. Project management platforms

Project management platforms are the undisputed most valuable communication tools for business teams. These applications are where communication, collaboration, accountability, and responsibility come together. They’re the heart of any high-functioning team—the home base for any and all work.

Project management software takes many forms. You might opt for enterprise solutions like Basecamp or ZoHo, go full-featured with Wrike or Asana, or try minimalist with Trello or The list goes on nearly forever, with platforms for all team sizes, budgets, or complexities. Regardless of the software, the sentiment is the same: organization leads to success. Project management platforms are the ultimate show of communication and bring total visibility to the group’s efforts.

A full suite of communication opportunities

Each facet of communication plays an important role in team success. There is no silver bullet. This task might require a simple messaging app; that one might require video conferencing. What matters is that teams use the same suite of tools and understand the role each one plays in collaborating.

There should never be uncertainty in the team environment, and no one should need to guess about anything as it relates to their peers. Instead, they should be able to use any of the communication resources in their toolkit to get answers and information. Every interaction is an opportunity to grow the team dynamic stronger and improve the natural synergy of the group.

Keep Reading: 10 Mobile Employee Apps That Increase Productivity.

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COVID-19 Workplace HVAC Checklist

By Aleks Sheynkman
Director of Engineering

As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) marches on, there’s increased focus on how it spreads. Studies show respiratory droplets as the most common method of transmission; however, a new study from April indicates the virus can survive on airborne particles for an indeterminate period of time. This new revelation warrants action by facilities managers—particularly when it comes to developing a COVID-19 workplace HVAC checklist.

If COVID-19 can survive in an airborne capacity for any length of time, facilities managers face the arduous task of addressing recirculated airflow quality. Failure to institute HVAC safety measures could mean broad workplace exposure to the virus.

Control HVAC to control exposure

There’s significant evidence that repeated exposure plays a role in the severity of COVID-19 cases. The infectious dose of COVID-19 is unknown, but it’s speculated that repeated exposure boosts viral load and speeds the virus’ ability to propagate in the body. In simpler terms: more exposure leads to a worse infection.

If coronavirus particles can survive airborne as part of a building’s forced air system, it could mean repeated exposure for employees every time an HVAC system kicks on. Those particles will continue to circulate until they’re removed from the system. Thankfully, there are ways to both remove them from circulation and prevent them from entering it altogether.

1. HVAC cleaning and maintenance 

A thorough inspection of your building’s forced air system is a good place to start. Dust, lint, allergens, mold, dirt, and an assortment of other debris eventually come to rest in ducts if they’re not trapped by a filter. An inspection that yields evidence of these can signal the need for cleaning.

Whether dirty or not, commercial duct cleaning can provide some peace of mind in the current climate. Duct cleaning involves covering all forced air registers and blowing or sucking debris to these areas, where it’s vacuumed out. For most facility managers, duct cleaning isn’t a novel concept—it’s recommended once every year or two.

Alongside duct cleaning, work with an HVAC contractor on routine and general maintenance. Replace filters, repair damaged ducting, and check electrical and thermostat components to ensure the building’s system is efficient and functional.

2. Increase air filtration capabilities

Once the system is clean, consider the level of air filtration it’s capable of. This requires knowledge of Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) ratings and different filter types.

Most commercial systems have filtering capabilities up to MERV ratings of 11-13, considered good to superior. MERV ratings go up to 16, but not every commercial system will need that level. Instead, consider the type of filter to improve indoor air quality and safety. The most common options include:

  • Fiberglass filters. Layered fiberglass and metal frames offer excellent stoppage for larger materials in recirculated airflows. They have moderate resistance to airflow, good for maintaining system efficiency.
  • Polyester and pleated filters. These are disposable filters replaced monthly or quarterly, great for trapping dust. They have a high resistance to airflow, which may lower system efficiency.
  • High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters. These units filter air at a fine scale, to trap 99.97% of particles 0.3 microns or larger. They’re the superior option for filtration at-scale.

Right now, it’s smart to consult an HVAC professional about HEPA filters if you don’t already use them. HEPA filters will remove any trace of airborne particles for cleaner air, instantly reducing the threat of airborne coronavirus particles.

3. Monitor cycling for air exchange rates

With a clean system and enhanced filtration, the workplace and everyone in it will benefit from improved air quality. For facility managers who want to take it one step further, consider tracking HVAC cycle rates. This will show how often the forced air system kicks on and how long it runs. Not only is this a great way to gauge system efficiency, it’s a good quality control measure as you track air quality.

The best way to monitor HVAC cycle rates is through an Internet of Things (IoT) enabled sensor or a smart thermostat. Collect cycle data over a week or two, to gauge efficiency and stay up-to-date on the building’s forced air system’s performance.

Reduce the risk of exposure for employees

Airflow is integral to workplace comfort and employee health. It’s good practice to maintain an efficient, clean forced air system—even more so if coronavirus can indeed survive airborne. Facility managers should take extra steps to evaluate and maintain the building’s forced air system, clean and filter air where possible, and monitor exchange rates to maintain safe, clean air throughout the work environment.

There’s still much to learn about how COVID-19 spreads and what safety measures prevent transmission. Until we know for certain, the best we can do is be proactive. A COVID-19 workplace HVAC checklist is one example.

Keep Reading: Top Coronavirus Workplace Resources