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Space Planning for COVID-19

Space Planning for COVID-19: Four Effective Solutions

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist
SpaceIQ

The concept of workspace allocation has been in flux since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some desking concepts are now inefficient in their use of space utilization, while others are downright inapplicable due to new standards for distancing. It has many businesses reevaluating their approach to space planning for COVID-19.

As they consider new workplace layouts and desking concepts, facility managers need to consider them within the context of the coronavirus pandemic. What desking concepts comply with social distancing standards? What spaces could need to change to promote better utilization? Are there policies to govern when, where, and how employees use specific workspaces? Above all, how can facility managers bring these criteria together through functional space planning?

It’s impossible to plan for an end to the pandemic, and failing to do anything means an inefficient workplace for as long as the pandemic rages on. Here are four effective solutions given the current predicament. 

1. Adopt a hoteling standard

Hoteling has emerged as one of the de-facto desking concepts during the pandemic. The relative flexibility of hoteling—combined with a framework of oversight through hotel space planning software—makes it easy to allocate the right space to the right people. Employees still get the freedom to choose their desk for the day or week, and facility managers get a clear understanding of occupancy and utilization. 

For hoteling to be effective, companies need to create hoteling stations that meet the needs of employees. This might mean special accommodations for different work groups or a specific location within the building, near certain facilities. Hotel stations need to be comfortable, adaptable, accessible, and conducive to concentration and productivity. 

2. Repurpose group work spaces

As companies explore new desking concepts like hoteling, they’ll need to borrow space from current facilities to make these concepts work. The simplest solution is to repurpose group work spaces, which are less likely to see usage during the pandemic (and after). A rise in Zoom meetings and virtual collaboration means many conference rooms, collaboration space, and group work areas can be dismantled and revived as hoteling areas or flex work spaces.

While it might seem dramatic to convert group workspaces into smaller workstations, realize that this is one of the most likely office space trends post COVID-19. Video chat and virtual collaboration changed group work in a major way by taking the need for proximity out of the equation. While the conference room is unlikely to ever go away, businesses should plan to dedicate less square footage to these spaces in the future. 

3. Schedule buffer time

Repurposing space and changing the desking strategy aren’t the only factors that affect space planning. How and when employees occupy a space also matter—as do the precautions that go into sanitizing it in a pandemic. In concepts like hoteling and hot desking, multiple employees will use the same desk over the course of a day or week, necessitating sanitization between uses. During these times, that space will be unavailable, which means planning to seat employees elsewhere during that time. 

Schedule appropriate buffers between start and stop times, so shared spaces receive cleaning between uses and employees aren’t disrupted while they’re using the space. This is as easy as generating support tickets along with space reservations or scheduling routine cleanings every few hours as bookings expire. This will keep the space clean and viable, in-play as part of a new workspace floor plan. 

4. Put parameters on workspaces

An often-overlooked COVID-19 office space planning tip is to limit who can use certain spaces or when they’re available. It seems counterintuitive for space optimization, but can help facility managers better-govern space, as well as the flow of employees through the workplace. 

For example, if the hotel desks on the fourth floor are off limits to anyone other than the sales team, Sales is less likely to spread out across the entire building. Likewise, the second floor might only be for Marketing, because the amenities on that floor are conducive to graphic design, print, and copywriting teams. 

This type of space-specific control ensures workplaces are available for those who need them, where and when they need them. It can avoid overcrowding in certain areas or bottlenecks for specific workspace types. Simple controls and parameters make a big difference in the effectiveness of a new workplace concept. 

Plan for COVID-19 and beyond

The great thing about these space planning solutions is that they all work together—and, they all create a framework for the workplace of the future. The marriage of flexible space planning with controls in place to govern workspaces sets the stage for an adaptable office environment. There’s no telling how long the pandemic will last or what the outcome will be. These solutions put more control in the hands of businesses as they consider the future of their physical workplace. 

Read Next: COVID-19 Workplace Resources

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How to Set up Hoteling Stations

How to Set up Hoteling Stations

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist
SpaceIQ

Hoteling has become a prominent solution to the rise in flex work created by the coronavirus pandemic. Companies with limited in-house staff or those with rolling in-office schedules have turned to hoteling as a way to accommodate workers with more flexibility and predictability. To make this work, they’ve reconfigured the office to create hoteling stations. 

Hoteling stations come in many varieties, yet serve the same purpose: to provide a temporary workspace for employees in dynamic work environments. These spaces can take on many different qualities, depending on the type of work an employee might do at them or for what length of time they’ll be there. It’s up to facility managers to coordinate hoteling stations that meet the needs of their employees during this period of workplace disruption.

What is hoteling?

Hoteling involves assigning employees to desks for a predetermined period of time. Rather than a permanent, static desk all the time or only free-flowing workspaces, hoteling exists in-between. It combines the structure of assigned seating with the freedom of employees to pick that seating, or to explore new seating options with each hoteling reservation they make. Hoteling is a managed process, overseen by office hoteling software, a facility manager, or a combination of both. 

What is a hoteling station?

A hoteling station is a workplace, designed for short-term or temporary use—hence the concept of hoteling. It can be as simple as a desk and chair with basic hookups for a laptop, but is often more specific to the work habits of employees that may occupy it. For example, a hoteling station designed for product engineering might have two screens and a drawing trackpad, to facilitate better 3D modeling. 

How to optimize hoteling stations

The goal of hoteling is to maximize space utilization in facilities that need a system of governance for unpredictable or flexible work habits. To tap into the real value of hoteling, employees also need to get maximum value from the hotel desk they’re at. This goes beyond designing a space to fit a task. Here are a few other ways to optimize hoteling stations:

  • Place hoteling stations near amenities relevant to employees, such as hotel desks for creatives near meeting rooms where they can gather to collaborate on an idea. 
  • Consider sound and other stimuli. Employees will struggle to use a hotel desk if their surroundings are too much of a distraction. 
  • Make sure hoteling employees can access an admin or manager in case something goes wrong with the desk they’re at or they need additional support. 
  • In larger facilities, incorporate wayfinding with hoteling so employees always know where they’re going and how to get there, even if they think they know. 
  • Create diverse hoteling stations to accommodate different types of work in different areas of your facilities. Diversity helps every employee find their ideal work conditions. 
  • Create term limits or schedules for hotel desks. This encourages employees to embrace the flexibility of hoteling and discourages territorialism over particular spaces.

Above all, make sure the hoteling process is a seamless one. Employees should be able to search for open spaces during a given time, book that space for the time they need it, navigate there without issue, check in to their booking, and work without interruption. A hassle-free hoteling experience is what governs the success of this concept in the workplace. 

How many hoteling stations do you need?

The number of hoteling options you need depends on how many employees you expect to seat during any given day. This further depends on what kind of scheduling or flex work system your employees are on.

If employees come and go as they please, determine the average daily occupancy of your workplace over the course of a month, then compare this to the total number of employees. Buffer this percentage with an acceptable margin of extra hotel stations or create overflow areas for times when in-house occupancy spikes. 

If you have a set, rolling schedule for employees—for example, two weeks in office, two weeks remote—figure the highest number of in-office employees at any given time. This is the minimum number of hoteling stations needed. Fewer will leave employees “homeless” at work; too many extra will lower space utilization rates. 

Build hoteling stations employees will use

As is the case with hotels, there’s a broad description of what, exactly, a hotel room is. A hotel at the Ritz Carlton is much different from the one you’ll get at a Business Inn and Suites. The same holds true for workplace hoteling stations. Facility managers need to furnish employees with a space that helps employees enjoy their hoteling experience and makes them embrace the concept. 

A well-designed hoteling station sets the tone for an enjoyable hoteling experience, which rolls into everything from better space utilization to better productivity—all at a time when many workplaces feel up-ended and chaotic. It’s no wonder hoteling has emerged as a viable solution to quelling workplace uncertainties. 

Read Next: Streamline Desk Booking with Office Hoteling Software