COVID-19 Employee Protection

By Aleks Sheynkman 
Vice President of Engineering

COVID-19 employee protection should be top-of-mind in any workplace that’s operating through the pandemic, as well as those about to welcome staff back. This starts with proper considerations for how employers plan to offer that protection.

Health considerations begin before an employee even walks in the building and continues through every interaction they have in the workplace. As workers come back, make sure they’re mindful of protocols that emphasize their health and that of their coworkers. Here’s how to protect employees and the considerations every employer should take.

Zero-tolerance illness policies

Protecting employees in the workplace starts by denying entry to those who feel ill, are exhibiting symptoms, or are awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test. This isn’t a malicious exclusion—it’s a preventive one. A zero-tolerance illness policy benefits employers and employees alike.

From an employer standpoint, it’s all about risk mitigation. Without testing, there’s no way to confirm or deny a case of COVID-19. All you can do is go on symptoms, which aren’t always distinct and reliable. Institute a pre-screening process and encourage employees to stay home if they’re symptomatic and do it in a way that doesn’t chastise them. Offer remote work opportunities and encourage symptomatic employees to get tested. Work can wait; their health comes first.

On the employee side, a zero-tolerance policy creates confidence. Employees won’t feel forced to work through a developing illness and won’t risk exposing their colleagues. Likewise, they’ll appreciate peers who tread cautiously and stay home.

Self-checks and PPE

The key to a zero-tolerance illness policy and mindful reporting of symptoms is to encourage self-checks before work. Plus, make Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the workplace. Smart employers will mandate both.

Self-screening prompts employees to check for symptoms and mind their general health before coming into work for the day, and to stay home if they feel under the weather. Again, this coincides with a zero-tolerance illness policy. Even if it’s not COVID-19, it’s in the best interest of employers to prevent any communicable illness from entering the workplace.

If self-screening is the first line of defense against workplace transmission of coronavirus, wearing PPE is a reliable second. Face masks keep airborne virus particles at bay and keep wearers from touching their faces. Whether organizations provide PPE or mandate the type employees can use, it needs to be part of workplaces health policy.

General workplace safety considerations

Consider COVID-19 workplace protocols a third and final line of defense against the virus and a necessary baseline for employee protection. Mandate a series of “dos” and “don’ts” designed to keep employees safe through smarter interaction with the workplace. Some of the simplest and easiest to integrate into everyday practice include:

  • Avoid face-to-face meetings
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Create a “no congregation” policy
  • Do not share materials or food
  • Always maintain six feet of distance
  • No physical contact (ex. handshakes)
  • Post cleaning and decontamination procedures
  • Practice respiratory etiquette (ex. coughing or sneezing)
  • Regularly clean personal space and surfaces
  • Schedule routine cleanings for common areas
  • Wash hands often with soap for at least 20 seconds

Reinforce these new practices and standards to ensure they take hold. Send emails and memos. Post signage in common areas and where relevant in the workplace. Make sure managers set the example. Above all, make it clear that these considerations are for the health and safety of not only individuals, but everyone in the workplace.

These changes aren’t only about preventing the spread of coronavirus—they’re about protecting employees in meaningful ways. These considerations might prevent an outbreak of COVID-19 or other sickness in your workplace.

Protection is the best form of prevention

Employee protection comes from the establishment of safeguards. At the top, there’s a firm zero-tolerance policy on working while ill. To reinforce it, there’s an employee screening process. For asymptomatic employees and those in good health, there’s PPE to keep them safe at work. At the bottom of it all are workplace policies meant to bring awareness to healthy habits and practices. Together, it’s a diligent recipe for employee protection.

COVID-19 has made us more aware of health in shared spaces. Protection from pathogens and common means of transmission is the best path to prevention. Take these considerations into account as you look for ways to support a safer workplace and a healthier workforce.

Keep reading: Employee 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


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


How Remote Working Tech Transformed the Way we Work

By Aleks Sheynkman
Director of Engineering

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz is best known for taking the coffee shop from a small, local chain in Seattle to a multibillion-dollar global brand. It wasn’t Frappuccinos and lattes that Shultz capitalized on. Rather, he embraced the idea of a “third place.”

He argued that people needed another place in their lives—somewhere outside of home and work. Starbucks sold the idea of occupancy and happened to offer delicious coffee products on the side. It’s a concept that continues to pay dividends with the rise in remote working technology.

Today, the third place in people’s lives flirts with the workplace, and in many cases, is the workplace. Someone can pop open a laptop in Starbucks and work for a few hours thanks to the ever-growing suite of remote working technologies. It’s part of the reason Starbucks is an $80B enterprise today, and why the coworking industry as a whole is worth $26B, growing at an annual rate of 6%.

Technology supports mobile employees with the freedom to choose their own work environment. Today, the workplace is the suite of tools people use to create, collaborate, and communicate with peers. The physical surroundings are just the backdrop.

A snapshot of remote work

What is remote working? In a physical sense, it’s the ability to work from anywhere outside of a central office space: at home, a coworking space, or in a Starbucks. Remote work is more than a change of surroundings. It’s the ability to work autonomously and bring personal accountability to tasks and time management. It’s about being an individual who’s part of a greater whole.

Remote work is video conferencing with three people to collaborate on a project. It’s uploading files to an online repository where someone on the other side of the world can access them. It’s messaging one person, while working in a collaborative document with someone else. These tasks happen against a revolving backdrop of workspaces.

The beauty of remote work is that it’s a different experience for every person. In the same way someone might’ve personalized their cubicle 20 years ago, people now create the workspace that’s right for them by simply going to it. For some, it’s a short walk to their home office; for others, it’s a new place every day.

Technology made us mobile workers

Working remotely is possible thanks to digital technologies. Imagine trying to collaborate on a visual project over the phone or emailing a document to a dozen people, waiting for everyone to provide revisions. Today, these problems are solved by apps like Zoom and Dropbox. We’re not just capable of diverse collaboration on-the-go. We’re able to work in real-time without being face-to-face.

Digital tech and cloud-based apps power the decentralized workforce. Our ability to communicate, collaborate, automate processes, and maintain security does mean sacrificing autonomy and flexibility. Tech brings us closer together, even when we’re far apart. The distance from desk to desk and the distance from Los Angeles to London are the same for the remote workforce.

Remote work essentials

There’s an ever-growing, always-improving spectrum of remote work software meant to bridge the gaps distance creates. The best technology for working remotely are those with three traits:

  1. Broad adaptability and integrative functions
  2. Seamless, easy-to-use interfaces
  3. Critical functions that improve the work experience

Take employee apps like Slack, Dropbox, or Zoom. Each has a different function—project collaboration, document storage, and video communication. They share the same value proposition: make remote work seamless. Decentralized employees need a full suite of tools to stay connected to the company, their peers, and mission-critical information. It’s these apps that make remote work possible, regardless of physical location.

Beyond the apps that directly enable remote work, digital technology has helped more employees adapt their personal habits to accommodate remote work. Digital timers keep employees on-task. Notification blockers minimize distractions. Project trackers create visual workflows for accountability. These personal tools are just as essential as the collaborative ones, and give remote workers power over their habits and tendencies to help them adapt.

Growing the business cloud

The leap to remote work seems like it happened overnight, and more companies continue to explore remote work options for employees as business evolves. But despite the many remote work technologies available, there’s still a long runway of opportunity ahead. Technologies like blockchain, augmented reality, virtual reality, and human-machine interfaces will further enable remote employees to do their best work in whatever physical workplace they choose.

Howard Shultz’s concept of a third place is still worth betting on, with one small caveat. With the ability to work from anywhere, connected at any time, the true third place for most people will be a digital one.

Keep reading: Remote Working Trends and Options


What is IT Facilities Management?

By Aleks Sheynkman
Director of Engineering

Every business in the modern age benefits from digitization. The ability to track, automate, gather data, and learn is what enables us to get better—whether you’re a tech startup or an established ecommerce firm. This universal digitization trend has also given rise to new business responsibilities that support an influx of data—including IT facilities management.

While many businesses rightfully prioritize hiring data engineers and technology experts, you can’t overlook the fundamental need for IT facility management. This doesn’t always mean hiring another person; rather, it requires facility management staff who understand the nuances of managing a technical environment.

Understand the role of IT facilities management 

What is IT facilities management? It’s the comprehensive oversight of a business’ IT infrastructure from a facilities standpoint. Where an IT specialist ensures the operability of networked systems, an IT facilities manager ensures facilities support those functions. In simpler terms: an IT professional wires the server rack, while an IT facility manager ensures the room it’s in has proper ventilation, temperature controls, and air handling.

Also called Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), the role takes the principles of general facilities management and marries them to an array of important IT demands. The objectives of IT facilities management are clear:

  • Optimize synergy between digital assets and workplace facilities
  • Cooperate with IT support to install and service IT assets
  • Manage the physical environment of vital IT infrastructure

General facilities management enables a productive, supportive workplace; IT facilities management keeps the workplace connected.

Optimize synergy between assets and facilities

IT assets take many forms: simple routers, modems, computer workstations, commercial copy machines, servers, and various Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Just as these assets support the daily needs of employees, facilities themselves need to support IT assets. The copy machine should be accessible in an area where the most staff will benefit from it. IoT devices need to coexist with the spaces they monitor and collect data in.

IT facility managers need to examine the relationship between IT assets and facilities to understand their synergy. How can facilities enable IT assets and what can these assets do to improve facilities? It starts with careful consideration of the relationship between them.

Cooperate with IT support teams

A big part of IT facility management is collaboration with IT service techs. Facility managers know how employees interact with their tech-enabled workplace, but they don’t handle the administration of that tech. Likewise, IT teams cover all aspects of administration, but don’t gauge the need.

IT personnel get digital networks and systems up and running, but it’s the job of facility managers to provide the framework. IT managers don’t decide where to set up the server room or how many workstations go on the third floor. It’s up to facility managers to provide an IT blueprint to the support teams that set up and maintain assets. From there, it’s a collaborative approach that allows the digital and physical workplace to operate in harmony.

Manage the physical environment

At larger companies, demand for IT facilities management is sometimes enough for a full-time job. These companies maintain secure server rooms, data centers, and complex IT infrastructures. The sheer amount of cabling and racked hardware puts the onus of maintenance on the facilities themselves.

  • Are these assets getting enough power?
  • Are there redundant backups?
  • Is climate stringently controlled?
  • Is air quality monitored?

These IT management questions have solutions rooted in facilities management. Utilities, HVAC, and air quality are broad functions of facilities management. IT environments almost become facilities within facilities and demand their own specialized oversight. If the server room temperature needs to stay within 68 degrees to 71 degrees and your employees prefer temperatures between 72 degrees to 75 degrees, both standards need to coexist in harmony.

Security is also important here. Digital security is a cornerstone of modern business operations, and that includes at the point of physical storage. Coordinating access control, alert, and monitoring systems for IT environments is of paramount concern—another duty of facilities managers.

IT is the backbone of business

This is the age of IT facilities management. Employees need a supportive work environment and nothing ensures that more reliably than IT infrastructure. Well-maintained IT hardware and systems result in the digital reliability and accessibility employees rely on every day. As businesses digitize more aspects of operations, emphasis on good IT facilities management grows. If you want your workplace to support employees, make sure it supports a robust IT infrastructure too.

Keep reading: How to Select the Right Facility Management Software for Your Company


Work Order Management: From Submission to Solution

By Aleks Sheynkman
Director of Engineering

The everyday aspects of facilities management are a group effort. When the bathroom’s motion sensor lights don’t work or a computer needs IT attention, it’s the responsibility of employees to report problems. From there, work order management is the duty of a facility manager, and the team servicing work orders depends on the nature of the problem.

There’s a chain of custody for maintenance tasks and facility maintenance is only as good as this chain enables it to be. Breakdown at any point in the work order management process likely means the problem isn’t resolved. Myriad other problems arise where the disconnect occurs.

  • Unheard employee concerns continue to affect morale, comfort, and productivity
  • Misdirected work orders don’t make it to appropriate problem-solvers
  • If tickets don’t generate and prioritize work orders, there’s no system for servicing them
  • Unseen or unserved work orders mean the problem continues to linger

The list of potential problems is endless. Every step of work order management is important, from submission to solution. It’s why more companies use a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) to ensure better facilities management at its most basic level.

What is work order management software?

A CMMS is work order management software. It’s the software used to structure work request automations—from processing employee input data to routing the work order to the right place.

More importantly, a CMMS serves as an all-in-one framework for work order management. Rather than coordinate the transfer of information between different inputs/outputs and through makeshift automations, it all happens in the CMMS. All facilities managers need to do is build the right processes.

Step 1: Ticketing systems and portals

Employee input is an essential first step in any work order management system. This means either one clear point of entry or many methods of submitting data in a uniform way.

John’s scheduled to work at Desk 22 for the day. When he arrives, he finds a broken chair. He can report the problem to facilities in several ways:

  • Use the command/report in the #facilities channel of the company Slack workplace
  • Submit information about the problem through the company’s intranet platform
  • Send a templated email and subject line to
  • Open the company’s wayfinding software app to take a picture of the problem, then submit it

No matter how John reports the problem, the information goes through the CMMS. The CMMS grabs the information from each channel: map descriptions, images, keywords, submission info, timestamps, etc.

Step 2: Directing the ticket through the CMMS

After creating a ticket from incoming information, the CMMS needs to direct the ticket to the right destination. Is it an IT problem? Furniture issue? Active hazard? The CMMS uses machine learning to direct and prioritize tickets. This ensures problems like a downed WiFi report goes to IT, while spills go to Maintenance.

This is a critical stage of the work order management process because it ensures timeliness. What would happen if Maintenance got WiFi-related tickets? Would they ignore them? Forget to forward them to IT? Even if they did forward them, how long would it take for IT to wrangle the problem? The whole system devolves into chaos without proper delegation through a CMMS.

Step 3: Automating the work order

Support tickets need a way to become official work requests once they’re routed to the right place. Moreover, support staff needs to know how to keep track of work orders once they get them. Here again, a CMMS is instrumental. The system can prioritize tasks based on time received, proximity, severity, and even specific keywords. Work orders show up in the appropriate queue, in the best order, with information organized in an actionable way.

Step 4: Facilitating the solution

Work order management doesn’t just notify facility support staff about problems and prioritize those issues—it also informs the solution. This means a biohazard spill takes priority over a spilled yogurt, and janitorial knows what they’re walking into before they get there. Less time to identify the problem means a quicker response and resolution to it.

This works especially well in large facilities where multiple people may submit the same maintenance request in a short timeframe. If 10 people report downed WiFi in the span of 15 minutes, the CMMS is smart enough to move that problem up the queue. It can also attach new details to the work order from each new submission. IT support staff knows when the initial problem occurred, what symptoms it shows, and the scope of who’s affected. The action plan becomes clear in real-time.

Work order management for seamless solutions

Breaking up work orders into four basic custody checkpoints creates a path to seamless solutions. Employees report problems, a CMMS routes the support ticket, work orders queue in the right department, and the right party solves the problem. Whether it’s a burnt-out light, crashed workstation, or a prominent hazard in the workplace, good work order management is what gets it fixed.

Keep reading: What’s the Difference: IWMS, CMMS, CAFM and EAM


12 Facilities Management Tips for Collecting and Using Workplace Data

By Aleks Sheynkman
Director of Engineering

Over the next five years, the office Internet of Things (IoT) market will grow to an astounding $57B on the heels of a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.2%. Safe to say, the age of digitally enabled offices is here. It’s easy to see why. The IoT quantifies physical workplace variables, turning them into digital data points that we can research, observe, and use in the pursuit of office optimization.

Looking for a few facilities management tips to get you there? You’ll need to tap into the power of the IoT first. It won’t be long until facility management strategy is heavily dependent on data gleaned from an office IoT network. Now’s the time to deploy data collection systems and learn how to utilize the analytics they provide. Here are 12 tips to get on the path to workplace optimization.

Tips for collecting data

How you collect data is as important as how you eventually use it. You need to implement reliable collection methods and develop funnels for useful data. Here are a few facilities management tips that revolve around data collection:

  1. Identify metrics: Before you start quantifying the workplace, figure out what elements are important to you. Are you measuring occupancy? Utilization? What’s your objective in gathering data and what metrics factor into measuring progress toward your goals?
  2. Trial equipment: Don’t throw money at an IoT investment because it has good reviews or incentivizes you to use it. There are hardware and software components to every data funnel—test and trial them before making a splash with your office IoT.
  3. Scale into the IoT: Start small and scale up. Taking the time to build a good data collection funnel saves you the hassle of reinventing the wheel with each new funnel you set up. Master the basics and scale into more robust data streams.
  4. Automate: The IoT and workplace data should make your workplace more efficient. Automation is a huge part of that. When building out your IoT, automate data collection and aggregation wherever possible. The goal is not to add more tasks.
  5. Develop an ecosystem: On the software side, leverage integrations wherever possible. Syncing everything through an Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS) or porting over data seamlessly between applications makes leveraging it easy.
  6. Be transparent: Employees will get nervous if sensors start showing up sporadically in their workplace. Be transparent in data collection initiatives and strive for data anonymity wherever possible.

Think of collecting data as a front-end process. This is where the bulk of the work comes from, and it’s crucial to establish proper data collection modes and means. The integrity of the data you get relies on how well you collect it.

How to use workplace data

Once you have data, it’s time to put it to work. Organizing and interpreting data are learned skills, which means investing time in learning how to apply a dataset to real concepts. Becoming fluent in data interpretation gives way to more confident facility management ideas. Here’s how:

  1. Aggregate data: Dumping all your workplace data into a single spreadsheet isn’t helpful. Break it out, delineate sources, and establish good reporting practices. Here again, an IWMS is a smart investment that can deliver dashboard views of unique data streams.
  2. Evaluate data: Learn how to dissect data. Establish mean, median, mode, and range for the data you’re looking at. Understand outliers. Learn to recognize trends and correlate them to physical events. Mastering data means spending a lot of time with it.
  3. Match data to KPIs: Remember those metrics you established for collecting data? Put them to work organizing data! Identify which data streams allude to specific metrics and observe that data through the lens of your objective for powerful insights.
  4. Generate reports: Establishing automated reports of data gives specific insight into the KPIs and trends most important to stakeholders. Best of all, different reports can quickly answer the questions of diverse stakeholders, from the CEO, to the COO, to the CFO.
  5. Identify real applications: What workplace trends does the data illuminate and what changes may improve those figures? Better still, what workplace demands aren’t currently met and how can you leverage data to make quantifiable improvements?
  6. Draw conclusions: Consider workplace improvement initiatives and look at data surrounding them. Using what you know from the data you’ve collected, establish a course for action, backed by fact.

There are two ways to use workplace data effectively. You can pour over datasets to identify trends, formulating improvement initiatives from that data. Alternatively, you can weigh existing ideas against data to determine if they’re worth pursuing. In either case, the answers lie within the data.

Data leads to a better workplace

Establishing a good foundation for data collection is the first step towards office optimization. Learning how to evaluate and leverage that data is the second half of the equation. Facility managers who can combine the two will become invaluable assets for companies concerned about workplace optimization. Establish these fundamentals today to coordinate the workplace of tomorrow.

Keep reading: How to Select Facility Management Software.


How Does Conference Room Scheduling Software Work?

By Aleks Sheynkman
Director of Engineering

Automation is one of the great conveniences in the modern workplace. The ability to take a singular user input and process a desired effect with little-to-no human interaction saves time and helps everything run smoothly. Nowhere is this more evident than in conference room scheduling software. At a time when agile workplaces are on the rise and time is more precious than ever, automated conference booking software makes finding a space, inviting attendees, and collaborating simple.

Like all forms of technology, automation is great…when it works. When it doesn’t, it can cause far more problems than it solves. It’s critical to set up automated conference room booking software the right way the first time. Thankfully, facility managers using a modern Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS) like SpaceIQ shouldn’t have any trouble. Room booking software is as easy to deploy as it is intuitive to use.

Here’s a look at what it takes to get conference room scheduling software up and running in your workplace, so employees can start taking advantage of the many benefits it offers.

Step 1: Integrate with facilities management software

Facilities management software is a must-have for room booking. Managing each room digitally enables automation, providing necessary booking variables. If each conference room has a digital twin, employees can bridge the gap between their physical needs and the digital booking process.

Label each bookable room in the IWMS, creating the booking variable. Make sure to use a simple, memorable conference room naming convention so employees can locate and book the room they need. Be sure to include all important variables about the room in a quick-reference profile—space size, IT amenities, location, and any other pertinent facts.

Step 2: Integrate with employee-facing software

Once the room’s digital twin exists in the IWMS, connect meeting room booking software to the employee-facing tools used to book it. This might include anything from a company intranet portal to integration with a messaging app like Slack. This is where the request is submitted to the IWMS for processing, and where employees receive confirmation or rebuttal.

Remember, employee-facing software is merely the medium; the IWMS is at the heart of the automation. Syncing everything through an IWMS ensures seamless booking, no matter what method someone uses. If someone books Conference Room A at 2p.m. on Tuesday through Slack, someone trying to book the same room at the same time through their calendar app needs to see it’s already reserved. Central processing through an IWMS coordinates requests through all channels.

Step 3: Establish booking methods

After you establish booking channels, qualify booking methods. This is where automated room scheduling software shines—it allows companies to control the room booking process, creating an ordered framework.

For example, an intranet web portal may ask for the following variables when booking a room: date, time, room name, booking length, person reserving, emails of invitees. Using this information, the IWMS checks and confirms the booking using the date, time, name, and length variables; then, emails confirmations to all attendees. Or, consider booking through Slack. A person might type “/reserve” into a channel, generating a list of rooms nearby, with options to book different lengths of time. Clicking a time prompts an action to invite others using a quick “@person” command, and each person gets a notification of where and when the meeting is.

Each medium has its own method, and it’s important to structure these methods based on how you want the automated booking software to function.

Step 4: Advocate conference room booking

There’s no sense in having automated conference room booking if no one uses it. Encourage employees to take advantage of time-saving booking processes whenever they need to reserve a room. Send out a memo outlining each booking medium, create booking SOPs, and let department leaders set the example in using them.

Step 5: Quantify room usage and learn

Room booking software not only automates the process, it quantifies room usage. Through insights collected by the IWMS, facility managers can see which rooms are in demand and which aren’t regularly utilized. These insights prompt questions that help shape the workplace. Why aren’t people using Conference Room C? Do we need more collaborative spaces due to high booking volume? Are we leasing space we don’t need?

Paying attention to conference room booking data puts facility managers in control of the workplace, while reducing the everyday demand of having to coordinate how people use facilities. By automating room booking they can turn their attention to ensuring space is properly used and make adjustments where it’s not.

With a good digital ecosystem already in place, it doesn’t take much to get automated conference room scheduling software up and running. Once it is, keep advocating its use among employees and use the data it provides to continually make workspaces more accessible. Then, start to consider what other workplace processes might benefit from simple automations.

Keep reading: Six Pillars of Conference Room Etiquette


The Broad Benefits of Technology in the Workplace

By Aleks Sheynkman
Director of Engineering

No matter what company you work for or what industry you’re in, your workplace is steeped in technological marvels. The smartphone, tablet, or computer you’re reading this article on is proof of that. The benefits of technology in the workplace are broad, but we’ve become so familiar with them that we need to remember what we’re capable of doing because of technology.

Take something as simple as CC’ing 10 people on an email instead of printing 10 copies of a memo and sending it through interoffice mail. It’s an everyday thing, but nonetheless amazing in context.

Look at any digital innovation and you’ll immediately see the impact of technology in the workplace. But we tend to think about it in terms of execution—how technology has changed the process. What are the advantages of technology in the workplace? To understand them, and to see how important technology is, look past the process and focus on the results.

  • Develops efficiency: Look at the efficiency of email vs. snail mail, cloud vs. in-person collaboration, automated room booking vs. user-coordinated reservations. The list of technology-driven efficiencies is endless. Technology is designed to make work easier, and efficiency—a chief driver of technological innovation—is a natural byproduct.
  • Makes work faster: There’s a difference between efficiency and speed. Workplace technology gives us both, and we need to appreciate them separately. Businesses need only look at their value stream to see technological speed at work. Technology reduces the time it takes us to do X by automating Y and Z. The result is faster time to market, faster realization of profit, and faster reinvestment into the value stream.
  • Introduces uniformity: Technology operates on an input-output framework. This makes it easy for businesses to control both, creating consistency and uniformity in the workplace. Take a badging system, for example. Badges create uniformity across groups, allowing and denying them access where appropriate. Marketing’s badges allow access to floors one and two; Accounting’s to three; Sales to four and five; and executive badges to all floors. Every person gets to where they need to go because technology governs the input-output.
  • Opens up communication: Email, instant messaging, and video chats make communication simple, no matter the situation. You can message someone across the world in seconds as easily as you can simultaneously video conference with five people in different time zones. This level of communication fosters everything from quicker decision-making to better relationships among coworkers, partners, and prospects.
  • Encourages creativity: With collaboration and communication comes a natural inclination toward creativity. Technology stimulates creativity by giving individuals an outlet for their ideas. It could be as simple as using Pinterest to put together a mood board for a client or using a smartboard during a brainstorming session. Or, it’s more indirect, like allowing groups to automatically book a collaborative space where they can talk freely about their ideas. Technology serves as the basis for an outpouring of creativity.
  • Improves adaptability: The speed and information technology affords us has led to adaptable workplaces. Entire teams can assess and respond to situations and changes in minutes, without falling off track or veering off course. Even beyond the speed of adaptability, the potential to find new, better solutions has also improved. Technology helps us make the best adjustment—not just the most obvious one.
  • Enhances comfort: Technology breeds comfort in a roundabout way. Consider the smart thermostat that automatically adjusts to the optimal workplace temperature or the occupancy sensor that determines the ideal configuration for a space. These technologies create comfort in their own way—comfort that leads to better productivity, improved mood, and better focus.
  • Increases profits: Combine efficiency, quickness, comfort, and other benefits of technology and you’ll see real results for your bottom line. Technology increases profits. Need proof? Look at the broad adoption of new technologies as they come to market. There’s great demand for technology because it eliminates waste and uncertainty, which trickles back in the form of cost savings and revenues. Technologies end up paying for themselves.

The importance of technology in the workplace is in its ability to shape how we work. It’s fine to marvel at today’s technologies and look at how far we’ve come. But what’s more important is looking ahead, at what technologies will herald new amazing workplace transformations. Innovations like the IoT, machine learning, 5G, and automation are here, changing how we do what we do right before our eyes. What benefits will these technologies bring? More of the same, or something brand new?

Keep reading: Technological Determinism Yields to User Determinism


The Future of Wayfinding is Experiential

By Aleks Sheynkman
Director of Engineering

The future of wayfinding goes beyond practicality. Using enhanced technologies, businesses can focus on fostering rapport with everyone navigating their facilities. Wayfinding should be an experience: one that efficiently manages staff and effectively engages visitors. People shouldn’t just know how to get to where they’re going—they should appreciate where they are.

Wayfinding should promote interaction

Your facilities exist for a reason. They house staff and assets, and serve as a framework for interaction—your business couldn’t exist without a tangible workplace. Facilities need to be easily navigable, welcoming, and accommodating. When these criteria are met, wayfinding becomes less about directing people and more about informing them.

The transition from directing to informing is an important distinction to make. There’s different connotations—passive and active. Someone worried about losing their way is intent on following the directions. They’re engaged in a passive interaction with your facilities. Conversely, someone who feels confident in navigation is learning about your building from your signage. They’re engaged in active interaction: absorbing knowledge and learning. The two activities equate to different experiences.

Read more: 9 Wayfinding Best Practices.

Make navigation a convenience

It’s impossible to reap the full benefits of facilities if people struggle to navigate them. Most people who have difficulty finding their way don’t complain, but are still frustrated and embarrassed when they’re lost. Being lost is an inconvenience, and it affects how they perceive both your facilities and your company. Inadequate wayfinding hurts your business in many ways:

  • Confused visitors form a bad first impression
  • Clients and customers leave frustrated or under-sold
  • Employees waste time looking for people or places
  • Amenities go under-utilized or unused when not easily found

Modern wayfinding technologies like mobile devices, smart signage, and kiosks open up a new frontier of possibilities. Wayfinding predictions include ways to focus on enhancing the human experience through innovative, user-centered applications.

Showcase real-time information

What better way to promote user experience than with smart signs that change automatically based on proximity? Future integrations will let businesses configure monitors and maps to show information based on who’s nearby. Examples that might ping from a user’s phone to a nearby smart sign include:

  • Hot desk availability in a specific area
  • Simple left, right, forward directions to a destination
  • Outages, closures, or hazards disrupting a route
  • Parking space availability
  • Current menus or available products

Small signs with big messages

Some signs serve a specific purpose, such as displaying current occupancy information about a conference room or seating area. These purpose-specific signs can and will be more an experiential part of wayfinding in the near future. Don’t settle for generic signs when custom options let you:

  • Match colors and fonts to company branding
  • Use iconography to express a specific message
  • Display dynamic messaging, such as next availability
  • Recommend a nearby space if occupied

Let AI point the way 

Artificial intelligence (AI) is already a major workplace disruptor. Voice assistants and machine-learning programs are changing facility management—now, AI is coming to wayfinding.

AI-enabled mobile applications can route employees to their next destination without them having to look it up or go back to their desk. Visitors can receive individualized directions to their destinations from apps using GPS location together with appointment data. The courtesies afforded by AI are a warm welcome for the nervous newcomer and a relief for employees moving from place to place throughout the day. They preempt the actual wayfinding experience to make it seamless.

Create personalized experiences

Wayfinding trends will soon advance beyond just providing adequate directions. Soon, they’ll help create memorable impressions. Businesses will have access to user data, allowing them to  create tailored experiences across unique office spaces.

Send push-alerts or text messages that address guests by name and ask where they’d like to go when they enter the lobby. Leverage GPS assets to deliver responsive real-time instructions to people on-the-move throughout the facilities. Deploy AI to guide people to specific areas based on habitual data like past visits or recent searches.

Every business will soon see the value in creating a personal, immersive wayfinding experience. The National Comedy Center in Jamestown, NY is one of Time’s World’s Greatest Places because of its customized tour experiences. The museum uses questionnaire data together with radio-frequency identification (RFID) wristbands to guide visitors through digital exhibits, which automatically cater to visitors’ preferred comedians and sub-genres. It’s a personalized, one-of-a-kind experience from start to finish.

Experience is everything

What is the future of wayfinding if not a move toward experiential marketing? We’re all acquainted with the power of personalized experiences and their effect on key metrics like satisfaction, trust, and confidence. The opportunities for utilizing data-driven displays and mobile navigation in a physical workplace are as unique as your business. Businesses can leverage up-and-coming wayfinding capabilities to meet the experiential expectations of customers and employees.

Keep reading: Seven Features of Powerful Wayfinding Software.