Workplace Productivity During COVID-19: What to Expect

By Jeff Revoy
Chief Operations Officer

Businesses that remain open during the coronavirus pandemic face unique challenges. Despite continuing to operate, the situation is far from “business as usual.” They face major workforce disruptions in the form of beleaguered employees, newly transitioned remote workers, and non-traditional work schedules. The volume of work coming through the door might be the same, but workplace productivity during COVID-19 is likely to be down.

This isn’t the time for employers to crack the whip. Likely, the opposite. Employees need support during this challenging time. Employers need to prepare for lagged productivity and take a compassionate stance by delivering aid to frazzled workers.

Productivity dips

Dips in productivity will happen. It might be in the amount of work an employee can handle or their turnaround time on tasks and projects. It could show up in the caliber of their work. You might even find employees working fewer hours, exhausted by stressors like media overstimulation or a hectic home life. It doesn’t matter how productivity issues show up; what matters is accounting for them.

Coronavirus affects every person differently—directly or indirectly. While work is a top priority for most people, they’re also afraid for their health, economic stability, and community. They can’t escape with friends or go out to blow off steam, and they’re likely suffering under some level of stress about some or all of these things. Your employees are only human, and it’s human to face worry and distraction amidst a global pandemic.

Here’s how to compassionately recognize productivity setbacks and support your workforce as coronavirus uncertainties linger.

Transition to remote work

If you have the capacity to offer remote work arrangements, do it. Don’t just hand out laptops and expect employees to keep up with their usual job duties. The transition to remote work needs finesse—especially for those doing it for the first time. Here are a few ways to ease the transition:

  • Ensure remote user access to all relevant aspects of the business’ cloud
  • Provide access to apps and software that enable seamless off-site work
  • Set expectations with clear guidelines on working hours and etiquette
  • Keep IT resources on-hand to quickly troubleshoot user and network issues
  • Phase in remote work to avoid confusion and disruptions

Employees may not feel confident maintaining productivity levels in the middle of a transition to remote work. Let them know it’s okay and provide them with assurance and resources to build their confidence in their new work situation.

Provide helpful tools and resources

If you haven’t already, adopt cloud technologies that enable seamless remote work. Many enterprise software platforms offer cloud options—Microsoft and Adobe product suites, project management tools, messenger applications, and task management apps. Adopt cloud solutions before you transition remote workers. It’s easier to troubleshoot in-house than it is with distributed teams.

It’s not enough to provide these apps and platforms. You also need to offer guidance on how employees can use them. Offer tips and insights, and encourage employees to share what works for them. As remote workers get more comfortable with different software, they’ll find their own strategies and slowly regain their productivity.

Manage employee workload

One of the simplest ways to proactively recognize a lapse in productivity is to moderate employee workloads. Scale back and distribute work differently as people ease into remote work for the first time or in a new capacity. You might reallocate work to team members with less on their plate, or even bring on contract employees for a short period of time to ease the transition.

Be upfront about managed workloads. Employees shouldn’t feel like they’re in danger of losing their jobs or be insecure about the company’s stability. Frame it as a courtesy and be upfront about it. “We’re scaling back your workload temporarily so you can get adjusted to working from home.” Simply said and effective.

On the flip side, be cognizant about how you ramp things back up and monitor any productivity issues that linger. Offer help to employees who need it and listen to their concerns.

Account for gaps in productivity, without penalizing it

For some employers, productivity issues may never arise. Your employees may already be proficient in remote work or productive as part of a decentralized team. Regardless, it’s better to forecast gaps in productivity before they become a problem. Have a plan to tackle them, such as re-shuffling staff, work with temporary contractors, or moderate individual employee workloads.

The goal is to maintain business output without overexerting employees. Mounting pressure to keep up with regular productivity levels will only stress them more, and can lead to more problems like burnout or poor-quality work. Be compassionate and adopt creative solutions to give your employees a little reprieve in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Mobile Collaboration Tools Help Decentralized Teams Succeed

By Jeff Revoy
Chief Operations Officer

Team collaboration is only successful if every individual does their part. This is easy when everyone is in the same room. Persons A, B, and C can each claim responsibility for X, Y, and Z, and they always know how their contribution affects the big picture. If they have questions, need help, or need to get their bearings, their teammates are right there. But today’s teams aren’t always in the same room—let alone the same building or even the same city. To work together successfully, these teams rely on mobile collaboration tools.

Mobile collaboration tools take proximity out of group communication. Team members don’t need to congregate around a desk or sit in a conference room to work together. They use chat apps on-the-go, collaborate on documents at all times of the day, and video conference when face-to-face communication is essential. Every member of the team needs a toolbox of mobile apps they use to contribute meaningfully.

Five types of mobile collaboration tools

Mobile collaboration happens in a variety of different ways and requires diverse mediums to accomplish it. Brainstorming via a chat client is much different from marking up a document, which demands capabilities beyond what a video conferencing app offers.

There are five pillars of collaboration that on-the-go, decentralized teams need to maintain group productivity:

  1. Messaging and chat apps. Easier than talking on the phone, more organized than email, messaging apps are the de-facto communication mode for teams—decentralized or otherwise.
  2. File sharing applications. From text documents to graphics, teams need access to important project collateral to work together. Mobile file sharing apps give them secure access anywhere.
  3. Video conferencing tools. Sometimes there’s no substitute for face-to-face interaction. When you can’t be in the same place at the same time, video conferencing tools gives teams the visual they need.
  4. Document editing software. Collaboration across tasks requires a way to share and modify documents. Cloud-based editing software enables changes, so everyone can provide consolidated feedback.
  5. Project management platforms. Good project management requires an overview of all tasks and timelines. Teams access mobile project management dashboards to understand the big picture better.

These pillars cover every mode of communication a team might use in-office and adapt it for decentralized work. Instead of congregating around a desk, teams can host a group video chat. No more passing around a printed document for the group to redline; online editing software tracks and organizes changes. More than enabling teams to work remotely, mobile collaboration tools help them work better.

A note about cloud-hosted apps

The best mobile collaboration tools for business aren’t just cross-compatible between devices and operating systems—they’re cloud-hosted. Every person has their own preference between Mac and PC or Android vs. iOS, but the cloud component transcends these preferences. You can’t collaborate without a medium to facilitate communication. That’s the cloud.

The Slack message you send to the group needs to live in the cloud as part of the chain of communication. It’s the same for file storage and project management data. This information doesn’t do any good if it’s stored on a single person’s device or lost in translation due to a poor network connection.

Cloud-hosted apps establish the links between decentralized teams. This way, everyone stays on the same page. Groups spend less time worrying about whether they have the most current version of something and more time focused on the task at hand. The same goes for messaging or video—cloud-hosted apps remove barriers to communication, like software compatibility or device preference. It’s all online, and everyone observes the same standard in the cloud.

Keep the team in constant collaboration

Thanks to mobile collaboration apps, teams working a traditional 9-to-5 are actually at a disadvantage over their decentralized counterparts. They get the benefit of face-to-face, real-time interaction, but that collaboration caps off at eight hours each day.

Consider mobile team collaboration. Person A works from 7-to-3 each day; Person B keeps 9-to-5 hours; and Person C works a 2-to-10 shift. Their hours overlap, which gives them time to work on individual tasks, as well as collaborate in real-time with their teammates. The total scope of their workday: 15 hours—nearly double the in-office team, without adding any extra strain to any single member of the group. Moreover, in this example there’s only nine hours between when the last person stops working and the first person starts, which puts projects on a shorter cycle.

Do mobile collaboration tools work?

There’s a myth that decentralized teams can’t work as effectively as in-house groups. Mobile collaboration tools prove this theory wrong. They not only allow members of a group to work in their own fashion, they enable better synergy and productivity. Ask yourself, if mobile collaboration didn’t work, why are there so many apps, platforms, resources, and technologies devoted to helping decentralized teams stay productive?

Keep reading: 10 Remote Working Tools That Boost Team Collaboration


COVID-19 Workplace Planning and Readiness

By Jeff Revoy
Chief Operations Officer

Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has caused widespread disruption to every workplace, regardless of business size or industry. COVID-19 workplace planning and readiness needs to be at the top of every employer’s list of immediate concerns.

To ensure a smooth pivot and continued operation, executives and facilities managers need to work together to determine what effect the pandemic has had on business, what precautions to take, and how to plan going forward.

No one knows how long the pandemic will last or what unforeseen problems it will cause. All we can do is be prepared. Here are some of the most important questions employers need to ask themselves about COVID-19 workplace planning and readiness:

Is your business essential?

Nearly every state has enacted some form of shelter-in-place or stay-at-home order. Because these are state-level policies, they expire at different times and are subject to different rules and standards. Make yourself aware of your state’s policy and its status—when it’ll expire or to what date it’s been extended.

If you operate in a state under a shelter-in-place or stay-at-home order, you need to determine if your business is “essential.” Essential businesses can keep their workplaces open with social distancing in place. Non-essential businesses must offer a work-from-home alternative or shut down until the state lifts the at-home order. If you’re considered essential, take appropriate steps to evaluate your operations. Do you need to shift to remote work or enact new workplace policies to protect employees?

Formulate a remote work plan

When it comes to remote work, there are three types of businesses that have:

  • No experience or infrastructure to accommodate remote staff
  • Some remote work experience and limited means
  • Robust remote work practices and an active telecommuting staff

Figure out where your company falls on the scale, then plan from there. If you have zero experience with remote work, channel your energy into building out an infrastructure and processes. Invest in your business cloud platform and explore resources that enable easy, safe, accessible data sharing. Pinpoint your most essential business functions and find ways to port them over to remote work. Remote work is possible for most companies without tangible work assets. Prepare for a transition; don’t expect to flip the switch on a fully productive remote workforce. It’ll take time for employees to acclimate.

For businesses with experience accommodating remote employees, lean into the processes and standards you’ve already developed. Get every employee up and running with the permissions and accesses they need, starting with the most important contributors.

While some businesses can undoubtedly transition to remote work quicker than others, the more important metric is the productivity of newly remote employees. Make sure your workers have the full capabilities to do their job—even if it takes a week or two to get acclimated to the new environment.

Update workplace safety standards

Essential businesses that remain open need to strategize new standards for employee health and wellness at work. Specifically, they need to focus on ways to mitigate the presence and spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. It’s a threefold approach for most businesses:

  • Social Distancing: Enact policies that keep employees at least six feet apart at all times. Rearrange and modify workspaces to accommodate employees while maintaining safe working distances. Minimize the number of in-person meetings and interactions. The goal is to reduce and eliminate transmission opportunities in the event the virus reaches your workplace.
  • Hygiene: Maintain high-level cleanliness and hygiene standards throughout the workplace, including employees’ personal hygiene. This is as simple as providing hand washing reminders and setting up hand sanitizing stations throughout the office. Another smart solution is to contract a local company for more frequent cleanings or sterilization.
  • Communicate: Advise employees on what they can do to keep their workplace safe. This may include wearing a mask, minimizing workstation sprawl, or observing new forms of distancing etiquette. Be clear on whether they’re recommendations or enforceable policies, and make all employees acutely aware of them—either via workplace signage or company-wide communications.

Beyond heightened safety, make sure to support your employees any way you can. They’re likely unnerved about coming to work in a pandemic. Take the time to listen and show them you care about their health.

Adopt an agile response plan

The future of the coronavirus pandemic is rife with uncertainties. No one knows when we’ll develop a vaccination, and there’s continued tension between states and the federal government about when to lift isolation orders. Businesses can only speculate when their workplaces will open—and those with essential workplaces need time to reacclimate themselves to normal operations.

The best thing any business can do is to plan ahead and stay flexible. Create an agile response plan for your workplace—one that accounts for remote and in-house work possibilities. Stay cognizant of CDC and WHO recommendations for sanitization, and develop processes for protecting employees who remain at work. There’s a lot we don’t know, but much we can do.


Boost Team Collaboration with 10 Remote Working Tools

By Jeff Revoy
Chief Operations Officer

In an office, it’s easy to sit around a conference table or congregate at someone’s desk to discuss work. For decentralized teams, lack of proximity is a problem. Team members scattered across the office, at home, in a coworking space, or across the globe can’t assemble in a few minutes. Instead, they rely on remote working tools to give them the same collaborative opportunities.

Collaborative software has changed how decentralized teams work together. No more lengthy email chains. No more individual note keeping or communication gaps. No more files scattered throughout individual team members’ hard drives. Digital tools bring remote teams together in the same way the office does—the only thing missing is physical proximity.

Here’s a look at some of the best tools for remote teams and how they remove the collaborative barriers decentralized teams face. Keep in mind, this is just a smattering of the most-used, most-trusted apps on the market today. There are hundreds of viable tools for teams big and small.

  1. Slack: Slack’s organization of channels, direct messaging, and numerous integrations make it a central communication hub for some of the largest companies in the world. It’s more than a messaging platform; it’s the de-facto platform for chatting, collaborating, planning, and sharing for decentralized teams.
  2. Zoom: Video chat is the next best thing to a face-to-face meeting. Zoom stands as a leader among video-based remote collaboration tools for many reasons. It supports large groups, offers low-latency video, and delivers screen-sharing features. It’s a platform far beyond other video-based sharing apps.
  3. Trello: Decentralized teams love the Kanban-style project organization capabilities of Trello. With various boards, tasks, and workflows, it’s the visual tool keeping teams on-track, organized, and focused. Assign boards and cards to group members and stay up-to-date on progress with an interface that’s easily synced to numerous other apps.
  4. Salesforce: A cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) tool, Salesforce brings powerful client information to teams, for concerted efforts to close sales, deliver projects, and negotiate contracts. Salesforce supports decentralized sales, marketing, and account management teams, for vertical integration across the company.
  5. G-Suite: Google’s app suite is the gold standard in remote working software because it has the widest user base and the simplest baseline functions. Google Docs, Sheets, Drive, and Forms offer real-time collaboration, easy sharing, and seamless integration with virtually every other major platform.
  6. Dropbox: Dropbox continues to evolve as a must-have tool for remote teams. It’s first and foremost a file storage and sharing platform. But it also works as a collaboration tool, visual file viewer, secure delivery platform, and much more. Dropbox bridges many of the gaps inherent to sharing numerous files across remote teams.
  7. Asana: Project management tools are essential for remote teams. Asana’s unique interface puts a visual workflow together for real-time monitoring of team member progress and tasks. Everyone knows what everyone else is doing, when they’re doing it, and how individual efforts impact the overall project.
  8. Monday: Monday’s broad customization capabilities make it useful for decentralized teams with unique project management needs. Build workflows and databases for each person or project, so the whole team can see where priorities are and what’s upcoming. It’s an important app for long-term planning by remote teams.
  9. Airtable: Airtable combines the demand for everyday spreadsheets into a database-style system with powerful capabilities. For remote teams sharing large amounts of data—marketing, sales, and finance—Airtable’s broad customizations help teams aggregate, sort, and look up data that’s vital to the big picture.
  10. Basecamp: Basecamp is a digital workplace. It offers teams an inclusive array of features to give them everything they need to communicate and collaborate in one place. It’s a task manager, messenger, project tracker, data log, and more, all rolled into one. For teams that miss the workplace feel, they’ll find it in this digital ecosystem.

There are infinite variations of these platforms, as well. What works for some teams might not work for others, and there are always alternatives to try. Teams need to find pillar programs that facilitate important aspects of collaboration: communication, organization, project management, information, and accountability.

Think about how people collaborate when they’re face-to-face with each other. That same dynamic is available to decentralized teams through the right suite of remote working tools. It’s a matter of understanding what people need to collaborate effectively.

Keep reading: 8 Apps for Remote Workers Productivity and Success

Workplace Thought Leadership

Workplace Automation is a Triple Win

By Jeff Revoy
Chief Operations Officer

What is the most profound shift that’s occurred in the workplace in the past 30 years? In a word: automation. When you request a ride on Uber, you realize it’s happening all around us in our personal and professional lives—not just in factories.

As workplace automation spreads, companies need to identify its quantitative and qualitative benefits before implementing a solution. The most powerful automation delivers a triple win for your company, your people, and your customers.

The Metamorphosis of the Workplace

Today’s college students wouldn’t recognize the office of the 1990s. Dilbert™ cubicles, PBX phone systems, and desktop PCs ruled the workplace. At the time, work was typically done within an arm’s reach of your desk. The dual forces of technology limitations and corporate culture effectively chained employees to their desks.

But that structure gave way as new work styles emerged, prompting office layouts to follow suit. In the past decade, we’ve seen cubicle walls not only come down but morph into benching systems and open offices. And now the pendulum is swinging toward agile workplaces based on neighborhoods, free address, and flexible spaces.

Technology is driving these changes. Consider something as simple as an office phone. We all used to have landlines at our desks. They never dropped a call, but they were only convenient if you were physically nearby. Then we went through a Blackberry phase, which effectively cut the phone cord. Once we were permanently untethered from a workstation, those devices evolved into smartphones.

The same technology shift can be seen in workplace management platforms. Traditional legacy systems were great at handling important back office functions, they are like your parents’ landline—they fulfill their primary purpose but don’t have the same power as a smartphone. Integrated workplace management systems (IWMS) and cloud-based solutions are fast-forming an ecosystem that’s sweeping away legacy solutions on the next wave of workplace automation.

The Triple Win of Automation

Let’s be real—people are still nervous about automation. There’s a persistent perception that artificial intelligence and machine learning will eliminate jobs. And yet the only industry that’s completely disappeared is the iconic elevator operator. In truth, automation is making the workplace more productive and enjoyable while saving companies money.

The secret is to be intentional about what type of automation you adopt. Don’t implement a solution because you want to appear cool or edgy. Automation must offer real and quantifiable benefits. A successful digital transformation is finding the sweet spot we call The Triple Win: a success for clients, your company, and your employees.

These three examples show the real-world advantages of using automation to satisfy customer expectations, employee engagement, and the bottom line:

1) Airline Booking 

Remember having to call an airline to reserve your tickets or change a flight? About 90% of your interaction was over the phone with a human being. Between websites and mobile apps, everything is now self-service. You can book a flight, change a reservation, pick your seat, and get flight notifications, which gives you a better, more efficient, and satisfying experience. Automation also allows representatives to perform strategic customer management instead, like a last-second flight change. That’s a bonus for travelers, airline personnel, and the airlines.

2) Receptionists

There was a time when you had to write your name in a book when visiting a company…then wait for a receptionist to call the person you were meeting. And then wait. Manual check-in is a waste of time, even if there’s a live receptionist who is warm and welcoming. Automation allows you to register on a tablet and sign an NDA while a message is simultaneously sent to the person you’re meeting. The process is not only smoother and more cost effective, but the receptionist is freed up to handle more complex tasks.

3) Nursing

Nurses are highly skilled and educated individuals, so why are they spending time delivering ice and blankets? Enter a robot assistant that fetches and delivers commonly requested items. Patients get better care because nurses can concentrate on their primary job, avoid the frustration of menial chores, and help hospitals improve patient outcomes.

Now, consider how automation can produce a triple win in the workplace. If you have 1,000 employees but want to maximize your office layout, you need hard data to make real changes. Imagine if occupancy data shows that only 700 desks are used on a given day. Workplace managers could convert underutilized square footage into huddle rooms or lounges. Automated solutions like a modern workplace management system help reimagine the workplace you have today by optimizing existing space, boosting employee productivity and morale, and delivering better products to customers.

That’s a true triple win for your workplace.

Keep reading: Space As A Service: A Workplace Competitive Advantage


Implementing Change in the Workplace with Minimal Resistance

By Jeff Revoy
Chief Operations Officer

Implementing change in the workplace is something every company has to face as it grows and evolves. No matter how big or small, change is necessary to preserve momentum and adapt to external forces. Unfortunately, change at any scale is difficult and often met with resistance.

Companies face a proverbial rock and a hard place—force change on a resistant workforce or stick to what’s familiar as it becomes antiquated. Because the latter isn’t always an option, companies often choose the former and pray their employees learn to adapt.

The downfall comes from thinking there are only two options to implementing change in the workplace. There’s actually a third: empowering employees in the change process. Where the prospect of change can make people feel powerless, giving workers a level of control over how to make changes can garner their support.

Resistance to change is natural

Bucking change is a natural reaction for most people. We’re creatures of habit and change is inherently the opposite of habit, which makes it immediately uncomfortable. Even change for the better can make people balk. There’s an entire field of psychology focused on understanding the knee-jerk reaction to resist change.

All this is to say, don’t expect employees to embrace change—at least not outright. Expect them to oppose it in varying degrees, from expressing simple concern to outright refusing to comply. Your reaction to their reaction is important. Don’t escalate or infuse negativity into the situation or it’ll make employees even more resistant.

Introducing change is the epitome of fighting an uphill battle. What can you do to make it seem less a Sisyphean task and more the means to a positive end? Here are a few tips:

Make change transparent

Regardless of your strategies for implementing change in the workplace, make them transparent. Don’t simply mandate change—introduce the concept, explain it, and give the practical reasoning behind it. It may seem like you’re opening the process up to scrutiny, but the transparency in sharing is exactly what employees need to quell their initial fears. It demystifies the change and shows your concern for their input and involvement.

The simplest way to introduce transparency in change is to cover the five Ws:

  • Who does this change affect?
  • What is the nature of the change?
  • Where does this change come into play?
  • When will the change take place?
  • Why are you changing things?

These questions and their answers will spark scrutiny and criticism. That’s okay. The purpose in answering them is to create transparency and show you’re not undertaking change in haste. Fielding pushback, criticism, questions, and suggestions comes as part of the next step.

Involve employees in the process

Communication needs to be a two-way medium whenever there’s change in the workplace. If employees feel like they’re forced into a change without a voice for their ideas or concerns, they’re more likely to dig in and fight it—or worse, suffer from it. It benefits companies to give their employees the floor and incorporate them into the process of change.

Knowing how to implement change in the workplace is a multifaceted problem. How does it affect processes? People? Outcomes? Systems? Sure, managers can model change and simulate outcomes, but it’s the people executing change that’ll deliver the best insights. Involving employees in the process serves to soften them against impending change and gives employers important, valuable information when planning.

Resistance to change quickly erodes when employees have a hand in shaping their own destiny, with some control over how change affects them.

Showcase the benefits of change

Evangelize the benefits of any proposed changes before, during, and after their rollout. Employees should clearly see how they benefit from proposed changes and how those changes are an improvement from their current routine. A benefits-driven rollout helps companies implement change in the workplace when there’s uncertainty about why change is necessary.

Benefits should directly correlate to the frustrations and headwinds of employees in some way. Recognize and frame these benefits plainly. This is another reason to involve employees in the change process—to get a better understanding of how to tailor workplace change in the best way.

Think of change as a give and take. Employees don’t want to give up their habits and familiar processes unless they’re getting something in return—something better than what they’re giving up. If the benefits outweigh fear of change, employee buy-in is a lot more amicable. Focus on delivering real, evident benefits as compensation for change.

Ease the process and encourage adoption

Empowering employees to not only accept change but embrace it is the best way for companies to stay nimble without resistance. Taking the unknown out of changes, showcasing the benefits, and providing a clear path to adoption makes employees more receptive to inevitable transformations. Seeing the benefits after only serves to solidify the idea that change isn’t as bad as it’s built up to be. From there stems a culture that welcomes change, making it easier for companies to grow and evolve.

Keep reading: Checklist for Addressing Employee Workplace Complaints


Identifying Facilities Management Goals and Objectives

By Jeff Revoy
Chief Operations Officer

There’s no understating the importance of the workplace for business success. Facilities touch every part of the business and impact key metrics like growth, revenue, cash flow, and productivity. Facilities should be an integral part of broader company goals and objectives.

Traditionally, facility managers have acted more as space planners and workspace governors. Now, facilities managers are increasingly tasked to set strategic goals using robust data and analytics from workplace management platforms and other systems.

The role of facilities in goal setting

There are three types of facility management goals: those supporting the company, those supporting employees, and those inherent to facilities themselves. It’s easy to think of these goals in a funnel, with broad support at the top and specifics at the bottom. The role of facilities changes depending on the goal.

Take a broad goal, like growing company revenue from $1M to $2M in 2020. Numerous variables go into this objective, each playing a role in its ultimate success (or failure)—facilities included. Because there are so many factors, the weight of the goal is evenly distributed. Marketing has to market more effectively. Sales has to sell better. Facilities need to support employees. It’s all hands on deck.

Now, think about a goal like implementing a digital conference room booking system. There are only a few required factors and the focus is narrow. It’s facilities-specific and may only involve IT. The onus in accomplishing this goal is on a few parties.

In both examples, facilities matter. It’s easy to consider the role of the workplace in workspace-specific, narrow goals; but the role of the workplace isn’t always apparent in broad goals. It’s up to facility managers to ensure the workplace plays a part in strategic initiatives, regardless of scale.

Broad goals: Company-wide objectives

Broad goals are those pertaining to the entire company. Top or bottom line growth. Branding and culture initiatives. Product or service developments. These goals touch every segment of the business in some form, including facilities.

When it comes to broad goals, the objectives of facilities management tend to be passive. The workplace serves a support role—the foundation for any and all contributors to the goal. It’s about preventing burnout and promoting comfort at work. Ensuring employees have the right workspaces and amenities to do their best work. Streamlining daily operations to conserve time, money, and effort. Bringing this stability to the workplace provides sound backing for company-wide success.

Intermediary goals: employee-specific focuses

Because employees directly interact with their workplace, intermediary goals generally involve facilities to a greater degree. One affects the other. Rearranging the stack plan or moving to a new building. Hiring, promoting, or parting with talent. Installing new workplace processes or practices. To see these objectives succeed, facility managers need to draw a line that connects facilities and people in a positive way.

In most cases, facility managers need to consider employee interaction with the workplace and how facilities support employees. How can workplace changes improve productivity? Enable better collaboration? Reduce friction? Changes may be significant, but they’re also purposeful. If you’re rearranging three departments over four floors, the outcome needs to achieve a specific goal that benefits employees in a meaningful way.

Narrow goals: targeted facilities initiatives

The narrower goals of FM support facilities themselves. Employees may benefit from them and they might contribute to broader business success, but the driving factor behind them is facility-specific improvement. Think about goals like reducing energy expenditures or improving wireless signal strength, for example.

Installing motion-sensitive lights. Developing a portal for maintenance ticketing. Porting over to a new Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS). These are facility-focused goals, wholly tasked to facility managers. Consider them a reinvestment in facilities that support the intermediary and broad goals listed above. Their focus is specific, but the outcome is likely to be far-reaching.

Always factor in facilities

Facilities have gone from a line item on the balance sheet to a key instrument for goal-setting and objective planning. Facility managers aren’t just masters of space planning and allocation—they’re contributors to growth and optimization strategies. These strategies take place at every operational level—from mission-critical goals to everyday workplace improvements. Wherever it’s involved—and it’s always involved—the workplace deserves consideration.

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


What’s Average About Office Space Per Employee?

By Jeff Revoy
Chief Operations Officer

Ever wonder why there are different ticket classes when you fly? It’s because space is scarce on an airplane and people are willing to pay for it. You can buy an economy ticket for $600 and sit with your knees pressed against the seat in front of you. Or, you can fork out another $300 for a first-class ticket with room to sprawl. Employee workspace sizes ascribe to the same concept.

There are guidelines governing average office space per employee. Sure, you can pack people in economy-style or give them a first-class experience. But there are tradeoffs to both. It’s better to find a happy medium—the average amount of space employees need to work comfortably.

Why space-per-person matters

There are many different ways to look at commercial real estate. Most businesses take a financial approach—total square footage vs. lease cost. Increasingly, facilities managers look at space type vs. utilization to determine the best space use. The problem is, these viewpoints look at the value of space, not its relationship to the people using it.

One of the most important—and often overlooked—space metrics is space-per-person, also called personal Usable Square Footage (USF). It’s the measure of how much space an employee needs to work comfortably and productively. When facilities managers understand USF, they can effectively design workplaces made up of welcoming spaces.

Given the right amount of space, it takes workers less time to transition into different areas of an agile environment. Productivity comes more naturally. Employees don’t need to adjust to their workplace; it’s always ready to accommodate them.

How much office space is needed per employee?

Recognizing the office space requirements per employee involves looking at the type of workspaces you currently have. According to a landmark report by Gensler in 2012, Workplace Standards Benchmarking, the amount of USF employees need depends on the work they do. Moreover, there’s no single data point per employee type—rather, a scale to determine minimum and maximum USF levels.

Here’s a profile of eight different fields and the USF benchmarks identified by the Gensler study:

  • Call center: 50 to 175 USF
  • Technology: 115 to 155 USF
  • Finance: 110 to 245 USF
  • Engineering: 150 to 185 USF
  • Law enforcement: 100 to 240 USF
  • Social services: 175 to 235 USF
  • Biotech and science: 125 to 410 USF
  • Legal: 245 to 525 USF

This data illuminates several important findings for facilities managers, specifically how to delegate personal USF across a floor plan.

  • The less mobile the workforce, the less USF employees demand. Call center employees spend their days at a desk on the phone, much in the same way technology and finance employees spend time in front of a computer or doing heads-down work.
  • Often, the average USF delegated to employees is less than the mean. This hints at the tendency of some industries to conserve personal USF—most often to make way for more collaborative space, as evidenced in the Gensler report.
  • The range of USF per employee presents scalable opportunities to either increase USF per person when space is available or shrink USF as companies bring on more employees.

The most important takeaway is that there isn’t a magic number when delegating personal space per employee. It depends on the field, type of work, and broader workplace floor plan. A call center employee doesn’t need as much space as an engineer because their daily work capacity doesn’t demand it. Likewise, the average office square footage in a biotech lab is likely much more than a financial firm.

Industry benchmarks, total square footage measurements, and workspace demand types ultimately drives work area sizes that keep people comfortable and productive.

Give people their space

Packing people in may reduce the amount of space you’re leasing, but it’ll create friction and kill productivity. Letting people spread out comes at the expense of a heftier lease, but you’ll get more options in the spaces you create. How do you want to pilot your company? Beyond economy vs. first-class concepts, remember that there’s a happy medium: business class. It’s the right amount of space someone needs to stay comfortable and content.

Keep reading: 9 Workplace Trends You Should Embrace

Workplace Thought Leadership

How Agile is Your Real Estate?

By Jeff Revoy
Chief Operations Officer

Real estate costs are typically one of the least agile parts of an organization. Every business has a fixed number of buildings or square footage and a set lease period. Company leaders need agile space planning and utilization options to maximize productivity. But how can a business balance a finite footprint with organizational nimbleness?

Workplace analytics are crucial to optimizing commercial real estate (CRE). Trends, forecasting, and projections are critical tools that help companies adapt to changing business demands. The key is understanding the constant evolution of the workplace and how analytics can optimize every square foot.

The Changing World of Real Estate

The CRE landscape is shifting almost daily. That makes it difficult for real estate professionals to project lease needs and costs even a few years into the future. Factors that complicate forecasting include:

  • Lease costs are skyrocketing
  • Long-term occupancy is not guaranteed (and even preferable)
  • Employees no longer adhere to a standard 9-to-5 workday
  • Remote working is on the rise
  • Workplace square footage per employee is shrinking

Organizations are also guilty of treating their workplaces as cost centers. Facility managers feel the pain most when their department budgets and staff are cut. But it’s a mistake to treat your workplace as a sunk cost that should be minimized. Everything in your business has strategic value, including the workplace.

How to Harness Real Estate Data

Real estate is the single biggest fixed expense for any company. But signing a 15-year lease is archaic. Too much can change in three years, much less in a decade. Everything from fluctuating staff levels and shifts in work processes to product or service pivots can change real estate requirements. What you need is a way to make smarter real estate decisions that free up capital to invest elsewhere.

We like to think of this as “real estate yoga.” Yoga for our bodies keeps joints and muscles limber. Real estate yoga has a similar intent—keep your organization agile and flexible. That translates to more productive, collaborative, and satisfied teams. This elasticity also means you won’t be locked into real estate investments that don’t serve the bottom line.

Historically, workplace data has been siloed in individual platforms. That puts organizations at a disadvantage. What if HR doesn’t communicate staffing projections to Facilities Management. Not good. Forecasting real estate needs means breaking down data barriers and putting staffing trends into a usable context by:

1) Collecting Data

Data collection can be as basic as compiling lease details, badge logs, calendar entries, and meeting room reservation information. You can also tap into WiFi and sensor data to form a more detailed picture.

2) Running Projections

Data is only useful if you draw conclusions from it. What if you want to know if a 10-person conference room is the right size for the meetings held in it? You can track calendar reservations, but that won’t tell you how many people came to a meeting and how long they actually used the room. But pair that information with sensor data and you may learn that meetings typically consist of two people. That’s context.

3) Taking Action

This is where real estate yoga strengthens decision making. With trends confirmed by data, you can enact real estate strategies that drive ROI. Some will have productivity benefits, such as rearranging existing space to better suit your employees’ work habits. Others will have an impact on real estate costs, such as deferring a new lease or consolidating square footage.

Imagine a scenario where you have 100 desks on a floor and want to know if the seat-to-employee ratio is appropriate. You analyze badging data and determine that an average of 40 people sign in every day. Now you have concrete proof that the space is underutilized. You can then optimize the layout, such as moving to a 2:1 desk-to-employee ratio or planning a department move.

Workplace analytics also play a major role in evaluating future real estate investments. Companies often struggle to forecast if staffing levels will be under, at, or over capacity when a lease expires. Without good data—and robust analytics built from it using an integrated workplace management system (IWMS)—how do you decide if a lease should be renewed or cancelled?

Current headcount is one indication, but personnel forecasting is another variable. Engineering is predicted to double in size, but it makes a significant difference in on-site workspace if new hires have the option to work remotely. An IWMS will highlight the key factors that ultimately impact your square footage needs.

Workplace analytics enhance visibility into space utilization. Better real estate forecasting and planning tools enable organizations to make workplace-based decisions. They help answer the age-old question for every business: When do I need to spend money on more space?

Keep reading: Real Estate Analytics Cut Costs and Lift Workplace Production


Collaborative Workspace Trends & How We Work Together

By Jeff Revoy
Chief Operations Officer

New technologies and staffing strategies are changing the way businesses understand space utilization. It’s no longer about how much space a business has, but how it uses it. As a result, collaborative workspace trends are influencing office design strategies. Collaborative workspaces allow companies to do more with less, while enabling employee productivity.

Flexible workspace trends show how to help employees work effectively with others in an environment conducive to everyone’s needs. As a result, businesses enjoy improved workflows despite headwinds in commercial real estate, diverse employee needs, and constricted budgets.

Make change available to everyone

Look objectively at the physical office and the needs of all employees when designing the optimal collaborative work environment. Specifically, don’t limit collaboration to the departments where it’s traditionally prized. The future of collaborative workspace design goes beyond creative teams. Sales, programmers, and cross-department teams all benefit from environments that encourage workers to brainstorm new ideas and solve problems together.

Stay connected in the workplace

Collaborative office workspace trends affect how we work as much as where we work. The ways employees form lasting partnerships and share ideas have to shift alongside other changes. As we grow more efficient, connections between coworkers become even more important.

As integrated facility management platforms streamline work, we miss out on the interpersonal interactions formed while performing traditional tasks. It’s important to find substitute channels for staff to form these connections, keeping them invested in the company and its culture. Giving them space and reason to collaborate solves this new problem.

Open up for accommodation

Teams perform better when businesses break down walls. This also goes for intangible walls, like those between in-house employees and remote workers. Collaboration is just as important for workers sharing a cloud workspace as those congregating in a breakroom. Collaborative spaces accommodate everything from a visit to the office by traditionally remote workers to live-streaming video collaborations.

Reworking a floor plan to include open collaborative spaces gives businesses the opportunity to redefine space for everyone. Moving managers from behind closed doors puts them closer to the action and fosters transparency. Even though there’s hierarchy, everyone is on level footing.

Real-time seating

Collaborative workspaces accommodate the constant ebb and flow of people within the office. Desking is no longer a 1:1 ratio. Collaborative spaces grow to accommodate as few or as many people who need them at any given time, without the impact of vacancies or overcrowding that affect utilization. This adaptability ensures anyone can find a seat and get to work.

Activity-based workstations

Employees feel more engaged and productive when they have control over their space. Collaborative spaces are inherently agile and flexible. They conform to the needs of employees and change on-demand. It’s easy for people to do their best work when they’re always in control of their environment. Today, it’s a space for a three-person team meeting. Tomorrow, it’s a departmental brainstorming area. Next week, it’ll play host to a client kickoff meeting. Collaborative space is what it needs to be for all people using it.

Mood-inspiring surroundings

Collaborative environments inspire workers to generate and share ideas. To do this, the space needs to evoke feelings of creativity and inspire participation. Businesses should curate a beautiful space in lieu of a sterile office environment.

Think about the vibe you feel inside a hip café filled with creative thinkers hard at work. Apply these design principles to collaborative space. You can trade in cubicles for seating at circular tables or sofa nooks, bring in bean bag chairs, or hang art on the walls. The best collaborative spaces trade the drab cubicle farm look for design elements that make people feel relaxed. Consider:

  • Organic shapes, like curves reflected in furniture, desks, or even walls
  • Interesting lighting fixtures and cool ambiance
  • Natural textures like hardwood, stone, and fabrics
  • Comfortable, relaxing furnishing styles and concepts
  • Framed art, photographs, sculptures, and striking décor

Collaboration shapes tomorrow’s workspaces

These flexible workspace strategies support traditional cooperation among coworkers in new, accommodating environments. They’re driving the greater trend of inviting, intriguing, flexible workspaces that are conducive to both worker demands and business challenges.

Collaborative workspace predictions show a future where employees are more productive and businesses reap more value from investments. They’re changing how we work together for the better so businesses can continue fostering productivity in the best possible way.

Keep reading: Collaboration Software: A Must-Have for Modern Workers.