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Workplace Thought Leadership

The Rise of Hoteling During the COVID Era

By Nai Kanell
Vice President of Marketing
SpaceIQ

Well before the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) forever changed global markets, many business owners discovered the strategic value of workplace hoteling—a workplace management process that allows employees, visitors, and guests to search for and reserve a workspace (desk, cubicle, phone booth, etc.) for a specified period of time.

COVID-19 forced most business owners to shut down as the pandemic spread. But like most crises, the danger died down enough for office doors to reopen. As employees return to work, employers are enacting guidelines meant to keep workers as safe as possible: social distancing, intense cleaning, and contact tracing.

Add hoteling to that mix. The days of sitting shoulder-to-shoulder at desks are over—for now. Hoteling has gone from a helpful workplace tool to a necessary precaution amid COVID-19. The use of hotel desks—alongside measures such as staggered work shifts and adjusted layouts—allow companies to better manage who sits where and when.

From Office Management to Virus Prevention

Hoteling isn’t a new concept by any means, but it has taken on a new role in 2020 and beyond. For more than 20 years, hotel desks—and the technology that governs them—has been helping companies move from standard to flexible layouts. In an activity-based workplace, employees have the freedom to work in a spot that best suits the task at hand. They can simply reserve a desk at the beginning of the day and have confidence there is a seat with their digital name waiting for them. Since COVID-19 has shifted the way we can safely work in the office, hoteling has morphed into a social distancing strategy.

 

Hoteling combats the risk of COVID-19 on multiple fronts. One major area it helps control is density. In a pre-COVID world, a density of 200 employees was perfectly normal. Now only half of that is permissible. But do you really want dozens of people back on the first day? The right amount is realistically around 20 people, with incremental increases every week thereafter. Or you might implement shift days with a set number of employees.

This is important as back-to-work waves may be subject to fluctuations. Hoteling is one solution that can be employed to have an accurate headcount in real time. “Facility managers will be reliant on proptech sensors for managing real-time data on the crowds within buildings and alerts that signify if too many people are in one place at one time,” according to an article in Facility Executive.

Hoteling is also being repurposed for practical considerations such as cleaning. Without a booking audit, how do you determine which desks have been occupied and need a deep cleaning every day? The CDC’s guidelines for office buildings state “at least daily, clean and disinfect all surfaces that are frequently touched by multiple people,” including workstations. Hoteling shows at a glance which areas have been reserved and thus require disinfection. Janitorial teams can prioritize which surfaces need attention, especially as sanitizing requires more contact time to kill germs and bacteria.

Organizations can also lean on hoteling to assist with contact tracing. Identifying a COVID-19 case and investigating its possible path of transmission was once the domain of public health departments, but now businesses must fold this process into their operations. The CDC notes that “prompt identification, voluntary isolation or quarantine, and monitoring of a person diagnosed with COVID-19 and their contacts can effectively break the chain of disease transmission and prevent further spread of the virus.” With hoteling, workplace managers have records of exactly where a person sat and who was also in that vicinity.

Technology makes it more efficient for companies to monitor employee movement and enact COVID-19 protocols when needed. For example, SVLive—a SpaceIQ product—converts existing wifi and wired networks into thousands of smart sensors. The system shows what devices are active and who’s logged in and where. This real-time data allows businesses to quickly address possible COVID-19 transmissions within a highly secure network safeguarded by MQTT and HTTPS protocols (both use SSL X.509 certificates).

The Human Side of Hoteling

Having the right technology is critical to managing return-to-work and ensuring the greatest possible safety. But hoteling is far more than a reservation system—it’s actually your secret weapon to preserving productivity during these stressful times. Hoteling empowers employees at all levels to focus on priority tasks.

For example, a space planner can use hoteling to create pre approved zones, which effectively limits where people can work. This approach provides full control over which seats are reservable and which aren’t. Hoteling eliminates possible confusion about which desks are open, thus reinforcing social distancing. Employees will have reassurance that there’s a dedicated seat waiting for them as well as an understanding of where colleagues are booked.

One of the most important benefits of hoteling is that it offers employees a feeling of safety. Remember that a desk reservation is just one piece of essential information they need to process. Hoteling can go a long way toward diminishing anxiety with returning to the office. In fact, that’s imperative, according to the National Safety Council. It advises using respect and transparency to counter employee worry. Hoteling shows that your company is taking active measures to protect their safety.

Keep reading: What is Hoteling and Should You be Using it?

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Blog

SpaceIQ Customers Win Verdantix Smart Building Innovation Awards

SANTA CLARA, Calif., Monday, October 19, 2020 – Airport City Logistic Properties and the NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services – both customers of Archibus, a SpaceIQ product – won prestigious Verdantix Smart Building Innovation Awards for their respective industry categories.

The international awards recognize organizations that have implemented innovative technologies to enhance their facilities and real estate strategies. Winners are selected by an independent panel of workplace experts.

Airport City Logistic Properties (ACL) of Beijing, China, won the Transport and Leisure category for automating lease administration across 7.6 million square feet of warehouse and office spaces. ACL integrated Archibus — the global IWMS leader for managing facilities, infrastructure, and real estate — with its financial ERP system, IoT sensors, and office administration system to improve data accuracy and help prevent significant rent loss.

NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) won the Public Sector category for its deployment of Archibus to centralize lease and space utilization data. The system enables DCAS to better understand space requirements, which has supported a cost avoidance of $12 million to date.

“We are thrilled that two of our Archibus customers won the prestigious 2020 Verdantix Smart Building Innovation Awards in their respective categories,” said Nick Stefanidakis, SpaceIQ Vice President of Field & Sales Enablement. “Our powerful and easy-to-use solutions provide measurable ROI in cost savings through better management and technology-enabled processes for organizations like NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services and Airport City Logistics Properties. I’m so proud to see these great projects and project teams get the visibility and recognition they deserve.”

The winners will be further acknowledged at Verdantix Next & Best Practices: Learning From 10 Smart Building Innovators virtual event in December.

About Archibus, a SpaceIQ Company

Founded in Boston, in 1983, Archibus is the originator of IWMS software and the most trusted name in Workplace, Real Estate and Facilities Management. Archibus provides the world’s leading organizations with end-to-end insight on their built environment, helping them reduce real estate costs, optimize operations, and elevate their employee experience. In May 2020, JMI Equity brought Archibus, Serraview, and SpaceIQ (now SiQ) together as product lines to become SpaceIQ. We’re a facilities and workplace management software company that offers end-to-end solutions for smart building, employee enablement, and workplace optimization applications for businesses of all sizes. For more information on Archibus, visit http://www.archibus.com/. To learn more about the new SpaceIQ, click here.

About NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services

The Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) provides shared services to support the operations of New York City government. Its commitment to equity, effectiveness, and sustainability guides its work with City agencies on recruiting, hiring, and training employees; providing facilities management for 56 public buildings; acquiring, selling, and leasing City property; purchasing more than $1 billion in supplies and equipment each year; and implementing conservation and safety programs through the City’s facilities and vehicle fleet. For more information, visit https://www1.nyc.gov/site/dcas/index.page.

About Airport City Logistic Properties

Airport City Development Co., Ltd. (ACL), a limited liability company co-founded by Capital Airports Holding Company, Global Logistics Properties (GLP), and Beijing Hangda Investment Company Limited in December 2004, is fully responsible for the development, construction, operation, and management of the core area of Beijing Tianzhu Comprehensive Bonded Zone – the Airport City Logistics Park (ACLP), Beijing Capital International Airport. For more information, visit http://www.airportcity.cn/en/.

Keep reading: Powerhouse, Industry-Leading Workplace Solutions

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Workplace Thought Leadership

Back-to-Work Planning & Employee Sentiment

By Nai Kanell
Vice President of Marketing
SpaceIQ

Going to the office has drastically changed, and that makes workplace policy and facility management more complex. While you’re implementing new safety measures such as social distancing, mask wearing, and disinfecting, don’t forget to include employee sentiment as part of your back-to-work plan.

Employee sentiment matters because this is also a stressful time for employees, and you need to establish trust as they return to work. Generally speaking, stress negatively affects physical and mental health, turnover and absenteeism rates, productivity and motivation, morale and complaints, and even on-site accidents. The world is dealing with collective trauma, and your back-to-work plans can exacerbate or diminish those challenges.

Employees understand that the coronavirus is dangerous. They may be familiar with well-documented cases of workplace infection and feel vulnerable to catching the virus or spreading it to others. They may worry that they are putting their lives on the line to come to work. Listen to their concerns and ideas and take them into consideration when you make your back-to-work plans. When you ask them to risk coming into the office, your actions should reassure your employees that you’re worthy of their trust and that you’re working to reduce that risk.

Employee Sentiment Matters

Your hard work and good intentions for reentry planning won’t mean much if those plans don’t match employee needs. In a recent Future Workplace survey, employee experience ranked first among 50% of HR and business leaders as their top initiative for 2020. Since a high percentage of employees are anxious about returning to work, employers can’t afford to ignore employee sentiment.

Most employees feel job-related stress at least some of the time. When you add in COVID-19-related challenges, the stress may be difficult to manage. Although you may think you are doing an excellent job following CDC guidelines or even going beyond recommendations, that may not be enough for some employees, especially those with health concerns or extra COVID-19-related responsibilities.

Unlike momentary stress such as a looming deadline or an important presentation, COVID-19 stress is chronic, unrelenting, and can directly impact the workplace. It’s safe to assume your employees will be stressed at least some of the time. They may experience physical and emotional symptoms of their stress.

Although most remote workers continue to be productive at home, three factors (in addition to safety and security) influence well-being and work effectiveness: trusting relationships, social cohesion, and individual effectiveness. Employees who feel they can share their experiences and concerns without repercussions will feel safer in the workplace, and this can positively impact performance.  It’s not just about creating a physically safe working environment. You also need to create an emotionally safe workplace.

A cookie-cutter approach won’t suit everyone’s needs. If you listen to your employees and respond appropriately, they will appreciate your efforts. They will remember that you cared about them and their needs during a crisis, which can earn you employee loyalty and trust for years to come.

Gauging Employee Sentiment

You can create both formal and informal listening opportunities. The easiest way to get a lot of information quickly is to use workplace reentry surveys. Surveys make it easy for employees to respond quickly and to do so at their own convenience.

Start by gathering feedback about four main areas:

  • Physical Workplace: social distancing, mask wearing and enforcement, cleaning/hygiene, health screenings and contact tracing, ventilation
  • Remote Working: IT support, software/hardware issues, communication, manager oversight, performance and expectations
  • Work-Life Balance: personal health concerns, child care, homeschooling, elder care, household unemployment/illness, anxiety/depression, trust in management
  • HR Policies: compensation, access to FFRCA funds, sick leave, bereavement leave, vacation days, health insurance (including contract/part-time workers)

It’s critical to assess what employees know and how they feel. Do they understand your policies? Are they aware of your efforts to promote safety? Are they doing well emotionally? Do they feel safe confiding their concerns? Doing so will allow you to determine if you have been communicating well and whether your employees believe your workplace is a physically and emotionally safe place to work.

Listen to Your Employees

Even when you implement safety measures, it may not be enough for all your employees to feel safe. This holds true nationally, where one survey shows that fewer than half of employees say safety measures like social distancing will make them feel more comfortable returning to work.

Whether you’re gathering data from surveys or personal interviews, communication will help employees learn more about their individual circumstances, some of which may affect work. An employee living with medically fragile people, for example, may be more cautious than others. A parent with elementary-aged children may appreciate flexible hours.

Survey data can provide valuable insight. You can use sample employee sentiment surveys or create your own using survey software or Google forms.

You may also want to interview your employees individually and institute an open-door policy. Listening closely can help you understand your employees’ needs and circumstances. Interviews can provide qualitative data that surveys miss and allow you to ask follow-up questions. Through your actions, you can show your empathy and help your employees trust that you care about them.

Communicate Early and Often

In a rapidly changing environment, emotions are strong. Uncertainty and change are hotbeds for anxiety, stress, and depression. Keep your employees informed of situations both inside and outside the workplace to provide reassurance. Even if it’s bad news, employees will respond better to the truth, especially when it’s delivered early. They will grow to trust you as a source of accurate information, and employees will appreciate extra planning time when you give them advance notice of changes.

Don’t forget employee  mental health. Help them recognize the signs of stress and provide resources for mental health aids and intervention. Inform them about your workplace’s mental health benefits and hotlines. Consider virtual socializing opportunities to help employees connect with each other. Refer employees to mental health apps that can help manage anxiety. Cultivate a safe place for employees to share their concerns.

Above all, keep the lines of communication open. It’s particularly important for remote employees to maintain a strong connection with the office. Whether you use email, task management software, apps, and/or other tools, maintain IT support and use the same tools consistently so that you and your employees can respond quickly if a crisis arises.

Sometimes, bad news is inevitable. Your decisions may be unpopular. Even when you try to be as flexible as possible, some situations are beyond your control. When you communicate your decision-making process, show that you’ve taken employee concerns into consideration. Modeling honesty and transparency will help your employees do the same with you, and this will help you create a better employee experience.

The COVID-19 situation is difficult for everyone at the office. When you’re planning workplace reentry, risk and uncertainty can create high levels of anxiety in an already stressful situation. If you take the time to listen to employees, gauging employee sentiment will help you create an effective, responsive back-to-work plan, and build a higher level of communication and trust.

Keep reading: 10 Tips for a Safe Return to the Workplace

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Workplace Thought Leadership

Work From Home: Not a Forever Option

By Nai Kanell
Vice President of Marketing
SpaceIQ

As articles continue to show that company after company believes it is a good idea to embrace employees working 100% remote, an uncomfortable thought sinks in. What if SpaceIQ followed Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s vow to let his employees work from home “forever?”

There are organizations like Gitlab that have been successful in 100% remote work. However, it’s a tech company and employees knew what they were getting into when they signed on. I doubt healthcare, banking, or manufacturing could ever move to 100% work from home (WFH). But what about a SaaS company like SpaceIQ, or its owner ArchibusSerraview?

I am a proponent of remote working to some degree because it allows you to source the best talent and, ultimately, create a workforce culture that supports flexibility. Before COVID-19, employees weren’t pushing for 100% remote working. We wanted flexibility in our work schedules and accommodation from our employers. There are some of us who’d like to start later in the day because “productivity” and “morning” aren’t compatible. And what about parents who need to drop kids off at school after the start of “normal” work hours? The list goes on: put in a day’s work even when we’re sick; save a PTO day for a real vacation, not watching a plumber fix the water heater.

We’re asking for freedom to work when we want, how it is best for our productivity, and where we can get the job done while supporting our teams.

There are many disadvantages to 100% WFH—excluding mandated remote work due to COVID-19. Here are 10 reasons to think “flexibility” instead of “entirely” when it comes to WFH.

  1. Home Not-So-Sweet Home. As commercial real estate becomes more expensive, residential real estate is following suit. Some people buy just enough home to accommodate their families. Outside of that, they may not desire more space. So, when COVID-19 forced the world to shelter in place, many of us were unprepared to do so. We jimmy rigged ironing boards into makeshift standing desks. Many of us don’t have a spare bedroom for private work areas or endless Zoom or Teams calls.
  2. Did the Second Hand Move Backward? Do you know what day it is? What time did you start working? How many times did neighbor Fred walk his dog by your house this week? If you’re anything like me, I want a change of scenery from my home. Prior to COVID-19, coworking spaces were taking off because people want to work in environments that nurture creativity and collaboration. With 100% WFH, the world seems to stop spinning. Even Aristotle understood the importance of work structure: “Time is the measure of change.”
  3. I Miss the Bean Bags. Many newer workplaces were designed for productivity. Companies created activity-based workspaces that cater to how employees of all shapes and sizes work their best. WFH hinders spontaneous, active brainstorming or collaboration. Try doing a white boarding session over video conferencing—easier said than done.
  4. My Monitor is Smoking. Home office equipment wasn’t meant for the day-to-day grind of a busy workplace. How many of us have lightning-fast laser printers for those long contracts you just can’t read on a computer screen? Not me. And let’s not forget business vs. personal internet connections. How many times did your lousy connection speed end a meeting in the middle of an important discussion? people dropped off a meeting because of your internet? (Hand raise!)
  5. Remember the Titans! Whether we want to admit it or not, some employees perform better in the office with a coach guiding them to success.
  6. Death By Meeting. More than 100% of my working day is spent in meetings. You read that right. I have to work longer to fit in more meetings. Prior to 100% WFH, I spent about two-thirds of my working day in meetings. Those five-minute discussions that quickly solved an issue are now full-fledged meetings. I sometimes feel like Doctor Who—jumping from one meeting to the next. WFH requires more communication because we feel obligated to spend time with our teams and colleagues because we don’t see them every day in the office.
  7. We ARE Family! Let’s face it, I think we all miss socializing personally and professionally. COVID-19 and working remotely has completely killed that. I miss my colleagues at work and hearing about their weekends or a funny joke. When SpaceIQ was acquired, it was difficult to feel a sense of solidarity amongst the team because we weren’t in one place together and connected. Now, try to virtually build working relationships with new bosses and coworkers. You need to plan time into your meetings for pleasantry and small talk—more so now than when you were together in the office.
  8. Can You Hear Me Now? Communication was tough enough when people were in the office, in the same room. Now, we “talk” via Zoom and Teams, voice calls, or through email. It takes many more written words to clearly communicate than it does to have a simple, in-person conversation.
  9. Kickstart My Brain. There are certain personalities that feed off other people’s energy to jumpstart their creativity. Who hasn’t relished in sitting down with your team and brainstorming the next great offering? Yes, we communicate more in our 100% WFH world, but there’s a lot to be said for congregating in front of white board and free-flowing ideas to solve the latest problem. In-person creativity sessions demand our full attention. Admit it, you multitask on video calls.
  10. Mmmm…Doughnuts! OK, this isn’t true for all companies, but I work in tech. It’s common to have snacks and, on occasion, some meals provided at no cost. They call that a perk! I chose to work for you not just because I liked the job, the company, and the pay, but because you have provided me a place to work where I feel I can be productive and get fed. Sounds weird, but when you’re pulling 10-hour, stressful days getting a product release out on deadline, those Hot Pockets and chocolate-covered almonds may be all there is for dinner.

To WFH or Not to WFH…

Remote working is not going anywhere. There will always be a desire to work from different locations. However, the whole 100% WFH situation doesn’t sound appealing…and probably by a lot more people than you’d think. My guess is that if polled, employees would like the option to work from home but also to come into the office when needed.

Give me the choice and I’ll opt for a mix of WFH and time in the workplace. And that’s the key: provide employees with a choice. Work from home forever isn’t for everyone. Maybe we can dub it WFHWIRFM…work from home when it’s right for me.

Keep reading: 8 Apps for Remote Workers Productivity and Success

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Workplace Thought Leadership

The Next Normal in a Post-Pandemic Workspace

By Nai Kanell
Vice President of Marketing
SpaceIQ

Whether your office has already partially returned to work or you’re planning a workplace reentry, one thing is certain—things may never be the same. Safe facility management during an unprecedented pandemic requires a high level of planning and precaution. The measures you implement should increase employee productivity, promote workplace trust, and most importantly, keep employees and customers safe.

Rule and Regulation Compliance

It’s not always easy to keep up with new regulations, especially with constantly changing guidelines. Regardless, the first priority is employee safety. In most nations, employers are encouraged to provide a safe working environment. Physical safety should be a constant for all employees, but some may tolerate risk better than others. It’s wise to consider your most vulnerable employees when creating a return-to-work plan, but determine strategies with everyone in mind.

Second, keep employees informed of changes and guidelines. Assign staff to monitor local conditions and guidelines, then share updates on a consistent schedule. Keep a global perspective and adjust plans as needed to comply with local requirements.

Third, align business priorities with global realities. Inspect your building for potential hazards and determine remediation costs. Be willing to remodel, reconfigure, or rearrange everything including work schedules, walls, and seating arrangements.

Masking, Sanitation, and Social Distancing

Most official guidelines center on three principles—masking, sanitation, and social distancing. Depending on your industry, some guidelines may present more of a challenge than others. Restrictions will change as the coronavirus threat diminishes or increases, so keep long-term needs in mind when investing in safety equipment.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements can vary depending on role. There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to PPE. Some employees may not be able to wear masks. Others may need to avoid the workplace altogether, such as employees with asthma or other respiratory conditions.

Employees want clean workplaces, even more so now under COVID-19. Make sanitation a priority by setting up hygiene stations with hand sanitizer, soap, gloves, and disinfecting wipes. The typical weekly office cleanings may not be enough. Consider hiring extra cleaning staff to more frequently clean bathrooms, break areas, and shared spaces like conference rooms and lounges.

PPE isn’t limited to individual employees. Plexiglass shields provide an additional layer of protection around pinch points where social distancing may be a challenge, such as reception areas, entrances and exits, and payment areas. Posted policies and directional signage are great visual reminders for customers and employees to abide by your workplace precautions.

Other measures such as UV lights and thermal scanners are options for combatting COVID-19, but should be part of an overall workplace health and safety strategy. It’s wise to check with locally, regionally, and country-specific requirements to determine what’s feasible for your team to manage.

Technology and Real Estate Optimization

For most workplaces, safety decisions center around official guidelines. Maintaining six feet of distance helps protect people from breathing in infected air particles. However, this is easier said than done for many businesses.

Social distance guidelines vary by country and region. In the U.S., 6 feet is the standard; the World Health Organization recommends 1 meter. Social distancing may reduce workplace capacity, depending on your current seating configuration, plan density, desk sharing, and other factors. The potential for space loss raises some interesting options:

  • Should some individuals work remotely forever? Can we stagger work schedules? Do we need to let some staff go?
  • Should we purchase or rent additional office space or retrofit the space we have? Should we consider moving? Should we renegotiate the terms of our lease?
  • How can we prepare our workplace for future emergencies?

During the pandemic, many business leaders are leveraging real estate planning software to visualize coronavirus-related changes to seating arrangements, staff schedules, and office remodeling before committing time and money to wholesale changes. For example, hoteling software helps maximize seating efficiency using dynamic data such as HR information and floor maps.

Business owners can require that employees reserve a hotel desk prior to coming to work and show the reservation before they’re allowed to enter. After someone uses the hotel desk, facility management can be notified that the area must be cleaned and sanitized before another reservation can be made.

The Next Normal is Now

Reopening your workplace can be difficult. Regulations are constantly changing and there’s no saying when COVID-19 will ease. The post-pandemic “next normal” requires flexibility and adaptability. Desks, rooms, and entire floors may not function the same way. Previous policies for remote work, sick leave, and work schedules may need to be reevaluated in the new work environment.

You can’t foresee every situation, but you can be flexible in establishing your new normal. Employees will appreciate your efforts as they return to their former—though newly arranged—workspaces.

Learn how SpaceIQ can help you effectively manage your workplace reentry.

Keep Reading: COVID-19 Workplace Resources

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Blog

Six Tips for Managing a Distributed Workforce

By Nai Kanell
Vice President of Marketing
SpaceIQ

Ever watched a Formula 1 pit crew go to work? You’ll never see a better display of execution anywhere in the world. These teams are so in-sync that the average pit stop takes about 2.4 seconds. It’s the kind of team dynamic every manager wants to achieve—whether their team changes tires or assembles marketing campaigns. But how do you accomplish such efficiency while managing a distributed workforce.

A Formula 1 pit crew is the gold standard for teamwork, but not because of how fast they can do their job. That quickness comes from something even more important: cohesion. Every person knows exactly what to do, when to do it, and how it affects the greater objective. To bring this level of cohesion to your distributed team, look at each team member and their contributions in relation to the greater goal. Synergy happens when everyone is on the same page.

How can you turn your distributed team into a Formula 1 pit crew? Here are six tips that’ll bring them together (virtually), get them focused, and keep them accountable.

1. Hold a weekly all-hands meeting

The mark of a world-class team is each member’s recognition of the greater goal. To identify and reinforce this goal takes routine and consistent communication amongst the group—starting with the leader. The simplest solution for fostering this level of remote employee engagement is to hold an all-hands weekly meeting with your team.

All-hands meetings should be short, sweet, and to-the-point. What’s the current objective? How are duties delegated? What’s the timeline? What obstacles does the team face? Create a systematic approach for distilling the group’s goal into attainable milestones and bring accountability to everyone involved. All-hands meetings are an opportunity to show the synergy of the team and make sure everyone is on the same page.

2. Use project management software

Every distributed workforce needs a system of record—something to keep them accountable and to maintain the transparency of everyone’s efforts. Project management software—particularly a cloud-based app—achieves this. This software not only delegates duties and reinforces accountability, it facilitates communication and strengthens the team dynamic. In other words, it helps the team act more like a team.

Successful use of project management software will leave your distributed team looking more like a Formula 1 pit crew—everyone doing their part in a larger execution. Plus, it also sets the pace of progress as group members complete tasks, fall behind, or work ahead. Some common platforms are Wrike, Monday.com, Trello, and Asana.

3. Organize and centralize communication

Mastery of organization paves the way for better team communication. Consolidate communication to as few channels as possible, without disrupting the group’s ability to coordinate. Slack is a premier example here. Organize channels to keep communication on-task, so information and correspondence are accessible and uninterrupted by off-task topics. No more wasted time or confusion as employees try to track down information—it’s all right where it needs to be, visible for everyone at any time.

4. Maintain personal accountability

The biggest obstacle for teams is the aspect of distributed work. They can’t adjourn to a conference room to hash out ideas or break into small groups around someone’s desk. A majority of the time, distributed groups work as individuals in the privacy of their own home. This emphasizes their role as individuals first, group members second. To keep them an active, contributing member of the group, employees need personal accountability.

Part of this accountability comes from project management software and the individual tasks they’re held responsible for. Another part comes from inclusion in the group—when people know others depend on them, they’re likely to see themselves as part of the team. The final piece comes from management. Managers need to hold their remote workers accountable and help them succeed, both as individuals and as members of a distributed team. This means one-on-one meetings, progress updates, and open communication about expectations and support.

5. Moderate and control workflows

The reason Formula 1 teams can be so phenomenally good at their job is because they’re tasked with doing one thing. They’re mission-focused. It should be the same for your distributed teams. This doesn’t necessarily mean working on one project at a time, but it does mean moderating and controlling the volume of work and the stress levels of your team.

Look at the transition to remote work and distributed teams as an inverse bell curve. At the outset of telecommuting, productivity is likely to drop as employees adapt. Then, it’ll slowly rise as they get into the groove of working remotely. Then, it has the potential to peak at new heights as remote teams find ways to be more effective in their collaboration. But this path to productivity is only achieved under controlled workflows. Open the floodgates and you’ll drown your remote teams before they learn how to swim.

6. Find ways to bond beyond work

Never underestimate the power of camaraderie. When a Formula 1 driver crosses the finish line in first, the pit crew is right there with them to pop the champagne! The team needs to exist outside of the shared mission that drives them. Find opportunities to grow those bonds—whether it’s a virtual trivia night each week or raising a beer via video chat after the completion of an arduous project. Shared experiences lend themselves to better performance.

For Formula 1 pit crews, the object is quickness: how fast can we get our driver back onto the track? Milliseconds matter. Every person needs to do exactly what’s expected of them for it to work. It’s the same for your team and their objective. Whether it’s developing a new product or creating a winning marketing campaign, everyone needs to do their part to facilitate success.

This accountability is even more important when the group isn’t centralized. Use the six tips above to manage your distributed team and bring them together in pursuit of excellence.

Keep reading: Remote Employee Management for Accountability and Acceptance

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Blog

COVID-19 Workplace Safety Policy

By Nai Kanell
Vice President of Marketing
SpaceIQ

There was no real guidance or preparing workplaces for unique event like COVID-19. Some companies had biohazard and contagious illness policies, but few were ready to adapt to a global pandemic with agility. Many companies figured it out quickly. Others took longer, but eventually adapted.

Between workplace social distancing and work from home, many businesses continue to work through the pandemic at common levels. But now, as employees return to work, it’s time for companies to consider creating a COVID-19 workplace safety policy.

What’s the purpose of a COVID-19 safety policy?

The coronavirus pandemic may be waning, but it’s not over. We’re still waiting to see if the virus is seasonal or if people are prone to recurring infections. There is no current vaccine, only treatment of symptoms. This leaves prevention as the first and best line of defense.

A COVID-19 safety policy is merely a formalization of preventive action. What steps is your organization taking to ensure a safe environment? How will you prevent the spread of coronavirus and protect employees? A safety policy answers these questions, outlines action items, and establishes workplace safety positions for COVID-19 oversight.

Like all workplace policies—especially those focused on safety—a COVID-19 policy is also a standard for transparency and accountability. If someone in your workplace falls ill with the virus, you can look at your safety policy to understand how and why it happened and what needs to change so it doesn’t occur again.

What should a safety policy include?

As you write a policy for coronavirus safety in the workplace, look at other safety policies. What type of accountability do you need to plan for? What action items and responsibilities do you need to integrate into the workplace. Above all, how will this policy be effective in mitigating the potential for a coronavirus outbreak in your workplace?

The full scope of your COVID-19 workplace safety policy depends on factors like organization size and industry. At a high level, it should include the following pieces of information as they pertain to your workplace.

This information should reside in a policy document that serves as a go-to resource for combatting COVID-19 and conditions that may harbor it. It should reside in a policy document that serves as a go-to resource for combatting COVID-19 and conditions that may harbor it. It should contain information, resources, references, actionable steps, and leadership tools that standardize prevention of and reaction to the presence of the virus in the workplace.

Consider current and future challenges

COVID-19 is a novel pandemic and one we’re still learning about. Any workplace safety policy a company creates needs to account for future best practices and challenges that arise as we learn more about the behavior of the virus and its impact on us. Craft a policy that delivers current, reliable information, yet is easily updated and modified as new insights come to light. The scope of the policy and any documentation should include forethought to:

  • Infection prevention measures
  • Identification and isolation of sick employees
  • Engineering and administrative controls for social distancing
  • Cleaning, disinfecting, decontamination, and ventilation practices
  • Remote communications and telecommuting training for managers and team leaders
  • Practices for reporting, tracking, and notifying exposed individuals

Draft a comprehensive safety plan that accounts for all conceivable situations—or, at a minimum, provides flexibility in the event of a workplace outbreak.

While the primary function of the safety policy should be prevention, reaction planning is just as important. The policy needs to serve employees in any capacity—whether they’re confirmed to have COVID-19, a coworker has it, they’re unconfirmed but exhibiting symptoms, or there’s a confirmed outbreak affecting multiple staff members.

Stay apprised of best practices and update your policy

Like any safety guidance, your workplace COVID-19 policy should evolve as best practices do. As we (hopefully) near the end of the coronavirus pandemic, organizations like the CDC, WHO, and OSHA will continue to update best practices and provide recommendations to improve workplace safety. Employers need to monitor for new guidance and update policies.

There’s practical need for a workplace coronavirus workplace safety policy, now and in the future. Not only are there still concerns about long this pandemic will last, it’s worth considering how much holdover there will be in workplace impact. And what about the next pandemic or global contagion? For businesses operating through COVID-19, there’s no excuse not to be prepared for the future.

Keep reading: Coronavirus Workplace Resources

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Can My Employer Require A Doctors Note If I’m COVID Positive?

By Nai Kanell
Vice President of Marketing
SpaceIQ

Employers have a duty to keep their workers safe. In the case of a global pandemic, that duty extends to qualifying the health of employees who may be recovering from COVID-19. How long before they’re allowed to return to work? What special precautions, if any, do you need to take to protect the health and wellness of other employees?

The solution seems like a simple one: require a physician sign-off before returning to work. But that begets at a bigger question: Can employers require a doctors’ note from employees who test positive for COVID-19?

This question is the inverse of a common criteria for missing work for an extended period. Most workplaces require a physician’s note for short- or long-term disability. We’ve rarely had cause to wonder if employers can require a doctor’s note to return to work.

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has thankfully stepped in to provide guidance in this matter.

Can employers require a doctor’s note for COVID-19 patients?

Yes, employers can require a physician to sign-off before allowing an employee to return to work. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) evaluated and how such a policy interacts with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other employee rights legislation.

The EEOC ruled that requiring employees to present a clean bill of health before returning to work does not violate workers’ rights because it’s a matter of public safety, not individual ability or disability. The agency outlined this guidance in a communication titled, What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws.

Acceptable forms of a “doctors’ note”

Physicians are understandably overwhelmed, even if the imminent threat of coronavirus is passing in their communities. They may not have the time to evaluate every patient thoroughly or write out personal health clearance letters. Recovering employees may be stuck between appointment backlogs and the inability to return to work without a physician’s approval.

Do employees need to get a doctor’s note clearing them of COVID-19? If their physician simply doesn’t have time—or they don’t see a regular primary care physician—employees can and should seek alternative forms of health clearance. Employers need to make authorized forms of clearance known, including:

  • Certified form letters from clinics and physician offices
  • Authorization emails direct from physicians’ offices
  • Phone calls from GPs or PAs on behalf of the employee

Keep the objective in mind: You want an employee to return to work as soon as possible, but only if they’re certifiably healthy. If they’ve recently battled a highly contagious virus, it’s not unwarranted to ask a physician to evaluate their recovery. How that physician provides clearance shouldn’t matter. What matters is your employee is healthy and no longer contagious.

Plan for contingencies

What happens when a physician doesn’t take the time to provide a note? What about employees who don’t have a regular GP or who can’t schedule a fitness-for-work evaluation? Employers need to plan for these events, so they don’t leave a healthy employee to languish at home. This involves a certain level of trust in your employee.

Ask recovering employees how long it’s been since they’ve exhibited symptoms. Are they running a fever or have a cough? Do they have lingering body aches or persistent lethargy? These are all symptoms of coronavirus and if they have them, it means they may not be fully recovered. Ask employees to remain at home until they’re free of symptoms for 10 days.

When they’re symptom-free for 10 days and ready to return to work, encourage once-ill employees to wear proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and follow social distancing policies. You don’t want to brand them with a COVID-19 iron, but you want to make sure they’re not unwittingly spreading the virus if they’re still harboring it.

The good news is new guidance from the WHO shows only rare instances of transmission from asymptomatic carriers—which means your workforce is less at risk once someone stops showing symptoms.

Act with the safety of the workplace in mind

Requiring a doctor’s note to resume work after a positive COVID-19 test is a smart precaution to take. A physician’s evaluation will deem that person is fit for duty and ensure they’re not asymptomatic as they ease back into a social environment. It’s a precaution in favor of both the recovering individual and their peers.

Keep in mind that while employers can require a doctor’s note, there are broad complications that could prevent employees from handing in one. Create a simple process for gaining health clearance and plan for contingencies. The intent isn’t to bar employees from working—it’s to get them back to work as quickly and as safely as possible.

Keep reading: COVID-19 workplace management resources

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What COVID-19 Workplace Changes Will Stick?

By Nai Kanell
Vice President of Marketing
SpaceIQ

It’s clearer and clearer that going back to “normal” won’t be an option after the coronavirus pandemic. It begs the question: what is the new normal? Major parts of society have undergone change—the workplace and the way we work included. Look ahead and it’s certain many COVID-19 workplace changes will linger to become part of our everyday lives in a normal capacity. Which ones?

To understand how the workplace will emerge from COVID-19 and what to expect in the future, all we need to do is look at what works. What has helped employers stay in business during the pandemic? What are we doing right now that’s better than what we were doing before? What do we need to keep doing to keep employees safe?

Here’s a look at some best-guess workplace changes that will stick around and thrive in our post-pandemic working world.

Remote workers and decentralized teams

Many employers have dubbed COVID-19 the “great telecommuting experiment.” They’re not wrong. Overnight, huge swaths of the workforce went from desk jobs at an office to remote work from their kitchen tables. It’s been a major adjustment for most, but that adjustment seems to have gone well. Many businesses leaned into cloud technologies and rigged up remote work processes that work.

As time goes on, it’s reasonable to expect remote work and decentralized teams to continue in one of three capacities:

  • Full-time in the case of some or all employees (see: Twitter)
  • Remote from work by-request or as-needed
  • Remote work for emergencies

Regardless of how employers view remote work in a post-pandemic world, any responsible company will create processes and protocols to ensure remote work is possible, seamless, and agile for individuals and teams.

Self-screening protocols

Many employers now ask their employees to self-screen for coronavirus symptoms before they come to work each day. A simple battery of questions and a quick temperature check can stop employees from bringing their illness to work with them. Combined with the transition to remote work opportunities, this is a process we can expect to stick around.

Not only is employee self-screening simple, it has boundless benefits:

  • No pressure on employees to come to work if they’re ill
  • Reduce employer liability
  • Mitigated disease and illness spread
  • Improved workplace culture through an employee-first policy
  • Lower costs to employers

Self-screening requires virtually no change to how employees work—other than if they need to work from home due to illness. A simple employer policy about work-from-home is all it takes to keep this COVID-19 trend a mainstay in the future of work.

Reduced reliance on meeting rooms

Few areas of the workplace face scrutiny quite like conference rooms during COVID-19. At a time when social distancing is paramount, these rooms are off-limits or unused for their primary purpose. Instead, employees use Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and various other video conferencing apps to get the group face time they need. As more people become comfortable video chatting, we’ll likely see a regression of meeting rooms.

There’s an upside to this trend. Less demand for meeting spaces means employers can either consolidate their need for overall office space or repurpose these previously closed-off areas into more functional parts of the workplace. Conference rooms won’t disappear altogether, but agile and flex spaces may serve employers better when they consider workplace utilization.

Agile workplace floor plans and designs

As employers re-think areas of the workplace to accommodate social distancing, it’s a prime time to investigate new desking arrangements and floor plans. Many facilities managers will naturally arrive at agile workplace solutions, due to how the workplace operates today. Add the decline in conference room demand and there’s a recipe for open, flexible spaces conducive to group work and collaboration.

Breakout spaces will replace cubicle stacks. Flex areas will replace desk neighborhoods. Benching will replace pods. COVID-19 has shown employers that the workplace can and should be a social environment that accommodates changes in demand and circumstance. The next workplace will be one that lets people collaborate at a distance. Fewer barriers, walls, and restrictions to communication; more flexibility, agility, and common-sense design.

Consider your own adaptive changes

How the workplace changes will vary from employer to employer. If you experimented with telecommuting during the pandemic, it’s likely you’ll continue the experiment after. Conversely, if your team missed conference rooms, you’ll likely continue using them post-pandemic. Will it be in the same capacity? That remains to be seen.

What’s important is to realize that these changes are coming. In many cases, they’re already here. It’s a matter of recognizing and integrating them into your operations. How can you walk away from the disruption of COVID-19 with tools for future success?

Keep Reading: Workplace COVID-19 Resources

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COVID-19 Workplace Risk Assessments

By Nai Kanell
Vice President of Marketing 
SpaceIQ 

Most business managers are familiar with the concept of risk analysis. If you’ve ever done a SWOT analysis or calculated the ROI or opportunity cost of a business decision, you’ve looked at risk. That said, it’s unlikely many business professionals have ever performed a COVID-19 workplace risk assessment. How often do you need to look at your workplace through the lens of a pandemic? 

Despite the scope of what a workplace risk assessment entails, it’s less daunting than it might seem. Facilities managers can undertake a thorough assessment over the course of a day or two and make changes to reduce risk inside of a week. Many workplaces have undertaken workplace risk assessments to a small degree already as they’ve looked for ways to protect essential employees. 

Grab an iPad, fire up your space planning software, and get ready for a Gemba walk around your facilities. It’s time to identify and mitigate COVID-19 risks, for the health and safety of your employees.  

Create a scale for identifying risk

Before you consider how to reduce risk in the workplace, create a method to measure it. This can be as simple as a one-to-five scale, where one is low risk and five is high risk. Your risk scale not only shows the areas of the workplace with the highest potential for risk and liability, it also dictates the urgency by which you make changes.

OSHA provides a guide to COVID-19 workplace risk assessment, which includes a tiered scale for risk identification (low, medium, high, very high). Use this as a template to create your own workplace risk scale and approach to risk mitigation.  

Consider how coronavirus spreads

With your risk scale in-hand, walk through each area of your facilities to pinpoint at-risk areas. To do this, consider how COVID-19 spreads: through contact and surface exposure. You’ll want to identify areas prone to employee proximity that might require extra sanitization: 

  • Collaborative areas and group workspaces
  • Thoroughfares and common areas
  • Bathrooms, kitchens, and break rooms
  • Common-use assets (elevator, copy machine, etc.)

These areas set the tone for closer inspection. There’s a higher likelihood you’ll need to mitigate transmission risks in a common-use elevator than at an individuals desk, for example.

Identify transmission opportunities

In areas considered high-risk, delve deeper to identify opportunities for risk mitigation. This involves looking at how and why employees use the space, and what alternatives may exist.  

In a collaborative area, for example, the problem might be social distancing (rather, lack thereof). Here, you might rearrange the furniture and post signage to wear PPE and remain distant as a solution. Similarly, if you identify the copy machine as high-risk, you might place tape spots on the ground to enforce distance and provide sanitization wipes for employees to wipe down the keypad.  

Look at every area and assess the risk of each interaction in that area. This is a good way to remind yourself that the workplace itself isn’t a risk; how employees interact with it is what needs to change.  

Evaluate workplace protocols

How do you change the way employees interact with the workplace, without disrupting their ability to work? This is the challenge. Start by looking at your risk assessment of each area of the workplace. Which areas have the highest risk associated with them? Which changes are simplest to make?  

It’s easy to offer sanitary wipes to wipe down the copy machine or mandate only three people to an elevator at a time. It’s difficult to repurpose common areas to dissuade employees from mingling. Tackle the simple changes first as you devise smart solutions for changes that may require more heavy lifting.  

With every change you make, ensure there’s also a protocol adjustment to accompany it. For example, if you provide wipes for the copy machine, send a memo to remind employees to wipe down the keypad after they use it. If only five people are allowed in the break room at one time, provide alternatives for lunch. If you restructure your thoroughfares for one-way traffic, explain it to employees.  

Don’t make changes and expect employees to instantly adapt. True risk mitigation starts and ends with education.

Decrease risk wherever you can

The best way to access and reduce risk in your workplace is one area at a time. Make the little adjustments first and simple changes where you can. Empower leaders to make bigger changes that affect their direct reports. Incorporate facilities, IT, HR, and other important departments to ensure all changes go smoothly. Don’t focus on how fast you can make changes; make them the right way.

Above all, keep employee safety top of mind. Any changes you make need to reduce risk in a meaningful way—especially if it also creates obstacles. When you reevaluate your workplace for risk post-changes, your score should be lower thanks to a workplace that’s inherently safer. 

Keep reading: Updated COVID-19 Workplace Resources