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Workplace Thought Leadership

Modifying Your Workplace for Social Distancing

By Reagan Nickl
Director of Professional Services
SpaceIQ

The COVID-19 crisis has radically altered the modern workplace. We’ve yet to see the full extent of changes, but one thing is for sure: there’s no going back to normal.

Social distancing is forcing workplace professionals to find innovative ways to redesign their offices for employee safety. It’s a daunting task, but there are questions to ask and answer that will help maximize existing space to create safe working environments.

Who should come back to the office?

The first thing to decide is which employees need to return to the physical office. Note: the answer isn’t “everyone,” at least right now. When COVID-19 hit, companies discovered that certain roles can be productively done from home. Leaders are now considering whether those jobs should be remote for an extended period or permanently.

According to a Gartner survey from March 2020, 74% of CFOs will “move at least 5% of their previously on-site workforce to permanently remote positions post-COVID-19.” At the same time, there’s a percentage of employees who are more productive at the office. This has everything to do from fewer distractions than at home and access to ergonomic furniture to the social atmosphere of being around coworkers.

There’s no single solution for every organization. Company leaders need to work closely with managers to determine which team members can stay at home and which should return based on job type, productivity needs, cost, and employee wellness.

How does social distancing affect your floor plan?

Anyone who thinks social distancing is going away is kidding themselves. The six-foot separation is expected to last well into the foreseeable future. But how do you do that in a standard workplace? Facility professionals need to suspend the idea of cubicle buddies and side-by-side desks crammed into any available open space. Your floor plan will look significantly different once employees are spaced six feet apart.

Calculate this radius around each seat and see how many circles overlap. For example, a benching station for four people will now only seat one person. The reality is that your occupancy will drop dramatically—plan on a 50% to 60% reduction.

You will also need to implement measures to enforce distancing. Don’t rely on policies alone. You can physically block workstations that should be unoccupied. You can even remove chairs to avoid confusion about which desks are available.

How will you handle traffic patterns around the office?

Chances are you have some narrow hallways or paths that are within six feet of where people sit. Take a page from grocery stores and add directional arrows and two-way lanes where needed. Traffic control lets employees know how to travel safely about the office.

Think about common routes to the restrooms, conference rooms, and the kitchen. Remember to map out the main entrance to all workstations—employees are guaranteed to travel that route twice a day. It may be necessary to block off certain corridors or rearrange desks so they are pushed back from the main paths.

Don’t forget your lobby either, recommends Cushman & Wakefield’s report Recovery Readiness: A How-To Guide For Reopening Your Workplace. For example, you may need to install a plexiglass partition around a reception desk or disable touchscreen directories.

What will you do with conference rooms?

Your space planning needs to include conference rooms. If you have a conference room that seats 10 people, the capacity for social distancing will likely go down to only two people. Will you ask employees to eliminate in-person meetings and hold only virtual meetings, even if the other people on the video call are in the same building? Will you convert some conference rooms into temporary offices? Will you close off small huddle rooms or tell employees they are only for single occupancy?

Whatever you decide, every room’s capacity should be updated in calendar programs and/or your conference room reservation system. That way, employees have a digital reminder for the new occupancy restrictions; door signage will also help during this transition.

Can you move to hoteling?

Sanitization is harder when you don’t know where people have been sitting. If you previously used hot desks, switch to hoteling instead. This structure allows employees to reserve a desk every day so they know exactly where to go—no wandering around searching for an empty workstation. Hoteling is also helpful if your company is adopting A/B days (which OSHA recommends in its latest COVID-19 guide), where departments alternate which days or weeks they come into the office.

What cleaning protocols will you use?

Assigned or reservable seating allows your janitorial staff to do prescriptive and targeted disinfection. They need clear guidance on which desks, workstations, and conference rooms need to be sanitized every day.

If you use a cleaning company, review your contract and request additional deep cleaning. The basic pass the crew had been doing in normal times is no longer sufficient. Make sure your revised agreement includes disinfecting commonly touched surfaces: door knobs, kitchen handles, keyboards, elevator buttons, and tables.

Can you switch to all hard furniture?

Soft seating used to be great for collaboration, but these furnishings pose a challenge right now. First of all, they invite people to sit close together, which is no longer feasible. Second, both upholstery and leather can be hard to disinfect or may not be compatible with bleach. Check the EPA’s List N to see which disinfectants can be used on soft materials.

It might be wiser to eliminate or section off soft seating. On the bright side, moving aside lounge furniture creates another opportunity for someone to safely work at the office. You might be able to add a desk to areas where you removed a couch or a group of ottomans because it’s spaced away from other workstations.

Be patient and consistent

We know there’s a lot to process here. And by the time this article is live, the CDC may have new guidance about how to handle reopening a workplace. But it’s important for businesses to focus on the wins in the midst of so much negativity. Employees have already been asked to make extraordinary sacrifices as they pivoted to remote work. Those who can return to the office deserve to know their company has taken every precaution to safeguard their health and wellbeing.
Note: We’d like to offer a special thanks to Carly Tortorelli, Senior Vice President of Workplace Technology at Impec Group for her collaboration and insights into managing workplaces during the COVID-19 crisis.

Keep Reading: The Latest COVID-19 Workplace Resources

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COVID Leadership

By Reagan Nickl
Director of Partner and Customer Success
SpaceIQ

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

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

Emotional leadership

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

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

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

Technological leadership

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

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

Agile leadership

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

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

Policy leadership

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

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

All this, on top of traditional leadership

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

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

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

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Employer-Specific COVID-19 Workplace Face Mask Guidance

By Reagan Nickl
Director of Partner and Customer Success
SpaceIQ

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

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

Supply face masks or recognize proper PPE

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

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

Encourage proper usage

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

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

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

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

Practice proper mask etiquette

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

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

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

Address respiratory concerns

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

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

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

Post guidelines and answer questions

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

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Are Your Meeting Rooms Wasting Time and Space?

By Reagan Nickl
Enterprise Customer Success Senior Manager
SpaceIQ

Did you know you have an efficiency issue hiding in plain sight? It’s your meeting and conference rooms. For customers, the time wasted traveling to and from meetings is more important than the time it takes to book one. Employees waste valuable time to book one, then lose even more work minutes traveling to and from them.

One of our customers—an enterprise communications company—discovered more than 65% of its employees travel one floor or more for meetings. That’s bad enough, but they also found large conference rooms are regularly occupied by small groups. Add to that many meetings end early, but the room sits empty because it’s technically reserved and the waste piles on.

These issues result in lost productivity as well as poor space utilization. The good news is these problems can be solved by taking the workplace data you already have and analyzing it with workplace management software to make meeting room use more efficient.

How Meeting Rooms Waste Time

Ask your employees if they feel like there is enough meeting space and they’ll likely respond with an overwhelming “no.” But does the data match their opinions? The fact is that most companies don’t know exactly how many meeting rooms are used and for how long. But if your conference rooms are reserved through email, you are sitting on a data goldmine of answers.

You’ll probably be surprised that your employees are meeting more often than you think. For example, a 2019 Gartner survey of more than 7,000 employees found they spend 11.7 hours per week in meetings, with 9% reporting more than 20 hours per week in meetings. With that volume, it’s no wonder there is booking frustration. But even though people assume they don’t have enough meeting space, the actual problem is that they don’t have access to the right meeting spaces. Here’s where the disconnect can occur:

  • Departments that meet frequently are located on different floors or even separate buildings.
  • Large meeting rooms rarely hit capacity.
  • Only certain conference rooms have certain amenities (e.g., A/V systems).
  • Meetings include video participants, but the room is booked for the total number of attendees, not the number of people physically present.
  • The closest conference room doesn’t match a team’s typical meeting size.
  • Zombie meetings tie up rooms when recurring meetings aren’t canceled when not needed.
  • Meeting rooms are perceived to “belong” to a certain department or floor.
  • Boardrooms can’t be reserved by the general staff.
  • People get comfortable booking what they know, not what’s the most efficient room size.
  • There’s no incentive (or consequence) when booking a room that isn’t the right size.

And sometimes it’s the smallest thing that affects which conference rooms are popular. Details like fabric or leather chairs, new whiteboards, a fun wall color, or even a window may not seem like amenities to you, but they can make a difference to employees.

When our enterprise communications client reviewed their most booked meeting rooms, they found each one had Zoom capabilities. It all came down to video conferencing. To alleviate reservation congestion, they simply added A/V equipment to every room.

Five Strategies to Curb Wasted Time and Space

Once you pinpoint sources of meeting inefficiency, it’s time to take action. It’s important for meeting rooms to align with not only when and where employees meet, but also how they gather.

  1. Relocate Departments—Data from our enterprise client showed that more than 35% of meetings involve two departments. All that time walking to the other end of the building, between several floors, or even across campus adds up.
    Say your product team is on the first floor and engineering is on the seventh, but they both meet three times a week. That’s a ton of wasted time just getting to and from meetings. Use adjacency planning so both teams and an appropriately sized conference room are located near each other.
  2. Right-Size Conference Rooms—Are your meeting spaces too big? Your data will tell you. If a 10-person conference room is frequently booked for four people, that’s an ineffective use of square footage. Look for under-capacity, recurring meetings and reassign them to more appropriately sized spaces.
  3. Relocate Conference Rooms—Does your calendar data show that a team of 12 often books a conference room on another floor? The reason is that they likely don’t have a big enough nearby space. Remember that meeting rooms are a resource—proximity makes a difference. Relocate the team or move the conference room to cut down on travel distance.
  4. Release Reserved Spaces—Overstaying conference room bookings is rarely the problem with meeting room friction. Instead, it’s understaying—or not using the space for the reserved time. Our client found that only 20% of rooms were occupied for scheduled meeting times or longer. That means 80% of meeting rooms are unoccupied yet unavailable to schedule for a certain duration. Consider presence-sensing solutions, like motion sensors, to determine when a room is empty and “release” it digitally so it can be booked by another group.
  5. Include Huddle Spots—A one-on-one meeting doesn’t require a formal conference room. Neither does a brainstorming session with three people. But where can small groups go for an impromptu chat? Your workplace should have casual meeting spaces that don’t require a reservation. Sprinkle lounges, cafeteria booths, soft seating, and bar-height counters throughout your office.

Worried you need to buy expensive software to analyze all this meeting room data? It’s already at your fingertips through your calendar system. SpaceIQ even offers a calendar integration function that generates usage reports. Turn all this data into your own powerful case study. You might be surprised to find how much time and space you can save when you optimize your conference rooms.

Keep reading: 5 Rules and Tips for Effective Conference Room Management

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COVID-19 Workplace Safety Protection Checklist

By Reagan Nickl
Director of Partner and Customer Success
SpaceIQ

As businesses scramble to organize amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the fate of many workplaces remains uncertain. Some employees still go to an office each day, but it’s far from business as usual. Companies need to adapt their workplaces to the current environment, which is why we’ve put together this COVID-19 workplace safety protection checklist.

Below you’ll find actionable steps to ensure the safety of on-site employees. OSHA has also prepared a comprehensive guide on workplace safety precautions specific to COVID-19. Use these resources to plan for and address hygiene concerns and minimize possible transmission of coronavirus in your workplace.

Pre-screen employees and visitors

Health and safety begins even before you enter the workplace. Self-screen and pre-screen policies can keep the virus in-check and alert potential carriers to seek medical attention. Employees and visitors should monitor for symptoms that include fever, cough, and body aches, and avoid coming to work if they feel under the weather. Along these same lines, enact policies that reduce the comings and goings in the workplace, which works to minimize exposure.

  • Encourage employees to self-screen before work
  • Ask visitors to report symptoms before checking in
  • Institute symptom reporting policies
  • Offer alternatives to in-person interactions

Hand washing and workplace hygiene

Encourage employees to be mindful of their personal hygiene and the cleanliness of their workspaces. Make clear the importance of hygienic habits. It may seem like a reiteration of basic concepts—and it is—but it’s nonetheless vital to keep good habits top-of-mind. Cover personal habits like hand washing and face touching, as well as office cleanliness.

  • Institute mandatory hand-washing policies
  • Provide hand sanitizer at key touch points around the office
  • Supply paper towels and tissues
  • Encourage proper cough and sneeze action (into the elbow)
  • Enforce sanitizing protocols for all shared workspaces
  • Contract with commercial cleaners for routine sanitization

Provision and distribution of PPE

The CDC recommendeds people wear masks in public—including in the workplace. Employers should accommodate these guidelines and support employees who wish to wear personal protective equipment (PPE). Create policies that comply with CDC guidelines and, where possible, provide access to PPE for employees. Set rules for acceptable PPE and educate employees on proper ways to wear it.

  • Determine the need for PPE in the workplace
  • Purchase and provide PPE for employees
  • Share best practices and proper utilization of PPE

Social distancing in the workplace

Social distancing is a key part of the plan to reduce COVID-19 transmission. Workplaces bring us close together, but they shouldn’t needlessly expose employees to risk. Social distancing in the workplace is possible. Companies can make a variety of changes to reduce person-to-person contact throughout the day—for example, turn meetings into video conferences, or rearrange floor plans to position desks at least six feet apart.

  • Create and share distancing guidelines (min. six feet apart)
  • Reorganize workplaces for social distancing
  • Post guidelines and suggestions for social distancing
  • Provide alternatives for proximity-based tasks (ex. video conferencing)

Symptom reporting and quarantine

Coronavirus prevention in the workplace extends to when someone reports symptoms. A confirmed case doesn’t necessarily mean your workplace is a hotspot. Swift and decisive action can stymie the spread. It starts with proper symptom reporting protocols and reactive policies for dampening exposure. The most important consideration for employers is to avoid turning COVID-19 into a taboo. Employees need to report symptoms or self-quarantine without fear of being ostracized or penalized for their honesty.

  • Create a policy for employees to privately report symptoms
  • Create action plans for notifying employees of possible exposure
  • Institute policies for self- and mandated-quarantines
  • Create ready-to-go remote work alternatives for employees

Take precautions and plan ahead

Use this checklist to be proactive. To keep your workplace virus-free and your employees safe demands careful consideration of all the ways the virus spreads. This COVID-19 workplace checklist is the basic foundation for an action plan that every employer needs to develop specific to their workplace. The more you do to protect your employees, the less disruption you’ll see and the quicker you can return to normal operations after the pandemic passes.

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Five Elements of a Successful Business Relocation Plan

By Reagan Nickl
Enterprise Customer Success Senior Manager
SpaceIQ

Packing up and moving an office doesn’t happen in one day. If you’re lucky, the physical move might—but it’s usually preceded and followed by staggered breakdown and setup. All told, an office move might actually take weeks to complete. Following a business relocation plan ensures that everyone remains on-track and coordinated before, during, and after the physical move, no matter how long it takes.

Charting a successful relocation is more complex than you might think. For first-time office move coordinators, it’s the epitome of “harder than it looks.” Even the smallest businesses face countless variables and the sheer scale of an office move leaves plenty of room for setbacks and mistakes. Thoroughly planning all phases of the relocation may seem like a lot of work upfront, but it’s well worth the time saved by a smooth, error-free move.

Check out the SpaceIQ Guide for Relocating Employees for a comprehensive look at office moves. As you’re creating your own relocation plan, keep these five vital elements top-of-mind:

1. Cost breakdowns and timelines

Regardless of the reasons behind an office move, make sure the move itself makes financial sense. The relocation plan needs a budget with line items and costs delineated, and those costs attributed to the right cost center. Without a budget, your move can quickly rack up costs, stunting cash flow, and making it difficult to get operations up and running in the new facilities. Create a budget and stick to it, with contingencies in place for overages.

Equally as important before a move is a comprehensive timeline. A move timeline provides a great framework for a broader relocation planning checklist. It’s also important when tackling the move incrementally under a coordinated strategy. For example, your timeline might outline IT setup on Thursday before the broader employee move on Friday. That way, everything’s arranged as people begin moving their workstations.

Cost and time represent the two variables most likely to get out of control during a move. Focusing on both helps to set safeguards against expensive setbacks.

2. Personnel relocation strategies

People are the biggest variable in an office relocation. Everyone needs a point-to-point solution during an office move, or they might not know what to do when the time comes to pack up and go. Beyond a desk-to-desk relocation, every employee needs an exact understanding of their part in the migration.

Some employees might move from one desk to another. Others might go from a stationary desk to an open free assign, concept workplace. Some might transition to flexible work modes, working remotely part-time. Whatever the case, make sure each employee has clear direction and that you’ve answered all questions before the move.

3. IT infrastructure planning

Workplace relocation is a physical action, but it’s built around digital demands. The IT demands of your workforce deserve their own attention in a relocation plan, and they’re generally ahead of employee migration. You need the new workplace connected, configured, and accessible by the time people need to start using it.

In many ways, planning the IT infrastructure is its own separate plan—something greater that’s included as part of an office relocation. Consider tasks like network cabling, workstation setup, A/V cabling, Wi-Fi setup, rack rooms and server setup, and VoIP phone setup. Prioritizing data and telecom migration and setup ahead of employees and assets paves the way for an effortless move and avoids the chaos of everyone requesting IT support at the same time.

4. Task delegation and team leaders

Whether you’ve got 10 employees or 100, doling out responsibility is a priority. Task delegation on the management level organizes and creates accountability before, during, and after the relocation, while creating accountability. For employees, task delegation solidifies their involvement in the move and creates expectations for how it’ll go. If something gets left behind or confusion occurs, it’s easy to figure out what went wrong and how it happened.

Identifying team leaders is also important. These individuals have the authority to make decisions and adapt the plan as needed. It’s rare that a move goes exactly as planned. Team leaders make the right adjustments to avoid messy setbacks and advocate cohesion during the move. It’s also easier for facility managers to communicate with team leaders, who then pass relevant information to the broader staff. This hierarchical approach creates vital clarity during the relocation.

5. Digital move management software

Orchestrating an office relocation is a complex, involved task that’s made immeasurably easier by sophisticated move management software. Facility managers may not oversee everything directly, but they’re ultimately responsible for passing the orders that facilitate the move. Move management software gives them an essential top-down view of all moving parts. It’s akin to looking at the box while doing the puzzle. It may take some time to get all the pieces together, but you’re able to see exactly what you’re working towards.

Coordinating an office move may start to seem overwhelming, but it’s less intimidating if you break it down incrementally. Take a procedural approach to identifying the above five elements of your relocation plan. Remember that each piece of the puzzle informs the next step on the way to a seamless move. And, of course, you can always check your plan against SpaceIQ’s Guide for Relocating Employees to ensure you’ve covered your bases. Happy moving!

Keep reading: Move Management Tips for a Smooth Relocation

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The Advantages of Flexible Work Environments

By Reagan Nickl
Enterprise Customer Success Senior Manager
SpaceIQ

Flexible work environments accommodate employees by stripping away rigid rules and replacing them with general guidelines. There’s a sense of freedom and autonomy inherent to flexible work environments, alongside the structure and support of a traditional workplace. Flex work is often seen as the happy medium between remote work and traditional office work, or freelancers vs. full-time employees.

A flexible workplace might not care about the timeframe in which you work as long as the job gets done. You likely won’t sit at your desk all day—if you even have a designated seat. Flex work might even mean the lack of a traditional boss. Instead, you may work with diverse teams on strategic initiatives where multiple managers are involved. Whatever the case, it’s a strong departure from the traditional concept of office work.

The rise in flexible work environments coincides with the influx of Millennial and Gen-Z employees. Younger workers demand work-life balance and are proving that, given autonomy and freedom, they’re able to perform in ways best for them. Read more on what is flexible office space?

Check out some of the chief benefits flexible work environments afford employees and their employers:

Employee benefits

The benefits of flexible work environments come from moving away from rigid workplace demands. Gone are the days of write-ups for clocking in at 9:03 a.m. or working Saturday hours to make up for a Tuesday doctor’s appointment. Someone might work from home on a day they have an appointment or flex in and out of different workspaces throughout the day to accommodate their changing schedule.

In addition to greater worker autonomy, flexible work environments rely on digital infrastructure, which keeps employees more connected to their work and their peers. It’s easy to pop open a cloud-hosted document to make changes, regardless of where you’re working. Similarly, apps like Slack and Zoom make chatting and video conferencing available in seconds. These technologies make work simpler and more efficient.

Ultimately, it’s easier for employees to achieve work-life balance in a flexible work environment. Preserving this balance encourages employees to self-moderate their workflow, leading to better productivity.

Business benefits

The advantages of flexible working extend to employers as much as employees. Giving freedom to employees means business owners gain more control over their workplace design and cost. Flexibility in work habits translates to flexibility in workplace design, which often results in the creation of agile spaces that maximize utilization. Costs are typically tied to dedicated workspaces. But as employees transition into flex work, reliance on traditional seating falls. It’s a big win for space planning efficiency and can result in lower lease costs.

Businesses also benefit from improved culture and employee morale. Employees who control their work habits and schedules can relax their attitude about work. They’re apt to chat with coworkers without fear of being chastised for being “off task.” Flexible work environments also make it easier for employees to commingle in different spaces. The laid-back atmosphere helps attract and retain talent and strengthens bonds to the company itself.

The benefits of flexible environments may increase workplace ROI beyond revenue. Positive morale and culture, combined with an optimized floor plan, are keys to success in the current commercial climate.

Potential disadvantages to flex work

It’s important to recognize both pros and cons of flexible working. While the positives are numerous, drawbacks exist.

The most obvious problem is employees that lack the discipline or organization to self-govern. Employees unable to find their own groove in a flexible environment can quickly fall behind, becoming a burden more than an asset. Employers need to establish guidelines when problems arise—missed deadlines, communication problems, lack of awareness, erratic work habits, etc.

Flexible work environments demand careful planning and management on the part of facilities managers. Employees flexing into and out of spaces at various intervals represent an uncontrolled variable. The workplace itself needs to be the control point. Setting up rules and processes for how employees interact with different workspaces is imperative. Facilities managers also need to provide the means to keep everyone connected—employee directories, workspace reservation software, and wayfinding apps.

Keeping flexible workspaces viable and productive means creating order to accommodate the unknown. How will you manage employees? What methods ensure fairness despite differing work habits? Are there systems to track employee contributions and working hours? For a flex concept to work, it needs proper oversight.

Accommodating an agile workforce

Employees and employers alike have embraced the concept of flexible work environments. Given the opportunity to self-govern around a set of guidelines, the benefits for both are obvious: improved productivity, better morale, work-life balance, and positive culture. Flex work isn’t just in-demand, it’s on its way to becoming the new norm.

Keep reading: How Agile is Your Real Estate?

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What is a Move Management Consultant?

By Reagan Nickl
Enterprise Customer Success Senior Manager
SpaceIQ

Packing up your apartment and moving is pretty simple. Even the most ill-prepared mover can stuff things in boxes, pile them into a pickup, and relocate. What’s a few broken pieces of dishware? Now, imagine moving an entire business department. Think of the chaos in trying to move 10, 20, or 50 people, each with their own boxes. Without a plan, the process can take weeks, causing untold business disruption and no shortage of headaches.

Starting to see the value in a move management consultant?

If you’re asking, “What is a move management consultant?” you’re not alone. Many growing businesses don’t think to consult with an outside expert before moving. How hard could it be to swap around a few desks or make two departments switch places? In theory, we like to think an office relocation is similar to an apartment move. But the reality is that it’s closer to redistricting a city. That’s why it’s worth hiring a professional.

A move management consultant’s role

Move management consultants plan, coordinate, and oversee office moves. They map each phase of a move and ensure it’s executed smoothly, with as few disruptions as possible. They’re typically called in to coordinate relocations with lots of moving parts, and their skills apply to both interbuilding and multi-location moves.

The move manager’s job starts with an overview of the situation. What is the objective or the reason for the move? What does the current workplace floor plan look like and how will it change? Understanding the starting point and the objective helps determine how to get the company from Point A to Point B—often in a literal sense!

Most move management consultants take this baseline data and plug it into an online move management system. This allows them to map out the move incrementally across different views. They can break the move into phases, put it on a timeline, and understand each phase’s relationship to the process. Eventually, the consultant will connect the dots to form a complete picture of the move, with start-to-finish instructions for everyone involved.

With a move plan in place, the consultant’s real job begins. They’re usually the de facto leader in executing a move. This means breaking the scope back down into increments and providing instruction to department heads and team leaders, so they know their roles in the relocation. The move management consultant helps each team leader understand when, where, and how to act, so each phase of the move goes smoothly.

After a move, the consultant performs their last duty: assessment. What went wrong, if anything? Were there any unexpected obstacles? Were any adjustments made mid-move? The consultant provides a status report to key stakeholders that shows how the move progressed and what the end result was.

Map complex moves with software

The more variables involved, the more complex a move becomes. It’s a relationship that’s often exponential. Moving two departments with 12 people to a new location is a difficult task, but it pales in comparison to one involving three locations, nine departments and 150 people.

Coordinating a smooth move on any scale comes down to organization, which is why reliable consultants use move management software. Software doesn’t just map the many variables of a move, it’s also a system of record that ensures no task is overlooked. Forgetting a single person or desk can derail an entire move, and often requires shoehorning them in at the end. It can disrupt the balance and undermine a well-planned move.

For larger moves, management software incrementally breaks down each step. Every leader involved in the move needs to know their responsibilities, as well as when and how to act. Linking decision-makers and leaders via software gets everyone on the same page about their role in the bigger picture.

The process is more involved than you think

It’s easy to think about office moves and space management at a macro level. Just because everything fits nicely into the stack plan doesn’t mean it’s the right solution. There’s a lot in flux during a move, and accounting for it all is paramount. Some key points to consider:

  • New desking arrangement vs. old desking concept
  • IT and technology infrastructure in the new space
  • Individual seating allocation and general space planning
  • The physical act of transporting assets and individuals
  • Move timeline, phases, and trigger actions
  • Team leader accountability

The number of steps required to get a person, department, or entire company from where they are to where they need to be is much larger than most company’s realize. Dropping them into a new environment can cause chaos. Each step demands careful planning.

A move takes full-time dedication and a clear understanding of each variable and its relationship to overall goals. It’s worth hiring a move consultant to make sure things run smoothly and are coordinated, no matter the number of variables involved.

A smooth move is worth the price

Growing businesses are often strapped for cash. Forgoing a move management consultant for what seems to be a simple office move could be a mistake that costs more to fix in the end. Hiring a consultant isn’t just about delegating the task—you’re paying for a smooth transition that’s non-disruptive to crucial business operations.

To put it in perspective, you wouldn’t try to move an expensive grand piano from one home to another. Why risk tens of thousands of dollars when you can pay someone much less to do it for you? Look at your workplace. The same question applies.

Keep reading: Move Management Tips for a Smooth Relocation.

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Understanding Agile Workplace Pros and Cons

By Reagan Nickl
Enterprise Customer Success Senior Manager
SpaceIQ

Workplace agility is a defining characteristic of modern companies. Without the ability to quickly adapt to change and boost efficiency, companies become stagnant and cumbersome. Agility starts in the workplace and it’s driven by thoughtful space planning, workplace design, and adaptive processes.

While the philosophy of agile working is important, companies need to realize that there are agile workplace pros and cons. An agile workspace isn’t automatically a successful one—it takes the right balance of stability and flexibility. Mastering this balance enables employees, removes roadblocks, encourages collaboration, and, ultimately, facilitates success.

Be flexible and adaptable, yet provide employees the consistency they need. Get familiar with the advantages and disadvantages of agile working. Bend, but don’t break.

There’s a lot to love about workplace agility…

The pros of workplace agility are prolific. At the most fundamental level, workplace agility is a form of adaptability. Adapting to the needs of employees, new business challenges, and unforeseen headwinds helps a business survive and thrive. It’s not only about flexible seating—it’s about giving employees space to do their best work.

Agility is also cost-effective. Agile workplaces use every space and each is adaptable in and of itself. Smart planning means you don’t pay for real estate you can’t use or waste money on space with poor utilization. A conference room doesn’t stay unused just because there’s no meeting—it becomes a collaborative workspace, project planning room, or countless other as-needed spaces. In this way, agility also reduces waste.

Beyond the spaces themselves, agility promotes better communication and collaboration among employees. It gets people out from behind their computer screens and away from their individual desks and puts them in situations where they can work face-to-face. There’s a human element to agility.

Cohesion and synergy are also hallmarks of agile workplaces. Because employees can get up, move around, and engage, they’re more likely to interact with people beyond their immediate workgroup. Sales can talk to Marketing. Finance can sit in on a Sales meetings. There’s a greater culture of inclusion in a workplace that’s less confined by walls and seating assignments.

…but there are also drawbacks

Agile work seems close to a perfect concept, but it’s not without drawbacks—mostly in execution. Pushing employees into a beehive-like environment with no stable foundation quickly breeds chaos.

Employees need a good diversification of spaces. Too much collaboration without enough personal workspace is just as bad as isolation. Similarly, tearing down all the walls to promote agility means there’s little privacy for more sensitive meetings or focused work time. While most agile workspaces are adaptable, not every workspace has to be an agile one.

Recognize that not every employee wants to be an agile one. Forcing them into a dynamic role might remove them from their comfort zone. While it’s okay to encourage new work habits and styles, introverts, quiet workers, and habit-driven employees need stability—not agility. Instead of mandating agility, make it an option. Employees will adapt to an agile work environment on their own time, as situations encourage it. Pressuring people into constant motion will only create negativity.

Finally, invest in proper workplace management software—it’s often the fine line between agility and chaos. Despite the free-flowing movement of a dynamic work environment, control is paramount. Booking rooms, finding employees, changing schedules, and adapting workflows require that everyone is on the same page. An integrated workplace management system (IWMS) ties the many moving parts of an agile workplace together.

Balance your agile working environment 

Agility implies quickness and speed, but that’s just one facet of what makes an agile workplace truly effective. For an athlete to be agile, they also need sure-footing and strong muscles—constant variables they can rely on. It’s the same for your employees. To thrive in an agile workspace, they need sure-footing and self-confidence. Ground the workplace in familiar processes and strong culture, and agility will naturally follow .

Keep reading: How Agile is Your Real Estate?

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The Role of a Workplace Consultant

By Reagan Nickl
Customer Success Senior Manager
SpaceIQ

Is your workplace functioning at a high level? Are you maximizing real estate and balancing it with productive work habits? Does your floor plan complement employees and their needs? There are endless questions you can and should ask about your workplace, but it’s hard to know which ones are relative or important. Moreover, you might not know how to measure them. That’s where a workplace consultant is key to evaluate and optimize your workplace.

The workplace experts

What is a workplace consultant? For starters, they’re the expert on how the workplace touches every part of the business. They’re trained to understand the workplace and how it serves employees, as well as how its costs and benefits stack up on the balance sheet. Consultants evaluate and improve core concepts, and often introduce new ideas and practices to shape a better work environment.

In short, they’re the experts in workplace optimization.

What does a workplace consultant do?

Workplace consultants primarily focus on the process of identifying and implementing strategic improvements. They assess the office, identify opportunities for improvement, and formulate a plan to execute those changes. Their chief objectives are to develop workplace support for employees and reduce overhead. This process breaks down into key phases:

  • Evaluate. The consultant examines workplace functions to understand how they operate on a day-to-day basis. This can include process review, employee interviews, standardized material evaluations. Their goal is to glean a comprehensive understanding of the way the workplace works.
  • Analyze. A workplace consultant thrives on data. This includes looking at workplace costs, sifting through sensor data, and modeling utilization based on key metrics. The objective is to quantify as much as possible to inform and benchmark changes.
  • Propose. With a comprehensive view of function and costs, workplace consultants are poised to drive specific improvements. These are generally data-driven suggestions to improve efficiency and productivity, lower costs, and strengthen the company culture. They’re often presented as direct solutions to problems discovered in the evaluation and analysis phases.
  • Implement. Once key stakeholders review proposed changes, a workplace consultant oversees execution and implementation of improvements. This is the final, actionable phase in positive workplace transformation. It’s only possible through the data-backed insights and suggestions of the consultant.

Like a marketing consultant might assist a branding strategy, a workplace consultant focuses on producing results through a single area of expertise. The workplace is their medium.

What workplace consultants don’t do? 

There’s a lot workplace consultants can do to improve facilities. But there’s a lot they don’t do and things companies shouldn’t expect them to handle. While they focus on fundamental workplace improvement, it doesn’t make them an end-all be-all for transformation. Here’s what they don’t do:

  • Interior design. Consultants focus on improving the core function of the workplace, not necessarily how it looks. Their proposals may include a change in décor theme, but they don’t possess the finesse of professional interior designers when it comes to implementing it.
  • Maintenance. While they can help create a process for maintenance, repairs, and improvements, don’t expect a workplace consultant to get up on a ladder and start replacing light bulbs. Here again, consultants can identify maintenance issues and systems to manage them.
  • IT. A consultant might suggest a new desking layout or recommend workplace sensor installation for better utilization tracking. They might even recommend specific brands or equipment. But that’s where it stops. Count on your IT department to take care of integration at the behest of a consultant who knows how the final result should work.
  • Budgeting. Consultants may spend a lot of time combing through budgets to understand workplace costs, but that doesn’t qualify them to write your company budget for next year. Most likely, a consultant will propose changes and improvements with cost estimates attached. It’s up to your finance department to make the numbers work.

Workplace consultants are diverse experts, but there are clear lines between what they assess and what they do. It’s best to think of it this way: a consultant provides the roadmap to improvement; it’s up to companies to follow it.

When is it time to hire a workplace consultant?

How do you know if you need a workspace consultant? For starters, take a look at your workplace. Do employees have the resources they need to work well, including space, processes, and technologies? Beyond that, look at costs. Is your business weighed down by massive overhead stemming from your lease? Are your facilities cost-efficient?

The less you know about the fundamentals of your workplace, the most important it is to hire a consultant. If you already have data, it’s worth seeing how the model might be improved. If you’re heading into a period of growth, belt-tightening, or transformation, hiring a workplace consultant is especially imperative.

Put your workplace in expert hands

Just as a factory might bring in a lean manufacturing consultant to improve processes and results, any company can benefit from working alongside a workplace consultant. If you want to learn more about your workplace and its function, there’s no better equipped to show you. And, when it comes to optimizing your workspace for efficiency, productivity, and culture, workplace consultants are an invaluable resource.

Keep reading: Enhance Workplace Wellbeing.