What is Alternative Officing?

By Dave Clifton 
Content Marketing Strategist

There’s the generally accepted normal way to do things. Then, there’s the alternative. This is true for nearly any decision you’ll make—including how you design your office. Will you opt for the traditional office floor plan or give alternative officing a try?

If you’re not one to explore life’s many alternatives, now might be the time to start—after all, we’re in ‘uncertain times’ and embracing a ‘new normal.’ Sometimes, the alternative offers possibilities and options that the stock, standard, generally-accepted solution can’t. Such is the case with alternative officing today.

Alternative officing defined

To understand why alternative officing may be a better option than traditional desking concepts, it’s worth knowing exactly what alternative officing is. In simplest terms, we’re talking about office hoteling. Instead of employees roaming facilities, hoteling encourages them to book spaces for specific times. A solo desk on the first floor from 9am to noon. A conference space from 1pm to 2pm. A collaborative workspace from 4pm until the end of the day. Alternative officing preserves the flexibility and diversity of the workplace, while adding guardrails to how employees use it. Beyond hoteling, the ethos of this alternative also extends to non-traditional workplace elements. This might include workstations within a coffee bar or breakout spaces near conference rooms, for meeting spillover. It’s a distinct shift away from the classic idea of an office. The alternative office is a dynamic, flexible, comfortable space, built on helping employees do their best work.

Key benefits behind alternative officing

What incentives do employers have to explore alternative officing? When traditional workplace concepts become inefficient, it’s a matter of adapting. In the face of a catalyst like COVID-19, traditional workplaces lack the flexibility of alternative officing solutions. As companies adopt the alternative, they adopt flexibility, which leads to several key benefits:

  • Reduce workplace costs through space optimization
  • Improve productivity of employees under new workplace guidelines
  • Usher in new technologies to improve workplace utilization
  • Accommodate the increased mobility of employees, while maintaining order

Above all, alternative officing promotes teamwork, collaboration, and better workplace utilization. It does this by changing the framework of how people interact with the office environment. They’re not tied to their desk all day—they merely occupy a space as they need it, with the ability to change that space with a simple booking.

Where to utilize office hoteling

Alternative officing strategies are best suited in workplaces with dynamic staff. If a majority of your employees use multiple workspaces in the context of a workday, there’s ample opportunity for chaos to arise. Bring a hoteling concept to these environments to restore checks and balances to space utilization. For example, if Desk X is booked, someone can view similar desks to book at the same time or the next available time for Desk X.

Office hoteling is also effective in environments with a mixed workforce. For example, if your workplace has space for 100 desks and you manage 150 employees mixed between in-house and telecommuting, there’s an occupancy balancing act. Hoteling gives everyone a chance to book space that’s right for them, provided there’s a facility manager to coordinate schedules (75 in-house vs. 75 remote, for example).

How to utilize office hoteling

Alternative officing only works if you show employees how to make it work. Without an understanding of how to act in hoteling office space, the system will all but break down. Desks become occupied without reservations. Employees clash over the rights to certain desks or spaces. The system of law and order needs oversight itself, courtesy of a facility manager.

Hoteling software is essential, as well as the integrations that come with it. Desk booking via email. Real-time desk searches via Slack. Push notifications for wayfinding. Make sure there are numerous touchpoints that facilitate employee interaction with hoteling software. More important, make sure it all routes through a cohesive system that relays one employee-facing record of what’s booked vs. what’s available.

Companies also need to structure facilities to accommodate alternative officing. More individual workstations with amenities conducive to the type of work employees need to do. Lack of a home base also means workplaces need areas where employees can work privately, store their belongings, take phone calls, and otherwise exist outside of the hoteling system. Design an alternative office infrastructure that supports employees, not confine them.

The future demands alternative officing

How long before the alternative becomes the new norm? In the current workplace climate and in the face of uncertain CRE trends, space optimization is a lever businesses can pull for cost savings and resource planning. As office hoteling becomes more familiar for more employees, it’s also more likely businesses will continue to leverage these benefits.

Hoteling may be the alternative, but it’s nonetheless effective. It’s a proven approach to desking where traditional workplace concepts aren’t currently viable.

Keep reading: A Quick Guide to Office Hoteling Best Practices


Five Questions to Ask Before Buying a Visitor Management System

By Katherine Schwartz
Demand Generation Specialist

If your business welcomes visitors, there’s a need to shape the experience these guests have with your facilities. One of the best ways to control the visitor experience and facilitate a smooth interaction with your facilities is via a digital visitor management system. If this concept is a new one or you’re in the market for such a platform, there are plenty of questions to ask before buying a visitor management system.

As with any major software investment, the decision to purchase comes down to value. How will a visitor management system help you accomplish the goals you have for this aspect of facilities management? Below are five core questions that will put you on the right track to an investment that will serve you, your facilities, and, most importantly, your visitors.

1. What’s your demand for visitor management?

What kind of visitor experience do your facilities currently offer? How could that experience be improved? Gauge your demand for visitor management software before anything else and determine how this investment will unlock new opportunities for your guests.

Look at how many visitors you welcome on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Why do these people visit? Who are they here to see? What aspects of your facilities do they use? At a high level, gauge the need for visitor management as it relates to the real demands your facility faces. You may welcome fewer visitors, but need a highly controlled system that exemplifies experience. Or, you may welcome hundreds of visitors each week who only need a simple framework to meet their needs. Explore this demand in real terms as you look for software designed to meet it.

2. What is the scope of your visitor experience?

The purpose of a visitor management system is to create a step-by-step, repeatable process that guests can rely on to guide their interaction with your facilities. Ask yourself what the scope of that experience needs to be. It goes beyond check-in or wayfinding, and needs to encompass every phase of a visitor’s interaction with your facilities, employees, resources, and technology. Some examples include:

  • Reservations and bookings
  • Check-in/-out systems
  • Welcome process and interaction
  • Wayfinding maps and apps
  • Visitor badging and permissions
  • Access to Wi-Fi and other tech

Flesh out the scope of a visitor’s experience to gauge their needs and expectations. These findings will influence what features and capabilities your visitor management system needs to set the tone for a positive experience.

3. What integrations and touchpoints do you need?

After you determine the scope of a visitor’s experience, go a layer deeper. How will a visitor system facilitate this experience? Does the platform offer check-in for visitor management? Can it integrate with your employee directory or space planning software? What automations does it offer?

Explore the capabilities of software from a technical standpoint. Integrations and touchpoints need to be as fluid as the visitor experience itself. A well-run front-end (UX) may be great for visitor interaction, but a clunky back-end (UI) may make visitor management difficult from a facilities management standpoint. Find a system that plays well with your broader office ecosystem, to enable seamless integration on the back-end and frictionless touchpoints on the front-end.

4. What data does the system handle? 

One key element of visitor management isn’t front-facing at all. The data you collect and aggregate for your visitors plays a big part in the reason to invest in a digital management system. Orchestrated for data capture and reporting, a well-implemented system sheds light on broad variables of a visitor’s interaction and how you can optimize it.

What’s the average length of a visit? What days see the most guests at your facilities? A visitor on Tuesday tested positive for COVID-19—what facilities did they use, who did they meet with, and what was their origin? Data plays a critical role in visitor management from a facilities management perspective. Look for a software solution that collects, aggregates, reports, and catalogs as many critical data points as possible.

5. How will you define ROI? 

How do you measure the return on investment (ROI) of a good visitor experience? That’s a question every company needs to ask itself. It depends on the type of visitor and the reason for their visit. If your facilities welcome sales prospects who leave feeling good, you might measure ROI in terms of in-house sales dollars. If you welcome strategic visitors for project planning and collaboration, ROI might take the form of time saved.

Whatever the ROI metric, establish it before you make the investment in visitor management software. Set a benchmark for gauging returns and determine your break-even point. Treat this software as a traditional investment—because it is. It’s an upfront expense that can and should lead to long-term growth, profit, and benefits.

Probe deeper before a purchase 

Every business needs to shape a positive experience for visitors—whether they’re a one-off visitor or a frequent guest. A clear, well-managed, repeatable process that answers questions and provides guidance is what defines that experience. It’s a system that needs the support of visitor management software.

Determine what you want the visitor experience to look and feel like in your facilities. As you comb through visitor management software options, continue to ask questions about the benefits and capabilities that come with each platform. How do they further the mission of a seamless visitor experience? Choose software capable of creating that experience, from the moment someone walks in the door to the moment they leave.

Keep reading: 5 Essential Visitor Management System Features


Five Questions to Ask Before Buying Meeting Room Software

By Katherine Schwartz
Demand Generation Specialist

One of the best ways to bring law and order to your shared office spaces is through room booking software. But there are some important questions to ask before buying meeting room software. Why? There’s more to it than reserving a room. You’re actually investing in a complete space management ecosystem—a series of checks and balances to ensure maximum utilization of common spaces. It’s worth knowing how different options stack up against your facilities.

Below are five simple, straightforward questions about meeting room booking software meant to provoke greater discussions about how to get the most out of it. These questions are also the simplest way to understand what features and capabilities you need most, as well as how a booking system will streamline your facilities.

1. How will you use the software?

On the surface, conference room software is simple: reserve a specific room at a specific time. In fact, that’s exactly how it should feel to the employees who will use it. For facility managers, there’s more to consider—like how room booking software will change workplace governance. In an ideal situation, it means less work for facility managers and less chaos in shared workspaces. But this is only possible through the right software.

Consider facets of room booking like the reservation and confirmation system, as well as calendar management and meeting information capabilities. Do you need a simple system that keeps a schedule, or a more robust system that manages employees’ experience with the space? Understand your needs before choosing software to ensure your investment meets expectations.

2. What integrations are available?

Meeting room booking software needs integrations to function realistically in the workplace. Employees need the ability to book via email, chat app, through a portal, and through myriad other channels—otherwise, they’re less likely to use it. Look for software that supports multiple booking options and that’s intuitive enough to manage them all through a central queue.

Facility managers should evaluate more than just available integrations, too. Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) make it possible to create tailored integrations, so it’s worth looking at products with available APIs as well. More integrations and customizable opportunities paves the way for everything from scalability to turnkey solutions specific to the booking needs of your facilities.

3. What’s the scope of the ecosystem?

Consider whether you need or want your meeting room booking system to extend beyond a straightforward reservation system. Do you want it to appear on touchscreens outside bookable rooms? Extend to visitors as part of a wayfinding system? Establish your vision for a booking ecosystem before investing in software.

Keep in mind that the larger the ecosystem, the more associated costs and the more intense the framework for a buildout. For example, the addition of touchscreens outside of conference rooms drives up costs; however, it might also drive up bookings, improving space utilization and space efficiency. Understand the relationship between your reservation ecosystem and core facility management metrics.

4. What spaces will it encompass?

Think about the shared spaces in your facilities. Which areas need booking governance? For some companies, that only extends to conference rooms. For others, it may include hotel desks. Realistically, any unassigned space qualifies for reservations, but not every space benefits from this system.

Look at the number of spaces that need reservation capabilities, then pair that with cost. Does it make sense to invest in room booking software for four rooms? Forty rooms? Only for your conference spaces? To manage the hundreds of hotel desks at your facilities? Qualify the scope of deployment, right down to the number and type of spaces it includes.

5. How will you define ROI?

Room booking software can pay for itself when deployed effectively. But how will you know when it has? Take time to establish return on investment (ROI) metrics that validate your purchase. Is it time saved by not over-booking rooms? Does ROI correlate to space efficiency?

Delineate what ROI looks like and have a clear roadmap for how to track and measure it against the cost of investing in meeting room software. Keep in mind that this should be an ongoing priority that continues to justify the cost of your software far into the future.

Ask more questions to learn more

In theory, meeting room booking software is simple. In practice, there are numerous options, features, and deployment nuances that make careful consideration essential. The software you choose will define your employees’ experience interacting with shared spaces. It’ll also determine governance for those spaces. Answer the above five questions to gain the insight required to make the right choice about which platform to choose and how to deploy it.

Don’t limit your questioning to these five, either! Look at room booking from both micro and macro stances, to create a system that’s fluid and convenient. Ask as many questions as it takes to develop a clear system for room booking and to find software that supports it.

Keep reading: 5 benefits of a meeting room booking system tablet


Five Questions to Ask Before Buying Space Planning Software

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist

Sick of polylining new floor plans or adding notes to spreadsheets every time you adjust the office seating chart? It’s likely time to invest in space planning software. Before you do, ask questions—not all platforms are the same. Take the time to come up with a few questions to ask before buying space planning software.

What should you ask? Some of the best questions are the most basic ones. Consider the biggest, most important questions you have and start there. Below are five simple questions that deserve answers before you proceed with a space management software investment.

1. How will you use the software?

The value of space planning software goes beyond any one single use. Instead, think about how you’ll use it collectively to better plan and execute the ideal workplace floor plan. Some topics to consider include:

  • Floor plan creation and optimization
  • Gathering real-time space utilization data
  • Custom dashboards and reporting for spaces
  • Planning and overseeing office moves
  • Macro real estate forecasting and planning

Probe these areas in some depth before you make any firm decisions about what you do or don’t need from your space planning software. Also, think to the future about features you may not currently need, but may come to need as your facilities evolve or scale on the back of better space management. How you plan to use the software is the biggest justification for your investment in it.

2. What capabilities do you need?

As you explore uses for space management software in your facilities, consider the capabilities that are most important to you. Beyond the basics like drag-and-drop floor plan tools, what do you need to allocate, organize, and optimize your space? Different programs (and even different tiers of programs) afford facility managers different tools that may dictate their experience with the platform.

Some of the most common (and beneficial) capabilities hinge on integrations. Linking up the company directory, for example, brings dynamic appeal to changing floor plans. Collaborative floor planning features can help simplify moves. Look at available features and pair them with your expectations to find software that meets your needs.

3. What processes will it displace?

Out with the old, in with a new space planning system. Ask yourself what current processes new software will make obsolete, as well as which processes it’ll automate, simplify, or otherwise improve. The goal is to take work off of a space manager’s plate, while improving the flexibility, agility, and cohesiveness of the workplace.

Draw direct links between features and benefits. Drag-and-drop floor plans eliminate polylining and spreadsheets. Space metrics and reporting absolve you of manual data tracking. Move management tools bring order to otherwise chaotic relocation phases. Take a close look at how, specifically, space management software will shore up your processes.

4. What opportunities does it unlock?

Chances are, you’ve made the decision to invest in space planning software because you want more from your facilities. Explore this idea deeper. What will space planning software allow you to do for your workplace that might not be practical or available at present? Some examples may include:

  • Explore hypothetical workspace layouts or desking concepts
  • Track space utilization metrics with accuracy
  • Develop a foundation for wayfinding and company directory
  • Improve workplace efficiency through optimization insights
  • Pave the way for a hoteling or reservation system

It comes down to a simple concept: what doesn’t your current workplace offer that it should? Identify opportunities for workplace improvement and look for space planning software that will help realize those objectives.

5. How will you define ROI?

Establish what return on investment (ROI) looks like in the context of your investment in space planning software. Do you have metrics to indicate improvement? Is there a dollar figure attached to your company’s top- or bottom-line growth? If so, how do you calculate it?

Space planning software affects so many facets of business operations because they’re tied to the workplace and employees’ interactions with it. Identify the concept of ROI in whatever form it takes before you invest in software to get a clear idea of what you’re getting for the cost of a license.

Build on these questions

Your answers to these questions will hinge on many factors—namely the size of your facilities, how you manage them, and how dynamic they are. A 12-person company with 2,000 square feet of office space won’t have the same demands as a 250-person company that operates eight floors. Stakeholders need to evaluate their situation in the context of a space planning software solution to see the value it offers them.

Start with these five questions and use them as a springboard for more. Can you explore new desking concepts? What metrics aren’t you tracking that you should be? Is it time to upgrade your office space? Good questions lead to a good investment in space planning software, which opens up a world of possibilities for workplace optimization and growth.

Keep reading: Space planning software buyers guide


10 Tips for a Safe Return to the Workplace

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist

There’s a lot of fear and trepidation about reopening workplaces. Nevertheless, many businesses need to bring employees back or face the prospect that they might never open their doors again. The best solution is to reopen with emphasis on a safe return to the workplace.

Many professional organizations have already issued guidelines on returning to work. The common theme is protecting employees from COVID-19 exposure through social distancing, face masks, and office sanitization. These efforts are paramount to help employees return to work safely.

Instead of adding to the already-prolific amount of rules out there about safely returning to the workplace, we’ve the top 10 best tips. Use these as the jump-off point as you bring employees back in-house.

  1. Institute a pre-screening policy. The best way to lessen the chances of coronavirus spread in the workplace is to encourage pre-screening. Employees with body aches, a fever above 100 degrees, or other symptoms should stay home. If symptoms persist, advise them to get tested and arrange a work-from-home schedule, if possible.
  2. Evaluate your floor plan. Identify areas prone to heavy traffic and congregation, as well as workspaces where employees may be in close proximity. Adjust the floor plan to accommodate social distancing guidelines and promote safer interactions. In some cases, this may mean reimagining the workplace in a new format. Make adjustments with health and safety in mind.
  3. Create and share social distancing policies. Institute new policies to help avoid employee contact and make these policies clear to all employees. Examples include new room occupancy levels, use of shared facilities, and interaction with other employees. Make it easy to follow these policies—put up signage and encourage leaders to set the example.
  4. Review workplace sanitization standards. Gauge your current janitorial schedule and decide to increase it or add new sanitization services. Then, post guidance for what employees can do to keep facilities clean in their day-to-day interactions with them. Consider everything from surface disinfecting to air purification, and let employees know what steps you’ve taken to sanitize the environment.
  5. Phase-in employees and groups. Don’t rush your entire workforce back all at once. Stagger the return by department or employee group, if possible. Set occupancy goals and monitor the social climate in your office to determine when to welcome the next wave of employees back. Start with employees who need to be in-house to work effectively and phase-in mission-critical people first, as well as those with telecommuting barriers.
  6. Require face masks. Face masks and face protection should be a core standard of your return to work policy. Masks are the easiest way for employees to protect themselves and others from COVID-19. Beyond instituting a mask policy, take the time to educate employees on how to properly wear a mask and how to handle them (disposable vs. cloth).
  7. Hold an all-hands meeting. Employees need guidance and assurance as they come back to work. Managers need to give it to them. Encourage team leaders to hold an all-hands meeting with their groups to discuss new policies, field questions, and gauge the mood and morale of the workforce. Schedule regular company-wide meetings for updates and policy changes.
  8. Create a contact tracing strategy. COVID-19 has shown how resilient and contagious a pandemic can be. If the worst happens and your workplace is home to a confirmed case, you need a way to alert others who may have been exposed. Develop a contact tracing practice that protects your workforce, so you can encourage employees to get tested and stem any further potential transmission.
  9. Post hygiene reminders. A little reminder can go a long way. Put up signage in strategic areas throughout your workplace to remind employees of hygienic best practices and to encourage good habit formation. Get them to wash hands frequently, use hand sanitizer, wipe down work areas, and avoid sharing objects.
  10. Be flexible and accommodating. The coronavirus pandemic is an evolving situation, which means your business needs to be flexible. Listen to employees and address situations proactively. If an employee lives in an immunocompromised household, consider extending their work-from-home option. If in-house employees want partitions put up, make it happen. Accommodation will lead to appreciation.

Follow these 10 tips to create a safer workplace and confident employees. Continue to stick with them for as long as COVID-19 remains a concern, and take the time to remind employees that your workplace is a safer one so long as everyone is mindful of these practices.

Keep reading: How to Use Workplace Software for Social Distancing


Top Facility Management and COVID-19 Considerations

By Katherine Schwartz
Demand Generation Specialist

Facility management and COVID-19 are at war. The coronavirus pandemic disrupted even the most well-managed workplaces and turned normalcy on its head. Since the pandemic took hold, facilities managers have battled back to explore new opportunities for remote work or socially distant workplaces. The fight rages on as COVID-19 continues to spread and new facility management practices emerge to combat it.

Here’s a look at the top considerations facilities managers face as they strive to keep employees safe and prevent further disruption.

Building sanitization

The primary role of facility management in dealing with COVID-19 is to create a safe work environment. This starts with sanitization. Facility managers need to evaluate janitorial schedules, daily cleaning practices, spot sterilization, and workplace-specific sanitization standards—then determine if that’s enough.

For many facilities managers, building sanitization means exploring new products and practices that address coronavirus-specific concerns. Are there measures in place to sanitize shared equipment like copiers and kitchen appliances? Is your current janitorial provider using products proven to kill COVID-19 on contact?

Assess the full scope of workplace sanitization and align it with CDC standards for workplace cleaning and disinfection. Be mindful of all surface types and cleaning practices, and develop a robust program that leaves no opportunities for the virus to linger.

HVAC and forced air quality

Because COVID-19 spreads primarily through airborne droplets, air quality is a major concern for facility managers. FMs should consult HVAC guidance from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and observe best practices for forced air maintenance during the pandemic.

Top-level concerns include the replacement of HVAC filters with high-efficiency options (read: Covid-19 Workplace HVAC Checklist), as well as service and maintenance to ensure efficiency from forced air systems. Forced air affects the entire building, which makes it a standalone pillar for facility managers to consider as they prepare a safer workplace.

Floor plans and workspace considerations

Reimagining the workplace has been a top priority of many companies. Facilities managers and coronavirus are in a tug-of-war over what types of workspaces are safe vs. what spaces aren’t efficient under new social distancing guidelines. FMs face challenges that range from reconfiguring the entire workplace, to minor adjustments for specific workspaces, to hybridizing certain concepts.

Beyond the creation of a new floor plan, facility managers also need to roll it out and monitor its efficiency—effectively rebooting their entire oversight process. This has rippling ramifications for other aspects of facility management, such as real estate planning and budgeting or even cash flow projections. FMs need to reestablish what workplace efficiency is and how facilities impact the greater business. With no concept of how long the pandemic will last, this is a daunting task for many facility managers.

New workplace policies

The impact of COVID-19 for facility managers also extends to facility policies. FMs face the arduous task of reeducating employees and visitors about how to interact with the workplace—including everyone and everything in it.

Mask mandates. Proper use of shared amenities. Workplace distancing parameters. There are a slew of new considerations facility managers need to plan for and enact. This takes a significant amount of time and energy, and constant oversight to ensure policies are followed, adapted, and improved. It also involves constant intake of information—revised guidelines from the CDC, WHO, OSHA, ASHRAE, and various other influential organizations charged with setting the standard for workplace safety.

There’s also a tangible component to enforcing workplace policies: posted signage and workplace modifications. To help new policies succeed, facility managers need to supply constant reminders of what’s acceptable and appropriate.

Support for a distributed workforce

With more employees telecommuting, there’s greater emphasis on support for blended teams. One of the biggest challenges FMs face is providing remote workers and in-house teams with the digital infrastructure and coordinated resources they need to collaborate effectively. While much of the burden of setting up digital resources falls on IT departments, facility managers still need to coordinate accommodations.

The concept of the workplace is as much digital right now as it is physical. For many FMs, this is an adjustment. As they seek to support the company’s increasingly distributed teams, facility managers need to explore modern solutions that bridge gaps between where and how employees work.

Focus on facility cleanliness and workforce safety

Facility management during COVID-19 boils down to two major focuses: facility cleanliness and the safety of employees. Everything facility managers do needs to support one or both of these objectives.

It’s also important that facility managers use this time to explore trends and best practices that may become standards in the future—support for a blended workforce or socially-distant floor plan concepts, for example. The workplace continues to evolve during the coronavirus pandemic—it’s up to facility managers to evolve right alongside it.

Keep reading: How to Create an Office Seating Chart Amidst COVID-19


What is a Distributed Work Environment?

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist

As the workplace continues to evolve, facilities managers and team leaders need to plan for a distributed workforce. They’ll need to support employees wherever and whenever they work in a way that’s conducive to team success. Now’s the time to consider the shift to a distributed work environment.

What is a distributed work environment? Also called a blended work model, a distributed work environment includes both on- and off-site employees, as well as various working schedules and interactions between teams. It’s a workplace modeling theory that bridges the physical and digital workplaces into a single concept that supports the entire workforce.

With the massive shift to remote work and the pre-COVID-19 rise in coworking, distributed work environments are rapidly becoming the new norm.

A look at the distributed workforce

For many businesses—even traditional enterprise companies—the concept of a distributed workforce is real. It looks different for every company because it’s a product of the work their employees do and how they do it. Here are a few common examples of distributed workers:

  • Rogelio exclusively telecommutes from home
  • Heather works in-house to take advantage of an agile workplace
  • Kamila sometimes works from home, sometimes works in-house
  • Jay, who travels, works from coffee shops, coworking spaces, and airports
  • Luna doesn’t keep regular 9-5 hours; she works in chunks throughout the day
  • Dimitri is a contractor who frequently collaborates remotely with the company

Now, imagine some or all of these examples working together. Heather and Kamila are both on the same marketing team. Jay, Luna, and Rogelio collaborate on product design. This is a distributed workforce in varying levels of complexity.

Companies that employ a distributed workforce need to overcome the logistical challenges of supporting and enabling groups who might not work at the same location, at the same time. They need a distributed work environment.

The physical element of distributed work

The physical element of a distributed work environment takes into consideration where every member of the team is. They’re not together, so how can you bring them together? What barriers and obstacles do you need to overcome to make the place where each employee is, the place they need it to be?

Employers of distributed teams have little control over where their employees work—be it at home, a coworking space, a coffee shop, the airport, or any one of an infinite number of formal and informal spaces. What they can control are in-house facilities and the physical technologies distributed teams use, including company-issued computers, smartphones, and wireless access cards. These types of technologies are tangible and bridge the gap between wherever your distributed employees are and how they collaborate with the rest of the team.

The digital architecture of distributed work

A distributed work environment is built atop a robust digital infrastructure. When the physical workplace becomes secondary, digital access forms the basis of how and where individuals and groups do their work. Kamila and Rogelio need video chat capabilities. Jay, Luna, and Dimitri need access to the same files to collaborate on them. Everyone needs access to a project management system to hold themselves accountable to the success of the team.

Given the many digital resources used by distributed teams, the business cloud becomes the distributed work environment. Everything is virtual, right at the fingertips of whoever needs it, wherever they are. Digital resources bridge all gaps—communication, collaboration, accountability, and agility.

A distributed work environment is anywhere and everywhere, so long as it affords access to every member of the team in the capacity they need it. In this way, it’s even more effective than even the most accommodating physical workspace—and it’s why more companies have embraced distributed teams.

Take a proactive approach to accommodate blended work

Everyone keeps talking about “the new norm” when it comes to work. It’s not remote work or workplace social distancing—these are only elements of a greater change. The new norm is a blended work environment, and it pre-dates the coronavirus pandemic. Technology, flexible work schedules, and changing social policies all play a role in the rise of a distributed workforce.

Companies that haven’t yet adopted a distributed work model may soon need to. It’s best to get ahead of the curve and consider what a distributed work environment looks like for you. Consider the physical barriers distributed teams face and the digital resources they need to overcome them, and build out a model for blended work that’s broadly supportive of every team member and their work habits.

Keep reading: 8 Apps for Remote Workers Productivity and Success


How to Combine Social Distancing and Flexible Office Space

By Katherine Schwartz
Demand Generation Specialist

Pre-COVID-19, flexible workspaces were synonymous with collaboration. Now, as social distancing defines office floor plans and workplace interactions, there’s uncertainty surrounding the role these workspaces play. How should employees treat them? Are they safe? These questions are top-of-mind as facility managers try to make social distancing and flexible office space work together.

The solution is something of a compromise. Flexible workspaces can still be the central components in an agile office. They can also meet social distancing guidelines. Marrying social distancing and flexible office space takes a considerate approach by facility managers—one that involves floor plan adjustments, new policies, and careful oversight.

Types of flexible office space

Identify the flexible workspaces in your office. Hoteling and hot desks are simple examples of flexible space, but they’re not the only ones. Look for the hallmarks of flexible space:

  • Areas without assigned seating or assigned uses
  • Spaces that play host to different people and groups throughout the day
  • Workspaces that accommodate broad work styles

Workspaces that meet this description demand consideration in the current climate of social distancing. Without new rules and processes to govern them, they’re exactly the type of commingling areas employees should avoid! However, with mindful oversight, they can function as safer versions of their intended design.

Plan with distancing policies in mind

The first step in reinventing flexible space is to infuse it with distance. Be mindful of proximity and space capacity. If a breakout area can accommodate 12 people with a 3-foot radius, recognize the new capacity of that area as accommodating six people with a 6-foot radius. Before you can modify a space, you need to see it for its real-time parameters.

With actual capacity in mind, reestablish the layout of the space and try to preserve its flexible nature. If the space had breakout areas for small groups, you might consider a reduction to the number of group areas and instead, introduce more space for fewer clusters. Likewise, you can keep a room full of hot desks, provided you reduce and reorganize to create appropriate proximity.

Make the goal to preserve the spirit of the space: an agile environment that’s accommodating to the broad needs of employees.

Manage employee/workplace interactions

Physical distance only works if it’s reinforced. The second step in maintaining flexible workspaces is to implement the policies and protocols that keep employees distant and engrain good distancing habits.

Some flexible workspaces already have these controls built in—namely hot desks and hoteling, which require check-ins and scheduling. Room reservation systems can also double as social distancing workplace software and prevent overlap and overcrowding in flex spaces. Even posting the new room capacity outside of a space can be enough of a reminder to keep employees distant.

Leaders need to take the time to guide adoption of new flex spaces, as well. School team leaders in how to answer questions about space usage and best practices, and encourage team meetings about how to stay safe while flexing in and out of workspaces. Managers should also encourage good habits like space booking to help their teams stay accountable.

Sterilize shared work environments

The final piece of the puzzle that links social distancing and flexible office space is a rigorous sterilization schedule. These are shared spaces, which means they’re hotbeds for viral activity if not properly sanitized.

Sanitization and sterilization should be frequent. Employees should practice basic sanitizing steps—wipe down their workstation before and after use, clear away rubbish, and practice good hygiene. On a facility management level, deeper disinfection should happen daily. Nightly commercial janitorial services are a smart solution, as is the investment in an electrostatic sprayer to sanitize rooms on-the-spot.

Cleaning efforts in flexible workspaces need to be comprehensive: surface and air. Disinfecting wipes and sprays are a good start, but also consider air purifiers for enclosed spaces. It’s not unreasonable to thoroughly wipe-down and disinfect flexible workstations after every use, before another employee can use them. Just make sure there’s a process that turns the space quickly, so it can remain agile.

Keep workspaces agile and safe

To stay viable, flexible workspaces need to keep employees agile. Even under social distancing restrictions, it should be easy for employees to reserve a hot desk or flex into a breakout space. Once there, employees should feel comfortable and safe in an environment that’s semi-isolated and routinely cleaned. The goal is to promote efficient work. If your flexible office spaces can do that and keep employees 6 feet apart, they’re worth the logistical effort it takes to manage them.

Keep reading: COVID-19 and the Workplace of the Future


Five Top Strategies for Maximizing Hoteling in the Workplace

By Nai Kanell
Vice President of Marketing

Hoteling is a simple way to bring oversight and order to flexible workspaces. It can prevent logjams and overlap, and the wasted time and productivity that come with them. A desk reservation system set up the right way is also a boon to employees. It affords them more control of their work habits and practices, and gives them the personal space they need to feel safe and comfortable—a timely benefit considering the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Here’s a quick dive into five of the top strategies for companies to maximize hoteling in the workplace. Lay the groundwork for these before shifting to a reservation system. Or, if you already rely on office hoteling, use these tips to refine your existing system.

Diversify booking options

The convenience of flexible workspaces is that they’re open and available when employees need them. For hotel desks, availability is governed by reservations. If employees can’t book a hotel desk, they can’t use it. Companies should diversify booking options and methods to maintain broad—yet controlled—accessibility to workstations. Examples include:

  • Email reservations via an automated system or administrative booking process
  • Messaging apps with real-time access to desk availability and booking options
  • Portal booking on a company’s intranet site or through a workplace mobile app
  • Live booking at a kiosk or touchscreen located at the hotel desk

Make it simple for employees to see available space and book through many channels. On the flipside, have a system in place that can organize and process bookings from various inputs.

Centralize workstation management

Companies should centralize their reservation management systems. Without a clear-cut funnel for booking requests and desk management, the hoteling system begins to break down. Automated efficiency comes via an integrated workplace management system (IWMS). Serraview and SpaceIQ offer real-time desk booking and oversight capabilities that make workstation management easy.

  • How many desks are available right now?
  • How are requests processed and reservations made?
  • What confirmation standards are in place?
  • How can employees change or cancel their reservations?

Workstation management software automates everything from reservation requests/changes to utilization metric measurements so facilities managers can better shape their hoteling systems.

Track occupancy and utilization metrics

How do you know if your hoteling system is efficient? Like all workplace development initiatives, hoteling benefits from key performance indicators (KPIs). Occupancy and utilization metrics shed light on how well you’re managing hotel desks, as well as measure demand.

Hotel desks occupied 100% of the time each week indicates a need for more workspaces, while a 15% usage rate offers opportunities to use space for other options. Other factors like the length of a booking, types of employees who book space, and the physical location of popular/unpopular bookings all contribute to hoteling best practices. The more you know, the more you can improve.

Tracking hotel desk utilization also supports contact tracing for COVID-19. In the event of a confirmed case, facilities managers can pull the hotel desk log for recently used workspaces to begin the contact tracing process and notify employees who booked and used desks. An IWMS is key to collecting, pulling, aggregating, and analyzing usage data.

Define and enforce space parameters

Part of maximizing hoteling is acclimating employees to the practice. Teach them how to book space and illustrate the benefits; then set expectations for how, when, and why hotel desks are convenient. As employees acclimate to hoteling, their confidence will grow.

Start with rules, expectations, and general hoteling parameters. Establish and explain the following concepts to employees before introducing a desk reservation system:

  • The parameters of desk booking (how long, where, how, when, why)
  • Hotel desking etiquette and reasonable expectations for use
  • Best practices for rebooking, changing reservations, or cancelling
  • How to handle conflict or get answers to questions about hoteling

Think of this as an education primer. People are much more willing to try something when they understand it. Educate employees on hoteling before urging them to adopt it and the prospect of reserved desking won’t seem so complicated or uncertain.

Offer diverse and ample space

Space diversity is one of the hallmarks of flexible space and broad office utilization. Not everyone needs the same type of workspace, and different types of work necessitate different types of work areas. Hoteling allows you to provide booking opportunities for different types of space to increase adoption and stay true to the concept of a flexible workspace.

Some employees may prefer a blank-slate desk where they can open their laptop and spread out to work. Others may prefer a standing desk near a window. Some may need a room with A/V capabilities. Hoteling can even extend to conference rooms and other gathering spaces. Any space that supports reservations becomes part of the hoteling ecosystem. Make sure your ecosystem is rife with diverse workspaces.

Make hoteling more effective

Combined, these tips culminate in a workplace hoteling system that’s user-friendly, easy to manage, and creates a gateway to better workplace utilization. Hoteling isn’t just a solution to office adaptation during the COVID-19 era—it’s a smart way to create certainty for your workforce in how, when, and where they work.

Keep reading: Office Hoteling Best Practices