Is Your COVID-19 Office Cleaning Plan Enough?

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist

Cleanliness and hygiene are on everyone’s mind as coronavirus concerns persist in national headlines. Even though local economies have begun to open up, people are still concerned about exposure and infection. This is especially true in the workplace. It’s impossible for employees to feel comfortable and productive if they’re constantly concerned about an unseen virus lurking around them. Employers need to step up their COVID-19 office cleaning plan to quell fears and create confidence in their workforce.

Many workplaces implemented special cleaning protocols during the height of COVID-19 or before employees returned to work. This isn’t enough. The workplace needs cleanings in increased frequency and intensity, specific to concerns about COVID-19. Take a hard look at your current facility cleaning practices and measure them against coronavirus concerns.

How long can coronavirus live on surfaces?

COVID-19 is commonly transmitted via airborne droplet particles—coughs and sneezes. But the virus is resilient and can live on surfaces for varying lengths of time. For example, one study found that it can survive for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to three days on plastic surfaces. When you consider lingering surface particles, facility disinfection protocols become paramount.

Consider the types of common surfaces in your facilities and the potential for coronavirus to linger on them. At a minimum, clean these surfaces regularly with disinfectant. Encourage employees to wipe them down when they’re done using the space, as well.

What kills coronavirus?

The severity of COVID-19 as an infection is scary. Thankfully, the eradication of surface remnants of the virus isn’t any more difficult than addressing most general germs. Most office cleaning and disinfecting products will do the trick—including cleaning wipes that contain more than 70% alcohol content.

Cleaning wipes aren’t a practical use beyond spot cleaning for common surfaces. To kill COVID-19 broadly over large areas requires comprehensive cleaning or use of methods like electrostatic fogging. Fogging is ironically similar to how coronavirus spreads—a cleaning technician mists the area with an antimicrobial spray that’s electrostatically charged to kill viruses and bacteria on contact.

Finally, there’s always good old soap and water. In a pinch, most hand soaps and dish soaps will kill the virus. This isn’t generally applicable in a workplace, but it works in break rooms and bathrooms.

Increase your janitorial services

Workplace readiness for preventing the spread of COVID-19 can be as simple as stepping up what you’re already doing. If you have a janitorial service that comes once per week, for example, consider scheduling bi-weekly cleanings to keep on top of a sanitary environment.

Additionally, this is also a good time to investigate deep cleaning opportunities or new cleaning methods, like electrostatic fogging. How you clean matters as much (or more) than what you clean. The occasional deep clean or fogging will make the workplace feel brand-new and give employees a real sense of confidence in your efforts to provide a clean, sanitary workplace.

Make employees responsible for their space

Every office cleaning plan needs a focus on employee accountability. While it’s your duty as an employee to provide a clean, safe, comfortable workplace, it’s the duty of employees to keep it that way. It’s far from unreasonable to ask employees to throw away garbage and clean up after they’re done with a space. It’s also important to encourage good hygiene and sanitary practices in personal and shared spaces.

If you want employees to care for the workplace, make it easy. Place garbage and recycling bins in common and accessible areas. Leave sanitary wipes and disinfectant out and easy to grab. Post signage to remind people to be courteous about how they leave their space. Make it easy to request more paper towel or file a maintenance request to fix the soap dispenser. All these small, insignificant actions give employees the incentive and the means to clean the office as they use it.

Evaluate your standards for a clean workplace

The cleanliness of your workplace plays a tremendous role in how employees adapt post-COVID-19. If they feel comfortable in surroundings that feel clean, they’ll face fewer obstacles as they ease back into work. They’ll do better work and feel good about your organization’s emphasis on cleanliness. There are even culture implications—employees feel prouder and more connected to a workplace that’s well-kept and maintained to a superior standard.

Evaluate your current workplace cleaning and maintenance standards and make sure they address coronavirus-specific concerns. Adapt to ease employee worries—whether it’s more frequent cleanings, specific disinfection practices, or new policies to promote workplace cleanliness.

Keep reading: Coronavirus Workplace Resources


How to Avoid COVID-19 Workplace Violations

By Katherine Schwartz
Demand Generation Specialist

There’s much uncertainty surrounding employer liability when it comes to an employee who tests positive for COVID-19 due to workplace exposure. Employers are stuck in a tug-o-war match between state governments, the CDC, OSHA, and the federal government. Are employers liable for coronavirus spread among employees? How can you avoid COVID-19 workplace violations? What mandates govern the workplace right now?

While there’s little clarity, legal professionals have begun to provide best practices for employers to follow. While they’re only generalizations, they provide precedent-backed advice to protect employers from liabilities. Here’s a look at the best practices to avoid liability and COVID-19 workplace violations.

Consider your duty as an employer

Protocols specific to coronavirus may still be up in the air, but there are plenty of workplace-specific standards from OSHA to abide by in these unprecedented times. Specifically, as it relates to the duty to provide a safe workplace. Several states have also released specific OSHA supplements for operating a safe workplace during the pandemic (ex. New York). The chief precedents employers need to focus on include:

It all boils down to an employer’s duty to provide a safe workplace, proper protective equipment, and the means for employees to feel safe while on the job. While there’s general uncertainty and trepidation surrounding this unprecedented pandemic, employer efforts should still emphasize these essential duties.

Contact tracing and exposure notification

Under current guidelines, employers need to act reasonably in the event of a confirmed case of coronavirus. As governing bodies strive to implement contact tracing methods to reduce the spread of coronavirus, employers play a role. Workplaces need a method to register a positive COVID-19 diagnosis and alert employees who may have had contact with this person—all in a way that protects privacy.

Excluding infected employees and recommending self-quarantine for possible exposure can mitigate employers of any liability associated with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the workplace. In addition, report all confirmed cases that involve hospitalization within 24 hours.

Responsible testing and self-screening

According to CDC and OSHA guidelines, employers can mandate both COVID-19 tests and self-screening for employers. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provided new guidance related to coronavirus in April, which says employers can employ tests and self-screening methods that are “accurate and reliable, administered in a manner consistent with business necessity.”

Be aware that, in most cases, this is an all-or-nothing decision on the part of employers. The requirement that some employees self-screen or submit to a test and not others could infringe on workplace equality. Employers who can demonstrate legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for testing a particular group of employees may do so, but should prepare to provide justification.

Non-discriminatory policy changes

Many employers have adapted policy changes to account for COVID-19. This includes work-from home policies, as well as physical workplace policies and those that govern employee responsibilities. While these changes are proactive, make sure they’re not discriminatory.

Employers can’t make new policies that discriminate based on age, race, gender, etc. For example, furloughing only staff above a certain age violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act—even if it’s meant to protect their health. Instead, consider how to enable at-risk staff constructively. In this example, something like a telecommuting policy would not be discriminatory, since it does not prohibit individuals from gainful employment.

Be mindful of both the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act as you consider policy changes.

Paid sick leave and FFCRA

Employers will likely face questions from employees regarding sick leave, FMLA, and other illness-related absences during the pandemic. It’s the responsibility of employers to provide accurate and timely information for individuals, so they can get the leave and pay they’re entitled to.

The nuances of paid sick leave due to COVID-19-related circumstances are spelled out thoroughly in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and in materials distributed by the U.S. DOL. Employers need to stay apprised of the differences between FMLA and FFCRA, and what situations constitute qualified medical leave. This includes distinguishing between full- and part-time employees, self- and physician-mandated quarantines, and no-fault attendance policies.

Do your best to be a responsible employer

The lack of clear, unified insight on employer liability makes it difficult to know how to best operate during the pandemic. All you can do is act in accordance with recognized CDC and OSHA standards. As these organizations scramble to provide updated guidance and codes, employers need to be proactive in protecting themselves and their employees.

Adjust your current policies to accommodate coronavirus concerns. Stay up-to-date with the best health advice from reputable organizations. Keep apprised of what other companies in your industry are doing to combat liability. Above all, document your efforts and act with integrity, putting the health and wellness of employees first.

Keep Reading: Latest Workplace Covid-19 Resources


What are Collaboration Tools?

Collaboration tools are a simple concept to explain, but tricky to characterize. They help teams and groups work together toward a common goal. But what are collaboration tools themselves? Is a project management app a collaboration tool? Of course. What about a chat or messenger client? Sure. Is a wayfinding app a collaboration tool? That depends. Does it help a bunch of individuals work together in a meaningful way?

There’s plenty of grey area in defining collaboration tools when evaluating new workplace collaboration trends. The simplest collaboration tools definition out there is actually as a catchall term for anything that two or more people use in conjunction with one another. These tools come in all manner of varieties and purposes, but ultimately foster interaction between people. Some examples include:

  • A chat app that lets multiple people brainstorm ideas
  • A project management app that defines tasks across a group
  • A video conferencing tool that lets people talk face-to-face
  • A file sharing program that gives many people access to collateral

This definition leaves the concept of collaboration itself wide open. For example, if you plan a meeting and use a wayfinding app to send directions to participants, it’s a collaborative tool. Gmail. Dropbox. Slack. Microsoft Word online. They’re all collaborative tools—part of a growing repertoire of thousands of apps and programs out there designed to facilitate group work.

high performing workplace tips

No matter the nature of the software or what it’s used for, each one makes working together easier in some way. Let’s take a look at some universal collaboration tool benefits.

Full team visibility and accountability

Expecting people to collaborate without full visibility over what, exactly, they’re working on together is a recipe for disaster. Every member of the team needs to see the bigger picture and how what they’re doing fits into it. Collaborative tools make this possible. Logging into a Google Doc and tracking changes alongside everyone else, for example. The ability to see task timelines in a project management app is another great example. Everyone is on the same page, working toward the same goal.

With this visibility also comes an element of accountability. If a task isn’t finished, team leaders know who to hold accountable. Or, from a proactive perspective, team members can see when others need help and collaborate to keep the project on-track.

Track progress in real time

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Just because you structure a group project one way doesn’t mean that’s how it’ll progress. Business changes rapidly—daily and sometimes even hourly. Teams need a way to adapt just as quickly; collaboration tools give it to them.

Modern collaboration tools help to create dynamic workflows and team agility. For example, Person A uploads client feedback on a logo to the #Logo Slack channel, where Person B can make changes, uploading a new iteration to Dropbox without changing the shared link. Everyone has the new logo in real time.

The ability to act, react, and reallocate resources as fast as projects change is an asset teams can’t function without. Collaboration tools help teams respond to changes as quickly as they’re expected to, to prevent setbacks and keep projects on-track.

Enable full group participation

Every member of a team is an asset. Teams are successful because they’re more than the sum of their parts—but that’s only true if each part contributes to the whole. If members of a group can’t collaborate properly, they’re limited in the assistance they can provide. If Person A works off-site and can’t access collateral for their portion of the project, they’re unable to work on it, which can stall the greater effort. Likewise, if details X, Y, and Z aren’t told to Person B, they might not do their work appropriately, which adversely affects what Person C does.

Collaborative tools enable full group participation and synergy, so everyone contributes meaningfully. Each person uses their skills and talents to drive the project forward in a show of true collaboration.

Collaborative tools help teams succeed

A team is only as good as the sum of its members and their ability to work together. Collaboration tools leverage the responsibilities and talents of each individual into the greater success of the team. Any piece of technology that helps one person work with others to contribute to a larger mission is a collaboration tool worth using.

Not every group needs the same type of tools for certain tasks, but all groups need diverse ways of functioning together. The easier it is to collaborate, the easier it is to succeed.

Keep Reading: 15 Best Business Collaboration Tools.

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COVID-19 Workplace Health Screening Questions

By Nai Kanell
Vice President of Marketing

Whether your workplace is essential or is only now resuming operation after a state-mandated shutdown, workplace concerns about coronavirus remain high. The more in-house employees you have, the more concern there is about transmission. For employers and employees alike, this concern is valid. It’s why every workplace needs clear protocols for COVID-19 workplace health screening.

The good news is screening employees for coronavirus is as simple as asking a few questions. We know enough about the virus and its symptoms to make smart decisions when welcoming employees back to the workplace… or asking them to stay home. Use the following questions to put together a simple, yet effective, self-screening process to protect your workplace and employees. Use this screening process every day—regardless of how many employees you’re welcoming back to work.

In the past 24 hours, have you experienced X?

Hallmark symptoms of coronavirus are easy to spot—especially when they occur in tandem. Ask employees to perform a self-check before they come to work each day and gauge a yes or no answer about any of the following symptoms:

  • A fever of 100°F or higher
  • A subjective fever (felt feverish)
  • Cough (excluding known conditions like COPD)
  • Shortness of breath (excluding known conditions like asthma)
  • Sore or swollen throat
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Anosmia (loss of smell)

If they’ve developed any of these symptoms within the last 24 hours, urge employees to stay home. Fever, combined with throat tightness or trouble breathing, warrants immediate medical attention. Instruct employees to visit their primary care physician as soon as possible and stay isolated until they can.

As you ask employees to assess themselves each day, also be aware of psychosomatic symptoms. There’s a difference between general lethargy on a Monday and feeling feverish. Encourage employees to assess their symptoms through a quantifiable lens—use a thermometer, document a cough, feel swollen glands, etc. If they feel symptoms warrant staying home, make sure they seek medical attention. Employers need to trust employees to act in the best interests of their health and the health of others.

What’s your current temperature?

The simplest way to make a decision about coming into work is for employees to take their temperature each day. A normal range is anything less than 100°F; above 100°F is cause for concern. Use this threshold as a clear decision-maker for whether to come to work or stay home.

Advise employees on how to properly take their temperature, and to take multiple readings for accuracy. Both oral and ear thermometers are acceptable methods of gauging temperature. Provide simple instructions for both.

  • Wait at least 30 minutes after eating or drinking to take temperature
  • Insert thermometer into ear or place under the tongue
  • Wait until thermometer beeps with a clear reading
  • Record temperature, wait two minutes, then repeat
  • Repeat 2-3 times to get an accurate reading

Employees don’t need to provide any record or log of their temperature for employers. They should simply be aware that feverish readings are cause to stay home and, if temperatures reach 102°F or more, they should seek medical attention.

Have you traveled recently?

With current travel restrictions and state lockdowns, this question is easy for many to answer. It’s unlikely they’ve traveled within the country, let alone internationally. That said, international travel for work is required of some individuals. If your company has any employees traveling abroad, this question becomes pertinent.

In accordance with CDC guidelines, anyone returning from international travel should self-quarantine for 14 days. This includes routine temperature checks. It’s best for employers to mandate work-from-home for these individuals, regardless of how they feel.

Have you had contact with anyone who tested positive for COVID-19?

Employees should avoid coming to work if they’ve had contact with anyone who’s tested positive for COVID-19—even if they themselves don’t test positive. As researchers learn more about the virus’s incubation period, it’s recommended you treat possible transmission like a positive diagnosis until proven otherwise by time. Tests can yield false negatives.

Before returning to work, employees should be at least 72 hours removed from contact, with multiple negative tests, and no symptoms. Many employers will want to wait a full week to be absolutely sure.

Simple questions lead to important answers

As they answer these self-screening questions before work each day, employees will feel a sense of calm. Not only will a self-screening reassure them of their own health, it shows them you as an employer have a preventive mindset.

In addition to self-screening protocols, be sure to create processes for employees who answer “yes” to any of the screening questions. Whether it’s a remote work arrangement or paid time off through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), next steps should be clear and decisive. This proactive stance will keep your workplace safe and your employees calm and confident.

Keep Reading: SpaceIQ’s COVID-19 Resource Page


Facility Management KPI Examples

By Reagan Nickl
Director of Professional Services

Did we meet our monthly sales goal last month? Is our current ad campaign generating expected engagement? How long do customers spend on hold before we pick up and answer their questions? We track and measure success and failure in the workplace through Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). KPIs help develop real goals and meaningful steps to achieve them, and they’re essential in every segment of the business.

Below, we’ll dive into some facility management KPI examples that identify opportunities for workplace success. But first, let’s take a closer look at KPIs themselves and why they’re so integral.

What are KPIs and why track them?

KPIs are like a roadmap that tells us if we’re on track or off-course, or if our goals are even feasible. They’re an important metric across every business unit, from sales, to marketing, to facilities management. KPIs show how short Sales is from their monthly revenue goal. They set the precedent for how many media impressions Marketing will get from its newest ad campaign. KPIs even apply at a personal level, and can show Max how far ahead he is on a specific project.

KPIs focus on the most important aspects of business for a particular group or individual. You’re not going to track sales revenue for your Marketing team because they’re not the ones selling, just like you wouldn’t track average wait time for your Sales department—that’s a Customer Service metric. Identify and track KPIs that are relevant to each business unit to understand how well that business unit is performing.

Usually, departmental KPIs are narrow—focused on explicit goals set for that team. Facility management KPIs are a bit broader and span both people and the building itself, but they’re nonetheless important to track. Here are some sample KPIs for facilities managers that touch both realms.

People-focused KPIs

Facility manager primary KPIs focus on how people interact with the workplace. The primary goal of the workplace is to support the workforce, so it only makes sense! People-focused KPIs look at space occupancy and availability, how happy and/or satisfied employees are, and workforce allocation. Some of the most important KPIs to track include:

  • Space occupancy rates
  • Desk availability
  • NET Promoter Score
  • Workforce distribution

Uptrends on these KPIs indicate that the workplace is functioning as it should. People are happy, they have the right workspaces available to them, and they’re doing work in a productive way. KPIs trending down in this area indicate the workplace doesn’t meet the needs of the people in it. They’re not able to work efficiently or productively, and they’re dissatisfied with the workplace—or worse, the company itself.

Building-focused KPIs

On the flip side of facility management KPIs are building-facing metrics. These KPIs look specifically at the building as an investment. Is it generating positive returns? How does the building serve the needs of the business as an asset? These KPIs track costs, building performance, and maintenance of the investment. Some of the most common include:

  • Work order fulfillment times
  • HVAC and energy costs
  • Total facilities costs
  • Equipment downtime

Facility managers need to track these metrics with intent to continuously improve them. Ask yourself, how does the business benefit from a reduction in equipment downtime? Where can you reallocate bottom-line savings to generate better ROI for the top line? Building-focused KPIs tell facility managers what they need to know about the performance of the building as a physical investment.

Use KPIs to set actionable goals

Facility management KPIs represent the aspects of the job that matter most—those with the biggest impact on the workplace and the people in it. It’s not enough to just measure them; you also need to improve upon them. For example:

Right now, 23% of employees are remote. We want to increase this to 45% over the next 12 months, while accounting for new job growth in that time. 

Over the last six months the average response time for routine building repairs and maintenance was three days. We want this to be two or fewer days in Q3 and beyond.

KPIs don’t force a solution—they connect the dots between data and strategy, providing one to facilitate the other. You might buy coworking memberships for the employees you intend to transition to remote work, or staff another person to the maintenance department to expedite work order fulfillment. It’s not how you improve your KPIs, so much as that you continue to hold yourself to them.

The more you know, the more you grow

KPIs are a drilled-down way to look at fundamental aspects of business—the ones important to its success. Tracking facility management KPIs is the simplest way to hold the workplace to its highest standards, to facilitate success within it. There are infinite ways to reach your goals and meet your metrics, and what matters is that you hold yourself to these standards.

KPIs will tell you when you fall short of the ideal and where there’s room for improvement. Pay attention to them!

Keep Reading: How to Select FM Software


COVID-19 and Employee Fear on Returning to the Workplace

By Nai Kanell
Chief Marketing Officer

Between stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines, there’s understandable fear of public places during the COVID-19 pandemic. People don’t want to pick up the virus or risk transmitting it to others if they’re an asymptomatic carrier. Despite their avoidance of public places, many people face the prospect of a return to work soon. It’s cause for anxiety and trepidation. Employers need to make strides to proactively address COVID-19 and employee fear on returning to the workplace.

There are a lot of different opportunities for employers to quell fears about returning to the workplace. Even small reassurances go a long way. Here’s what companies can and should do to help mitigate coronavirus concerns as they welcome employees back to work.

Maintain optional remote work opportunities

Just because your city or state has lifted its stay-at-home order doesn’t mean you necessarily need to usher every employee back into the workplace. If your company has remote work protocols in-place, it’s not a bad idea to extend them—especially if employees demonstrated good productivity over the past weeks and months. Allowing employees to continue to work from home can be a goodwill gesture that shows you care.

For companies eager to bring employees back in-house, a hybrid schedule is a great compromise. Bring back your most essential teams, while allowing peripheral teams to telecommute for an extra week or two. Just be careful not to create division in your workplace. A simple solution is to offer an opt-in remote work policy. Employees with anxiety about a quick return can continue to work from home, while those eager to get back into a routine will gladly come to work.

Ease employees back into the workplace 

For larger workplaces, a slow return to work can mitigate employee anxiety in a big way. There are many ways to stagger a return to in-house work based on the flexibility of your workplace:

  • Bring back one department at a time over a multi-week timeline
  • Implement a hybrid work schedule—three days remote vs. two days in-house, or similar
  • Scale into capacity through a hybrid schedule, adding another in-house day each week
  • Stagger shifts or adopt first and second shift splits to mitigate workplace congestion

Even simple return to work policies can significantly reduce employee fears—for example, scheduling the first shifts back in-house on Thursday or Friday. It’s also smart to coordinate a brief reorientation period, to allow employees to reacclimate without the stress of a full workload.

Make a concerted effort to sanitize

The biggest fear employees have when returning to the workplace is exposure to COVID-19. They want some certainty that reentering a social environment won’t result in a coronavirus diagnosis. While there’s ultimately no guarantee, employers can make a show of sanitizing the workplace.

Create new policies around workplace sanitization and hygiene, and enforce them. Put up signage to remind employees of hand washing and respiratory etiquette. Ensure paper towel, tissue, soap, and hand sanitizer are readily available at key points in the workplace. Encourage employees to disinfect desks and other flat surfaces when they’re done with them.

In addition to these basic sanitization efforts, show employees you’re committed to cleanliness. Inform them of new sanitizing efforts by your janitorial team, or let them know you’ve scheduled more frequent deep cleanings. Employees shouldn’t just feel like they’re working in a clean space, they should know they are.

Open communication channels

Employees have questions and they’ll expect answers. It’s not enough to implement new policies or ease the return to in-house work; companies also need to open the lines of communication. Send out a company-wide memo or host an all-hands meeting and make it clear that your employees have a voice. Some simple suggestions include:

  • Hold a Q&A session where employees can ask questions
  • Provide an online form or portal where employees can voice concerns
  • Host one-on-ones with employees to gauge their feelings
  • Provide weekly emails or memos to keep employees informed

Some companies will opt for an open forum-style approach to communication, while others may offer anonymous feedback channels. Regardless of how your organization welcomes employee feedback, the important thing is that you listen to it and act accordingly.

Be aware of employee concerns and act accordingly

Every person is going to process the return to work differently. Address COVID-19 and employee fear on returning to the workplace on an individual basis as-needed. For some, a return to the workplace means a welcome return to normalcy; for others, it’s extremely stressful. Act in a responsible capacity and make concessions where possible.

A structured, organized return to work will yield best results. Don’t just open the doors and expect things to go back to normal. Make it clear your organization has a plan and execute that plan with an air of confidence and purpose. The smoother the transition, the better the results.

Keep Reading: COVID-19 Workplace Resource Page


Facility Management Glossary

Make Every Space Count with Space Management Software

What is space management? And why is it important? Space management and utilization is a concept that should be on every organizational leader’s mind. With rent and real estate prices skyrocketing in desirable cities, there’s never been a better time to figure out whether you’re using all the square footage you’re paying for to the best of its abilities. Even if you don’t operate in an expensive region, unused office space represents a massive point of waste that can easily be resolved when you use facility management software. Learn more about common areas of underutilization in office spaces and see what a smart Workplace Management platform like SpaceIQ can do for you as you work to make better use of the space you have.

Is Space Management What’s Missing from Your Office?

Empty space is a waste. There may be some circumstances in which the waste is temporary as the available space will be put to use within a defined period of time. But if you have some dead spaces in your office and no plans to add more employees or equipment in the near future, you’re essentially throwing money away every day those spaces go unused.

Some unused offices and spaces are obviously underutilized. Whether it’s an empty private office or a conference room that gets used maybe once or twice a year (and never to its full capacity), these spaces may as well not exist. But they do exist, and you’re paying for them. Identifying these points of underutilization isn’t as much of an issue. The real problem comes from more subtle unused areas. Desks that are occupied only on occasion, conference rooms with motion-detecting lights that seem to have people inside because the lights are always on, reception areas with cozy couches and stacks of magazines that seem vital in theory—these are all spaces that can be deceptively wasteful.

That makes facility management software and facility scheduling software vital to the efficient use of available office space. Subtleties that go unseen are easily detected, recorded and analyzed. You may be surprised by what you find, particularly in these four areas of frequent underutilization.

Private Offices

Getting one’s own office used to be a major hallmark of success at work, but moving up the corporate ladder has different signifiers now than it used to. There may be a few people in an organization who truly need a private office and, in most other cases, the office is a signifier of status. Perhaps that’s why these offices can be so hard to fill. Office equipment manufacturer Herman Miller released a study that revealed private offices remain unoccupied a whopping 77% of the time. What is the use of paying for that square footage if it’s only going to sit empty?

There are so many different reasons why this might be so. The people who are typically considered important enough to merit a private office are usually so high up that they do more than just sit at a desk performing routine tasks. From traveling to conferences to taking advantage of seniority and deciding to work from home or otherwise keeping limited hours in the office, it pays to use space management software to determine who truly uses their private office and who can be satisfied by a desk out on the floor with everyone else. Managers who are particularly engaged with their teams may actually enjoy the change. Herman Miller’s study shows that people actually tend to like working in environments that are more social, having the flexibility to move around. Doing away with private offices for some folks could be a way of introducing mobility to their work lives and allowing for easier collaboration.

Just like disk space management tools that maximize disk space, space management software, also known as facility scheduling software, can ensure space optimization by helping you identify which private offices tend to stay empty the most. The Herman Miller study further indicated that conference room space is rarely used to its full capacity and that smaller collaboration rooms tend to be more popular than large rooms. You could try a strategy of converting some private offices into a meeting or collaborative spaces and using SpaceIQ to track the level of engagement these converted rooms see. If those rooms still remain empty, you may want to consider renting out private offices to solo practitioners or offering those spaces as limited-use private workspaces for employees who need a quiet place to work as they finish an important project. No matter how you try to make use of these private office spaces, A Workplace Management Platform like SpaceIQ will make it easy to determine whether your space utilization solution is actually working out.


Individual workstations may be more widely available to a larger percentage of the entire organization, but the fact that these work areas aren’t limited to a select few doesn’t mean their utilization rate tends to be high. In fact, Herman Miller’s study indicates that workstations are occupied only 60% of the time, which is only a 17% improvement on private offices. That makes these spaces well worth watching and analyzing.

If you tend to see a lot of scattering with workstations that are partially occupied, engage with your teams and find out why this is. It could be that there simply aren’t enough team members in a given department to fill out that group’s designated bank of workstations. When this is the case, consolidating existing teams and perhaps reconfiguring the layout of your workstation areas can be helpful in converting those unused workstations into open desks that can be rented out to small companies or startups. You can also take your open desks as a sign that it’s time to reconsider your approach to staffing. With all that space available, why not expand? Ask department heads if they feel they could use some more help. In some cases, underutilization is actually an indication of understaffing. If filling those seats can help defray the cost of the wasted rent you’ve been paying for that space, all the better.

It also pays to take a look at how your employees tend to treat their time in the office. If your organization is one that allows work flexibility for some or all employees, assigned seating may not make sense. Keeping a dedicated desk for a developer who lives two hours away from the office and only comes in for a few hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays doesn’t make much sense. Instead, you can analyze who’s in the office when and make a determination on whether open seating would be a better idea for your organization. Organizations that only offer flexibility for a limited number of employees can either seat the telecommuters separately from everyone else, providing an open-seating workstation area and assigned seating for everyone else or convert to a 100% open arrangement for everyone regardless of flexibility status. Some departments may prefer to sit together but leave one seat open for various team members who may come in on different days.

No matter how you approach the issue, collecting data on which of the workstations in your office are used the most often and which are lonely and waiting to live up to their potential will give you a much better foundation from which to approach the workstation under-utilization issue than simple human observation alone.

Conference and Meeting Rooms

As mentioned above, large conference room spaces are often less important than we tend to think they are. If you aren’t giving large-scale presentations in that room more than once or twice a year, it may be time to rethink how you use that space. First, though, it’s important to collect some data. You may never see people in those rooms, but it could be that teams gather in your large conference room on a regular basis without drawing notice. 

You’ll also want to see how many people tend to use these spaces on average. Herman Miller’s study indicated that even when they’re used, fewer people than the full capacity tend to occupy meeting and conference rooms. If the number of people meeting in your largest conference room could easily fit into the smallest with room to spare, some reconfiguring may be in order. Perhaps there’s not enough room to add the workstations you need, but if you move the water cooler and coffee maker into the conference room and turn it into more of a lounge space, you’ll still have a smaller conference room of sufficient space to accommodate everyone who tends to use it. Knowing which spaces are used too much and which aren’t used enough—particularly spaces with a large footprints such as a large conference room—gives you the room to get creative with your space management strategy.

The ability to tell which workstations aren’t getting used in an open seating arrangement can also help you address some employee satisfaction or comfort issues. Perhaps there’s a bank of workstations that are just a little bit too close to the bathroom. It could be that the majority of the people in your offices have tried the standing desk thing and found that they’d rather just sit, leaving your standing desk workstations dramatically underutilized. Pairing the data you collect with a Workplace Management Platform with discussions with or surveys of your employees can help you address the reasons behind under utilization and allow you to create a more comfortable and desirable office environment.

Alternatively, you can use this real estate forecasting information as part of your move management approach. You might have an underutilized conference room in your current space, but if you’re planning a move, there’s no need to make any big changes. However, this can inform your approach to the features your new space should have. No need to pay for another giant space that’s not going to get used.

Break and Reception Spaces

Conventional wisdom holds that an office should have a place for employees to eat their lunches and that there should also be a dedicated space for welcoming guests. However, these spaces may not get used very much and, if you have both an underused employee break space and a reception space that sees guests maybe once or twice a month, you can consider doing away with one or both of these spaces. In fact, if you have underutilized reception areas, break rooms and large conference rooms, you can think about turning the large conference room into a dedicated lounge space in which employees can put their feet up for a minute or guests can sit and wait in comfort without feeling like they’re in a fishbowl.

This may not work for the way you do business and that’s fine. The important thing is that you have the ability to use data as part of your approach to a new space utilization strategy.

Consolidating and Reimagining

Underutilization isn’t always as cut and dry as the categories above imply. There can be little areas here and there that simply don’t justify the money you pay for them. In some cases, it may simply be the cost of doing business, but it’s hard to know exactly how much of that space you have and how much available space you could create without a space management software program to give you an informed high-level view of what’s going on in the space.

One thing to also consider is that the use of lounge-style workspaces is an increasingly common element of the modern workplace. These are often multi-purpose spaces with configurable elements such as movable walls and configurable furniture that can support a variety of work postures. Companies can use these spaces for everything from all-hands meetings to industry presentations. When they’re not in use for group events, these lounge areas serve as causal places employees can sit and work together, eat their lunches or get a quick change of environment as they tease out a complex problem. Going for a multi-purpose approach can flip the issue of underutilization on its head. Consolidate the spaces that are currently unused and make room for a large multipurpose space. If you aren’t using it much, consider opening your doors for non-profits relating to your industry to host educational events or recruitment events for kids. That’s a valuable use of the space even if it isn’t directly contributing to your bottom line.

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Checklist: Workplace Neighborhoods

The transition from individual desks to neighborhoods—or desk stacks—can be tough for many employees to make. Even the most comprehensive workplace neighborhood guide can’t anticipate the resistance or concerns of your workforce. Luckily, the right guide can help you take the right steps toward inciting positivity if you’re making the switch to a neighborhood desks. Here’s a quick checklist to follow before, during, and after the transition:

  • Notify employees ~two months in advance to minimize disruptions to day-to-day work routines. This allows time to voice concerns, plan, and understand the shift.
  • Schedule Q&A sessions after the announcement. This gives employees a platform to speak and facilitates a positive flow of ideas.
  • Use feedback to organize neighborhood workspaces. Implement changes into the overall neighborhood transition plan where possible.
  • Clearly communicate the benefits of neighborhoods and focus on creating a positive culture that starts with the neighborhood itself. Highlight personal benefits.
  • Get executives and departmental leaders on board with the change. Their support will trickle down as positive sentiment to employees.
  • Create a welcoming feeling after the change and strengthen that vibe of belonging that extends to every worker in every desk stack. Make a positive first impression.
  • Market the benefits of the change and focus on improvements it brings. Focus on keeping employees excited about the transition.

Ensuring a smooth transition, promoting open and honest communication, and continually projecting the benefits of desk neighborhoods will harness ongoing support in your workplace. For more insights as to the right approach, download our guide and Learn How to Create Workplace Neighborhoods the right way.