By Jeff Revoy
Chief Operations Officer & Co-Founder
When considering the benefits package your company offers, it’s likely you don’t include “full-service office with multi-functional rooms and employee tracking”. It’s not common for managers to consider an office space as a service benefit, no matter how hi-tech. Also, not as common today is giving your employees the tools to manage the space on their own.
These tools exist for HR benefits, where employees can manage their health savings accounts (HSA), commuter benefits, review progress reports from their managers, and submit time off requests; but workplace management software is often a delayed investment for companies, making it difficult and time-consuming to repair the broken wheel on a chair or locate a member of the marketing team in another building who can assist on a project. As the workplace becomes more agile and digitized, giving employees the most efficient tools to problem solve and focus on their work is critical.
Out with the old
Offices are cumbersome spaces rife with possibility–and problems. Lights burn out, computers crash, chairs break, and phones need to be programmed. Typically, there is an office or facilities manager who handles these issues but the way in which they’re addressed needs changing. Often, an employee will send an email or speak in-person to request something be repaired or replaced which is highly inefficient and unsatisfying. (seeing the burned out lights for days doesn’t inspire employees)
But emails get lost and in-person forgotten when they’re being delivered en-masse. As a result, your employees direct time away from their own work to troubleshoot these issues on their own or repeatedly request someone else address them. Similarly, when an employee needs to speak with another, they’ll reach for the phone and call their desk. But people are not chained to their desks, so sometimes we need to leave messages or take a quick walk around the floor to find that person. When you treat space as a service, you make it easier for your employees to do their jobs without the need to walk around the office.
Inefficiencies like these were also common in the way businesses administered benefits. In order to get the balance of one’s HSA, they needed to call an 800 number, to request time off or update commuter benefit enrollment, they needed to file a paper form, and to see how much paid time off was accrued, pay stubs needed to be located. None of this was centrally located or easy to process until companies realized these conveniences directly impacted employee satisfaction.
A Better Way
The evolution in the HR industry came when companies like Zenefits introduced a one-stop software for a business’s HR needs. The platform was created with both managers and employees in mind to manage employee benefits efficiently. Managers can input employee reviews, track the time of their hourly employees, send out messages on changes to benefits or reminders for open enrollment, and more. On the employee side, they can submit requests for time off, track and manage HSA contributions, review individual development plans, and more. The software can be accessed through a webpage and mobile app without needing to send emails or call administrators. Today, there are multiple software products like Expensify, that turn mundane HR or administrative chores into simple, and easy-to-use processes that employees consider a benefit.
In an article for the Harvard Business Review, “Workplaces That Move People,” the authors focus on both physical space and digital communications. They write “The buildings we go to everyday haven’t changed as much as have the tools we use to get work done. Merging digital communication patterns with physical space can increase the probability of interactions that lead to innovation and productivity.” Rather than treating an office as an edifice we inhabit, we need to integrate the physical space with how a modern workforce operates. We cannot ignore that space as a service is a crucial pain point that must be considered when designing or improving your office.
With that goal in mind, software companies are using the Zenefits model to create a service-oriented workplace that is managed through an app and online. We already see this at play with shared space companies like WeWork, Knotel, and others that manage office space for hundreds of smaller businesses and freelancers. For WeWork, it makes perfect sense to have a central location for members to submit a repair request or a directory for members to seek out one another to help on a project, fostering collaboration among relative strangers. Since they do not house a single business, but rather dozens in each location, this tool is essential to WeWork, but that does not preclude a traditional office space from adopting it.
Since the modern workforce almost exclusively works online and can now manage their health and other benefits online, they should also be able to use an app or website similar to the one used by WeWork to manage their workspace. An employee can use the app to file a work order or check the status of an existing one, use geolocation integrated with Slack to find and communicate with other team members, or reserve a conference room for a presentation, ensuring there will be no scheduling conflicts. This technology empowers employees to problem solve with an assurance their requests won’t get lost in a pile and, for managers, streamlines office services.
Technology has already transformed major aspects of our work. Like HR and benefits, It’s now time companies view their workplace as a strategic asset rather than a cost center.