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Future-Proofing the Workplace with Data-Driven Strategies

By Ian Morley
Chief Product Officer
SpaceIQ

There are many short-term questions for company owners to consider as they reopen for business and welcome employees back to the workplace. Do I have enough space to bring back my entire workforce? Will employees feel safe returning? Do I have too much space and what should I do with it?

The bigger picture is more complicated. There is no crystal ball to say what will happen in two, five, or 10 years. With such an unclear future, businesses must plan for as many scenarios as possible. This “future-proofing” takes data and technologies to analyze it in ways that shed light on how to best plan for all possible scenarios.

During a recent webinar, Ibrahim Yates, Industry Analyst with Verdantix, and I discussed the important roles data and workplace technology play in both making plans to return to the office and long-term planning.

Painting a Workplace Picture

Workplace data provides leaders the insight necessary to truly understand their people. Whether the focus be on productivity, space upgrades, or future-proofing. Data is essential to minimize damage, and unnecessary expenditures.

When data paints the picture, businesses are free to move past the phase of situational analysis. Qualified and quantified information enables better decision-making based on how the workplace functions. Leaders can then prioritize and plan for transitioning employees from home to office.

With a steadfast plan and the initial return underway, the value of workplace technology becomes two-fold. It serves as a means of communication and data collection. The communication component builds employee confidence to return in a safe and effective manner. Data gathering and analysis empowers workplace managers to proactively address issues, forecast impending changes, and plan how to improve processes and interactions down the road. That is future-proofing.

Hoteling as a Strategy

During our discussion on future-proofing, Ibrahim and I immediately thought of hoteling as a key component of an agile workplace. Hoteling provides employees with an easy and intuitive way to reserve space when and where they need it. By collecting usage data, workplace managers can see if additional hotel desks are needed and who is using them. A clearer utilization picture allows for more accurate and impactful planning as workforce levels fluctuate and a company grows.

At a time when health and safety are in the forefront of everyone’s mind, the monitoring feature of hoteling applications creates a solid foundation for contact tracing. “Even when the pandemic comes to a close, people will still care about the health and safety of their workplace,” Ibrahim said.

Contact tracing systems provide concise data through real-time utilization of spaces. Once technology of this caliber is in play, business leaders can move to the last phase of future-proofing by utilizing the tools to monitor and adjust based on data reports from areas such as space demand, employee needs, and safety.

Data to Determine Office Demand

So, are you ready to bring your entire workforce back in office? Before answering this question, you first need to understand the space you have to work with. Are there enough collaborative spaces? Is the office well equipped for social distancing and safety guidelines? Above all, is the workplace environment able to cater to the demand of the people who work there?

Throughout our discussion, Ibrahim stressed the important role quality data plays in ensuring business continuity and building resiliency. Business leaders need data and analytics to prepare for the next crisis or company growth initiative. Data makes the difference between adapting quickly and merely surviving.

The data made available via tools like hoteling take the guess work out of return-to-work planning. The communicative properties within such applications reveal employee behavior like how content they are working from home, who is anxious to return to a physical office, and what scheduling structures they believe best suit their work styles.

Are You Future-proof Ready?

As much as we all may want a crystal ball during these uncertain times, workplace technologies are grounded in reality. A crystal ball shows what the future would look like. Workplace technology culls information from the past and present to help predict future needs.

Before you jump into a new workplace strategy, there are questions you should consider:

  1. What is our new definition of “work”? – It is important to ask why your company works the way it does and how leaders, employees, and external sources can best work together. A great starting point is evaluating what you learned about your business during the COVID pandemic.
  2. How can I make the office important to employees? – The past year proved people can work from anywhere. But a physical workplace offers employees elements they may not get in a home office. According to a McKinsey report, offices provide collaboration, social interaction, connection, and creativity options. Your goal should be to design a workplace that accommodates those needs and more.
  3. Should I embrace a hybrid work model? – A Forrester Research report showed 60% of companies are moving toward hybrid schedules where employees work partly from home. COVID gave many people a taste of remote work they never had. A 2020 survey published by Forbes revealed 97% of people don’t want to return to the office full-time. New workplace designs should support more activity-based structures where employees can easily choose or reserve areas to gather and work while in the office.
  4. How do I get employees involved in future planning? – One of the best ways to gauge effectiveness of future-proofing is through measuring employee sentiment. How? Listen and communicate often. Use surveys to determine how hybrid schedules are working and whether activity-based designs are efficient. Make extra effort to include remote employees in all communications and act on their requests/suggestions to the same level as on-site staff.
  5. Do I have the right technology to future-proof my workplace? – Employee needs are the primary drivers behind how and why you manage a “next normal” workplace. Anticipating and adapting to those expectations takes smart technologies like WiFi sensors, mobile apps, reservation systems, and badging data to quickly adjust to new demands and create spaces that allow people to do their best work.

With companies across the world mapping their path back to the workplace. The technology and data tools available today can encourage employee engagement and a sense of safety. As important is the simultaneous reporting insights necessary for company leaders to move from a position of reactive tactics to proactive, future-proofed strategies.

For more information on how workplace technology can help future-proof your workspaces, visit request a demo.

Keep reading: Hybrid Workplaces are the Future of Work

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Blog Workplace Thought Leadership

How to Use the American Rescue Plan to Update Your Workplace Management System

By Danielle Moore
Director, Channel Marketing
SpaceIQ

Businesses were hit hard during the pandemic. But with the trials, many businesses have discovered room for improvement and growth. Government agencies, healthcare facilities, and public schools are now in a positive position to rise above and come out stronger thanks to the American Rescue Plan.

What is the American Rescue Plan?

Millions of Americans recently benefited from stimulus checks, tax breaks, and extended unemployment benefits. This economic relief — totaling more than $242 billion — came as a result of the American Rescue Plan signed by President Joe Biden on March 11, 2021. In addition to aiding citizens on individual levels, this plan has stepped in to support businesses and organizations — and leave them stronger than ever before.

Government Agencies

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, agencies had to adapt to stay afloat. Government duties were halted as buildings turned into emergency medical facilities. Revenue was lost and employees were laid off. To remedy these issues, the American Rescue Plan set aside $350 billion in emergency funds to help state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments.

We quickly learned how essential technology is to the health and success of businesses during the pandemic. And now, moving forward, technology continues to support and protect organizations. Because of this, the General Services Administration (GSA) now manages two funds geared to strengthen agencies’ digital operations. The $1 billionTechnology Modernization Fund aims to fortifythe federal government’s cybersecurity while developing cutting-edge tools made to adapt to change. Additionally, $150 million from the Federal Citizen Services Fund will bring positive change to the federal technology workforce and bolster systems for better citizen experiences.

Healthcare Facilities

Healthcare workers were stretched to the limit as healthcare facilities became inundated with patients. However, vital lessons were learned, and, as a result,  the healthcare industry has improved. Ushering in further improvement, the U.S. Department  of Health and Human Services (HHS) is offering $7.5 billion to healthcare facilities for information technology assistance, enhancements to information systems and reporting, data sharing, and support of vaccine distribution.

Public Schools

Of the 1.4 million public sector jobs lost during the pandemic, 1 million of those jobs belonged to teachers. Schools underwent rapid changes to respond to the emergence of COVID-19, including the introduction of remote learning for many. Determined to help schools recuperate from the adjustments, the American Rescue Plan issued $122 billion for the U.S. Department of Education to serve K-12 schools and higher education institutions. These funds are intended to help prevent layoffs, provide internet access and devices to students without connectivity, and allow a safe return to in-person learning with resources for social distancing.

Improving technology to repair and thrive

Undoubtedly, the American Rescue Plan has — and will continue to — lift and support businesses that underwent adversity as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. But this plan does more than simply help businesses recover; it helps them thrive. The key to this persistent success is technology.

Equipped with technology that improves standard processes, workplace management, and overall organization, organizations become smooth-running machines. This efficiency is what saves resources and protects companies from future disasters. The American Rescue Plan has created a unique opportunity for public sector organizations to update or invest in vital technology, such as an integrated workplace management system (IWMS).

Navigating workplace changes with IWMS software

A company’s facilities and infrastructure comprise 25 to 50 percent of its fixed assets and operating costs. Help your business succeed in a globally competitive market by properly managing these precious resources. This is where SpaceIQ can help. Our Archibus platform has helped companies return to work with innovative features that offer solutions to the many negative impacts of COVID-19.

As people return to work and school, there are many variables in question, such as how to follow social distancing protocols, schedule offices, and classrooms, and track the phases of students and employees coming back to work. The Archibus system has clarified these questions and allowed organizations to function at their full potential.

Take a look at some of the ways that Archibus can simplify your workplace management:

  1. Space Inventory. Assign employees to safe seats that meet social distancing guidelines.
  2. Occupancy. Track and manage which employees are working remotely, in cohorts, or coming back to work in phases.
  3. Hoteling. Let employees select a desk from a pool of pre-approved, socially distanced spaces.
  4. Corrective Work. Automatically schedule room and desk cleanings between reservations to promote a safer work environment for employees.
  5. Reservations. Allow pre-approved room reservations that incorporates time before and after a meeting for proper cleaning.
  6. Workplace. Help employees find resources, book meetings and workspaces, access services, and request moves through a convenient desktop or mobile experience.
  7. Space Planning. Forecast and plan for large space and occupancy changes at all levels, including portfolio, city, site/campus, and building and room levels.
  8. Moves. Streamline your move/add/change processes to support employee safety with minimal organizational disruption.
  9. Preventive Maintenance. Schedule daily or periodic “deep clean” work orders for specific locations.
  10. Health & Safety. Reduce workplace safety incidents and better manage personal protective equipment (PPE), training, medical monitoring, and work restrictions.
  11. Asset Management. Provide an integrated view of where to find key assets such as personal protective equipment (PPE), cleaning supplies, and other equipment.
  12. Emergency Preparedness. Implement life-saving and general safety procedures by planning for potential future outbreaks and other disasters.
  13. Waste. Track and manage COVID-19 hazardous waste from point of generation to final disposition to mitigate errors, omissions, and accidents.
  14. Hazard Abatement. Protect employee health and minimize organizational liability by quickly and accurately locating, tracking, and abating hazardous materials.
  15. Compliance. Reduce the chance of virus spread and potential shutdowns that result from inadequate compliance practices.
  16. Condition Assessment. Evaluate the condition of critical assets and buildings, initiating remediation work where needed.
  17. Projects. Provide a central location for employees to manage COVID-related project details, including schedule tracking and budgeting.

Easily access the tools and technology you need

Whether you serve a government agency, healthcare facility, or public school, there are several options available to fund the technology you need to bring efficiency and clarity to today’s changing workplace. The American Rescue Plan has brought relief and security for the future to many organizations who request funding.

If this plan doesn’t cover what your public agency is looking for, there are still several federal and state contract vehicles that can help. Simplify the procurement process by purchasing Archibus through our valued partners found at the following links:

Federal

CIO-CS, HHSN316201500012W

GSA Multiple Award Schedules GS-35F-267DA

Information Technology Enterprise Solutions – Software2 (ITES-SW2), W52P1J-20-D-0047

SEWP V, Group A: NNG15SC07B; Group D: NNG15SC98B

Department of Defense ITAM ESI

State

GSA Multiple Award Schedules GS-35F-267DA

Commonwealth of Kentucky Multi-Vendor Master Agreement, MA758 070000217538

State of California Multiple Award Schedule (CMAS), 3-16- 70-1047B

State of Maryland Multi-Vendor COTS IDIQ, 06B02490021

State of New Mexico Multi-Vendor IDIQ, 60-000-16-00075

State of Ohio Multi-Vendor IDIQ, 534042

State of Texas DIR Multi-Vendor Software IDIQ, DIR-TSO-3400

State of Texas DIR Multi-Vendor Software II IDIQ, DIR-TSO-4236

State of Texas DIR, DIR-TSO-4384

TIPS, 180503

TIPS, 200105

TIPS, 200102

The world may still be recuperating from the effects of COVID-19, but your resilient organization is capable of returning to work stronger. Try a demo of SpaceIQ products to learn how you can safely reopen your workplace and boost your organization’s productivity.

Keep reading: What is a Smart IWMS and What are its Features?

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Blog Workplace Thought Leadership

Impacts of Remote Work: Five Hidden Costs Employers May Overlook 

By Pat Clark
Chief Financial Officer
SpaceIQ

Many states have begun loosening restrictions as the COVID-19 pandemic wanes. Employers are now grappling with the decision of what the future of their offices will look like – and how much it will cost to adapt to a new business normal.

In the past year, companies observed how remote work impacted their internal operations, employee productivity, and overall business performance. Now, when paired with a practical cost/benefit plan, these observations can help companies determine the best path forward: bring all employees back, go with an all-remote workforce, or create a hybrid of the two.

Understanding employees’ workplace needs

Our employees’ well-being has always been a priority, regardless of the pandemic. As we look at transition plans, understanding employee needs and maximizing their engagement is at the forefront of our decision-making. For some SpaceIQ employees, a work-from-home setup is a dream. Others are counting down the days until they can return to a physical office. Many fall somewhere in between – hoping for flexible options to alternate working remotely and in a physical office space.

Managing expectations for a return-to-work plan should be No. 1 for companies seeking to ensure the safety of their employees. Globally, employees have shown that remote work is viable and even preferable for productivity and engagement. Of the estimated 48 million full-time employees in the U.S. who hold a remote-work-compatible job, 82 percent say they would like to work remotely at least weekly. The challenge lies in developing a budget-appropriate plan that offers opportunities to work remotely while resuming uninterrupted operations in a physical office.

Five hidden costs of remote work

Companies often overlook the hidden costs of remote work that should be addressed when considering a work-from-home or hybrid environment. Additionally, these costs can increase with the fiscal requirements of maintaining a physical location.

1. Developing a centralized network infrastructure

Beyond the use of laptops, cables, and monitors, office technology harbors additional costs for communication. Using platforms such as Slack or Microsoft Teams has become more critical than ever for businesses that have reduced face-to-face interactions. Companies that continue to leverage these platforms need to consider the maintenance and security of their network infrastructure.

2. Understanding the soft and hard costs

Nurturing an internal culture with remote workers is critical for employee engagement. The hard costs of remote work are easily calculable, but soft costs surrounding employee connection, team-building activities, or all-hands meetings may be more challenging to pinpoint. Remote work will require additional effort to keep employees connected. For example, our Human Resources and Marketing teams collaborated and coordinated a global gift distribution for employees in Q4 2020. SpaceIQ CMO Nai Kanell led the effort and explained, “It was no small feat and expensive, but it was worth every penny. We want people to know personally, ‘Hey, we’re one team working together regardless of location. We care about you.’”

3. Maintaining data integrity and security after turnover

Data integrity is a critical issue for virtually every company.  One data loss survey conducted by TechRepublic indicated that 95% of the participating organizations say they suffered data loss in 2020. Remote work has led to an increased reliance on email, which increases the potential of unintentional sharing of sensitive information. Moreover, 60% of survey participants reported working in a shared home office or communal spaces where distractions are unavoidable. In addition to confidentiality concerns, distracted employees are more likely to make errors that result in the loss of sensitive company and/or customer data. Increasing employees’ focus on the criticality of maintaining data security through on-going communication and training is critical.

Additionally, companies need to plan well in advance regarding how they will protect their confidential data when employees leave the company. When an employee leaves an organization, companies should take immediate action to collect equipment and protect sensitive information. Many companies choose centralized system control to enable immediate termination of employees’ access to confidential information and company applications, reducing the likelihood of data loss.

4. Budgeting for the costs associated with relocating employees

Many employees chose to relocate during the pandemic.  It is critical that employers know where employees are moving to ensure that the company is not unknowingly becoming liable for income taxes, property taxes, and employment taxes in new states.  Also, where employees choose to live could impact their tax bill if it is somewhere other than where they were working before the pandemic.  Employers and employees should expect that depleted state budgets might prompt states to go on the offensive when it comes to collecting tax revenue from employers and their  employees working remotely, even if it is only temporary. Generally, under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers are not required to reimburse employees for work-related expenses incurred working remotely. Even if your state does not require your company to foot the bill for remote work expenses, companies may want to offer reimbursement for the cost of internet, ergonomic equipment, or technology purchases. These can be marketed as company perks but will add to the bottom-line impact of supporting remote work.

5. Adapting operations for geography

For managers with teams now in multiple time zones, shuffling meeting times and juggling schedules is part of the reality of a geographically dispersed team. The amount of time it takes to coordinate moments for team collaboration can place an additional strain on managers who are already struggling to meet day-to-day demands, develop team culture, and adhere to company-wide policies. Organizations that rely on managers to balance these different facets of remote work should be aware of burnout and turnover that may affect their leadership teams.

Remote work options also is pushing many employees to relocate to new cities and countries. A 2020 DSJ Global survey revealed 69% of those polled would move to a different location for a better job. This choice can create complex issues for employers. Business registration in multiple states or countries can be costly and time-consuming. Local tax and labor laws aren’t consistent across borders. Unemployment and workers’ compensation insurance coverage typically is governed by the state where the employee works, not where the company is headquartered. If your business covers relocation expenses, plan to spend upward of $97,000 for current employees and $72,000 for new hires.

Additionally, recruitment is another element that may require additional investment. Kanell says, “We are spending a lot more money on recruiting than we did in the past. We also need to be more flexible in terms of where people can work from. This flexibility entails business registration in the multiple states where we have found top talent to join our team.” Going through the registration process requires administrative costs and time, along with gaining an understanding of the local pay rates for that talent.

Remote work and the agile office

Regardless of the framework businesses choose, remote work has evolved from a loose trend to commonly sought benefit by employees. The post-COVID workplace will be focused on longer term, agile workplace development. Last year has shown us that more companies are going to be embracing a hybrid structure versus the “normal” office that so many of us have grown accustomed to. There is no “normal.”

The benefits of having a remote structure and the need for recognizing the potential additional costs are clearly present, but we also have to remember: It’s not all or nothing. Employers are considering the productivity benefits of staying remote while also understanding the need to keep employees safe in a collaborative, in-person environment.

Companies can embrace better workplace agility by understanding both the financial costs and the employee productivity and job satisfaction implications of remote work.

Keep reading: Boost Team Collaboration with 10 Remote Working Tools

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Blog Workplace Thought Leadership

It’s Time to Reconsider the Best Use of Your Workspace

By Fred Kraus
Senior Director of Product Management, Archibus
SpaceIQ

For years, workplace trends have been shifting away from the traditional 9-to-5 work model and toward more flexible styles. Up until early 2020, telecommuting and remote work were considered perks in many companies, an emerging trend for some, or a rare work option for others. COVID-19 changed things forever, with lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders driving many traditionally office-based employees to work from their homes indefinitely.

This has set a precedent for how workplaces will operate for years to come. Looking ahead, companies are contending with how to embrace variable work setups and what the best use of their workplaces should be to position them for long-term success.

Preparing for hybrid work setups and agile workspaces

Employers of all sizes are contending with if and when they can bring their workforce back to the office and how they can do it successfully. In early February, Spotify announced it will offer employees the option to work from home or anywhere – permanently. Other organizations are planning for returns to the workplace in phases. Microsoft, for example, is in the midst of a six-stage strategy for a return to its headquarters. Meanwhile, organizations such as Citadel and JPMorgan Chase have started to reopen offices to essential and non-essential employees.

The range is wide as far as plans for returning to the workplace go. The reality is that most companies will not be 100% virtual or 100% in-office as long-term work strategies take shape. Instead, the focus likely will be hybrid, agile structures that allow for both in-office work and remote setups. To do so, businesses must reevaluate their current workplaces, determine how it functions in support of employee productivity, and whether a change in lease agreements, designs, and other considerations is warranted for the space moving forward.

Meeting employees’ new expectations

Employers need to focus on optimizing spaces to meet employee needs and keep productivity and engagement high. These are expectations that are far different from those your staff may have had more than a year ago.

Employees working from home since early 2020 continue to contend with the dichotomy of remote work: the flexibility and freedom it can bring and the challenges and isolation that often comes with it. When welcoming them back to work, you should prepare for specific expectations your employees will bring with them:

  • A workspace that allows them to collaborate and rebuild relationships with coworkers.
  • A quiet, distraction-free space where they can concentrate on work that requires considerable focus.
  • An environment that mitigates their risk of illness and upholds all health and safety precautions.
  • A space built with hybrid work setups in mind, where employees can seamlessly go between the office and home without productivity downtime.

The spaces we’ve become accustomed to before the pandemic are not the same ones that will drive optimal output going forward. Businesses that offer employees the flexibility to move freely between spaces for both collaboration and individual work are poised to have an engaged and productive workforce.

Creating workplaces that withstand change

Companies may find that they have unused space or the ways they used space before the pandemic can no longer be used in the same manner. With careful planning, your future workplace will be defined by how agile it can be in response to employee needs and expectations, as well as future crises and business disruptions.

Even though you can’t predict when problems arise, they are inevitable, and you should have plans to address them. COVID-19 is just one example; business disruptions can come in many forms — natural disasters, a sudden mass exodus on the Sales team, or losing a major investor. When an unforeseen circumstance happens down the road, will the work environment you’ve created be able to withstand volatility?

Defining the workplace’s role moving forward will help companies make smarter decisions about their spaces and how to manage them. Reevaluating purpose and making changes are also great ways to make workplaces more conducive to flexibility and efficiency than they had been before. But agile workplaces aren’t for everyone. Some employees find the lack of privacy and noise associated with collaboration spaces to be distracting. Flexible workspaces may be used more for collaboration, while heads-down work is done remotely.

For some companies, decisions will be relatively small-scale, such as whether to repurpose a few unused desks and meeting rooms. For others, it might mean more complex choices, such as revisiting leases to determine whether they are an expense that still makes sense for the size of the business.

There are four strategies to consider when evaluating space use:

Repurposing

Assume that employees’ work habits have changed to some extent since they were last in the office. This is a great time to rework office space in a way that’s safe and supports productivity. Companies that have extra room can find opportunities to square footage through desk-sharing concepts:

  • Redistribute desks and seats to meet safety protocols
  • Alter workspaces into areas or pods where people can create their best work
  • Turn an open-concept office into a diverse hoteling area
  • Transform individual offices into pods for small group collaboration
  • Rethink conference rooms as reservable “conversation rooms”

Remember that any workspace repurposing needs to align with health and safety protocols and should be executed with employees’ space preferences in mind.

Subleasing

Subleasing in commercial real estate is currently booming as a result of the pandemic. In July 2020, subleasing was up approximately 12%, according to a CBRE report. Since then, and in some larger U.S. cities, in particular, subleasing has soared. The prospect of shorter lease terms (standard is typically six-to-nine months versus typical multi-year lease contracts) is attractive to those still contending with the continuing uncertainty stemming from COVID-19.

Subleasing office space also offers an opportunity to help smaller companies to appeal to employees who are returning to work. Great workspaces often come with hefty price tags that are far out of the reach of many businesses. But the cost efficiencies of subleasing can put attractive office spaces within their reach. Most importantly, a space with cutting-edge technology or an office in a great part of town provides a “wow factor” for employees and makes coming to work something they look forward to.

Buying

While many companies lease space, now may be a time when they’re in a position to consider purchasing commercial real estate. Property ownership offers the benefit of an asset on the balance sheet and accompanying tax advantages. But consider location, industry, and other factors before signing a long-term mortgage. A decision this large-scale requires real estate managers to take a close look at company data. It needs to make sense not only for the current needs of the business but must reflect long-term planning and budgeting.

Although there are signs of recovery, the pandemic stifled industries such as hospitality and retail with widespread hotel, restaurant, and retail store closures. It’s also spurred demand for industrial space to support areas such as distribution and storage. Keeping in mind that there are opportunities and drawbacks across sectors and industries, the demand for space that’s conducive to social distancing and worker safety is here to stay.

Downsizing or selling

For the few companies planning to have a 100% remote workforce or that have significantly downsized, a physical workspace may no longer be essential to daily operations. Removing the overhead costs associated with office space, especially if you don’t foresee using it even after the pandemic is over, could be a smart financial decision.

Leveraging technology during the decision-making process

Before making any decisions about real estate, companies should consider their budgets, growth models, business forecasts (think 5-10 years out), and other long-term decisions and scenarios. Technology is crucial for managing every aspect of a back-to-work plan and provides insights for decision-makers when evaluating next steps for the workspace.

Space planning platforms such as those offered by SpaceIQ take all factors into account and allow HR, Facilities, IT, and company leaders to visualize the current space (both occupied and unoccupied) at a high level, decide which option is best for the business both now and in the future, and manage every aspect of a back-to-work plan once decisions have been made.

Planning for resilience

If workspace planning wasn’t part of your strategy planning before, it needs to be now. To stay competitive, the workplace must be a purposeful, engaging environment where employees want to work, collaborate, and be productive. Tap into data insights to help you uncover opportunities, take the appropriate next steps, and build resilience for the long term.

Keep reading: Planning Your Workplace with Office Space Software

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Blog Workplace Thought Leadership

Making a Confident Return to the Workplace

By James Franklin
Chief Customer Officer
SpaceIQ 

For more than a year, uncertainty has been a common theme in our daily personal and business lives. Lockdowns shuttered businesses of all types and sizes and forced most employees to work from home. With vaccinations underway, many company owners and business leaders are determining if now is the time to return to the workplace. 

The pressure to have staff come back to work is being felt across the globe, especially as more companies publicly announce their returntotheoffice plans. Some countries, like Australiamoved back months ago, and other countries are using its plans as a guide for how to make it happen. As North America and Europe will likely delay their returns to fall 2021 or even 2022, the amount and speed of change is expected to grow. 

Australia’s success shows the workplace of the future is being defined by activity-based working (ABW) strategies and more diverse choices in where employees work. Space planning analytic tools are also evolving. Platforms, such as those offered by SpaceIQ, are essential for businesses to not only devise what workplace return methodology best meets their needs, but to also stay current with evershifting office space trends.    

Will Employees Want to Return? 

For some companies, it has been more than a year since employees were in the workplace. There was fear that work-from-home would hinder productivity. That is not the case. According to a Mercer study, 94% of 800 employers surveyed said that productivity was the same as or higher than it was before the pandemic, even with their employees working remotely. 

So, the time has come to welcome employees back to your workplace. What if some do not want to come back? A recent study published by TechRepublic showed 29% of employees said they would quit if forced to return in-person. Work-from-home offers flexibility not seen with an office job. Parents have reaped the benefits of consistent childcarethe freedom to make doctor appointments on their schedule, and not spending valuable time commuting to and from work. 

Because finding and retaining happy, engaged employees is difficult enough in today’s tight labor market, keeping top talent on board means more than good pay and a few in-office amenities. Employees, especially new ones, want flexibility in how and where they work. Implementing an ABW approach is another way to show your employees the value of being in the office by showing it is more than just a static space. Dynamic workplaces provide employees options. They can select where they work based on that day’s activity. 

ABW is all about flexibility. But that does not mean every employee will embrace new office structuresPeople are naturally averse to change and ABW is a big one. Some employees likely will resist more flexible environments. For CyberArk, an Israel-based information security company, most employees prefer static or designated seats as defined by the country’s prevailing work culture. Many global companies also discover that because workers don’t have assigned desks, they may lose the “personal” touch afforded by individual spaces. 

Fortunately, workplace technology can be used to implement a safe environment upon return and help managers to gauge how many of their employees are willing to return to the office. Better understanding employees needs will help you establish an approach that makes staff want to return to the office. In turn, they may be more productive and help foster a more positive workplace culture. 

Workplace Data and B2W 

Regardless of when a return is planned, it is unlikely all employees will come back all at once. Some elements of remote work will remainBut many companies are opting for flexible schedules of mixing inoffice and remote work.   

Workplace technology offers a seamless approach to both planning for and implementing a back-to-work strategy. Activity-based work is a shift from providing generic workplace that fits typical types and styles of work to designing space that is purpose built for certain activities. This means more productive space as it is tailored to the work it supports.   

This level of planning is not possible, at least not in an effective and timely manner, without technologies that support space planning and utilization, hotelingemployee health checks, contact tracing, social distancing, and other measures to keep staff as safe as possible. 

Workplace analytics are critical to implementing the what and how of your return to work. For global companies, implementation plans for one region may require only opening one office at 50 percent, while bringing 15 percent of employees back in another location. What if another surge hits? Are you ready to shutter one location, set up employees for remote work, and shift critical tasks to offices in another state or country? 

Return with Confidence 

If COVID has taught us anything, it is to be agile and confident in every decision. Employee safety is paramount when considering a return to the office. There is no room for error. That is why technology is key to managing every aspect of a back-to-work plan. 

Platforms such as those offered by SpaceIQ allow HR, Facilities, IT, and company leaders to weigh the pros and cons of their back-to-work strategies. We recently shared a return-to-work template to help guide your every move as employees come back. 

But a post-COVID return is only the beginning. Once the initial move is done, you should focus on contingency plans. Planning for inevitable contingencies is a smart, agile strategy. As Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook Chief Operating Officer, said: “…we’re all living some form of Option B.” 

Employees expect business leaders to have the answers and create workplaces that allow them to feel both safe and productive. Contingency planning is a great start. The next step in a confident return is thinking about the future. 

Less Structure, More Social 

What we knew as business normal is anything but now. The future workplace will be defined by how agile it can be in response to employee needs and new crises. SpaceIQ is strengthening the ArchibusSerraview, and SiQ product lines with technology tools that allow for maximum agility while supporting day-to-day productivity demands. 

Companies realized early on that remote work did not hinder productivity. Large organizations like Twitter embraced remote work by allowing employees to work offsite indefinitely. Others are likely to scale back on their investments in physical workplaces as we adjust to this new normal. 

Workplaces will not disappear completely, but businesses will make smarter decisions about how they use space. Technology lets you to analyze historic space utilization data and how that measures against today’s hybrid work structure. 

According to a McKinsey study30% of companies are likely to terminate leases while 55% will reconfigure how existing space is used. Space allocation is also shifting. CBRE survey of 10,000 companies showed employees want to come to the office 62% of the time for team collaboration and face-to-face time and only 16% for workplace amenities. What this shows is individual space and support services/amenities are less important than collaboration and social spaces. 

An Agile Future 

We have already seen a significant shift toward agile workplaces. Demand for remote work during the coronavirus pandemic shed light on the need for modern digital resources and technologies. Overnight, companies adopted platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Asana to help teams work from home. Not only have those adoptions remained, but they have also become more robust as companies build out their agile, digital infrastructures. 

Business of all types and sizes are looking for ways to create workplaces where employees want to be and where they can do their best work. SpaceIQ is here to help. We have solutions to manage real estate, optimize current and new workspaces, structure hybrid work schedules, and maintain every aspect of your workplace. For more information on how to partner with SpaceIQ for an agile workplace future, visit us at https://space.iq.com. 

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Blog Workplace Thought Leadership

The Future Workplace: A Digital Way of Thinking

By Nai Kanell
Chief Marketing Officer
SpaceIQ

As I look back at the wild roller coaster ride that was 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic, it would be easy to reflect on the negative things that have happened. Countless lives lost. A politically and socially divided nation. The ongoing battle for equal rights. Despite the bad, I believe there are silver linings that without the pandemic we may have never seen.

Digital transformation in manufacturing, sales, governmental agencies, and other industries is changing how we do business. COVID forced companies to embrace remote work and find ways to engage customers in new, innovative ways. One of many examples: Restaurants shifted to online and phone orders with curbside pickup.

This digital way of thinking did not stop there. Let’s look at a few more positive digital changes:

Collaborative Manufacturing

In the United States, some companies paused day-to-day manufacturing and retooled facilities to build desperately needed ventilators. Doing so likely saved lives and proved that we can adapt in a crisis if we put our minds to it.

Last March as COVID began its rampage across the U.S., Ford Motor Company shut down 30 auto plants. Five days after conferring with federal officials, Ford partnered with GE Healthcare to manufacture ventilators. Several other old-school manufacturers followed, including General Motors and Xerox. They retrofitted existing technologies from building engines to filling a critical medical need.

This willingness to forgo profits for better national health was the largest combined effort outside of wartime to accomplish in weeks what typically takes months to years. That is agility at its finest.

Property Records

Prior to COVID, it was nearly impossible to obtain property records without physically visiting a county recorder’s office. That may not sound hard but imagine owning land in another state. Now, county clerks pull the records and titles for you (thank you, social distancing). There is hope local and federal governments will finally agree to digitize information and lessen the exorbitant title fees property buyers must pay.

Cashless Payments

Girl Scout Cookies – I absolutely love them! But I often found myself without a cookie seller in my neighborhood. COVID stopped door-to-door sales in its tracks. And it was not easy to know if any Girl Scouts lived in my neighborhood.

Now, I can order directly from the Girl Scouts of America website or online from a Girl Scout I know. No more written order forms and running to the ATM for cash to pay for my Thin Mints. Last year, I paid via Venmo; this year I can use a credit card. Cashless payments are not only much easier for both sellers and buyers, but also lessen the spread of germs and viruses.

Workplaces

Pre-COVID, telecommuting and remote work were viewed as perks by many companies and a new trend for others. That changed in the blink of an eye as COVID forced businesses to close office doors and send employees home to work.

We were already moving toward agile workstyles. The laptop unchained us from standard desks and Wi-Fi cut the cords completely. This freedom allows us to work from anywhere – a requirement during COVID. But what happens now that offices, stores, factories, and other workplaces are reopening? Will remote work continue at its current levels or drop off as pressure mounts to return to a physical office?

Some business owners may argue that productivity suffers when employees work remotely. A Mercer study says otherwise. Of 800 employers surveyed, 94% said productivity was the same or higher than before the pandemic. Great Place to Work canvassed 800,000 employees at Fortune 500 companies and found that 87% were productive in a May 2020 measurement, compared to 74% in 2019.

In an article published last year, I mentioned employees want to be able to do their best from environments that enable them to thrive. And that is relative based on each person’s unique circumstances. Some home offices may lack essential elements like giant monitors, plenty of plugs for personal devices, fast internet, and supplies. Remote work can be distracting, with children jumping into view during Zoom meetings or the siren call of trashy afternoon TV.

The workplace will evolve into areas or pods of places where people can create their best work given the task they have on hand. My workday ebbs and flows between needing focus time and collaboration with colleagues. Businesses that offer collaboration and private spaces – and allow employees to move freely between them – will see enhanced productivity.

Social Creatures

COVID made socializing hard, and I believe most employees are ready to get back to a physical workplace. This is especially true with new employees. I onboarded several new SpaceIQ employees during the pandemic and have not met many of them face to face. It would be great to meet my new colleagues in person to see how tall they are, what their natural voices sound like, and take advantage of collaboration time.

When COVID forced people into remote work, it was not meant to be permanent and was not an excuse to say, “Let’s never meet in person.” There is a fine balance we all must make in navigating the future hybrid workplace. It will no longer be “I have to work in the office” or “I can only work from home”. Workplaces will evolve into places where serious collaboration and creativity happens.

A New Normal

The onus of finding the “new normal” for future offices falls on workplace professionals who must think hard about how to reimagine their workplaces and create productive places employees want to work. The challenge will be finding ways to attract and keep top talent by building spaces with FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) in mind. Manifest a workplace that gives employees all they need to do their best work in caring, supportive environments and they will come. It is a dream that is quickly becoming reality.

Keep reading: What Is An Alternative Workplace? The New Norm

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Blog Workplace Thought Leadership

Managing Assets in the Modern Workplace 

By Nick Stefanidakis
General Manager, Archibus
SpaceIQ

Look around your office, school, factory, or hospital. What do you see? Desks, chairs, computers, machinery, building systems, office equipment, supplies. All the things that make a business, educational institution, or healthcare facility run. Without them, there would be no products, services, classes, or emergency care.

Everything that occupies space is an asset. Though often taken for granted as part of a “normal” workday, each asset must be monitored, maintained, repaired, upgraded or replaced on a specific schedule. A robust asset management plan is an essential part of your broader workplace or space management strategy.

Asset Management Defined

Assets are defined as anything that brings value to an organization and are generally grouped into three categories:

  • Facility: Mechanical, HVAC, conveyance, elevators, lighting, plumbing,, landscaping,  etc.
  • Personnel: Badges, personal protective equipment, communication devices, vehicles, etc.
  • IT/Office: Desktop computers, laptops, printers, copiers, software licenses, etc.

The main goal of asset management is to get the greatest amount of value out of every asset while reducing the overall lifecycle cost of each item. Such focus can reap big rewards. First National of Nebraska Inc., the largest, privately owned U.S. banking company, showed a $120,000 annual gain in operating efficiencies via better asset and facility management.

A good asset management plan helps you plan for the future and make data-driven decisions. By accounting for factors such as replacement, repair costs, resale value, criticality, life expectancies, policies and procedures, efficiencies, and workload, it’s much easier to make informed decisions that can save time and money.

The Benefits of Asset Management

Effective asset management can impact an entire organization. Knowing what assets you have, where they are located and used, their condition and current value provides insights on required maintenance plans, repair costs, and budgets.

For example, understanding how much your organization’s computers cost, how old they are, how long they are expected to last, their repair and upgrade histories, and associated downtime costs when they aren’t working, it’s much easier to do a cost/benefit analysis to determine whether to repair or replace the equipment.

Asset management planning helps:

  • Improve ROI by providing a common operating picture that aligns assets to an organization’s objectives
  • Plan what-if scenarios to optimize enterprise asset investments
  • Empower asset management teams to accomplish their goals with coordinated end-to-end resourcing
  • Optimize capital and other asset investments through integrated life cycle management for planning, acquisition, utilization, repurposing, and decommissioning/disposal
  • Enable staff to quickly inventory assets with mobile apps

Asset Management Plan Elements 

Creating an effective management plan is all in the details. Computer updates are different than furniture replacement or HVAC maintenance. Your asset management plan should cover five essential steps:

  1. Take inventory: The asset inventory should include equipment inside and outside your building. At the same time, gather as much information about the assets as possible: primary user(s), location, manufacturer information, serial numbers, warranties, condition, service histories, etc.
  2. Determine costs: Each asset has costs for its entire life cycle, not just what you spent on them. Budget for overall lifespan for each asset, maintenance, upgrades, and disposal.
  3. Set service levels: Do laptops need annual security upgrades? How often should the printer be cleaned? Clearly state the unique needs of each asset, then ensure the defined service level meets the needs of the primary users: your employees.
  4. Think proactively: Staying ahead of problems will save money in the long run. Base service levels on keeping assets in prime condition until it is time to replace them.
  5. Plan for the future: Look down the road for times where asset improvements will be needed. Then, set aside budget to meet those needs.

Asset Management During a Crisis 

Proactive planning shines the most during a crisis. COVID-19 shut entire economies down for weeks on end. Though office doors, showrooms, manufacturing floors, and schools may have been shuttered, maintenance and upkeep of the assets within them did not pause. Once employees and students migrate back to work and school, they expect computers, air conditioning, lighting, and other elements to still be operational. That is where an asset management plan is key. Knowing what needs to be done allows for faster decision-making regardless of a crisis.

Some assets require regular maintenance regardless of social or economic disruptions. But a crisis like COVID-19 may alter how and when service is done.

Here are a few things to consider if you are forced to modify your asset management plan:

  • Use: Are your assets used more or less during a crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic? Does this affect typical wear and asset life cycles?
  • Locations: If the number of employees working remotely has changed, do you have a plan to keep track of equipment locations?
  • Equipment purchase/sale: Have your real estate plans changed along with the number of employees using the building? Do you have a plan to manage your assets if you relocate or sell quickly?
  • Maintenance: During an emergency, which equipment is most important to maintain on a regular basis? Are there some which are less essential?

Think Ahead, But Be Flexible 

You can’t anticipate every contingency or emergency, but it’s important to remain flexible with your asset management plan. As COVID-19 or other crises change the way workplaces operate, businesses and schools must adapt their space management plans to meet each challenge.

An Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS) is a powerful solution that helps you make adjustments when changes must be made quickly and on a large scale. Archibus Asset Management provides an integrated view of all assets, including properties, buildings, land, structures, equipment, and furniture.

Keep Reading: How to use an IWMS for asset management

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Blog Workplace Thought Leadership

Stay Ahead of Problems with Preventive Maintenance 

By Nick Stefanidakis
General Manager, Archibus
SpaceIQ

As COVID-19 has shown us, predicting the future is a coin flip. Early on, people thought the virus would last a few weeks. No one believed we’d still be wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, and awaiting vaccines more than a year later.

Businesses also could not foresee the impact shutdowns and health mandates would have on productivity, operations, and facility maintenance. That included the upkeep of assets such as networks, computers, lighting, HVAC, furniture, and other items that make up a modern workplace.

If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s the importance of a solid preventive maintenance plan for both everyday operations and crises. Staying ahead of issues not only saves valuable budget, but also helps ensure your workplace is ready to welcome employees back if a shutdown occurs.

Defining Preventive Maintenance

Preventive maintenance is essential to keep buildings and assets in optimal condition. Whether large or small, single location or global offices, all workplaces contain components that need to be regularly maintained and updated.

Assets are among an organization’s highest expenditure. According to a report by Aberdeen, a global B2B behavioral marketing firm, the cost for one hour of business downtime grew from $260,000 in 2014 to $492,000 in 2016. That number is likely much higher today.

Unlike corrective maintenance – an on-demand service to correct a specific issue at an unforeseen time – preventive maintenance is predictable. Tasks performed at regular intervals, such as periodic maintenance, scheduled inspections, cleaning, and updates, can extend asset life, improve conditions, and make corrective maintenance less frequent and/or costly.

That can mean significant time and money savings for organizations with limited budgets and resources. Mount Royal University (MRU), one of Canada’s top destinations for undergraduate studies, automated its preventive maintenance with Archibus after corrective support tickets grew from 3,000 in 2012 to more than 14,000 in 2020. Before, facilities staff spent hours manually creating maintenance reports.

“We didn’t have single source of truth when it came to generating reports,” said Jason Philipchuk, MRU Archibus Technology Support Analyst. “With Archibus, we improved our equipment inventory to ensure assets needing preventive maintenance were scheduled and given a means to track asset life cycle. That way, we keep our craftspeople out in the field and not in office working on reports.”

Three Steps to Preventive Maintenance

To develop an effective workplace preventive maintenance routine, three steps are essential. They include taking inventory, developing maintenance procedures, and establishing critical priorities.

  • Take Stock of Your Assets

Without an inventory of assets, it’s impossible to set an effective preventive maintenance schedule. A comprehensive inventory accounts for all assets in need of regular maintenance. These include facility-related assets, personal equipment, and information management infrastructure. While determining what you have, gather information and relevant documents about each asset – age, maintenance procedure by manufacturer, history, upgrade dates, and technical diagrams.

A great place to start is taking a holistic look at your facilities supporting systems like HVAC, plumbing, lighting, electrical, and emergency equipment and what’s inside or attached to them. Refer to architectural drawings or space plans to locate everything on the list.

If necessary, your information management inventory should include all personal items like desktops, laptops, printers, copiers, and other IT equipment, including equipment used by remote employees.

  • Establish Maintenance Procedures and Timetable

With your asset inventory in hand, it’s time to design a specific preventive procedure for each asset by standard or individually. The procedure should be based on manufacturers’ recommendations; however, some will be augmented to support more robust activities due to COVID-19 or other considerations.

Once completed, use manufacturer or company standards to set a regular preventive maintenance schedule. Ask yourself all the necessary questions that will assist your scheduling process:

  • Is the procedure concurrent?
  • At what frequency?
  • Do assets require different procedures at different times?
  • Do I have the right personnel to do the work as required? Should I consider outsourcing?

Next, you’ll need to determine the internal workflow that governs maintenance work orders. Evaluate maintenance budgets, resource allocation, work order issuance and approval, workload, and invoice payments.

  • Prioritize

When resources are scarce, you may lack the capacity to stay on an asset maintenance schedule. Determining your critical priorities for preventive maintenance is not an exact science. Although these decisions can be subjective, it’s important to prioritize what matters most, particularly when your business is affected by crises like COVID-19 that alter typical routines.

Cost is an additional factor in determining service priorities. Facilities managers should consider the cost of both regular maintenance and repairs/replacements. If a piece of equipment is out of order, how long will it be out of commission? How many employees will be unable to perform their jobs and for how long? What does it cost in lost productivity?

Keep Preventive Maintenance Plans Flexible

The COVID-19 pandemic upended some typically predictable routines. Though some maintenance should be consistent, the pandemic affected each workplace differently, sometimes even from one week to the next. Some assets require scheduled maintenance, no matter who is or isn’t in the office. Other preventive maintenance plans substantially change based on how COVID-19 or other crises impacts staffing, production, and customer service.

Due to COVID-19, workspace maintenance may not seem to be as pressing of an issue right now. But neglecting preventive maintenance can have expensive, long-term consequences. The routines themselves may change, but consistency is still important. Your preventive maintenance plan should be flexible enough to allow for necessary adjustments without completely disrupting traditional routines.

Flexibility is even more important as employees who have been working remotely come back to work. Facilities managers must balance the needs of on-site workers with those still working from home.

Benjamin Franklin’s famously said “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” to promote better fire safety in the 1770s. That idiom holds true today as businesses face “fires” daily. Taking the steps to mitigate damage is smart space and facility management. Preventive maintenance strategies can be one of your greatest protection now and into the future.

Keep reading: What is Facilities Maintenance Support Services?

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Blog Workplace Thought Leadership

School’s In – For Educational Facility Improvements

By Danielle Moore
Director, Archibus Marketing
SpaceIQ

The pivot to distance learning during COVID-19 has left many schools empty. For some students, it’s been over a year since they’ve seen the inside of a classroom. Since the onset of the pandemic, educational institutions of all types have been looking for ways to safely restart classes.

But those silent halls and rooms are not being ignored. Educational facilities managers are taking advantage of vacant buildings to perform routine upkeep and make structural, system, and aesthetic improvements. A powerful integrated workplace management system (IWMS) can help organize, schedule, and manage these projects start to finish.

Most educational facilities wait until the summer months to begin construction, renovation, and maintenance projects. Improvements and upkeep projects can be complex and difficult to manage while class is in session. With distance learning, facilities managers are finding plenty of opportunities to get jobs done outside the typical eight- or nine-week summertime window.

COVID-19 fuels introspection

School administrators are looking within to prioritize projects, specifically health and wellness improvements. HVAC system upgrades are top of mind for many. The forced air infrastructure in schools works overtime to deliver clean air to classrooms, study areas, cafeterias, gyms, and offices. Unfortunately, HVAC is likely one of the most under-maintained, antiquated systems in a school. According to a recent study by Lawrence Berkeley and UC Davis, only ~15% of classrooms in California meet the state’s ventilation standards for schools. Empty school rooms mean facilities managers can orchestrate much-needed updates and maintenance.

There’s also the future to consider. COVID-19 has forever marked how education is delivered. We’ll likely see ongoing sanitization standards and public health measures to help keep schools open if another crisis hits.

Now is the perfect time for schools to install hand sanitation and washing stations, realign floor layouts to accommodate social distancing, when needed, and create new facility protocols that foster health and safety for students and staff. That also can mean creating new strategies for teaching and how they affect the physical learning environment.

Highlight referendum projects

School closings are a prime opportunity for referendum projects. These plans—which have already been funded by taxpayers—are generally large and protracted. They can be disruptive to students when noisy construction work spills over into the school year.

Vacant buildings mean facilities managers can make vast headway-or even complete-bigger buildouts before classes resume. These projects can include everything from gymnasium and auditorium renovations to new campus buildings or the decommissioning of shuttered facilities. Even sport complex and parking lot improvements are more feasible.

Referendum projects across the country are gaining support as distance learning drags on. The Madison County School District in Wisconsin saw more than $350 million approved for school infrastructure in 2020 during the peak of the pandemic. It was not alone. Districts in TexasCaliforniaIllinois, and dozens of other states passed coronavirus-fueled school construction and renovation projects ranging from tens to hundreds of millions of dollars. The bane of distance learning quickly rolled into opportunities for school improvements.

Small improvements matter, too

Those big, taxpayer-funded projects are just a beginning. Now is a perfect time to tackle the backlog of support requests from educators, administrators, and students. When classes are in session, many  repair-or-replace projects are backburnered. It’s not easy to resurface the gym floor when basketball games are scheduled. Nor is repaving the parking lots when spots are filled with student and staff vehicles.

With space to work, facilities managers can divide and conquer to empty the support ticket queue. No cars in the parking lots makes repaving a breeze. Canceled sporting events means a fresh coat of lacquer for the gym floor can dry and cure. Though small in scope, resolving support ticket requests will make a huge difference to teachers and students when classes resume.

The silver lining of distance learning

School facility projects accomplished during COVID-19 come with a greater sense of purpose. Instead of a race against the clock to complete projects before students return to class, administrators can focus on coordinating projects from a value standpoint. It means looking at improvements and maintenance from a long-term benefits perspective, as opposed to strictly a cost-benefit or time-sensitive approach. It’s not “Which projects will be less disruptive to students?”; it’s “Which projects will deliver the most benefits?”

This opportunity for improvement to school facilities spans every type of institution—from K-8 to high school to college campuses and even satellite learning centers. When the bell rings and students come back to class after the long hiatus, they’ll find themselves in a learning environment that makes that return seamless. It may not be the school they left, but it’ll be one they can learn to love.

Keep reading: Facilities Management Software for Schools

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Workplace Thought Leadership

Technology Drives Safer Back-to-School Efforts Amidst COVID-19

By Ian Morley
Chief Product Officer
SpaceIQ

What is your new student capacity under social distancing?

This simple question can flummox even the most seasoned campus planner or school district facilities specialist. Many smaller universities and larger school districts don’t have a ready way to access this information, which can complicate efforts to ensure a safe school year.

With an integrated workplace management system (IWMS), education leaders can uncover important insights about their space inventory. This data empowers schools to quickly identify, modify, and repurpose square footage to satisfy COVID guidelines while supporting student learning needs.

Establish Usable Square Footage

Understanding revised building and classroom capacity based on COVID-19 impacts is a unique challenge. It’s not a simple mathematical formula run on a spreadsheet. Space planners need to aggregate data from multiple buildings across an entire district or campus. Educational leaders depend on accurate insights in order to safely bring back students—yet many do not have a system that can collect and analyze this important information.

The process starts with establishing a precise overview of your school’s space inventory. You need to know what type of space you have, how much square footage it contains, where it is located, and its condition. Even the American College Health Association (ACHA) recommends ascertaining “allowable occupancy in order to control workflow and/or establish maximum attendance.” But without being able to view space inventory in an easy-to-digest format, schooler planners have a difficult time implementing social distancing.

And it’s not just classroom spaces—schools are appropriating rooms that were once gathering areas and turning them into learning zones. Ancillary areas like gymnasiums, auditoriums, theater stages, and music rooms are prime spots to spread out students. Even a cafeteria can be transformed into a classroom under these circumstances. This strategy is echoed by the ACHA, which encourages schools to “post maximum occupancy in common break areas and configure to accommodate appropriate physical distancing.” This information is not only essential for applying physical distancing but also tracking areas that require sterilization and disinfection.

Real-World Education Applications

Bob Lawn, a CAFM Specialist with California’s Long Beach Unified School District, oversees 87 sites. His experience implementing social distancing underscores some of the unexpected complications that can arise. His department used a 20% reduction of classroom capacity to account for shelving, cabinets, etc. and estimate the usable classroom space across the district, which resulted in a decrease of students from 30 to 16. To gain a more accurate percentage, he calculated each room’s usable square footage by subtracting space occupied by woodwork, desks, and shelves.

“By making the necessary calculations in Archibus, we established that each student needs 46 square feet. That’s when we had to start thinking about alternative spaces beyond traditional classrooms. So we ran an analysis for spaces over 100 square feet to give us a new list of learning areas to work with,” Lawn explained.

Michael Chambers, a design and construction project manager for St. John’s University, ran into the same challenge of calculating class capacity. He stresses that it’s not enough to assume seat count will be reduced by a fixed 30%. For example, an architectural feature like a column could easily affect the layout.

“We also needed to locate all common spaces on campus, especially since they will likely be empty through the fall. Using the [Archibus] Space Console solution, we could determine if those areas have the appropriate infrastructure, such as HVAC and electric, to accommodate a classroom or online learning resource,” said Chambers.

Locate and Mitigate Hot Spots

In addition to classrooms, COVID-19 is forcing modifications for faculty and support staff spaces. Everything from break rooms and reception areas to benching and shared offices need to be scrutinized for exposure risks. It is imperative to quickly identify where people are in close quarters and what solutions can reduce risk in these hot spots.

For example, new features in Archibus V25.2 allow users to put a 6-foot radius around each desk to determine where there are conflicts. This provides an accurate list of people who need to be moved. In many cases, layout modifications aren’t feasible because campus space is already near capacity pre-COVID.

“Based on the insights from Archibus, we decided to implement shift schedules for departments,” Chambers explained. “We classify spaces as essential, reservable, and work shifts. Now we have reservable spaces for touchdown spots, rotating schedules, and every day seats.”

Both Chambers and Lawn leveraged data from an IWMS to run space scenarios. Without this type of software, however, they would be forced to use spreadsheets, manual measurements, and other cumbersome methods—none of which ultimately provide the critical insights schools are depending on to modify their layouts.

“These tools are allowing us to solve needs,” Chambers stressed. “This has been essential to us feeling prepared and ready to welcome faculty, students, and admin back to some form of normal. We can leverage our data to answer and solve tough questions in preparation for reopening.”

Keep reading: What is a Smart IWMS and What are its Features?