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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

COVID-19 Workplace Health Screening Questions

By Nai Kanell
Vice President of Marketing
SpaceIQ

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