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Workplace Thought Leadership

Hybrid and Smart: Building the Workplaces of the Future 

By Michael Picini
Senior Executive Director
Cognitive Corp.

Now, perhaps more than ever, employers are seeking to enhance their approach to the workplace experience. They are embracing new trends, such as hybrid structures and smart buildings, to create what we like to call “digital workplace euphoria.”

Euphoria may seem like hyperbole, but happy employees make for successful businesses. We’re not talking about amenities like ping pong tables, free Friday lunches, and in-office theaters. The goal of a euphoric workplace is to transform barely there connected offices to intelligent, autonomous ecosystems that empower employees to their most productive and efficient while maintaining healthy work-life balances.

Research indicates that we are seeing much more of a radical change among companies reacting to the workplace trends. Leaders in companies may not respond to every human or occupant need, but certainly, they are reacting to create a more automated workplace for agile teams. One part of the “why” for proactive movement toward hybrid agile is the long-term impact on business.

Many companies are going through significant financial losses due to COVID-19. How companies navigate digital disruption will likely affect their revenues and future operations. During the crisis of the companies who saw a 25% growth in the revenues 72% were first to experiment with new technologies. As well, 67% of those companies invested more in digital-related expenditures, according to a 2020 report by McKinsey. The companies that had not taken steps are electing to embrace the productivity associated with remote work to help them recoup those costs of not doing so in the past.

Certain financial dependencies, like expiring office leases and stakeholder pressures, are pushing companies to make an immediate decision on how to proceed with digital based investments to create work environments conducive to agile work, from anywhere. According to a Gartner survey, 38% of tech, media, and telecom business leaders (and 26% of leaders across all represented industries) reported plans to reduce their real estate footprint by, for example, closing retail locations. Gartner also reported that 74% of CFOs and finance leaders at least 5% of their previously on-site workforce to permanently remote positions after COVID-19.

Why Companies Choose to Go Hybrid

Remote and hybrid work is not new, but it certainly hasn’t been as widespread as it is now. According to a Microsoft report, some professions have been trending toward remote work since the oil crisis of the 1970s that resulted in substantially higher commuting and automotive costs. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic drove a “profound increase in the magnitude and speed of the shift toward remote work, with 88% of organizations from around the world surveyed in March [2020] reporting that they were encouraging employees to work from home,” the report noted. More than a third of U.S. workers transitioned to remote or hybrid work between March and April 2020 alone.

Aside from the long-term impact on fiscal reports, this mass transition away from the confines of a 9-to-5 physical office is the other part of the “why” for companies looking to improve three key facets of the digital workplace: people, space, and technology.

The Workplace Mantra: People, Space, and Technology

Creating an environment for employees – or an investor’s case, tenants – that elicits a sense of euphoria is challenging but not impossible. How are companies tackling the digital workplace? There are three elements of an optimized workplace that one should consider.

The first starts with people. People form the community within an organization that will serve as the litmus test for successful digital workplace implementation.

The second element is technology, which acts as the catalyst for change and encompasses each tier of the Smart Building Maturity Model. Most buildings fall somewhere in between the connected and intelligent spaces of the model. From the Internet of Things (IoT) to artificial intelligence (AI), the infrastructure created by technology ultimately makes up the third element of an enhanced workplace: space.

Space doesn’t always refer to a physical location; it relates to the context in which people are working. Space can mean a geographically distributed footprint, flexible hoteling and co-working spaces within your organization, or a scalable real estate portfolio that allows you to set your physical and virtual space settings in a manner that best suits your internal method of operating.

Georgia-Pacific (GP) is one company that has fully embraced all three spheres of the optimized workplace, and by the way is one of the companies that experimented with digital based agile work long before the COVID-19 crisis. The Atlanta-based maker of paper, packaging, building products, and related chemicals resides in an iconic office tower. In the first major renovation since the company occupied the tower in 1982, GP aimed to achieve “optimal integration, functionality, cost and efficiency among the various systems throughout each floor – lighting, HVAC, audio-visual and room scheduling systems,” according to a company press release. The digital building transformation included an Internet of Things (IoT) foundation that resulted in economically feasible, purposeful automation carefully constructed for GP’s user base.

GP reported that the building uses “bio-dynamic (circadian) lighting in the office and collaboration areas, driven by network-connected lighting management. [GP] will respond to peak electrical demands by adjusting building systems. The interconnected system allows the company to collect accurate, real-time data to understand how the space is used, improve employee productivity and satisfaction, and increase real estate investment.”

Along with commercial offices, hospitality and education are two other industries that are exceptionally receptive to similar methods of in-house automation. Fortunately, platforms offered by companies like SpaceIQ offer businesses of all sizes and types of options to create digital workplaces that support agility and flexibility.

Hybrid Strategies for Working “Smart” and Hard

For many companies, leveraging hybrid strategies starts with creating smart buildings and workplaces.

Smart building(s) – both as a verb and a noun – is a partner of hybrid workplaces at the heart of the “next normal” regarding the future of work. Over the last year, companies worldwide have experienced a rapid shift to long-term hybrid and/or remote environments. From Human Resources (HR) to Information Technology (IT) to Marketing and beyond, the functional teams within these organizations are being driven to review their existing work practices and confirm that they align with employees’ current needs.

For some companies, this process may feel like an uncertain scramble – but it shouldn’t.

This moment presents an opportunity for organizations to revise their digital framework and create an even better workplace experience – one that encourages a positive return-to-office transition after a yearlong hiatus or, for remote and hybrid workers, a structure that compels them to engage virtually. Smart building is critical for both employees and executives to tap into the human side of work and reach peak satisfaction in the process of doing so.

As a company specializing in “smart building,” Cognitive Corp is at the forefront of researching and analyzing workplace trends and technologies that impact commercial real estate (CRE) teams.

So, what do we mean by “smart building?” In a word, automation.

Smart building implies that a company has a built-in infrastructure to automate as many day-to-day and long-term tasks as possible. Infrastructure can include IT and networks, HVAC, lighting, time-tracking, scheduling, and anything in between that has a digital footprint.

A key strategy is to distribute the levels of automation and smart building into four tiers on a visual pyramid called the Smart Building Maturity Model. This model helps companies prioritize based on current needs and future growth:

  • Connected Building: Connected building forms the foundation at the bottom of the pyramid. Most companies fall into this category, which includes basic IT networks and the commonplace technology you’d find in a standard office.
  • Intelligent Building: With system integration, energy efficiency, and building automation, intelligent building is what most companies strive for in their next-level smart building process. It can lead to more unified collaboration, better asset management, and streamlined workspace and remote services.
  • Smart Building: The core of the pyramid. Smart building includes open architecture, occupant interaction predictive analytics, which contributes to human centric workplace metrics, on-demand services, big data, and more elements of building intelligence. The future of work is already here, and smart building should be a consideration for most companies.
  • Cognitive Building: At the pinnacle of the pyramid we’ll find cognitive building. Here, machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), and robotics are the vital pieces that drive building automation. While most non-technological companies do not aim for this high-level tier, we believe it’s still essential knowledge to know all the possibilities within the realm of intelligent architecture.

Data-driven Insights to Support the Hybrid Workplace

The digital workplace focuses on the occupant’s experience within a technological ecosystem. A successful digital workplace supports the human-centric side of corporate initiatives. Different personas within the commercial real estate industry will perform unique functions depending on their role in their organization. However, all roles utilize metrics to inform the progress of their digital transformation.

For individual roles, here are some items to consider:

  • Commercial Real Estate and Facilities Managers: Individuals entrusted with managing facilities should articulate workplace values about the broader business. This includes adapting to change, especially as it relates to the physical space. Your growth mindset should shift from fixed to fluid.
  • Workplace Professionals: As a workplace professional, try to develop strategies and tactics that support agile, flexible workplaces and employee experiences. Consider the wider range of knowledge available to you, beyond just “physical office” and “working from home.”

Workplace Euphoria is Frictionless

An agile, flexible workplace is no longer an option for most businesses; it is a requirement. Baseline metrics allow companies to see how initiatives eliminate employee and occupant stress during times of uncertainty, deliver on diversity, equity, and inclusion commitments, improve operational efficiency, and make remote work, workable.

Additionally, metrics shed light into the onboarding of new technologies, security automation, and workplace productivity. Workplace analytics provide a 360-degree view of any misaligned technology expectations. Embracing technology to create agility and flexibility in return to the workplace can result in euphoria for employers and employees.

Keep reading: What Are Smart Workplace Solutions?

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Workplace Thought Leadership

IWMS Technology and the Modern Workplace 

By Nick Stefanidakis
General Manager, Archibus
SpaceIQ

Rapid workplace changes and the emergence of cutting-edge technologies are ushering in new facilities management trends. They also are shedding light on the benefits of adopting Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS) technology to scale and support both short-term transitions and long-term transformations.

The lasting impacts of the pandemic, demands for connectivity and collaboration, adoption of cloud-based applications, machine learning, and a focus on sustainability are sure to have far-reaching effects on workplaces worldwide. Businesses that find opportunities to embrace these trends will be better prepared to make data-driven decisions, improve performance, and achieve new standards of success in facilities management.

Planning for long-term workplace resilience

As agile work environments increasingly define the “new normal,” we will likely see substantial changes in workspace requirements.

The prospect of returning to physical workspaces has renewed attention on prioritizing employee health and safety. Things that employees and businesses may not have thought twice about before — air circulation, sanitization practices, access to communal spaces, traffic patterns — weigh more heavily as workforces reemerge from stay-at-home orders. New health and safety requirements will demand that organizations take these factors into account.

While some have deployed interim return-to-work solutions (hoteling and desk reservations, updated cleaning protocols, adopting remote management solutions, staggering schedules), others are reassessing overall workplace strategies as they shift from reactive to forward-thinking resiliency planning.

Organizations now need a long-term strategy for facility management, supported by workplace management technology that offers flexibility and scalability for remote, in-person, and hybrid work setups. A centralized, enterprise-wide IWMS enables teams to standardize workflows, reduce duplication, provide transparency with real-time information shared among teams (e.g., badging and health check-in data), and ultimately make more collaborative decisions.

A renewed focus on collaboration and employee engagement

Gone are the days where every employee comes to work, sits in the same seat, and leaves with coworkers at the end of the day. Now, more offices are refocusing workspaces as socialization and collaboration hubs. Employees, visitors, and others coming into the workplace need convenient, reliable ways to ensure they have the spaces needed to work in ways that are best for them. IWMS technology offers insights for businesses and building owners/operators into whether they need to increase hotel desk reservations or implement desk-sharing setups — all while providing safe and engaging spaces.

Hybrid work setups boost SaaS adoption

More hybrid workers mean people need anytime/anywhere access to critical systems and information. Stemming from this demand is an emerging trend: facilities management shifting from on-premises to SaaS-based implementation.

Organizations are investing more in cloud enterprise applications due to ease of deployment, configurability, and scalability. When COVID-19 forced many businesses to adopt remote work setups, real estate, and facilities teams with cloud applications already in place quickly adapted to changing conditions and seamlessly accessed critical business information. Others were left scrambling.

While it was a tough lesson, organizations can learn from such disruptions and invest in technology that helps predict change and evolves to meet new work structures. SaaS-based IWMS applications empower key stakeholders to make faster data-driven decisions, automate business processes, and deliver on mobile needs.

Look for trends in workspace usage patterns

Machine learning in building management has been gaining traction in recent years. It delivers efficiencies in predictive maintenance and real-time workplace management that help manage costs and provide optimal work environments.

Developments such as the Internet of Things (IoT), advanced analytics, and new wireless sensors are a few ways companies are creating smarter facilities management.

Smart building solutions use a range of sensors or actuators — light, motion, building occupancy — to collect data from connected devices. Information is then stored in an IWMS. Continuous monitoring lets facilities managers identify changes or inefficiencies in building usage, system performance or environmental conditions and establish triggers for maintenance or control systems.

When combined with an IWMS, massive amounts of IoT data can be aggregated into a dashboard for meaningful insights. This not only de-silos critical workplace data, but also highlights identifiable trends and patterns for strategic future workplace planning.

Using data to plan, design, construct, and manage facilities

Building information modeling (BIM) and its integration with IWMS technology is a new approach to managing the many phases of building design and workplace management. BIM centers around 3D modeling programs that provide a customized simulation of an actual facility. The rendering, when combined with IoT and Machine Learning represents a digital twin of the building, which allows users to virtually move through a space and observe its features, dimensions, and operating parameters — from anywhere. Such technology offers nearly infinite possibilities to help professionals plan, design, construct, and manage facilities. The volume of BIM data and the context of the data stored within an IWMS is so useful, and the more stakeholders leverage these insights, the more they’ll enable fully informed decision-making.

Optimizing building usage and consumption

It’s all too common to waste energy in a building in the form of incorrect setpoints, poor maintenance or simple oversights — not turning off lights in conference rooms after a meeting, keeping rarely used equipment plugged in, etc.

While steps like switching out light bulbs or installing new HVAC systems are necessary, they may not deliver the long-lasting results you’re hoping for.

A more impactful solution is using IWMS technology to optimize usage and consumption across building systems and real estate portfolios aligned to the actual, real-time conditions. This empowers building owners and facilities managers to anticipate, troubleshoot, and manage issues as they arise. An IWMS also enables smarter operations that can reconcile the entire range of optimal sustainability performance metrics.

Addressing long-term transformations

As the adoption of IWMS technology grows, so does its potential to play a critical role in supporting workplaces for years to come. Trends in IWMS are pointing toward a future that provides extensive and essential support to facilities managers, building occupiers, service providers, owners/operators, and real estate management companies to organize, centralize, and optimize workplace data at all levels — from individual workstations to entire real estate portfolios. It’s with such insights that they can make the best decisions to address current challenges and anticipate future needs. For more information, read our guide on Modern Workplace Platforms.

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

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Blog

The Pros and Cons of Hybrid Workplaces

By Devon Maresco
Content Strategy Specialist
SpaceIQ

In the same way open offices and coworking did before it, the concept of hybrid workplaces has changed how people work. Just like these past revolutionary work concepts, it’s important we take the time to assess the pros and cons of hybrid workplaces. As they gain momentum companies and their employees need to understand the benefits, drawbacks, opportunities, and pitfalls associated with this new form of work.

A recap of hybrid workspaces

A hybrid workplace consists of both in-house employees and remote workers who work together as a distributed team. The hybrid workspace can take many forms as it pertains to a physical space. For example, many businesses adopted a hoteling model to accommodate an unknown daily capacity of in-house employees. Other companies evolved into more agile work environments that allow in-house workers to more easily adapt different workspaces based on their needs.

The advantages and disadvantages of the hybrid work model come from not only the structure of the workplace itself, but in how remote and on-site employees collaborate. While these solutions can vary across companies, the fundamentals of a hybrid model remain the same. Let’s look at the pros and cons.

The positives powering hybrid work

As you might expect from a new work model that’s quickly defined the professional landscape, there’s a lot to love about hybrid work. The benefits of hybrid work are many, for both employees and employers alike.

For employees, the biggest benefit of hybrid work is flexibility. Whether they work in-house, from home, or split their time between the two, a hybrid workplace supports them. It’s meant to bridge all gaps between different work styles, so a person can accomplish their job regardless of setting. This is especially important for companies scheduling on rolling shifts.

This seamless working experience goes all the way down to the workspace level. Hybrid work demands workspaces as flexible as the concept. Hotel desks, hot desks, breakout spaces, and the like are all essential in a supportive hybrid workplace. More than keeping the concept functional, they further promote employees to work in the fashion that best fits their needs.

From an employer standpoint, hybrid work offers powerful optimization opportunities. For example, ratio desking allows companies to operate with fewer desks than total employees, without depriving people of the space they need. Likewise, a dramatic shift to remote work and force portfolio consolidation, which can free up significant cash flow otherwise tied up in overhead.

These examples add up to some key, specific benefits that make hybrid workplaces a long-term prospect for today’s dynamic workforce:

  • Offers the best of both on-site and off-site accessibility for employees
  • Improves flexibility, agility, and optionality of the workplace
  • More effective use and utilization of spaces and workstations
  • Saved workplace and facility costs through more efficient use of space
  • Improved employee experience, which can influence and improve culture
  • Access to a broader talent pool when hiring or expanding

Negatives to beware of in hybrid workplaces

There are still a few kinks in the hybrid model that companies need to work through. It’s a proven, reliable solution to distributed teams and workforces, but there are some key drawbacks that can cause complications if not accounted for.

The biggest is lack of oversight. With some working remotely and those in-office employees flitting between different areas and workstations, companies give up a traditional sense of control. This is okay, so long as there’s a guiding hand to help employees develop good habits and understand new expectations. Social-emotional competency is vital for management, and good systems for communication are imperative.

Distractions are also something to be aware of. Employees used to the traditional work model of one desk and one task could find themselves both easily distracted and/or unsure of how to stay on-task. Companies can support these individuals with thoughtful workspace design and encourage employees to adapt their habits, rather than abandon them.

Finally, there need to be systems for bridging in-house to remote in all senses of the concept. Employee-to-employee communication. Access to , files, and technologies. The connection needs to be robust. Outside of employee preference, there can’t be any factors that make working in-house or remote any better than the alternative. Companies need to be mindful as they level the playing field, while simultaneously raising it.

Again, these examples add up to some clear-cut pitfalls. The good news is, many of them are avoidable with thoughtful design and management of hybrid workplaces:

  • More difficult to communicate in real-time, especially between distributed teams
  • Access to technology and applications may differ from office to home
  • Employees may find it difficult to adapt or develop new habits
  • Employees may feel alienated if not supported in their choice of work style
  • Hybrid requires more processes of control to allow for freedoms in work

Why the hybrid model is here to stay

Simply put: because the benefits of the hybrid workplace outweigh the potential negatives. That and the fact that, for some employees, there’s no going back to a centralized workplace. Companies might’ve adopted a hybrid work model out of necessity due to the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s one that’s going to far outlast it as the new way to accommodate everyone unique work styles and preferences.

Keep Reading: Hybrid Workplaces are the Future of Work

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Blog

Hybrid Workplaces are the Future of Work

By Devon Maresco
Marketing Coordinator
SpaceIQ

More people than ever before are working remotely. But not everyone is logging in from a home office. Some people still prefer the structure of a physical workplace, and will gladly get up and go to one each day. The result of this duality is a hybrid workplace: one that supports both remote and on-site employees. It’s a concept that pre-dated COVID-19, but came to fruition largely because of it. Now, hybrid workplaces are here to stay.

Forced to make it work during the pandemic, companies and their employees have begun to get their bearings and figure things out. Patchwork fixes, stopgaps, and workarounds have congealed into new processes and permanent solutions that allow remote workers to be as productive as their in-office counterparts. Better still, the adoption of a hybrid work model has given time for distributed teams to learn to work together.

Hybrid workplaces are still in flux, but they’re becoming a much more permanent reality. What’s certain is their staying power. Now that people can work the way that is best for them, there’s no going back.

What is the hybrid workplace?

A hybrid office supports both in-house and remote employees at the same time, and offers flexibility for ebb and flow between these two work styles. It’s a concept that encompasses both physical and digital workspaces, as well.

The goal of the hybrid workplace is to support every work style and every employee—especially when these variables are inconsistent. Can Sanjay work effectively in-house today and continue his work tomorrow from home? If Marsha usually works from home and needs to come back in-house for a week, will she find the work environment she needs? These questions—and dozens more like them—are what facility managers ask as they plan for the new norm of flex work.

Hybrid workplaces can take many forms and feature many systems of governance. Hoteling is the most popular because it offers checks and balances companies can use to manage their workers, yet still offers employees optionality. Other hybrid examples include hot desks, desk neighborhoods, flex spaces, and more. No matter how it’s comprised, the hybrid workspace is one that’s wholly supportive of every employee’s work style.

Why are hybrid workspaces quickly becoming the new norm for companies big and small? It’s because there are benefits for employees and businesses alike.

How does the hybrid office affect employees?

For employees, the hybrid office offers a seamless experience that’s conducive to flex work styles. In-house or remote, single work or group work, no matter the variables, the hybrid office delivers.

  • Employees have the option to choose their workspace or desk type
  • Freedom of movement in the office makes transitioning between tasks easier
  • Mobility makes it easier for employees to work independent or as a group
  • More autonomy for employees can result in better work habits and practices
  • Employees feel empowered to make decisions about how or when they work
  • The transition between in-office and at-home work is more fluid and simpler

The bottom line on hybrid office benefits for employees is more freedom and the ability to work comfortably. Whether they work at home, in-office, or split their time, they’ll have the support they need to do their best work at all times.

How does the hybrid work model affect businesses?

On the business side, a hybrid work model offers an abundance of cost-saving benefits, as well as management opportunities that improve workspace utilization. Some of the core benefits of a well-run hybrid workplace include:

  • Better space utilization and reclamation of unused space from traditional desking
  • More productive workforce that feels supported and trusted in their work style
  • Improved workplace safety during times of disruption (illness, renovations, etc.)
  • Fewer disruptions to work caused by an inflexible workplace concept
  • Saved costs associated with less strain on or demand for unnecessary facilities
  • Opportunities to cultivate a more modern, inclusive culture and workforce

The practical benefits of hybrid workplaces for businesses become evident in gains to productivity, the bottom line, and the company culture. Less rigidity in the business model opens the door for more flexible avenues of growth.

Hybrid workplaces will continue to evolve

We haven’t figured out hybrid workplaces completely yet, but we’re further along than we were at the outset of the pandemic. As new processes connect remote workers to on-site staff, the hybrid workplace will continue to evolve. Hybrid workplaces offer plenty of opportunity for adaptation, which is a boon to businesses and employees alike. Embracing a hybrid concept may well be what enables businesses to remain nimble in the face of future hardship or—perish the thought—another pandemic.

Keep reading: 8 Apps for Remote Workers Productivity and Success

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Workplace Thought Leadership

The Rise of Hoteling During the COVID Era

By Nai Kanell
Vice President of Marketing
SpaceIQ

Well before the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) forever changed global markets, many business owners discovered the strategic value of workplace hoteling—a workplace management process that allows employees, visitors, and guests to search for and reserve a workspace (desk, cubicle, phone booth, etc.) for a specified period of time.

COVID-19 forced most business owners to shut down as the pandemic spread. But like most crises, the danger died down enough for office doors to reopen. As employees return to work, employers are enacting guidelines meant to keep workers as safe as possible: social distancing, intense cleaning, and contact tracing.

Add hoteling to that mix. The days of sitting shoulder-to-shoulder at desks are over—for now. Hoteling has gone from a helpful workplace tool to a necessary precaution amid COVID-19. The use of hotel desks—alongside measures such as staggered work shifts and adjusted layouts—allow companies to better manage who sits where and when.

From Office Management to Virus Prevention

Hoteling isn’t a new concept by any means, but it has taken on a new role in 2020 and beyond. For more than 20 years, hotel desks—and the technology that governs them—has been helping companies move from standard to flexible layouts. In an activity-based workplace, employees have the freedom to work in a spot that best suits the task at hand. They can simply reserve a desk at the beginning of the day and have confidence there is a seat with their digital name waiting for them. Since COVID-19 has shifted the way we can safely work in the office, hoteling has morphed into a social distancing strategy.

Hoteling combats the risk of COVID-19 on multiple fronts. One major area it helps control is density. In a pre-COVID world, a density of 200 employees was perfectly normal. Now only half of that is permissible. But do you really want dozens of people back on the first day? The right amount is realistically around 20 people, with incremental increases every week thereafter. Or you might implement shift days with a set number of employees.

This is important as back-to-work waves may be subject to fluctuations. Hoteling is one solution that can be employed to have an accurate headcount in real time. “Facility managers will be reliant on proptech sensors for managing real-time data on the crowds within buildings and alerts that signify if too many people are in one place at one time,” according to an article in Facility Executive.

Hoteling is also being repurposed for practical considerations such as cleaning. Without a booking audit, how do you determine which desks have been occupied and need a deep cleaning every day? The CDC’s guidelines for office buildings state “at least daily, clean and disinfect all surfaces that are frequently touched by multiple people,” including workstations. Hoteling shows at a glance which areas have been reserved and thus require disinfection. Janitorial teams can prioritize which surfaces need attention, especially as sanitizing requires more contact time to kill germs and bacteria.

Organizations can also lean on hoteling to assist with contact tracing. Identifying a COVID-19 case and investigating its possible path of transmission was once the domain of public health departments, but now businesses must fold this process into their operations. The CDC notes that “prompt identification, voluntary isolation or quarantine, and monitoring of a person diagnosed with COVID-19 and their contacts can effectively break the chain of disease transmission and prevent further spread of the virus.” With hoteling, workplace managers have records of exactly where a person sat and who was also in that vicinity.

Technology makes it more efficient for companies to monitor employee movement and enact COVID-19 protocols when needed. For example, SVLive—a SpaceIQ product—converts existing wifi and wired networks into thousands of smart sensors. The system shows what devices are active and who’s logged in and where. This real-time data allows businesses to quickly address possible COVID-19 transmissions within a highly secure network safeguarded by MQTT and HTTPS protocols (both use SSL X.509 certificates).

The Human Side of Hoteling

Having the right technology is critical to managing return-to-work and ensuring the greatest possible safety. But hoteling is far more than a reservation system—it’s actually your secret weapon to preserving productivity during these stressful times. Hoteling empowers employees at all levels to focus on priority tasks.

For example, a space planner can use hoteling to create pre approved zones, which effectively limits where people can work. This approach provides full control over which seats are reservable and which aren’t. Hoteling eliminates possible confusion about which desks are open, thus reinforcing social distancing. Employees will have reassurance that there’s a dedicated seat waiting for them as well as an understanding of where colleagues are booked.

One of the most important benefits of hoteling is that it offers employees a feeling of safety. Remember that a desk reservation is just one piece of essential information they need to process. Hoteling can go a long way toward diminishing anxiety with returning to the office. In fact, that’s imperative, according to the National Safety Council. It advises using respect and transparency to counter employee worry. Hoteling shows that your company is taking active measures to protect their safety.

Keep reading: What is Hoteling and Should You be Using it?

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Workplace Thought Leadership

Back-to-Work Planning & Employee Sentiment

By Nai Kanell
Vice President of Marketing
SpaceIQ

Going to the office has drastically changed, and that makes workplace policy and facility management more complex. While you’re implementing new safety measures such as social distancing, mask wearing, and disinfecting, don’t forget to include employee sentiment as part of your back-to-work plan.

Employee sentiment matters because this is also a stressful time for employees, and you need to establish trust as they return to work. Generally speaking, stress negatively affects physical and mental health, turnover and absenteeism rates, productivity and motivation, morale and complaints, and even on-site accidents. The world is dealing with collective trauma, and your back-to-work plans can exacerbate or diminish those challenges.

Employees understand that the coronavirus is dangerous. They may be familiar with well-documented cases of workplace infection and feel vulnerable to catching the virus or spreading it to others. They may worry that they are putting their lives on the line to come to work. Listen to their concerns and ideas and take them into consideration when you make your back-to-work plans. When you ask them to risk coming into the office, your actions should reassure your employees that you’re worthy of their trust and that you’re working to reduce that risk.

Employee Sentiment Matters

Your hard work and good intentions for reentry planning won’t mean much if those plans don’t match employee needs. In a recent Future Workplace survey, employee experience ranked first among 50% of HR and business leaders as their top initiative for 2020. Since a high percentage of employees are anxious about returning to work, employers can’t afford to ignore employee sentiment.

Most employees feel job-related stress at least some of the time. When you add in COVID-19-related challenges, the stress may be difficult to manage. Although you may think you are doing an excellent job following CDC guidelines or even going beyond recommendations, that may not be enough for some employees, especially those with health concerns or extra COVID-19-related responsibilities.

Unlike momentary stress such as a looming deadline or an important presentation, COVID-19 stress is chronic, unrelenting, and can directly impact the workplace. It’s safe to assume your employees will be stressed at least some of the time. They may experience physical and emotional symptoms of their stress.

Although most remote workers continue to be productive at home, three factors (in addition to safety and security) influence well-being and work effectiveness: trusting relationships, social cohesion, and individual effectiveness. Employees who feel they can share their experiences and concerns without repercussions will feel safer in the workplace, and this can positively impact performance.  It’s not just about creating a physically safe working environment. You also need to create an emotionally safe workplace.

A cookie-cutter approach won’t suit everyone’s needs. If you listen to your employees and respond appropriately, they will appreciate your efforts. They will remember that you cared about them and their needs during a crisis, which can earn you employee loyalty and trust for years to come.

Gauging Employee Sentiment

You can create both formal and informal listening opportunities. The easiest way to get a lot of information quickly is to use workplace reentry surveys. Surveys make it easy for employees to respond quickly and to do so at their own convenience.

Start by gathering feedback about four main areas:

  • Physical Workplace: social distancing, mask wearing and enforcement, cleaning/hygiene, health screenings and contact tracing, ventilation
  • Remote Working: IT support, software/hardware issues, communication, manager oversight, performance and expectations
  • Work-Life Balance: personal health concerns, child care, homeschooling, elder care, household unemployment/illness, anxiety/depression, trust in management
  • HR Policies: compensation, access to FFRCA funds, sick leave, bereavement leave, vacation days, health insurance (including contract/part-time workers)

It’s critical to assess what employees know and how they feel. Do they understand your policies? Are they aware of your efforts to promote safety? Are they doing well emotionally? Do they feel safe confiding their concerns? Doing so will allow you to determine if you have been communicating well and whether your employees believe your workplace is a physically and emotionally safe place to work.

Listen to Your Employees

Even when you implement safety measures, it may not be enough for all your employees to feel safe. This holds true nationally, where one survey shows that fewer than half of employees say safety measures like social distancing will make them feel more comfortable returning to work.

Whether you’re gathering data from surveys or personal interviews, communication will help employees learn more about their individual circumstances, some of which may affect work. An employee living with medically fragile people, for example, may be more cautious than others. A parent with elementary-aged children may appreciate flexible hours.

Survey data can provide valuable insight. You can use sample employee sentiment surveys or create your own using survey software or Google forms.

You may also want to interview your employees individually and institute an open-door policy. Listening closely can help you understand your employees’ needs and circumstances. Interviews can provide qualitative data that surveys miss and allow you to ask follow-up questions. Through your actions, you can show your empathy and help your employees trust that you care about them.

Communicate Early and Often

In a rapidly changing environment, emotions are strong. Uncertainty and change are hotbeds for anxiety, stress, and depression. Keep your employees informed of situations both inside and outside the workplace to provide reassurance. Even if it’s bad news, employees will respond better to the truth, especially when it’s delivered early. They will grow to trust you as a source of accurate information, and employees will appreciate extra planning time when you give them advance notice of changes.

Don’t forget employee  mental health. Help them recognize the signs of stress and provide resources for mental health aids and intervention. Inform them about your workplace’s mental health benefits and hotlines. Consider virtual socializing opportunities to help employees connect with each other. Refer employees to mental health apps that can help manage anxiety. Cultivate a safe place for employees to share their concerns.

Above all, keep the lines of communication open. It’s particularly important for remote employees to maintain a strong connection with the office. Whether you use email, task management software, apps, and/or other tools, maintain IT support and use the same tools consistently so that you and your employees can respond quickly if a crisis arises.

Sometimes, bad news is inevitable. Your decisions may be unpopular. Even when you try to be as flexible as possible, some situations are beyond your control. When you communicate your decision-making process, show that you’ve taken employee concerns into consideration. Modeling honesty and transparency will help your employees do the same with you, and this will help you create a better employee experience.

The COVID-19 situation is difficult for everyone at the office. When you’re planning workplace reentry, risk and uncertainty can create high levels of anxiety in an already stressful situation. If you take the time to listen to employees, gauging employee sentiment will help you create an effective, responsive back-to-work plan, and build a higher level of communication and trust.

Keep reading: 10 Tips for a Safe Return to the Workplace

Categories
Workplace Thought Leadership

Work From Home: Not a Forever Option

By Nai Kanell
Vice President of Marketing
SpaceIQ

As articles continue to show that company after company believes it is a good idea to embrace employees working 100% remote, an uncomfortable thought sinks in. What if SpaceIQ followed Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s vow to let his employees work from home “forever?”

There are organizations like Gitlab that have been successful in 100% remote work. However, it’s a tech company and employees knew what they were getting into when they signed on. I doubt healthcare, banking, or manufacturing could ever move to 100% work from home (WFH). But what about a SaaS company like SpaceIQ, or its owner ArchibusSerraview?

I am a proponent of remote working to some degree because it allows you to source the best talent and, ultimately, create a workforce culture that supports flexibility. Before COVID-19, employees weren’t pushing for 100% remote working. We wanted flexibility in our work schedules and accommodation from our employers. There are some of us who’d like to start later in the day because “productivity” and “morning” aren’t compatible. And what about parents who need to drop kids off at school after the start of “normal” work hours? The list goes on: put in a day’s work even when we’re sick; save a PTO day for a real vacation, not watching a plumber fix the water heater.

We’re asking for freedom to work when we want, how it is best for our productivity, and where we can get the job done while supporting our teams.

There are many disadvantages to 100% WFH—excluding mandated remote work due to COVID-19. Here are 10 reasons to think “flexibility” instead of “entirely” when it comes to WFH.

  1. Home Not-So-Sweet Home. As commercial real estate becomes more expensive, residential real estate is following suit. Some people buy just enough home to accommodate their families. Outside of that, they may not desire more space. So, when COVID-19 forced the world to shelter in place, many of us were unprepared to do so. We jimmy rigged ironing boards into makeshift standing desks. Many of us don’t have a spare bedroom for private work areas or endless Zoom or Teams calls.
  2. Did the Second Hand Move Backward? Do you know what day it is? What time did you start working? How many times did neighbor Fred walk his dog by your house this week? If you’re anything like me, I want a change of scenery from my home. Prior to COVID-19, coworking spaces were taking off because people want to work in environments that nurture creativity and collaboration. With 100% WFH, the world seems to stop spinning. Even Aristotle understood the importance of work structure: “Time is the measure of change.”
  3. I Miss the Bean Bags. Many newer workplaces were designed for productivity. Companies created activity-based workspaces that cater to how employees of all shapes and sizes work their best. WFH hinders spontaneous, active brainstorming or collaboration. Try doing a white boarding session over video conferencing—easier said than done.
  4. My Monitor is Smoking. Home office equipment wasn’t meant for the day-to-day grind of a busy workplace. How many of us have lightning-fast laser printers for those long contracts you just can’t read on a computer screen? Not me. And let’s not forget business vs. personal internet connections. How many times did your lousy connection speed end a meeting in the middle of an important discussion? people dropped off a meeting because of your internet? (Hand raise!)
  5. Remember the Titans! Whether we want to admit it or not, some employees perform better in the office with a coach guiding them to success.
  6. Death By Meeting. More than 100% of my working day is spent in meetings. You read that right. I have to work longer to fit in more meetings. Prior to 100% WFH, I spent about two-thirds of my working day in meetings. Those five-minute discussions that quickly solved an issue are now full-fledged meetings. I sometimes feel like Doctor Who—jumping from one meeting to the next. WFH requires more communication because we feel obligated to spend time with our teams and colleagues because we don’t see them every day in the office.
  7. We ARE Family! Let’s face it, I think we all miss socializing personally and professionally. COVID-19 and working remotely has completely killed that. I miss my colleagues at work and hearing about their weekends or a funny joke. When SpaceIQ was acquired, it was difficult to feel a sense of solidarity amongst the team because we weren’t in one place together and connected. Now, try to virtually build working relationships with new bosses and coworkers. You need to plan time into your meetings for pleasantry and small talk—more so now than when you were together in the office.
  8. Can You Hear Me Now? Communication was tough enough when people were in the office, in the same room. Now, we “talk” via Zoom and Teams, voice calls, or through email. It takes many more written words to clearly communicate than it does to have a simple, in-person conversation.
  9. Kickstart My Brain. There are certain personalities that feed off other people’s energy to jumpstart their creativity. Who hasn’t relished in sitting down with your team and brainstorming the next great offering? Yes, we communicate more in our 100% WFH world, but there’s a lot to be said for congregating in front of white board and free-flowing ideas to solve the latest problem. In-person creativity sessions demand our full attention. Admit it, you multitask on video calls.
  10. Mmmm…Doughnuts! OK, this isn’t true for all companies, but I work in tech. It’s common to have snacks and, on occasion, some meals provided at no cost. They call that a perk! I chose to work for you not just because I liked the job, the company, and the pay, but because you have provided me a place to work where I feel I can be productive and get fed. Sounds weird, but when you’re pulling 10-hour, stressful days getting a product release out on deadline, those Hot Pockets and chocolate-covered almonds may be all there is for dinner.

To WFH or Not to WFH…

Remote working is not going anywhere. There will always be a desire to work from different locations. However, the whole 100% WFH situation doesn’t sound appealing…and probably by a lot more people than you’d think. My guess is that if polled, employees would like the option to work from home but also to come into the office when needed.

Give me the choice and I’ll opt for a mix of WFH and time in the workplace. And that’s the key: provide employees with a choice. Work from home forever isn’t for everyone. Maybe we can dub it WFHWIRFM…work from home when it’s right for me.

Keep reading: 8 Apps for Remote Workers Productivity and Success

Categories
Workplace Thought Leadership

The Next Normal in a Post-Pandemic Workspace

By Nai Kanell
Vice President of Marketing
SpaceIQ

Whether your office has already partially returned to work or you’re planning a workplace reentry, one thing is certain—things may never be the same. Safe facility management during an unprecedented pandemic requires a high level of planning and precaution. The measures you implement should increase employee productivity, promote workplace trust, and most importantly, keep employees and customers safe.

Rule and Regulation Compliance

It’s not always easy to keep up with new regulations, especially with constantly changing guidelines. Regardless, the first priority is employee safety. In most nations, employers are encouraged to provide a safe working environment. Physical safety should be a constant for all employees, but some may tolerate risk better than others. It’s wise to consider your most vulnerable employees when creating a return-to-work plan, but determine strategies with everyone in mind.

Second, keep employees informed of changes and guidelines. Assign staff to monitor local conditions and guidelines, then share updates on a consistent schedule. Keep a global perspective and adjust plans as needed to comply with local requirements.

Third, align business priorities with global realities. Inspect your building for potential hazards and determine remediation costs. Be willing to remodel, reconfigure, or rearrange everything including work schedules, walls, and seating arrangements.

Masking, Sanitation, and Social Distancing

Most official guidelines center on three principles—masking, sanitation, and social distancing. Depending on your industry, some guidelines may present more of a challenge than others. Restrictions will change as the coronavirus threat diminishes or increases, so keep long-term needs in mind when investing in safety equipment.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements can vary depending on role. There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to PPE. Some employees may not be able to wear masks. Others may need to avoid the workplace altogether, such as employees with asthma or other respiratory conditions.

Employees want clean workplaces, even more so now under COVID-19. Make sanitation a priority by setting up hygiene stations with hand sanitizer, soap, gloves, and disinfecting wipes. The typical weekly office cleanings may not be enough. Consider hiring extra cleaning staff to more frequently clean bathrooms, break areas, and shared spaces like conference rooms and lounges.

PPE isn’t limited to individual employees. Plexiglass shields provide an additional layer of protection around pinch points where social distancing may be a challenge, such as reception areas, entrances and exits, and payment areas. Posted policies and directional signage are great visual reminders for customers and employees to abide by your workplace precautions.

Other measures such as UV lights and thermal scanners are options for combatting COVID-19, but should be part of an overall workplace health and safety strategy. It’s wise to check with locally, regionally, and country-specific requirements to determine what’s feasible for your team to manage.

Technology and Real Estate Optimization

For most workplaces, safety decisions center around official guidelines. Maintaining six feet of distance helps protect people from breathing in infected air particles. However, this is easier said than done for many businesses.

Social distance guidelines vary by country and region. In the U.S., 6 feet is the standard; the World Health Organization recommends 1 meter. Social distancing may reduce workplace capacity, depending on your current seating configuration, plan density, desk sharing, and other factors. The potential for space loss raises some interesting options:

  • Should some individuals work remotely forever? Can we stagger work schedules? Do we need to let some staff go?
  • Should we purchase or rent additional office space or retrofit the space we have? Should we consider moving? Should we renegotiate the terms of our lease?
  • How can we prepare our workplace for future emergencies?

During the pandemic, many business leaders are leveraging real estate planning software to visualize coronavirus-related changes to seating arrangements, staff schedules, and office remodeling before committing time and money to wholesale changes. For example, hoteling software helps maximize seating efficiency using dynamic data such as HR information and floor maps.

Business owners can require that employees reserve a hotel desk prior to coming to work and show the reservation before they’re allowed to enter. After someone uses the hotel desk, facility management can be notified that the area must be cleaned and sanitized before another reservation can be made.

The Next Normal is Now

Reopening your workplace can be difficult. Regulations are constantly changing and there’s no saying when COVID-19 will ease. The post-pandemic “next normal” requires flexibility and adaptability. Desks, rooms, and entire floors may not function the same way. Previous policies for remote work, sick leave, and work schedules may need to be reevaluated in the new work environment.

You can’t foresee every situation, but you can be flexible in establishing your new normal. Employees will appreciate your efforts as they return to their former—though newly arranged—workspaces.

Learn how SpaceIQ can help you effectively manage your workplace reentry.

Keep Reading: COVID-19 Workplace Resources

Categories
Workplace Thought Leadership

Great Employee Seating

By Laura Woodard
Real Estate Executive (Ret.)
Google

Employee conflict is inevitable in the workplace. There’s always a touch of drama wherever humans congregate. But an overlooked source of workplace tension could be your seating strategy. Your layout can either foster team togetherness or breed frustration. An effective way to minimize discord is to measure space usage and optimize your chosen configuration with a workplace management platform.

Design Influences Behavior (and Stress Levels!)

Human beings are influenced by their surroundings. It’s why some employees thrive in exuberant environments while others flourish in tranquil ones. Finding the right balance between these workstyles, however, is a serious challenge. One type of workplace layout might work wonders for one group but create serious dissatisfaction for another.

Just look at the open office. Removing cubicles and bringing down walls is a great way to combat isolation and encourage collaboration. But what if employees feel compelled to wear headphones to block noise? Your layout is now a source of stress. All that lost momentum, productivity, and concentration will eventually affect your bottom line.

I’ve seen this first hand when a team of software engineers was placed across from a group of recruiters. The only thing separating these two departments were very low cubicle walls. The recruiters wanted a bullpen-style environment on their side because they wanted the noise and the “buzz” from being on the phone all day—it helped their team keep up the high energy needed for their work. But the software engineers couldn’t escape the raucous atmosphere. It was so bad, one of the software engineers had memorized a recruiter’s pitch!

Neighborhoods are another popular workplace environment because teams or departments can be grouped together with supporting amenities. This is really beneficial, for example, if you have an accounting department that works well in a quiet open floor surrounded by a handful of small conference rooms. Everyone has access to the right combination of resources: quiet areas, proximity to colleagues, and huddle spaces.

However, the neighborhood concept can cause discord if it doesn’t fulfill a team’s needs. If an agile team is placed in an area with limited conference rooms, its ability to have scrum meetings is hampered. Employees can then become exasperated when they have to constantly search for a free conference room or a private place for a phone call.

What’s more, all of this time spent hunting for the right work environment comes at a cost. According to a 2018 Steelcase Workplace Survey, 40% of workers waste up to 30 minutes a day looking for a place to collaborate. And the 2017 Office Workplace Survey 2017 by Senion found that “39% of office workers spend as much as 60 minutes every week searching for available desks, conference rooms, or colleagues.”

In all of these examples, space shortages are the primary source of workplace conflict.  When everyone is vying for the same conference rooms, quiet zones, or privacy spaces, congestion is bound to occur. How can employees do their best if they don’t have the right work environment?

Create a Flexibility Layout

It would be fantastic if there was a universal seating strategy that worked for all companies, across all industries, but that’s simply not realistic. Creating a flexible workplace environment starts with digging deep and assessing what your employees truly need. When it comes to space programming, employees actually know best. That requires talking to them, not just their managers.

Because employees are the ones in the proverbial trenches, they are the first to experience friction. It’s important to understand the nuances of their workflow in a given day or week. How many hours are they in meetings versus doing individual work? How many times do they have a spontaneous meeting but can’t find space to collaborate? Is noise welcomed in the background or seen as a major disruption?

Then pair these observations with space usage data—especially for conference rooms. Establish how many meetings were booked, but also how many actually took place. See if you can ascertain if the meetings went over or under the allotted time. It could also be helpful to determine how many times a conference room was booked on the fly rather than in advance.

Once you establish programming patterns, space planning technologies are your friend. A space planning tool allows employees to view available conference rooms and book them with ease. Some software includes a floor plan that shows the proximity of a conference room to all attendees, which is crucial for a workplace that is spread across several floors or an entire campus.

For real estate or human resource managers, a workplace management platform also provides the ability to digitally manipulate layouts. You can run scenarios that forecast the impact of moving individuals or entire departments to a new location. Dynamic planning allows you to evaluate where you have free space and if it will support a team’s workflow.

At the end of the day, flexible seating strategies help diffuse workplace conflict. Everyone can breathe a little easier when they have the right resources to do their work efficiently and effectively. A productive and happy workforce is just a new layout away.

Keep reading: 10 factors shaping office space planning guidelines.