Workplace Thought Leadership

Work From Home: Not a Forever Option

By Nai Kanell
Vice President of Marketing

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

Workplace Thought Leadership

The Next Normal in a Post-Pandemic Workspace

By Nai Kanell
Vice President of Marketing

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

Workplace Thought Leadership

Great Employee Seating

By Laura Woodard
Real Estate Executive (Ret.)

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.

Workplace Thought Leadership

Accountability and Acceptance for Remote Employees

By Jeff Revoy
Chief Operations Officer & Co-Founder

Remote work is increasing in popularity, capitalizing on an independent workforce that wants to be trusted and own their work. But the rise of out-of-office work doesn’t mean employees are any less interested in camaraderie and collaboration. With remote options comes a new remote employee management challenge: making remote workers accountable and feeling accepted by colleagues.

Connected communication

A 2016 Gallup poll revealed that 43% of the workforce telecommutes at least some of the time—a 4% increase since 2012—and that number is rising. Studies show remote workers are more productive and less likely to quit than in-office employees. Managers need to adapt their leadership styles to help virtual employees achieve their goals.

Any great leadership style starts and ends with communication. The blossoming office Internet of Things (IoT) makes it easy to stay connected with remote employees across town or across several time zones. Cloud storage options allows instant access to digital files and information regardless of time and day. No more waiting for files to be updated and emailed to co-workers for further revisions.

Collaborative information sharing isn’t the only IoT tool for connected communication. Voice and video meeting systems like Zoom and GoToMeeting provide personal connection between remote workers, their teammates, and managers. A Forbes/Zoom study found that half of executives surveyed found video conferencing improves understanding of information and issues. Among high-growth companies, 73% of leaders agreed that virtual connectivity increases communication quality.

But beware of over-communicating with remote employees. Just because you don’t physically see someone doesn’t mean following up on every task via phone, email, and IM is acceptable. A Harvard Business Review article calls this “digital dominance, a relentless and uncomfortable form of harassment.” Many companies create remote communication norms that use acronyms (NNTR for no need to respond) to streamline messaging and reduce unnecessary back and forth.

Create a virtual water cooler

Video conferences aren’t just for meetings. Some offices host a continuous video livestream to create links between offices in different cities. SpaceIQ has a portal between its Mountain View, Calif., and Salt Lake City, Utah, workplaces. These “virtual water coolers” provide a channel for remote workers to engage in idle chatter, share ideas, or simply say “Hi!” to colleagues. If a rolling live feed isn’t workable, carve out time for “online social hours” using a tool like Zoom. Remote workers connect via a webcam and join peers to talk about family, the latest movie, or  what’s happening in the world. To keep things equitable, rotate connection times between time zones. While the cameras are off, encourage employees to use tools like Slack channels to stay in touch.

Not just email, but real mail

Someone in the office celebrating a birthday? There’s no slice of cake for remote workers. Did an off-site employee land a huge account? They won’t hear an office-wide round of applause. Video conferencing is one way to make those connections, but you can’t shove birthday cake through the Internet. Or can you?

There’s nothing stopping a great manager from using delivery services to send a birthday cake or present to a remote employee’s home. Coordinate the delivery with a video celebration to make the most of the moment.

In addition to a “Happy Birthday!” singalong, studies show regularly recognizing a person’s achievements is a critical component of team building and employee engagement. Sending remote employees real mail—even a handwritten note—goes a long way in reinforcing a person’s worth to the company.

SpaceIQ makes an effort to bring all of its employees together twice a year for team-building exercises, financial updates, and product overviews. It’s a cost well worth the connection it creates between team members who may only engage through email or chat. We also hold a quarterly “Gong Ceremony” via our portal to celebrate new business wins.

Ultimately, the way to make remote employees accountable and accepted is to treat them as you would any other worker. However, the steps you need to ensure they’re treated the same requires consistent oversight, scheduling, and personal diligence. The extra effort can result in improved productivity and happy employees.

Keep Reading: spotlight: slack for work-life and real-life


Photo by Avi Richards on Unsplash

Workplace Thought Leadership

Generation Gap: Workplace Needs of Millennials and Gen Z

By Nai Kanell
Marketing Director

It’s common to conflate the professional needs and goals of Millennials vs Gen Z. Both groups make up the youngest and, combined, largest portion of today’s workforce. Both were introduced to technology at a far earlier age than Gen X and the Baby Boomers and both crave meaningful work.

While the similarities between the two generations are numerous, Gen Z came of age during a time of action, the Obama era of hope and change. Millennials, however, had just entered the workforce or had been working for a few years under the accustomed business standards of the time. Both Gen Z and Millennials experienced the same societal tragedies and innovations at a younger age, but what they made of them is where the views on working and workplaces differ.

Gen Z is the generation of real improvement. As middle and high school students, they watched as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Affordable Care Act were signed into law. To them, the legislation promised a fairer, more equitable society was within reach. They witnessed their parents struggle under the weight of the Great Recession. Gen Z’ers graduated high school and college as the #MeToo movement erupted and women began demanding equal pay by disclosing their own earnings. All of this dictates what Gen Z prioritizes in the workplace: financial stability; pay transparency and equity; safe, harassment-free careers; healthcare benefits; regular, in-person feedback; and loyalty.

Most of the same can be said of Millennials’ priorities, except loyalty. This is, perhaps, due in part to Gen Z witnessing massive layoffs, foreclosures, and financial collapse during their formative years. They’ll work harder to advance within the same company and move up the ladder, but aren’t as discouraged as Millennials when advancement doesn’t happen as quickly as they’d like. In fact, a 2018 Gallup poll showed that 60% of Millennials “were open to new job opportunities,” the turnover of which costs the U.S. economy $30.5 billion annually.

One explanation for their divergent attitudes toward financial stability and professional loyalty is that, while Millennials grew up, the U.S. economy flourished and Gen Z, still living at-home, were first-hand witnesses to financial insecurity. Millennials are less humble when it comes to accepting a job offer because, as much as they want a substantial paycheck, they want status. One study found that 64% of Millennials wouldn’t work in construction, even for a $100,000 annual salary. Leisure and hospitality industries are among the most popular and lowest paying positions sought by Millennials (read more on Millennials in the workplace). what For Gen Z, having a steady paycheck is more of a priority than a high-status job. In this regard, they’re more like baby-boomers, who are loyal and prefer monetary rewards to symbolic ones, than millennials.

Another common misconception of Gen Z’ers, who practically grew up tethered to their smartphones, is that they’re tech-obsessed and require a screen to interact with other humans.  While their personal lives may include a lot of Snapchat and Bitmojis, Gen Z actually prefers in-person socialization in the workplace—a preference that may also explain their preference for working in corporate or co-working environments over remote offices. Contrary to many assumptions, Millennials also favor an office setting over working remotely. According to a survey compiled by Randstad, 39% of Millennials and Gen Z believe in-person communication with their colleagues is more effective than email, phone, social media, instant messages, video conferences, text messaging, and a “company communication portal”.

Though these groups may have different opinions on long-term tenure and ways to advance, both say communication is the top quality sought in their leaders, based on Randstad’s findings; support with work came in second. A key point to remember is both generations were children who received “participation trophies” for athletic and scholastic involvement. For them, the workplace is no different. Regardless of outcome, Millennials and Gen Z want managers to nurture and listen to them, as an expression of their value to the company. Although each generation wants to feel supported, Gen Z is more likely to return that support when promoted to leadership positions, making pay increases their highest priority.

Generally, Gen Z’ers are more focused on pay parity and disclosure—a likely reflection of their candor about their personal lives, views on gender and sexual orientation, and left-leaning political affiliations. They are the generation that put both fairness and hard work on the same playing field, while wondering how long it will be until robots steal their jobs.