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5 Best Business Collaboration Tools for 2023

Business success is built around a great team. Employees who work well together achieve great things. But to work seamlessly side-by-side, your team needs the right collaboration tools – especially if they don’t all work in the same place at the same time.

Finding the best collaboration software for business involves drilling down into the individual segments of cloud computing. It’s important to give employees the resources they’d have if they did sit next to one another. More importantly, you need to provide them with these tools in a way that connects their efforts as a whole.

Best communication tools for productivity

First things first, teams can’t collaborate if they can’t communicate. The best communication software makes it easy for team members to connect – combining instant messaging, video conferencing, and file sharing – all in one place.

Top communications applications are:

  • Slack: Slack is a powerhouse among company communication tools. Organize messaging into topic-specific threads, invite coworkers to relevant conversations, and share files. It’s the messaging app every business needs.
  • Microsoft Teams: Teams is Microsoft’s equivalent to Slack, with a seamless tie-in to Microsoft’s full suite of programs. For companies using Outlook and OneDrive, Teams is an alternative to Slack with nearly identical features.
  • Zoom: Messaging isn’t just a text platform anymore. In the age of remote work, video and audio are equally important. Zoom’s platform was specifically built for multimedia conferencing, making it easy to video chat or join a call with dozens of individuals at once.

Communication applications allow teams to work successfully on projects, no matter if they are in the office, hybrid, or remote. Thanks to the cloud, it’s possible to collaborate with someone halfway around the world as easily as if they were sitting next to you.

Best online collaboration tools for your team

Business changes rapidly – daily and sometimes even hourly. Teams need a way to adapt just as quickly, and real-time editing platforms give it to them.

This collaboration software supports dynamic workflows and team agility. The ability to act, react, and reallocate resources as fast as projects change is an asset teams can’t function without. Editing software helps teams respond to changes as quickly as they’re expected to, prevent setbacks, and keep projects on track.

Here are some examples of real-time editing platforms:

  • G-Suite: One of the earliest and most widely adopted business communication tools, G-suite is the bread and butter of many businesses. Google Docs, Sheets, Presentations, and other apps offer real-time editing and input.
  • Dropbox Paper: Dropbox Paper is a tie-in to Dropbox’s cloud storage platform. It’s a great way to annotate files, leave collaborative notes, and work together on a document or project with all your resources on-hand.
  • Evernote: Evernote is one of the simplest collaborative applications and also one of the most robust. It supports just about any type of media you need to document, with cross-collaboration that’s easily controlled by whom you share notes with.

Best cloud storage tools

Collaborating on projects requires organization. Cloud storage tools store data online –presentations, spreadsheets, documents, or images – giving everyone access to the same information. It acts like a filing cabinet; your team can put all of a project’s relevant materials into one place. This accessibility means that team members can easily and instantly access project documents whenever needed.

Commonly used cloud storage tools are:

  • Dropbox: Dropbox is one of the original business cloud file storage platforms. As a result, it has integrations, tie-ins, and support for every other piece of software your business might use. It’s simple interface and superb security makes Dropbox the favorite enterprise application.
  • Box: Box offers the same concept as Dropbox but with more native apps to improve team collaboration within the platform. Box is also less expensive and offers more flexible plans for smaller teams. Permissions sharing in Box also tends to be very robust, making it easy to loop in third-party partners and clients on specific repositories.
  • Google Drive: If you’re using G-Suite, Google Drive is already an active part of your business computing experience. Google’s cloud storage platform is free with an email address, extremely secure, lightning fast, and easy to navigate. Permissions can get tricky, but the native file viewer makes Google Drive worth using.

Cloud storage software simplifies how teams work, as a secure collaboration with anyone, anywhere, on any device.

Best tools for project management

Expecting people to collaborate without full visibility over what, exactly, they’re working on together is a recipe for disaster. Every member of the team needs to see the bigger picture and how what they’re doing fits into it. Project management tools make this possible with the ability to see task timelines. Everyone is on the same page, working toward the same goal.

Leading project management programs include:

  • Wrike: If you’ve got tasks to assign across team members, Wrike is one of the better task collaboration tools out there. It’s got everything required to create detailed tasks, delegate, track progress, and measure results. All that, and a user-friendly navigation system.
  • Asana: Asana helps teams prioritize goals, stay on-task, and collaborate across all parts of a project. List, timeline, calendar, and accomplishment views let employees pick their perspective on work, while in-app messaging and integrations bring the project together one step at a time.
  • Trello: Trello uses “cards” to collect tasks under a single project header. Each card is assigned to someone who manages it as part of the larger project. It’s a visual take on project collaboration. Plus, there are tons of high-profile tie-ins that make Trello an instant asset within your digital app ecosystem.

With this visibility also comes an element of accountability. If a task isn’t finished, team leaders know whom to hold accountable. Or, from a proactive perspective, team members can see when others need help and collaborate to keep the project on schedule.

Best calendar software

Employees working on the same project won’t necessarily have the same schedules. Shared calendars offer transparency into coworkers’ availability, encouraging team members to schedule time together – to discuss joint ventures – when they are mutually available.

Top calendar software:

  • Microsoft Outlook: The old standard, and for good reason. Outlook is an email-calendar client all-in-one. Many businesses utilize Outlook for email, making its calendar component a natural fit. That, and the fact that it’s incredibly easy to use, intuitive, and directly integrated into your email and address book.
  • Google Calendar: In all the ways Microsoft Outlook is convenient and accessible, so is Google Calendar. Where Google has the edge in its usability, which features numerous custom options for creating events, integrating with other cloud services, and recognizing appointments sent to your Gmail account.
  • Calendly: For a calendar that’s not bundled with email or other software, Calendly is a simple, intuitive choice. Calendly makes a great collaborative calendar, allowing users to sync calendars to find common free time for meetings. Calendly also has smart scheduling tools to connect users within the same group and outside contacts.

Calendar software also gives insight into one another’s workloads, encouraging a culture of respect.

Collaboration tools help teams success

Whether instant communication, document collaboration, project planning, or shared calendars, the secret to seamless teamwork is implementing the right tools. Collaborative software enables full group participation and synergy – everyone contributes meaningfully. Each person uses their unique skills and talents to drive the project forward in a show of true collaboration. The easier it is to collaborate and communicate – in real-time – the easier it is for the team to succeed.

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What Mobile Apps Help Increase Productivity?

No matter what line of work you’re in, technology has a foothold in some way, shape, or form. The simplest technological integration is a smartphone application. Workplace apps have become a staple for businesses — especially in hybrid work models — for communication, collaboration, and general operations. Employees use one or more apps as part of their jobs daily.

The benefits of workplace apps are night and day. From improved productivity to real time collaboration and faster communication, using the right applications makes all the difference in the workplace.

Employee productivity relates to efficient work, developed self-confidence, increased motivation, and better creativity. Let’s dive into today’s mobile applications that make this a reality.

Slack

Slack has taken workplace messaging to a whole new level. It’s quicker than email, more organized than texting, and offers more integrations than most other messaging platforms. Slack allows you to maximize productivity.

Slack can be divided into threads specific to a singular topic, allowing you to start an ongoing conversation while staying on-task. Share files, tag collaborators, assign tasks and create checklists, all within a specific channel. The platform is customizable and integrates into many other applications and platforms.

Trello

For those who seek a visual task management system, Trello is a superb tool. It creates a visual workflow and process management system for projects, acting as both a to-do list and a tracking tool. In addition, its cloud-based platform lets you work with collaborators and upload documents directly to each task, keeping everything organized in one place.

As far as simple workplace apps go, Trello takes the cake! Its highly intuitive interface makes it easy for anyone to pick up quickly, making it an excellent tool for businesses with higher staff churn rates or those that rely on contractors who come and go.

15Five

This app is praised as one of the most user-friendly employee apps because it opens a line of communication between managers and subordinates — and across teams. The app allows managers to set up weekly check-ins with employees and has a feature that lets workers ask questions or seek clarification from supervisors. It’s a smart way to boost employee engagement and productivity.

Fast-paced environments and workplaces with bigger teams benefit most from 15Five. This app helps everyone get the recognition they deserve for a job well done while assisting managers in pinpointing areas where they can coach better performance.

Skedulo

As an app for teams operating across multiple workspaces, Skedulo answers the 5W question: who, what, where, why, and when? This workplace app allows managers to schedule their employees at a specific time and location, complete with a job description. The shift gets shown to everyone on the team, so each project is properly coordinated.

With features like maps and calendars built in, job information can be exported or used in conjunction with other productivity apps. Plus, data capture capabilities within the app allow workers to document the job in real time for recordkeeping and transparency purposes.

WhenIWork

Another scheduling app, WhenIWork is a device-native app that comes with the smartphone integrations needed to make it a core part of employee operations. Gig workers — who are currently thriving — and contract employees will get the most out of this app. It pushes schedules and changes via text messages or notification alerts in conjunction with time, date, and location details.

WhenIWork is also a manager’s best friend! Supervisors can approve shift switching, answer questions, and manage a virtual time clock. The tiered permissions of this workplace app make it easy to delegate with transparency.

ClickUp!

ClickUp! saves employees time as an all-in-one productivity platform that brings team members, tasks, and tools together in one place. Its main goal is to have one app replace multiple with all work living in ClickUp. As a result, people are more productive and can dedicate more time to other tasks. The workplace app is for both small teams and large teams.

ClickUp! also has excellent client support, offering assistance 24 hours a day, every day, even through holidays. This is especially beneficial for companies that thrive during the holidays and cannot afford technological mishaps.

Evernote

Note-taking is an underrated skill that benefits anyone immensely in the workplace. Whether tracking the conversation in a meeting or jotting down ideas for a project, Evernote remains the leader for note-taking workplace apps. It’s simple to use and can quickly become an integrated part of any company.

Evernote also shines in its multimedia capabilities. Notes can be supplemented with pictures and video, turned into checklists, tagged and annotated, or stitched together for comprehensive knowledge. Whether for personal or collaborative use, Evernote makes keeping track of notes simple.

Zendesk

Every company has defined processes and practices. But unfortunately, not all have Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) documentation. Zendesk is a hub for your company’s Q&A needs and SOP documents. If anyone has a question, you can point them to Zendesk, where the answer has already been archived. And, if it’s a brand-new query, you can easily create an entry for future reference.

Zendesk has the bonus of being both an internal and customer-facing piece of software. Use it as a workplace app for your day-to-day operations or create a tool your customers can reference to streamline customer service.

Expensify

Expense situations always arise and are usually accompanied by a tedious documentation process. Expensify is a must-have mobile employee app for real time tracking and cataloging expenses.

Employees enter the nature of a purchase, the amount, and other pertinent information. Then, they can take a picture of the receipt with their smartphone. Expenses can then be exported individually or in bulk for processing and reimbursement. This app reduces the headaches and pitfalls of expense reporting and minimizes processing time for quicker reimbursement.

Employee Mobile Apps to Increase Productivity

With smart technology always in our pockets, workplace apps are constantly integrated into everyday business operations — and for a good reason! The right app in the right hands can drastically improve an employee’s ability to get their job done quickly and correctly. Team members can stay focused and complete tasks with better time management.

Whether it’s workplace communication or expense reporting, ultimately, everyone benefits. Explore the above app options to see how they can improve your workplace operations and increase employee productivity.

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Blog

Coworking vs. Traditional Office Pros and Cons

Professionals have many choices in how they work these days. The workplace environment is constantly changing, and hybrid work has become increasingly popular. Employees don’t only have to choose between working at a traditional office or working from home. Coworking spaces – neutral spaces designed to accommodate people from different companies to work side-by-side – are also available.

Given the options of a coworking space or the traditional office, which suits you better?

It’s easy to jump to conclusions solely based on emotions when making your choice. But it’s worth first looking at things logically. What kind of worker are you? What type of environment do you need? What professional traits do you have that lend themselves to one work environment over the other? Look at the pros and cons of each situation before making a choice.

Coworking Spaces

What are the pros and cons of a coworking space versus a traditional office? It comes down to greater autonomy and a person’s ability to adapt to that freedom. Coworking spaces attract workers with good time management and organization. They must set and keep their schedules productive outside of being directly managed. Coworking spaces also mean getting out of your comfort zone and routine, so it’s not for the skittish or those who prefer rigid structure.

Check out some of the top pros and cons of coworking to understand why it works for some but not others.

Benefits of Coworking Spaces

  • The freedom to work where and when you want
  • Change of scenery can be good for mental stimulation
  • Ability to book different types of workspaces for different lengths of time
  • Choice of many different types of coworking spaces and themes
  • Opportunities for socialization with other professionals

Cons of Coworking Spaces

  • Open office environment makes it hard to find privacy
  • Can be louder or more distracting than a traditional workplace
  • No face-to-face, in-person access to peers and coworkers
  • Not guaranteed a seat or any seating consistency
  • May not include perks like parking or a break room

If you’re not willing to create your own framework for productivity, a coworking space might not be for you. If you prefer predictability and do better with a clearly defined path, there’s no shame in choosing a traditional office workplace.

Traditional Office

In deciding between a coworking space or a traditional office, many people gravitate toward the idea of “more freedom” with coworking. But there’s a catch: less predictability. That difference in perspective is why many people are keen on the traditional office.

If you like having a clear, specific roadmap for the day and values routine, look to a traditional office. A structured workplace also gives you access to peers and amenities in ways remote working can’t offer. For many, choosing a traditional office is a prime example of the adage, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”

Here’s why traditional offices appeal to some and why others choose to embrace coworking spaces:

Benefits of the Traditional Office

  • Familiar working structure and expectations
  • Direct, in-person access to peers and managers
  • Inclusive amenities, including parking, IT help, etc.
  • Comfort from a routine, including commute
  • Feeling of inclusion and not “missing out” on workplace happenings

Cons of the Traditional Office

  • More rigid oversight and management
  • Susceptible to monotony or “brain drain” from the same routine
  • Much higher leasing and facilities upkeep costs
  • Can be harder to adapt to changes in real-time
  • Feeling of isolation that comes with a 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. schedule

New Normal in Workplace: It’s up to you

Given the choice between a coworking space and a traditional office environment, neither is the “right” option. The best choice depends on you and your working style.

Coworking spaces are likely appealing if you’re a driven, independent worker with excellent time management and a mastery of digital communication. If you like structure and order and feel more confident when collaborating with your peers face-to-face, a traditional office may better suit you. If you’re somewhere in between, take the opportunity to work fluidly between the two.

The great thing about the workplace is that the new normal is up to you and what working environment suits you best.

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The Pros and Cons of 3 Types of Hybrid Work Models

From dress suits and cubicles to leisure wear and home offices, the business world looks different today than it did two years ago. What began as a mission for health safety snowballed into a corporate movement. It’s important we take the time to assess the pros and cons of the three types of work: the traditional in-office model, remote work model, and hybrid work model.

Companies and their employees need to understand the benefits, drawbacks, opportunities, and pitfalls associated with the different types of work as they decide which is best for them.

Benefits of working in the office

Before the coronavirus pandemic, most companies operated with an in-office work model. However, what was once the norm has quickly become a controversial subject. Regardless, in some areas, the in-office model remains successful.

Workers can more easily benefit from the organization’s culture, a factor that remains significant to job seekers and employees. 76% of the workforce feel culture plays a role in their professional success, as it directly impacts their well-being. Supportive and collaborative environments are better built when everyone is in the same proximity.

Despite the resounding voices of support, not all employees are pleased that companies switched to the remote work model. Some discovered it challenging to find work-life balance. Those without the convenience of a home office adapted by working from their couch or kitchen counter. When commuting to an office, there is an absolute separation between employees’ professional and personal lives. But without a defined ‘place of work,’ employees have no clear boundaries.

Arguments against returning to the office

While having a designated workspace and set hours are valuable, they have drawbacks. Set 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. working hours make it difficult for employees to set up personal appointments, as those require pre-approval and requested time off. Mothers who receive troublesome calls – mid-workday – regarding their children are also at a disadvantage. These are not the only inconveniences:

  • Money and time spent on commuting (Gas prices are at an all-time high)
  • Lack of privacy when completing individual time-sensitive projects
  • Recurring distractions that interfere with employees’ overall job success

Companies that disregard these concerns may land themselves in hot water. In June 2022, CEO Elon Musk emailed Tesla employees, stating they must return to the office or resign. Employees quickly responded with pushback, expressing that the mandate negatively reflects the company’s business.

After a taste of flexibility, most workers prefer a remote or hybrid work model. Companies not offering either will have access to a smaller talent pool.

Pros of the remote work model

Working remotely was a relatively new experience for employees. Only 30% of the workforce were remote pre-pandemic, compared to 81% of employees during its’ height. Post-pandemic, companies struggle to determine the best work model for the long-term. To maintain employee flexibility, do organizations keep the remote work model or adopt a hybrid work model?

Remote work eliminates employees from commuting, as well as unexpected tardiness. Factors such as oversleeping, traffic, or time spent getting coffee will no longer be a concern. Instead, employees can put this time towards work productivity and mental well-being. Organizations can offer their workforce:

  • Financial savings from less gas and on-the-go purchases
  • Less exposure to illnesses such as coronavirus
  • Ability to create a personalized working space

Additionally, remote work offers flexible hours, which can improve productivity. Employees can work at the time of day they individually perform the best. While 43% of adults describe themselves as morning people, one in three adults says they work better in the evening. Traditional hours may not be what is best for everyone.

Virtual hiring and employee burnout with remote work

Among “The Great Resignation,” 40% of employees searched for a new job. During a time companies were predominately remote-first, many had to rethink how to hire, onboard, and train new employees. 82% of employers post-pandemic use virtual interviews. However, job seekers have expressed concerns with this process:

  • 33% of job seekers feel they cannot convey their personalities in a virtual interview
  • More than 90% of employees encounter tech issues during virtual onboarding
  • New employees lack access to their hiring manager and helpful resources during online training

Like new hires’, active employees also struggle to get the information needed when learning new tasks. A Microsoft study showed that shifting to remote work hurt collaboration and communication within companies. Employees are less likely to interact virtually than in person. Pinging a co-worker appears more intrusive than walking up to their cubicle. As a result, relationship-building feels forced versus organic.

Benefits of the hybrid work model

hybrid workplace consists of both in-office employees and remote workers who work together as a distributed team. The benefits of hybrid work are many, for both employees and employers alike.

For employees, the biggest benefit of the hybrid work model 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 types of work, allowing a person to accomplish their job regardless of the setting.

This seamless working experience goes all the way down to the workspace level. The hybrid work model demands workspaces to be as flexible as the concept. Hotel deskshot desksbreakout spaces, and the like are all essential in a supportive hybrid workplace. Beyond 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. In addition, portfolio consolidation can free up significant cash flow otherwise tied up in overhead.

Negatives to beware of in hybrid workspaces

There are still a few kinks in the hybrid work model that companies need to work through. While it’s a proven, reliable solution to distributed teams and workforces, some drawbacks add up to some clear-cut pitfalls:

  • 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 works

Similar to the remote work model, a disadvantage of the hybrid work model is the lack of oversight. Companies give up a traditional sense of control over their employees. Managers must proactively help employees develop good habits and understand expectations. As discussed, social-emotional competency is vital for management, and good systems for communication are imperative.

The hybrid work model offers the best of both worlds

Simply put: because the benefits of the hybrid work model outweigh the potential negatives, the hybrid work model is 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 strengthen culture
  • Access to a broader talent pool when hiring or expanding

Companies might’ve adopted a hybrid work model out of necessity due to the pandemic, but it’s going to far outlast it as the new way to accommodate different types of work styles and everyone’s unique preferences. The hybrid model gives employees and employers the best of both worlds.

Make sure you choose a hybrid workplace model that puts your people first, then find the technology solutions to support it. iOFFICE + SpaceIQ gives companies the tools to connect their people, places, data, and assets.

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Workplace Thought Leadership

Corporate Social Responsibility: New Expectation for Business 

By Steve Segarra
Chief Technical Officer
SpaceIQ

Employees expect more from their jobs than a paycheck. Some are after greater flexibility while others are looking for a closer fit to their social and ethical values. Shareholders expect organizations to be profitable but also to contribute to their communities in positive ways. Business leaders likely have witnessed these shifts first-hand and maybe even been tasked with helping their organization evolve.

As the number of vaccinated individuals increases and companies find their way back to the office, it’s hard to ignore how the corporate landscape is changing. Forbes predicts a “great resignation” where many employees will start looking for a new job in the next few months. In fact, the Labor Department reported that nearly 4 million Americans quit their jobs in April alone. 

In a 2019 Gallup study; Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers all rated, “having an ethical leadership” among the top three things they look for in an employer. The older generations likely associate this with the personal character of their leaders while younger employees are concerned with how a company impacts people and the planet. According to the study, Gen Z and younger Millennials (who now make up 46% of the full-time U.S. workforce) “expect bold action [from their employer] to address moral blind spots…they want to know that the work they are doing has a net positive impact on human beings and the natural world.” 

Those values are at the core of corporate social responsibility. There’s no denying that it’s a job-seeker’s market so it’s imperative that companies create the kind of work environment that attracts and retains the best talent, optimizes existing resources, and drives better performance from every asset – including employees. 

What is Corporate Social Responsibility?

Investopedia defines corporate social responsibility (CSR) as:

“…practices and policies undertaken by corporations that are intended to have a positive influence on the world. The key idea behind CSR is for corporations to pursue other pro-social objectives, in addition to maximizing profits.” 

That said, not all companies can approach CSR the same way. It is important to know what niche your company occupies and what existing and future employees expect. 

A great example is how Bloomberg L.P. responded in its 2020 Impact Report:

“Governments are eager to respond to the fallout from the pandemic in ways that make their economies stronger, more sustainable and more resilient. Business leaders recognize the risks they face and understand that the same steps that cut carbon emissions also help to spur growth and promote stability. The year ahead can set the stage for a decade of transformational change—but only if we act boldly and urgently.” 

In the past few decades, more business leaders have recognized a need to do more than maximize profits for shareholders and executives. In order to remain relevant and competitive, they have embraced a social responsibility to do what’s best for their company, community, society at large, and the planet. 

Five Reasons for Embracing CSR

Implementing strong corporate social responsibility initiatives may improve overall business by: 

  1. Giving new and existing employees confidence that they are part of an organization that is socially responsible. A 2016 study showed 55% of employees would choose to work for a socially responsible company, even if it meant a lower salary.
  2. Creating a work environment that is safe and healthy for employees. According to a Project ROI Study, your CSR program could increase employee engagement by up to 7.5%, increase employee productivity by 13%, and reduce employee turnover by 50%.
  3. Minimizing your organization’s environmental impact, which can lead to greater overall financial stability. Starbucks began its rollout of the “strawless lid” in 2020 and is working to be 100% strawless in its more than 29,000 stores worldwide.
  4. Strengthening customer loyalty by showing a commitment to social and environmental responsibility. In a 2017 study, 76% of consumers say they will refuse to purchase a company’s products or services upon learning it supported an issue contrary to their beliefs.
  5. Bolstering your corporate image, building your brand, improving morale, and increasing job satisfaction. Fast Company named its top 10 most innovative CSR companies of 2021. 

Implementing CSR Initiatives with Integrated Tech

Where does an organization start? Your CSR strategy could start slowly, focusing on just compliance or sustainability. Or the focus can be on energy management and using building resources more efficiently. If safety is your greatest concern, you may start with waste management, hazard abatement, and managing hazardous materials to better support employee health and wellbeing. 

Whatever the priority, technology like an integrated workplace management system (IWMS) enables you to start simple and evolve into a strategy that puts your organization at the forefront of innovation. An IWMS helps keep operations running efficiently and nurture an environment that lets employees do their best work.

A powerful IWMS provides myriad functions and features to support CSR goals: 

  1. Compliance – Helps keep facilities and employees compliant with regulations to mitigate risk, maintain safe environments, and reduce administrative burdens. 
  2. Sustainability – Recognizes the strategic value of reducing carbon footprints to protect the environment and enhance a company’s bottom line. 
  3. Energy Management – Provides the means to easily aggregate, evaluate, and optimize energy and utility spending decisions to reduce unnecessary consumption and costs. 
  4. Green Buildings – Aids in delivering the information framework for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and managing the environmental sustainability certification and recertification process. 
  5. Waste Management – Provides a streamlined and integrated approach to tracking, managing, and reducing both hazardous and non-hazardous waste. 
  6. Hazard Abatement – Helps protect the health of building occupants, minimize organizational liability, and avoid costly fines or possible litigation. 
  7. Hazardous Materials – Supports facilities managers in safely handling toxic products, verifying compliance with various regulations, and informing first responders where those hazardous materials are stored and what they may encounter during an emergency.  

And let’s not forget the impact the pandemic has had on real estate portfolios. Some organizations are cutting their carbon footprint by cutting back on their space. According to the Paris Climate Agreement, we must eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions from the built environment by 2040. Buildings generate almost 40% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions. An IWMS can help these organizations easily right-size their portfolios.

Corporate Social Responsibility: No Longer Optional

There is little doubt that CSR programs have a place in every organization. The number of companies implementing CSR plans increases by the year. A Harvard Business School report found that in 2011, less than 20% of S&P 500 companies were charting their efforts related to CSR and sustainability. In 2014, it soared to 75% and jumped to 90% in 2019. 

Creating and implementing initiatives with a mission to improve people’s lives, the Earth, and its resources is a new standard to which investors, employees, and consumers are holding organizations. And as a business leader, your responsibility to actualize these plans is no small feat. The right kind of technology can make all the difference to your success. 

Organizations are quickly evolving to meet the high expectations of doing business amidst a global crisis. They must adapt business models, hire and retain top talent, and give back to their communities in meaningful ways in order to stay successful and relevant. If you are implementing or reinventing your organization’s CSR plans, click here to learn more about how an IWMS supports the social and moral values employees have come to expect from today’s businesses. 

Keep reading: What is IWMS Software?

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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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Blog

How to Measure Digital Twin Cost

By Devon Maresco
Marketing Coordinator
SpaceIQ

With an increased push toward smarter facilities comes the all-important question every executive needs to ask: how much will it cost? Cost is such an important variable to understand because it sets the tone for ROI. In understanding cost, you also gain insight into things like break-even point, expected ROI, and other important fiscal metrics. Unfortunately, measuring cost isn’t always easy. Case in point: how do you measure digital twin cost?

Digital twins are purely digital investments. While there are software and sensor components that contribute to their architecture, twins themselves aren’t tangible. They live in the cloud and integrate broadly across the organization. How do you measure the invested cost of something so prolific? And, more important, how do you set the benchmark for ROI and other forward-looking metrics?

Though it may seem far from probable, there are ways to measure the cost of a digital twin. Here’s a look at some of the costs that factor in.

What is digital twin?

First, a quick refresher. A digital twin is a virtual representation of a physical asset—in this case, the workplace. It provides context for aggregated data about the workplace. Data from the IoT, user input, and integrated applications all flows into the digital twin, where it’s given context as a frame of reference. For example, the on/off stream of data from a seat sensor feeds into the digital twin to represent utilization of that workspace.

Digital twins take all of the data about the workplace, contextualize it, then feed insights to facility managers—usually through a dashboard, like an IWMS. This allows for better understanding of facilities not just as a static asset, but as a dynamic ecosystem. Facility managers and other stakeholders use digital twin insights to better-shape the workplace, in order to cater to the needs of the employees using it.

The cost of building a digital twin

The costs associated with a digital twin come largely from the infrastructure needed to generate the data that comprises one. Here’s a comprehensive look at the key components in architecting a digital twin and how they come together from a cost standpoint.

  • Digital twin software. Digital twin software is the most essential upfront cost, as it’s what will power the digital twin itself. While it’s possible to license pure digital twin software, most companies will want to opt for an integrated digital twin platform such as Archibus. This means also benefitting from IWMS and CMMS features.
  • The Internet of Things. Digital twins thrive on data. The IoT sensors that stream that data represent a significant cost in building a digital twin—and one of the most important costs to justify to stakeholders. From motion sensors to seat sensors, floor sensors to proximity beacons, the data offered by an office IoT is the single most important aspect of digital twin construction. Moreover, it comes with a scaling cost as the need for more sophisticated software becomes apparent.
  • Integrated software. IoT data isn’t the only place digital twins glean information from. Integrated software from room booking systems, maintenance ticketing software, and more all yield crucial data for digital twins. Each software license comes at its own cost, and there are sometimes additional costs in interfacing them—such as if you need to use an integrated platform as a solution (iPaaS) to sync data.
  • Training and education. Digital twins require no small amount of education to set up and manage effectively. These costs factor into their construction, and it’s worthwhile for every company to consider them. Remember to account for upfront training and onboarding, as well as continuing education as technologies evolve.

The actual cost of building a digital twin varies by company and the sophistication of the twin. Companies should observe the cost of architecting such a system and break it down by the individual expenses associated with software, IoT hardware, and training to get a clear understanding of investment expense.

Beyond the cost, look at benefits and ROI

Digital twin technology can be costly to implement—especially for businesses only just beginning to build out their IoT. Unfortunately, these upfront costs tend to suffer criticism from executives who only see a price tag and not an investment. It’s up to motivated facilities managers to deliver a proposition that contextualizes costs with benefits and ROI.

Digital twins are an investment that can help both the top- and bottom-line performance of a company. They’re useful as cost-saving and optimization tools, as well as for productivity enablement. When evaluating the cost of a digital twin, don’t forget to stack up these cost savings and potential revenue improvements alongside it. Remember, the purpose of understanding cost is to contextualize it, which makes it easier to chart a path to justifying it.

Keep reading: Digital Twins – A Revolution in Workplace Management

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Blog Workplace Thought Leadership

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