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Five Benefits of Stack Planning for Better Space Utilization

By Devon Maresco
Marketing Coordinator
SpaceIQ

Every square foot of space a company leases counts against the balance sheet. It’s because of this that utilization and efficiency are such important metrics. Are you using the space you have? Are you using it in the best way possible? There are many different ways to examine space utilization and efficiency, and a stack plan is among the best. The benefits of stack planning allow you to see space at a macro level, to get a real feel for how it’s allocated and used.

The ability to pull up a stack plan and see space throughout facilities at a glance is hugely helpful for facility planning and management. It’s an instant answer to understanding building makeup, as well as allocation by department or personnel. From portfolio management to day-to-day facilities oversight, stack planning is valuable.

What is stack planning?

What exactly is stack planning? It contextualizes space at a high level. It typically shows space allocation by macro variables: location, department, floor, etc. Facility managers can see, at a glance, how much space is allocated to X, Y, and Z. It’s a great way to gauge parts of a whole.

While stack planning doesn’t necessarily account for every individual seat, it instead shows the makeup of an office to promote higher-level decision making. For example, it might not matter what type of desks Marketing uses from a cost standpoint—what matters is that Marketing occupied 22% of all office space. These types of insights are particularly important for lease administration, portfolio management, and higher-level facility management.

What are the benefits of stack planning?

You don’t need to look too hard to see the benefits of implementing stack planning. From a facility perspective, it’s useful for seeing space allocation at a glance. From a portfolio standpoint, it contextualizes space at the company level. Take a look at the prime benefits of stack planning and its role in understanding space:

  1. Holistic facility view. Stack planning is a top-down view of space in facilities, which means it provides the broadest, most holistic representation. The ability to see space breakdowns by building, by floor, and by department makes it easy to understand facility makeup. If 60% of space at Building A is committed to sales, compared to an average of 40% across your other facilities, it may provide insights into the success or setback of this location vs. others. A top-down view of space offers quick context for broader questions.
  2. Departmental stats. Stack plans put departmental space into perspective. How many of the 100 allocated seats is Sales using? What percentage of total available seats does Marketing occupy? Department-level statistics show where, specifically, space occupancy and utilization pan out within your facilities. It’s a great way to contextualize the space as part of a larger whole.
  3. Macro insights. Stack plans are invaluable for portfolio-level management of properties. They provide macro insights at a glance that bring context to facilities and broader business operations. 70% of the product development workforce is at the Sacramento, CA facility. Total space allocation for Sales across all properties is 39%. Insights like these inform greater opportunities and decisions across the company’s portfolio. Stack planning makes them readily available without drilling down into more nuanced figures.
  4. Contextual allocation. The context offered by stack plans makes them an important tool in orchestrating workspaces. Is it conducive for Marketing to occupy 10% of the third floor and 15% of the fifth floor? If IT and Product Development work together regularly, how can you rearrange space to put these departments together on the same floor? Seeing space in the stack plan opens the door to configuring space more efficiently.
  5. Forecasting opportunities. Over time, stack plans make a great reference roadmap. If Marketing occupied 24 seats in 2018, 26 seats in 2019, and 28 seats in 2020, it’s reasonable to expect you’ll need a pair of seats in the year ahead. Likewise, if a company has begun the shift to flex work, you might see incremental decreases in space utilization by department. These changes over time provide valuable insight into lease administration and facility costing.

Stack planning is one of many useful tools in allocating and overseeing space in facilities. It’s a macro tool, which makes it great for broad insights and surface data about the who, what, where, why, and how of space.

See space in context, to better plan occupancy

The contact that a stack plan offers is invaluable in looking at space from a top-down level. It’s about knowing the number of workstations dedicated to a department or seeing the ratio of one space type to another. The stack plan can shed light on which people or departments have more intense space needs vs. which segments of the business use less or demand less. Above all, it’s a gateway to optimizing space utilization and efficiency.

At a time when the workplace is changing, stack planning becomes a valuable asset in planning for better building occupancy. It’s a tool every company should refer to when understanding the space they have and the changing demands of it.

Keep reading: A Crash Course in Stack Planning

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What to do With Extra Office Space After Layoffs and Remote Working

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategist
SpaceIQ

Companies weathered the COVID-19 pandemic in different ways. The prevailing approach for many was to transition to remote work and, in extreme cases, downsize their workforce. Now, as businesses consider bringing employees back to work, they’re left with a question. What do you do with extra office space after layoffs and remote working?

For some companies, it’s a question of repurposing a few unused desks and conference rooms. For others, it might mean taking a long, hard look at a lease to determine whether it’s still an efficient expenditure. Most companies will find opportunities to maximize their space through new desking concepts—especially those with a now-flexible workforce.

Here’s a look at the chief options for how to deal with extra office space in a world where traditional space concepts no longer apply.

Option one: Downsize space

For companies that plan to go completely remote or that have downsized significantly during COVID-19, trimming space is a simple, straightforward option. If there’s no intent to bring the workforce back in any meaningful way, space transitions from commodity to luxury. Companies need to ask themselves if the workplace is still essential to everyday operations.

In many cases, downsizing is a far cry from eliminating the workplace. For example, a company occupying 30,000 square feet of office space that’s now 70% remote may choose to cut its office footprint in half. Downsizing may even be less dramatic than that—a reduction in leased space of 10-15%. It’s about balancing the cost of maintaining facilities with the revenue generation they support. If no one is using the space, it’s not generating any revenue.

The primary benefit in downsizing is lease cost savings. And while many commercial building owners have renegotiated around COVID-19 to retain tenants, it doesn’t make sense for companies to pay for space they won’t use.

Option two: Repurpose space

Companies intent on reopening the workplace should consider repurposing space before downsizing. Reimagining office space can shed new light on ways to optimize space for new work habits and productivity.

Repurposing space is an endeavor that needs to happen at-scale for companies. It could be as simple as turning now-unused conference rooms into quiet workstations. In other cases, this change could mean remodeling and redesigning space to better-accommodate the needs of employees. However this transformation pans out, companies need to be aware of new social distancing norms and the space demands of employees.

Repurposing space comes with costs, but can save a company money in the long-run. For example, repurposing space vs. downsizing can help avoid the yo-yo effect when the business begins to expand again: downsize, expand, consolidate, expand, and so on. Learning to optimize the space you have and grow within the context of a new workplace concept is a sustainable option.

Option three: Consider new desking

The ideal solution to utilizing extra space is to find a desking concept that fits within new parameters. Instead of remodeling or repurposing space, redistribute the desks and seats within it. An open-concept benching office becomes a diverse hoteling area. Individual offices become pods for small group collaboration. A new desking concept can give the office new context and imbue space with more flexibility than it once had.

The key to a new desking concept—especially one built atop booking and reservations—is a system of management to back it up. Facility managers need to make sure the new concept is an efficient use of space, and that employees are getting the most out of the transformation. This is especially helpful for flex teams, in workplaces that have variable attendance each day.

New desking mimics the cost-saving opportunities of downsizing by creating new forms of productivity and revenue, similar to repurposing space. Often, new space design and new desking go hand-in-hand as an additive approach to utilizing space, rather than an outright subtractive one.

No matter the approach, think long-term

As companies consider how to best-adapt their workplaces, it’s important to act with mind for the future. Particularly, the future of remote working. How much of your workforce is already remote? Will that number increase in the future? As your company expands, will you bring people in-house or hire remote? And, as you make these moves, how does it affect your need for space?

COVID-19 may have been a catalyst for workplace change, but there are still rippling effects to consider. Remote work and distributed teams are the new normal. What new work arrangements will this change yield? What purpose does the workplace serve for your company? Identifying the workplace’s role in the future will help companies make smarter decisions about how they manage space today.

Keep reading: Five Empty Office Space Ideas for an Efficient Workplace

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COVID-19 Offers Opportunities for Workplace Improvements 

By Danielle Moore
Channel Marketing Manager, Archibus
SpaceIQ

The United States recently passed a year since the original shelter-in-place and work-from-home orders came with the onset of COVID-19. Today, once-teeming offices look quite different. Some companies still haven’t reopened. Those that have gone back have done so with emphasis on new policies and procedures to keep employees as safe as possible.

For many companies, the hiatus from office work or a soft return to the workplace opened the door for introspection. Namely, COVID-19 created opportunities to tackle capital projects without disrupting operations.

Not only has COVID-19 allowed businesses to make workplace improvements unabated it has also had a major influence on the types of projects companies are investing in. With the promise of mass vaccinations inching closer, employees may find themselves coming back to a workplace that looks and feels fundamentally different from the one they left.

The need for capital improvements

For many businesses, COVID-19 shutdowns presented an opportunity to start on projects already on the docket. Many of these projects were likely put off because of potential disruptions to normal workflow. For example, it is difficult to repave the employee parking lot or remodel the lobby when these spaces see daily use. Remote work instantly removed the primary obstacle: traffic.

Other capital improvements might be proactive, yet timely. For example, retrofitting the HVAC system in an old building becomes much more important when you consider the spread of COVID-19 through respiratory droplets and its ability to live in the air for three hours or more. Instead of putting this upgrade off for another few years, it becomes a clear and present priority.

And, of course, there’s the workplace itself to consider. It has becoming increasingly clear that work won’t be the same in a post-COVID-19 world. Companies have pivoted to adapt their workplace to bring back employees safely. But this is only a stopgap measure. Real change needs to support new work habits, which is urging many companies to think long-term and make capital improvements that redefine the workplace.

COVID-19 influences permanent workplace changes

There’s been ample opportunity for companies to reimagine their workplaces. In doing so, many have undertaken renovation projects in the wake of empty or partially staffed offices. Their focus? Creating floor plans and workstations that support new modes of work.

Close quarters are a thing of the past—as are tight conference rooms and space-deficient corner offices. For many companies, remodeling focuses on opening space and redefining how employees interact with and use space. Social distancing is now a mainstay, which means opening up the workplace to avoid cramped quarters and individual room occupancy limits. Some common remodeling changes trending in the workplace include:

  • More open spaces, for free flowing yet socially distant navigation
  • Hotel desking and rooms governed by reservation and bookings
  • Changes to floor plans to allow for navigability and better workplace flow
  • Different desking types, including standing, mobile, and minimalist
  • Partitions and moveable dividers to create makeshift enclosures

These changes all require some degree of renovation to make them a reality. Without employees relying on the space, it’s been much easier for companies to make these changes quickly and effectively. More important, it allows companies to make changes the right way—changes that’ll root the future of workplace operations.

Workplace improvements show a commitment

Companies taking advantage of COVID-19 closures to firm up the workplace of the future have put themselves in a hugely beneficial position. Not only have they shown a commitment to employee safety, but they’ve also proven themselves forward-looking and accepting of new workplace norms. Instead of sitting idly during the pandemic, proactive companies have realized the many opportunities of undertaking workplace improvements:

  • Improved health and safety standards for employees
  • Reduced liability from controlled remodeling
  • More efficient space utilization and floor planning
  • Accessible desking concepts for flex workers
  • Cost savings through better lease administration
  • Increased ROI from facilities as a managed asset

There are substantial benefits in upgrading the workplace, made even more pronounced by the idea that we’re going through a paradigm shift in work. Committing to evolving with the situation instead of after it instills confidence in employees. When the day finally does come to return to the workplace, they’ll find an environment already adapted to suit them.

Promote a seamless return to work

The past year has been jarring for employees. They’ve left behind a familiar workplace and adapted to remote work. Now, just as they’re getting settled, they might be coming back—but not to the same workplace. It’s another change of scenery and another period of transition. Employers need to be mindful of the disruption this can cause and take steps to support employees.

Welcome workers back slowly and help them get accommodated. Encourage social-emotional leadership from management and make it easy for employees to get settled. In the case of new desking concepts like hoteling, training is paramount.

Above all, the simplest thing an employer can do is to be communicative. Keep employees apprised of workplace changes and give them an opportunity to ground themselves. The workplace may look different post-COVID-19, but it should also feel more welcoming, supportive, and accessible.

Keep reading: COVID-19 Workplace Resources

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What is Workplace Management?

By Noam Livnat
Chief Product & Innovation Officer
SpaceIQ

SpaceIQ is an integrated workplace management system (IWMS) and computer-aided facility management (CAFM) program and in order to understand the full scope of what the program can do, it helps to get a better view of what is included under the workplace management umbrella. Just like a work-life balance, it explores the concepts surrounding workplace management and managers in order to gain a thorough understanding of the ways in which a comprehensive strategy involving SpaceIQ can make your organization run more efficiently. SpaceIQ can help you by reducing office politics, utilizing the available workspace, improving workplace stress management, and ensuring a highly productive workplace. This efficiency can expand into areas that are perhaps unexpected, providing a multi-faceted return on investment and a better office environment to support your talented team.

Basic Definition and Scope

Let’s start with the basic definition from our glossary, then go further in depth:

Workplace Management falls under the facility management (FM) umbrella, but it is its own entity with special considerations and processes. As part of FM, workplace management zeros in on efficiency and productivity in the office and its scope of work can extend beyond mere space allocation and focus instead on everything from health and safety protocol to the financial analysis of workplace utilization. Logistics such as security, custodial services, optimal space utilization, and new employee workstation assignments can fall under the purview of workplace management.

So, what does this mean? Essentially, workplace management is the oversight and optimization of the physical environment in an office, whether you are a manager or an employee on his/her  first day. While business management has to do with the actual work that takes place in the office, workplace management has to do with the venue in which that work takes place. Depending on what physical assets comprise an organization’s workplace environment, this could mean everything from the creation of a robustly secure visitor check-in system to the active tracking and analysis of available desk space. It even comprises simpler things like ensuring that employees can collaborate without wasting too much time figuring out where to go.

Workplace Management at Scale

It may seem as if many of these tasks are suitable only for a large organization, but startups and small firms ignore workplace management at their own peril. The truth is that every work environment needs some sort of management and oversight to function properly. Even a solo practitioner working remotely needs to consider the ideal location for his/her desk and consider whether the space in a designated home office is laid out in a maximally efficient way. Three-person teams that share a temporary office space will need to put workplace management practices in place early to ensure any rapid personnel expansion runs smoothly and doesn’t bring the entire business to a screeching halt.

On a larger scale, of course, things do get more complicated. With multiple floors to oversee and even outdoor space to manage, workplace management within a sizeable organization becomes crucial. Poor management in these situations can lead to disgruntled employees and unnecessary financial burdens resulting from poor space utilization ratios and other subtle mistakes.

Workplace management also doesn’t have to be a discrete, insular prospect for a business. Multiple startups sharing the same office space will need to implement fair and equitable workplace management policies to ensure a harmonious tenure in the office. SpaceIQ can be particularly effective for allowing each company in a shared space to implement their own policies while the office space as a whole can use our Space Planning tools to divide up space and manage the use of shared areas. Individual companies in the shared space can also use SpaceIQ’s Real Estate Forecasting tools to determine when they are potentially reaching full occupancy, and need to consider larger office space. Move Management tools in SpaceIQ can then make it easy to move the growing business into a new facility that suits an ever-expanding scale.

Common Workplace Management Considerations

So now that you have an idea of the generalities of workplace management, it’s time to look more at the nitty-gritty, day-to-day specifics that take workplace management from theory to reality. You may already be doing most, if not all, of these things without even realizing that you’re carrying out workplace management tasks. Whether you’ve already taken on these tasks or you’re just starting to integrate them into your approach, seeing them in the broader context of workplace management can help an organization determine how much emphasis to place on each element.

Furniture and Equipment Layouts

Space management is another sub-discipline of FM, but it can be considered an element of workplace management as well. Essentially, space management is more focused than workplace management; it deals with the optimization of the physical space available to you in your office environment. Are you maximizing your square footage? Is that maximization going too far and leading to a cramped, uncomfortable workplace? It’s often beneficial to stay agile in your approach to space management, especially as the business expands and brings in new employees and new departments or teams. But an organization’s ability to manipulate their space utilization often depends heavily on the type of building they occupy. Old-school office buildings are often built with highly segmented floor plans that make alterations without actual construction quite difficult. If you’re stuck in a segmented office space and you don’t feel your teams can collaborate well, you might want to consider moving into a more modern office space with an open floor plan. Regardless of what kind of space you’re in, taking a look at how your various physical assets (desks, lounge areas, reception, break rooms, server rooms, supply storage, etc.) come together to make the space can be an essential element of effective workplace management.

Seat Assignments

Now we are getting even more granular with space management. Seat assignments—the actual designation of where each member of an organization should sit to do his or her work—is another important component of workplace management. This can actually relate strongly not only to general employee satisfaction but also to collaborative capabilities. It may seem sensible to seat designers in one space and marketers in another, but depending on the specific projects they’re working on at the moment, part of your design team may want to sit close to members of the marketing team. Still, others may want to be near the copy team to work on the physical presentation of copy. This may need to change on a regular basis depending on what each individual is focusing on at the moment. Not only can SpaceIQ handle seat assignments, but SpaceIQ allows you to delegate seating to department heads so seating preferences can reside with employee managers rather than on facilities.

Future Planning and Move Management

Are you going to stay in your current office space forever? Probably not. What are your goals for the physical future of your office environment? That sort of future planning is an important component of workplace management as well. As with clothing, the ideal time to get something new is before your old office gets worn-out and dingy or becomes so improperly sized that it’s uncomfortable. When it’s time to pack up and go somewhere else, the process of managing that move – including taking inventory, setting a timeline, designing the new space and assigning seats- is an element of workplace management. Future planning and move management is already a stressful process, SpaceIQ eases that burden with seamless planning and move management features.

How Better Workplace Management Can Improve Your Organization

In the modern context, “better” workplace management means not only implementing smarter policies but also using the right IWMS and CAFM program. This is technology that every workplace should use to streamline logistics and make everyone’s work life run more smoothly. SpaceIQ has a variety of different tools to bring best practices for workplace management to all levels of an organization. Our tools and features allow all employee levels in a robust workplace management system to participate, which helps spread the positive impact around for everyone to enjoy.

Employee Satisfaction

In general, a well-managed workplace is likely to be more satisfying and relaxing. Imagine having to go to an office every day that’s physically uncomfortable and procedurally hampered by outdated tools and ineffective policies. Effective IWMS and CAFM tools play a big part in seeing to the smooth logistical operation of an office environment and as a result, workers feel more comfortable and more engaged in the office. People like technology that work to their advantage—and SpaceIQ’s collaboration and visibility tools certainly fit the bill. Employees can locate each other on our platform and use integrated tools such as Slack to streamline collaboration both virtually and physically.

Don’t discount the value of employee satisfaction. Business leaders of the old school dismissed employee satisfaction as a wasteful concern, but while the work does get done in a less-than-ideal office environment, it doesn’t get done with the passion and drive it takes to remain competitive in our innovative environment. There’s a reason that some of the most successful modern companies make headlines not only for their stock valuation and innovative new products but also for the unconventional approach they take to hosting their team members in the office. The notion that employee comfort leads to better work is backed not only by casual observation but also by hard science.

Plus, as younger generations of digital-native workers come on board in the workplace, comfortable settings and properly functioning technology are going to be a deal-breaking expectation. It’s already begun; the Dell/Intel Future Workforce Study showed that 42% of Millennials would leave a job that didn’t provide the right technology. SpaceIQ’s ability to address both the physical and digital realities of life in the office helps organizations take a robust approach to ensuring employee satisfaction, especially for tech savvy young talent.

Ease and Automation

From pulling real estate analysis reports to doing away with burdensome poly lining requirements during space planning activities, automation saves time and makes the prospect of engaging with workplace management tasks much less dreadful. When all it takes is a few mouse clicks, the task workplace management at hand gets done more quickly and with less headache. Plus, SpaceIQ’s automated features can further cut down on the time spent planning or carrying out workplace management tasks and policies. Let the system go to work for you and become a major partner in your workplace management approach. Your team has better things to do with their time and now they can actually see to those more important tasks rather than wrangling with an outdated program.

Real Estate Overhead

Real estate expenditures are among the most significant expenses for businesses in the United States and that means that any savings in this arena can be dramatically beneficial. A good workplace management program will generate space utilization reports and help management decide whether a planned office move into a more expensive space is really necessary or whether the existing 5,000 sq. ft. office space is sufficient given the volume of unused space and empty desks currently in play. You may even be able to combine SpaceIQ’s real estate forecasting software and Space Planning tools to figure out a new floor plan layout that allows for the consolidation of your current work area. It may then be possible to ease your real estate expenditure burden by subletting or leasing out available desks in your office to freelancers or a small startup that only need a small work space and/or don’t want to pay for their own premises just yet.

Strategic Cohesion Between Business and Workplace Management

Hoping to expand your operation and bring in 100 new employees in the next year? You better have the workplace management capabilities to ensure that process runs as smoothly as possible from the most basic logistical standpoint. Highly desirable, competitive talent isn’t likely to feel very positive about an interview in an office that’s incredibly cramped and uncomfortable, and employees whose first day consists of a confusing and frustrating onboarding process aren’t likely to feel very good about their new job. Smart workplace management can enhance business strategy by providing the necessary physical foundation for growth and productivity.

This is all just a taste of what SpaceIQ can do for you. Workplace management is a major area of concern, but it’s not the only element of a streamlined and ultra-efficient office space. Get in touch with us today to find out how our effective platform can take your entire office to new levels of order, productivity, and all-around awesomeness.

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4 Step Office Seating Plan Guide to Maximize Productivity

By Reagan Nickl
Enterprise Customer Success Senior Manager
SpaceIQ

Employee engagement and satisfaction are essential. Your organization simply won’t operate smoothly and efficiently if the people who make it run aren’t concerned with or committed to your mission. There are several ways to keep your team engaged and satisfied, but the physical work environment in the office may be the most important aspect. This means comfortable temperatures, appealing office space (like an open-plan office), and a seat arrangement that helps everyone be at their best are all part of a good office layout. Make the most of your office furniture and the environment by following these four steps to make your team feel comfortable and facilitate maximum productivity:

1. Move into the 21st Century

First things first: you’ve got to have an office environment that satisfies the modern workforce. Cubicles and anonymous rows of desks are out. Open floor plans are in and for good reason. For one, people tend to prefer the look of an open floor plan with tables and benches rather than a warren of discrete cells that look crowded and impersonal. Modern offices with open plans are brighter, more welcoming, and less institutional feel. Choose appealing materials like warm wood or sleekly designed industrial metal along with effective lighting and, whenever possible, large windows with plenty of sunlight.

Another reason open floor plans are a good idea? They allow for easier collaboration. If a cubicle wall separates you and your teammates, it’s harder to simply look up and ask a quick question. It’s harder to quickly check in and get back to work. The same goes for desks that are all pointed in one direction. Shared tables with individual workstations make collaboration super simple and that tends to support modern work styles much more effectively. Teams can cluster around one another and put their heads together at their desks for quick consultations or get up and move into a conference room for all-day collaboration sessions.

But, open floor plans do have some drawbacks. This ability to constantly check in with team members can be good, especially for lower-level employees who need frequent guidance or approval. But higher-level employees often find themselves being interrupted by these check-ins when they just want to focus intently on the task in front of them. As a result, many companies are beginning to balance their open office concepts with hybridized plans that include private offices or soundproof rooms with space for just one person to sit and work. Remote work opportunities can also be part of this flexibility.

Ultimately, team member satisfaction and overall workplace efficiency should be the focus of an office seating plan overhaul at the highest levels. Balancing individual needs with collaborative needs sets up an ideal foundation for a highly functional and comfortable work environment.

2. Weigh in on Assigned Seating

To assign or not to assign? It’s a bit of a tough question in a modern workplace. The trend over the past few years has been toward more flexible arrangements, but some companies are starting to game their seat assignments in an effort to boost productivity. As you may be able to tell, it isn’t exactly easy to assign seats in an open, flexible workspace. Communal workspaces and remote work opportunities mean that an employee may not always be at his or her desk, even when assigned. As a result, many open office seating plans simply allow employees to choose a desk for the day based on what’s available.

However, a complete laissez-faire approach to assigned seating isn’t always the most effective option. At the most basic level, it’s not always comfortable. Many people prefer the familiarity of a personal desk where they can leave personal effects like a water bottle or decorative trinket without worrying about it being gone the next day. Beyond that, though, complete seating anarchy can waste valuable minutes and make team members feel unnecessary frustration. It’s just not ideal for productivity.

On the other side of that coin, keeping the seating arrangement too rigid can be a mistake as well. Research discussed in the Wall Street Journal indicates that productivity can increase when assigned seating charts are in place but refresh on a regular basis. This is especially true in large workplaces that may have multiple floors. Workers tend to interact only with those who immediately surround them, so if you need to facilitate cross-team collaboration, your seating chart may help.

3. Let Similar Team Members Sit Near Each Other

Another way to game the seating plan is to let performance reviews guide you. Research shows that highly productive employees tend to have a “spillover” effect on those around them. So, if you have a table of employees who get a little too chatty and another table of ultra-focused productivity machines, mixing the two can actually have a positive effect. Seat an average-performing employee next to a much more productive teammate and you could see that average performance improve.

There is a flip side to the spillover effect—“toxic” employees can wreak havoc when they sit in close proximity. Gossipers, mischief makers, and pranksters tend to feed off of each other when they’re close by. So, breaking up these toxic hives can also have a positive impact on the environment and, by extension, the productivity of your office.

The good news is that the spillover effect doesn’t tend to cut both ways. That is, a highly effective employee isn’t likely to become less effective when sat with average performers. You may not have previously thought to include performance rules in your seating plan strategy, but it’s not a bad idea.

4. Keep the Office Flexible

Ultimately, each of the above steps boils down to one thing: flexibility is key. You may want to rearrange a seating chart based on upcoming product launches and other short-term concerns or it may be necessary to see whether an underperforming employee can do better when he sits next to a different neighbor. A fully open seating plan may not work for your office, but closed-off cubicles also might not be the right answer.

There’s been some bouncing back and forth in recent years as tech-focused companies and millennial CEOs strive to find the best way to accomplish their goals rather than trying to adhere to some sort of pervasive corporate cultural norm. Getting caught up in the stampede between the extremes of a fully open office and 1990’s style cubicle farms can be costly for companies and confusing for facilities managers and other professionals concerned with space planning. Trends in this area aren’t always based on complete or reliable research, either, so it’s important for facility management professionals to view space management trends with a critical eye.

Luckily, there’s a middle space that makes it possible to balance these priorities. Configurable office furniture and other modern workplace solutions, like movable walls and soundproof cubby rooms, facilitate flexibility and allow for an adaptable approach to seating. The key is to avoid locking yourself into a plan that may not actually end up working. If you can stay agile, you can get ahead of any potential issues and find the most productive arrangement possible.

Putting Your Plan into Practice

There are a lot of nuances involved with the creation of an ideal seating plan. Everything from the industry you’re into the specific job tasks an individual team member completes and even the unique personalities of each employee can have an impact on the “ideal” seating arrangement for your needs. Versatility and flexibility are important, but they can’t be the only goal. Some degree of stability and reliability will be helpful for allowing employees to feel grounded and to settle into a work environment that really brings out their best.

Balancing these priorities may seem tough, but with the right technology on your side, the process is simple and easy. SpaceIQ allows for space planning in an easy virtual environment while also making it easy to support and inform employees on the floor in real time.

Offices that toe the line between open and private make it possible for workers to move around the space. Those with open floor plans may see a manager or other leader in a different spot every day. Conference rooms, private work rooms, break rooms, and other spaces all help boost productivity and employee comfort, but it’s just one more space to manage. With SpaceIQ, you can integrate all of these spaces into a visual interface that allows team members to find each other, even in a spacious workplace with multiple different venues.

Wasting time tracking down the people you need to talk to isn’t fun and it’s also bad for productivity. Using outdated technology to reserve conference rooms and communicate seating charts can lead to confusion and frustration. No matter what kind of seating and space planning scenarios work best for your organization, SpaceIQ’s powerful platform cuts things down to the heart of the matter, reducing the time and effort it takes to manage your seating plan and let your employees get back to doing what they do best.

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Five Questions to Ask Before Buying Meeting Room Software

By Katherine Schwartz
Demand Generation Specialist
SpaceIQ

One of the best ways to bring law and order to your shared office spaces is through room booking software. But there are some important questions to ask before buying meeting room software. Why? There’s more to it than reserving a room. You’re actually investing in a complete space management ecosystem—a series of checks and balances to ensure maximum utilization of common spaces. It’s worth knowing how different options stack up against your facilities.

Below are five simple, straightforward questions about meeting room booking software meant to provoke greater discussions about how to get the most out of it. These questions are also the simplest way to understand what features and capabilities you need most, as well as how a booking system will streamline your facilities.

1. How will you use the software?

On the surface, conference room software is simple: reserve a specific room at a specific time. In fact, that’s exactly how it should feel to the employees who will use it. For facility managers, there’s more to consider—like how room booking software will change workplace governance. In an ideal situation, it means less work for facility managers and less chaos in shared workspaces. But this is only possible through the right software.

Consider facets of room booking like the reservation and confirmation system, as well as calendar management and meeting information capabilities. Do you need a simple system that keeps a schedule, or a more robust system that manages employees’ experience with the space? Understand your needs before choosing software to ensure your investment meets expectations.

2. What integrations are available?

Meeting room booking software needs integrations to function realistically in the workplace. Employees need the ability to book via email, chat app, through a portal, and through myriad other channels—otherwise, they’re less likely to use it. Look for software that supports multiple booking options and that’s intuitive enough to manage them all through a central queue.

Facility managers should evaluate more than just available integrations, too. Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) make it possible to create tailored integrations, so it’s worth looking at products with available APIs as well. More integrations and customizable opportunities paves the way for everything from scalability to turnkey solutions specific to the booking needs of your facilities.

3. What’s the scope of the ecosystem?

Consider whether you need or want your meeting room booking system to extend beyond a straightforward reservation system. Do you want it to appear on touchscreens outside bookable rooms? Extend to visitors as part of a wayfinding system? Establish your vision for a booking ecosystem before investing in software.

Keep in mind that the larger the ecosystem, the more associated costs and the more intense the framework for a buildout. For example, the addition of touchscreens outside of conference rooms drives up costs; however, it might also drive up bookings, improving space utilization and space efficiency. Understand the relationship between your reservation ecosystem and core facility management metrics.

4. What spaces will it encompass?

Think about the shared spaces in your facilities. Which areas need booking governance? For some companies, that only extends to conference rooms. For others, it may include hotel desks. Realistically, any unassigned space qualifies for reservations, but not every space benefits from this system.

Look at the number of spaces that need reservation capabilities, then pair that with cost. Does it make sense to invest in room booking software for four rooms? Forty rooms? Only for your conference spaces? To manage the hundreds of hotel desks at your facilities? Qualify the scope of deployment, right down to the number and type of spaces it includes.

5. How will you define ROI?

Room booking software can pay for itself when deployed effectively. But how will you know when it has? Take time to establish return on investment (ROI) metrics that validate your purchase. Is it time saved by not over-booking rooms? Does ROI correlate to space efficiency?

Delineate what ROI looks like and have a clear roadmap for how to track and measure it against the cost of investing in meeting room software. Keep in mind that this should be an ongoing priority that continues to justify the cost of your software far into the future.

Ask more questions to learn more

In theory, meeting room booking software is simple. In practice, there are numerous options, features, and deployment nuances that make careful consideration essential. The software you choose will define your employees’ experience interacting with shared spaces. It’ll also determine governance for those spaces. Answer the above five questions to gain the insight required to make the right choice about which platform to choose and how to deploy it.

Don’t limit your questioning to these five, either! Look at room booking from both micro and macro stances, to create a system that’s fluid and convenient. Ask as many questions as it takes to develop a clear system for room booking and to find software that supports it.

Keep reading: 5 benefits of a meeting room booking system tablet

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Is Your COVID-19 Office Cleaning Plan Enough?

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist
SpaceIQ

Cleanliness and hygiene are on everyone’s mind as coronavirus concerns persist in national headlines. Even though local economies have begun to open up, people are still concerned about exposure and infection. This is especially true in the workplace. It’s impossible for employees to feel comfortable and productive if they’re constantly concerned about an unseen virus lurking around them. Employers need to step up their COVID-19 office cleaning plan to quell fears and create confidence in their workforce.

Many workplaces implemented special cleaning protocols during the height of COVID-19 or before employees returned to work. This isn’t enough. The workplace needs cleanings in increased frequency and intensity, specific to concerns about COVID-19. Take a hard look at your current facility cleaning practices and measure them against coronavirus concerns.

How long can coronavirus live on surfaces?

COVID-19 is commonly transmitted via airborne droplet particles—coughs and sneezes. But the virus is resilient and can live on surfaces for varying lengths of time. For example, one study found that it can survive for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to three days on plastic surfaces. When you consider lingering surface particles, facility disinfection protocols become paramount.

Consider the types of common surfaces in your facilities and the potential for coronavirus to linger on them. At a minimum, clean these surfaces regularly with disinfectant. Encourage employees to wipe them down when they’re done using the space, as well.

What kills coronavirus?

The severity of COVID-19 as an infection is scary. Thankfully, the eradication of surface remnants of the virus isn’t any more difficult than addressing most general germs. Most office cleaning and disinfecting products will do the trick—including cleaning wipes that contain more than 70% alcohol content.

Cleaning wipes aren’t a practical use beyond spot cleaning for common surfaces. To kill COVID-19 broadly over large areas requires comprehensive cleaning or use of methods like electrostatic fogging. Fogging is ironically similar to how coronavirus spreads—a cleaning technician mists the area with an antimicrobial spray that’s electrostatically charged to kill viruses and bacteria on contact.

Finally, there’s always good old soap and water. In a pinch, most hand soaps and dish soaps will kill the virus. This isn’t generally applicable in a workplace, but it works in break rooms and bathrooms.

Increase your janitorial services

Workplace readiness for preventing the spread of COVID-19 can be as simple as stepping up what you’re already doing. If you have a janitorial service that comes once per week, for example, consider scheduling bi-weekly cleanings to keep on top of a sanitary environment.

Additionally, this is also a good time to investigate deep cleaning opportunities or new cleaning methods, like electrostatic fogging. How you clean matters as much (or more) than what you clean. The occasional deep clean or fogging will make the workplace feel brand-new and give employees a real sense of confidence in your efforts to provide a clean, sanitary workplace.

Make employees responsible for their space

Every office cleaning plan needs a focus on employee accountability. While it’s your duty as an employee to provide a clean, safe, comfortable workplace, it’s the duty of employees to keep it that way. It’s far from unreasonable to ask employees to throw away garbage and clean up after they’re done with a space. It’s also important to encourage good hygiene and sanitary practices in personal and shared spaces.

If you want employees to care for the workplace, make it easy. Place garbage and recycling bins in common and accessible areas. Leave sanitary wipes and disinfectant out and easy to grab. Post signage to remind people to be courteous about how they leave their space. Make it easy to request more paper towel or file a maintenance request to fix the soap dispenser. All these small, insignificant actions give employees the incentive and the means to clean the office as they use it.

Evaluate your standards for a clean workplace

The cleanliness of your workplace plays a tremendous role in how employees adapt post-COVID-19. If they feel comfortable in surroundings that feel clean, they’ll face fewer obstacles as they ease back into work. They’ll do better work and feel good about your organization’s emphasis on cleanliness. There are even culture implications—employees feel prouder and more connected to a workplace that’s well-kept and maintained to a superior standard.

Evaluate your current workplace cleaning and maintenance standards and make sure they address coronavirus-specific concerns. Adapt to ease employee worries—whether it’s more frequent cleanings, specific disinfection practices, or new policies to promote workplace cleanliness.

Keep reading: Coronavirus Workplace Resources

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How to Avoid COVID-19 Workplace Violations

By Katherine Schwartz
Demand Generation Specialist
SpaceIQ

There’s much uncertainty surrounding employer liability when it comes to an employee who tests positive for COVID-19 due to workplace exposure. Employers are stuck in a tug-o-war match between state governments, the CDC, OSHA, and the federal government. Are employers liable for coronavirus spread among employees? How can you avoid COVID-19 workplace violations? What mandates govern the workplace right now?

While there’s little clarity, legal professionals have begun to provide best practices for employers to follow. While they’re only generalizations, they provide precedent-backed advice to protect employers from liabilities. Here’s a look at the best practices to avoid liability and COVID-19 workplace violations.

Consider your duty as an employer

Protocols specific to coronavirus may still be up in the air, but there are plenty of workplace-specific standards from OSHA to abide by in these unprecedented times. Specifically, as it relates to the duty to provide a safe workplace. Several states have also released specific OSHA supplements for operating a safe workplace during the pandemic (ex. New York). The chief precedents employers need to focus on include:

It all boils down to an employer’s duty to provide a safe workplace, proper protective equipment, and the means for employees to feel safe while on the job. While there’s general uncertainty and trepidation surrounding this unprecedented pandemic, employer efforts should still emphasize these essential duties.

Contact tracing and exposure notification

Under current guidelines, employers need to act reasonably in the event of a confirmed case of coronavirus. As governing bodies strive to implement contact tracing methods to reduce the spread of coronavirus, employers play a role. Workplaces need a method to register a positive COVID-19 diagnosis and alert employees who may have had contact with this person—all in a way that protects privacy.

Excluding infected employees and recommending self-quarantine for possible exposure can mitigate employers of any liability associated with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the workplace. In addition, report all confirmed cases that involve hospitalization within 24 hours.

Responsible testing and self-screening

According to CDC and OSHA guidelines, employers can mandate both COVID-19 tests and self-screening for employers. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provided new guidance related to coronavirus in April, which says employers can employ tests and self-screening methods that are “accurate and reliable, administered in a manner consistent with business necessity.”

Be aware that, in most cases, this is an all-or-nothing decision on the part of employers. The requirement that some employees self-screen or submit to a test and not others could infringe on workplace equality. Employers who can demonstrate legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for testing a particular group of employees may do so, but should prepare to provide justification.

Non-discriminatory policy changes

Many employers have adapted policy changes to account for COVID-19. This includes work-from home policies, as well as physical workplace policies and those that govern employee responsibilities. While these changes are proactive, make sure they’re not discriminatory.

Employers can’t make new policies that discriminate based on age, race, gender, etc. For example, furloughing only staff above a certain age violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act—even if it’s meant to protect their health. Instead, consider how to enable at-risk staff constructively. In this example, something like a telecommuting policy would not be discriminatory, since it does not prohibit individuals from gainful employment.

Be mindful of both the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act as you consider policy changes.

Paid sick leave and FFCRA

Employers will likely face questions from employees regarding sick leave, FMLA, and other illness-related absences during the pandemic. It’s the responsibility of employers to provide accurate and timely information for individuals, so they can get the leave and pay they’re entitled to.

The nuances of paid sick leave due to COVID-19-related circumstances are spelled out thoroughly in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and in materials distributed by the U.S. DOL. Employers need to stay apprised of the differences between FMLA and FFCRA, and what situations constitute qualified medical leave. This includes distinguishing between full- and part-time employees, self- and physician-mandated quarantines, and no-fault attendance policies.

Do your best to be a responsible employer

The lack of clear, unified insight on employer liability makes it difficult to know how to best operate during the pandemic. All you can do is act in accordance with recognized CDC and OSHA standards. As these organizations scramble to provide updated guidance and codes, employers need to be proactive in protecting themselves and their employees.

Adjust your current policies to accommodate coronavirus concerns. Stay up-to-date with the best health advice from reputable organizations. Keep apprised of what other companies in your industry are doing to combat liability. Above all, document your efforts and act with integrity, putting the health and wellness of employees first.

Keep Reading: Latest Workplace Covid-19 Resources

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COVID-19 Workplace Health Screening Questions

By Nai Kanell
Vice President of Marketing
SpaceIQ

Whether your workplace is essential or is only now resuming operation after a state-mandated shutdown, workplace concerns about coronavirus remain high. The more in-house employees you have, the more concern there is about transmission. For employers and employees alike, this concern is valid. It’s why every workplace needs clear protocols for COVID-19 workplace health screening.

The good news is screening employees for coronavirus is as simple as asking a few questions. We know enough about the virus and its symptoms to make smart decisions when welcoming employees back to the workplace… or asking them to stay home. Use the following questions to put together a simple, yet effective, self-screening process to protect your workplace and employees. Use this screening process every day—regardless of how many employees you’re welcoming back to work.

In the past 24 hours, have you experienced X?

Hallmark symptoms of coronavirus are easy to spot—especially when they occur in tandem. Ask employees to perform a self-check before they come to work each day and gauge a yes or no answer about any of the following symptoms:

  • A fever of 100°F or higher
  • A subjective fever (felt feverish)
  • Cough (excluding known conditions like COPD)
  • Shortness of breath (excluding known conditions like asthma)
  • Sore or swollen throat
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Anosmia (loss of smell)

If they’ve developed any of these symptoms within the last 24 hours, urge employees to stay home. Fever, combined with throat tightness or trouble breathing, warrants immediate medical attention. Instruct employees to visit their primary care physician as soon as possible and stay isolated until they can.

As you ask employees to assess themselves each day, also be aware of psychosomatic symptoms. There’s a difference between general lethargy on a Monday and feeling feverish. Encourage employees to assess their symptoms through a quantifiable lens—use a thermometer, document a cough, feel swollen glands, etc. If they feel symptoms warrant staying home, make sure they seek medical attention. Employers need to trust employees to act in the best interests of their health and the health of others.

What’s your current temperature?

The simplest way to make a decision about coming into work is for employees to take their temperature each day. A normal range is anything less than 100°F; above 100°F is cause for concern. Use this threshold as a clear decision-maker for whether to come to work or stay home.

Advise employees on how to properly take their temperature, and to take multiple readings for accuracy. Both oral and ear thermometers are acceptable methods of gauging temperature. Provide simple instructions for both.

  • Wait at least 30 minutes after eating or drinking to take temperature
  • Insert thermometer into ear or place under the tongue
  • Wait until thermometer beeps with a clear reading
  • Record temperature, wait two minutes, then repeat
  • Repeat 2-3 times to get an accurate reading

Employees don’t need to provide any record or log of their temperature for employers. They should simply be aware that feverish readings are cause to stay home and, if temperatures reach 102°F or more, they should seek medical attention.

Have you traveled recently?

With current travel restrictions and state lockdowns, this question is easy for many to answer. It’s unlikely they’ve traveled within the country, let alone internationally. That said, international travel for work is required of some individuals. If your company has any employees traveling abroad, this question becomes pertinent.

In accordance with CDC guidelines, anyone returning from international travel should self-quarantine for 14 days. This includes routine temperature checks. It’s best for employers to mandate work-from-home for these individuals, regardless of how they feel.

Have you had contact with anyone who tested positive for COVID-19?

Employees should avoid coming to work if they’ve had contact with anyone who’s tested positive for COVID-19—even if they themselves don’t test positive. As researchers learn more about the virus’s incubation period, it’s recommended you treat possible transmission like a positive diagnosis until proven otherwise by time. Tests can yield false negatives.

Before returning to work, employees should be at least 72 hours removed from contact, with multiple negative tests, and no symptoms. Many employers will want to wait a full week to be absolutely sure.

Simple questions lead to important answers

As they answer these self-screening questions before work each day, employees will feel a sense of calm. Not only will a self-screening reassure them of their own health, it shows them you as an employer have a preventive mindset.

In addition to self-screening protocols, be sure to create processes for employees who answer “yes” to any of the screening questions. Whether it’s a remote work arrangement or paid time off through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), next steps should be clear and decisive. This proactive stance will keep your workplace safe and your employees calm and confident.

Keep Reading: SpaceIQ’s COVID-19 Resource Page

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Checklist: Workplace Neighborhoods

The transition from individual desks to neighborhoods—or desk stacks—can be tough for many employees to make. Even the most comprehensive workplace neighborhood guide can’t anticipate the resistance or concerns of your workforce. Luckily, the right guide can help you take the right steps toward inciting positivity if you’re making the switch to a neighborhood desks. Here’s a quick checklist to follow before, during, and after the transition:

  • Notify employees ~two months in advance to minimize disruptions to day-to-day work routines. This allows time to voice concerns, plan, and understand the shift.
  • Schedule Q&A sessions after the announcement. This gives employees a platform to speak and facilitates a positive flow of ideas.
  • Use feedback to organize neighborhood workspaces. Implement changes into the overall neighborhood transition plan where possible.
  • Clearly communicate the benefits of neighborhoods and focus on creating a positive culture that starts with the neighborhood itself. Highlight personal benefits.
  • Get executives and departmental leaders on board with the change. Their support will trickle down as positive sentiment to employees.
  • Create a welcoming feeling after the change and strengthen that vibe of belonging that extends to every worker in every desk stack. Make a positive first impression.
  • Market the benefits of the change and focus on improvements it brings. Focus on keeping employees excited about the transition.

Ensuring a smooth transition, promoting open and honest communication, and continually projecting the benefits of desk neighborhoods will harness ongoing support in your workplace. For more insights as to the right approach, download our guide and Learn How to Create Workplace Neighborhoods the right way.