Safely back to the office: fear, technology and the new normal

workspace scheduling technology

As the UK and other countries start opening for business, companies are working hard to overcome the fear factor, setting the office up for safe working while persuading staff it’s OK to come back.

No part of this is going to be easy.

Social distancing creates issues ranging from the number of staff you can accommodate to potentially providing extra equipment such as Perspex screens; hygiene criteria are far tougher than ever before.

But dealing with the Fear Factor will engage all of us. After months of being told to stay at home, workers are understandably cautious – or even downright scared – about sitting in their old seat.

With workspace management close to our hearts, at NFS we’ve been preparing for this moment by gathering best practice tips to share from our clients and industry groups such as CoreNet.

Break the challenges into these 3 stages:

  • Now: Immediate action plan
  • Next: Medium term: (pre-vaccine) solution
  • Then: Long term: (post vaccine) “new normal”.

So here are our tips for each of these stages in bringing your staff back to the office.

Your immediate action plan:

  • Reduce your space density by at least 50%: identify and block out office, meeting room and desk space that does not allow proper social distancing
  • Brush up your hygiene policies: set new standards, and communicate them to your staff and service providers (who may be in short supply at the moment, so efficiency is key). You’ll need to provide hand sanitizer and provide extra cleaning of surfaces throughout the day.
  • Implement zero touch strategies: workspace scheduling technology provides your staff with touch-free access and space use, via mobile apps, QR codes, and RFID features on room panels and self-service kiosks.
  • Keep staff in the know: if they are able to use mobile apps to pre-book workspace, these can also share important information on who has been using the space and how recently it was cleaned.
  • Manage visitors: limit the number of guests you allow into your premises and always ask if the meeting can be carried out by video conference instead.

If they do need to come in, reduce face to face engagement with your reception during the access process with secure check in/out panels, and use digital signage to guide them to the right place without wandering around the building.

Medium term plan

One thing we know for sure – thanks to the massive increase in home working, occupancy levels are changing all across the realm of corporate real estate.

This is happening to you, too, and you need to know exactly what difference it is making so you can adjust your real estate footprint accordingly (and perhaps save money).

Collect this data to make good future space decisions:

  • What’s the actual utilisation of meeting rooms?
  • How many people join virtually?
  • Is the check in/out process working and providing useful data?
  • Could service provision improve? Eg catering – is restaurant delivery a new model?
  • Is staff productivity and collaboration being maintained?

Organisations with workspace scheduling technology are in the best position to answer these questions.

Because the software integrates with other technologies such as sensors with people counters, digital signage and in-room panels, it captures real-time data and provides reports that take away any guesswork.

It’s invaluable when supporting an agile workforce, too, providing the facility to locate and book space via an app before they even arrive at the office.

Because they can arrive, check in and go straight to their booked desk or room, it reduces unwanted movement around the office and supports social distancing.

On a broader level, workspace scheduling technology is a great enabler for collaboration when it comes to a remote or roving workforce.

It makes it simple to organise a video conference, for example – rooms and equipment can be found and booked in a few clicks, with all attendees invited and even catering organised. Even multiple locations and time zones are no problem – and if any details of the meeting change, the workspace scheduling technology informs everyone automatically.

Long term – the new normal.

What this will bring is not clear; that depends on when a vaccine is developed, and how our workplaces and practices have evolved by then.

However, two things will certainly dominate: the space footprint will change, and staff will demand a more agile mode of work (some countries, eg Finland, have already embedded the right to working from home in law).

Workers worldwide have reported high levels of wellbeing while working at home, so it’s likely to become an important plank of attracting and retaining talent.

Luckily, productivity levels have also been maintained, even though many organisations had to rush to implement home working with cobbled-together systems and practices.

Imagine how much better it can be with more time to plan, and the right technology in place to support it.

We wish you success with your back to work planning, and we’ll continue to gather and share tips and advice from across the workspace sector.

Discover how workspace scheduling technology makes agile working better:

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    Discover more about how it will streamline your room and resource booking operation.

    • Effectively manages multi-location, multi time zone meetings including video
    • Integrates fully with Outlook so is easy to use and incorporate into your existing workflow
    • Eliminates manual processes such as sending meeting requests
    • Enables flexible working as works on all mobile platforms
    • Manages finite resources such as hot desks and A/V

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Luis De Souza
Luis De Souza Chief Executive Officer Posted on: May 18, 2020
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