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Category: <span>Hybrid Work</span>

As organizations settle into a hybrid work model, long-term decisions about the office can begin. Analytics are necessary to make data-driven decisions about the future. Leveraging this data can help you understand if the office is supporting the hybrid model, and how it is being used. Then, the necessary changes can be made, including potentially right-sizing your space. 

Make key decisions, and effectively carry out a great office experience for your staff by looking into the right metrics. 

Key Metrics for the Hybrid Office

Metrics such as office space utilization, cleaning resource allocation, peak occupancy, and surges in activity help keep a pulse on what’s happening at the office. 

These key measurements are:

Office Utilization

Understand who is coming into the office, when, and what space they are using. How frequently employees enter the office is also measured in utilization. 

If the data indicates that employees are using collaboration space the most, the office space can be reorganized accordingly. Or, if some workdays have a higher occupancy rate, appropriate staffing of the team will help support these times. Access to this data allows the facilities team to anticipate what types of services will be required, and when.

For example, do staff attend an in-person meeting and leave directly afterward? Or do they book a desk and stay for the entire day? Office utilization also helps to make decisions, such as limiting workplace maintenance costs, or adding more collaboration spaces depending on the findings. Outfitting these areas for hybrid meetings can encourage productivity. 

Organizations are rethinking the concept of their office – and how to best optimize their real estate portfolio.

Occupancy Data

When looking into occupancy data, there are two important components. The peak occupancy refers to the maximum number of individuals in the office space at one time. A related metric is average occupancy, meaning the daily average number of individuals in the space.

The peak and average office occupancy is particularly important when experiencing workspace constraints. Understanding the difference between these rates can offer insights such as an opportunity to reconfigure the office space to increase capacity. 

Dig deeper to monitor activities such as collaboration patterns to differentiate between formal or informal collaboration. Then, optimize the space accordingly. The most strategic managers focus on giving their workplace a competitive advantage.

With access to the data and technology needed to support the hybrid office, you can make decisions for the future. For example, if a downsize is necessary. Once you understand employees’ primary trends of going to the office, their experiences can be better supported. 

Applying the Findings

Understanding office utilization and occupancy also enables cross-functional collaboration, innovation, and creativity. A successful hybrid office depends on sharing timely insights with relevant teams, such as HR, facility management, and IT. 

For example, if there is a decrease in average occupancy, alert the HR team. They can run a pulse survey to gather employee feedback for a comprehensive analysis. If the office is often at maximum capacity, it can signal a need to transition to a better-suited space.

The New Normal

A priority of the hybrid work model is to ensure the usability, reliability, and safety of the office. Using data supports the in-office employee experience by ensuring that the space functions optimally. Organizations will rely more than ever on workplace analytics to support the future of their office.

There’s no denying it – hybrid work is here to stay. With the numerous benefits for employees and organizations alike, it makes sense why its presence in businesses globally is on the rise.  In fact, 74% of U.S. companies either are currently using or plan to implement a permanent hybrid work model.

As advantageous as hybrid work models can be, they need to be both implemented and maintained effectively for a positive outcome. This involves creating a successful hybrid work environment. But what exactly does it take to foster one?

By taking note of these four essential tips, you can create an ideal hybrid work environment for your employees that supports their experience, performance, and retention. 

1.     Connect With Employees

Fostering strong connections with your employees is essential, regardless of whether they are working in person or remotely. Creating a positive work environment starts with meaningful human connections, and it is proven that this is not only motivating, but also boosts happiness and employee job satisfaction. By connecting with employees through frequent check-ins, and creating opportunities for both parties to share feedback, you can build trust within your organization. This ultimately ensures that management and employees are aligned in their values. 

In a divided hybrid workforce, where employees are working from different locations on varying schedules, effectively connecting with others is a way to create cohesion. This contributes to a successful hybrid work environment where employees feel supported, resulting in better performance and decreased attrition. 

2.     Set Realistic Goals

Keeping employees on track is a vital part of a positive and productive work environment. By setting well-defined goals for the business, you can help provide your employees with clarity and create a sense of consistency. This is especially important in new hybrid work environments, where you will need to make workers aware of their expectations and encourage a positive employee experience. With clearly defined goals, employees are more motivated and driven. When staff have an idea of where they should be heading, they’ll be able to create their own path on how to get there. 

One way to ensure that your employees are aligned with their goals is by having hybrid or in-person meetings for the goal setting process. Allow employees to suggest their ideas, insights, and visions for the short- and long-term goals of the company, and what role they will play in achieving these goals. Encourage open communication for employees to voice any concerns or challenges related to these goals.

3. Use the Right Technology

A successful hybrid workforce needs to be managed effectively, and for that, you’ll need to support your workplace with the right technology. The beauty of the hybrid model is the flexibility it provides employees, and a workplace management solution is crucial to enable this freedom. This software allows employees to book desk space as they please, and to come into the office when they want to. 

Perhaps employees want to collaborate with coworkers at the office. A workplace management solution allows staff to book a meeting room. Additionally, this solution would provide your leadership with analytics to make key decisions, fuel success, and ultimately drive an ideal work environment.

4. Establish a Positive Culture 

A positive work environment goes hand in hand with a positive culture. To do this, ensure that there is equity between your remote and in-person workers. Be equally as available to your remote workers by connecting with them online and providing them with the constructive feedback they need. Make time for your employees regardless of where they are.

Here are some more ways to create a positive workplace culture: 

  • share key values to guarantee alignment across the organization 
  • motivate your employees by highlighting their accomplishments
  • organize social opportunities both online and in person

By establishing a positive work culture, you are creating a welcoming environment that your employees will want to be a part of for the long term. Put the wellbeing of your employees first and show them that they matter. By doing so, you’ll create a hybrid work environment that exceptionally supports your employees and provides them with the best experience.

Success Starts With You

With the right care and consideration, you can guarantee that the hybrid work environment you create is a successful one. A little time and effort can go a long way — yielding great returns for your business and keeping your employees happy. 

Many organizations took a phased approach to rolling out a new hybrid work model. Likely, their offices reopened on a rolling basis and additional policies were put in place as restrictions eased. Your organization may have also experienced many different phases or iterations of the hybrid work model up to this point.

Now’s the perfect time to reflect on hybrid work. What is the current state? For example, is the office open, but folks are working primarily remotely? Or, are staff required to attend the office a certain number of days each week? 

In some high-profile cases, like JP Morgan and Apple, a return to office mandate caused resistance from employees. Encouraging workers to attend the office is important, however, it needs to be done delicately to preserve employee morale and experience.

Understanding the Current State

Before encouraging workers to attend the office, understand if there is an issue with employee engagement at the office. Using workplace management software can help you gather analytics to determine if your space is being used as intended. Metrics such as occupancy, bookings, and no-show data can help determine if there is low attendance at the office.

Get a complete picture of the data to understand if there is a discrepancy between your policy and reality. What does the employee feedback tell you? Do employees want more support in attending the office? Or, is it about launching a new strategic plan to get the office higher use?

Strategies to Encourage Working at the Office

If the data reveals low office attendance, follow these suggestions to encourage in-person work.

1. Make The Office an Attractive Place to Work

Are employees not attending the office because it’s difficult to focus in the space? Are they experiencing issues collaborating with their coworkers in-person? Make it possible for teams to attend the office and improve the company culture. 

Does your workplace management solution allow colleagues to book space near one another? This could be a great way to encourage entire teams to attend the office. As well, communicate to your colleagues or team leaders to encourage teammates to work together from the office.

Get employees excited about coming to the office by hosting team building activities or other collaboration opportunities. Events like a happy hour, special speaker, or presentation allow team members to see value in visiting the space. 

Finally, enlist some perks from attending the office for employees. Perhaps it’s a free lunch, implementing a dog-friendly office, a lunch-and-learn, or public transportation reimbursements for their commute. Make sure that there is a clear benefit to employees when they attend the office, and reward them for doing so.

2. Embrace Flexibility

Another reason that employees may not be attending the office is that they require more flexibility. Working in-person can be more rigid in comparison to working remotely. 

Ensure that working in-person maintains a level of flexibility. For example, employees should have the ability to check in or out of the office as needed. This gives them the freedom to drop in to the office as they please. 

Maintain a level of choice and flexibility for employees to determine their own schedule. Research suggests that the benefits of attending the office can be realized in as little as one office visit per week. Forcing employees to attend the office 2 or 3 times per week may not increase their connection to the company. Instead, it can take away from the flexibility and work life balance they value while working from home.

3. Incorporate Employee Feedback

Ensure that the employee voice is reflected in encouraging staff to attend the office. Implement the feedback that you’ve gathered in a timely manner and continue to evaluate the effectiveness. Perhaps there are common concerns or hesitations about hybrid work that can be resolved. A town-hall forum or policy update could help address this.

Run employee pulse surveys before and after making policy updates! Verify if the results reveal that staff are attending the office more frequently. If your efforts are not yielding the desired outcome, perhaps further investigation can identify the cause for lack of office attendance.

Hybrid Work Strategies

Ensure that your staff clearly understand the benefits of working in the office. Use a workplace management solution to get employees excited about coming to the office. As well, as an administrator, you can gather data on office usage. Use this as an opportunity to right-size the office space for how employees are using it.

Guarantee that you are addressing any employee hesitations about returning to the office with empathy and understanding. Make it worthwhile for employees to attend the office to participate in the hybrid work model.

Workplace experience encompasses an employee’s total environment at work. It begins as early as the recruiting and onboarding experience and continues for the duration of the employee’s tenure at your organization. 

Workplace experience includes the physical workspace, the digital suite of tools given to an employee, and the people at the company. It incorporates the feeling of belonging to the company and the connection to the company culture as well.

A positive workplace experience is essential because it leads to highly engaged and productive employees. And when employees feel supported by their workplace setup, they can achieve their best work. 

If the workplace experience is negative, your organization risks a greater churn in the employee base. Employees become less productive and potentially isolated. When physical and digital workspace fail to promote collaboration, staff experience weaker connections to the organization. There could also be friction or frustration between employees and technology, or even worse, that employees do not feel included.

Strategies to Enhance Workplace Experience

A hybrid work model has the potential to improve workplace experience. Other work models, such as remote work, offer flexibility and autonomy for employees, but little utilization of the physical space. Other risks include a weak connection to your company and challenges with the digital suite of tools. 

Fully in-person work does not promote work-life balance or flexibility for employees. However, occasional on-site work improves in-person collaboration, connection to the company culture, and reduced dependency on digital tools.

Hybrid work can improve the workplace experience by:

  • promoting a connection to your company culture
  • providing autonomy through flexible work models
  • encouraging work-life balance
  • enabling innovative digital tools

In fact, according to research from Gallup, 59% of workers would prefer a hybrid work model.  As of February 2022, 42% of workers were already hybrid. Ultimately, a hybrid work model has the opportunity to positively impact all aspects of workplace experience. 

Rolling out a Hybrid Work Model

Using a workplace management solution to roll out a hybrid work model ensures the best workplace experience for your employees. Using these tools results in less employee stress and anxiety about entering the office. This is because employees can book their space in advance and identify who will be occupying the desks around them. Additionally, all staff in the office must declare their health before entering.

A workplace management solution can also increase connection to the physical space and company culture. It increases visibility into office policies, which promotes equity. As well, it supports employees managing their own schedule and flexibility. Employees can also foster important social connections by creating valuable in-person relationships at the office.

Most importantly, a workplace management solution is the integration between the digital and physical workspace that encompasses the workplace experience. It is part of your company’s digital suite of tools, but also encourages employees to visit the office. It further blends the physical and digital through a virtual rendering of the office space.

Measuring Workplace Experience

If you’re focused on improving workplace experience, it’s important to quantify the improvement to understand success. Measuring workplace experience can also help identify areas of improvement and provide a benchmark for success.

Firstly, leverage space analytics to understand how the physical space is being used. Metrics such as frequency of office visit and space use can indicate the connection your employees feel to the physical space. Space analytics can help identify if your office is effectively enabling collaboration, which is an important element of workplace experience as well.

Use employee pulse surveys and analyze the results to understand which employees could be at risk of a negative workplace experience. Interfere early to ensure that changes are made to support the experience. 

Workplace experience is unique because there are many varying factors for each individual. When assessing the results of the survey, look for trends or feedback to identify areas of improvement. This way, you can measure the change over time and upgrade accordingly.

Why is Experience Important in the Workplace?

When employees have a positive workplace experience, they:

  • feel connected to the company
  • effectively utilize the physical workspace
  • and are supported by a digital suite of tools to fuel their success. 

By specifically enabling a workplace management solution, the workplace experience can be connected between the physical and digital realms. Understand the improvements you’ve made by validating with data and employee feedback. Create the optimal workplace experience for all by rolling out a hybrid work model.

The hybrid office presents an opportunity for a fresh start and a revamp of the existing space. When an organization transitions to  a hybrid model, the purpose of the office shifts. Now, the focus is on attending the office for a specific reason, which is often for the purpose of collaborating with colleagues. 

When contemplating a hybrid office remodel, collaboration space is particularly important to consider. The way we use the office has changed — let your space reflect that. Look beyond the formal boardrooms of the past! 

We’ll discuss ways that you can improve your collaboration spaces for the hybrid work model. This will allow you to better support your employees when they attend the office. Transform your collaboration spaces with these three tips to effectively embrace the future of work.

1. Add informal collaboration spaces for spontaneous sessions

Under the hybrid work model, depending on your arrangement, employees may or may not be required to attend the office. You can encourage your employees to collaborate in-person by making the office an inviting and welcoming space. Also, employees can see value in attending the office because they can foster their in-person relationships and professional network. This means that your office space will be well-utilized and employees will have a better connection to your company.

We’ve traditionally thought of collaboration space as a conference center or board room. Embrace the hybrid work model by adding or adjusting spaces that are relaxed and informal. These spaces can help with spontaneous collaboration sessions, brainstorming, and networking. 

Not all in-person interactions need to be pre-booked with an agenda. These types of meetings support important networking opportunities, such as informal coffee chats. The types of spaces that support these uses have comfortable seating and easily movable furniture items that help create a comfortable atmosphere. 

Ensure that your relaxed, informal collaboration spaces support various group sizes. These could be small sessions with just two team members, to larger sessions that might involve multiple teams. You can repurpose your existing space or adjust your workstations to accommodate more “we” space instead of “me” space.

2. Enable technology to include remote employees

Collaboration of any kind must be inclusive. Particularly when working hybrid, in-person collaboration needs to be able to accommodate remote employees. Ensure that your collaboration spaces embrace this  by enabling the spaces with the technology to support remote team members in both formal and informal sessions.

Connect remote employees to the session to make the space truly hybrid. Involve the remote attendees by including webcams, microphones, and television screens in all spaces. For informal collaboration spaces, even a laptop stand or a monitor that supports a video call should suffice. 

For larger sessions, consider more robust technology to carry sound and display relevant documents. Ensure that everyone who should be present can participate freely and contribute to the common goal.

3. Use a meeting room booking system

Using the right technology to enable collaboration will immensely enhance the spaces at your office. Your employees can plan what space they will be using in advance, should they choose to do so. A meeting room booking system can help with spontaneous reservations or grabbing space as soon as it’s needed. 

The system ensures that the room or space has been cleaned since its last use. As well, make sure that you are not “stealing” the room – see which spaces are available quickly and easily. In addition to not taking other people’s bookings, the reservation system gives visibility into when the next person is using the space.

Collaboration Spaces at Work

The future of work is now — and the hybrid office changes how we collaborate. Ensure that collaboration spaces are refined to reflect the new use of the office space, and the latest ways that we connect with each other. Guarantee that your spaces are inclusive for all employees, including remote staff, and that you have a variety of collaboration spaces available for many uses. Give your space the refresh it needs to truly embrace the hybrid model and deliver quality employee experiences.

Hybrid work models are on the rise due to the flexibility and support that they can provide businesses and employees. If hybrid work is possible for your organization, consider implementing the model to improve upon company culture, employee satisfaction, and employee retention. Workers can experience great benefits with hybrid work models, and in fact, a recent Accenture report reveals that 83% of workers prefer them.  

Although you may encounter certain hesitations from employees while implementing a hybrid work model, with the right planning and set of tools, these challenges can be easily overcome. 

Here are five common hybrid work hesitations, and how to conquer them:

1. Employees returning to the office

Whether it be for the comfort, convenience, or consistency, some employees may prefer remote work and be hesitant to return to work in-office. In fact, a recent survey finds that 65% of workers want to work remotely full time. Perhaps these individuals don’t see the value in commuting to come into work or are worried about the possible health risks.  

If this is the case, it is up to your organization to ensure that your workers feel safe, comfortable, and encouraged to come into the office. Employees should be offered the flexibility to come into the office as they please, with opportunities to be both social and productive. They should be advised to work collaboratively and arrange for the best days to meet their team members and optimize time spent in the office. Nspace’s “Find a Colleague” feature can help employees arrange to work with each other in office, making effective use of office space. 

The right workplace management solution can mitigate health risks with the use of self-assessments and contact tracing, allowing hesitant employees to feel comfortable taking advantage of the office. Requiring employees to assess the status of their health before entering the office can help limit the potential spread of illnesses. The contact tracing feature also monitors who enters the office and when, allowing you to identify possible exposure and keep employees safe.  

2. Redesigning office space

When it comes to hybrid workplaces, it can be challenging to redesign the office in alignment with its new purpose.   

The new role of the office is centred around providing a social space for collaboration and creativity, rather than being a hub with assigned seating. Your office needs to be open concept and flexible, with a wide array of spaces based on different needs, such as a mix of collaborative, open areas and quieter workspaces for independent work.  

With these new collaboration environments, employees will need a tool to easily book workspaces. This way, they can come into the office with other team members for collaborative work and be guaranteed the space to do so. They can make use of office space when required, and work remotely when they need to concentrate on independent tasks, giving them the best of both worlds.  

3. Collaborating across unique schedules

Occasionally, the flexibility that hybrid work brings can come with some confusion.  This can be especially difficult when you are trying to connect with remote and in-office workers at the same time. For instance, a possible hybrid work challenge is a lack of communication during meetings that can cause remote employees to feel distant or left out of the conversation. 

Hybrid collaboration is an essential aspect of hybrid work. It defines the way both remote and in-office employees communicate and work together effectively, while taking advantage of the freedom and flexibility that hybrid work models provide. 

In order to navigate this, your business should organize and arrange meetings based on who will be in the office, while giving the option for other team members to join virtually. All workers should be focused on and aware of how everyone is contributing to the conversation to make sure that the virtual team members are included. 

A level of connectivity must also be maintained, regardless of whether colleagues are in-office or remote. The right workplace management solution can resolve this hybrid work struggle, by allowing employees to see who is coming into the office and when. This can help with scheduling meetings or workspaces for collaborative projects, as a meeting room can easily be booked based on everyone’s availability. Or, if colleagues are planning to work remotely on the same days, appropriate arrangements can be made to work together and connect asynchronously as well.  

4. Employee/manager connections

Communication is essential for all relationships, especially ones between managers and their teams. By effectively connecting and strengthening the communication between you and your employees, you can spark motivation, encourage collaboration, and help your team build the necessary skills to achieve success in their roles.  

Sometimes, hybrid employee/manager relations can be a challenge when both individuals are working from different locations. Without a set schedule, if your workers are coming into the office as they please, it can be difficult for you to provide feedback and connect in-person with your employees on a regular basis.  

To remedy this, you need to establish trust with your employees. Always be approachable and friendly to support your team members. By having plenty of one-on-one meetings, you can help your employees set realistic goals and create a plan to work towards achieving them. Communicate with them frequently through necessary channels or platforms, regardless of whether they are working remotely or in-person, so you can keep up with them and make sure that they’re on track. 

Workplace management solutions can assist management by allowing them to see when employees are coming into the office and booking one-on-one meeting spaces accordingly. You can view where your employees are working while in the office, facilitating impromptu check-ins. You can track how frequently your employees may be coming into the office, taking note of those who are primarily remote workers, and fostering connections with them accordingly.  

5. Maintaining company culture

A hybrid work model can result in a dispersed workforce, and this makes it hard to establish a shared culture where core values are aligned across the entire organization. Having a positive company culture is crucial as it can greatly impact the success of the business. In fact, over 50% of executives claim that corporate culture influences important factors such as productivity, growth rates, profitability, and creativity. 

Unfortunately, there is a high chance that employees working mainly from home could have a very different employee experience than those working mostly in-office. Team-building activities, in-person meetings, and employee social interactions contribute greatly to the development of company culture, and these incidences are all compromised under hybrid work models.  

One way you can foster company culture in a hybrid work environment is to encourage positive interactions between your employees, regardless of where they’re working. This can be done through running hybrid meetings, organizing social events, or motivating workers to engage in coffee chats. Creating social connections between employees can build trust and cohesion, which ultimately leads to a better company culture and work environment.  

It should be your priority to uplift the employee experience within your organization, creating a workplace where people feel free, safe, and included.  

Resolving hybrid work challenges to bring about change

Although it may seem daunting at first, implementing a hybrid work model can be a transformative step for the success of your business. By taking the initiative to conquer hybrid work challenges, your organization can take advantage of the many benefits of hybrid work and see lasting impacts in the long term.  

Over the past couple of years, many organizations formally transitioned to a hybrid work model. The results are in: as of February 2022, 42% of employees in the US were hybrid. Gallup predicts that this could increase to as many as 53% of workers by the end of this year. As organizations have become increasingly familiar with hybrid work, and many individuals have experienced the model, it is the perfect time to check-in for a progress update. It’s a chance to revisit some of the core reasons why employees wanted hybrid work in the first place and how your organization is delivering on that.

Follow these three best practices to achieve a successful hybrid working model and cultivate a fantastic employee experience.

1. Gather employee feedback

The first step towards a great hybrid work model is to collect input from your employees about their working preferences. This is an opportunity to make improvements and tweak your policies based on what employees want to see. Ultimately, implementing this feedback can improve the adoption of your company policy and employee retention.

You can get valuable insight into your hybrid work model and its effectiveness by asking questions. Ask employees that have visited the office what improvements they would like to see and how they used the space. How many of your employees have attended the office since it reopened? Are there any consistent improvement requests that could be easily implemented? What other trends can be identified?

Conduct a formal employee pulse survey to generate quality feedback. Or, host a Town Hall or All Hands session to field live responses. Ensure that you remain flexible and open-minded throughout the feedback process.

2. Revamp the in-office experience

Choosing to implement a hybrid work model is the first step in an office reopening plan. Make sure that this isn’t the end of your space planning! Continue to adjust the on-site setup based on data gathered about positive experiences or identified areas of improvement. With workplace analytics, the feedback can be validated and used to make both quantitative and qualitative data-driven decisions.

The hybrid office is different than the traditional office setup. Staff will be attending on varying schedules, and the major role of video calls in communication impacts how employees work in-person. Not to mention the prevalence of hybrid office-specific safety concerns.

Employees will go to the office for a variety of reasons. Perhaps it’s for a better setup to focus, social interaction with coworkers, or a reliable internet connection. Reinforce the value of the physical office with your employees to encourage them to intentionally use the office. Ensure that the on-site space is welcoming and encourages employees to visit. If the office is ineffective, or creates barriers, it could impact the success of your hybrid work model.

3. Adopt a flexible policy

The hybrid working model is inherently a flexible work policy. Willingness to adapt and iterate on policies is critical to achieving a great hybrid working culture. There are many different modes of hybrid working, and each policy has unique benefits. It’s important to remain open-minded and responsive to employee preferences. This means being willing to adjust your existing programs and policies.

As a leader, encourage your employees to take ownership of their schedules and workloads. You can also provide a safe space for employees to discuss issues related to work-life balance. Be willing to compromise and approach this model with empathy. Allow your employees to operate in the circumstances that will work best for them.

Embrace the hybrid workplace

Implementing these best practices for a hybrid working model will set you apart and ensure the long-term success of your workplace. Make sure that you continue to gather feedback from your employees on a consistent basis about their policy preferences, in-office experiences, and suggested improvements. Embrace the future of work by increasing flexibility for your employees.

Hybrid work is emerging as the preferred arrangement for many organizations. Accenture reports that 63% of high-growth companies have already adopted a hybrid working model. Beware of the bandwagon: just because hybrid is a popular model does not mean that it will suit all workplaces. It’s important to critically evaluate the specific needs of your organization before adopting a new working arrangement. This ensures that the selected working model will support the success of your business.

Before making the decision to adopt a hybrid work model, learn more about the types of arrangements that are possible. Then, consider each of the evaluation criteria to help determine your organization’s ability to support a flexible work policy.

4 Types of Hybrid Work Models

Within the hybrid working umbrella, there are several variations or policies that your organization could choose to adopt. Essentially, there are many different configurations of balancing in-office and remote work: 

  • remote-first, with some in-office time; 
  • a balance between both remote and in-office work; 
  • mostly in-office, with the option to work remotely when required;
  • working in-office, but asynchronously or with a remote team.

There are also different policies that an organization could introduce, such as the ability to work abroad, that impact the hybrid work model and its configuration.

Evaluating the Future of Your Organization

As a leader, the first step towards achieving a flexible hybrid work model is to evaluate if it will enhance your organization and support your business objectives.  Adopting a new working model is a turning point for any organization. An evaluation of this criteria will help guide if a hybrid work model will support the future of your business:

1. Roles and Responsibilities

Consider how your teams currently work together, and what might be possible in the future. Within each organization, there are roles that are naturally suited for the physical workspace, such as an office manager, legal assistant, or IT administrator. There are also certain tasks and responsibilities that lend themselves to being remote-only. For example, critical thinking, data entry, and analysis are well suited for remote work. These tasks are performed in a variety of roles, however, financial analysts are a good example of employees that may benefit from a remote-first working model.

Each employee will have their own preferences and circumstances, such as their geographic location, that impact the specific model that they adopt. Evaluate the types of responsibilities that exist in your organization to understand if hybrid work could enhance the employee experience.

2. Industry Trends

The nature of your industry or sector impacts if hybrid work is a viable option. As proven in the initial COVID-19 lockdown, many industries can support remote work (even if they didn’t before the pandemic). These industries include professional services or finance. 

Other industries that rely upon front-line workers, like healthcare, hospitality, education, and agriculture can’t go fully remote or are less impactful. If this is the case with your industry, try to incorporate some of the benefits of hybrid work for your employees. This could look like adopting a 4-day work week for increased work-life balance, or offering flexible hours.

Adapting to emerging industry standards, such as implementing more flexibility, will help position your organization for greater success, even if hybrid work isn’t possible in your industry.

3. Talent Acquisition and Retention

Adopting a hybrid work model empowers workers and fosters an employee-centric culture. The data is clear: 63% of surveyed employees cite work-life balance as their top priority when job seeking. Workers are leaving their jobs if their well-being is compromised in favour of more attractive roles. Employees have experienced the flexibility of remote work, and don’t want to lose that. However, exclusively virtual work can be socially isolating, so working some days from the office can strike the right balance. 

Evaluate if your organization could remain attractive to prospective and current employees without adopting a hybrid model or flexible working culture. Keeping a rigid work policy risks losing out on qualified employees in favour of more attractive offers. It is also likely that you could experience difficulty when recruiting top talent.  

4. Support Hybrid Managers

The hybrid workplace benefits employees because they are satisfied, motivated, and engaged. It offers flexibility and autonomy, by placing the focus on results and outputs instead of inputs. At the same time, managing a hybrid team presents new challenges and potential difficulties. Ensure that you will be able to support your hybrid leaders, particularly if the model is new to them. Trust is paramount to making a hybrid model effective. Support your people managers by providing training, tools, and ongoing support.

Next Steps

Evaluate the roles in your organization, your industry trends, the preferences of your employees and candidates, and management support. If the data points you towards hybrid work, ensure success by employing the right workplace management solution.

Organizations that use workplace management software take the guesswork out of running a hybrid office. Leveraging technology allows employers to better support the employee experience in the hybrid working model. There are plenty of workplace management solutions in the market, but they vary widely in terms of features offered, scale, and complexity.

So, how do you choose the best workplace management solution for your organization? Here are four key considerations:

1. Evaluate existing features and functionality, with an eye to the future

Take note of the key features that the workplace management solution currently offers. If the solution fits your needs now, find out if the vendor is interested in improving functionalities and adding features over time. According to Verdantix, buyers need to “prioritize vendors with a long-term commitment to workplace innovation.” It’s crucial to understand the product roadmap to ensure that the solution will continue to serve your organization. Many workplaces plan to iterate on their hybrid work arrangement to better suit their employees. Ensure that the vendor will continue to adjust to the modern workplace, too.

In short: Sign up for the existing benefits, stay on for the long-term commitment to innovation.

2. A scalable and flexible offering

Another important indicator of the best room booking software for you is its scalability. As you continue to grow your business, ensure that your digital workplace solution can evolve with you. Your real estate portfolio may shift over time – you may right-size your office space or expand to new regions. The single platform needs to be able to scale alongside your business needs.

Think about the implementation process – will you start with a pilot or trial location? Will you begin by offering desk booking, and add on space reservation? Can the solution take you from an initial phase to expand across multiple locations in your entire real estate portfolio? Ensure you understand how long it takes to configure a new office.

If you have multiple office locations, make sure that the software can incorporate different regional requirements. A healthy workforce starts with a healthy workplace. Items such as health screening questions, capacity limits, and vaccination requirements are constantly evolving and may vary by location. Your chosen solution should allow you to change these settings across various locations as needed.

Another crucial aspect of your workplace management system is its flexibility. Is it agile enough to meet the needs of your hybrid management structure? Managers may not be present in the physical space every day, so you must be able to effectively administer the solution remotely.

In short: Your solution needs to be able to evolve with your business needs – fast.

3. Easy to use

Ensure that the user experience is outstanding. Beyond the product being aesthetically pleasing and compatible with many types of devices, it must be simple to use. This is crucial to increase employee adoption of the hybrid work model. The technology required to work on site should not be a barrier to staff visiting the office.

You also want the solution to be easy for your management to administer. Minimize the number and length of training sessions for your leaders and any subsequent new hires. The implementation process should also be efficient and quick to get your hybrid office up and running as fast as possible.

In short: Reduce admin burden, make sure your solution is simple to use, and easy to deploy.

4. Workplace reporting and analytics

The workplace management solution should make insights available to help you understand key metrics about the office. Understand the effectiveness of your hybrid work policy by keeping track of space utilization and occupancy metrics. These metrics can help with space planning and redesigning as required. They also offer crucial data to identify trends about how your employees are using your physical space, and how often. This allows you to constantly iterate and improve upon your workplace experience.

In short: Make data-driven decisions using your space management tool.

Looking for the right solution that blends innovation, flexibility, ease of use, and analytics? Contact us to find out more about Nspace, our state-of-the-art workplace management solution.

As organizations re-open the office with a hybrid working model, this presents a chance for a meaningful reset. So much has changed since everyone was last in the office on a regular basis, and it’s important to set clear expectations for workplace etiquette. Not only will setting the ground rules ease potential anxiety about returning to the office, but it also ensures that the workplace experience will be productive, collaborative, and inclusive.

In-Person Code of Conduct

To facilitate a smooth office re-entry, share a set of suggested office etiquette that staff can reference. Use this as a chance to introduce etiquette for concepts such as a hybrid meeting. Overall, the idea is to provide some guidance on expectations for employees. The following are a few suggestions for how to approach defining hybrid office etiquette:

  • Be respectful.

Respect all comfort levels while at the office. Some coworkers may be ready for mask-less handshakes and hugs, and others may prefer to keep their distance. Ask for clarification if you’re not sure about your colleagues’ preferences before interacting in-person.

Ensure to keep to the space that you’ve reserved. Using a meeting room that was previously booked by another team member or sitting at a different desk than the one you reserved impacts others and the plans that they’ve carefully made. Be considerate of your colleagues who booked their space in advance and keep to what you’ve booked. If you no longer require the use of an amenity, cancel your reservation so that a colleague has the chance to use it instead.

  • Be a good neighbour.

Make an effort to greet and welcome coworkers. Be sure to make introductions or offer a friendly greeting to those working nearby. The great reshuffle is ongoing: chances are that there will be some new faces in the office.  

Just like before the pandemic, avoid using speakerphone, ringtones, or having loud conversations with coworkers in shared spaces. These same rules apply to joining virtual meetings from the office. Use headphones or book a meeting room – it will not only benefit the office environment, but also those attending the hybrid meeting. When you’re finished using a space, be sure to keep it neat and tidy for the next person. By being considerate of others, you will contribute to a great office experience for all.

  • Be inclusive.

Create a safe space at the office by avoiding controversial conversations on topics such as politics, religion, or even the pandemic. Be open-minded towards others and approach your coworkers with empathy. Speak up if you witness a circumstance where someone is being inconsiderate or not following company policies.

As well, alert your teammates when planning to work from the office to create a welcoming atmosphere. Or, use the find a colleague feature in your workplace management solution to coordinate collaboration. Especially if a co-worker is new, inviting your colleagues to collaborate at the office is a great step towards making the office an inclusive space for all.

  • Be secure.

It’s time to be reacquainted with sound security habits at the office. This includes asking for verification if you don’t recognize someone, locking your computer when leaving your desk, erasing the whiteboard in a meeting room, and proper disposal of sensitive documents. Be aware of where you conduct conversations – not only is it disruptive to speak loudly in common areas, but it could also pose a security risk.

Upholding Expectations

Setting and sharing clear guidelines also includes what to do if the etiquette is not followed. Publish a process for staff to report if a colleague is not adhering to the agreed-upon ground rules. Let employees know to follow this process when reporting any issues. This way, expectations for everyone are as clear as possible.

The Office of the Future

To ensure safety in the workplace and a successful hybrid office, set clear guidelines for all employees. As more staff return to the office, update your best practices on a regular basis to accommodate any relevant changes. Consider running a pulse survey about the hybrid office to generate employee feedback about the in-office experience. Embrace the future of work and this opportunity to reset as a team to ensure that the hybrid office is an enjoyable place to work.

Investigating Employee Attitudes Toward Hybrid Work

We’re at a turning point where many companies are considering adopting a new work model. The workplace is going hybrid, reflecting shifting employee values as a result of the pandemic. Now, 70% of workers want flexible working options to continue, and 65% want in-person time with their colleagues to resume. How will you decide  which hybrid work model is right for your company? — Ask your employees.

Why Gather Employee Insights?

Introducing a new workplace model that will satisfy all employees is a very challenging mandate. Some workers might want assigned seating, while others may opt for reserving space whenever, wherever. Directly asking employees about their preferences early on will help to strike a balance between various groups and lessen any pushback during the implementation. A short employee pulse survey can help you identify what your employees want. Surveys are one aspect of a feedback gathering mechanism – qualitative methods can also provide insights, such as Town Halls, lunch & learns, or dedicated Slack channels. Gather employee feedback for two main purposes:

1. Implement a hybrid work model by starting with the right tone. A successful hybrid work model is inherently people-centric. It shifts the focus from where we work to how we work with a greater emphasis on outcomes. This flexibility empowers employees to prioritize their time and schedule, encourages work-life balance, mental and physical well-being, and ultimately, increases productivity.

2. Ensure a smooth hybrid work rollout by gathering the data that will lead to better decisions. Employees should be consulted to shape the model to ensure that everyone will benefit. Knowing your employees’ preferences will allow you to effectively implement and manage a hybrid work environment. Employees will be a lot happier with the hybrid work policy you enact if they had a part in making it.

When to Run a Return-to-Office Pulse Survey

There are several opportunities throughout the return-to-office journey to collect feedback and measure employee experience. Both formal and informal feedback methods should be utilized to ensure as much information is collected as possible. There are a few key moments throughout the return-to-office journey when it is most important to have formal pulse surveys.

1. Before Adopting a New Work Model

Before you change the work arrangement, understand employee preferences and openness to adopting a new work model. The results will help you to identify what might work best for your organization and inform your return-to-office strategy. Check out our example survey for this stage of the implementation.

Survey: Before Adopting a New Work Model

2. During the Implementation of a New Work Model

If you are running a phased rollout or pilot of your new working model, gather feedback from all participants. This will help to better inform your strategy for the team-wide rollout and improve employee satisfaction throughout the process. Be sure to collect feedback early on to troubleshoot any issues.

Survey: During the Implementation

3. Ongoing Feedback

Continue to measure employee experience throughout the hybrid working arrangement. Ask questions about office cleanliness or visitor satisfaction to deliver quality experiences to your employees and guests. Address any issues with the space and alert the relevant teams. For example, Nspace instantly alerts cleaning staff after a desk or meeting room has been used.

4. After the Rollout of a Work Model

Send pulse surveys on a regular basis to maintain alignment with employee preferences and adoption. This encourages open dialogue and will help you to resolve common concerns.

Best Practices to Measure Employee Experience

When rolling out a hybrid work policy, prepare for success by gathering as much relevant employee feedback as possible.

– If you already collect employee feedback, use your average response rate as a benchmark for success.

– Send out the survey through more than one communication channel, such as an email and a Slack or Microsoft Teams message. Take it to the next level by creating a Teams or Slack channel devoted to this topic.

– Don’t hesitate to send reminders to boost response rates. Encourage managers to send the link to their staff directly.

Keep the surveys short to boost your completion rate. It’s quick and easy to complete a multiple-choice survey, however, including some open response questions will help to collect more context.

– Use anonymous feedback if you want your employees to be more honest about their preferences without fear of repercussions. You may also receive more responses as a result.

– Use attributed feedback if you wish to easily identify and troubleshoot specific employee issues. Get a sense of trends among departments or regions to better inform your return-to-office strategy.

Use your communication channels to your advantage. Beyond a pulse survey, informal feedback is also quite useful. Have managers speak to their staff about working preferences to capture more information beyond the pulse survey.

Embracing the Future of Work

It’s undeniable – the future of work is a flexible, employee-first hybrid model. When rolling out this new model, listen to employee feedback and implement a strategy that takes this into consideration. Be open with your employees through this process and beyond. Use Nspace to help support your return to the office – we’d love to chat.

The world of work has shifted dramatically since the advent of COVID-19 – and we are still coping with a tidal wave of transformation pains as we edge beyond the crisis.

How do we find that ideal balance between hybrid and remote working? What will it take to reconfigure and equip our spaces to benefit everyone? And how do we design a work environment and a new set of work practices that helps employees maintain work-life balance – the most coveted of states – wherever they happen to set up their desk?

According to KPMG, the move to a hybrid work model is not a short-term trend but a long-term transformation. Firms most successful will be those that deftly balance talent preferences, business objectives, and DEI principles.

Over-working has been a trend for at least a decade. One Harvard Business School survey indicates that 94% of professionals in the service industry put in 50+ hours a week. Although some people claim long hours are a necessary evil, a flurry of studies show that when work-life balance is missing, everyone suffers as a consequence, both the employees and the business.

A natural assumption is that working from home would be the answer to regaining that ideal state of work-life balance. After all, gone is the long commute and the overtime at the office. Surprisingly, quite the opposite is true.  The blurred lines between home and work have actually caused a spike in stress levels and the erosion of well-being. Based on a recent study 29% of employees, in fact, feel that remote work has had a negative impact on their well-being – and more than half (56%) have found it difficult to “switch off.”

Another drawback to the remote working model is the loneliness factor. The great shift to remote work in 2020 created increased social isolation. Social time has been proven to be an important part of an engaging workplace. According to Gallup research, almost two in 10 workers reported feeling lonely. And there are business impacts as well. Having friendships at work, according to Gallup, is a predictor of many important business outcomes, including the delivery of excellent customer service and overall profitability.

So, could a return to the workplace on a part-time basis actually be a healthy thing for employees and businesses alike? We believe so, as long as employers take the right measures and an enlightened, compassionate approach when rolling out the new hybrid work model.

Here are the top five tips for supporting work-life balance in the hybrid workplace:

1. Keep flexible working flexible

After more than two years of managing their work lives flexibly from a home-based environment, employees have tasted freedom and don’t want to lose it. The idea of having to adhere to a hybrid schedule set by an employer may not be embraced with enthusiasm.

Instead, workplace HR experts now say that what workers need most in the new hybrid work environment is flexibility — the ability to figure out for themselves which days are in the office and which ones are remote. Take steps to allow your employees to have a say in setting their schedule. Prioritizing this “choice” – of when they will be in the office, and when remote – will be vital to your hybrid transition success. It may even make the difference between retaining and losing your most valuable talent.

2. Set healthy boundaries

It isn’t always easy for employees to effectively set their own boundaries between work and home life – especially in the remote world. This will continue in the hybrid work model. For this reason, hybrid managers need to lead by example, providing encouragement to disconnect and shut the laptop at certain times during the week.

A number of companies including Citigroup and HSBC last year introduced “No Zoom Fridays” to allow employees time to focus on their tasks without the interruption of meetings. Others are establishing core hours – set times when everyone must be in the office. The rest of the work hours are flexible, so employees can log time whenever and wherever they are working. Policies with flexible time built in will help your employees manage personal responsibilities – and maintain better work-life balance.

3. Keep task allocation fair

With different groups of employees working in the office and at home at various times, it may become challenging to manage workload distribution. It will be increasingly important for managers to ensure equitable workloads for all. Sometimes certain employees become overburdened with work while others find themselves under-utilized (which can also erode morale and employee engagement). To strike a balance, businesses need to distribute work equally so that everyone – whether working remote or in the office – has a good balance of engaging work, but no one is burdened with too much.

4. Ramp up fitness, collaboration, and social perks

One of the best things about the partial return to the office is the social aspect. No longer are we only connected to talking heads on a screen. It will be important to make that time in the office with colleagues not just productive, but also fun and re-invigorating. Be sure to have comfortable and attractive spaces ready for team collaboration sessions – with Keurig machines, comfy couches, and all the right new tools at hand.

Beyond that, consider upgrading your office fitness spaces, organizing wellness events, and special games or social occasions to have everyone not just working, but laughing and bonding together. Social events can certainly be a powerful strategy for fostering engagement amongst employees.

5. Use the right tools

You may think of tech tools as a way to keep your fingers on the pulse of productivity. They can also be used to measure (and improve) the well-being of your workforce. Implementing a desk booking tool can also help to alleviate stress about coming into the office. Beyond their practicality, these types of tools signal to employees that their employer prioritizes safety and well-being at work.

Consider using time-tracking and productivity software to glean essential insights into your team’s workload. This way, you will be able to assign projects more fairly, establish healthy work hour limits – and take the pressure off that overburdened employee who needs a bit more balance in their life.

A Sustainable Hybrid Work Model

In the new hybrid working model, achieving work-life balance matters more than ever. As we all face the stress of a workplace transformation, establishing a sense of equilibrium, self-care, and camaraderie for your talent is so essential. Now is the time to lead by example and action – and roll out your new hybrid workplace as a healthy, happy, and balanced new normal.

Hybrid work has introduced unprecedented flexibility and convenience for office employees, providing the ability to work remotely as well as on site. In response, corporate office footprints are shrinking to embrace office spaces with open, flexible designs – acknowledging that the concept of a fixed desk with an engraved nameplate for every employee is officially obsolete.

While this approach brings benefits such as cost savings from reduced square footage and fewer desks to maintain, it presents operational challenges as well. Hybrid offices implemented without proper forethought sometimes fail to optimize for the humans working in them, amplifying noise and distractions. Further, users of dynamic hot desk reservation systems are likely to encounter new and unfamiliar faces every visit, making it difficult to recognize unauthorized personnel and abnormal behaviour.

Even something as basic as access control for visitors must be re-examined to ensure adequate levels of security in the hybrid office. With an estimated 70% of US offices embracing an open concept, security considerations are more timely than ever.

What can employers do to provide their hybrid workforce with a comfortably secure physical workspace?

Digital Access Control and Visitor Management

To start, it’s time to upgrade physical access control from a binder and sign-in sheet to a modern, digital visitor management system. These tools automatically log when people enter and exit and can even govern access to specific areas based on need and authorization. By using a mix of keycards, biometrics, and other factors to validate identity every step of the way, you can be sure that visitors only have access to certain meeting rooms, that contingent staff can’t access the server room, and that other site-specific restrictions are met.

A workplace management solution is another tool that can improve security for your hybrid team. Beyond simply reserving a desk or meeting room, you can implement zones for various groups, ensuring that marketing staff always work with their own team and can’t simply appear next to a member of HR, payroll, or another group handling confidential data.

Sound Security Practices

From a management framework standpoint, it’s imperative to re-think the practice of treating facility management and cyber security as siloed groups. Now that site security and access control are increasingly cloud-based, cyber threats can have a direct impact on the physical office – and likewise, bad actors in the physical office can impact operations in the cloud. Encourage facility staff, IT, and even Human Resources to coordinate and complement each other’s efforts.

Concrete examples of sound hybrid workplace security include:

  • Coordinated onboarding of new staff to ensure they have their own access cards on day one (whether or not they are on site at the time)
  • Rapid and remote off-boarding to revoke access when employment is terminated
  • Discreet direct-to-security chat function on staff computers to operate as a panic button for employees who feel unsafe or threatened

It’s also a good idea to think carefully about office communication. Regular bulletins informing staff of when to expect new hires, visitors or third-party vendors can help them recognize new people and identify unusual behaviour. Beyond that, signage with protocols of what to do in the event of an emergency or who to call when feeling unsafe can help put people – particularly those working alone after hours – at ease.

Good Physical Design

Gone are the days of the universal, uniform, open concept office with no walls or barriers of any kind. What works best is a customized mix of open spaces for collaboration and private areas away from prying eyes and distracting noises. Today, hybrid offices come with several options including mobile cubes, divider walls, pavilions with sliding doors, and private workstations for confidential tasks. Physical safety can be further enhanced with convex mirrors to improve workplace visibility as well as good lighting, particularly after hours.

Equally important is the ability to leave belongings in a secure location when stepping away – which means providing hot desks with a locking drawer, or lockers, to store valuables.

And, of course, it is critical to enforce a strict clean-desk policy to ensure no sensitive documents are left unattended. This often includes providing secure document disposal in a convenient location.

Hybrid Work and Physical Security are Complementary

Hybrid offices are an exciting new frontier for the modern enterprise: they empower a dynamic, flexible workforce with the capacity to work remotely while reaping the benefits of face time and in-person collaboration. But with flexibility comes evolving security needs. The hybrid office no longer consists of predictable, fixed-desk occupancy by familiar cubicle neighbours.

To ensure that on-site staff feel confident whether working independently or in teams, it’s imperative to provide them with the same sense of security and privacy they enjoyed before the shift to hybrid work. That means everything from building robust communication programs to implementing room booking technology, and from providing secure spaces to store valuables to offering a healthy mix of open and private work environments. It means creating a holistic approach to security that connects the siloes of IT and facility management.

With these measures in place, staff can collaborate and focus with peace of mind, realizing all the benefits and mitigating the risks of the modern hybrid work model.

Being a people manager has presented new challenges since the onset of the pandemic. Now that a hybrid model has become the “new normal” at work, it is even more difficult to be a leader. How do you handle a situation where some team members prefer working from home, while others want to come into the office every day? How will you ensure productivity and satisfaction in hybrid workplaces from your direct reports?

Managers and leaders must adapt their management styles to accommodate these changes. They also need to develop strategies to improve team collaboration and productivity, to keep employee engagement high in the hybrid environment.

What is a hybrid team?

A hybrid team has a mix of remote workers and office employees. Hybrid teams can have many different configurations, including:

– Onsite team spread across multiple locations

– Teams with both onsite and remote workers

– Remote team with an onsite leader

This article focuses on managing a hybrid team with onsite and remote members.

How can managers set up a hybrid team for success?

1. Team Culture

The most important way that managers can set their team up for success in a hybrid work environment is to create a strong team culture. This is even more difficult without in-person team building traditions, like taking everyone out to lunch or to an after-work happy hour, which don’t always translate remotely. However, if you remain focused on the employee experience, the team culture will benefit. 

Here’s a tip: Ensure that you are initiating a great employee experience by creating the space for your direct reports to let you know how they are doing. Allow them to be candid with you by encouraging honest feedback.

2. Build a trusting and inclusive environment

With a mix of remote and onsite workers, trust is paramount. In the hybrid work model, managers have to trust their employees to work effectively and manage their own time. Employees also need to trust their managers’ decisions and feel supported. 

Here’s a tip: as a manager, you can build trust in a hybrid work model by encouraging accountability. Facilitate “retrospective” meetings where you encourage your team members to take responsibility by discussing the things that went well, and areas of improvement for the next project. 

3. Use the right workplace management technology

Another way to set your team up for success is to implement a desk booking or workplace management system where team members can see when their colleagues will be in the office.

Here’s a tip: if your team members work a mix of remotely and onsite, the “find a colleague” tool is a great way to plan when to come into the office to enhance collaboration and team building.

4. Set clear expectations

Finally, it may be helpful to establish core hours within your team, where there is an expectation to be available for calling, chat messages, and meetings. Setting these boundaries can ultimately help reduce stress levels and avoid burnout.

Here’s a tip: implement a “morning meetings only” rule, so that employees can decide how they will take advantage of their flexible work arrangement.

Keeping connected in a hybrid team

Communication is extremely important in a hybrid workplace. There are plenty of opportunities for casual check-ins among in-office workers. For remote workers, “water cooler chats” are rare and usually scheduled. Err on the side of over-communicating to keep your virtual team connected in the hybrid office. 

Collaboration tools like Miro, or a project management tool like Asana, can increase visibility into projects and tasks for team members. Another benefit is that these tools encourage asynchronous collaboration, allowing team members to operate when they work best.

Use hybrid team meetings as a way to connect your entire team and remain productive. For remote employees, establishing guidelines around video cameras during virtual meetings can help to increase connection.

Management skills needed to lead a hybrid team

In addition to creating a strong team culture, there are several key managerial skills that are required in the hybrid workplace. They are a lot of the same skills that were needed when teams were completely onsite, with some key differences. These include:

Effectively managing multiple priorities. Focus your time on what’s important, and encourage your employees to do the same. Staying organized to support your team is crucial in the hybrid work environment. 

Maintaining transparency. Remote staff may struggle with having visibility into what their colleagues are working on, unless there is transparency. Foster a culture of honesty and communication by keeping connected. 

– Setting clear expectations. Communicate how your team can achieve success, and decide together what “great” looks like. A hybrid work model is focused on outputs, so ensure that these are well understood.

– Establishing boundaries. Set an example as the team leader by setting clear boundaries between work and personal life, and encouraging your employees to do the same to avoid additional stress and potential burnout. 

These skills are important to ensure that employees feel supported and respected. Remain empathetic to your direct reports’ circumstances, whether they operate in a different time zone, or perhaps have a stressful personal life. It is beneficial to understand more about your employees and what they are balancing.

Benefits of hybrid teams

The hybrid office offers many benefits to both managers and employees. Employees benefit because they can choose how and where they want to work. This flexibility allows them to balance personal life and professional commitments, while still meaningfully contributing to the business. Managers benefit by getting more productivity from their teams, and by allowing employees to work at their own pace.

As a leader, you can benefit from recruiting top talent irrespective of location. A hybrid team does not need to be co-located, which allows you to remain focused on shared goals and objectives, and celebrate accomplishments.

Embracing an employee-centric culture

The concept of a hybrid team is new to many of us, and remaining agile, encouraging employee feedback, and learning along the way will ensure that your hybrid team is as successful as possible. As a leader, if you act with your employees in mind, this will ultimately help to improve their experience and enjoyment at work. Foster a culture of trust, and don’t forget to have fun.

Ultimately, if you’re agile, learn from your errors, and keep a strong sense of trust in yourself and others, you’ll be able to benefit from hybrid work and be an effective leader.

Like it or not, the era of the hybrid working model is upon us in this (almost) post-pandemic world. Get on board – or be left behind. According to a new McKinsey survey of one hundred executives across industries and geographies, 9 out of 10 organizations will be blending remote and on-site working, beginning in 2022. In fact, the majority of executives surveyed expect that in the new hybrid working world employees will be on-site one to four days per week.

How can organizations begin to grapple with this daunting transformation to hybrid? Certainly, one important theme rises to the top: employee health and wellness. Beyond internal systems, technology infrastructure, and productivity, taking care of staff will be a crucial priority for any company wishing to maintain a competitive advantage in the hybrid working age.

When it comes to employees – the bedrock of any organization – these are scary and uncertain times. After almost two years of working from the cocooned safety of home, many are reconsidering the role of work in their lives. Priorities and preferences are changing. The idea of a partial return to the office may be met with cheers by some (a joyous reunion with colleagues), with fears by others (is it safe?), and with reticence and uncertainty by the remainder (do I really want to be in a physical workspace away from home anymore? What about flexibility?).

The War for Talent Intensifies

Gone are the days when employees were simply grateful to have a job and eager to stay loyal to their employer through thick and thin. Indeed, 2022 brings a tidal wave of attrition: one in four employees quit their job last year according to data from the people analytics firm Visier, and the trend continues. This means challenging times for employers hoping to attract and retain talent. The COVID-19 crisis has ushered in an explosion of remote working opportunities and a booming gig economy for knowledge workers. For these and other reasons, the war for talent is expected to rage on throughout 2022, challenging employers to shore up resources and rethink more meaningful recruitment and retention strategies. According to an XPertHR survey report, 89% of employers believe recruiting and hiring will be either “somewhat” or “very” challenging this year – and a full 79% expect employee retention to be exceptionally challenging. The new data indicates a 23% jump in recruiting and hiring concerns compared to last year.

Hybrid Work Secrets: Wellness is the Word

According to a study by Gartner, “wellness” is fast becoming the new metric North American companies are using to assess the mental, physical, and financial health of their employees. During the pandemic, a great number of companies took steps to reinforce the wellness supports they provided. An investment in employee well-being translates to higher levels of performance, retention, and success in the hybrid work transition.

In fact, Jan Bruce, CEO of workforce solutions platform meQuilibrium, says that, without employee wellbeing as a focus for HR in the coming months, productivity and profitability will certainly suffer. Conversely, those leaders who prioritize employee well-being will not only win the goodwill of their people, but also significantly reduce costs and attrition in their transition to a hybrid work model. What’s more, a 2021 report by Gartner predicts that by 2022, 60% of workers in the hybrid work environment will prefer a wellness-equipped smart office relative to a remote office.

So, you have done the logistical planning around distancing, hygiene, and desk reservation systems. What steps can you take to unleash a healthy hybrid work model for your organization? A culture where everyone feels safe, empowered – and included?

Wellness in the Hybrid Workplace: Three Ideas to Inspire Your Health and Wellbeing Programs

Keep Teams Together Through On-Site “Neighbourhoods”

Create reassuring new rules around desk booking, space booking, and hoteling that ensure teams work in the same space each time. Consider creating designated areas where associated employees (i.e., the marketing team, operations group, accounting staff) can stay together, collaborate and work alongside each other whenever they reserve space to work on site. No more fear of a strange new person right behind the next partition – or unfamiliar faces just across the aisle!

Respect Different Levels of “Proximity” Comfort

Many businesses have been socially distanced for the better part of two years. As a result, employees will have different levels of comfort regarding proximity and social interactions. Some will be ready to return to handshakes and high fives, others will prefer the elbow bump.

With the return to work, organizations will have to renegotiate our understanding of personal space – both individually and in relation to the differing comfort level of others. One area of research that is useful in this regard is the study of interpersonal space, known as proxemics. An interesting aspect of this concept is that it is largely nonverbal. We do not go around asking strangers if we can pass them or touch them; we need to judge from their body language how to best maneuver through their space and relate. 

So – how can you enable your workforce to read these cues – and maintain respectful distances between coworkers, based on their comfort?

Take steps to ensure all these different comfort levels are respected through:

Open, honest conversations with each individual about the degree of proximity that is right for them. This will serve to create clarity, ensure everyone’s preferences are respected; and reduce the stress of potentially intruding on someone’s safe space.

Implement coloured wristbands for easy cues: green for handshakes and hugs, yellow for elbow bumps, and red for “don’t touch me.” Survey employees to gather their thoughts on how to best identify and respect their wishes and boundaries.

Make additional hygiene aids available for those who need them: santizers, wipes, and beyond.

Structure collaboration time: Consider scheduling team standups at a set time each day and set rules based on all team member preferences. That way, those who are uneasy with group gatherings can prepare themselves mentally and physically.

Champion Inclusiveness and Employee Equivalence in the Hybrid Workplace

In this new model of work, the notion of inclusiveness will expand beyond demographic categories to encompass all those with differing needs, anxieties and working preferences. Some may prefer (or be required) to be on-site all the time. Others may be caregivers at home, or have other reasons they need to remain working virtually.

Hybrid work environments should foster equity among virtual and in-person workers. Creating this equivalence is easier said than done. Technologies, processes, and cultural changes must support fair treatment and include everyone, regardless of location, individual sensitivities, and working styles.

How do you ensure that all voices are heard, everyone is included, and no one is left out in the hybrid workplace? Make sure those who remain working virtually get equal respect, support, and opportunities as those coming into the office through:

A hybrid approach to meetings with on-site and virtual staff always invited and present

– Creative approaches to social and collaborative working events that include those on and off site. Consider mailing craft or cocktail kits to staff homes. Or, inviting virtual workers to join meetings and actively participate with tangible items to bond them with those in the office. You could hold team lunches where remote staff join in via a food delivery service – there are many options.

– Appointment of “Hybrid Work Champions” whose job it is to ensure no one is left out; that voices of both on- and off-site staff are equally heard – and their needs are equally met.

New technology to support employee equivalence: Workers at home and in the office will need shared information and collaborative spaces that are as accessible and intuitive as possible – think online collaborative spaces, smart technology, and other team building technologies.

Creative solutions to drive purposeful engagement: Although virtual social gatherings have benefits, they are not sufficient to create the levels of connection needed for an organization to thrive. To reduce isolation, prevent new hires from feeling lost, and help employees feel part of a team they may never have met in person, consider creating formal buddy systems, beyond traditional mentors. Engineer moments that will foster loyalty, such as celebration of team accomplishments and milestones. Develop first-line manager tools and training to enable them to drive engagement. Do not abandon newcomers to fend for themselves!

Wellness Strategy for Hybrid Work

In creating your wellness strategy for the new hybrid world, the best place to start is with your people. Talk to them. Survey them about their hopes, fears, and current levels of engagement. Ask them what they want – and what they do not want.

With these important insights, you can build a roadmap forward – ensuring your workforce wellness plan is always adaptable. Take care to constantly check back with your workforce on the state of their well-being along the path to transformation. After all, this hybrid transformation is new terrain for us all. Organizations around the world are learning as they go. The best we can all do is take tremendous care, physically, emotionally, and financially, of our most valuable asset: our people.

Looking for the right solution to optimize wellness in your workplace – and increase employee engagement and retention? Contact us to find out how Nspace, our state-of-the-art workplace management solution can help.

It’s old news that hybrid working – staff splitting time between their home and the traditional office – is here to stay. Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic that started in 2020, 81% of enterprise organizations are moving to a hybrid work model and 31% say they have already completed the transition.

For workers, hybrid is the obvious choice. They get to save on travel expenses and work from the comfort of home (supported by powerful digital collaboration tools) while benefiting from face-to-face interaction in the office (enabled by workspace reservation and desk booking systems). Overall, hybrid work provides employees with flexibility and autonomy as well as the resources they need to thrive.

The challenge? Cybersecurity.

Cyber threats were always an evolving risk area that made the role of the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) difficult. That job got even harder once hybrid work provided a broader attack surface for cyber criminals to exploit. More devices accessing company servers from more locations means even more vulnerabilities to monitor and manage on a daily basis.

Many cyber risks have grown more frequent since 2020, and 66% of security professionals have reported a spike in phishing – fake emails and websites designed to mimic authentic communications. From technical attacks probing for weak network security and vulnerable devices, to sophisticated social engineering attacks that exploit workers themselves, cybersecurity risk is on the rise.

The Technical Side of Cybersecurity

Many of the technical solutions to address cyber-threats are known and familiar. At minimum, any hybrid workforce should have the following measures in place to implement what’s known as a Zero Trust (never trust, always verify) approach to cybersecurity. This security posture ensures that users and their devices have continuous and real-time validation of their privileges and attributes. Examples include:

  • Encrypted wi-fi connectivity for on-site users
  • Secure virtual private network (VPN) access to company resources when working remotely, as well as a form of network access control (NAC) ensuring that only corporate-managed assets can connect
  • Multi-factor authentication (MFA) for all users
  • Email scanning to detect malware
  • Email encryption to protect messages in transit from prying eyes
  • Principle of least privilege – tiered permission granting users access to only the data and functions needed for their job
  • Dynamic risk assessment that detects risky behavior and prompts additional verification

It is also wise to implement a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy that governs how employees can access company resources from their personal phones and computers, if at all. Some IT teams even implement protocols that detect when a device has been jailbroken or otherwise compromised, and automatically deny access.

The Human Side of Cybersecurity for a Hybrid Workforce

The weakest link in any cybersecurity chain is the workers themselves. In recent years, various social engineering attacks have emerged to dupe employees into accidentally compromising their employer. Phishing is one of the most common tactics, baiting users into clicking on a malicious link or downloading an infected attachment from a spam email or website – one that seems legitimate at first glance. A more sophisticated version of this tactic is spearphishing – electronic messages appearing to originate from a senior manager or executive that targets a specific employee who has high-level access. The messages attempt to convince the target to send data or money to bad actors, in the belief that they are carrying out valid instructions. By contrast, sometimes the risk is as simple as leaving a malware-infected USB key lying somewhere conspicuous in the hopes that an employee will find it and plug it in, unwittingly compromising their computer.

With hybrid work on the rise, and the consequent blurring of work-life boundaries, the devices used by employees to accomplish their daily tasks have also become interchangeable. IT staff report that more employees use their work computer for personal reasons, increasing the risk that lax personal browsing habits will expose their employer to cyber threats.

All of which has made the mandate of the cybersecurity function more challenging and stressful, at a time when it is garnering more attention from corporate boards. As many as 500,000 cybersecurity jobs in the US alone are vacant. On average, 75% of IT professionals feel burned out and 65% actively consider quitting. Too often, they cite pressure to skimp on security in the name of worker productivity as one of the leading stressors.

Create a Culture of Cybersecurity for Hybrid Workers

The key ingredient to creating a successful and cyber-secure hybrid workforce is culture. Rather than pit workers and managers against IT staff in a security vs. productivity tug-of-war, invest in training to build awareness of cyber threats among all employees to make them proactive security partners. Clarify what risks exist, what the consequences of a breach are, and why certain measures were put in place.

Training is especially important to help staff identify social engineering attacks before falling victim to them, and to make all employees responsible for their online behavior and conduct – both in the office and remotely.

To solidify this culture of collaborative cybersecurity, IT managers should work with staff to understand their ideal workflows and strike the best possible balance between safety and productivity.

The Cyber-Secure Path Forward for Hybrid Workers

Hybrid work isn’t just inevitable; it’s here to stay, and for good reason. It offers many advantages to companies and employees, not least of which is improved morale. However, the same digital tools that make it easier to work remotely also present a cybersecurity risk. Reducing that risk requires investment in good cybersecurity protocols that adequately address cyber threats while accommodating the human needs of IT personnel and everyday staff.

Companies that proactively make these investments are those best positioned to thrive in the future. They will benefit from a nimble, empowered workforce that lives cybersecurity best practices while enjoying the convenience and flexibility of hybrid work. Investing in a culture of cybersecurity creates the foundation for a safe and productive hybrid work environment that supports high performance and sets workers up for long-term success.

The pandemic has ushered in a wave of transformation to the workplace. Working from home is now commonplace, and “can you see my screen” has entered our collective lexicon as meeting preamble. With employers and employees embracing remote work with full force, this trend does not show any signs of slowing down. As more organizations transition to a permanent flexible working model, mastering the hybrid meeting will be a crucial skill.

What is a hybrid meeting?

A meeting is hybrid when it has a combination of remote and in-person attendees. Remote workers join through video conferencing software such as Microsoft Teams. The on-site participants are physically present in the same meeting space or conference room and engage with the remote team members in real-time.

Organizations are anticipating the future of hybrid work. According to Accenture, 83% of workers globally want a hybrid work arrangement. Soon, virtual meetings will be replaced with hybrid meetings as the norm. Learning techniques to facilitate a smooth hybrid collaboration session will help you excel in this work environment and effectively work together with distributed teams.

Tips for Successful Hybrid Meetings

Although some of the same rules apply to hybrid meetings as in-person meetings, there are important differences to take note of. Here are some of our top hybrid meeting best practices.

1. Before you book a meeting, think about the purpose and desired outcome. Make sure that you can clearly articulate this. Also, this is a great time to determine if a meeting is the right format for the topic. Perhaps this can be accomplished asynchronously, giving people the chance to collaborate when they work best and accommodate colleagues in other time zones. We all know the feeling after a “this could have been an email” meeting – but really, could it be?

2. Who needs to be there? Invite those who will contribute to the discussion and need to be included. If you’re not sure about inviting someone, you could always include them as optional. Be respectful of people’s busy schedules and extend the invitation if they will benefit from the meeting.

3. So, a meeting is the right format for your discussion. Now what? Be sure to share a tight agenda at least two days in advance. Include the objective of the meeting clearly in the invitation to keep the session focused.

4. How much time do you need? To determine the meeting length, consider how much time you want to dedicate to each item on your agenda. If you happen to book the meeting too short, you may need to abruptly move to another meeting room once another group comes in. Just in case, take note of when the next group is scheduled to use the room.

5. Use the Nspace find a colleague feature to schedule your meeting based on who will already be in the office. This will also help you to find a meeting room that is the correct size for your in-person group.

6. Consider the type of collaboration space and amenities that you will require. Is this an informal brainstorming session where a comfortable space or breakout room may inspire creativity? Is it a formal quarterly planning discussion that requires a conference room? Are you discussing a sensitive matter that requires additional security measures in a meeting room such as a soundproof space or window coverings? Ensure your selected collaboration space will support the purpose of your session.

7. Book your meeting room in advance and share the virtual link alongside to provide relevant details to all attendees. Your room scheduling software should help you determine how many seats are available.

8. Set your meeting up for success! Choose a designated notetaker to keep track of the discussion. If appropriate, share a slide deck or other materials in advance. Don’t forget to include electronic copies of any handouts for virtual attendees.

What do I need to run an effective hybrid meeting?

There are a few requirements for hybrid meeting equipment. At the minimum, you’ll require a suitable webcam and projector screen to see all attendees. You’ll also need a microphone to carry the sound from everyone in the meeting room to the video stream. Avoid relying on a laptop microphone; it may not suffice.

Make sure that your meeting room booking system lists the available equipment in all rooms. It’s important to arrive early to the meeting to ensure that everything is in working order. If your meeting is very interactive, ensure that you have access to collaborative tools like live polling or virtual whiteboarding for engagement throughout the session.

Hybrid Meeting Etiquette

As a rule of thumb, imagine that the meeting is face-to-face. Therefore, treat all employees as if they’re actually in the room with you. So, general conventions still apply, such as: not talking over other people, punctuality, and involving everyone. However, give extra consideration to people joining remotely. These attendees risk feeling like observers (and not participants) if they’re not engaged or given a chance to contribute. Make sure that everyone gets a turn, and that you’re maintaining eye contact with the webcam. This will ensure that everyone gets value out of the meeting. Agree on follow up items, key takeaways, and action items with all attendees before leaving the meeting.

If you need to cancel the meeting, or several attendees can’t make it, make sure that this is communicated as far in advance as possible so that your colleagues can make alternative plans as needed. If your head is spinning trying to remember all these tips, consult this checklist!

Hybrid Meeting Best Practices Checklist

  • Send out meeting invitation in advance with meeting room and virtual link details
  • Share the agenda and necessary resources in advance with all attendees
  • Arrive early to set up technology
  • Mute microphones as required during the meeting to avoid distracting audio
  • Involve all attendees by maintaining eye contact and encouraging discussion
  • Agree upon action items and key takeaways
  • Share out these findings afterward and arrange any follow ups as necessary

Learn more about how Nspace can help make your hybrid meetings great by booking a demo.

When the reset button was pressed on the world of work, facility managers were tasked with perhaps the most daunting challenge of their careers. Transitioning the workforce to a remote model (and overseeing the greatest work-from-home experiment of all time) has taught us some big lessons in agility, decision-making, and certainly innovation. Data from March 2020 showed how drastic the shift was: use of office space dropped instantly to 80 percent below historic averages.

While many of us initially believed it was a temporary stop-gap measure, and that we would eventually return to business-as-usual, we all know now that may never happen. Today in fact, even more unsettling stats are emerging: global office vacancy is predicted to rise from 10.9% pre-crisis (2019 Q4) to 15.6% in 2022 Q2. Real estate is often one of the costliest assets of a business, and it will fall to the facilities manager to ensure the workplace of tomorrow is planned as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.

There’s no doubt that the workplace must change fundamentally. The world is ready for Workplace 2.0 to be designed and deployed by businesses intent on riding this wave of change… and successfully enduring through to the post-COVID age.

In planning for this future, scalability and flexibility are key. We should all be prepared for radical fluctuations in employee office usage — and anticipate that not everyone will be coming back, at least not for a long while.

So, what should Workplace 2.0 look like? What should be our priorities right now? And what are the safest and most cost-efficient ways to allocate employees within real estate assets moving forward?

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Your answers lie in what skills are needed, which positions within your organization are most integral – and how much in-person collaboration is essential to your success.

Here are three sensible steps to guide your approach to Workplace 2.0:

1. Re-evaluate your workspace

Recent occupancy studies reveal just how inefficient office space usage has become. Employees around the globe are not at their desks 50% to 60% of the time! Given that employers typically invest in 80-200 square feet of real estate per employee, vacant desks add up to a lot of wasted capital and operating costs.

Now is the time to ask some key questions: How much physical space does your business need right now? How much in 5 years? 10 years and forward? Are there ways of doing more with the space you have, or reducing your square footage to save costs?

The best way to answer these questions is to identify the most important processes for each area of your business and determine whether they can be completed remotely or what level of in-person presence (for collaboration or equipment) is required. You might even break individual projects down to determine what amount of time is required by employees and groups on-site versus offsite.

From there, you may get a clearer understanding of how much space you really need – and how to use it best.

2. Re-organize your workforce

Once you have an idea of your space needs and what level of access is needed for each employee, an initial picture of your custom hybrid office will emerge.

Now is the time to divide your personnel into three groups:

  • A core group of full-time staff required to work in the office 100% of the time
  • A hybrid group of staff members working at home and coming in set days and hours per week to occupy rotating space, “hot desks” and/ or meeting room seats, and
  • Fully remote workers.

With these designated groups and their space needs established, you can proceed to re-envision your space.

3. Reimagine your office

A new hybrid office plan, one that is suitable for your business, will begin to take shape in your mind, and in your strategic plans. With the right smart tech platform, configuring your new office to reduce costs, maximize efficiency and transition to a hybrid model will be a breeze. The best of the new tech of this kind will allow you to do a great deal more than self-service room and desk bookings. They will help you crunch your data on your current workforce, budgets and essential processes, helping you to create:

  • Optimal seating arrangements for your safe, hybrid working environment
  • Intelligent protocols to allocate space, ensure right levels of access and expedite the return to the office
  • Safe and efficient space usage – with up to the minute occupancy reporting.

It is important to bear in mind that a key reason people want to return to the office is to engage with each other, not just to sit in the building. Forward thinking organizations will configure and optimize their space for interaction. Whatever the future brings, the workplace of tomorrow is upon us. Armed with the right technology, however, your business will thrive after the transition.

You’ll be able to effortlessly manage which employees can come to the office, when they can enter and take their places, how often desks and rooms are cleaned, and whether the airflow is sufficient. Moreover, in Workplace 2.0, the potential to reduce your real estate, maintenance and facilities operations costs (which often amount to 10 to 20 percent of total personnel-driven expenditures) is significant. It’s all within reach … and now is definitely the time to be investing in the smartest platform you can find that will get you there quickly.

After primarily working remotely since the beginning of the pandemic, people all over the world are yearning for face-to-face social interaction. Relationship attrition has eroded all but the strongest of bonds, and even those strong ties are experiencing Zoom fatigue. The lack of in-person interaction is making life — and working from home — a lonely existence. Employees, for the most part, miss working alongside their colleagues. In some cases, the isolation is even impacting their mental health.

So, despite the infrastructure, cultural and training challenges, smart employers need to consider their options and take action now to prepare staff for the return to the office. A failure to do so may not only erode morale, engagement and productivity… it could lead to employee churn.

Safety, of course, is paramount. A torrent of new studies and research reports on the “return to work” correctly underscore employee safety as an overarching theme. Then there’s the matter of trust. How do you make your staff feel you have taken all the correct steps to safeguard their health and wellness? According to a report by Edelman, only half of employees believe office spaces are safe. Are you instilling confidence in the workplace, as you consider your plans for reopening or partially reopening?

The right tech to help deploy in a safe return

To rise to the safety challenge, and get people back to the office, leading businesses are looking to the latest technology solutions. With the right tech deployed, you can better ensure employee wellness at work and a safe and efficient return to the workplace.

From tracking individuals arriving on premises and advanced sanitation procedures, to ensuring safe numbers, safe distances and employee trust in workplace safety, smart tech can manage the deluge of challenges organizations face right now. As we continue to roll with these changes, it’s squarely on your shoulders to select the best tools to assist in the implementation of wellness and sanitation measures — ones that will dramatically reduce the risk of exposure in the workplace.

But which essential measures will you pursue? How can you set a safe return to work in motion in a way that meets current legislative guidelines, optimizes space usage and gives everyone the right level of office access in a constantly changing landscape? In all cases, a best fit tech solution will be your best friend.

Although there are limitations to what a facility manager can do to stave off the course of this pandemic, the pressure is on to re-imagine and repurpose the workplace for the new era to minimize costs and maximize a safe return for all (or at least some) of your workforce.

Five Ways to Achieve a Safer “Return to Work”:

As a facility manager, you cannot continually monitor and measure the health of every individual that enters and exits your building. You can, however, rigorously adopt new hygiene, contact tracing and space usage protocols to meet the new requirements — and inspire confidence that your space is safe and sanitary. Here are some smart ideas:

1. Enforce Mask Protocols – this is critical

Requiring the use of face masks is an essential place to start when planning staff re-entry to the physical workplace. Government guidelines suggest that all individuals wear a face mask whenever they are unable to maintain proper physical distance from others. A mask helps to reduce the chance of an individual’s respiratory droplets coming into contact with others and also contaminating desk surfaces. The use of masks is, first and foremost, recommended to protect an employee’s co-workers, rather than the individual employee wearing the mask.

2. Strict Cleaning Protocols

Whether or not you use new sanitation tech, strict new cleaning protocols and careful oversight of cleaning schedules and procedures are crucial. Be sure to establish stringent cleaning protocols and schedules for all common areas and any shared workspaces. This includes pre-return inspections, as well as HVAC and mechanicals checks. How often will your cleaners be scheduled? How will you verify cleanings have been complete to your new, stricter standards?

3. Space & resource planning for safe social distancing

With only 30-50% of usable space remaining to you, your employee numbers will no doubt far outnumber the desks available. How will you stagger and schedule desk and room usage to remain safe and compliant? How many desks will your office be able to accommodate under the circumstances? In what configuration? How do you decide which people to bring back to the office, and when? Where will they sit, meet… and for how long?

A strategic and precise approach to planning resources and space usage is critical to safety in the return to work. Before COVID, hotdesking was used for a small percentage of office space; now it’s a solution for most (or all) of your available seats – and an effective way to manage space constraints and allow the maximum number of workers to safely occupy available desks. To manage all this, facility managers will need a tech solution that automates the process seamlessly; one that allows authorized employees to book – via their phone — available desks and fully sanitized rooms.

4. Health monitoring

According to a recent US survey by The Conference Board, 67% of respondents indicated that they are requiring screening, testing, or temperature checks of employees before welcoming them back to the office. What will be your policy? At minimum it is recommended that you roll out the following:

Employee health questionnaire

Ensure you have a system to survey employees on their health symptoms and exposures before they you physically invite them back to the office.

Contact tracing

Be sure to utilize the right technologies and tracking tools that enable you to see “who was where, and when” in your facility, at any given time. Should someone in your building fall ill with COVID, it will be critical to act quickly, and alert others who may have been in contact with them.

5. Enhanced sanitation to keep surfaces/air virus free

Finally, an exciting array of new sanitation products and technologies have emerged, for those who have the money to invest. This includes everything from self-sanitizing coatings that can be applied to high-touch surface keeping them bacteria-free for up to one year… to infrared lighting that disinfects spaces without the use of chemicals. Additionally, there are new touchless technologies for work washrooms, kitchens, and trash receptacles that should be considered, such as touchless faucets and soap dispensers. Consider whether there are doors and other touchpoints that can be eliminated. A complete survey of your space to isolate high touch areas is now essential.

Rising to the challenge of ensuring a safe office in the return to work is not going to be easy. But it’s nice to know a solutions-driven approach will give you peace of mind you’ll get it right, without missing any essential steps – or leaving gaps that could put your staff or workplace at risk.

Staying ahead of the pandemic’s impact is a challenge causing sleepless nights for facility managers and business owners these days. At the time of this writing, the World Health Organization reports that there are almost 100 million confirmed cases globally, 25 million of which are in the USA. One year after the virus was declared a pandemic, the economic damage is considerable: the IMF estimates that the global economy shrank by 4.4% in 2020 – the most severe decline since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Healthcare providers are overwhelmed, and retail and hospitality industries have been decimated. Rising unemployment has increased the strain on government programs. All of these pressures contribute to growing social tension and unrest.

On the positive side of the ledger, multiple vaccines are on the horizon, well ahead of expectations. Even so, it seems that every day there are new “nth wave” stories, reports of new virus strains, vaccine distribution challenges and other alarming statistics that give pause to your best laid plans. How do you factor in this rapid-fire information and reconfigure your environment and operation for a productive return to work for your employees?

To be sure, we need to re-open the economy – but in a safe, constrained way. The right plan of action, will be critical to your organization’s success through the uncertain months ahead. But where do you begin to focus? What should your priorities be? And what adjustments should you make right now to ensure your physical space is safe, sanitized and equipped for changes ahead?

Until the vaccines are made available to the general population, and herd immunity is achieved, the pandemic is still a threat. If we look for examples to those countries that have been most successful at containing the virus, we see that they have three things in common:

1. Firm action prioritizing safety

Quick decisive action has been instrumental in preventing outbreaks. According to the Wall Street Journal, “The world’s first awareness of COVID-19 came from cases among travelers arriving in Taiwan from Wuhan, China. The country quickly halted flights from much of China, quarantined travelers from other areas, stopped cruise ships from docking, implemented widespread testing and quadrupled production of face masks within a month.”

2. Rapid course correction in response to new information

New Zealand and Australia have frequently been cited as success stories in managing their COVID-19 response, in large part due to their collaborative work with and support of science, public health and medical experts. The British Medical Journal noted that “Confronted with the rapidly spreading COVID-19 pandemic in January 2020, New Zealand initially rolled out its existing national influenza pandemic plan as the basis for its response. Australia did likewise. Fortunately, both countries had a brief period to refine their approaches before the first reported COVID-19 case arrived on 25 January in Australia and 26 February in New Zealand. This timing gave them an opportunity to learn from the effects of the pandemic on countries in the northern hemisphere and consider the different response strategies.”

3. Leverage available technology

Much of the technology needed to contain the virus already exists, and simply needs to be recognized and repurposed. Bloomberg reports that “A contact-tracing app in Singapore that’s a key part of the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has helped to reduce the time taken to isolate contacts of a patient from four days to less than two… The TraceTogether program, which includes a mobile app and token, now covers 3.4 million users, about 60% of Singapore’s population.”

Bringing it together, there are three ways for facility managers to successfully expedite the Return to Work:

1. Commitment to Safety First

During a pandemic, everyone wants safety information at their fingertips, and that goes for employees and clients as much as it does for consumers. Those at the helm of planning and managing the return to the office must move forward briskly. That means priority needs to be placed on:

  • Identifying stakeholder groups
  • Convening a Return-to-Office (RTO) team
  • Establishing guiding principles
  • Completing an environmental scan of the facility and stakeholder situation
  • Taking an inventory of relevant available resources and conducting a gap/needs analysis
  • Formulating a RTO plan which includes
  • operational policies for the new workspace which includes visitor management, meeting rooms, and seating configurations
  • health, safety and cleaning protocols & programs
  • a communication plan to update stakeholders as the situation develop

2. Agile decision making

We can continue to expect that there will be ebbs and flows of infection, given the globalized supply chain and the need to sustain the world economy. Moreover, the coronavirus continues to mutate, and emerging strains will force organizational decision-making to be rapid and iterative. The tools and processes you use to arrive and execute these decisions must be similarly responsive and flexible. As much as possible, workplace decisions must be decentralized and coordinated with local leadership to address the needs and available resources of local jurisdictions.

3.Digitization now

We have seen that technology at a country level can be an effective tool for maintaining normal operations. As businesses re-open their facilities, we take a cue from how technology has been used by state actors to track/trace well being, and monitor social distancing. Intelligent new workplace management platforms will do a lot of the thinking and planning, and reduce the headaches around distancing rules, space access hierarchies, local legislations and new health mandates. With the right tools at hand, data and intelligence will be at your fingertips to efficiently manage a safe and productive workplace from anywhere.

When selecting the right platform, however, buyer beware. Not all workforce planning technology is built equally. Be sure your platform gives you the full scope of tools and functionality to:

  • Plan an efficient office space with live digital views for hybrid environments
  • Enable your employees with intelligent room and desk booking software and apps
  • Maximize safety and hygiene protocols with wellness checks, contact tracing, health monitoring and continuously updated cleaning and space usage updates

We have left 2020 behind and have an interesting journey ahead of us. Chances are we’ll see a few more curves in the road beyond 2021. But with a focus on safety, and the right technologies, facility managers will be able to stay one step ahead, outthink the pandemic – and begin to safely usher in that “new normal”.