Safely back to the office: your three-step roadmap to success

As states across the US begin opening for business, companies are working hard to overcome the fear factor, setting their offices up for safe working while persuading staff it’s OK to come back.

No part of this is ever going to be easy.

Social distancing creates challenges ranging from how many people you can accommodate to providing extra equipment such as protective screens; hygiene criteria are tougher than ever before.

Tackling the Fear Factor will engage all of us. After months of being told to stay at home, it’s not surprising that workers are cautious – or even downright scared – about taking up their old seat.

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

So break the back-to-work challenges into these 3 stages:

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

Your immediate action plan:

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

If visitors do need to come in, reduce face to face engagement with your reception during the access process with secure check in/out panels. Deploy digital signage to guide them to the right place quickly.

Medium term plan

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

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

Collect this data to make good space decisions:

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

Organizations with workspace scheduling technology are in a good position to answer these questions.

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

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

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

On a broader level, workspace scheduling technology aids collaboration for a remote or roving workforce.

It makes it simple to organise a video conference, for example – rooms and equipment can be found and booked in a few clicks, with all attendees invited and even catering organized.

Multiple locations and time zones are no problem – and if the meeting details change, the workspace scheduling technology informs attendees automatically.

Long term – the new normal

No-one knows how this will look; it depends on when a vaccine is developed, and how workplaces and practices have evolved by then.

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

Workers across the US have reported high levels of wellbeing while working at home, so it’s likely to become an important element when attracting and retaining talent.

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

Imagine how much better it can be now we have the time to plan – and if you have the right technology in place to support it.

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

Learn how workspace scheduling technology makes agile working better: