Your three-step roadmap to getting back into the office safely

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As Australia and New Zealand 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 simple.

Social distancing creates a range of challenges from working out how many people you can accommodate to providing equipment such as protective screens; hygiene criteria are tougher than ever before.

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

With workspace management our speciality, 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 down 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:

  • Reduce 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 hygiene policies: set new standards, and communicate them to your employees and service providers (who may hard to come by 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 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 informed: if they can 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 your visitors: limit the number of guests you allow into your premises. Always check if video conferencing can be used instead.

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

Medium term plan

One thing’s for certain – because of the massive increase in home working, occupancy levels are changing all across corporate real estate.

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

Collect this data to make good space decisions:

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

Organisations with workspace scheduling technology are particularly well-placed to answer these questions.

Because the software integrates with 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 useful 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 head straight for 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 roving or decentralised workforce.

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

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

Long term – the new normal

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

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

Workers globally 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 into implementing home working with cobbled-together systems and practices.

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

We wish you lots of 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: