The pandemic has accelerated different ways of working, whether fully remote or hybrid working, these new flexible ways of working pose a real challenge for workplace leaders to use their real estate effectively.
To support you on this mission, we’ve answered some of the essential questions on desk management that will help you make more effective use of your real estate and create a safe working environment.
Many prefer working remotely because desks have not been set up for a pandemic. People feel they can be in control over their workspace at home, while at work, they depend on the employer. Changing workplace design and process to meet these new requirements and demands is one of today’s biggest challenges for workplace leaders to overcome.
You may well face a workspace where most of the desks are empty because most of your workforce is at home. But your real estate costs haven’t gone down, quite the opposite. With more remote staff, additional cleaning, and social distancing requiring more square footage per workspace, your real estate costs are increasing. You’re probably thinking about reducing the office space but, to do so, you need to know how much real estate to keep, how to monitor usage patterns and what the optimal response will be in scenario A, B and C.
In short, desk management has never been more important. It has to work for employees, for employers, and comply with government guidance. It needs to future-proof a safe, productive workplace that supports business growth in the long term. You need a plan for maximizing the use of smaller spaces that work in real life, not only on paper.
To support you on this mission, we’ve answered some of the essential questions on desk management that will help you create a Covid-safe work environment, prepared for the ebbs and flows of pandemics, and any other challenges and opportunities that come along:
The desire to continue working entirely or partly remotely will dominate across the globe, particularly in light of growing health concerns and awareness of the environmental impact of this choice. Reports show that:
Gensler’s survey of workers in the US revealed that 70% would prefer to work mostly in the office – albeit with significant changes, the most important being an overall change in the workplace policy. Employees want stricter requirements to stay at home when sick, social distancing, assigned workspaces, and long-standing issues like noise and distractions to be addressed. People also expect more flexibility from their employers regarding work locations and hours, and technology that makes it possible.
Productivity is another important element, particularly among Gen Z and Millennials, who will comprise the majority of the global workforce within a decade. Though both are technologically savvy and more open to flexible working than previous generations, they have also struggled more than others with resisting distractions and remaining productive when working from home.
So, how does this affect your company’s real estate and desk management policy?
Whichever direction you choose to go, two things will remain true:
Office real estate is a high-cost overhead for most organizations, one which, in light of the global pandemic, no longer makes business sense.
New waves of the pandemic call for social distancing that isn’t compatible with previous office designs. The role of the office is changing, too. If before the pandemic it tried to be a home away from home, today the office has a much more practical functionality – to facilitate team meetings, or carry out focused work that isn’t possible at home. CBRE even predicts that by 2030, the office will have morphed into an amenity-laden workplace that offers a “boutique experience”, much like a hotel.
Meanwhile, an increasing number of employees are moving away to suburban areas, motivated by the need to cut living expenses and the desire to spend more time with their friends and families and less time commuting. In urban planning, this has translated into the renaissance of neighborhoods and the rise of mixed-use developments. For businesses, this means a choice between a centralized office and decentralized workplaces or the use of co-working spaces due to their inherent flexibility..
Microsoft and Facebook have extended their hybrid work policy until early to mid-2021. Google, the king of the workplace experience, has also announced an extension of its remote working policy to July 2021.
In a quite different mood, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings made headlines by revealing that, to him, “Not being able to get together in person, particularly internationally, is a pure negative.” Despite that, however, Netflix will not require their employees to return to the office until most have been vaccinated.
Others, including Fujitsu, Slack, and Hubspot, have opted for a permanent hybrid working solution. Dropbox in turn has avoided the desk management conundrum altogether by transforming its offices into Dropbox Studios – spaces for team building, events, and strategy meetings. Individual work will be left to home and co-working spaces.
Pre-Covid-19, the typical workspace was around 8m2 (21.5 sq ft). Today, that’s risen to 15-20m2 (161-215 sq ft) to allow for social distancing. The ratio of employees per desk has also risen from 1.2 to 3 per desk due to the amount of time each employee is expected to spend at a desk in the workplace.
With rent as high as $34.75 per square foot in Chicago to $87.45 per square foot in San Francisco, the last thing you need is to pay for the same amount (or more) of office space that’s half-empty most of the time. In fact, McKinsey reports that the time worked in main and satellite offices is expected to decline by 12% and 9% respectively.
Desk management thus becomes a crucial element in optimizing workspaces, particularly since additional cleaning and social distancing requirements are likely to grow the cost per workspace even more.
Many companies are attempting to reduce their real estate footprint by decentralizing or downsizing their city offices, negotiating shorter leases or adopting a hybrid model. Fujitsu launched a permanent remote working plan for its employees in Japan, with which the company announced a “shift away from the conventional practice of working from a fixed office towards a seamless system that allows employees to choose the place they want to work, including from home or satellite offices.” The plan will see its office footprint reduced to 50% by the end of 2022.
The company will also rely on technology “to deliver real-time visualization of office usage and further improvement of convenience through analyzing data”, including “location-based platform that uses IoT technology to visualize the movement of people and objects”.
Cutting real estate is critical to the business right now, but how to do that?
The smart enterprises are turning to data and technology to inform this decision. They use the invaluable usage and occupancy data drawn from desk management tools. Chargifi for Desks, for example, provides companies with:
These data insights give you early indicators of changes in desk usage patterns, so you can divert employees to less congested areas where it is easier to maintain social distancing, and identify and reallocate “no-shows” or “zombie desks” faster, maximizing the cost-efficiency of the real estate.
Whether you’re considering how to reduce real estate or have already done so, you need a robust desk management system so you can do more with desks in less space.
Grabbing the best desk you see available when you walk into the office has been around for a while – it’s known as hot desking. It was not universally popular. “Each morning you get a workstation based on that old standby, first-come-first-served. If you show up at 5:30 a.m. then you’ll likely have your pick. Later than 9 a.m., then probably you’ll get what’s left even if that means working apart from your colleagues,” according to this Forbes article.
Half the employees with unassigned seats want to eliminate hot desking. They don’t want a return to the constant anxiety over “if and where” they will be able to find a suitable workspace, and now the new worry – whether the desk will be clean and safe to use. Meanwhile, 61% agree that the ability to pre-book their workspace would alleviate these concerns.
Enter desk hoteling – a solution that allows staff to pre-book the desk that matches their needs before leaving the house.
A desk booking system is an excellent solution for companies willing to give their facilities team control over which desks are sanitized and available. And, if getting employees to remember to book a space is a challenge, you can integrate the desk booking software with other workplace technology, so there is a value exchange – for example, smart wireless charging spots to trigger instant desk check-in. This way, you not only implement the chosen desk policy more effectively, but also create value for both the company and the employee. The bonus? Faster desk turnaround and more cost-efficient real estate.
According to Prof. Bill Kerr of Harvard Business School, “We have celebrated density and packing people together, but that’s putting a lot of eggs in one basket. A lot of companies are going to be thinking about how they could make their workforce if not pandemic-proof, at least pandemic-resistant.”
Desk management is not just about cutting the square footage. It’s also about creating more agile and resilient workplaces that motivate people to spend time there. Achieving these goals will take a user-centric approach.
As comparatively small a change as rearranged seating can boost productivity and improve organizational performance by 15%. A study into a Korean e-commerce company revealed that when employees from sales teams sat next to coworkers they hadn’t previously interacted with, the number of closed deals grew by 25%.
In today’s world, you need an integrated workplace management system (IWMS) that provides a desk booking solution, space usage and real-time occupancy data, as well as communicating with other facilities management systems. The system you choose should:
If you want to reduce the number of potential infection transmission points and improve the overall office experience, turn to the one piece of technology every employee has – the smartphone. A wireless charging spot, for example, can provide power on-the-go, and allow staff to access the desk booking system, check-in to begin work, or launch video conferencing, all without having to speak to anyone or touch any shared screen.
Any desk management policy you adopt needs a simple way for employees to identify available desks according to cleaning schedules and social distancing policy. It also needs to be straightforward to understand and implement from both the employee and employer point of view. Underpinning this process is software that automatically updates the cleaning crew whenever a workspace is vacated, and that can be accessed from any device.
For example, with Chargifi for Desks, facilities teams track usage data from wireless charging spots to ensure safety and quick cleaning turnaround times. Once the cleaner has sanitized the workstation, the Chargifi LightRing turns from red to green, instantly indicating the desk’s availability. On top of reducing the risk of infections, this tech-driven solution helps you control capacity per day or area.
Besides replacing surface materials with antiviral materials, imposing regular temperature checks, and limiting office capacity, over half the companies in the US have implemented contact tracing or plan to do so soon.
If a Covid-19 incident occurs at an office, you’ll need to contain it fast. You’ll need to react as swiftly as possible, and you’ll need to know who’s been in close proximity to or in contact with the infected person and alert them instantly, while also actioning any extra cleaning and distancing measures if necessary.
Optimal desk management system would perform the following key functions:
With, Chargifi, thanks to the required user authentication, you can see who’s been sitting where and when. It is then up to you to choose how you set up your contact tracing process, store this data and inform employees.
Employees will only feel comfortable at work if they know there are stringent cleaning policies in place for their safety.
Clear and intuitive communication of available desks not only makes life easier from a practical perspective but also provides workers with reassurance that they will be safe in the chosen workspace. This builds trust and benefits overall employee satisfaction, avoiding the pitfalls associated with hot desking anxiety.
Some companies use post-it notes or stickers to put a cross on desks. Others employ sensors that do the job but are also limited to desk occupancy and utilization data. They do not provide you with user data critical to contact tracing or any form of visual indication that signifies safe use. Chargifi LightRing, on the other hand, is an all-in-one option that provides space utilization and occupancy data, supports user authentication, and communicates desk availability and cleanliness in a highly intuitive way.
Anyone can instantly see if a desk is green (clean and ready to use), amber (in use) or red (used and needs cleaning). No learning curve, no time-consuming manual administration or paper trail left behind. Only better user experience.
Once you’ve decided how much office space you’ll need, what the primary function of each office location will be, and designed a strong cleaning and desk management policy, you need a workplace app to pull it all together. A good workplace app:
The right application will put people in charge of their work choices and wellbeing, evolving into a powerful tool to improve employee engagement. You’ll know instantly whether the chosen workplace application works effectively by measuring how many times per day employees use it.
The Chargifi LightRing helps us design innovative and touchless solutions that are key to our workplace experience strategy.Brooke Lierman, Senior Director of Workplace Technologies at Okta.
The desk management policy you employ must be flexible and adaptable. It should make people feel safe and be productive. And it has to be strategic and intuitive, well beyond solving the immediate challenges. You need a future proof desk management policy that supports business growth in the long term.
So how can you get return on investment from adopting the right desk management policy? This affects the ROI on multiple levels:
Chargifi empowers workplace leaders to unlock the value of hybrid working through frictionless experiences across workplaces. It powers a safe and touchless desk experience, using data that optimizes space utilization and informs systems from work patterns to cleaning schedules.
Chargifi’s all-in-one solution for desk management enables touchless desk check-in, wireless power, and light status indicator, giving employees confidence by clearly indicating when desks are safe to use. Chargifi for Rooms ensures safer and more productive collaboration with touchless meeting room booking and video conferencing.
Get in touch with our team here to learn more about how Chargifi can help you create a touchless workplace experience.
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