Facility teams were already stretched thin long before the novel coronavirus swept across the globe. When the large-scale outbreak forced businesses to close offices and make work-from-home arrangements mandatory, it exacerbated existing concerns and created new, and more complex, challenges.
Workplace leaders had to rapidly work out how they would manage their facilities — and where from. The question lingered: Was it possible to manage business operations remotely without sacrificing efficiency, productivity, or performance? As it turns out, yes, it was.
No matter where you're working these days, technology can help you keep things running smoothly. Here's what you need to know about remotely managing your facilities during, and even after, the pandemic.
Get ready for the future
You've been working at home for months now, keeping track of facility operations and most likely working on your return strategy. For reasons beyond your control, this is a difficult time to prepare for the future.
Even the best plans will need to be conditional. With this many unknowns, some things will be tentative and your return strategy will probably have several iterations.
Though it varies region to region, more companies are starting to reopen. Right now, most will be operating at a reduced capacity to comply with public health guidelines. While we don't know for certain what the long-term impact will be, we're watching the immediate effects play out in real time.
Take an agile approach
Tried-and-true methods don't necessarily work during a global pandemic. At a time of fierce disruption, existing solutions may not meet your current needs.
The prolonged public health crisis and its resulting economic downturn didn't leave many businesses unaffected. While some have struggled more than others through this crisis, agile companies are finding ways to maintain — sometimes even increase — their efficiency, productivity, profitability, and performance.
Just like with any disruption, it's the agile ones that survive.
In PwC's Pulse Survey from June, 78% of companies said they plan to reconfigure their space for physical distancing, and if you're one of them — you can expect some challenges in the months ahead.
Given the complexity of this task, it can be easy to overlook an important step, miss something critical, or fail to plan for various scenarios.
With integrated workplace management software, facility managers have access to all of the workplace data they need — from anywhere, at any time. No matter where you're working, you will be able to monitor your maintenance, occupancy, inventory, move requests, and so on.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Will we need more space or less space?
- Can the facilities be reconfigured quickly as circumstances change?
- What needs to be done to prepare the office space?
- How will we implement new cleaning and sanitizing protocols?
- Can I visualize different scenarios to optimize a new layout?
If you're reassigning seats and spacing out workstations, you may need to plan a move or visualize different scenarios. Consider using move management software to streamline the process, whether you're working from the office or continuing to work from home.
A recent PwC survey of 1,100 professionals showed that 51% of employees are concerned about getting sick in the workplace. That's important to keep in mind, as it will be more important than ever to help employees feel safe when they return to work. They need to be able to trust you to prioritize their well-being.
Take their unique circumstances into consideration when deciding who will return. You should also consider these questions:
- Which employees will come back, and when?
- How can I ensure the work environment protects employees?
- How can we help boost productivity and efficiency?
- Are there plans in place for likely scenarios?
- Will employees feel confident when they return?
Maybe you plan to continue working remotely, even as others head back into the office. Fortunately, technology makes that a viable option. Here's how you can keep your facilities running — no matter where you manage them from.
Reconfigure your floor plans
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends maintaining a distance of at least six feet between each person. iOFFICE’s new feature, Space-Right™, uses an algorithm to reconfigure your floor plans based on distancing parameters you can set with a simple slider.
If you need to make an adjustment, you can update your floor plans in a few clicks — whether you're working on your laptop at home, a coffee shop, or back in your office.
Another bonus: Managing safe distances is easier than ever with this technology. Space-Right's algorithm even suggests non-occupiable spaces that can be converted to accommodate more employees.
Prepare your buildings
Make sure you have hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, and any other supplies you'll need to protect your office. If you're providing workers with masks or offering testing, make sure you have the necessary equipment in stock, as well as the ability to monitor inventory.
Update your facility maintenance protocols to include any new cleaning and sanitization measures. In this day and age, it's important to invest wisely and cut costs. Consider using sensors to reduce your spend by aligning your cleaning instances with actual use.
Also, remember to adjust your energy usage for reduced occupancy. You may want to inspect your air filters, change your filtration systems, and flush the water systems. With facility maintenance software, you can keep your eye on the status of the work even while you're working remotely.
More touchless technology
We know that infectious diseases, including COVID-19, can maintain their infectiousness on inanimate objects. One way to catch the virus is touching your face after you've touched a contaminated surface.
With a touchless visitor management system, visitors can check in to your office with their device using a QR code, so they avoid touching shared screens, pencils, and paper.
Consider using digital signage to control the flow of traffic in hallways, stairways, and corridors. And you can use it to remind your employees to keep a safe distance, and provide them with important information.
Safety and security
You may want to ask employees to pre-register themselves and any guests. Then, you'll have a record of every vendor, client, employee, and delivery personnel that comes into your office. That way it's easier to keep an eye on occupancy rate and avoid having too many people in the office at one time.
Not only does this technology help with capacity, it can also simplify the process of contact tracing. You can easily refer to your digital records to see who checked in on any given day. If there is an outbreak in the office, you will have access to who was in your office so you can notify them about the possible exposure.
Also, you can communicate important directions to your guests ahead of time — including your check-in and check-out procedures.
Manage from anywhere
Experts say that this remote culture will likely stick around — maybe even permanently. A recent survey showed that one in five CFOs intend to keep 20% of their workforce remote to cut costs.
It's good to keep in mind that though this disruption has been difficult, we're still optimistic about the future of the workplace. The silver lining will be a more flexible, tech-enabled office that will be even better than the one we left behind.
Even pandemics have silver linings
Remarkably, there has been more progress, in terms of flexibility, during the past few months than in the years prior. That's especially true for companies who had technology that enabled remote working, which has proved to be a saving grace in the crisis.
When you have a once-in-a-hundred-years pandemic, the outcome is an increase of companies embracing flexible work arrangements and accepting the value that technology brings the whole organization. Not only was it possible, but long overdue.
As you move forward with your reopening plans, it's a good idea to continue researching. Review some return to work guides from brands that you trust. Find safety check-lists, stay informed on best practices, check for updates from public health authorities, and keep an ongoing conversation with your team.
Use this chance to rethink the way the workplace runs and ramp up your technology so you will stay competitive once the storm has passed — even if you're working from home.