The current pandemic has thrown new challenges for office managers and executives on how to ensure that staff return to office safely and confidently. While many organizations are still very much under the work from home policy, quite a few are considering staff to come back to office. With the gradual re-opening of the economy in many cities, companies are starting to plan their office return. Many organizations do not have the resources or the time to implement a matured strategy towards re-opening their offices. As a result, their approach is a trial and error based approach to approaching this task.
While there is certainly no shortage of advise on the internet on the best practices to ensure the return to office, our article here focus on the planning process that we have learnt from our customers.
Planning The Reopening Strategy
This process happens at the highest level in the organization. The key management executives need to sit and plan the re-opening based on a needs basis. The key questions to ask are how are we going to bring people in? How are we going to ensure that collaboration takes places in a safe and secured way? What are the necessary arrangements that need to be done for the physical office? What is the schedule and planning of office visits and what is the oversight needed? What are the boundaries and operational constraints that need to be put in place for the usage of the space? How are we going to collect this information? What kind of reporting and insights do we need to capture?
We answer these questions from a practical stand point below.
Plan User Organization
The planning and management of users is one of the most important aspects of this whole endeavor. Organization of people generally fall into 3 categories such as:
By Heirarchy – In this scenario, users can be organized by departments and sections. This is the easiest approach to group people which reflects the organizational structure. In most cases, users within a specific department or section do sit together such as HR, Finance and Legal. However, many other departments and sections such as sales and field service do not normally have a designated location. So, they will need to be grouped together.
By Location – In this scenario, users can be organized by location such as buildings, levels and regions such as Tower Block A, Level 24, West Wing. This is typical of larger organizations having multiple buildings and levels. Some departments may occupy more than one building or level. The key thing is to ensure that they are controlled and limited to a specific location.
By Function – In this scenario, users can be grouped into functions or objectives such as project based organization. In such situations, typically, users belong across multiple departments and locations and come together to work on a project. In this case, such users should be grouped together as they are most likely to be sitting and working closely with each other.
The choice of categorization of users depends on the size and structure of the organization.
Plan For Visitation and Occupancy Rules
The second aspect is what is the plan on visitations by the users. Some of the key aspects are:
Quotas – How many people are allowed at any one time in the office. This requires inputs from regulatory and legal directives as well as the size and scale of the office space. With proper distancing requirement, typical office occupancy has now been cut down to 50% of its original capacity. So, an estimate of the number of potential users who can visit the office at any one time is an important factor to consider.
Visit Schedules – In most cases, users will be broken down into split teams with 50% of each department or section users allowed to come in on certain dates with the rest working from home. Alternatively, the schedule rotation may be in weeks. When the pattern of visitation is set, it forms a key determinant on the space and desk required for occupancy at any given day.
Visit Requests – Most organizations have some kind of workflow involved for users to visit offices. When there is a need to visit the office, users would need to show their intent to their immediate supervisor and get an approval prior to showing up at office. This process comes in a variety of methods from a simple email to an official workflow system with routing to different parties such as security, reception and the like. There should be a plan on how requests are to be accommodated and the workflow needed to support the re-opening.
Cleaning Cycle – When users come and go, it is imperative that the space is cleaned at regular intervals to ensure that it is sanitized and clean for the next set of people to occupy. Regular cleaning cycles are sometimes mandated by law or by building management. Decision on the frequency of cleaning is essential based on the expected visitations and occupancy.
Plan The Booking Rules
Booking rules, by far, play the most crucial role in enforcing the decisions made. This is where the rubber hits the road. Several parameters need to be determined to effectively control and manage the visitations:
Space Visibility – Determine the spaces that are allowed and not allowed by specific group of users. This helps to contain the location of visit while helping management identify users for contact tracing purposes.
Booking Limits – Set parameters such as lead time for booking and advanced booking window. For example, can users book a space immediately or do they need to reserve a space in advance. If they do reserve in advance, how far into the future are they allowed to book.
Tools For Implementation
All the planning and enforcement above will come to a naught if there is no way to incorporate the strategy, enforce the rules and capture the necessary information. A software tool such as ecobook can help collect all this information while enforcing the necessary controls and capturing the needed data in one central location. for instance, with ecobook as a software, management can perform the following tasks:
- Organize the users into groups.
- Group desks by location.
- Map the group of users to the desks.
- Implement the necessary booking rules at the desk level for maximum control.
- Enforce appointment setting controls and workflows for office visits.
- Book desks and ensure occupancy with check-in and check-out actions.
- Schedule automated cleaning jobs based on pre-defined set of policies.
- Capture and generate reports on usage.
Reporting and Analysis
Once information is captured, it has to be analyzed for various aspects that can help in fine-tuning the whole process. Key information such as visitation history, attendance tracking, booking patterns, occupancy patterns, meeting frequency, cleaning frequency etc all play an important part towards influencing the tweaks that are needed to ensure a smooth operation of the office. For instance:
Visitation History – provides critical information on demand patterns for visits. This helps in allowing management to tweak quotas or number of users to ensure that safety is maintained while business still functions effectively.
Attendance Tracking – can help in ensuring that users who request visits do turn up on time and at the specified date. This again ties in with the visitation history to help in contact tracing.
Booking and Occupancy Patterns – help management to tweak the necessary allocation of desks and spaces to ensure that demand and supply are balanced.
It is important to remember that the whole planning process is not a one and done event. It needs to evolve with the real-world scenarios. The data that is collected and the resulting information gleaned paves the way for effective office operation by adjusting the various parameters as you go along. A monthly analysis of the information gathered with senior management can help in making better decisions and a safer and secure office operation.