From remote work to Zoom meetings to office sanitation routines, COVID-19 has upended the way business gets done. The notion of “the office” has changed significantly since the beginning of the last year, and at each stage of the pandemic, organizations have used the EMS platform to manage their workspaces and resources to achieve greater efficiency and gain insights to drive value.
As we enter the next phase, EMS is helping organizations get back to some semblance of the life we used to know. For many companies, this includes bringing employees and visitors back into office buildings en masse. But the picture often appears different from life before COVID, with revamped desk spaces, modified cleaning procedures, new reservation policies and more.
For a successful transition, your company must make sure that you’re flexible and preparing your environments as needed – and EMS technology can be an important tool in achieving those goals. These practical tips for using EMS are designed to help you with whatever your office’s new normal looks like.
12 Tips for Effective Workspace Management
1. Expand your use of available spaces. The days of not knowing how every single space in your building is being used are gone. Companies were looking for ways to make the most out of expensive real estate investments long before the pandemic hit, but during the past 18 months they have turned a laser focus onto understanding formerly unmanaged space and determining how to best utilize it. Phone spaces, huddle rooms, “dead” hall areas and more are being converted into managed space so that companies can maximize space effectiveness and create an efficient workplace experience.
With EMS, it’s easy to add and track such spaces. You can add virtually any type of space to the scheduling platform, whether it be a desk area, a hallway couch, an outdoor patio – or even a workout machine in the company gym. By adding these managed spaces to your system, you can ensure the right spaces are available to the right people at the right time.
2. Disable spaces to meet social distancing goals. In the wake of the pandemic, one long-time office trend that has seen recent reversal is that of the square footage per on-site employee. Instead of shrinking this number as they had been in the past, organizations had to quickly increase it to comply with social distancing mandates. Now that employees are returning to the office, the situation is changing once again. In some regions, organizations are dropping social-distancing requirements – but in others they are more important than ever as employees are wary of relatively close contact.
With EMS, you can use the Room Configuration wizard to make changes like:
- Disabling rooms entirely.
- Restricting how furniture is arranged in a room.
- Staggering available desk spaces.
- Creating neighborhoods for staggered schedules.
- Alternating available rooms.
- Designating sets of spaces for different sets of hybrid employees.
3. Build in cleaning time. More employees and visitors in the office means more cleaning as well. Make sure spaces are ready for use by scheduling set-up and tear-down time for deep cleaning and other sanitization processes, as well as possibly adding in buffer time as folks leave and enter meeting rooms to eliminate congestion in hallways. EMS has several options for accommodating additional cleaning or safe passing time between meetings. From the desktop client, you can use the room configuration wizard to add a default set-up and tear-down buffer time before and after each booking.
You can also apply this to the everyday user applications by using a set of parameters that will either override the default room setup or enforce what you have set up on the room configuration. On the template itself, you can indicate what set up and tear down you want for each reservation created from that template.
4. Reopening spaces to different capacity limits. If your buildings were closed and you’re now opening them back up, you may need to enforce new occupancy limits. Or, if you globally reduced occupancy limits or did so per space, you may need to revert those limits back to full capacity once it is safe to do so.
In EMS, you can use the Room Configuration wizard to enforce new, lower capacities by creating a new setup type and using it as the default value. Let’s say you wanted to make sure no more than 10 people could gather in a space at once. You could create a setup with a maximum capacity of 10 individuals and then apply it to the rooms of your choice. Once your organization no longer needs to abide by those capacities, you can simply switch back to the original setup type.
5. Communicate and enforce new guidelines. As your company implements new guidelines – say, allowing 50% in some of your conference rooms – a useful feature in EMS can be the ability to add in an approval process that allows you to check every reservation, helping ensure any new policies are enforced. For example, you can use room alerts that will display as a popup within the web app and other everyday user applications. The process doesn't prevent users from selecting a room, but you can force information upon them.
You can also use EMS to communicate guidelines in other ways, including by:Updating messages included in confirmations. You can edit existing headers and footers, or even create your own new messages as it pertains to the new policies that you want to enforce.
- Updating messages included in confirmations. You can edit existing headers and footers, or even create your own new messages as it pertains to the new policies that you want to enforce.
- Using group notification rules to communicate with your employees about existing reservations tied to their accounts. For instance, you might want to send a reminder email the day before their desk booking and enable a cancellation link directly from that email.
- Including reconfirmation links in notifications so that if you have requirements in terms of tracking the wellness of your employees, you can require them to check off that they are well enough to come in.
- Enabling help text in the web app. This will help guide people guide them through any new policies and procedures and workflows that you may have established as a response to your reopening policies.
6. Enable automatic, no-touch check-ins. No-touch technology took center stage last year as people limited their contact with communal surfaces to lower their risk of catching COVID-19. But organizations also discovered it was simply good business practice to keep employees healthier in general through more sanitized spaces. Here at Accruent, we’ve worked to make it easier for our customers to enable automatic, no-touch check-ins via a variety of methods such as email, the web app, the mobile app, the EMS kiosk and the EMS room sign app.
We’re also partnering with additional technology to reduce and eliminate the touching of digital devices such as room panels via:
- QR codes so that instead of typing in a username, the EMS mobile app can enforce QR codes.
- Bluetooth sensors that identify people by their cell phone usage.
- Badge readers that enable users to simply swipe their badge to identify themselves as being able to use a space for check-in.
7. Update catering options. As we’ve talked with customers about how they can use EMS to adapt to their changing business environments, one topic that comes up repeatedly is that of catering. During event scheduling, companies are finding themselves needing to remove any buffet or self-serve options while adding individually packaged items, like box lunches, to their menus.
Adjusting catering options is straightforward in EMS. You can make these changes to your offerings en masse through the wizard, removing items or inactivating them completely. To add catering options into the system, you can use the import functionality to create a tab delimited text file with the new service offerings. You can also use the browser to search for catering items that are no longer available so you can make additional changes to any existing reservations.
8. Streamline equipment rentals. As with catering, you might need to limit your options or remove options that can't be cleaned in between usage. In EMS, you can do this through the service order schedule, which gives you a quick view of all of service orders so you can review them in advance to make sure they are still available. You can also view individual items via the resource schedule. So, for instance, you might look for a requested projector, see the times in that particular day that it has been requested, and then schedule its cleaning based on this that information.
9. Understand your needs through automated reporting. Organizations use EMS to gain better visibility into their space utilization, thanks to its reporting and analytical tools that allow businesses to comprehensively gather and interpret data. In the new normal, these reports can help show audit compliance with capacity guidelines, assist in contact tracing, and enforce social distancing mandates. And the better the data, the more useful the report will be.
Take contact tracing, for example. In EMS, you can track where your employees are sitting, who is booking space or who is attending a certain meeting. Activity schedules of neighborhoods can show who sat next to an individual over a certain time frame, reporting on that data to help with possible contact tracing efforts.
10. Track cleaning time. Several types of reports deserve special attention here; reports that allow you track cleaning time are one such category. In addition to scheduling time for cleaning, you’ll likely want to track it to show compliance with company policies or local or regional regulations. EMS’s automated space usage reporting capabilities enable you to demonstrate when a space has been cleaned after use.
Also, you can automate how and when reports are generated. Once you save a particular report setup, the automate button allows you to set the schedule and frequency for your reports, identifying what time you would like that report to be sent and the reporting period it covers.
11. Report on visitor management. Another quick workflow that you may want to consider is visitor management, which will allow you to track external visitors, both scheduled and ad hoc. EMS has several canned reports that help you monitor and keep records as needed. In the visitor management module, the attendee visitor report lets you search through past visitors in case you need to get in touch with them for contact tracing or other purposes.
12. Easily reschedule. Lastly, keep in mind that although many organizations are reopening dormant spaces and accommodating increased capacity, there are bound to be a few potholes along the way. EMS makes it easy to reschedule events and spaces individually or en masse. If you need to postpone an event or cancel it altogether – and even add a new status for tracking purposes that details why the change is necessary, EMS has multiple options. The change status wizard, reservation book and reservation navigator wizards are all tools you can use to change the date and time or booking status of a reservation.
To see step-by-step instructions for any of the above tips, and to learn more about how your organization can use EMS as you adapt to the new normal, we invite to download the webinar “Practical Tips for Using EMS to Adapt to the New Normal.”