Author: FM:Systems Blog

How Businesses in 4 Different Industries Apply Sensors in Workspace Management

Recently, we overviewed four types of sensors used in workspace management, including desk sensors, environmental sensors, area sensors, and people-counting sensors. The blog outlined how each type of sensor gets deployed and how businesses might use it.

Sensors, combined with workplace analytics, can help organizations monitor occupancy, ensure healthy spaces, and identify areas of poor utilization. Businesses can save up to $200,000 with every 1% improvement in workspace utilization.

In this article, we will examine how four organizations in four different industries put sensor technology to work for their space management objectives. These real-world examples provide a glimpse into innovative problem solving with sensors as well as the return on investment possible with sensor technologies.

 

 

Sensor Case Study 1 - How Businesses in 4 Different Industries Apply Sensors in Workspace Management

 

Sensor Case Study #1: Banking & Finance

Our first sensor case study is from one of the world’s largest multi-national banks, with operations in 40 countries and 120,000 employees. This well-known finance corporation owns and leases real estate in some of the most expensive cities in the world. Since the company had to pay premium prices for properties in desirable locations, the real estate team wanted to ensure every space was productive.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company undertook a massive effort to identify underutilized space and either sublet, sell, or repurpose it. To support this initiative, the bank had 40,000 PIR desk sensors installed initially. With the data gathered, the real estate team easily identified underutilized desks and turned those areas into activity-based work areas such as huddle rooms and breakout areas. In this way, the bank ensured its employees had adequate space for either heads-down work or collaborative work. Unneeded space was available to sublet.

Within just 18 months, the company recognized annual savings of over $45 million dollars. It was a very significant return on an investment of approximately $1.3 million dollars’ worth of sensors. And that wasn’t just one-time savings—the savings occur year after year.

Based on the initial success and savings, the bank went on to install sensors in additional office locations. To date, approximately 100,000 PIR desk sensors have been deployed worldwide.

Right-sizing the real estate portfolio also enabled the bank to achieve another high-priority goal: Reducing its carbon footprint. In this way, sensors allow the bank to benefit monetarily, but the planet also benefits. Sustainability is an important corporate value, and one the bank features in its quarterly and annual reports.

Based on successes to date, the company is now considering the deployment of area sensors. As a result of the pandemic, the bank is moving to a new hybrid work environment and placing test labs in many of their buildings. Area sensors would provide another rich source of space management data to help the company improve utilization while supporting a great employee experience.

 

 

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Sensor Case Study #2: Higher Education

About four years ago, one of the top four universities in the UK wanted to understand better how students interacted with campus lecture theaters. These were large spaces capable of supporting class sizes of 100, 200 or even 300 students at once. But were they all being properly utilized? To find out, the university deployed more than 450 people counter sensors throughout its campus.

People counter sensors were a more practical and cost-effective solution than PIR desk sensors for gaining an understanding of lecture theatre usage. Since most lecture theaters had only one or two entrances or exits, sensors were deployed at each ingress and egress point. Far fewer people counter sensors were needed compared to placing a sensor on every seat or desk.

Once the sensors went live, the university gained a better understanding of usage and discovered too often that 20-student lectures were being held in 100-seat theaters. The data gathered allowed the university to improve timetabling of its lecture theaters. Now, appropriately-sized lecture theaters are selected based on the students in attendance.

The university also has 6,000 PIR desk sensors deployed throughout the campus within its 27 libraries. These sensors are used to enhance student experience. The university developed their own app using the API that enables students to log on and look at all libraries on campus and see how many of seats are being used in each building. In this way, students can choose an emptier library if they’re seeking quiet solitude. On the other hand, if meeting with a study group, a busier library might be better suited.

 

 

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Sensor Case Study #3: Medical Research

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a major US medical research organization had to significantly reduce the capacity of its headquarters building. Fifty people counter sensors were deployed at every entrance and egress within the headquarters building. These sensors make it possible to know exactly how many people occupy the building in real-time. The system sends real-time alerts to key staff members whenever the building is nearing capacity.

 

 

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Sensor Case Study #4: Technology

Our last case study involves one of the world’s largest hosting and technology infrastructure companies. This multi-national “big tech” company has 250,000 employees and business locations around the world. Over the past several years, the organization has grown very rapidly. In order to continue providing a great experience to employees, the company needed to revisit its space management strategies.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the company wanted to transition from fixed seating to agile seating in their Asia Pacific region workplaces. First, they needed to study the complete picture of how their different types of spaces were being used. To learn more about utilization, area sensors were deployed to monitor all types of spaces, including traditional work points, conference rooms, breakout spaces, kitchens, and more across the entire workplace. The data from areas sensors has driven the following workspace management capabilities:

  • Ability to compare utilization between different types of spaces
  • Real-time reporting builds trust in data-decisioning
  • Ability to simply forecast team space needs
  • Live space availability views

When it was time to transition to the agile seating model, simulations were performed using predictive trends to show that they had the right amount of space for employees. After the transition, the real-time view of occupancy on the floor plans helped to alleviate any lingering concerns and prove the workspace data metrics they had gathered using the sensors were correct.

In the “new normal” of the COVID-19 world, this company decided to transition to flexible work with a hybrid workplace model. Sensors are once again helping them understand the big picture of space utilization as work styles change. Will people come into the office purely for collaboration and team meetings? Or will they also still want to perform solo work at a desk? Where is the friction in the workplace? To find out, the company has continued to roll out more sensors across additional regions, studying workplace analytics to guide the way forward.

 

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Many Applications for Sensors to Add Value

As you can see, there are many different ways sensors can be used to deliver real-time data and actionable insights for space management and real estate optimization. Each industry and organization will have unique objectives in these areas. It is important to work with partners who understand your needs, know best practices for your industry, and have deep experience with sensor deployments and workspace analytics.

Watch our Sensors 101 Webcast on-demand > 

 

 

FM:Systems Makes Inc. 5000 List and Wins PropTech Breakthrough Award: A Note From Our CEO

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Recently, FM:Systems landed the number 1490 spot on the annual Inc. 5000 Listing for our first time – the most prestigious ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies where well-known names, like Intuit, Zappos, Under Armour, Microsoft, Patagonia, and many others also gained their first national exposure. Joining the Inc. 5000 roster has become a testament to entrepreneurial success and innovation, and represents a unique look at the most successful companies within the American economy’s most dynamic segment—its independent small businesses. 

 

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To be considered, companies must have an overall revenue growth over a three-year period. To achieve growth during any year is a major milestone for a company, but to be recognized as an Inc. 5000 honoree during a year that brought tremendous uncertainty, change and distress is incredible. I’m proud to share that FM:Systems successfully grew by 318% over the past three years. 

As the saying goes, “we don’t grow when things are easy, we grow when we face challenges.” This achievement could not have been possible without our incredibly talented team’s resilience, hard work and relentless commitment to helping our over 1500 customers around the world successfully push into and through the new normal of work. As a result, FM:Systems also ranked number 12 out of the 39 fellow Triangle firms that made the list and number 4 out of all local technology companies. What an honor to be included among such an esteemed group of strong performing, innovative companies! 

The PropTech Breakthrough Awards also named FM:Systems as its Workplace Analytics Solution of the Year. The Proptech Breakthrough awards recognize the top technology companies, solutions and products in the real estate technology industry today. Historically, the workplace analytics industry has relied heavily on the reporting of historical data; however, this then puts the individuals consuming this data in the position of making assumptions on future state needs. 

 

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Over the last 18 months amid the pandemic, we all know that even the most well thought out plan can change often and abruptly. With the rich insights FMS:Analytics platform provides, universities, Fortune 50 financial institutions, enterprises, and more have been able to more confidently and efficiently make smart, informed decisions about their real estate needs and what adjustments to make to continue offering a safe, healthy, and high-performing workplace experience – before, during, and going forward. 

COVID-19 was both a change-agent and an accelerant to our market’s existing trends. We have been very fortunate that a lot of the driving forces of how employers identify, plan, and deliver a safe and effective workplace is what our solutions do today. From providing features for notifying organizations where congestion (adherence to 6 feet separation) is getting too tight, to tracing potential contaminants in the workplace, to notifying and prioritizing areas for sanitization — these are all solutions that clients are taking advantage of today. We have also invested substantial data science resources focused on the concept of “predictive analytics.” By applying statistical techniques from data mining and machine learning that analyze current and historical data sets we can help these organizations continue to make incredibly accurate predictions about the future of work and how the workplace will need to adapt. 

Again, I commend the strength of our entire dedicated team for these award wins. Everyone was able to quickly respond to market changes in order to provide the best solutions to our clients – on top of navigating through the many ways the pandemic had affected their own personal lives. I’m so happy to be part of this extraordinary company that prides itself on delivering powerful digital workplace solutions that add real value and solve real business problems. Congratulations team! 

 

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Kurt von Koch,

CEO, FM:Systems

 

 

 

What is Visitor Management?

Do you have a set of processes and technologies that dictate and support the way you interact with guests to your office? Think about the way you handle the visit of a pre-arranged customer VIP, a partner, a contractor, an employee spouse, someone delivering mail or lunch, or even an unwelcome solicitor. Do you have a process in place to make sure that each visitor is handled correctly? And if so, do you have robust but also flexible technology to execute on your processes effectively and consistently?

If so, congratulations! You have a finely tuned visitor management system in place. But if you felt uneasy about agreeing wholeheartedly to each of those questions, then read on. You’ll learn how a strategic, tech-driven visitor management system can make a big impact not only on your guest experience, but also on your staff, space, and business as a whole.

 

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How do I implement a visitor management system?

Identifying the best policies for handling visitor interactions is entirely up to you. It requires careful consideration of your unique business needs, the type and volume of visitors you receive, the health and safety protocols you implement, and more.

But knowing what to plan for often comes down to what you can actually execute on. Remember, it can be especially hard for those not well versed in hosting to deliver a uniform experience.

That’s why improving consistency, simplicity and efficiency is the priority. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is where technology comes into play.

 

 

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Do I need a visitor management solution?

To find out if a visitor management solution would benefit your business, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you currently host or expect to host guests, contractors, or other temporary occupants?
  • Do you need to become compliant with data laws by capturing visitor consent before storing visitor data and allow your visitors to stay in control of updating or deleting their data in line with these laws?
  • Do you need to update your visitor health and safety processes to improve your checks and balances or to become compliant?
  • Are you concerned about improving your security process around visitors?
  • Do you want to know how visitors interact with your office environment?
  • Do you accept deliveries, of both packages and food?
  • Do you want to know your visitor types and trends over time to assist in planning?

If one or more of these answers is yes, then you should strongly consider a visitor management solution.

Unfortunately, not all visitor management solutions provide the functionality that a modern organization needs. Given the fluid demands of today’s office, you need a solution that both informs and responds to policies as they evolve.

 

 

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What does a visitor management solution do?

A visitor management solution automates and simplifies every step of the visitor experience and process. In doing so, it ensures a positive, safe, and convenient experience throughout the visitor journey, from pre-registration through to arrival, check-in, collection, meeting, check-out, and post-visit analytics.

Here’s how it works:

Your visitor management solution automates visitor booking and sends confirmations to the host and visitor. The visitor (or host) is able to pre-register the visitor details, book specific visitor requests (such as parking), and view on-arrival instructions and turn-by-turn directions for the specific meeting. On arrival, visitors can manage their own check-in using a modern and quick self check-in kiosk experience, which certifies their identity and access privileges. Their host is automatically notified and a badge can automatically be printed. Further automations with Guest Wi-Fi and access-control can be enabled into the building.

Meanwhile, authorized users can use real-time dashboards to see visitor movements and have a real-time record of which visitors are in which areas of your real estate. You can also keep track of health and safety and space utilization.

 

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What are the benefits of a visitor management solution?

 

  1. A visitor management solution limits bottlenecks, redundancies and errors.
  2. It improves operational efficiency by automating and streamlining repeatable processes. It eases the burden on reception staff to process every task themselves and makes things happen a lot faster.
  3. It allows you to take control of the entire visitor journey and ensure the guest experience is top-notch, from pre-arrival, to check-in, to departure.
  4. It creates a comfortable and welcoming first impression for guests.
  5. It strengthens office security and safety by screening visitors (and staff) trying to enter your building. In a Covid context, this can include health screenings and Covid-19 alert notifications.
  6. It makes it easy to enforce procedures and policies for distinct groups. Employees and visitors of different kinds go through different check-in processes without any confusion.
  7. It improves productivity and helps your teams and guests focus on more important matters. Meetings start on time, and your reception staff can focus on human relationships and more complex tasks. And with the addition of parcel management, the mailroom can even make sure employees receive incoming packages immediately.

 

 

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Which visitor management solution is best for me?

The visitor management solution you choose should enable you to handle every expected and unexpected visitor interaction with ease and speed. It should enable a superior visitor experience that solves your compliance risks and reduces your security risk, while also improving your organization’s brand — regardless of how much or how quickly your policies change.

With FMS:Visitor, a leading global visitor management solution from FM:Systems, you can manage every part of the visitor lifecycle while also enjoying seamless integrations with some of the most robust and intuitive workplace management, employee experience and workplace analytics solutions on the market.

In a business and office environment that demands so much attention and care, it’s important that you find a solution that can automate and simplify the routine so you can focus on the novel and complex. An advanced visitor management solution does just that, and FMS:Visitor is uniquely capable of going beyond the front door to open up a whole new world for your business.

 

 

4 Types of Sensors for Better Workspace Management

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In the past, understanding utilization has always been a problem for real estate executives. Today, that challenge looms larger than ever as businesses attempt to navigate a new hybrid work world. That’s why many businesses are adopting workplace sensor technology. The trend accelerated during the global pandemic due to the real-time information sensors can contribute to workspace design, safety and sanitization.

FM:Systems recently presented a session titled Sensors 101, and during the live webcast, we asked attendees about their current sensor usage. Nearly 6 in 10 (59%) respondents already use at least one type of sensor in the workplace.

We also asked why attendees were interested in workplace sensors. They shared a variety of primary goals for sensor technology:

 

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What is a sensor?

A sensor can be anything that enables your organization to collect data about a space and its usage and characteristics. Sensors can provide a stream of data for analysis and greatly expand your understanding of how people interact with your workspace and other things.

Today, we’ll describe four common types of workspace sensors and how to use them:

 

1. Desk sensors

A desk sensor is also referred to as a utilization sensor. Desk sensors provide detect the occupancy of each space via movement and heat, driven largely by passive infrared technology to detect. Data aggregated from desk sensors provides visibility into real-time space utilization.

Desk Sensor Deployment: Each desk sensor is usually to a desk or workspace on a one-to-one basis. Generally, a desk sensor is place on or under a desk, or attached on the wall within a cubicle or office space. These are battery-powered sensors that can often last 10, 20 or even 30 years with modern battery technology.

 

 

Desk Sensor Use cases:

  • Learn what spaces are not being utilized well, so they can be repurposed.
  • Adopt co-working strategies, including hybrid workforce and hoteling, in order to rent and share unused space as employees are coming back to the office.
  • Control operational costs for lighting and HVAC by using desk sensors to identify when a space is not in use and automatically adjusting the thermostat or lights.
  • Integration with reservation and booking application can automate check in/check for office or conference room reservations.
  • Real-time occupancy data identifies spaces that have just been used, triggering a work order for cleaning and sanitization.
  • If operating at reduced capacity, sensor data can trigger automated emails or SMS messages to alert key individuals when spaces are nearing capacity or at capacity.

 

2. Environmental sensors

Environmental sensors enable organizations to ensure the health and safety of buildings, by measuring environmental factors including:

  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Air pressure
  • Light
  • Noise
  • Air quality by VOC (volatile organic compounds)

Environmental Sensor Deployment: Businesses do not need to deploy an environmental sensor in every workspace in order to have an excellent sense of the building environment. A good rule of thumb for deployment is approximately one environmental sensor to 10 desk sensors. Pay some attention to sensor placement. For example, you don’t want take temperature readings right next to a piece of hot equipment like a busy printer station.

 

 

Environmental Sensor Use cases:

  • Ensure the workplace is well-ventilated to support healthy employees, especially during the pandemic.
  • Reduce energy and lighting consumption by tailoring on/off times for lighting and HVAC based on the actual needs of your staff.
  • Reduce your corporate carbon footprint by allocating each factor based on real-time demand, rather than theoretical demand.
  • Study how temperature, humidity, noise and other environmental factors impact utilization.
  • Gain an understanding of how each environmental factor interplays with other factors. For example, data could reveal how temperature and air quality play off one another.

 

3. Area sensors

Area sensors use thermal, Wi-Fi or computer vision to see people, identify them and pinpoint their location onto a floor plan. Most area sensors keep each individual’s identity anonymous. At FM:Systems, we use computer vision—meaning we’ve trained an AI algorithm to understand and recognize people—and then deployed that algorithm to the sensor. Data collected for analysis gets anonymized.

Deployment: The coverage range of an area sensor is larger than a desk sensor, so you need fewer of them. Sensors are typically installed in the ceiling and look down into a workplace. Because they remain above the office layout, they are not tied to any particular piece of furniture (like desk sensors) and you can often change the office design without needing to move the area sensors.

Different area sensors have different capture rates, often dependent on their source of power (battery vs. WAN). Sensor sightings vary from real-time continuous to taking a sighting every 5 to 10 minutes. Consider power source carefully—high traffic areas will drain batteries quickly and they will need to be replaced by someone. Battery waste can really add up, adding to sustainability challenges.

 

 

Area Sensor Use cases:

  • Gain the flexibility to understand all different types of spaces, to count the number of people using each space and to understand where people move before and after using a space.
  • Understand neighborhood and team space usage within the office.
  • Predict capacity trends.
  • Tie real-time area sensors into a space reservation system, and because the sensor can recognize individuals, they can automatically check in for bookings without needing to scan a QR code or launch a phone app.
  • Facilitate a way-finding app to help employees navigate the workspace.
  • Pull up historical data to see exactly how many people you had in your offices at different points in time.

 

4. People-counting sensors

People-counter sensors—also known as floor counters—count the total number of people in space, as the name implies. These sensors are useful when you want to know the number of people overall who have entered or left a space, such as a floor, building or room, in real-time. These sensors are very intelligent and count bi-directional movement, so they recognize people walking in and walking out of a space. People-counter sensors achieve 99% or higher accuracy. They utilize camera technology; however, the data is still anonymized. Only metadata flows through to your space management applications—no imagery is stored.

People-counting Sensor Deployment: People-counter sensors should be positioned over an ingress or egress point. These sensors are powered over the network, not by batteries. Up to nine sensors can be stitched together at any point in time so that a body (anonymized) can be tracked moving through all nine sensors.

 

 

People-Counting Sensor Use cases:

  • Retail: Gain better understanding of how shoppers flow through a store under different layouts/conditions. Measure dwell time in how people linger in certain spaces.
  • Higher education: Measure the real-time capacity in a lecture hall or auditorium.
  • Queue length: Monitor how long the lines get in stores or cafeterias.
  • Office buildings: See how people flow through the common areas of your building such as break rooms and the lobby.

 

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Tailor sensor types to your business needs

Sensors can contribute new levels of understanding about space utilization in the workplace. As you can see, the four different types of sensors described will provide different types of data, in varying levels of granularity. Most organizations adopting sensor technology will end up using a combination of types to tailor the data gathered to meet their workspace management objectives.

For much more information, watch the on-demand Sensors 101 webcast.

 

 

Employees Shine Light on Their Summer Fridays Experience

In late June, we announced a Summer Fridays policy that fully closed every FM:Systems office worldwide for all five Fridays in July. 

Why? We wanted to show our teams that we recognized and appreciated their hard work and unwavering dedication to our customers and our business throughout the challenges of the pandemic. Although we’re not alone – 55% of American companies across industries had instituted some sort of Summer Friday policy as of 2019 – we wanted to ensure this time was truly rejuvenating and rewarding for everyone. We weren’t just going to skip out a couple hours early on Friday. Just like the mentality we bring to building great solutions and delivering great service for our customers, we went all in and closed the company on Friday during July. No work. No emails. No meetings. Just relaxing and enjoying well deserved time off. 

As with any new policy, it was important to find out what our employees actually thought of it. Without their input, we could only hope and assume that the way the policy was experienced the way it was intended. Being an employee and data driven organization, we weren’t just going to make assumptions, we asked for feedback. These are the four main themes that emerged from their input and our experience as a business:  

 

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First, surprise. Then, deliver. 

Our employees reported being both surprised and excited about the decision to go all-in on Summer Fridays in July. Training specialist Tammi Hollis summed up the prevailing mentality when she said, “I was super excited to hear about this and I was so humbled our management wanted to give back to the employees to show their appreciation for everyone’s hard work.”

Even so, even the best laid plans and intentions can sometimes fail to live up to expectations. With teams who care so much about their work, it can be hard to step back and really unplug and recharge. As director of digital marketing Brian McDonald pointed out, “the idea only works when everyone adheres to it. If some people don’t and then email everyone on Friday it can cause problems.”

But in this case, the program worked exactly as designed. Customer success manager Daniella Norman said: “The reality of the experience exceeded my expectations. I was slightly worried I wouldn’t be able to accomplish all my tasks in a 4-day work week, but I honestly think I was more productive.”

 

 

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Family comes first, especially with more free time. 

With a diverse and global workforce, it’s no surprise that everyone reported using their newfound free time differently. And unsurprisingly, more time with family was one of the most appreciated advantages of more time off. 

Brian McDonald spent more time with his teenage son who works nights during the week and sometimes puts in a double shift on weekends. He appreciated the opportunity to play a round of golf and have lunch together. Similarly, global director of strategic alliances Ben Finney rented a boat with his wife one Friday, enjoying the day of pre-planned daycare to just relax in a way a full work schedule doesn’t allow. Tammi Hollis was even able to fly her granddaughter back home to Florida after a week-long visit without taking PTO!

 

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New projects and adventures join the party.

 

The extra day off also gave our people more time to dig into back-burner passion projects. As Tammi Hollis pointed out, the extra day gave her time to do things she may not have made time for otherwise: “I feel the three days felt like “real” time off and I didn’t have to cram home projects and fun into two days!”

Many others took the opportunity to get out of town and have an adventure. Austin-based global account manager Greg Hibbin even took a month-long road trip to Colorado through New Mexico, visiting Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands, Santa Fe, Vail, Denver, The Garden of the Gods and Taos. 

Maybe no one packed more action into the month of July than Daniella Norman, who played in three Friday spikeball tournaments (with two top-three finishes to boot!). She also sold an investment property, took a 12-day trip to Denver, spent time with her sister, nieces and nephews, got really into baking, and learned to love empty Friday pool days. 

 

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Personal relaxation meets professional excellence.  

It’s widely acknowledged that additional time off policies during the warmer months boosts productivity and employee morale. Our people reported that closing the entire company on Fridays made it easier to not work on those days off  – even those who admit to struggling to unplug during most PTO – and everyone reported a reduction in stress and renewed focus and productivity during the week. 

From a business perspective, July was a great month all around. We continued to integrate the WizzPass visitor management solution into our portfolio after the June acquisition. We announced our agreement to resell JLL’s hybrid workforce app JLL Jet and brought in new Chief Revenue Officer Josh Langford to replace retiring CRO Skip Yakopec. 

Now, we’re back to a normal five-day work week. Although no one knows what the world has in store for us moving forward, we do know we’re refreshed and ready to take it on full force. 

 

Top 4 Benefits of Adopting Flexible Work Strategies

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Many organizations have been trending towards flexible work options for employees, including full or part-time work from home. The COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns hyper accelerated remote and hybrid workforce adoption. So far, businesses have measured many benefits associated with giving employees more work flexibility. Below are the top 4 benefits of adopting a flexible work strategy:

 

1. Ever-Ready and Resilient

Companies with remote and flexible work strategies will be more resilient to weather a future pandemic or natural disaster. And they’ll be more ever-ready in terms of technology. The majority of employers are making plans that include flexible work options.

 

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2. Employee Recruiting and Retention

Employees have voiced their desire to continue working from home. Having a flexible work model can provide a competitive edge in recruiting and help retain existing employees.

 

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3. Productivity and Engagement

After the rapid shift to working from home, executives worried productivity would plummet. Here, real-world results deliver a welcome surprise, as both productivity and engagement climb for businesses embracing flexible work.

 

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4. Cost Savings

Employers can enjoy substantial cost savings on real estate, fixed assets, and labor costs by increasing flexible work options. It’s a win-win because employees also save money.

 

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Download our e-book, Capitalizing on Change, and calculate the cost-savings and other benefits available to your company in the digital workplace.

 

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Employee Engagement in the Office Now and Tomorrow

While industry analysts, technologists, and property managers have been talking about the office of the future for years, the pandemic radically advanced the conversation. Now, organizations accept there are other places to work productively outside the traditional office.

Around the world, companies have begun to reimagine the office for tomorrow. The office that emerges post-pandemic will combine agile strategies, activity-based design, and hybrid work modalities that will dramatically re-shape real estate and facilities management.

Business leaders are paying particular attention to employee experience and how it will impact employee engagement now and tomorrow. Employee engagement should be one of the central drivers of your workplace strategy. Creating high levels of engagement will be key to long-term success.

Recently, FM:Systems hosted a panel discussion with JLL Technologies  and Verdantix. The topic was employee engagement and how trends such as hybrid work and space reprioritization are accelerating office transformation. FM:Systems’ own Michael Gresty was joined by Joy Trinquet, an industry analyst at Verdantix, and Akshay Thakur, Head of Technology Consulting at JLL Technologies.

 

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The Interplay of Customer Experience and Employee Experience

In order to talk about the impact of employee engagement on the office of the future, we must first consider three things proven to be critical to organizational success:

  • Customer experience and why that matters
  • Employee experience and how that affects customer experience
  • The role of employee engagement

First, let’s examine customer experience (CX). The science on this is crystal clear: Good CX significantly contributes to corporations’ bottom-line results. Because they understand the lifetime value of a delighted customer, leading organizations have invested heavily in a new model of CX that extends the customer journey beyond the decision to purchase a product or service. For examples of the impact of CX, just look at the growth results of CX leaders in various industries versus their CX laggard competitors.

 

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What does CX have to do with employee engagement and the workplace? As it turns out, quite a lot. Research also shows that a great employee experience drives great CX. Put simply, employees who are healthy, satisfied, and engaged with purpose in your organization will do what it takes to satisfy and delight customers. Employee experience and customer experience create a virtuous cycle—creating greater value for employees in turn creates greater value for customers, and that enhances customer retention and longevity, which over time, increases sales, revenue, and profitability.

Bottom line? Experience matters. Just look at the dramatic results enjoyed by experiential organizations that excel in culture, technology, and physical space.

 

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Whether you’re measuring employee retention, productivity, or profit, it clearly pays to focus on both employee experience and customer experience. That’s why more and more organizations seek to elevate customer experience by focusing on employee experience and improving it over time.

 

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What drives the employee experience?

Employee experience, like customer experience, is the totality of the employee journey. The journey begins with recruitment and onboarding, then carries on through an employee’s tenure, until he or she leaves the company. Organizations need to be intentional as the design the employee journey and they need to measure the quality and impact of employee experience.

 

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Three aspects of the workplace intersect to drive employee experience. First and foremost, employee experience is a reflection of the people within the organization as well as the culture created by company mission, organizational structure, and communication. Second, the workspace and available amenities drive experience. Does the space support productivity? Innovation? Wellbeing? And finally, employees need to be supported by the right technology and systems to get the job done.

 

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How Employee Engagement Factors into Workplace Productivity

Employee engagement is the emotional state of passion, energy and commitment to the work, team and organization. When employees are engaged, they can be more innovative and better problem solvers. Engagement is employee self-actualization, a state of working with purpose that unleashes talent, energy and commitment.

Employee engagement is NOT the same as the activities that some companies sponsor in hopes of sparking it. These include team lunches, all-hands meetings, team-building retreats, and so forth. You also cannot measure engagement by watching whether an employee works long hours and weekends. This could be an indicator of dedication, but more likely reflects a culture of pressure and burnout.

 

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There are three components to eliciting authentic engagement in employees: mastery, autonomy and purpose.

  1. Employees who have a sense of mastery over their tasks are more engaged. This is true, no matter what level they work at in the organization. Businesses that offer skills building and career development opportunities support engagement and retention.
  2. A Deloitte study revealed 73% of employees who believe they work for a purpose-driven company say they are engaged, versus only 23% of employees who don’t think their company has purpose[1].
  3. Employees enjoy autonomy when they have the confidence and ability to make decisions, as well as the authority to do so.

Employees need mastery and experience to make the best decisions, as well as purpose to guide them.

When these three elements combine, engagement naturally flows out of self-actualization. Leaders need to think about enabling mastery, purpose, and autonomy in the post-pandemic hybrid workplace. What will it take to create an engaging experience regardless of whether an employee comes to the office or works from home?

 

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The Role of Technology in Reimagining the Office

Having the right technology to support your hybrid workforce will be essential in creating the workplace of the future. According to Joy Trinquet of Verdantix, real estate and facilities professionals will first invest in digital technology to support employee move and change management. This enables businesses to rearrange floorplans for social distancing and also reimagine office designs to support the hybrid workforce. The office of the future will have more activity-based design and collaboration spaces for teams.

The next biggest areas for investment are also health and safety oriented. Companies need visitor management/contact tracing capabilities, touchless access control, and space utilization monitoring through sensors.

 

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To enhance engagement, firms will provide mobile apps that allow employees to control the environment, plan their workday, and automate daily tasks to improve the office experience. Office design will focus on workspace reservations and collaborative spaces, with smart conferencing room solutions helping ensure efficient collaboration between in-office and remote workers. Finally, the hybrid workplace will be digitally connected. Businesses will collect all kinds of data on occupancy, environmental quality, and space utilization trends through sensors and/or wearables to continually innovate and improve their future workplace strategy.

For much more information, watch the entire panel discussion.

 

[1] Inc., “How a Sense of Purpose Boosts Engagement,” Adam Vaccaro, April 18, 2014.

5 Solutions to Improve the Hybrid Employee Experience

In a hybrid workplace, employees spend some days in the office and some days working remotely. This puts pressure on employers to bridge the gap between the virtual and physical work environments in order to create an ideal employee experience. So far, it seems obvious that employees want flexibility, but they also need a system in place to help them effectively manage dual workplaces.

The thing is, organizations are not just figuring out how to safely bring people back to work but also what the new model will look like for them. Hybrid is all but a must these days, and so is having the processes and technology in place to support it, however it evolves. Especially during the transition period, as vaccination rates rise across the globe but infection rates and regulations fluctuate, maintaining flexibility and simplicity is critical. 

While each company will match its policies to its unique needs, culture and the characteristics of each office space, hybrid work is most effective when supported by good technology. Let’s review five of the most important capabilities that employers should strongly consider deploying to manage “the new normal”. 

 

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1. Hoteling/hot desks and remote room scheduling

Figuring out where everyone will sit when they come to the office really is the first, most critical step to getting hybrid work right. Establishing individual workspaces outside of the standard 1:1 employee-desk ratio is key to minimizing overhead costs. Why pay for everyone to have a dedicated desk they don’t use? But go too far, and you risk a mad scramble for available desks on a busy morning, and the same is true for meeting rooms. To top it all off, employees will surely want to know that their reservations align with social distancing requirements or personal preferences. 

To accommodate all of this, employees need the ability to book their space ahead of time. And for that to be possible, they need to know exactly what’s available and when.

 

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2. Office occupancy insights

In order to provide basic remote/in-office employee services such as hot desks and room booking, employers need an understanding of what space is available and when. Even before that, they need to know how their teams use the space and how often they use their in-office desks. 

Using real-time workspace occupancy sensors, businesses can develop informed configurations with the right balance of individual and collaborative space. They can then provide real-time visibility to their staff of what’s available. In addition, occupancy sensors allow companies to enhance the way the office is set up over time. By generating insights and even forecasts around when employees are coming in and why they’re coming in, companies can plan and respond to the changing circumstances through the end of the pandemic and beyond. 

Plus, once they have this data, they can use predictive modeling to dictate optimal sanitization and employee distancing protocols, or even inform cafeteria staffing for days when the in-office trends are higher.

 

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3. Environmental sensors

Making the office easy and desirable to use doesn’t stop with bookable desks and short lunch lines. Facility managers will find tremendous value in using environmental sensors to monitor the behavior of the building itself. Factors such as temperature, humidity, light, noise, air pressure, and air quality in a workspace all contribute to office desirability and productivity and must be maintained.

Environmental sensors provide the information that provides the confidence to make changes that maximize employee comfort and safety. They make it possible to automate energy consumption and respond to air quality indicators such as (low) humidity that are proven to correlate with colds and respiratory illnesses. 

Environmental sensors can also provide feedback and insights into the building itself. For example, they can identify temperature differences between desks by the windows and desks in the middle of the office, which may impact the way users reserve space. In order to respond appropriately to behavior trends, it’s important to know why they respond to space the way they do.  

 

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4. Proactive tech support

One of the more subtle but most important elements of hybrid work is managing the diversity of equipment and support requests that are no longer tied to a single office. Expensive hardware travels home and back, security updates aren’t deployed simultaneously on the same network, IT and employees can’t troubleshoot in person… the list goes on. 

That’s why it’s a smart idea to aggregate employee asset management processes into a single, software-enabled and automated workflow. Instead of waiting for something to happen, IT can receive alerts when certain equipment needs maintenance or an upgrade. This gives everyone time back to focus on more important things, and the risk of employee down-time due to tech issues goes down significantly. 

 

 

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5. Single interface for mobile employee control

Providing services like socially-distant hot desks, real-time room scheduling and unified support staff access are great benefits, but only if remote teams can easily take advantage of them. If they have to manage a bunch of different portals and web apps, they’ll give up and the value subsides. Instead, give them a single app they can use from anywhere. Providing one tool that houses their entire office-home connection makes it much easier for them to use and promotes its initial adoption and long-term usage.

 

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Establishing a high-functioning hybrid workforce

Ultimately, high-functioning hybrid workforces are combining these technologies to understand how space is being used, when, where and how. Those data-driven, simplicity-oriented organizations will enjoy an easier transition to hybrid work and set themselves up well to adapt to future changes. As time goes on, their experience using these solutions will help them design more space-effective office refits and retain more satisfied employees.

There is no doubt that this list of essential solutions will continue to evolve and grow. But as things change across the business, FM:Systems is here with a one-stop-shop for all your hybrid work technology needs. 

 

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3 Ways to Simplify the Hybrid Workday

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Many companies are turning to a hybrid work model for its convenience and flexibility. But it’s also critical that companies balance increased flexibility with improved operational efficiency. 

Of course, technology can help ease the transition. But Gartner found that two-thirds of employees think the tech they use at work already requires too much effort. The extra work actually wastes more than five hours every week on average. Say goodbye to the free time reclaimed from that commute!

As a leader in workplace management technology, we can’t sit by and let this happen. Our job is to make sure our customers can easily adapt to these changes. Employees shouldn’t have to spend their time worrying about administrative procedures. And no one should pay the price of technology adding time to the workday.

One great solution for a hybrid work environment is JLL Jet. It’s a mobile-first employee-enablement app that simplifies how work gets done. It offers smarter personalized experiences for everyday tasks, such as booking meeting space, through an out-of-the-box integration with FM:Systems Employee. In addition to being a compatible technology partner behind some important app functionality, FM:Systems is now the only third-party vendor licensed to offer JLL Jet directly to its customers. 

In this blog, we’ll dig into three ways Jet working with FM:Systems and other business systems – can improve the hybrid work transition. Teams will be more engaged, connected, productive, safe, and supported –  regardless of where they set up shop for the day.

Here’s how:

 

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#1: Smarter meeting scheduling and collaboration

In a remote environment, collaboration can be tougher. Plus, “this meeting could have been an email” rings especially true after a year of Zoom fatigue. But when meetings are needed, finding the right time and place can be a daunting task.

When combined with a room scheduling solution such as FMS:Employee, Jet fixes this by automating many parts of the process. It finds the right time and place for a meeting based on everyone’s availability, location, and preferred work hours. It also connects to room reservation systems to find available spaces to meet in person – calling out preferred meeting room(s) first. It even integrates video conferencing to accommodate virtual and mixed meeting options

Learn more about how to set up a meeting in the JET app.

 

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#2: Automate and showcase new health protocols

Health and safety considerations are now a priority for many employees considering a return to the office. They expect more personal space and more rigorous cleaning standards. In many places, we’re also seeing required health screenings when entering the building.

Managing all this is one thing. Proving it and showing employees that it’s working is another. And getting IT, HR and facilities to work  together efficiently on this has at times seemed like wizardry.  That’s why Jet’s ability to address the connection of work, people and spaces is so important. It makes it easy for all stakeholders to play their role in supporting the return to the office.

How does Jet drive health and safety in your return to the office? The app:

  • Provides the technology behind office-entry screening, sending notifications and reminders on policies and requirements.
  • Makes it easy to find clean and available desks and meeting rooms – with full support for social distancing and touchless policies.
  • Automates the cleaning and disinfecting workflow for shared spaces between uses.

Learn more about how to safely reserve hot desks and rooms with JLL Jet

 

 

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#3: Provide easy access to IT, HR & FM service requests

Wouldn’t it be great if work from home meant stuff didn’t break anymore? Or if time off requests were never in conflict? In reality, service and support gets a lot harder when your support staff isn’t on scene to help. Sometimes it’s not even clear who to go to or how to ask for help fixing a problem. Even when protocols are clear, having problem-solvers in different locations makes simple tasks like raising a hand for help and tracking progress on a solution a lot tougher.

There’s no reason IT, HR, and facilities have to operate in silos. Instead of navigating various portals, Slack channels, email chains and support tickets, Jet makes it easy to provide a one-stop-shop for all help requests including those in FMS:Workplace. This removes the stress for employees and accelerates solutions.

It supports conversational inputs (talking, typing, and tapping) that allows users to submit help requests in a way that is more natural to use and navigate. The app’s “intent detection” then uses AI to help categorize the issue and route it to the right team, even when there is overlap on who can or should work on it.

 Learn more about how to request corporate services with JLL Jet.

 

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Automate the mundane and enjoy hybrid work

The challenges and requirements of business are always changing. With JLL Jet, the hybrid work transition can be more efficient. The app’s complete plug-and-play integration with FM:Systems solutions and other enterprise systems (calendars, video conferencing, knowledge bases, etc.) delivers instant time-to-value and simplifies the hybrid workday.

In fact, Jet functionalities have generated 66-75% time savings for users on common tasks. The simplicity and power of its horizontal integration and AI automation means users can simplify mundane tasks and spend their time and energy on the work that matters most. 

Start planning your hybrid work strategy with our free planning kit >

 

Doing the Right Thing with Summer Fridays in July

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Beginning on Friday, July 2nd, FM:Systems will close its office internationally for all five Fridays in July as a way of showing our appreciation for the hard work our team has put in over the past 15 months. It’ll be a great reprieve for each of us individually, and we feel the reasons we took this important company action deserve more explanation. 

Since the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic more than 15 months ago, our employees have transitioned effectively to fully remote work, even as many simultaneously juggled the management of their children’s remote learning, dealt with plenty of health and wellness concerns, lost loved ones to Covid, canceled vacation plans, and worked tirelessly to ensure they always gave our clients, partners and prospects top notch  support. Their resiliency and positivity have been critical to keeping our customers and business moving in the right direction. From helping our customers deploy our safe-space solutions early in the pandemic to now moving forward with critical hybrid workplace solutions, they’ve worked incredibly hard during an unprecedented time. 

But as we hit the halfway mark of this year, we felt like it was time for our employees to take Fridays off – to rest, to recharge, to spend time just relaxing and doing whatever makes them happy while remaining healthy and safe. We truly believe that time off is vital to the health and wellbeing of our people and our company. That’s why there’s no subtle expectation of squeezing five days of work into four days. This policy is entirely and simply designed to give everyone a much-needed break – and a way for us to say “thank you” to our employees.

 

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Value-driven HR policy

One of our corporate values at FM:Systems is “Do The Right Thing”. From an HR perspective, that means pursuing policies that support employees and that encourage them to do their best work in whatever place best works for them. It also means recognizing the humanity of our employees and the stress everyone has been under since the pandemic began. 

From the start, we have been very proactive with employees seeking alternate or flexible schedules. Whether driven by the need to accommodate changing family obligations, a preferred work style, or mental or physical health needs, it’s been our priority to find a way to make it work. As we continue to embrace new models of work and introduce the hybrid model internally, the importance of flexibility and personal time will remain foundational to the way we operate. 

 

 

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Employee Response

Overwhelmingly, our employees are excited for July. We’ve heard about employees planning three-day hiking or camping trips with their families and others taking week-long vacations with the dual benefits of saving a day of PTO and only having four days of emails to catch-up on when they return. Others are planning to use the time to start or further develop a hobby, just take some much-needed “me time”, exercise, catch up on reading, or see friends they haven’t in over a year. The goal is to let everyone be themselves, do what’s best for them, and enjoy their lives. 

 

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Investing in a happy, relaxed workforce is good business

We are pursuing these policies because it’s the right thing to do for our people. It’s an opportunity for us to celebrate that our hard work and perseverance has paid off. It’s a chance for all of our employees, across the world, to take a collective breath every Friday during July and enjoy a long weekend. The benefits that could follow – relaxed employees, improved employee engagement, stronger retention rates, more productive and collaborative work days, and more – would all just be icing on the cake.