Planning for the Return to the Workplace

blog1 - Planning for the Return to the Workplace

Many organizations began the work from home phase of their COVID-19 pandemic response in early to mid-March and have developed effective remote working strategies that have enabled them to continue to move their businesses forward as best they can.  No one knows exactly how our workplaces will operate as the return to the workplace begins in the coming months and quarters but it’s time to start thinking about how we will all emerge.

FM:Systems conducted a webcast last week with JLL focused on the Future Fit Office and this term might mean something completely different than it did just a few months ago. One thing for sure is that organizations are beginning to plan and think outside the box how best to lead the return to the workplace as we emerge from this pandemic. We polled our audience last week with the question “How likely is it that your business will introduce additional measures to protect and improve employee health and wellbeing”. Unsurprisingly, 94% of responders indicated that their organizations were either highly likely or very likely to institute change.


survey1 - Planning for the Return to the Workplace

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“We need to look at how we rebalance our workstations and the use of individual workstations vs. shared settings and amenities such as cafeterias. What do those look like? What are those optimal distances and ratios between those spaces and how can we increase the agility to respond to changing employee needs and evolving employee needs to build that trust and ensure that employees are safe and healthy in the workplace?”

– Michael Gresty, VP of Workplace Analytics, FM:Systems



From a facilities perspective there are several areas that we will be exploring over the coming months with FM:Systems solutions to specifically target these areas including:

  • Space Planning and Management – Many organizations will be exploring how they can better utilize their workplace layouts to maximize social distancing while minimizing unnecessary employee interaction.  Additional alternative ways of using workstations may be employed including the use of reservation systems that limit when and where occupants can sit as well as provides the ability to track utilization.
  • Sanitation – in order to keep the workplace safer and healthier for occupants, regular managed processes and staff will be key to ensuring that workstations are sanitized properly before and after use.
  • Contamination Mitigation – In the event that an occupant is determined to be infected with COVID-19, organizations need to be prepared to understand when and where these occupants interacted with space, assets such as computers and office equipment as well as other employees including paths traveled and adjacent spaces which may have been infected.


“Let’s focus on resilience in our business operations. Resilience is getting things back to where they were or keeping them in a steady state. We need to focus more on adaptability. How do we adapt for what’s going on now and for the road ahead of us? I think challenging ourselves that we can’t use yesterday’s logic and that we can’t use yesterday’s way of utilization in managing our workplace is an important factor.” 

-Eddy Wagoner, CIO, JLL Technologies


Leading solutions such as the FM:Systems portfolio of facilities management products can help organizations better prepare for a return to the workplace in the coming months. With these solutions, organizations can improve workplace effectiveness, and become future fit, by leveraging data analytics and IoT technologies that make the collection and tracking of space utilization data easier, more automated, and more accurate than ever before.




Watch full webcast > 

Working from Home for Beginners: Tips from a WFH Veteran

WFH - Working from Home for Beginners: Tips from a WFH Veteran

Organizations across the country are accepting the responsibility of social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic and allowing (or, in some cases, mandating) employees to work from home (WFH).  In recent weeks, IT departments have scrambled to ensure employees have everything they need to carry on with business as usual:  headsets and docking stations and VPN access for internal systems.  But a successful day from home requires more than the right tech stack.  Employees have to adjust to a new routine and set clear boundaries to be successful.  Work from home requires discipline, but there are habits you can adopt that can ultimately boost your overall productivity.  

The current public health emergency has also necessitated school closures, which means not only are employees working from home, their school-age children are there as well.  This creates a very interesting dynamic for two-income families and will require flexibility and understanding across the board.  As someone who has worked from home full-time for over five years and strived to balance work and life with young children, these are my tips and tricks to make the most of working from home. 


Have a Dedicated Workspace   

One of the biggest changes when working from home is losing that physical, and often mental, transition from ‘home’ to ‘work’.  Having a dedicated workspace is key to facilitating that mental switch.  You may not have a dedicated home office, but try to find a space in your house that you don’t utilize as often in your daily home routine.  A formal dining room, a guest room, even a large walk-in closet can be repurposed to serve as your workspace.  Try to keep it clear from at-home distractions like personal mail or laundry so when you sit down, you can immerse yourself in a professional mindset.  Listening to the same music or radio shows that you would when commuting can also help you psychologically transition.  


 Create a Schedule  

Some folks struggle with the lack of structure that can arise when you work from home.  It’s important to create a daily schedule and stick to it.  Take breaks and a lunch like you normally would and set a time to sign off for the day.  It’s critical to establish boundaries between your home life and your work life, especially when both are occurring in the same physical space.  


Resist the Urge to Multi-task  

Women, in particular, have an almost innate ability to do multiple things at the same time.  And while it might be tempting to fold that load of laundry during the all-hands call, those distractions can add up and keep you from being fully engaged with your work and your colleagues.  Set clear times in your schedule when you will focus on home tasks, so you can give your co-workers and work tasks your undivided attention.  

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Optimize your Commuting Time  

Not commuting to an office is a huge advantage of working remotely, and in many cases, it can add an hour or more back to your day.  And while it can be tempting to sleep in and enjoy an extra cup of coffee in that free time, think of how you can optimize your schedule now that you don’t have that requirement.  When do you do your best work?  When do you prefer to exercise?  I have personally found that I am most creative right when I wake up.  When I work from home, I can have that creative, productive time when I would normally be getting ready and sitting in traffic.  I can have two solid hours under my belt by the time I would normally be arriving at the office.  Working from home gives you a different kind of autonomy over your daily schedule.  Consider switching up your workout time or talk to your manager about starting and ending your day an hour earlier to really experience the flexibility that working from home offers.        


Turn On Your Camera

Loneliness can be a major downside of working from home, especially if you are naturally an extroverted personality.  Using your web cam during conference calls can help you feel more connected, and it can motivate you to keep a more professional appearance which often translates to improved productivity.  Staying in your pj’s all day might be comfy and novel at first, but it can negatively impact performance in the long-run.  


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Discover your inner Marie Kondo

You don’t have to clean out your closets to adopt the key principle that the Marie Kondo model is based on:  a place for everything, and everything in its place.  With entire families staying home all day, the house is going to pretty messy pretty fast, and that can add frustration and tension when you are having a stressful work day.  Encourage your family members and housemates to embrace that simple idea:  put things back when you are finished with them.  And give everyone a unique water bottle for the day or the cups are going to multiply in your sink like a science experiment. 


Give Compliments, Recognition and Praise

When you’re in the office, and you close a big deal or finish a tough project, co-workers are there to give high-fives and go out for a celebratory lunch.  But if you’re at home with just your cat, the response can be a little underwhelming.  Not having regular feedback and encouragement can be a tough aspect of working remotely.  Managers can play a big role here:  create opportunities for your team to share their accomplishments, provide positive feedback and make sure employees and co-workers know just how valuable they are. 


Have a Plan for Partners and Children  

One reality of working from home, especially in the current environment, is that you may not be the only one there.  Establishing clear boundaries with your children, partners and roommates is essential to making work from home work for you.    

  • Have a visual indicator when you are busy – something as simple as a neon-colored post-it note can let your family know you are on an important call and can’t be interrupted.  
  • Build family time into the daily schedule – kids thrive on routine.  If they know they are going to have lunch with you, they can usually save their ‘really important question’ for that time.  Have a place where they can write down or draw pictures of things they want to tell you so they don’t forget.   You can also set an old fashioned timer outside your door so they can see how much longer until you are available. 
  • Anticipate interruptions – if your kids are like mine, they are already bored and need a snack.  Keep healthy snacks and bottles of water where kids can easily reach them and help themselves.  Have puzzles, toys and art supplies at the ready, and try to coordinate their screen time with your critical meetings and projects.  
  • Anticipate boredom – if you have a playroom that is teeming with toys, pack up half of them, especially things they don’t play with often, and store them out of sight.  In a couple of weeks when you bring them back out, they will seem like brand-new toys, and their interest will be renewed.   
  • Over-communicate your needs and expectations – Kids can perceive when their parents are stressed, and it tends to make them needy.  They feel unsettled by your stress, and so they seek more of your attention as a way to feel reassured.  Which, if you are a stressed parent trying to work from home, extra attention for your kids may be in short supply.  Talk honestly about your expectations for the day and listen to their concerns and ideas.  Explain as best you can what you do and why it is important.  Talk through the day’s routine and create a visual schedule for younger kids to keep them on track.  Choose specific toys or games for the day and help them get started before you dig into work.  When the work day is over, reward their great behavior and tell them how much you appreciate all they did to help you get your work done.    

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Whether you are at home with your family, at home with a roommate, or flying solo, adjusting to our new normal is going to be a challenge.  The most important thing we can all strive for is an overabundance of patience and good humor.  Sometimes the audio on the web conference just isn’t going to work.  Your dog will inevitably spot the mailman when you get to the most important part of your presentation.  And all the planning in the world is not going to stop your 4-year-old from coming in and announcing to your top prospect that she has a gummy bear stuck in her ear.  Learn to be quick on the draw with your mute button and roll with the punches.  All families are struggling with the current situation; a sense of humor and a forgiving attitude can go a long way to helping us feel connected and engaged.  We are all in this together, no matter how isolated we might feel. 


Written by Jennifer Heath, FM:Systems’ Director of Product Operations. Jennifer’s been working from home full time for the past 6 years.


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Do You Know How Coronavirus (COVID-19) Is Impacting Your Facilities Management Strategy?

headerblog - Do You Know How Coronavirus (COVID-19) Is Impacting Your Facilities Management Strategy?

Without actionable workplace analytics, this question is difficult to really answer. You may be thinking to yourself, “What in the world does workplace analytics and COVID-19 have in common?”  As of the time of this being written, the World Health Organization has officially declared a global pandemic and several significant social distancing measures have been taken around the world:  travel from Europe to the US has been temporarily banned, the NBA has suspended its season, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament is canceled, Italy has shut down all non-essential commerce, major cruise lines canceled all sailings for two months, the stock market has paused trading twice due to sell offs and officially moved into bear market territory, etc.  No matter your age, it’s turning out to be one of, if not the most culturally impacting events of a lifetime.


As far as the workplace is concerned, organizations are encouraging or mandating that employees work from home and workplace utilization metrics now required reporting back to executives for tracking.  So, what does that leave us with?  The answer… a whole lot of empty office space.  I would even argue that it leaves organizations with EVEN MORE empty office space.  Most respected reporting sources state that office space is utilized around 50% on average anyways.  Working from home is not a new trend.  For the last decade or so, organizations have been supporting the agile and mobile workforce with concepts like hoteling and remote work, enabling the benefits of work-life balance and performance all while saving millions on their balance sheets with smaller and more efficient spaces redesigned to embrace these concepts.  It’s been a win-win methodology for organizations that truly embrace it.

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This all brings us to the year 2020 and COVID-19.  When business goes back to normal, executives, facilities, and real estate teams must come together and evaluate what the impact truly was of having a largely mobile workforce.  Why not take the opportunity right now to evaluate what action to take with your space that was already unused before the coronavirus?  This would mean seriously taking a look at workplace analytics technology to get empirical facts on how space is being used.  Helpful hint:  make sure you choose a solution that can give you past, present, and future data in order to look at utilization pre- and post- COVID-19.


According to the Deloitte Insights 2020 commercial real estate outlook , only 30 percent of organizations are capturing data and actually generating insights for decision making.  That means most organizations are staring down the barrel of millions and millions of wasted real estate dollars.  For most companies, the most expensive line items on the balance sheet are people and real estate.  If people can do the work that is required of them from anywhere, how many millions of dollars are potentially being wasted for business that is being performed elsewhere?


Learn more about the benefits of having a flexible workspace.