Categories
remote work

Why Virtual Space is More Important in the New World of Hybrid Work


Remote work is certainly not going anywhere soon. But neither is the office.

According to a recent PwC report, only 13% of executives are prepared to let go of their physical office for good. However, just because the office will continue to play a role doesn’t mean that role will be the same. In fact, 87% of executives expect to make changes to their real estate strategy over the next 12 months. Many will consolidate and reduce, while others will open small satellite locations.

What does this mean for facilities management? It’s time to optimize for hybrid work. Here are three strategies to consider:

1. Collect Data and Get Smart with Digital Twins

The digital world bypassed physical office space during the pandemic, but now it’s time to transform office buildings with data. Connected devices are making buildings more intelligent and can attract tenants who now expect more from their offices. For instance, they can offer both facilities managers and employees the ability to track and adjust lighting and temperature in real time.

As these sensors become more sophisticated and connect more of your building’s systems, you can literally begin to piece together a digital copy of your office space, often called a digital twin. This twin encompasses all the dynamic data of your operations, digitally visualizing how people interact with your building. This allows you to optimize and fine-tune your operational strategies. How many people visited the kitchen in the old days? How many now? Even if you don’t have pre-shutdown benchmarks, the data going forward can help you, and your managers, optimize usage and layouts.

Smarter floor plans and more dynamic usage data can create a dialogue with real-time communication and collaboration between buildings, facilities management, individual team managers, and the technology that holds the system together.

2. Redesign Hybrid Offices with Remote Work in Mind

Most of your employees will incorporate at least some degree of remote work into their schedules. In that case, your workspace can stand out dramatically by simply optimizing around a few simple physical design elements that can make a hybrid office more remote-friendly.

For example, many facilities managers are considering how to most efficiently use space when hybrid workers are not in the office. Some of the emerging trends include:

  • Implement a desk ‘hoteling’ strategy, where employees can sign up for a flexible desking pool. This frees up significant space that would otherwise sit unused.
  • Optimize your office’s layout with many small 1-on-1 spaces or call booths. These allow in-person employees to sync with remote employees quickly without distracting other office colleagues. 
  • Increase the number of small, bookable conference rooms. These private spaces are now centrally important to hybrid collaboration, and will likely see a dramatic increase in use.

Think about how to merge physical and virtual spaces to make them work for everyone, and watch your building become a frictionless environment that enables the hybrid work of the future.

3. Virtual Space and Remote Collaboration Shouldn’t Be a Workplace Afterthought

Optimizing for hybrid work doesn’t just flow one way. Just as you optimize the physical for the virtual, you need to offer quality virtual spaces as an extension of your workplace. As hybrid work becomes more popular, facilities managers should now request vetted remote collaboration tools as part of their lease agreements. These remote working packages help potential employees stay connected with their remote teams and help facilities managers succeed.

Consider a meeting platform designed to inspire increased engagement in meetings and empower organizations to measure and improve their hybrid culture’s health. 

Furthermore, we all know that while planned meetings are key, teams interact in critical ways outside the meeting room.  Video tools shouldn’t only facilitate meetings. They need to support natural and unplanned interactions and community as well. Remote collaboration tools must also recreate an office environment when structured meetings are not taking place. Virtual offices allow employees to “sit” in virtual rooms where their colleagues can informally bounce around to sync on topics quickly as necessary. 

Virtual networking platforms can also support small rooms organized around fun topics so employees can engage personally after work in a virtual water cooler. These offerings can be a huge value-add for a company that is on the fence about physical office space.

Hybrid Offices Designed for the New World of Hybrid Work

According to PwC’s report, 75% of executives expect at least half of their employees to be back in the office by July 2021. Only 61% of employees feel the same way. It will be up to building managers to convince them of the benefits of in-person work and safety.

While 55% of employees surveyed said they prefer working remotely at least three days a week, 87% still think the office is essential for key team collaboration and building the most productive relationships. Building managers need to focus their efforts there. The office designs of the past simply will not win skeptical tenets back if they are unchanged. The winners will design smarter, more tenant-friendly offices that integrate remote collaboration and communication, creating a seamless working experience that easily transitions from the physical to the virtual and back again.

Categories
remote work

Data Roundup: Employee Surveys Show Increased Support for Remote Work

The early months of the COVID-19 pandemic were overwhelmingly uncertain for businesses forced to test remote work arrangements. Now, nearly a year into the pandemic, employers are still making significant changes to their remote work arrangements, suggesting that hybrid working models are here to stay.

But how are employees coping with working from home? Is there still enthusiasm for workplace flexibility, or do employees want to return to the office when this is all over? 

We’ve gathered recent data suggesting that workers are increasingly comfortable with—and in favor of—remote work. 

Categories
remote work

Will Remote Work Usher in the Era of the 4-day Workweek?

Nearly a year since its onset, COVID-19 has upended the traditional way of working for most industries. Despite some early hesitation about how the way of work would shift, many companies now embrace permanent work-from-home policies. Employees increasingly hope to continue this workplace flexibility once the pandemic is over. 

The thought of only 41 percent of the U.S. labor force working in a physical office all the time would have seemed ridiculous at the start of 2020. Now, though, companies realize that the productivity benefits of workplace flexibility make these arrangements a competitive essential, not just a perk based on the employer’s trust in their team and goodwill.

As companies continue to explore ways to optimize their business and increase their team productivity, no matter where they are based, does this mean that we will also see the end of the 8-hour a day, 5-day workweek?

Categories
remote work

Is it Time to Say Goodbye to the Corporate Office?

In 2017, many companies made headlines for doing away with remote working arrangements, including IBM, Aetna, and Best Buy. While working remotely had previously been seen as a driver of employee satisfaction and better business results, these high-profile flexible work program cancellations caused many companies to question their work from home policies. 

Then came 2020. The business world experienced a significant shift toward remote work because of COVID-19. The data we’ve seen a year into the pandemic reinforces what studies have suggested for the past decade: yes, remote work can boost productivity. 

But does this mean that companies will continue to embrace flexible working arrangements even when offices reopen? 

Tech Companies Signal Hybrid Work Futures

Increasingly, leading companies are introducing policies supporting a hybrid work future, where in-person and remote work opportunities are blended at the company. Some roles will need at least some in-office time to complete critical tasks but otherwise enjoy greater degrees of flexibility than before—and employers are making lasting decisions about their office spaces because of it. 

Throughout 2020 and into 2021, brands made significant moves that signal it will become increasingly uncommon for a company’s entire team to work under one roof:

  • Cloud computing trailblazer Salesforce announced in February 2021 that it will offer three ways of working going forward. The company even went as far as to say the 9-to-5 workday is dead, and only a small subset of the Salesforce team will work in the office four to five days per week.
  • Internet staple Google will keep its employees remote until September 2021 and then experiment with a new hybrid work model giving employees the flexibility they desire.
  • Trillion-dollar company Microsoft announced that the majority of its employees can work from home half of their time (or permanently, with manager approval) and that its US offices won’t reopen until early this year at the earliest
  • Tech giant Pinterest paid $89.5 million to terminate its lease with a soon-to-be-built complex near Pinterest’s existing San Francisco HQ
  • Retailer REI announced its plans to sell a newly finished corporate campus in Washington, which was once called “like summer camp for grown-ups.”
  • Nationwide will work out of four main corporate campuses, exiting most of its other buildings and workly entirely remotely in all other areas.
  • Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman expressed uncertainty about the future of work but noted that the bank would need “much less real estate.”
  • Siemens, one of the largest companies in the world, recently announced it would “focus on outcomes rather than time spent in the office” in measuring worker performance. 
Categories
productivity

Enhancing Workplace Productivity In The Age of Remote Work

In the past, many companies equated “working from home” with “slacking off from home,” fearing the potential productivity losses their company would face if employees had greater workplace flexibility.

Now, a year into the largest remote work movement the business world has ever seen, these fears have been largely overcome. Productivity in the U.S. rose 4.6% in Q3 of 2020, marking the largest quarterly productivity increase since 2009.

But there’s a catch: not every company is seeing productivity boosts with its mostly remote workforce. One study of 800 employers found:

  • 67% of companies reported similar productivity levels as pre-pandemic days
  • 27% reported an increase in productivity 

So what’s separating those seeing gains in productivity from the rest? It could be in how they define productivity and the tools they’re using to track it. 

Categories
online meetings

How To Combat ‘Zoom Fatigue’ For More Fulfilling Video Meetings

The rapid shift to online, remote-based work provided many benefits for employees and employers alike. These flexible working arrangements are here to stay, even once COVID-19 is no longer a concern. 

There is an unintended side effect of this new way of work, though, and it stems from ineffective, badly designed tools and misguided approaches to handling meetings with a remote team: “Zoom fatigue.” But by understanding the cause of this fatigue, you can adjust your approach to online meetings in a way that better engages your team.

What Is Zoom Fatigue And Why Are Video Calls Tiring?

Despite being a convenient replacement for our in-person interactions, video calls require a more significant effort to truly process the conversation (the primary cause of Zoom fatigue).

That’s because a great deal of crucial content is communicated not in what we say, but instead in how we say it, with nonverbal cues like hand gestures, facial expressions, and eye contact. Intrinsically, video calls make it difficult to absorb these nonverbal cues. Only so much of any given speaker can be seen, spotty internet connections can distort speech, and grid-style views can easily send an attendee into sensory overload. 

Categories
remote work

When You Can’t Measure It, You Won’t Fix It

This post originally appeared on the Team.Video blog.

According to Google Trends data, as much of America’s knowledge workers settled in for the second month of working at home under the COVID-19 work from home mandates, ‘Zoom fatigue’ hit an all-time high. But the truth is, it’s not just being stuck at home and having most of our socializing taking place over video conference calls that are to blame for our dissatisfaction with workplace meetings.

Whether it’s 9 million versions of conference call bingo or 21 million views of a conference call in real life, poorly-run company meetings have long been a source of employee dissatisfaction. A 2017 study published in Harvard Business Review surveyed 182 senior managers in a range of industries to gauge how meetings impact their work:

  • 65% said meetings keep them from completing their own work
  • 71% said meetings are unproductive and inefficient
  • 64% said meetings come at the expense of deep thinking
  • 62% said meetings miss opportunities to bring the team closer together

Many factors contribute to this negative outlook on workplace meetings, but one that has bubbled up significantly over the last few months is meetings are often where the lack of diversity and inclusion in the workplace shows up.

Categories
online meetings

3 Online Meeting KPIs That Can Uncover a Toxic Workplace Culture

This post originally appeared on the Team.Video blog.

With an estimated 42 percent of the U.S. labor force currently working from home full-time, your online meetings have become how you keep your workplace culture alive. Unfortunately, these same virtual meetings may also be contributing to creating a toxic workplace culture that leads to employee disengagement.

The good news is, unlike those in-person meetings held in your company’s cleverly named office conference rooms, your online meetings give you the potential to gather and measure data that can be used to identify and address potentially toxic workplace issues in the making. Here are three questions to ask your team members to weigh in on, and measure through your online meeting platform.