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Episode 109

Design a Safer Workplace with Appropriate Physical Distancing | Introducing Space-Right™

with Chad Smith of iOFFICE & Lori Strasser of NELSON Worldwide

Chad Smith is Vice President of Product Strategy at iOFFICE and Lorri Strasser is Vice President of Global Solutions at NELSON Worldwide. On May 12, 2020, Mike Petrusky hosted a live webinar broadcast called “Design a Safer Workplace with Appropriate Physical Distancing” where Chad and Lori shared a vision of the strategies and technologies that will allow organizations to plan an effective return to the workplace during the COVID-19 global pandemic. During this webinar, Chad shared ways to leverage new and upcoming functionality from iOFFICE to enhance your workplace experience in these changing times including a new physical distancing tool called Space-Right™. Lori explained what she is hearing from clients about the top considerations when planning a return to the office for your workforce.

Space-Right Safe Distancing Made Simple

Connect with Chad on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chaddavidsmith/

Connect with Lori on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lori-strasser-0b5a192/

Watch the full webinar video with Chad and Lori: https://www.iofficecorp.com/webinar-download-design-a-safer-workplace-with-appropriate-physical-distancing

Register for future “Workplace Innovator Interactive” livestreams: https://www.iofficecorp.com/live-webinar-2020-weekly-livestream

Watch Mike on OSW Daily, a YouTube livestream: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9X1busb2H6aJbfQocWZRdw

Learn more about Space-Right™ and explore past interviews at: https://www.workplaceinnovator.com/

Connect with Mike on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mikepetrusky/

Share your thoughts with Mike via email: podcast@iOFFICECORP.com

Read the full transcript:

Mike (00:02):

Hey folks, it's Mike. As we enter the next phase of managing our lives during this pandemic, I wanted to ask you to just take a moment to help me as I seek to serve our workplace community the best way I can. Please do me this favor, visit www.workplaceinnovator.com, and while you're there, do these few quick things. First, as you may know, we're now broadcasting a weekly interactive live stream version of this podcast every Wednesday at noon, Eastern. At the very top of the webpage, you will see a banner inviting you to register for these live events.

            Next, a little further down, you'll see the announcement of a brand new product feature for iOffice. It's called Space Right. We designed this tool to allow you to set physical distancing parameters, instantly reconfigure floor plans, map out scenarios and reassigned desks as your organization returns to the office. Watch the video to see how Space Right helps take the guesswork out of safe space planning now and for the future.

            Finally, at the very bottom of the page, there's a link to my email so you can let me know what you think about the live streams, about Space Right, and you can share your thoughts about how I can make this show more valuable for you. Thanks.

Laurie Strasser (01:19):

At this time of so much uncertainty, being able to put that little bit of control into your employees' hands, is going to just bring us a little bit more peace of mind, making it just a little bit easier to return to them workforce.

Mike (01:35):

This is the Workplace Innovator podcast, where we talk with corporate real estate and facility management leaders about the industry trends and technologies impacting your organization. This show is powered by iOffice, the leading employee-experience-focused IWMS software, that delivers real-time data and mobile tools to help you intelligently manage your digital workplace.

            Hey everyone, thanks for tuning in to episode 109 of the Workplace Innovator podcast. My name is Mike. Last week, as I often do, I participated in a webinar with my iOffice colleagues, Chad Smith, and Angela Burkett As we welcomed a great guest, Lori Strasser, who is vice president of global solutions at Nelson Worldwide in Philadelphia.

            We wanted to discuss ways to leverage both the existing and newly developed features in the iOffice software that are most applicable during these changing times, including an introduction to our new physical distancing tool called Space Right. You've heard me talk about it here on the podcast. Both Chad and Lori explained what they are hearing from their clients with regard to the top considerations and challenges when planning for a return to the office. Of course, Space Right can be a part of that. This was a really popular session and we got a lot of great feedback from it and I wanted to share it with you here because I know that you will also find value in what was said. So here's just a little bit of what went down during this particular webinar last week. Check it out.

            The title of today's presentation design, a safer workplace with appropriate physical distancing. Certainly as we begin this conversation around return to the office, return to the built environment, I don't want to say return to work because I know I've been working quite a bit these last two months, as I'm sure many of you have as well. Not just sitting at home, but leading this unusual quarantine life and many are ready to get back into the workplace. And depending on your region, the part of the country or the world you're in, that may already be happening or it will be happening in the next weeks and months to come.

            Chad Smith is going to be our main presenter today. He is the vice president of product strategy here at iOffice. I've had the privilege of working with him the last year or so. It's been really cool to see him put together the vision, the future of our product and look at the market and talk to our customers to help decide where we should be going. What new features we'll be adding, when new capabilities. It's certainly something you'll hear about today as this pandemic has accelerated the process in many ways that Chad will explain. Our special guest today, she is part of an organization Nelson Worldwide. Welcome Lori Strasser. Nice to see you. Tell us just a little bit about what you do for Nelson.

Laurie Strasser (04:28):

I'm a vice president of global solutions that is at Nelson, our nomenclature, for our corporate client base. Additionally, I focus on workplace services. So it's my team who are working directly in our partnership with iOffice to help all of our corporate clients deal with this weird quarantine world that we're in right now.

Mike (04:53):

Absolutely. We're going to lean on your expertise and Chad's experience. He's been talking to a lot of our customers. You've been talking to your clients as we head into this next few months, this long journey, really of managing our pandemic COVID-19 coexistence. I'll call it. So with that said, Chad, take it away.

Chad Smith (05:10):

Thanks Mike. Thanks everybody. Thanks Lori for being our special guest today. For people who may not be fully familiar with iOffice, I wanted to start with our vision as a company. It's really to connect people in the workplace to each other, to the workplace itself. That's even more important today is, we're dealing with COVID and working remotely and thinking about the return to work and how people get back to work. It's really important in terms of how we connect people and make them feel comfortable and safe. The net result of that, our ultimate goal, is to help our clients drive better business outcomes. Part of the goal, I think we want to really consider as we go back to the office is, how can we continue to keep the sort of online connectivity, make it easy for people to reach out and find each other quickly and easily to get answers to the questions that they might have over the course of the day?

            Obviously, the culprit behind all this is COVID. I think one of the other lessons learned that we're getting out of this experience, a bit of the silver lining in all this is that, remote working, some of the stigma against remote working has been lifted to a great extent. I think what we're going to find from this, and this is not just my personal opinion, it's really backed up by different resources, whether it's the analysts like Gartner or other organizations. But I think what we're going to find is that more and more people have learned that you can work remotely. You can be productive. Yes, there are some inconveniences like daycare and taking care of kids, including my four-legged kid, who's right behind me, who might interrupt us at any given moment today, heads up on that.

            But I think what we're finding is that people have discovered that they can work remotely. They can be productive. Employers have discovered that they can't have people working from home and likewise see productivity and actually get things done. So I think we're going to see more and more people wanting to stay at home for the foreseeable future, especially as locations gradually roll back to the workplace. I think we're going to have to have more people working from home, so we're going to try to address that as part of our solution.

Laurie Strasser (07:03):

I would add one statistic to that, Chad.

Chad Smith (07:05):

Sure.

Laurie Strasser (07:06):

In addition to this desire to want to work from home, as well as the fact that we found that we all can, what we're learning as we start to look at the return to workplace, and what we'll talk a little bit further about today, is that we are seeing that capacities in the workplace that we left before COVID are being reduced to anywhere from 20 to 70%. So the tools you're going to see here today are going to be an important part of helping everyone return.

Chad Smith (07:36):

It's a really good point. I think when this first started, the assumption was everybody was going to be dumping real estate space because people were going to be working remotely. But what we're finding is the exact opposite, is that, if we're lucky, the spaces we have will accommodate the people who are returning to work at least for the foreseeable future. But it's not a quick, "Hey, we've got everybody working from home, so let's get rid of our properties." It's more of a question of, how do we utilize what we have today in a better way and how do we make our employees safe? So it's a really good point.

Laurie Strasser (08:04):

Exactly.

Chad Smith (08:05):

I was just going to say, in addition to what we're learning from COVID, we had some lessons about this remote working before COVID actually hit. I think this is just really reinforcing the notion that, when people can work anytime, anywhere, when I'm at home and I've got the comfort of yes, going to my couch from time to time to get away from my desk, people are going to have that same sort of expectation for the workplace.

            So being able to make it comfortable and a place that's inviting for people to work and to feel safe, is going to be more and more critical as we return to the office. One of the challenges we had pre-COVID exists today, and I think it's going to be exacerbated as people move back into the office, especially as people probably will be working in flexible seating is, how do they find each other? How do they find people, places and things? Historically, this has been a challenge. We'll talk about our Hummingbird solution and how clients can use that today to find people, but this is going to be incredibly important as we go back to the office, as people are in new environments.

            The most basic need. The most basic thing we can do for our workforce is to make them feel safe, so making sure that we're rethinking space planning, providing layouts and sanitary stations and circulation patterns and things of that nature that really make them feel safe is going to be critical. I think this is similar to the notion of having a workplace that attracts talent. You're going to want to have a safe workplace that retains talent. It's going to be incredibly important. As we continue to be a distributed workforce and working, not just remotely, but on the go and in different ways of working, different environments or working, it's going to be important to address how the workplace addresses those needs while still looking at the bottom line. What is the total cost of ownership of our workplace and what can we do to make sure that we're really getting a good return on our investment? Again, to provide better business outcomes for the overall mission of our individual companies?

            So it's a real challenge as you guys know, probably better than I do. You're in the trenches today. I used to be in the trenches. I'm now working for a software company and have been for years, but I think what's obvious is that workplace leaders are stuck in the middle between those employee needs around security and safety and feeling engaged and connected, and their employers or the executives who are running these companies and their need to really look at costs, especially today in the current economic conditions, and make sure that we're providing workplaces [inaudible 00:10:25] both of those needs.

            Speaking of, I want to talk about what we have been doing with COVID. I want to start with where we are today, or actually yesterday. Meaning, what have we been able to do just out of the box day one when this COVID wave first hit us? These are some of the questions that our clients have been asking us, how do we reopen our office safely? How do I support remote workers? Lots of different questions that need to be addressed when considering the return to work.

            We think our solution does and is able to help our clients in a variety of different ways. First and foremost is, as Lori was just saying, being able to de-densify a workplace. We'll talk about how we can automatically through some of the tools we're working on, automatically reduce capacities for lots of different space types based on your physical distancing needs. That's one of the things out of the gate that we do for our clients. Planning moves as a result of that. When you de-densify, you're obviously going to need to move people around and you need to find good places, appropriate places, appropriate workstations and work points and things of that nature, for people based on the nature of their work, based on their needs for adjacency to other people or organizations.

            Our move management capability helps clients to quickly create move scenarios and then implement those moves scenarios. Managing visitors is going to be a critical one moving forward. Ideally, having a touchless experience where your visitor is able to check in through a QR code, like we support, and then being able to come in and having safety directions in terms of how you actually come in. Part of this, one of the things we're hearing from our customer advisory board, one of the things we've considered and are considering in implementing as we reopen our Houston office, is mandatory temperature taking of not just visitors, but employees as they come into the workplace.

            That's another aspect of visitor management, making sure that before people actually enter the workplace, that they are safe and healthy. We're doing that to protect, not just them, but equally importantly, our employees. Those are three of the things we do today. In addition to those, there are some other ancillary capabilities that we provide, navigating spaces, finding again, people places and things, either through kiosks or through our mobile experience, which is our Hummingbird solution. This is really important. As I said, as people go back into the workplace, as you move people around, they need to know how to find each other.

            I'll use our office as a case in point, I'd love to hear Lori's thoughts on this, but for iOffice, we're taking people out of assigned seats in many cases and we're putting them into temporary activity-based working stations. So they will be in a new workstation every time they come into the workplace. We're actually looking at bringing back only 25% of the workforce in Houston, based on local regulations. So people are going to be in new spaces, but they're still going to need to find each other, connect with each other, so it's important to be able to navigate and find those other people places and things. Lori, I'm curious, as you guys are laying out offices for your clients, what are you finding on this front?

Laurie Strasser (13:26):

We're finding a couple of things. First, I'd like to say that at Nelson, we are also iOffice users, so we are currently in the process of doing the same thing for our own organization that we are doing for our clients. So can absolutely validate our understanding and use of the product across the clients that we're helping today. One point that I would like to add is that everybody think of this return to workplace, not as a one-stage process, we believe that this is going to be a multistage process. Because right now, there's just too many unknowns. What we're finding is that, those with technology in place already have a leg up. If you don't have it, but you're able to put it in place now, which can, of course, all be done remotely, then as you look at these phases in return, you're ahead of the game.

Chad Smith (14:27):

Excellent points. Yeah. I completely agree with the phased approach or the coming and going, the ebb and flowing of going back to and from the workplace. As you said, based on the fact that there are so many unknowns at this point. So that's a really, really important point. A couple of other things to talk about quickly. I want to talk about environmental health and safety. One of the aspects or one of the feature capabilities that we provide in iOffice is our service request capability. This is really a light and easy-to-use maintenance management capability within iOffice, So we can use that for different types of preventive, planned maintenance tickets, including janitorial services.

            We can also work with IoT vendors to identify heavy traffic within the workplace to augment any sort of plan and preventive maintenance. So if you want to trigger a work order or a service request based on certain thresholds, certain capacities that have been met in a given space or area, we can do that through IoT sensors. So it's really important to use that as a way to, again, ensure safety and follow different regulations or different guidance from the CDC or the World Health Organization or your local government to really make sure that you're providing a healthy and safety workplace for your employees. Then just enhancing the employee experience. We're not going to have time today, unfortunately, to go through a Hummingbird demo. We did that last week.

            If you want to catch a recording from one of those sessions, we can put you in contact with the right resource to find that recording. But long story short, the Hummingbird solution, one of the advantages to the mobile solution, and frankly, I use this every time I go to our Houston office, we can put out additional information of the landing page within the application itself to really see what's going on. So if you have additional security information, updates on safety, updates on COVID itself, you can send that out to your employees through the Hummingbird solution. You can send surveys out to get feedback from your employees in terms of how they're feeling and how they're doing. So it's another area of importance that we can address. Then, selfishly-

Laurie Strasser (16:29):

I would add one thought to that, Chad.

Chad Smith (16:32):

Sure.

Laurie Strasser (16:32):

If I might interrupt you.

Chad Smith (16:32):

Sure.

Laurie Strasser (16:33):

I would say that at this time of so much uncertainty, that being able to put that little bit of control into your employees' hands or at their desktop remotely or in site, having that feeling of control over our immediate environment is going to just bring us a little bit more peace of mind. So making it just a little bit easier to return to the workforce,

Chad Smith (16:59):

Completely agree. A couple other quick things to talk about, and then we'll move on to what we've been working on here just recently. Addressing remote workers. As VP of product strategy, I am selfishly really interested in this one. I've been saying for quite some time that there's more we can do for remote employees. We're investigating right now additional capabilities that we want to explore in Q3 and Q4. But as I said, there are capabilities we provide today. As a remote employee, I'm using Hummingbird on a regular basis when I go into the office. I'll be using it when I go back to the office, and it helps me to identify where I can book a desk.

            It helps me, especially as we change our layout and our ability for people to come back. It'll tell me if any workstations are available for me to come in on a temporary basis. I can also use it to submit service requests as I get to the office. If I find that there's, I don't know, something inconspicuous or some sort of concern that I need to have cleaned up, I'd send out service requests from my phone. I can also check in with a touchless experience so I don't have to touch any panels or anything of that nature. So there's lots of things that we do for remote workers, and we're going to be doing more. Then, just using iOffice and our reporting and analytics to really prove, or frankly, disprove, just to be cautious and mitigate risk, if our new measures are being successful or not.

            We can use the data to really track and identify, especially if we're integrating with IoT sensors, to track usage and circulation of our facilities to make sure that people are A, not congregating above and beyond what the designated capacities are for our spaces, our new designated capacities. But also making sure that people are moving in a proper way around the office, again, to minimize air flow and essentially, traceability of each other as we're calling around the space. All this, of course, is done anonymously, but we want to see that data in order to really understand how people are using the workplace and other things we need to do to redesign the workplace.

Mike (18:57):

There you have it, everyone. Chad Smith and Lori Strasser with just a few highlights from what was a really interesting hour-long webinar discussion last week. So many important concepts, like giving our workforce flexibility. It really is about choice and control. That's always been a priority for workplace leaders, but in today's uncertain times, it is more important than ever as each of us will have to make decisions about when we are comfortable returning to public spaces. I know that I will certainly want to be informed about the cleanliness of a space I am in and the protocols that have been implemented to help me feel safe.

            Even if you and I feel comfortable in a certain setting, we should think about our colleagues and those around us, as each person will have a different level of comfort during this journey. As we all learn to exist and live with COVID-19 as part of our new reality. We went on to see a full demo of the new Space Right feature, and it was delivered by my awesome iOffice teammate, Angie Burkette of Memphis. I tried to get her to sing some Elvis Presley, but you'll have to tune in to see how that went. So check the show notes, and you will find a link to the complete webinar recording. I also invite you to visit workplaceinnovator.com for more information about Space Right and ways that you can be a part of our community of podcast listeners as we gather each and every week to inspire each other to be a workplace innovator. Peace out.

            You've been listening to the Workplace Innovator podcast. I hope you found this discussion beneficial as we work together to build partnerships that lead to innovative workplace solutions. For more information about how iOffice can help you create an employee-centric workspace by delivering digital technology that enhances the employee experience, visit iofficecorp.com.