Okay, we all need to agree with one thing- anxiety right now is high. And owing to this anxiety- stepping out of the house seems like a challenge. Masks, gloves, sanitizers, and anxiety have become our constant companions when going out. But not everything is dark and gloomy. Over the last week, there has been a 33% decline in the total number of cases across the country. A part of it is owed to the massive vaccination drives organized by corporates.
Most organizations, big and small, have been benevolent enough to undertake vaccination drives for their employees and dependents. That, we have realized, is the only way to keep the workforce safe and focused on what matters, i.e., WORK. However, most of the workplace drives have been far from optimal.
Vaccination Drives…Bohot hard…
To begin with, there is a lot of variability in both demand and supply. Last week, employees who had shown interest got themselves vaccinated or caught COVID by the time the organization announced the drive. The supply of vaccines is hard as well as inconsistent.
As organizations partner with large medical institutions, they are getting vaccines in small batches of inconsistent size. It could be 500 today, 50 tomorrow. With a short lead time, organizations have to scramble many resources to ensure employees are informed, travel arrangements are made, and all the reserved slots are utilized.
Corporates are seen grappling with a lot of form filling, spreadsheets, WhatsApp groups. Still, the employees are dissatisfied because of chaos, lack of information, long waiting times, and even multiple trips to the office (or vaccine camp). It’s hard, and the anxiety that everyone wears up their sleeve these days makes it even harder.
It’s a bird… it’s a plane…it’s…
WorkInSync. We have always stood to help the workforce focus on what matters. Every time our team sees a distraction or a significant loss in productivity for the organizations, we jump right in and figure out a solution.
Vaccination drives seem to have become an obstacle for most. And it’s not a one-time thing. Unless the entire population is fully vaccinated with the second dose, the efforts won’t go away anytime soon. Facilities teams at corporations want to provide flexibility as well as transparency. They want to expand the scope of vaccination to all near and dear ones while reducing the risk of overcrowding. They want to limit the numbers but also want to avoid wastage.
Last week our team enabled a large European bank to carry out their inoculation drive efficiently and smoothly – across Pune, Chennai, and Bengaluru. WorkInSync already provides a solution to manage their premises and helps them offer a hybrid workplace to employees.
The new vaccine camp module allows employees to book a slot at their convenience quickly. The employees can then also book an office-provided commute or a parking slot, both powered by MoveInSync. WorkInSync’s mask detection and zero-hardware-based entry management ensure that everyone coming to the camp follows government guidelines.
The organizing team finds it really easy to have a clear tab on demand. They can configure the slots every day and adjust them in real-time as per the varying supply of vaccines.
WorkInSync already offers dashboards and reports out of the box for employers to know how the show runs across different offices in different cities. No wonder one of the users commented that they found it “as easy as booking a movie ticket.” A seamless experience at vaccine camp brings a smile that kills the anxiety while the vaccine takes care of the virus.
When are you due?
We sincerely hope organizations can leverage the vaccine camp feature to get their workforce back to their productive best. We strongly feel this is a solid first step in getting the employees to return to the office. For more information about using the vaccine camp feature for your organization, feel free to write to us at email@example.com.
A Practical Guide to Return-to-Office Post-Pandemic
Posted on June 7, 2021 by wis_wp
Although we might still be some time away from corona fading into history, the silver lining is here. With the vaccines comes hope. It’s time to gear up, quite literally, for a return-to-office.
Returning to the workplace wouldn’t be easy for more than one reason. For one, life ranks higher than work in the larger scheme of things. Therefore, it would be naïve to think a group email can bring back people to work. Nothing short of a well-planned and organized effort will work. It would be best if you plan, prepare, communicate, and convince people to return.
We present to you a practical guide that will help HR and workplace/facility managers. Starting from focus areas, we detail out one step at a time. Here we go.
What are the focus areas when planning a return-to-office?
A transition kicks up a lot of dust. Things that matter and that don’t get mixed up, making prioritization difficult. To avoid it, we need to separate the wheat from the chaff for a more organized effort. At a macro level, a transition back to work would involve three focus areas:
1. Policy and protocols
The first thing on the to-do list of HR and workplace managers is to create a dedicated pandemic support team with members from various functions. This team would function as the central node for planning and implementing a COVID19 workspace policy and protocol.
Managing the implementation of safety protocols will not be possible without technology. It would help reduce dependence on human effort and presence at workspaces. From maintaining social distancing to housekeeping, technology can ensure adherence to the safety guidelines.
Fifty-one percent of 1000 people surveyed by PWC cited fear of getting infected as the reason for not returning to work. When you plan to bring back people to work, the perception of safety is as important as the measures in place. If organizations fail at creating it, the back-to-office efforts might not yield the desired result.
Let’s explore each one of these in greater detail.
What policy and protocols do you need to put in place?
Policy and protocols are central to your return to office program. An essential component of policy creation and implementation is a dedicated pandemic support and response team. Ideally, it must include leaders from various functions and business teams.
Your pandemic support team will not just serve as an advisory agency but as a team that implements and maintains the safety protocols. It needs to have a budget and resource allocation similar to any other business function. It also needs to be empowered to make purchase decisions for protective gear, equipment, and technology as and when required.
The starting point for your post-pandemic return policy has to be the CDC’s employer information for office buildings. All workplace and HR managers need to be conversant with these guidelines. Here are some of the salient points from the guidelines:
1. Policy changes
Revisit your sick leave policy to make it non-punitive and flexible. You also need to account for leaves required for familial responsibilities like taking care of family members or childcare due to school closure
It is also advisable to extend it for employees who currently aren’t eligible under the Family and Medical Leave Act. In fact, make special provisions for those who have exhausted their sick leaves
Account for the fact that visiting a health facility for doctor consultation may not be feasible. So, even for non-COVID leaves, do not insist on a doctor’s note
If employees use public transport for their daily commute or work-related travel, provide an allowance for individual transport. It would reduce the risk of exposure
Have staggered work shifts. You may have to rework your attendance policy and make additional provisions for splitting work hours between home and office to reduce the time at the office
2. Social distancing measures
Implement social distancing beyond maintaining distance between workstations
If you provide transport facilities, rearrange pick-ups and drop-offs to have minimum people on board
Limit access to common areas such as the cafeteria through staggered break timing
As far as possible, avoid in-person group meetings. For occasional team huddles, prefer open spaces to closed ones
Limit the number of people allowed in elevators to have adequate distance between the passengers
3. Safety protocol for sick employees
Implement pre-entry screening for all employees, contractors, and visitors. Please note that records of such information may qualify as medical records under the Access to Employee Exposure and Medical Records Standard (29 CFR 1910.1020), which has regulatory and compliance requirements
Encourage and facilitate voluntary reporting for employees who develop or exhibit COVID symptoms at work. Have a clearly laid out exit and transport plan in such cases
Sanitize work desk, equipment, and common areas used by infected employees
Implement contact tracing to limit transmission
Other employees who have come in contact to self-quarantine and self-monitor for symptoms
The nature and scale of changes for a safe return to office demand the application of technology. Workplace managers need to include technology and define its scope at the planning stage itself. Tech interventions could be at various levels, depending on your requirement.
1. Technology for collaboration
Even as people return to work, minimize in-person communication using tech for collaborating
Use video conferencing tools for routine meetings
Use collaboration tools, like Slack and Teams, for asynchronous communication in tasks that do not require real-time interaction
2. Technology for social distancing
Desk booking/seat blocking applications will help effective social distancing.
Conference room booking – Based on the number of participants, a conference room booking application can recommend a space big enough to avoid crowding
Office transport booking – Using it can help maintain social distancing within vehicles. It can also help people avoid queuing up for transport, significantly decreasing the transmission risk
Team planner – This piece of software can help you limit people density at any given point in time
3. Technology for sanitization
High-efficiency particulate air filters and ultraviolet germicidal irradiation for better air cleaning and inactivating airborne virus, in line with industry guidelines
Computer vision to identify areas that require cleaning and to monitor the frequency of housekeeping
Contactless access management to minimize exposure in common areas
Intelligent HVAC systems to detect air quality, occupancy and switch to outdoor air supply when required
Safety perception is as important as safety measures.
Communication to employees about requesting a return to the office needs to carry visible transformations of the workspace. You could include a video tour of the changes carried out at the entry, floor layout, common areas, tech additions, and so on.
As employees return, the changes must be visible and highlighted with display boards and other forms of on-site communications. Housekeeping, once hidden, has to be more visible. Inform employees of deep cleaning efforts that take place after work hours. To that effect, they should be discouraged from leaving personal stuff or memorabilia on their desk.
Deploy multiple forms and channels of communication to build confidence among employees about the safety measures in place. You could also use a few posters from CDC’s print resources.
Are you ready to return to the office?
Before you announce the return-to-office program, know that it’s going to come with a cost. A well-laid-out plan, and the right technology partner, can ensure a healthy ROI on every dollar invested. WorkinSync’s solutions are cost-effective and go a step beyond merely ensuring compliance.
What does CDC’s Face Mask Compliance Mean for Your Company?
Posted on May 19, 2021 by wis_wp
Over the last year, our stepping-out-of-the-house checklist has come to accommodate face masks along with the usual ‘phone, wallet and keys’ routine. Some of us have even adapted to a point where not having a mask on in public makes us anxious. So, last Thursday, when the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced that fully vaccinated people could go out without masks, confusion was high. However, these new Face Mask Compliance guidelines have thrown state and local officials, even private companies struggling to decide on their own policies.
We are here to break it down for you and to help you make the right decisions for your workplace. Let’s start with some general questions you might have.
Do the new guidelines mean that we don’t need to wear masks anymore?
No. According to the face mask compliance guidance, only fully vaccinated people (who have gotten their final booster shot at least 2 weeks ago) are not required to wear a mask outdoors and in most indoor settings. Of course, this comes with limitations. Even fully vaccinated people need to mask up while they are in hospitals, public transport, or any place where there are large gatherings in closed quarters.
Wait, so do I listen to the local mask mandate or the CDC advice?
The CDC’s guidance does not supplant your local government’s mask mandate. However, some states like Kentucky and Illinois have already started tweaking their rules to be in line with federal guidance. Whereas, other states such as Kansas, Wichita, and New York State have stated that they are reviewing the new guidelines and are still considering their next move.
Who is ensuring compliance with this new guideline?
With this announcement, the CDC has put the responsibility of face mask compliance on the citizens themselves. Whether you’re wearing a mask or not is based on the honor system. That’s right, it’s up to us to make sure that we are responsible and wear our masks, as and when required.
It may cause you a headache when it comes to enforcing mask-related policies at the office. To avoid this confusion and uncertainty, here are a few things you could do to keep your workplace safe:
Keep an eye out for more information, especially from local governments and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). They will be able to give you more clarity on the path forward. We can expect to see some information flowing in soon.
Use the State and Federal guidelines to make your policies. However, your decision-making should be based on the safety of your employees and your work environment. Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. We know cause we’ve looked!
Stay connected with the local health department to procure the latest data on vaccination rates in your region. So it’ll be easier for you to determine when to go mask-free in your workplace.
Ensure that your employees are given a vaccination card. Refer to it for more information on their vaccination status.
Have an ear on the ground. Monitor the news stream and social media channels to know the latest situation and to understand how the other players in your industry are dealing with the situation.
These are just a few things you need to do to make sure you stay on top of this situation. From a management perspective, it would be much easier to enforce face mask compliance by having everyone wear their masks. But, as a business leader, you know that nothing comes easy. For now, stay tuned in to every new piece of information coming in and focus on keeping your employees safe.
We’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions on how to implement the new mask policy at a workplace, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WorkInSyncis dedicated to ensuring employee safety. We have incorporated face mask compliance features that will enable easier management of office safety protocols. To learn more, schedule a demo with us.
Face Mask Compliance: The First Step to Preventing COVID-19
Posted on April 16, 2021 by wis_wp
After more than a year of dealing with COVID-19, by now, we all are aware that a face mask is incredibly effective when trying to prevent the virus. Several studies have shown that wearing face masks can reduce airborne transmission. And COVID-19 is all about airborne transmission. Let us look at this image to understand why masks are essential.
As companies have kick-started their return-to-office process, employers must put together face mask compliance policies. Philippe Weiss, President of Seyfarth at Work in Chicago, said some employees approached them asking, “I’ve had my shots. Now how soon can I get this darn thing off my face?”
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance highlights that fully vaccinated individuals can be unmasked in limited circumstances. However, wearing face masks is pivotal for the safety of themselves and others.
N95 respirator: These are tight-fitting single-use masks typicallymade with synthetic materials such as polyester and polypropylene. N95 respirators effectively filter out at least 95% of both large airborne droplets and aerosols.
Surgical/medical masks: These are loose-fitting single-use masks made with three or more layers of synthetic materials. Surgical masks can filter out large airborne particles; however, some aerosols can leak through these. Air-containing particles can also flow around the edges.
Fabric masks: These masks are often homemade and vary widely in their construction and effectiveness. Aerosols can sometimes leak through, and air-containing particles can also flow around the edges. Experts recommend layering two fabric masks for maximum effectiveness. These masks are reusable with appropriate washing after a couple of use to decontaminate.
Smart Masks: A new line of masks has come under the spotlight. These masks come with filter fans, LED lights, audio controllers, Bluetooth connectivity, ANC earbuds, and adjustable straps. Xupermask or Will.i.am mask (thanks to Will.i.am for making public appearances in it), this prototype is gaining a lot of attention.
How to Ensure Face Mask Compliance from Your Employees
Here are a few ways employers can ensure face mask compliance from employees.
Communication is the key. As your employees return to work, make sure that you inform them that entry to the workplace will be prohibited without a face mask. Even for employees who are fully vaccinated, face masks are required. In March, the CDC suggested that those who are fully vaccinated can gather privately in small groups with other fully vaccinated people without wearing masks. But a workplace is rarely a small gathering.
While vaccination efforts are underway, there will remain many unvaccinated individuals. Every individual is still required to wear a face mask to reduce the virus’s spread. Therefore, send out clear communication on face mask requirements.
Put a Face Mask Policy in Place
While you communicate the face mask compliance to your employees, to ensure 100% cooperation, set out policies. The policy should require all employees, regardless of vaccination status, to wear masks while inside the office premises. Emphasize that adherence to the face mask policy is the responsibility of each employee.
The policy should also highlight that if an employee fails to adhere to the face mask compliance policy, strict disciplinary actions will be taken.
Companies such as HubSpot, Figma, Dropbox, Reddit, Shopify,and Coinbase to name a few have adopted the hybrid work model. This has motivated them to implement the face mask compliance policy. Regular emails are also being sent out to their employees, urging them to wear face masks at all times.
The pandemic is far from over. If you are undertaking a return-to-office procedure, face mask compliance is necessary. It is the first step to prevent the spread of the virus. Provide face masks to your employees if required. But to curb this virus from creating more rampage, it is imperative that we all do our part. And face mask compliance is the first step.
WorkInSync is dedicated to ensuring employee safety. We have incorporated face mask compliance features. To learn more, schedule a demo with us.
COVID-19 Vaccine Centers: Fighting off the Pandemic
Posted on April 14, 2021 by wis_wp
To bring this pandemic to an end, experts believe that a large share of the world’s population needs to be immune to the virus. The safest way to achieve this is with a COVID-19 vaccine.
Within less than 12 months after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, several research teams from different countries rose to the challenge and developed vaccines that can protect one from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
As we speak, the biggest vaccination drive in history is underway. According to data collected by Bloomberg, more than 797 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered across 154 countries. Roughly, 18 million doses a day. In the US, 190 million doses have already been given. Last week, 3.21 million doses were administered per day. Roughly, 36% of the entire US population has been administered at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
The stark difference in vaccination rates has a lot to do with misinformation or lack of information overall.
We, at WorkInSync, aim to keep you informed about the latest COVID-19 vaccine developments. As one of the leading forces in the return-to-office attempts, we want employers to safeguard their employees by taking the right COVID-19 vaccine precautions.
Fun Fact: Astrazeneca, Pfizer & Dr. Reddys Lab are our customers!
*Many new COVID-19 vaccines are under trial. These are some of the most popular COVID-19 Vaccines and are being used widely. Please listen to the health officials and follow the instructions provided by them.
Where to Find Vaccination Centers?
If you are looking for the nearest COVID-19 vaccine centers, click on these links. Just enter your locality and your state to find accurate information.
*Keep an eye out on this place to find COVID-19 vaccine centers in more countries.
Vaccine Cards: Keeping a Track
Most COVID-19 vaccines available (with the exception of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine) require 2 doses within 4-8 weeks apart on average. While the first dose for most vaccines starts boosting your immunity, only when you are fully vaccinated, can you start doing more.
It is important to remember that you are still required to wear your masks, maintain social distancing protocols and wash your hands at regular intervals.
For employees returning to office, it is essential to carry a vaccine card or a vaccine passport. The vaccine card will provide information such as the number of doses administered, the date, when is the next dose and so on. This will make it easier for the employers to manage the return-to-office process. If an employee is not vaccinated at all, efforts can be made to get them the same.
Safety has no limit. Every small step we take can determine our future. The future of our world. We know that COVID-19 is not going anywhere anytime soon. But by driving magnanimous COVID-19 vaccine efforts, we can reduce the spread; we can save many more lives.
So, let’s do our part. Before you start settling in your office cubicle, make sure you are vaccinated. Find out the nearest COVID-19 vaccine center.
WorkInSyncis dedicated to ensure your safety. For more information, you can write to us at email@example.com.
5 RTO Features You Need in Hybrid Workspace Management Tools
Posted on March 19, 2021 by wis_wp
There is no doubt that the pandemic has changed our world. But we can safely say that COVID-19 has become a catalyst to change the future of work. This change has inspired companies to automate, digitize, and innovate.
With the workforce demanding flexibility in their work model, managing them becomes the primary challenge. Hence a hybrid workspace management tool. Digitized, no doubt, but this tool should offer more than that. It should encompass an array of features that promote a hybrid workplace’s easy management.
But what kind of features are we looking at? Here is a list of five features that a useful hybrid workspace management tool should offer.
A Hybrid Workspace Management Features List
As organizations have kick-started the return-to-office process, employee scheduling has become an extremely sought-after feature. With a hybrid workforce, understanding employee location preferences (whether they want to work from home or office) without affecting productivity can be challenging. You can’t call all employees back to the office at the same time. Employee scheduling can be pivotal when deciding which employees need to come to the office and further match their preferences with business requirements.
From an employee’s point-of-view, mapping their schedules with their team members to ensure collaboration is an unsaid benefit.
When the onus of returning to the office lies with the employees, a simple feature such as employee scheduling can ensure that everyone is informed about what the others are doing. For instance, when you have to collaborate with your colleague, knowing their routine can ensure easy collaboration. And this information can be extremely useful when establishing a hybrid workplace. Thus, for any hybrid workspace management tool, providing employee scheduling is a must.
Most organizations are opting for a hybrid setup in the post-pandemic new normal. However, shifting from an existing static setup to a flexible one needs planning. And in this hybrid model, with fewer people coming to the office, the number of desks required reduces significantly. Also, to maintain social distancing protocols, bigger meeting rooms are required to accommodate fewer people. See, there is no doubt that space management poses the biggest challenge, especially when the workforce is divided.
Desks, meeting rooms, cafeteria, parking, and other shared spaces need proper management in a hybrid work model. Space management can give you an accurate picture of how many people you need to have on an average day and show you the trends of demand for this space across weeks and months.
You can determine how many permanent desks could be converted to ‘hot desks,’ or the number of meeting rooms available on a particular day. You can reduce overcrowding in the cafeteria or regulate the parking space. To convert into a flexible one and adopt the hybrid work model, space management is integral to a hybrid workspace management tool.
The Oxford Dictionary defines wayfinding as “the process or activity of ascertaining one’s position and planning and following a route.” Simply put, wayfinding is a set of tools, usually graphics or architectural designs, that navigates a person through space or building to their desired destination.
The purpose of wayfinding is to educate, inform and familiarize an employee to their surroundings. With the implementation of social distancing, our office spaces have changed significantly. Thus, employees returning to the office need to be conversant with their surroundings. Knowing where your colleagues are sitting or which meeting rooms are available is necessary. With wayfinding techniques, navigating your way through becomes significantly easier.
There are different types of wayfinding techniques. And an excellent hybrid workplace tool will integrate it all.
Your hybrid workspace management tool might not give you all the features you are looking for. However, giving the option to integrate with a third-party app seamlessly, your needs can be easily met.
We must understand that integration is not about putting together an assortment of tools but strategically connecting selected software to achieve higher productivity, reduce wasted time and resources involved, and further help your business scale for future growth.
Integration with existing HRMS systems can ensure that you get all your employee information in one place. By integrating with Microsoft Teams or G-Suite, you can find your colleagues faster for better collaboration. Integrating with Slack will ensure a smooth flow of communication. Therefore, a simple integration feature can make the hybrid workspace management tool vital to drive the return-to-office process.
Leveraging an analytics dashboard for your hybrid workplace can enable you to identify the nitty-gritty of the same. Be it recognizing the number of people coming to the office or seat utilization, be it reports on floor occupancy or sanitization status, a detailed analytics dashboard is essential for a well-functioning hybrid workplace.
In the post-pandemic new normal, it is essential to have a bird’s eye view of everything happening in the office. Take a look at this image.
This is the floor plan of an office. A workspace manager can get minute details like where the congregation is at, which desks are occupied, which meeting rooms are currently empty, and so on.
With such insights, planning and preparing the organization for a return-to-office process becomes more manageable.
To Sum it Up
Be it employee scheduling or space management, the primary of a useful tool lies in its management capabilities. WorkInSync is a hybrid workspace management tool that ensures easy and seamless operations. Combining the features mentioned earlier and more, WorkInSync is everything you need to establish and administer a hybrid workspace.
You can opt for a free demo to witness for yourself the array of features WorkInSync has to offer. To stay on top of hybrid workspace trends, subscribe to our newsletter.
Return-to-Office Trends in US Financial Services Sector
Posted on March 12, 2021 by wis_wp
After a long period of uncertainty, banks in the US seem to be doing all they can when bringing employees back to the office.
Several large banks – JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bancorp, M&T Bank – in the last months of 2020 were delaying their return to office – but not without reason.
JP Morgan was one of many banks that resumed work-from-office early but had to stop when employees working out of offices tested positive. Naturally, it is employee safety that most leaders are concerned about.
A few weeks ago, Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan said, “There are a lot of our colleagues that would come back to the office tomorrow if it’s safe. So once the vaccine is in, we’ll adjust to see how that all works.”
With the vaccine’s availability, most expect to resume working from the office by mid-2021.
In this article, we focus on trends, key concerns, and the steps taken by BFSI companies for returning to the office.
Emerging trends in return-to-office
Many banks across the US have adopted innovative solutions to ensure a safe return-to-office for employees. We present to you six key trends:
1. Banks have moved as much of business as they can online by actively encouraging customers to use mobile, online, and voice banking services.
2. To that effect, banking institutions have temporarily closed physical spaces for customers of the services performed online. For example, American Express has stopped operating Centurion® Lounge locations and is handling travel-related queries online. It has also extended work from home policy till September 6, 2021. Speaking at the Citi’s Global Property CEO Conference, the CEO of Amex, Stephen Squeri observed, “I don’t think the work environment as we left it will be the work environment we come back to.” He also said Amex might now consider hiring talent from cities where it does not have offices.
3. Drive-through tellers, which were either closed or turned into ATMs, are making a comeback. It helps minimize contact between employees and customers. Bank of America has gone a step further and set up mobile banking units – including both financial services and ATMs – in a few areas to help customers.
4. Even as the return to office process has begun, there is a greater acceptance of work-from-home. Deutsche Bank, for instance, has been considering letting employees work from home for two days a week.
5. Several banks are shedding office spaces – Llyods and HSBC announced a 20% and 40% reduction, respectively. As reports suggest, most of it is due to employees wanting to work from home. According to Noel Quinn, CEO of HSBC, the cuts were enabled by “a very different style of working post-COVID than we had before.” He added, “They’ll be much more of a hybrid model of people working in the offices, but in a different way, but also working from home when they want to (sic). The reduction of workspace could also be due to the fact the banks could save US$10,000 per employee per year by reducing their real-estate.
6. Rapid adoption of technology has been another hallmark of the COVID-hit times in the BFSI sector, be it online health screening, strengthening IT stacks, or warding off cybersecurity threats. It’s also one reason why top executives want their teams back at the office.
Without a doubt, for most banks, employee and customer safety is a priority. With mutant strains emerging across the globe, and the efficacy of vaccination still unknown, banks are wading uncharted territories for the second year in a row.
Last year most had successfully transitioned to work from home at a remarkable speed – 85% of Bank of America, nearly 90% of Citigroup, and 75% at Wells Fargo went remote in few weeks. While still reeling under the shock of the sudden shift, the leaders of banking and financial services institutions are concerned about making another significant change. Here are the four key concerns when necessitating return-to-office:
1. The primary concern, and one that will have a long-term impact, is culture. Physical workspaces foster cultural engagement through interpersonal interactions. Lack of interpersonal communication could damage the cultural fabric that binds a team together. As Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan puts it, “culture, character, learning, you can’t do a lot of that remotely.”
2. Second concern is the need for personal interactions between employees and clients. Admittedly, the banking sector needs it more than others. When it is about money, significant opportunities, and risks, human interactions become all the more necessary. Another more fundamental aspect of in-person interaction is the human need for it. Commenting on Zoom calls, Brian Chin, head of Credit Suisse, said, “People are having a bit of fatigue over this setup and not being able to see colleagues and actually see clients (sic).”
3. Third one lies in the application, maintenance, and limitation of technology infrastructure. With almost every service moving online, even the most robust processes and solutions are vulnerable to cyberattacks. If not the banking systems themselves, many customers have suffered it. As banks underwent operational changes to cope with COVID, phishing attacks increased by 667% in the past few months.
4. The fourth concern in the BFSI sector is productivity. The jury is still out on productivity. Even as there is evidence of little impact, it varies by roles and people. With changing work habits and an increase in overall digital proficiency, productivity is likely to increase in the time to come.
What steps are BFSI companies taking to ensure a smooth transition back to the office?
Most banking and financial institutions are devising strategies for a partial and gradual return to the office. Given the regulatory scrutiny they attract, the risk management and trading functions were the first to return.
Return of other teams and functions would be largely need-based for now. It would depend on balancing the feasibility of remote work with health risk involved in return to the office. Since the pandemic’s early days, most senior executives have advocated this approach.
With employees’ hesitation to work from shared spaces, operating an office at full strength now looks like a thing of the past. A KPMG report pointed out that only 20% of employees are willing to return full time; another 20% prefer a hybrid model. The vast majority would like to continue working from home, visiting the workspace only for special events.
A Deloitte survey of senior executives at different organizations revealed that the return could depend on the role and the geography.
To allay employee fears and create a safe transition, banks are taking several steps at operational and policy levels, including:
Testing (screening) employees for COVID-19: Many financial institutions have launched testing programs for their employees to facilitate a safe return. While some are using PCR or antigen tests on their premises, others require their employees to check a health check survey through a mobile app before entering a workspace.
Actively implementing social distancing norms: At the operational level, organizations are rolling out seat-sharing policies, staggering work hours, and allocating large rooms for smaller group meetings. Several workspaces also using contact- and workspace-tracing apps to maintain social distancing.
Sanitizing offices: Regular deep cleaning is just one of the many aspects of sanitization. Many organizations are now leveraging smart building management technology to ensure the workspace remains free from the virus. The use of UV cleaning equipment, air quality sensors, thermal screening cameras inspire employees’ confidence.
Redesigning workspaces: Retail BFSI locations, such as bank branches and concierge-style investor centers, are up for a vast transformation. While some centers intend to limit customer access to the lobby, others are putting up plexiglasses that were once limited to tellers. Like the major retail stores, banks are trying to avoid face-to-face interaction wherever possible.
Enhancing customer experience using tech: To reduce the need to step inside a branch, financial institutions are now using Interactive Teller Machines (ITMs). An ITM is essentially an ATM with live video chat that enables consumers to speak to a teller or other ﬁnancial professional remotely. It is an innovative self-service technology that offers personalization without sacrificing safety.
Creating more employee-friendly policies: Adopting a more empathetic approach, several banks and financial institutions have made significant changes to their employee policies. Some of these include:
Paying employees who are absent due to actual or suspected illness, quarantine, and those under high-risk categories
Compensating those who stay home due to branch closures
Opportunity to enroll themselves and dependents in the health care plan
Fee waiver for telehealth consultations
Additional paid leaves to accommodate school and daycare closures
Adopting hybrid workspace models: The concept of work being an activity, distinct from a place, is fast gaining popularity.
Several employees performed complex, client-facing activities from home through the days of the pandemic. To a certain extent, it negates the argument for going back to a full-time model.
Also, given the cost-benefit of a hybrid workspace model, several banks are willing to explore this option. Consequently, they are investing in technology infrastructure to make it sustainable in the long term.
So, should you return to the office?
The return-to-office plans of banking and financial institutions across the US are at different stages of maturity. Some leaders are clear on how do they want to go about it. Others are still quantifying the benefits and formulating such a move’s objectives. However, a few considerations can help you decide better.
1. Have an ambitious plan for the future – Planning only for survival or short-term cost benefits could work against you as and when new avenues for growth open up. An optimistic approach will help you invest in the right technology, processes, skills, and culture. You could make several tactical corrections as you move forward.
2. It is about work – Even as the world debates the benefits of remote work, remember it is ultimately about work. Plan your future operating model by focusing on how work happens rather than where. Yes, real estate cost savings matter, but would that be a deciding factor? Will it help your clients?
3. Nobody knows – No matter what the surveys tell you, the fact is that nobody knows what the future holds. Take predictive surveys and opinions with a pinch of salt. Your business and customer data are the best source of truth. However, the time for which these would be relevant has dramatically shortened. So, make the right decisions fast.
Transitioning from Work from Home to Work from Office
Posted on February 9, 2021 by wis_wp
In the past few months, most of us have faced extended workdays, Zoom fatigue, blurring lines between personal and professional lives, and occasional bouts of social isolation. Such inconveniences make us detest the concept of work from home. On other occasions, it feels like a dream come true. How would you feel if you are suddenly asked to work from office?
A survey by LiveCareer says around 61% of employees want to continue working from home, and 29% would actually quit if forced to return to the office. Businesses, on the other hand, need particular functions to operate from a designated office space.
Given a chance, most executives would like to have their entire teams back.
In a PWC survey,75% of executives expect at least 50% of employees to return full-time by July ’21. That’s in sharp contrast to 61% of employees, who wish to spend only half their time in the office. The transition back to the office could thus be a cause of friction between employers and employees.
Hence, the HR and workplace managers will have to plan and execute a smooth back-to-office program.
What are The Most Pressing Employee Concerns to Work from Office?
Apprehensions about returning to the office are high. A few of these concerns include:
● Health and safety: The concerns about health, due to lack of sanitation and adequate social distancing, loom large.
● Disturbed routines: Work minus the commute and dressing up has made people adapt to a different pace and lifestyle; changes could be upsetting.
● Domestic responsibilities: Just as the routines changed, most of our domestic roles have also evolved. Reverting or figuring out alternatives could take time.
● Change of work environment: Working at an office and working from the comfort of your home are two different things (pajamas no more!). It could adversely affect productivity.
● Change in priorities and workload: As managers find it easy to delegate work in-person, low-priority tasks could start taking precedence. Employees, therefore, expect the workload to increase.
The HR and workplace managers need to decide the best working model based on employee concerns and job requirements.
The working model you choose would vary based on your requirements. Adopt what is best suited for the organization, job titles, and functions in the long run. Here is a list of questions that can help you decide the working model for each job:
a. Does the job involve on-site client interaction? If so, how regularly and when?
b. Is there a need for specialized equipment or facilities? You obviously cannot move manufacturing or testing equipment to homes!
c. Does the job require close supervision, and non-compliance carries a high cost? Take, for instance, auditing!
d. Is it something that requires cross-functional collaboration? Or does it demand frequent interactions between multiple team members? Typically, operations-intensive jobs are difficult to carry out from home.
e. Is it classified or confidential work? Understandably, high-stakes research work or jobs involving innovation cannot be done at home.
Typical Challenges HR and Workplace Managers will Face
After a year-long of wearing pajamas to meetings, returning to the office will not be a comfortable change. Some of the major challenges for HR and workspace managers include:
a. The first challenge would be to make the transition smooth and frictionless. Addressing it would require clearly laying out the objectives, planning, and frequently communicating with all the stakeholders involved.
b. The second challenge would be the breadth of employee concerns like fear, disrupted routines, psychological issues, and reward-risk inequities. Handling these issues will demand high levels of empathy and maturity.
c. Devising policies to fit the new normal will be a massive challenge. Flexibility is no longer a matter of choice; it is one of the most important aspects of hybrid working. According to the PwC US Remote Work Survey, 55% of employees prefer three days of remote work every week. However, 68% of employers want them to be at work for the same time or more.
Therefore, HR and workplace managers will have to spend more time counseling, coaching, and reengineering the culture. Additionally, they will also have to ensure productivity and efficiency do not suffer. Leveraging technology can make the job easier.
Role of Technology – Tools that You Need to Work from Office
Workspace managers can leverage technology to better implement a hybrid model and manage tasks. Here is a list of tasks that can be achieved with technology:
i. Scheduling/rostering: The success of a hybrid working model depends on effective rostering. WorkinSync’s team planner solution can help you do it better.
ii.Productivity/performance management: This will make the review process transparent for both on-site and remote employees, further keeping the perception of reward inequity at bay.
iii.On-site collaboration tools to minimize interaction: With an on-site collaboration tool, the usual work processes can be made seamless. And interactions could be limited to occasions where it is actually helpful or essential.
iv.Recruiting/on-boarding: From gamification of the selection process to virtual coffee chats during onboarding, HR leaders can leverage technology to make the hiring process efficient and effective.
v.Infrastructure (to ensure compliance): Technology could make regulatory compliance a lot easier. For the sanitization requirements, several robotic and AI-based solutions are now available in the market.
Balancing employee concerns, business needs, and expectations of the leadership team isn’t easy. First up, it is necessary to acknowledge that we are in unknown territory. There are no historical precedents or case studies on planning a ‘return-to-office’ program for the entire workforce. The possible repercussions of it are also tough to predict.
The only know-how is that we are emerging from a crisis that has impacted us. It has had a far-reaching impact on our lifestyle, thought process, and wellbeing, both physical and mental. Managing the transition by the textbook rules of the pre-COVID era would be a futile exercise.
The HR and workplace managers tasked with bringing people back to the office must adopt a more humane approach. Being accommodative of employees’ needs and concerns could go a long way in setting up the organization for tomorrow.
With a long-term view, a structured plan, and adequate communication, the transition process can be made smooth and successful.
A workplace study released by Louis Carter and the Best Practice Institute (BPI) says 83% of CEOs want employees back in the office. Aternity report in July 2020 stated that while 85% of employees were working from home, their overall productivity dropped by 14%. Employers could see an increase in healthcare costs, which is already high at $530bn.
Controlling the transmission of the virus can keep healthcare costs in check. Doing so will require a slew of changes resulting in a workspace befitting the new normal. Keep scrolling to know more about how to reopen safely and the best ways to do so.
5 Things You Need to Consider Before Returning-to-Office
Reopening the office and asking employees to come back is a complicated process. You need to consider a few points before you embark on the return to office strategy.
1. Goal/nature of change – Tactical or Strategic?
Before you start to call employees back, decide what you wish to achieve. Has productivity been affected? Is it a particular function or team that needs to meet regularly? Is a collaboration between multiple departments the actual problem?
Deciding if it is a short-term morale-boosting exercise or a long-term strategic move will help you justify the investment in reopening the office.
2. Employee health
Employee health and safety should be your number one priority. A planned and phased reopening will help you implement preventive measures more effectively.
Following social distancing protocols, regularly sanitizing the workspace, and wearing masks at all times are a few factors that need consideration.
Moreover, all group activities need to be controlled by keeping in mind the safety guidelines issued by health departments.
Before you reopen your office, you need to consider the associated costs. For instance, with a hybrid workplace coming forth, do you really need that extra office space? Real-estate is a major cost and needs serious consideration before offices reopen.
Also, the cost of technological infrastructure needs to be evaluated as well. If half of the office population is working from home, how feasible is it to have desktops? Employee healthcare cost has also risen over the last one year. It is a major cost that all organizations need to consider before reopening the office.
If this past year has taught us something, it is to be flexible. It is the key to keep operating. SOPs need to be created, keeping in mind that anything can happen anytime. With flexible workplaces coming to the forefront, it is necessary to keep an open mind when bringing back employees to the office.
5. Review of existing policy
As you reopen, you need to overhaul your policies, like leaves, medical reimbursements, and attendance, to name a few. It is also essential to get health information about the employees and understand their willingness to come to the office. The old policies aren’t going to work. Reviewing and changing them should be one of the major considerations when getting your employees back to the office.
How Technology can Help Reopen Offices Safely and Ensure You Keep it Running
COVID19 has accelerated digital transformation. As Zoom calls replaced meeting rooms and digital passes nullified biometric use, the strategy for returning-to-office revolves much on technology.
Here are eight technological interventions that can be instrumental when opening offices safely.
1.Scheduling and rostering
A phased reopening will call for weekly rosters, prioritizing, and scheduling work. The number of variables involved will be high. Manual management would be an uphill task. Workinsync’s team planner solution factors in employee availability, locations for better work scheduling, and office visits. You can also automate monitoring employee sign-in time and get unified, real-time insights into work hours and productivity.
2.First line of defense: Entry wellness checks
Entrance and lobbies are your first line of defense to fight the spread of the virus. Authorizing entry based on employee schedules and health indicators could prevent unnecessary crowding of spaces. It could also help in contact tracing.
Daily health surveys and apps are already being used by several companies for staff required in the office. Innovative solutions like WorkInSync’s QR-Coded Digi-Passenable contactless entry/exit for employees and visitors. The lobby staff can further screen visitors using contactless thermometers. One effective alternative would be using a wall-mounted thermal imaging camera with facial recognition capabilities.
While the advantage is evident, the downside is the privacy concerns that come with technology that uses personal identifiers.
3. Software for desk and meeting room booking
Open office plans have long been a subject of debate. COVID settled most of it in a single stroke – it made people stay at home and made partitions necessary.
The objective of reducing the number of people at work is to contain the spread of infection. It will remain unrealized if the density of people isn’t reduced by social distancing.
While a rearrangement of workspace might work, coupling it with a technology solution, you can make it more effective. With desk and meeting room booking software, you can prioritize and allocate space based on the requirement. WorkInSync enables your employees to book and view desk allocation with ease. Specific teams can book together while following social distancing guidelines.
Similarly, employees can schedule and book meeting rooms in advance. To top it all, WorkInSync provides ready integration with Google and Outlook calendar.
On the other hand, startups like Density, Staqu, Zensors, and Contatrak monitor occupancy and use spatial intelligence to improve social distancing and contact tracing. Using computer vision, some of these solutions monitor body temperature, employee-count, and density to provide real-time alerts and suggestions.
Even as employees return to the office, it would be impossible to hold group meetings unless you have large spaces. This brings us to the concept of hybrid workspaces, where few activities, like team meetings, continue to happen online.
Regardless of whether you despised in-person meetings, virtual meetings have been frustrating for most. Remote collaboration through video conferencing hasn’t been the perfect substitute. Ambient noises, the absence of tools like whiteboards, and the inability to gauge the body language make it a draining experience. “Zoom Fatigue” is today a reality.
Although Microsoft and Zoom have been working to improve their collaboration tools, there’s a long way to go. Perhaps, that’s the reason why tools like Mirohave registered a surge in popularity over the last year. Such collaborative tools will lead to the evolution and popularity of hybrid workspaces.
5. Employee communication and engagement
With a changing workspace, the modes of communication and engagement too will transform.
If an employee tests positive, timely communication holds the key to limiting the spread of the infection. Mobile notifications, due to their full-time connectivity, are emerging as a preferred medium. Staffbase and Happeo are a couple of companies, among many others, which are prioritizing mobile for internal communication.
Better internal communication becomes vital to manage the performance of a geographically distributed workforce. Many BI tools are now increasingly focusing on this aspect. Although most users might be unaware, Microsoft Teams captures a lot of datarelated to employee productivity.
6. Cybersecurity at office and home
Admittedly, cybersecurity isn’t a new challenge. The scale of digital transformation has amplified the problem, and so has work-from-home.
According to London-based email security platform Tessian, 48% of employees were less likely to follow safe data practices working from home.
While reopening, it is critical to update and upgrade your cybersecurity systems to ward off any threat.
Even as tech majors extend work from home, 2021 will witness the gradual reopening of office spaces. As more people return to the office, the workspace dynamics will not be the same as in the pre-COVID era.
Physical distancing that was innocuously referred to as social distancing may end up actually resulting in one. After seven months of restricted mobility and being stuck at home, people would have developed new routines and work approaches. An abrupt shift or forced compliance would lead to the same discomfort that sudden imposition of work-from-home did. The new office culture will have to assimilate and accommodate the deviances for quite some time to come.
Reopening isn’t just about boosting productivity or employee morale; it should help companies gain momentum and stay ahead of the curve. At the same time, companies should ensure the safety of employees to the best extent possible.
Opt for a free demo today and witness these workplaces transforming features yourself. To stay on top of the hybrid workplace trends, follow our social media channels, and subscribe to our blog.
We are on a steady path to recovery from the effects of the pandemic. The return-to-office has gathered pace in November 2020 and the number of people returning has risen by 10% as compared to March 2020.
With 77% of Indians finding remote working less enjoyable and 65% of people looking forward to return-to-office, it puts into perspective the following numbers. The analysis of employee office commute usage trends by MoveInSync, India’s leading office commute SaaS platform, resulted in the following insights:
375% more people have returned to office in November 2020 than in April 2020. With the arrival of vaccines in early 2021, the number of employees coming back to the office will improve significantly in the coming months.
Mumbai and NCR are leading the return-to-office trends with 26% and 22% of pre-COVID level employees respectively, commuting to the office. Hyderabad and Bangalore have only 5% of employees returning to the office.
A total of 10% has returned to office in metro cities as compared to 20% of the rest of India. The number of employees returning to the office in metros is expected to increase with the arrival of vaccines in 2021.
Women employees are coming back to the office faster than their male counterparts.
The number of employees returning to office varies across different sectors. While Pharmaceuticals have 27% of employees coming back to the office, IT & ITES have been showing steady growth with 16%. Only 2.9% of software companies have their employees returning to the office.