How are Asynchronous Collaboration & Real-estate Optimization Related?
Posted on May 10, 2021 by wis_wp
If you’ve been working from home for the past year, you must have been conscious of the green dot next to your name on whatever collaboration you use. And for whatever reasons, you must have paid attention to the one next to your colleagues’ names too. It has a direct impact on your real estate cost optimization efforts. Curious?
That green dot once was a mere indication that a person is online. These days it’s transformed into the “I am available at my work desk” symbol. The difference might not seem like a lot unless you’ve felt the pressure of keeping it green, marking your presence, from 9 to 5 and beyond. That’s presence prison for you.
While work from home has become the norm, the model of working hasn’t changed. So, the expectation of being at someone’s beck and call hasn’t gone away either. Admittedly, it doesn’t work that way when you are at home. There are parenting duties, household chores, and seemingly infinite disturbances that pull you away from your laptop now and then. Keeping that dot green all the time is, therefore, an unrealistic expectation when working from home.
If presence-prison is something you can relate to, here is a solution that might interest you. It starts with few questions.
Is all work urgent?
Does every ping require an immediate response?
Are all virtual meetings necessary?
For most of the workday, do we have to be present at the same time as our colleagues?
Understandably, a large majority would answer in negative.
These points culminate in questioning the imposition of a 9 to 5 physical office work model on WFH. Most workplaces are struggling with WFH precisely because of this approach.
Businesses need to acknowledge the shift of concept of work. It’s no longer a place. It’s a timebound activity to be done by each employee at her own pace. Of course, there will be work that will involve groups. However, it doesn’t translate to mandating all the people to be logged in all the time. It’s unrealistic and creates a lot of unproductive pressure in the organization. How do you let it off?
That brings us to the concept of asynchronous collaboration, which drives home the point that work is an activity. With that acknowledgment, you will be able to rationally assess the office space utilization, which will in turn impact your cost optimization efforts.
What is asynchronous collaboration?
Asynchronous collaboration is work that does not happen at the same time for all parties involved. There isn’t a pre-defined sequence either. With a host of workspace management solutions, it facilitates the functioning of a hybrid workplace in quite a few ways. Broadly, you may look at it as a hybrid workspace management tool.
While everybody puts in dedicated hours, not all employees are present or available at the same time. Here asynchronous applies to both communication and actual doing of work.
Asynchronous communication does not involve real-time interaction. One of your team members leaves a document listing the dependencies that require your attention. You pick it up during work hours and deliver based on timelines. If you have a question, you insert a comment and assign it to the relevant person.
Done conventionally, you will end up with at least two meetings, which may not be the most efficient way of doing it. Why?
As we know it, meetings often have people responding through the top of their minds. Not all responses are well thought, given the lack of enough time to craft one. Also, the discussion points might get lost, missed, or forgotten even as you religiously post that MoM (Minutes of Meeting).
The bottom line is – don’t rush it if it can wait. If you aren’t brainstorming or firefighting, leave that well-crafted note on Slack or the good old Google Document. It’s more efficient and leaves a historical context to check back on for future tasks, follow-ups, or delays.
Not just that, asynchronous collaboration has several other advantages.
The pros of asynchronous collaboration
Switching to asynchronous collaboration has a direct impact on the number of meeting you have in a day.
Despite several pieces of research pointing out that meetings cost money, they refuse to go away. And they have made their way to the post-pandemic new normal, albeit with a different name.
Zoom Calls and Google Meets, coupled with the now ubiquitous “let’s get on a call,” have been a constant source of fatigue. It isn’t the calls themselves but the frequency that causes more damage.
Asynchronous communication can help your organization battle Zoom fatigue by allowing the response time to be set to an employee’s productive hours. With a tool like TeamBuzz, your employees can plan their workdays, set aside hours for tasks, monitor their productive and non-productive time, and do much more. At the same time, it allows employers and colleagues to set their expectations accordingly. Employees can focus on their work without having to worry about the green dot.
When you take the pressure away and provide people more autonomy over their time, it fosters a culture of transparency and accountability.
The other advantage that comes with asynchronous collaboration is a culture of documenting work. Documentation serves two purposes:
It structures the thought process by making people think before they ink. Documenting helps set the context, objective, and execution plan for any reader to reference back when required. Without having to dial up a colleague or spend time setting up a group call for clarification, it makes work more efficient.
More importantly, documentation creates organizational knowledge that has multiple benefits. For starters, it can drastically cut down on the onboarding time for a new employee by providing ready reference material.
The main advantage is the natural fit of asynchronous collaboration and remote work. When you try syncing individuals working in different locations, time zones, and environments, the organizational energy’s lost on replicating an on-premise working model. But is that the right goal to chase? Perhaps not. The resources, instead, can enable employees to be more productive and deliver results. A by-product of this approach is a change in perspective about the need to have a physical workspace. With a successful transition to an asynchronous approach, companies can switch to a hybrid workspace, significantly decreasing their office space utilization.
It’s not that asynchronous collaboration is not without a downside. It has quite a few.
The cons of asynchronous collaboration
Asynchronous collaboration, while providing autonomy and freedom over one’s schedule, places a different set of expectations on the employee. The employees have to stay up to date. They need to consume all information that’s passively shared on the collaboration applications with a notification to boot.
With reduced meeting invitations and interactions, it transfers the burden of staying in touch with the organization onto the employee. Also, it amplifies the less desirable aspects of WFH, such as loneliness, lack of belongingness, and listlessness.
The freedom to work at any time blurs the line between work and personal time. While the environmental shift has already blurred the division between work and home, asynchronous work can further exacerbate the problem.
Increased monitoring of employee productivity is another likely fallout of allowing employees to decide their work schedule. However, an organization’s decision about monitoring depends on several other variables like culture, work, workforce, and overall experience. Nonetheless, it’s a possibility.
How do you make asynchronous collaboration work?
“Whether one should move to asynchronous collaboration?” is a no-brainer. Planning to have a 9 to 5 model for remote work is akin to knowingly force-fitting the familiar into the unknown.
Organizations and workplace managers need to acknowledge the differences between WFH and on-premise work in their entirety. It will provide the much-needed perspective to plan and execute a seamless shift to asynchronous collaboration.
Given the positives and negatives of asynchronous work, you need to plan a calibrated approach for the transition. Categorizing work based on expectations and dependencies would be a good place to start. For example:
Synchronous and collaborative: Group activities that demand on-the-feet thinking like brainstorming, crisis management, or anything where real-time engagement is beneficial Hybrid workspace management tools like Slack, Teams, and so on should prove helpful.
Collaborative yet asynchronous: If you have a culture of sharing daily status updates over calls, you could move it over to each team member filling in a cell on a shared spreadsheet. You could save a lot of time by doing it. You can have less frequent in-person meetings to keep the sense of belonging to a team alive.
Independent, asynchronous work: Are you developing a program that requires deep focus or building a solution where outcome matters most? In such cases, you must share the progress and findings regularly.
Once you’ve categorized work, moving the asynchronous parts to the new model becomes easier.
Employees are working in vastly different environments separated by distance, time, and realities. Focusing on synchronizing something so varied and diversified, HR and workplace managers are draining their energies into a bottomless pit. The organizational perspective about a physical office space gets stuck in time. Consequently, organizations end up taking a lot more space than their actual requirement and hurting their real estate cost optimization efforts.
Today the focus should be on driving efforts and outcomes. It demands using technology that enables the functioning of a hybrid workspace. Chasing a goal that does not improve employee productivity and work efficiency is a misdirected effort, period.
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The pandemic has impacted most industries. Commercial real estate, in particular, was hit badly.
Real Estate cost optimization has become the new focus area for most businesses. For instance, about a third of companies in the insurance, banking, and investment management sectors plan to optimize their real estate footprint this year.
The resulting reduction in office space utilization is leading to a decline in US retail and office price indices by 4.1% and 0.5% YoY. Consequently, real estate consulting has also suffered.
Looking at the current situation, some might say it’s the end of the road real estate consulting. But it isn’t. If anything, 2020 taught us that businesses would go on, come what may. The demand for commercial space will also continue to exist; only its nature will change.
The pandemic has forced a few changes upon the value proposition of the CRE consulting industry. Earlier the array of services included portfolio/asset management, workplace strategy, people engagement, and better workplace utilization.
Going forward, real estate consulting businesses need to factor in the changing requirements of their clients and sell them those benefits. For example, most companies are now actively looking to optimize their real estate costs. To that end, quite a few are exploring the option of creating hybrid workplaces, while others are prioritizing employee safety.
This shift in customer needs has to be responded with changes in the type of services. Commercial real estate (CRE) consultants should strive to meet the new needs replete with workspace management solutions, technology solutions that boost productivity and collaboration. Also, they need to factor in the differences that exist between various clients. The solutions would have to be accordingly modified.
What’s not working currently?
A recent Deloitte survey revealed that 56% of CRE leaders believed that the pandemic exposed the shortcomings in their digital capabilities.
Of the 200 participants, more than two-thirds do not have the required resources and skills for digital transformation. Only 40% can deliver a digital tenant experience – a prerequisite for business continuity as client companies extend WFH for their employees.
Even as the stats reveal that a change is a must, few companies are acting on it. Only 32% of US companies are redefining their approach and creating a roadmap for digital transformation.
Given the reactive approach, fewer companies have been able to develop a structured plan. Most lack the digital maturity to identify the gaps in their existing capabilities. As a result, their digital strategy focuses more on technologies and initiatives without considering the strategic value.
What needs to be done?
In the current scenario, a technology partnership could help shorten the learning curve and ensure business continuity. More importantly, it would offer a distinct competitive advantage. It would help CRE consultants deliver faster on changing client requirements. It’s a need validated by an increasing number of Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) willing to partner with property tech companies. A whopping 58% of companies are actively seeking out prop-tech partners.
To stay competitive, real estate consultants need to focus on three main requirements of their clients:
Real estate cost optimization
Effective office space utilization
Deployment of workspace management solutions
Additionally, they need to focus on elevating the digital experience of their current clients for increased engagement. For example, by providing real-time updates about facilities, automated desk/meeting room booking solutions, and other solutions for regulatory compliance, CRE consultants can address the employee safety concerns of their current and prospective clients.
How can technology partnership help?
Several real-estate companies are expecting a decline in rentals over the next year. They are also expecting an increase in vacancy levels. Adding to their woes is the implementation cost of health and safety measures. The cumulative effect of a decline in revenues and increased costs calls for the use of technology. Investing in technology will help real estate companies and their clients to preserve capital and create a differentiated experience for their clients in a buyers’ market.
An efficient tech solution can provide real-time insights into challenges faced by tenants and also resolve them faster. It will help them optimize costs by tailoring solutions to meet specific client requirements. It can also bring down maintenance costs significantly with IoT-powered predictive maintenance solutions.
With the right technology partner, CRE consultants can offer more holistic solutions to their clients. An ideal solution would include essential bits like tech for collaboration, better connectivity, and digital infrastructure that supports a hybrid working model.
Real estate players with large portfolios need technology to predict risks with a direct impact on profitability. Some of these include tenant-default probability, renewal probability, optimum market prices, and so on.
Taking a long-term view
It is tempting to use technology partnership as a hotfix given the advantages it offers. However, it is equally important to take a long-term view for multiple reasons.
The primary reason is that the behavioral transformation could outlive the pandemic. It’s been more than a year of both employers and employees working differently from what was once the norm. The longer the crisis persists, the greater is the chance that workspace formats of yesteryears may not work in the future. For instance, employees may never again want to be seated within arm’s length of a colleague. Desk booking, pre-entry health scans, reduced office density may become the new norm. So, choosing a technology partner with the capacity to evolve and cater to ever-changing requirements becomes a must.
The other reason is the regulations around office spaces could also undergo drastic changes to prevent the spread of pandemics in the future. The compliance requirements could acquire new dimensions like defining HVAC standards, deciding the area allocation for each person, new entry and exit conditions. All of which may be difficult to manage without technology.
The market has shrunk in terms of square foot requirements. But it has grown in terms of client expectations. CRE consulting businesses need to revisit their value proposition, looking at it from a client perspective. Adding customized technology solutions that address specific client problems in the post-pandemic world can provide a much-needed boost to their business.
Increased scope of CRE consulting services will not only attract new clients but can also elevate the overall tenant experience. Real estate cost optimization and workplace management solutions are two essential components of it. However, both require a considerable amount of time and investment to develop in-house. Therefore, a partnership offers the best way forward.
Workinsync offers a complete range of technology solutions that can significantly enhance the value of your services. It can help you provide a better and differentiated experience from the competition. A distinct competitive advantage is all you need to survive and thrive in a market that has shrunk and is likely to stay that way for some time to come.
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Understanding Burnout & 5 Tips to Marking Work Boundary
Posted on April 22, 2021 by wis_wp
So much is changing around us. Be it our schedules, work preferences, or even the way we choose to work; everything is changing rapidly. Even though new work models have come under the spotlight, post-pandemic burnout is real. We are still struggling to set up a work boundary.
With this blog, we attempt to bring to light what burnout truly is and provide tips to deal with it.
Sounds interesting? Keep scrolling to read.
Burnout: A Lack of Work Boundaries
According to Small Business Trends, 80% of employees feel overworked. Most of them pointed out that high competition and the need to stand out forces them to work extra hours. This ultimately leads to massive burnout.
In 2019, a survey revealed that 74% of marketers feel burnout. In the US, 49% of employees leave their present companies because they feel overworked. Many experts have cited that work pressure and other factors such as longer commute time and lack of work-life boundary can also cause burnout. Many chimed that the on-site work model was highly responsible for exhaustion.
The pandemic introduced remote working for most employees in almost all industries, but that didn’t reduce burnout. A recent survey conducted by FlexJobs and Mental Health America found that 75% of people experienced burnout at work; specifically, 40% experienced it during the pandemic. With pay cuts rampant and work pressure increasing, the situation around us is stressful. The fine line that separated work from home is increasingly diminishing, and of course, there are worries over job security.
All of this has only made burnout worse. Some even say that burnout has become a constant complaint in the new world era. However, by marking work boundaries, a solution to burnout, especially during this pandemic, can be achieved. The process is not simple; nevertheless, we have listed five ways you can mark work boundaries to reduce burnout.
5 Tips to Perfectly Mark Work Boundary
According to the author and motivational speaker Tony Gaskins, “You teach people how to treat you by what you allow, what you stop and what you reinforce.” Here we have listed five ways to set healthy boundaries at the office to work smarter and increase your productivity.
Start with you and your boss each creating a separate list of all the tasks you believe you are being held responsible for. This exercise can be eye-opening as, most of the time, there are discrepancies between the two lists.
The second step would be to prioritize the tasks you think you should be focusing on
The last step should be to negotiate on agreed-upon priorities and fix the same
Clarifying your tasks with your manager can ensure that you don’t end up doing extra work.
2. Set Your Limits
Even if you have clarified your tasks, you need to set your time limits. For instance, if your work hours are from 9 am to 6 pm, make sure you do not engage in any office work after that. Inform your colleagues that you won’t be answering calls or emails. If you are unavailable for a particular day, inform your manager. By setting your limits, you ensure that nobody can violate your work boundaries.
You can use apps like WorkInSync, which allows you to set up your time boundaries.
3. Communicate Clearly
Once you set your limits, you need to communicate them clearly and confidently to your manager and colleagues. For instance, if you don’t want your team members to contact you after 7 pm, tell them exactly when you will be available for work conversations. If you don’t like to be contacted unless it is an emergency, make sure to outline what constitutes an urgent matter. You should address any violation of your work boundary immediately to avoid confusion.
4. Delegate When Necessary
Being a good leader means delegating your tasks. If you are expected to do the work of 50 people, which makes you feel overwhelmed and burnt out, chances are not only that you are not delegating your tasks, your productivity is also taking a massive hit. Delegating is a skill that can help you go a long way as a leader. Learn to let go, trust your team and play to their strengths. On the plus side, this is the healthiest way to set a work boundary.
5. Create a Structure
One of the best ways to create structure – and thereby establish a boundary – is to have an agenda. An agenda is a more efficient process and positions you as a professional and capable leader. When setting an agenda, ensure to include a start and end time along with topics to discuss. Also, conduct weekly catch-up sessions to avoid wasting your and your colleagues’ time.
Burnout is an obstacle that most employees face. This pandemic has made only more apparent. Most organizations lose employees to burnout. Thus, it is essential to mark your work boundaries. Say “No” when it is required. Always remember, a happy employee influences a growing organization.
WorkInSyncallows you to mark your office time and highlight your out-of-office hours to ensure that you can mark your work-life boundary.
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 Hybrid Workplace Model Trends of 2021 You Need to Know
Posted on April 5, 2021 by wis_wp
Since COVID-19 upended our lives, employees worldwide started settling into the rhythms of remote work. As the dust settles, companies have started thinking about the best way for their employees- namely, the hybrid workplace model.
A study conducted by SIEPR ( Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research) revealed that 55% of US workers want a mixture of onsite and remote working. Employers expect the proportion of remote workers to increase from 18% pre-pandemic to 37% post-pandemic in the UK. In China, employment expert Alicia Tung has predicted that there will be a 60/40 split of onsite/remote work in the next ten years’ time.
Thus, it is safe to say that hybrid workplace models are the future. Marco Minervini, an organizational design researcher at the business school INSEAD in Singapore, noted that different hybrid working models would rise amid the ongoing uncertainty. A combination of remote work with onsite work.
The hybrid work model provides more freedom around when and where to work. It grants more autonomy to employees to fit work around their lives, rather than structuring their lives on a weekday around hours spent in an office. Ideally, it is the best of both worlds- structure and amicability on one hand and independence and flexibility on the other.
While hybrid is key to understanding the more flexible future of work, it encompasses different trends. This blog puts together many of these trends for you to plan better. Keep scrolling to learn more.
Workplace safety isn’t just a topic for manufacturing and warehouse. With the oscillating COVID cases, employees opting to return-to-office want safety. Employers need to devise policies and procedures that ensure all employees feel safe. Undertaking health surveys, recording temperature, developing sick leave policies, and warranting a sanitization process is a must.
Studies have shown that coronavirus doesn’t spread in open spaces or places with good ventilation. Before returning to the office, consider installing high-efficiency air filters and better ventilation systems to reduce workplace interiors’ viral load.
Identify thepotential hotspots at your workplace. Consider all the high-traffic areas and touchpoints of your facility. This could include door handles, elevator buttons, lobbies, cafeteria, bathrooms, and light switches. After recognizing such places, plan to mitigate risk in those areas with additional cleaning and disinfection efforts.
Install contactless access system throughout the office. This will ensure that your employees will have touch-free access to and inside the office. Ensure that employees maintain social distancing protocols.
Safety is not an option. It is a necessity. Therefore, protocols to ensure maximum safety will be the top trend as employees return-to-office.
Before the pandemic, flexibility was a perk. However, post-pandemic workplaces will see a rise in flexible schedules. To attract and retain talent, flexible schedules have become a necessity. Offering this flexibility can benefit your company as well. Providing flexible schedules can increase morale and productivity while also reducing stress.
As an employer, you will have to recognize your workforce’s needs and desires. You need to understand your employees’ concerns and work with them to develop flexible work schedules. Employees value flexibility. You need to acknowledge where remote work is more effective and prepare a schedule accordingly. The return to work process will be effective only when employees are on board.
A PWC survey also revealed that 58% of employees, when asked in a survey how they feel about remote work at their company, want to work remotely at least 3 days a week. 43% of executives prefer flexible schedules or want to be back in the office as soon as possible. With people having varied opinions, flexible schedules will rule the workplaces in 2021.
Trend #3: Dispersed & Decentralized Global Workforce
Before COVID-19, there was a subset of full-time remote workers. However, the pandemic forced organizations to be more flexible. This has resulted in companies seeking out talent rather than talent seeking companies. An HBR analysis shows that companies listed 33% more skills on job ads in 2020 than they did in 2017. Organizations cannot reskill their existing workforce fast enough to meet the requirements. Thus, they will hire more remote freelance workers.
83% of employees are relocating due to remote working, and 20% have already done so either permanently or temporarily. Essentially, the workforce has become dispersed and global.
Companies like Nationwide and REI have also decentralized their offices to reduce real estate costs and keep employees safe. Nationwide has been working-from-office in four main corporate campuses and has allowed remote working in all other locations. REI has sold its headquarters and moved its employees to multiple locations allowing complete work-from-home.
This dispersion and decentralization have opened numerous avenues for job seekers in second-tier cities like Austin and Denver. And if experts believe that this is not going to change anytime soon. Thus, becoming a major trend this year.
Trend #4: Scaling Technology for Better Mental Health
Digital technology has become more critical than ever. While companies found Zoom and Slack apps to ensure the smooth running of operations, they need to find a permanent solution to maintain company culture in a hybrid workplace model. Engaging with employees scattered across various locations can be a challenge. However, leveraging technology can help ensure better mental health for your employees.
Even with employees on-site, you can host meeting online. You can conduct networking or team-building exercises online. If you want to retain your employees, you need to take care of your employees during this difficult time.
There are many wellness apps like Calm, Headspace, Classpass, BetterHelp, and Virgin Pulse, which help you deal with stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Adobeoffers employees virtual well-being seminars, 24/7 counseling services, and complete access to Calm and Headspace.
The stigma surrounding mental health is finally shattering. Using technology to support them can result in a lot of positive. And there is no doubt that this will become a massive trend in the hybrid workplace model.
Trend #5: Change in Real-estate Portfolio
The introduction of hybrid workplaces has lead to a reduction in office real estate. In a study conducted by PWC, 31% of executives anticipate the need for less space due to the number of remote workers increasing. The need to align real estate strategy with the hybrid workplace strategy is gaining momentum.
Most companies are evaluating their real estate strategy to enhance the experience of all those employees returning to the office. In fact, many executives are considering taking up the opportunity to get creative with the workplace. The goal is to create a workplace that enhances collaborations and company culture at large.
An increase in collaborative hubs, the introduction of private offices, and the implementation of social distancing are some of the changes we can expect in the office real-estate scenario. Space needs will now be dictated by the number of workers in the office each day, space required to be productive and meet health safety concerns.
Whether companies will reduce their existing real estate footprints as they move to more remote work models or use flexible office space to meet fluctuating space needs is a trend that will dictate most of the hybrid workplaces in 2021.
The introduction of the hybrid workplace model is a testimony to changing landscapes. These trends are only a few of many. You can also read here the top features a hybrid workplace management software should have. To stay on top of these trends, subscribe to our blog now.
Hot desking – A Must-Know Hybrid Workplace Concept
Posted on March 30, 2021 by wis_wp
Have you always longed for that “seat with a view” in your office? But only if you land up at the office before everyone else in the morning could it be yours? And to ensure that you sit on it every day, you need to reach early daily. Well, in a nutshell, that’s hot desking for you.
No strict or permanent assignment of seats – people can take up a desk of their choice from what’s available.
With offices reopening and people returning to the workplace, concepts such as hoteling and hot desking are gaining momentum in the hybrid workplace scenario. While we have already covered hoteling, it is time to explore hot desking.
Originating in the 16th century to utilize bunk beds on ships, hot bunking as it was known was quite popular. Sailors working in rotational shifts would share the bunks. As for offices, hot desking became a thing in the 1990s as employees would take whichever seats were available to them. Like all management theories, hotdesking became an in-thing for multiple reasons. Of which the three most popular ones are:
Better collaboration and productivity
Improved interdepartmental rapport strengthens relationships and promotes teamwork. It also provides a crucial insight into the functioning of other teams. Believers, thus, say hot desking fosters a more collaborative work atmosphere and boosts overall productivity. Surveys prove that 70% of managers and 87% of employees say flexible work arrangements increased their productivity.
Space utilization and cost-saving
More often than not, a certain percentage of your workplace goes unutilized for various reasons. Here are utilization rates in the pre-COVID era with remote work at its pinnacle.
It isn’t just space – it’s cost. It could be significant to have multiple offices or pay-per-seat in a shared workspace. Hot desking could save you that money.
Say, the sales team is visiting once every week for reviews. They could use the desks of people not in the office that day. You think it would be chaotic? Absolutely not – if you use technology to book desks and have it integrated with your attendance systems.
It is the aspect of cleanliness that makes hot desking so relevant today. As employees are more likely to clean up after a day’s work, it helps the housekeeping staff to sanitize the desks with lesser obstructions.
What are the common challenges in hot desking?
A flexible seating plan like hot desking sounds brilliant as a concept. However, it comes with its challenges. At best, these can be overcome with time and tactical planning. The most common ones are:
Teams usually sit together because it promotes easier and better collaboration. Traditionally, managers prefer this setup as it aids better supervision and guidance.
Hot desking disincentivizes running up to a colleague’s desk for small queries. This is a major shortcoming of the strategy.
Approach to on-the-job training undergoes a drastic shift
Imagine you have just joined a company. For the first few days, you need to know your team, how work happens, and learn about your new job. The best way to do it is to be seated close to your reporting manager or the team.
By the time you reach, you find no desks around where most of your team is seated. How do you cope with that? Your designation, years of experience, and seniority do not matter – it’s a new company, and you need to learn. On the face of it, hot desking seems to be the problem.
Impromptu meetings take a backseat
It isn’t a problem limited to new employees. If you have a quick update to disseminate, you would prefer to do it by turning your chair around than gathering your team in the meeting room. Inviting 5-6 people from different parts of the building for a 2-minute session doesn’t quite make sense.
Apart from the above three, the other popular argument is that most employees dislike uncertainty and frequent changes. A fixed desk is a manifestation of stability, certainty, and belongingness. Hot desking disrupts it to a certain extent.
Is hot desking the right option for your company?
An essential prerequisite is the actual availability of unutilized space. You can save costs on that space or utilize it better through hot desking.
In a hybrid workplace model, hot desking success depends on several factors, like the nature of work, team size, space availability, and demographics. To make it work, you need to consider all your business’s realities. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t exist.
Hot desking might be a challenge for large teams within each function. However, it is still possible within areas or designated floors.
With a detailed plan and clarity on the objectives, hot desking is a strategy that works for many. You may pilot it with a lesser number of employees. But given the pandemic scare, ensure all safety measures are in place before acting on your plans.
How to implement hot desking, what are the next steps?
Going the hot desking way without technology supporting you would be unwise. Ad hoc desk allocations would lead to chaos and increase the threat of the virus. (Remember it stays on for 4-72 hours on different surfaces.)
Once you have ensured all safety measures in place, you need to have the right technology to enable hot desking.
Hot desking requires a desk booking application, but it isn’t the only solution. You need to digitize your entire workplace management with a host of tools to reap the benefits of hot desking.
Here are a bunch of solutions that could make your hot desking strategy a resounding success:
1. If you have just begun, you need a return-to-office planner to streamline the process. A planning tool will help you decide the number of employees you need to call in on a given day.
2. A team planner can help you know employee’s availability to manage work schedules and seat availability better.
3. In the COVID hit times, you need to couple it with employee seat management to implement social distancing guidelines without adversely impacting space utilization.
4. For desk-on-demand, you need technology to know which seats are occupied and those that are available. Three types of solutions can help you do it:
Passive Infrared (PIR) Sensors: These are essentially infrared motion sensors connected to a central desk management system. It collects data in real-time and provides a list of available desks.
Image Sensors: Also referred to as smart-sensors, these overhead detectors are used to determine desk occupancy, location, and count. Often a single sensor can monitor up to 10 desks in regular times sans social distancing.
Docking Stations: Unlike the other two, it does not involve an external sensor. Employees need to dock their laptops and enter a code for the seat to be marked as “occupied.”
5. You would also need an intelligent meeting room booking solution that readily integrates with your desk management solution. The seats left vacant during the meeting can be used for visiting sales personnel for an hour or two.
6. A cafeteria slot booking tool can help employees plan and schedule their visits in advance. By syncing it with the desk management solution, housekeeping staff can sanitize the desk space between the café visits. Also, employees do not have to worry about someone else taking it over in their absence.
If you plan it well and leverage technology in execution, hot desking would transform your workplace for the better in the long term. Manual planning of hot desking and reliance on spreadsheets has proven to be grossly inefficient for many in the past. It is a brilliant strategy that works like nothing else when coupled with technology.
WorkInSync offers the best hot desking solution. You can opt for a demo to witness the full-capacity of hot desking benefits.
A year of working from home has taught us valuable lessons. Employers have started acknowledging that work-from-home is, after all, not that bad. Work can be completed, and productivity can be high. Employees who longed for it earlier don’t find it as enticing.
While WFH effectively helped limit the virus’s spread, it isn’t a long-term solution. As the pandemic continues, returning to our pre-pandemic phase is not really an option. Therefore, the need to find a middle-ground. And this middle-ground is what we call a Hybrid workplace.
What is the hybrid workplace model?
A hybrid workplace is a model where some employees work from the office while others work remotely, all enabled by technology.
Modern tools like video calls, online meetings, document sharing, and a suite of collaboration apps enable geographically-distributed teams to function and succeed.
The first step to designing a hybrid work model is identifying the objectives, list the critical success factors, and evaluating the major challenges. When designing a new workplace model that can potentially change our offices’ faces, it is necessary to establish a clear roadmap. And you should also have definitive metrics to measure success.
What should be your key objectives while designing a hybrid workplace?
It is easy to lose sight of the goal when you plan a big transformation. Keeping in mind the following considerations would help you stay on track:
1. Ensuring employee well-being and safety: Remember what drove you to this transformation. It may be tempting to overlook a few safety concerns to squeeze in a few more people. But a hasty decision could jeopardize the health and safety of others. So, cap the number of people you can have in the office at any point in time. And stick to it!
2. Balancing flexibility and security: Hybrid workplaces are all about striking the right balance. While you set out to build a flexible workplace by enabling employees to work remotely, the security risks increase manifold. So, make sure you budget for enhanced security and privacy infrastructure at the planning stage itself.
3. Driving technology adoption: A large majority of workspace and HR managers would agree that it’s easier to shortlist and shop for productivity tools than drive its adoption. Ensuring you have adequate IT implementation and training staff at hand is one of the prerequisites to transform into a hybrid workplace. What good is it to invest in tech that would lie in the garage unused?
What are the common challenges in designing a hybrid workplace?
Going hybrid may not be an option but necessary for quite a few businesses. However compelling may be the need to go hybrid overnight, it comes with challenges.
After weathering the storm that was COVID-19, an ambitious transformation goal without meticulous planning would be a recipe for disaster. Here are the most common lapses that could lead to a hard landing:
1. Designing policies to suit the physical infrastructure: Changes to physical infrastructure are relatively easy to carry out – your floor plan and desks will not protest. If you change policies every second day, employee frustration is a given. Treat physical infra changes as fluid and policies as more static.
2. Using old metrics in new ways of work: Counting work hours, judging employees on the speed of their response, or evaluating engagement based on the frequency of their replies on Slack or Teams, are simply a recast of your old biases in a now redundant work environment. Align your objectives and communicate your expectations in terms of productivity.
3. Viewing onsite and remote employees through the same glass: One of the most common pitfalls is the inability to be cognizant that you have two sets of employees working in different realities. It is easy to get frustrated over delays caused due to remote work when your benchmark lies in a distraction-free environment equipped with adequate infrastructure. Hybrid models can bring in a new dimension of situational diversity in an already diverse workplace. Managing it requires learning and patience.
What are the tools you need?
A hybrid workplace aims to create a central platform between the two ends of on-premise and remote work. This platform is a combination of three sets of tools:
1. Collaboration tools: Collaboration tools like Slack and Teams focus on enhancing productivity through features like file sharing and management, email and calendaring, integration with task tracking apps, and a chat-based interface.
2. Communication tools: Although collaboration tools offer communication features, solutions like Zoom and Google Meets have been finding new users. One of the possible reasons for their popularity could be their product quality; the other could be their large user base that attracts more users. These serve multiple purposes like recruiting, onboarding, employee engagement, apart from regular team meetings.
3. Automation tools: Automation tools are more about establishing a hybrid workplace, unlike the other two that have been enablers of a remote model. Hybrid workplaces would thrive on extensive planning. Right from the floorplan to scheduling employees, booking meeting rooms, maintaining social distancing protocols – all of it would be more efficient with automated planning and execution.
What are the must-haves while developing a roadmap?
In a hybrid workplace, workforce management revolves around the axis of productivity and not just attendance. You must ensure the following are in place to be successful.
1. Well-defined policies and guidelines: Most organizations, which have traditionally allowed remote work, would have policies for it. But hybrid workplace policies are different. It isn’t the case of few employees working from home for a day or two. A significant part of your workforce would be contributing remotely for an extended duration, while another set would be on-site. Given the different work environments, using the same measures of performance, or indicators of the engagement level, may lead to gross inequities.
Say, measuring output in a given number of hours might unfavorably tilt the balance towards people working from the office. It could happen as people working from home need to shoulder household or parental responsibilities. However, to compensate, they may put in more hours at work.
2. Empathetic approach to management and leadership: One of the most discomforting experiences for leaders during the lockdown has been the inability to monitor work. Many managers relied on sight to see if their teams were working. It’s also easier to set up expectations and follow up in a physical workplace. In a hybrid setup, the approach changes.
Working in a virtual environment, the managers need to use a more empathetic and supportive approach, leveraging tech tools to ensure their teams remain productive.
3. Technology that suits your organizational needs: It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that WFH was possible only because businesses invested in technology infrastructure. For a hybrid model, new variables enter the equation, placing unexpected stress on the current tech stack.
As a result, business leaders need to reassess the tech needs of different functions and teams, enabling them to succeed in a model different from WFH.
4. Communication that provides a level playground for all employees: Communicating guidelines and policies and staying in touch with your team helped businesses successfully implement the remote work model. Does that bode well for a hybrid workplace?
Think of a meeting going on in a hybrid workplace. Members in the room are privy to side-talks and more tacit communication in the room. People attending it through Zoom can listen only to the speaker. A situation like this could work to the company’s disadvantage as a whole.
Therefore, a more appropriate way of conducting meetings in a hybrid workplace would be to have all team members attend virtually – people on-premise can log in through their desks.
How do you implement a hybrid workplace?
Like any initiative, you need to create an employee buy-in for implementing a hybrid workplace model. However, the current situation concerns your team’s health, safety, and well-being. Therefore, a healthy dose of empathy and keeping the process human would help you attain better success. Here’s how you go about it:
1. Create a buy-in: Listening to employee-concerns, and involving them right through the planning process will help you avoid last-minute setbacks. Run employee surveys, document the data, and maintain transparency throughout the process.
2. Make your physical workplace safe: Sanitization and social distancing norms are just two components of a safe workplace. Use technology for regular sanitization reminders, screening, and testing employees, automate desk and meeting room bookings, revisit floor plans, add more safety equipment, and limit the number of people on the floor. Communicate all the safety measures to your employees regularly and in-advance.
3. Develop hybrid workplace guidelines: Guidelines for WFH are different from a hybrid workplace. Thinking through various situations and cases, you can develop a comprehensive yet easy-to-understand set of guidelines. List the dos and don’ts clearly, with no space for ambiguity. Also, strive at establishing an even playfield for employees working remotely.
4. Communicate with your employees: Bringing about a change after months of WFH, you are dealing with inertia mixed with the fear of COVID-19. A sudden change may be upsetting. Hence, it is a must to communicate the reasons behind shifting to a hybrid workplace model. When announcing the plan, back it up with data and the benefits.
Every transformation exercise starts with an objective. Measure the success against those objectives. Following is the process to measure the success of your hybrid workplace model:
1. Identify a baseline to measure results: If the goal is to increase productivity, decrease lost-opportunity, or human error cost caused by remote work – quantify your as-is.
2. Establish KPIs: The digital transformation KPIs work for hybrid workplaces. These can be technology cost per employee, workplace & technology utilization rates. Human resource management can be another dimension for your KPIs – attrition rates, employee satisfaction, and so on.
3. Incorporate qualitative insights: As we all undergo a massive change, numbers cannot comprehend the real picture. Incorporating behavioral insights and anecdotal evidence may prove helpful in the long term.
Examples of companies that have implemented hybrid workplaces
2021 is witnessing the emergence of hybrid workplaces. The ones that made it to the headlines for successful implementation are:
Starting 2021, HubSpot provided three options to its employees – office, flex, or home. The office option entails employees working from the office for three or more days a week; flex two or less and home means complete WFH.
Figma conducted extensive surveys to understand what its employees wanted in a design-software company. It rolled out two options – Hubs and Remote – along with a few policy changes. The employees visit a workspace with fewer people for two specific days a week under hubs. The other option is to go remote completely.
Dropbox announced its Virtual First program in October 2020. Remote work will be the primary mode of engagement for all day-to-day work.
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.