Offices are facing several challenges as their employees return to work in an ongoing pandemic. Here, we offer 6 key workplace solutions for managing COVID-19.
COVID-19 has changed the way office buildings operate—not just in the short term, but for decades to come. As new safety procedures are implemented and new tenant expectations are created, property managers are increasingly adopting innovative technologies to manage the return to the workplace.
In the midst of the pandemic, Lane has helped our clients coordinate a safe return to work for their tenants. Working in close partnership with building teams, we have identified 6 primary challenges underlying the return to work, and 6 solutions to address these challenges.
Whether it’s a security breach, natural disaster, or global health crisis, our platform helps managers adapt to changing circumstances, communicate updates effectively, and automate processes across entire buildings and portfolios.
Challenge: Social Distancing
Solution: Mobile Access Control
One of the most obvious challenges facing CRE as employees return to work is ongoing social distancing measures—which may be in flux for many months to come. Trying to manage capacity without the help of powerful technology is not only tedious—it makes social distancing difficult to enforce properly.
With a workplace app like Lane, you can implement mobile access control to ensure that building management has full control and awareness around who is entering the building and when. Additionally, you can use communications tools to ensure all employees are aware of safety protocols in place.
Tools like Lane allow you to manage occupancy with digital sign-ins, room bookings, and access management. That means you can define access at the building, floor, suite, and room level to prevent overcrowding. You can also leverage resource booking tools, which allow professionals to book amenities and rooms digitally, and set capacity limits per time period to promote social distancing.
In addition to access management, you can also ensure the safety of your tenants through remote permissions, which allow you to track guests & deliveries to manage occupancy, coordinate timelines, and minimize risk. Restrict visitor access to specific floors, suites, and/or time windows to manage occupancy and social distancing.
Finally, with Lane’s data dashboard, you can monitor booking data over time to identify over- and under-utilization, allowing you to adapt building practices to prevent crowds, while keeping amenities open.
Challenge: Sanitization & Safety
Solution: Low-touch and Touchless Environments
To mitigate the spread of contagion in the wake of COVID-19, CRE leaders are increasingly looking to implement low-touch and touchless solutions for building, suite, elevator, and room entrances, with the most forward-looking of these solutions putting a tenant’s access credentials directly on their smartphone (rather than a separate fob or keycard).
With touchless entry, you can minimize contact and maximize safety by enabling mobile access via Bluetooth or QR code to minimize surface contact, and grant and modify tenant access without in-person handoffs or paper documentation.
Office buildings will also need to adopt digitized access management systems to make identity, security, and access a breeze across the board, permitting authorized tenants to enter spaces at their leisure via QR codes, Bluetooth, and/or electronic leashing.
With Lane, you can allow visitors to check in on their smart device without putting pen to paper or needing to download the app, while automatically logging guest identities for quick contact tracing. You can even require guests to answer a COVID-19 screening survey on their personal device prior to entry.
Challenge: Health & Safety Communications
Solution: A Powerful Content Management System
One of the most difficult aspects of navigating the pandemic has been communication. Often safety procedures aren’t clear to everyone and are constantly changing from one day to the next.
A powerful content management system (CMS) can provide clarity to tenants, and makes it easy to spread the word on ever-changing rules and regulations. With a tool like Lane, you can send important updates like new hours of operation or COVID-19 alerts via push notification, SMS (text), in-app, and/or email.
Similarly, you can provide tenants with essential health and safety information like cleaning schedules, hand sanitizer stations, screening practices, and social distancing tips—directly to their phones and desktops. And keeping tenants in the loop has never been easier—our COVID-19 Response Package contains pre-built templates, content, and guides that upload directly to the app.
Tenants can also use Lane to provide information to building management. Employees can anonymously report a symptom or illness for immediate building team notification and contact tracing. Tenants can also provide feedback via the app, so you can track your progress and learn how to make employees even safer as they return to work.
Challenge: Organizing a Return to the Workplace
Solution: Offer Tenant’s Flexibility
As restrictions lift and employees begin to return to work, organizations around the world are making changes to their remote work policies. Microsoft, for example, will now let employees work from home permanently if they choose, while Shopify is giving their 5,000+ employees the option as well.
Yet even for businesses that take a more conservative approach, it’s likely that organizations will become at least a bit more flexible with the hours their employees are required to be in the office. Some companies may establish core in-office working hours (e.g., 10 am – 3 pm), for instance, while others may permit certain remote-work days or move certain departments to a remote-work setup.
All of this means that employees—both current and future—will begin to expect organizations to offer a hybrid model in which time in the office is staggered to avoid overcrowding and allow for physical distancing. Tenants will want sometimes more space, sometimes less, holding onto a core office while occasionally augmenting it with meeting rooms, private desks, and collaborative workspaces—whether for days, weeks, or months at a time.
To facilitate this flexible workspace model, property managers need a sophisticated system that allows both tenants and individual employees to book their desks, rooms, and supplementary workspaces in advance.
An innovative building management solution like Lane can help mitigate these challenges by offering the booking, scheduling, and payments functionality required to make implementing more flexible workplace models a breeze.
Challenge: Tenant Engagement
Solution: Intentional Team Building and Connection
For months now, professionals across the world have been working from home. For some, it’s been a welcome change that’s increased productivity by removing commute times and in-office distractions. For others, however, it’s had quite the opposite effect. More at-home distractions have meant reduced productivity and difficulties communicating with colleagues—not to mention the Zoom fatigue experienced by professionals everywhere.
But debates about productivity aside, one thing is almost universally true:
Employees working from home are feeling isolated.
As a result, property managers need to focus on team building, community, and collaboration as employees begin to transition back to the workplace. Specifically, tenant companies will increasingly use the physical office environment as their key tool to keep everyone fully connected in 2021 and beyond.
To facilitate their on-site team-building activities, tenants will increasingly be in need of additional meetup spaces, breakout areas, and rooms dedicated to collaborative work and/or team socials—building amenities that can be offered for quick and easy booking and/or purchase via web and mobile device.
With a smart booking and payments tool like Lane, not only can individual employees book day passes, desks, and rooms for their own use, tenants can coordinate these team-building meetups company-wide as well.
Challenge: Balancing Regional & National Mandates for Return to Workplace
Solutions: Powerful Communication & Logistics Tools
COVID-19 regulations seem to be in a constant state of flux. And, not only are regulations expected to change over time, they are likely to do so in different ways and at different speeds at each level and from region to region.
As a property owner or manager in charge of operations across multiple cities, regions, states, and even countries, it’s impossible to communicate a standard or one-size-fits-all message to your tenants.
To balance regional communications against portfolio-wide ones, you’ll need a communications tool that is powerful yet flexible. The key functionality you’re looking for is the ability to use region-specific targeting to send tailored messages based on the specific mandates for each building or region, while at the same time allowing for national or even global, portfolio-wide announcements. With Lane, you can do exactly that.
In addition to communications, property managers also need a tool that offers powerful and flexible logistics functionality. This will allow you to make quick updates to processes—like changing occupancy limits for specific amenities or allowing tenants to request cleanings—whether at the building-specific, regional, or portfolio-wide level.
This stage of recovery will challenge property managers to become more agile. But if management embraces strong communications and operational processes—backed by a powerful technology like Lane—employees will feel inspired to return to work with confidence.