December 01, 2021
— Kasper Ullits (CPO/Founder)
Challenges of the hybrid workplace #5: Managing a hybrid office
Desk management systems, activity based working zones and the office of the future – the hybrid work model is changing the role of the facility manager.
When employees are given the flexibility to choose where they work from, organizations need a way to add structure to this flexibility or it will turn into chaos.
While many organizations have made do with spreadsheets, shared calendars, and instant messaging services to coordinate who’s working in the office and who’s working from home, that solution only works for smaller ventures and even then, it doesn't allow you to fully benefit from the hybrid work model simply because the data will be too scattered to give you a good overview of where employees choose to work from.
During the pandemic, coordinating schedules to ensure social distancing within the office has mainly been handled by facility management, and this has led to a change in the role and responsibilities of facility management.
This change presents several challenges, but a hybrid work model also provides several opportunities. Before we get into that, however, let’s look at the new role of facility management.
The new role of facility management
The turn towards hybrid work has changed the role of the facility manager. In a report on the impact of COVID on facility management published by Deloitte, a group of facility management experts identified the shift from purely operational to a more strategic position as the primary change in the role of facility management.
One of their main takeaways was that facility management will play a key role in how the workplace will evolve post COVID.
This change in role from operational to strategic is not just a side-effect of working from home during COVID, it is directly tied to the hybrid work model.
In many cases, facility management will be situated in the center of a workplace transforming to match the work force and this brings the opportunity to align the new office environment with an in-office workforce which may change in size from day to day.
The flexibility of employees is a challenge for facility management
While flexibility is one of the main benefits for employees when it comes to the hybrid workplace, it is also the source of one of the new challenges faced by facility management teams as the flexibility of employees needs to be mirrored in contracts with facility partners.
Let us take cleaning as an example.
During COVID many cleaning suppliers were willing to readjust their scheduling, so offices were cleaned daily without changing the total hours of cleaning each week. * But COVID was an extraordinary circumstance to say the least, and while the needs for intensified cleaning will hopefully end with COVID, the need for flexibility won’t.
If your organization implements hot desking as part of your transformation to a hybrid work model, for instance, it will change your need for cleaning from its pre-pandemic schedule even after the pandemic ends.
With the number of employees in the office changing from day to day there is a real benefit to having flexible facility partners, as it will allow you to match the changing needs of the office, which means that flexibility will play a significant role in choices made when selecting new facility partners.
What is a desk management system and how can it help?
A desk management system or desk booking tool is a piece of software which is used in hot desking environments to book desks, but it’s more than just the bits of code used to make sure each employee has a desk when they show up.
The biggest asset for facility management teams, when it comes to desk management systems isn’t the ability to manage desk usage (although that is a big draw), it is instead the ability to benefit from the hybrid work model as a whole.
Even if you manage to negotiate 100% flexibility on the contracts with your facility partners, you still need a way to easily figure out how many people will be in the office at what times.
How to best handle this will depend on your organization, and while access to a dedicated desk management system will certainly help, a procedure for how and when employees book their desks is the real key to letting you benefit from the flexibility of your contracts.
The benefits of the hybrid workplace for facility managers
Creating an office environment which caters to the needs of a hybrid workforce will be a challenge, but it is also among the deciding factors in getting employees to want to return to the office. *
Along with the responsibility of getting a workforce accustomed to working from home excited about going to the office, there is also an opportunity to benefit from the hybrid work model on a more fundamental level – if you manage to negotiate a high degree of flexibility in contracts with suppliers and subcontractors.
Make your office safer
COVID isn’t the only reason to keep a clean office, and while the ability to readjust cleaning was negotiated to fit the needs of the pandemic, it can become a powerful tool to ensure the health of employees when the days of the pandemic are behind us.
Adjusting your cleaning schedule to match both the season and the number of employees working from the office has the potential to reduce the number of days each employee is sick.
Reduction of food waste
Another big opportunity when it comes to negotiating flexibility with your facility partners is catering. Every time an employee decides to work from home, the kitchen won’t need to prepare food for them.
With access to information on who’s working in the office on specific days, you will be able to scale catering to match the number of employees in the office, which in turn will help reduce food waste.
Benefiting from the hybrid work model
Over the course of November, we have been running a series of articles on how to overcome the challenges of the hybrid workplace; how to best handle desk booking, how to find and collaborate with your colleagues, how to overcome the challenges of unused desks, how to manage your hybrid team, and how to manage your hybrid office.
And while we have been talking about the challenges, we have also uncovered several benefits which are tied to the hybrid work model and from the looks of it, the challenges of the transformation are far outweighed by the long-lasting benefits of a hybrid workplace.
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