Like many of you my work of late has been focused around the changing world of work in light of the impact of COVID 19. With large volumes of employees returning to our shared office building, the challenge of managing the risk that this will represent in terms of spread and contracting the virus has been top of my agenda.
After weeks of working apart, like many teams the Spica team are keen to meet up face to face, unfortunately this just won’t be practical, but we will look forward to a time in the future when we can all come together again as a collective.
As and when we are advised by the government that it is safe to do so, we plan to start with a staggered reintroduction to the office. We will look to limit occupancy numbers to support employee distancing. At the moment only a minority are visiting the office on a needs basis.
‘Work from home’ is being replaced by the culture of work from anywhere; some organisations such as Twitter have updated policies to allow continual work from home as an option in future. However, for many of us the reality of working from home full time has lost its appeal over the past few months, I know for me personally its been a real challenge to find a quiet space to focus whilst juggling 2 children and all the pressure of home schooling. For me the key is flexibility and the choice to work in environments that suit the task as discussed by Danny Critchton, Managing Editor at TechCrunch.
Flexibility means adapting our schedules and our locations for the kinds of knowledge work we are trying to do. Some days are all meetings as we try to coordinate a number of projects. Some days we need to shut out the world and just dive down into writing our novels, or developing a new algorithm, or putting together that big presentation for the all-hands meeting next week. Some days we need a mix of both. Some days we need the comfort of home, while other days we need the comfort of colleagues.
How are we supporting staff remotely?
Since the start of the crisis we’ve established a number of direct communication channels to employees, where we can share news and address any concerns. We have a dedicated ‘Corona Virus Wellbeing’ slack channel and also a ‘Home schooling swap shop’ channel for working parents to support each other by sharing ideas and tips.
On a weekly basis we have an all hands team call where we share business news and reach out to the team, allowing them the opportunity to raise any questions they may have. This will continue and employees are now using our dedicated slack channel to notify if they are attending the office.
To help combat the loss of social interaction felt by many of the team we have introduced a ‘Pub Friday’ zoom call. Giving a more informal setting for colleagues to catch up about non work-related topics and maybe enjoy a drink together. We’ve even began to include activities such as quizzes, and a game of through the keyhole where colleagues guess which team mate the shared household images relate to.
We’ve also carried our restart induction training for our teams to ensure everyone is fully informed of the new working practices in place.
How are we adapting our offices?
As part of the strategies to get people back to work there have been changes to the office environment: our office building is implementing many of the same changes to layout as others, meeting rooms and common areas are closed, a one-way system is in place.
We’re installed hand sanitiser stations and provided spare cleaning supplies for employees, even as cleaning services in the building has increased. We’ve removed shared equipment like whiteboard pens from common use. Posters and stickers communicating the changes are in place and we’ve marked adjacent desks as off limits to support maintenance of social distancing.
How is this supported by GemEx?
We’ve long had our GemEx platform (formerly know as Devicepoint®) configured to monitor our own offices, we used analysis of environmental data to identify a need for humidifier units in the office and we added a number of air purification plants to improve the air quality. We even installed buttons for employees to raise instant alerts when we were out of coffee or an opponent was requested for a game of pool. Currently this interactive touch solution has been removed for safety but the occupancy and environmental data is helping us plan our return to the office.
Live occupancy – we monitor out office 24/7 and all employees have access to review how many people are in each office. Employees can use the live displays to:
• Decide whether to travel to the office*
• In real-time when navigating the workplace (avoid queues outside of washrooms and in kitchen areas)
• Find and navigate towards equipment (hand sanitiser stations, one-way system etc)
• Review current guidelines and non-technical measures put in place (one-way system, closed desks)
I am subscribed to real-time alerts if the offices breach new occupancy limits, so that any social distancing concerns can be resolved in real-time.
Environmental conditions – We’re also continuing to actively monitor the environment of the office to keep it in optimal conditions for employee health and wellbeing, especially the temperature and humidity which can impact the ability of viruses to spread. This information is also available in real-time and employees have access to adjust the humidity and ventilation levels in the office.
Reporting – We can use our platform analytics to check whether social distancing measures are working and combine with qualitative survey data to understand how employees are approaching and feeling about the return to work. We will track and plan as office attendance rises and implement new processes and changes if social distancing isn’t working. This will enable us to feedback our findings to employees to reassure them and guide them in their return to the workplace.
How are we working?
Whilst we understand that many business offices may be less busy for a while, Spica Workspace monitoring services will remain fully operational thanks to our robust GemEx Engine platform, cloud-hosted on highly-resilient Amazon Web Services. Similarly, all Spica software development and project service activities are continuing as usual, and we will make every available effort to continue shipping and installing infrastructure where possible.
Whilst returning will be a welcomed opportunity to see colleagues, we also appreciate it will be an unsettling and strange time for everyone to establish new routines. However, this is an important step towards returning to some kind of BAU and eventually in time to be together as an entire team. For now, we need to use the technology at our disposal to ensure that COVID-19 guidelines are being met and to give our employees confidence in returning to the workplace knowing that we have their safety at the forefront.
Like you, ensuring the health and safety of our employees and maintaining operational continuity are our top priorities. Our mobile, paperless workforce culture means our teams remain informed and equipped to continue providing full support to our customers at this time.
*We’re also hoping to install a footfall camera at reception of our shared office which would give us building occupancy. This will provide an added benefit to control and track numbers in a multi-tenanted environment.