2C — August 20 - September 16, 2021 — Owners, Developers & Managers — M id A tlantic Real Estate Journal


O wners , D evelopers & M anagers By Casey Murphy, NCIDQ, HF Planners Workplace strategies to consider when returning to the office


s we all face the chal- lenges of an ever-chang- ing workplace under

return on their investment and keep their staff both safe and en- gaged. Unlike previous economic downturns or leaps in the US, today’s workplace strategy is affected by COVID-19 and CDC guidelines. This creates a unique challenge for facility managers, which in addition to tracking all trades, must now also fol- low government mandates and recommendations. This includes piloting the difficult political landscape created by the pan- demic. Most of these tasks are required under unrealistic dead - lines as well. The best solution for navigating these difficult wa - ters is to engage a professional

Workplace Strategist. Some of the techniques that will be used to support your “return to the of- fice” are employee engagement, proper space planning, flexible scheduling modules, change management, and enhanced cleaning protocols. Employee Engagement Communication will be one of the most important factors for your future workplace strategy. Listen to employee concerns via surveys, polls and focus groups. A facility manager might be surprised at what they learn from their team. In a recent workplace strategy project for a central NJ campus with

1,100 employees, HF Planners, LLC has learned that 73% of employees want to return to the office, but needed confirmation that their concerns about safety were being addressed. Space Planning A facility manager can bring a level of comfort and meet CDC guidelines through superior space planning. A “neighbor- hood” approach groups em- ployees according to task or department. This can limit the number of people staff interacts with, creating an “inner circle”. It will help promote the face to face collaboration and brain- storming that have been lacking

over the course of the last year. Another simple technique to support social distancing guide- lines is to “checkerboard” your floor plan, by eliminating every other seat. To do so, the existing work stations are reconfigured to provide the recommended person to person “socially dis- tanced” guidelines. Flexibility After having worked from home for more than a year, most employees have come to treasure the flexibility they were afforded. Because isolation and work fatigue are factors to be considered, it is critical to blend the new flexibility with the old face to face interaction that made American offices beacons of brainstorming and collaboration pre-pandemic. A facility manager can support this new balance by creating a “fusion” office by offering con - cierge services to support work from home days with in-office days. This also allows for a re- duced occupancy rate. A reduced occupancy allows for savings in real-estate footprints and main- tenance costs. Cleaning and Etiquette Once the facility manager and leadership teams have come up with a strategy to get employees back into the office, end-users need to know that their space is being kept clean and safe. Desk sharing will cre - ate a call for increased cleaning protocols. CAFM systems and mobile applications can incorpo- rate check-in/checkout features that alert the facilities team. Further, new etiquette and rules will likely be determined by current CDC guidelines. These guidelines are critical for employees to understand and the facility’s expectations of the “new etiquette”. Should we shake hands? Wear masks? Sit and stand farther apart? Can I eat at my desk? A facility manager can post signage that supports and communicates these new protocols. While getting “back into the office” can be an overwhelming task, there are effective means and methods to supporting your team’s return to site. Instead of seeing the shift as a nega- tive aspect, a facility manager with the right tools can save a corporation stress, increase productivity, and preserve flex - ibility by creating a new “fusion” workplace strategy. Casey Murphy, NCIDQ is senior interior designer & project manager with HF Planners. MAREJ

the cloak of a global pan- d e m i c , w e ask ourselves, what does the future of the o f f i c e l o o k like? A work- place strategy is developed

Casey Murphy

when a company seeks ways to improve work space efficiency by improving the environment while utilizing space to its maxi- mumpotential. This allows orga- nizations to achieve the greatest

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