Returning to the office

Workplace management tools have typically been used to measure and manage occupancy and density of office workspace, as organisations do all they can to maximise efficient use of expensive real estate. These same tools can be harnessed to ensure the safety of all users by tightly monitoring and controlling the use of space such as meeting rooms and desks as organisations make their first steps back into office working.

We have been engaging with our customers on a daily basis to learn and evaluate together the best approaches to opening up their offices in a way that ensures the health and safety of all involved. As we adjust to a “New Normal”, we must consider how physical distancing and “Zero Touch” policies can be enforced in our offices.

The following are some of the key areas we have identified to help manage physical distancing , provide employees with important guidance and updates and give facilities managers a real-time overview of how the office space is being used:

Physical distancing in the office

A logical approach to physical distancing and “zero touch” compliance throughout the office will be to use space management software to control who has access to the office, to ensure that usage of workspace is kept to acceptable levels. Organisations are starting to consider opening up with an upper limit of 20% of the building capacity, to see how the flow of people within the space can be managed. This can be implemented through tailored use of Visitor Management and Meeting Room & Desk Management tools and space utilisation sensor technology.

Visitor Management

A flexible Visitor Management solution such as Matrix Booking can help enforce pre-registration of all guests to provide visibility of who and how many people enter the workplace at any given time. It can also provide automated site policy information communications, auto alerts to a guest host on their arrival and provide an audit log of external visitors for contact tracing.

Meeting Room Management

A Meeting Room Management system can be used to double the number of seats per occupant in any room to ensure social distancing, provide mandatory buffer times to allow for cleaning and reduce chances of employees crossing paths at the change over, ensure automated cleaning orders are sent before and after every meeting and offer “zero touch” check in and booking via mobile apps.

Desk Booking Management

This functionality can reallocate desks on a temporary basis for booking by staff. Can blocking out desks in “lattice” formation to ensure socal distancing and provide accurate desk usage reports to dictate cleaning requirements.

Utilisation Sensors

Sensors offer real time measurements of usage of space, have the capability to trigger real time alerts upon certain thresholds and live usage data keeps a record of actual usage and policy compliance.

Workplace usage rules

Matrix Booking provides a suite of over 100 rules and permissions that control access to space reservations. These rules and permissions are easily configurable, enabling your organisation to define the workplace usage rules that will govern the usage of the office. These workplace rules can be easily adapted over time.

These rules include areas such as:

Request Approvals: users can be provided access to book spaces as a request that must be approved. This approach can be used for all or some meetings and other events that require approval from the central Facilities team

Opening Hours: your organisation may restrict opening hours to ensure there is sufficient ability to properly clean shared spaces outside of operational hours

Default Buffer Times: each booking can be configured to have a default setup and set down time as a buffer period. This can be useful to avoid a crossover of people waiting to use an occupied room, and also enabling cleaning teams to disinfect a room after each usage

Booking Permissions: users can be provided access to specific areas of the building based upon their department, Active Directory group or security group. This controls what areas of the building they can book, and what areas of the building they are restricted access to.

Physical distancing in meetings

UK Government guidance suggests that physical distancing of 2 meters is recommended. Therefore when considering the usage of meeting rooms, organisations will need to consider limiting the capacity of meeting rooms accordingly.

A default position may be that each attendee requires double the number of seats to ensure there is a spare seat between each occupant. For smaller meeting rooms, this may mean converting 2 to 4 people rooms into single occupancy if the 2 meter distance is unachievable.

Alerts can be configured on meeting rooms, advising bookers around the changes that have taken place due to physical distancing rules, assuring users that they have sufficient space for their proposed meeting.

Desk booking for working floors

Matrix Booking can be employed to control permissions to book spaces and regulate which desks are accessible. Booking permissions can dictate which teams and departments can use which zones or desks. Furthermore “request approval” permissions can be configured for any defined user groups.

Desks can be marked as unavailable by the administrator, either by configuring their availability directly, or by block booking alternative desks in a “lattice” style formation. This configuration ensures that each bookable desk has the minimum level of space between other bookable desks. Occupants can therefore be kept the required physical distance from one another when using the space.

Real time occupancy monitoring

Matrix Booking can consume utilisation data from occupancy sensors and other sources of space utilisation data. This can be used to publish real time statistics around actual space usage, and trigger alerts if usage exceeds specified levels. These statistics can provide Facilities Managers with real time insight into actual usage levels, and can also be shared with end users to direct them away from highly utilised spaces.

Visitor management and contact tracing

Matrix Booking provides full visitor management functionality, ensuring organisations can track external people visiting the building. Visitors can be added as part of a meeting room booking in advance, and this should be encouraged or enforced across the organisation. An accurate record of who entered the building, and when, will be vital for contact tracing. Therefore it is imperative that end users add visitor details in advance of the meeting. This will also help with minimising traffic in the reception lobby areas.

For those organisations that still use a visitor signing in book, this must be removed as the shared book and pen is an obvious potential transmission point. Organisations may consider disposable paper visitor badges for identification purposes, which must be disposed of once the visitor leaves.

Matrix Booking can email pre-registered visitors with a reference code to print their own badges. In this scenario, a reception or security team member would print the badge on behalf of the visitor, to avoid transmission.

“Zero” touch” functionality

Matrix Booking does provide a range of touch screen devices for functions such as checking into meeting rooms or booking desks on the floor plan. All of these features are possible using alternative interfaces such as the web portal and mobile app, available for all devices including Android and iOS. These interfaces are available to download on personal devices and use of this unique functionality should be encouraged.
End users can check into pre-booked meetings and desks using their mobile device, avoiding contact with any shared “at risk” surfaces and hardware. Push alert notifications are sent to the user stating their booking has started. There is then a single tap to check into this reservation, eliminating the need to interact with any shared signage.

Cleaning work order processing

Matrix Booking provides the ability to book services for meetings. This can be used to drive the delivery of cleaning services after meeting rooms have been used. Cleaning work orders can be sent to the facilities management team as emails, a report or as an interactive, itemised list.

Desk usage reports can provide details around what desks were booked and used by occupants. This can be used at the end of the day as a workflow for concentrating cleaning to those desks.

Reporting and space usage

Matrix Booking provides a range of reports out of the box. These reports are valuable in monitoring usage of the office as usage increases over time. Key performance indicators such as number of occupants, space usage, utilisation and number of visitors will provide trending data that can ensure proof of physical distancing compliance while at the same time recording key contact information should tracing be required.

Publishing important health and safety information

Matrix Booking provides the capability for administrators to publish custom text, links and information to end users. This can be used to publicise health and safety return to work policies, details around booking rules and processes, or ways for people to get in touch to ask questions.

This information can be added by an administrator and is visible to all users in the web portal interface. Furthermore alerts or messages can be set on each meeting room.