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A clear trend stemming directly from the coronavirus pandemic is the permanent shift to hybrid work forces. Currently, many companies are in the starting stages of this shift, which means managing the slow and safe return of workers with jobs that require them in the office at least some of the time for peak productivity. But even once this early process is handled and COVID-19 is an unhappy memory, many companies intend to maintain a hybrid work force that amounts to a much smaller work population in centralized offices.
Envoy seeks to attract customers at all stages of the hybrid work force transition. For those thinking of having employees come to offices on a rotating basis, providing a safe and efficient access control and hot desk solution is key as is effective space management to maintain safe distancing between employees as well as to track hot spots and safe destination routes. Envoy provides visitor, mail delivery, and room management solutions but is now using that base to deliver a hot desk solution as well.
What is Hot Desking?
Traditional hot desking is where no employee is tied to a single desk. Instead desk space is pooled and then doled out in whatever reservation system makes sense for a particular business, most often first-come, first-serve. Workers sign in, have their credentials verified, and then are assigned whatever desk space or work station comes up next in the reservation system.
Currently, many health organizations, including the CDC, are recommending against this kind of hot desking because that system necessarily has employees sitting in multiple locations, and therefore touching more furniture and equipment. However, COVID-19 is creating an even more flexible form of hot desking intended to help employees decide whether they want to work at home or in the office on a particular day. If it’s the office, these systems control desk management on whatever policies an employer requires, meaning desks can be entirely pooled, fixed by work or team, or some combination. More than just hot desking, this is what employers are now calling a hybrid work culture.
“The future of work will be hybrid, at least for the next couple years. It’ll be a combination of working from home, the office, or even the nearby co-working space – each for only two or three days per week,” said Larry Gadea, Founder and CEO of Envoy. “There’s inefficiency in holding permanent desks for people who will only be in an office part-time. Envoy Desks solves this by making desks bookable per day, allowing companies to optimize their use of space, reduce overall square footage and offer more flexibility for workers.”
Envoy Desks is part of the Envoy Protect suite, which enables employees to go through wellness checks and access offices securely while providing contact tracing and communications for facility managers. Envoy Desks is the first hot desking solution specifically built for companies adjusting their workplace during COVID-19. It is available in Beta to all Envoy Protect customers starting today.
Pivoting from Workplace Solutions to Return to Work Tools
“Right before COVID, we built Deliveries, and just launched a Meeting Rooms product, so our focus was the workplace and we strived to bring technology and innovation to the different mundane things that would typically exist there,” Gadea said. “When shutdowns started happening, companies like warehouses and factories that needed employees on site, asked our help to make it safe for employees to come back.” Envoy consulted hundreds of existing clients around the world to help determine their most important needs.
The result was Envoy Protect, a return-to-work tool leveraging Envoy’s expertise in office management solutions. Envoy Protect makes it possible for employees to certify they are healthy from their homes. They can sign in to their office upon arrival using Envoy’s access control solution. Envoy can keep count of how many people are on-site and set limits on registrations once capacity is reached. Envoy uses this access data to implement contact tracing since the system knows who has accessed the office and when.
“Thousands of companies are using Envoy Protect to know who is on site. If someone gets sick, they know through contact tracing who can potentially be impacted,” Gadea noted. He stressed the importance of privacy and data security, which is built into their product. “I think it’s too much for companies to ask for people’s medical information. So, Envoy does not store or upload an individual’s answers to their wellness questions. We simply use them to give a pass or fail grade in the wellness checks.”
Enabling Hot Desks for the Hybrid Workplace
According to Envoy, an important part of effective hot desking is to make the process as simple as possible for employees.
“If I want to go to the office, I just pull out my phone and let the app know I want to go. I complete a questionnaire which asks if I have been diagnosed with COVID-19. If I answer no, my badge gets unlocked, and I can access all the doors in the office for the day,” said Alex Haefner, Envoy’s head of product.
“Envoy Protect’s Desks component assigns me a desk. if I want the same desk every day, or if I want to change my desk, I can designate that through the app,” Haefner said that Envoy Desks also makes it possible for officemates or team members to collaborate in the office by selecting nearby, safely-distanced desks and by choosing to sit near each other.
“I can invite my teammates on the app so we’re located together. We tried to make the experience easy for employees who don’t want to spend 20 minutes every morning figuring out where they’re going to be working,” he said.
Envoy Desks also makes it possible to reserve meeting rooms, as well as provide employees and managers with real time information of which office areas are accessible, occupied, or free. Desks also provides analytics that can be used to optimize office layouts by reconfiguring unused space, ultimately reducing the office footprint and lowering real estate costs. Analytics can also be used by after-hours cleaning crews to know which desks and conference rooms to sanitize.
Heather Somaini, Chief Administrative Officer at Lionsgate, has been using Desks at their headquarters in Santa Monica since September. “Our team realized that we couldn’t have every single workstation filled when we reopened. We wanted to reduce our capacity by 50%. To do that, we needed to move to a more flexible seating arrangement.”
Somaini shared that her team at Lionsgate uses Desks analytics to target which desks to clean at night. “Desks has given us the ability to utilize our space and resources really well and reduce costs.”
Gadea said Envoy learned about the benefits of automating resource sharing while creating Envoy Desks. “You’ve always been able to resource share meeting rooms, now it is possible to effectively resource share desks. Maybe one day you’ll resource share the entire office with other people on different floors and different offices. We can share all the space around, but we need to get started in areas that are most practical for people today, and that’s really where the desks are,” he said.
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