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The Future of Work is Flexible: Reimagining Office Designs and Strategies to Thrive in Our New Reality

office

The Future of Work is Flexible: Reimagining Office Designs and Strategies to Thrive in Our New Reality

With the Covid-19 vaccine finally making its way through the country, bringing staff back into the workplace is at the forefront of companies’ minds. This has continued to push conversations from when staff will come back to the office, to how.

Archetypes of the workplace

As companies explore the future of the return to the workplace, it has challenged new ways of thinking – how the office will adapt and change, what will be its purpose, and how can it become better for staff.  However, how businesses approach the workplace evolution will be different. From conservative approaches to pushing the boundaries, three mindsets have emerged as we look at the future of the workplace.

Traditionalists – cultures grounded around in-person environments with low investment in virtual working and higher investment in physical work environments.

Progressives – cultures that are flexible and promote a hybrid work model with employees being comfortable working remotely or in offices. Investment for this model will equally be split in the virtual and built environments to support hybrid work models.

Visionaries – cultures encouraging autonomy and remote work with employees who come into the office as needed. This includes a significant spend in technology to enhance the virtual environment and to monitor productivity and performance.

Regardless of your future workplace strategy – scaling, adapting, or staying the same, the pandemic has altered the real estate landscape as we know it. Social distancing, sanitization processes, working from home, and virtual communication are here to stay, even if the vaccine turns out to be everything we’ve hoped for. While we’ve had no choice but to accept this new reality, many occupiers and landlords are struggling with “what’s the best next move” for their space.

As we navigate these unchartered workplace waters, flexibility has emerged as a key player. Office strategy and design will need to be flexible to support the changing needs of staff and companies both in the short and long-term. The question remains, what does flexibility look like in the future workplace?

Riding the Evolutionary Forces

As the saying goes, “change is the only constant,” and while inevitable, change gives us the opportunity to grow and evolve. How and where we work is different from a year ago, which has influenced changes from workplace strategies to business models and processes, to workforces. This has caused decision makers to pause on making long-term real estate commitments until we better understand the lasting effects of the pandemic.

Driving regional and industry trends

As real estate shifts and trends begin to emerge, many will play out differently depending on their location. By the end of 2021 it’s expected businesses will return to the office at a reduced capacity, however, how this will be done is the question.

The pandemic has accelerated an already growing migration of knowledge workers from cities like New York and California to less-expensive locales. Raleigh, N.C., and Austin, Texas, are among the boomtowns attracting young workers. These cool, vibrant cities offer culinary experiences, cultural and social scenes that appeal to young professionals who enjoy an urban lifestyle but find large metro areas too dense or expensive.

The recent growth of these midsize cities shows the pandemic and work-from-home policies aren’t undermining all of urban America. It illustrates a reshaping of what many companies, families and individuals are now looking for, a location that is more affordable, has more space, and access to job opportunities and talent.  Several recent high-profile corporate relocation announcements suggest companies are inclined to follow this migration.

Solutions for “the next best move”

What should be your next move? Research is saying space will be used differently and we still don’t fully know how Covid-19 will influence office use and behaviors in the future. Before making permanent, long-term decisions, companies are trialing office strategies to see how their people are working in a new environment.

Pilot spaces and employee surveys are a good way to learn what will work best for your people. Companies are starting to accelerate these programs, repurposing the workplace to align with work modes and conducting 60-day utilization studies to see if these new workplace designs are effective.  Some actions may include improvements to office décor, an increase in collaborative hubs, and bringing back some private offices or quiet areas, providing staff with a place to go to work and build relationships.

Occupiers with larger real estate portfolios may adopt strategies like maintaining the hub location but adding the spokes (hub & spoke model). This allows them to expand their footprint, keeping their CBD presence, while providing staff with much-craved collaboration, culture, and connection in spoke locations. We’re even seeing C-suite focused hubs emerging to support board related tasks, client meetings, and leadership-driven activities.

The impact of transformational technology on workplace design

With this fundamental shift to incorporate flexibility, transformational technology is going to play a critical role. Firms have already adopted this status quo- leveraging digital tools to improve business operations and communication. As technology continues to power collaboration in the workplace, from Microsoft Teams video meetings, to AI wearables and VR presentations to smart whiteboards, it’s likely work styles are going to shift into more team-oriented environments.

In turn, offices will need to be outfitted to support in-person and remote workers, providing them with the technology and space to seamlessly connect. Leadership communication and change management will play an essential role in navigating the return to the workplace. Outlining clear protocols and processes can guard against burnout, help manage meetings and communication expectations (in-person and virtual), and coordinate teams to make sure they are driving the right outcomes.

As digital innovations continue to emerge, virtual sharing and collaborating will increase, causing reimagined horizons, like a world without email, creating monumental changes in the workplace.

Meeting the pace of change

With the current real estate landscape and continued disruption, there is still uncertainty about what the future workplace will look like. Partnering with a company that has an agile and flexible end-to-end approach to workplace creation, can empower smarter and responsive decision making to meet the ever-changing needs of businesses and their people.

Propeller, a workplace framework, provides stability and a solution for companies’ next real estate move. Using data, the model can help outline what teams’ experiences should be in the office and at home, from purpose and work modes, to behaviors and culture. Whether it’s a long-term commitment to remote work, embracing a flexible model, or taking a wait-and-see approach, this workplace strategy can help outline the best next step.

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Ryan leads the Americas region, managing the United States and Latin America. With more than 20 years of experience in the industry, Ryan has led teams to execute complex workplace projects, driven global initiatives, and redefined Unispace standards. With a strong knowledge of local and global markets, he brings his strategic vision to drive growth and improve operational excellence across all aspects of the business.

industrial

5 Tips to Increase Industrial and Manufacturing Safety

Safety is a significant concern for anyone who cares about their well-being. In some cases, neglecting safety practices puts others at risk too. The adage “you are your brother’s keeper” means just that; look out for each other. Certain habits can safeguard you, while others can put you at risk. Therefore, choose your habits wisely.

If you’re running an industrial and manufacturing plant, you are concerned about the safety of everyone. You do not want high insurance bills and loss of working hours due to injuries you would otherwise have avoided. It has to be said, according to David Rowland, Head of Marketing at Engage EHS, that the responsibility for health and safety starts with the directors of a business. However, if they get this right, and instigate a cultural shift in their company, the benefits can include greater brand loyalty and a higher bottom line. Here are a few tips that’ll increase everyone’s safety while at the plant:

#1: Wear Safety Equipment

Personal protective equipment (PPEs) is a must in any industrial and manufacturing plant to enhance safety. As these are areas with various equipment, it is best to safeguard yourself at all times. Operating without PPE is putting not just yourself but others at risk. Make your employees aware of their responsibility for safety gear and ensure safety rules are strictly adhered to.

#2: Train Employees to Report Anomalies Immediately

The best practice is to bring to attention any anomalies one may encounter in the line of duty. Ignoring small irregularities like nails projecting from the floor, spilt liquid, or malfunctioning equipment can enhance the possibility of a catastrophe happening. Employees should seek the attention of the person responsible for corrective measures immediately.

Create a culture that makes it possible for any worker to report anomalies. Where possible, inspire them to immediately address the problem to avoid accidents and injury to others who may pass the same area and be oblivious to the danger. For instance, the person who discovers an oil spill on the floor should clear it up as soon as possible to prevent someone else from slipping. After cleaning up the spill, the employee can then report it to the supervisor, who will ensure it gets attention.

#3: Educate Workers on Safe Practices and Hazard Areas

A considerable number of hazards that occur in industrial and manufacturing plants are a result of negligence. Instruct your employees on how to correctly operate machinery, electrical equipment, handling toxic materials, etc. Some poisonous materials affect health and also expose the plant to fire and explosion risks.

When flammable materials are not in use, proper storage practices must be adhered to, ensuring they have assigned lockable storage. Ensure that the storage facility is away from ignition sources. Dispose of certain waste types daily–for instance, combustible waste. It is best to store them in metal repositories. At the same time, dust should not be allowed to accumulate as this is a fire hazard.

#4: Put Focus on Ergonomics

Ergonomics causes a considerable number of workplace injuries. Because industrial and manufacturing plants have heavy equipment and tools, there is a fair amount of bending and lifting required. Suppose your employees are not aware of the correct bending and lifting methodologies. In that case, the chances of them suffering from musculoskeletal disorders are high. Put a great deal of focus on ergonomics and educate your workers adequately.

#5: Avoid Workers Getting Fatigued

Electrical equipment operation requires alertness. When one is sleepy or suffers from fatigue, concentration becomes difficult, which is a recipe for disaster. To curb this problem, encourage your workers to take breaks throughout the day to maintain focus and alertness when working.

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Holly Shaw is a freelance business writer. 

working conditions

Working Conditions High on the EU’s Priority List in Recent Years

In recent years, the EU has made a strong commitment towards improving working conditions which is excellent news for employees. So, what exactly is meant by working conditions, and what steps is the EU taking to improve these conditions for workers? Read on to find out more.

Working Conditions Defined

Working conditions is a broad term that covers a lot of bases. Essentially, working conditions refer to both the working environment provided to employees by the business along with terms and conditions of employment – this means that everything including the organization of work activities, health, safety, wellbeing, work-life balance, training, and skills all fall under the term working conditions.

Benefits of Good Working Conditions

Having good work conditions is important for a number of reasons. Obviously, from the European worker’s perspective, it contributes to the physical and mental wellbeing and will help to provide overall work and life satisfaction. It is also beneficial for the business because it ensures that staff are happy, engaged, and will perform to a high standard each day. Plus, from an economic standpoint, high-quality work conditions will drive economic growth in the EU so it is a win-win situation for all.

How They Have Improved

Understandably, improving work conditions is a core issue for the EU and they have been working closely with national governments to improve the workplace environment for European workers. This has been achieved by determining what the main characteristics of a favorable work environment look like and what the criteria to meet is. EU labor laws and regulations have been established to set the minimum requirement for a sustainable working environment for EU workers and these are now applied to all Member States.

Laws

These laws have strengthened worker’s rights in recent years and it is one of the main achievements of the social policy of the EU, but compensation claims are still high with workplace accidents often being inevitable. The European Framework Directive on Safety and Health at Work was established to set general principles related to minimum health and safety requirements and applies to practically all sectors.

Working with Social Partners

The EU also works with social partners such as trade unions and employer organizations via social dialogue and consultations which is key in the shaping of various different EU social and employment policies, including working hours, workers’ mobility within the EU, health, and safety, and promoting work-life balance.

Working conditions have been high on the EU’s priorities for a few years now and there have been major strides in recent times in terms of protecting EU workers. While these policies obviously help workers and provide important protection, it is also important to realize that they are beneficial for individual businesses as well as the economy as a whole so it is certainly an area that is worth focusing on.

manufacturing

How Automation is Shaping the Manufacturing Industry

Without a doubt, technology has been instrumental in revolutionizing most, if not all, industries around the world.

However, even in the face of this undeniable truth, some businesses remain hesitant about integrating certain innovations, such as automation, into their operations. Esteemed economist Christine McDaniel explained how this resistance may be due to the overblown anxiety over the false claim that automation will leave millions of blue- and white-collared professionals jobless for good.

Be that as it may, with the ongoing crisis requiring manufacturers to take certain safety measures, the dynamics between automation and this specific industry has to change in order to keep up with the times. Furthermore, a lot of experts believe that automation could be the very technology that will prepare and allow the manufacturing sector to thrive in a post-pandemic world. To give you a clearer picture, here are some of the ways automation is shaping the manufacturing industry these days:

Raise savings and cut costs

Over 478 billion of the 749 billion working hours spent on manufacturing-related activities worldwide were automatable. The aforementioned 478 billion hours, which is equivalent to $2.7 trillion worth of labor costs, provides a great opportunity for manufacturers to increase savings. In addition, a new generation of robots that are not only flexible and versatile but also relatively cheaper can help cut costs in the long run and increase the scalability of manufacturing businesses.

Enhance resiliency and simplify processes

In the face of an ongoing global health crisis, most manufacturing plants have been left with no choice but to operate below full capacity and strategically schedule workers to limit the number of employees in a specific location at any given time. And with how tedious this task can be, it’s easy to see how some manufacturing managers could easily run into challenges when coordinating the workers and the machines. Fortunately, Verizon Connect details how manufacturing managers can rely on automated software that can make the intricate process of job scheduling and machine coordinating easy and hassle-free.

Increase labor productivity

As with every other industry, automation has the ability to make businesses even more efficient. With machines and robots that can get more tasks done within a given time frame compared to traditional manual options, manufacturers can look forward to a significantly reduced production lead time and a greater total rate of production. Moreover, automation can also help accomplish seemingly impossible manual tasks that often require precision and accuracy to a greater extent. Economics Help also mentions how automation can enable factories to produce a greater range of goods that come in different sizes and designs, as well as being suited to different functions.

Improve workplace safety

Even without the pandemic, safety has always been a significant concern for manufacturers. After all, data from The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that workplace injuries and accidents, which are more frequent in this field, can cost businesses nearly $62 billion per year. For many years now, on-the-job injuries have been gradually falling, thanks to machines and robots that have been doing all the heavy lifting, taking over repetitive tasks and eliminating the need for employees to work in extremely hazardous environments. In the coming years, manufacturers can continue counting on automation when it comes to making hazardous workplaces safer.

As the world braces itself for a future that’s been completely changed by the current crisis, the manufacturing industry’s reliance on automation will only run deeper, and it’s easy to see why. After all, automation has the ability to raise savings and cut costs, enhance resiliency and simplify processes, increase labor productivity and improve workplace safety.

safety

Warehouse Safety Guidelines

To the uninitiated, a warehouse might appear to be less hazardous than a factory or mill. Yet just because there is no manufacturing activity going on inside doesn’t mean there isn’t potential for danger. Forklifts and other heavy equipment are used frequently for moving goods. Chemicals and dangerous materials may be kept in storage. Simply put, safety is just as important in the warehouse as it is in any other industrial environment. Accidents and other incidents can lead to lost productivity, expensive cleanup and even legal troubles. This is why creating a culture that encourages and rewards safe behavior is essential for a warehouse facility.

Everyone bears some of the responsibility for keeping the workplace safe. From the front office to the workers on the floor, proper protocols and procedures must be among the top priorities for everyone. Owners and managers especially must be aware of what they should do to protect their staff’s health and well-being. This includes everything from creating an incentive program to installing the appropriate signage around the building. Getting employees at every level to take an active role in promoting safety is another critical strategy.

For these and many other important recommendations, refer to the accompanying guide.

Warehouse Safety Guidelines from Enviro Tech

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Colton Mandell oversees internal operations and customer service for Enviro Tech. Enviro Tech is a top supplier of stabilized n-propyl bromide and fluorinated solvents for industrial parts cleaning applications. He has four years of experience in the industry and focuses on providing quality, customer-centric service.

safety

Safety First in the Workplace

While the race to deliver quickest shows no signs of abating, safety must come first in logistics.

While customers expect ever-decreasing delivery times, placing ever-increasing demands on the supply chain, the focus on fast should never come at the expense of workplace safety. Below are key considerations as you adopt (or enhance) a safety-first approach.

Prioritizing safety should not be a hidden commitment; rather, your employees and customers need to know that safety is an important corporate pursuit, one sought because it is a recognized value rather than a necessary liability. It must be integrated into your corporate culture.

The commitment must be a top-down pursuit, too, so that employees can see and understand the value for their employer. To that end, while the pursuit is initiated at the top, successful implementation occurs when employees are brought into the decision-making process. Establish a safety committee, for instance, that empowers your people while reinforcing critical undertakings.

Evaluate and assess all processes, engaging team members at all levels to solicit feedback. The engagement will provide meaningful reassurance that your intent is genuine while generating substantive insights.

Proper training is essential, ensuring the uniform execution of all procedures. Logistics equipment is complex, and when job tasks are modified, there must be a corporate-wide understanding of these new processes. This is especially true for employees who have long tenures at your company and for whom processes and habits become second nature and therefore difficult to break. Special emphasis on retraining those people might be helpful.

Simplify a feedback process for employees, making it easy for them to ask safety-related questions with clear instructions (and processes) about responding — promptly — to any concerns. It is imperative that all employees be fully invested in safety and processes.

As technology continues to evolve and drive greater workplace efficiencies, it can be tempting to rely on technology-generated processes. However, such an approach is fraught with risk, when human behavior is not easy to categorize. To that end, some companies designate employees to monitor other employees while performing tasks to discover elements that might go overlooked by a computer-generated report. If this works for your organization, make it an ongoing process, not a one-off pursuit, allowing you to continually refine and improve your overall approach.

Underlying all these elements is a mature corporate culture that prioritizes safety, an uncompromising value that supersedes profit, productivity and quality.

Safety first. It’s the right approach.

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David Ide is Global Vice President of Risk at BDP International in Philadelphia, Pa.