New Articles

Navigating the Dynamics of a Split Office

office

Navigating the Dynamics of a Split Office

Experts are divided over when workers will get back to the office after COVID-19. Google is looking at June 1st at the earliest. A report from the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University recommends holding out until August. But both Google and Harvard agree that the return should be staggered in order to protect workers.

The Harvard report recommends starting by letting 20% of at-home workers back into the office. Start with a few days per week and then expand to five days as testing ramps up.

Not only does working in shifts reduce office density, but it also prevents overcrowding on sidewalks and mass transit. But it also comes with challenges, including the fact that some workers will feel less connected to the rest of the company. Here are three tips for keeping workers safer, happier, and more productive as companies transition into a split office setup.

Don’t rush everyone back

While you may be tempted to get everyone you can into the office at least some of the time, that’s not really necessary.

“We may see some companies realize they can run their businesses effectively with a much smaller office and many people working largely from home,” said Elizabeth Brink, principal at global design and architecture firm Gensler. Dr. Anna Tavis, academic director of the Human Capital Management Department at the NYU School of Professional Studies also predicts that many people will continue working from home indefinitely. “We kind of assume that collaboration means physical presence in one place,” Tavis said. “But now we’ve learned that’s not the case.” Indeed, the average company sees a 10% to 43% increase in productivity after going fully remote. And in a recent survey, 54% of workers said their productivity had improved since working from home full-time and 64% said their work quality has improved.

Google won’t require workers with caretaking responsibilities or other special considerations to come into the office. You may also want to encourage workers who live with healthcare workers or “essential” workers to stay home. The Harvard report recommends bringing workers who have recently tested negative and show immunity in reliable antibody tests back into the office first.

Get everyone on the same page

Now is the ideal time to invest in project management software. If you wait until some people are back in the office, the drive to have everyone use it will be diminished since some employees will once again be able to walk over to a coworker’s desk to get a status update on an ongoing project.

Plus, project management software can help mitigate Zoom fatigue. Project management software serves as your team’s source of truth when it comes to each project’s updates, statuses, assignees, due dates, files, and more. Examples include Asana, Notion, Trello, Monday, and Basecamp. Pre-set notifications and reminders for due dates and changes mean you spend less time Slacking people about who’s doing what and more time making progress. Project management software that offers visibility into others’ schedules, tasks, and workloads can be especially helpful for partially remote teams.

You may not even need to invest in new software, but just better leverage what you already use.

“We found that it’s not so much about needing new tools but instead, leveraging existing tools to foster greater collaboration during quarantine,” Corporate Recruiter Lauren Munroe said about her team’s use of SharePoint and Microsoft Teams to collaborate on projects simultaneously since moving to WFH.

Get chatting

Speaking of Slack, if your team doesn’t already have a chat app, now’s the time! For similar reasons, you don’t want to wait until some teammates are able to talk things through in-person to encourage widespread adoption of chat.

Good chat software lets you send and thread instant messages to individuals and groups. It’s also nice to be able to search chats and snooze notifications. Other examples include Hangouts, Glip, and Twist. The ability to start a video call inside the chat app is nice, as is timezone awareness if your team is distributed. Some apps allow you to set your status so colleagues know when you’re busy or free, in a meeting, or it’s outside your work hours.

A chat app can also help you re-create some of what’s great about being in the office. After moving to WFH, Chief People Officer Meighan Newhouse created new chat channels for this purpose. “Water cooler” is for workers to check in and share updates. “Lock-down” is where they share relatable tales from quarantine. VP of People Carrie Pinkham added a “CEO,” “wellness,” and “family Fridays” channel. The last is “where employees post old and new pictures of loved ones, which seemed fitting during this time. We added new tools like Donut to pair employees for get-to-know-you chats,” Meighan said.

If you’re a Slack user, get the most out of it by syncing your Slack status with your Google Calendar.

Set up video conferencing

Speaking of video calls, video conferencing software is obviously a must. Chats and phone calls are great, but there’s nothing like seeing someone’s face in real-time. This becomes even more important when everyone is working from home. Video conferencing software makes the conversation a little bit more like you’re in the same room. Video conferencing software facilitates on-demand or pre-scheduled video conferencing among two or more people simultaneously. Generally, this software integrates with your calendar system and provides built-in screen sharing and chat functionality. Examples include Skype, Zoom, WebEx, and GoToMeeting. Facebook Messenger also recently got into the game with their Rooms product.

Since not everyone’s home internet is super fast, now’s a good time to choose video conferencing software that allows workers to call into the meeting toll-free from their phones.

Video conferencing is another good way to bring employees together for fun and camaraderie. At Clockwise we do lunch Zooms where our Office Manager Czar divides employees into smaller groups where we eat and catch up.

Share everyone’s status

It’s a good idea to have everyone, regardless of whether they’re working at home or in the office, set their working hours and add their WFH or OOO to their calendars. To easily share this information with a team, many workplaces have team calendars. Clockwise streamlines this process by adding everyone’s individual WFH or OOO to their team’s calendar automatically, so if someone forgets to update either their personal or shared calendar everyone is still on the same page.

Upgrade workers’ work from home setup

Especially since we don’t know how long some workers will have to continue working from home, it’s worth it to spend a little money to ensure they’re as productive as possible.

First, make sure everyone who’s still at home has the fastest internet possible. Have everyone measure their home internet connection speeds using services like fast.com or Speedtest. For more accurate results, the Verge recommends making sure your computer is connected to the right network instead of, for instance, your ISP’s lower-speed wireless hotspot. If workers’ speeds aren’t good, or they’re running out of data before running out of month, consider giving them some money to upgrade and/or invest in a mesh network or wifi extender. To save, check out COVID-19 deals from ISPs.

Then offer them a little money to upgrade their desk, chair, light, monitor, mouse, and keyboard. If they have that stuff at the office, let them bring it home. For example, Clockwise gave all employees $100 to buy a new chair at the start of WFH and let us bring anything we were using that we could carry home with us from the office.

Going forward

Staggering your comeback to the office can be a great way to balance the benefits of an in-office environment while still keeping employees reasonably safe. The trick is to make sure no one feels left out and everyone is able to work productively whether they’re home or at the office. Making sure you have the right technology and equipment makes all the difference.

services

WITH ZOOM, WE ARE ALL TRADING IN SERVICES

New Modes of Living and Working

As we struggle to maintain continuity in our work and school lives during the pandemic, technology has come to our aid.

Those of us who work on teams spread throughout the country or the world have already unlocked the secrets of online collaboration platforms like Slack and Quip. (We use Quip at TradeVistas for project management.) Others are quickly moving to them or discovering functionality they previously overlooked in Microsoft Teams or similar business software.

“Zoom” has become a verb for online video conferencing the way Skype had been for years for international communication. The class I teach at Georgetown is completely online. (We were already extensively using the learning management system called Canvas). The university reported last week they reached a high of 1,459,100 minutes of instruction on Zoom in just one day.

Biggest Week Ever in Business App Downloads

Video conferencing apps Google Hangouts, Houseparty, Microsoft Teams and ZOOM Cloud Meetings saw major jumps in use in the United States and Europe. According to App Annie, during the week of March 15-21 alone, business apps surpassed 62 million downloads worldwide across iOS and Google Play, apparently the biggest week ever.

With the exception of middle and high schoolers hanging out on Houseparty, many of us working online are exchanging professional, technical, business and other commercial services. If your client or customer is overseas, you are likely delivering what’s called a cross-border service. No better time to appreciate this major component of global trade.

The WTO Modes of Services

In the World Trade Organization (WTO), negotiators divided up services trade into four “modes of delivery” related to where the supplier and consumer are located at the time of the transaction. In Mode 1, known as cross-border trade, the parties are in separate countries and the service is most likely provided digitally via email or through an online platform. One example is consulting services – perhaps a report delivered over email.

In Mode 2, known as consumption abroad, the consumer travels to another territory to receive the service. Examples include hospitality services associated with tourism, medical treatment, or a “semester abroad” at a foreign university. Mode 3 involves putting out a shingle to provide services in another country, known as commercial presence. Finally, in Mode 4, the service provider travels to the customer such as a software engineer working on a project overseas on a temporary visa.

Ascendant Modes of Trade in Services

Every day we engage in or benefit from some form of globally traded services, though we rarely think of it. Among the biggest traditional components of global trade in services are transport and travel – including the trains and ships that move cargo, and the planes that move people across international borders for work and tourism. We’ve written before about how important the tourism is to the global economy – global travel exports were worth $1.7 trillion in 2018.

But other less obvious components of globally traded services have grown larger in recent years. According to the WTO’s 2019 World Trade Statistical Review, the “use of intellectual property” as a service exceeded $3.1 trillion in 2018. The most dynamic services sector continues to be telecommunications, computer and information services (or ICTs), which grew more than 15 percent in 2018.

The Multiplier Effect of Digital Technologies

Telecommunications, computer and information services offer multiplier effects – they create efficiencies and infrastructure that enable new products and new services. Financial technologies bring about cashless payment systems, online platforms like Spotify enable music streaming, technologies embedded in your thermostat promote smart energy use through an app on your phone, sensors on machines inform computers when repairs may be needed. Micro-entrepreneurs sell their products globally through Etsy, eBay or Amazon Web Services.

Enterprise software, cloud computing, data processing and analytics services can help make any business more productive and profitable. They are the backbone of production, distribution and marketing of many physically traded goods while facilitating trade with customers anywhere in the world digitally.

Eighty percent of all U.S. jobs are in services-providing industries. The definition of a “tradable service” is constantly changing and expanding. In 2018, U.S. exports of ICT services alone were valued at $71.4 billion while service exports enabled by ICTs added another $451.9 billion. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that services potentially enabled by ICTs accounted for 55 percent of total U.S. services exports. Yet the United States is fourth in globally exported ICT services, narrowly behind China, India and far behind the European Union.

Growth in ICT enabled services

The Doctor Will “See” You Now

The scourge of the COVID-19 pandemic, with its prolonged and widespread “stay at home” restrictions, is forcing all of us to shift or accelerate our digital habits. We have no choice but to buy non-essentials online. Our kids are e-learning. Doctors are seeing patients online when not critical. Graduating students will have virtual commencements. And most of us are forced into video conferencing all…the…time.

And while many people will be binge watching or gaming (WarnerMedia, Disney Plus, Netflix and Hulu all reported 65 and 70 percent jumps in number of streaming hours), some of us are trying to continue working online, despite these bandwidth hogs. Some businesses have no choice but to cope by providing virtual services – tax advisors are using secure document portals and phone consultations while fitness instructors check your form by webcam. These are stopgap measures now that might augment their businesses when things go back to “normal”.

LinkedIn With One Another

Recently, I decided to join a LinkedIn Live presentation by one of my favorite business gurus. I was astounded at the scrolling list of locations from where viewers were joining: United Kingdom, South Africa, Romania, Tunisia, Qatar, Poland, Pakistan, Jamaica, India, Colombia, Sudan, Turkey, Lebanon, Yemen and Afghanistan. On and on it went – I stopped writing them down. Nearly the entire world is experiencing the effects of the pandemic in some way, but through modern telecommunications and information technologies, we stay connected.

Those of us who can provide our global services online are the lucky ones. Our appreciation goes out to those workers who are keeping factories running to make essentials, who drive trucks and who staff pharmacies and grocery stores to ease our ability to work and learn from home, out of harm’s way.

____________________________________________________________

Andrea Durkin is the Editor-in-Chief of TradeVistas and Founder of Sparkplug, LLC. Ms. Durkin previously served as a U.S. Government trade negotiator and has proudly taught international trade policy and negotiations for the last fifteen years as an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University’s Master of Science in Foreign Service program.

This article originally appeared on TradeVistas.org. Republished with permission.