We all know how important technology is in helping us keep track of the condition, layout, and usage patterns of our spaces, as well as providing data-driven insights to create a workplace which is comfortable and brings people together to collaborate. Using these same technologies to develop and implement a COVID-19 return-to-work plan can help make sure our facilities are adequately prepared for people to use the space once again, and make the transition as smooth as possible.
While we don't expect things to feel "normal" for quite some time, we do want to illustrate how it is possible to re-open your workplace and operate with people in the building while following public health advice. Today, we're going to focus on several ways in which IBM TRIRIGA can be used to support your back-to-work operations and procedures as they pertain to facility management and workplace safety.
You may not realize it but if you're already using TRIRIGA to manage your buildings, you have a great tool to make the necessary adjustments to floor plans, maintenance schedules, and your company's reservation framework to set up the workplace for people to return and resume operations without missing a beat. In the following sections, we'll go through some practical examples of how an Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS) like TRIRIGA can help achieve this goal:
One term we've heard over and over throughout the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic is physical distancing. It is why many of us have been working remotely in varying degrees of isolation for the past several months, and has proven to be extremely effective in flattening the curve. Maintaining physical distance is one of our best tools to help contain the spread of a virus, and being able to provide this additional space between workers needs to be a core component of any back-to-work plan.
So how do we do that?
We can start by re-evaluating our space layout, and modifying floorplans to allow for appropriate distance between workers. TRIRIGA's space module provides a variety of tools by which we can organize the workplace into usable and non-usable space, making sure workers aren't stationed too close to one another. It also has the tools to plan and evaluate different scenarios and easily coordinate move projects to adjust capacity limits, ensuring we're adhering to the new norm.
We can use the application to perform a complete review of every floor plan in our buildings. It gives us the ability to flag individual spaces as "reservable" or not, which will feed into the system's reservation engine as well as many other components of the space planning module. This exercise can be applied to a back-to-work plan in a few different ways:
1. Mark “Reservable” Spaces
By marking workstations, cubicles, or offices in TRIRIGA as "not reservable", we can reduce the percentage of space on a floor that may be used during a given time for everyday work activities. This will ensure that there is enough distance between people working in each of these areas. Using the system's reservation services, workers will not have the option to book or use these particular spaces. This will limit the total capacity allowed for each business unit, but it will ensure that a minimum safe distance is maintained between people who do majority of their work within the area.
2. Set Up Calendar Reservation Rules to Ensure Necessary Time for Cleaning After Use
Each usable or reservable space record in TRIRIGA has a built-in calendar which acts as an overarching controller for when the space is allowed to be used throughout the week. This allows us to create offsetting or rotational schedules for workstations to support an “every other day” reservation rule, in which working spaces could be thoroughly cleaned during the off day. For meeting rooms and other collaboration areas, we can configure the calendar reservation rules so that these types of spaces are automatically flagged as "not reservable" after a meeting has been completed, so that no one else may book the room and allow time for a deep clean of the space before the next reservation.
3. Mark “Non-Usable Workstations
Alternatively, if using TRIRIGA's reservation functionality is not an option, the application also has the capability to create a special type of space classification to mark certain workstations as "Non-Usable" to help provide adequate distance between them. This works in much the same way, however in this scenario we don't have the opportunity to leverage the space reservation rules as a way to coordinate where we want people to be and confirm that they are actually using the correct spaces. In either case, space classifications can be customized to help better describe certain types of spaces, whether they are being temporarily removed from what is allowed to be used, or even repurposed to support a different type of business activity.
4. Adjusting Capacity Levels in Common Areas
For other common areas in the building, like kitchens or break rooms, we can adjust the capacity to limit the number of people that are allowed to be in the space at one time. By updating these space details and pairing them with the data from TRIRIGA Building Insights we can actually measure the number of people in the floors over time, confirming that employees are adhering to the rules and making adjustments as needed.
While we may not be able to operate our facilities at full capacity in the foreseeable future, at least in the short term we can provide the means for staff to work in the office on a part time or rotational basis, and have the opportunity to collaborate with confidence in-person once again. To see the big picture on how our buildings and floors will be occupied under these new conditions, the TRIRIGA stacking app provides an excellent overview at the organizational level.
We can see at a glance which buildings and floors our business units are in, how much space is currently allotted to them, and modify where they're going to be located by moving the organizational blocks around. The stack plan tool can be used to evaluate move scenarios for strategic business units, so we can maximize space usage even within limited occupancy targets.
Another preventive measure companies should strongly consider including as part of their back-to-work plan is the provision of PPE to workers and visitors. No matter which industry you work in, TRIRIGA has you covered for the entire inventory management process.
The Inventory module gives you the ability to monitor stock levels of the essentials across your sites and buildings, facilitate transfers between locations, and coordinate the ordering/re-stocking process. Using the inventory quick find query, we can see exactly what we have on hand and where it is.
It also ties in with the operational and maintenance capabilities of the system, allowing work tasks to be set up to make sure the various types of PPE are distributed and stocked on a regular basis to all of the key entry points and other critical areas across your facilities. Maintaining a constant supply of simple items like face masks, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes and gloves will go a long way towards showing staff members that their confidence, peace of mind, and safety is your top priority as they are returning to the workplace.
Ensuring rooms are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized after they are used is another way we can help prevent the spread of a virus, and eliminate the risk of unnecessary exposure at the workplace. TRIRIGA has a comprehensive preventive maintenance framework that can assist in automatically scheduling and tracking work tasks to support more rigorous cleaning procedures.
One of the simplest ways we can use the system to implement a better cleaning routine is by having it automatically create and assign work tasks after a room reservation. To illustrate, lets walk through a simple use case for a meeting room reservation at an office building:
Using the TRIRIGA reservation request service, I can book my meeting room and invite the people I want to attend. Upon completion of my reservation, the system can be set up to automatically flag the room as "not reservable", schedule and assign a work task detailing all of the cleaning and sanitization activities that need to take place, and only mark the space as "reservable" again after the work task has been resolved and the technician has confirmed that the work was done. This streamlined process eliminates many of the manual steps for facilities and maintenance managers, and ensures our rooms are adequately prepared for the next reservation.
Daily, weekly or monthly "deep cleans" can be set up using the job plan and preventive maintenance scheduler in TRIRIGA. This can automate the planning process and make sure all of the critical high-contact areas of your buildings (such as door handles, elevator buttons, etc) are being thoroughly sanitized on a regular basis. Setting up and evaluating these schedules regularly will allow maintenance managers to adjust tasks as public health guidelines change, and prevent avoidable spread of unwanted germs and bacteria. This is a best practice enabled through TRIRIGA that we want to highlight, which adds value through the automation of scheduled task management.
In areas where it may not be possible to physically set up workstations that are at an appropriate distance, the maintenance module can also be leveraged to plan and organize any work that needs to be done so that barriers like plexiglass partitions can be installed to protect workers who might be in close proximity to each other. Materials and equipment needed to install these types of safety measures can be sourced and managed through the inventory module, so again we're creating value and maximizing the usage of TRIRIGA by tying multiple modules together, using the one system to serve all of our business and operational needs.
TRIRIGA Building Insights and Cisco DNA spaces provide a unique and powerful tool to measure space occupancy trends as workspaces gradually begin to re-open. Being able to capture and display this data (in near real-time) is extremely valuable for our return-to-work plans as it allows us to accurately track how many people are on a floor at a given time and measure those trends. Considering that we will now be setting lower target occupancy levels in our facilities to maintain appropriate distance between workers, this application makes it easy for us to ensure that the rules are being followed and occupancy thresholds are actually being adhered to while maintaining worker privacy.
The power of the Building Insights application is its ability to provide clear visibility into underutilized or overcrowded facilities. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, facility managers and space planners can use this tool in a number of different ways to make sure we're staying safe.