Post-Pandemic Planning: Return to the Traditional Workspace
5 June

Post-Pandemic Planning: Return to the Traditional Workspace

With the world slowly beginning to open back up after pandemic social distancing for weeks, employers and employees may be wondering what to expect upon their return to the office. After an extended period away from the traditional workspace structures, many find themselves wondering how to smoothly transition back to work in lieu of health and safety concerns, schedule changes, and newly adjusted household routines. So how do you plan for all of the post-pandemic dynamics and seamlessly return to the traditional workspace while remaining healthy and primed to move forward?

Returning to the Traditional Workspace

Being in particularly uncharted territory, many employers are finding themselves struggling to meet both the needs of their employees as well as the needs of their businesses in terms of finding the best path for returning to pre-pandemic operations. The fact is, however, things will likely never return to the same dynamics experienced prior to COVID-19.

The new norm is one that will now include a more hybrid version combining, at the very least, the traditional office workspaces with a more hyper-vigilant health and wellness routine. In many cases, this will also involve being mindful of the changed family and household dynamics of employees and including these with newly adapted in-space and distance working conditions. The point is, no one specific plan will fit the needs of every workforce returning to careers outside their homes.

Primed to Move Forward

Many employers are finding themselves wondering how to safely and effectively get their workforce operations back on track with minimal obstacles in order to kickstart the bottom line and get productivity back on track. As with any approach in business, the key to remember as things begin opening back up and returning to more traditional operations, is to remain flexible and open to change. Understanding that this pandemic has placed an enormous strain on both employers and employees and being receptive to new ideas as well as considerate of the needs of your team and your business, are at the center of a successful return.

Preparing for the Return to Work

Accepting that no single plan will work for every workforce, there are a few basic steps employers should consider when preparing for the return to work. By having some general policies in place, it will allow for the needed structure to guide employees upon their return as well as ease any concerns over health and safety.

It’s also important, however, to include flexibility in this plan in order to accommodate team members who have adapted to a new norm derived from social distancing. The fact is, remote working has proven to have a pivotal role in changing the traditional dynamics of the workforce and for many, continuing at least a small portion of this role moving forward can be monumental for future successes.

Setting a Plan

The key to simplifying the transition process as we come out of distancing measures, is to remain mindful of the needs of our team members and provide a certain level of structure and security simultaneously. What this means for your team specifically, will likely vary from others in your area, but the basic concepts remain the same. Here are some of the most important aspects to keep in mind when formulating the successful return to work plan:

1 – Create Necessary Safety Measures

First and foremost, the safety of your team members needs to be at the head of your plans. Carefully research and review any required and recommended health and safety guidelines as outlined by local, state, and federal professionals to ensure your return plan lies squarely within regulations. Whether this means designating an infectious disease team to serve as an in-house resource for your team going forward, or documenting the plan specifics for reference as needed, it’s imperative that your employees know what to expect upon their return.

2 -Outlining Protocol and Health Guidelines

Continuing on the legalities associated with a safe return, employers need to be certain their employees are amply informed of the measures being taken to keep them safe as well as what’s expected of them as they come back to the office. There should be thorough communications explaining any and all new sanitization efforts (cleaning efforts, new equipment, location of disinfectant materials, etc.), as well as any new policies regarding the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other cleaning routines that will be required. You will also need to ensure your team is well aware of who they can turn to with any health and safety questions or concerns in the workspace.

3 – Preparing the Workspace

Once you have a plan in place for the health and safety of your workspace environment, it’s crucial to begin practices to prepare for the return. Make sure you have all of the necessary precautions and sanitization efforts in place in order to provide the safest possible environment for your team members and clients. Whether this means stocking up on cleaning products, hand sanitizers and PPE items, or hiring a regular professional cleaning service to do scheduled disinfectant practices on site, you need to make sure your space follows the guidelines you have outlined in your documented return policies.

4 – Take Stock of Old and New Routines

One of the most important things to remember when planning the return from social distancing is to avoid outdated thinking that may be limiting your team potential. In other words, take stock of what aspects of your pre-pandemic routines that had proven success as well as consider the advantages discovered from the newer distance working routines. Chances are, your overall productivity and business success will benefit enormously by finding some form of hybrid between the two scenarios going forward.

5 – Be Flexible and Listen to the Needs of Your Team

With so many demands being made on families and individuals in this unprecedented time, the last thing you want to do as an employer is add to the strain. In order to ease the transition, and in turn, help both your team members and your bottom line, it’s imperative that you take note of what is needed by your employees as well as remain flexible in constructing what your workday will look like going forward.

Many will still be struggling with childcare or transportation issues as things slowly open back up at different rates, so being mindful of their dynamics as well as open to potential new standards is critical. This could mean allowing for shorter hours or less days actually required on-site in order to allow for continued distance working. It could also mean utilizing third-party spaces such as coworking facilities to cut down on commutes while still providing a structured work environment. Whatever it means to your facility, keeping your employees’ needs at the forefront of your return to work plan and outlining this plan clearly are the best ways to ensure the smoothest possible transition as well as jump start productivity.

5 Tips for Getting Productivity Back on Track After an Extended Leave
4 May

5 Tips for Getting Productivity Back on Track After an Extended Leave

With businesses and venues beginning to open back up for operations in the near future following the COVID-19 stay at home orders, many entrepreneurs are looking to hit the ground running to make up for the time away. After spending several weeks working remotely, however, many business owners may be wondering just how to best transition their teams back to working on site again. Though the nation has proven true perseverance in such an unprecedented time, such a degree of change has never been maneuvered before, leaving many of us anxious to get things back on track quickly (and smoothly) as soon as things are deemed safe for their return. So just how does one go about getting productivity back on track after an extended leave?

Getting Productivity Back on Track

When it comes to getting your business operations back in full swing, it’s not as simple as returning to work and expecting things to magically go back to pre-social distancing mode right away. In fact, things may never get back to the same norm that was experienced before the entire world adapted to the pandemic by implementing work-from-home measures. There will likely be many obstacles and bumps along the way as entrepreneurs attempt to get back in the black and transition their workforce practices back to traditional work environments.

“It’s far from clear quite what normal will look like after COVID-19, but it seems likely that our desire to trek into the office will be tested after a prolonged period of acclimatization towards remote working from both workers and managers alike,” explains Forbes.com.

The best plan of attack for smoothing the transition and getting things going as quickly as possible is to outline a comprehensive yet flexible objective for the process. It’s important to consider the circumstances surrounding not only your business, but your business team, and to maintain a certain level of flexibility as things begin to move from one dynamic to the next. To help, here are 5 tips for helping to get productivity back on track with the return to work nearing:

1 – Create a Phased Plan

With so many unknowns and uncertainties surrounding the phasing out of social distancing, a gradual approach to reopening traditional operations seems the safest choice. Though many may be gearing up to ramp productivity 100% from day one, that may not be the best approach to getting things back on track effectively.

It’s important to create a phased plan that will account for the difficulties your team members and clients have been dealing with during social distancing. With so many demands on them to adjust to working from home, the best plan for returning will likely be in smaller phases that allow time to plan for schedule changes and juggling routines.

2 – Get Feedback from Your Team Frequently

Just as we’ve been doing for weeks while we work distantly, staying in contact with team members as you plan for the return is going to be critical to keeping the transition smooth. Try to keep regular meetings and conferences with partners, department heads, managers and other team members in order to make sure everyone is in the loop as far as communicating the phased plan being generated for the return to normal operations.

During these regular communications, be sure to gauge the feelings and concerns of your colleagues and coworkers. This is an excellent opportunity to get an up-front read on what your team will need from you in order to successfully transition from remote working scenarios. Be sure to consider these issues in the coming weeks to keep schedule delays and conflicts from affecting your increasing productivity plans.

3 – Be Clear About Expectations and Protocol

Another critical component of your communication efforts with your team will be to convey any and all policies and expectations that will be set into effect as things move away from distance working and back to traditional spaces. In order for your team to be able to plan for the transition, they must know first what to expect, and second, when to expect these changes to occur.

One of the fastest ways to derail your productivity efforts is with a breakdown in communication. When colleagues and employees aren’t adequately informed of timelines and procedures, it can cause major stressors among already struggling households with multiple schedule changes in place. In other words, you need to keep your plan clear and concise and it needs to be communicated as quickly as possible to everyone involved.

4 – Flexibility and Resources

With workers everywhere adapting to strict distancing regulations and abrupt cancellations of practically every public interaction available – school and work included – our lives were turned upside-down over the past several weeks with no discernable notice. If anything, it has proven our ability to persevere in the face of adversity, but that doesn’t mean it has been easy – not by any stretch of the imagination.

Now, as things slowly begin their return to a pre-pandemic norm, it’s important for employers of all walks to take into consideration the degree of chaos and change their team has been facing during this time. By understanding that most households have multiple work schedules and a sudden change in childcare schedules and education as well, employers will have a better sense of the level of flexibility that will be needed to transition away from working remotely again.

5 – Be Open to Change

At the end of the day, it must be said that this pandemic has ultimately shown both employees and employers that working remotely is not only possible in many cases, but preferable as well. While not all situations fall under this category, many employees have now seen that it is entirely possible to efficiently complete their job while working from home – a fact which also fits nicely with many home dynamics as well.

“Remote working has become a necessity for the majority of workers, and it’s shown businesses – some of which might have been skeptical about allowing staff to work from home – that it is possible to maintain productivity and communication,” explains Andrew Roughan, managing director for Plexal in an interview with Forbes.com.

As an alternative solution to choosing one extreme or the other (working from home or an abrupt return to full-time office work), coworking has become a viable consideration for many employers as well. By offering employees a professionally rented workspace to increase productivity but with the convenience of a shorter commute from home, coworking spaces are proving to be a valuable transitional asset as well.

Essentially, to reach optimal productivity and keep things running smoothly as the pandemic requirements phase out, employers need to not only remain flexible, but also open to change. Each scenario will be different, but it’s important not to entirely rule out distance working – via from home or from coworking spaces – from your phases. This situation may very well permanently change the way we approach the structure of the workplace to a model that’s much more centered on the needs and availability of its team members – something which could prove invaluable in terms of productivity going forward.

5 Best Remote Working Strategies to Stay Safe During Social Distancing
1 April

5 Best Remote Working Strategies to Stay Safe During Social Distancing

With a bulk of the world’s businesses being thrown into a completely new remote workspace dynamic, many employees and employers are trying to adapt to the changes as quickly as possible to minimize the strain that’s been placed on their normally structured routines. The sudden transition from well-designed productivity spaces to much less formal home working environments has caused a great deal of confusion and challenges for workforces in practically every industry out there. The change has left some managers and employees scrambling to adjust their approaches in a number of ways in order to find the best remote working strategies during the global social distancing practices. Whether you’re adept at remote working conditions or you’re completely inexperienced with continuing business outside of the office, here are a few tips to help you restructure your approach to navigate the distance between you and your team:

Remote Working Strategies Starting Point: Assess the Situation

With the sudden drastic changes business owners and employees are facing, many entrepreneurs feel like they’re fumbling around in the dark in their attempts to navigate the new process of working remotely. For those who are struggling to get started, one of the easiest ways to begin is simply to assess the current situation and take stock of what has changed, what isn’t working, and what needs to change in order to smooth things over during this transition.

By taking a quick step back and assessing your current situation, figuring out the best plan of action to successfully continue working remotely can become clearer. To put it simply, your first step should simply be to take a look at what aspects of your structured work environment are most essential to its effectiveness and find ways to provide these aspects to both your own home work environment as well as those of any of your employees. These items can be as simple as providing the necessary equipment (laptop, printer, phone, etc.) or more complex like providing remote access to a server, network connectivity, files, and other more industry specific items. Whatever you or your team need access to in the workplace, there needs to be access remotely in order to successfully work from home.

Address any Team Concerns or Questions Immediately

After the initial setup has begun and you (and/or your employees) are settling into your home working environments, it’s important to do another assessment of the situation. As things begin to progress remotely, there will inevitably be bumps in the road as well as several unforeseen frustrations that arise over the changes. It’s important to take stock of what is (and what is not) working for you and your work team in order to address any issues or concerns as quickly as possible.

Staying flexible and acting swiftly are the best ways to overcome any of these hurdles that will come up over the course of the remote phase. This is done by being understanding of the expected changes and by making note of any issues as well as checking frequently with your team to find out what their needs may be. From there, you need to attentively make the changes needed to provide solutions to any issues, questions, or concerns.

Have Necessary Resources on Hand for You and Your Team

As you and your team adapt to the social distancing conditions, understand that each person will likely have a widely varying degree of what resources they’ll need access to. For the more obvious reason (different team members need access to different areas and items based on their position within the team), needed resources may seem obvious (vendor files for sales, accounting software for bookkeepers, etc.). For others, however, resources needed may not be as obvious.

Some of your team members may need remote access to a shared server, while others may need access to high-speed internet if they live in more remote areas and don’t have reliable service at home. Speak with your team members and find out what items they may need to help them with their processes at home and address these resource needs in order to make sure they can stay connected and as productive as possible in an environment that’s much less structured than their usual workspace. If you’re an employee and feel as though you’re struggling with the resources you’ve been given, be sure to speak to your team leader or manager and allow them to help you find a solution that works best for you all.

Stay Connected Regularly with Team Members

The only way to effectively keep the wheels turning during the remote working phase is to stay in frequent contact with all members of your team. Understanding that not all employees will need a constant link to their managers in order to stay focused, you need to be available often and as needed. You’ll want to make sure your team knows you are there for any support or questions, but you also need to give them the space to navigate their own remote workspaces as well as give updates and feedback on how things are going.

Having regular video or conference meetings scheduled can help keep a form of structure in an otherwise unstructured work environment as well as provide a prime opportunity for updates and feedback. It’s important, however, to keep these brief so they aren’t overbearing or adding to the stress of working remotely. Try to remain positive and brief with these updates and keep detailed discussions limited to more direct task-specific conversations. Assigning partners or teams for various areas with a designated team leader can help keep everyone connected with additional resources and less demand on overall managers as well.

Provide Positive and Consistent Feedback Frequently

“Optimism is contagious. Leaders who demonstrate hopefulness and confidence in the future are better able to help their team members find meaning and purpose in work, especially under stressful conditions,” explains Harvard Business Review.

Remaining flexible and ensuring your team’s resources are being met are some of the most important aspects to navigating a change in your work experience, but they aren’t the only factors involved in its rate of success. Keep your finger on the pulse of your team members and be sure to address any issues quickly (or as an employee, bring any issues to your manager’s attention as soon as possible) in order to minimize stress levels and maximize productivity. Communicate with your team frequently and remain positive with a focus on optimism and progress updates as much as possible. Keeping these essential tips in mind will help you successfully manage the social distancing work scenario.

Technology and Coworking: The Collaborative Effort and Invaluable Opportunities
2 March

Technology and Coworking: The Collaborative Effort and Invaluable Opportunities

If you’re a coworking space member or contemplating joining a nearby community, you’ve likely done your research on the many benefits of these spaces. For many, the overall savings when compared to a traditional brick and mortar office space for start-ups and freelancers is a huge draw to the coworking world, but it’s not the only perk, by far. One of the greatest advantages, in fact, can be found in the invaluable opportunities that come with technology and coworking combined.

Standing Out with Technology and Coworking

With technology being utilized in virtually every aspect of our lives today, it only makes sense to see it in the workplace as well – that’s a no-brainer. The problems arise, however, when you’re trying to incorporate the most useful and effective technology into your own business – the costs can add up very quickly, hitting your budget a lot harder than you’d like. As a result, lots of start-ups and small businesses are forced to skimp on technology, opting for the basics in favor of lower costs, but costing your business advancements at the same time. This can hurt your future endeavors by limiting your ability to effectively get your business ventures out there in the best light and in the most efficient way.

The Technology Advantages

Since coworking spaces have been on the rise in recent years, most spaces today offer members not just a beautiful workspace, but also one that comes equipped with the latest technology – and under budget. It’s no wonder then that these spaces can offer some serious technological advantages over the traditional (and limited budget) options of brick and mortar spaces. So, just what are the advantages of having the latest technology at your fingertips?

Well, for starters, since technology is essentially the media you utilize in every step of communicating your product or services, it’s clearly a pretty important (yet often overlooked) part of your business’s success equation. Using unreliable and outdated equipment can limit your ability to get your image out there, let alone make a favorable lasting impression on prospective clients. If, however, you utilize a workspace that already has all of its tech components seamlessly connected and ready to use, you stand a much higher chance of wowing your business connections as well as save yourself the time and headaches of dealing with shoddy equipment.

Invaluable Opportunities with Tech

Technology advantages don’t end with impressing clients. Some of the most invaluable opportunities that arise from having state-of-the-art tech at your disposal come from the dramatic increase in productivity they tend to promote. By allowing you the best network connections and the accessibility of easily connecting multiple devices for sharing and collaborating, technology promotes some serious productivity. Technology has become one of the hidden gems of the coworking communities that allows users to quickly connect and share ideas with others as well as brainstorm new ideas from anywhere in their space at virtually any time of the day. Can you imagine the invaluable opportunities that can (and do) arise from combining such technological advantages with sleek and affordable office spaces for entrepreneurs? They’re practically limitless!

Networking 101: How to Make the Most of Your Acquaintance Resources
1 February

Networking 101: How to Make the Most of Your Acquaintance Resources

By now, you’ve likely learned that your business associates and acquaintances can be an extremely valuable commodity for any entrepreneur. No matter what line of business you’re in, having meaningful connections with others in your field and your community can help your business ventures exponentially… but how?

The Key to Successful Networking

When it comes to networking, there’s one key concept to keep in mind: it’s always better to focus on having true connections with your associates than it is to branch out and stockpile a laundry list of networking individuals. In other words, as with most relationships, focus on the quality of your relationship versus the quantity.

While you may be tempted to get out there and spread your business card all over town and collect those of others with fervor, networking is more than simply meeting an individual in the same line of work. It’s also not about the “big” names in the business either. Networking takes – wait for it – work. Yes, you need to work at developing meaningful connections with your network or it won’t get you anywhere. So, how do you do that?

Stay Relevant with Meeting Room Functions

Developing and maintaining relevant networking connections is a multi-dimensional process that involves both getting to know your associates as well as making it known what kind of worth you bring to the table as well. Networking is about a mutual growth in which we offer help to others while gaining connections and opportunities simultaneously (but without expecting anything in return).

In order to achieve this, you’ll need to find ways to stay relevant and at the front of the minds of others in your area and field of interest. You want to be the one they think of when they have a need in your area. How do you do this? Offer your time and/or your services. Try hosting a training seminar or workshop to offer valuable advice or tips to help others. Don’t have the space to do this? Check out meeting room rentals or event spaces you can utilize regularly to impress your connections with both professional presentation as well as valuable information.

Be Helpful and Be Appreciative

“As you meet new people and build your network, keep in mind the value of each relationship. Reaching out to someone you’ve met once when you need something isn’t going to build trust – you need to offer your resources to open the door for mutual benefit down the road,” explains Forbes.com.

In other words, if you want to have truly valuable networking experience, you need to remember the road goes both ways. You need to invest your time and effort into developing meaningful relationships in order to get the most out of potential future opportunities from them. Take the time to get to know your acquaintances, invite them to relevant opportunities like workshops or conferences, and be sure to show them you appreciate their time and acquaintance. Invest your time and effort into building not just an expansive network, but a quality network that’s rich with solid potential.

Be Your Own Brand Ambassador: How to Market Your Small Business
15 December

Be Your Own Brand Ambassador: How to Market Your Small Business

Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been in business for decades, it’s always a good time to review your marketing strategies to make sure you’re getting the best exposure possible. With ever-changing technological advances, small business marketing efforts can evolve quicker than you may imagine, rendering your entrepreneurship irrelevant or unseen rather quickly. With a few good business practices, however, you can stay on top of the changes and become your own brand ambassador, keeping your venture at the forefront of your market.

How to Market Your Small Business

According to Forbes.com, “Marketing is a concentrated effort to push your brand across a variety of platforms and hope that enough makes it through to your customer.” Often times, your business needs to be seen a number of times before it is truly recognized and converted to business, so the more you brand, the higher your chances of a successful effort. This is Marketing 101 and likely something most business owners are already aware of. So how do you convert this concept into something that stays current?

Becoming Your Own Brand Ambassador

The most important step to marketing your brand is organization and revision. This is the process of taking a look at what areas you are currently marketing your products and services and analyzing how they are performing. You’ll want to highlight areas that are working well – are customers bringing in mailed fliers or using certain promo codes you issued? These are things you’ll want to continue, or even tweak to keep things fresh. You’ll also want to note which areas aren’t bringing in the traffic you’d like to see so you can either rethink them and try a new angle or scratch the idea altogether. This process of reviewing what’s currently going on is one that should be repeated at least quarterly in order to stay relevant and give you the best response time.

Research Current Trends

If you want to stay relevant, you need to make sure your business is growing and moving along with technology and the digital age. Doing a little research will help you ensure you’re reaching the full extent of your client base with your marketing efforts. Take a look at what related businesses are using to promote their brand: are they pushing social media platforms or improving their mobile-friendly visibility? Also, take a look at more organic resources in your area that you could tap into. Is there an up-coming local festival or charity event you could sponsor or get involved with? These should give you ideas for what is trending currently and how you can adapt your branding efforts to match the trends.

Network, Network, Network

Let’s be honest here, of all the methods an entrepreneur can market their goods or services with, few compare to the benefits of networking. Networking is simply the act of getting out into your community and/or line of business and making connections with others. This is done by attending conferences, joining local organizations such as a Chamber of Commerce or utilizing communal work spaces, sponsoring related events, and just plain being seen. By doing this, you’re expanding the potential client base by bringing awareness to your business as well as giving yourself an essentially limitless pool of future connections.

Recap and Adapt

To recap, the best thing you can do to become your own brand ambassador and increase your bottom line is to review your efforts frequently, research what’s trending, and get out there and network in your community and trade. By keeping up with what is working, and changing what is not, you’ll be able to stay on top of marketing trends and boost your brand more effectively.