EMS Takes the Plunge into Office Hoteling

Wendy Newlon | October 29, 2018

What happens when space management experts heed their own advice

If you’re familiar with EMS, you know we strive to help organizations use their space more efficiently. As part of this mission, we recommend that enterprises and higher education institutions consider hoteling, which offers benefits including reduced real estate costs and improved employee productivity.

But we haven’t always followed our own advice.

There was a time when we were using large demo rooms for a handful of workspaces while desks sat unoccupied. We were hiring additional employees without knowing whether we were going to outgrow our space. And we were showing customers how to use our platform to optimize their workplaces and campuses, without fully doing so in our own building.

That had to change.

So late 2017, we made the switch and started “drinking our own champagne.” We moved to an office hoteling model, where we deployed a more flexible system for creating and assigning work spaces on an as-needed basis.

Here’s how EMS Software implemented a strategic hoteling initiative across our office:

The modern workforce

Yesterday’s image of the 9-5 worker confined to the office cubicle doesn’t match today’s reality. The mobile revolution and changing employee expectations mean that the digital workforce works wherever and however they want, whether that be from home, a coffee shop or from the airport while traveling to see a client.

At EMS, we had to account for this environment while acknowledging a few realities of our own:

  1. Dedicated offices and workspaces were sitting empty. Our sales and professional services teams spend a chunk of time away from the office visiting customers, hosting events and more.  Add in vacations, sick days and other out-of-office time, and it was clear we could be more efficient with our space.
  2. Remote employees needed better workspace access. On the occasions when our remote workers would travel to our Denver, we found ourselves scrambling for places for them to sit. Oftentimes conference rooms held the only available space, which wasn’t the most productive for workers and made it difficult for others to find meeting space.
  3. Real estate costs were eating up our budget. Real estate costs are increasing everywhere – for many organizations, it’s the second-highest expense in the overall budget – and it’s no exception in our Denver office. We challenged ourselves to optimize our space and eliminate unused or underutilized workspaces to ensure we wouldn’t have to move offices or lease a second location.

What’s more, we wanted to be able to provide greater insight for you – our customers – about our own experiences with modern workplace strategies. By moving to hoteling, we knew that we would be able to more fully understand how and why organizations use our platform, while providing valuable insights and best practices for such a profound workplace change.

Change management

Change can be a bumpy ride, even when those involved believe the outcome will be for the best. Before we embarked on this new initiative, we considered potential pushback and addressed those concerns early on. This helped facilitate company-wide buy-in.

The process started with clear communication from the top. An email to the entire company, detailing:

  • the reasons why we were switching to hoteling
  • how it would benefit our customers (a key factor for our employees!)
  • how it would benefit our company
  • the logistics of how the system would work
  • where to go for help or to learn more

For example, we found one of the biggest concerns was the impression that employees would have to “give up” their space. So, our emails from leadership also described how EMS was implementing “reverse hoteling,” where a space is reserved for six months and the employee can simply release it during times they are away from the office. At the end of the six-month period, employees simply had to reserve the same space (or a new one) for another six months. This helped alleviate fears that employees would be scrambling for new desks daily.

And in demonstrating the EMS ‘we’re-all-in-this-together’ approach, our leadership closed the email with:

“So……… hoteling is here and all our offices are now up for grabs!!

Preparing the facilities

Getting the facilities ready was one of the simplest parts of the process, thanks in large part to IT’s help in planning the rollout.

At EMS, we issue computers to nearly all employees and non-remote contractors, and previously they were deployed in a hodge-podge style. Some individuals use PCs, some use Macs, they use different models and different brands – and work stations were filled with the excessive amount of cords needed to serve the various devices and adapters. In short, there was no consistency from workspace to workspace.  

About a year ago, the IT team wanted to make the tech environment cleaner, more consistent and easier to use. After researching options, we focused on HDMI as it has become a de-factor standard for connecting high-definition equipment such as computers. We also installed monitors with USB ports to ensure additional connection options.

Over time, we purchased the necessary cables and created a standard setup at each workstation, including the many demo and huddle rooms. This allowed EMS employees to simply go into a space, plug in their peripherals to the USB port in the monitor, and get right to work.

The next piece of the facilities puzzle was to create workplace maps – think seating charts in restaurants – and physically label the locations. HR generalist Jenna Schuleter and her department labeled each desk (desk 1, desk 2, desk 3, etc.), mapped these spaces to the floor plan map, and then physically affixed decals to each workspace. In addition, IT added more digital room signs outside meeting rooms, using updated iPad mini 4s for their crisp displays and strong wifi connectivity.

(A note for the curious: IT debated initially what to do for Apple users, because two monitors can be hooked up to a Mac device but it will only display on one. IT decided to equip each station with just one screen for a consistent user experience, and we have since found that this works well for most employees and visitors. We also set up fixed areas for “gear-heavy” jobs (e.g., development and quality assurance), for those individuals who require extra monitors, specific keyboards and the like.)

The last important task to take care of before the office was ready for hoteling was to ‘take out the trash.’ We held a purge week where we went through the office emptying cabinets, desks, storage areas and even the refrigerator, and employees took home an abundance of excess personal items such as food, pictures and plants.

Our workspace was primed and ready.

Taking names and making reservations

All that was left was to implement our reservation management policies and enable users to take control of their bookings – and we already had the software!

EMS Customer Success Manager, Wendy Newlon, lead the official rollout of the new reservation management strategy:

“I used the EMS platform to make initial reservations for our in-house employees, in their current space, and we then encouraged them to extend that reservation or create a new one for the next six months. We also asked each employee to release their space when they weren’t using it.”

Employees were encouraged to book their workspaces using the variety of access points provided by EMS, including:

  • Web app (the primary method, which also allows easy browsing of My Events to see reservations)
  • Lobby kiosk (good for ad hoc reservations)
  • Mobile app (bookings on the go, also good for ad hoc reservations)
  • EMS for Outlook (our Microsoft calendar add-in, where users can make reservations without leaving the calendar interface)

“Because EMS has a fairly small office, we can set the system up so that it really works well for individuals without a lot of oversight. We’ve implemented a number reservation rules and limitations, and employees have quickly adapted to the new office strategy,” said Wendy.

Smoothing out the bumps

We’ve heard from multiple customers that hoteling can be used as a positive force for changing employee behavior – and we found the same to be true at EMS.

We ran into a few challenges early on, but we were able to resolve them over time:

  1. People had to develop the habit of releasing workspaces. You could look down the hall and see someone wasn’t in for the day (e.g., a marketing team member might be working from home) but their spot was still reserved, so one of the admins would go into the system and release the space. We continued to remind folks for the first few months, and now that people are more used to the new system, they need fewer reminders.
  2. Employees needed to remember to check in. Before our hoteling initiative was establish, we found that a person would be in a conference or demo room and then someone else would show up to use the room because the original user had never check in – resulting in the space being automatically released. Now that employees are using the system for more than just meeting room reservations, they’ve gotten much better at check in to all office spaces.
  3. Individuals pay more attention to when they release spots. A few times people would come in to the office and although they had released their usual spot, they sat there anyway, creating a situation where there might be a conflict. Frequent reminders have helped us get better as a company at keeping track of our own reservations and holding each other accountable.

Results

Overall, we’re toasting the success of our move to hoteling. It has had some great results, some of which really surprised us:

  • Better space utilization. It’s a little embarrassing to admit, but a year ago we really didn’t know exactly how much space we needed. We learned that despite a number of new hires, we didn’t need to move to a new office or build out the current one. We sent out a utilization report to employees showing how well we were now using our space, and it helped connect the dots for a lot of people.
  • Improved morale. Before the switch, many of us didn’t fully appreciate the freedom we would enjoy by being able to choose where to work each day. We found that some individuals completely gave up their own cubes/space, and they like to sit in different areas of the office and meet different people.
  • A cleaner office! It’s amazing how much better the office looks. And people can still bring in their photographs and store personal items in cabinets if they wish.
  • Increased job satisfaction. Our employees are better able to relate to our clients because they can discuss how we do space management here. It also helps new employees resonate with what we do; working with your own product shortens the training time.
  • Additional tools for software improvement. We always test out our own system ahead of a release so we can catch the bugs, and now we have many more quality assurance employees throughout the company, in every department – simply by virtue of their using the products every day. Plus, the real-life experience has given us ideas of app features we’d like to improve.

Learn More

Hoteling initiatives like these are a common trend in a number of modern workplaces. Find out what other trends are driving the workplace revolution. Download our workplace eBook to learn more.

Wendy Newlon
written by Wendy Newlon, Sr. Customer Success Manager

Wendy Newlon is responsible for aligning customer objectives to a success roadmap and advising on EMS best practices. She is also managing the coordination of EMS resources to ensure customers within assigned account portfolios are achieving the maximum value from their EMS solution. 

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