One of the greatest concerns facing employees is returning to the office as COVID-19 remains active. Employee safety is at the forefront of many organizations’ minds as they evaluate their operations and figure out the best way to return everyone to the workplace.
SAP recently released a Workplace Booking app for SAP Cloud for Real Estate, which helps customers safely schedule their employees’ return to the office. ASUG spoke with Peter Maier, president of industries and customer advisory at SAP, about the new app and how it works.
Jim: Can you give us a high-level overview of the Workspace Booking app?
Peter: Since the onset of COVID-19, most of us have been forced to work from home. Now, many offices are reopening in limited capacity or will start doing so in the near future. This situation is a challenging one, because we must ensure the safety of employees returning to the office. To help companies and institutions navigate this unprecedented time, we’ve created the Workspace Booking app, which helps to bring employees back to the office in a safe and controlled way. It works in two ways to support every part of the business.
First, from a space management and distancing perspective, facilities and office managers can define thresholds for space occupancy and communicate guidelines regarding physical distancing. Based on the use of office spaces, they can make data-driven decisions for optimizing services like cleaning, canteen operation or food preparation, and others. Second, employees can book a workspace up front in one of their preferred locations. This helps employees adhere to possible capacity restrictions and comply with statutory regulations.
Jim: How does the app help organizations put a plan together?
Peter: We found out that many of our customers have either already started or are about to begin reopening their facilities in a controlled manner. Of course, this depends on regional situations. Physical distancing and capacity limits can be a necessary part of this controlled reopening phase. The Workspace Booking app allows facilities and office managers to define thresholds for space occupancy, which means only a maximum predefined number or percentage of employees will be able to work at the office at any given time. This precaution helps companies keep employees safe while complying with physical distancing guidelines.
Jim: Was this developed as a result of COVID-19?
Peter: When COVID-19 hit the world at the beginning of the year, SAP mediated a dialogue with customers and partners on how to help. Among many ideas, the Workspace Booking app was one initiative we pursued because of a substantial need: HR colleagues asked whether we could support a safe office reopening with the help of technology. One of our teams is responsible for the development of SAP Cloud for Real Estate, a financial application for the management of corporate real estate portfolios. From a technology perspective, we already had extensive experience in managing spaces through software. As we had both the technology and the real estate expertise in place, we were able to create a temporary feature based on the bespoke SAP Cloud for Real Estate solution—and that’s how the Workspace Booking app was born.
Jim: In the U.S., I think it’s likely that a lot of the mandated policies for returning to the workplace are going to vary from state to state (just like the lockdown and physical distancing policies). How will this solution account for all those different policies not only here, but also globally?
Peter: The Workspace Booking app is fully flexible so that crucial settings like defining a capacity threshold can be adjusted for individual sites, buildings, and even different floors within a building. Once employees book a space through the app, they receive an email confirmation. The content in these confirmation notifications is fully customizable. You can include specific information about each location and adapt to state-specific policies. Additionally, the app has an emergency cancellation feature that allows facilities and office managers to immediately cancel all bookings at a given location, should new infections be reported. There’s a lot of potential and functionality within the app for these managers to customize details according to the individual needs of each location.
Jim: What is your favorite aspect of this solution? What excites you the most about it?
Peter: The Workspace Booking app is the result of a close collaboration between experts and stakeholders from the Global Pandemic Task Force, SAP IT, SAP Global Real Estate, and HR. These teams have carefully combined all the necessary requirements to keep employees safe and businesses running—and they did all this while working remotely themselves.
From a technological perspective, what excites me is that Workspace Booking is a stand-alone app that works without any preconditions. This means that users do not need to run an SAP real estate management solution to use the app. As Workspace Booking is a temporary feature of SAP Cloud for Real Estate, users additionally have access to the full capabilities of SAP Cloud for Real Estate when they subscribe to the app.
The Workspace Booking subscription allows users to manage a controlled office reopening, plus manage a building portfolio, contracts, and run analytics through SAP Cloud for Real Estate.
The app can be implemented very quickly, which delights real estate and facilities managers. Managers have reported that only a few hours are needed to set up the app, as well as considerable time and effort savings compared to using Excel spreadsheets.
Jim: How does the Workspace Booking app fit in with SAP’s larger efforts to help customers through the pandemic?
Peter: One of SAP’s early responses to the pandemic was the development of the Corona Warn App, together with Deutsche Telekom, to trace COVID-19 infection chains in Germany. This app helps keep individuals safe as they resume their everyday lives.
This thinking was translated into a business context for the creation of the Workspace Booking app, because it helps customers manage the complexity of returning to the workplace in a safe and controlled manner.
The global pandemic has transformed the way organizations interact and do business together. With much of the world now working from home, we are finding that customers not only want to work remotely, but they also want to make purchases online on B2B marketplaces like the SAP Store and the SAP App Center marketplace for ecosystem innovations. The ability for customers to efficiently purchase solutions digitally is more important than ever, and online B2B marketplaces are the key to keeping businesses agile in the current landscape. The Workspace Booking app is currently available for purchase on the SAP Store, where it comes with a discounted subscription option of 50% off. To get started, customers only need a license for professional users like workspace administrators, who will maintain the data. Employees can book spaces and use the app for free.
As part of SAP’s “Back to Best” campaign, the Workspace Booking app is a great addition to other key solutions that are available on the SAP Store, such as SAP Litmos Training for e-learning, and SAP Environment, Health, and Safety Management.
Jim: As SAP cited in the press release for this solution, two-thirds of the American workforce is uncomfortable with returning to work right now. How do you think this app will help alleviate some of the workforce’s anxieties?
Peter: Facilities and office managers can define thresholds for space occupancy at a very granular level in order to implement physical distancing regulations with the help of the Workspace Booking app. Setting occupancy limitations helps us adhere to distancing guidelines and reduce the risk of an infection. Furthermore, employees can see the number of colleagues who have booked a space for a particular date and location. Based on the number of seats booked, they can decide whether they are comfortable returning to the office or not. On top of that, employees can see if a space is already fully booked, saving them an unnecessary commute. Using the app contributes to a safer return to the office.
Jim: In one of the ASUG Pulse Checks we’ve been conducting since the pandemic began, we found that more than one-third of companies indicated that they are operating below normal levels. How will this solution help companies return to optimal levels and meet their KPIs?
Peter: One of the greatest challenges of the pandemic for many employees was the sudden shift to a working-from-home model. Companies had to adjust their infrastructure operating models to facilitate flexible working models and enable employees to work in any location—from the kitchen table in a bustling city to the patio of a country farmhouse. From that perspective, the digitalization of the workplace has been accelerated. But working from home is not a permanent solution for many roles and industries. That is why we need a solution like the Workspace Booking app to help bring employees in mission-critical roles and those who need the infrastructure of their office workspace to ease back into a productive and safe office environment.
Jim: Broadly speaking, why do you think that it is important for the workforce to return to the office?
Peter: For many organizations, there is no feasible way to return to the pre-pandemic status quo with open-office layouts, high space utilization, and high-traffic gathering spaces in the foreseeable future. But the office is not just a place for individuals to focus on work. Office workspaces also bring people together and connect them in unique ways that can spark innovation and new ideas and, in turn, positively impact productivity. The pandemic may have changed the way we view office spaces, but rather than eliminating them altogether, we need to evolve the discussion on how to invest and create spaces that allow for flexibility and foster innovative thinking and collaboration.
Jim: Have any companies already started using the Workspace Booking app?
Peter: So far, the app has been rolled out in eight countries and sees hundreds of bookings every day—except on weekends.
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