How to Create Split Schedules Without Splitting the Organization
Updated: Oct 1
New York State recently announced that any office-based workplace located in a region that enters Phase II of reopening is allowed to bring workers back into the office, as long as the total number of occupants is limited to no more than 50% of the maximum occupancy. In order to meet this requirement, companies are assigning their employees to different capsules.
A capsule is a group of employees that are allowed to come back to the office on certain dates or on a specific schedule. Members of one capsule are not allowed to physically interact or meet face to face with members of other capsules.
When done right, the capsule method reduces the density level in the office to guarantee social distancing measures and ensure redundancy if an employee gets sick. With the right capsule strategy, employers can create a return to the office that promotes employees’ safety, general well-being, and productivity.
Not every employee should rush back to the office, though. Before splitting up workers into capsules, employers should invite the following three groups of people to keep working from home:
The most vulnerable (staff above 60-years-old and/or who have a pre-existing health condition),
People whose family members are vulnerable
People who live with someone at higher risk of contracting the virus (like a nurse or doctor).
Once an employer decides which employees will continue working from home, they must decide how to stagger the workforce. Currently, our customers are using four different strategies to decide how to split their workforce to capsules. Choosing the right strategy depends on the goal that the company wants to achieve:
Strategy I: Maximize Collaboration
Using this approach, employers guarantee that people who collaborate together come into the office together. By splitting up the workforce based on departments or collaborative clusters, companies can ensure that their employees can continue to learn from one another, build strong connections with each other, and problem-solve together, even while wearing masks and sitting six-feet apart.
Strategy II: Maximize Redundancy and Resilience
Company leaders can choose this strategy to ensure that the company will still be able to function if an employee gets sick and was in physical contact with other co-workers. To plan for this scenario, managers identify pairs of employees throughout the company who can act as shadows for one another. The pairing system should account for overlap between the team members’ skills, knowledge, and areas of expertise. Done right, if one capsule is forced to stay home, the other capsule can still run the company.
Strategy III: Minimize Changes
This strategy focuses on minimizing changes and trying to avoid, as much as possible, the reseating of employees. Capsules are arranged in a way that will not require relocation of desks and seats. In the middle of this hectic time, some employers reasonably believe that uprooting employees will increase the feeling of anxiety. By providing each employee with their own desk as a steady anchor, employers can minimize an unnecessary increase in discomfort and encourage employees to return to the workplace.
Strategy IV: Maximize individual productivity
Through this approach, employers identify which workers can be productive from home and which will benefit from returning back to the office. Employees who are involved in non-collaborative, individual work and can manage at-home distractions should be able to continue working from home. Employees who are doing collaborative work should be able to come back to a less-dense office. As a result, one capsule will always work from home and one capsule will always return to the office.
Turning Chess into Checkers
After completing these important steps to the puzzle of bringing employees back to the office, employers can use a checkerboard method to assign seats to their staff. The checkerboard method ensures that in an open floor plan, there is an empty seat between every two seats. Rotating schedules determine which days each capsule enters the office. The chosen rotation schedule (whether it is every two days, weekly, or biweekly) has to do with the characteristics of each company, employees’ preferences, and specific cleaning protocols.
Choosing a strategy and assigning employees to different capsules may sound complicated, but that’s why Dojo uses advanced algorithms to automate and simplify the back-to-work process. By utilizing Dojo’s seating optimization algorithm, companies are able to streamline the process and arrive at a tailored, optimized capsule configuration for their employees.
Using data, analysis and the right algorithms, simplifies the process and allows for analytical and clear decision making to provide the employees with a safe, agile and productive workplace.
In addition to being co-founder of Dojo, Guy Vardi is Chief Innovation Officer at Silverstein Properties, a global real estate owner and developer based in New York City. // Dan Goldstern is co-founder of Dojo.