As the largest non-government funder of community services in the GTA, United Way Greater Toronto reinforces a crucial community safety net to support people living in poverty. United Way’s network of agencies and initiatives in neighbourhoods across Peel, Toronto, and York Region works to ensure that everyone has access to the programs and services they need to thrive today. Mobilizing community support, United Way’s work is rooted in ground-breaking research, strategic leadership, local advocacy and cross-sectoral partnerships committed to building a more equitable region and lasting solutions to the GTA’s greatest challenges.
In March 2020, United Way Greater Toronto’s three offices with over 200 staff were forced to instantly respond to the pandemic. In two short days, United Way leaders transitioned staff from wired workstations to take-home laptops, and securely pivoted their critical business processes to a brand-new remote model.
Fast forward to summer 2021. With a new post-pandemic vision of the workplace, United Way embarked on the initial stages of transformation to the future of work.
The first step was the decision to transform to a hybrid model for the return to office. “For us, first and foremost in considering the return to work was keeping our employees and communities safe,” said Kyla Lougheed, Director of Operations, Analytics and PMO at United Way.
But, which systems and controls could ensure everyone returning to the office would feel safe?
How would they handle the administrative burden of the transition?
And what technology partner could help them automate all the moving parts to ensure efficiency, accuracy, and oversight?
“We started by focusing on defining moments of engagement that need to be in-office,” said Kyla. “What are those activities at the organizational level? What are the activities at a team level and what are the individual requirements for each person’s job that would require them to be in office? That was our starting point for navigating the new normal of hybrid work.”
A year into the pandemic, United Way had a small percentage of staff who were eager to return to the office. Some were not thriving at home, and many really wanted to see people again. For this reason, there was an initial attempt at a trial re-opening.
According to Kyla, management of this soft opening was “a scramble”, with reliance solely on manual management practices, including:
During the pandemic, United Way took steps to renovate their offices, transforming desks into hotel spaces with new amenities and safety features.
No one in the organization had any visibility to these exciting changes, and employees could only book desk spaces two or three days in advance due to limited administrative capacity.
“We had no formal mechanism for desk booking – nor accurately tracking completion of the health assessment, mandated by the government,” said Kyla. “Everything was manual, imprecise, and time-consuming. Nspace took away all that administrative burden and gave visibility to the office.”
United Way was on a digital transformation journey and needed to find not just a system or a vendor, but the right technology partner to accelerate the process. They sought the right support team to help unleash the hybrid work model they envisioned with continuity, control, and connection.
“We looked at three big firms and we didn’t like any of them. They were vendors, they weren’t partners. The tools were oversized, and they were large and expensive to implement,” said Kyla.
Then, they found Nspace.
Director of Operations, Analytics, and PMO at United Way
Nspace sprang into action to expedite a pilot for the ultimate transformation of three United Way Greater Toronto offices to a hybrid model. In all, the implementation took just three weeks to complete. The Nspace team took a straightforward, support-driven approach, perfectly scaled to what United Way needed.
One of the greatest gifts Nspace brought to the United Way team was the solution itself. Employees were able to access the app from the United Way intranet site and hit the ground running.
“With Nspace, we didn’t need to do any training – and to me this is the number one selling feature,” said Kyla. “We originally created a user manual providing painful detail about how you do everything, but it’s barely been touched. The user guide is there, but it’s really self serve.”
Another benefit Nspace brought from implementation stage forward is office visibility, an important first step in bringing people back together in-person. Employees had been vocal about problems in scheduling their return to work: “if no one else is here, what point is there in me coming in?”
With Nspace, everyone can now see groupings coming into the office ahead of time. As a result, they are motivated to deliberately seek out when their colleagues are on site and book to work together. This has been a notable success factor in introducing United Way’s new hybrid model – and an important engagement booster.
The ability to re-open with confidence ensuring all staff and visitors, pass the health assessment, comply with vaccine requirements, and can be accurately contact traced in the event of a health risk.
With Nspace, United Way leaders always had a clear and accurate window into numbers of staff pre-booked and present on site.
Numbers and insights on use of space, visitors, and duration of stays equips managers with valuable knowledge to improve the employee hybrid office experience.
Data on employee health, office usage, and in-office behaviours informs and empowers leaders to guide the organization confidently forward.
Director of Operations, Analytics, and PMO at United Way