Is Technology the Way to a Safer Office?

25 May 2021


As we surpass the one-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses are finally beginning to open their doors to employees again. While this is routine many are eager to return to, it carries a few implications. In the United States, 2 out of 3 professionals still feel uncomfortable returning to an in-person workplace. Even with the availability of vaccinations, many have grown accustomed to a quarantine mentality, which is challenging to break out of. To resolve these concerns, businesses are looking for ways to make their offices safer. Social distancing is an excellent method of preserving the health and safety of individuals in the office, but with the help of technology, we can take it one step further. Even if it feels as though life may be returning to normal soon, we are living in a new normal, and businesses will never again operate how they once did. Offices are looking to embrace this new normal through the implementation of technology. Not only can certain technologies optimize business operations as a whole, but they can make the physical office safer. We will dive into some of the most prominent technologies to help companies create a safer workspace, preparing themselves to thrive in our new normal.   

Wellness Checks

If you have entered a business in the past year, you have likely experienced a pre-entry wellness check. As a building's first point of contact, entrances, and lobbies have begun to implement wellness checks at the door. This ensures that persons entering are at minimal risk to those around them to ensure the safety of others inside. This may have included answering a series of questions regarding your health and potential symptoms or even a temperature check. Regardless of what it entailed, wellness checks are likely here to stay – to some extent. As more and more employees begin to return to the office, it’s likely that pre-entry wellness checks will be revamped.

Some organizations are implementing self-service kiosks that use touchless and vital sign detection, easing the process of screening visitors for entrance. Additionally, some companies are using apps and daily health surveys to screen employees before arrival. For those that have or plan to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, you may have the option to upload your proof of vaccination to such apps. Many major cities have already implemented such a system to allow vaccinated individuals to travel and attend events. In terms of businesses, this will make it easier for your organization to verify your wellness and enable you to return to the office.   

Desk Booking

Pre-entry wellness checks are only the first step in returning to the office. Once in the office, there are countless more ways to improve safety. In the past, you may have never thought twice about the health implications of a shared office space or desk. Today that is unlikely still the case. Fortunately, desk booking software enables the concept of hot-desking, a safe and easy way to manage a shared office space. This software allows individuals to book a desk or area in their office, reserving it for themselves. Management will have complete control of the software to help manage safety. With the ability to block off certain areas, management can block off desks between employees and space apart those in an open and shared environment. This is an excellent tool in managing social distancing, ensuring that all individuals in the office are safe and comfortable.  

In addition to the safety aspect of hot-desking, it is also beneficial to a team member's productivity and creativity. Because individuals can choose their desk on a given day, they can adjust their environment to specific activities. If an employee is working on a task that requires focus and concentration, they may choose a more secluded and quiet space to work in that day. Alternatively, if someone feels more creative and productive when working near others, they can choose to book their desk in a more social setting. Whatever your preference, hot desking allows team members the flexibility to select and change their workspace while management can maintain a safe and distanced office.   

Office Sensors

Another excellent technology for managing a safer office is the use of IoT sensors. IoT-enabled motion-sensing devices can be placed throughout the office to detect occupancy and manage capacity. When an individual enters a room or sits at a desk, the sensors will collect data to be transmitted and then relayed to a cloud-based repository. Team members inside and outside of the office will be able to access the sensor data to be aware of current occupancies and respond accordingly. This is instrumental in determining how many desks are occupied, if individuals are properly distanced, and if too many individuals are in a given space. For companies following capacity regulations, the use of IoT sensors will significantly simplify the process of monitoring employees, allowing you to remain safe and compliant with ease.

These sensors are typically anonymous, only recording that a person is in a given space – not who it is. But, for the tech-savvy companies looking for more advanced features, some sensors do offer facial recognition. This feature is enabled by using specialized cameras that can process images in real-time to count and identify individuals. This may be beneficial in recording who is in the office, allowing management to locate employees and record who was in the office on a given day. 

Remote Collaboration Tools

Even though many employees are eager to return to the office, it may not be feasible to bring the entire company back into the office just yet. For smaller offices, it isn’t possible to comply with occupancy regulations and social distancing in a limited physical space. In addition to this, some employees may have grown to prefer remote work or do not feel comfortable returning to the office. If any of these reasons apply to your organization, hybrid work may be the right fit for you. Hybrid work is the concept of enabling both remote and in-office work simultaneously.

Thanks to the development of remote collaboration tools, hybrid work is a breeze. Using video conferencing and smart technology, colleagues can collaborate and communicate from different locations with ease. You likely used these tools over the past year, as most professionals worked remotely during the height of the pandemic. While with hybrid work, half of the organization will be remote and the other half in-person, developments in remote technology continue to simplify this process. With solutions such as cloud storage, employees can work with one another on the same project in real-time while in different workspaces. This concept enables employees to work in a space best suited to their needs and preferences without compromising collaboration or productivity. Implementing capable video conferencing tools and software in your office will allow team members to seamlessly collaborate while remaining happy and healthy.

Topics: Employee well-being

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