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A well managed return-to-the-office plan can drastically improve employee well-being.
With the threat of the coronavirus gradually weakening its grip, businesses are left evaluating how best to overcome the challenges of returning to the office environment.
Ensuring the safety of staff and visitors is only part of the issue. With the trend of remote working forcing significant adaptations as it is, returning to the office is a minefield for many.
So, in this digital age, it's no wonder that technological advancements are the solution to many such challenges. Technology is already pivotal in assisting organizations to return to the physical workspace. Here are four ways that tech is easing the return to the office.
Fresh on the minds of every person re-entering the workplace is the issue of contamination. One of the biggest challenges many companies face is the prevention of overcrowding and protecting their workforce's safety.
Many are turning to technology to assist them in managing occupancy levels. Investing in a system that ensures the office space is never at full (or over) capacity is invaluable to businesses that manage a significant volume of workers and/or visitors.
Offices are installing occupancy sensors that monitor where employees frequently work and gather, identifying high traffic spots which pose an increased risk of cross-contamination.
A simpler version favored by many businesses is an access control system that can track and monitor overall capacity while improving the security of the premises.
Many businesses are redesigning their workspaces to accommodate hoteling or hot-desking in keeping with the ongoing trend towards remote and flexible working models.
Hoteling and hot-desking both support a flexible office management model. Hoteling mimics a hotel reservation and check-in system for offices, while hot-desking is even more flexible still. With hot-desking, workers can choose their preferred position to work on any given day, depending on their focus and what space is available.
For many businesses, hoteling is the ideal option between the two, maintaining more order regarding desk bookings while providing a more flexible model for workers. Office hoteling software streamlines employee communications and provides real-time occupancy insights, assisting with capacity tracking solutions.
As crucial as it may seem, it's staggering how many businesses weren't operating with portable technologies such as laptops and tablets before the onset of the pandemic. Instead, many firms were so used to their office environments that it was a mission to adapt to remote working suddenly.
Covid-19 forced such businesses to become more tech-savvy and invest in portable technologies to keep their operations running. Integrating portable technologies into everyday working processes allows for remote working and facilitates workers in choosing where they can achieve the best productivity on any given day.
Whether that’s at home, in a co-working space, or at the office. In addition, portable technology ensures that little-to-no disruption will now be caused by an employee not being able to physically present in the office.
The pandemic has significantly emphasized the importance of hygienic practices to minimize the risk of transmission. Businesses returning to their physical workspaces have the enormous task of ensuring the health and safety of workers like never before.
Health, safety, and hygiene policies are set to change long-term. Certain technologies are proving pivotal to many organizations as they seek the most efficient solutions moving forward.
Since viral transmission occurs primarily through air and surfaces, businesses are focusing heavily on adopting technologies that reduce the need for shared physical contact points in office environments.
Movement sensors (or gesture technology) remove the need for physical contact and can be utilized in high-use areas with a greater risk of contamination, such as bathrooms, lifts, and entry points/doorways. Voice-activated technologies can also be used similarly.
Access control systems can now be integrated with cloud-based technologies that allow businesses to run their security systems on mobile-encrypted permissions. This heightens the security of a business premise and allows for the remote, real-time management of access permissions.
Other viral transmission concerns include the repeated use of high-traffic area surfaces, such as office furniture and amenities. As a result, many businesses are switching to antimicrobial materials that ensure minimal germ transmission. This may not be achievable for some companies, but it should be adopted once refurbishment becomes necessary.
Social distancing and mask-wearing have highlighted the importance of breathing in safe, clean air and how easily germs can spread through inhalation.
Consequently, businesses are under tremendous pressure to provide workplaces with high air quality and optimal air circulation. Unfortunately, many companies currently operate with central heating or air conditioning systems, which do nothing to improve the quality of the air they produce. Workers will only put up with wearing masks for so long, and even then, poor air quality and circulation can still result in viral transmissions.
Many businesses are turning to HVAC (Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning) systems to improve air quality and ventilation in office spaces. These systems bring fresh air in from the outside and remove stale air from the inside while simultaneously controlling the internal temperature.
These technologies remove contaminated air and improve oxygen levels as they work. Improved air quality in office environments not only increases a worker's confidence in their surroundings but can boost productivity, too. Clean, well-circulated air can make employees feel less tired and more focused.
These technologies are just some of the most popular currently implemented by businesses worldwide to combat the challenges of returning to the office environment.
While some of these improvements involve capital outlay, businesses not only see the need to adopt new technologies to assist them in returning to the office space; they recognize that these solutions are future-proofing their workplace. The legacy of the pandemic is set to be a long-term commitment to improved health, safety, and hygiene, and workplaces will be under the spotlight if they fail to comply.
Luke Fitzpatrick has been published in Forbes, Yahoo! News and Influencive. He is also a guest lecturer at the University of Sydney, lecturing in Cross-Cultural Management and the Pre-MBA Program. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.
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