The UK Government has announced workers can return to the workplace and promises of ‘normality’ by Christmas. This may be good news for the economy, but bad news for the CIOs struggling to persuade ‘nervous returners’ will inhabit ‘COVID-safe’ workplaces. Smart tech is the answer.
Tech has already come to our aid. Both employers and employees adapted quickly to working-from-home with the help of Zoom, Teams, Slack and others. There is however zero certainty the reverse will be as easy.
In the coming months employers need to guarantee working conditions in offices are safe as well as effective. Office buildings currently need to ensure at least one-metre social distancing, one-way corridors and one-in one-out bathrooms, all while making the most of the space and desks available. This requires a lot of data.
Virtual COVID-19 floorplans
Businesses need to be prepared to change floor plans quickly to keep employees in the workplace focused on their work and not their personal wellbeing. While social distancing is today one-metre apart, this could be reduced to 0.5 metres or, in the unfortunate event of a spike in COVID cases, increased to two metres or higher.
The ever-growing and ever-changing list of rules and regulations puts employers on the back foot, so implementing smart real-time technology which can assist with the development of COVID-safe offices. The limited time for preparation means employers need to put away the tape measures and opt for technology solutions which scan office floors and create virtual floor plans in an instant.
Digitised floor plans ensure one-metre social distancing is accurate, desks can remain unused for ‘48 hours’ to avoid cross contamination and corridors create one-way systems in the most efficient way.
Implement overnight change in empty offices
The smart technology we developed, can create floor plans which update overnight in reaction to changes in social distancing guidelines or infection rates, without needing to update the software code. At the heart of systems like Smartway2 is a dynamic rules engine which allows new guidelines to be adopted instantly.
Certainly the office space utilization is under scrutiny. Virtual floor plans provide employers knowledge of capacity on each office floor throughout the working day. Managers may opt to implement working rotas or teams, meaning only certains employees are in the office on particular days. Perhaps team A comes into the office on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, while team B comes in on Thursdays and Fridays. With digitization, rotas which can be changed as social distancing rules are relaxed further.
‘Track & trace’ your workplace
A key element of both employers and employees returning to the workplace is installing an efficient ‘track and trace’ programme. COVID-19 is still a very real isk, meaning anyone returning to the office could have the infection without showing any symptoms at the time. Spreadsheets or printed registers are not sufficient to keep track of everyone, especially with thousands of employees.
Smart solutions can create reports with all the necessary information at the click of a button. This then allows employers to close and thoroughly clean all the potentially contaminated areas, as well as contact all additional employees who now need to self isolate. Keeping on top of ‘track and trace’ in the workplace can keep the office doors open.
In the event someone does test positive for COVID-19 after attending the office, quick action needs to be taken to avoid cross contamination which may result in closing the office again. Rotating shifts and teams allows bosses to keep track of who has been in the office on particular days, as well as where they sat and who they may have come in contact with.
Permanently COVID-safe digital offices
Employees returning to the workplace will need time to adjust and to be provided with as much guidance as possible. Although emails and virtual conference calls may seem like a great way to connect with team members, inboxes become full and calls can face ‘technical difficulties’. The most efficient way to keep all employees informed on their personal COVID-19 risks is to implement a cloud-based, easily accessible platform.
Taking control is empowering. Online platforms mean both employers and employees can check working rotas, book clean and safe desks and or meeting rooms, as well as keep up to date with the latest information. Employers can also implement virtual timers to show how long a desk has left in a ‘48 hour’ cooling off period in between uses and highlight which meeting rooms can be used as additional workspaces.
Returning to the office safely and efficiently will be no easy task. Smart technology though helps organisations seamlessly ensure COVID-safe workplaces which fit accurately within the government guidelines, as well as have all the key employee ‘track and trace’ information in place. As CIOs know well, being smart, means smart technology successfully deployed.