5 Ways Technology Can Be Used in the Post Pandemic Office
With people slowly starting to return to the office, how can technology be used to protect your staff? And what could the office of the future look like?
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Coronavirus caused a huge shift towards working from home and a massive and unavoidable restructuring of how businesses use their office spaces.
Is the contactless and paperless office that has been promised for so long finally a priority? And will companies actually do the work to make that happen?
In this article, we’re going to look at what technology can be implemented to make offices COVID-19 secure as the UK government requires them to be but also how they can become better places for you to spend your working life in.
How can technology be used to prevent the spread of coronavirus in offices?
In offices that already use smart cards for entry, ensuring that doors are contactless becomes easier. Wipe clean touch panels, combined with automatic doors, can make it simple to glide in and out of the space without ever actually touching a door handle.
1. No toilet humour
In toilets, technology has often been neglected, but automatic doors and no-touch swipe cubicle entry and flush mechanisms are eminently possible.
With a risk of aerosolisation being high with COVID-19, automatically closing toilet seats and phasing out urinals entirely could be important changes.
2. The marvel of keyless entry with mobile phone
More broadly on entry to offices, companies can and are switching to entry via mobile phone, capitalising on the already common phenomenon of BYD -- bring your own device -- which sees employees use their own smartphones to host work-related tools and apps.
Apps can also be used to remind staff of a wide range of tasks -- from regular hand washing, to desk cleaning, to maintaining social distance. The key here is to apply these apps in a way that feels helpful rather than intrusive.
Companies that gain the reputation for applying unnecessary surveillance often end up with poor press coverage or even a dip in recruitment as people vote with their feet when choosing their next role.
3. Why you should be wary of wearables
Wearables that indicate when a member of staff is at risk of not maintaining social distancing are an interesting option, however, it could suggest the employer doesn’t trust their staff.
More soft power moves such as digital signage to offer reminders and push notifications in apps could be better than a physical wearable, that may feel a little like a tag.
4. When working from home… works
After being forced to work from home during lockdown, many businesses are looking to continue remote working in some form even after they can return to their office.
Encouraging more staff to work from home can help businesses stick to social distancing guidelines, but to make this arrangement work it will be useful to invest money in good teleconferencing tools, home internet connections, and devices to teleconference from. Also, if your employees are working at home on a regular basis, you need to ensure they have the right screens, keyboard etc to do their job.
On the whole, these solutions will be cheaper than restructuring physical offices. And remote workforces can have a lot of benefits. That said, for some jobs, even in creative professions, face-to-face collaboration is still very useful.
For SMEs, software like Slack, Teams or Google Hangouts offer good functionality to engage with your team on a day-to-day basis.
5. Remaking meeting rooms
When it comes to meeting rooms, flexible spaces where walls can be moved to reconfigure layouts and increase the scope for social distancing are an obvious win.
Companies should look to work not only with experts in the physical space, but also in sound and how our attention spans work. Research into open-plan offices over decades has shown that they can have very negative effects on concentration and collaboration.
How do you pay to change your office to make it more COVID-19 secure?
If you’re looking to make changes to your office space, you can look for funding from different business loans and support from the government. You should be careful to understand the long-term effects of taking on any loan for your business and look to make changes to your offices or working methods that will pay off even when the pandemic has faded into being a bad memory.
Adapting now will prepare you for future ‘black swan’ events too. It should be money well spent, and there are plenty of business loan options to make that investment possible.
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Mic Wright is a freelance writer with a focus on technology, politics and popular culture. His work has appeared in publications including Times Money, GQ, and the New Statesman. Read more