The transition back to workplace attendance is under way as organisations begin the phased return of the most critical workers. The government has issued guidance for making eight different workplace types "Covid secure", including a requirement that employers carry out risk assessments before reopening and as referenced in earlier articles how you engage with your staff is critical .
Technology has played a starring role in remote working, and its importance is set to continue as the emphasis remains on social distancing and working from home where possible. Inevitably, flexible working will become integral to the future of work, potentially during periods of enforcement and as part of the need to maintain distancing by reducing workplace occupancy.
Technology in a Covid-secure environment
The return to the workplace presents a further critical role for technology as employers, landlords and FM providers seek to create an environment that staff and visitors can trust to be safe. Practical, cost-effective measures may include:
Minimising the risks from shared equipment and multi-person contact
- Optimise digital workflow, replacing any business processes that require unnecessary face-to-face contact or exchange of paper, such as contract execution or document reviews.
- Consider NFC (Near Field Communication) technology or mobile apps to provide lockable print queues, while avoiding the need for shared touchpads.
- Use mobile apps instead of printers for scanning and copying.
Maximising employee welfare and productivity at home
- Provide hardware and office furniture if needed, redeploying the surplus that will be created when the office is reconfigured for distancing. This also has the added benefit of minimising storage costs!
- Maintain a register of these assets andtheir locations, using QR codes/asset tags.
- Continue to use technology to maintain the organisation’s social and professional networks—celebrations, mental health initiatives, and other community and social activities—even as some colleagues return to the workplace.
Using technology for a safer building
Whilst there are a number of practical measures we can adopt now for minimal cost a further investment will assist in defining your requirements medium term and these should include;
- Use digital collation and analysis of occupancy and environmental data to manage attendance patterns.
- Workstation monitoring sensors may also be useful for managing usage.
- Where a retrofit is due, explore touchless technology such as automatic doors, hands-free light switches, and voice-activated lifts and temperature controls.
Take a look at our article on creating a Covid-secure and compliant building.
Educating staff and building their trust
This is a lot of ongoing change for employees and occupants. Ensure they are effectively supported:
- With effective access to information about new ways of working and upcoming initiatives. Good communication is key.
- By using good change management practices when deploying new software or technology. For greater engagement, consult staff as part of the process, even if the new initiative is being rushed in.
- By raising awareness of safety, health, and wellness initiatives, training opportunities and support mechanisms.
Read our article on looking after employee welfare while meeting business objectives, in the return to the workplace.
Undoubtedly there will be challenges in harnessing technology to best effect in the transitional period ahead and a need to balance investment across a number of areas, not just technology. Many organisations are struggling with the need to make significant changes to ways of working, and with the pace of change needed. Basic technology challenges including the provision of software outside of the corporate network and the problems of unstable domestic broadband continue to require attention alongside the workplace challenges.
It’s likely that remote working and limited building occupancy will need to be maintained until at least the end of the year—and there may be a permanent shift away from larger flagship workplaces, in favour of new hybrid combinations of home and smaller satellite offices.
Whilst the immediate priorities of how many employees will need to return, and how they will do so safely, will obviously be the main concern initially. However, this reactive approach can move towards medium- and long-term planning once the dust has settled. It’s an opportunity to re-imagine the workplace, to rethink how we occupy space, and to consider which workplace strategies will best help to build resilience. Continued investment in collaborative technology will therefore pay long-term dividends and is an investment in the future success of the business, not just a short-term fix.
Support with technology planning and adaptation
Faithful+Gould’s workspace team understands the role technology plays in establishing the new norm, and it’s a vital part of our holistic assessment of clients’ needs as they plan for the return to the workplace. We are supporting organisations with the many challenges that are most pressing right now, bringing timely best practice and innovation. We’re helping our clients consider the key factors around people, property and technology, so they can create safe and compliant environments which allow their people to excel.