Although the pandemic continues to persist, the government is now strongly encouraging a cautious return to work for UK businesses. Six months have passed since lockdown was enforced, during which time many organisations have had to adapt quickly to a world of remote working and rethink their approach to business operations. Now, the move back to the office is presenting a whole new wave of different challenges.
It’s true that many businesses will never fully return to work, as they continue to enjoy considerable commercial benefits and significant productivity boosts thanks to remote working. But not all businesses have had the luxury of being able to implement remote working strategies, and have suffered substantial financial losses or in some cases even temporarily shut their doors as a result. According to the Office of National Statistics, a quarter of UK companies have had to temporarily close due to the lockdown.
There’s also a social aspect to the workplace that has been notoriously absent for unwitting remote workers. Many employees are beginning to miss their work colleagues, with 34% looking forward to socialising at the office again and 40% missing regular office banter (YouGov). However, there is also an understandable amount of trepidation for most as they face the uncertainty of a changing workplace, seeing over 60% of employees uncomfortable with returning to the office until it ‘feels safe’ (Equim).
Reassure them with return to work IoT
In order for businesses to operate safely in the new normal, a return to work strategy is essential. An imperative part of this strategy’s success comes in ensuring the wellbeing of staff following the government’s social guidelines. Equally important is making certain these measures don’t come at the expense of the employee experience. In this changing world of remote work, collaboration and communication between your on and off-site team members must be made as seamless as possible. Thankfully, many technology manufacturers have already begun to introduce innovative Internet of Things (IoT) based solutions to address these concerns and accelerate business recovery.
The Internet of Things is a term that describes the network of physical devices, or “things”, that exist within an IT environment and are connected together by the Internet. These “things” can be anything from printers to sensors to air conditioning units. HPE, Lenovo, and Microsoft are among those currently pioneering IoT solutions to help control the spread of the virus while seeing your people stay productive.
Here are 8 examples of IoT solutions currently helping businesses manage the return to work:
- Temperature detection
Thermal cameras and imaging may be one of the most important additions to any workplace as we approach the new normal. These tools can quickly identify any elevated temperatures so you’re readily informed of any potential carriers of the virus around your site.
- Social distancing regulation
By harnessing intelligent surveillance equipment, the adherence to social distancing guidelines can be monitored site-wide, with alerts or wearable devices set to prompt employees if their proximity to others becomes an issue. Face mask policies can also easily be regulated, with appropriate usage determined by AI-based video analytics tools.
- Touchless entry
With such a heavy emphasis on the cleanliness of hands during the pandemic, businesses have started seeking touchless entry solutions. Whether it’s facial recognition, voice control, or wireless dongles, contactless access reduces the risk of spreading the virus considerably.
- Smart sensors
Smart building sensors and Bluetooth beacons are being adapted to provide location-based alerts, seeing employees are made aware of any geo-specific updates on-site in real-time. Sensors are also being introduced to ensure there is sufficient space between occupied desks, helping employees feel comfortable with the distance between them and their colleagues.
- Coordinated virtual meetings
Microsoft Teams has recently made it possible to sync their devices together, so that when a virtual meeting is joined from one device, other devices are seamlessly able to join the same meeting. This not only avoids any feedback or echo that can be distracting on video conferences but avoids cross contamination through the activation of multiple communal devices.
- Occupancy monitoring
Similar to social distancing tracing and tracking, room management tools have been created to monitor the number of people occupying a single room at the same time. This is a particularly crucial tool for retail in controlling how many customers are permitted to enter a store based on their current capacity restrictions.
- There’s an app for that
New apps are being called upon to assess employee wellbeing on a daily basis before they come into work, assign staggered arrival times to avoid body bottlenecks, and manage the flow of any visitors. With many businesses also bringing back employees in shifts, some have turned to desk booking apps to allow their staff to evaluate the availability of desks.
- Augmented and virtual reality
AR and VR offer fantastic opportunities for on-site staff to collaborate with those working from home. Not only can they provide 3D visuals to help identify and assist with any maintenance operations, they also make it possible to conduct training for any new starters virtually.
Of course, there is a delicate balance to be met when it comes to ensuring your employees’ safety and invading their privacy. It’s important to establish what they’re comfortable with versus what is achievable both from a practical and a commercial perspective before investing in any new tech. Similarly, with the rules and restrictions surrounding the return to work constantly changing and the potential for a second wave on the horizon, it’s critical to ensure whatever technology you do employ is sufficiently flexible and retains its value in the long term.
Our long-standing partnerships with the world-leading vendors pioneering this technology means we’re perfectly positioned to deliver such IoT solutions for our customers. If you’re beginning to think about the return to work and would like to understand more about how IoT technology can help you achieve this, please get in touch with a member of our team.