Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, many offices enjoyed open workspaces where staff could congregate and collaborate. Conference rooms were often filled to capacity to help fuel creativity and innovation. But all of that is changing as businesses strive to adapt to a post-pandemic world. Companies want to protect their employees as well as their businesses. Thus, it only makes sense that they should invest in safe office spaces to deter the spread of the coronavirus. This explains why many companies are looking for solutions that offer greater virus protections in the workplace. And it’s also explains why a number of innovative businesses are looking to meet this demand.
From temperature-testing devices, to contact-tracing app, several new products and services have entered the market that promote safe office spaces. Depending on a company’s specific needs, different businesses offer different solutions. And of course, some offer multiple products to accommodate companies wanting comprehensive virus protections. While many of these new products are designed around CDC guidelines and recommendations, they remain unproven. But that’s not stopping companies from implementing these solutions. At least for now, the business of virus-proofing offices is booming.
“These are all untested theories and methods right now. What is going to be the most effective component of all of these work force return strategies? We don’t know.” – Laura Becker, Research Manager at International Data Corporation
Virus Protections at Entry
One important strategy in creating safe office spaces involves determining who is safe to enter the building from the start. In the past, one may have only needed to have the proper identification. But increasingly, companies want employees to screened for fever, face mask use, and more before entering. For some companies, this may even include logging in COVID testing results or other health information. By screening each person before they enter, the need for viral protections afterwards are less stringent.
A number of businesses offer these types of solutions. For example, Kastle Systems offers an app-based solution that uses temperature checks and health data reviews. Employees who provide health data may enter the office space faster if they lack a fever. VAMS Global provides a visitor management system that scans body temperature, checks for face mask compliance, and provides hands-free identification. And Clear’s “Health Pass” uses facial recognition and health data in addition to temperature monitoring before allowing employees entry. These are becoming notably popular for larger companies with high-volume traffic.
“The idea is really to create this profile where you can identify who is known safe, who’s known not safe and then who needs to be screened when they get in.” – Mark D. Ein, Chairman, Kastle Systems
Social Distancing and Safe Office Spaces
One of the biggest challenges in creating safe office spaces involves the ability to ensure social distancing. Prior to the pandemic, many office layouts were not conducive to social distancing. But unless companies choose to have their employees work from home, these issues will need to be addressed. Not only does this affect desk workspaces and conference rooms. It also affects elevators, cafeterias, and of course, the water cooler. Fortunately, several innovative companies can help with these virus protections.
Two of the most well-known office furniture suppliers have revamped their offerings to address social distancing needs. Herman Miller and Steelcase are offering new products like office dividers and employee lockers to promote social distancing. Rebootspaces is another company addressing these challenges through changes in office space design. Other businesses offer different options other than furniture and space design. For example, Sodexo developed an application that eliminates the need for employees going to the cafeteria or coffee shop. Employees can order their coffee or lunch and have it delivered through a commissary instead of congregating in close spaces. Lastly, Qonch cards provides employees with smart card ID badges that vibrate when they are too close to another employee. Depending on a company’s need, several of these offerings might sound attractive.
“This terribly manual process of contact tracing: essentially it’s a phone tree, and that’s where the technology was when people started thinking about it; we’ve since moved it into the modern age.” – Rob Mesirow, Partner at PwC
Monitoring and Surveillance Products
Even with entry and social distancing measures in place, companies can also benefit from monitoring their places of business. Safe office spaces require regular cleanings and sanitization. In addition, temperature and humidity systems can be better regulated in an effort to add additional virus protections. And video feeds can offer insights about social trends and areas where congestion may be a problem. Some companies are considering these more advanced approaches to ensure a better workplace.
From this point of view, there are a few businesses that now offer full-office solutions for companies. Jumpree Worksafe, for example, has thermal scanners that collect office temperature measurements daily and track room cleanings. They also provide live video monitoring of common areas to ensure social distancing measures are being followed. Zenatix, on the other hand, offers an IoT solution suite of options. In addition to a biceps armband that tracks employee temperatures and movements, it also regulates heating and air systems. These approaches are broader in their virus protection efforts as a result.
When Do Virus Protections Become Too Much?
Companies are reasonable to want safe office spaces. These practices can show employees that there is concern for their wellbeing. They also support better productivity, especially when staff are heathier and enjoy better virus protections. But contact tracing and temperature checks can trigger privacy concerns. They may make employees feel like Big Brother is always watching. The challenge for companies as well as innovative businesses offering these products is to find a perfect recipe of precaution. The perfect solution will vary from company to company, and trial and error will probably be important. But at least companies have some options available to them in the marketplace already. Hopefully, these solutions will be effective and help us deal with a post-pandemic world.