Most of us have already adapted to a ‘touchless’ world as a response to the current pandemic. Whether it’s decentralizing the workforce and working with distributed teams, using cashless payments for transactions and online banking, and using smart technology and building automation, building managers have taken necessary precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Public spaces, like the office, will forever be changed. We won’t be able to return to our former routines (old normal) and there will always be that lingering fear of another outbreak. Instead, we’ll be moving forward to modifying spaces, incorporating new practices and health protocols, and new technologies to support a safer, ‘touchless’ workplace.
These building automation changes, while some may be drastic, are implemented in response to the public’s heightened concern about disease transmission and prevent or prepare for the next pandemic. The COVID-19 crisis serves as a lesson learned for building owners and companies to focus and highly invest on their employees’ safety in the workplace. The experience also served as an eye opener for most of us on how technology can support us in improving health and safety.
Though most businesses have already started reopening their doors, operations won’t be back to a full 100% right away. Experts are looking into businesses going through a transition or bridge phase wherein managers will be working with a ‘hybrid’ workforce.
Most companies are eyeing to send about 20% of their employees back to the office during reopening and gradually increase it over time. Some of the employees will still remain in a work from home setup. With this in mind, building owners and managers are encouraged to implement health and safety focused enhancements to bring back the employees and customers’ confidence in visiting their spaces.
Aside from doing quick changes like repurposing publicly shared areas like meeting and conference rooms, encouraging the use of digital collaboration tools (such as video conferencing), and implementing stricter hygiene protocols, investing in smart technology and building automation is also a hot topic amongst building owners.
When we return to the office or use co-working spaces, we need to consider how we can introduce interfaces that are touchless. We can start by using various technologies already available. Here are a few areas automation can help in reducing contact points.
Use Voice Command Controls
Alexa, Siri, Cortona, and Google have definitely helped humans handle mundane tasks and this technology has all the more proved it worth now we’re in a pandemic. Voice command eliminates the need to manually operate shared facilities like lighting, temperature, and even appliances like the coffee maker or vending machines.
These technologies can also help you plan out your schedule, send messages to key persons, or even go as far as order your food for lunch without the need to dial the phone. It’s also a viable investment that you can easily scale up as the company grows. Not to mention, advancement in technology is fast-paced. The capabilities of these voice-activated assistants will grow further to include other advanced functions.
When planning out your workplace technology roadmap, make sure you include voice command for long term investments.
Use Sensors and Gesture Activation
Some buildings have already adapted the use of sensor activation mainly for their restrooms and kitchens. While these devices are more popularly known for their eco-friendliness, using motion sensors to replace items in shared facilities can also greatly decrease touchpoints in your building.
Instead of traditional doors, look into motion sensitive options that allow your building visitors to enter by just waving their hand. Sensor activated lighting control also eliminates the need for manual controls. Traditional faucets, soap dispensers, and toilet flush in the restrooms should be replaced with its automatic counterparts.
Not only do these solutions help cut costs and reduce waste, it also enhances hygiene and stops the spread of communicable diseases.
Recirculating air and centralized air conditioning has been the default in most commercial buildings. However, experts believe that poor ventilation can actually help viruses like COVID-19 spread faster especially in offices. By ventilating with outdoor air, it helps dilute airborne contaminants and decrease transmission of diseases.
Add more windows or create more open spaces in your buildings and let the fresh air in. Not only does it improve air circulation, it also gives your employees additional space for adequate distancing.
Invest in quality air sanitation technology to improve indoor air quality and stick to your scheduled HVAC maintenance.
Realigning your focus to the new needs of your employees is not an easy task. It will require a lot of planning and smart investment. The COVID-19 pandemic serves as a reminder of how easily we facilitate viral transmission by using community devices.
No one knows how this crisis will fully change the workplace. One thing’s for sure, it has moved digital transformation faster and adopting workplace technology and building automation is no longer an option – it is critical. Businesses should take this experience to rethink how we interact with our physical workplaces once we return to them.