Leveraging IT for a Safe Return to the Office

The past 18 or so months have been quite extraordinary, unlike anything seen in several generations. We’ve been forced to retreat to the safety of personal isolation and home-working to shut down our society, offices, and personal life. Thanks to the national vaccination programs in our respective countries, we can now begin to return to some semblance of normality. Will it ever truly be the same? It’s too soon to tell, but we do have the tools to re-open our society. 

Approaches differ from person to person and from organisation to organisation. But two truths remain constant – the need to re-establish a sense of normality and the need to stay safe. With the hard work of Health and Safety officers and teams focusing on putting in place the physical controls – from air-flow management to physical distancing – technology can also play its part. Here are some technological solutions to help keep us safe and productive in the coming months:

1. Video conferencing

Many organisations are employing, trialling or at least considering some form of flexible working. With this comes an increased likelihood of some or all attendees of meetings not being physically present. This brings a different challenge when all attendees are remote. With this part-on-site, part-off-site meeting make-up, there will be a need to consider meeting room video conferencing solutions that ideally integrate with your existing choice of video conferencing, be it Teams, Zoom or others.

2. Contact Tracing

With the return to shared workspaces, there’s a need to track the comings and goings of both colleagues and visitors. There is a multitude of options and solutions available. They range from repurposing existing visitor management or time and attendance solutions to new dedicated systems and apps. Regardless of the solution, there remains a need to track attendees to meet contact tracing requirements.

3. Visualise your comfort levels

Finally, as we return to the office, we will bring the emotional strain of the past 18 months with us. Some may not yet be ready to return to traditional norms and gestures. Physical proximity, physical contact, prolonged periods in the same room, etc., will have differing levels of acceptability, and key will be able to communicate these feelings to those around us. Solutions such as desktop LEDs, colour-coded lanyards and other visual cues will help avoid conflict or confusion on the subject. Communication of an agreed standard or format among colleagues is key.

Regardless of the solutions you choose to use to protect your organisation, it is essential to frequently recheck the medical and Health and Safety advice issued by our government. Effective communication with those around us, particularly the articulation of our comfort levels around personal space and physical contact, can only help smooth out the transition back to the workplace. Technology has its place but only as an enabler, not as a replacement for good practices and behaviours.