Without technology, quarantine would have meant isolation. The coronavirus crisis considerably increased employer attention to software solutions and slick gadgets, which are now rapidly accelerating their development into the workplace.
It was tech that connected co-workers during the past few months, and paradoxically, it will help keep everyone six feet away in the post-lockdown office. Alternating use of space, density control, contact tracing, and other measures of safe return are all to be implemented through innovation. There’s no shortage of creative ideas - the workplace technology is actively evolving to anchor social distancing.
Space management systems
Based on calculations with predictive modeling tools, the optimal workplace occupancy for effective social distancing is no higher than 40 percent. Primarily designed for office areas with high human interaction, shared space and resource management systems are helping to put the math into action with updates for location capacity enforcement and people flow control.
The value is created by involving organization through the booking of shared spaces with pre-defined capacity constraints, and restricting their usage to groups surpassing any limitations. To sustain integrity, the occupancy rules may be extended from room, to floor or building levels, so that the number of people in different office areas does not exceed overall location capacity.
Besides restrictive functionalities, space management systems are a worthwhile storage of centralized data on space utilization. Just a glance at a wide array of usage and behavior reports can streamline decision making, and help choose appropriate measures. This can include, limiting access to buildings when there are too many people, adjusting employee shifts, or, if that’s what it takes, penalizing negligent violations.
To avoid unnecessary workplace interactions, the AI-enabled HR software industry is developing in ways that improve recruiting and onboarding processes. It’s great at matching applicants to jobs and scheduling interviews, but can also be used for employee training or performance reviews, expanding the list of actions that can be conducted remotely.
Onsite, the power of AI has already been successfully tested and employed by industries which continued to operate in unprecedented circumstances, including: healthcare, construction, and e-commerce. For example, Amazon built a tool which grabs images from the warehouse security cameras every few minutes and sends notifications to responsible supervisors if it detects people being bunched up.
By the same token, proximity sensors, embedded in wearables, provide real-time information on crowding and distancing conditions. Smart tags, tokens, rings, and wristbands with LED lights or audio systems can sound an alarm or flash a light signal when workers come too close to one another.
Constantly collecting human information and evaluating it through its mathematical algorithms, AI opens the door to social distance data mining, enabling accurate trend forecasts and people movement predictions.
Robotics and automation
Some claim that the crisis skyrocketed digital infrastructure to a level where it is able to support remoteness permanently. Social distancing, slowly establishing itself as the new status quo, could prompt robotics and automation expansion into corporate life.
What sounds like a sci-fi scenario is actually very simple in practice. The hospitality industry has already been leading the way with robot front desk clerks, which could also be adopted in bigger offices to minimize close human contact. Same goes with workplace maintenance operations, for example, automated cleaning. By sharing information with space and resource management systems, intelligent robot cleaners can analyze conference room reservation times, and ensure that those rooms comply with the new hygiene standards for each meeting.
Wrapping up, it is clear that the evolution of workplace technology, accelerated by social distancing, is twofold. It’s either driven by repurposing the existing office tech, or by experimenting with brave, innovative concepts. No matter the approach, in the face of crisis, technological change is the ultimate driver for better safety standards.
Egle Pacebutaite is a Marketing Specialist, Yarooms International.