The COVID-19 pandemic forced all businesses to rethink how they operate — from what the future of their workplace is to the new policies and procedures they’ll put in place to ensure it’s safe for employees to return.
For some, the answer has been to embrace remote working long term and at full scale. For others, full-scale, full-time remote working simply isn’t possible.
Instead, these businesses are thinking about how they’ll adapt their physical workplace in the future to meet the new demands placed on them.
However, ensuring the health and safety of the workforce is the top priority. Following this are the practical elements: will the workplace need to be redesigned and — if so — what will that look like?
Lastly, what technology is available that can help the future workplace adapt to all these changes?
And that’s what we’re going to focus on in this blog.
Reassuring employees that the workplace is safe — and measures are in place to keep it that way — is crucial. Carrying out some basic checks of people entering the building is a good place to start.
Heat Detection Cameras, for example, are great for monitoring the skin surface temperature of employees and guests entering the workplace.
Using thermal imaging and IoT technology, the devices can screen up to 100 people a minute and send discreet alerts to a connected monitor, allowing supervisors and managers to inform employees and handle potential illness effectively.
This technology is already in use at airports, hospitality venues and even sports grounds. Wasps rugby club, for instance, are using this kind of technology to help protect players and staff.
The camera has been installed at the main entrance of the team’s Broadstreet training ground and is part of a wider effort to protect those entering it.
Giving employees the tools they need to do their jobs is a major part of improving productivity in the workplace. Naturally, if employees struggle, they’ll become frustrated.
So when it comes to mobile working, there are applications available that allow some employees to do all their jobs via a laptop, tablet or smartphone. However, if left unchecked, this can easily lead to them using dozens of different tools when they may only need one or two.
By developing custom mobile applications specifically for your remote workers, you can mitigate these problems.
These applications could include any number of functions, from basic work tracking, logging and customer communication for on-site engineers, to apps that allow product developers to use virtual or augmented reality to view products in real environments before they’ve even been developed.
Plus, because these apps are built specifically for your environment, they can be quickly and easily updated, allowing you to change the way you work at speed (something 2020 proved is crucial).
When information doesn’t flow properly between a company and its employees, it can cause confusion, delays and anxiety.
Research shows that nearly three-quarters of employees believe they are missing out on company news and updates in their company.
Not only does this risk having disengaged employees, but it also risks employees becoming more anxious in times of uncertainty — especially when things around them are changing quickly and they feel like they don’t know what’s going on.
This is clearly a major health and wellness issue, and something that businesses must address.
An AI Assistant can do all of this for you.
It can provide employees with business updates, information on changes to policy, remote working guidelines and even help onboard them. This frees up your HR team so they can focus on projects like employee engagement and wellbeing.
Why is this important? Well, businesses are currently dealing with high levels of uncertainty, with circumstances changing in some cases overnight.
More employees have questions that need answering, like: “What do I do if someone in my child’s school gets COVID?” “What is my company’s work from home policy?” “What tier is the office in?” “If I’m in a higher tier than the office, should I stay home?”
Using an AI Assistant, these questions can be answered automatically. Anywhere. Anytime. This kind of capability can also be used in the future in the event of any overnight changes or pandemics.
Businesses already use chatbots and AI on their websites to answer simple questions or guide customers to the information they need.
We’re now seeing more companies use AI to help improve their HR function too.
In IBM’s “Business case for AI in HR”, they make it clear how rolling at AI within their HR team helped both HR teams and employees.
By using an AI Assistant to create a central resource for common questions, IBM was able to spend more time on employee wellbeing, improving employee engagement, while allowing their HR teams to spend more time on business-critical tasks.
If you’re planning to bring people back to the office you might want to limit numbers in the early stages to help manage capacity.
In part, this is about deciding who needs to come back and deciding whether it makes sense for some to remain remote.
For those who are coming back, having a tool in place for employees to book limited amounts of office space or desk space can help keep numbers to a manageable capacity.
A simple room booking platform, where employees can see what space is available in a given day (and even see who else is going to be in the office on those days), can provide visibility to managers and give employees an easy way to come back to work in a safe way.
Teams can also collaborate to plan days when they need to meet in person, and liaise with others to ensure they’re able to book enough space.
It can also help managers to judge whether or not employees feel like coming back to the office long-term, or if they should plan for long-term remote working.
Understanding how employees interact with each other in the workplace, or how they move around it, is vital to understanding how to make it safer.
To get the data necessary, you need the right tools. Worker Insights provides an almost real-time overview of employee actions within the workplace and can help inform modifications you may need to make.
For example, using Worker Insights you can see where employees are most likely to gather, and even understand how employees move around the workplace. All of which is important information for minimising the risk of infection transmission.
It can also be used to ensure employees are following safety procedures like social distancing, and whether employees are complying with face mask policies.
Vodafone Business Office Spaces allows employees the ability to book office or meeting room space easily, as well as plan where they’ll sit to ensure social distancing is followed. It also allows managers to monitor the density of the office to easily manage capacity and compliance.
Health and wellness are no longer confined to the HR department — 2020 showed the importance of putting employee welfare at the centre of decision-making, and this includes investments in technology.
Employees now expect employers to take health and wellbeing seriously, and that they’ll be able to work effectively and safely from anywhere they want to.
While employee health and wellbeing has been a challenge for businesses during the pandemic, technology is already providing the answers to create a healthier, happier, safer workplace where employees can be productive and deliver customer service to a high standard.
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