Many businesses shifted to remote work due to COVID-19. Yet some could not. Others are hoping to get back soon, either full-time or in a hybrid mix of onsite and virtual work. This article discusses several IoT asset management tools available to help companies prevent the transmission of COVID-19 and enjoy other business benefits too.
Business owners are looking for ways to make the working environment safe so employees can return onsite with reduced risk of coronavirus transmission. The focus on supporting social distancing and prioritizing wellbeing is fueling a facilities tech revolution.
Before the global pandemic, businesses cared about employees and guests of course. Yet there were widely accepted norms about how we moved around at work, what an office space would look like, and how visitors would be introduced into the business environment. Now, “everything has changed,” as global architectural firm Gensler noted. “The one thing most of us will be looking for when we re-engage with our communities is an underlying trust in the environment that we’re emerging into.
Fortunately, with advances in Internet of Things (IoT) asset management, it’s becoming easier to make offices safe for employees working post-COVID. Expect new working environments incorporating some, or all, of the following:
- Touchless entry
- Temperature checks upon entry
- Improved air filtration
- Reconfigured design for social distancing
- Enhanced cleaning protocols
- Digital signage
- Contactless technology (kitchens, elevators, etc.)
In discussing these various areas of attention in the future work environment, this article will focus on the role IoT asset management can play in providing peace of mind.
With digital technology, a remote worker coming onsite only a couple of days in a hybrid environment might book and pay for a parking spot, schedule a desk assignment or a meeting room, and indicate the times he or she will be onsite through a single app. The technology could also use a smart phone’s Bluetooth reader to open parking gates, allow access through security turnstiles or doors, turn on lights and adjust room temperature.
With IoT technology enabling touchless entry, building managers gain access to an abundance of useful data. Knowing how many people are coming onsite, where they are going, and when can prompt an office to revisit its back to work policies. If too many people are gathering in the office on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons, for example, a notice could go out asking departments to rejig their meeting schedules.
Temperature Checks Upon Entry
People are accustomed now to public health mandated temperature checks to help detect if people coming into the office environment are symptomatic. You can make this less intrusive to your staff and visitors with a contactless thermometer.
Many companies are also using apps and daily health surveys to screen employees. Some countries are even adopting immunity passports that generate a QR code depending on a user’s contagion risk. Tracking users via apps limits travel for those who are meant to be quarantining. It’s not unlikely that biometric kiosks providing some form of immunity verification will become more common in lobbies and at office entry points.
Improved Air Filtration
An obvious solution is to open windows and doors where possible to increase air flow. The CDC also suggests meeting with an HVAC professional to discuss increasing total airflow and percent of outside air circulating. Running a system at maximum outside airflow for a few hours immediately before and after occupied times can help too.
At the same time, smart sensors attached to walls, ceilings, doors, windows or machines can monitor air quality and temperature throughout the office setting. These small IoT-connected devices can also track humidity and CO2 levels to provide facilities managers with real-time insights. Seeing an area is too hot or too cold, or has high humidity, the manager can make immediate adjustments. This not only improves user experience but supports improved health and safety.
Reconfigured Design for Social Distancing
An obvious reconfiguration is the move to remote working powered by cloud computing. This is letting people access the familiar office applications in their own environment. But many businesses want to get back onsite, even if just on a part-time basis.
This means reconfiguring design for social distancing. Solutions include:
- Alternating when different teams come into the office
- Spreading out the days different team members are in the office
- Moving desks further apart and adding movable walls or cough/sneeze guards between work areas
- Reducing occupancy in common work areas, meeting rooms, points of entry and access
- Replacing high-touch communal items, such as coffee pots and bulk snacks, with pre-packaged, single-serving options
- Posting signs asking guests to call in to announce their arrival to better stagger arrival times
Using smart sensors in spaces where people typically line up or wait in groups, for instance, the business might set up alerts to sound when physical distancing is at risk.
Enhanced Cleaning Protocols
More frequent and thorough cleaning protocols are necessary with the coronavirus. IoT technology can help a facility manager better schedule cleaning and disinfecting. For instance, if there were a lot of people in the office one day, a deeper clean could be necessary
Additionally, the time to close off areas for cleaning and disinfecting when someone is sick or has a COVID-19 diagnosis. This includes the person’s immediate work area and common areas and shared items. A targeted effort is easier in a building with IoT sensors and asset management tools in place.
In an IoT integrated office, the building manager can know what desk the sick employee used, if they went in any conference rooms, used a locker or printer, and more. The information can prompt enhanced hygiene protocols and improve contract tracing.
In the short-term at least office environments will be safer with more attention paid to traffic patterns. With digital signage in the business setting, a facility manager can remind people to move around the office in a one-way direction (to avoid crossing paths).
Of course, the signage doesn’t need to be digital. White boards and printed materials will work too. However, signage integrated with dashboards tracking sensor data can also lead to real-time requests for users to avoid over-crowded areas or messages directing people to specific elevators, restrooms of conference rooms to encourage social distancing.
Imagine the building visitor or employee coming from another office for the day. Instead of having to start with face-to-face contact with someone who gives them an entry badge, they could be signed in using a virtual concierge kiosk or via a mobile app. A scannable code on their smartphone could provide access to parking and the building. From there, the individual could even be directed to a particular area of the office, operate secure elevators, and open preassigned touchless lockers with contactless entry.
Touchless elevator doors could be configured to only open on certain floors based on RFID scans of company badges or mobile app codes. Staff and visitors could also gain contactless entry to conference rooms, break rooms, and washroom facilities with mobile apps. The employee might also use the single platform office experience technology to send items to the printer or pre-pay for a snack from the office vending machine.
Added Advantages of IoT Asset Management
We are moving to a world which seamlessly integrates our physical surroundings with digital technology. Integrating IoT technology with building asset management software can also support:
- Business continuity
- Improved productivity
- Employee wellbeing
- Professional growth
- Sustainability efforts
- Reduced costs
- Automated maintenance
With high-bandwidth connectivity expanding and the proliferation of smart phone devices, there are many convenient tools to adapt to the changing expectations in offices. Integrating IoT asset management lets building managers know where people are and when to improve social distancing and security. Maintain a safe environment for your employees and prevent the spread of COVID-19 incorporating IoT asset management to elevate user experience in your space.