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How Webex “Smart” Rooms Can Bridge the Safety Concerns Employees Have for Returning to Office Post Covid-19

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There are many organizations that have already made the decision to not allow team members to come back to the office until 2021.  Their IT departments have been scrambling to set up all the “technology” they believe their teams need in order to collaborate.  Think laptops, webcams, VPN’s and collaboration tools. With all those technologies and all those tools problem solved, yes?  Well maybe from an IT perspective, but what about from a human aspect?

Ultimately it’s the people that make or break a company. It is all about how do we get teams to engage with each other, collaborate effectively and be motivated to want to further their careers and stay with the organization. Before Covid-19 that meant many organizations had evolved their offices to more of a resort than a traditional office. People would enjoy delicious food created by in-house gourmet chefs; they would exercise in company gyms that were far superior than what you would get in premium hotels; they could get spa treatments such as massages, hair cuts, pedicures; free flowing espressos and cappuccinos. These companies invested in this to attract and retain talent.  In turn many people at the start of their careers decided to live in the city to save the commute.  After all, if the office had all the amenities of a luxury hotel then a small studio or 1-bed apartment would be perfectly fine to just sleep in a few hours per night.

Fast forward and do we now believe that work from home will be the new way forward and that all those office luxuries will become meaningless? Of course not. Many employees, especially those who have not worked from home permanently before, will not be happy at the notion of no office to go back to ever. A recent study from Deloitte shown below indicates the challenges that employees can face at home:

The human challenges faced with the above are many but a couple of the most impactful ones according to experts are “belonging” and “well-being”.  According to Deloitte in their survey 93% of respondents believed that fostering a sense of belonging drives operational performance, but only 13% stated their companies are ready to address that. Likewise, 79% reported that their organization’s strategy did not explicitly integrate well-being into the design of work.

A lot of companies employ surveys to gauge how they are doing.  However, results can be skewed, especially in a pandemic where some may feel they have to spin a positive tone to show they are a “team member”.

Humans are social animals and many companies realize that their offices were an integral part of belonging and well-being.  With a mix of people being at home and some getting back to the office how do you ensure that both are collaborating?  With Webex Rooms and Webex Desk Pro at home you can measure how your people are collaborating.  So, if those in the offices are using conference rooms for local meetings without connecting to remote participants that is measurable.  If they are in calls and sharing content that is measurable.  Likewise, if they are ideating with Webex Boards or inside of Webex, even that can be part of the analytics. You can ensure privacy and not tie the actual people to the analytics. All of this delivers a measure of how engaged your teams are which is a critical factor of belonging, and it drives employee retention.

So how can Webex Rooms help companies accelerate return to office where the mandates allow it in a safe manner? This is especially important as data has shown that the highest risk of contracting Covid-19 is if you are in close physical proximity with an infected person for longer periods of time.  So how can we mitigate that in Webex Rooms? When you enter the room the Webex System will count the number of people and based on what the criteria are for that time it will notify the users in the room on the screen when there are too many people in the room.  If integrated with a workspace management system it can even provide alternatives that are available as well as show them the safe way of getting to that room.

There is also a general consensus that it’s much harder to contract Covid-19 outside.  This is mainly due to constant fresh air not allowing sufficient viral load to pass from one person to the next. That is why many of us have received emails from the airlines stating that they not only exchange their air nearly 25 times in an hour, but also filter it using high efficiency particulate (HEPA) air filters which capture 99.97% of airborne particles. As a result, even though people take the virus with them from country to country, these outbreaks have not been traced back to planes as a significant vector of spread.

One way to measure air quality is to measure carbon dioxide in the room from a sensor.  The Webex Room systems can alert people to leave the room when the carbon dioxide levels exceed prescribed limits. In addition, the Webex Rooms can be integrated with the Building Management Systems to adjust the amount of air volume and percentage of fresh air based on the number of people in the room.  Apart from this allowing for a safer air environment it will invariable be more energy efficient as well.

Where a customer does not own their building, they can at least use the Webex Rooms to drive user behavior and keep them safe.  The panel outside of the room can be turned brown so a tenant (and user) can quickly see which rooms are not safe and take that up with their landlord or the real estate company!

As for those people at home with a Webex Desk Pro, the same configuration can be applied and even at home the employee can be advised to open a window for fresh air. With the likelihood that a significant number of people will work from home this upcoming winter, it is critical that companies understand and mitigate the effects of carbon dioxide in employees home offices / bedrooms / studios. Many countries around the world use hot water system for heat at home with no forced air. Working in a confined space at home with no fresh air will result in the effects of excessive carbon dioxide – fatigue, irritability, lack of concentration, less productivity and increasingly susceptible to overall poor health.

In summary Webex Rooms deliver a high quality experience that keeps people engaged from a collaboration perspective.  But these smart collaboration systems can also help companies keep their employees safe and be part of an integral strategy for their return to the office.

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