The Hybrid Workplace: Planning the Safe Return to the Office

The Hybrid Workplace: Planning the Safe Return to the Office

What do 97% of the workforce have in common? They want their employer to make significant changes before they return to the workplace according to a new study by Dimensional Research. As businesses start planning the return to the office, one thing will be certain, the workplace will never be the same.

After the initial days of sheltering in place, the priority for organizations was to ensure business continuity through remote work and virtual collaboration tools. Companies reacted quickly and short-term decisions were made to keep the business running. Now is the time for a long-term plan.

What experience make people uncomfortable returning the office?

We’re entering the phase where bringing people back into the office means new protocols and policies to keep employees safe with the added challenge of supporting both in-office and remote work workers. For most organizations, the return to the office will be a phased approach where the most critical employees for business operations will be allowed access to the building. Social distancing, mask requirements, frequent cleaning and limiting how many people are in the building at any given time will be enforced to ensure safety. But as more workers return to the office, how can you make sure every employee is aware of the guidelines, knows which rooms were recently cleaned or if there are too many people occupying a space to meet social distancing requirements?

The top concerns the workforce has when they think about returning to the office:

View the Global Workforce Survey Infographic

How technology is nudging workers toward safety

When those responsible for enabling a safe return to the office (HR, IT and facilities managers) were asked what capabilities they needed for employees to safely return, 96% said intelligent workplace technology would provide the insights they need to handle the transition back to the office and help them deliver necessary experiences for employees.

They indicated the most sought after technology include:

1: Digital signage for providing vital information like alerts and new office guidelines

2: Device and technology utilization analytics

3: Touchless meeting controls

4: Ability to track room occupation and utilization

5: Ability to track real-time environmental condition

6: Digital office navigation assistance

See how intelligent workplace solutions provide for a safe return to the office by bringing technology-driven experiences, AI and automation to every space.

Keeping the workforce informed with digital signage

Digital signage was a nice-to-have before the pandemic, but with people returning to the office who may be unfamiliar with their surroundings and unaware of new guidelines, you need a tool to keep them informed. Video conferencing devices with a centrally manage digital signage capability can help relay information like new policies or guidelines, reminders to wear a mask and socially distance and even more advanced capabilities like the current building capacity and environmental safety.

Creating a touchless workplace with a digital assistant

We’re all used to interacting with digital assistant at home or on the go and we should expect the same experience in the workplace. The number one concern for employees returning to the office is touching shared touch devices. A digital assistant that is designed for the workplace is needed to provide a touchless experience for employees. With Webex Assistant, you can book a room, start or join a meeting and completely control the meeting experience using just your voice – no touching shared device or searching for cables.

Leveraging video conferencing devices as the machine-human interface

The capabilities of an intelligent collaboration device that provides advanced analytics and notifications is more important now than ever. My colleague, Chris Bottger, refers to intelligent video conferencing devices as the machine-human interface in the workplace. Workplace analytics captured through sensors, including people count, device utilization, temperature, humidity and air quality can automatically be shared with IT and facilities to help with workplace optimization and if there are too many people in a room or conditions are hazards, this information can automatically be shared with the people in the room through video conferencing displays.

The intelligence in these devices extends beyond collaboration capabilities. An open platform allows your organization to create custom experiences and in-room controls that provide for next-generation experiences. Wayfinding capabilities help people find a space to work or collaborate which will be needed as people come back to an office environment that has changed since the last time they visited. And if a room is too crowded for social distancing, it can route them to the nearest available room. These advances are leading to intelligent workplaces that augment the office environment with technology-driven experience.

See how the Webex Room Navigator provides a next-gen experience

Data is great, insights and automation are better

Intelligent workplace technology drives behaviors and provides safer environments. Analytics and AI from sensors and devices are valuable for IT, HR, and facilities managers to gain a deeper understanding of environmental conditions and usage to drive workplace optimization, but without the ability to inform employees or drive user behavior, that value is limited. Leveraging video conferencing devices as the machine-human interface helps drive user behavior. The complexity of sensors, analytics and AI is never seen by the user – they just experience a frictionless and helpful interaction. 

Putting it all together

While teams are working remotely today, now is the time to set the groundwork for the hybrid workplace. With return to the office on the horizon, there are steps that you can take to start on the transition. It’s a good time to start running proof of concepts – experiment with different video conferencing devices and features. Test intelligent alerting and digital assistants for touchless meeting controls and screen sharing and most importantly, gather feedback – after all, the hybrid workplace is all about helping people get their jobs done safely, securely and efficiently.

Learn more by downloading the how-to guide which provides detailed use cases on how touchless technology, room capacity notifications, digital signage and analytics are helping provide a safer work environment.

Read the next blog in the series, or jump around:

  1. The hybrid workplace blueprint 
  2. Why remote workers are frustrated and how to fix it 



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