Changing information. Indecisive governments. Unclear direction. While our modern lifestyle thrives on instant knowledge, it is taking a long time to understand how this new coronavirus threatens the way we live and work – even for those who are best equipped to give the answers.
For businesses, continuity must come first. For many, operations transitioned to remote working; others maintained limited office presence. Now, as companies look ahead to returning to their office space, the questions of when, how and why must be answered.
In the search for the best path forward, one imperative remains clear: decisions must be made with an appropriate balance between employee safety and operating efficiency. In the face of unclear or shifting directives, businesses face a new responsibility: the need to keep indoor spaces efficient, profitable and safe.
Building trust more important than ever
Consider how much things have changed in a few short months. In the spring, citizens put massive trust in their governments to guide them through a new world of lockdowns and other public safety measures. Yet since then, information overload and conflicting directives have started to sow confusion and distrust in the public. What began in many parts with governments leading decisive action leaked into the need for individuals to take responsibility.
There is no proven, universal plan for businesses to return to the office. While masks have emerged as the main preventative tool, many questions remain, such as a proven-disproven-proven cycle about aerosol and surface transmission.
Compounding this are changing guidelines and a lack of effective large-scale contact tracing measures. Despite best efforts, neither Canada nor America have national contact tracing programs – and what efforts are in place are tracing only a fraction of people testing positive.
Business must lead with clarity, conviction, and technology
Companies cannot afford to wait for government programs to solve their urgent business needs. They must take measures themselves to maintain operations, keep employees safe and increase their flexibility for operating in whatever conditions lie ahead.
To help guard against the challenges posed by COVID-19 and meet this new responsibility head-on, there is one measure that companies can lean on: data.
Indoor location data is not simply about counting people in a space – it’s about measuring how people travel inside buildings and uncovering patterns of movement. Using the WiFi signals from mobile phones, computers, tablets and even security badges to calculate one’s location has the inherent benefit of understanding pathways people take and time they spend in different areas. It also provides a level of privacy that video camera-based systems do not. Intel from this data helps business owners lay the foundation for what offices need to be, moving forward.
First, returning to the office means adhering to social distancing measures to keep people safe. It means communicating real-time occupancy to employees and stakeholders to build trust and maintain responsible behavior. It means the ability to perform in-house contact tracing by identifying team members who have come into direct (close physical proximity) or indirect (surface transmission exposure) contact with someone diagnosed with COVID.
In years ahead, this means a newfound capability to measure how an office is being used over time. It means an ability to support different teams and varying styles of work in smaller footprints, as emerging flexible working patterns emerge. It means being able to adjust layouts and allocate resources with precision to support the changing needs of employees and for the company itself.
Keeping indoor spaces efficient, profitable and safe is imperative amidst uncertainty. But trust is a key factor in ensuring this can be done. A confident return to work will be measured in inches – and businesses can lead the way with clear data analytics that inform smart decisions and trusted communications.