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Government Back to Work Initiative

August 7, 2020

With offices slowly starting to re-open across the UK, appropriate technology can play a huge part in tackling the complexities of managing safer working environments. EventMAP’s Vernon Chapman examines.

During the pandemic we have heard much about the need to adapt modern working practices to the post-Covid world. Much has been centred around adapting and modifying the workplace to allow for greater social distancing, and the introduction of practices such as staggered shifts, pedestrian traffic flow arrangements and so-forth. As we venture out of our homes, we are beginning to see the impacts: plastic screens, hand sanitiser dispensers and markers indicating the two-metre gap. Those returning to work in offices are also seeing the effects of current government guidance: confronted with workspaces covered in barrier tape, or screen partitions and closed kitchen facilities.

These are all visual indicators that things have changed. As staff commute to work they will have further noticed reduced capacity on public transport and temporary modification to the road network to allow for pedestrian distancing in town centres. All of this impacts the ability to access the workplace, on top of the capacity of the built estate to absorb staff.

Whilst there has been much focus on these physical adaptations to our environment, thought also needs to be given to how we manage supplier, client, and staff access to premises. Solutions are needed to ensure that staff know when and where they have available space before arriving at work. To support government track and trace programmes, they need access to a system that provides a record of staff onsite at any given time. Building administrators also need access to a solution that allows a business to ensure adequate hygiene activity is undertaken when workstations, offices or meeting rooms have been used and then vacated.

Given that increased numbers of staff will continue to be engaged in more flexible working, in the near-term, and particularly with a drive for more homeworking, it is even more critical that management has an effective means of engaging with staff to manage and monitor ingress and egress to and from the workplace.

So what needs to be considered? While this is by no means a comprehensive list, several areas need to be addressed:

  1. The ability to locate and book socially distanced desks and meeting spaces prior to arrival at the workplace.
  2. The capability of managing a phased return to work for staff, and, allowing organisations to schedule the patterns and frequency that people can book to work, thereby preventing surges in demand (for example, specifying which days of the week individuals are permitted to book a desk).
  3. The identification of which spaces have appropriate facilities, such as WiFi, integrations with Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet, and facilitating a hybrid approach to the adoption of an RSVP system to allow individuals to register for physical or virtual attendance at meetings.
  4. The ability to record and report when and where staff access the premises to assist in government trace and track programs.
  5. The ability to integrate with in-situ, or affordable, interactive signage solutions, to facilitate the staff’s ability to navigate safely to their booked workspace, and identify other free space to book if needed.
  6. Any technological solution needs to allow for integration to sensor and signage technologies, allowing employers to anonymously monitor the flow of footfall and attendance through buildings, and provide up to the minute information on which spaces are occupied or unoccupied (whether booked or not). Such an implementation assists in the provision of alerts when buildings are reaching maximum capacity (potentially by preventing further space bookings, or, allowing cancellation of existing bookings and sending corresponding notifications to affected individuals).
  7. An effective system should also facilitate the sending of notifications to individuals, if they have been in contact with someone required to self-isolate, or in the event of a local shut-down, cancelling associated bookings and alerting staff and visitors to avoid the building.

If all meeting rooms, workstations, and breakout spaces, including kitchen areas, are recorded in the system, then all assets can be returned to use, or, have access restricted according to changing needs. This would allow organisations flexibility, as needs and government advice, change over time.

Do solutions exist that allow these points to be accommodated? Thankfully, the answer to this question is yes.

To illustrate, EventMAP has worked closely with the University of Cambridge. The university required a solution that would provide a comprehensive workplace planning and management tool. The result was a cloud-based software that allows users to intuitively book into, and safely use, workplace resources such as rooms, desks, carparks, kitchens, toilets, lockers etc. – for both staff and visitors alike. Its flexibility is such that it is being effectively used in a variety of settings, including policing, education and healthcare.

To be truly useful, a booking tool needs to allow for reporting on space at multiple levels. For example, at an individual floor or building level. This enables building managers to have a full overview of the use of space and to ensure that it is being used effectively. It also needs to allow building users to be made aware, and notify users, of where they should be in terms of working and collaboration. It should, in real-time, keep them informed of when it is safest, and best, to use support spaces such as kitchen and toilet facilities etc.

An effective solution would additionally allow for support services (cleaning and upkeep), to be planned for, booked, monitored, and reported upon. Users should also be able to report maintenance issues through the application, allowing problems to be clearly visible, identified, and action to be taken in real-time.

Such a system would deliver real benefits in terms of managing a more Covid-secure environment. But it also contributes by allowing both visitors and ‘domiciled’ occupants to be made aware of the occupancy levels around them, and the routes to be taken in reaching their designated/booked destinations. As an additional benefit, a system should allow for managers to confirm that collaborative sessions are assigned to the most appropriate space types, with the ability to ensure and facilitate that the required equipment is present within the preferred space layout.

If you have any questions about managing your return to work strategy, we would be pleased to hear from you – contact us if you want to discuss how we can help. EventMAP has considerable experience in this area. In the meantime, our website has several blogs dealing with this subject and case studies detailing some of the work we have recently been involved with. It also details further information about our Booker solution.

Vernon Chapman

SENIOR CONSULTANT

Diamond

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