The arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic has brought with it unprecedented levels of change within the business landscape. New tools and technologies have been rapidly adopted to enable businesses to remain functional despite the challenges that the health crisis has brought with it. But how will this technology transfer into workplaces as the world recovers from social distancing restrictions and enters the era of the ‘new normal’?
Collaborative technology and remote training measures have been a driving force in showing businesses that it’s possible to thrive on a purely work from home (WFH) basis, but for companies that operate better in-house, many of these fledgling processes can be utilized to create safe, productive and more resourceful working environments.
As data shows, many employers still believe that working in a single location can be important for maintaining company culture, and the data illustrates that the majority of businesses believe that employees should be in the office at least three days per week.
This indicates that, although the rise of WFH has shown how remote workforces can thrive, the new normal for many businesses will involve adopting the collaborative technology that’s risen to the fore over the past year and adapt it to further optimize in-person workplaces.
With this in mind, let’s take a deeper look into what the ‘new normal’ will look like for modern workplaces:
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Maintaining healthy & sustainable environments
For the many workers who will be unable to work remotely due to their roles in government, retail, business services, healthcare, manufacturing or other essential industries, technology developed in the pandemic can be adapted to make life in the era of the new normal easier and safer.
Employers have been keen to utilize new technology to help combat the virus and keep offices as secure as possible. As well as utilizing masks on the premises, companies have set up Covid-19 testing, contactless temperature checking and using wearable devices to ensure safe distances are maintained. Contact tracing apps have also been used by companies to ensure that contacts of unwell individuals don’t risk coming into work.
One example of the technology developed comes in the form of Covid Buzzer, which sits on a wearer’s neck or wrist and ensures that employees remain 1.5 meters away from each other to prevent the transmission of Covid-19. Developed by Dutch company, ASN, the device buzzes when it comes too close to another buzzer, emitting a warning signal to ensure space is maintained.
Devices like the Covid Buzzer can be vital in keeping workplaces safe when future health crises take place, but the technology can also be effectively adapted for everyday usage in a post-Covid-19 environment.
To better understand workplace movement of employees around offices, VergeSense, an artificial intelligence workplace sensor offers employers a rich level of data analytics surrounding the movements of workers. The sensors collect data surrounding the movement of people and the number of employees in conference rooms or at their desks and measures how far apart they are. The data can then be used to evaluate needs and provide insights and recommendations to businesses on how they can optimize their working environments.
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In the workplace, augmented reality has the ability to massively enhance the learning and comprehension of new hires and experienced workers alike. Furthermore, AR can boost employee engagement and safety awareness while alleviating training costs and lowering learning curves.
Many job sectors are already utilizing augmented reality. Even in retail, AR is being used to simulate complex interactions with customers, and the advanced technology also appears to be a prominent help in the medical and aerospace industries - as well as manufacturing and military.
According to Mordor Intelligence, augmented reality applications within commercial and enterprise use cases are expected to grow at a faster rate than even the fastest accelerating applications for virtual reality - showing that AR is going to become a dominant force as the decade progresses.
We can see one particular example of how AR can lead digital transformation in the age of the new normal in how the technology can improve workplace collaboration. Engineering firm Aecomis uses AR in a way that helps architects and engineers to explore large, complicated building projects in huge detail with highly detailed renderings.
Using Microsoft HoloLens technology, team members can project 3D models in meetings or office environments to physically comb through the finer details of the design and collaborate on troubleshooting and key decisions.
Vuzix has long been a key player in corporate AR eyewear, but now its products can help to aid employee training in office environments. By digitally rendering complex scenarios, employees can use their augmented reality eyewear to tackle problems as a means of demonstrating competence in certain areas of the business. This technology can also be used for HR recruitment and onboarding new employees. With the eyewear market set to [surpass $210 billion dollars by 2025 (https://blog.eyeglasses.com/vision-magazine/glasses-statistics/)], it’s very likely that adoption rates over the coming decade will enable more companies to develop HR applications to better vet and onboard applicants.
With big brands like Facebook, Apple and Niantic all racing to release the next generation of AR eyewear over the course of the next few years, the use of augmented reality in workplaces is likely to become more commonplace in the age of the new normal. Over the course of the decade integrated eyewear will become more discreet and more similar to traditional lenses available online to help employees to better see data in front of them.
One of the most prominent developments that came from the Covid-19 pandemic was the widespread transition towards advanced productivity platforms for businesses and employees alike.
As more workers began going remote, it was imperative to use collaborative tools like Monday and Slack in a bid to keep in touch with employees and ensure that all of their tasks for the day, week, or month ahead were correctly delegated.
In the age of the new normal, it’s likely that we’ll see more companies significantly modernize their collaborative tools, or retain the collaboration software they subscribed to during the pandemic, to ensure that teams interact with each other in an efficient manner.
One example of a work management platform that’s helped businesses in the pandemic is Asana, which has amassed over 75,000 subscribing organizations across the world.
Time spent away from office environments has only helped to confirm that businesses must always offer clarity on day-to-day tasks as a means of enabling teams to hit their goals faster. As companies seek out ways of operating in the age of the new normal, the adoption of tools that allows them to set objectives and track work is vital - even if all teams return to traditional workplace environments.
These collaborative tools offer clarity and visibility when it comes to deadlines, handling responsibilities and achieving goals across the business - enabling individuals and teams to understand how their work contributes to the growth of the company. This digital development can help to empower teams - whether they’re based at home or in an office all week - and keep them engaged and focused on their tasks.
The emergence of the smart office
Life after the pandemic for many company offices will be heavily focused on health and safety. Smart buildings can help to ensure that environments are comfortable and suitable for all workers. Smart offices use automated processes in order to enhance building operations, from air conditioning and heating, to lighting and security.
This transition towards a fully integrated, tech-enabled and interconnected network allows for big data analysis to take place surrounding working conditions. For instance, technology and sensors can determine where the quietest areas in the office are for workers who prefer to operate in silence, or what times are best to avoid the most congested lift journeys. The technology can also help workers to know where specific colleagues are, and it could help with allocating workspaces or parking spaces based on huge volumes of metrics and personal preferences.
Significantly, the technology can also help workplaces to comply with social distancing guidelines to help employees to feel safer from infection even after the passing of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Fundamentally, smart offices can help to inform the decision-making process of business owners. Rather than base significant decisions on interpretations or guesswork, interconnected office spaces mean that data can be used to highlight precisely the most productive conditions for employees, and how workers can retain an optimal output while remaining content over the long term.
In the age of the new normal, employee experience will count for a lot in office environments. While many job roles will become progressively more remote in industries, this offers more opportunities for companies that are either unable to create a remote workforce or those that intend to uphold company culture in-house. The pandemic has caused employees to wise up to the comforts of WFH, and the onus is on businesses to compete with the lure of remote work by creating pleasant, productive and enjoyable workspaces for workers - and the surge in technology refined during the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to be a key part of reinventing the office.
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Dmytro Spilka, CEO and Founder, Solvid