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Things aren’t what they used to be

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Fire and Security, employees, business benefits...

On 1st August, employers were able to ask employees who have been working from home since the lockdown to return to their workplaces.

Initially, at least, employees going back to their offices are likely to be nervous, apprehensive and uncertain – something highlighted in research by Burson Cohn & Wolfe (BCW) and PSB, which found that 45 per cent of respondents were concerned that returning to their offices would result in bringing coronavirus into their homes, while 31 per cent felt that colleagues would not take proper precautions.

Focus on a Safety-First Approach

Although the government has published general guidance for employers to help them get their workplaces operating safely, each business will have its own unique considerations. As a result, companies are reappraising how their existing building services technology can be adapted and augmented to help create an effective infection control strategy. While not so long ago this wouldn’t have been the responsibility of the IT department, things have definitely changed.

Intelligent buildings now operate, manage and monitor almost all building services – from lighting and security to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning and beyond – over a converged internet protocol (IP) based network infrastructure. Ethernet is increasingly used to network ever-increasing numbers of devices and power over Ethernet (PoE) is efficiently and cost-effectively powering them over data cables that enable advanced sensor applications.

Keep an Eye on Security & Access

Security and access control technology, for example, has a key role to play. In the post-coronavirus workplace, it has the potential to create safer spaces by reducing bottlenecking, people counting, ensuring social distancing is adhered to, enabling wait and hold areas operate correctly, and maintaining the effectiveness of one-way systems.

Furthermore, the use of video management and analytics systems can establish awareness of a situation, confirm that distances are being maintained, respond to unsafe behaviour, and analyse data to identify areas and activities that are proving problematic. Audio and visual messaging can also be integrated with video to automatically send a message to politely remind people to maintain a safe distance.

Just as importantly, sensors can monitor the occupancy of individual floors, meeting rooms, and high traffic areas, while the current situation will also hasten the move towards contactless biometric technologies. Gartner has predicted that by the end of this year 20 per cent of organisations will use smartphones in place of traditional physical access cards and tokens.

Use Digital to Take One Step Beyond

As people return to offices, organisations need to use technology in smarter ways than ever before in order to combat the spread of infection, protect building occupants, create more hygienic workspaces and adhere to new safety guidelines – all while observing data protection regulations. I’m sure that for many this will be a step into the unknown and a daunting task.

However, adapting to these fundamental changes in the way we work, as well as in workplace design and operation, will mean that IT professionals with skills and knowledge across the widest range of technology applications will be in very high demand.