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Is the touch-less workplace going to be the new norm?

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Adrian Cowley
Adrian Cowley, Managing Director at Your Workspace

As one of the leading matter experts when it comes to smart storage solutions, we have seen a large increase from both existing and new clients, asking how we can provide a touch-less solution when people return to the workplace following the COVID-19 pandemic. So, as experienced solution providers, it’s made us take a second look at how we can create friction-less experiences, and ask what will this mean overall as people are looking to have less physical contact with both people and objects in the new world we will be working in.

The end of touch tech

For many years, we have experienced people still using key-locks on storage and in more recent times, a combination or key pad lock, but will people be happy to continue to use these more traditional methods in the future to gain access for both their personal and team storage requirements.

In the workplace, we have seen digital solutions and platforms that have eliminated some of the noise by improving guest check-in, conference room booking, desk-booking, way-finding and of course smart storage and more.

But we now enter a new era, where the novel coronavirus will lead us to evolving our perception of the friction-less workspace, as many of the above mentioned solutions have been dependent on some form of touch technology – conference room with booking screens outside of the meeting room door, navigation screens via touch and signing-in devices. All of these fairly new technologies within the workplace, will now start to look like a possible form of health risk to the employees, when we look at the initial UK government advice and the presumed new rules of workplace etiquette that we will all need to adhere to.

So, when a form of normal service resumes, will we need to review the employee interfaces that require touch in favour of those which are touch-less?

Digital transformation

In our recent experience, some company’s have been reluctant to fully adopt ‘cutting-edge’ technologies and shift control of the workplace environment to a person’s individual smart device. We have experienced a limited number of early adopters such as RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland) where they have successfully used the ‘one device fits all’ approach, and Deloitte with The Edge in Amsterdam. But will this now have to become the norm moving forward.

The touchless option does significantly reduce the chance that a virus can spread. Whilst, also provides a possible sense of reassurance to the employee knowing that their company is helping to limit their potential exposure where possible.

Usage of smart devices at home is increasing

Everyone has now accepted that the lock-down period has made digital transition an automatic acceptance and most are now truly comfortable with using a smart device for doing more than just a traditional phone call. I even have my 85-year-old Aunt video calling me via WhatsApp, and saying that she never goes anywhere without her smart phone in her hand.

We can see that smart device usage in our homes in everyday life is expected to increase from 25% in 2020 to 44.4% by 2024, so why should we not expect the same in our workplace; especially as post-COVID it’s anticipated that the office/home working will become more blurred as people  increasingly continue to work from home.

Using data

Recently, we have seen many articles and blogs reporting that most companies will now look to accelerate their flexible working strategy, with the one common theme being that they will all need data. This management information will be vital in understanding in how their real estate is really working and how it can work for today, tomorrow, and well into the future.

In recent years, we have seen a growing number of smart integrators providing user technology layers that control the environment around the worker with the use of IoT (Internet of Things). Given the increasing requirements for data (already highlighted), the demand for these solutions will only increase further. So, it’s important when a business explores such a solution, that they choose it carefully and ensure that it’s able to connect to many systems, both for today’s requirements and more importantly tomorrow’s.

When looking at smart storage we provide a very credible API that has been specifically designed by our partners at Vecos to allow third parties to fully integrate with the storage management software providing security, real control and flexibility, whilst allowing data to be created into simple visual reporting modules such as Power BI, Tableau or similar propriety brands. Often, we find these integrators say that the API we offer is one of the easiest to work with.

Locker access via our mobile app

Simple and frictionless

We all acknowledge that the smartphone can provide several functions, but sometimes it still needs to work in tandem with something more traditional – such as cleaning and some form of decontamination. So, at Your Workspace our post-Covid strategy is to not only provide a touch-less product, but also to provide one where risk is further reduced by manufacturing the physical storage unit in an anti-bacterial material, helping to minimise as much risk as possible to the employee. So, we will be updating our range and information on this soon.

In addition, we are already busy exploring what software improvements could be made to provide further compliance for this current pandemic and providing automatic notifications to the FM (Facilities Management) team; as an example when a locker is vacated, an automatic request is sent to the service team to clean the locker before next use, if these type of policies are implemented.

Probably one of the most powerful enablers is to be truly contactless and that could be with the use of facial recognition, as simply the employee doesn’t need to do anything. Only a few years ago, this whole concept would have sounded like something from Mission Impossible, but today this is now a reality and we are seeing an increasing number of clients requesting such solutions, either as a separate facial recognition device or within the Smartphone app. A system that simply recognises people and automatically grants access is the real embodiment of being truly friction-less. But in exploring this method of access, we need to be very mindful about any privacy concerns and GDPR compliance. It will be interesting to see how individuals see this post-COVID 19, as we look to sign-up to an NHS app that tracks our every move to reduce risk of further spread of the virus in the future. If people see a benefit, then the resistance may also reduce – but we will have to wait and see.

Can we help?

The team at Your Workplace have been busy looking at some of the questions we anticipate hearing and no doubt will have some but maybe not all the answers. What we do know is that COVID-19 has certainly raised the awareness of how easily we facilitate the spread of germs through everyday contact with surfaces and devices. None of us will fully know how this pandemic will rewrite the modern workplace, but we do expect it will accelerate digital transformation and faster adoption of workplace technology and our aim is still to be at the leading edge when our expertise is called upon.

Contact us today to find out more about smart lockers and smart storage.

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