17 September 2020

Advancing beyond ‘business as usual’

Questions remain about the most effective ways to plan and prepare for the gradual return of local government staff across the UK. Employees will naturally feel apprehensive about returning whilst senior staff will equally want to feel confident that the infrastructure is suitably prepared. The reduced occupancy levels we’ll witness as a result of the phased return to the office will make things easier to manage, particularly the flow of human traffic and behavioural changes. But as local economies recover, local governments will have to find new ways to deliver services and to reassure their employees. Workplace technology can play a central role in achieving that.

For instance, the Freespace booking app can assist employees plan their day at work. Enabling the reservation of a clean, socially distanced desk for local government employees to use on their days at work, the app also manages communications and questionnaires to ensure employee health and wellbeing. It also helps users to coordinate their visits into work with an inner circle of colleagues, helping them congregate together on the same days and find safe spaces in the vicinity of each other easily. The app integrates with smart tags on the desks and becomes a key tool in office based contract tracing. Additonally, it can speed up processes for public services ensuring they become more adaptable and able to share often critical information securely.

Digital signage can encourage local government employees to adopt and maintain the desired behaviours, including good hygiene and social distancing. But this isn’t limited to flashing messages reminding employees to wash their hands and avoid touching their face. Displaying live data on socially distanced spaces to use, cleaned space availability and cleaning regimes will correctly guide staff and reduce cross-contamination. Intelligent building air flow monitoring and environmental sensors can also provide assurances that air quality and humidity are maintained at levels that minimise risk of virus transmission. Facilities teams can also use the technology to deliver methodical cleaning practices and reassure occupants by highlighting the preventative infection control measures that they are undertaking.

These technologies will enable organisations to take a proactive occupancy-based approach with everything from cleaning and security, to back-to-work protocols and social distancing measures. With mixed evidence about the length of time for which the virus can survive on different surfaces, cleaning practices are at risk of being stretched in every direction. While regular cleaning will go some way to alleviate any “hygiene anxiety”, doing so in an un-directed measure will place a strain on cleaning resources, potentially leading to less efficient practices and costing more in time and cleaning products.

Real-time data displayed via solutions such as the Freespace Cleanreader can be used to alert the cleaning teams as soon as an area has been vacated so it can be cleaned immediately. The area can then be recorded as having been cleaned, releasing it back into the ‘availability pool’ and making others aware that it is safe for use. This simple process is a highly effective way of ensuring the safety of all areas and reassuring staff they are not at any unnecessary risk. This technology can also utilise occupancy data to inform staff how regularly cleaning needs to take place on any particular day.

Local governments have an opportunity to embrace technology in the post-COVID era. Tech-led workplace innovation will no doubt also become an increasingly heightened employee expectation, particularly as people have had six months to get used to incorporating technology in their working lives. The technology exists to help provide comfort and reassurance, with the added ability to sense and learn when and where spaces are used in order to keep them clean and compliant. This will help address the demands of providing safe and productive workplaces.

Raj Krishnamurthy is the CEO of Freespace.

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