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Tech execs weigh in on the workplace post-COVID-19

In any crisis, we look to leadership to guide us. For the workplace industry, this means leaning on company executives to offer key perspectives as we all define what the workplace means after COVID-19.

Mid-April our own leader Sam Dunn joined forces with CEO’s Eric Graham at CrowdComfort and Dan Ryan at VergeSense to share their perspectives on the workplace industry during this unprecedented time and help us all start tackling the new world of work.

Here are the highlights:

What are some interesting and innovative ways to bring people back to the workplace?

Highlight reel:

• Managing collisions using one-way streets throughout the space
• Your original plan might not correspond with reality
• Use technology to assist in providing confidence for the return, specifically around cleanliness
• Minimize wandering and cross-pollination outside of a very small team

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Dan Ryan, VergeSense:
One that we’ve heard a lot which is happening in grocery stores are one-way “streets” in the workplace. People can only go in certain directions in the office that way they’re not all crossing each other. You can do this with physical signage like arrows on the floor, for example. We've also heard while we’re all planning the return to the workplace, the reality might not match that one-to-one. What’s going to be the long-term behavioral change if you let 25 percent of people return to the office? How many people are actually going to come back? We've had folks express interest in looking at the data, whether it's sensors or other sources for measuring that, but really understanding how the plan corresponds to reality is going to be an interesting dynamic to explore.

Eric Graham, CrowdComfort:
We’re thinking about surfaces today in a way we didn't before we left the office. And going back in, I think we're all going to be very sensitive to surfaces. One question I'm seeing is, will technology assist in providing confidence in returning to the office? Can sensors detect non-touch interactivity? For CrowdComfort, we've been thinking about how our technology can start tapping into this untapped human sensor, meaning the person, the smartphone, delivering the information. We're developing some strategies that allow teams to easily heat map what areas of the properties have already been sanitized in the last 24 hours, as well as the last 36.

Dan Ryan, VergeSense:
One product we can actually measure is social distance, down to a foot. How close are people? How do you make people feel safe coming back to the office? Maybe there's more of an aggregate metric. Maybe it’s by department or floor and there’s information we can share that tells people  over the course of 24 hours we've seen 20 violations of social distancing that we need to fix. So again, a combination of higher and lo-tech and communications.

Sam Dunn, Robin:
I’m curious to see if folks are going to stop leaving meeting rooms open. I think that fundamentally changes how people view the space. A lot of the conversations I've been in seem to indicate that there's folks who want to minimize the wandering and cross-pollination outside of a very small team. To that end, it's not a good move if one person visits from one neighborhood of a floor to another because that's transfer. If people stop looking at the office as a place to have cross-team meetings because you can just do that with video conferencing, those conversations start to sound a lot more like, “Oh, we'll just go to the best spot for the sort of thing we're going to do.”

That hub and spoke where your home office is now a viable option because the office is both an expensive and dangerous way to take attendance (previously, it was just expensive) has caused some of the conversations I've had to feel more like IT is the VP of Digital Real Estate, along with the real estate team that handles the physical workplace as well.

What are one or two quick wins leaders can implement in their transition plan to better position themselves for success upon return?

Highlight reel:

• Make cleanliness a team effort and a part of the company culture
• Use smart locks to manage staff and visitors who enter the office
• Understand how populated the office is at any given time

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Dan Ryan, VergeSense:
One thing we’re talking about is similar to the gym experience: when you use equipment, you typically clean your gym station once you're done. This is one habit that, with easy availability of Clorox at every workstation, can be a quick win for office cleanliness. It may not be appropriate for every workplace, but potential new habits and cleaning culture your company can adopt.

Sam Dunn, Robin:
We actually recently installed smart locks using OpenPath. Previously it was very hard to get visitors in and out, even our own staff, because we’re in a multi-tenant building so their security holds on to that. By using OpenPath, we're able to route when someone arrives at the office to team leads and whoever manages the floor. As a result, we’re much more aware of how populated the office is.

One final comment on the workplace post-COVID-19

Highlight Reel

• The impact of every day working culture like handshakes and desk sharing
• Think of ways to create social collisions digitally
• Understand the types of work that would pull people into the office and building spaces for that
• Being innovative, agile, and willing to experiment will serve us well throughout the following period

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Tech execs weigh in on the workplace post-COVID-19 | Robin

Eric Graham, CrowdComfort:
One cultural piece we’re wondering is around handshakes. Dan, touched on the cultural thought process around sanitizing your own space, especially if you're sharing desks and other areas where cleanliness and sanitation is going to become more of a cultural part of the equation. We’re also thinking about how to create social collisions digitally.

Sam Dunn, Robin:
Your office is going to have to earn your people. I think people without work from home or remote strategies are going to grumble about it the same way that people who aren't yet on the cloud do. They will exist, but the employees will view it as a more rigid structure. When you get into that mindset, people wake up every day by default being able to work from home. It’s all about understanding the moments or the types of work that would pull them into the office and then building spaces for that.

Dan Ryan, VergeSense:
The meta-theme is that we live in a world now where a week feels like a month and a month feels like a year. Everything's changing so fast. And I think in an environment like that, what we're trying to really instill in our team is agility and experimentation. The thirty, sixty, ninety-day plans we were used to is going to change, probably a lot and really fast. 

Nobody has lived through a global pandemic like this one. We're all sort of figuring it out together as a community. And as we all try to make our way through the next months, year, however long it's going to take, I think the need to be innovative, agile, try new things, be willing to experiment, is a mindset that will serve well throughout the following period.


Have additional questions for the team? Reach out. And don’t forget to catch our upcoming webinars and related COVID-19 resources here.