COVID-19 Will Change How Many Offices Work; Here’s How Digital Display Tech Plugs In

One of the very few positives of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a wholesale shift, albeit temporarily, from formal offices to work from home arrangements. While many people will eventually return to their offices and see their co-workers once again, and all the cars on their commute, it is very likely a lot of people will stay employed, but also quite happily stay at home.

The pandemic has forced a change on companies that were resisting home offices, and probably changed a lot of stubborn minds in the executive suite.

A lot of the old guard – boomers who just couldn’t imagine remote work being effective – have been forced into that set-up, and a lot of them will have likely discovered that with the right tech, like cheap and easy video conferencing – it can work just fine.

Then they’ll run the numbers and see more work from home means less leased commercial office space, and lowered OpEx numbers. Sold!!!

It is likely there will be a rise in the  sorts of shared workspaces packaged offices have, like WeWork, and big consulting companies use. You may be a long-timer at a company, but you will have no fixed desk, and come in for meetings.

IAdea CEO John Wang, whose Taipei-based company makes media players and all-in-one displays, pivoted in the past year from a more generalized offer to one increasingly focused on workplace communications.

He sent me a note, offering to pass on his thoughts on how COVID-19 has changed workplace dynamics, and the technology applied. It’s a really interesting take not only on the tech, but the dynamics of slimmed-down offices where desks may be shared, and workers will be coming in wondering if the space they need to work effectively will be free … and sanitized!

“When the pandemic eventually passes,” says Wang, “I believe more of us will be working from home. We are likely to see a decrease in the number of traditional office spaces where every employee owns a fixed cubicle.”

“However, face-to-face meetings are likely to still be in high demand, as human interaction is unlikely to change in such a short time. We will be going into offices for less frequent but highly interactive team meetings. Since we will not have fixed work cubicles nor offices, we will need to book every resource we need  before arriving at the office. When we get there, a combination of kiosks, on-desk LED lights and room booking panels will help us find our work space for the day.”

“Social distancing may continue to be advised for a while, including at the workplace. Here, resource scheduling software can help enforce compliance regulations by blocking out work spaces to establish perhaps checker-box like seating maps, so there is always sufficient space between each other.”

“If we want to take the enforcement one step further, occupancy sensors at each desk can detect when people break rules by sitting in seats that should be left empty. Seats can be programmatically scheduled, so they are blocked out for a minimum number of days before the next person takes that space.”

“RFID ID readers can track if a desk or a meeting room has been sanitized by the maintenance crew before it is released for the next booking.”

“Distancing can be enforced at a larger scale for a section of the office at a time. Here,  occupancy sensors and large digital signage displays can work together to direct people to different zones as the occupancy of a specific area reaches its maximum occupancy.”

“It may be worth noting that people should plan ahead for remote device management and content delivery tools to support the operation of the above scenario. As more devices are deployed to support workplace operations, they will need to be maintained. The traditional field visit will be even more costly than it already is (because of the new normal of watching what we touch and how close we get to others), so it is going to be absolutely necessary to plan for using the right, cloud-based tools to monitor and control everything without taking a physical trip.”

“For the enterprise users, management tools will need to comply with the required security regulations, as they are now core to the operation of a business, and therefore will be in contact with corporate confidential information. The ability for the tools to support private clouds, single sign-on integration, automated device enrolment and certificate-based authentication are critical the success of the project.”

“That will mean needing to work with a company that has acquired security-related compliance certifications and is able to provide major reference customers will make the process much easier.”

Very interesting. If you were paying attention, you could see a sharp rise in digital usage in workplaces as meeting room signs came on the scene and saw rapid adoption, because they solved an obvious problem in most offices. Then came meeting room directories, then KPI screens, and so on.

As John notes, when business returns to a new normal, a percentage are going to operate differently, and screens and related tech will be central to explaining, guiding and generally making it all work.