Workplace Technology and COVID-19.

Perspex screens, hazard tape and PPE will allow a few boxes to be ticked but it will only take the return to the Workplace so far. How safe would you feel arriving at a workplace to find a reception that instantly tells you it’s not safe for you to be there? – never mind the challenges of the commute. Cycle or walk to work they say; easier said than done when living 20 miles outside of the City, dropping children off on the way and arriving at a Workplace with limited: bike storage, limited personal storage and no changing rooms or showers.

Then comes the questions about how to handle the bottlenecks and high touch points: reception areas, push plates, speed lanes, lifts, narrow corridors, bathrooms, zip taps and coffee machines, canteen spaces, breakout spaces and hotdesks.

There’s a difference between being safe and feeling safe. Workplace Safety consists of: Physical, Psychological, Social, Emotional, Moral and Health Safety. What is clear from the current circumstances is that Technology has a massive part to play in getting people back into the Workplace safely; whilst feeling safe.

People Analytics, Cloud Computing, AI, Contact Tracing, Phone Apps, Air Quality, Hygiene, Virtual Assistants, Thermal Imaging Cameras, Visitor Management Systems, Access Control, Desk Booking, Meeting Room Booking, Wayfinding, Digital Signage, Occupancy Sensors, Insights Dashboards, Building Management Systems, Asset Tracking and even 3D printing!

But, how prepared are we?

The IWFM’s report ‘Embracing Technology to move FM forward’ looked at four potential future scenarios, the participants of the study felt that “FM will be broadly the same as it is now, but with more technology (a digital upgrade)“, in second place was “FM will become less relevant due to technology – it will become deskilled and marginalised (a digital downgrade)“.

“Technology has always played a big role in shaping the FM profession and is likely to be one of the most significant influences on the profession in the future” IWFM / 3Edges

As a profession, how do we prepare for the future when our knowledge on emerging technologies is limited, as seen in the findings below. Human nature also makes us fear the unknown, and that’s without considering the fact that we also fear that Technology will replace us.

Knowledge

Our friends over at Condeco carried out research last year which found the biggest challenges that organisations will face within the next 12 months are digital transformation and the adoption of new technology. When asked how prepared for digital transformation organisations were there these figures would suggest that 80% of businesses were not ready to be told to work from home for the foreseeable:

Prepared

There are SO many positive and wonderful stories about the impact of FM during this pandemic; the stories which makes me LOVE the industry. However, we’d be naive to think that FM collectively will suddenly have a new image overnight. For the FM’s who are on Furlough or managing unoccupied buildings, what will there image be? – will they merely be seen as an overhead that the organisation may look to replace/automate in the future?

What does FM do when the buildings are closed?

This is where ‘Workplace’ comes in. Previously BIFM, now IWFM, the name change had the aim of embracing the wider range of functions than FM and recognise the joint approach and responsibilities of FM, IT, HR to ensure optimal performance between the people, technology and the space.

At the time of the name change, BIFM (now IWFM) CEO Linda Hausmanis said, “Today’s announcement will help make sure the FM profession isn’t just at the heart of these debates but is recognised as the go-to expert on some of the biggest opportunities and challenges we face today.”

Fast forward 2 years, and guess what, by working with IT and HR, FM has a massive, imperfect yet perfect opportunity to create a truly people-centric Workplace; by creating a place that is not only safe, but feels safe for the people, embraces technology and ultimately drives organisational performance.

So as I’ve said before, where are all the CWO’s? – however, you don’t need a job title to drive positive change *nudge nudge!* – I myself got promoted to that job title because of the work I was doing in my FM role.

We manage buildings for the people in them. Keeping asking: Who, What, Why, When, Where, How?….or if you prefer it in French: Qui, Quoi, Pourquoi, Quand, Où, Comment? – Which I’m sure you all knew, right? (Sorry, not sorry, for the sly dig at Boris – but genuinely, has he not seen Brits on holiday that just say things louder, using less words and pointing fingers until the non-english speaking person understands us?).

As you plan the return to work, people should be at the start, middle and end of your thoughts. How better to do that then embrace the technology that exists to ensure your people ARE safe and FEEL safe.

I’m always happy to chat so please do reach out if you need an ear, some advice or even quotes on any of the technologies mentioned.

Think big and keep safe,

SFJ.

Further Reading:

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