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Back to the Office? Managing Social Distancing at Work

27 May 2020

People are social beings and the imposed self-isolation and lack of physical social interactions of the past few weeks has put their wellbeing under strain. Whilst some could argue that working from home has turned out to be their calling, for many the return to the office can’t happen soon enough. But how can we manage social distancing at work?

The workplace has historically played the role of agent of socialisation. It stands to reason that with the much-anticipated lift to the lockdown, it is important to regain a measure of control over the environment we used to spend so much time in, to make it safe for re-entry.

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How can we go back to our desks safely if COVID-19 is still out there?

We need to rethink the office space so that it works around social distancing rules, and not just those. Essentially, the workplace community needs to get ready to embrace a sum of small and not so small changes. Going back to a daily routine is possible but, to make it work, we need the right preparation and to ensure everyone is on-board for this new journey.

Make travel times yours

back to the office: travel peak time
Not everyone will be able to go back immediately. Organising a gradual return to the office will require the adoption of a mix of flexible hours and remote working to keep both public transport and office occupancy at optimal levels. Smart Spaces, as an example, includes real-time information on various means of transport, from the tube to the airport. Getting up to date notifications on the busiest lines and times of the day could help employees organise their day more efficiently.

Re-imagine interior design

Office interior design and office desks disposition can help co-workers maintain a safe distance from each other. Providing disposable protection and cleaning products, too, responds not just to the need for disinfected surfaces but also gives employees a sense of security and feel of ownership over their personal space. Cushman and Wakefield have worked on an interesting project, the 6 feet office. Based on a clockwise walking system, the commercial real estate firm shows how an office can adapt to answer some of these new challenges.
back to the office - meeting room booking system for space management

Experience the office space, efficiently

IoT connected beacons can be a great and fairly inexpensive way to get real-time information about the work space. Same as wayfinders for guests (for more info on these, see our other article on the return to the office), occupiers can access data about areas and rooms straight on their smartphones, wristbands or smartwatches. Is a meeting room already in use? Is the room big enough for all your team? How many people are in the lunch/break area? Are the toilets at capacity?

A one-look view is possible with a platform that seamlessly integrates existing building systems and IoT technology. Knowing how many people can enter – or are already in – any room reduces the risk of overcapacity. Therefore, having a clear visualisation of readily available spaces become an invaluable tool in social distancing measures.

Stop wasting your space

Sensors can also provide managers with useful information such as the number of people in a specific area at one time, density levels in relation to the room square metres, and the distance between people. These data sets help to control how workplaces are used and redistribute occupiers according to the two-metre (six-feet) rule. It will also enable management to use space more efficiently and manage the energy consumption of unused areas, improving the overall building sustainability.

Take control over your mixed meetings

Working from home has taught people to work differently. Video conferencing software should be kept as a primary communication tool. Where this is not possible, tools such as voice-controlled devices can make meetings easier and touch-free. It can start from as simple as a notification of a visitor’s arrival. Booking a room, controlling the video conferencing screens, calling a client on the concall system, regulate the room lighting and climate, or even order food and beverages from a trusted service can all be done just with your voice or through a single touch on your smartphone.

Smart Spaces integrates IoT technology with legacy Building Management System in a quick and easy way, to prepare your office building for a safe re-entry

We work with you to make a safe return possible. Adapting to the new normal doesn’t have to pay a painful or costly process. Get in touch to know how we can help you get back to your office.

Looking to smart enable your building, increase occupier engagement or just generally interested in the Smart Spaces offering and would like to know more? Fill in the form below and we will get back to you as soon as possible.


+44(0)20 7481 1655

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