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Return to the Office Post-COVID-19: Tips to Do it Safely

19 May 2020

Once restrictions begin to be lifted and the phased return to the office begins, there are measures you can take in your buildings that will help ensure everyone can enter and go about their day as safely as possible. For example, you will want to minimise friction upon arrival and make use of available technology like contactless entry. The ‘hands-free’ approach is gaining traction quickly and we’ll help you explore your options in this piece.

Countries such as China and Italy are slowly getting back to their feet, with Germany setting a benchmark on re-opening services and workplaces. Others activities will help inform every government in the World on whether it’s too much too soon or, hopefully, working well.


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They say being prepared is half the battle

With many here in the UK looking forward to a “back to semi-normality” state, it is the building management teams and their customers who are seeking to work together and assess the necessary steps to prepare their premises for a post-COVID-19 re-entry.

This next period will present quite a few challenges as businesses will have to carefully strategise to make the passage safe for workers, whilst easing their concerns and apprehension as much as possible. Employees, too, will have to get used to a new set of building rules and procedures for how and when they can experience common areas, onsite amenity, shared spaces and access their own demised spaces.

So, what can we do to make buildings safe?

Quick-win measures for a safer workplace? Return to work is a strategy game

Undoubtedly, your planning will need to account for people’s concerns and be based on a clear analysis of space management. The BCO recorded a significant densification on workplace ratios over the past decade and architects are now calling for a rethink. For this to work, transparency and collaboration between a company and its employees and property managers will be of essential importance.

In unstable times, it’s difficult to commit to big changes. However, as most buildings will require some form of retrofitting to adapt to the new reality, we look at affordable quick-wins and other measures for the back-to-the-office scenario.

The communal areas will rule them all

Let’s talk touch-less

contactless access control in the workplaceIoT technology provides contactless access control on legacy systems such as speed lanes/doors and lifts, which can be managed remotely/wirelessly through each person’s smartphone, smartwatch or wrist band or even voice-activated, for a hands-free solution in navigating the workplace. Implementing a Smart Visitor Management System with integrated Access Control for contactless entry, isn’t as difficult or costly as you might imagine. Smart Spaces have integrated with all the main access control vendors in numerous locations, and even if you have an old legacy system or nothing at all, our advisors can help guide you on your options.

Fever detection & speed lanes: scanning for trouble?

Artificial intelligence is bringing safety measures to the next level. Pairing speed lanes to fever detection technology, which integrates AI capabilities, provides an effective solution to scanning large numbers of people. As high fever is one of coronavirus main symptoms, this measure could potentially prevent affected people from accessing office buildings. The procedure is done in an unobtrusive way, keeping the privacy of people in mind as much as possible. It also doesn’t require members of staff from having to control, one-by-one, those entering the premises with a hand-held thermometer.

Keep your social distance

Visual and tactile paving signalling for communal paths/areas (i.e. reception, corridors, lifts, canteens, etc) are a quick fix for most buildings. As these signals demark distances, allowing for the 2m rule, they help people maintain social distancing as they would at the supermarket. These queues also require consideration for people with disabilities, granted a universal and accessible design is already in place.

Win/win: the Visitor Management game

Visitor Management Systems (VMSs) have become a known feature in medium to large commercial building receptions where tracking guests’ visits is a safety requirement in case of evacuations, whilst freeing reception from un-friendly paper trails. In the post-lockdown environment, implementing a Smart VMS will reduce human interaction and keep both parties safely distanced by allowing visitors to skip reception by self-checking-in. A step further, requires a building operating system (BOS), that makes the VMS a touch-free, safe solution for building users and their guests’ access – as well as full 360° contactless access and control throughout the entire building.

Companies in the building can directly plan their clients’ visits and provide a straightforward, temporary and contactless way to enter the premises. Most importantly, the guests’ experience is stress-free, and fully GDPR compliant.

A data grid for space flow

space management app for social distancing

Sensors can analyse reception flow rates to avoid “clustering” of people. Strategically positioned throughout the building, these easily installed, and relatively inexpensive pieces of tech can collect real-time data to help implement new health & safety policies.

Make your space yours again

One of the greater concerns in shared spaces is contact with surfaces. Providing sanitiser dispensers at key touchpoints in the building, where contact with surfaces can’t be avoided, will support occupiers and visitors’ hygiene routine. If upgraded with sensors, these can be refilled as soon as the need arises. Notification can be sent pre-emptively to the building cleaning service when they reach certain levels.

Restrooms busy? Your phone will tell you

IoT can help here too by informing occupiers if the toilets are currently in use so that no time is wasted in useless trips. More importantly, it helps avoid over-crowding restrooms.

Automate Hand-hygiene

With hand-hygiene monitoring technology, until now used in the healthcare sector, a hygiene regimen can be automated by sending reminders to wash hands before exiting restrooms.

Freshening up building ventilation

Air quality in buildings requires an in-depth audit and update of procedures regarding the use and manutention of the ventilation and filtration system. A BMS integrated digital twin provides a single-view on the building operating systems, helping regulate and maintain the ventilation system to prevent the spread of the virus.
The REVHA (Federation of European Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Associations) provides advice on what property managers need to do to in close environments such as office buildings:

      • Increase ventilation of spaces and use of outdoor air
      • Use more window airing where possible
      • Close recirculation dampers from the Building Management System
      • other measures can be found in their guidance document

Smart technology for daily cleaning

As sensors can collect data to understands the areas in the building where more people have gone through, cleaning service can more efficiently manage the cleaning routine. IoT can also help keep hand-soap and toilet paper dispensers from running out. A trend in China, instead, sees the use of robots to disinfect surfaces in heavily trafficked spaces.

Close that lid

Installing toilet lids prevents the flushing droplets from spreading in the air. As another vehicle of transmission, adding lids and closing them before flushing is another safety measure to prevent contagion, in one of the space with the highest rate of bacteria in a building.

Smart Spaces can help you win the battle

If you want to know more about what Smart Spaces can do to help you prepare your workplace, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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