By Thomas D. McElroy II
From the February 2021 Issue
While 2020 was marked by personal and professional transformation due to disruption in the marketplace, 2021 shows great promise that we will be able to move forward with a greater sense of “normalcy” than we’ve seen in months. This return to some normalcy has prompted businesses and enterprises of all sizes to rethink their future plans for creating healthy workspaces in the workplace.
Almost no business will be immune from the need to transform in some way, shape, or form. And, no matter what a company’s long- and short-term goals are, the odds are that their workplace will look dramatically different than it did even a year ago.
To respond to businesses’ changing needs, facility managers and building owners are re-evaluating their workspaces to accommodate their plans for the return to work movement. But doing this safely and in a way that meets changing business objectives and needs means leveraging technology to incorporate the latest health and wellness solutions. Facility management leaders can deliver a competitive advantage by highlighting technologies that will make their properties more attractive in this current environment.
There are many emerging technologies to consider to better understand what is currently possible in the commercial space. Some features will be near-universally embraced, especially those that promote safe working conditions.
While many emerging technologies could be considered in commercial settings, the final decisions should ultimately be based upon who the targeted occupants are and how the space can best meet their needs. Examples of emerging technologies that could be considered feature wellness solutions like…
Wellness Check Kiosks: Another significant threat to workplace safety is having an infected employee show up for work and expose their colleagues. With a wellness kiosk, each employee can arrive at a predetermined time and use a touchless interface to check in and allow assessment of their vital signs. They can have their temperature checked and complete a health questionnaire. There are additional functions, such as linking biometric identifiers to health information, depending upon the unique needs of the employer.
Autonomous Cleaning Technologies: Autonomous cleaning solutions can be incredibly beneficial in the workplace, especially in shared spaces such as breakrooms and restrooms. Imagine exiting one of these spaces and being able to initiate cleaning of the space by the touch of a button (or activation of a touchless sensor). A robot floor cleaner can respond to the area, and door handles outfitted with self-cleaning solutions can activate to disinfect the surfaces.
Touchless Technologies: Only a short time ago, most wouldn’t have thought twice about grabbing a door handle or touching something in the shared breakroom. Amid a pandemic, though, these activities can be incredibly anxiety-inducing for all types of workers. Fortunately, many companies are addressing this risk by developing contactless solutions that enable employees to complete routine tasks without the risk of exposure by touching a shared surface. Owners and operators can implement everything from contactless access points to contactless cloud scheduling services to touchless coffee makers.
Air Quality Technologies: Air cleaners, purifiers, and filters are designed to reduce airborne contaminants, including particles containing viruses. As a stand-alone technology, air cleaning and filtration is not enough to protect employees from exposure to the virus. However, when implemented along with other CDC recommendations, filtration can be part of a comprehensive plan to reduce the potential for airborne virus transmission indoors.
Hybrid Offices: As the economy re-opens, many businesses may embrace a hybrid working model, at least in the short term, that offers opportunities to work both remotely and in-person. A hybrid office can provide the flexibility to shift gears quickly to respond to changes related to public health concerns. The challenge with hybrid models is ensuring that cybersecurity protocols are in place as people work on office networks from their remote home environments. Even school districts are adopting a hybrid model with students learning on-site for two days, then doing e-learning from home for the rest of the week. As this hybrid models continues, both business offices and educational facilities must work with tech providers to ensure security solutions and upgrades are in place to prevent data breaches in their networks.
Here’s an example of one such upgrade: The Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Board of Education trusted Sentinel Technologies and my firm, Level-1 Global Solutions, with system-wide technology and network security upgrades to help enhance their digital learning capabilities and communications and to keep students safe. CPS also required a major network infrastructure overhaul to keep pace with rapid changes in technology and improve the security, reliability, and performance of its critical infrastructure and assets. Outdated network equipment at the schools needed upgrading to current Board of Education standards to ensure greater network stability, additional bandwidth, remote management capabilities, and increased WAN/LAN security and network performance.
Level-1’s team of cyber security experts collaborated with CPS to install a cyber security system to protect their critical infrastructure from unauthorized users and ensure secure remote access from smartphones and tablets. Level-1 provided managed security services (i.e. Firewall, IPS, and IDS), security architecture and design, attack and penetration testing/auditing, application design review, vulnerability assessment, security policy design and implementation, and wireless network design, security, and implementation. Level-1 also worked closely with CPS to identify all linkages and dependencies and then developed a corresponding Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity Plan. This holistic approach helped to ensure continuity of operations along with risk mitigation.
It’s no surprise that owners and managers in all types of buildings are looking to partner with tech innovators to ensure they can transform their properties in a way that makes sense for emerging workplace concerns. In 2019, no one would have imagined what 2020 brought. While the pandemic has brought about many challenges, to say the least, it also presents an opportunity to replace old habits, processes, and technologies with a better way. Through technology, companies can still provide a safe environment for their employees to be productive, innovative, and collaborative.
McElroy is Founder, Principal, and CEO of Level-1 Global Solutions, a mission-critical, technology systems integrator, internationally recognized for interoperable technology infrastructure design, implementation and management. Under McElroy’s leadership, his team has enabled city, local, and federal government offices, healthcare, education, commercial real estate and aviation clients to plan and execute future-proof, complex migrations and infrastructure upgrades. McElroy was named one of Crain’s 2020 Notable Entrepreneurs.
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