Co-author: Deepak R. Bharadwaj
As the business world continues to respond to the pandemic with a keen eye on the infection curves and policy responses, several companies have switched to completely remote work models. Companies like Ford are renovating their old workplaces to adapt to the new normal, with others like Amazon are going big on real estate for building next-generation workplaces. While remote work is the need of the hour, many industries and companies cannot survive on completely remote work models for long.
Some companies require their employees to be present on-site, while others are still unable to achieve the collaboration, innovation, and seamless teamwork through a distributed and isolated workforce. Faced with these challenges, many are still asking themselves if remote work is indeed the future of work. While the incentive for returning to the workplace is clear, policy and infrastructure changes alone won’t be enough. Moreover, taking an empathetic approach towards your employees’ sentiments and concerns is crucial. Therefore, companies should shift their focus from technological solutions to how these solutions make their employees feel.
Key ingredients for workforce protection
As businesses plan to return to the workplace, a significant emphasis is being laid upon employee readiness and sentiment around going back to work. While a few companies are going with the two extremes – a completely remote-working environment vs. a full-fledged return to the workplace – most are taking the dynamic approach. Many believe that the future of work lies in a dynamic approach to physical presence at the workplace.
In any case, workforce safety takes center stage as businesses consider reopening the workplace. In some countries, governments are issuing directives about workplace safety that establish a baseline for employers. Leading companies are extending the definition of customer centricity and applying it to their employees. In this approach, the essential ingredients of workforce safety, i.e., testing, tracing, tracking, and distancing, are embedded within a framework that builds upon employee experience.
When we talk about employee experience, the entire journey of to and from the workplace must be considered – from leaving home for work to exiting the workplace while keeping resilient crisis response measures in place. Though most companies are adopting new workplace safety practices to ensure safety, they are also missing the minutiae in the larger picture. For instance, while 84% of companies are physically separating workstations to avoid contact, only 43% consider high-contact hotspots like handles and touchpoints. In crisis situations, such blind spots work against a successful response.
As the need to return to the workplace increases, leveraging data and technology is becoming crucial to enforce workplace safety measures, assure safety and ease workforce anxiety about returning to physical workplaces. Integrated and no-touch workplace technologies are gaining traction, but there are a variety of solutions on offer. Precision, accuracy, and dependability will be the key to moving beyond the blind-spots and enabling a confident return to the workplace program.
From safety enforcement to real-time safety assurance
41% of employees are anxious about returning to work today citing the anticipated risk of infection as the prime reason. To enable an apprehension-free return to the workplace, easing employee anxiety is crucial, and companies must leverage technology to bring real-time safety assurance to employee experience. Selecting precise workplace technologies and integrated solutions that amplify safety with minimal behavioral change requirements will be the key to making this possible.
HCL SafeSense, for example, is a precision-focused solution that relies on real time face-mask detection, contactless temperature screenings, digital queuing systems, distance sensing, and other contactless mechanisms that help workplaces eliminate the guesswork. Moreover, applications like ServiceNow Safe Workplace suite helps bring operational excellence to workplace safety by automating workflows and bringing critical safety enforcement information and actions onto a comprehensive dashboard. By integrating Safe Workplace suite with HCL SafeSense, businesses can support the reduction of infections from every point of the employee’s journey while reinforcing safety status in the form of real time visual notifications.
A roadmap to reinventing employee journeys
With integrated workplace technologies and safety solutions, companies can redesign employee journeys for maximum safety, while helping employees return to the workplace with 100% confidence. Here is what such a journey will look like:
- An employee takes a readiness survey on their mobile device that gauges their readiness to return to the workplace. This helps companies address critical concerns by deploying relevant responses to ease anxiety about the risk of exposure. Those that feel confident take a health survey that lists any symptoms they might be experiencing at present. If not, the employee books a slot at the testing office through the same portal.
- Before coming to work, employees undergo a health screening. Contactless testing and digital queuing enforce distancing in the grayest area of the journey – the pre-test stage. Once tested at appropriately distanced testing stations, the employee gets a smart badge.
- Throughout the employee’s movement within the premises, cameras and computer vision technologies detect safety equipment usage while issuing warnings and alerts for breach of protocols. Simultaneously, the smart badge helps track their movements and proximity with other people while triggering alerts in case of breach of distancing measures.
- Physical spaces are augmented with digital signage that informs entrants of occupancy levels, disinfection status, etc. Assigning a workstation or a workspace to an employee is done through a similar approach. All this information is seamlessly conveyed through a mobile app/portal that makes navigating the post-pandemic workplace simpler and safer.
- As the employees go through their day, their safety is ensured with contactless IT services, vending machines, digital lockers, kiosks, along with immersive remote support and guidance.
The other side of the picture
Implementing seamless employee journeys in the pandemic workplace will require excellent data management and real-time visibility, without any room for blind spots. ServiceNow® Safe Workplace suite helps companies achieve such seamless employee journeys with interactive dashboards and built-in controls for tracking, tracing, implementing deep cleaning and disinfection routines, tracking PPE, and logging the movement of employees.
Such solutions eliminate constant guesswork on the employee’s part, build trust and peace of mind through constant visual alerts, turning safety into a known status rather than an unknown variable. Beyond safety enforcement, easing employee anxiety can be made elegant, precise, and reliable by integrating solutions such as Safe Workplace suite with HCL’s SafeSense. In today’s environment creating a great work culture means addressing employee’s concerns about safety and providing solutions that give them peace of mind.