Ready for the office of the future? Here’s a glimpse into the technology that will transform your workplace.
Good morning! Ready for work? Before you leave, take your temperature at home and report it through your work app. Also answer questions about any symptoms you might have.
Then tell the app what time you’ll arrive at work, and away you go.
Smart that you already completed the self check-in, or else you would be stopped by the facial recognition system when you tried to enter the building.
The staff canteen is open, but you’ll need to use your work app to order your food ahead of time.
When your lunch is ready, you’ll get a text message to come pick it up. The staggered approach keeps crowds to a minimum.
That’s all quite high tech, right? But it isn’t the future; it’s just another day at IBM headquarters in New York. The system, based on IBM’s Watson Works, uses AI to keep people safe and productive.
Keeping the office comfy
Siemens also has an app for staff, called Comfy.
According to the company, Comfy limits the number of staff in the building at any one time. It also helps staff maintain distance at work.
People use it to reserve desks, meeting rooms, and even see office occupancy in real time.
But here’s where it gets really interesting, the app allows staff to control their environment. That’s right; employees have the granddaddy of all controls – the ability to change the temperature in their immediate workspace.
Using the app, they can control the thermostat and even dim the lights if they want. Imagine how many office arguments that would solve.
“Our priority is to protect our people so they can return to the workplace safely and confidently wherever they are,” says Roland Busch, Deputy CEO at Siemens AG. “By using smart office technologies, we can reshape how we work.”
“Our Comfy app supports our new mobile working model, by enabling employees to better plan when they choose to work from the office.”
Call the germ-busters
But once you’re at work, how can you stay safe? There’s no shortage of products on the market aimed at office hygiene.
Like the Hygenx wand from Hamilton Buhl. Simply wave the wand over your keyboard, and the UV-C light will kill bacteria.
Before you rush out to get your own wand, do your research, warns the US Food and Drug Administration.
That’s because there isn’t enough data about how much UV-C exposure your surfaces need to quash COVID-19.
You could always use something low-tech like antibacterial wipes. But where’s the fun in that?
Instead, make sanitising more dramatic with a ghostbuster-style office fogger.
Closer to home
Let’s be honest though; many of us won’t be going back to the office for a while.
And some may not go back at all. Twitter made headlines this year for allowing employees to work from home permanently.
With that in mind, how can technology help you from home?
Well, fear not if you have “Zoom fatigue.” Microsoft Teams’ solution is the new “together” feature, which puts you all in the same virtual room. Say goodbye to squares.
In fact, this same technology is being used to bring fans closer together for NBA basketball games.
Access for all
Technology opens up opportunities for people to work in the way they choose. And companies have no choice but to adapt, allowing people greater flexibility in how they work.
Now, employers have the chance to include all employees by making accessibility the default.
“We must ensure businesses apply the learnings from this period to improve inclusion of people with disabilities worldwide by using the same tools we’re using now to allow this community to participate fully in the workforce,” writes Caroline Casey, Director of The Valuable 500 – a World Economic Forum initiative to put disability on the business agenda.
Jane Hatton, founder of inclusive UK recruitment firm Evenbreak, agrees.
“People are frightened of disability because they think it’s going to be incredibly expensive for all the adjustments,” Hatton recently told the Financial Times. “But in fact they’re simple and cheap.”
“The technology is there already — it’s just a question of using it in a way that’s inclusive.”
Employers might be surprised to find just how many accessible tools they already have at their fingertips.
Kristy Viers went viral after tweeting a video using the accessibility features built into an iPhone.
It’s now been viewed over 7 million times.
As ever, companies will adopt new technology at different rates. So it may be a while before your workplace uses facial recognition, or lets you control the thermostat on your phone.
But there’s no doubt that all companies are on the accelerated track now. In fact, consultancy McKinsey says US ecommerce experienced 10 years worth of growth in the first three months.
The world is changing fast, and technology will be the key to creating a workplace future that works for all of us.