Work has changed dramatically over the past two years for those in the knowledge and tech industries. To try and establish a new normal in the office, companies are turning to technology to improve the workplace experience and keep staff motivated about coming into the office.
Work from home worked surprisingly well
Employees worldwide had to learn how to work from home full-time, and business leaders had to act quickly to ensure their staff could stay connected and productive while working from outside of the office.
Surprisingly, everything worked really well. Though it was challenging trying to co-work with kids, spouses, housemates and/or pets, people completed their projects, collaborated with colleagues, and found innovative solutions to problems. Some even discovered that working from home was profoundly better than coming into the office every day.
A handful of companies have decided to shift to a permanent work-from-home model, but the majority of leaders have asked their staff to return to the office, at least part of the time.
Returning to the office hasn’t been an entirely smooth experience
So here we are, two years later, and the return to the office mandate has been a bit tricky. Now that everyone is aware that work can effectively be completed from home, employees are looking for more flexibility from employers. Those who felt their bosses were being unreasonable have simply left their jobs for better work conditions and perks.
Moreover, people have new requirements on what it takes to make them feel safe, connected, and taken care of in a workplace. Employees need space and wifi, to name just a couple of things, to make them feel at ease while in the office. It’s no longer good enough to host a pizza lunch every quarter. Casual Fridays aren’t going to cut it. Employees need to know that their companies genuinely care about their wellbeing before they can commit to returning to the office or building on a regular basis.
Company leaders cannot look the other way any longer when it comes to employee happiness, healthiness and productivity. Those that care about their teams, and the success of their business, are using several tech tools to help them create more worker-friendly spaces. Technologies designed and built with people at the center are the solutions that will make everyone’s lives easier.
Companies can use software to safely manage space and allow employees to choose the days that they’d like to go into the office. Office Control, for example, gives staff the ability to book available meeting rooms and workspaces from their phones. Management can limit and change the number of available spaces as needed, and even approve bookings before they can be finalized.
When it comes to safety in the workplace, businesses have traditionally thought of security cameras, access control, and the proper handling of dangerous equipment or materials. Post-2020, workplace safety must include processes for contact tracing in the event of a positive Covid case. Having a system that tracks who was in the office each day gives leaders an easy and reliable way to do this.
Frictionless problem-solving tools
One of the things that employees dislike about coming into the office is the unpredictability. They may have a plan for what they’d like to accomplish during the day, but when they arrive, they find that the second monitor at their workspace isn’t working. Or maybe the dishwasher has leaked water all over the floor. These problems delay productivity and frustrate the staff who have to deal with them.
Instead of trying to figure out who they need to contact, leaders can give their teams software tools that allow them to submit service requests on the spot. They can access an app on their phone, upload a photo, write a brief description of the issue, and hit send. It’s a much quicker and less stressful way for staff to handle issues, and with a system like this, problems are seen and resolved more quickly too. Software may not be able to prevent unexpected problems from occurring, but it does create a better system for solving them.
Wifi that works
It used to be that company wifi was restricted to only those who absolutely needed it. The thinking behind this was that it would discourage staff from checking their email or social media feeds every half hour. But wifi has become essential, and staff want easy access to quality wifi when they’re in the office.
The core reason why all staff should have access to good wifi is that they need it to support flexible work. It would be highly illogical to give people the option to work from quiet workstations using their laptops without also giving them a way to get online.
But, staff may also need wifi to stay connected to others that they care for. Giving everyone access allows them to check in on loved ones while they are away from home.
This is kind of like a bonus tech tool that managers can use on special occasions. Delivery apps now make it possible for entire teams to order lunch or dinner using one corporate account. The organizer simply has to share the link with the group, and invite them to add their order. Make in-office lunch events a little less cliché by letting employees enjoy something other than pepperoni pizza.
With communication tools like Zoom and Slack becoming categorically essential, developers have been devoting more time and attention to making their products accessible to those who may be visually impaired, have different education, and even employees who may lack access to peace and quiet for work calls. Live captions for video meetings, translations for those live captions, and even gestures that trigger a digital response, are being integrated into communication platforms so that workers can participate fully, no matter where they are. Inclusive technology allows all team members to be more productive, which in turn accelerates the company’s growth.
Sensors are being used to help with both organization and employee wellness. Sensors are practical and versatile, and can be applied to almost any workspace. The most basic sensors use a technology called a passive infrared (PIR) sensor. This is the same type of technology used in motion detection equipment. PIR sensors activate, or “turn on,” when a measurable change has occurred in the workplace or at a workstation.
Sensors can be used passively to keep track of how many people are in the office or which workstations are currently occupied. The data could be viewed in real time so that other staff members know which spots are still available. More proactive sensors may trigger a change in light or temperature. The sensors may keep the lights on after hours if they detect that workers are still in the office. Or, they may work with heating and cooling systems to automatically adjust temperatures depending on how many people are in the office. Sensor technology will likely gain popularity due to its versatility and increasing affordability.
Companies can harness the power of simple, user-friendly technologies to make the in-office work experience better for everyone. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, so leaders are encouraged to think about the tools that would have the greatest impacts and make their teams more excited about coming back into the office.