Ready or Not, Here it Comes: Returning to the Workplace (Safely)
There’s no doubt the way we work has changed. Short term changes will evolve into a long-term transformation of our workplace and our workforce. This past year, most organizations and agencies went through the process of setting up their employees at home with the necessary equipment, security, access and networking requirements. And while 2020 will be remembered for the shift to working from home, 2021 brings a new set of challenges of when and how organizations will start to bring their employees back into the workplace (and for some, finalizing a secure and seamless work from home environment).
The timeline for bringing back the workforce can be determined by each organization’s leadership but the ‘how’ is becoming more clear on an industry-wide basis. Tools for this have been quickly developed and can be rolled out for organizations and agencies needing to get their workforce back together as soon as it is safe to do so. Every step of the employee’s journey has a technology provided to ensure safe interactions.
Ensuring a safe entry into the workplace is intuitively the first step in the process. Organizations can install a solution like video concierge that enables contactless entry by connecting to a remote receptionist to greet employees and guests. This is an opportunity to provide touchless, virtual face-to-face temperature checks and face scans to ensure every person entering the building is wearing a mask and showing no obvious signs of sickness. Sensor and/or automation solutions enable remote opening of doors once health checks are passed and proper credentials are provided.
Technologies within the Workspace
Once inside, agencies need to have an eye on things like distancing and sanitization to keep their employees safe throughout the workday as they interact with others and the space around them. Digital signage can be installed to not just share important health information or announcements but can also capture non-identifiable biometric data and aid in contact tracing. This allows employers to know if any worker’s temperature changes throughout the day and ensures that they are keeping masks on for collective safety.
On a more granular level, workspace digital notification disks can be affixed on desks that serve as green light notifications to indicate to employees if the workspace has been sanitized and is ready for use (a functional bonus, these disks also serve as wireless phone chargers).
Conference Room Solutions
If employees are returning to their workplaces, it probably means that conferencing will resume, as well. New creative technology solves a lot of the potential problems that can arise when getting multiple people in a room together.
Installing voice-activated equipment can launch meetings or dials-in remote participants and allows for touchless options for controlling meeting rooms. Furthermore, technology now allows approved mobile devices like cell phones to command meeting controls by scanning a QR code and allowing the meeting organizer to use meeting technology without actually having to touch anything in the conference room. In the same vein, ‘Bring You Own Meeting’ (BYOM) technology allows employees to run the entire meeting through their own approved laptop without interfacing with in-room technology at all.
While those options minimize cross contamination and reduces contact with shared devices, organizations still face the issue of social distancing measures when gathering people. To solve for this, smart cameras can be installed into conference rooms that have the ability to detect the number of in-office meeting participants, ensure compliance with social distancing requirements based on room size and even have the ability to shut off the meeting if the number of participants exceeds the set standard. This smart camera capability does not come out of the box, however, so having a technology partner to configure this system is required.
For some individuals, permanently working from home just isn’t feasible and therefore need the solutions listed above. Most organizations though will adopt a hybrid environment in which employees are working both at home and in the office. In order to do this successfully (meaning, ensuring both productivity and efficiency to continue business operations), organizations should make each setting as similar to each other as possible so employees can seamlessly move back and forth between their environments.
Support the Secure Hybrid Environment
In today’s reality of increasing cyber attacks, and in order for the hybrid environment to work, organizations and their teams need to ensure security regardless of location. Doing so requires products and services focused from the overall network all the way down to each endpoint. Fortunately, there are many tools that provide everything organizations need to cement holistic security for their hybrid work environments. Here are just some of the offerings available today:
- Rapid wireless deployments – ensure highly secure wireless and wired connections to the home, extending your corporate network to teleworkers, mobile workers and remote/micro-sites with mobile kits.
- Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) – enable the office desktop to follow your employees from wherever they log on with VDI deployment capability. Infrastructure for VDI is provided via a multi-cloud for simplified IT management.
- Hosted Collaboration Solutions for Defense (HCSD) – powered by Cisco, utilize a secure FedRAMP hosted cloud offering for commercial/government users.
- Enterprise collaboration – get the most out of your collaboration investments with technology consulting and adoption services including virtual teleconference platform training like Cisco’s Webex user training
- Secure remote office-in-a-box – provide secure, in-office-like access to data and apps without the expense of a VPN license with a pre-existing power outlet and wired/wireless Internet connection within the end user’s home.
- Support remote work surges – technical support from a third party vendor can supplement your existing IT team with 24/7/365 access to trained and certified engineers who can remotely manage networks and collaboration applications as needed.
In this day and age, organizations and their teams need the ability to be productive and secure from anywhere. The speed and innovation of technology is enabling new ways to collaborate safely and securely whether in the office, at home or a blend of both.
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