As the lockdowns gradually ease, businesses are starting to reopen offices and transition staff back from remote working.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, two in three workers (62 per cent) in the APAC region have been working from home according to a Gensler study. Moving back to the workplace isn’t as straightforward as reverting to the way things were pre-pandemic.
Risk still remains – as does social distancing – and many workers have become accustomed to new ways of communicating and collaborating. So, what is the best and safest approach to take?
1. Introduce new hygiene policies
Businesses will need to adopt new hygiene procedures and policies as workers return to the office. As well as higher cleaning standards, a “low-touch” scenario is needed. For personal space, there will be less sharing and more owning. Employees are expected to keep their own keyboard, mouse, headset and even web camera to keep “touch” to minimum. For meeting rooms, managing social distancing will be challenging, particularly in smaller rooms. These may instead become personal collaboration spaces where individuals based at home or small meeting rooms in offices can collaborate in a one-to-many format.
AI will play a larger role, such as speaker framing in rooms and ANC and Acoustic Fence in headsets, desk phones and meeting solutions. Wireless devices are also a good option to reduce touching the cables and desks. Finally proximity join from BYO phones, tablets or laptops allows the users avoiding to press any button to join the meeting, zero touch!
2. Encouraging continued remote working
To reduce the number of staff in the workplace, businesses should consider continuing to enable remote working. While some staff have struggled to work in isolation, many workers report higher satisfaction and productivity.
Governments and companies will both look closely at employees’ work patterns because both hybrid and remote work will also require Desk Assessment. This will likely see governments further
3. Adopt the best tech solutions
Adopting the best tech solutions for remote working is critical, from software platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams to audiovisual equipment and headsets that provide high-quality sound and video. Research suggests that videoconferencing enables superior communication and learning to audio alone, and is more engaging, but high-quality audio remains critical as well.
High-quality video and audio also help reduce “meetings fatigue” and “video fatigue”, which have become increasing issues during the pandemic. Fatigue is worse when participants are struggling to make sense of what they hear. Video calls require sustained and intense attention which is tiring. A lack of visual cues such as facial expression also makes it harder for the brain to process information. Improving the quality of videoconferencing is vital, and scheduling shorter meetings and having better time management also needs to be encouraged.
Sanitation costs time and money. But one of the benefits of less crowded offices, more social distancing and continued remote working may be higher productivity. According to one survey, 76 per cent of office workers are regularly distracted at their personal workspace and 36 per cent of workers claim noise causes them to lose at least an hour of work every day.
As we emerge from COVID-19, businesses may find advantages in the “new normal”. From a better work-life balance to more flexibility and “work-from-anywhere”, the forced adoption of remote working may have some silver lining.
Bill Zeng, APAC CTO, Poly