Get ready for the new normal
Not to sound too gloomy as we launch, ever hopeful, into 2021. However, even the largest organisations will agree that they were unprepared for COVID-19, with the pandemic taking its toll on business. According to McKinsey, more than 50 billion-dollar companies filed for bankruptcy in 2020 in the United States alone.
So, it’s worth considering: what could we have done to prepare better, differently – and what has this situation taught us about high-consequence, low-likelihood risks such as the COVID-19 crisis?
What we have discovered is that unfortunately, they are destined to repeat themselves. Whether the current virus mutates to become more potent, or a new threat emerges – our world has changed, because this has changed us.
Our collective awareness has been raised about public health and hygiene to a point where we actually cringe when we need to touch the grocery checkout screen. It has also affected business strategy.
Previously, digital disruption was highest on the agenda. Now digital disruption has been accelerated by COVID-19, which is the #1 operational and Workplace Healthy and Safety risk.
“We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months,” said Sataya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft.
Besides already well-established virtual collaboration and meetings, in most businesses that rely on real, human and physical work and collaboration – how are they getting ‘back to work’?
And what can you do as a business – or as a leader, or as an advisor/supplier to businesses dealing with a sizeable employee base?
A 5 Step Plan for The New Normal At Work
According to leading ergonomic consultants and Workplace Health & Safety experts, there are 5 key areas:
1. Regularly screening staff and visitors for COVID-19.
It seems a simple concept, however screening and contact tracing is essential, and that starts at the key entry points.
This means ramping up your vigilance in knowing not only who is entering your workspace(s), but when, how and where they’ve been.
Routine screening should include temperature checks of all people before entering your work premises.
Employees can be proactively requested to answer personal health questions when clocking / punching in each day – such as whether they have been in close contact with anyone with COVID-19 or are feeling unwell.
As part of its Time & Attendance and Visitor Registration solutions, NoahFace offers capabilities to:
2. Manage ‘pedestrian routes’ around the workplace and define safe office layouts.
COVID has redefined what ‘personal space’ really means. Whether that’s 6 feet (US recommended distance) or 1.5 metres (recommended in Australia).
Social distancing protocols are important, and a practical way of reducing the likelihood of transgressing these rules, is by creating clear space, and directional cues, such as floor stickers and arrows.
Implementing maximum capacity rules on floors and in specific spaces and work areas, will help minimise interactions.
Turning open plan work spaces into meeting and collaboration spaces with the appropriate social distancing can work as a retrofit.
3. Reduce airborne COVID 19 transmission.
The disease is transmitted very readily by exhaled micro-droplets, which is why mask-wearing is so critical.
Of course, there are work environments, such as hospitals, where PPE must be worn. However, generally speaking, the vast majority of workers will expect to be protected to some extent, by the good planning efforts of their employer.
However, wearing a mask all day in an office environment may seem rather uncomfortable and impractical.
By taking the initiative to re-evaluate your existing ventilation and HVAC in your workspaces, you can contribute to a healthier environment all around.
Investigate germicidal ultra-violet lighting systems to help eliminate the virus inside the ventilation system. Open windows and investigate where you can maximise fresh air flow.Create partitions or retrofit workstations between employees to form a barrier to co-worker sneezes and coughs.
4. Rethink the ‘open plan’.
It may be time to finally abandon the ‘open plan office’. Let’s face it, no one really liked this concept in all practicality. It was interruptive, noisy and disrupted focus.
And now, it’s a health risk.
Perhaps it’s time to return to individual offices, or at least well designed, quiet and safe cubicles. Instead of positioning cubicles side by side or facing one another, it’s best to configure these in a classroom style, separated by cubicle dividers.
Just as your organisation has a fire plan, you need a COVID plan.
And good planning. Arup, who are global experts in the built environment, with projects in over 140 countries – provides a great guide here.
Ultimately, the key recommendations are sound operational planning and technology, such as contactless entry devices.
5. Create touchless or less touch, where possible – particularly in high traffic areas, such as when checking in, or at building lifts and access points.
As for elevators? Some organisations are utilising ultraviolet-light disinfection tools and voice-activated panels. However, ultimately, experts stress that people riding elevators should wear masks, face the wall, resist touching surfaces and use toothpicks or disposable wipes to push buttons.
Adopting technology such as NoahFace’stouchless Visitor Registration solution that sits elegantly on a reception counter, with optional one-time registration for visitors.
An optional wall mount unit automatically and touchlessly open doors, while also feeding up into payroll systems and performing a range of other cost-efficient tasks. While the kiosk unit is ideal for checking in at building elevator banks.
Adhering to this 5-step plan, should enable you to instil confidence with your employees upon their return to work, whilst providing security around Occupational and Workplace Health and Safety compliance and duty of care measures.
Keep the lines of communication open, and frequent.
In doing so, your business will have strong response protocols in place for managing the current pandemic and future infectious disease outbreaks.
Meanwhile, you’ll likely also reduce sick days, through reducing germ transmission. And that’s a very positive outcome for your business and employees alike.
For more information on a safe workplace during COVID-19:
* DISCLAIMER: This device is not marketed or intended to be used as a medical device to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any health condition. This device does not determine the core body temperature of subjects nor can it determine if a virus is present. Actual core body temperature can only be determined using an approved clinical measuring device. This device is not currently available in Australia.
In 2015 café owner Geoff Cropley came to the realisation that his business would run a lot smoother and he’d have a better relationship with his customers if he could remember their names and orders. You know what it’s like. You walk into your favourite café and they know your order. It makes the experience even better if they remember your name. As a customer you feel engaged and appreciated and are more likely to be loyal.
After scouring the world for a system that would work for his business, Geoff realized that using facial recognition technology would be the perfect solution. The problem was, such a system didn’t exist. So, instead of giving up, Geoff invented it. After 18 months of prototyping and stress testing in a real-life environment, and seeing large improvements in customer loyalty and profitability in his business, Noah Facial Recognition Pty Ltd was launched.