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Using technology to get workers back on campus safely

On Mar. 11, 2020, the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic. In just a few weeks, roughly 16 million U.S. employees began working remotely in an effort to flatten the curve. Though 60% of employees have reported that they want to continue working from home post-pandemic, that doesn’t mean working from home is free of challenges.

There are many issues that have come up for remote workers, such as not having the right home setup, lack of consistent Internet access, having to juggle work and home life, and dealing with the mental consequences of isolation. Although COVID-19 might spark a more long-term trend towards remote work, these difficulties demonstrate the need for a safe way to enable employees to return to the office.

Luckily, the technology industry and innovators alike are evolving day-by-day to develop new solutions as the world learns more about how this virus operates and what’s required to prevent it from spreading. Employers are evaluating several different technologies — many of which are use the IoT — and systems that can be implemented to help get employees back onto their respective campuses and offices. Devices such as sensor-based monitoring and contact tracing can be implemented across corporate campuses and office spaces to ensure the health and safety of their workers.

Predictive cleaning

Facility hygiene is key to preventing the spread of COVID-19 as corporate campuses and office spaces reopen. Predictive cleaning can lower infection rates and costs by enabling on-demand cleaning to ensure common areas, such as restrooms and conference rooms, are safe for employees to use.

IoT devices are battery operated, which means they are easy to install and have the ability to monitor various equipment in real time. For example, these IoT devices can notify facility managers when soap dispensers and towels are running low so they no longer have to manually check on this and can replace them the moment they’re needed. By implementing IoT devices for predictive cleaning, employers can improve the overall efficiency and cleanliness of shared spaces.

Contact tracing

Contact tracing and proximity detection have been a popular option for preventing the spread of COVID-19 from the start. Much of the conversation around contact tracing methods revolve around apps that employees can download on their phones. However, this method has been publicly criticized because of potential privacy infringements. Additionally, this method isn’t very accurate given that individuals can choose to opt-out of sharing their location.

As a more reliable alternative, IoT devices such as proximity sensors can easily be integrated into wearable devices, such as badges. Employee location is only shared while they are on the corporate campus to reduce privacy concerns, as opposed to the 24-hour monitoring that contact tracing apps rely on.

Employee data is also saved with strict anonymity. For example, employees can be identified in the system as employee 1, 2, and 3 rather than using their actual name. Only those with gated privileges would have access to see who’s who.

This enables employers to accurately pinpoint which workers have been closer than six feet to an infected individual and are at high risk of infection. Once these individuals are identified, they can quarantine immediately to prevent the spread of the virus.

Social distancing

Another benefit to utilizing proximity sensors powered by IoT technology is that they can facilitate social distancing. It’s very difficult for individuals to know when they are maintaining six feet of distance from their neighbors just by eyeing it.

When integrated into wearable technology, proximity sensors can notify employees when they are too close to their co-workers. This trains employees to better understand what six feet looks like and encourages them to take a few steps back if they violate that guideline.

Occupancy monitoring

Occupancy monitoring is another tool that enables employers to have more insight and control over the number of workers in a given space at once. By deploying IoT devices across a corporate campus, table and room occupancy information can help employers figure out where to place their workers so they can configure a space more efficiently and safely.

In addition, these smart sensors can provide real-time data and notify employers when certain office spaces open up. This enables them to move their employees to the rooms with the lowest occupancy during peak times.

Indoor air quality

Studies show that keeping humidity levels between 40 and 60% reduces the transmission of viruses, according to the Annual Review of Virology. IoT devices have the ability to monitor CO2, temperature and humidity levels indoors in real time to ensure that these levels are hitting the appropriate numbers. As a result, potential airborne transmission can be closely monitored, so employers can rest assured that their indoor facilities are at the necessary levels required to maintain a safe environment.

Although 2020 has posed many unprecedented challenges, it’s important to use this time to find innovative ways to reopen safely. No employer wants to worry about a COVID-19 outbreak on their property, but there is tremendous value in having employees working together in person. Precautionary measures such as predictive cleaning and contact tracing can significantly reduce the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak and help employers rest assured that their staff can return to work safely.

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.

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