Don’t buy that COVID-19 tech tool until you’ve asked these 4 questions

By Shaun Levenson
Vice President of Operational Excellence
Eurest Services Division of Compass Group

When we face huge changes in our everyday lives – like the ones brought on by COVID-19 – we tend to look for solutions that get life back to some sort of normal. Employees can now work from anywhere and finding technologies that enable a safe return-to-office strategy is more important than ever.

Employees are understandably concerned about returning to work when it means increased risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus. So companies need technologies that make workspaces high information, changeable, frictionless and safe.

But how do you know which tech solution is right for you?

Below are four questions employers should ask before investing in technology for a safer workplace.

1. Is everyone onboard?

Facility occupants want easy-to-use tools that improve their daily workplace experiences. Unsurprisingly, there is no shortage of new products from which to choose. However, anticipating user adoption and benefits can be hit or miss. This is often a function of low-tech alternatives – email, phone, shoulder tap or years of hardwired practices and habits.

Successful engagement in a new tech tool – for instance, an app like eDesk that employees can use to identify a workspace that’s been disinfected or where building occupant density is lowest at a specific time of day – can address new COVID-19 related concerns, ultimately reducing workplace anxiety and increasing productivity.

Driving user adoption and ROI may be a challenge if an internal marketing and communication department is underfunded and under-resourced. Expected outputs of a new workplace technology must be the fruit of collaborative efforts between the IT, HR, Marketing, Communications and Vendor teams.

There is no shortcut to maintaining user participation; improving their day-in-the-life experience must be a story lived every day.

2. Do you have data analytics capability?

If you do not see Internet of Things devices in your facility, it is because you have not looked for them. They are in coffee machines, vending machines, HVAC systems, doors and potentially embedded in the foundation. By 2025, there will be an estimated 3 trillion active IoT devices in 95% of properties around the world, all collecting and transmitting huge amounts of data.

Data-driven analysis is essential in the verification and communication of policies and practices that answer returning occupant concerns – everything from air quality to seat occupancy and safe, healthy spaces.

At Compass Group, we collect this data, interpret it, and adjust facility services accordingly to align with our clients’ goals and workplace needs.

Word of caution: No one should need a PhD to understand the data or how to use the information to elevate the workplace experience. 

3. Can the technology serve the needs of all your end users?

Technologies can have blind spots, and it’s a big problem when it will not work for all populations of your workforce. For example, a voice-activated system allowing contactless entry to the building or elevator could lock out a deaf/mute employee. A facial recognition screen might not be accessible to employees who use a wheelchair.

Consider also that one of the largest concerns with technologies like biometric devices and location finders is that they become a collection point of employee data. Protection of privacy is a big deal and not all employees will be comfortable with new tools. Make sure your tech solution allows for immediate user trust and communicate how your company protects end-user information early and often.

4. Will it work on my property?

If you are fortunate enough to work in a recently constructed facility, its design will have contemplated current and future technologies, along with anticipating changes in the way we will work. However, most of our workplaces were built many decades ago, which can present unique challenges for today.

Some solutions are straightforward enough to work anywhere while others may not be as effective in driving the outcome you are looking for in your buildings.

Working with your facility services provider, you may be surprised to learn of several solutions worth considering that are simple enough to be active in under 90 days.

There is a growing demand to find answers to our workplace needs through technology, but if you do not at the very least, have the answers to these questions before you write a check, you may be wasting your time and your money.