Note: This article originally appeared on Forbes.com in October of 2021.
Companies around the world are re-evaluating how and when employees should return to the office. Many are considering new work models, such as a hybrid office or an office as a collaboration hub. Whichever way they choose to go, companies need to assure their employees — and visitors — that their building is a healthy place to be.
The expectation moving forward is for workplaces to operate more safely, simply and efficiently. They can do this by enacting measures like managing occupancy levels, screening visitors before or upon arrival and tracking the flow of people throughout the building.
The goal for facility managers and operators is to create a frictionless and connected site experience for visitors and staff. And this is not as difficult as it sounds. With digitization, organizations can quickly transform the office experience and usher in the workplace of the future.
Here are four steps to optimize the workplace experience.
What if someone visits your office and it’s later discovered that this visitor has COVID-19? For starters, you need to know who else on your site was exposed to that person, so at the least those people can get tested and limit their exposure to others if necessary.
You can do this if you keep a digital log of everyone who comes onto your site. Maintaining a digital record of everyone who visits your site, including check-in and check-out times, is critical for understanding people’s movements and improving the safety of your visitors and staff. Unlike tracking visitors using a clipboard, pen and paper, a digital solution lets companies easily search for people and when they were in the building.
Creating digital logs is easier and more cost-effective than ever. There are now mobile apps that enable visitors to check in and out of your location swiftly, without contact, using their mobile phones. With such an app, visitors can scan a QR code on a poster that you place at the entrance to your facility. The app can alert site managers every time a visitor arrives, while creating an easily searchable digital record of all the people who come and go so you can trace their movements and improve safety across your operation.
A geofence is a virtual perimeter around your physical location that provides insight into nearly everything that happens inside of it. When visitors, contractors, or staff use their phones to check in with a visitor-management app, the app uses GPS to verify they are on site at check-in and alerts you when they have left the geofence.
Knowing who is onsite is especially valuable in cases of emergency, such as a natural disaster or criminal activity. Let’s say an intruder breaks into your site and you need to share this information with your staff immediately. How would you do it? Sending an email to get an alert out would work — but slowly. It would be particularly slow when gathering names of building occupants who signed in on a paper-and-pen log. With a mobile app using a geofence, you can communicate with everyone on your site in real-time and ensure that all of them can take swift precautions.
Increasingly, visitors are being asked to fill out forms before entering an office building or medical facility. But people today are busier than ever. They don’t want to wait in line and fill out forms on arrival. Filling out paper forms can be time-consuming – not to mention environmentally unfriendly.
The prevailing expectation is that the world is digital and connected, and that all experiences are seamless and increasingly frictionless – and solutions that digitize building entry forms are one way for companies to provide a hassle-free experience to staff and visitors.
These solutions enable you to create custom questionnaires as part of your building check-in process. Digital forms can be customized with a range of response types, including multiple-choice, numerical response and signature. Forms can also be custom designed to account for various types of site visitors, from contractors to one-time guests. Visitors can complete these forms before they arrive, expediting the check-in process and creating an easier experience for everyone.
Now is the time to give employees and visitors increased insight into what is happening in the building, create personalized experiences and make the building easier to use. Your aim is to encourage confident, comfortable and contented occupants.
And it’s a virtuous cycle. When buildings are connected to backend operations, they can learn from their occupants and respond. When this happens, buildings can provide a new level of experience focused on density, space usage, safer operations and indoor air quality. People — from employees to visitors to contractors — will welcome information such as the number of parking spaces available when they arrive and where the spaces are, what desks are available on the floor where they work and the status of the air quality in the office.
We live in a digital and connected world in our personal lives, yet manual paper processes are still common in the workplace. Far better to use connected technology to understand people and asset flows at your site. You’ll improve tenant experiences, assure occupants that your space is safe, and meet all regulations and codes. You’ll boost safety and convenience and create a healthier and more productive building environment.