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Meeting Post-COVID Part #2: How to Minimize “Touches” in Meeting and Collaboration Spaces

What could be even remotely similar about driving on the road and returning to offices post-pandemic?

Well, for starters, it’s a sense of shared responsibility for safety, learned behaviors, responsible choices, compliance with the rules, and most importantly an infrastructure that safeguards everyone’s well-being.

Leveraging technology to adapting to the new normal

As offices reopen, there is a logical focus on refining the best practices to control contagion and utilising technology to create a more hands-free workplace. Ensuring safe meetings, collaboration and communication with an uninterrupted workflow is now possible as organisations and facilities teams are bringing in new processes, digital solutions, and platforms that don’t rely heavily on touch technology.

This article on creating a safer post-COVID workplace and minimizing touch practices is a step beyond perspectives and tips shared previously on the Post COVID-19 outbreak, establishing workplace safety protocols and enabling touchless collaboration at work.

There are many points of contact when using the meeting or collaboration rooms, which increase the chances of contagion, manifold, besides making the process of sanitising the rooms extremely complicated and tedious.

The key, therefore, is to minimize the “touches” and to make common points of interaction between the people and the room as touchless as possible.

Let’s look at 6 effective ways to upgrade existing rooms at the workplace to:
  • Overcome the challenges in avoiding unnecessary touch while adapting to the new normal
  • Create disruption-free work experience with strategies and tools in place
  • Plan and invest smartly in technology to serve long-term organisational needs

Challenge #1: Physically entering the room would require using door lock or handle

Alternative: An access card-based touchless solution or automatic sensor doors.

Access card-based entry can be allowed, however, it will not be feasible as you still need to physically open the door unless there is a sliding door with motorized mechanism installed. It is also advisable to use a tissue paper, if you have to touch the door knobs or handles, at all. A useful habit to cultivate starting today.

Another opening solution designed to minimise touch is installing automatic doors systems that use motion, infrared, or optical detection sensors to detect the presence of individuals. These sensors are installed on the sides of the door, to trigger the opening and closing of the automatic doors whenever an individual enters the sensor area.

But looking at it from a viability standpoint, automated door sensors cannot be installed easily in all the office rooms either because of the existing doors and the potentiality for accidental opening as people pass by. For meetings, training, collaboration, or town hall, it’s an important aspect of a secure and convenient environment.

Having said that, what is non-negotiable is the regular cleaning of these interaction points both before and after a session. Room sanitisation can be undertaken after every meeting, the occupancy sensor can be utilised to send a request to housekeeping to carry out the requirements.

Challenge #2: Turning on the lights and the AC — wall panels or switches

Alternative: Equipping office spaces with the room occupancy sensor that detects when a person is in the room and can automatically switch on or shut off the lighting and AC.

An indoor motion detecting sensor can be preset based on room dimensions and temperature sensitivity. The smart and autonomous system detects the presence of a person to automatically control lights, temperature, or ventilation systems. This is an effective way to minimize touch, save energy consumption and reduce carbon footprints.

The sensors add convenience by eliminating the need for manually operating the lights. This can also cut down a lot of cleaning overhead for the facilities staff.

Fusion EM Systems

Challenge #3: Using the VC system for remote meetings using a touch interface

VC system for remote meetings

Setting up meetings requires scheduling, joining, or starting a call – using the usual touch interfaces in the room.

Alternative: Making BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) an integral part of your conference room policy helps to get collaboration going without multiplying the chances of the spread of infection.

Room scheduling is possible using personal devices and this provides a good idea of the availability of the room too. You can schedule the meetings so that the call is set up and initiated automatically by the system, without having to physically interact with any of the current touch interfaces in the rooms. This can be done from your personal laptop, phone, or tablet.

You can also consider voice activation for these systems using solutions like Alexa for Business, provided your control system is compatible with this.

Challenge #4: Office presentations which require cable cubbies and connectors

Using the meeting or huddle room for regular meetings, which requires using cable cubbies and connectors can be a concern as it is one of the most common surface touches at the workplace. This can significantly increase the indirect person-to-person infection transmission.

Alternative: Using a wireless presentations system that is easy to deploy and manage, increases frictionless workflow, and facilitates collaboration by enhancing productivity, and minimizing touch.

In addition to more convenient and safer meetings and presentations, the right wireless presentation option can deliver enterprise-grade security, privacy and ensures compliance with IT policies.

Challenge #5: Facilities staff need to be present for room assistance and support

Alternative: A remote help desk and audiovisual asset management setup allow facilities staff to assist with guidance or intervention without requiring their physical presence.

Meeting attendees can contact support staff from the touch screen in the room who can resolve issues by remotely controlling and managing multiple devices in the other room. Additionally, it stores all the technical documentation for quick and easy reference.

Using the Crestron XIO Cloud, the user can inform a central help desk to accept their soft VC call either team/ zoom on a room solution setup so that the call is started and connected before they enter the room. An advanced solution for AV and IT teams to overcome the complexity and safety hazards.

Challenge #6: Safe-practice reminders for participants

Alternative: Install signs and screen-based digital signage.

Digital signage has great recall value and can be a powerful medium to remind people of the Do’s and Don’ts to navigate the challenges of the post-COVID situation. The digital sign technology can be utilized as a great foot in the door technique for employees to avoid the pitfalls of negligent behavior and follow the safety instructions while accessing any room. Simple printed signages can also be used within the rooms to remind people of specific ways in which they can get things done.

Habits are difficult to change and participants would require multiple visual reminders not to touch the devices that they had been accustomed to touching during the pre-pandemic times. Changes in the processes, new features, and targeted communication can be highlighted with digital signage which is strategically placed for high visibility.

A final word on work-life after COVID-19

Collective efforts, safety protocols, tech-smart systems in place, hygiene intervention, self-regulation, and the right intent — of putting people and their safety first — will ensure a smooth functioning of offices. These insights on safety considerations for offices should help achieve a steady pace of operations, smoother collaboration and a healthier workplace.