For business owners, office workers and people tasked with maintaining or ensuring workplace safety, COVID-19 has changed just about everything — including what comes after the pandemic. As physical offices reopen in many parts of the country, employers and managers are facing truly unprecedented challenges.
Business questions — with technological answers
Many are struggling with questions that would have been nearly unthinkable even one year ago: When should we reopen? Under what conditions is it safe to bring people back into the office? What portion of our workforce actually needs to return? How do we best support the health, safety and productivity of all our employees? And how do we balance this with the need to maintain our company culture as we move into the new normal?
Even as employers try to settle upon concrete reopening plans, the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) continues to evolve. As it should: with vaccination campaigns already underway and scientists’ understanding of how the virus spreads still advancing, evidence-based guidance on how best to keep employees safe keeps changing.
In the face of these uncertainties, communicating clearly with office workers and visitors is more important than ever.
Digital signage can play a vital role in ensuring that employees have the accurate, up-to-date information they need to stay safe at work. And professional-quality display and audio technology can help those that remain remote to fully immerse themselves in the collaborative experiences that contribute so much to workplace culture.
Safeguard employee health by keeping people informed
Interactive digital display technology is ideal for conveying rapidly changing information. Not only can messaging be instantly updated to reflect the latest public health guidelines, but dynamic displays are eye-catching and attention-getting.
Many of the public health protocols that returning employees will be required to adhere to may feel unfamiliar or unnatural at first. After all, avoiding proffered handshakes or staying six feet apart from friendly co-workers was never the norm before. Because humans are social beings, innately drawn to one another, your employees may need readily visible reminders to help them follow social distancing rules.
The same is of any other behavior change you’re asking employees to make in order to increase workplace safety. Whether it’s more frequent hand-washing, the regular use of hand sanitizer, wearing face coverings or participating in symptom screening, it will be easier for office workers to develop new habits when they’re getting frequent reminders on digital displays.
Digital signage can also be used to communicate information about local infection rates, mandates for business closures and quarantines, and changes to workplace protocol. In fact, it can be used to address any coronavirus-related concerns your employees may have as they navigate the transition back to the office.
Maintain physical distance with wayfinding and capacity limits
Digital signage has long been useful for wayfinding — helping new hires and building visitors get where they need to go with less confusion and frustration — but in the post-pandemic office it can play a vital role in reducing hallway crowding and creating safer traffic flows.
Depending on what’s possible within the physical layout of your office, you may be able to designate one-way travel patterns for people walking between bathrooms, conference and break rooms, printers and other offices. Once you’ve mapped out the patterns that you’d like employees to follow, you can use a combination of floor marker arrows and digital signage to show people how to navigate them.
Dynamic digital display systems can also be used to inform workers of room and workplace occupancy limits, indicating, for example, when bathrooms are in use or a conference room has reached its capacity. They can then remind employees to wait until that room has been sanitized after use before entering it for the next meeting. They can even be used to assign people to currently-available workspaces (in offices that rely on hot-desking arrangements) to maximize the physical distance between them.
Remove barriers to collaboration — both in-office and remote
One of the biggest changes that the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought in the global workplace is the pivot to remote work, and it’s highly unlikely that this shift will simply evaporate in post-pandemic offices. According to a recent Gallup poll, nearly two-thirds of the U.S. workers who have been working from home during the pandemic would prefer to continue doing so.
To accommodate this growth in demand for flexible work arrangements as well as enable all employees who are exhibiting symptoms, have known coronavirus exposure or who have traveled to a high-risk area to quarantine, many companies are adopting flexible hybrid re-opening plans that enable them to maintain in-office operations with fewer employees physically present.
High-resolution audio and video conferencing technologies make it possible for remote workers to participate fully in meetings, discussions and collaborative projects. These solutions make the seamless sharing of new ideas possible, and allow people to engage with colleagues regardless of geographical location. Their adoption makes it possible for people who aren’t feeling well to stay home without guilt — a key mindset shift that’s necessary for preventing the spread of infection in the post-pandemic workplace.
Prioritize emotional and behavioral health and wellness
Even as the rapid, large-scale embrace of working from home has taught employers that workers’ physical presence in the office is less essential for productivity than they might previously have thought, it has also revealed the value of social interaction and togetherness. While COVID has shown us that we need not be in the workplace to get work done, it has also reminded us that cohesive teams get more accomplished.
Almost every worker has experienced new and unprecedented stresses over the course of the pandemic. These range from financial pressures to loneliness, isolation and fear of the disease itself.
Of course, on its own, digital signage cannot alleviate these stressors. But it can serve as a key element within a corporate communications policy that emphasizes clarity, transparency and the rapid transmission of accurate information. And having such a policy can help employees feel safe, welcome and in control of their health as they return to work in office settings. This sense of agency and belonging can make it easier for them to focus, collaborate and achieve renewed —and even enhanced — productivity.