With the lockdown being eased in several countries, companies are finally preparing to re-open offices.
Keeping WHO’s and local guidelines in mind is definitely key to creating a safe work environment.
Contactless solutions that leverage app-less technology like QR Codes and NFC or app-based solutions can ensure physical distancing, help employees avoid surfaces and avoid overcrowding.
7 ways to leverage contactless solutions
#1. Contactless payments and ordering at the cafeteria
Reducing contact by leveraging QR Code and NFC powered contactless payment methods and ordering systems can help employees safely enjoy mealtime.
Greg Mahnken, Credit Industry Analyst (Credit Card Insider) started seeing a spike in traffic for their contactless credit card page during this pandemic. MasterCard and Visa have increased the limit for contactless credit cards.
If the POS system is not already equipped to receive contactless credit cards, they can integrate QR Codes or NFC tags instead.
While this method still requires employees to come close to the POS, there are app-based payment solutions that can help eradicate this.
Stephan Marais, Pandable recommends the use of Google and Apple Pay to ensure physical distancing.
Instead of using disposable menus or laminated ones, QR Code menus have emerged as a cost-efficient and effective solution for the restaurant industry
Food courts inside workplaces can replicate the same.
All they have to do is upload their menu in a PDF format and convert that into a QR Code. This can be pasted on table-toppers or directly on tables.
#2. Contactless hiring
While the job market is pretty grim right now, there are companies that are hiring.
Carly Chalmers, Marketing Manager (HigherMe) recommends two solutions to facilitate contactless hiring – Text-To-Apply and video interview scheduling.
Text-To-Apply allows job seekers to apply with a simple text message. Higher Me’s Text-To-Apply currently has a 90-day free trial.
Video interview scheduling
Face to face interviews might have been the norm but video conferencing software like Zoom, Google’s Meet and Skype can reduce contact when hiring for roles. Companies can also leverage no-code automation platforms like Hexomatic automations for automating work tasks.
#3. Contact tracing apps
“India, South Korea and Singapore have built contact tracing apps that uses Bluetooth, NFC and GPS to track social distancing and to alert users if they have ever come in contact with COVID-19 patient.”
These apps can be made mandatory for workplaces to ensure at-risk employees can quarantine themselves.
Or, companies can take a page out of China’s playbook and leverage a low effort high impact tech like QR Codes at entry points.
This can be linked to a self-declaration form or a risk assessment scanner. The form’s responses can be exported as a .XLS file to maintain records.
Create a contactless QR Code form
#4. Leverage technology that ensures protocol over physical monitoring
Are employees wearing masks? Are they maintaining the minimum distance? Do they have a fever? These questions are going to plague office administration in days to come.
Physical monitoring requires manual effort and leaves room for human error.
That is why Kunal Kislay, CEO (Integration Wizards) recommends using their contactless computer vision technology product, IRIS AI.
“Our product, IRIS AI, is a computer vision platform that plugs into an existing CCTV network to identify people not wearing face masks & PPE, monitor adequate social distance being followed, and enables thermal screening. IRIS AI uses live camera feed to detect non-compliance and raises real-time alerts as SMS, WhatsApp messages, email, or announcement on PA system as required. Thermal cameras identify individuals running a temperature. When the threshold is breached, an alarm with the image of the individual is raised. The alarm is configured to be sent to the right authority who can then take the necessary steps or announce on the PA system to maintain a distance of 1 metre while at the manufacturing premises.”
#5. Voice-enabled contactless solutions
Instead of tapping a digital screen to book a meeting room, tools like Speechly allow you to say something like “Do we have free meeting rooms from 14:00 to 15:00 tomorrow?” or “book me a meeting room tomorrow at 12 for two hours” instead.
Ottomatias Peura, Head of Growth (Speechly) says they’re building developer tools for voice user interfaces.
“We believe voice is a great solution for the post-pandemic world. It’s contactless and fast and intuitive to use. Our customers have experimented with for example voice-enabled meeting room booking.”
The same technology can be adapted for the cafeteria and coffee machines. It can even replace the need for visitors to speak to a receptionist by using a voice-enabled receptionist robot.
Some of Speechly’s users are also experimenting with the idea of replacing tablets and smartphones in the warehouse for inventory.
#6. Automated machines
Sensor taps, self-cleaning toilets, and no-door handles are quickly gaining prominence.
A contactless, digital workplace is crucial to prevent a second wave of the pandemic.
For instance, the simple coffee maker would have to be replaced with a smart coffee maker that can be operated through an app.
Andrew Roderick, CEO (Credit Repair Companies) reckons it will become the norm in offices for employees to order a drink on the app and then collect it in a reusable cup to avoid overcrowding in the pantry.
#7. Contactless Parking
Mike MacDonald, Director of Market Development Field Operations (Arrive Mobility) has been building parking infrastructure that would support autonomous vehicles for the last year. This is now being rapidly adopted by users in the wake of COVID-19 to facilitate contactless access to parking spaces.
“Historically, people that pulled into a parking facility would roll down their windows, pull a ticket (or give their car to a valet,) and then need to pay for their parking at a machine before exiting. With our beacons, Bluetooth hardware, Amazon Alexa Auto support, and QR technology, this entire transaction occurs on the phone, including the opening of the gate, so people can pull in and exit with their windows up.”
Arrive Mobility’s solutions are being deployed at major sports venues, countless commercial buildings and at places like airports, train stations, and municipal parking lots.
Adapting to the new normal at workplaces
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Professor Erin Bromage’s viral blog post “The Risks – Know Them – Avoid Them” outlines what we can expect as the lockdown is being eased.
Large infection clusters that present high risks include social gatherings, restaurants, one’s own home, public transportation, and the workplace.
Social distancing rules only solve half the equation. Environments that are enclosed, have poor air circulation and a high density of people are riskier than say, going to the supermarket or going out for a run without a mask.
A simple equation to encapsulate his learnings:
Successful infection = exposure to virus + time
This means workplaces have to go on the offensive with sanitization, contactless solutions and have employees work from home whenever possible.
Keith Wilson, Professor at Imperial College, London and a chemical biologist performed a study for the Adam Smith Insititute that suggested splitting workforces into two, non-overlapping groups.
The study recommends workplaces switch to a cyclical strategy with employees working 4 days a week at the office and then spend the next 10 days at home also being dubbed as the 10:4 policy.
This reduces the time spent in offices and allows time for employees that might have caught the virus to develop symptoms. They can then be quarantined to prevent others from getting sick.