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Leveraging UC Devices for a Safe Office Return


Photo of modern office with digital signage
Source: alhim -
As I noted earlier this month on WorkSpace Connect, the hybrid work model is likely to dominate for the foreseeable future. Metrigy’s research shows that just 38.3% of participants in our global “Workplace Collaboration: 2021-22” research study plan to eliminate in-office work entirely. The rest will either allow employees to choose whether to work from home or in the office, or they will mandate that employees spend at least some of their time in the office.
As a result, companies are rapidly moving forward with efforts to ensure that those who either must or choose to return to the office can do so safely. Of our 476 participating companies, more than a third are making physical workspace changes as noted in the chart below.
In addition, approximately 70% are either using or planning to adopt apps that support safe return. Such apps require employees to answer health questions before coming into the office, as well as manage worker location and density to ensure social distancing.
Increasingly, unified communications (UC) device and application vendors are providing capabilities to support this return. For example:
  • Cisco, in partnership with Appspace, provides capabilities to ensure cleaning between meetings, the sharing of safety messages to unused conference room screens and in-office digital signage, and support for virtual receptionists
  • Using Microban technology, Poly has added antimicrobial coating to its Rove mobile phones, which are typically used in open settings including retail, healthcare, manufacturing, and logistics
  • Zoom introduced a series of updates and enhanced features for its Zoom Rooms meeting offerings. Among them are, like from Cisco, a kiosk mode for implementing a virtual receptionist, mobile device control of Zoom Rooms conferencing systems to enable touchless meeting start, join, and management, counting and reporting of meeting room occupancy, and, in partnership with Neat, the ability to monitor meeting room air quality
In addition, vendors such as Barco and Crestron, among others, have implemented touchless solutions to enable easy content sharing for those returning to meeting spaces, enabling the sharing of content to in-room screens wirelessly, without the need to connect to an in-room controller via USB or HDMI cables. Metrigy’s research data shows that IT leaders view availability of features such as antimicrobial coatings, automated cleaning scheduling, and touchless devices as important to have in their in-meeting devices.
Beyond physical devices, a number of space management vendors deliver solutions for assigning work locations and conforming to local occupancy requirements. These include Condeco’s desk and meeting room management solutions, iOffice Team, Robin, SpaceIQ, and more.
Successfully taking advantage of the rapidly emerging safe-return technologies hitting the market requires coordination between facilities and IT, as well as policy setting by HR. As I’ve previously noted, successful companies have created safe-office return groups with representation from all three of these functional areas. Their role is to establish appropriate policy, ensure implementation, and assess emerging technologies for their applicability to support specific situations.
The market for safe-return technologies is rapidly expanding. UC devices will continue to gain new features, but they represent just one part of the puzzle. Ensure that your organization is in touch with your vendors to assess both newly available, as well as soon-to-come features, and that you have a plan to implement them as necessary to support a safe return-to-the-office strategy that includes density management, cleaning, touchless devices, and ongoing capacity and air quality management.