Corona virus: will offices be safe to work?

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Lockdown is now being relaxed in many countries of the world. Gradually offices are also opening. In such a situation, there is a fear in the mind of the people whether it is safe to go to their office.

Along with all the old-fashioned methods, there is going to be a further increase in the use of technology to monitor employees.

Now when entering the building, there will be thermal cameras to take your temperature. Also, many such apps or wearables can also be used, which will alert you if any of your colleague is too close. The office may soon be giving you a feeling of minority report movie.

A few years ago, The Edge Building in Amsterdam received the most votes as the smartest and sustainable building in the world. Now this building with sensors filled offices is trying to mold itself with the new truth of living with a fast spreading virus.

Koen van Oostrom, the founder of the real estate firm that built the building, told the BBC that there are some changes that can be implemented immediately.

Air quality

He says, “The doors can be opened by hand at the moment, but opening them through voice control or app will be a minor step. We want to make sure that the virus does not spread like this.

He says, ‘We have cameras that can show how many people are on the floor and through software updates it can also be known how far people are standing from each other. If people come closer to each other, then we can also send them a warning on the phone.

Oostrom explains, ‘Not everyone will like this thing and many people may consider it an interference in their privacy, so we have not decided to use it yet.’

Unlike most other buildings, The Edge is already giving employees a phone app through which they can know what the temperature of the office is and how the air quality is. In addition, they are also being given the freedom to order lunch from the canteen of the office.

Earlier there was no focus on air quality. Ostrom says that now it is believed that if the fresh air is not in sufficient quantity then the virus can spread and due to this people are now noticing it.

The seating plan will also have to be changed so that the rules of social distance can be followed. But Susanne Clarke, a smart building expert at research firm Verdantics, says that companies rarely make any major changes to their working practices.

She says, ‘The seats will remain a short distance from each other. In the kind of economic slowdown we are seeing, most companies will be unable to take office space. But, it will definitely be thought about and it will be cleaned again and again to make them infection free.

Some lighting companies such as Vital Vaio are offering products such as Safe Disinfection Lighting. In these, white light is used along with the light so that some bacteria on the surface can be killed. They can be used in hotels or offices with more people.

Temperature testing

Although Flir Technology has been making thermal cameras used in airports and on police helicopters for years. But, in the past few months, there has been a sharp jump in their demand.

Now the company is getting demand from factories and businesses.

“Every industry concerned about the safety of its workers and customers is showing interest in it,” says Ezra Merrill, Flir’s vice president (marketing).

These cameras take temperatures in an area of ​​five square millimeters near the tear duct. This place is considered the most suitable for taking skin temperature. People wearing glasses have to remove them.

In its algorithm, the time of day, weather and many other things are kept in mind.

Merrill says that with this device it is also necessary to take the temperature from a medical grade thermometer.

This technology was recently tested in a factory in the US and it got mixed reactions.

The camera does not take pictures and it is difficult to identify people through images, despite this, Merrill believes that privacy issues can come up. In some places it can also be considered illegal.

Is technology necessary?

Loire Ravi Nayak says that businesses have to be cautious about using technology just to say no.

He says, “Can it tell who can work and who doesn’t?” And if this cannot be done, then what is the use of this technique? Since it interferes with basic human rights, the rationale of this technique has to be tested before using it. I don’t think we should do anything like that right now.

Barclays Bank Chief Executive Jess Stelle has said that the era of thousands of employees in offices in large expensive cities has probably passed. Experience of working from home is telling us that many people can work very well from home.

Van Ostrom would obviously disagree.

He thinks that such a hybrid model can come where more people will work from home and the employer will try to entice people to come to the office.

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