Office Work & COVID: Is Technology The Only Solution?
For most, office life is still a memory. Only 8% of offices in NYC have reopened as of August. Situations around the country — and the globe — vary, but the message is clear: offices are far from safe spaces, and going to work poses a risk to your health.
But To Abandon Office Life Has Its Own Risks.
Offices provide important benefits to collaborative work, company culture, creativity, and networking. Some work activities also still require traditional office environments. While working from home has its advantages, businesses can face collapse without their offices.
Yet employees should not be put at risk in the pursuit of work, no matter how dire the situation. What we need is simple: a way to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission to enable a safe and manageable return to work.
Masks and PPE are recommended practices, but they aren’t a bulletproof barrier for coronavirus. They reduce the potential for transmission but do not eliminate it. Despite this, they are important.
Reductions in transmission rates are essential to controlling viral spread and keeping people safe — reduce the spread, reduce the risk. We cannot totally remove risk from our lives, but we can mitigate it as much as possible. So are there ways that we can make offices safe, other than just wearing masks and gloves?
Technology has started taking a pivotal role in the fight against COVID-19 and lowering the risk of transmission. As we look for solutions to problems, technology routinely comes out as the best option. So what tech opportunities are there to improve office safety?
Temperature scanning has probably become the most widely-adopted coronavirus protection measure in offices and businesses that have either returned to work or had to stay open during lockdowns. One of the most common symptoms of COVID-19 is an elevated temperature, making it a strong indicator of potential infection. However, as 80% of cases are mild or asymptomatic, and a slightly raised temperature may not be noticed by the individual, it’s entirely possible to come into work sick without even knowing it.
Temperature scanning technology is contactless and enables businesses to check the health of their workforces, ensuring contact is avoided with anyone that presents symptoms.
Another contactless technology is radio-frequency identification (RFID), which can help enforce policies that reduce the need for employees to touch surfaces. Some surfaces can carry COVID-19 for three days or more, which makes contact of any kind a risk factor.
RFID removes the need for contact through automation. The technology works by using sensor scanning. A scanner node is placed in a certain area, for example, on a door. It is constantly scanning the nearby area, looking for receivers within a certain proximity. A receiver can be anything from a fob to a smartcard. If your scanner detects a receiver nearby, it will perform its programmed action. In the example of the door, it will open. Other actions that can be performed include checking in a visitor once they enter the building, sending a notification to staff that somebody is in a waiting room, and even automating ordering from a lunch menu when the individual sets foot in a cafeteria.
All of this RFID technology lowers the need for surface contact, which lowers the risk of COVID transmission.
UV rays have been used since the 1980s to destroy pathogens. It’s very simple in concept. UV light is radiation, which is why we get sunburnt — it’s not the heat, it’s the radiation that burns you. Enough exposure to UV light can damage DNA structures in any organism, and that includes a viral strain. Once the DNA is damaged, the virus can’t replicate and is no longer a threat.
UV light cannot be used to treat coronavirus patients, but it can be used to kill the virus before it reaches a new host. UV emitting light bulbs can be placed in locations like air conditioning units to kill virus strains floating around in moisture droplets in the air. They can also be attached to cleaning robots, which automate cleaning out of hours.
Ultraviolet light cannot be used around people as it has the potential to damage our DNA. However, it can be deployed away from your workforce to destroy virus strains and make your workplace safer.