Sep 16, 2020 - 3.5 min read
Economies have been shaken like never before. Social distancing has become a part of everyday life. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost to covid-19.
In the first half of 2020, working from home became a new, if temporary, norm.
Although a popular alternative to the daily trek into the office, working from home has its fair share of associated problems. The absence of physical separation between home and work can wear away at psychological boundaries, affecting time management, concentration, and data security. Other boundaries have been created (welcomed by some and hated by others), hampering social interaction and fraying lines of communication within teams.
It’s worth noting that since lockdown, the rarely used acronym WFH has become widely recognised; however, it shouldn’t be confused with week from hell.
As we move from varying degrees of isolation into the next version of normality, we do it with a new sense of caution – a sharpened awareness of the implications of shared space and facilities.
The spread of covid-19 through the human population has changed the way we protect ourselves and others from microscopic predators. The covid-19 virus can be passed from one person’s respiratory system to another’s over a distance of two metres, and it can survive on untreated inorganic surfaces for up to 24 hours.
Face coverings, seating arrangements, dividing screens, prescribed walkways (entrances, exits, etc.), online meetings, staggered shifts and breaks, and rigorous cleaning routines are among the measures being put in place to prevent the spread of Coronavirus as office staff return safely to work.
But why is returning to the office so important? Couldn’t we just carry on working from home?
It works for some – for some of the time. But the thing is, we’re human beings, highly motivated by a need to belong. (Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs cites belongingness as one of the basic steps towards ultimate personal fulfilment.) The evolution of our species is underpinned by an instinct to communicate, cooperate, and socialise. We’re biologically conditioned to read body language, respond to vocal inflection, and empathise through eye contact.
However incredible our IT systems, nothing, really, can take the place of direct contact. Teams work best when they’re truly working together.
Not so long ago, touch-free technology was nothing short of a luxurious quirk – worthy of mention simply by virtue of its existence. Let’s face it: how many of us, five years ago, ever came out of facilities that featured touch-free technology without remarking on the fact. Hey, they’ve got those flushes that work without touching them; or, the soap dispensers work by sensors!
The covid-19 pandemic has brought about a shift in values. No longer perceived as a gimmick, touch-free technology is becoming a valued element of post-lockdown life. Contactless payments in retail outlets are encouraged, as are digital railway tickets and online bills and statements. The life-saving potential of touch-free technology is leading to its extensive use in hospitals, doctors’ surgeries, nursing homes, and clinics.
Touch-free technology is also moving into the post-lockdown office environment.
Touchless sensing is the reflection or interruption of an infrared light beam, a technology commonly used in automatic doors and air-conditioning units.
Gesture recognition technology works on the mathematical algorithms of a computer. This is the technology behind The Boiling Tap Company’s Touchless Dispense. Popular in the corporate hospitality sector, this environmentally friendly dispenser of hot and cold purified water is the industry leader when it comes to all-round user protection.
Whereas gesture recognition and touchless sensing both respond to the stimulus of any living person, biometric technology goes that step further. It will open a door or log into a device depending on who’s asking. Facial recognition and retinal scans are becoming increasingly utilised in access management.
Voice recognition technology is based on the speech patterns, wave frequencies, and tonal idiosyncrasies of a person’s voice. A voice template, made from a digitalised voice sample, is used to verify the identity of a person requesting access.
Although the use of Bluetooth connectivity is neither touch-free nor biometric, it does belong in both of these categories. After all, triggering a door’s mechanism by means of your smartphone’s Bluetooth connectivity means that the door is opened without being touched. And as your smartphone is identified as an authorised device, you are authorised by association.
As the post-lockdown office becomes increasingly populated with the Internet of Things, it makes sense for personal devices to take on an active role. We’ve seen it coming for years. Our smartphones are becoming a significant part of who we are.