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WorkSpace Wednesday: Zoom Back Into the Office


Returning to the office post-pandemic
Image: vichie81 -
As enterprises plot a return to the office, in whatever frequency for employees that may be, they’ll have to figure out how to deal with a few hot spots, like the reception area and the meeting room. But here’s an idea: What if the familiar technology already in place could take on a safety and wellbeing role, too?
This is an idea that’s bubbled up out of software vendors over the course of the pandemic, most recently from Zoom, which this week shared its vision and technology options for doing so. As discussed today on our sister site, WorkSpace Connect, Zoom has turned some of its attention from facilitating remote work to paving a path for a safe return to the office. As Jeff Smith, head of the software-based Zoom Rooms system at Zoom, shared in that post, the company has brought in new capabilities aimed at making workers feel more comfortable, in control, and productive when they return to the office.
My colleague Ryan Daily gives the rundown in today’s WorkSpace Connect post, “Video Room Systems: Pushing Beyond Collaboration Use Case,” but here are a couple of data-based offerings targeted at delivering much-needed peace of mind for in-office workers.
In the first example, enterprises using the all-in-one video appliance for Zoom Rooms from startup Neat now can leverage data from built-in environmental sensors, Zoom said. This Neat Sense data, on room environmental conditions such as air quality, humidity, carbon dioxide, and volatile organic compounds, is viewable via the Zoom dashboard, on the controller within a Zoom-outfitted meeting room, or in a scheduling display, Zoom said.
Along the same lines, real-time room occupancy data gets fed from supported cameras for viewing in the dashboard, Zoom said.
As noted above, Zoom isn’t the first vendor to plan around a return to the office. As covered on WorkSpace Connect back in June, for example, Cisco is tapping location data from sensors on its Wi-Fi access points — common fixtures for many enterprises — to give a way for companies to manage the re-entry to office spaces. Toward that end, it has updated its DNA Spaces analytics tool with applications that provide real-time and historical analysis of office occupancy.
With the first app, Right Now, enterprises can track new devices that enter a particular space within an office — i.e., as employees move from one access point to another. With such data, enterprises can get a view of how employees behave overall within an office or building, and plan accordingly.
The second app, Impact Analysis, provides insight on how employees are using space — i.e., time spent in a meeting room or other area.
Besides Cisco and Zoom, other software vendors delivering tools for a safe return to the office include New Wave Workspace, which provides a flexible workspace platform for automated desktop booking and workspace density, and Workforce Software, which provides health check and contact tracing solutions, as Irwin Lazar, president and principal analyst with IT research firm Metrigy, pointed out in his WorkSpace Connect post, “Guiding a Safe Return to the Office.” In that post, Lazar also discussed the importance of IT service management platforms in facilitating a return to the office. As an example, he pointed to ServiceNow’s Safe Workplace Suite, which provides a dashboard for assessing worker and office data, contact tracing, floorplan management, cleaning, and employee testing.
For many enterprises, the need for any or all of the types of products mentioned here has been one of the future. But with vaccinations underway and enterprises getting serious about bringing employees back into the office, the urgency for such tools is growing. Are you ready? Visit WorkSpace Connect daily for ongoing insight and this and other workplace issues.