About our thought leaders
Workplace and facilities leaders around the world are shifting their priorities. Their main focus was once creating a workplace that promotes employee productivity and company values. Now, it’s ensuring that their workplace, and everyone who enters it, remains safe and healthy.
While COVID-19 spurred this trend, it is sure to be one that will change the norms of the workplace. To achieve these new goals, workplace leaders will need to adopt technology that will enable them to create an efficient, high-functioning, healthy, and safe office. Enter touchless technology.
About our thought leaders
CEO and co-founder, Kisi
Bernhard Mehl is the co-founder and CEO of Kisi, a next level physical security company aimed at making real estate on-demand. An expert in managing space growth using innovative and scalable technologies, Bernhard has helped hundreds of organizations understand the operational, financial, and cultural impact security and technology can have within facility and IT management departments.
Head of Workplace Technology, Envoy
Matt Harris is the head of workplace technology at Envoy. An engineer at heart, he uses iteration and feedback to make Envoy’s workplaces work better for all employees, whether they’re on-site or remote. He brings a wide range of experience from software engineering, event production, and data systems to solve daily office challenges in creative ways.
1. What is touchless technology?
Touchless technology already surrounds us today. From motion and gesture sensors that turn on faucets to automatic doors. In fact, the gesture recognition and touchless sensing markets are projected to more than double in the next five years. But what exactly is touchless technology?
The baseline definition is pretty simple. Touchless technology is anything that is able to operate without the need to physically touch the device. There are a few different types of technology that you can find in the workplace that fit this definition.
Types of touchless technology
Gesture recognition is the most common form of no-touch technology. Users can use simple gestures to control or interact with devices without physically touching them. Think waving your hand under a faucet to turn the water on in a public restroom or drying your hands afterward in a touchless dryer.
Touchless sensing is used to detect the presence or motion of a person under a sensor. Like gesture recognition, touchless sensing has become rather commonplace in our every-day lives. Examples of this include smart lights that turn on when you walk into a room or automatic doors that you see at grocery stores, hotels, and commercial buildings.
Voice recognition systems let users interact with technology simply by speaking to it. This has become popular especially in our homes. We can make hands-free requests, set reminders, and perform other simple tasks by talking to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, or the Google Assistant.
Facial recognition takes things one step further since it doesn’t require a conscious effort by the user. Technology that can recognize your team opens up a world of possibilities and automation in the workplace. Like how the new iPhone can unlock with a glance at your screen, imagine a video conference “starting when you walk into a room.” Lee Billington, Director of Connected Experiences at Gensler, pictures “a workstation that adapts its ergonomics, lighting, and temperature when it recognizes you. Or even lit pathways to guide you to where you’re heading for your next meeting so you never get lost.”
For technology to be completely touch-free it must operate without the need for physical contact, like in the examples above. However, the introduction of smartphones and other personal devices have made nearly touch-free technology possible as well. Anything that operates at the command of your own personal device allows you to avoid touching public surfaces.
The rise of smart homes has propelled this solution, as home-owners have grown accustomed to controlling their blinds, lights, locks, thermostats, and other appliances all from their mobile phone. But examples of this will become more and more common in the workplace as office managers and facilities leaders race to find solutions to welcome employees and visitors to the office in a post-COVID-19 world.
Touchless technology implies that you don’t have to touch any public surfaces like door handles, elevator buttons, or shared screens. This is where your smartphone and other personal devices come in. It doesn’t take a huge behavioral change because we’re all on our personal devices all day long anyways, so it can even add a layer of convenience.
CEO and co-founder, Kisi
What can touchless technology do for the workplace?
Health and safety
Health and safety are top of mind when it comes to thinking about touchless technology. It’s key to minimize the spread of germs and make sure you’re taking care of everyone in your space. A touchless office environment can give workers more confidence that their health is a priority as they work at a desk with their coworkers nearby.
Touchless technology can help to cut costs, errors, and manual work. Touchless technology can help a smart building reduce energy costs by detecting how many people are in the office and automatically adjusting temperature or lights. Envoy’s Head of Workplace Technology, Matt Harris, explains that “any surface that people don’t need to touch is another surface that can’t spread the virus. And another surface that we don’t need to prioritize cleaning. Anything that gets touched has to get cleaned, which is expensive and logistically complex.”
“Beyond preventing the spread of germs, a key benefit of touchless technology is the control that it provides for the workplace team,” says Berhard Mehl, CEO and co-founder of the cloud access control company, Kisi. “They can manage how employees and visitors interact with the space, enforce important policies, and get insights into how the workplace is being used. And they can do it all remotely. There’s long term value to implementing this technology.”
For modern offices, creating touchless experiences also shows that you’ve thought of every last detail of your workplace experience and have made steps to take the burden off employees and guests when they come onsite. This also has a cutting-edge appeal that shows that your company is forward-thinking. This can do wonders to impress investors, potential employees, and clients. “When people think about the technology ‘of the future’ it’s almost always touchless,” says Harris. “Self-driving cars? No steering wheel. Smart lights at home? Tell Alexa to turn on your lights. Door locks? The door opens when you walk up to it. Shouldn’t our workplaces work the same way?”
2. Touchless technology around the office
It takes a lot of planning to reap all the benefits of touchless technology, so we put together this guide to help. Use this as a starting point to think through all the steps it takes to welcome employees and guests back to the office–while touching as little as possible.
Preparing before anyone arrives onsite
There’s a lot you can do before your employees and guests arrive to make the experience frictionless. Start by pre-registering anyone coming into your office. This way you can gather important information to make sure they’re safe to enter and give them what they need to feel comfortable in your workplace.
How Envoy can help
With Envoy Protect you can manage each step of inviting employees back to work. Start with pre-screening them and approving their entry to make sure only the right people come on-site each day. This gives your team important control levers, like inviting healthy employees into the office in shifts.
You’ll also want to share essential information to make sure everyone knows what’s to come when they arrive. As companies return to work, there will be new guidelines, processes, and procedures in place to ensure the health and safety of everyone onsite.
You can use tools like Docusign to have people confirm that they have read through new documentation. Or have visitors sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in advance. Then store those documents with tools like Dropbox, Box, or Google Drive. No manual signing or filing papers necessary.
What to do next
If you use an employee registration or visitor management system you can customize your confirmation email to share important information with people before they arrive. Here are some tips on what you might want to include:
- Where to park
- When to arrive
- How to enter the building safely
- What to expect when they reach the lobby
- How to access guest Wi-Fi
- What health and safety protocols you have in place
Creating a safe entrance into the office
Your office may already have automatic doors to help people avoid touching door handles. Or you might have security checkpoints to make sure only expected teammates and guests reach your workplace. This could mean a security guard, locked elevator, turnstile, or gate into your parking lot. If your workplace uses an access control system like Kisi, you can help people navigate through each checkpoint with touchless technology, such as a QR code or other mobile-based access key.
What Kisi is doing
“At Kisi, we’re thinking about how to use touchless access control technology to help our team avoid the most touched surfaces in the workplace. It’s hard, we’re in a shared workplace, there are a lot of tenants beyond Kisi employees, so we have to be extra diligent about ensuring that our employees will be safe and comfortable coming into work. We can use Kisi’s technology for touchless elevator dispatch and floor unlock. When the team gets to our floor, they use Kisi to unlock and open the door from a safe distance. All the while, they’re only touching their own smartphone.”
Ceo and co-founder, Kisi
Then think through the steps that need to happen immediately after sign-in. Put your badge printer in a place that’s accessible to guests and notify hosts of their visitors automatically, so no one is left waiting in your lobby. You should also have everyone adopt a hand-shake free greeting to avoid physical contact.
What to do next
To create a touchless sign-in experience, you should think both about the technology and the people you have at the front desk. Here’s how you can upgrade your employee or visitor system and your front desk practices to go touchless:
- Post clear signage at the front desk so people know what to do when they arrive
- Allow people to check-in using their personal device rather than an iPad Kiosk
- Put a bottle of hand sanitizer next to your kiosk if you do need to use it
- Update your settings so guests don’t have to tap to take their photo when they arrive
- Create a welcome guide and customize it by employee or visitor type to make sure everyone has the information they need
- Make your badge printer easily accessible to guests
- Update your hospitality practices. Instead of having a receptionist hand a guest a drink, make personal beverages available to grab without hand-to-hand contact
- Set up your final screen to give instructions to guests about what to do next, like where to go or where to wait for their host
- Opt for a sign-in system that notifies your employees automatically when their visitors arrive
Making the day as touch-free as possible
There are many elements to think through when it comes to creating touchless experiences throughout the workday. Before you get overwhelmed, break it down into more manageable pieces that your team can work through. Use your new prioritization guide to help decide what to tackle first.
Start with the elements in your physical space that require the most contact. Restrooms and doors are unavoidable, so what can you do to limit physical interactions with shared surfaces?
Some companies may consider making larger investments in touchless technology such as gesture recognition and touchless sensing technology. Others may adopt the same smart technology that we see in homes, allowing employees to speak to turn on lights in meeting rooms and control other components of the physical environment.
What Envoy is doing
“This will be an opportunity to push the technology we’re already using to the max, to really take advantage of the features that we may have taken for granted in the past. Functions like Zoom voice control to start and end meetings, or checking in to meetings with Slack or Envoy mobile, are crucial to creating a new ‘touchless normal’ in our workplace.”
Head of Workplace Technology, Envoy
But large investments or infrastructure changes aren’t absolutely necessary. “The first priority is to reduce the amount of physical touching that’s necessary,” explains Harris, “and where you can’t limit it with touchless technology, you need to implement a cleaning protocol that reduces potential spread.”
“You also have to think about how your company culture fits in with the changes you’re making in the workplace,” says Mehl. “Shared amenities like coffee machines, refrigerators, shared snacks, and ping pong tables that used to play a role in defining your workplace culture might have to change. The more that technology can facilitate these changes by educating people, helping them accept the policies, and training them, then the more success you’ll have in changing those behaviors and processes.”
Enter workplace experience apps. Widespread adoption of workplace experience apps may not seem revolutionary, but they will become the new norm to facilitate touchless experiences throughout the office.
How Envoy can help
With Envoy’s workplace experience app, your team can check-in for work, manage incoming visitors and invite new guests, get notified about packages, book nearby rooms, and more—all through their personal device. Download Envoy Mobile today.
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What to do next
Get smart insights about your space.
- You can use your visitor management system, access control system, or sensors to understand what time of day is busiest in your office. Or what areas are being frequented the most. Then implement deep cleaning schedules for those places.
- If you use an occupancy tracking system like Density, you can even set up alerts to arrange activity-based cleaning. Automatically notify your facilities team once a space gets used so they can prioritize disinfecting that area.
- If you don’t want to invest in or implement new technology, then get smart with your supplies. Provide hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, gloves, and other personal protective equipment around the office to make sure everyone in the office feels comfortable in the space.
Getting it right
Implementing touchless technology and adapting your workplace to the new needs of your employees is not an easy task. So how do you know if you’re getting it right?
At the end of the day, your measure of success should be whether your employees feel comfortable and safe to return to the office. Keep your communication open, seek feedback often, and stay flexible and open to changing your strategy if need be.
“At the end of the day, your measure of success should be whether your employees feel comfortable and safe to return to the office”
What to do next
Gensler’s Billington suggests a few tips to help as you start this process:
- Put your people first – When it seems like there’s too many decisions to make about what to implement, include your employees and understand what’s most important to them.
- Keep it simple – it can be overwhelming to try to meet all of your employees’ needs at once, so you’ll need to focus on features that quickly benefit the largest number of employees. Touchless access control for everyone is better than virtual personal assistants for executives.
- Focus on the short term, plan for the long term – Your technology roadmap should cover several years, not just the next six months. Plan for both by selecting solutions that will also serve your long-term needs.