Openpath Survey suggests most business owners and employees are nervous about returning to the workplace amid pandemic
by Dave McKenna, Editor CREB on September 16, 2020
Business owners are undergoing a collective “Final Exam Dream” about returning to work in the midst of the Covid pandemic. Dr. Judy Willis in Psychology Today describes the classic Final Exam Dream as “the dream where it is the day of a final exam, and you realize that you forgot you were taking the course and therefore had not attended any of the classes, did not do the reading, and you certainly are not prepared for today’s test.” This familiar recurring nocturnal ordeal has been observed for generations in the U.S. and other countries. It is conserved a fundamental stress response of the sleeping mind which is coping with emotional challenges.
According to a recent survey conducted by Openpath, a proptech platform helping companies manage building access, 73% of business owners have plans to return to their pre-Covid work environments in the coming weeks, but over half, a nightmare-inducing 51%, feel unprepared for the somber homecoming. Not surprisingly, 63% of employees say they are not comfortable returning to work at this time, but 70% of them expect they will be forced to return to on-site work in the near future.
“People are clearly worried about going back to work, according the to the survey,” said James Segil, Co-founder and President of Openpath. “There’s a lot of talk about preparedness, but people want to see action.” The Openpath survey, which canvased tenants, owners, and developers, identified the most common reopening strategies being considered. They include reduced occupancy, touchless interactions, and sanitation measures. “Knowing an employer has invested in wellness is a huge factor in the confidence to return to work,” said Segil.
A return-to-work plan requires some careful thought about how to reintroduce employees safely into the workplace. Openpath recommends thinking about the course of the pandemic in stages to help make the best decisions about returning to work.
“In our pre-vaccine phase, we are likely to see pendulum swing between returning to work in accordance with infection rate,” said Segil. As rates moderate in various regions, return-to-work may accelerate, only to be reversed if infections within the city or region spike. “Therefore it is crucial to have a strategy that prioritizes flexibility and safety,” said Segil.
Reducing occupancy for the duration of the Pre-vaccine phase is critical. Reconfiguring desks to allow for greater space between staff and more physical circulation are important steps. Many companies are implementing split work schedules with smaller work teams arriving at work at staggered times and on staggered days. The degree of scheduling and coordination required to implement staggered work effectively has placed higher need on automation. “Automation is the key to actually implementing an occupancy management plan,” said Segil.
Tools like Openpath, working with density management partners like Vergesense and Camio, enable an employer or building owner to monitor occupancy in real time at the room level, and proactively alter access credentials to enforce the safety rules in force at that specific time. Such platforms help management teams set and enforce safety standards consistently.
Limiting the surfaces employees have to interact with is another area of focus. Touchless transactions have become a hallmark of 2020 with the sanitary precaution being adopted in most retail settings. Touchless interactions are also possible in a workplace by automating access to buildings, rooms, and elevators through mobile credentials. A system like Openpath can issue a one time use access-token to a mobile devices when an individual has been scheduled for access and they have attested to their health status. If a person is not scheduled, or indicates they have a risk condition, like a fever or exposure to a known Covid-infected person, their access to the workspace can be automatically restricted.
Once an access token has been received by the employee, the Openpath system is able to detect their proximity to an approved entrance and grant access — even opening the door automatically.
“We were able to enable touchless access to all 10,000 doors worldwide over a single weekend, because Openpath is entirely in the cloud and all of our sensors are connected,” said Segil. “No on-site upgrades, no truck rolls.”
Given the uncertainties of the pandemic; when and how it will be defeated, achieving some return to normalcy will be a challenge. The longer the pandemic abides, the greater the imperative will be to recover some of our lost economic activity. That will require a return to a safe and healthy workplace. “When we started Openpath, workplace security was the goal. Now workplace safety is paramount,” said Segil. That safety will require a reimagined use of space that includes both good policy assisted by new tech. “Openpath went from ‘nice to have’ to a ‘must have’ overnight,” said Segil. “We are saving lives and helping people stay healthy with a frictionless experience.”