We’re coming up on a year of living with the realities of COVID-19 – from temperature checks to masks, telecommuting to social distancing, testing to quarantining. Vaccines are starting to roll out nationwide, and now, increasing numbers of organizations are grappling with how to make the return to work possible & how to bring employees back safely.
For those unwilling or unsure how to enhance building operations to ensure occupant safety, bringing people back to work – and earning their trust won’t be easy. According to a survey released in January 2021 by Honeywell, a Genea partner, a staggering majority of the global workforce (68%) does not feel completely safe working in their employer’s buildings. Nearly 1 in 4 remote workers (23%) would look for a new job rather than return to a site that did not implement necessary safety measures.
And, when one looks directly at building management, findings showed that more than half of surveyed workers (54%) said that their management has not taken the steps necessary to keep them safer on the job. 60% believe their building is more likely to make short-term changes in response to the pandemic versus long-term investments in building systems. Workers also worry that building management won’t consistently enforce health and safety guidelines (42%), followed by worry that they won’t consistently invest in new technology to make working in-person safer (30%).
At Genea, these eye-opening findings, while concerning, only reinforce that our newest cloud-based product, Safe Workplace, is the right solution at the right time. Introduced in January, Safe Workplace was designed specifically with the challenges of COVID safety in mind, allowing building management to track, manage, and enforce capacity limits for any space, including contact tracing, compliance, and alerting.
On-and-off-site administrators can, for example, set capacity limits by reducing workplace capacity with a single click. Employees can reserve a space in the office, answering a series of questions to determine their confirmation (or denial) of access before they ever leave home. Exceptions can be made in real time, and visitors to a workplace can even be provided on-the-spot access or can pre-register for access – all without ever having to download an app or create a user account.
Tracking capabilities allow administrators to easily determine potential exposure to any occupant who tests positive; by inputting date and location parameters of when and where the person was in the building, Safe Workplace will generate a list of every person – guests included- who was on-site during that same time period.
Our ability to help prepare a safe workplace doesn’t end here. Our flagship Overtime HVAC product has taken on renewed importance since COVID emerged. As the Honeywell survey mirrors, much of what our customers have been telling us: 56% of workers surveyed were more concerned about transmission through the air than through contact with a surface. More than 2 in 5 (41%) of those surveyed believe that buildings with outdated ventilation systems are more dangerous than co-workers not following safety guidelines. And, to return to work and feel safer, nearly 1 in 3 surveyed workers (31%) said updates to the air quality systems are critical, but only 25% of those on-site have seen such updates happen.
In short, ventilation is key – and while we cannot control the ventilation system buildings choose, our automated Overtime HVAC product allows tenants to have a simple, intuitive way to submit after-hours HVAC and lighting requests directly from their smartphones. Integrations with BMS and accounting systems also mean that both the execution and accounting for these requests are enabled accurately and automatically. Plus, management does not even need to be on-site.
The results we’ve seen over the past year from clients going on-demand with their HVAC requests has been dramatic. During Q2 of 2020 for example, a sample of five client buildings in Genea’s portfolio saw tenants request on-demand HVAC for only 26 percent of what had been normal operating floor-hours. Yet despite running at much lower capacity, every tenant got exactly as much climate-controlled air as required, all without manual effort from the building staff.
Looking forward, we expect that as office workers slowly begin filtering back in, many will do so piecemeal, with skeleton crews on abbreviated schedules. Some will come back in shifts, which means fewer occupants at a given time, but also more total time with at least some people in the office. Being able to manage floor-or suite-level occupancy and HVAC systems will become more important than ever. Thanks to the sophisticated products that Genea provides, it will allow for essential real-time tracking.
The building industry – much like our society – has a long recovery ahead. But with technology innovations designed specifically with building management and tenant needs in mind, returning to work – and staying safe – is possible.
Safe Workplace: Is a safety feature built on top of Genea’s Access Control platform that extends into capacity planning, contact tracing, temperature checks, compliance and alerting, all while streamlining the employee check in experience. It delivers powerful features that completely automate the process of returning employees back to the workplace in a safe and responsible way.
Overtime HVAC: Genea’s cloud-based Overtime HVAC platform fully automates HVAC services and billing for tenants and property management teams. Our system eliminates manual work and takes the guesswork out of billing, all while using existing hardware and building management systems.
About the study: The Honeywell survey was conducted by Wakefield Research among 2,000 workers in buildings of 500+ workers in the following markets: U.S. (500), U.K.(500), Germany (500) and the Middle East (500), between November 19th and December 1st, 2020, using an email invitation and an online survey. View the full report.
If you’d like to learn how Genea’s cloud-based solutions can help you prepare your building for the new normal, schedule a demo below.