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Workforce: Staying connected during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond

Exterity’s CEO Colin Farquhar details the role digital signage and IP video will continue to play in our ever changing work culture

The COVID-19 crisis has truly altered the way the world of work operates. Even as lockdown regulations are starting to be relaxed, the changes we have seen in the last few months will have an enduring impact on work culture and shape of offices going forward. It has become patently clear that remote working, social distancing and new approaches to existing office spaces will combine to redefine what’s ‘normal’ for a long time to come.

The first and most obvious change reshaping work has been the near-instant acceleration in remote working strategies, where possible. Nonetheless, despite the vast number of communication tools available in the digital age, many businesses, government departments and other organizations view physical and face-to-face interaction in offices as central to their normal work culture — firm in the belief it fosters closeness, collaboration, communication and creativity. As lockdowns eases, many organizations are faced with the practical challenges of balancing a hybrid approach that incorporates a measure of homeworking along with radically revamped workplaces.

Social distancing and ‘stop the spread’ measures implemented both by government and business leaders will play a significant role in determining how organizations operate as the pandemic evolves, so it is imperative that employees are equipped with the right tools to ensure they can stay up-to-date with the latest news, announcements, training and policies. For businesses trying to keep scattered workforces engaged, hospitals ensuring healthcare staff are kept safe and well-informed, and places of education still teaching from a safe distance, IP video-based technologies — including the secure delivery of content to any device and facility-wide digital signage — play a key role in ensuring that vital communications reach people wherever they are.

A clear example of the importance of effective communications is in the banking and finance industry, which has been significantly impacted by COVID-19 due to falling interest rates, fluctuating markets, rising unemployment, government interventions, tax changes and stagnant consumer and business activity. IP video technology has, of course, been employed by many businesses in this sector, even before the crisis, as it enables live and on-demand streaming of meetings, presentations across multiple rooms or even disparate offices to ensure everyone is abreast of vital information firsthand. For instance, Thomson Reuters, the world’s leading source of news and information for professionals in the financial services, media and corporate markets, has an IP video system deployed that delivers broadcast-quality TV and video to over 300 displays in conference rooms and lecture theaters as well as 2,500 screens and desktops around its London headquarters. This enables staff to keep up to speed with the latest news around the world as events, such as critical developments related to coronavirus, unfold in real time – as well as recorded and internal content. This level of IP-enabled information-sharing is now more widespread and crucial than ever.

Staying connected during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond
Within office spaces that have stayed open through the crisis or reopening when lockdown conditions ease, digital signage throughout premises is critical for informing staff of what is expected of them, the latest government advice, what actions the organization is taking, and other important information.

Other organizations facing pressure to open as soon as safely possible include schools and universities. With the need to respect social distancing, manage reduced class sizes and provide support for health and wellbeing all top priorities, effectively communicating with students and staff quickly and clearly across campuses is essential as educational institutions start to open. To help, eye-catching graphics and text, complemented by videos or live TV, can be displayed on screens in lobbies, common areas, cafeterias, lecture halls, libraries, labs, hallways and everywhere in-between. The New England Institute of Technology is a prime example of how an integrated IP video and digital signage system improves communication, with live TV and video channels delivered directly to students’ residency, as well as digital signage in communal areas across the entire campus — all of which can now be instantly put to good use when campus life resumes with more complex communication requirements.

During this coronavirus outbreak, it has been paramount for healthcare workers to have access to training and information about the latest developments — from government guidelines and updates on the spread of the virus and potential treatments, to information on protective equipment and other ways they can guard themselves against COVID-19. IP video technologies can play a significant role in keeping people connected and updated on the situation as it changes. French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi, which is involved in the development of vaccines and innovative drugs, offers a good example of how IP video technologies are used in the healthcare sector across a number of remote facilities. Sanofi deployed an IPTV system to provide staff across its Paris offices with quick and easy access to internal communications, as well as news from medical, business and news channels to keep everyone well-informed of the latest healthcare situations and developments.

For those employees who have no choice but to go out to work, digital signage and IP video are key tools in keeping them well informed during their working day. More than ever, people will be anxious for information on matters that might not previously have seemed important, such as how deliveries are handled, visitor management, onsite security, which entrances and exits to use, cleaning schedules and even where they can wash their hands and get hand sanitizer. Safety instructions on things such as social distancing, moving within and between buildings and which restrooms to use will also be of keen interest. Within office spaces that have stayed open through the crisis or reopening when lockdown conditions ease, digital signage throughout premises is critical for informing staff of what is expected of them, the latest government advice, what actions the organization is taking, and other important information. Other benefits of digital signage include the ability to easily schedule or update signage screens remotely in real-time and add more screens to the network.

Employing technologies such as digital signage or IP video — as fast and secure delivery of communications to mobile devices – is central to maintaining ‘business as usual’ as we all work together to manage the coronavirus pandemic and its aftermath. For both those working remotely and those who must return to onsite working, IP technology plays a vital role in ensuring people feel confident, comfortable and effectively communicated to, as we embrace the post-lockdown reality that we find ourselves facing.

Colin Farquhar is CEO and Founder of Exterity, a leading vendor of digital signage and IP video solutions, based in Scotland, U.K.

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