In my Happy New Year post, I predicted five key trends that will transform the world of work in 2021. In the first of these, I explore how the pandemic has accelerated the trend toward touchless space and what this means for workplace, technology, and the environment.
This pandemic has made us all hyper aware of the sensation of touch and how often we utilise it. With the understanding that, not unlike other viruses, COVID-19 can be spread by touching a contaminated surface, the movement into a touchless space feels like a long overdue solution to a common problem. In fact, prior to COVID-19, the tide was already beginning to turn with officials beginning to understand the detrimental effects of touch. Airport bathrooms, and others, pivoted to a predominately touch free model, eliminating shared cloth rags and analogue buttons in favour of automatic taps and sensor-based technologies. Many of these changes, like this predicted transformation, were underpinned by a concern that touch could rapidly transmit germs and bacteria.
As the return to the office inquiries continue, we predict that the ideal workplace of the future will be predominantly touchless. While this trend has been accelerated by the global pandemic, we have been tracing this phenomenon for a few years now. To realise this vision, we predict that the cell phone in our pockets will become a tools to activate the real world. Through use of technology such as bluetooth, sensors, beacons, NFC technology and Apps – we should be able to seamlessly control the world around us with little need to touch anything, aside from our own personal devices. Gone are the days of fumbling around beneath a desk for cables or starting presentations through AV panels which may have been handled by hundreds before us. Rather, we foresee a world that will use technology innovatively to activate the space around us. If we think about a meeting room context, all analogue systems on which we rely can be easily converted to touch free alternatives: from transforming the booking panel outside the room to a touchless check/auto meeting on system to charging cables which become wireless charging pods, the touch free experience also creates an enhanced, more friend experience for users. And the technology is already here. In much the same way that consumers can interact with their smart homes, say for example, by turning the heating on via app on the way home from the airport, we foresee that offices too will begin to adapt such technology and apply their benefits to workplaces.
Touchless spaces are beneficial in a multitude of ways; Not only do they create a steady roadmap for both a safe and healthy return to the office, but they will also lay the foundation for a smart enabled building which by all indications is the ideal direct of travel for anyone looking to future proof their buildings. As well as this, many of the technologies associated with a touchless space such as automatic sensors also have huge environmental benefits leading to both cost and energy savings.