- The case for acoustic privacy
- The ABCs of architectural acoustics
- Office design issues
- Speech privacy
- The fundamentals of sound masking
While businesses are reopening amid the post-COVID-19 reality, keeping staff, visitors, and customers safe in offices and collaboration spaces is essential. Experience environment and briefing center managers face an additional challenge — how to support social distancing and safety in areas designed to encourage people to explore, touch, and interact with exhibits and demos.
Briefing center managers must protect the well-being of visitors and employees while still providing a compelling user experience. Explore these six ways to promote health and safety in your customer experience centers.
Update Your Reception and Welcome Practices
You can show your commitment to safety and put visitors at ease as soon as they arrive in your experience center by adding layers of precautions.
- Have virtual or video-enabled greeters and live chat options to limit direct contact with guests.
- Provide hands-free check-in via mobile app or a kiosk with a QR code scanner. Avoid the use of touch screens or tablets, if possible.
- Use thermal imaging to detect at-risk guests.
- Post your updated cleaning and sanitizing procedures on your digital signage screens and mobile app notifications.
- Prepare staff to answer visitor and employee questions regarding enhanced health and safety measures.
Implement digital wayfinding and automated scheduling
Once a guest completes your welcome process, deliver wayfinding instructions to a mobile device or via digital signage. Recorded audio tours must be delivered via mobile app as well. Eliminate the use of paper maps and schedules, and headphones, and other shared devices.
For 3D or other exhibits that require gear such as glasses or visors, consider single-use disposable options. Alternatively, use equipment once daily to allow for deep cleaning during off-hours.
Social distancing may be a prolonged or permanent way of life in experience environments. Automate staff schedules to limit how many people will work each shift. This will help ensure your employees can comply with social distancing requirements. Communicate guidelines to all employees and identify which managers will monitor compliance among employees and visitors.
Leverage intelligence from IoT applications
If your center hasn’t fully adopted IoT applications, now is the time to put this technology to work for you. Automated tasks that promote health and safety among staff and guests include:
- Employing sensors to monitor visitor density and alert staff if areas are approaching capacity
- Adjusting the experience center environment based on occupancy patterns (lighting, HVAC, on/off of technology)
- Wrapping virtual concierge services into one workflow – invite, schedule, greet, preset experience content and technology, assign seating, deliver catering, etc.
Strengthen your cleaning regimen
Keeping public spaces “clean” has taken on new meaning amid COVID-19. Clean and sanitize your shared technology devices, demonstration areas, communal areas, and restrooms before you open your doors and several times each day. Pay extra attention to touch screens, and other devices visitors handle multiple times a day. You may need to alter your business hours to allow ample time for deep cleaning as needed.
Communicate with staff regularly
Maintain an open dialog with your teams to answer questions and listen to feedback and ideas. They are your eyes and ears on the floor and can identify potential problems or confirm that your new guidelines are working as expected. Offering anonymous employee surveys online can encourage open responses from your team.
Offer Virtual Experiences and Events
Consider if you can offer meaningful experiences to visitors in the comfort of their homes to keep staff and visitors safe. Ways to deliver virtual events include:
- Deliver virtual reality simulations and exhibits for users online
- Create virtual conferences, 360 tours, or product demonstrations
If you need assistance getting your experience environments and briefing centers ready to promote health and safety for employees and guests, the AVI-SPL team is here to help. We can also produce your virtual tours and conferences. Contact us online now or call your local office.
Despite all the rapid changes our clients have made to the way they collaborate, and an over 50% increase in daily calls, AVI-SPL support teams have never wavered. Standing strong (in their remote workstations) to assist end users as well as their usual AV-support department contacts, our support teams are ensuring everyone is capable of collaborating from wherever they are quarantining.
I checked in with Michael Coleman, AVI-SPL national help desk manager, to see how his team is handling the challenges of being fully remote while teaching users to also be remote. Many of those users may not have routinely engaged video or collaboration technology. Michael gave me the rundown on how questions from users have changed and the best strategies for companies to ensure all their users are collaborating to their full potential. Common questions include:
- “Which platform is best for video conferencing? I have Skype, and Cisco, and Teams on my computer – which do I use?”
- “Which platform is best for webinars?”
- “How do I get my audio to work?”
- “How do I handle recordings?”
- And Michael’s favorite – “How do I do that potato thing?”
It’s clear that end users are trying hard to collaborate, but there are some basic questions and guidelines for your IT and AV departments to address to ensure your users are well educated on video collaboration and your chosen flavor of product. This drives user satisfaction and ensures security of communications and corporate files. Let’s take a look again at those FAQ’s and provide some answers.
“What platform is best for video conferencing? I have Skype, and Cisco, and Teams on my computer – which do I use?
UCC/AV management teams can help users by providing a user guide or other clear messaging, such as:
- Teams is our preferred collaboration platform. We use this application for chat, file sharing, and availability.
- Pexip is our preferred video meeting application.
The major collaboration providers have made a suite of resources available for end-user training and adoption. Place these in an easily accessible location so users can begin with self-help and education. We have created a listing of these resources on our AVI-SPL website. It’s also a good idea to identify platforms that your users may be asked to join in meetings with other companies – and provide basic help documentation – so they can better understand the differences and your corporate preferences.
User experience has a huge impact on the adoption, satisfaction, and usage of collaboration and video conferencing applications. On the management side, ensuring meetings can be scheduled with one click in Outlook (or your preferred email application) serves to greatly reduce confusion and improves the user experience.
“Which platform is best for webinars”
Your preferred collaboration platform may be your preferred solution for webinars, but if you have an alternate solution, be sure to have additional instructions available for this platform, including when it should be used. As dozens of in-person events have moved to digital formats, it’s important to ensure you have a webinar platform that allows in only who have permission, and that its information can’t be grabbed by those not invited. As for which is best — that’s a question with a number of relative answers. A variety of platforms offer different benefits, drawbacks, and cost structures.
“How do I get my audio to work?”
The most common problem we’ve seen recently is users who know how to get started but quickly run into frustrating issues that may cause them to revert back to a phone or other less feature-rich methods that reduce the ability to collaborate, not just work. While some users may not understand the need to dial in with their phone when their computer is connected to a meeting, many users are running into poor audio quality due to equipment that was not designed for daily use.
Ensure your end users are equipped with proper technology to achieve a quality collaboration experience. With the variety of distractions that can exist in the home office when spouses, children, and pets are together all day, the basic webcam and microphone included in a computer, or the headphones included with their cell phone, may not cut it for a full work day on a regular basis. AVI-SPL has a variety of work-from-home bundles that can solve this challenge.
“How do I handle recordings?”
The answer to this question depends on the underlying recording solution selected by your organization. Many times, a recording may seem to “disappear” after it is completed, making it a challenge for the recording employee to find the file. Or the file may be too large to share easily. Add instructions to your corporate UCC/AV user guide on how to use recording, when to use recording, and how to access files.
“How do I do that potato thing?” / “How do I use a virtual background”
Luckily, these questions are very easily addressed. Zoom offers a tutorial. And AVI-SPL published a video walkthrough for Microsoft Teams. Branded corporate images are a great idea for custom backgrounds. Consider building yours today!
Now that educators and students have worked from home for a few months, the focus is shifting to planning for summer and fall semesters. Some colleges like Boston, Purdue, and Brown Universities, discussed plans to carefully reopen this fall, while others have delayed welcoming students back to campus until 2021. Many organizations are also taking a “wait and see” approach until at least June 2020 before choosing a back-to-campus date.
Regardless of the opening date, social distancing and full-time online learning will be long-term, if not permanent, solutions that began as responses to COVID-19. After making the best of a sudden, fully-remote learning experience, administrators can now reassess their digital classroom needs. You can evaluate technology for continued use to deliver effective online education. Here’s a look at how new and upgraded collaboration solutions launched during the COVID-19 response can produce positive long-term effects.
Schools and students that had a learning curve, or still need to deliver interactive classes such as labs, may need to play catch-up. The summer semester could be used to bridge this gap to prepare students for the fall semester. Educators may return to campus over the summer months, using collaboration technology solutions such as lecture capture carts to deliver digital classes to remote students. Helping online learners stay current with coursework can help retain students into the fall semester.
Remote collaboration solutions move on campus
The time spent learning to use new collaboration software at home can produce a return when your students are back on campus as well. Implemented solutions such as Microsoft Teams can:
- Augment in-person classes by facilitating communication, group projects, and class assignments
- Increase student participation beyond classroom hours
- Save time for teachers and students with online delivery of assignments, class notes, and research papers
- Allow students to work together anytime, anywhere, even when social distancing requirements keep them from gathering in groups
Here’s a video that shares Microsoft Teams best practices for educators:
Upgraded Collaboration Tech Cleaning and Sanitizing Processes
COVID-19 made us aware of how much we touch things like our phones, remote controls, and touch screens. Part of the pandemic response was for everyone to upgrade their cleaning habits. Deep cleaning and sanitizing routines should extend to shared collaboration tech in classrooms and conference spaces too. Check out detailed cleaning tips from AVI-SPL and device manufacturers in this blog.
Communicating your new cleaning regimen to new and returning students can help them feel more at ease when visiting or moving into dorms.
Enhance Existing Online Learning Programs
Many schools offered online learning programs before COVID-19. Lessons learned from suddenly delivering every class online can be used to enhance legacy virtual programs. Several solutions and apps may have been used to deliver courses immediately. Take the time now to review feedback from educators and students.
Discuss what worked well, and which solutions posed the most challenges. Create a list of technology best practices and roll them out across your online learning curriculum.
Boost fiscal recovery
COVID-19’s financial toll on higher ed organizations is estimated in millions of dollars per school. Consider that leveraging collaboration tech to offer additional virtual classes could play a role in colleges’ economic recovery. If your school hasn’t explored offering full-time online degree programs, consider doing it now. Online classes expand enrollment options for more students since:
- Geography is no longer a barrier to attend classes
- Online learning is often a more affordable option than living on campus
- Virtual courses offer scheduling flexibility, which helps working students, and those with families, attend more classes
Accept international students now
International students can benefit from your virtual classrooms too. Students traveling from abroad to move on campuses this fall could face challenges if embassies and consulates remain closed for an extended period, or your school will not reopen this year.
Instead of losing these students and tuition revenue, open your virtual classrooms as a temporary solution. Online courses could bridge the gap between the start of the semester, and the point when students from other countries can safely join school populations.
While the financial toll is extensive, and students lost the intimate experience of living and attending classes on campus, online learning solutions have allowed colleges to deliver quality education during these unprecedented times. Leverage the investment your school made in online learning. Review ongoing virtual classroom opportunities to drive additional enrollment and revenue now.
Without a doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic is changing how we interact with each other and our surroundings, and the world of work will never be the same again. While some companies are declaring that they won’t reopen their doors until 2021, many will gradually begin the process of allowing staff back into the office when stay-at-home restrictions are lifted.
Employers need to start taking operational steps to promote the health and safety practices dictated by law and good sense – and provide assurance that their workplaces are clean. Touch screens and other audio-visual equipment are almost everywhere – work, home, schools, retail, public spaces, and government offices. Getting technology clean and ready will be an important part of this planning.
Here are a few recommendations to help you get your technology ready for when you reopen your doors – and beyond.
Schedule preventative maintenance before employees return to work
The first thing you can do is schedule service calls now, while your office is still empty to ensure your equipment is functional, clean, and safe. Network changes, equipment auto-updates, and systems repairs make a significant impact on the functionality of your systems. If equipment needs repair or replacement, extended lead times can seriously impact the productivity of your teams as they return.
AVI-SPL has several preventative maintenance options, so check one more thing off your list and schedule a service call today. While at your office, our team will adhere to any site-specific or client-specific requirements, in addition to CDC recommendations on social distancing, hygiene, and personal protective equipment (PPE) protocols.
Deep clean and sanitize
All businesses will certainly need to develop policies, standards, and schedules for the deep cleaning and disinfecting of common areas, surfaces, and individual spaces, and your technology should be a part of this plan. Refer to the Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting issued by the CDC to inform and develop your plan and best practices for preparing and maintaining your workspaces.
However, these guidelines don’t provide instructions on how to clean and sanitize technology according to the manufacturer’s best practices. Assure your workforce that the technology they are reliant on is safe, clean, and sanitized. Add our cleaning option to a new or existing preventative maintenance check to ensure your equipment is clean per manufacturer specification.
You’ll also want to set up guidelines and protocols for shared electronics—such as tablets, touchscreens, keyboards, and other accessories. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you clean and disinfect high-use devices and surfaces with a solution of 70% medicinal isopropyl alcohol and 30% water (70:30).
But be aware, most manufacturer’s recommendations for the medicinal isopropyl alcohol and water solution vary by product, depending on the materials that make up the product. Protect your investment and refer to the following guidelines for best practices from manufacturers:
- How to Sanitize Crestron Touchscreens
- How to Clean and Care for Your Microsoft Surface
- How to Clean or Disinfect Cisco Webex Rooms
- Cleaning and disinfecting Poly Collaboration Products
Reference and post the guidelines established by the manufacturer to ensure that everyone uses the proper solutions for your devices. It’s also important to have all the recommended supplies readily and visibly available, so cleaning can occur after each use.
Personal devices and potential contamination
For phones (desk, conference, and smartphones), keyboards, and most other accessories, the cleaning part is relatively simple – it’s safe to use approved disinfectant wipes and cleaning solutions with microfiber cloths. Remember to spray the solution on the cloth, not directly on the device.
But here’s where things get tricky; we’re just not used to cleaning our devices, particularly our phones, as frequently as we should. As soon as we use a personal device and then touch a shared space or surface, the potential of contamination is there. So how often is enough? This is definitely unchartered territory, and you’ll need to figure out the best policy for your business and then over-communicate your established protocol with your employees.
Your health and safety are important to us, and keeping devices clean, especially those in high-traffic environments and high-use applications, is a crucial step in minimizing the spread of infections.