- IBM announced Jan. 28 new capabilities within its workplace management platform, IBM TRIRIGA, that will allow employers to use artificial intelligence tools for workspace planning tasks that support return-to-work operations.
- The update includes capabilities such as dynamic space planning, which allows employers to determine proper social distancing between workspaces; mobile device-accessible indoor mapping that enables employees and visitors to maintain social distancing and avoid crowded areas; and density heat mapping that charts space usage and helps manage office occupancy.
- IBM said the features were developed in partnership with Cisco and Esri. Additionally, TRIRIGA will include an AI-powered chatbot assistant that can be embedded into office messaging and collaboration tools. This feature can be used for processes such as room booking requests and locating assigned seats, the company added.
The pandemic has transformed trends in office design that may have once pointed in the direction of open formats at many organizations.
This is partly reflected in the recommendations of public health officials, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In June 2020, the agency said employers should make changes to ensure social distancing or use transparent barriers in cases where social distancing is not possible. CDC's guidance also called on employers to increase cleaning of common areas and improve ventilation.
Research from last year appeared to show most employers were heeding calls for increased safety measures. A June survey of organizations by WorldatWork found that a majority planned to implement policies such as additional cleanings, reduced meeting sizes, workspace modifications and mask and temperature screening requirements.
Employers that previously operated communal office spaces adjusted early on in the pandemic. During an August 2020 webinar, an official with biopharmaceutical firm Abbvie described the company's decision to install touchless water facilities as well as automated systems for coffee areas. Others, such as publishing company Wiley, have embraced fully remote or hybrid work arrangements to reduce the need for physical office space.
IBM's TRIRIGA announcement is geared toward ensuring a flexible future for modern workplaces, Kendra DeKeyrel, director of IBM TRIRIGA offering management, said in the statement; "Returning to the workplace after nearly a year at home is going to be a challenging transition, not only for employers who need to create new spaces and protocols but for workers who need assurances their workplaces are safe, and need help navigating a changed and potentially more confusing workspace."
The return to offices could provide employers an opportunity to replace outdated equipment, according to a June 2020 report from the International Association of IT Asset Managers. The organization said firms could seek ways to turn technology investments made at the beginning of the pandemic into long-term asset strategy.