Making a safe office comeback

How can companies prepare for a safe return to the post-pandemic office? KONE is working with several ecosystem partners on this topic and has recently teamed up with Siemens to develop smart, adaptive solutions to help people return to their desks and professional communities with peace of mind.

January 14, 2021

The world started breathing a collective sigh of relief when news of COVID-19 vaccines broke. But as companies prepare to reopen their doors and vaccinations roll out, the prospect of returning to the office raises many safety concerns. Is this elevator too crowded? Can I touch that button? Am I keeping a safe distance at the water cooler?

Panic not: technology has you covered. KONE and Siemens are pooling their expertise to co-create a safe, futureproof office.

“With KONE’s People Flow experience and Siemens’ infrastructure expertise, we are perfectly teamed to create the smart, healthy buildings of the future,” states Elisa Rönkä, Head of Digital Market Development at Siemens Smart Infrastructure.

An app-enabled touchless office environment reduces health risks as people move through buildings.
An app-enabled touchless office environment reduces health risks as people move through buildings.

COVID sharpens focus on health and safety

Both Siemens and KONE began reimagining the future office long before “virus” became part of our daily vocabulary.

“We’ve been working on a frictionless, adaptive office experience for years. Our KONE Office Flow package includes solutions for touchless access, advanced guidance, and optimized passenger grouping. COVID has merely brought health and safety into sharper focus,” describes Santeri Sillanpää, Product Line Manager* for KONE Office Flow at KONE.

Rönkä echoes the sentiment: “The technology backbone has existed for a while, but now people are finally understanding the urgency. COVID has accelerated the process of office redesign.”

An app to integrate digital and physical

The first tangible outcome of the KONE-Siemens partnership is with Comfy, Siemens’ workplace intelligence platform. Comfy incorporates an employee-facing mobile app and data analytics platform to integrate a variety of physical and digital systems, such as building automation, lighting, occupancy sensors, indoor positioning, and calendaring.

“Through the app, employees can book desks and spaces, navigate the office, find coworkers, and keep up to date with workplace news. The platform also collects data to give business leaders a clearer understanding of how office spaces are being used,” explains Comfy CEO Erica Eaton.

Reducing high-touch surfaces is a critical part of any safe office re-entry strategy. Comfy and KONE are working together to incorporate touchless elevator calling into the Comfy app, enabling employees to move between floors using just their phones.

“Many clients are already using Comfy to manage the flow of people through the office and reduce the risk of spreading the virus,” Eaton describes.

On-demand workplaces empower employees to decide their most productive way of working.
On-demand workplaces empower employees to decide their most productive way of working.

On-demand workplace on the rise

With the concept of “workplace” changing at unprecedented speed, solutions such as Comfy empower employees to decide how, when, and where they work to best accommodate their productivity and collaboration needs.

“After months of working from home, people are used to having greater freedom and flexibility. Few of us want to return to full-time office work. The majority prefer a hybrid model combining remote and office days,” describes Rönkä.

Seamless, predictive automation will become increasingly important as the way we work continues to evolve. “When I go to work, my future office will already know my calendar and preferences. All friction points will be eliminated to create an extremely fluid user experience adapted to my unique needs,” Rönkä envisions.

Longer term, the touchless office environment will be a key driver of truly autonomous buildings, with further exciting innovations soon to emerge from the KONE-Siemens partnership.

“We’re happy to be working with KONE on this important aspect of the future workplace,” concludes Eaton.

*) Following the publication of this article, Santeri Sillanpää has taken on a new position at KONE as Senior Offering Manager.

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