One of its greatest consequences of the Covid pandemic was to increase the wide use of hybrid work schedules. This trend was already underway before the pandemic, but the pandemic accelerated companies' adoption of remote working schedules. 

There are many benefits to hybrid and remote working, but there are also many problems with hybrid work that companies will need to overcome. Reliable hybrid or remote working practices require support in the form of new strategic guidance, corporate policies, and technology. 

Among those technologies, real-time location services (RTLS) are some of the most effective, potentially addressing a range of different remote working challenges. On the back of sudden corporate interest in these new remote working use cases, the RTLS market is expected to grow at a staggering rate of over 39 percent through 2028. 

This article first analyzes the challenges of remote working organizations face, using insights from leading business experts, and details how the single greatest underlying challenge is simply knowing which employees are in your buildings at a given time. Then it explains how real-time location services work and suggests seven ways RTLS systems can make life easier for companies struggling to manage remote workers. 

The '5 C' Challenges of Remote Working 

Martine Haas is a leading business management expert and the Director of the Lauder Institute for Management & International Studies at the Wharton School of Business. She's studied remote working practices for over two decades. 

As the Covid pandemic unfolded, Haas and her team identified five challenges—what she dubbed the 5 C's—that hybrid and remote work teams needed to address in order to succeed. They were: communication, coordination, connection, creativity, and culture. 

Communication

This is the first of three primary 'C' challenges. First, many people had to learn new telecommunication systems, like Zoom or Teams, and new working habits to go with these systems. 

Now that employees are returning to the office on hybrid schedules, they must learn an entirely new set of habits. For example, how do you treat employees at home and in the office equally when on a video call? How do you run a meeting when some people can talk together in the same room, and others have to call in? 


Coordination

Hybrid teams risk having "faultlines" emerge between in-person and remote workers. Despite all of our technology, coordinating with remote workers takes extra effort, which is the price we pay for flexibility. Workers can get used to who is in the loop in different decisions and unintentionally marginalize workers they aren't used to seeing every day face-to-face. 


Connection

The last primary 'C' is that it is also difficult for employees to feel connected to one another and form effective teams when they don't know who is in or out of the office on a given day. As a result, people may feel excluded, or if they're one of the few people working in the office on their own, they might not feel safe. 


Creativity

Teams that can communicate, coordinate, and connect effectively will be more creative than those disconnected by hybrid working schedules. Creativity might suffer if the first three fundamental challenges aren't addressed. 


Culture

As with creativity, another one of the challenges of remote working is building an effective business culture. So much of modern business strategy depends on an effective culture. Hybrid working could undo much of the culture-building businesses achieved before the pandemic. 

Underlying all of these is a fundamental challenge many business leaders didn't have to worry about before hybrid working became dominant: the need to know who was in which business location and when. All of the 5 C's, but especially communication, coordination, and connection, are hurt when businesses lack insight into which employees are in which facilities at a given time. That uncertainty over employee locations also led to new questions about employee safety. 

 

Hybrid Working Also Created New Safety and Security Challenges 

One of the most basic but serious safety challenges businesses must contend with when they follow a hybrid schedule is dealing with fewer people in the office. It may sound like that would make safety easier, but fewer people means a greater chance that an individual could be left alone. 

It also means there are fewer individuals available to follow all steps in your emergency preparedness plan for the workplace during an evacuation. Finally, traditional health and safety procedures may not apply when only a smaller, hybrid workforce is in the office.  


Everything You Need to Know About Workplace Safety Programs

RTLS for Workplace Safety 

The consulting firm McKinsey & Co. found that the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of new practices, like hybrid working. It has also accelerated the adoption of new technologies, including real-time location services. A survey conducted as part of their report found that 54 percent of executives expected hybrid working and the technology to support it to become a permanent part of their company's operations. 

RTLS systems use networks of wireless sensors located throughout a workplace to monitor the location and wellbeing of your workers. Pre-pandemic, businesses used them for security, lone worker safety, and evacuation planning. Now they're used for all three in new hybrid workplaces. 

Components of RTLS systems 

Hardware

Employees wear badges with wireless antennas embedded in them. Sensors placed throughout your workplace record when a badge is in range. For high-security environments, you can also use exit alarm systems. These alert supervisors or security officers if a tagged person or asset approaches an access point. 


Software

The system software collects data from the sensors and calculates a badge's exact location by range or movement depending on the wireless standard used. 


Management portal

A good RTLS system is only as good as the information it provides you on day-to-day and emergency operations. Most RTLS systems offer a management portal you can use to monitor personnel locations in real time, see who is safe or still at risk in an evacuation, and receive alerts on notable events, like an employee entering a restricted area. 

 

Overcome 7 Hybrid Workplace Safety Challenges With RTLS 

1. Know who is in your building at all times

Under new, hybrid work arrangements, maybe companies have struggled to keep track of who is in the office at any given time. They may have instituted a set in-office rotation schedule or another rotating arrangement. Still, the day-to-day demands of their workplace ensure that the schedule never 100 percent accurately reflects what is going on in their facility. 

For example, an office worker may have forgotten some hard copies at the office and decided to go in on their remote day. Or someone may have to call out unexpectedly on an in-person day if their child is home sick from school. 

2. Eliminate the need for central access points

High-security buildings may have rigorous access control, but for many offices, this wasn't a concern prep-pandemic. Most either had no entry logging, or it was an unreliable paper logbook. 

Now, suppose they want to identify every individual entering their facility. In that case, they either need to re-secure their offices to have a single access point or use RTLS tracking that doesn't depend on everyone entering through a single entryway. 

3. Manage different buildings

RTLS systems are networked technology, which means monitoring systems can identify and track employees no matter which building in a multi-site organization a person travels to. 

For example, if an executive needs to attend meetings at different regional offices, the RTLS system will identify her badge as soon as she enters any building. If an evacuation is called, the emergency manager won't have to track down a paper logbook to confirm who was there that day. The RTLS evacuation system already knows that the executive is there. 

Or for example, at your central office, you may have most of the staff in-person on a given day, but only one person is in at a satellite office. An RTLS system allows you to monitor that person if they need assistance remotely. 

4. Manage different zones within one building

Modern RTLS systems include a capability called "geofencing," which means you can define different zones within an open floor plan. For example, your manufacturing company might want to set up an office zone and a manufacturing zone. Then, if there are safety concerns should an untrained office employee enter the manufacturing area, you can use the RTLS system to trigger an alert should that happen. 

5. Evacuation management

If you don't know who is in your facility on any given day, you don't know who needs to evacuate in the event of a fire or other emergency. Here again, unreliable paper logbooks are not good enough. 

An RTLS system can be used as an emergency mustering system. If security personnel declare an emergency evacuation, the system switches into emergency management mode. It can provide last known location data on personnel still at risk. And it can automatically record personnel safe when they reach outdoor muster points. 

Emergency managers don't need to focus on taking emergency roll call using one of these systems. The RTLS system handles that for them. So instead, they focus on more active response needs. 

6. Off-hours monitoring

With reduced in-person staffing, many offices are more worried about staff safety after hours. When ten employees are in the office late, emergencies are easier to deal with. However, if there are just one or two, managing an emergency like a fire or a burglary becomes much riskier. 

An RTLS system allows a central security team to monitor staffing at any or all offices after hours. If enough employees leave and a location goes below corporate-mandated minimum staffing, security personnel can call that office and close it down for employee safety. 

7. Automated policy enforcement

RTLS systems can help with day-to-day policy enforcement work too. For example, many offices working on a hybrid schedule want to enforce an X number of days in the office policy. But without a punch clock for salaried office workers, they need a way to track attendance. Reports from an RTLS system can provide that for supervisors automatically. 

These are just some of the use cases for Real Time Networks Workplace Safety products

Schedule a free consultation today to see what they can do for you.

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