Like seemingly everything else, traditional thinking about product design and development went out the door during the pandemic. In its place came a surge of innovative thinking and doing, not to mention unexpected collaborations between companies and innovators. 2020 is destined to be seen in hindsight as a fruitful period, at least in terms of rapidly bringing ingenious solutions to market.
The big question is whether all the inventions that arose from COVID will stick around. Some, like patterned face masks that coordinate with clothing, will likely fall by the wayside as life returns to a different sense of normalcy. Others will remain important, especially those that deal with flexibility and security in the modern workplace.
It’s no secret that the way people work changed during the lockdown. Millions of people left their job sites in a hurry. And some aren’t in much of a hurry to return to a classic work schedule. In fact, more workers are seeking hybrid working opportunities that allow them to jump between the worlds of telecommuting and working in the office.
Yet as noted in an MIT article, not every employee wants to live the “hoteling” lifestyle of touching down in a different pod. A full 6 in every 10 team members would like a space to call their own, even if they’re not working out of their headquarters more than a couple of times a week. This shows that even though people have embraced unorthodox views on how they can work, they aren’t ready to give up their desire for personal spaces.
With this in mind, office architects, design teams, and companies have begun to work on integrating more flexible furnishings and accessories into buildings and spaces. The Dutch oil company Shell is a terrific example. Recently, Shell purchased our locks to enable their employees to have their own desks and cabinets while still being able to “hotel” as needed. Installing smart locks like our 6G range of products provides several key benefits beyond just making areas accessible to sometimes-there workers.
The first advantage is that facility managers can have a clearer picture of who’s using different storage spaces. When someone wants access to a storage bin, cabinet, or other locked spot, the facility manager can authorize usage through a cloud-based monitoring system. Plus, the facility manager can gather data on when locks were accessed, by whom, and for how long.
The second advantage is that businesses can reduce collective team anxiety surrounding disease prevention and health. People will likely remain concerned about transmitting germs and viruses on common, shared spots like desks, even after most of the population is vaccinated. Knowing their personal items are secure and not touched by others assures them that they’re not putting themselves or their families at risk by returning to the office.
Of course, smart locks aren’t the only product type that’s come to the forefront recently. Many solutions have emerged. But are they all purposeful? Time will tell. Nevertheless, product designers can apply a few methods of thinking to their work to ensure that what they’re bringing to the public will likely have staying power and meet the needs of a mobile workforce.
Regardless of what happens across the work scene, buildings are going to get smarter. This means that the connection between people and their surroundings will become more intimate. Building occupants can expect to be able to interact with their surroundings in unprecedented ways. Facility managers and cleaning crews will, too. Janitorial staff members can better organize their cleaning schedules by reading charts (culled from data collected from energy-efficient smart locks operating on capacitive sensing mode) that reveal which spaces were actually used by employees and which weren’t.
Any company or inventor should have a good sense of what’s going on in the business world before spending money on concepts. In other words, designers need to keep their end-users in mind. As an example, there is a huge demand for lockers and storage solutions that's showing no signs of slowing. However, some manufacturers of interior furnishings are choosing to ignore these signals. At Digilock, we believe these represent opportunity gaps, which is why we’re continuing to refine (and redefine) our lineup of advanced locks.
In an age of worker mobility, security will always be a major factor. Consider a situation in which workers share a desk. One comes in from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; the other works at the same station from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Do they want to share documents and private objects? Possibly not. This is where keyless locks can come into play, removing the risks associated with hotdesking.
Social distancing isn’t likely to take a hiatus for a long time — and it may redefine that footprint of most workplaces, especially if COVID becomes a seasonal phenomenon like the flu. A design answer to this issue is to make social distancing intuitive through the creation of “neighborhoods of space.” Such touchdown spots would foster a sense of safe community while providing all the amenities (including personal storage) that employees expect.
There’s a reason our 6G locks — including the Aspire, Orbit, and Versa — look good: Our team put an emphasis on creating meticulously constructed and innovative products that were both well-designed and incredibly stylish. This marriage of art and technology has been a hallmark of our creative process for 30 years. It’s why our solutions are wireless and discreet. Still, many designers aren’t as attuned to the way their products look. Users don’t just want variety; they also want eye-catching appeal, including when they’re at work.
You can argue that, in many ways, the pandemic brought out the best in humanity. As unpleasant as it was, the experience may have brought out the best in flexible, secure design trends, too. Time, as they say, will tell.