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How AI technology is bringing employees back to work during the pandemic

Published: Aug. 12, 2020 at 5:07 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the world of work. Overnight, companies had to rethink the way they did business and accelerate their digital transformation. Now, as pandemic restrictions are easing in many places, companies are turning their attention to bringing employees back to the offices. For organizations, co-existing with COVID (and beyond, in a post-COVID world), will require new ways of working and new kinds of workplaces. 

According to analyst firm Gensler, only 12% of people want to continue to work from home full-time after the pandemic subsides. Most want to go back to the office full-time, or a balance between the two. So companies are left asking, “How can we do this safely?”

IBM has been working to address these complex challenges and has a new initiative – Emerge Smarter – that includes technologies and protocols to help firms bring their employees back to the workplace, and re-imagine the office for the long term.

For example, at IBM, we have begun using artificial intelligence to make our offices even safer. Since mid-March, more than 95 percent of IBM's global workforce moved to working remotely. Now, as some countries and regions around the world prepare to "reopen," IBM is using AI as part of its data-driven, evidence-based global guidelines for returning over time. The AI technology in Emerge Smarter – a suite of apps called Watson Works – builds transparency and trust for returning to the office: transparency for what employees can expect, and trust that the environment is safe.

Employees check for potential symptoms as part of the app’s health certification, determining their return to work status. The app lets them access other data customized by location for real-time information, and connect with chatbots trained to answer basic COVID-19 questions. Meanwhile, management has a dashboard with insights around offices where building conditions have been met for reopening.

Employees use the app to reserve a workspace/desk and have a map to avoid potential crowded “hot spots” in the office. There’s even a contact tracing function if another employee later reports symptoms. The technology also triggers automated work orders for workspace cleaning once a worker checks out.

IBM’s Joanne Wright joined NewsChannel 7 at 4 to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the workplace, give advice for businesses and employees in getting employees back in, and the new technologies that can facilitate safer returns for the staff. 

Companies who want to learn from what IBM is doing can find more about Emerge Smarter at IBM.com

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