As Canadians gear up to return to work, employers are putting into place a wide range of safety protocols to protect their workplaces from the threat of COVID-19.
As a result, offices in a post-pandemic world could look very different from before, experts say. And they might stay that way.
“There’s going to be a forced evolution at the office,” said Evan Hardie, who researches the future of work at Canadian workplaces.
Returning employees could see a host of changes, including spaced desks, personal lockers, voice-automated technology, staged areas for elevators and one-way hallways, Hardie said. They may also have to follow new protocols such as varying shifts, cleaning surfaces after usage, and wearing PPE to the office.
Some employees may never return to the office again, Hardie said, as companies who have been forced to develop technology for remote work during the pandemic may not be able to afford the new cost of renovating their spaces.
Yet all this doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the traditional office tower, according to Lisa Fulford-Roy, vice president with Toronto commercial real estate giant CBRE. “I think this is going to shine a lens on how can we be smarter about the spaces we’re creating for people to occupy safely and healthily and productively,” she said.
According to experts, the biggest challenge for firms will be having to redesign spaces that have been in place for decades, to allow for physical and social distancing rules.
Since the last economic downturn, companies have been following an open office trend, where “essentially everybody’s sitting really close to each other,” Hardie said, to allow for more communication. “I think we’re going to see a change there, where you’re going to have employees spaced out, they won’t maybe be facing each other in the office too.”
To maintain physical distancing rules, companies are considering spaced desks, one-way hallways, and the reconfiguration of common areas like kitchens, utility rooms and staging areas for elevators. Gensler, an American architecture firm, has released ‘ReRun,’ a tool which reconfigures your office’s existing floor plan to optimize physical distancing conditions, using computer algorithms.
Under new set-ups, workers may also be asked to come into the office at different times and bring their own equipment.
“Keyboards, mice, headsets, those things are going to be personal accessories now,” said Hardie. “So you’ll have either a locker at the office that you can lock yourself or you’re hauling it back and forth every day.”
Many workplaces could follow in the path of major tech companies and restructure their work environments from headquarters to hubs. “Rather than having a head office where the majority of their workforce is in one central location, firms may opt for regional hubs,” Hardie said.
Christian Paquette, a labour employment lawyer, said he’s gotten many questions from companies. These range from how to implement policies on shared rooms, to the nitty gritty details around personal garbage bins, ventilation systems, eating utensils, and desired cubicle heights.
“I think, ironically, one challenge for employers might be that some may not have sufficient space anymore because of social distancing,” he said. “They may need to find more space in some cases, or put an emphasis on some parts of their workspaces and less on others.”
At the beginning of May, Paquette and a colleague released a list of
for employers looking to incorporate COVID-19 requirements into their work policies.
“There needs to be clear lines of communication,” said Paquette. The article recommended that employers form a “dedicated, multi-disciplinary team” to monitor the workplace reopening and conduct risk assessments; create a contingency plan in case of a shutdown; and open a communication channel keeping employees informed of the measures being put in place and any changes thereafter.
Employers also need to develop a procedure to address attendance issues and work refusals, such as those for “employees who are afraid to return or may face special circumstances” such as compromised immunity or child or elder care obligations.
Abdoli-Eramaki, who teaches occupation health and safety at Ryerson University, emphasized the need for a system that monitors individuals, to identify those at risk of spreading the virus.
“The issue with COVID-19 is that it’s not identifiable,” he said, which in turn makes it difficult to determine certain hot spots in a workplace where exposure to the virus is increased. Ergo, “there should be a system in place where (the individual) monitors (themselves) … and if (they) don’t follow the policy, someone else does (monitor them).”
Paquette said it ultimately comes down to the level of risk each employer faces.
“For instance, (if) you have a proven outbreak in a work environment, that may justify different measures than an office space where people are not in close quarters (and) where other types of measures can really be put in place that are much less intrusive, like social distancing and self-reporting,” he said.
The pandemic has forced several workplaces to hastily upgrade and/or invest in technology to allow for people working remotely. On one hand, for those coming back to the office, employers might continue to make investments to keep the office accessible and safe, such as voice and automation technology.
“The ability to not have to touch everything in the office, to have technology that steps in, either through automation or through your voice, allows you to take your hands off a lot of things that you would have been touching in the past,” said Hardie. Companies looking to track employee movements could do so via keycard access, or by using technology that produces heat maps and monitors social distancing.
On the other hand, companies who have already invested in technology that supports remote work may find the additional investments too costly. “They may well say, okay we’ve made this major investment on ramping everybody up for home office, so maybe we’ll wait until we figure out a good plan of attack for the actual office itself’,” explained Hardie.
ALTERNATIVES TO THE OFFICE
For employers who have successfully adapted to working from home during the pandemic, there may no longer be a need for an office anymore, said Allison Cowan, director of capital of the Conference Board of Canada.
“They are seeing advantages in the long term, such as real estate savings, benefits from commuting, benefits for employee heath,” she said. Several large companies such as Twitter and
have already asked staff to continue working remotely indefinitely, while others like BMO have confirmed they are looking into hybrid schemes that would combine the office with remote work opportunities.
For some companies, that might mean rethinking their current spaces, for others it might mean letting go of their leases entirely and opting for flexible alternatives, i.e., rentable co-working spaces.
Kevin Penstock is the CEO of The Profile, a Vancouver company that offers rental co-working spaces. He said he’s been receiving a lot of calls. “There’s no question (that demand for these spaces will go up),” he said. “People are going to try and figure out how to get all their staff in their offices downtown, half the people will be stuck at home, these companies are going to need this type of select space.”
Penstock has rolled out a
for the reopening of his spaces, which includes modified shared spaces (two-person tables instead of five), the phased return of members, physical distancing signage, health screenings and a new cleaning regimen.
The challenge, he said, will be catering to demand despite the limits on the number of people per shared space, as well as monitoring those who flout the rules. “We can ask people to start doing some shift work,” he said. “Then we’re going to have to start sharing the space in a way that’s a bit different than we’re used to.”
However, while the demand for traditional offices may go down, it won’t entirely disappear, according to Fulford-Roy of
CBRE. That’s because
people miss the social element that comes with working at an office.
“There may be subsets of employees or departments where (working remotely) might be suitable”, she said. “But I think, for the most part, we’re missing our colleagues, we’re missing the interaction.”
“It’s going to be less about changing the landscape of engagement and productivity. (Instead) it’s going to be a lens of how do we do that safely?”
Source: – TheChronicleHerald.ca
Edited By Harry Miller
I ditched Android for iPhone SE for a month — here’s the pros and cons – Tom's Guide
When the iPhone SE (2020) debuted earlier this spring, I argued that the phone’s impressive specs and reasonable price were enough to make a longtime Android diehard sit up and take notice. For $400, Apple’s latest phone gives you a powerful processor, a gorgeous screen and a robust camera, along with helpful bells and whistles like water resistance and wireless charging.
In effect, you get a flagship phone for half of what you’d pay for a premium device. The iPhone SE sounded better than its closest Android competitors on paper, and that got me wondering: Could it stand up to its Android rivals in real life?
In my experience, no. The iPhone SE is a powerful piece of hardware at an impressive price, but I found that the iOS experience drags the whole product down several notches. If you have $400 to spend on a phone, you should buy the Google Pixel 3a (or hold out for the anticipated release of the Pixel 4a). There are many reasons why, but foremost among them is the fact that your $400 will buy you a complete product when you opt for an Android device, and not simply a foot in the door of a much larger, more expensive ecosystem.
After I made the argument in favor of the iPhone SE back in April, my editor proposed an unusual experiment: If the iPhone SE really looked that good to me, would I be willing to use one for a whole month? After all, if the iPhone SE could really usher in a new age of midrange smartphones, who would be a better test subject than a longtime Android user? I installed my SIM card in an iPhone SE on May 15, and kept it there for the next month.
While Apple admittedly isn’t my cup of tea, I resolved to go into this experiment with an open mind. I’ve reviewed Apple gadgets before, and I think I’ve always evaluated their strengths and weaknesses fairly. I’m also not a hardcore smartphone user by any means. I use my phone for calls, texts, e-mail, social media and the occasional mobile game. I don’t have a ton of apps, and I’d almost always rather use a computer, game console, tablet or e-reader. As such, I figured that anything I could do on an Android phone, I could probably do on an iPhone just as well.My hypothesis turned out to be about half-right.
What I liked about the iPhone SE
I found some things to like about the iPhone SE, and the Apple experience in general. First, I was able to download new interface and security updates the second they became available, rather than months down the line, whenever my wireless carrier deemed fit. The iPhone SE will continue getting vital security updates for years, rather than petering out after a year and a half, or less. Android really, really needs to step up its game in this department.
I also thought the pictures it took were just gorgeous. Even indoors, the color balance was spot-on, and the phone did a fantastic job of distinguishing between people and objects, foregrounds and backgrounds. I don’t think it’s considerably better than the Pixel 3a’s camera, but it’s definitely better than what most mid-range phones offer.
I also liked everything that the iPhone SE’s excellent hardware facilitated. The screen was bright, vivid and sharp, particularly since it crams a lot of resolution into a small space. Navigation felt snappy and immediate, whether I was playing a demanding 3D game or simply scrolling through my photo library. The phone never hangs or chugs; it just loads everything almost instantly. Going back to my aging Moto Z3 felt downright sluggish in comparison. The iPhone SE’s wireless charging was also cool, as I’ve never owned a phone with this capability before.
My very favorite part of the iOS experience, however, was Apple Arcade. For those who haven’t tried it, Apple Arcade is a $5-per-month subscription service that gives you unlimited access to a variety of high-quality games that aren’t available anywhere on Android. (They’re often available on Steam or Switch, to be fair.)
These games avoid the worst excesses of free-to-play mobile games, as not a single one allows in-app purchases. You get complete experiences that you can play for as long as you like without paying anything on top of the subscription fee. I wish that Android had a similar service.
What I didn’t like about iPhone SE
The first thing I noticed was that iOS doesn’t have a unified back button. This may seem like a small complaint, but on Android, returning to the previous screen in any app is crystal-clear. In iOS, every app has a different back button, and there’s no consistency about where it’s located. You might have to scroll to the top-left in one app, or the bottom-right in another, so learning how to exit your current screen by muscle memory is impossible.
My second big realization was that there was no way to access my text messages on a PC. Thanks to Google Messages, I’ve become extremely used to using my PC to answer texts as long as I’m at home — which, these days, is most of the time. I know that iMessage is available on Macs, but Google Messages is available on both PCs and Macs, which seems like a much fairer arrangement.
Then, there was the feature that started driving me out of my mind on Day 1 and didn’t let up until Day 30: There is no comma or period on the iOS keyboard’s main screen. Instead, if you want to punctuate your thoughts, you have to go into a secondary menu. Although Android doesn’t have every punctuation mark on its default keyboard, either, you can press and hold the period button to get what you need. Fortunately, you can double tap the space bar in iOS to enter periods and also download third-party keyboards with more options.
I ran into a number of other little annoyances during my time with an iPhone. There’s no unified app menu, so you have to scroll through pages of apps or else organize everything into folders manually. Apple seems to acknowledge that this is a problem, as iOS 14 will finally include a unified apps menu and a new App Library feature that automatically organizes your apps for you.
No iPhone model includes a microSD card slot, meaning you’re stuck with whatever amount of internal storage you buy — and that storage can get very expensive, as jumping from one capacity to another can add anywhere from $50 to $100 to the cost of your phone. The iPhone uses a proprietary charger rather than a USB-C, like every other modern phone in the world.
I also couldn’t stand the fact that iOS doesn’t let you simply drag and drop media files onto the system. You need to install iTunes on a computer, create a library, convert a bunch of files and sync everything manually, which is as time-consuming as it is tedious. You can’t create your own ringtones, you can’t install apps from non-Apple sources, you can’t access anything on an iPhone through Windows Explorer, and so forth. It’s an old argument, but it’s still true: iOS feels very restrictive if you’ve been with Android since the beginning.
To its credit, the iPhone SE let me do everything I normally do with a phone. But everything was just a little harder than it needed to be, for no real reason.
When I let Apple know that I was planning to write this article, a spokesman suggested I complement the device with AirPods and an Apple Watch Series 5. Since the iPhone SE came out, customers have been buying the three gadgets together, since you can build a mini-Apple ecosystem for less than the cost of a flagship phone.
However, neither the Apple Watch nor the AirPods added much to the experience overall. I found the AirPods profoundly uncomfortable, and always on the verge of falling out. (The sound quality was excellent, to be fair.)
Seeing notifications on my wrist with the Apple Watch was kind of helpful, but it didn’t streamline my digital activities in any meaningful sense. Granted, I’d probably have similar complaints about a Wear OS device, but the point is that having two expensive Apple accessories didn’t do much to elevate a very average phone experience.
Back to Android
With an iPhone SE, I was still able to browse the Web, check my email, read books, play games, watch videos and so forth. My day-to-day activities were nearly the same as on Android. But I still experienced a profound feeling of relief when I booted up my old Moto Z3 again. The back button made navigation a snap and the open file format meant I could add anything media I wanted with a simple drag and drop.
Having given iOS a fair shot, I can honestly say that it’s not for me. And yet, there were a few things that I wish Android would learn from its competitor. Security and interface updates are vital, and need to happen ASAP, not whenever a carrier feels like it. Flagship processors belong in midrange phones. Mobile gaming doesn’t have to be a cesspit, if you can attract proven developers with unique ideas.
Ultimately, when it’s time to choose a new phone, you’re going to have to research both systems, then trust your gut. My gut will lead me back to a more open OS.
Serious Warning Issued For Millions Of Google Gmail Users – Forbes
07/04 Update below. This post was originally published on July 2
Picked up by the always-excellent Android Police, Gmail appears to be suffering from a widespread problem with its email filters which is causing potentially dangerous, exploitative and NSFW messages to be sent directly to users’ inboxes. Furthermore, while Google has recently recognized Gmail problems “affecting a significant subset of users” it now lists the service as fully operational, when one look at Reddit or Twitter makes it clear this is far from the case.
“Why did the gmail spam filters break?!” – source
“Did gmail’s spam filter and category function just completely shut down for anyone else? Everything’s now going straight to the primary inbox.” – source
“Are @gmail’s spam filters broken? I’ve had a sudden influx of some crazy #NSFW spam in my inbox! What’s going on #Gmail?” – source
“It is a strangely comforting thing that I can just search for “gmail” and immediately Twitter provides me with evidence that yes, others are getting weirdly hit with spam right now” – source
07/04 Update: Google has responded to my inquiry and acknowledged the problem, surprisingly pointing out that the spam flaw was actually part of a bigger issue which caused Gmail emails to be delayed, both when sent and received. The consequence of this was “some messages were delayed enough that they resulted in delivery without all spam checks completing.” Most importantly, Google states that “During this time, scans to filter malware and the most egregious spam and harmful content remained fully operational.” Google says the issue has now been resolved. That said, it is worth noting that some users are still reporting spam problems in Gmail (1,2,3,4,5,6,7 etc) so you should remain cautious, both when opening unfamiliar new email and going through older messages that may have arrived during the main outage.
For the tech savvy, a flurry of spam hitting your inbox is something which can be navigated. But everyday users could be caught out by some of the more sophisticated malware and exploitation strategies these emails can contain. After all, there’s a reason Gmail (usually) works so hard to keep these messages from your inbox.
I have contacted Google about this and will update the post when I know more.
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