The pandemic is changing how we work, and causing businesses to rethink the workplace. "Work gyms" such as Caveday are becoming increasingly popular. Users join a group Zoom call, leave their cameras on and work alongside other members for a specified time period. The concept is based on the theory of "social accountability" -- with someone watching, you're under more pressure to focus.
If a standard Zoom call doesn't work for you, you could try the Virtual Reality version developed by US-based company Spatial. Users create an avatar by uploading a photo of their face and -- while wearing a VR headset -- they are able to interact with the life-like avatars of friends or coworkers. Users can move between different virtual rooms and collaborate as if they were meeting in person.
Office space is being re-imagined. Rather than featuring open floor plans and shared workspaces, new designs are facilitating social distancing. Cushman & Wakefield, a real estate firm, has designed a "6 feet office" concept to help its clients prepare for the return of employees. It includes clear one-way traffic flows and individual workstations centered in 6-foot bubbles.
Cushman & Wakefield
Or perhaps offices will be full of people working in air-tight pods. Egyptian architect Mohamed Radwan designed the "Qwork-Pod," hexagonal cubicles that can be arranged in a hive-like layout, complete with automatic doors controlled by facial recognition, and ventilation fans with built-in air purifiers. The whole structure is made of non-porous materials that can be easily disinfected.
Workplace lunches could also look very different. Instead of cafeterias or buffets, we may see socially distanced lunches like those provided by Relish, an app launched by online catering service ezCater. It lets employees order from a selection of local restaurants, then delivers individually boxed meals all at once at a designated place and time, to minimize traffic in and out of the office.
Chowbotics -- a California-based tech startup that sells robot vending machines -- says it has seen an uptick in demand for its fresh food robot "Sally," which serves custom-made salads, grain bowls and a variety of yogurts. Pre-pandemic, Sally was used most regularly in hospitals, but now it's replacing the salad bars in some office cafeterias.
A safe return to the office could involve AI technology that tracks employees' movements to help enforce social distancing and contact tracing. Tech company Camio has built image-detecting software for existing surveillance cameras -- it can track both how close employees get to each other and if they're wearing a mask.
Israeli company PointGrab has designed ceiling-mounted sensors that can tell the exact location and number of people within a given space. The smart sensors are able to monitor social distancing and if people are traveling in one direction around the building.