How a Return to Work Might Look for AV Integrators After the COVID-19 Lockdown

*Originally Published on

Parts of the US and elsewhere are reopening after the COVID-19 quarantine, but daily life will still be different for a while — including for integrators.

By now, we all know COVID-19 has had an impact on virtually every business and has forced us all into our makeshift home offices.

Experts predict that remote work —which was already trending before the pandemic — will never go away, but some of us will return to the office and work site.

According to health experts, things may not completely return to normal for several months or even a year or until a vaccine is developed. Even then, some aspects of social distancing will be retained as we cope with a new normal. Some areas of the U.S. and other parts of the world are beginning to reopen the economy, so following federal and state health guidelines will be more important than ever.

For AV integrators, this will mean changes to both the job site and the office.

At the job site

Integrators have told me that they actually have a decent amount of work under contract, but social distancing guidelines have prevented them from finishing projects timely and safely.

Going forward, integrators should be mindful of how many installers are sent to a particular site, especially if it’s indoors. For the time being, those workers should consider personal protection equipment like masks and gloves to avoid spreading the virus.

The Associated General Contractors of America have published some resources on job site safety, and Atlantis Partners founder Frank Papayianis told Commercial Integrator what he predicts will happen to the job site.

Those resources suggest AV professionals will likely not work alongside other trades like HVAC, electrical or IT. Workers should avoid using the work station, devices or tools of other employees. This should go without saying, but workers should not come to work if they’re showing symptoms of the virus.

This is an obvious one, but sanitation and cleanliness will undoubtedly be a priority on the job site. Expect to see more hand sanitizer stations, and wiping down frequently touched surfaces will become the norm.

If a video call can replace a physical meeting, you should highly consider doing just that.

In the office

At Commercial Integrator, we’re currently discussing what a return to the office would look like. We’ve been working remote since early March, and we largely haven’t missed a beat.

However, we work closely to bring you good business advice and that requires constant communication. Communication and collaboration platforms have been a godsend for us and many other organizations, but we’ll likely return to the office in some capacity.

A recent article from ZDNet highlighting VMWare’s early discussions on returning to the office was particularly insightful. The article quoted VMWare CIO Bask Iyer, who said the company is considering how to retool the office to accommodate health guidelines.

When an office re-opens, it will have to accommodate social distancing practices, Iyer said. According to a recent PwC survey, 65 percent of chief financial officers anticipate retooling work sites for physical distancing.

VMware has teams going site by site, determining how many people a building usually accommodates and how many should be allowed back to keep everyone safe. They’re considering ways incorporate social distancing into seating arrangements, whether signs should be posted with warnings and tips, whether janitorial services will need to be stepped up. “These are the decisions we’re going through right now,” Iyer said.

Other considerations are measures to track social distancing, and apps that can open and unlock doors and other functions to help avoid touching high-contact areas, Iyer told ZDNet.

Of course, federal and state guidelines are always changing, so it’s best to first consult those resources and always comply with the law before you bring your employees back to work.