According to a survey by the technology company, Disruptive Technologies, more than 50 per cent of workers are worried about returning to the workplace. 

Due to the risks of coronavirus (COVID-19), concerns about contracting the disease still loom large in people’s minds, specifically in relation to issues about cleanliness and COVID-related security in their workplace. 

The company says that employees have become hyper-aware of areas that they did not pay much attention to in the past, such as bathroom stalls and shared kitchens.

Equally, however, 65.6 per cent of those surveyed said that they would be comfortable if their employer introduced sensor technology into their workplace. This includes technology to ensure social distancing such as proximity, temperature and touch sensors.

Any concerns about privacy seem to have been overridden by concerns about safety, given that an overwhelming majority (74.8 per cent) of respondents said that they would have no worries about the application of sensors in the workplace if it would help them feel safer. 

The company cites the example of sensors in bathroom stalls which can allow cleaning staff to know when to go in and clean up, based on how often employees have used the restroom. More insidious perhaps is the use of temperature sensors which are placed underneath chairs and desks and pick up a change in temperature when someone sits down. According to the company, however, the purpose of the data provided is to offer a useful visualisation of workplace occupancy.

Not surprisingly, 60 per cent of survey respondents want their employer to keep them in the loop about the adoption of sensor technology and give them an opportunity to provide feedback. That means employees need to feel in control of any technology that is introduced which should follow if they are involved in risk assessments - perhaps by way of questionnaire. 

Employees don't want technology to be used to keep an eye on how often, or for how long, they go to the bathroom or to monitor how often they sit at or are away from their desk. However, union reps will no doubt need to work to ensure that that is not the outcome of this brave new world.