In the 1830s-1860s, a cholera epidemic swept across the globe, influencing health and infrastructure changes that would shape the workplace going forward. Today, the COVID-19 pandemic also refocuses our priorities around health and safety in the workplace, with the disruption ushering in a new era of technological innovation.

Drawing parallels to the cholera epidemic, we look at our current pandemic and the modern workplace, focusing on the spaces where people come together and collaborate to offer perspectives on questions like:

How have pandemics and diseases impacted our acceptance of technology?

Which technologies will be accelerated? Which ones will be abandoned?

How will the pandemic impact where we work and learn?

Health, Sanitation, & The Art of Innovation

In the 1840s, the cholera outbreak brought about important changes in health and sanitation, eventually leading to better plumbing and sewer systems, cleaner water supplies, and better working conditions. Today’s pandemic also promises to change the ways we work, learn, and collaborate.

Envisioning the Future of Workplace & Classroom Collaboration

What might our post-pandemic workplace or classrooms look like? What technology will we invent?

  • De-densification of meeting spaces. Hybrid meeting and learning environments will spread out meeting-goers and students throughout the meeting space, overflow rooms, and remote locations.
  • Touchless meeting/learning space technology. Physical technology in the room will be more limited as shared touchpoints are removed and a greater focus is placed on touchless meeting solutions , including the use of personal devices and voice, gesture, and sensor technologies.
  • Hybrid work models.With the increase in remote work and dispersed teams, technology will need to enable a seamless transition between work-from-home and work-from-work as teams constantly cycle between places and modes of operation. Among other applications, this will drive further innovation around video conferencing and related technologies and capabilities including background removal, noise cancellation, and camera improvements.
  • Workplace analytics. Innovative meeting space analytics will provide technology admins and decision-makers with tools to better understand and manage the return-to-work, enabling compliance monitoring and providing organizations with data insights to find efficiencies with their collaboration spaces.

While many technologies already fit these descriptions, the pandemic will accelerate further technological innovation in these areas, as well as completely new areas. It will also help provide focus and clarity around what innovations are necessary and which can be abandoned. It’s an exciting time for technology and innovation.