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IT professionals will play a role in helping their companies navigate office reopening challenges, and they may turn to new tools from tech vendors to ease an oft-confusing process.
A new line of Citrix microapps is one such example. These small programs that accomplish simple tasks are integrated into the company's Citrix Workspace platform to manage specific components of getting employees back in offices.
Jeffrey Dean, director of global security and risk services at Citrix, said the office reopening process requires collaboration across an organization's various departments and an understanding of the local laws and mandates. More than that, he said, the shift requires a company to clearly communicate its safety efforts to its employees.
"The comfort level [for employees] has to be there, or all of this is for naught," he said.
Andrew Hewitt, an analyst at Forrester Research, said many companies were turning to software, including microapps, to conduct such necessary office reopening tasks as surveying employees and creating checklists to ensure workers are healthy before they return to their desks.
"That type of tool is becoming fairly common," he said.
Citrix Workspace, Hewitt added, is a sensible place for firms to centralize those services.
"It really consolidates the number of places the employee needs to go and provides a place to disseminate that corporate information" employees need, he said.
The new, ready-made Citrix microapps can assist with communicating safety protocols to workers, performing employee health self-certifications, controlling building occupancy, contact tracing and gauging employee sentiment.
The Citrix microapps, Dean said, arose from the firm's own reopening experiences. As the company has offices around the world, it is dealing with a range of local situations. One of Citrix's offices in China, Dean said, had already reached a 50% occupancy phase, while some others are just at the beginning of the process.
Dean said the health checklist microapp has given employees peace of mind. The tool prompts employees to answer questions about possible symptoms as a way of certifying their eligibility to return to the office.
"Not only are they answering those questions, they recognize the rest of our employees are doing the same thing," he said.
Surveys administered through Workspace let companies know if they have the employee confidence necessary to make the move back to the office a success, Dean said. Such feedback has been useful for Citrix, he said, and workers have consistently shown a high level of comfort with the company's efforts.
Tools to make reopening possible
Chris McMasters, CIO for the city of Corona, Calif., said his municipality had seen the value of using technology during its reopening. The city's offices, he said, are at varying levels of occupancy.
"A lot of it depends on the department," he said. "If they're able to remain productive outside the office, then it's at the director's discretion."
The city, McMasters said, had built its own app -- using the app-creation platform Microsoft PowerApps -- for employee health self-certifications. If an employee does show symptoms, the information is relayed to the appropriate departments. The worker's supervisor then talks to the employee about further steps.
McMasters said that although the city has taken steps to protect its employees, there may be some who are uncomfortable or unable to return to the office for some time. He said using Citrix Workspace enabled the local government to provide a consistent level of performance to its employees both in and out of the office.
"[We've been] deploying Citrix outside the organization as people have been working remotely [and] as they come back to the office, we're keeping them on the same Citrix platform," he said. "One of the things we found is that, by pushing processing and memory into the cloud, the experience is often better than what they had [with a local desktop]."