While a lot of companies are permanently shifting to more of a work at home model, enough aren't, resulting in some rather dire traffic predictions. Those making the shift are discovering a ton of additional problems, and IBM just rolled out a dedicated AI solution called Watson Works to address those challenges.
Let's talk about the kinds of problems IBM has targeted this solution to address and how IBM Works will address them.
The Return To Work Problems
It is likely that work won't be the same for everyone because of several continuing problems. For instance, you'll need to implement social distancing, which suggests that not only will some people remain working from home, but you'll have a lot of people splitting their time between home and work. You'll need to monitor employee health more closely because if someone arrives who has the virus, it may force a site shut down for a costly and disruptive cleaning.
You'll still have a bunch of remote people, and you'll need to manage their interactions so they don't feel isolated or disadvantaged because they can't come into work. And you'll have to help to return employees get used to the new normal with new solutions for things like going out to eat, which could cause them to become infected, creating additional problems.
IBM Watson Works
IBM Watson Works was created to address this collection of problems. It can be used to manage and optimize real-time space allocation using WiFi, cameras, Bluetooth beacons, and mobile phones.
These tools facilitate the allocation of desk space, places to eat, highly sensitive areas that are out of limits, areas that have been contaminated, and assuring social distancing. The employees' devices can guide them to the desk they are to use for the day, keep them away from danger, help them find meetings, and provide alerts when social distancing rules aren't being followed. Besides, it will alert and help prevent symptomatic employees from contaminating the site and assure rules regarding the wearing of masks and other preventative clothing are being followed.
It will also provide evidence and science-based recommendations for decisions regarding returning to work in the first place and give a risk assessment on sites and locations that are too risky to open. If someone does get sick, it will showcase that a reasonable and fact-based process was used to open the site, helping to avoid an unfavorable liability ruling due to negligence.
The data used to help provide the guidance comes from multiple validated sources so that the related decisions can be intelligently made, reducing the risks to the site and the employees who work there. These sources include local infection rates and trends, updates on symptoms and local test results, applicable regulations, and known work and home health risks. This capability provides advice to the decision-maker that is well supported, minimizing risk to all involved.
There is a significant communications component to this solution because the amount of communications over media is far higher, with so many people likely to continue to be remote. Watson Works uses its natural language capabilities to respond to queries at scale because most employees will have ongoing but somewhat similar questions about this new normal. It can customize responses to the employee and provide adjusted advice about when and if the employee needs to come into the office and point them to critical resources that are uniquely COVID-19 related.
Finally, it is designed to increase the effectiveness of contact tracing significantly. When employees voluntarily notify their employers of a positive test and give consent, contact tracers can conduct interviews while collecting information from multiple resources to execute a targeted quarantine protocol. This feature should help avoid a mandatory site shutdown that otherwise might be required while documenting all case-related details for improving and protecting the firm from liability. This capability will also help create a process to better support the employee as they recover.
As we return to work, several problems are cropping up that companies have not adequately anticipated increasing the stress on both the employees and managers and increasing the risk of another site shutdown. IBM's AI solution Watson Works provides a broad set of features to manage this process better and assure a far safer, and far more reliable, process both initially and over the extended time of this pandemic problem.
As with all things Watson, it also showcases how AI can be used in real-world situations to help make traumatic events far less traumatic.