How we use automation to bring our employees back into the office safely

How we use automation to bring employees back into the office

In May of 2020, at the height of the pandemic, our HR team in Singapore set out to tackle the lofty goal of bringing employees back into the office without compromising their health.

This naturally came with a variety of challenges.

Office capacity needed to be strictly managed; contact tracing protocols needed to be established; and employees needed to be educated on both their government’s regulations and the guidelines our team put into place.

To help meet these challenges, the HR team developed and launched “Office Bot” for employees in the region. 

Here’s a closer look at how we’ve used the bot in Singapore—and elsewhere—to bring employees back into our offices quickly, safely, and easily.

These insights come from our webinar, “How To Take Back Your Office With Back-To-Office Automations.” You can catch all of the webinar’s insights by watching the full recording.

A closer look at Office Bot 

Office Bot, simply put, is a platform bot that our employees use in Slack.

It allows our employees to submit a request to come into the office within Slack—which includes filling out the date they’d like to come in, their reason for coming in, and checking off on our health declaration.

A screenshot of the reservation request fields provided by Office Bot

Once an employee submits their request, Office Bot notifies the HR team in a specific Slack channel. Within the message, Office Bot also includes the total number of employees who’ve already been approved to work in the office that day. Assuming this number isn’t already at the office’s limit, a member in HR would go on to approve the request with the click of a button.

What kind of benefits have we seen since implementing Office Bot?

Lee Jia Ying, a People Tech Analyst at Workato and the architect of Office Bot, offered up a few of the ways in which it’s helped her colleagues and the organization:

  • Employees can request an office visit quickly and in a way that’s convenient 
  • Contact tracing is easy to perform, as HR can easily identify the employees who came into the office on a given day
  • Office capacity limits aren’t violated
  • Office analytics get collected, allowing HR to better determine if they need to open more workstations and meeting rooms, whether there should be designated days for specific teams to come into the office, etc. 

Lee also went on to share that despite Office Bot being developed solely within HR (and not in a department like IT/BT as you might expect), they were able to take it live extremely quickly and with little difficulty.

“We were able to implement Office Bot in less than 6 hours.”

How we’ve implemented Office Bot in the U.S.

Nearly a full year later, our HR team also set out to bring U.S.-based employees back into the offices with Office Bot. Only now that employees in the U.S. have vaccines available and designated workspaces in every office, the bot operates slightly differently.

Here’s how it works:

1. An employee starts by uploading their CDC Vaccine Card in Slack. 

2. Office Bot shares this card with the appropriate administrator, who can approve (or reject) it with the click of a button.

3. The employee can then schedule their office visit—this includes selecting the days they’d like to come in, their reason for coming in, and checking off on our health declaration. 

4. The office manager receives the request and can approve it with the click of a button.

5. The employee can view the available workstations and select the one they’d like to reserve.

We’ve also added more nuanced automations within Office Bot. For example, employees can use the bot to follow specific colleagues, allowing them to learn—via Slack message—when these colleagues make an office reservation and which day(s) they’ve reserved.

A screenshot that shows how employees can follow colleagues via Office Bot

Related: The 5 leading HR automation trends

Our plans for scaling Office Bot

Since each region faces a different situation, our HR team has made the process of creating Office Bot extremely customizable.

When creating a bot, the regional office manager can select whether vaccination verification is required, if their offices have designated workspaces, among a host of other items, that’ll allow Office Bot to meet the region’s unique requirements. 

A screenshot that shows how an employee would set up Office Bot

Given the early success we’ve seen in leveraging Office Bot, we’re confident that it’ll also help our colleagues in other regions as they set out to return to the workplace.

Looking to implement these bot-powered automations at your organization? You can access them through our newly-launched Back-to-Office Accelerator! 

About the author
Jon Gitlin Content Strategist @ Workato
Jon Gitlin is the Managing Editor of The Connector, where you can get the latest news on Workato and uncover tips and frameworks for implementing powerful integrations and automations. In his free time, he loves to run outside, watch soccer ( matches, and explore local restaurants.