GeoBC turns to Esri Canada to help staff return to the office safely

For the Government of B.C.’s geographic and services branch, or GeoBC, getting back into the office has been about a lot more than just convenience.

GeoBC creates and manages geospatial information and products to help the province manage natural resources in British Columbia. The public services branch has been around since 2010.




Esri Canada and GeoBC have been partners for many years, according to Nancy Liesch, director of GeoBC. And in order to keep performing the work that’s expected of them, access to their headquarters is essential, according to Liesch. That’s where Esri’s “Return to the Office” platform comes in. 

It’s an interactive smart dashboard providing a high-level understanding of how many staff can safely return to the workplace according to social distancing requirements and the unique configuration of your floor plans. It strips away any personally identifiable data and restricts who can view the collected information to only those who need access.

Last year, with Liesch and Gurdeep Singh, GeoBC’s portfolio manager of business innovation and emergency management leading the way, the Return to the Office solution helped GeoBC manage its workforce of 62 people in a three-storey building.

“Remote working is a wonderful opportunity…but we’re what we’re finding teams do want to get back together. And that’s one of the ways that this tool can actually help because they can schedule in advance when they want to come to the building. They can set up their socially distanced meetings and schedule that together,” Liesch told Channel Daily News. “Face-to-face is still very important. Certainly important in the world of innovation and sharing ideas.”

Not only that, GeoBC has hardware onsite that can’t be moved. In addition to historically imagery scanners, their databases can only be accessed behind a firewall that they have to be onsite for in order to access.

Liesch estimates that approximately 80 per cent of people are happily working remotely but “eager to come back.”

With Esri’s return to the office app fully implemented within GeoBC, the hope is to have the app adopted by other BC government departments. 

“B.C. has been a real pioneer in part because they realized that they needed to work with us to do something simple. And the big advantage of our technology is that they already use it and they have people who know how to use it,” he told the publication in an interview.

The federal government’s public safety and procurement office of Canada has some of its branch offices in B.C. Alex Miller, president and founder of Esri Canada says those buildings have been using Esri’s mapping technology to monitor the indoor movement of its workers for some time.

Esri’s more sophisticated Arc GIS Indoors platform adds another layer of functionality to manage a workforce in a large building, allowing admins to monitor automation and air ventilation systems, as well as other asset management operations. 

“We’re working with a lot of large organizations right now, including airports who need to track for security,” he said.

In addition to winning this year’s Collaborative Workspaces Wunderkind Award, Esri Canada also won the Data Master Award at the Channel Innovation Awards for its work with New Brunswick. Learn more about that project here.



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Alex Coop
Alex Coop
Former Editorial Director for IT World Canada and its sister publications.

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