COVID-19 has introduced an inflection point for businesses worldwide as many grapple with the concerns that come with employees returning to the workplace amid an ongoing global health event. Employers must manage health and safety risks, while complying with required protocols and implementing additional measures of their own.
In a recent poll conducted by ADP of over 1,200 webinar attendees on July 28th, only 36 percent of respondents said they are entirely comfortable with returning to the workplace. While the majority of people are expressing some level of discomfort with returning to the workplace, other studies have shown that a more sanitary work environment, increase in safety equipment and protocols, along with stricter guidelines for when an employee is feeling ill, are high on the list of what will make them feel more comfortable.
While physical changes to the workplace – masks, distancing, partitions and hand sanitizing stations – are obvious ways to reduce exposure, technology has quickly risen to meet this challenge and help employers as well. Innovations like touchless time kiosks, health attestation surveys and employee proximity tracing reports are a few of the newer solutions to emerge and may prove to be critical to the wellbeing of the workforce. As businesses plan, here are a few of the considerations they should be making and the tools that can help.
Prioritize communication and education
A good place to start the discussion is before the return. Tech can help ensure efficient communication with workers and help educate them on new policies and procedures before they return to the workplace. A rapidly changing environment, where new safety rules and policies need to be applied, requires timely, concise communication to employees. Learning Management systems as well as Attendance Policy management systems can be fast and reliable ways for management to disseminate information, and for employees to absorb the message. Having a single information repository like one of these can reduce friction amongst staff and can help with consistent enforcement and interpretation of the rules. It also helps management avoid repeating a message and helps prevent critical information from being lost or altered through word of mouth.
Plan for health checks
What is it going to look like when people do arrive at the workplace? According to the Qualtrics Return to Work Study from April 30th, 62 percent of employees want strict sick policies to feel more comfortable returning to work. And it appears that most employers plan to oblige. According to the Pacific Business Group on Health’s How to Return to Work survey, 69 percent of employers will administer a symptom questionnaire, and 56 percent plan to administer temperature checks.
If temperature and symptom screening are part of your new protocols, there are a few things to consider. With laws requiring privacy of health data, the gathering of health data does introduce a gray area for data management. Companies should exercise extreme caution, and if possible, avoid collecting and storing any specific health details. If you do, it should be done so privately and securely in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations. Some time and attendance systems offer attestation capabilities for events like meal breaks and timecard approvals. That tech can often be set up to deliver a health survey, and to help keep employees who are not symptom free from entering the workplace. The specific symptom does not need to be recorded; what is important is that the worker was absent, possibly due to illness or exposure to another person with an illness.
Monitor the situation to adjust as needed
In relation to absences, having a reporting and analytics solution that can summarize the data, spot trends, and provide valuable insight can help your business avoid outbreaks. Benchmarking health data versus local and national trends helps employers identify risk factors, when increased testing may be required, or when workplaces should reopen or close temporarily. This awareness and agility can be imperative to successful operations, as the climate continues to shift and evolve.
Consider rethinking when and where people work
Locations with dense headcounts or capacity and space limitations may need to extend shifts and operating hours to meet distancing guidelines. Staggering shift start, break and end times is also a nice way to reduce exposure and congestion. Timekeeping and scheduling solutions help automate and greatly simplify this process, with capabilities like schedule templates and rotations for quickly generating weeks of schedules. For workers who may be working partly on location and partly remotely, these solutions can even be used to track their scheduled days and locations. This can not only reduce exposure but can also come in handy for employee proximity tracing.
Gain visibility into your workforce
Timekeeping has an obvious role in driving accurate payroll. But what is its role with respect to safety? Knowing who is on site and when is key to tracing possible exposure, in the event that someone may have been ill. This can apply to exempt employees as well. It is also the first indicator that someone who was scheduled may not have passed the health screening.
Regular timeclock cleaning and hand sanitizing is key. In the same Qualtrics Return to Work Study, 74 percent of respondents want the workplace regularly disinfected. However, if you’re focused on reducing contact with shared timeclocks, you might consider proximity badge readers that work like touchless pay, mobile solutions where workers can use their own phones, or time kiosks that offer a touchless experience. Touchless methods for clocking use facial recognition for identification and voice commands are then used to perform transactions.
Navigating the changes associated with the new world of work in order to return to the workplace can be a challenge. The complexity of managing the wellbeing of staff while reopening may seem daunting, but technology can be a solution. Stay committed to compliance. Local, state, and national legislators shift goalposts often. Keeping up to date on the most current information is vital for management. Lastly, listen to your employees and what will make them comfortable. Doing so can assist in providing stability and continuity for both the company and its workforce.
Jim McGeady is the Senior Director of Product Marketing for ADP. Jim has over 25 years of experience helping businesses drive results through the optimal management of their people. He has helped thousands of organizations around the world do this by speaking at trade events, authoring papers and article, delivering professional services, and developing and launching many innovative products to the marketplace. He has exercised his product management and marketing talents with market leaders such as IBM, Infor, Kronos, HealthcareSource, and now ADP.