How Technology & Data are Being Used to Help Companies Return to Work
The foundations of return-to-work will be built on three primary areas: awareness, communication and action. All of them can be achieved through technology and data collection.
COVID-19 shows us how quickly the world can change in its highly interconnected state. In the past 60 days, across the world, every business and worker has experienced monumental change. The “new normal” post COVID-19 is being defined in near-real time for how workers and organizations return to work.
History is being written as we design our new normal, with every employer defining their next steps and their return to work standards with limited visibility to what the future holds. We are all waiting, watching and wondering what changes COVID-19 will inevitably require from a strategic, operational, people and financial aspect.
The one constant moving forward, in every single scenario, is that return to work is predicated on worker health and safety. Companies are required to follow government guidelines with physical distancing, PPE and biometric data collection. The worker and employer are inextricably linked to both follow process and guidelines and to share responsibility for individual and collective health and safety.
The foundations of return-to-work will be built on three primary areas: awareness, communication, and action.
Awareness has taken on new meaning. The physical state of an individual, both as it applies to him/herself and others, is the premise guiding back-to-work. Privacy concerns around biometrics, symptoms and exposure are now secondary to providing and protecting the greater good.
The EEOC recently updated its guidelines to allow temperature and screening to be captured and measured at the worker level.
Communication will also accelerate and require both publicly and privately sharing information previously perceived as private. New ways of communicating will inevitably take hold to fill the need for this consistent and rapid connection.
Finally, action arising from awareness and communication will increase, enabling individuals and organizations to respond quickly and decisively.
So, with this backdrop, we need to respond with powerful means to return to work and keep our employees safe and healthy. The single most powerful tools are technology and data to deliver awareness, communication, and action.
The good news is that we have been preparing and building the existing technology and data infrastructure for several years to meet these needs. It is an ironic and powerful coincidence that today’s technology and data has taken on an almost viral model on its own as it proliferates exponentially, cuts across demographic and social boundaries and leaves no area of the globe unaffected.
Technology and data will help companies return to work when we think and treat information with viral efficiency. Data must be captured and flow freely to enable action across all levels of an organization, while still protecting privacy and information security. Our problem is not the connections; our problem is the ability to respond quickly and deliver information that is trustworthy, secure and timely to the right stakeholders at the right time. Information needs to move unhindered across all people, connecting them together, in near real-time.
For companies return to work safely after this pandemic, the process will require that technology and data have the following five functions:
1) capture the current physical state of workers
2) capture the current state of customers and guests
3) enforce new operational guidelines and standards
4) review and analyze activities and trends
5) manage outcomes and hold people accountable
First, the current physical state of workers is important to capture and interpret the data that surrounds workers and then determine risk at the individual and group level. At the immediate, tracking of worker specific data and location will be required. Biometric data (temperature) to ensure that workers are not creating or accepting undue risk will continue to be captured and combined with worker reported symptoms, exposure and demographic data (age, gender, pre-existing conditions) to guard individuals’ health and safety. Access to locations will be based on a physical and biometric review of workers and will inevitably extend to clients, customers, vendors and any other invited attendees within company locations.
Second, as people move from location to location, the ability to capture both their physical states and movements will be required. While an individual worker may report to the same location, business guests will move across multiple locations. An ability to track and assess the guests’ physical states and movements will be required to gain access and interaction moving forward.
Third, physical distancing, disinfecting, PPE and other tools and hygiene processes will need to be implemented to enforce operational standards and guidelines. Organizations are now implementing COVID-19 distancing at all locations. The new normal will include the use of software and body temperature scanners for access to locations. Worker personal data tracking will take on greater importance, to demonstrate to employers and co-workers, public entities, schools and others our current state of health and commitment to safety.
Fourth, reporting and data aggregation becomes incredibly important. The balance between the individual and the group is necessary to understand and avoid risk. Software and apps will be the enabler to give organizations reporting tools for analyzing and utilizing data. Enforcing data privacy and access will be key for adoption and trust.
Fifth, our ability to work closely with others and mitigate risk will require technology and data to monitor outcomes and hold people accountable. Having objective, evidence-based measures will allow decision makers to lead with transparency and make decisions that optimize allocation of resources.
The good news is that we have the means to connect people and share information. The mobile device infrastructure is specifically designed to create a one-to-many model of data and communication. Using our existing infrastructure to rapidly deploy and track data is required. A large portion of the population literally has a supercomputer sitting in their pockets that can be used to achieve these goals.
When we return to work, workplaces need platforms that capture and interpret data at the individual worker level for risk awareness, communication, and engagement. Today, more than ever before, risk awareness is the primary driver of returning to work.
Data and technology will help our workers and business return, technology and data will create insight, insight will create worker action and worker action will avoid risk. When delivered accurately and efficiently, this insight will allow companies to return to work safely.