Managing COVID-19 Fears in the Workplace
New Software Apps Can Help
A majority of employees are looking for employers to protect them from COVID-19 at the workplace.
Businesses are keenly aware that employees are looking for assurance that workplaces are safe from COVID-19 and are turning to new software apps designed to mitigate those fears. The apps offer businesses the ability to keep track of the health status of every employee and make quick moves, should a specific employee suddenly be stricken with the virus.
While some apps focus solely on offering contact tracking in workplaces hit by a new case of the COVID-19, others go much further, offering a complete management solution for dealing with COVID-19 and all its impacts on the workplace.
“The number-one focus of employers right now should be employee engagement,” said Melissa Jezior, president and CEO of Eagle Hill Consulting. “That means understanding at the most granular level employee sentiment about COVID-19, their challenges returning to the workplace, how to keep the workforce safe and then taking action to address employee feedback.”
Some of the new apps—including Kokomo COVID19Tracker and SafetyTek COVID-19 Workforce Health Analysis—are completely free, standalone software packages that offer businesses a quick way to immediately address employee concerns. Other apps are free as add-ons to much more comprehensive workplace-management software packages. That means you’ll be able to use the COVID-19 app for free if you happen to be a user of that software or you’re looking to try out that software for the first time. Still other apps are standalone but come with a price tag.
No matter which solution employers choose for their workplaces, it’s very clear that employees are going to be looking to their employers to protect their health at work. Specifically, 55% of employees said that they are counting on employers to mandate employees with COVID-19 symptoms to stay home, according to an April 2020 survey of 1,000 U.S.-based employees by Jezior’s Eagle Hill Consulting.
Moreover, 53% of employees surveyed said that they are looking for employers to make COVID-19 tests readily available at the workplace. In addition, 44% of workers said that complete transparency and open communication are going to be crucial in the age of the COVID-19, while 42% are looking for the ability to work remotely if need be, and 41% are looking for employee-wellness efforts.
“Today, more than ever, it’s critical that employers prioritize employee wellness by engaging and caring for their people,” said David Ossip, chairman and CEO of Ceridian—a provider of workforce-management software that’s offering a free COVID-19 add-on for its system.
A word of caution here: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) requires the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop regulations protecting the privacy and security of certain health information. That means that employers must be very cautious about who sees medical data. As a general rule, medical information needs to be closely held, meaning that managers and team leaders probably should not have access if your company is to comply with HIPPA. And there are local employment requirements to be considered as well—as an example, San Diego County in California currently mandates temperature checks.
That said, these apps can offer employers a framework to help monitor and track employee status. Here’s a representative sampling of the COVID-19 workplace-management systems currently available.
Kokomo COVID19Tracker (www.covid247.org) standalone software, free: Kokomo’s cloud-based software is basically a contact-tracing solution that enables employers to track employee health and notify employees who have been in recent contact with another employee who is suddenly stricken by the COVID-19. It offers tools for collecting, tracking, notifying and managing COVID-19 cases that pop up at work and at home.
Employees who sign up for the program need to know that the information they offer the system will be accessible to both the employer and public health authorities. The primary purpose of the system is to offer free COVID-19 contract tracing for employers and public health authorities.
Workers voluntarily use the system by adding data regarding their COVID-19 state (negative or positive) and then updating that info as necessar—including when a positive case of COVID-19 becomes a “cured” case. Data can be input via PC or smartphone.
The system uses artificial intelligence to gauge the probability of reported cases needing “proactive intervention” from either workplace managers or public health authorities. One of the features of the Kokomo tracker is its ability to automatically notify appropriate people—including workplace managers and health authorities—about important COVID-19 case updates using email, text and/or voice calls.
SafetyTek COVID-19 Workforce Health Analysis (www.safetytek.io/covid-19) standalone software, free: This free solution is provided by a firm that offers cloud-based software for monitoring and managing on-the-job safety.
“We’re making this solution free because we strongly believe that every company should have access to all the tools available to ensure their team’s health and safety,” said Ryan Quiring, the company’s CEO.
Workers use the app by updating their COVID-19 status daily via smartphone, offering human resources (HR), managers, safety officers and related leaders regular updated insights into workers who are available to work on-site or from home. The software also offers employees the ability to compare their current health against common symptoms of COVID-19 and help them determine if they’re at risk for COVID-19 infection.
The system further provides managers an easy way to quickly distribute workplace and government-generated news reports regarding COVID-19 via email, text and/or voice. Managers also have access to the system’s data via smartphone, which makes it very easy for them to discern who can work on-site, who needs to continue to telecommute, and who needs to be monitored as they wrestle with COVID-19.
PriceWaterhouseCoopers Check-In (www.pwc.com/us/en/products/check-in.html) standalone software, call for price: PWC’s Check-In offers employers the ability to closely track the movements of employees and ensures easy tracing of employees who have come in contact with a colleague who has suddenly contracted COVID-19.
Tracking of employees’ smartphones—which occurs only when they’re at the workplace—is handled via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. The app is designed to enable managers to quickly intervene when a new case pops up, and it ensures that workplace disruption will be limited to other employees who have had recent contact with a staffer who suddenly tests positive for COVID-19.
Ceridian Dayforce Employee Safety Monitoring (www.ceridian.com/products/dayforce/hr/employee-safety-monitoring) add-on for Dayforce users, free: This COVID-19 app integrates into the much larger Dayforce workforce-management system, which offers tools for HR, payroll, benefits distribution and the like. The app enables employers to monitor COVID-19 status of all employees—whether they are at work, at home or traveling. It enables managers to quickly notify employees who have been exposed to a colleague who suddenly tests positive for COVID-19.
Appian Workforce Safety and Readiness (www.appian.com/covid-application-signup) standalone software, starts at $5,000 per month: This cloud-based system enables a company’s IT department to build a COVID-19 response management hub with minimal coding, according to Appian. Some hubs can be running in about two hours, according to the company.
The system offers an “enterprise command center” for monitoring employee health, location and possible exposure. Key features include:
- A unified command center, which key company officers can use to manage the health and work status of all employees in real time through a single interface.
- Fast, easy workforce screening, which enables employees to update their personal health and risk data via PC or smartphone.
- Intelligent return-to-work certification, which enables a business to define internal policy rules regarding return-to-work certifications.
- Support for phased return to work, which offers a blueprint for enabling the automation of a phased or rotating approach for an employee’s return to the workplace.
- Fast issue resolution, which enables HR to use built-in case management tools to make workplace policy exceptions and handle unusual employee appeals or concerns regarding COVID-19.
- Privacy and security, which is offered by the Appian HIPAA-compliant cloud.
- Availability in multiple languages, including English, Italian, Spanish, German and French, with the ability to expand to other languages.
Pega COVID-19 Employee Safety and Business Continuity Tracker (www.pega.com/about/news/press-releases/pega-launches-free-app-help-clients-track-covid-19-employee-exposure-and) add-on module, call for price: Like most other COVID-19 tracking systems, the Pegasystems cloud software for internal business management and customer engagement allows employees to enter their data into the tracker by responding to a short set of risk-assessment questions. Those responses trigger a series of automated actions on the software’s dashboard, which helps businesses auto-manage COVID-19.
“With the state of the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly evolving, Pega quickly developed this app to help our clients ensure the well-being of their employees and customers while also helping to mitigate their business risks,” said Alan Trefler, CEO of Pegasystems.
Automated actions can be customized within the system to reflect a specific business’ unique COVID-19 policy. Customizable actions built into the system include:
- Analyzing employees’ risk levels (high, medium or low) based on screening questions.
- Sending tailored instructions to affected employees based on their risk levels.
- Alerting applicable managers and HR on newly assessed employees.
- Generating checklists for HR managers with actions for affected employees.
- Estimating the likely return-to-work date for employees.
- Sending employees reminders to update their COVID-19 health status.
Users can also configure the Pega app and integrate it with other existing systems, including HR and scheduling.
Joe Dysart is an internet speaker and business consultant based in Manhattan.