Tons of COVID-19 Response Technology is Available, but are Companies Using Them?

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From the very earliest days of the lockdowns that were put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, countless business leaders and government officials cried, “foul,” and said workplaces need to be open, people need to work. 

There’s no question both statements are true.  But, the unprecedented situation created by the rapid spread of the virus required an unprecedented response to allow appropriate measures to be implemented to ensure everyone’s safety. 

Many businesses were able to adjust quickly and transition employees to teleworking.  A fair number of already announced they would be continuing their remote work policies through the end of the year, into next year, or some even permanently, at least in some capacity. 

But, there are many more in industries that need to have employees on-site to function.   With the pandemic still raging, that means businesses have to implement new measures to not only comply with government mandates, but generally ensure the well-being of their workers and customers.

The good news is most businesses appear to be doing the simple things.  According to a recent survey of U.S. companies with more than 1,000 employees, conducted of by LTM Research on behalf of Appian, 100% of businesses are requiring face coverings in their facilities.  In addition, 79% are limiting capacity for distancing compliance (let’s assume many of the 21% that aren’t are in settings that are better suited for distancing, with offices, high-walled cubicles, and such). 

Only 78% are cleaning and sanitizing during the workday – which may seem like a good number, but considering the number of physical touchpoints in any building, it’s hard to imagine not needing to clean throughout the day.  More concerning is that even fewer (71%) are conducting daily health screenings.  With the number of self-assessment and automated thermal screening solutions available, to think that almost a third of businesses are not taking those steps to mitigate risk is surprising, especially considering that, once set up, these systems are essentially automated to minimize additional workload on HR teams and management, other than someone having to follow up with employees who have not been cleared to enter the workplace.

Here’s where the data gets a bit scary, and really shows a lack of understanding of what’s needed for an effective pandemic workplace strategy:  Most companies aren’t leveraging the tech that’s available to reduce risk in their workplaces.  Only 3% are investing in new technology for workplace safety, and only 11% are using any tech at all in their pandemic response strategies.  That means they are effectively relying on facemasks and occasional cleaning to keep infections down, and as we’ve seen in many cases, that’s hardly an effective strategy.

Given that, it’s hardly surprising that a third of respondents aren’t confident they can comply with government regulations, and even fewer feel they can adequately sanitize office spaces – and only about half feel they can provide adequate access to testing for employees.  Also, despite 100% of them requiring facemasks, only 62% think they can provide appropriate access to PPE.

It’s also not surprising that list of top things respondents are concerned their existing technology can’t address includes:

  • PPE management
  • Location tracing
  • Employee health data protection
  • Compliance with government regulations
  • Contact tracing

Many of the software solutions that have become available in recent months are designed to help with these very processes, including contact tracing and collaboration with labs to ensure access to testing.

“Software is essential for a safe return to the workplace.  When dealing with the health and well being of hundreds or thousands of people, businesses need the speed that software delivers in tracking daily health updates, monitoring test results, identifying potential exposures, and conducting contact tracing.”

Matt Calkins, CEO, Appian

Appian is just one of many companies that has launched COVID-19 response solutions to help businesses transition safely back to workplaces.  Its Workforce Safety and Readiness application enables organizations to manage the complexities of re-opening during the pandemic through automated processes that enable safer environments and compliance with government regulations and company policies.  Similarly, Appian’s CampusPass solution, which was developed in collaboration with the University of South Florida, provides a similar automated solution for schools as they re-open their buildings and campuses to students. 

Most recently, Appian worked with digital health company Everlywell to integrate at-home sample collection and delivery to Everlywell and its lab partners for testing into the Workforce Safety and CampusPass solutions.

Appian isn’t alone.  Countless other companies have also launched pandemic tech solutions to help companies re-open safely and efficiently.

These are only a few of the many solutions that leverage automation to help companies reopen safely.  The last thing any company wants is to have to close down again for a significant period due to a major outbreak because it hasn’t implemented appropriate controls.  But that’s exactly what could happen, given the lack of action companies are prepared to take in response to confirmed infections.

  • 54% will immediately report employee or customer infections to their local health districts.
  • 54% will shut down their operations for deep sanitation if possible.
  • 50% will professionally clean and sanitize their facilities.
  • 49% will work with their local health departments to identify potentially exposed individuals to help facilitate contact tracing.
  • 25% will reopen in consultation with their local health departments.

That’s scary, and it doesn’t bode well for those businesses or their employees. After several months of lockdowns and revenue loss, it’s easy to understand why companies are reluctant to spend on new technology.  But, the fact is, with the way this virus has been spreading, without the software in place to manage it, it’s almost impossible to open doors without significant risk.