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Checking in on Contact Tracing

Checking In on Contact Tracing

Oct. 1, 2020
Companies are relying on technology to assure employees that the workforce is safe.

As companies have been dealing with contact tracing for COVID-19 over the past few months, a new survey has uncovered some lessons learned.

“Hindsight 2020: COVID-19 Concerns into 2021,” by the Workforce Institute at UKG and Workplace Intelligence, found that only a fraction of employees (20%) felt their organization met their needs during the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic.  However, things have improved since the beginning of the pandemic and a third of employees globally (33%) say they trust their employer more now than before the pandemic began because of how organizations reacted.

“While organizations made mistakes during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, employees also recognize the unprecedented nature of this once-in-a-generation event," said Dan Schawbel, best-selling author and managing partner, Workplace Intelligence; advisory board member, The Workforce Institute at UKG, in a statement.

"Instead of dwelling on what went wrong, employees want their employers to adapt and evolve as quickly as possible," Schawbel added.”Those that have made changes to address protect employees – specifically physically, emotionally, and with economic stability – have earned newfound employee trust, which will be a valuable commodity that helps ensure future success.”

And that trust is necessary as almost half (46%) of those surveyed say quick notification about confirmed COVID-19 cases in the workplace is their top concern. And this concern tops any issue over privacy. Only 13% of all employees are worried about movements being tracked at work to fight COVID-19 – including fewer than one in 10 Gen Zers and younger Millennials (8%) – signaling they may recognize the immediate safety benefits in this approach to aid contact tracing.

“And while it’s just one tool in the toolkit, COVID-19 contact tracing has become core to the many policies and processes that employers are putting in place to protect and support their workforce,” explains Gregg Gordon, vice president of industry for UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group).

“So when you think about communicating safe work practices to public health officials, it’s really beneficial to be able to demonstrate that your organization has a COVID-19 contact tracing program in place that enables your supervisors or managers to rapidly identify and notify individuals across the workforce who may have been exposed at work. What this says to public health authorities is that your business will not be calling on the local health department for urgent assistance if an employee gets sick; you’ve got everything in place to properly manage the situation on your own.”

Gordon points out that his company, which provides workplace solutions to many industries, is seeing many different approaches in and outside of the workplace, whether that’s leveraging digital signals like GPS or Bluetooth, using wearables, thermal imaging, facial recognition, or workforce management technology to trace potential contacts. 

UKG provides a self-service reporting tool that allows companies the ability to analyze their existing labor records, including time and attendance and geo-location data, to generate a simple report that they can use to quickly identify and communicate to employees who may have come in contact at work with a COVID-positive co-worker.

“As we see it, there are many benefits to utilizing organizations’ existing systems and stored data for contact tracing, versus asking them to purchase and implement an all-new technology – especially considering the financial impact many have endured,” says Gordon. 

There are many challenges companies are facing. The first being, says Gordon, is that contact tracing programs are not rolled-out overnight. “Having the technology in place is just one piece; you also need to assemble a plan for how that report is utilized internally, and how staff are notified, followed up with, paid while away from work, and eventually brought back to work after a period of quarantine.”

Many organizations are supplementing the data from their contact tracing report with employee questionnaires or internal dashboards looking at rising cases in the U.S. so they can identify vulnerabilities and plan better.

Gordon cites the example of one organization was tracking about 2,000 reported cases within their workforce in mid-July, 300 of which were confirmed COVID-19 cases, and 40 of which were exposed while at work.

“Overall, COVID-19 contact tracing is quite an undertaking, regardless of what methods are used – and because of this, the fact that still, relatively few organizations across the U.S. have implemented contact tracing programs is not entirely surprising,” said Gordon.

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