Businesses Get Buy-in, Increase Compliance with COVID-19 Mobile Apps

COVID-19 has changed the way people around the world work – forever. While many front-line workers such as those in healthcare, first responders, and those who work in essential industries didn’t have a chance to work remotely, most others did.

Now, depending on where you live and the local rate of spread, businesses are either opening up their factories and offices or considering it. The big issue remains when to bring workers back to the office, how to stagger shifts or open up more distance between workspaces, all while keeping everyone healthy.

Although many employers have put off a decision on whether to bring workers back until early fall, Google and Facebook already have announced that workers don’t have to return to the office until summer 2021. Australian software maker Atlassian has told its 5,000 employees they never have to return to the office.

As companies consider back-to-work policies and procedures, they must weigh safety and compliance issues against employee comfort returning to the workplace. Fortunately, mobile apps can help with employee attestation of health status before returning to work and as a medium to relay office/building policies and practices they must follow.

Variety of opening plans, scenarios

Overcoming employee objections is a huge consideration, evidenced by a global survey of 750,000 that indicated only 4% wanted to return to working in the office full time once pandemic restrictions are eased.

An American survey of 2,000 office workers in June showed that 86% favor a staggered, four-day work week, while nearly two-thirds would object to being tested for coronavirus by their employers. Asked about precautionary measures, people said they preferred daily in-person screenings, capacity limits in elevators/offices and no more handshakes, fist bumps or hugs.

New York, for example, takes a commonsense approach to its office reopening protocols. In phase two, office capacity is capped at 50% of the maximum permissible occupancy. Other provisions include maintaining six feet of separation, limiting gatherings (think conference rooms), providing free face coverings, adopting rigorous sanitation practices and keeping records of those who have close contact with others in the workplace. The state also mandates employee screening prior to work for those who test positive for COVID-19, are experiencing symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has shown symptoms.

Even in areas with little or no guidance on how to safely resume activities, companies struggle to keep track of the cleaning and monitoring tasks that their workforce requires. That’s why mobile apps for employee attestation and notification make sense. 

Detail building, company reopening policies

Mobile phone use is nearly ubiquitous among Americans of all ages, with most users employing apps to shop, read, catch up on news and perform many more tasks. Hospitals and health systems have pioneered the use of branded apps that act as the front door of the facility, helping patients make appointments, discover relevant information about their conditions and procedures and find their way around facilities.

Employers, building landlords, manufacturers, college and university executives and other businesses can easily adopt mobile apps to prompt attestation of COVID-19 status or to provide information about operating policies before workers, students and guests arrive.

A notification app can provide general information about a facility and detail specifics regarding opening hours, entry procedures and other policies that can be customized based on employer and local regulations. For companies working on a staggered schedule, for example, the specific policy concerning what employees or employee groups report on what day(s) can be outlined.

Before arriving for work or on campus, the user can attest that he/she has read the policies and procedures and agrees to abide by them.

Employee self-serve attestation

A mobile app that allows workers to review a checklist of COVID-19 symptoms and answer questions can reduce the need for staff at building doors performing checks or reduce the time required for each check. Apps can be quite detailed, interacting with ID badges that allow building entry, using GPS to track movements within an office, geofencing around a building to prompt users to fill out the questionnaire and include Bluetooth compatibility. However, most companies that adopt such an app for attestation often keep it simple, which speeds adoption.

On a timetable set by the app owner, a worker receives an in-app prompt to answer the screening questions, which can be customized based on local regulations or company policies. The worker receives a green/yellow/red status based on the answers given, with instructions on what to do next – that could be to proceed to work, notify HR/supervisor, stay home, etc.

What’s more, information from the apps can flow to HR systems to allow for auditing and identification of workers who haven’t complied.

Conclusion

Whether a vaccine is found tomorrow – or never – the business world will continue to cope with pandemic impacts for years. Rather than adopt a piecemeal approach to reopening, businesses should carefully consider all options before plotting a path forward. For many, using mobile apps to communicate operational policies and let workers self-serve attestation makes perfect sense.

Bruce Kennedy

About the Author
Bruce Kennedy is Vice President of Provider Development at MobileSmith Health. A healthcare marketing strategist with more than 20 years’ experience in multiple care delivery environments, including surgical patient safety and quality and digital hospital product development, Kennedy leads MobileSmith Health’s expansion of new and existing hospital client and project growth as well as oversees client success operations and client application utilization.