Social Distancing Technology That Aims To Protect The Workforce

September 1, 2020 by Andrea Williams
Read in 6 Minutes

When it comes to the health and wellness of the workforce, there is a rise in technologies that can be used to also keep the workplace well and healthy. Sensors, smart air devices, touchless experiences and more are shaping what a return to the office may look like. 

Other technologies that being evaluated are looking more at, ok, what do we do if spaces become contaminated or our employees become ill to prevent another shutdown. 

Contact tracing, for one, can become incredibly important in this new landscape. Unfortunately, it’s somewhat controversial when it comes the safety and data privacy for employees and the enterprise.

In the event of major exposure, companies need to be able to identify who and what is contaminated. That might also include workspaces, surfaces, rooms, and much more. It’s a whole thing.

There’s a other methods and technologies that can help in these types of circumstances from a proactive approach - before the threat of exposure occurs. 

Why Contact Tracing Alone Is Not Enough

Traditional contact tracing technologies can be considered reactive. It spurs reaction after an event has occurred, or in this case after infection or exposure. It’s not ideal for positive workplace wellness campaigns, because there’s no true workplace readiness solution in place.

While traditional tracing certainly reveals how infection may be spreading, by the time someone — or something — is identified, it’s too late. Incidents are logged incrementally, but as time passes more and more infected are coming into contact and interacting with one another. They’re also interacting with the surrounding environment, contaminating surfaces both in their areas and within communal spaces.

It’s a viable method for logging and tracking information, which can be used later to inform future decisions. 

A June 2020 poll revealed that just 48% of people wear masks at all times. Just imagine the rapid spread of either COVID or another virus, even with traditional contact tracing protocols in place. There would be no way to keep up.

There is technology that exists to help alleviate some of the tracing efforts. It might include sensors, beacons, and WiFi hotspots all of which are used to collect and store data through various access points in the connected workplace.

Proactive Technology Can Bridge the Gaps

In reality, most organizations should have both reactive and proactive technologies in place, working in tandem. All company protocols should be focused on detecting issues, yes, but they should also involve predicting events and trying to mitigate danger before it’s a major problem.

  • Proactive Technology Tech, platforms, and devices designed to prevent and mitigate exposure. 
  • Reactive Technology Tech, platforms, and devices designed to measure, and communicate details after exposure.

There is a stark difference between the two types of technology, particularly when it comes to taking action to prevent the spread of a dangerous illness.

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What Is Proactive Technology In The Workplace?

An excellent example of a more proactive approach is a system that sends out social distancing alerts, whether via mobile, email, or an intranet-based platform. The system would take into account a wide variety of locational, spatial, and personal data — without breaching privacy. Using this content it can determine how close people are to one another, objects, and even critical surfaces like a desk or conference table.

Then, the system automatically sends out alerts to potential contacts when they come within an area. It can identify when they’re not following social distancing requirements in the office, who they’ve come into contact with, or even who is potentially infected.

The idea is less about being an intrusive watchdog and more about prioritizing the health and safety of a workforce. It’s not looking at what a person is doing or why, but merely where they’re too close to colleagues and what that means for the greater population. Think of it as a sort of peer to peer technology that is merely designed to improve visibility for contact tracing.

How Can This Technology Be Used In the Workplace?

The example above is an obvious solution or appropriate way to use the technology in the workplace, but there are some other options, too:

  • Incidents can also be logged for later use to improve contact tracing efforts
  • With mobile and app-based solutions, the technology can also be used outside of the local network, even off-site
  • Additional layers of contact tracing can be applied, with mobile devices logging computer usage, workspace assignments, and other data through WiFi and geofencing sensors
  • Locational and reservation data can be used to discern what rooms need to be cleaned or avoided altogether to prevent the spread of illness
  • HR and groups that have a database of contacts can use incoming data to communicate who’s ill, who they’ve interacted with, and who might be infected but not showing symptoms

Interested in more helpful technologies that can aid in your Back To Work planning?

Aiding Social Distancing Efforts

The real value in these types of systems and technologies is that they can significantly improve social distancing efforts, to keep everyone safe and in good health. When an infection is imminent, the technology can also empower contact tracing efforts, turning them into something proactive, as opposed to just reactive - as sort of a catch-all.

Most importantly, social distancing alerts are a real-time approach to communicating with the workforce, while keeping them at an arm’s length for everyone’s safety and protection. It’s about prioritizing physical distancing with the help of modern technology.

Location aware employee experiences

Andrea is the Director of Marketing. She is passionate about hand-crafted brand messaging, marketing, and product stories at the intersection of market trends, development, and go-to-market strategies.