The Ultimate Back to Work Guide
COVID-19 has made business as usual anything but usual — and safely operating your business is harder today than ever before.
This guide offers support and ideas for safely returning to work.
Return to Work Safely after COVID
Slowly but surely, businesses across America are beginning to return to work after COVID-19. But how do businesses ensure that when they get employees back to work, they do so safely?
At Wachter, we’ve researched the options in depth — both for our own workforce and so that we can provide the safest recommendations and solutions to our clients. Here you’ll find a summary of the resources we’ve found for getting back to work safely after COVID.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the first agency that comes to mind for issues of workplace and employee safety.
And OSHA’s Guidance on Returning to Work offers a great starting point for creating a back to work plan.
First, OSHA recommends that employers follow its guidelines alongside the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 and the White House’s Guidelines for Opening Up America Again.
According to the OSHA report, all plans should consider local mandates and incorporate the following guiding principles.
Summary of OSHA Guidance on Returning to Work
Perform a Hazard Assessment
- Determine employees and situations most at risk for exposure to SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19)
- Provide hand washing and sanitizing supplies
- Encourage hand hygiene
- Identify and frequently sanitize high traffic areas where the virus is likely to spread
Encourage Social Distancing
- Limit building occupancy
- Mark 6-foot zones on the floor in areas like time clocks and restrooms where lines may tend to form
- Use signage to encourage social distancing
Identify and Isolate Infected Employees
- Ask employees to self-report symptoms and to stay at home if they feel sick
- Establish procedures to manage anyone who becomes sick while on site
Returning to Work After Exposure or Infection
Controls are physical and administrative changes to the environment to provide additional protection
- Examples of physical controls include acrylic barriers and increased ventilation
- Examples of administrative controls include varying work shifts and using video conferencing in lieu of face-to-face meetings
- Recommending the use of cloth face coverings (which DO NOT qualify as PPE), as well as providing and requiring the use of PPE, are also considered controls
- Review and edit policies and procedures
- Communicate workplace flexibilities and options that are available to employees
- Examples include remote work, sick leave, and workplace fatigue procedures
- Train employees on exposure risks, what the company is doing to protect them, and how they should protect themselves
- Train employees on the use of cloth face coverings, and where required, PPE
- Make sure that employees know their rights to a safe workplace, how to raise questions or concerns, and that employers retaliating against an employee for raising concerns is prohibited
Most employers are familiar with these OSHA recommendations and have been using them as we’ve navigated stay-at-home orders and lockdowns. What other resources are available for businesses looking to safely reopen their workplaces?
Cleveland Clinic is an academic medical center that is routinely named one of the best hospitals in America.
Cleveland Clinic’s COVID-19: Creating a Safe Workplace includes a wealth of resources, including guides that are applicable to everyone as well as guides customized for specific industries.
Much like network security experts use multiple layers of hardening to protect your data infrastructure from viruses and attacks, Cleveland Clinic recommends the Swiss Cheese model, where businesses stack multiple layers of defense to provide a dense network of COVID protection.
In addition to the standard protection measures we’re all used to taking (like social distancing, hand washing, and wearing face coverings), Cleveland Clinic recommends these additional efforts for employers looking to get back to work.
Summary of Cleveland Clinic's COVID-19: Creating a Safe Workplace
- Coughing or shortness of breath
- Additional signs of illness, like fatigue or flushed cheeks
Communicate with Employees
- Develop a COVID-19 Task Force
- Consistently provide communications from leadership
- Adjust how you communicate if necessary
- Remind employees to be vigilant, and to identify unsafe practices
- Tell employees you appreciate them
- Monitor and respond to comments on intranets and social media
Prepare the Workplace
- Analyze what needs to be cleaned and what cleaning resources are needed
- Clean surfaces with appropriate cleaners or disinfectants, following instructions on the label
- Regularly clean or replace air filters
- Frequently disinfect frequently touched surfaces
- Review and revise routine cleaning plans
Employee Wellness and Resiliency
Encourage employees to stay well in body, mind, and spirit through outlets such as:
- Healthy eating
- Connecting with others
- Taking a physical and mental break
Another top U.S. hospital, Mayo Clinic, shares firsthand experience and professional expertise for businesses returning to work.
Mayo Clinic’s COVID-19 Resources for Businesses provides a roundup of informational resources, including:
- How to wear and care for a cloth mask
- Videos showing proper protocols for hand washing and hand sanitization
- COVID-19 mental health resources, including managing stress and staying healthy during remote work
- Printable posters for mask and hand washing compliance
The resources above apply to businesses nationwide. However, there are also COVID reopening resources that are more specialized.
Many organizations and publications geared toward human resources professionals have resource centers or other outlets with great information on COVID-19 and reopening workplaces safely. Note that in some cases, select resources will be limited to members or subscribers only.
- The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) COVID-19 resource center
- The National Human Resources Association (NHRA) COVID-19 resource center
- Human Resources Executive Coronavirus section, as well as COLLECTION: Strategies to manage coronavirus in the workplace
- MRA - The Management Association COVID-19 resources
- ThinkHR COVID-19 Crisis Response Center
Follow Local Reopening Guidelines
Businesses reopening after COVID-19 must also pay close attention to local regulations. From states to counties — and even individual cities — each location where you do business will have its own back to work requirements. And as things progress, these mandates may progress and regress, so keep checking.
Here’s a local back to work resource roundup, with just a few of the assets we uncovered.
National Governors Association State Reopening Plans
The National Governors Association (NGA) is a great resource for COVID-19 information. The NGA offers two different state-by-state reopening charts:
- Summary of State Actions Addressing Business Reopenings
- Summary of Public Health Criteria in Reopening Plans
We’ve provided additional state-by-state collections of back to work information below.
Government Lists of State-by-State Back to Work Plans:
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Reopening Guidance Currently Available by State
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce Reopening Business: State-Specific Guidance (Click each state for a summary of state guidelines and a link to the governor’s reopening plan)
Business / Agency Lists of State-by-State Back to Work Plans:
- AARP List of Coronavirus-Related Restrictions in Every State
- MultiState COVID-19 State Reopening Guide and COVID-19 Policy Tracker
- Littler Bouncing Back: A List of Statewide Return to Work Protocols
- Food Industry Association (FMI) COVID-19 - State Reopening Plans
Media Lists of State-by-State Back to Work Plans:
- USA Today Coronavirus reopening: Map of COVID-19 case trends, reopening status and mobility
- New York Times See How All 50 States Are Reopening (and Closing Again)
- CNN This is where each state is during its phased reopening
- Fox Business Coronavirus impact: State-by-state re-openings & restrictions
These lists cover statewide reopening plans across the country. However, each company must also abide by mandates from the local municipalities where they do business. Because there are thousands of cities and counties in the U.S., this step will take individual research.
Local Back to Work Requirements:
First: Identify Municipalities
Identify every municipality (including cities and counties) where your employees will do business (not counting work from home).
- For many companies, this will be a short list with just one — or a handful — of options
- For a nationwide company like Wachter, this will be a large and ever-changing list
Second: Search Each Municipality
Search Google for phrases that include your municipality.
Here some are results we found from cities and counties across the country — and the search phrases we used to find them—to get you started:
Search phrase: Philadelphia back to work
Search phrase: Fulton County, GA back to work
Search phrase: Back to work requirements Kansas City MO
- KCMO Reopens FAQ
- Planning for a Coronavirus Pandemic: A Guide for Business and Organizations
- Safe Return Guide - Prepare Metro KC
Search phrase: Irvine CA rules to reopen
Third: Check Back Frequently
Continue to check back frequently for updates or changes to your local reopening requirements.
Follow Industry-Specific Organization Guidelines
In addition to federal, state, and local reopening requirements, each individual business environment presents unique challenges for getting back to work. And because Wachter’s clients represent so many vast industries, the list is long.
- Sanitation and Cleanliness
- Social Distancing
- Preventing Spread
Here is Wachter’s industry-specific back to work resource roundup.
- Churches and Community Organizations
- Commercial and Office Environments
- Education and Childcare
- Higher Education
- Hospitality and Events
- Industrial and Manufacturing
- Non-Essential Healthcare
- Salons and Spas
- Warehousing and Logistics
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Transportation (DOT), and Health and Human Service (HHS)
- Runway to Recovery: The United States Framework for Airlines and Airports to Mitigate the Public Health Risks of Coronavirus
US Travel Association
- COVID-19 Travel Industry Research
- Industry Guidance for Promoting the Health and Safety of All Travelers
International Air Transport Association (IATA)
Churches and Community / Nonprofit Organizations
Healthcare Working Group (AIHA)
The Center for Non-Profits
Commercial and Office Environments
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Education and Childcare
- Considerations for Schools
- Childcare, Schools, and Youth Programs,
- Interim Guidance for Administrators of US K-12 Schools and Child Care Programs
- Guidance for Child Care Programs that Remain Open: Supplemental Guidance
- Reopening Decision Tree for Schools
National Association of School Psychologists (NASP)
National School Boards Association (NSBA)
Gyms and Fitness Centers
International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA)
In addition, many states and local municipalities offer specific recommendations for reopening gyms and fitness facilities, including:
County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health
California Department of Public Health
City of St. Louis
Tennessee Governor’s Office
Connecticut’s Official State Website
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
City of Miami
Office of the Texas Governor
American Medical Association (AMA)
- COVID-19: A physician practice guide to reopening
- Podcast: Reopening Practices in Light of COVID-19
American College of Surgeons (ACS)
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)
- CMS Releases Recommendations on Adult Elective Surgeries, Non-Essential Medical, Surgical, and Dental Procedures During COVID-19 Response and PDF
American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP)
Medical Group Management Association (MGMA)
- COVID-19 Medical Practice Reopening Checklist
Provider Reopening Plans and Communications
- California Medical Association Guidelines and Recommendations for Reopening the Health Care System
- Community Medical Group (CMG) Post-COVID-19 Practice Recovery Toolkit
- Liberty Hospital Ready For You: COVID-Recovery
Main Line Health Physician Partners (MLHPP) COVID-19 Ambulatory Recovery Planning Toolkit
- Johns Hopkins Patient Information & Resources During COVID-19
Pennsylvania Medical Society Guidelines for Reopening the Health Care System
- Phelps Health Reopening Healthcare Services: What You Need to Know
College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPAHR)
American College Health Association (ACHA)
Hospitality and Events
American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA)
- COVID-19 Resource Center
- Stay Safe: Enhanced Industry-wide Hotel Cleaning Guidelines in response to COVID-19
American Alliance for Museums (AAM)
- Reopening: Guidance for Museums and Collecting Institutions
- Guidance for Small Lodging Establishments
- Guidance for Small and Medium Sports and Entertainment Venues
Event Safety Alliance (ESA)
Industrial and Manufacturing
New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program, Inc. (NJMEP)
Non-Essential Medical Procedures and Additional Health Providers
Hospitals and many other healthcare providers have remained open throughout the Coronavirus pandemic. However, those who closed are no seeking guidance as they begin to see patients again.
Non-Essential Medical Procedures
- CMS Releases Recommendations on Adult Elective Surgeries, Non-Essential Medical, Surgical, and Dental Procedures During COVID-19 Response and PDF
American Dental Association (ADA)
America Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA)
American Chiropractic Association (ACA)
International Chiropractors Association (ICA)
World Federation of Chiropractic (WFC)
American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources for the Physical Therapy Profession
- Considerations for Outpatient Physical Therapy Clinics During the COVID-19 Public Health Crisis
Private Practice Section (PPS) of the APTA
American Society of Acupuncturists (ASA)
Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (CCAOM)
American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA)
Social Workers and Psychotherapists
National Association of Social Workers (NASW)
American Psychological Association (APA)
- COVID-19 Information and Resources
- COVID-19: When is it OK to resume in-person services?
- COVID-19: What the Ethics Code says about reopening your practice now
American Psychiatric Association (APA)
- Coronavirus / COVID-19 Information Hub
- Practice Guidance for COVID-19
American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT)
American Counseling Association (ACA)
National Restaurant Association (NRA)
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
- Best Practices for Re-Opening Retail Food Establishments During the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Best Practices for Retail Food Stores, Restaurants
- Food Pick-Up/Delivery Services During the COVID-19 Pandemic, and Food Safety and the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
National Retail Federation (NRF)
- Guidance for retailers on safely operating stores
- Coronavirus Retail Restrictions by State
NRF + Seyfarth
NRF + Retail Leaders Industry Association (RILA)
International Council for Shopping Centers (ICSC)
Salons and Spas
Professional Beauty Association (PBA)
International Spa Association (ISPA)
Warehousing and Logistics
International Warehouse Logistics Association (IWLA)
Global Cold Chain Alliance (GCCA)
- Tracking State and Local Orders and Reopening Guidance Affecting Manufacturing and Warehousing Operations
Familiarize yourself with recommendations and requirements within your state and local municipalities. Look both for general recommendations as well as those aimed at specific industries.
Deploying Technology to Return to Work After COVID-19
Digital transformation and digital disruption have generated buzz for the past few years. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, the critical need for relevant technologies — paired with the need to pivot quickly and deploy rapidly — has led to a global wave of actual digital disruption.
Companies who can quickly identify a gap, select a trusted partner, and deploy a relevant technology can return to work while mitigating risks, such as infection spread or further business disruption.
The technologies that can help companies return to work are vast. Here are a few back to work technologies that address the most pressing needs of businesses today.
Employee Temperature Checks
One way to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19 within a business is to take employee temperature checks before the start of each shift.
Many states recommend, and states even require, employers to perform employee wellness checks. Here’s just a sampling of state requirements for employee temperature checks.
State-by-State Guidelines for Employee Temperature Checks and / or Wellness Screening
- Arkansas, and specifically for restaurants and gyms
- Delaware (plus additional requirements)
- Idaho, specifically for restaurants, indoor gyms and recreational facilities, and close contact services
- Iowa (+ additional recommendations from the Iowa Economic Authority)
- Maine, specifically for healthcare and critical infrastructure workers
- Massachusetts, specifically for close contact personal services, construction, driving and flight schools, fitness centers and health clubs, golf facilities, indoor and outdoor events, indoor recreation, laboratories, libraries, lodging facilities, manufacturing, cultural and historical facilities, office spaces, restaurants, retail, and theaters
- Nebraska, specifically for restaurants, salons, long term care facilities, and massage therapists
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York, specifically for schools, higher education, low risk indoor and outdoor arts and entertainment, media production, professional sports without fans, and malls
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina, specifically for restaurants
- South Dakota
- Texas (and PDF)
- Washington, specifically for retail and construction
- Washington, D.C., specifically for food retail (grocery stores) and restaurants
- West Virginia, specifically for government buildings, bowling alleys and indoor recreation, low contact outdoor sports, casinos, dance and sports training facilities, gyms and fitness centers, spas and massage therapy, movie theaters, museums, retail, small businesses, summer camps, swimming pools, wellness centers run by licensed healthcare providers, and zoos
The only states where we couldn’t immediately locate a state guidance on taking employee temperatures and / or performing wellness screenings are Florida, Hawaii, Oklahoma, and Missouri.
Self-Reporting: Voluntary Data Reporting for Employee Temperatures
The first method of checking employee temperatures is via self-reporting.
Self-Screening at Home + 'Stay Home If You’re Sick' Signs
The most hands-off method of self-reporting involves asking employees to self-screen before leaving home, and posting signs asking that nobody enter the premises if they are experiencing any signs or symptoms of COVID-19.
Sample Posters for Self-Reporting COVID-19 Signs
Utilize the following poster resources as-is, or as inspiration to create your own — remind employees and visitors not to enter the building if they have a fever or other symptoms of Coronavirus.
- CDC: STOP! Stay Home When You Are Sick Poster
- CDC: 5 Safety Steps Poster
- CDC: Symptoms of Coronavirus Poster
- Ohio Department of Health: STOP Welcome Sign
- Ohio Department of Health: STOP Sign
- Michigan Occupational Safety & Health Administration (MIOSHA): Workplace Safety Guidelines Poster
- County of Los Angeles Public Health: Protect Yourself and Others from COVID-19 Poster
Employers must carefully consider the questions they’ll ask employees to ask themselves each day before coming to work.
The CDC recommends four simple self-screening questions:
- Am I experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19?
- Do I have a fever at or above 100.4°F*?
- Am I being tested for COVID-19 and awaiting the results?
- Have I been diagnosed with COVID-19 AND not yet cleared to stop isolating?
*Healthcare and other critical environments may set a lower threshold
While self-screening is the least involved way to manage employee wellness checks, it is also potentially the least effective. It’s easy to get into a rhythm and forget to be cognizant of your symptoms. And with nobody monitoring the results, it’s also possible to still come into work when you knowingly answered “yes” to one or more of the screening questions.
COVID-19 Employee Screening Questionnaires
The next method of self-reporting requires employees to complete a self-screening questionnaire.
Self-screening forms can be deployed via four primary methods:
- A web form completed on the employee’s personal device or computer
- An interactive form completed on a company kiosk
- A paper form completed by the employee
- A digital or paper form completed by a screener who documents the employee’s responses
Paper forms are the easiest to deploy but come with a few drawbacks.
First, printing out a form for every single employee, every single day, isn't eco-friendly and can become costly.
Second, while there is no evidence of viral spread via paperwork, paper forms create a paper trail that passes from every employee, through the screener, and into HR (or wherever the forms are stored).
Third (and perhaps most concerning), in an age where data is king, paper forms give no access to trends or insights. Without manually recording each employee’s responses into a spreadsheet, all that you have is a stack of papers to sift through in the event of an outbreak.
Digital forms provide instant access to data and actionable insights.
And if employees complete the form on their own cell phone, tablet, or computer, there is no risk of cross contamination.
When delivered via a shared office kiosk, digital forms add an extra layer of complexity to both technology deployment and sanitization protocols.
Sample Questionnaires for Employee Self-Reporting
Use the following resources as-is, or as guidance to develop your own employee self-screening form.
- Colorado Employee Health Screening Form
- Washington State Department of Health Guidance for Daily COVID-19 Symptom Screening of Staff and Guests
- South Dakota Department of Health COVID-19: Employee Screening Questions and Guidelines
- Kansas Department of Health and Environment Employee Health Screening Form
- Fresno County Department of Public Health COVID-19 Non-Medical Employer Screening Tool
- SHRM COVID-19 Employee Health-Screening Form
Considerations When Utilizing a Screener for Self-Reporting Questionnaires
When using a screener to document employees’ COVID-19 questionnaire responses, employers must also protect the screener and employees.
1. Social Distancing
Ensure that screeners and employees stay at least 6 feet apart
2. Barriers or Partitions
Separate the screener from the employee via a plastic or glass partition
3. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Screeners should wear PPE, and should change PPE after each screening that involves contact or after several screenings without contact.
In addition to viral spread concerns, paying a screener to collect each employee’s responses also adds ongoing human capital costs.
Regardless of the deployment method, self-screening questionnaires involve more oversight than self-screening at home, because rather than simply coming into work after (hopefully) contemplating the questions, the employee’s responses are documented.
However, an employee could still falsely record lack of symptoms, either to avoid being sent home or simply because they haven’t stopped to check their temperature or paid attention to other symptoms.
No-Touch Manual Employee Temperature Checks
For employers looking to check employee temperatures, the first requirement is that the solution must be non-contact. For manual temperature readings, this means a non-contact infrared thermometer (NCIT) instead of a traditional in-ear or oral thermometers.
However, this method poses several complexities.
First, screeners are required. As with screener-gathered questionnaires, utilizing screeners is costly and requires precautions to avoid viral spread between screener and employee.
Second, NCIT thermometers read differently than oral and tympanic thermometers. This isn’t necessarily a problem, but employers must consider the thermometer type when establishing temperature thresholds.
Third is the element of human error. NCIT devices must be held perpendicular to an unobstructed forehead, at the distance specified by the manufacturer.
Fourth, establishing an employee temperature check program takes a bit of thought and expertise. If you simply order thermometers online, there’s nobody walking you through the decision-making process. With a homespun plan, nobody with a trained eye is evaluating your facility and asking questions like:
- Where in the facility is the optimal place to take temperature readings?
- How can we alter the environment to best ensure accurate readings?
- How do we ensure employee temperatures have adjusted from external influences (like a hot sunny day or a snowstorm)?
- How (and how often) should we calibrate our devices?
Finally, NCIT devices don’t natively store temperatures or provide actionable data. Examining data can show trends such as an uncharacteristically high number of high / failure readings (perhaps the device needs to be calibrated or you’re dealing with an outbreak), a sudden change in average readings, or identifying a certain employee who somehow made it through without being scanned.
However, NCIT devices are a relatively affordable option for employee temperature checks.
Thermal Temperature Monitoring
Thermographic imaging systems operate without contact and have multiple uses.
What is Thermal Imaging?
While thermal imaging technology may sound new, it’s been around since the 1960’s.
How is Thermal Imaging Used?
Firefighters use thermal imaging to locate hot spots, for outdoor search and rescue, and when fighting forest fires. Law enforcement uses thermal imaging for fugitive searches, surveillance, and search and rescue.
Wachter’s electrical teams utilize thermography to identify anomalies and weak points within electrical system connections.
How Does Thermal Imaging Enable Employee Temperature Screening?
Thermal temperature monitoring allows employers to efficiently screen employees for elevated body temperatures from a distance — without requiring any contact.
TempWatch by Wachter: Temperature Monitoring and Mask Detection
Wachter's TempWatch solution combines thermal imaging and AI technologies to provide elevated temperature detection.
TempWatch also detects mask usage and requires no operator intervention.
How Does TempWatch Work?
TempWatch alarms when an employee’s temperature exceeds the threshold and / or if they aren’t following prescribed masking protocols.
And visual annunciation provides an easy-to-follow stop or go alert to the employee.
Expert Setup and Integration
IoT technology experts examine your facility and operations to identify unique requirements for your TempWatch system setup. This ensures that you utilize the best location and the best protocols to drive accurate thermal temperature monitoring results.
And if desired, TempWatch can be integrated with your access control system for further customization.
Coordinate with HR For Employee Temperature Checks
Whichever method you choose for employee temperature checks and / or health and wellness screenings, check with your HR and legal team to ensure that all measures are appropriate and are managed correctly.
While employers are allowed to check temperatures and ask limited wellness questions, all activities must comply with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. According to The National Law Review, medical data must be stored separate from personnel files, and employers should also require employees to review and sign a notice concerning privacy and confidentiality — with additional requirements if the California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA) is applicable.
Also be prepared to respond with HR- and Legal-approved strategies if an employee fails a screening or refuses to take a questionnaire or temperature screening.
Social Distancing and Contact Tracing
According to the CDC, while employee screening is important, “Screening and health checks are not a replacement for other protective measures such as social distancing.”
Technology to Encourage Social Distancing
Wearables for workers have provided digital workforce management in the employee safety and IIoT realm for years. But in the post-COVID workplace, wearable devices provide a simple, effective method to encourage social distancing.
How Wearable Devices Encourage Social Distancing
Today's wearable technologies allow for social distancing management. Employees simply wear a small device, or tag.
The wireless wearable device can take many forms, including:
- Tag on a wrist strap
- Tag on a lanyard
- Tag on a key fob
These tags run on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), which detect other BLE devices in the vicinity. When two tags come too close to one another, the devices alert both users of the proximity. Alert options include:
- An audible chirp
- A visible flashing LED light
Contact Tracing Technology for Business
The CDC says that if an employee tests positive for COVID-19, the employer needs to identify and inform coworkers who may have been exposed, while also maintaining confidentiality per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Similar wearable BLE tags can provide employee contact tracing.
The contact tracing solution's software will record each time employees come in contact with one another.
If an employee later tests positive for COVID-19, HR can seamlessly identify and communicate with every coworker that was in proximity and at risk of infection.
ContactWatch: End-to-End Social Distancing and Contact Tracing Technology
The real magic happens when you combine social distancing and contact tracing technology into one end-to-end solution.
ContactWatch by Wachter is fast, affordable, and simple to use — and it can be deployed quickly, to make an instant impact in your back to work planning.
How Does ContactWatch Work?
Employers decide how close is too close (usually 6 feet), and how long is too long to be that close (perhaps 15 seconds — so that you don't set off an alert every time you pass someone in the hallway).
Then employees simply wear their tags.
Real-time in-the-moment alerts remind coworkers when they're too close for too long.
And the powerful cloud-based portal records historical beacon locations and interactions and provides robust back-end reporting, including:
Identify hotspots where employees tend to gather or frequently visit.
Use trendspotting data to:
- Adjust cleaning schedules
- Discourage gathering (such as in break rooms or conference spaces)
- Identify where schedules might need to be changed
Real-time Group Formation
Management will get real-time alerts when a group forms. Use this data to break up spontaneous groups or mitigate situations that lead to group formation.
- Did a group suddenly gather in the board room?
- Is there a line at the coffee machine?
- Does the elevator lead to a line every day at 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.?
Deep Dive Analytics
At its core, the ContactWatch cloud portal is an enterprise RTLS (real-time locating system) platform.
When applied to COVID-19 through social distancing and contact tracing, additional reporting capabilities include trend analysis and problem detection.
Administrators can slice and dice data to display just the information they need to see in their preference of charts and tables.
And that's just the beginning.
Deeper dive analytics opportunities include:
- Forensic replay against historic data to drive continuous improvement
- What-if scenarios to test hypotheses and improve processes and policies
- Establish trigger points alert HR or other key leaders when protocols aren't being followed
Before and After Testing of New Policies
When HR implements a new policy or procedure, ContactWatch analytics can provide before / after testing of employee behavior.
Determine the before state — what does behavior look like before the new policy?
Then review historical data after the new policy goes into effect to ensure adoption. Examples include:
- Rolling start times
- Alternating days in the office
- Employees or teams that are identified as remote workers NOT allowed on premises
- An employee with potential exposure or recent travel NOT allowed on premises
- Only one person at a time allowed in shared spaces with no lines permitted
For all of the metrics that ContactWatch reports on, you can measure not only IF people are following protocol, but WHO.
Gamify the program with an interactive contact tracing dashboard — a digital display that show results by person, team, department. etc.
Or HR can share a daily, weekly, or monthly scoreboard of gamified statistics.
Containment / Contact Tracing
Contact tracing with ContactWatch allows employers to mitigate spread of the virus in the event that an employee tests positive.
1. Trace Contacts to Minimize Potential Spread
Admins can search and filter historical contact data to identify anyone at risk of exposure.
For example, they might choose to look back 14 days and find anyone who was in proximity to the employee who tested positive for two minutes or more.
Taking it a step further, you can then see cascading contacts of anyone who was in close proximity to those people, and so on.
2. Notify Contacts through Automated Alerts
Following all privacy requirements and without identifying the employee who tested positive, admins can automatically contact everyone identified in Step 1 via automated email and / or SMS messaging.
An example message could be:
"Alert! You've been in contact with an employee who tested positive for COVID-19. Avoid any further contact and please connect with HR immediately."
3. Monitor Outbreak and Review Trends
Admins can monitor trends with employees identified as at-risk in Step 1. Monitor this population and track trends at the individual and departmental level.
4. Extend Insight by Mining Other Systems
Connect other data sources, such as HR systems or your TempWatch temperature monitoring solution.
Post-COVID Use Cases
Perhaps most important — an investment in ContactWatch is an investment in your company's future.
Use ContactWatch as a COVID-19 social distancing and contact tracing solution during the pandemic.
Of course, it can be used in the same way for any future epidemic. But the exciting part is how many unique additional use cases that the ContactWatch hardware and software can apply to.
No matter your industry or work environment, there's a post-pandemic use case for ContactWatch for you.
Examples of post-COVID use cases for ContactWatch include:
Data to and from Third Party Systems
Open APIs / Web Services
Control Camera, Doors, etc.
Active RFID (BLE, WiFi, GPS, UWB, IR)
Business Process Orchestration
User Roles and Permissions
Mobile Device Support
- Housekeeper Safety
- Refrigeration Monitoring
- Loss Prevention
- Asset Tracking
- Staff Safety
- Patient Flow
- Temperature Monitoring
- Wander Management
- Hand Hygiene
- Asset Tracking / Utilization
- Equipment Utilization
- Wireless ID
- Outdoor Locating
- Asset Tracking
- Regulatory Compliance
- Worker Safety
Hand Sanitizer in the Workplace
Employers Encourage Hand Hygiene
In its Guidance for Businesses & Employers, the CDC tells employers to provide soap and hand sanitizer, and to “ideally, place touchless hand sanitizer stations in multiple locations to encourage hand hygiene.”
Connected Hand Sanitizer Stations
With multiple hand sanitizer stations throughout your facility, how do you know when each one needs to be refilled?
That’s where no-touch connected hand sanitizer stations come in.
With a network of wired or wireless digital hand sanitizer stations, you’ll receive real-time alerts when a device is due for a refill.
Digital Signage Hand Sanitizer Kiosks
And when you combine the network connection with digital signage, you can also share important messages or advertisements.
From full-screen video to split screen advertisements, live RSS or social media feeds to custom scrolling tickers — hand sanitizer stations with digital signage are the perfect way to inform and engage your employees while helping to keep them safe.
Cloud-Based Smart Hand Sanitizer Software
With triggered events, you can even choose to show an ad or a piece of content based on an event — such as when hand sanitizer is dispensed.
Robust cloud-based software and on-unit tools allow you to manage and automate everything from times to turn the display on and off to content design and scheduling.
Hand Sanitizer Analytics and Reporting
Most importantly, you can monitor the level of the hand sanitizer gel available in each dispenser in real time. Get alerts when gel solution is low, so that your hand sanitizer dispensers never run dry.
What Can You Monitor with Digital Hand Sanitizer Kiosks?
- Keep an eye on all your hand sanitizer kiosks in one central dashboard
- Monitor consumption of hand sanitizer in each unit
- Check the status of device connectivity to ensure stations are always live
- See proof of play, including total number of media plays, play time, and type of media
- Dive into additional media metrics, including exposures per media, exposure time, and the number of screens the media was displayed on
- View live data (from the last 24 hours) as well as historical data
- Remotely preview running playlists to ensure the content displayed is exactly right
- Plus, export reports to CSV for ultimate control of your data
How Will Meetings Look Post-COVID-19?
COVID-19 has changed the world as we know it — and one of the biggest areas impacted at work is meetings.
In a world where we all work from home, how to we continue to collaborate?
And when we start reconnecting face-to-face in the future, how do we have in-person meetings safely?
Meeting technology will play a larger role than ever before in the workplace of the future.
We've all been doing remote meetings for months now — so we should be experts, right? A mishmash of patchy technologies and a lack of comprehensive strategy mean that we often struggle to make the right connection at the right time.
Remote meeting technology makes it possible to create space and social distancing while collaborating.
There are so many virtual technology meeting options, often it takes a trusted advisor to review your company’s needs.
The most useful technologies for remote meetings are those that best answer all your remote collaboration needs.
Remote Meeting Technology: 10 Questions to Ask
- Does it fit within our budget?
- Is the tool suited to our business size? (Such as Small and Medium Businesses [SMBs] or Enterprise — often delineated by number of employees)
- Does it allow remote employees to communicate and collaborate with one another?
- Does it allow remote and in-office teams to connect seamlessly, whether on a personal device or in a conference room?
- Does it facilitate seamless virtual meetings with internal (employees) and external (prospects, clients, vendors, partners) attendees?
- Does the solution integrate with / support our existing technologies and devices?
- Is administration easy, including adding, modifying, and removing users
- How secure is the solution?
- Do we need Single Sign-on (SSO) functionality?
- If we have a virtual meeting tool already, what’s missing that is making us consider a switch?
How well does your current remote meeting technology meet these needs?
As some employees begin moving back to office work, are you confident that your current solution will support virtual meetings between workers in various conference rooms and those working from home?
There are many virtual meeting solutions to choose from. Wachter’s WAVE team (Wachter Audio Visual Engineering) can support — and our solutions manufacturers integrate with — almost any remote conferencing software. Some of the top choices, especially for enterprise-level organizations, include:
Top Virtual Meeting Platforms
As employees get back to work in the office, face-to-face meetings will once again become part of daily life. What steps should employers take to ensure that face-to-face meetings are safe?
In addition to limiting capacity, enforcing social distancing, and thoroughly cleaning all surfaces in conference rooms, employers can tap into new and existing video and audio conferencing technologies to provide minimal-touch or touchless meetings.
With proximity join technology, the meeting room recognizes your mobile device when you enter the conference room and can automatically begin — or open and join — the meeting.
Virtual meeting tools are becoming smarter, and in the process, providing touchless voice control options.
Tapping into AI personal assistants, such as Amazon's Alexa for Business and Google’s Google Assistant, users can use voice prompts to control many aspects of the conference room and virtual meeting experience.
Streamline the Employee Experience in Conference Rooms
With a simple voice command, employees can manage the end-to-end meeting room experience, including:
- Join a meeting
- Check to see if a meeting room is available
- See who reserved a meeting space
- Book a conference room
- Be alerted when their meeting is about to end, and another meeting is scheduled right after
Increase Utilization of Conference Spaces
When employees reserve a meeting space but don’t use it, these expensive assets sit unused — while others who need the space are left frustrated.
Voice assistants can be programmed to automatically release rooms where nobody ever showed up, after a pre-selected time.
These tools can also track and report on key metrics for each meeting space, including:
- Total number of meetings
- Total minutes reserved
- Number of meetings attended (where someone actually checks in to a booked meeting space)
- Number of meetings released (when nobody checks in)
- Minutes released (time freed up by releasing meetings that never formed)
- Number of recovered meetings (when a new meeting is booked in a slot where the previous meeting never formed)
- Meeting attendance rate
- Most-used and least-used spaces
Increase Employee Productivity
In addition, employees can link their personal devices, email, and calendar to the smart assistant to increase productivity.
This allows them to use voice commands to join online meetings schedule or re-schedule appointments on their calendar, notify attendees when they will be late to a meeting, and more.
Smart Phone Control
Shared devices in the conference room — such as remote controls, telephones, and digital touch screens — require special consideration in the age of Coronavirus.
Manufacturers of these control devices have stepped in to provide personal device solutions.
Instead of touching a shared device, employees use their cell phone to scan a QR code in the meeting space. This brings up a website that allows the employee to control the conference room technologies from their own device. Some providers also offer free apps that provide additional control options.
Much like the voice control solutions, touchless controls allow users to enter, start, and schedule meetings. They also offer additional options, including:
- Wireless presentation
- BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) Markup
- Hands-free automation (automatically powering the A/V system and lighting off or on based on room occupancy)
- Relay outputs (automatically controlling systems such as projection screens, shades, or lighting based on the state of the A/V system)
- Bring your own cable (BYOC)
With these solutions, users can control multiple systems. Everything pertaining to the A/V solution, including digital displays, motorized projector screens, digital whiteboards, and volume — are managed through the touchless controls. In addition, a solutions integrator can help you integrate occupancy sensors, lighting, shades, and more.
Touchless Meetings Manufacturers
Examples of the manufacturers that Wachter works with who provide (or will soon release) touchless meeting room control devices include:
Wachter’s WAVE team (Wachter Audio Visual Engineering) experts design, program, install, and service the conference room systems that keep remote workers connected to the corporate office, and keep regional offices connected to one another.
Digital Signage Guides the Way During a Pandemic, and Beyond
Digital signage has already transformed the way businesses disseminate information. Whether sharing with employees, customers, contractors, or visitors, digital signage allows companies to share pertinent messages, revenue-driving advertisements, and endless forms of connected content, such as weather, traffic, RSS feeds, social media streams, and branded videos.
Displaying Information in a Pandemic Using Digital Signage
But during COVID-19, many essential businesses like hospitals, grocery stores, and restaurants have shifted to a touchless digital signage model to share safety alerts and brand content.
And as other businesses begin to emerge from lockdown and slowly reopen, digital signage is the perfect medium to use and repurpose where businesses already have it in place, and invest in.
Examples of the content that businesses share through digital signage include:
COVID-19 has created an ever-changing environment. Instructions on how to enter a building, receive temperature screening, and more are changing day to day.
Some businesses have resorted to posting papers and notices on top of one another. With digital signage you can provide those instructions in real time, from a screen that catches people’s attention and can be used however needed.
Ways to Use Digital Signage During COVID-19
- Social distancing guidelines
- Hand washing guidelines
- Hand sanitizing guidelines
- CDC recommendations
- OSHA requirements
- State and local requirements / recommendations
Brands are getting creative in the COVID information they share through digital displays.
For example, instead of sharing an arrow between two people saying “6 Feet Apart,” here are creative methods that businesses are using to convey the idea of 6 feet through their digital signage solutions:
Things that are Six Feet Apart
- Any facility with typical 12” floor tiles — 6 tiles
- Grocery Store — Two shopping carts
- Mattress Retailer — The length of a twin mattress
- Bowling Alley — About five bowling pins (stacked on top of one another)
- Recreation Facility — The length of a yoga mat or a barbell
- Electronics Store or an office that uses Macs — Your MacBook Air charger
- Zoo — One alligator, an emu, or a baby giraffe — or two goats
Other Uses for Digital Signage
Beyond just serving up ads and sharing important information, digital signage can serve many unique needs within a facility.
10+ Ways to Use Digital Signage
- Queue management
- Digital menu boards
- Interactive directories
- Share reviews
- Stream social media channels
- Lead generation
- Event calendar
- Celebrate awards and honors (like a digital trophy case)
- Introduce staff, including welcoming new hires
- Analytics and reporting — such as tasks completed, miles driven, or hours safely worked
- Support a cause
Features and Integrations Expand the Capabilities of Digital Signage
Like Wachter and its partners have done with TempWatch and NoviTizer solutions, many providers offer unique integrations or analytics that turn simple digital signage units into robust tools for reporting, communicating, and interacting with people in your facility.
Features to Look for in a Digital Signage Solution
- Content Targeting — display the right message to the right audience, based on the audience of each screen
- Dynamic Content — anything that would catch a viewer’s attention, such as the size of the lottery jackpot, flight information, or the weather
- Smart scheduling — including automatic play and expiration at scheduled times
- Remote management — cloud-based software that allows admins to manage content on the entire network of digital displays, from anywhere
- Simple content creation — built-in tools that make it easy to design great looking, on-brand content
- Permissions control — decide who has access to what, and even integrate SSO for top-notch security
Integrations and Applications that Take Your Digital Signage to the Next Level
- Presence and motion detection
- Magic mirror and virtual fittings
- Weather-driven content delivery
- Touchless check-in and visitor management
- Meeting room scheduling
- Digital photo booth
- RFID / NFC readers
- Web triggering and voice commands
- Easy-to-use widgets and robust software integrations
- User-generated content, such as allowing employees to submit photos or stories to be included in content streams
These are just a few of the ways to use digital signage during the pandemic and beyond. Wachter’s WAVE team (Wachter Audio Visual Engineering) conceives, designs, deploys, and services of all your digital signage needs.
While most businesses are determining how to get back to work safely, healthcare workers have fought COVID-19 on the battle lines since day one.
For hospitals and healthcare facilities, the question isn't "How do we get back to work?" but "How do we continue to provide top-notch care to every patient, while protecting both patients and staff from possible infection?"
And when PPE becomes scarce, providing the necessary protective equipment to staff is also paramount.
Wachter's healthcare arm, Wachter Healthcare Solutions, offers a patient safety solution called NOVA. While NOVA is typically used as a remote patient monitoring solution to help prevent patient falls, it's serving double duty during the pandemic.
This is just one example of how new and existing technologies are driving safety as hospitals and businesses across the country fight COVID-19 and try to safely return to work.
As businesses return to work, there are often more questions than answers. Plans change frequently as everyone adjusts to the "new normal" and to updates from local and national authorities.
We hope that this Back to Work Guide is helpful as you chart your own plan for returning your employees to work.