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While companies are overwhelmingly focused on tactical safety procedures such as requiring employees to wear face coverings, they fail in preparing workplaces to respond quickly enough to health threats, a new survey reveals.

Some 97% of human resources respondents said that they do not need to make an investment in technology systems to aid a safe return to the workplace, according to the survey by low-code automation platform provider Appian.

The survey analyzed organizational tactics, strategies, timelines for returning employees, and asked HR leaders about their top concerns.

SEE: COVID-19 workplace policy (TechRepublic Premium)

Among the other measures organizations are taking are limiting capacity to facilitate social distancing (79%), cleaning and sanitizing the workplace during the workday (78%), and conducting daily health screenings (71%).

While these steps are necessary to maintain employee safety, the survey also found that 89% of survey participants feel that they do not need new software solutions to manage their return to work COVID-19 response policy.

Additionally, the survey found that:

  • 53% of survey participants have already started returning employees to the office, despite high infection rates.
  • Only 23% of respondents reported feeling concerned that their return-to-work technology does not incorporate contact tracing.
  • 98% of survey participants noted that their companies have permanently changed their workforce structure to increase remote work.

Respondents were also asked to rate the difficulty of ensuring that all common spaces, including bathrooms, break rooms, and open office floor plans with frequently touched surface doors and equipment are safe and free of the COVID-19 virus. Thirty-one percent rated it a four out of five, with five being the most challenging, and 22% rated it a five.

When asked what is the No. 1 thing HR professionals are concerned their current technology does not address in ensuring a safe return to their workplace, respondents cited management of personal protective equipment (PPE), followed by location tracing (identifying places and items an employee touched.)

SEE: How IoT sensors and analytics can make inside air safer in schools and offices (TechRepublic)

When a COVID-19 infection is identified, 54% of respondents said they would immediately report employee or customer infections to the local health district and 54% said they would shut down the shop/floor for deep sanitation if possible. Half of the respondents said they would professionally clean and sanitize the location, the survey said.

Data collection, actionable policy, and adaptability are the critical functions automated systems can improve, according to Appian.

HR professionals who are coordinating the complexities of return-to-workplace efforts can use software to monitor and track safety measures, the company said. Features include the ability to collect and view extensive data in a centralized place (i.e. daily health updates, test results, vulnerabilities, and contact tracing) and unify data on one platform to rapidly track possible outbreaks and coordinate responses.

Technology can also help HR professionals react and adapt quickly to sick team members to prevent employees from spreading COVID-19 (i.e. deactivate office badges, order testing/quarantines, close or clean specific facilities), Appian said.

“Software is essential for a safe return to the workplace,” said Matt Calkins, CEO of Appian, in a statement. “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.”