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The uptake of applications designed to track and monitor our movements due to COVID-19 has soared. Born of necessity and seen as a way to lead a somewhat normal lifestyle on a social level, there has generally been a quiet and compliant acceptance of its implementation.
In the early months of 2021 as discussions turned to the return to the workplace, talks primarily centred around the logistics of providing a COVID safe environment, hybrid working conditions and, getting teams on board with leaving their home offices to return to a structured workplace.
Beyond this though, many companies are needing to wrestle with the need for some form of tracking technology in their workplaces for COVID safe monitoring and accountability.
However, the rise of the work from home era has brought with it a significant level of independence and autonomy in the way in which we work. Concerns of the “nanny state” mentality seemed to diminish with every day we remained off site and were able to prove that productivity could be achieved from home.
How then, do businesses swing to the other side of the pendulum and now insist that upon their return to the office, employees are likely to be tracked and monitored at rates significantly higher than before, all in the name of the continuing fight against COVID? Will there be a compliant acceptance just as we acknowledge in our social settings or will this be the straw which breaks the camel’s back?
For businesses, the successful integration of tracing technology within the workplace really comes down to identifying the benefits for the business and staff alike:
Benefit: Streamlined processes to track where we work
The benefits might sound simple – the ability to contact trace and monitor employees for their safety and to keep accurate COVID safe records. Much of the benefit of implementing monitoring technology comes down to removing the manual element of having a staff member dedicated to undertaking these tasks.
It is also true that we can’t remember every encounter we have in the office throughout the day and relying on recollection alone can be unreliable. Technology which embraces innovative features will allow the process to be streamlined and removes the guesswork.
Benefit: Monitoring where we work
With some of the options on the market, Administrators and Management can also effectively manage company assets such as meeting rooms. Beyond the collective health considerations that can be monitored using this form of technology such as making sure social distancing is adhered to and allow for sufficient time for hygiene requirements to be undertaken.
Benefit: Monitoring how we work
This isn’t about looking at IF employees are working but should be seen as an opportunity to explore HOW we are working in our spaces.
Businesses with the appropriate applications can better monitor how often and what their company assets are used for. It gives these businesses another reporting tool to really assess our interactions with spaces and our colleagues, particularly those of a communal nature and ensure they are not just safe but maintain an optimal strategic use in the business.
For instance, a large board room which appears to not be in use as often anymore as many of the staff are off site periodically through the week is underutilised space. The asset could be redesigned to something more appropriate for the work being conducted such as a series of smaller workspaces to allow for digital meetings on a one-to-one scale or a hot desking space for employees who choose to come in on days not previously allocated to them.
Benefit: Empowering our personal communication and working style.
Applications which are employee based and allow users to interact to a level with colleagues and workplace assets will go a long way to easing perceived surveillance hesitation. Benefits of such technology can be extended beyond simply conducting a “role call” of who is present on the premises but allows for hybrid workplaces to also identify their colleagues movements, allowing for potentially better allocation of time as they navigate a mix of face to face and digital meetings depending on their working location.
It is that “all in mentality” which means that the benefits to productivity expands to all levels of the workforce and gives them back the sense of using these tools for self-delegation and workflow processes which suit their working needs.
To see the true benefit we must remain transparent with staff.
The ethical dilemma faced with the increase in monitoring of our movement often comes down to what the purpose of the tracking is and what exactly is being traced. It is crucial for staff to understand that this technology is only being engaged with whilst they are on the premises, and just as when utilising government-mandated QR codes it is for their safety and those of their colleagues.
We must convince our employees that it is not only safe to return to the office, but their safety is the utmost importance and tools such as this are what are allowing businesses to facilitate the transition back to the workplace.
Workplace surveillance is not a new concept, with many businesses having policies in place which address this. The implementation of any form of tracing technology needs to be reiterated as an extension of this, with clear formal policies documenting its purpose and use.
The more user friendly the approach and management transparency the more likelihood of staff acceptance.