As companies slowly reopen their doors and have employees shift from working remotely to returning to physical offices, the challenge will be to keep COVID-19 out of the workplace. Organizations are turning to technology to help employees stay safe and healthy.
Many employees returning to work are now greeted by monitoring systems the moment they walk through the doors. Digital thermometers and tracking sheets might accompany disposable face masks. Other tools range from simple mobile apps designed to capture and report COVID-19 symptoms to more elaborate Bluetooth devices that connect to ID badges in order to ensure social distancing is taking place. If an employee should contract COVID-19, the company has records to assist in contact tracing efforts and can even pinpoint exactly when that person’s temperature began rising. This provides organizations with a complete picture spanning all facilities and locations and can help determine exposure risk for other employees.
These are just the tip of the iceberg for a business sector that could easily generate billions of dollars for technology companies poised to capitalize. Even more sophisticated monitoring systems are available that use facial recognition technology in lieu of more intrusive tracking devices. Connecting these systems to digital camera networks allows the company to track a person’s movements throughout the facility, identifying anybody that the employee came into contact with. Instead of shutting down the entire building, this would allow managers to quarantine and test only those workers who came into close proximity with the infected employee.
Naturally, technology such as this raises privacy concerns. Should management be able to track their employees’ every step and be alerted to their body temperature and other sensitive health information? It’s a touchy subject, but we must look at the big picture. We are suffering through a global pandemic of epic proportions, and certain unprecedented steps are necessary if we ever hope to gain control over COVID-19. Personal liberties aside, if employees aren’t practicing social distancing, that puts the whole company at risk. The law is on the side of the business in this case; courts have ruled that employees give up privacy rights when they arrive to work, and companies are allowed to monitor onsite activities. Until a vaccine becomes widely available, monitoring is a necessary evil in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and ensuring businesses can continue to operate with as little disruption as possible.