E-Handbook: HR technology platforms support safe return to the office Article 3 of 4

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This article is part of our Essential Guide: Workforce strategy and planning in times of crisis

Boost workplace health and safety against COVID-19

In a post-pandemic world, a return-to-office strategy is not complete without detailed attention to workplace safety. Here are some HR software tools that may help.

In a post-COVID-19 world, workplace safety has become far more complicated than it once was. While understanding the novel coronavirus and how it spreads is the cornerstone of prevention, HR leaders can use software in service of their safety strategy.

Some enterprise HR software vendors have been quick to market existing functionality or new features to help meet this new need. In addition to software products, vendors may also provide other relevant information, such as e-learning courses and documentation on COVID-19-related topics.

Using functionality designed specifically for health and safety or functionality developed as a direct response to the coronavirus provides several benefits. If your current HR system does not have these features, you may still be able to use existing functionality to meet your needs.

Here is a list of features that your HR team can use to help provide a safe working environment in a post-pandemic world.

1.     Forms for COVID-19 tracking and tracing

Your HR system vendor may provide pre-built forms, or the appropriate person can configure forms to capture information relevant to COVID-19. Below is a partial list of forms to consider.

Meeting tracking forms. An important form to consider is one that can capture the names of all employees who attend an in-person meeting, including the name of the meeting room and the date and time of the meeting. This information can be beneficial if someone in the meeting finds out they contracted COVID-19 or suspects they did. You can use the system to identify all the employees who may have come in contact with the coronavirus so they can be notified. Also, by specifying the name of the meeting room, you can automate a process to schedule a cleaning in the room once the meeting is over.

Location tracking form. Similarly, if your organization has multiple work locations, you may want to use a form employees can use to indicate the location or locations they work at each day. The form should be easy to use to encourage employees to update their location on a regular basis. If someone contracts COVID-19, you can do contact tracing using the location information and notify employees who may have come in contact with the infected person.

Request for cleaning form. You may also want to use a form where employees can report when a meeting room or other common area has not been cleaned as scheduled. Cleaning is critical to preventing the spread of COVID-19, and therefore cleaning of common spaces has taken on a much higher level of importance in 2020. The form can also include space for notes on air quality and air filtration issues, since many experts say the spread of the coronavirus is primarily airborne.

Personal protective equipment request form. Another form that may be beneficial is one that allows employees to notify the appropriate people when the personal protective equipment supply is running low. With a simple form, the employee reporting the incident doesn't require the name of the person or people responsible for buying and distributing the equipment.

COVID-19 self-identification form. Finally, you may want to have a form that enables employees to self-identify if they have or are suspected of having COVID-19. This information can be used to act quickly and notify other employees at risk.

2.     Automated workflows

The benefit of an automated workflow is that employees are not required to know who they should notify when an issue arises.

Based on the information included in the form, the workflow will notify the appropriate people automatically. These notifications may require someone to act, or simply provide a notification that something has taken place. For example, you may want to send a notification once a meeting room has been cleaned. However, if you get a notification that an employee tested positive for COVID-19, you may need multiple people -- such as others in HR, payroll, your benefits administrator and the communications team -- to take action. In addition, you can have the appropriate person set up workflows with approval steps, so that information is only shared once approved.

3.     Automated reminders

Many HR systems can be set to send reminders after a given period if an action is not marked as "complete" within the system. For example, depending on the severity of the issue, the system could send reminders every hour for critical issues and only every few days for less important items. Ideally, you will also want to have an escalation point configured if an action has not been taken within a given time frame. As an example, if a manager does not complete an action item within 24 hours, that manager's director will be notified. The director can then either follow up with the manager or perform the action.

4.     Training content

For employees who return to offices or plants, the HR and health and safety teams will want to provide training for your employees on how to avoid getting COVID-19 or giving it to others.

Your HR software vendor may provide COVID-19 training material that applies broadly across many industries, saving you from having to create this internally.

 In some cases, this training may be mandated by the government. Your HR software vendor may provide COVID-19 training material that applies broadly across many industries, saving you from having to create this internally. The training material may be in the form of online material, documents and posters to print, or e-learning content. You will want to make this training content available in your learning management systems or in a health and safety module (such as the one Oracle offers) or application if the functionality is available. The advantage of having the training material accessible from health and safety is that employees only have one place to go to complete forms and action items and to take the training.

5.     Incident tracking

 One way to track COVID-19-related incidents is through a health and safety application or module.

As issues are logged, the system will track the actions employees take, suggest next steps and capture notes related to the incident from beginning to end. This avoids the tendency to use email or documents to track the issue, which can be cumbersome and difficult for everyone to access in a timely manner.

6.     Reporting

Whether your company is using functionality that supports the reporting and tracking of coronavirus-related information or not, as an HR leader, you will want to be able to report on the information that is captured in your HR system.

For HR systems that were adapted to provide specific coronavirus functionality, the reports may be robust and provide ample information to track and report on findings related to cases that are opened. HR systems that require you to repurpose generic functionality may provide reduced reporting functionality.

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