The tech that will get us back to work

22nd June 2020
Joe Bush

COVID-19 poses major challenges for players in every industry, and companies now face unprecedented hurdles as they struggle to get back to work. A new report from Lux Research, ‘Back in Business: Using Technology to Open During COVID-19’, addresses the key technologies businesses need to adopt to fight against COVID-19 in the workplace.

“Companies are under tremendous pressure to open businesses as quickly as possible while still keeping employees safe,” said Danielle Bradnan, lead author of the report. “Employers need to understand that these solutions aren’t a guarantee of safety but a way of minimising risk for employees. While many emerging technologies promise to help, their performance and scalability still need to be verified,” Bradnan explained. 

Emerging technology solutions addressing COVID-19 enable worker safety in three main ways – by enabling social distancing, maintaining hygiene, and tracking employee health – with effective social distancing the key to success. “Unfortunately, many vendors have rushed into this space and are making questionable claims about the effectiveness and regulatory compliance of their solutions. Companies must do their due diligence to keep their employees safe,” added Bradnan.

Technology developments from companies can help maintain social distancing in many ways. For example, they can help remotely monitor the functionality of company assets, allowing employees to work remotely more effectively. Or knowledge management tools can help companies maintain communication and training effectively, minimising the need for on-site interaction. However, not all work can be done off-site, and many critical tasks need employees on-site. For those in offices, position-detecting sensors can help ensure social distancing is being maintained. In some cases, automation can be used to minimise the need for on-site personnel. 

Employee health can be monitored in a variety of ways as well. Regulatory agencies are already recommending self-assessment apps. There are other solutions like remote temperature sensing, but many of these are fraught with error. Contact tracing beacons and antibody testing have also been posited as solutions, but Lux Research has recommended against both at this point. Contact tracing isn’t helpful directly for stopping the spread of the disease and is not a great population-level fit, especially with such mobile populations as the typical workforce. Regarding antibodies, at the time of writing, there is no conclusive evidence yet that having antibodies to the virus means a person is immune to catching or spreading it again. 

“What we do know is that no single solution will be a fix-all,” added Bradnan. “When selecting the right portfolio of solutions for a company’s unique needs, it’ll need to also consider the downstream impacts of the technology adopted. For example, with solutions like wearables, how is employee data being collected and handled to maintain privacy? Will employees have to be trained on the use of new assets? How are these new assets being monitored, or even cleaned?” Companies should adopt solutions based on what is effective and available now, while continuing to plan for long-term company needs.

The report can be downloaded via the link above. 

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