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SMART WORKPLACE

How to Simplify Contact Tracing Using iOFFICE

by Rebecca Symmank on July 7, 2020
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Contact tracing plays an important role in slowing the spread of COVID-19. As workplaces reopen, it’s becoming a high priority for both employees and employers.

In a recent PwC survey, 35% of employees said they expect employers to use contact tracing and notify them in the event of a COVID-19 case. And nearly a quarter of CFOs indicate they plan to include contact tracing in their return to work plans.

Here’s a closer look at how to implement and manage contact tracing in the workplace and how our software can help.

What is contact tracing?

Contact tracing is a well-established technique that public health agencies use to prevent or reduce the spread of infectious diseases, including COVID-19. The process starts with testing.

Once an individual tests positive for COVID-19, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises public health officials to follow these steps:

  1. Interview people to determine who they had close contact with during the period of potential exposure (14 days before they began showing symptoms)
  2. Notify individuals who were potentially exposed
  3. Refer them for testing
  4. Monitor notified individuals for symptoms of COVID-19 and advise them of their next steps, which typically involves self-quarantining and taking their temperature twice a day for two weeks after the potential exposure

 

However, a significant percentage of infections occur when the infected person is not exhibiting symptoms. Emerging studies estimate that approximately half of known COVID-19 transmissions occur while individuals are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic. Research suggests that the rate of transmission can be reduced by 50-60% by combining contact tracing and testing with self-isolation measures.

How do we implement contact tracing in the workplace?

Contact tracing programs in the workplace should follow a process similar to public health plans, although you may need to have additional screening processes in place in the absence of widespread testing.

This could involve asking employees to screen themselves with a short questionnaire each morning or sending out health checklists to everyone in your workplace. Employees who do have symptoms should be sent home immediately and should not return until they have consulted with a health care professional, according to the CDC.

If an employee discloses they have been diagnosed with COVID-19, contact tracing should involve notifying any individual who was in close contact with them. (The CDC’s definition of close contact is being within six feet of a sick employee for a prolonged period of time.)

Anyone who has been exposed and is showing symptoms of COVID-19 should self-isolate and seek medical attention. Those without symptoms should stay home for two weeks.

Some experts believe that manual contract tracing is not a viable solution to address the unprecedented challenges, instead suggesting use of digital tools to speed up and enhance tracing efforts.

How can we use iOFFICE for contact tracing?

iOFFICE’s integrated workplace management system can simplify each step of contact tracing, from creating screening checklists and health surveys to notifying individuals who may have been exposed to the virus. Here’s how.

Screening employees and visitors

Requiring employees and guests to use our mobile, touchless visitor management software to check in each day makes contact tracing easier. Employees can pre-register themselves or their visitors and scan a QR code when they arrive.

This gives you a digital record of everyone who has been in the office so you can refer to this information later if needed. 

Identifying individuals who may have been exposed

If an employee discloses he or she has tested positive for COVID-19, your visitor management software will tell you who was in the office during a period of potential exposure, but you’ll need more detail to determine who was in close contact with that individual.

Fortunately, you can use our space management software and the Insights module to view seat assignments, badge swipes, or reserved rooms and workspaces.

This will help you easily see where the individual was sitting during the period of exposure and who was sitting near them.

Confidentially notifying and monitoring individuals

Once you’ve determined who may have been in close proximity to that individual, you will need to notify them while maintaining confidentiality and protecting their personal data and privacy. Our Hummingbird mobile app makes this easy. Using the app, you can send a secure alert notifying them of a potential exposure to COVID-19 and advising them of what to do next. You can include a link to CDC recommendations or your own protocol. That may include working from home for the next two weeks and watching for symptoms.

Protecting individuals from future exposure with safe distancing

While contact tracing is an effective strategy for minimizing the spread of the coronavirus, the best way to protect your workforce is to use physical distancing and proper sanitization.

If you can keep individuals from sitting within six feet of each other, you can decrease the likelihood of exposure. Our team developed the new Space-Right™ feature specifically for this purpose.

Space-Right allows you to set physical distancing parameters and uses an algorithm to instantly reconfigure floor plans based on those parameters. It will show you which spaces are potentially unsafe for multiple people (such as small conference rooms) so you can recategorize them as private, reservable offices.

It also makes it easy to reassign seats or assign employees to alternating shifts.

Protecting employee health and safety now and in the future

If your company recently reopened your offices or you’re planning to in the near future, contact tracing should be part of any reopening strategy as you work to protect your employees. It can help stop the spread of COVID-19 and potentially save lives.

Of course, there are many other protocol changes you’ll need to consider, from reconfiguring your office design to increasing your cleaning frequency. While your specific processes will depend on your office environment and the work you do, we know the health and safety of your employees is your highest priority.

We can help you update your floor plans and procedures in a way that minimizes risk while making the most of the space you have.

Many of our customers are already using our software to manage their return to the workplace. We can share some of these best practices and work with you to determine what makes the most sense for your organization.

To learn more about how our software can help, request a 15-minute consultation today.

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