Our country has been fighting the Covid-19 pandemic for more than two months. For much of that time, our usual activities – from attending work and school to shopping and joining others in concerts and sports arenas – have been disrupted, if not stopped completely. Looking forward, it seems clear that there are at least two distinct phases ahead of us. The first of these will be the re-opening phase, in which the stay-at-home restrictions are lifted and the economy and school systems begin again. The second will be the new normal, in which our activities are closer to how they were before, but likely adjusted with some prudent steps to prevent a pandemic recurrence, at least for the near- to medium-term. Health risk monitoring will be an essential part of both of these new phases, and very likely, a permanent part of our future.
Health Risk Monitoring
What is health risk monitoring, or HRM? In our view, HRM is a set of proactive routine actions that support a related set of health policies in order to reduce health risks among an organization’s staff, visitors, and customers.
Put simply, an organization that implements HRM:
- Commits to support the health of staff, visitors, and customers
- Has a set of clear, current health-related policies
- Proactively monitors/assesses health conditions
- Takes action when health issues are detected
- Leverages correlated information to improve response and outcomes
Here’s why HRM is so powerful, and so necessary. The current Covid-19 pandemic has made it clear to everyone that we are an interconnected global community. A health concern such as a new virus can start anywhere and in a few short weeks or months affect our entire planet. Even without pandemics, smaller local outbreaks such as the flu can bring an organization to a halt, with significant negative effects on morale, productivity, customer satisfaction, and financial position. In severe cases, the organization can be destroyed completely.
With these stakes, it makes sense for every organization to consider their own health-related risks, and to implement prudent policies to manage those risks. The first two entries in the list above are an essential part of every organizational HR department responsibilities. What has been harder, at least up until now, is to know how to address the other three entries on that list, and bring the HRM effort to a more effective level.
For example, consider a firm that has a sick leave policy in place to reduce the chances that one sick employee will come to work and infect all their teammates. How does the company discover that someone is sick? If an employee arrives at work sick, how can they protect the other staff, visitors, and customers? How can they quickly and effectively confirm the status of the sick employee’s coworkers?
Today, systems are available that are specifically designed to support these monitoring and policy implementation parts of the challenge. The InSite response coordination system is one example, boasting a wide range of integrations with leading security-related systems and offering a specific HRM configuration. InSite works with an organization’s exiting IP-based infrastructure, and because it is a SaaS model there is no additional infrastructure requirement, making implementation fast and flexible.
With such a system, companies can specify their policies, including the steps to take after foreseeable policy triggers. With these policies and procedures in the system, they can proactively monitor their staff and visitors for health issues, and very quickly and effectively take follow up steps in case a health issue is detected.
Here’s an example of how such a system might work to help in the coming restart phase after Covid-19 isolation measures begin to be lifted:
- A person with an elevated temperature is detected at the employee entrance by a temperature-sensing thermal screening camera.
- The alert is sent to the InSite HRM solution.
- In accordance with company policy, a red light is actuated so the employee knows he or she has an elevated heat output and a message is automatically sent to the employee to wait in the vestibule area, away from other staff, for an HR team member to arrive. The HR staff comes with an accurate thermometer to confirm whether or not the employee has a fever and renders a judgment on the next appropriate step.
- The system then helps HR and management with timely, accurate follow up depending on the necessary actions. For example, the system can track and confirm steps for HR including doctor visits, sick call outs, etc. If Covid-19 is confirmed, the system can provide a context to the emergency, for example, by determining which offices the sick person had checked into.
- The system can send out a survey to find out who has had recent contact with the potentially sick person, site, or department, and track responses, even in a remote or multiple work site environment. Normally surveys such as these, which take advantage of mobile devices as well as other communication means, take only minutes or hours to collect meaningful results.
- Finally, the system supports clear, trusted communication to all the relevant staff. In an emergency, timely information, and making sure that everyone has received the information, is particularly challenging. The InSite system ensures that all the procedures are followed, and followed through, even in the hectic circumstances that often surround an unplanned event.
As you can see, these steps are applicable to the coming re-opening phase as the Covid-19 isolation lockdowns are eased. It should also be clear that they are also just as applicable in the following phase, as activities return to a new normal and we maintain a new vigilance regarding our health status.
We have heard it repeatedly: the world will be different once we get past this. And we agree – organizations realize that they will need to be prepared to manage health risks as they are getting ready for when businesses open up again and get back to work. With strong policies in place, and a suitable system to help ensure those policies are enacted, organizations will be able to detect, respond and manage any health risk that walks through their doors.