Offices, organizations, and ordinary people heading back to work are encouraged to do so safely, securely and with the best interests of their workmates, customers, and suppliers at heart.
While we’re still in the midst of the global shutdown put in place to help stop the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, multiple strategies for just how to go back to work safely have emerged.
New hardware and software tools have also come to play an important role in the gradual reopening of the economy.
One interesting new offering is from Zoho Corporation, an international software development company that already has several business productivity and collaboration tools on the market, many integrating artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities.
It has now released a new modular software suite specifically designed to help businesses and organizations safely bring employees, customers, and daily business activities back to the workplace.
Help from Features, Functions, and Pricing
Even more helpful in these difficult times, the solution is available for free until the end of 2020.
Zoho launched BackToWork earlier this month in an initial configuration of six different feature sets or modules that each contribute to a safe workplace re-opening; the software easily supports small and medium enterprises and can be configured to work with existing or legacy corporate tools in large organizations.
Reflecting the complex business interactions among different company operating areas, the software can be used by chief corporate operations officers, human resources specialists, facility managers, communications staff, and their teams.
In an online demo of the suite conducted by Zoho product evangelist LSP Chandrashekar for WhatYourTech.ca, the user interface and dashboard features of the main BackToWork modules were shown in succession, including 1) Safe Entry; 2) Employee Wellness Assessment; 3) Maintenance and Assets; 4) Admin Control Panel; 5) Volunteer; and 6) Communications. All six modules are accessible through one easy-to-navigate drag-and-drop type interface.
One of the first determinations a company that is re-opening or considering re-opening needs to make is the status or stage that the geographic region is in, as far as the public health authorities and government policy-makers have deemed necessary.
Is the region in Stage 3, for example, ready for wide re-opening? Is the region still in a Stage 1-type scenario, where much greater restrictions are in place?
The Zoho software system takes into account the various mandate requirements that a company may face upon re-opening, LSP explained, and the software’s tracking and auditing capabilities can be used to monitor, adhere and demonstrate compliance. Adherence to compliance guidelines can lead to not only a more successful re-opening but also a more confident, comfortable, and secure returning workforce.
“You can audit yourself for wellness, safety, and efficacy,” he said, “or you can share data from the system with others, if necessary.”
Physical access to a place of business is, of course, crucial to re-opening, but so too the monitoring and tracking of all access and egress, be it by employees, customers, suppliers, contractors, or other visitors.
So the Safe Entry module in Zoho’s BackTo Work software can be used to define and specify multiple points of access to a building, or even multiple buildings.
Physical access becomes a contactless process end-to-end when the software location and access management module is matched with internally generated QR codes.
LSP described a scenario in which a head office employee’s work schedule has them on the job Monday through Thursday, 10 am to 3:30 pm. The employee’s work schedule and location are registered in the system, which restricts access to the specified times and locations (the employee could not safely gain authorized access on Friday in this scenario, or to head office after 3:30, or to the warehouse at any time). QR codes generated by the software and scanners located on-premises are part of this access control and monitoring strategy.
But additional information and access criteria can be added, reflecting the BackToWork software suite’s seemingly endless configurations and customization capabilities.
Safe Entry criteria, for example, can include information from the employee’s travel history and self-declared wellness assessment. Employees can securely and privately submit a wellness report through the Employee Wellness Assessment module, reporting travel history, recent medical history, and other pertinent exposure information.
If a worker must take a trip for business purposes, the system can trigger an email to the employee asking them to stay home for 14 days afterward and to complete a safety awareness program before returning to the office.
The information entered and collected, such as from Safe Entry, Employee Wellness, and an upcoming Travel module can be an important part of contract tracing efforts confirming and elaborating on a person’s recollections about possible contact with other people and other locations. The company has made strong commitments to protecting the privacy of users and their data.
More To Come in BackToWork
BackToWork’s Communication module can be used to generate customized messages and announcements for staff, and to share policies and safety documents. However, participants must log-in or check their account for such communications; LSP said that the current software version does not have interfaces with existing company email systems; he said a future release will look to such integration. Zoho does offer a group communication and chat tool called Cliq, newly enhanced to support remote workers and work from home employees.
Zoho says there are several other new features and enhancements in its pipeline, including a Travel Management module and integrations with popular video conferencing platforms. Users may not have to wait for specific enhancements to the software: BackToWork tools are built using Zoho’s low-code development platform called Zoho Creator so they can be easily customized by the user, LSP described.
“Creator is a drag-and-drop no-code development tool,” he said. “But you can always go to the next level with our consultant and development services. We can build a new tool quickly.”
That, and the fact the company supports local and regional User Groups, where ideas for use and improvement, are often exchanged, means new ideas and application of the software are always in the mix.
The other existing modules in the BackToWork suite include Maintenance and Assets, in which users can make and track building maintenance, repair or requests; a Volunteer module in which company programs and interactions with volunteers are added and managed; and the Admin Control Panel, in which a 360-degree dashboard view of workplace data, including access, employee wellness, sales and marketing, accounting and back-office operations and more can be presented.
As mentioned, the software is free until the end of the year; after that, pricing is in the $2.60 (CAD) per person per month range.
LSP said the idea is to help build workplace safety and wellness, no matter the size of the company:
“These are tough times and everybody needs some help as they work to get their arms around the issues of re-opening and staying open. There are newly evolving guidelines (for returning to work in different jurisdictions), too, so our work is ongoing to help you maintain end-to-end workplace safety.”