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The New Normal – How to maximise technology to keep frontline workers safe

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/gpointstudio)

In order to curb the spread of Coronavirus, ‘social distancing’ has been introduced as an effective measure to contain the virus. As a result, as an employer the responsibility of keeping staff safe has never been higher or more important.

Very few, if any where ready for this sudden change in working and as such have had to think and act very quickly in order to not only keep their businesses running, but also to keep staff safe and effective.

By in large most businesses have done a good job in deploying some sort of plan. However, to help further, below are some outlined simple ways in which businesses can ensure that physical distancing is adhered to by frontline staff, and how technology, such as facility and  workplace management software tools, can play a simple, yet effective role in keeping everyone safe not just now, but also when public venues begin to re-open and the world starts to look ‘normal’ again.

Keep your distance:

In order to keep frontline staff safe, it’s important to introduce policies on physical distancing. The current guidelines suggest that keeping at least two metres, or six feet, away from other people lessens the chances of spreading Covid-19. This is something the general public or workers aren’t used to, so training staff appropriately to identify what this distance looks like is vital. By doing so, they can ensure that everyone on the team is adhering to the practice and any equipment workers need to use to maintain a safe distance is used correctly and helping them in their day jobs and not hindering.

App army:

By using simple smartphone apps for messaging and workforce management, frontline workers can connect with their colleagues without having to get to close. Not only can these apps encourage collaboration while avoiding close contact, but by using workforce management apps managers can track activity and share with the wider frontline workforce. Meaning that everyone on the team knows which jobs they are accountable for and those which have already been done and where, so they don't have to double up on work or repeat process unnecessarily. If an incident arises, for example on the shop floor, then flagging and escalating issues can all be done from the safety of the app, rather pulling in several team members in-person to asses and address.

Work remotely:

For the majority of workers the safest way to work at the moment is to do so from the comfort of home. However, when it comes to working on the frontlines, this obviously isn’t possible. However, by using facility management software it is possible for those in managerial positions to oversee operations remotely using dashboards, store maps and a frontline workforce management solutions, without living their houses.

By digitising operations, businesses can get clear, real-time data into the happenings across premises meaning that they can make important business decisions, resolve any red flags or incidents and support and manage frontline workers remotely, whilst respecting the social distancing rules.

Embrace the ‘Just in Time’ approach:

To keep frontline workers safe, many employers are operating on a skeleton crew. To maximise the staff, they do have on the ground, using the ‘Just in Time’ approach allows management to deploy staff and resources only when they are needed. By embracing smart sensor technology, it is possible to track all areas of a facility in real time rather than relying on the eyes and ears of a frontline team.

For instance, if a particular bathroom door has been detected as opening and shutting many times over the space of an hour, and another has remained shut, management can deploy their cleaning staff to just target the one bathroom that has been busy, rather than exposing the team member to another area of the building that doesn’t require as much attention. This approach not only helps follow the social distancing policy, but once trading returns to normal, this will also help with productivity and resourcing across the entire facility. 

As well as this, frontline workers can also use sensor technology to easily see where their colleagues are working and whether or not they need to keep their distance accordingly.

Managers can also map out worker routes to individuals, so that frontline workers do not need to cross paths in the course of their daily duties. If an urgent issue occurs workers can use incident capturing to flag the issue and then managers can decide who is the best person for the task and assign out actions in such a way to minimise staff contact and best utilise their time.

Digital collaboration:

Frontline workers thrive on communication in order to do the best job possible. Whether it’s formal meetings before heading out on site or having a quick catch-up over a cup of tea, the team’s ability to do their jobs well hinges on good and constant communication. In order to allow for safe communication at a time where physical distancing is crucial for the safety of workers, it’s important to introduce workforce management software applications to pick up the load and keep communications as regular and natural as possible.

By highlighting issues, assigning tasks and roles and allowing for constant discourse on the devices that workers carry in their pockets, managers can ensure that frontline staff don’t miss out on any of the important communication they need, whilst also keeping their distance from one another.

These are difficult times for everyone. Working patterns and structures are constantly changing and many businesses are having to think on their feet and in many cases pivot on their business plans, store layouts and how they use staff. 

Whilst these are daunting times, by following some of the above tips now, not only will it help keep frontline workers and the public safe, but it will help future proof organisations for years to come, by empowering frontline workers, making stores and facilities ‘smarter’ and giving management the overview they need to make the best decisions not only for the business, but also for their staff.

Michael Elliott, CEO and Founder, Over-C

Michael Elliott is an entrepreneur and expert in connectivity and digitalisation. He is the CEO and Founder of Over-C, a leading provider of digital platform management, which uses location, sensor data to empower front line workers.