HRE’s Number of the Day: Contact-tracing tools

31%: Percentage of employees who report being “very concerned” about COVID-19-related tracking tools, like apps and wearable devices.

As employers around the country gradually bring employees back to worksites in the coming months, safety will be a top priority. But, according to a recent survey, some employees are worried about sacrificing their security for the sake of safety.

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Despite those concerns, workers expect their employers to keep them safe. Fifty-six percent said their employer should provide PPE, and more than half expect to be notified if a co-worker tests positive, believe customers should follow safety and hygiene practices and want to receive assurances about cleaning procedures.

Bhushan Sethi, PwC’s joint global people and organization leader, notes that, in talking to PwC clients, most are relatively optimistic about creating safe worksites, though they are challenged to do so in the least invasive way–all while minimizing privacy issues.

That’s where contact-tracing tools can be effective, Sethi says.

“By tracing movement throughout the office, companies can alert employees when they have been in contact with an infected co-worker so they can quickly address potential spread of the virus,” he says. “Privacy should be at the core of the technology, and the data should be anonymized and available only to the key group of authorized decision-makers whose role is to alert other employees.”

Importantly, it’s not necessary to reveal the identity of any individual who has tested positive, Sethi notes.

Interest in tracing tools is on the rise: Nearly one-third of CFOs surveyed earlier this month by PwC planned to use them in their return strategies. PwC recently launched its own contact-tracing tool–Automatic Contact Tracing–that will be deployed across its offices when they reopen, as well as available to clients.

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“Many companies are weighing the pros and cons of instituting tracing tools, but this is the time for companies to over-communicate all their safety procedures–including PPE, physical distancing, tracing–to alleviate fear and misunderstanding with facts,” he says.

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Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at [email protected].