Many companies will start reopening in the near future due to the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, but employers and employees remain vulnerable to Coronavirus. Recent reports indicate a spike in Coronavirus cases due to the transition to workplaces and poorly managed return to work plans. Resuming work in the middle of a raging pandemic presents a unique set of challenges. Organisations ought to respond by introducing safety precautions, protective equipment and maintaining physical distance in workplaces. Apart from precautionary measures, it is vital to nip the spread in the bud using contact tracing. That way, you can quickly contain the spread before it reaches other departments.
Unfortunately, there has been a negative reception to contact tracing methods in some organisations. The negativity stems from misunderstanding the concept and its benefits in reducing COVID-19 spread within a company. Let’s look at what contact tracing entails and how it will benefit your organisation.
Understanding Contact Tracing
Contact tracing in companies involves logging contacts between employees, documenting the data and producing reports for easy access if a worker test positive or exhibits COVID-19 symptoms. With the relevant data at-hand, organisations can curb the spread by isolating co-workers at high-risk of infection. Contact tracing is monumental since it minimises business operations’ impact by protecting the entire company from a widespread outbreak. The concept has been effective in saving millions of lives and combatting the spread of the virus.
Most companies use wearables or mobile apps to trace employees’ movements and contact persons within the organisation. The tracing apps will only log contact from people using the app and not outsiders. Besides, unlike government apps and tracing software, you are in charge of on-boarding staff and have complete control over the contact tracing process. This control allows for a quicker response time.
An alternative to digital contact tracing is the traditional method that involves interviews with COVID-19 positive individuals to determine their interactions. The downside is the labour-intensive aspect, and if the employee is in critical condition, you will have insufficient information. Besides, in large organisations, it can be impossible to trace all positive cases on time.
The Benefits of Contact Tracing Reports to Organisations
1. Reducing the Spread of Coronavirus
Contact tracing identifies employees at high risk through logging direct close contacts and proximity contact. Direct close contact involves face-to-face interaction within a one-metre distance for any duration. Any employee who was within the proximity of the COVID-19 positive individual will be known. Contact tracing also records proximity contact with extended exposure. For instance, if a Coronavirus positive employee meets with a co-worker for more than 15 minutes, the risk of infection may still be high even if they observed social distancing and used face coverings. Proximity contact identifies employees working in the same shift as the infected person or within the same department.
2. Educating Employees on the Steps to Take
With the relevant data, you can formulate policies and guiding principles on managing infection rates in the office. Firstly, you can inform co-workers of any positive cases and organise testing for direct contacts. Close contacts of a colleague that has tested positive must restrict their movements for 14 days, even if their test results are negative.
Using the tracking reports, you can monitor the isolation period to ensure workers do not return to work before they complete treatment. Some employees may take longer to return to the workplace if they continue to suffer from symptoms such as exhaustion.
3. Linking Infected People With Community Resources
The pandemic created congestion and scarcity in healthcare facilities, but companies can help ensure their employees receive adequate medical care. With contact tracing, when an employee shows Coronavirus symptoms, the response time is quick. It ensures all the affected workers have the necessary community resources before their health deteriorates. Companies can also create a list of individuals with high-risk factors, like people with diabetes and elderly employees, and ensure minimal contact with other staff members.
4. Enables Identification of High-Infection Areas
With contact tracing tools, you can determine areas in your office that expose employees to infection. For instance, high-interaction areas like the kitchen or break rooms can be hotspots for spreading the virus. Once you know the areas, you can identify strategies for reducing interaction.
How Employees and Employers Can Boost Contact Tracing Efforts
Usually, contact tracing is the responsibility of the public health sector. But employers can play a role in the process to avoid halting operations in case of a surge in Coronavirus cases. The downside to contact tracing is the reliance on the employee scheduling roster, which may differ from the actual shift attendance. Besides, it can cause privacy and confidentiality issues since you have to inform the contact persons of potential exposure.
However, employees can ease the contact tracing burden by notifying superiors of any shift changes for accurate attendance records. For an office setting, the organisations should document floor plans and have a seating chart. In industries like construction, the supervisor in charge should keep track of the visitors to the job site, including contractors, vendors and part-time workers. You should also have a record of employees who work in groups or close for extended periods.
Employers can also designate a team that will work closely with the health agencies to notify affected contacts and provide the necessary support during the quarantine. The team can manage the tracing process by updating employee schedules whenever there are changes.
Contact tracing can protect your team and the entire community by curbing the spread of Coronavirus within the workplace. If everyone pools their efforts together, contact tracing can flatten the Coronavirus curve.