Thought Leadership

Returning to on-site work: 4 online tools to help keep your workforce safe

By Paul Williams, Director

Following the announcement last week that on-site work may now resume, we are seeing many of the country’s workforce in the manufacturing, construction and engineering industries returning to work.

But with social distancing measures still fully in place, the onus lies on each individual business to ensure that they adhere to current government guidelines on health and safety in the workplace to keep their employees safe.

The role of technology in industries like this has been rapidly developing over the last ten years, but it’s important to be aware of some of the tools that are available to firms right now, who will have their employee’s safety at the forefront of their minds.

Here are some recommendations of applications and added features that can assist with a smooth and safe return to work;

1.     Monitoring shift patterns

With many of us turning to Microsoft Teams over the last few weeks, and getting to grips with its home-working benefits, it’s important to remember that this tool can be used at work as well.   Some firms might be looking at introducing or modifying shift patterns to help with a phased approach to returning to work.  The ‘Shifts’ component within Teams is a schedule management tool that helps you create and manage your workforce working patterns, helping to limit numbers and adhere to social distancing guidelines.

As restrictions start to lift, shift patterns might be required to change on a weekly basis, and so Shifts

allows you to assign shifts, whilst also giving access to employees to review or request time-off, and even offer shift swaps. This might help employees who still might need to care for elderly parents, or source part-time childcare, as the country slowly comes out of lockdown. 

2.     Clock-In location reporting

An added capability to the Teams Shifts function is it’s Time Clock feature, which allows you review the number of staff members clocked-in at your place of work.

The app allows workers to clock into their shift from their mobile device, recording whether or not this was on-site at your workplace or not using GPS location coordinates. Managers can export a shift report to review on-site staff at any given point, checking numbers correspond with social distancing requirements. 

3.     Walkie Talkie

Currently at pre-release stage, Microsoft’s Walkie Talkie feature will be a fantastic option for employees to communicate whilst still adhering to social distancing rules. It’s currently scheduled for general release before the second half of this year.

The feature, which is built into the Teams app, lets users have a conversation with a colleague at the push of a button. They can even broadcast an audio message to multiple users at once, with no risk of cross-talk or eavesdropping – like with traditional walkie-talkies. The feature relies on Wi-Fi or cellular data, and can be used across multiple geographic locations too, which is handy if some of your workforce is still working from home.

4.     Managing a split workforce

For firms who might currently have a split workforce in terms of having some on-site and some still working remotely, Hubstaff is a really simple application that can track time and activity levels for remote workers.

While the focus will remain on keeping on-site workforces as safe as possible, firms might also want to think about how they want to ensure consistent productivity levels across the whole workforce. The app can even be set to take random screenshots of remote workers’ desktops through the day if this is needed, and data collected can be used to improve overall efficiency.

While these features might not have necessarily been designed to support our current situation, their benefits can definitely be utilised to support the safe return of many workforces across the country. Right now, it’s all about making use of the tools we have at our fingertips to support us in our return to some form of normality, while also keeping as safe as possible.