COVID-19: Socially distant workplace, enabled by technology
• COVID-19 has brought unprecedented tough times globally. Governments across the globe are striving hard to bring back normalcy.
• India Inc is also gearing up for the new normal, when the lockdown ends and offices resume work.
• The only key to safeguard ourselves and our country against this pandemic till vaccines/medicines are developed is social distancing.
• The private sector is stepping in with vital solutions that can help companies manage operations, while staying mindful of employee safety.
COVID-19 has brought unprecedented tough times globally. It has not just led to a massive loss of lives but also precipitated an enormous economic downturn, which will further exacerbate the challenges faced by the human race. Some estimate it to be the worst recession ever faced by generations before and those to come.
The United Nations has predicted that the global economy could shrink by 1% in 2020 due the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a major drop from the previous forecast of 2.5% YoY growth. Tourism and people flows have come to naught all of a sudden, with almost 100 countries closing their borders. This has also led to the fear of job losses.
Governments across the globe are striving hard to bring back normalcy. India Inc. is also gearing up for the new normal, when lockdown ends and offices resume work. As per the new guidelines, offices are advised to function with partial workforce and institute measures to maintain social distancing within their premises to limit the spread of the virus. Organisations have to relook at their working structures and institute a balanced combination of work-from-home (WFH) and office functioning. Companies across sectors like food, pharma, banking, HoReCa, education, entertainment, etc are looking at all possible ways to move their customer services online.
However, the danger of the contagion is far from over and the risks increase multifold when people come in close contact of each other. Public places of leisure or recreation can still be avoided for a longer time but essential places like offices, workplaces or factories are critical. Employees will return to the day-to-day operations and by force of subconscious habit, may tend to miss following guidelines of social distancing, caution while touching surfaces, washing hands constantly, etc.
This can have highly unfortunate and unavoidable consequences, as controlling the spread of the pandemic is of utmost priority. On the other hand, the faster business returns to normal, the better is the chance we have of curbing the terrible economic impact and saving the livelihoods of millions. So it is important to maintain a delicate balance.
Adversity is considered the mother of genius. Even in this crisis, we see that both companies and academia are coming up with exemplary innovations to help tackle both the pandemic and its impact on businesses. One such useful application was recently launched by a start-up, UNYDE. They built this app – MYSHIELD – to help organizations promote social distancing amongst co-workers as well as contactless attendance.
The application has a fairly simple yet powerful functionality. It builds a digital safety circle of a circumference of 2 mtrs around a person, and whenever a person breaches that safety circle by mistake, automatic notifications are sent and each party is alerted and reminded to recede back to the circle. This is of unmatched importance, since it is easy to fall back to default day-to-day protocols like holding meetings in closed rooms or having group conversations with colleagues in offices. One can also use this app to mark attendance digitally without touching any physical surface or biometric machine.
This application is gaining wide popularity with organisations rapidly implementing this in their offices and encouraging all employees to download. The ease in adoption is also owed to the fact that the app does not bear any cost implications and was built with the sole intention of keeping workplaces safe and healthy.
Technology initiatives like these assume a new level of importance as companies look to progressively revive their operations to pre-crisis levels post-lockdown. It serves to remind them that freedom to perform at the workplace comes with some tough riders, at least in the short term. The coming period is expected to see many more such innovations, which will help companies in India and around the world emerge from this pandemic, stronger than ever.