Many businesses are preparing to reopen their offices to employees after months of remote work due to the coronavirus pandemic.
To help with the logistical challenges, companies can use several recently introduced apps to tackle problems inherent in trying to return to some normalcy, even as the epidemic gains momentum in several states. The challenges include gauging how employees feel about returning to the office, keeping track of which rooms have been cleaned, and calculating how many people should be in an office at once to prevent overcrowding.
Jason Wong, a Gartner analyst focused on app design and development, cautioned that businesses must spend time customizing the apps for them to work well. He added that the apps are only effective if a large number of employees use them, particularly for things like indicating that they are in the office on a particular day so that the company can get an accurate count.
Here are some of the apps, which can cost several thousand dollars each, and what they do.
Salesforce’s back to work tools
Salesforce’s Work.com business reopening apps are intended to help manage a range of reopening problems that companies may experience.
The Command Center app, for instance, taps coronavirus-related data from sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The New York Times and displays it in one place so that managers responsible for individual departments can keep up with the pandemic’s spread and engage in “quick decision making,” said Bill Patterson, a Salesforce executive vice president and general manager.
Salesforce also offers a service that can help managers determine the appropriate number of people who can be in an office at a particular time based on the space’s size and the time of day, he said. The point is for managers to plan the right number of people to be in a building by dividing them into time slots, akin to a scheduling system.
ServiceNow’s guide to reopening
Like Salesforce, business softwaremaker ServiceNow also sells apps to help companies reopen offices.
One of its app helps businesses track personal protective equipment, or PPE, that they distribute to workers. Using the app, managers can access information like the number of masks available for employees so they don’t run low and where those masks are located. ServiceNow CEO Bill McDermott said executives can use the app to ensure that their “inventory is up to snuff” and that “there is zero level of error.”
ServiceNow also sells a workplace safety management app for managers to reserve rooms and schedule employees shifts to avoid office congestion. Managers can also use the app to schedule deep cleanings of rooms so that everyone is aware of which parts of the office have been sanitized.
Appian’s plan for reopening
Business software firm Appian’s Workplace Safety app collects self-reported information, like when workers disclose that they’ve been exposed to the coronavirus, into a central hub so managers can determine when they can return to work. Appian CEO Matt Calkins said employee health data is stored in a cloud-computing service that meets federal privacy regulations that are widely known as HIPPA.
Facility managers can also use the Appian app to monitor whether their offices have been cleaned. A college, for instance, could use the app to determine which rooms are ready for classes on a particular day, depending on cleaning schedule, Calkins explained.
Surveying the workforce
Qualtrics, which specializes in corporate surveys, debuted a reopening app that contains multiple Covid-19 related questionnaires for workers. Qualtrics CEO Ryan Smith said that managers can use the tool to learn what would make employees feel more comfortable about returning to the office and what they’re worried about, such as finding childcare.
Tools for the front desk
Software company TileFive debuted its People Count app for businesses like gyms and restaurants to monitor the flow of people coming in and out of their facilities. For instance, a gym member can use the app to learn how many people are currently working out,in case they want to wait until there’s less of a crowd, TileFive co-founder Andrew Potter explained. “Some people won’t want to go to a retail location or bar when it’s packed,” Potter said. “They just want to come when it’s right for them.”