Office managers and administrators have had to take on many new responsibilities in the era of COVID-19. At various points during the pandemic, some have even had to learn how to scan employees’ temperatures and don cleaning gloves for regular disinfection duty.
But another new office responsibility may prove to be one of the most complicated of COVID-19-related tasks — especially for those working for companies that employ more than a handful of people. This job is contact tracing, or keeping track of who has come into contact with whom at work so that you can alert those who may have been exposed to COVID-19.
Tracking employees’ daily movements throughout the office can be complicated. For that reason, some offices have invested in wearable technology that tracks employees’ every movement automatically.
But employees may certainly find that kind of micro-tracking off-putting. It can feel like a violation of their privacy. Plus, an investment in new hardware and software required for such a system might not make financial sense for small- and medium-sized businesses.
The good news is that for most companies, contact tracing can be accomplished fairly effectively by leveraging the reports in a few tech tools that you may already use. With these four simple office management tactics, you’ll be on your way to a solid contact tracing strategy.
Tactic 1: Track Visitor Sign-Ins With Software
The only way to know who was on site at a given day and time is to keep an accurate record of when people came and left.
With your employees, this is relatively simple. Most companies can safely assume all employees were on site any day that they didn’t call in sick or have a scheduled day off.
But for those who don’t have a regular schedule at your office — visitors, contractors, volunteers, or part-timers — you’ll need a sign-in log.
With a modern check-in app, visitors can sign in contactlessly on their phone without the need to download an app or touch anything in your office. The details of when they arrived and left are stored automatically and safely, with no room for mistakes in transcription, errors in accuracy, or a paper record getting misplaced or damaged.
It’s also worth noting that if your employees are partially remote or have started to adopt more flexible hours as a pandemic response, you might want to have them sign in and out.
Ensure that your check-in software has solid reporting abilities that will allow administrators to sort check-in data by the day, or even by certain time slots. Make sure to collect contact information from each visitor so that you can contact them easily in the case of a positive report. Just make sure that visitors know why you need their contact information and how long you’ll keep it before safely deleting it.
Related post: 4 Ways to Respect Office Visitor Privacy
Tactic 2: Track Meeting Hosts With Software
Along with the time and date of check-in and personal contact information of each visitor, your office’s visitor check-in system should also be tracking who each visitor was on-site to see.
Of course, as we recently wrote in our post 5 Types of Visits Your Office Should Be Tracking, not all visits require a host. Many visits are just to make deliveries, for example. But visitors who are coming on site for things like job interviews or business meetings should select their primary meeting host from a list of employees as they sign in.
With that piece of information, office administrators will be able to quickly get in touch with the visitor’s official host to confirm the presence of anyone else who met with the visitor while they were on site.
Make sure you can access a report of visits for a certain employee for a certain date range in your visitor management system.
There’s another category of visitors to mention here: those who are coming on-site to do things like clean the office or repair equipment. They might not have an official host, but having your system note the reason they were visiting can give administrators the clues they need to figure out where the visitor may have gone within the building and who they may have talked to.
Tactic 3: Require Reservations For Meeting Rooms
Tracking visitor check-ins and check-outs and noting their hosts is generally all you need to do when it comes to contact tracing for visitors. But what about contact tracing for employees?
Infected employees will likely remember everyone they came into contact with while they were in the office so that your team can alert all employees of their risk. But for businesses with more than a handful of employees, tracking who had contact with whom within the office can quickly become complicated if there aren’t a few ground rules in place.
One simple way to track who has had contact with whom is to have employees reserve meeting rooms. Brief interactions under 10 or 15 minutes generally don’t constitute a COVID-19 risk, especially if people are wearing masks. But longer conversations, such as those that happen in meeting rooms, are often where infection is more likely.
A conference room log makes it possible to see who has had longer meetings. You can use a simple paper tool or a digital tool like Roomzilla that’s designed for the purpose.
Tactic 4: Continue to Limit Office Access
Perhaps the simplest tactic available for business owners who want to put contact tracing on autopilot is to limit in-person contact altogether.
As we mentioned in our post on Best Practices for Safer In-Person Meetings, some businesses really can’t avoid some in-person contact, such as those with specialized equipment or facilities.
But employers who can let employees work from home should certainly do so and continue to rely on digital and video tools for meeting needs. When only a handful of employees are in the office at a given time, or if they don’t use the office at all, the job of contact tracing gets extremely simple — and your employees are at much lower risk.Perhaps the simplest tactic available for business owners who want to put contact tracing on autopilot is to keep limiting in-person contact altogether. Click To Tweet
Many offices had to initially transition to remote work under trying circumstances and are understandably looking forward to a sense of normalcy. But in our opinion, unless in-person work is truly crucial, there’s no need to rush and risk an outbreak.
For more on our thoughts on a safe return to work, check out this podcast episode: Our Thoughts and Findings About Returning to Work.
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