Why infection protection is workforce management

by Dr. Jörg Herbers
(c) Narongrit Sritana - Getty Images

In one way or another, the last few weeks have been very challenging for all of us and it seems as if the challenges change every week. Consequently, many companies must implement adjustment measures in weekly cycles. Many companies had to adjust their personnel capacities in the first weeks of the "pandemic period" – so for many companies this meant short-time working. Currently, the focus is on re-opening measures and restarting production and other sectors of the economy. Of course, considering the risks and warnings of the virologists.

Health and safety at work and organization of working time

Companies must proceed with caution and implement health protection requirements specified by each state. Concerning the organization of working time, health and safety legislation provides guidance, particularly for the following measures:

  • Shift schedules should be created in such a way that where possible the same people work on shifts together.
  • Wherever possible, the start and end of work should be arranged in such a way as to avoid gatherings of people e.g. in changing rooms or at the time recording systems.
  • Break times should be allocated at different times to reduce the occupancy density e.g. in break rooms.

All these requirements directly affect workforce management. In general, companies aim to contain the spread of the virus by keeping individual teams or shift groups among themselves and separating them from other teams and groups. This can also be achieved by changing shift models. For instance, by staggering shift start times, contact between the employees can be avoided. It is also possible to extend shifts where much work remains to be done.

Digital implementation possibilities

These are intrinsic tasks of staff scheduling. Shift schedule adjustments, scheduling of lunch breaks as well as changes to teaming structures can easily be implemented and tracked digitally. There is also the possibility of mobile time recording (e.g. via smartphones) which helps to avoid clashes at time recording terminals.

But that's not necessarily all it takes. Companies must ensure that they keep track of suspected and infected cases and protect employees from infections as good as possible. This can be done in ways that comply with data protection and privacy regulations as e.g. mandated by the GDPR.

Central to infection protection is the tracing of contact persons. Companies could e.g. assume that the contacts of a given employee are exactly the colleagues in his/her shift group of team – if those become separated as described above. However, the question arises if contact tracing can be made more specific, by tracing the effective contacts. This can be done using CoronaTracers. Data from CoronaTracers can be used in order to take quarantine measures. If data is automatically transferred to the workforce management tool, it can be easily verified that quarantine periods of affected groups are really observed.

Important functionalities of a workforce management tool in times of corona:

  • The registration of employees who belong to groups at risk and blocking of those employees from critical work assignments.
  • Tracing of infections and suspicions in a way that is compliant with data protection and privacy requirements.
  • The possibility of blocking employees of the relevant teams as part of the quarantine measures.
  • Defining a maximum staffing per work area to implement minimum distances in work areas.
  • Staffing of all work areas with at least one person that is trained on infection prevention measures.

Other specific measures may also apply, e.g. a limitation of carpooling to teams or shift groups or working time restrictions for employees who need to look after their children.

Workforce management tools for compliance with the protective measures

What are the advantages of such a mapping in a workforce management tool? An implementation of digital infection protection as an integral part of workforce management allows a consistency in data processing. Workforce management is the natural place where shift schedules, teams, working times and locations are stored - and it is precisely this data that is needed when implementing containment strategies. If features of a schedule contradict infection protection, a suitable workforce management tool can directly alert the planner, team, or department head by means of integrated rule violations. Ideally, this is directly visible in the planning tool and not only in side evaluations or numerous Excel sheets. This allows quarantine measures to be consistently maintained. Payroll-relevant topics, (e.g. government compensations for lockdown measures, reduced working hours or childcare) can be implemented as part of payroll integration.

Everyone should have realized by now that the virus will continue to challenge us and the way we work for some time to come. How are you tackling the new challenges?

Would you like to know how software can help you to implement the new challenges well, or do your challenges look completely different? Contact us.

 



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About the author

  • Dr. Jörg Herbers

    Jörg Herbers is Senior Vice President Workforce Management at Inform GmbH. He specializes in all topics related to staff planning and optimization.

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