I got an email the other day which was startling. It was titled “Liability Insurance Email” and it was advertising liability release forms to protect companies from being sued by employees who contracted Covid-19 at work. They offered a solution that simplified the creation, signing, sending, and tracking of liability waivers. This means there is a legitimate threat of contracting COVID-19 when gathering at the office and some companies even see this liability risk as an addressable market. As social distancing has lapsed, the United States is facing the biggest upswing in coronavirus cases in months, passing 100,000 new diagnosed cases in early November. And just in time for the holidays, which will likely make the numbers spike as people travel to visit family.
The CDC, the White House, and the incoming Biden administration all continue to advise social distancing, which means many companies are continuing to telework. The Biden proposed plan includes a provision that:
“Ensures federal workers are able to access workers’ compensation and encourage states to do the same. Because it will be difficult for workers to prove that they were exposed to COVID-19 while on the job. The Biden Plan will ensure the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act program presumes they were exposed while on the job if their job put them in direct contact with infected individuals. And, he will encourage states to do the same.”
Limiting interaction and telework are great alternatives but even those initiatives present their own potential problems. What if everyone does not have the equipment they need? Does all the equipment work? How will IT support work in this totally digital workplace? Will there be backlogs as unknown problems (issues with WIFI, broken or old equipment, blue screen, email errors) all crop up at once? Recently one federal agency set up tents outside their building to provide break, fix, and swap out support to limit people from entering the building, going through security check points, and congregating at the IT helpdesk.
Traditional IT help desks have the potential to spread COVID-19 very quickly, even with proper precautions, as people come and go with their computer problems and their germs. Additionally, help desk staff will be continually exposed to possibly infected customers. After the current COVID-19 pandemic is over, this issue will continue with the yearly flu season and any potential future pandemics we are unlucky enough to experience. One thing is certain; proximity to infected people while seeking support or deploying new devises may dramatically increase risk.
One way to combat this risk is by utilizing Kiosks and Smart Lockers, which are a form of digital personal protective equipment that supports social distancing, while allowing support for a growing tele-workforce. Smart Lockers allow companies to place equipment such as laptops, tablets and smartphones in a secure, easily sanitized location. The No Touch Kiosk allows for virtual consultation with IT to immediately solve common problems, such as login issues, all in one single location before the employee goes home.
Customer testimony: “Minimizing human contact while offering our customers maximum flexible hours for deploying or returning IT equipment is an upgrade from our current state.”