Social distancing and proper usage of personal protective equipment continues to be the top tools in the fight against COVID-19. But technology also plays a big role in helping us stay safe and connected while physically at a distance. Let’s look at how businesses use technology to keep employees, customers, and visitors safe on- and off-premises.
A New Way of Working
As the number of COVID-19 cases increased over the past few months, smart implementation of tech solutions allowed companies to stay productive. Many embraced the Work from Home (WFH) model in at least some capacity. However, the ability to work from home does not come without challenges for employers and employees alike. Starting with equipment, the capability to work from home requires workers to have the right devices, primarily company-issued laptops and smartphones. While Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) policies are not unheard of, security is a primary concern. Company-issued laptops provide more security and protect both the organization and its data.
On the software side, today’s apps make it easier than ever to work from home. Microsoft Teams for instance is an easy-to-adopt option for many SMBs to help their workers stay connected to each other. For many with an active Microsoft Office license, Teams costs nothing to sign up and comes already integrated with Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and most commonly used Office apps. On the collaboration and project management side, there exist many solutions to fit a wide range of budgetary needs. Some of the most popular options of the day include Basecamp, Monday, Trello, Asana, and more.
The last and perhaps most important bit to ensure that your employees can continue to be productive remotely is to utilize a virtual private network (VPN) to provide secure access to the company network. VPNs provide employees with secure and direct access to databases, files, and apps required to complete their tasks. For more information on VPN considerations, please see our security tips for a remote workforce. Keep in mind any WFH scenario should be considered carefully as they come with increased security risks that need to be addressed.
Better Crowd Control
For SMBs and organizations that need to interact with the public, such clients and customers, health and safety remains a concern. Thankfully, a number of strategies and policies can be employed to minimize contact and help curb the spread of COVID-19. They range from implementing practical social distancing policies to tech solutions such as apps.
Starting with more practical measures, social distancing remains one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of contagion. To help promote social distancing, consider implementing facility and traffic safety equipment. It can start with the now commonplace blue painter’s tape, which adorns the floors of many physical retail locations. To create a more orderly queue and guide customers, orange traffic cones can be used in conjunction with distance markers.
Tech also has a part to play in keeping customers and employees safe by changing how queuing works. Look at how restaurants tackle queuing for outdoor dining experiences. Instead of managing in-person lines, some restaurants use virtual queues managed by apps and monitored on digital displays. While not a new technology, the case for electronic wait lists became stronger than ever thanks in part to social distancing guidance during this pandemic. SMBs and organizations outside of the hospitality industry can also take advantage of this technology to reduce lines and crowds. Popular apps such as Waitlist.me now provide queue management services for many types of businesses in addition to restaurants and bars.
To encourage social distancing inside the store, scan and go technology presents a strong case. Initially adopted years ago for increased convenience, they now make more sense than ever. Not only can they reduce in-person interactions by removing the person behind the register, they also can help alleviate wait times. Today, a variety of self-checkout options exist thanks to smartphone-enabled mobile payment solutions. Instead of having to reach for a credit card, your phone can now complete the transaction with a scan of your face or the tap of your passcode.
Protecting the Premises
In the rush to promote public health and safety through work from home and more efficient crowd control, SMBs shouldn’t forget to secure physical assets as well. Whether an office building or storefront, it pays to stay smart and proactive with security. Options for on-site security can start with smart surveillance cameras placed throughout the premises, body cameras for on-site security staff, or keycard scanners for entrances. As a bonus, the latter two technologies also promote public health and safety in certain situations in addition to securing the premises.
Cameras with equipped with facial recognition technology can be deployed at entrances so that entry may be granted without requiring employees to touch a keypad or lock. Keycard entry systems also provide a safer way of entry compared as they too can reduce interaction with touch surfaces. Implementing thermal imaging cameras may provide an additional layer of security, though they are not designed for detection of fevers. They provide less accurate readings than medical devices and measure skin temperature rather than body temperature, notes the FDA.
Technology can be a powerful tool for SMBs and organizations during this pandemic. When used intelligently, tech can protect both employees and non-employees. It can be utilizing a VPN to enable your workforce to work remotely or deploying scan and pay kiosks in your stores. For SMBs, smartly embracing technology can yield benefits in health and public safety.