When offices reopen employees will be faced with the prospect of working in close proximity with others. What was once thought of as standard now seems risky after months of social distancing.
Fortunately, Microsoft is teaming up with UnitedHealth to put everyone’s minds a little more at ease. The duo is launching a workplace health app called ProtectWell. It uses CDC guidelines to help workers determine whether or not they should go into the office.
Millions of employees around the globe are currently working remotely as the world rides out the coronavirus pandemic. However, the work-from-home model simply isn’t feasible for some companies—or some employees for that matter. Large tech companies like Twitter can get away with keeping their workers at home. Others aren’t so lucky.
For employers who will soon be recalling their workforce to a physical location, protocols are going look a lot different. Things like masks, sneeze shields, and desks spread six feet apart help but they aren’t a perfect answer. The most important factor in keeping a workforce healthy is ensuring that sick employees don’t come to the office and infect everyone else.
That’s where ProtectWell comes in. The app asks employees questions each day before they head to work. Based on their answers, it provides a green light to go to work, a recommendation to stay home, or a suggestion to contact their healthcare provider for further testing. Employees will receive a QR code that can be scanned prior to entering the office to confirm their “green light” status.
ProtectWell is powered by Microsoft’s artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud solutions and uses health data from UnitedHealth. Moreover, its recommendations are based on the latest guidelines from the CDC.
Microsoft’s global chief medical officer, Dr. David Rhew, says, “Based on CDC criteria, the most efficient way is to ask individuals on a daily basis.”
Moving forward, such a system—whether it’s designed by Microsoft or not—could become commonplace.
It’s worth noting that the ProtectWell app is available for free to all employers and their employees—not just those affiliated with UnitedHealth. At the same time, the platform is entirely optional.
At this point, no one is required to start using it. Individual companies will be able to decide how they want to utilize the app. Some may make it an opt-in measure while others could make it mandatory like drug testing.
Regardless, employees should be happy that such a system is in place. If everyone honestly answers the app’s questions prior to coming to work and then follows its recommendations, the chances of getting infected by the coronavirus at the office will decrease dramatically.
Even after the pandemic fizzles out—whenever that may be—ProtectWell could still come in handy. Rhew notes that it could be used to screen for other conditions like the flu or simply a common cold. He says, “This is a model that can be used, but there (would) have to be certain processes put in depending on the kind of condition we’re talking about.”
For now, though, it will be used to help employers keep their teams safe from COVID-19 while easing anxieties about coming back to work.