Companies are focusing on health security for returning workforces.

It's becoming clear that the novel coronavirus will be with us in some form for months or even years, which means companies need to invest in tools that can manage the biological safety of their workplaces.

 With COVID-19 cases declining and the pace of vaccinations rising, it's reasonable to expect that more workers will return to offices in the months ahead.

  • But a return to normalcy is a long way off, and may never fully arrive — the Wall Street Journal reported this week that many companies are pushing return dates to September or beyond.

 Whenever workers return in some fashion to the office, they'll likely be greeted by systems designed to manage to crowd and facilitate contact tracing in an effort to stem any potential outbreaks.

  • More than 70 companies are now using the consulting firm PwC's Check-In, a smartphone-based system to screen workers for symptoms before they come to the office, as well as automated contact tracing that can determine who might have been in close contact with any infected workers.
  • Kloudspot, a location intelligence company, has developed a Reopening Readiness Assessment Tool that helps businesses and schools determine when they're ready to reopen in some form, as well as offering a system that can trigger alerts in the case of PPE violations or overcapacity.

"People are beginning to look at contact tracing and all the other stuff we've been through as something that is just going to be part of work-life going forward," says David Sapin, PwC Digital's chief revenue and risk officer.

Hybrid work systems — with people rotating from remote to the workplace on different days — will present new office challenges.

  • "What happens if more people than you expect in a given day show up at the office?" says Guillermo Diaz Jr., Kloudspot's CEO. "You need the analytics and tools to be able to manage that."

 Just as 9/11 put a premium on the physical security of workplaces for years after the event, COVID-19 ensures that health security will be a part of office life for the foreseeable future.