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Introducing the Back to the Workplace Application

Posted by on June 17, 2020

Nothing has been more certain in recent months than uncertainty. What’s the best response to an unfolding crisis? What are the rules? Who decides what to do next? Individuals and organizations have done their best to cope with a rapidly changing landscape of cautions, restrictions, guidelines, and priorities — often uncertain as to which is which.

One of the major success stories during this period has been the widespread transition for many businesses to a primarily (or exclusively) remote workforce. It’s a qualified success, but definitely a success. The transition has been harder for some organizations than others, introducing unanticipated risks and roadblocks beyond the expected logistical challenges. But for all the hardships, businesses across geographies and across industries have demonstrated that they can operate, and even be productive, with a widely distributed workforce.

Cherwell Steps In

In the early stages of the COVID 19 pandemic, Cherwell stepped in to help our customers get a handle on the uncertainty. We quickly rolled out the Crisis Management mApp, providing your employees a simple way to self-report their status and location as the crisis unfolded. In parallel, we introduced the Remote Employee Management mApp, enabling your business to efficiently manage the transition of employees from the office to remote work.

Now as the crisis enters a new phase, businesses are called on to assess how and when to transition remote staff back to the workplace, along with staff who were unable to perform their jobs remotely (many of whom were furloughed.) And once again, uncertainty is rearing its head. Who should come back? Who should continue to work remotely? What is the correct time frame? How will the workplace itself be managed differently? Company policies, industry standards, and official guidelines from the government are all in play.

Return to Workplace Application

Once again, Cherwell is stepping in with a solution to address these rapidly changing requirements. The Return to Workplace application helps you reintegrate staff to the work location after a work-disrupting event. You can define and implement return policies and guidelines based on the event type and geography. The app supports employee surveys to simplify the process of determining who is ready to return. It also provides for dynamic approvals, dashboard metrics to monitor changing employee status, and automatic triggering of service requests to ensure a safe and compliant transition back to the worksite.

Return to Workplace Admin Screenshot

The application facilitates a framework for collecting and evaluating employee information after a work-disrupting event to determine when and how staff should return to the workplace. Out-of-the box event types include infectious disease, natural disaster, active shooter. These event types map to the event types defined in the Crisis Management mApp.

For each event type, you can set different criteria as default values. For example, depending on the type of event and local applicable guidelines, you might configure employee criteria such as job role or age (in the case of an infectious disease like COVID.) You can configure separate return to work criteria based on country, state or province, individual building / work site, or even a room within a building — all in line with defined company policies and government regulations specific to that location.

Managing the Transition

Using the Return to Work application, you can define the survey questions that will determine eligibility to return to the workplace. Setting up the survey includes defining the full set of questions, the list of recipients, and the survey schedule.

Once the survey is active, the employee gets an email telling them they need to take the survey. The employee logs in and sees guidelines and survey questions based on their specific location. The employee responds to each question, most of which are yes or no questions such as: “Have you been exposed to anyone infected with the virus in the past 14 days?”

When the employee submits the survey, approvals may be required depending on the answers given and the policies in place for that location. If approval is required, the system sends an email to the employee’s manager or other defined approver. The approver receives an email with a link to an end user portal, allowing them to access a list of people needing approval with no login required. Upon approval, the employee receives a pass showing they are approved to return to the workplace, valid for specified duration.

In addition to automating the approval and pass-generating process, the Return to Work application facilitates automatic generation of related IT service requests through Cherwell’s automation engine. For example, depending on the specifics of the survey and location, an employee’s return to work may require making a new room assignment, sanitizing equipment, and issuing a PPE. The system generates these service requests, including all the needed information to trigger the correct automated next steps. The IT technician receives notification of these requests and can step through them to ensure a smooth transition back to the workplace.

The Return to Workplace application also provides an executive dashboard that provides visibility into the status of an individual, group, or work location. The dashboard provides senior leadership with an at-a-glance view of who has been surveyed, who is ready to return to the workplace, and who must still remain offsite.

Return to Workplace Executive Overview Screenshot

The application makes it easy to track status of the transition overall and to ensure that company policies and legal guidelines are adhered to throughout. And, should uncertainty rear its head again, it provides a framework for assessing whether to continue the transition, pause it, or adjust course once again.

The Cherwell Return to Workplace application is available at the Cherwell Marketplace. To learn more about Cherwell’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, visit the COVID-19 resource page.