Temperature Scanning: The First Line of Defense for a Healthy Workforce
You walk into your favorite hair salon or barber shop to get a haircut after many months of quarantine, eager to spruce up your shaggy locks before your next virtual happy hour with the team. Prior to even stepping inside of the establishment, an employee greets with a handheld no-contact thermometer. Your temperature, if falling under the threshold for a fever, is cleared, and the reading, alongside your name and phone number, is recorded on a check-in sheet or handheld device to be deployed for contact tracing purposes.
Imagine this robust of a check-in process being the status quo for welcoming customers to a business just a few short months ago — when the word ‘pandemic’ spurred images of plagues of centuries past or of science fiction of the future rather than our day-to-day reality. Can you fathom the surprise that an individual might feel upon getting his or her forehead scanned while running a routine errand?
Thanks to COVID-19, temperature scanning has become more than a part of the new normal, or as we at Domo prefer to refer to call it, our ‘present future.’ It has become the first line of defense for a business to protect its employees, customers and reputation from virus spread. One need only look at the sales of medical thermometers, which have skyrocketed. According to industry analysts, the global market for medical thermometers is expected to accelerate and reach $3.2 billion by 2027.
Temperature scanning is poised to become an essential protocol of not only the reopening of heavily consumer-trafficked businesses, many of which are now successfully and safely operating as a result of initial reopening phases delineated by local governments. The CDC recently released specific guidelines for what a responsible return to office buildings should look like, and temperature checks, alongside the enforcement of PPE and social distancing, proved a key element.
No matter the scanning approach that your organization chooses to deploy, whether traditional temperature taking or the use of novel thermal scanning technologies, in order to be truly effective at mitigating virus risk, temperature scanning must be distributed in an omnichannel manner, be data-driven, and continuously updated. Unlike at a local hair salon catering to the occasional visit, a one-off static temperature check will not suffice for a location like an office, where employees will be reporting consistently, interacting with one another in closer quarters, and interacting with guests such as clients and vendors.
At Domo, we’ve been in close contact with business leaders to address these requirements, and have created our Temperature Scanning App to empower business leaders and their employers to use real-time data to keep employees safe — so they can spend more time being productive and less time worrying about whether a coworker is sick. Using our “traffic light” approach to employee data privacy, temperatures are marked red or green, and the specific number is never recorded on our mobile-first app. A “red” (translating to fever) reading automatically triggers an incident report to the pertinent parties such as HR, so that contact tracing and any other next steps such as self-quarantine can take place.
Temperature scanning, alongside contact tracing, the disbursement of PPE, sanitization tracking, safety training and more are all part of our Get Back to Work Command Center. Working from a centralized command center ensures that no single element of the return to office process is siloed, rather, data is being constantly communicated to both employees and leadership stakeholders so that every part of the plan informs the progression of the other.
But no matter how forward-looking your temperature scanning process is, it’s important to note that implementing it will prove more than an exercise in technology adoption. It will also be an exercise in overall change management — which includes managing employee expectations and reactions, which understandably, might range from relief to confusion to fear. As CNBC put it, “If it feels a bit strange to have your temperature taken every time you enter your workplace, that’s because health has long been a taboo subject in most workplaces,” where the ADA has historically tagged employee health as a matter of personal privacy.
After the disease was declared a pandemic by the WHO in March, however, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission revised its guidance on the ADA, and allowed employers to screen for the infection to help protect their workers, including using temperature screens and tests. In order to execute a smart temperature scanning strategy, transparent communications is key. Communicate what the thresholds are on temperature and on symptoms, and lay out for employees when they might be sent home. “The best idea is to have a consistent process that applies to everyone,” says John Merrell, a partner with the law firm Ogletree Deakins.
Lastly, the investment in forward-looking technologies like infrared thermometers and corresponding apps might have some business leaders wondering, “When the effects of the pandemic dissipate, will it be worth my upfront investment?” Daniel Putterman, CEO of Kogniz, a thermal security platform that uses AI to track fevers from a distance, said he believes technologies like these will become commonplace moving forward, in the same way increased security protocols implemented at airports after the September 11 attacks have persisted today. Until a vaccine is ready, temperature monitoring will be the new norm — from the hair salon to the office and everywhere in between.
“Why, in a year, would you dismantle your temperature screening? That would be sort of like saying, ‘Well, we haven’t had a terrorist attack for a while, so let’s get rid of all these TSA procedures because we’re fine now,'” he said. “We’re looking to put new technologies in offices and other environments that can be permanent and that can help us get back to a sense of being normal.”