COVID-19: How the tech sector is looking to the future

The tech sector looks to understand how the virus is changing the way businesses work

COVID-19: How the tech sector is looking to the future

A few weeks ago, it would have been hard to conceive just how much of an impact the novel coronavirus would have on the economy. At this stage, it is still hard to understand the full ramifications COVID-19 will have on the foreseeable future. COS recently spoke with Sean Baldry, an OHS expert with software provider Cority, about the current climate and the future of the tech sector.

How can the tech sector help companies handle current OHS-related questions? What solutions can the tech sector offer? COVID-19 has changed, and will continue to change, the way businesses handle their employees working from home.

Current concerns?

Baldry posits, “How do you manage those social distancing rules and continue running your business?

“Businesses that did not have plans in place to respond to a pandemic before COVID-19 arrived will find this next period extremely challenging.  As such, they will need to respond quickly and begin implementing appropriate measures to reduce risks of infection and address their employees’ anxieties while also trying to figure out how to keep their business running,” he continues, “and because we’ve never experienced a health crisis of this scale before, there’s no clear rulebook to follow.  Each business will need to determine for themselves what the correct approach is, following the guidance from public health officials and based on some very candid conversations with their stakeholders.”

Baldry emphasises that companies a little bit further behind in their planning should definitely be working to build their pandemic response plans right now, and software solutions can assist in that regard.

“I think most organizations are more comfortable dealing with ‘traditional’ emergencies, whether fire or natural disaster, and perhaps either didn’t anticipate the possibility or impact of a pandemic or didn’t know how to prepare for one.  But there is certainly a lot of appetite right now to learn.”

And indeed, software can be a valuable solution when working with partners and clients to assist in developing appropriate business plans, he says.

Other things to consider are that the virus will affect employees differently, Baldry explains: “What’s unique about COVID-19 is that it seems to have a disproportionate effect on a certain demographic, how do we manage risk effectively? How do we understand who’s most at risk?” He goes on to explain that companies will need new tools to help assess the risk that the virus can pose to specific subsets of their employees, so that they can implement appropriate solutions to limit these risks.

Baldry states: “Software solutions that help organizations assess risk across different criteria – job, task or demographics – will make this process more efficient and accurate.”

Looking to the future, there are many additional questions that are being raised.

Indeed, he says that organizations will certainly be focusing a lot of their time and effort attempting to maintain social distancing protocols and track potentially infected individuals to understand the nature of infection risk across their organization.  Yet organizations also need to really think through the distinct steps needed to maintain their operations in light of the effect that COVID-19 will have. This could mean, for example, identifying essential and critical skills required in the workforce needed to support continuing operations.

Tech as a solution?

Baldry explains: “I believe COVID-19 will create a mindset shift in business where we will begin to see more focus on thorough pandemic and business continuity planning in the near term.  I think the global scale of the crisis, and the far-reaching impacts it has will encourage organizations to really think about how a future crisis will challenge their ability to keep people safe while maintaining operations in a highly integrated and interconnected world.  And assuming that some normalcy returns in the latter parts of 2020, as the pandemic hopefully comes under better control, I think more and more organizations will be looking at that time for better resources to help them develop their pandemic plans in anticipation of the next event.”

He believes that there is certainly opportunity for the tech sector to assist organizations with these new needs:

“Due to the quick emergence of COVID-19, many organizations are relying on pandemic planning guidance for influenza and other infectious respiratory diseases from public health agencies.  Much of this guidance is broad in scope, and not necessarily industry specific, so while organizations will certainly derive value from these publications, it will need to be contextualized to their specific industry, workplace, operations and workforce. 

One of the key values that software offers is the ability for organizations to quickly assemble and analysis massive amounts of data and use it to create meaningful insights that will help them create a tailored approach for their unique business needs, strengthen decision making, better manage their pandemic response and optimize resources.”

What’s next?

“Usually events of this scale usher in a totally different way of working,” says Baldry, “if we’re moving towards a more remote workplace, how do you move towards protecting your workforce in these new spaces?”

Indeed, he explains that it’s going to be interesting to see how the economy shifts at the end of this. It may change the nature of how we work, which is going to disrupt traditional workplaces. How will employers manage safety when people are working from home? How will it change the way governments and regulators regulate, or even adjudicate claims?

Baldry states, “We’re all in this together. Organisations certainly have to work together to find solutions. Here’s an opportunity for organisations collectively to try and address the public health and also maintain the economy that’s the backbone of life.”

For the tech industry, that means trying to understand what clients are asking for as well as trying to support a potential new work environment -what that will be, only time will tell.

Baldry concludes, “beyond the challenges that businesses will face in managing a remote workforce, I think there is an opportunity for the tech sector to be a integral stakeholder in those discussions and help organizations manage EHSQ risk and helping to ensure businesses are successful in an evolving economy”.