Return to the Workplace Solution

December 8, 2020 Rob Murray

return to work

The office. Even though many people have adjusted to the current state of affairs, a lot of us still miss that in-person interactivity, that ability to pop by someone’s desk with an idea or sharing some conversation by the water cooler. The realities of the COVID-19 pandemic mean that we aren’t returning to the old ways any time soon, but the Cognizant Microsoft Business Group — using tools and methodologies from Microsoft — can help you chart a path back to those (socially distant) water cooler conversations.

Microsoft’s Return to the Workplace Solution (RWS) relies on tools likely already familiar to you or a member of your staff that are available in your Microsoft 365 tenant. With Power Apps and Power BI, you can implement the RWS and “reopen responsibly.” You’ll need to be a Global Administrator of your M365 tenant to deploy the RWS and will want to confirm that you have the proper Power Apps and Power BI licensing before proceeding (Licensing: Power Apps license, Power BI Premium/Pro to use the dashboard).

These M365 components are used to power the tools you’ll use in the RWS, namely the Location Readiness dashboard, the Facility Safety Management app, the Workplace Care Management app, and the Employee Return to the Workplace app.

The Location Readiness dashboard offers both an overview and detailed information for the current state of affairs in every one of your facilities’ locations. Key metrics displayed on the dashboard include new COVID-19 cases, new fatal cases, and the reproductive number (r). The dashboard will also show you which facilities are at which phase of operation from Phase 0 (closed) to Phase 4 (new normal) as well as occupancy metrics and employee activity metrics for each facility. The Location Readiness dashboard provides you up to date information to guide decision-making for your facilities.

The Facility Safety Management app provides assessments on whether a given facility is ready to reopen based on the results of the facility’s readiness checklist. All movement between phases as initiated by this app is subject to approval by an assigned reviewer for the organization. The app also tracks employee health via assessment results or attestations entered into the app by each employee and also tracks employee visits to a facility. Guest registrations are tracked by the app and tied to an employee.

The Workplace Care Management app provides tracking by a Health and Safety Lead for individual employee health and the monitoring of their status to ensure that they are safe to return to work after an exposure or positive test result. Each incident is entered into the app and becomes a case that is managed by the person who initially entered the case. The app also supports manual contact tracing and provides charts for monitoring the overall status of Cases by Risk Level and Cases by Duration.

The Employee Return to the Workplace app provides a method for employees to indicate their eligibility to return to the workplace as well as gauge sentiment about that return. Employees use the app to view the open status of their facility(ies) and also request day passes to gain entry. A step-by-step process allows the employee to choose a location within the facility to use for the day. A health check follows and, if all criteria are met, a day pass good for that work day is issued to the employee. The day pass includes a QR code for scanning purposes. This app is also used to generate the guest passes mentioned above.

return to work

In addition to the Cognizant Microsoft Business Group’s efforts to work with you to see a safe return to the office, the larger Cognizant organization is also working to see a safe reopening across the globe. By partnering with the XPRIZE organization, Cognizant is providing technology and AI models along with data compiled by Oxford University to teams participating in a competition to build “data-driven AI models that predict local COVID-19 transmission rates and prescribe intervention and mitigation measures…” You can read more about this in an article by my colleague Brad Erickson.

2020 has been a challenging year for everyone and the start of 2021 looks to be a continuation of those challenges. With assistance from Microsoft and Cognizant’s Microsoft Business Group, you can help your team safely align and move forward as we all seek the New Normal.


About the Author
Robert C.  Murray is a Senior Collaboration Consultant at New Signature focusing on Change Management, Yammer, Teams, and SharePoint in M365, having worked in the M365 Collaboration space for almost 10 years. He is a ProSci-certified Change Management practitioner and Yammer-certified admin. He is also the co-host and co-producer of New Signature’s Office Explorers podcast. In his spare time Rob writes Science Fiction novels and poetry, and also hosts/produces the “Left Hand Poetry” podcast.

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