Working around Covid-19: the software suite helping businesses operate safely | The new rules of work

With this year’s ongoing disruption to working lives, business leaders have struggled to take stock of changing norms, changing attitudes and changing concerns.

But one enduring concern centres on workplace safety in the context of the global health pandemic. To better understand these concerns, ServiceNow recently commissioned The Work Survey, a global survey of 9,000 executives and employees. The report found that 60% of employees believed their company would prioritise business continuity over workplace safety and, even if a company put safety first, 46% of employees doubted their employer would take the necessary steps to ensure their safety.

These apprehensions were anticipated by ServiceNow, which is why at the beginning of the pandemic the company launched the Safe Workplace suite, a collection of apps that allay staff concerns by streamlining the complex health and safety logistics of reopening large business premises – issues that cut across departments such as HR, legal and IT.

“It’s like an ongoing health and safety audit,” says Chris Pope, ServiceNow’s vice president of innovation. “Traditionally this used to happen once or twice a year but Safe Workplace does it on a daily basis. There are now so many additional challenges to deal with on top of the usual issues, and the apps address them all by automating the process using our workflow solutions.”

The Safe Workplace suite supports the health of the workforce and safety of the workspace. Built on the ServiceNow Platform, the apps cover a spectrum of concerns, from employee health screening and contact tracing to workplace safety and PPE inventory management.

The screening element surveys employees’ readiness and intention to return to the office and enables companies to manage whether employees are safely able to return in accordance with the company’s criteria. ServiceNow uses it in its own office in Staines, Surrey. Like all staff using the premises, Pope submits a regular health update regarding his current status with Covid-19 symptoms. Should he wish to attend the office, it generates a QR code that permits him access and allocates a desk where he can work for the day. At the end of the day he submits another health screening and logs everyone with whom he has been in contact, should tracing be required.

Health screening.

The workplace safety management and inventory management feature assigns shifts, schedules the cleaning rota, and manages the process for having socially distanced workspaces. It also manages PPE gear and hand sanitiser inventory. A central dashboard provides a comprehensive real-time overview of every feature, with data visualisations. It also maintains a historical log of all that data so changes can be tracked and any issues can be rapidly dealt with.

Pope explains the importance of having centralised data in the current climate. “The workplace services manager, human resources, legal are all looking at the same source and the same data rather than multiple different views based on their own opinions or reports,” he says. “They can use data provided by employees in a useful way to get insights, connect the dots and make decisions, and if they need to move decisively they can. When you peel off all these layers, it’s a digitally enabled workflow and that’s our specialty.”

The Safe Workplace suite can be used by a wide spectrum of businesses: manufacturing, meat processing plants, call centres, even transportation services. It’s downloaded from the ServiceNow Store and simple enough to set up that businesses can be up and running within days.

“It just sits on top of all your usual operational processes,” says Pope. “It builds on things that you’re already using and used to rather than asking you to download yet another app to log into, yet another thing that gives you a different experience to what you already have. If it’s difficult to use, you’re not going to use it and that’s when bad things happen.”

Like all ServiceNow apps, the Safe Workplace suite can be customised so it reflects a customer’s company branding, tone of voice, typical gestures and buttons, and offers multiple languages.

“The best way to get people to use enterprise applications is to make them like consumer applications, because then the barrier to adoption is low,” says Pope. “It doesn’t feel cold and remote, it’s personalised and that builds trust.”

Since its launch in May, the Safe Workspace suite has been downloaded by hundreds of businesses globally, spanning everything from banks to educational establishments, even sports leagues. For instance, Coca-Cola European Partners was able to build a Covid-19 resource portal using the ServiceNow Health Alert Employee Experience Pack, ensuring employees were supported and managers had oversight of their teams. Meanwhile, the UK-based software business CDL made use of the ServiceNow Emergency Self Report pack to assist people managers in assessing employee availability – helping staff notify the company if they were self-isolating, if they’re at risk, and when they will return to work.

Additionally, there have been multiple updates, each improving and adding to the functionality of the apps. ServiceNow created a design partner programme with 25 of its customers across both public and private sectors to improve the experience and ensure they are more appropriate to the verticals and type of customers that are using them.

“People have been really supportive and keen to work with us and I think that’s because everyone understands we’re all in it together,” says Pope. “It grows the ecosystem and the quality of those applications.”

Whatever happens in the future, it’s clear that Covid-19 is going to transform the way we work. Protocols will need to be in place long-term to deal with further or even different outbreaks. “This is the new standard we have moved on to because this will be the new normal or whatever you want to call it,” says Pope. “I don’t think there will be a return to what we knew, and we have to manage the whole situation better.”

The ServiceNow Safe Workplace suite offers tools for organisations to deliver the right digital experience for each phase of reopening. Including engaging with employees in advance, automating steps for returning, and providing a safe, employee‑ready working environment. Find out more at

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