Back to the Office: 7 Return-to-Work Apps to Ease the Transition

Return-to-work apps

Written by Jackie Bilodeau

I am the Communications Director for CGNET, having returned to CGNET in 2018 after a 10-year stint in the 1990's. I enjoy hiking, music, dance, photography, writing and travel. Read more about my work at CGNET here.

June 3, 2021

We all knew that the time would eventually come for us to head back to our offices. Back to our dusty desks and 2020 calendars left behind on the wall. Clean off the cobwebs, Lysol our keyboards and try to pick up where we left off in The Before Time. And it seems that time is now…or maybe next month. Well, at least by the end of the summer…maybe?  At any rate, if it isn’t already, it will certainly be upon us all soon enough. And employers need to be ready.

Fortunately, while all the new safety protocols we will need to adhere to may seem overwhelming, help is here!  Several software developers have designed return-to-work apps to ease this transition.   Keeping work areas safe and solving other problems, like creating a COVID-aware staff and shift schedule, gathering data on potentially infected employees or visitors and implementing a new alerting and escalation process are just some of the problems that the new COVID-19 office management solutions aim to solve. Here are just a handful of return-to-work apps for you to consider.  (Note: If you are only interested in finding a COVID tracking app for your organization, please check out Dan Callahan’s post this week.)


Microsoft’s Return to the Workplace Solution


Microsoft’s return-to-work (RTW) solution comprises several modules that run on their Power Platform.  The main modules include:

  • Location Readiness dashboard helps determine the readiness of the facilities and efficiently manage their safe reopening. Facility managers and task force leaders can use the Location Readiness dashboard to quickly make informed decisions by using critical factors like COVID-19 infection rates and the availability of supplies.
  • Facility Safety Management gives facility managers the tools they need to manage the reopening and readiness of the facilities. This helps organizations ensure that they can provide a safe working environment for employees to return to the workplace.
  • Workplace Care Management gives health and safety leaders the tools they need to actively manage COVID-19 cases, identify hot spots for safety improvement, and import data from external systems to support case management and manual contact tracing. The Workplace Care Management dashboard enables monitoring of all the data from the Workplace Care Management app.
  • Employee Return to the Workplace gives your staff a self-service tool that lets them feel confident about returning to the worksite. They can use the Employee Return to the Workplace app to check in remotely and self-screen before entering a building.
  • Return to the Workplace portal gives third parties the ability to follow a similar self-service process as the employee. It allows visitors to check in on invitation and self-screen before getting a pass. Users of the portal can even add new guests or dependents allowing for a more decentralized solution.

You can contact CGNET for more information, or learn more the solution (including a video and “quick start guide” presentation)  here.


ServiceNow Safe Workplace Suite


ServiceNow’s Safe Workplace Suite seeks to both simplify new workflows while simultaneously manage your staff’s previous work habits and services. This return-to-work solution integrates some contact tracing capabilities to help identify and respond to employee exposure risk. There are also workplace safety management features that address automated cleaning schedules, distancing floorplans, safety communications, and self-service reservations for safer office foot traffic. The software suite also makes the employee health testing process easier and even addresses employee travel safety both via its web console and mobile apps. Finally, there’s the Safe Workplace Dashboard, which gives managers a readiness overview using customizable data.


Envoy Protect


Envoy Protect is an access control solution that has actually been around for some time. However, it now also focuses on safe mail delivery, touchless office sign-in and visitor management. And while in the past it has been used as a room and meeting management solution, it is now also equipped with new back-to-work features. Employers might feel more confident with this solution knowing that it has already been deployed to over a million employees.

Other features include alert automation, employee communications, and certifying that employees are healthy, even from their homes. Once at the workplace, they can sign in using Envoy’s access control solution. The program keeps a head count of how many people are onsite and set limits on registrations once capacity is reached, all of which helps with contact tracing and response.

Envoy’s experience in access control extends to securing data and privacy, a big plus. Their policies and controls are designed to protect employee information and meet compliance standards. All data running Envoy services are stored in their database. Backups are taken every day and stored off-site in AWS data centers in Virginia, California or Oregon.


IBM Watson Works


IBM Watson Works uses Big Blue’s artificial intelligence (AI) technology to gather insights for companies looking at reopening their offices. It assists in answering COVID-19 employee questions, manages facilities and protocols and traces potential exposures. It also helps employees access services and helps to manage the office population by staggering entry and exit times.

The IBM Return-to-Workplace Advisor offers daily health check-ins for employees to see how they’re feeling. Healthy employees are given a green health pass that enables them access to their offices. Employees that are feeling unwell will get links to company-provided telemedicine resources.

Managers can monitor the situation from a digital command center.  It has real-time dashboards with various components, like a community risk model and a severity model to better inform them on next steps. Every company work site is given a green or red designation depending on how safe those locations are deemed by Watson Works. Overall, this sounds like a well-rounded solution. (Though you’ll need to be careful as to how much additional IBM database technology might be required on the back end.)


Everbridge COVID-19 Shield


Everbridge actually has three COVID-19 Shield packages. These help businesses identify risks, protect the workforce, and manage disruptions to operations. Everbridge COVID-19 Shield helps with receiving COVID-19 alerts correlated to employees and assets. Its communication features keep managers informed on the health and status of employees both at the office and at home and also for those who might be traveling.

Everbridge COVID-19 Shield taps into various verified third-party databases to keep businesses apprised of new outbreaks, travel bans, and any event the business feels might cause any major interruption in busines. For employees, the Everbridge Mobile App serves as the conduit for information and secure communications. It’s an all-in-one solution for check-ins, wellness reports, as well as pushing out health advisories.


Zoho BackToWork


Zoho developed its BackToWork tool in 2020 to help managers and IT administrators ensure employee safety, reliable communications, and safe access and entry throughout an RTW transition. Composed of six modules, Zoho BackToWork includes six modules: Administration, Communications, Employee Self-Service, Safe Entry, Volunteer, and Wellness.

BackToWork is a cloud-based app that runs on all Google Android mobile phones and tablets as well as Apple iOS devices. These can be used as kiosks to check-in employees and visitors.


Sequoia Return to Work Center


The Sequoia Return To Work Center is a framework that combines best practices with new software features to create a productive and safe work environment in five steps:

1:  The creation of dynamic policies that keep employees safe while reducing business risks.

2:  The setup of testing and care solutions running off the Sequoia PX mobile app.

3:  An action plan is set up to welcome Employees are back to the workplace.

4:  Screening protocols are implemented.

5:  Communications between employees and business leaders are heightened to further customize and improve the overall solution.

Sequoia’s framework enables businesses to share relevant health information and HIPAA-compliant updates via their app. Using consolidated analytics, the Return to Work Center is intended to speed up an RTW project and benchmark how employees are progressing during the transition.


So which return-to-work app is right for you?


Visit the company websites on any of the ones I’ve summarized above that seem to fit your needs.  Gather more details and check out pricing.  However, if you still can’t find one to suit your specific needs, keep in mind there are many I didn’t include in this list.  Perhaps consult with colleagues at other similar organizations to see what they are using.  And of course (but hopefully as a last result) Google is your friend.


Written by Jackie Bilodeau

I am the Communications Director for CGNET, having returned to CGNET in 2018 after a 10-year stint in the 1990's. I enjoy hiking, music, dance, photography, writing and travel. Read more about my work at CGNET here.

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