COVID-19 Tracking Comes to iSeries Central
August 31, 2020 Alex Woodie
Companies that use IBM i time and attendance software from UKG (formerly known as Kronos) got a nice surprise from the vendor earlier this year: A free reporting template that helps them perform contact tracing in the event that a worker comes down with COVID-19.
As a developer of time and attendance software, UKG (which stands for Ultimate Kronos Group following Kronos’ merger with Ultimate Software earlier this year) is to build tools that track when and where an employee has worked. As it turns out, that’s just the sort of data that public health officials need when conducting a formal contact trace following a positive COVID-19 test.
Gregg Gordon, the vice president of industry for the company that is now jointly headquartered in Lowell, Massachusetts, and Weston, Florida, says UKG was playing around with potential ways they could address the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year, when it hit them.
“We had a little bit of an ‘aha’ moment,” Gordon tells IT Jungle. “We realized that, for many customers, the way they allocate labor is highly correlated with their geography, to where they’re physically located.”
That insight led to the development of a COVID-19 reporting template that UKG released back in April. The report lets UKG customers determine what other employees were also present in a facility where another employee was infected with the novel coronavirus.
If an employee who has been working in the facility (or a specific department) subsequently tests positive for COVID-19, the historical employment data in the report can give public health officials a head start in tracing the names of other employee who could have become infected with the extremely contagious disease.
So far, the template, which generates reports in PDF and Excel formats, has been downloaded over 600 times by users of iSeries Central, Workforce Dimensions, Workforce Central, and Workforce Ready products. It’s been widely adopted by companies and organizations in healthcare, retail, and manufacturing segments, Gordon says. “It’s worked out fairly well,” he says.
It’s not a panacea, Gordon adds. UKG is typically used to tracks hourly workers, Gordon points out, but there are usually other people visiting a workplace. In a given day, there could be contract workers or vendors on-site, to say nothing of salaried employees.
But it gives the organizations a head start. For example, if a public health official is conducting a contact trace interview for a COVID-19 case, the names from the report can help to jog somebody’s memory as to who else they came into contact with before their diagnosis.
“While it’s not perfect, customers that we worked with said it was a great supplement,” Gordon says. “To ask a production line operator who they worked with for the past two weeks, it would be really hard if they started with a blank slate. But if you could give them a report that said, ‘Here’s a starter list of who we think you were working with’ . . . it’s easier to edit than to write from new.”
Kronos has some very large customers, including some that use iSeries Central to track the hours worked of hundreds of thousands of employees. For some of these companies, the detailed job accounting that Kronos provides – including the transfers from one department to another within a given facility – is very conducive to providing detailed contact tracing for COVID-19.
“It’s all dependent on transfers,” says Bobbie Roye, the product manager for iSeries Central. “If I clock in and clock out and I’m moving through the facility, we don’t understand how they’re moving throughout the zones or areas. But if they are enforcing transfers, then absolutely, we know where they’re spending time in that part of the day.”
One of UKG’s clients is a state agency that provides mental health care. What’s unique about this client is that, when nurses get a positive COVID-19 test, they still need to come into work. “It’s not like you just call in sick and you don’t show up and production goes down some,” Gordon says. A failure to report for duty could result in potentially virulent individuals walking away from the facility, he says.
Before COVID-19, the agency didn’t bother to enforce intra-facility transfers because it didn’t impact its accounting. But in the COVID-19 era, it has started using UKG’s capability to track the movement of nurses within a facility. The reason is because it allows the state facility to effectively lock a department down and prevent a worker who tested positive from working in other parts of the facility and potentially spreading the disease.
At the end of the day, most of UKG’s customers are just looking for anything that can help them stay in business. With so many businesses forced to shut down due to COVID-19 and companies on the brink of bankruptcy, the ability to get a head-start on contact tracing gives them one advantage in negotiating with public health officials to open their business, or to stay open.
“They’re trying to say, here are all the things that we’re doing to provide a safe environment, and having attestation and clocks and contact tracing bolsters their argument,” Gordon says. “They’re really scared that if they have an outbreak, they could get shut down. They have been using it. It helps. It’s not perfect by any means. It’s one tool in the toolkit.”