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Ensuring just and resilient workplaces that support worker wellbeing during and beyond COVID-19

A mobile-based system that captures anonymous insights directly from workers about working conditions, allowing employers to respond quickly

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Businesses in every sector are facing unprecedented pressures and challenges as they work to stay agile through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Employers with workforces being called to the front lines as well as businesses picking up production again during the pandemic face the daunting challenge of meeting the demands of their customers while also ensuring their employees remain safe, healthy and resilient.  

In order to ensure rapid response is possible, employers need to be able to engage their employees directly to understand that status of physical and mental wellbeing, how their workforce is adapting to the pressures of this pandemic, and whether or not new policies and procedures are understood, adopted and effective.

Direct Worker Reporting through our Engage tool, is a mobile-based system that captures anonymous insights directly from workers, delivered to a simple dashboard, allowing employers to proactively respond.

With Engage, employers can immediately gather insights about working conditions that guides their assessment of efforts to mitigate risks of COVID-19, and evaluate if new policies and procedures have been understood, adopted, and effective in supporting the wellbeing of employees as well as customers.

What is the need are you focusing on?

There are two major needs we are focusing on: 

Businesses have relied on 3rd party social compliance audits to assess and monitor working conditions within their supply chains and corporate branches; however, COVID-19 has made it impossible for assessors to travel and conduct onsite audits. We can help fill the information gap with mobile technology. 

Additionally, in many workplaces employees do not feel comfortable offering feedback to employers about their wellbeing and/or working conditions. Grievance mechanisms, while essential, are notorious for being non-functional as employees may face intimidation or fear the loss of their job if they use them. 

We are focusing on the need to gather data about physical and mental wellbeing of employees, and assess whether or not new COVID-19 policies and procedures are understood, adopted and effective - all through mobile technology that does not require in-person assessment and is trusted by employees because it assures 100% anonymity.

Which type of submission are you sharing?

  • Identifying a gap that needs to be addressed
  • Sharing a pivot idea your organization is considering or could consider

Describe the business pivot or adaptation in 3-4 sentences.

When the pandemic occurred, many companies that would have used our services to monitor human rights issues in their supply chains halted their monitoring efforts and canceled production orders to conserve budgets. Our pivot was to redesign our survey so that it could be of service to capturing critical data related to COVID-19 and the "new normal" of doing business during a pandemic- for frontline workers, healthcare workers as well as workers in the supply chain. We've also begun collaborating with other organizations in our industry in order to support more companies in their efforts to continue responsible sourcing during the pandemic. We recently launched a partnership with SEDEX, which has primarily focused on social compliance audits to monitor working conditions, but has now has pivoted to provide member brands, retailers and suppliers with resources to track worker wellbeing and working conditions that include direct worker reporting and virtual assessments.

Do you plan to implement this solution?

  • Yes

Describe the impact that this solution will create in the world.

&Wider was started to help businesses and organizations listen to workers, respond, and improve working conditions and workplace communications. We've always been oriented to drive impact with our tools, and traditionally that impact was focused on improving working conditions for the most vulnerable workers in global supply chains. We never imagined operating in a time when a global pandemic would sweep across the world and disrupt global economies, societies and the daily lives of nearly every person on the planet. However, now it feels as though our mobile-technology is an ideal solution to be of immediate service to the needs of people in any kind of workplace- whether they are now sheltering in place and needing to adapt to the pressures of working from home, or they are frontline workers who are put in some form of immediate risk daily as they go to work during the pandemic. Now, more than ever, it feels like our tools have a huge opportunity to drive impact. Here are a few of the key areas of impact we see our solution contributing to: Impact 1- Reducing the risk of illness & infection: Our surveys capture data about the physical wellbeing of workers, so employers can track the general wellness of their workforce as they manage their operations. Right now many employers are implementing policies and procedures that are meant to mitigate the risks of COVID-19 infections; however, just having a policy and procedure in place does not assure implementation. During a pandemic, if a policy is not followed or proper personal protective equipment is not provided/sufficient, it can literally mean life or death; if the employer has data about the effectiveness of the actions they've taken for employees to keep themselves safe and assure the safety of others, employees have a better chance of not getting sick at work. Impact 2- Reducing the spread of the virus: Employees on the frontline and/or beginning to work again in production facilities are moving between the workplace and home regularly; if they are uninformed about the virus or how to mitigate their risk of contracting and spreading the virus, they are more likely to spread it, even if they do not feel ill. We include questions within the survey that highlights if employees do not know or understand how to keep from spreading the virus; as a result, employers are able to improve training and disseminate critical information about COVID-19 helps reduce the likelihood of spread. Impact 3- Supporting stable supply of goods: When businesses shut down and employees are laid off, there is vulnerability for everyone involved. We want to support businesses in their ability to remain operational, while taking the precautions necessary to protect workers and customers. If a business is unable to ensure their employees are protected during the pandemic, they will face challenges maintaining a steady supply of workers as employees fall ill; however, if they have a system in place to track employee wellbeing, they can manage their operations without being under pressure to recruit more workers (which could increase the risk of even greater spread of the virus). Impact 4- Our solution can also be used to measure the impact that COVID-19 has had on communities outside of the workplace- gathering insights about income loss, an increase in forced labor conditions, healthcare needs etc. With this data, aid and governmental organizations with resources ready to deploy can build response plans that contribute to the resilience of these communities as we collectively emerge from the pandemic. The communities that our solution benefits include workers as well as employers. The timeline for impact really depends on how many companies and organizations engage with our solution. Because of our business model, we can scale rapidly, which is ideal if we have an influx of interest. We are able to operate in any country and in any language, so our impact can truly be global.

What is the name of your business or organization?

&Wider

What does your business/company do? Whose needs does your business/company address? Who do you serve?

We help businesses and organizations listen to workers, respond, and improve working conditions and workplace communications. We also help businesses measure the impacts they have throughout their supply chains.We offer simple, cost-effective tools that gather insight via mobile phones - tracking and encouraging improvement across the globe. We work with companies who are ready to move beyond risk mitigation, and are inspired by the opportunity for impact. Some are household brands and retailers committed to sustainability, others are progressive and innovative suppliers, or other types of organizations that value anonymous information gathered from hard to reach populations. www.andwider.com

What is your profession?

We are an enthusiastic bunch of responsible sourcing experts, data scientists and technologists.

Where are you located (country)?

The &Wider Team is located in the Netherlands, South Africa and Chile.

Where are you located (region)?

  • Southern Africa

What industry is your business/company in?

  • Business/Consulting
  • Technology

How many people does your business/company employ?

  • 0-10

How old is your business/company?

  • 2-5 years old

Which classification describes your organization/business?

  • Business

What kind of stakeholders and partnerships are needed to pursue this solution?

  • Funding- Grants
  • Funding- Investment
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- Private Sector
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- Government

Do you need help building partnerships and finding partners?

  • Yes

If Yes to the above, please share 1-2 sentences describing the specific help you desire.

We would love to connect with businesses, governments, organizations and/or multi-stakeholder groups that are seeking a solution like ours. We are committed to working with to anyone needing impact-oriented data that can drive improvement and assure resources are directed in the most efficient and effective way during this time of swift change and vast uncertainty.

What do you think are the main barriers to implementing this solution?

We see and hear two main barriers: first, if a company lacks the will/desire to protect worker wellbeing, then they are not genuinely interested in our solution because it is not a priority for their business. Second, due to the pandemic many companies have had to scale back their budgets in order to financially survive this period of uncertainty; companies that might genuinely want and need to hear directly from workers in order to run their operations most efficiently and safely during this time, might struggle to afford even the lowest cost solution.

If you are currently working on a pivot, what have you learned so far?

Thus far we've learned that there are some companies that are committed to taking action that helps their workers stay safe during the pandemic- these are the organizations we are trying to reach. We are not focusing on the businesses that are currently putting profits above the needs of their workers (facing increased strikes, increased reports of forced labor conditions and discrimination). One of the biggest challenges are budget constraints, and business that want to operate responsibly can't afford to take action

Are you aware of any open source efforts, hackathons or other collaborative efforts related to your solution? Are you participating in these efforts?

We are not currently participating in any efforts as described, nor do we know of any specifically related to the work related to this submission- however we love collaboration and supporting broader efforts so we look forward to connecting with anyone who might be involved in something like this.

Website URL

www.andwider.com

Attachments (1)

&Wider during Covid intro 28042020.pdf

A brief introduction to how the &Wider tools are being utilized during this pandemic.

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