In May 2021, domestic spread of COVID-19 in Taiwan prompted the government to impose Level 3 restrictions that temporarily closed many offices on the island. Thus, companies needed to find ways to support employee health under a work-from-home regime during a time when vaccination rates were still low.
Caring for thousands of employees, Google Taiwan’s Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) team quickly devised a method to distribute COVID tests to the homes of its people.
“We adapt our health and safety strategies to provide flexible solutions to each market,” says Mavis Hsiao, EHS Manager at Google Greater China. “Last July, the Taiwan team gained access to PCR tests, much earlier than many other markets. We worked with our Global Supply Chain team and Global software tool team to support PCR test kit delivery for everyone working from home.”
Once employees returned to their offices, Google EHS team faced a new challenge: effectively administering COVID-19 rapid antigen tests to all staffs at its different locations in Taiwan. Google Taiwan turned its attention to neighboring Hong Kong and Singapore, where the company had installed pick-up station with rapid antigen tests.
Pick-up stations can significantly reduce the time and staffing needed to distribute large quantities of tests, particularly in workplaces with flexible work schedules, shifts, and external meetings and events. Supplying tests through pick-up stations also decreases the risk of infection by reducing person-to-person contact.
When selecting its rapid antigen test partner, Google focused on international brands that would enable collaborations in several markets. The brands needed to align with local regulations as well as pass the Global Health team’s internal review on sensitivity. After strict review, Google Taiwan partnered with a global medical device company and signed agreements with one Taiwan vendor to install the pick-up station.
“We’re very happy with our partners and expect to extend our business relationship with them,” says Hsiao. “As medical device experts, they were able to not only supply us with reliable tests but also give us advice related to trend of government policy, which helped us accelerate the project.”
Now, Google staff can easily access rapid antigen tests through pick-up stations any time of the day. Employees are also provided with guidance on how to use the kits. Meanwhile, the pick-up stations are restocked by the supplier, which can track the inventory status through a backend control system.
“We encourage our people to test frequently, especially if they have symptoms or have been in close contact with a case,” says Hsiao. “If someone tests positive, they’re added to the system, and we help them with contact tracing while protecting their privacy. When notifying close contacts, we don’t disclose any revealing information about the positive case.”
The project was praised by Google staff, notes Hsiao. “We had quite a few people sharing the experience on social media because they thought the pick-up station were really unique and convenient.”
By ensuring a stable supply of tests and limiting person-to-person contact during the dispensing process, the project has enabled employees to focus on work without the stress of constantly worrying about their health. As such, Google intends to continue its rapid test vending machine program into 2023 and provide more assistance to its workforce as the rate of travel and in-person meetings gradually accelerates.
“As we continue to welcome people back to the office, we want to provide convenience and protection to our colleagues,” says Hsiao. “This solution has helped our employees feel confident working under challenging circumstances.”