Pingdemic Staff Shortages: How Business Can Cope With Isolating Employees

Despite the lifting of most legal COVID-19 restrictions on July 19, the pandemic’s effect on the health, economy and wellbeing of the English public is far from over. The latest development is in the form of the “pingdemic” –- the term referring to the hundreds of thousands of people who have been instructed to self-isolate in recent weeks via the NHS COVID-19 track and trace app.

The so-called pingdemic has had a massively disruptive effect on businesses, who are suffering from widespread staff shortages across sectors. Another casualty is the food supply chain. We are missing items on our supermarket shelves as a result of shortages of workers both because of the pingdemic and Brexit complications.

Meanwhile, there are concerns that people may be deleting or disabling the app, posing a threat to the attempts to control the spread of COVID variants. Business leaders, confused by conflicting government guidance, are now caught between the need to protect their employees’ health and safety, and to avoid the financial impact of closures after many months of lost income.

The government has attempted to combat this through an emergency plan to exempt NHS staff and some key workers, such as in the food supply industry, from isolating if they are pinged, so long as they take daily COVID tests and are fully vaccinated. But food bosses say they have not been properly briefed on what they think is a bureaucratic process to exempt workers.

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The app, despite its various flaws, is doing what it is designed to do -– businesses cannot ignore requirements to self-isolate, but must be flexible in how they handle employees who have been pinged.

Of course, as has been highlighted throughout the pandemic, there is a vast gap between jobs that can and cannot be done remotely. While no solution will be one-size-fits-all, there are a few things that businesses affected by isolating workers can do to mitigate the disruption and ensure the safety of both their employees and their business success.

How can businesses respond?

Now that we are hopefully on the way out of the depths of the pandemic, the pingdemic calls for businesses to persevere and innovate. This means that in the short term, they may need to rotate employees into different roles, as well as change existing ways of working.

Employers should make workplace changes to reduce the likelihood of contact with others and being pinged – whether this means returning to early-COVID days of social distancing, reduced opening hours, or more people working from home.

If they have not done so already, businesses who can afford to should set up isolation funds, independent of the government’s support payments for low-income individuals, to ensure that workers experience no financial impact from being asked to isolate. If a job cannot be done from home, employers could use the opportunity to invest in remote training or development for workers who are healthy but have been asked to isolate.

For sectors like social care and construction, partnerships with employment agencies could temporarily increase their pool of workers and provide a “safety net” of employees.

Businesses in sectors like retail and hospitality may have to initially operate under reduced hours. But looking to the longer term, they could learn to cope with staff shortages in different ways. For example, a warehouse operative may rotate to an administrative position while they are in isolation, or help to train agency workers remotely, or work on their own development and training.

HGV drivers are currently in high demand due to staff shortages in their industry. This has led to a potentially dangerous situation where some are driving for too many hours. Government plans to improve working conditions and recruit more drivers have not been received well, and industry groups are calling for longer-term proposals to combat the shortage, including better pay and new recruitment techniques.

Business leaders, like all citizens, have a moral responsibility to protect others and prevent further pressure on the NHS. They should respond in a way which protects their employees, and gives them adequate financial protection and flexibility to self-isolate, as well as making workplace changes to reduce the likelihood of being pinged.

Finally, as much as the pingdemic is a concern, it may also be a distraction from wider sociopolitical issues like Brexit, an ageing population, inflation and increasingly also youth unemployment – not to mention the continuing health threat of COVID-19.

Misinformation and outlandish claims are reaching a wider audience now more than ever. The Conversation publishes research-informed journalism by academics to help you understand what’s really happening. Our only aim is to make sure people hear from experts. But without your support, we won’t be able to keep going.


Senior Lecturer in International Human Resource Management, University of Portsmouth

Reader in Leadership & Development, Manchester Metropolitan University

Source: Pingdemic staff shortages: how business can cope with isolating employees


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Wirecard Was Germany’s Fintech Star—Now $2 Billion Is Missing And Its CEO Has Been Arrested


Ex-Wirecard CEO Markus Braun, who resigned last week amid allegations of fraud at the German payment processing company, was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of using fake transactions to inflate the company’s sales and balance sheet to boost its profile with investors.


Prosecutors in Munich arrested Braun after he turned himself in on Monday night, while three other managers at the company are also under investigation.

Wirecard’s woes reached a head when it admitted on Monday that $2.1 billion in cash the company claimed it had, likely never existed.

Braun resigned on Friday from the company he founded 21 years ago, claiming that the company “has been the victim in a substantial case of fraud.”


The firm’s shares plunged more than 50% on Friday and crashed 45% on Monday following news of the missing billions.

News peg

Braun’s arrest is the crescendo in a long-running battle that has pitched the Munich-based company, and Germany’s financial regulator against a small-army of short-sellers, and the Financial Times.

Short sellers had circled the company for years but a FT investigation that alleged unusual transactions and forged contracts at Wirecard’s Singapore office prompted authorities there to investigate, and its shares to drop. The FT followed up with allegations sales and profits at the company’s outpost in Dubai and Ireland were inflated with Wirecard firing back with the threat of a lawsuit, while Germany’s financial regulator opened a probe into the FT journalists involved in the story.

Key background

Braun founded Wirecard, once a star of Germany’s startup landscape, in 1999 and it has since expanded around the world, employing almost 6,000 people. Wirecard’s growth led it to joining the exclusive club of 30 major Germany companies tracked by the DAX index in 2018. The search for the missing cash came after auditors EY flagged a massive hole in the company’s balance sheet last week, which represents around a quarter of Wirecard’s assets, and delayed signing off on the firm’s 2019 accounts. But the hunt came up short after two banks in the Philippines accused of holding the cash denied having Wirecard as a client, adding that the billions never entered the nation’s financial system, officials said on Sunday. They also accused Wirecard of using the banks’ names to cover the company’s own tracks.


Big number

The company’s valuation has plummeted from more than $28 billion two years ago, to just over $3 billion last week.

What to watch for

Braun is set for a court hearing on Tuesday. Meanwhile, prosecutors are reportedly mulling an arrest warrant for former board member Jan Marsalek, who was also fired as the company’s chief operating officer. Marsalek was the executive who oversaw operations including in Southeast Asia.

Further reading


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I am a breaking news reporter for Forbes in London, covering Europe and the U.S. Previously I was a news reporter for HuffPost UK, the Press Association and a night


Sep.24 — Markus Braun, chief executive officer at Wirecard, discusses becoming one of the companies on the German benchmark, growth drivers and his outlook for the company. He speaks on “Bloomberg Markets: European Open.”

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