Companies are scrambling to figure out the right way to approach reopening their offices. Do they follow guidelines? They keep shifting. Do they demonstrate best practices? If so, what is the best way? As states reopen, there are not clear lines of how to keep people safe in the workplace – whether you are returning to an office, a manufacturing line, or a restaurant.
While we believe that working from home can provide safer options than most environments, we do believe that returning to the work environment should be at the lowest risk possible. State guidelines allow for businesses to be open, but they also encourage companies to continue working from home when possible. If employees can successfully perform their job duties from home, why risk the health of your staff and their families.
Many companies, like the one I work for at MicroAutomation, are eager to get their employees back into the office but not at the risk of exposing employees and their families to a potential virus or infection. Thankfully, there is no shortage of information available on how companies should prepare themselves. Sorting through all that information and deciding which measures are best for your company is a different matter.
My team has participated in countless webinars and read numerous CDC guidelines, state and county guidelines, and health department guidelines. Despite a wealth of information, there does not appear to be a one-size-fits-all action to take. Here are a few of the more popular actions that I have come across in my research:
Disinfect: Implement cleaning and disinfection protocols, consistent with CDC and OSHA guidance.
Gear Up: Evaluate the use of personal protective equipment such as masks, face shields, gloves, etc.
Impose limits on the number of people in the office. Evaluate rotating teams on a daily basis.
Reconfigure workspace layouts to ensure safe distancing. This includes limiting the size of in-person meetings and proximity of seating.
Restrict: Impose restrictions on business travel and restrict outside guests from inside the office.
Implement a response protocol for employees that test positive for COVID-19.
If an employee has symptoms, send them home.
Encourage them to get tested.
Get a list of individuals from the employee that they have been in close contact with during the 14 days preceding the test.
The company should contact the employees they believe were in contact with the infected employee.
Be careful, there are HIPAA rules that prohibit employers from revealing the name of the infected employee. Rather, tell employees they may have been in close contact with an infected employee and encourage them to get tested.
Communicate: Ongoing employee relations. Constant communication during this unprecedented time is very important for the well being of the employees and business continuity. Notify employees regarding their return to work. Engage in dialogue and provide reasonable accommodations to employees who may be more vulnerable to COVID-19. If possible, offer resources to help manage with stress, anxiety, and overall wellness. These are difficult times and having resources to help can be very beneficial to your staff.
Another more stringent and costly action is to implement an employee screening program to check for fever and COVID-19 symptoms. This includes having the proper medical staff on site to take the temperature of employees as they enter the building and refuse admittance to those that show symptoms or feel ill. Although this may be effective in limiting the spread of the virus, this could be an expensive measure for companies to undertake.
Being a small company, MicroAutomation understands the struggles companies are going through. We want to provide a safe working environment for our employees to return to, but we cannot afford to break the bank to do so. Utilizing our experiences in Emergency Response Services to help save lives, we desperately wanted to draw off that to help our community and our nation to help prevent the spread of this deadly virus. We decided to leverage our OmniMonitor product to do text illness monitoring.
Our first success story was at the CDC. They are utilizing MicroAutomation’s OmniMonitor to set up campaigns to text their employees daily asking if they had any symptoms that may be related to COVID-19. With simple Yes/No responses from their staff, they monitor symptoms, check on them daily, track who they had been in contact with, and create alerts for their management teams to monitor. One of the major benefits of MicroAutomation’s OmniMonitor application is that it provides early detection. We have found that people are more willing to respond to questions through text messaging than they are to tell someone they are sick. By administering daily check-ins, we feel that we can help prevent the spread of this virus.
With the uncertainty of “normal” returning any time soon, companies need to decide which measures they will enforce to provide a safe working environment for their staff. Whether it is an on-site medical staff or a more cost-effective solution like MicroStudy, each company must decide what is best for their employees and their business continuity. The health and safety of our employees, our families, and our communities are what is most important, and it starts with proper re-opening and response protocols in our businesses.