Returning to work safely requires the right blend of technology and clinical care

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Businesses are keen to welcome employees’ return to the office, but they are in unknown territory and face complicated challenges amidst the ever-evolving coronavirus pandemic. The good news is that there are partners and technologies available to guide employers as they navigate the maze of dynamic obstacles that represent our new reality.

The right solution will allow employers to answer such difficult questions as:

  • Should we bring back all employees at the same time or in shifts?
  • Should employees enter through the same gate or multiple entrances?
  • How should we handle exceptions?
  • What should we do when an employee tests positive for COVID-19?

To operate safely, employers need a comprehensive return-to-work strategy that includes workplace design, training, screening, testing, monitoring, and clinical clearance for returning to work. And they need a repeatable system that will allow daily screening and monitoring of employees’ health at scale.

It should be noted that technology alone is not the answer. New apps are coming onto the market almost daily that allow employees to perform self-assessments for COVID-19 symptoms. Most of these solutions are disjointed and direct employees who are at-risk to find their own testing center or to visit local hospitals. This can be confusing for employees and expensive for employers. Without the operational expertise to follow-up with each employee and the clinical expertise to evaluate each case, the technology itself has little value. At worst, it could result in false alarms and further disruption to the business.

A good return-to-work solution should involve a mobile app or a screening survey that allows employees to perform a daily self-assessment, but this should work in tandem with virtual care or telehealth services. Such services allow the infected employees to recover under the watch of a healthcare provider in the comfort and safety of their own homes. The provider can then coordinate in-person care for more serious cases as needed. Meanwhile, employers should have access to real-time, anonymized data of self-assessment survey results, the status of employees under monitoring, count of employees who tested positive for COVID-19, and all related metrics.

In addition, return-to-work solution partners should have ready access to the necessary protective equipment, testing supplies, and staffing to perform onsite temperature screening. They should also be able to assist on the ground in making key decisions around work shifts, workplace design, and antibody testing.

In short, when choosing a return-to-work partner, employers need to make sure the available solution offers the following attributes:

  • Flexible and dynamic: The CDC continues to update its COVID-19 guidelines. Various states are in various stages of re-opening their economies with varying levels of restrictions. We can expect regional waves of lockdowns and restrictions in the months ahead. With rising concerns over a second wave of the coronavirus along with seasonal flu on the horizon, the technology tools need to adjust to capture real-time relevant data.
  • The right blend of technology and clinical expertise: Technology can only go so far, and it should be paired with clinical expertise in the form of providers who can evaluate and care for affected employees.
  • Scalable and affordable: Given the need to monitor employees’ health daily and at scale, the solution must be repeatable and user-friendly. It should also be affordable, so it can be conducted daily across a wide spectrum of employees without putting a financial burden on the company, regardless of its size.
  • Timely and efficient: Employers need a solution to return to work as soon as possible to avoid further economic distress. Today’s environment requires the ability to implement solutions within days, not months.

Everyone is anxious to get back to what resembles normal in the workplace. The truth is, we will need to put solutions in place that allow us to adapt to the challenges presented by the virus for the foreseeable future.

Facilitating re-entry to the workplace must be done safely and smartly with a partner that possesses the necessary leading-edge technology, operational resources, and clinical care support services. This will allow employers to proactively work with at-risk employees, isolate those with suspicious symptoms, and provide easily accessible, high-quality medical care.

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