Planning for widespread return to work (RTW) over the next weeks and months is starting to look like a wild roller coaster ride. And unlike the permanent, well-maintained and predictable path of coasters found at reputable amusement parks, this ride looks like a rickety, hastily assembled, never inspected atrocity erected by a pair of inebriated carnies with 4th grade educations and aspirations that don’t extend beyond the county fair circuit. Further, this unattractive attraction is likely to have loops, corkscrews and long stretches of missing track.
As occupational and employee health professionals manage RTW for their organizations, they will have to be agile and ready to adjust as the landscape shifts. The situation is dynamic, and new data and direction is coming at a rapid pace. Quite often, the information and guidance is conflicting, obscuring a clear path forward. Some of the issues our clients and colleagues are wrestling with include:
Developing appropriate RTW algorithms to get workers back on the job in a phased fashion that balances risk with a return to some semblance of regular operations.
Sifting through guidance and directives coming in at the federal, state, county and local levels. For global and national organizations, this means there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach, and even single-location employers are often faced with conflicting guidance from federal, state and local branches of government.
Determining the appropriate role of testing, including both antigen and antibody testing modalities. As test availability and capacity is still limited, deciding who and when to test is a vexing challenge.
The role health information technology should play in automating and streamlining employee monitoring and documentation of symptoms, exposures, test results, underlying conditions and other factors. While many organizations are struggling to manage this today on spreadsheets, that approach does not scale for widespread return to work.
The legal and ethical questions that accompany bringing employees safely back to work and managing individual illness or cluster outbreaks that may occur.
Addressing the legitimate fears and concerns that employees have as they transition from staying at home or working remotely back to the traditional workplace.
To help employers sift through all of this, we assembled a panel of occupational, employee health and legal experts from Fortune 100 organizations and health systems including Phillips 66, Emory Healthcare, GE, Massachusetts General Hospital and Krieg DeVault. Each panelist shared highlights of their RTW strategies and answered attendee questions.