Getting America Back to Work in the Age of COVID-19
April 30, 2020
Business leaders are understandably feeling a lot of pressure following the late 2019 emergence of COVID-19. In March and April they were scrambling to appropriately adapt their staff to accommodate the changing market; now they’re scrambling to create processes that will allow their businesses to reopen or resume some sort of normalcy safely and methodically.
Though it’s been projected that we’ll have a COVID-19 vaccine in 12 to 18 months from now, some experts have their doubts. The hope is that the country will eventually begin to show signs of herd immunity, but because so few people have antibodies at this time, we’re more likely to see hot spots and increased rates of infection continue in waves for quite a while.
After six tumultuous weeks of mounting lay-offs, furloughs, and shift to remote work – compounded by the negative effects of social distancing on mental health – employees want to slowly get back to work, but are concerned about their safety and other uncertainties that come with this transition. Assessing risk in this landscape hasn’t been easy, and HR professionals have many questions, like:
- Which of my company’s employees are considered “essential” and which are “non-essential” to business operations?
- How can I keep employees safe as they return to the office?
- How can I adequately vet and hire new workers when nobody’s allowed in our offices/stores?
- Should I start tracking my workers’ symptoms and monitoring their health records?
The disappointing reality is that the coronavirus will still exist after the quarantine period officially ends, but the question around economic stability remains. As we move forward, there’s simply no playbook.
New solutions aimed at helping Americans get back to work safely are being discussed every day, but the issue with rolling out these services today are three-fold:
- Many of these new solutions (e.g. immunity passports, geolocation tracking, contact tracing, etc.) won’t be actionable for some time until we have widespread, accurate, and more-reliable testing.
- Only 77% of Americans have access to smartphones, which are required to download an app or tracking solution.
- The landscape is already very fragmented, with multiple testing and tracking solutions in development, forcing companies to spend precious time evaluating options when all they want is a way to accurately and securely track l employee health data and test results pulled from several different sources.
Daily monitoring of employee health is key to reopening businesses and reviving productivity, but with companies now regularly capturing and communicating employee health information, those that have not already prioritized data protection will need to start thinking about how they’re going to collect employee data responsibly so they’re not inadvertently violating their privacy rights.
Compliance with both data protection and public health laws is also critical to deploying an effective health monitoring platform. Before implementing any solution, businesses must abide by their respective federal, state, and local government requirements, and should consult with employment counsel and other experts to ensure safety and consistency throughout the reopening process.
Businesses – whether deemed essential and nonessential – need an immediate and compliant solution to help their staff get back to work safely and quickly. The sooner they’re able to accomplish this, the sooner companies can resume serving their customers, employees, and do their part to stabilize the economy.