Returning to the office might not be the reprieve from COVID we’re all dreaming of. Instead, it’ll likely bring about another slough of problems. Particularly, figuring out how to make employees feel safe in the workspace.
According to a survey by Honeywell, 75 percent of employees who currently work remotely do not feel safe returning to the office before the pandemic is over. Furthermore, nearly one in four employees would rather quit their jobs than work for a company that is not taking the necessary precautions to create a safe work environment.
There are some factors your company cannot fully control. For example, keeping the building sanitary outside of your office space or having adequate ventilation throughout the building. One thing you can control, however, is keeping track of which employees enter the building on which days, and making sure they pass a COVID-19 questionnaire before entering their work environment.
Conducting employee health screenings can help employees feel more comfortable returning to work and also helps keep them healthy. This guide will help you plan and implement a successful health screening protocol.
The value of employee health screenings
There are two main values with employee health screening: contact tracing and accountability. Both values help screen employees before they might contaminate the workplace.
In today’s society, contact tracing is the mark of a responsible business. Contact tracing makes it easier for authorities, both internal and external, to locate the source of COVID outbreaks and therefore mitigate the spread of the virus.
With a simple questionnaire that records an employee or visitor’s name and date of arrival, businesses have information to mitigate outbreaks of the virus. This level of contact tracing will help alleviate anxiety some employees may have about returning to work.
Answering a checklist covering symptoms of COVID-19 and exposure risks can clarify when employees should stay at home and when they are cleared to enter the office.
Employees are expected to answer these self-assessments honestly. Therefore, if they respond “yes” to feeling any COVID-19 symptoms, they will be obligated to stay home. Furthermore, prompting employees to identify COVID symptoms might help stop the spread of COVID-19 at an early stage, mitigating the further spread of the disease around the office.
With a screening questionnaire in place, employees in the work environment will feel safer, knowing their fellow employees all answered the same screening questions that day before entering the worksite.
Implementing an employee health screening program
There are multiple ways to conduct employee health screening:
- Oral questionnaire. Some businesses may have every employee answer screening questions orally upon arriving at the office. However, this method could cause privacy concerns and does not leave a papertrail.
- Paper questionnaire. Having employees and visitors fill out a paper questionnaire leaves a strong papertrail. On the other hand, this method is less sustainable and less flexible than offering an online survey.
- Online questionnaire. An online questionnaire is the easiest and most sustainable option. What’s more, the online survey can be updated and changed easily depending on government or company protocols.
Once you’ve decided on your method of delivery, it’s time to decide on the screening questions. Read on to learn more.
Create a health questionnaire
Most states or provinces have government-mandated COVID-19-related questions that must be used in all health screening requirements. The questions must cover symptom checking and risk factors, including out-of-country travel and possible contamination hazards.
Common questionnaire questions include the following:
- Have you or anyone in your household had any of the following symptoms in the last 21 days: sore throat, cough, chills, body aches for unknown reasons, shortness of breath for unknown reasons, loss of smell, loss of taste, fever at or greater than 100 degrees Fahrenheit?
- Have you or anyone in your household been tested for COVID-19?
- Have you or anyone in your household visited or received treatment in a hospital, nursing home, long-term care, or other health care facility in the past 30 days?
- Have you or anyone in your household traveled in the U.S. in the past 21 days?
- Have you or anyone in your household traveled on a cruise ship in the last 21 days?
- Are you or anyone in your household a health care provider or emergency responder?
- Have you or anyone in your household cared for an individual who is in quarantine or is a presumptive positive or has tested positive for COVID-19?
- Do you have any reason to believe you or anyone in your household has been exposed to or acquired COVID-19?
- To the best of your knowledge have you been in close proximity to any individual who tested positive for COVID-19?
Choose the proper equipment
When exploring health screening programs, you want three key features:
- Updatability. You need to be able to update your questionnaire regularly to adhere to the latest health screening rules and recommendations. What’s more, you should be able to update according to your company’s status. For example, if you had an outbreak on floor three but not floor four, your questionnaire could ask employees, “Have you had contact with anyone from the third floor in the past 48 hours?”
- Mobility. It’s best if employees can answer the questionnaire wherever they are, especially before they arrive at the office. It’s better they get blocked from entering the office before they commute, rather than after they arrive at the building.
- Decidability. Your screening tool should be able to approve or reject an employee from entering the office as soon as they answer all of the questions. There should be no wait period where employees linger in the entrance, or worse: enter the office space while your solution screens employees’ symptoms. Instead, whatever solution you use should make it clear to employees that they need to return home if they are, in any way, an exposure risk.
Selecting the right health screening tool
Consider Joan’s free health screening solution. The day before employees return to the office, they’re sent both an email and phone notification, alerting them to fill out the health screening survey. After the first day, employees are prompted daily to complete a health questionnaire. If any of their answers suggest a risk of COVID, the employee is told to stay home… before they even leave their home.
Joan’s health screening tool allows to
- Enable/disable health screening for employees or/and visitors
- Set custom questions for health screening
- Notify the responsible person (customizable) in case the employee fails health screening. For visitor’s failed health check, the host will be automatically notified
- Enable/disable automatic desk release in case of health screening failure
- Download all health screenings in a CSV file
Having the right tools in place can make this health screening stuff a breeze. Once you have your screening solution in place, you can focus on nurturing your employees through the transition back to the office.
Communicate with employees when implementing a health screening process
With all this talk about taking care of employees’ physical health, we can’t forget to address their mental health as well. Keeping them in the loop can go a long way to helping them feel secure and looked out for.
Over the years, we’ve learned that employees are the most productive when they’re less stressed at work. Additionally, workplace stress can lead to overall health issues that may make your employees more susceptible to contracting COVID-19 including burnout, heart-related concerns, high blood pressure or cholesterol, diabetes, blood glucose, and more. According to The American Institute of Stress, stress also leads to approximately 50% of voluntary turnovers.
Keeping your employees’ return-to-office stress as low as possible is in your best interest. Here are some tips to consider when implementing your health screening system.
Listen and respond to employee concerns. If an employee is not heard, they won’t feel taken care of. Showing empathy for their concerns and fears will help employees realize the company is serious about taking the necessary precautions to keep them safe and well. Offer them the guidance they need.
In any frightening situation, whether in the office or not, people are calmer when they know what to expect. Communicate with your employees and make sure they have openings to communicate back. Furthermore, consider sending out surveys to learn how they can feel safer in the workplace.
Strengthen job security
Many employees are worried about losing their jobs if they don’t return to the office, despite their fears of COVID contamination. Whether returning to the office is mandatory or not within your company, do what you can to alleviate their concerns. Simply making employees feel valued when they return to the office can go a long way to helping them feel secure.
If possible, offer flexibility. Logically, most companies will proceed with some level of flexibility. If an employee doesn’t pass the health screening questionnaire one day, they should be able to work from home. Consider policies that allow employees to work from home a set number of days per week to lessen their stress about exposure in the office.
Aside from having a record of everyone who enters the office on any given day, there are other ways to track employee movement throughout the office.
Many meeting room booking tools offer analytics that shows who met in which room and with which participants. Set regulations where employees cannot have meetings without a “papertrail.” Or, in the case of Joan’s meeting room booking system, an “analytics trail.”
Joan’s analytics record meeting statistics, making it easy for authoritative figures to trace possible COVID-19 exposures throughout the office.
It’s all too easy for employees to move around a flexible workspace with minimal trace to what and who they came into close contact with. If your office runs on a flexible floor plan, complete with bookable desks, make sure your desk booking system offers analytics such as who booked which desk when.
Joan’s desk booking solution allows managers to track which desks their team members book at what times. What’s more, managers can disable the booking of select desks, helping employees follow physical-distancing protocols.
Before initiating back-to-office protocols, companies must iron out three key guidelines:
- Health screening techniques
- Screening questionnaire tools
- Employee transition
With the right health screening tools, the biggest thing you have to worry about is how to keep employees safe, secure, and comfortable with the transition.
Make your job easy by implementing a customizable, ready-to-go screening tool to help your office not only adhere to government regulations but your company’s standards as well.
Using the Joan Desk for health screening automates the cumbersome daily health screening and visitors check-in, leaving you with more time for your other tasks. Try it out!