June 7, 2020

How Employers Can Help Staff Return to Work

By Shantanu Nundy, Chief Medical Officer, Accolade

It Starts with Prevention

Accolade is introducing a new blog series to advise and support companies from a clinical perspective as they traverse an often daunting and confusing path of returning to work and responding to Covid-19. You can access the complete blog series and additional articles and content on Covid-19 for employers here.

Many of us have probably heard the saying “prevention is worth a pound of cure”. And yet, in practice, often we forget to take all the necessary steps required to prevent unwelcome events from happening.

We face the same risk as employers responding to Covid-19. What we are seeing across the country is employers immediately honing in on testing. And while testing is essential – and will be a topic of our next blog post – testing is not the same as prevention. Testing helps you catch cases of Covid-19. Better still would be preventing them altogether.

Prevention starts with three basic clinical facts:

  1. The majority of Covid-19 infections occur outside of the workplace
  2. The majority of infected individuals have no symptoms and no elevated temperature in the early days of their infection when they can still transmit the infection to others.
  3. The only proven way to prevent Covid-19 currently is behavior change. We have to make a habit to wear a cloth masks, we have to stay 6 or more feet apart from each other, we have to avoid unnecessary trips to neighbors’ houses or that require travel in an enclosed spaces.

This is why worksite safety measures – checking temperatures at the door, physical distancing, and deep cleaning – while important are not simply enough.

So how we recommend you maximize your chances of preventing Covid-19 in the workplace? We have to drive behavior change for our employees wherever they are – not just at work but also in the home – through three mechanisms:

  1. Implementation of worksite safety: The CDC has released guidelines to limit workplace exposure, and public health professionals have written extensively on how to stay safe while at work. Guidelines include:
    • establishing policies like daily in-person or virtual health checks
    • staggering shifts, start times, and break times
    • cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces
    • implementing policies and practices for social distancing
    • requiring employees wear a cloth face covering to cover their nose and mouth in all areas of the business are all significant guidelines to aid in prevention
  2. Targeted communications: Multi-model, tailored communication campaigns. For our customers, we deploy various outreach methods that are tailored to your employee's specific situation to drive actionable engagement with our programs. We can tailor the health messages based on employees that may have higher risk of complications of Covid-19. Our communication campaigns can cover a wide variety of topics from hand hygiene (including link to videos showing proper technique), to physical distancing, to where to go to for health care. All of these are designed to drive behavior change and are written and developed by a team with specialization in communications, public health and behavior change. We track data on reach rates, open rates, and click rates to further adjust and tailor outreach and drive increased effectiveness.
  3. Personalized support: Broad communications are essential. Employees need a knowledgeable support network to turn to when they have specific questions. For example, an employee may learn that work travel is “non-essential,” but may still need further guidance when making a specific travel decision – based on the location of the work meeting, the type of travel required (plane vs car), their individual health risk and the risk of others in their household. Across the country we’re hearing heroic stories of HR departments working over time and juggling multiple responsibilities to provide this kind of individual support. At Accolade, what we’re seeing is that the volume of these requests are enormous. In early January, we saw a 600+% increase in calls and 90% of the conversations were in regards to prevention – should I travel, best way to avoid exposure, social distancing, and more. At Accolade, we have a trained staff of health specialists who can support your employees with the latest guidance from federal and state sources, such as the CDC, and your companies specific policies.

Through Accolade COVID Response Care, we offer tailored support to match the needs of the businesses, employer size, environment, and geographic location. From delivering the right message to every employee, to informing them about steps they need to take to stay healthy and comply with your procedures, we have identified ways we can continue to fight the novel coronavirus, and equip business leaders with the tools needed to keep employees safe and informed.

Looking out for our customers every step of the way:

“Really enjoy this service. Health assistants and nurses are very friendly. I feel so comfortable talking to them. Here I would like to thank my health assistant Jennifer and nurse Stephanie, especially during this difficult time of COVID-19. They gave tremendous help.“ – Beatrice, Leading U.S. Airline