How COVID-19 Employee Health Screening Could Impact Your Industry This Winter

cashier wearing mask at grocery store check out

With COVID-19 case rates rising across the U.S., the possibility of states issuing new public health mandates, including some form of stay-at-home orders, is becoming increasingly likely.

Even as rapid, inexpensive diagnostic testing is becoming more widely available, many employers are still opting for symptom screening over daily testing. While this may change in the coming months as these types of tests gain widespread usage, the majority of U.S. states require some form of symptom screening for employees prior to reporting to work.

Different organizations have responded in different ways, using everything from paper questionnaires to simple mobile apps to health screening chatbots to ask employees a series of screening questions, such as whether they have a fever or respiratory symptoms.

Let’s take a closer look at how several key industries might approach COVID-19 screening and testing in light of new restrictions that could go into effect this winter…

Essential Industries: Grocery Stores, Energy, Food Production, Manufacturing, and Child Care

Just as we saw in the spring of this year, essential industries need to keep operating. Employees need to continue to be onsite. And yet, many organizations are still grappling with how to keep workers safe as community spread continues to grow.

A study out of Brown University has shown that the reopening of schools did not result in large outbreaks of cases, as many had feared. In fact, the research has shown that transmission rates at schools are relatively low – in the context of the school day, and in schools where public health protocols are being strictly followed. It’s what kids get up to outside of the school day where transmission is more likely (think of high schoolers wanting to hang out with their friends after school).

But it seems that layering together public health measures like distancing, mask-wearing, frequent hand-washing, and disinfecting spaces, has proven effective at minimizing transmission in schools. Public health experts agree that any one of these measures on its own isn’t completely effective, but combining them gives us the best chance of keeping cases under control.

What does this example have to do with essential workers? It proves the public health measures work to contain transmission, highlights the importance of following the protocols, and should bring some comfort to employers and their staff who need to remain onsite even during stay-at-home orders.

But there is another layer employers can (and should) add to help mitigate the risks to employees and customers: symptom screening.

Just as the CDC has advised parents to check their children for symptoms before going to school, the majority of U.S. states are requiring workplaces to perform screening before employees enter the building. And self-screening has emerged as the simplest way to accomplish this. Many companies are using digitally based symptom screeners, like Astute’s Health Screening Chatbot, to easily capture this information from employees before every shift, not only ensuring that symptomatic people are staying home but also tracking trends over time.

While symptom screening won’t capture 100% of sick employees, it is an important piece of the overall strategy to contain the virus. When combined with the other public health protocols (and short of testing workers every day before they come in for their shifts), employee health screening gives companies a much better chance of preventing community spread within their workplaces.

Higher Education

We talked about school openings earlier in the post, but many higher education institutions are struggling with containing transmission on campus. Much like their primary and high school education counterparts, colleges and universities are seeing much more community spread due to activities that take place outside of classroom settings (like large parties in dorms and student houses).

For institutions that are planning to continue in-person learning, public health protocols and symptom screening for everyone on campus will continue to be important tools to limit transmission. Many schools have already implemented this, and require students to show proof of their daily completed screening to enter campus buildings.

Contact Centers

Are you prepared to move your contact center to a virtual setting? If you’ve already moved to remote work, have you evaluated how it’s working?

In a past article, we unpacked the changes that are needed when shifting to a work-from-home contact center. At a high level, there are six key questions you need to ask yourself:

  • Can our current systems handle agents working from home?
  • How will we ensure open communication, team meetings, etc. continue to happen consistently?
  • How easy is it to quickly reconfigure our CRM workflows to account for this disruption?
  • Do we have a solid process for keeping information, knowledge bases, etc. current even as things change rapidly?
  • What processes can we automate in order to offset increased contact volumes?
  • What’s our plan for monitoring KPIs and the impact of these changes?

It goes without saying that, for jobs that can be done effectively from employees’ homes, COVID-19 symptom screening is not a concern. However, don’t forget the mental toll that isolation can take, and keep your team’s mental health and well-being in mind.

To say 2020 has been a strange year would be an understatement, and we’ve all had to deal with unexpected changes to our daily lives. But taking steps to keep our teams and our communities safe will help us all emerge on the other side.

For more information about how to use a COVID-19 health screener chatbot, visit this page.