COVID and the Workplace
I thought it would be interesting to discuss the impact COVID-19 has had and will have on workplaces. What changes are temporary? How do you feel about returning to work in this time of COVID-19?
First, I want to acknowledge that many people do not have the luxury of choosing how/if they return to work. There are millions of people around the world who have lost their jobs and are struggling to put food on the table. Anyone in the hospitality, retail or other businesses that require in-person work, have little choice but to return to work given so many people are looking for jobs. For most, I think it would be fair to say the scales are tipped in favor of employers.
Thankfully most employers are doing what they can to keep employees safe. Everything from providing personal protective equipment (PPE) to increased cleaning to staggered shifts. There are many stories of companies trying to do right by their employees.
Despite these efforts, however, employees are still worried about returning to work. A Qualtrics study of 2,000 employed Americans in late April revealed that 66% were uncomfortable with going back to work in the current environment. At that time the study was conducted, the number of new daily COVID-19 cases was less than 30,000 – about half of what it is currently. The total case count was still below 1million. If this study were done now, I suspect the % of people uncomfortable would be higher.
This brings us to the story of Epic, the giant EHR software company based in Madison, Wisconsin.
Epic Return to Work
On August 4 th , CBS This Morning broke the story about Epic asking all of its employees to return to work at their corporate campus in phases. By November 2 nd all employees were expected to be back in-person, including anyone who was immunocompromised. In an email to employees, Judy Faulkner stressed how important it was to the company’s culture that employees come back to the office. That email included a link to a video that showed the numerous precautions and upgrades that had been made to the Epic campus to make it safe.
I watched the almost 7min video and I have to admit it does a good job explaining what areas of the offices that will be cleaned frequently, how the food outlets are changing to take-out only, improvements to the HVAC systems and how to maintain distancing in meetings. Where it gets a little cringe-worthy is near the end when Erv Walter, a developer at Epic talks about how he is back to work despite being immunocompromised. I give kudos to Mr. Walter for trying, but his extra “protection” consists of a “I’m immunocompromised” sign outside of his office and avoiding people who “are sick”.
Epic’s back-to-work approach (the email + video) did not sit well with employees. They felt the mandatory call back by November 4 th was at odds with the reality of the pandemic and completely ignored those caring for children or...