3 Different Models To Reopen your Business to Consider in a COVID-19 World

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Published on May 15th, 2020

In the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses will need to exercise the appropriate amount of caution as they reopen for business. The extent of precautions they implement will be based on the type of business, the layout of the workplace, the budget and many other variables.

There are three general models you can follow to reopen your business:

  • Minimum Model (Hands Off)
  • Medium Model (Reporting and Tracking)
  • Maximum Model (Reporting, Tracking & Testing)

Your ability to operate, your public relations and your professional reputation will all be affected by which model you choose to follow.

Because nothing has been proven or disproven at this point when it comes to reopening, no business is able to learn from the mistakes of others because every business is experiencing this for the first time.

Minimum Model

This approach is doing the bare minimum, like following physical distancing protocols and recommending frequent hand washing and mask wearing, but not enforcing anything. While it is obviously the least expensive (up front) and easiest to implement model, it also has the highest risk factor, which could ultimately cost a business much more in the long run.

Although some companies might adopt this model, it really wouldn’t be acceptable unless virtually all the workers could perform their duties remotely. It would be irresponsible to adopt this model if employees must come to the workplace to perform their duties and it would be especially irresponsible if those employees have to come into contact with the public.

Pros to the Minimum Model:

  • Minimizes company involvement
  • Low-investment
  • Reduces some liabilities

Cons of Minimum Model:

  • No visibility into employee health statuses
  • No support to minimize COVID toll on workforce
  • High risk of COVID spread in the workplace
  • Risk of longer COVID leave of absences
  • Could ultimately cost the company a lot
  • Could lead to poor company reputation

Medium Model

In this model, the business makes it mandatory for people to use an app to report things like symptoms and maybe track where they have been. (There are several popping up on the market.) The app would generally ask employees to fill out a questionnaire to screen for symptoms to determine if they need to be connected to a telemedicine provider. (Sometimes the apps recommend local providers for physical screening.)

These apps can help a business manage quarantined employees and help track an infected employee’s recovery. They can also help with managing employee groups and confidential reporting of Covid-19 and cases for exposure. Some of them can help an employee determine where they may have contracted the disease and who they may have passed it onto via location tracking.

It is imperative that the use of apps (or even getting employees to self-report symptoms without an app) is compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), even if the data isn’t going to be collected by employers.

Pros of the Medium Model:

  • Pre-screen questionnaire to assess preliminary Covid risk level (for both contracting/spreading)
  • Visibility into each employee’s health status
  • Tracking employee progression through recovery
  • Telemedicine access for convenient consultation
  • Possible help with determining how the disease was contracted and who might be in danger

Cons of the Medium Model:

  • Requires mobile app download and system setup
  • Lacks any type of Covid testing to confirm level of liability
  • Risk of longer Covid leave of absences
  • Potential non-compliance with HIPAA

Maximum Model

While reporting and tracking have obvious value, adding regular Covid-19 testing to the mix increases the effectiveness of a company’s response by a huge margin. Testing can also be paired with telemedicine consultation.

To be vigilant, a business can perform a one-time workforce reinsertion test for Covid-19 for the entire workforce along with random and periodical tests coupled with self reporting of symptoms. This will allow businesses to regularly identify carriers that are asymptomatic and presymptomatic.

With the help of Covid testing and tracking technology, businesses could set up a system where employees have an app that:

  • Gets employees to fill out a Pre-Screen Questionnaire
  • Gives a status for each employee, i.e. “Fit to work,” or “At risk”
  • Recommends at-risk employees to consult with a telemedicine service
  • Directs at-risk employees to a third-party testing service if necessary

Along with the app, a business could have an employer portal with employee statuses like “Fit to work,” “Cannot return yet,” etc. to help keep track of the overall health of their workforce in regards to Covid-19.

Pros:

  • Pre-screen questionnaire to assess preliminary Covid risk level (both contracting/spreading)
  • Visibility into each employee’s health status
  • Tracking employee progression through recovery
  • Telemedicine access for convenient consultation
  • Efficient method of monitoring employee sick leave and recovery
  • Regular testing improves employee self-report compliance
  • Higher peace of mind for employees

Cons:

  • Higher investment time and resources system
  • Access to testing can be tricky
  • Potential HIPAA non-compliance

Cost of testing

The lack of availability for tests is the major roadblock to implementing a workforce-wide testing program for Covid-19. Cost is another potential roadblock. It can be as low as $20-25 per employee if you have in-house medical staff, but it can be double that amount per person if you need to contract testing out to a third party. Then there is the cost of productivity lost due to the time it takes to test an employee.

However, identifying a carrier of SARS-Cov-2 that you would not have otherwise known about can save you from having a larger outbreak and also gives your workforce more peace of mind, in addition to facilitating better compliance with self-reporting of symptoms.

Antibody testing

One way businesses could save money is by using antibody testing, which can be performed quickly using only a few drops of blood.

Unlike the swab testing, which detects the presence of Covid-19 itself, antibody testing detects the antibodies the body has created as a defense against the disease.

Swab testing is expensive and requires complicated laboratory equipment whereas antibody testing is much cheaper and does not require any major equipment to perform. The results are also available within minutes.

It should be noted that at this time, antibody testing, even though it doesn’t require any laboratory equipment, is still meant to be done by medical professionals in the appropriate setting. That may change in the future. It would not require extensive training to teach someone how to perform the tests.

As businesses gear up to reopen, they have a choice to make about how vigilant they want to be when it comes to protecting their employees and customers from Covid-19. Will they do the bare minimum, make some effort to get employees to self-report and possibly self-track or will they make the maximum effort and implement testing?

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