Your people are your organization’s greatest asset and their wellbeing is at the center of your approach to your workplace re-occupancy strategy. As you move into the many phases of “return to work”, you will face countless decisions necessary to ensure the productivity and safety of your workforce.
However, in spite of your best laid plans, it’s a matter of when, not if, a team member becomes symptomatic or positively diagnosed with COVID-19. How you and your organization respond will be critical to instilling confidence in your employees and ensuring “return to work” doesn’t rapidly dictate another mass “return to home.”
Mike Hessling (CEO of GB North America) and Caryn Siebert (Director of Carrier Engagement) share their discussion regarding the various webinars they have done and the resource center GB has made available for insurance executives, establishments re-opening to the public, and claims and risk managers. Read their conversation below!
Caryn: More and more we are starting to hear of the term contact tracing, the process of identifying individuals who may have been in close contact with a person who is symptomatic of, or has tested positive for, the coronavirus. As part of an employer’s pandemic response practice, it is necessary to implement policies and procedures that attempt to notify all employees who may have been in “close contact” with those employees diagnosed with COVID-19, or those suspected of having contracted the virus. Let me ask you Mike, why should contact tracing be part of the “new normal” workplace?
Mike: There are three major reasons for performing contact tracing.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, contact tracing approaches are rapidly emerging to support public and employer health objectives. For example, many state and local governments have established contact tracing departments. These teams, based on combinations of volunteer and recently-hired staff, focus on identifying and notifying everyone that a symptomatic or positive COVID-19 patient may have made contact with in recent days. However, given the voluntary nature of initial reporting and the broad net of contacts engaged (personal, public and work contacts), public health contact tracing may be insufficient to satisfy the urgent need of employers to protect their team members.
Caryn: I can add a fourth reason. Many of the people with whom I interact are defense counsel or claims/risk professionals preparing to handle COVID-19 related claims. So, as organizations begin to welcome team members back to the workplace, they should consider how they will respond, as you said when, not if, a team member becomes symptomatic or positively diagnosed with COVID-19. Or when, not if, a patron is files a claim. That response, and who does so on your behalf, will be important on multiple fronts. Certainly, it will be critical to instilling confidence in your employees to return, and remain, in the workplace in the months ahead. But also to continue welcoming the public back to the establishment. You must be sure to document what precautions you took in conjunction with re-opening and how you complied with various CDC guidelines. Utilization of contact tracing and a solid re-occupancy plan, discussed by you on recent RIMS, CLM, BI and other industry webinars, should be helpful in your defense if needed down the road.
Mike: That sounds very thorough and I’m sure it will continue to evolve. Also evolving is the technology regarding contact tracing. Many companies are developing technology-based applications to identify and notify employees of potential COVID-19 exposures. Though such applications appear promising, they pose thorny questions for employers including whether their use can be mandated and whether employees can be assured that their personal data will be confidentially and securely stored with both their employer and the technology provider. That might also be an issue for your defense colleagues to keep an eye on Caryn. Also problematic, these applications assume all employees have smartphones, leaving upwards of 20% of employee populations without a contact tracing solution.
Caryn: Good point Mike; and thus it should be a solution focused on the unique needs of that entity. For example, at Gallagher Bassett we refer to how we guide, guard and go beyond. Thus, contact tracing can demonstrate how you guide those affected by COVID-19, guard and have a sense of urgency to protect other exposed employees and go beyond with sensitivity to the confidentiality and security of all employees and employers. Said simply, a successful contact tracing solution should be an extension of your organization and culture, protecting your business and team during a critical stage of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mike: Well said and there are many elements to consider when evaluating a contact tracing solution. First and foremost, you should have experienced professionals conducting contact tracing. Then I’d suggest three buckets:
- Are my contact tracers:
- professionally trained on CDC best-practices?
- empathetic, able to establish trust, and resourceful in locating patients, contacts and those reluctant to engage in conversation?
- utilizing robust scripts and systems to capture information timely, limiting the need for recurring employee touchpoints?
- Do my contact tracers:
- understand and respect patient confidentiality?
- understand medical terms and principles of exposure, infection, infectious periods, potentially infectious interactions, symptoms of disease, pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic infection?
- Do I have the data and reporting necessary to confidently inform executive management on the health and productivity of our workforce?
As the industry’s leading provider of risk management and claims services, Gallagher Bassett has a rich history of partnering with employers to keep employees safe, and when crisis occurs, help them get back to work after injury or loss that requires medical attention and ongoing care. As we enter the important stage of workplace re-entry, we have repurposed many of our experienced workers’ compensation professionals to provide the contact tracing solution employers desperately need at this time, addressing the important design considerations included above.
Caryn: I’m glad we had this time “together” Mike. Thank you for always being available to discuss emerging and critical topics. Certainly, our colleagues work hard to make information on return to workplace strategy, contact tracing, and various state rules, available for the industry so I hope readers avail themselves of the material.
For more information, or to lodge and inquiry about our contact tracing solution, visit: www.gallagherbassett.com/contacttracing