The after-effects of national events are no stranger to the workplace. Turnstiles and X-raying briefcases became normal at many offices and buildings post 9/11 due to the perceived need for additional security. Shoe screening began after Richard Reid's unsuccessful attempt to ignite his explosives-laden sneakers aboard an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami in December 2001. Consequently, TSA estimates that they have examined 10 billion pairs of shoes since. These are only a few of the many examples that indicate this trend.
What changes will come to the workplace post COVID-19? Most anticipate the rise of remote work. Despite these opportunities, there will still be many employers who will need their employees to come into the office - utilities, health services, universities, and logistics workers, to name a few. Many businesses are researching how to protect their employees through masks and thermal screening. Testing, however, is the next level option to help ensure the safety of workers.
Setting up a system to manage testing for a large employer base can be challenging. The first obstacle is determing the right test for your employees. Both the throat swab and sputum test can detect the virus and can even be done with at-home kits. However, government and business leaders recommend antibody tests as the more preferred option. These detect immune-system markers and can show if a worker has already had the virus. This more robust option could provide more certainty about the safety of workers re-entering the office.
But the type of test isn’t the only problem. What comes next after it? Managing this volume of health data presents a different set of predicaments for employers. Many will need to create HR processes and organizational charts to prevent exposure risk among at-risk employees or manage quarantine for those testing positive. Turning to automated software systems could help businesses adapt to these challenges as they arise and ensure the efficiency and safety of their workplace.
The least intrusive option seems to be screening for symptoms and having employees stay at home if they test positive. For essential workers, employers can perform periodic testing. Ask a few questions on symptoms before allowing employees workplace access and empower those who feel like they have contracted it to work from home until they feel better.
So, will testing become the new turnstiles?