Every year, flu season hits employers (and employees) hard! Between 5 and 20 percent of Americans get the flu, and as a result, miss an estimated 70 million workdays. Now, experts say the 2020-2021 hit will be even worse as flu and other seasonal illnesses converge with cases of COVID-19.
Employers are faced with the challenge of keeping employees healthy and on the job, but unless the employer is also a clinician, it’s not their role to diagnose an employee’s health and make the decision on whether or not the employee should come to work.
Employers are also struggling with the enforcement of COVID-19 precautions among employees in the workplace (e.g. mask wearing, handwashing) and they have no way of ensuring employees take steps to minimize virus exposure when they are outside of work.
It’s a great time to let doctors make the decisions. By providing access to a network of board-certified physicians via telehealth, employers tee up health experts to answer the tough questions and clarify compliance with safe practices based on industry guidance and recommendations.
Should I Come to Work Sick?
An employer doesn’t want to be the one to make the decision on whether a sick employee should stay at work or go home, but having an employee take time away from work to see a doctor to get a diagnosis is inconvenient for both employee and employer. Depending upon the type of business this could also mean loss of revenue for the employer if the employee cannot perform his/her job, and even lost income for the employee if they don’t have paid time off.
Employers offering telehealth can often help keep employees on the job by providing virtual access to doctors anytime, anywhere. Instead of leaving work for a doctor’s appointment during business hours, the employee can text with a doctor during a break, before/after work or on a weekend to discuss their health issue or that of a family member. They can get the support they need when it is convenient, and not have to worry about job security or loss of income as a result of time off.
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Do I Have to Wear a Mask at Work?
In addition to determining whether an employee is well enough to come to work, employers are also faced with tough decisions around protecting their employees from COVID-19 inside of the workplace. For example, some employers may find it challenging to maintain proper mask wearing compliance among employees, with individuals offering reasons why they cannot wear masks or taking them off for various reasons during work hours.
Employers can leverage telehealth physicians to answer employees’ questions related to COVID-19 safety, while urging employees to adhere to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations around safe practices, such as mask wearing, social distancing and hand disinfection.
Am I at Risk for Covid Exposure?
And even when an employer is successful in keeping employees safe at work, what happens outside of work hours can pose an even greater threat. There is no way of controlling where employees spend their personal hours and preventing them from engaging in high-risk activities, such as attending large social gatherings or traveling to a COVID-19 “hot spot.”
Again, employers can leverage telehealth physicians to provide advice to employees on staying safe outside of work based on U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations.
Through telehealth, doctors can also screen employees to determine if they have engaged in behaviors that have put them at risk for contracting the virus and recommend the proper course of action based on evidence-based guidelines.
Leverage the Experts
It is a complex and confusing time for everyone, and the onset of flu season will make it even more challenging. With instant connection to a network of highly qualified doctors educated on the latest COVID-19 recommendations, an employer isn’t left alone to offer employees advice and make tough decisions related to their health. And in turn employees can secure top-quality medical advice whenever they need it, whether it’s related to staying safe during the pandemic, or a completely unrelated issue impacting their physical or behavioral health.