Going to a workplace inevitably means coming into close contact with others. This puts employees who need to come to work at much greater risk of spreading COVID-19. To keep employees safe, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that companies perform daily health checks. Companies are embracing this advice and rolling out health screening for their employees, students, and external guests. In the past three months, over 2,000 companies—including Clorox, Lululemon, and Buzzfeed—used Envoy Protect to screen 500,000 employees for COVID-19. We analyzed thousands of health screening questionnaires that companies created with Protect. Through that analysis, we identified four essential screening questions that companies need to ask. We’ll discuss why these questions are necessary to both comply with regulations and keep employees healthy and safe.
1. In the past two weeks, have you had any COVID-19 symptoms?
The question that appeared most in the thousands of questionnaires we analyzed asked if the employee or visitor has COVID-19 symptoms. The CDC has four criteria they recommend using to determine if an employee should enter the workplace. Two of the criteria are related to COVID-19 symptoms. To quote from the CDC website:Consider encouraging individuals planning to enter the workplace to self-screen before coming onsite and not to attempt to enter the workplace if any of the following are present:
- Symptoms of COVID-19
- Fever equal to or higher than 100.4oF
- Are under evaluation for COVID-19 (for example, waiting for the results of a viral test to confirm infection)
- Have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and not yet cleared to discontinue isolation
Normally, asking an employee if they have certain symptoms would put a company in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, the ADA states that “During a pandemic, ADA-covered employers may ask such employees if they are experiencing symptoms of the pandemic virus.”Because many of these symptoms could be due to causes like allergies, you may also want to ask “Are your symptoms explained and related to any known condition you currently have that is not infectious?” This will help you determine whether the person is truly sick and if it’s safe for them to come on-site.Based on how much risk a workplace is comfortable taking on, we see companies phrase and act on responses to this question in two different ways:
- Ask employees if they have experienced any symptom recently. If they answer “Yes,” ask them to stay home that day. This limits your risk, but also may mean some healthy employees can’t work that day.
- Ask employees to select each symptom they’ve experienced recently. If they select multiple symptoms or symptoms highly indicative of COVID, direct them to stay home that day. However, if an employee selects only one symptom that’s less indicative of COVID, allow the employee to come in. This opens you up to more risk, but also ensures more of your healthy employees are able to come in.
However you approach this question, it’s important to understand how employees are feeling so you can make informed decisions about who to welcome on-site.
2. Do you agree to follow [company]'s COVID-19 precautions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19?
Determining if employees are healthy is just the first step to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. You want to know that, once they arrive, they will take the necessary precautions to keep themselves and others safe.Many companies use their health screening questionnaire to ask employees to agree to follow their workplace safety policies. Companies often ask employees to agree to keep a six-foot distance at all times, wipe down desks, and wear a mask. If they don’t agree, they won’t be welcome at the workplace.If you need inspiration for your workplace safety policy, reference Envoy’s return-to-office safety guidelines.
3. Have you had close contact with anyone with a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19?
COVID-19 symptoms take anywhere from two to fourteen days to appear after exposure, and sometimes never appear. Because of this, it’s essential to understand if an employee is at risk of becoming sick or is sick and potentially asymptomatic.To address this, we see many companies ask employees if they’ve been in close contact with anyone with a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19. To help employees recall if they’ve been in such a situation, you may want to add more detail to this question. For example, here’s how one company phrases this question:“Have you had close contact (within 6 ft) with anyone who is either confirmed or suspected of having COVID-19 in the last 14 days, including anyone who is experiencing or displaying any of the known symptoms of COVID-19?”It’s just as important to prevent people who are asymptomatic from coming in as those who show symptoms. That’s why it’s critical to ask employees to think through any places where they may have contracted the virus.
4. Is it business-critical that you come on-site or can you conduct your work virtually?
The last question that’s important to include in employee health screenings is if the employee needs to come to the workplace at all. Every visit to the office poses a risk to the company and employee. By asking if coming to the office is necessary, you encourage employees to consider doing the work virtually instead. Asking employees if they need to come on-site sets you up to have a conversation with the employee about what they plan to do during their time there. This can help you prepare for the visit and keep them safe while they’re there. For example, you may need to arrange for additional cleaning in a conference room before and after the meeting in question.Choosing the right questions for your employee health screening can be the difference between a sick employee entering the building or staying home. If you include these screening questions in your health check, you can rest assured you’re in good company and in line with CDC guidelines.