Corporates get prepped with Return-to-work Covid Testing Plans
Corporate and office-based workers have largely been working at home since the beginning of the pandemic, with many not having been back to their offices since March.
A previous drive to get workers back into offices in late summer was abruptly ended when infection rates started to rise. Then in November the UK government told us that those who can work from home should be prepared to do so until at least April 2021, over a year from when the pandemic first struck hard.
The great news is that following the arrival of the first of the Covid-19 vaccines earlier this month, the situation is now moving on and as we approach 2021, business leaders are now turning their attention to what a ‘return to the office’ could look like.
For most, a phased return to the office starting sometime in the New Year, is the preferred option given:
- There’s a high risk of post Christmas outbreaks and late winter lockdowns
- UK Tier systems are unlikely to change before phase 1 of the vaccine rollout is complete which, even assuming the Oxford vaccine is approved, is unlikely to be before April 2021.
- The majority of private sector working-age people will not be covered in phase 1 or 2 vaccine rollouts.
Offices that have not had staff on site since the initial lockdown will need to implement Covid-19 appropriate protocols and procedures, while those that have, may need to adapt to accommodate more staff on site.
However, the main factor that will determine a successful return to office-based working will be employee confidence. Employers will need to reassure their staff that the workplace is a safe environment for them to be in and that their risk levels are being managed appropriately.
For many, a ‘return to work’ Covid-19 testing plan is proving to be the most effective way to achieve employee confidence. Many sectors, including aerospace, travel, and TV production have used testing throughout the pandemic as a way to stay operational. For others, particularly those in the corporate world where employees have been able to work from home, testing is proving to be a powerful new tool in their armoury in the fight to get the office back to something that resembles normal.
Aside from giving employees confidence in terms of their safety and their bubble’s safety, testing is also a very effective way to reduce absenteeism from the workplace. By identifying asymptomatic individuals who test positive for Covid-19 prior to returning to work, those infected can self-isolate and not risk passing the virus to others in the workplace.
By isolating those who are positive and those they have had close contact with, any potential outbreaks will be minimised and companies can begin to have offices and workplaces that feel like ‘normal’.
The tests and the costs
There are a number of options for businesses to consider
- First day back: Employees are tested on their first day back in the office.
- At home employee testing: Businesses supply tests for employees to complete 24-48 hours before returning to the office.
- Weekly rolling or fixed term testing programme (at home or in the office).
Then there’s the question of what type of test to use: the lower cost ‘rapid test’ or the slightly more costly but far more accurate PCR test. For the corporate environment, the PCR test is recommended in terms of providing accurate results, building employee confidence and identifying and isolating new cases. Known as the ‘gold standard test’ the comparative cost per employee of bulk PCR testing versus rapid testing is minimal (PCR starts from under £50 a test).
Covid Testing Network has as online calculator providing a quick way to get an indication of what PCR testing will your workplace.
For more information on the various of merits of PCR v rapid tests see this article
Having a plan in place and ready to rollout is key at this point in time. Covid Testing Network will create and cost a plan for you and help get everything in place for when/if you need to use it. More information is available on the website along with a wealth of information on testing that will get you up to speed with everything you need to know.
The network supplies fully packaged plans to Occupational Health providers. It also provides businesses direct where required, working with inhouse occupational health professionals. They can also help connect businesses with appropriate occupational health resources if required.
For employers looking to bring workers back into offices, it is likely that testing plans will need to continue until at least April, while vaccines are rolled out to the majority of the UK population.