As more people get vaccinated against COVID-19, the prospect of returning to the workplace seems closer than ever. That said, we won’t be safe until – at least – the population reaches “herd immunity,” according to Dr. Anthony Fauci. That won’t happen until around 75% of the population is inoculated.
It’s crucial to think about returning to the workplace as a process, rather than an event. That process will take a long time and will probably involve phases, depending on how many employees your company has.
For example, Dr. Fauci says we should not stop using masks and social distancing for now. The nation will continue to surveil the virus by screening the public.
Even after we’ve reached herd immunity, there is a possibility that we will need to continue with masks and social distancing. This is because some people can be asymptomatic of the virus but still be able to spread it to other people. That could still be true after the vaccination. There is a possibility that some people who receive the vaccine could still get mild cases of COVID, and that puts the unvaccinated at risk for a more serious case.
Be open, accurate and transparent
If you don’t work in an industry where it is essential to be vaccinated, be aware that some of your employees may resist getting the shot. Some employees may be skeptical of vaccines in general, or skeptical of the process for rolling out the current COVID-19 vaccines.
Dr. Fauci recommends working to ensure that employees understand the objective facts. For example, tell people that the vaccine’s safety data was reviewed by an independent data and safety monitoring board made up of clinicians, vaccine serologists, biologists, immunologists, and statisticians. This group vets the safety data before a pharmaceutical company is allowed to release the vaccine to the public, even when the FDA authorizes vaccines on an emergency basis.
Also, consider talking about the cost of the vaccine. Under the CARES Act, employer-sponsored health insurance is supposed to fully cover the cost, with no cost-share by the worker, of a vaccine 15 days after it is recommended by the CDC. Employees who don’t have health insurance may be eligible for Medicare or a state-sponsored assistance program.
Be as flexible as possible
Bringing people back after an extended period of working from home may not be simple. Experts recommend a phased approach even among people who have been vaccinated. This is because employees may be experiencing anxiety about the return, or more concrete issues such as childcare coverage.
Sketch out a timeline of when you expect the transition into work to take place. Remember that we may be wearing masks and social distancing for some time and include that in your plan. Keep all of your employees aware of any changes, phases, and protocols your company will be enforcing during this transition. Creating transparency in the workplace keeps everyone on the same page.