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How to Prioritize Employee Health During COVID-19
The Coronavirus pandemic has changed the way people work. The remote workforce is larger than ever and people are relying more on technology to keep us connected in the age of social distancing. Our society has adapted to a new way of living that presents challenges, especially when it comes to maintaining health and wellbeing.
Now more than ever, it’s important for employers to advocate for employee health. When employers encourage positive mental health and fitness, workplace productivity increases. In a study performed by Harvard, for every dollar that an organization spends on workplace wellness, that business gains $2.73 on healthcare ROI due to increased workplace attendance and decreased healthcare costs. The bottom line is that healthy employees are more engaged and work more efficiently.
In part three of our COVID-19 series, we discussed How to Maintain Payroll and HR Compliance During COVID-19. In part four, we are addressing what healthcare options are available to offer your employees and how to communicate those options to your workforce.
Free Telehealth Services for Employees
As you continue to navigate your business through COVID-19, it’s important to offer employees as much health guidance as possible. The passing of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) prompted an increase in Telehealth use in relation to COVID-19 health concerns to limit virus exposure.
However, Telehealth is a great option beyond the Coronarvius pandemic, as it expands access to care and reaches more patients. Employers can encourage their workforce to take advantage of free Telehealth services now and in the future. Whether your employees are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or other unrelated health issues, make sure they know they can receive medical care virtually.
Free COVID-19 Testing for Employees
As previously mentioned, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act eliminated out-of-pocket healthcare costs including co-payment, coinsurance, deductibles, and other costs related to COVID-19 diagnostic testing for all non-grandfathered private health plans. These plans have to cover certain preventive services without cost-sharing.
With the passing of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, free testing guidelines were expanded. According to the CARES Act, COVID-19 testing will be covered without cost-sharing FDA-approved testing to include:
- Tests provided by labs on an emergency basis
- State-developed tests
- Any other tests determined appropriate by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
The CARES Act expands the FFCRA, and ensures employees won’t face additional cost sharing by labs or other COVID-19 test developers. The CARES Act also ensures once a vaccine is developed, the cost will be covered on a permanent basis. This means employers can encourage symptomatic employees to get tested and vaccinated at zero cost to companies and workers.
Encourage Employees to Take Time Off
With the American workforce weeks into social distancing and stay-at-home orders, it’s important to encourage employees to take time off to maintain mental health. Many people are juggling full-time jobs and the homeschooling of children.
These added pressures can have a detrimental effect on both the psychological and physical well-being of employees. Remind your workers to take occasional time off, so they can maintain some type of work-life balance and recharge their batteries. If you have questions about employee leave during this challenging time, our article How to Pay Employees During COVID-19 takes a deeper look into government-mandated paid time off, alternative payroll options, and more.
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The Importance of Continued Employee Communication
Whether your workforce is under one roof or spread across the country, it’s important to maintain continued communication with your employees. This can be achieved using weekly emails, mass text messages, and group messaging, and company newsfeeds.
Weekly emails to your workforce are an efficient way to maintain communication about company policies and procedures. Emails also provide a means to perform a morale check with employees and find out how they are doing. APS President and CEO, Aaron Johnson, has utilized weekly emails to keep our team in the loop on all COVID-19 related matters as they relate to APS. These emails serve not only as a method of communicating employee health protocols but also as a means to keep APS employees’ spirits lifted with positive and motivational words.
Mass Text Messages
Text message communication is a crucial tool to have during these times of uncertainty. Payroll and HR platforms with text messaging features keep your entire company on the same page. As government updates arise, you can keep your employees informed through consistent text updates.
Another option many payroll and HR providers offer is a company newsfeed. This allows HR managers to post important information in a centralized self-service site for all employees to view.
What Should You Communicate to Employees?
Ideally, your place as an advocate for your employees should extend beyond just government regulated protocols. Offering health and well-being tips is one positive way to extend your role beyond a paycheck provider. Support your employees by encouraging physical fitness, routines, nutritious eating, and more. Share articles with employees about how to reduce stress levels, how to increase mental health clarity, and encourage proper sleep and exercise.
Similarly, you should encourage employees to seek help when they start to feel ill, especially if they are showing these symptoms of COVID-19: fever, cough, or labored breathing. Offer information on employee health options including those mentioned above: Telehealth, PTO availability, and free COVID-19 testing.
For more detailed information on personalized communication channels and collaborative technology you can utilize during COVID-19, check out our article, Building a Healthy Culture for Remote Workers.
Healthy Employees, Healthy Bottom Line
Navigating a pandemic like COVID-19 has taught us all many things, both personally and professionally. We understand the importance of taking preventative precautions to stem the spread of Coronavirus, including working from home, social distancing, and diligently washing our hands.
Now is the time for human resource managers, employers, and business owners to encourage good health practices. Unhealthy workers simply can’t perform their jobs as effectively, which can lead to absenteeism, turnover, and lost revenue. When you prioritize your employees, you are prioritizing the livelihood of your business.
Encouraging employees to invest in their health, as well as communicating company policies and best practices to your staff shows them that you are invested in their well-being.