Stop Trying to Beat One Illness When You Know Another One’s Coming

Stop Trying to Beat One Illness When You Know Another One’s Coming

By Tricia O'Connor

“I am inevitable.”

Thanos, the antagonist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, utters this catastrophic phrase in Avengers: Endgame after he’s wiped out half the earth’s population. 

With that turn of phrase, Thanos implies there was always going to be someone or something doing the exact same thing, and there was nothing the Avengers or anybody could do to stop it. 

Thanos and his inevitability are just like a health crisis. When you think you have one beat – whether through vaccination, eradication, or preventative education – another pandemic erupts. It’s happened again and again throughout history. Bubonic plague. Spanish Influenza. Ebola. AIDS. SARS. And now COVID-19 and its new variants. 

It’s imperative then, that businesses begin to view their responsibility to the health and safety of their employees and visitors, as well as to their long-term operational success, in a wider dynamic lens. Here’s how to assemble your own team of superheroes, with battle-ready tools, to fight the inevitable.

The Long Fight

Organizations best position themselves if they focus less on ‘beating’ a particular virus, and instead create a unified strategy that addresses the inevitability of health crises. This is accomplished by seizing the opportunity for a cross-organizational strategy that utilizes leaders from various departments and implements a comprehensive wellness solution that proactively stems any future pandemics. 

As companies look to the future and what changes they need to permanently make, one thing is clear: health and safety culture will be at the forefront of these changes. Although COVID-19 is the catalyst for health and safety efforts now, companies have long tried to solve for the cost of illness to their business each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Foundation reported in 2015 the average cost of influenza for businesses averaged $87 billion annually. Now add what is potentially an annual seasonal outbreak of coronavirus to that number, and you are looking at a very real, very large problem businesses must solve. It’s imperative organizations make a similar investment to stave off COVID-19 and whatever pandemic will come next while their employees continue to work remotely. If COVID-19 has collectively taught us nothing else, it is that viruses spread quickly, often with dangerous and terrifying outcomes. 

Who’s On Your Team?

In the past year, Human Resources has arguably seen more change than it has in the past 20 years combined. Navigating the impact of the pandemic has involved extraordinary effort on everyone’s part, but perhaps mostly for HR leadership and team members. 

Human Resources manages the very foundation your business is built upon. Throughout the past year, it has been HR trying to maintain your company’s culture, even if all your employees have been working remotely. It has been HR delivering much of the bad news to staff. Most importantly, however, HR is key to rebuilding your staff’s confidence in the “new normal,” whatever that may be for your business.

While HR is responsible for building new policies and procedures and finding innovative ways to blend these into corporate culture, managing the technology, data, and metrics of these solutions will reside with another department, Information Technology.

When HR and Information Technology integrate with shared goals and common applications it improves leadership’s ability to make critical decisions based on sound data and feedback. In this sense, your entire team of superheroes is now working together.  

Tony Stark-Worthy Technology

Whether we look at masks, health screening, distance monitoring, sanitization, or any of the other risk mitigation practices we have been introduced to this year, we know these tools can be used to effectively combat the spread of even the most aggressive outbreaks. These tools, and the data they provide, will comprise an entirely new aspect of organizational leadership and communication spanning human resources, technology officers, analysts, wellness experts, not to mention the c-suite. 

There are numerous tools you can add to your health and safety suite, but these are the most common and proven business methods for the prevention of illness. Here are the tools and how they can be used to help your team succeed. 

  1. Health Screening
    • Screening your employees for common symptoms and potential exposure before they enter the workplace is key. The CDC recommends all companies do this at a minimum. By combining a basic health questionnaire, potential exposure questions, and a temperature scan, companies can nearly eliminate the risk of symptomatic employees entering the workplace. The data collected can be used to trend illness at all facilities, and possibly prevent a complete shutdown.
  2. Distance Monitoring
    • Although health screening can prevent symptomatic employees from entering the workplace, asymptomatic employees will inevitably be present. Ensuring social distancing compliance and other best practices will further reduce the risk of an outbreak in the workplace. The pandemic has brought many technology-driven devices to the market that help track distancing and maintain compliance. These same devices can be used to help identify problem areas with the physical design of workspaces allowing them to be reconfigured for additional safety of your employees. Data collected from these systems allow you to measure staff compliance with distancing and provide coaching opportunities for those individuals who may present an increased risk to others.
  3. Contact Tracing
    • Despite all best efforts to prevent illness from entering the workplace and spreading within, the fact of the matter is that it’s impossible to completely prevent. Contact tracing has proven an extremely reliable method of stopping the spread when used effectively. The responsibility of contract tracing manually often falls on HR. As effective as this can be, it is extremely time consuming as it involves tens if not hundreds of phone interviews each time someone is diagnosed positive. Technology driven tools and software are available that can more reliably track both distance monitoring and provide the data necessary to accurately contact trace when necessary. These tools not only provide more accurate tracing, but they notify all those potentially exposed instantly, allowing you to act faster to stop the spread.

What’s Your Endgame?

By combining all the data collected from health screening, distance monitoring, contact tracing, immunizations, and more, a clear picture will begin to emerge that will allow Avengers in your organization to make their own endgame. 

Ultimately, this will improve leadership’s decision-making ability in health and safety related matters, make HR processes and operations run more smoothly, and improve the overall health, confidence, and productivity of a company’s employees. Used correctly, this new data can have a huge impact on an organization’s ability to recruit and retain top talent while continuing operations as effectively as possible.  

It took Marvel’s The Avengers 22 films to stop Thanos. Your organization probably doesn’t have that kind of time, but you do have access to the tools you need to maintain a safe workplace now and in the future. 

EBI Can Help

Whether you have already established a health and safety program, or are still exploring your options, EBI Workplace Health & Safety can help assess your organization’s strengths and foundational gaps. Our 30-minute COVID-19 Response Review explores any existing protocols you have in place with the goal of protecting your staff and visitors while maximizing your budget. Together, we’ll identify the right mix of solutions that best integrate with your culture and processes. Request your FREE review today!

Workplace Health & Safety

About the Author

Tricia O'Connor

Tricia O'Connor

Writer. Digital marketer. Storyteller. An award-winning writer and editor, Tricia O'Connor is the Marketing Content Manager at EBI. Tricia worked as a broadcast and print journalist for nearly two decades writing and producing programming for high-profile networks like ESPN Radio, History Channel, and Hallmark Channel, as well as contributing editorial work to publications nationwide. Tricia joined the EBI marketing team in 2019 and is responsible for content strategy, development, and engagement. Tricia earned a master's degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and is a proud undergraduate alumna of Wheaton College in Massachusetts.

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