By Katherine Schwartz
Demand Generation Specialist

Health screening and COVID-19 workplace questionnaires are growing in popularity as companies begin to welcome employees back to work. These simple questionnaires are great preventive tools for mitigating workplace spread of the virus because they encourage self-policing among employees. If you aren’t feeling well, don’t come to work! It’s a simple concept that’s brought to the surface through the survey.

The purpose of these surveys isn’t to castigate employees—rather, promote open dialog that keeps everyone safe. Structure questions to encourage mindful reflection and honest answers. Employees shouldn’t feel bad if they need to stay home from work; they should feel good knowing they’re doing their part in keeping themselves and others safe. A well-designed survey can and should become part of your workplace’s essential health screening process.

Important questions to ask

An employee COVID-19 screening questionnaire alone isn’t enough. It needs to ask the right questions and prompt the right level of introspection. “how do you feel today” is a subjective question that not everyone will answer the same. Jose might ignore a few aches and pains, while Pilar might take them very seriously and stay home. Avoid subjective questions and stick to well-qualified ones.

Questions should focus on an employee’s current health, any potential exposures to coronavirus, and their feelings about safety and wellbeing. Here are 12 of the best questions to include on a workplace questionnaire:

  1. Have you developed a cough in the past 24 hours?
  2. Do you feel unusually fatigued?
  3. Do you have a fever of more than 100 degrees?
  4. Have you developed any body aches/pains in the past 24 hours?
  5. Do you have a sore throat?
  6. In the past week, have you had contact with anyone experiencing the above symptoms?
  7. In the past two weeks, have you had contact with any confirmed cases of COVID-19?
  8. Is anyone in your home self-quarantining or under a mandated quarantine?
  9. Are you currently awaiting results from a COVID-19 test?
  10. Have you traveled outside of the United States in the past week?
  11. Do you feel like you are at a higher risk for contracting COVID-19?
  12. Do you have any restrictions or concerns for wearing PPE?

These questions span the gamut of self-awareness, and they ask employees to think clearly about their health in relation to COVID-19. If they answer yes to any symptoms, it’s their signal to stay home. If they’ve had probable contact with someone carrying the virus, it’s a call to action to get tested. If they’re immunocompromised or can’t wear PPE due to health concerns, they can bring these concerns to their supervisor to get proper accommodations.

A good survey can get a lot done over the course of a dozen questions, and potentially prevent an outbreak in your workplace.

What you CAN’T ask employees

Tread lightly as you create a workplace wellness questionnaire or health survey. Legislation like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act—along with HIPAA and other employee privacy mandates—restrict what you can and can’t ask employees, and what they’re obligated to tell you. For example, you can’t ask if someone is immunocompromised. Instead, ask if they feel they’re more susceptible or at a higher risk for COVID-19. Even then, you’re restricted from asking why.

The best way to stay compliant with employee privacy rights is to come at question formulation from a proactive standpoint. What matters is that you provide at-risk employees alternative work options—it doesn’t matter  why they’re at a higher risk. Look for a COVID-19 sample employee questionnaire or sample questions from groups like SHRM, OSHA, and the CDC to model your survey appropriately.

Have policies ready to aid quarantined workers

If an employee checks ‘yes’ more than once or twice on their coronavirus survey, the indication is that they need to self-quarantine and/or seek medical attention. This doesn’t mean they have COVID-19. Until a positive test result comes back, treat the situation as a work-from-home opportunity.

If your organization has a telecommuting strategy already set up, extend it to self-quarantining employees. If not, evaluate the work-from-home options available to them—even if it’s sending emails and catching up on correspondence. If remote work isn’t feasible, it might be time to talk about FMLA, sick leave, or PTO.

Act in the health interests of employees

The purpose of a workplace survey isn’t to make people feel bad. Employees shouldn’t feel like they’re wearing a scarlet letter if they need to stay home from work. Encourage responsible use of the survey and have support systems in place for people who may be sick or compromised.

A show of encouragement instead of relegation helps employees feel like they’re supported by their employer, even when they can’t come to work. Even an email along the lines of “thank you for acting responsibly during this health crisis” can go a long way toward boosting morale.

Keep reading: Workforce COVID-19 Resources

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