Just as businesses are bringing employees back to the office full-time, a new wave of viruses is spreading across the nation. Experts are calling the the combination of the flu, RSV, and COVID-19 emerging at once a “tripledemic”. While colds and flu are common this time are year, the US is witnessing a surge that could severely impact the workforce for the next few months. So, what should your business expect to navigate, and how best can you best prepare with benefits and health policies?
How Much of a Threat is the Tripledemic?
Tripledemic refers to three respiratory viruses, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), COVID-19, and the flu, a significant combination that's currently overwhelming hospitals and care centers. As the colder weather hits the US, it brings ideal conditions for these viruses to linger and continue to spread. What’s concerning professionals the most is how early in the season we’re seeing these spikes. Currently, RSV is 60% higher than its peak rate in 2021. Flu hospitalizations are higher than they’ve been in a decade. Hospitals are short-staffed due to the massive labor losses resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, and many are concerned care for patients will be limited.
Why Should Your Business be Concerned about the Tripledemic
COVID-19 changed the landscape of the workforce. The US, facing our first significant modern pandemic, led to new work-from-home policies, masking, and sanitization policies. Researchers in the medical field are predicting the necessity for some of these policies to return this winter, whether by regulation or by choice.
For all businesses requiring employees to return to the office, it might be best to reconsider until the spring. Bringing employees back to the office now can increase the spread of the virus, expose uninfected employees, and lead to a mass drop in employees able to perform normal duties. From a benefits perspective, allowing work from home over the winter season can help your employees feel safe and cared for by their employers, while ensuring they’re able to get work done as usual.
Work From Home Could Stop the Spread During Pandemic Era
A recent survey conducted by a team at FractL showed that next to health insurance, work-from-home policies are a top requested benefit. This desire has grown since the COVID-19 pandemic due to the flexibility and time-saving aspects, but it also serves a larger purpose alongside new emerging viruses. It's likely that with the tripledemic, employees will be forced to go home due to falling ill and enlisting the work-from-home benefit could allow productivity to remain, without compromising your employees’ health.
It’s important to note that in many states, falling ill at work can result in a worker's compensation claim. Insurance carriers will ask questions such as, “Was there an increased risk of contracting the condition due to the worker's occupation”?, and “If not for their job, would the worker have been exposed to the virus or contracted the condition”? If your business receives a large number of workers' compensation claims or fails to properly prevent illness, your insurance premiums may increase significantly.
Preparing Your Office for a Surge in Viruses
If your business is planning to have many of your employees in the office over the winter season, there are some preventive measures to take if you want to reduce your risk of the spread:
- Stick to a regimented sanitization schedule
- Social distance where possible
- Keep meetings virtual to avoid small, crowded conference rooms
- Require all employees who show symptoms of a virus to stay home
- Provide your employees with proper health insurance so tests and care are covered
- Provide sufficient sick days so employees can recover without losing compensation
- Ensure your office has proper ventilation
Many of the ways you can prevent the spread will look similar to COVID-19 policies. It may be helpful to provide a handbook or policy guideline to your employees to ensure everyone is following best practices to minimize the risk of infection.
Check Your Insurance Policies
With the risk of infection most businesses are facing this winter, now is a good time to check your insurance policies and make sure you are fully covered. To prepare for the “tripledemic”, you’ll want to review your worker's compensation policy, employee health benefits, and business interruption coverage. A full review will help you understand if your employees could file a claim due to a virus, what benefits you are currently offering to keep them safe and healthy, and what protection you may have in the event you experience business interruption due to illness. Proper preparation and preventive measures are the keys to minimizing risk during virus surges.
Review Your Insurance with ECBM
Having a professional review of your insurance program will give you a full understanding of your coverage. Our experts can help uncover coverage gaps and strengthen your program to ensure you are protected. Whether you want a better understanding of your worker's compensation policy or an upgrade on your employee benefits, ECBM is here to help. Contact one of our agents for more information on how we can help you navigate your business protection.