A man holds a digital thermometer to a woman's forehead. Another man stands several feet behind the woman, looking at a digital tablet. Everyone in the picture is wearing a face mask.
Providing tests at your workplace or through your company can give your employees piece of mind as they transition back into the office. — Getty Images/FG Trade

With the pervasive Delta variant and the rapidly spreading Omicron variant, COVID-19 testing in workplaces can have many benefits, including ensuring a safe, healthy environment for employees and providing access to testing that employees may not have otherwise. However, many businesses struggle to decide how to offer COVID-19 tests, or whether to offer them at all. If you’re offering workplace COVID-19 testing for your employees, here are some important considerations and options.

Why offer COVID tests?

Safety

With over 800,000 American deaths from COVID-19 as of December 2021, everyone's mind is on the safety of employees and their loved ones — especially for at-risk populations, like those with medical conditions that make them unable to be vaccinated.

Offering COVID testing at a place of employment, where in-person employees spend the majority of their week, is not only a proactive way to keep employees healthy but it also affords peace of mind and helps mitigate the spread of the disease.

Should someone test positive, especially if they’re vaccinated, contact tracing can prevent further spread to at-risk and unvaccinated people.

[Read more: 6 Return-to-Work Services for Employees Coming Back During COVID-19]

Employee peace of mind

COVID testing in the workplace can give peace of mind to employees who are concerned about catching COVID-19 at work. Periodic testing can affirm for employees that the disease isn’t spreading in their environment and help them feel more comfortable going home to their family, shopping in stores and living their lives without worrying about contracting the disease or transmitting it to someone else.

Off-site third-party testing tends to be a good choice for businesses that don’t have the HR personnel or space to dedicate to on-site testing.

Ways to facilitate COVID testing for your workforce

If you are planning to offer workforce COVID-19 testing for your employees, you have a few different options for setting up a testing program.

On-site testing

On-site testing is helpful for larger businesses with many employees and space for a third-party lab to set up and conduct the test with proper social distancing protocols. The tests that can be offered are the PCR test, the antigen test and antibody testing.

  • PCR test. The PCR test’s intended use, according to LabCorp, is to test for viral RNA produced by any level of a current COVID infection. Tested individuals can expect to get their results one to two days from sample pick-up or three days from the start of the process. This test has the highest level of sensitivity and specificity among the three.
  • Antigen test. Instead of testing for viral RNA, the antigen test looks for antibodies caused by prior infection, which have been linked to immunity. While it has a high level of accuracy, not all prior infections result in antibody production, allowing for false negatives. The results of this test can come in between one to three days.
  • Antibody test. The antibody test, famously known as the “rapid test” with results in as little as an hour, tests for antigens produced by high levels of current infection, but it has a high chance of false negatives outside a window of a person’s perceived peak infection.

[Read more: ​​10 COVID-19 Health Tracking and Contact Tracing Tools for Returning Employees]

Partnership with local labs

Off-site third-party testing tends to be a good choice for businesses that don’t have the HR personnel or space to dedicate to on-site testing. In this situation, the company can either provide a list of convenient testing places or designate one and then cover the cost or reimburse employees who get tested there.

At-home testing

At-home testing can be less accurate but less disruptive to daily operations. Businesses can buy kits for all employees or reimburse employees for test kits they purchase on their own. Employees can then self-attest to their results.

Considering a vaccine or testing policy for your employees? Read our guide on small business vaccine mandates.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published January 04, 2022