Epic Systems revisits plans to force employees back to work


Judith Faulkner, CEO of healthcare IT giant Epic Systems.Source: Epic Systems

Epic Systems shared a letter with employees over the weekend informing them that they were no longer required to return to the Verona, Wisconsin campus on Monday.This marks a change in its previous plans to get the bulk of its workers back to the office during the coronavirus pandemic, which has drawn criticism from employees over the lack of concern for their health and well-being.

Epic sells electronic medical software to hospitals. About 4,000 of its 9,000 employees volunteered on its campus during the pandemic, the company said.

Previously, employees had been asked to return to work this month, unless they had problems arranging childcare or had a health problem that put them at risk of serious complications from the Covid -19. These employees were informed earlier that they could work remotely until November 2.

Epic received a letter on August 6 from local public health officials raising questions about its return to work plan. He told Madison & Dane County Public Health Services (PHMDC) he would change its policy so that staff do not have to return to the office.

“Throughout our planning process, we have been in frequent communication with PHMDC to make sure our plans are in accordance with their orders,” a spokesperson told CNBC. “We responded to the letter on August 8 to seek clarification of their regulations and approval of our plan to move forward. While our intention is to fire staff back to campus, we are adjusting the schedule as we work with public health officials to get their agreement on our plan. ”

Epic has not shared its timeline for the staff return. He stressed that he still hopes to bring back as many employees as possible. The original plan was to bring back most of the employees by mid-September.

“We hope you can provide us with additional advice on your regulations,” Epic executive director Sverre Roang wrote in a letter to local public health officials, which was shared with CNBC.

The company also said in the letter that it had hired Dr Nicky Quick, a former public health official, as an in-house expert. He works with former US Food and Drug Administration Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Stephen Ostroff and consults with the Cleveland Clinic on its return-to-work policies.

Letter to employees

The missive shared with his employees on Saturday night by Senior Vice President Sumit Rana, also viewed by CNBC, said company executives “recognize that you (the staff) might feel apprehensive about returning to work for various reasons “.

“For those of you returning to campus, you have the choice to come back gradually,” the letter continues. “We hope you will maintain your normal workload and be available to your team and clients as needed.

An anonymous employee, who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak on behalf of the company, told CNBC workers felt intimidated by being forced to report their decision to stay at them to human resources, although Epic said a decision was made to get a better idea of ​​the workforce.

The employee also said his colleagues feared they would have to return to work in the near future. In the letter, Epic said it would provide “two weeks’ notice” before asking employees to return to campus.

The employee also said he felt Epic lacked confidence in its employees’ ability to work effectively from home.

These feelings do not seem to be isolated for some workers. The results of an internal employee survey obtained by CBS News revealed that hundreds of employees have expressed objections to the plan.

Epic pointed out that their main reason for bringing staff back is to maintain their culture. He said he was adapting his campus to ensure social distancing. Employees are required to wear masks indoors, unless they are alone in an office and the door is closed. He is also taking steps to improve ventilation and provide take-out meals at his cafeteria.

Cerner will continue to work remotely until the end of 2020

Cerner, Epic’s biggest competitor in electronic medical records, said he would continue working remotely until the end of 2020. Cerner is based in Kansas City, Missouri.

The Midwest, where Cerner and Epic are based, could be a potential Covid-19 hotspot. Wisconsin has reported more than 64,000 cases and more than 1,000 deaths. Dane County, where Epic is based, has reported more than 4,500 cases.

“As a healthcare technology company, we are committed not only to doing our part, but to lead by example in reducing the potential exposure and transmission of COVD-19 in our communities,” a door said. – speech by Cerner.

The spokesperson said Cerner had made the transition to remote working successfully.

“We have determined, at this time, that it is safer for our staff to stay away until the end of the year,” said the Cerner spokesperson. “We are continuing to monitor the situation and reassess our plans for a possible re-entry based on the latest available data. “


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