As news of successful COVID-19 vaccine trials began to surface in October, businesses responded with increased interest in virus topics related to the workplace.
While COVID-19 testing garnered strong attention from companies, health screenings roared ahead in interest from September to November, suggesting that this less costly measure may prove more popular for employers, according to data from ZoomInfo.
ZoomInfo analyzed data on its platform that measured buyer intent signals for the topics of COVID-19 screening, COVID-19 testing, and COVID-19 reopening strategies.
Interest increased from companies searching online for these topics from September through November 2020. In terms of total searches, testing took the top spot.
However, a noticeable boost came for COVID-19 screening, in which people ask themselves (or are asked by screeners) a variety of health-related questions to determine how well they feel.
For example, someone might ask, “Have you experienced a dry cough in the last 48 hours?” Typically, a “yes” answer to any of the questions indicates a person should stay home to be cautious and perhaps seek out a COVID-19 test if a combination of symptoms occurs.
For companies, offering (or requiring) screening could involve the efforts of several departments, such as HR, security, and facilities management. In that sense, screening would be similar to other policies governing entry into an office, such as issuing door key cards to employees.
COVID-19 screening increase eclipses interest in other topics
Looking at the differences in topic interest as percentages, the growth was massive for COVID-19 screening.
More than 50 times as many people at businesses searched for screening topics in November compared to just two months earlier. That percentage dwarfs the other two topics ZoomInfo tracked.
It is not a surprise that screening gained momentum in recent memory compared to testing; screening is a far less expensive approach.
By comparison, a company that decides to frequently test employees may face significant budget repercussions. It’s not always a guarantee that a worker’s medical insurance will cover multiple tests, which would then leave it to the employee or, more likely, the employer to shoulder the cost.
Testing expenses can dent business budgets
John Hopkins University indicated that the median price for a COVID-19 test is $127. Using that number, let’s look at what testing might cost in a month at a 30-employee restaurant and a 200-worker business office.
A restaurant or similar-sized business would need to spend several thousand dollars a month testing its workers routinely. Meanwhile, a medium-sized company might spend $50,000 a month for the same testing.
These costs are short term if vaccinations proceed for the general population as expected in spring and early summer 2021. Nonetheless, the hit to a budget for testing makes it an unlikely option for many, if not most, companies.
Returning to work will mean screening questionnaires — and honest answers
In 2021, more companies will require workers to return to the office. Because COVID-19 vaccination rollouts will prioritize high-risk people, many businesses will have a combination of inoculated and uninoculated employees on site at the same time during the first half of the new year.
Faced with that challenge, businesses are leaning towards health screenings as a way to decrease infections in the workplace.
Mass testing, while a more effective measure to stop the spread of the virus, brings with it serious costs that companies are unlikely to accept or simply unable to afford.
With health questionnaires relying on honest answers from recipients, businesses will need to monitor answers carefully and encourage healthy practices from employees. Among the key methods to promote is the need for workers to stay home if they exhibit possible COVID-19 symptoms.