Editor’s Note: We rarely write from a first-person perspective, but for some posts, we make an exception. Eden Health recently hosted a team offsite in The Catskills — no small logistical feat for a remote-first company amid an ongoing pandemic. We might be biased here, but the event was pretty incredible and, most importantly, safe.
At this point in our new hybrid work lives, employers and employees may eagerly be looking for ways to connect outside of Zoom or the four walls of their offices. If planning a company offsite is already in the works or you’re thinking about what it would take to host one, it’s clear that the health and safety of all attendees should be your number one priority.
As a medical practice, Eden Health was uniquely positioned to set itself up for a safe in-person event, but any company can minimize safety risks by following a few core planning tenants. We asked our offsite planning team, composed of HR pros and clinical experts, to share their tips for planning a safe offsite event for you and your team.
POLL YOUR PEOPLE
Before you start planning a potential offsite, ask your employees for their input ahead of time. Send out a survey that can gather information about:
- Their comfort level regarding in-person gatherings
- Whether or not they are traveling from out of state
- If they have any ADA considerations or any restrictions you should know about ahead of time
MAKE IT OPTIONAL
While you might be excited to get the whole team together in one place, it’s important to remember that as an employer, you don’t know everyone’s personal circumstances. Make it clear that attendance for the event is truly optional and that the decision not to attend will not be penalized in any way. Those who are at high risk for contracting COVID-19, or who may have a family member who is, will appreciate the option to opt-out without fear of repercussions.
REQUIRE PROOF OF VACCINATION
At this point in the pandemic, we know that vaccination against COVID-19 is one of the most important tools we can use to avoid contracting and transmitting the virus. As Dr. Heather Towery, Eden’s VP of Clinical Strategy and Enterprise Partnerships puts it: “If people aren’t vaccinated, you can’t have an offsite.” The impact of a COVID-19 exposure to your business is significant in terms of the time needed to isolate, quarantine, or recover from active symptoms. Requiring vaccination for all attendees — including any external vendors or staff — will help mitigate the risk of illness among your workforce.
Yes, even if you require vaccination. Breakthrough infections among the vaccinated are still a concern you’ll need to contend with and it’s better to be safe than sorry. Eden’s experts recommend the following guidelines for testing prior to your event:
- Require a negative PCR test within 48 hours of entering the offsite property or transportation to the event
- For employees traveling out of state to attend the event, recommend taking an additional test 48 hours prior to arrival at their destination
- Cover the costs of in-person testing and shipping costs for at-home testing
- Provide an emergency rapid testing solution onsite at your event for those who may not get test results back in time
- Implement a symptom screener the morning of the event for all attendees
Masks are still a critical tool when it comes to protecting ourselves against COVID-19. Purchase and distribute high-quality filtration masks like KN95s, KF94s, and FFP2s that can be worn indoors or outside when attendees are unable to maintain social distancing. Additionally, you may also want to consider providing hand sanitizer and ensuring that your team has access to soap and running water (save the wilderness retreats for a year when the pandemic is completely behind us).
“Be flexible,” said Sarah Moonen, Eden’s Clinical Chief of Staff. “Let people ask a lot of questions because everyone has a different risk tolerance right now. The more questions you can answer, the better.” When it comes to your agenda for the offsite, clearly communicate what your planned activities are, whether they’re inside or outside, and sitting or standing. By not being transparent about the plan, you’re limiting access for some people who may want to come and need to feel comfortable attending if they need any accommodations.
LET EMPLOYEES BE CREATIVE
“Let employees drive some of the programming,” advised Moonen. “Let them feel like they’re being included instead of just talked at.” Having an opportunity to be part of the event in a fun way can shift the entire mood of the gathering. (If you’re looking for inspiration, Eden team members put on a pre-dinner skit that outlined the evolution of our company.)
KEEP YOUR MISSION IN MIND
“For mission-driven organizations, coming together allows us to know how that mission is being moved forward,” said Moonen. “Having that time to be together in person to break down barriers and do it in a way that’s not totally focused on work is really valuable.”
Want to know how Eden’s COVID-19 solutions can help your team execute safe in-person events? Contact our team to learn more.