UPDATE: On Wednesday, Epic further clarified its policy, saying employees are now allowed to work from home through the end of this year.
In a letter sent this past weekend to the public health supervisor of Dane County, Wisconsin, where its 1,000-acre campus is located, Epic Chief Administrative Officer Sverre Roang said the company has “modified our return-to-work policy so that at this time staff are not required to return.”
Initially, most of Epic’s nearly 10,000 employees were expected back to their offices today, after months of working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The company’s insistence on the value of in-person collaboration, even in the face of potential safety risks, caused significant staff backlash.
As reported by Madison’s WMTV, a Dane County supervisor recently asked Public Health of Madison and Dane County on Friday for details about how many employees had expressed concern with the plan, what Epic’s communication with the health department had been like and “what has changed in Epic’s situation since they began remote work this spring” that they are no longer supporting telecommuting.
On Saturday, Epic staff were told that anyone who feels their circumstances don’t allow them a safe return to campus would not be required to show up today, WMTV reports, but most are expected back next month.
In a separate letter to PHMDC, Roang re-emphasized that the company is “committed to bringing staff back to campus.”
But he asked the health department to “provide us with additional guidance on your regulations. Specifically, we request that PHMDC work collaboratively with us and confirm that our plans comply with Emergency Order #8.”
Meanwhile, “we’ve been working with health experts to review our campus health and safety plans, including Dr. Stephen Ostroff, who previously served as the Acting Health Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, and return-to-work experts from Cleveland Clinic. We have also hired Dr. Nicky Quick, the former top public health official of Orange County, as our internal public health expert,” said Roang.
“[Businesses] across the country are reopening,” he said. “In working together, we believe we can help establish a model for similar businesses of how to successfully bring people back to work in a way that is in the best interest of public health during the COVID-19 pandemic.”