Epic begins return to in-person work, others consider hybrid method

Epic begins return to in-person work, others consider hybrid method

Employees at Epic Systems Corp. will soon be required to work in person at the company’s headquarters—at least part-time.

Beginning July 19, employees at Epic will return to work on the company’s 1,000-acre campus in Verona, Wis. for at least three days a week. The electronic health records system developer considered public health policy, employee input and competitor practice in its plans to return to office.

In August, workers will physically clock in at least four days a week, and in September, workers will be required to be on campus for nine days during every two week period.

Kristen Dresen, a member of Epic’s administration team, said the back-to-work plan will be reevaluated in November using staff feedback to see if a full return to in-person work is possible.

“We have really learned and confirmed that we do our best work when we are together,” Dresen said. “So our plans with everyone returning back to campus are based on that.”

She said the number of Epic’s Verona-based employees voluntarily working in the office has increased slightly since the winter months to around 4,000 workers on average. More than 94% of the company’s 10,000 workers are fully vaccinated or have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“Companies will slowly test the waters on different models,” said Rick Kes, a healthcare partner at the consulting firm RSM US LLP. “And I think a lot of them are going to end up in some sort of hybrid method for the foreseeable future.”

A 2020 Return to Work Special Report by RSM found that 51% of companies planned to continue offering remote work as an option, and 35% were planning to rotate or limit the days that individual employees can be physically present.

Epic’s initial attempt to return to in-person work in August 2020 was met with pushback from employees, unions and Public Health Madison and Dane County.

In formulating the latest plan, Dresen said Epic consulted individuals from various positions at the company to provide input.

She said the company is remaining aligned with local public health and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, and will require those who are not vaccinated to wear a mask maintain physical distance. For those who do not want to return to work for medical or other reasons, Dresen said Epic will talk with each individual to figure out accommodations or understand their circumstances.

Epic plans to hold its annual Users Group Meeting, an event that typically brings in around 8,000 visitors, in person at the end of August. In-person attendees will need to attest that they are fully vaccinated.

“We’re very excited about it,” Dresen said. “It’s been a tremendous year for our customers and leaders in healthcare, and it’ll be a good opportunity for them to be able to get back together and share their learnings and network with each other again.”

A January 2021 survey by The National Association for Business Economics found that 11% of companies expect all their staff members to return eventually.

According to a May 2021 back-to-work report by Kastle Systems, an office security firm, more than one quarter of employees in cities across the country are currently working in offices.

A Cerner spokesperson said the health information technology company is still evaluating whether it will implement a long-term hybrid workforce strategy and is currently beginning the process of returning to the office in a slow, phased approach throughout the remainder of the year.

The focus will be on providing flexibility for associates based on particular business needs, and there will be no more than 20% capacity in select buildings.

“Our associates have been highly productive working remotely, and we’ve continued to successfully meet the needs of our clients and address business needs remotely,” the spokesperson said.

Lisa Hammond, director of HR optimization and talent acquisition at Allscripts Healthcare Solutions, said in an email statement that while the company’s offices are open, associates are recommended to work from home through August.

The company’s executive leadership and COVID-19 task force are currently working on a return-to-offices plan for later this year based on the state of the pandemic, business needs, and associate preferences.

“Our work-from-home approach throughout the pandemic did not negatively affect our day-to-day operations—in fact, many teams have seen productivity increase during this time,” Hammond said. “That said, we feel there is great value in providing a space in which associates can connect in person as well.”

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Marie Maynes
Marie Maynes is a Sports enthusiast and writes for the Sports section of ANH.