You may remember that we previously wrote about Judy Faulkner and Epic’s decision to return to work and not continue remote working. Well, that decision has now hit mainstream news. Today, Anna Werner from CBS This Morning with help from their partners at ClearHealthCosts covered Epic’s decision to return to work despite “objections from hundreds of employees.”
In the report, CBS interviewed Epic’s Chief Administrative Officer, Sverre David Roang, to understand their decision to return to the Epic campus. Here’s part of his response:
“We know that we have this responsibility to healthcare workers around the world and to their patients to make sure that we are at our very best. The fact is that we can’t do what we do without being together at the absolute highest level.”
The report also said that Epic had already implemented features such as the following:
- Private Offices for Employees
- Enhanced Heating and Filtration Systems
- Takeout only Cafeteria
If you want more details on each of these, you can check out this video on the Epic YouTube channel (Did you know Epic had a YouTube Channel?)
I’ll be surprised if this video doesn’t get taken down or at least made private, but it basically goes through the three items above and other suggestions on how to return to campus safely. It also features an Immune Compromised employee who had returned to work, but had a sign on his door that noted he was Immune Compromised. However, he’d talked with his doctors and decided that it was best for him to return to the office where he could focus better.
In the CBS News report by Werner, one employee expressed their feelings about Epic’s return to the office:
“I am deeply morally outraged by our response. I feel like we are not evaluating the risk that we are taking. I don’t want us to be the epicenter of the next breakout.”
CBS News obtained an internal customer survey report that echoed this sentiment and more. When Werner shared some of these sentiments with Roang, he replied “I haven’t seen those expressions.”
In such a short segment on CBS News, this type of comment definitely makes Epic come off as tone deaf to their employees who have major issues going back to work. I think it’s an illustration of how Judy has worked since the beginning. When she has strong convictions about something, she holds the line on it and passionately defends it.
As the quote at the beginning of this article illustrated and our previous article, she passionately believes that being in person is important to their success as a company. And she believes that their success as a company will improve healthcare and so that risk is worth it. It’s not that she’s blind to the risks of bringing employees back. It’s that she thinks they’ve taken appropriate cautions to minimize the risk and that the damage of not coming back is more costly than the risk of coming back.
What’s not clear to me is why Judy Faulkner is so hard-lined about this. There are a lot of positions at Epic that work just as efficiently remotely as in person. Plus, if someone is immune compromised, it seems like a huge organizational risk to bring them back. Why wouldn’t she allow for some leeway and allow for some individual needs be addressed by managers in the organization and HR? That said, it kind of reminds me of how Epic has approached EHR implementations. There’s a certain way to do things and you can do them that way or find another option.
At the end of the CBS News report (and likely in response to the report coming out), they summarized an email Judy Faulkner sent out to employees as follows:
The company is now having nationally recognized experts review its plans and will make adjustments as needed. She also revealed since the start of the pandemic, 24 staff have tested positive, but said that none of them have said the source came from Epic.
Looks like there may be more to this story in the future. How is your organization handling the return to work? Is there a need for Epic and other EHR vendors to be back in the office?
UPDATE: A local report in The Cap Times is sharing that multiple staff are saying that managers are being demoted for expressing concern about Epic’s plans to return to the office. One employee appropriately commented about Epic’s 13 principles saying, “But we’ve also been reminded a lot of Epic Principle 8 — ‘Dissent. Once decided, support.'”
UPDATE 2: A Reddit Thread has been started which is aggregating the coverage of this and trying to help organize Epic employees.
UPDATE 3: Epic has now changed course in an updated report saying that they’re still committed to come back to work, but that it’s hard deadline of the return to work for employees was more flexible. This after they received a letter from public health officials that Epic’s plan to did not meet the workforce requirements set forth by the government.
UPDATE 4: Epic has since walked back their plans to force employees to return to work and is allowing for a more flexible return to work. CNBC reported that 4,000 of the 9,000 Epic employees have returned to their campus voluntarily.