Company develops 'Return-to-Work Toolset' to help businesses reopen safely

Posted at 3:18 PM, May 14, 2020

As more cities and states begin allowing non-essential businesses to reopen, more companies are coming forward with innovative solutions to help do so safely.

“We are seeing more and more companies asking us for help in opening their offices,” said Kimball Parker, CEO of SixFifty.

Like many, Parker has been watching millions of people continue to file for unemployment, each week. The latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows another 3 million filed last week, bringing the 8-week total to nearly 37 million.

“These unemployment numbers have a myriad of bad consequences, evictions, unpaid debts, they could really cripple families and cripple the finances of people for a long, long time,” said Parker. “So, it is critical that businesses that can reopen safely, that they try to do so and we want to help with that.”

To help businesses speed up a safe reopening, SixFifty has developed an online platform called the “Return-to-Work Toolset.”

“We think we can dramatically increase the speed at which companies can feel safe about returning their employees to the office,” said Parker. “We think we can cut down the time from months and weeks of preparations to potentially days of preparation.”

SixFifty’s toolset guides employers through a 40-question questionnaire. It asks things like, whether the company is planning to test employees before they return to work and if they already begun notifying employees of that potential plan.

The aim is to gauge a company’s back-to-work readiness, help the company understand what it should be considering, and then guide it toward the safest way to reopen with a clear plan in place. About 500 businesses around the country have already started using the toolset.

“The businesses we’ve helped range all the way from some big private equity companies that own hundreds of different entities, all the way down to small nonprofits that help immigrants,” Parker said.

Aside from the questionnaire, one of the most valuable features of the toolset may be the return-to-work policy it helps employers create. The questionnaire helps carve out a unique policy for the business and is then downloadable to send out to all employees.

“Employers are in a very dangerous and unprecedented situation, because employers have a legal obligation to create a safe working environment for their employees, but with COVID-19 still spreading, how can an employer do that?” said Parker. “What we did is we worked with the best employment experts in the nation at Wilson Sonsini to help us think through everything that a business needs to do to open safely and to protect their workplace.”

Key in every policy that SixFifty recommends, and really for every business re-opening, is that employers check with employees every day to make sure they have no COVID-19 symptoms before coming in to work.

In SixFifty’s tool set, it created a system in which employees electronically certify to that daily.

“If I were an employee, I would want to see measures like this, I would want to see systems that prevented infected individuals from coming into work and I would want to see clear policies about what to do,” Parker added.

Parker estimates it could cost an individual business, first weeks of time and then, upwards of $50,000 to hire an independent law firm to help draft a return-to-work policy. SixFifty’s toolset varies in price based on company size but for larger companies, it is about $9,500.