VERONA (WKOW) — Epic Systems is requiring its 9,000-plus employees to return to work in person at its sprawling Verona campus beginning next week.
The health software company is one of the first large employers in the state to no longer give employees the choice of working from home.
Epic workers decried the order Tuesday, saying company CEO Judy Faulkner was ignoring public health advice.
The Wisconsin State Journal says the statement from workers claims that Faulkner and the company believe that “a culture of chance encounters in the hallways is more important than the untold deaths that will occur," according to the Associated Press.
In an email to employees sent Monday night, Faulkner outlined how the company's Verona campus will function when employees begin returning to work on Aug. 10.
"Much will be the same, but some will be different," Faulkner wrote.
With many Dane County schools planning to begin the school year with all-virtual learning, Epic is aware that parents may not be able to return to the office without access to childcare. Faulkner said the company is "working with multiple groups that will be able to offer childcare options for [parents]."
Until Nov. 2, Epic employees with children will be able to continue working remotely. The company will allow parents to reduce their workloads during this period by up to 50 percent. "We will share with you any changes that might affect your salary and benefits," Faulkner wrote.
After Nov. 2, Epic expects all employees will be working from campus but concedes plans may change if its understanding of the pandemic shifts. Those unable to find childcare after the November deadline will need to requests leaves of absence, Faulkner's email said.
"Because we don't know how many of you may seek this option or for how long, we may have to hire others to do the work, or there may not be enough work to bring everyone back," Faulkner wrote.
In a statement, company officials said it is important to collaborate face-to-face while trying to quickly develop new software solutions.
The full statement:
“Saving lives is our highest priority. Over two-thirds of the country have medical records in Epic and our software has helped save many thousands of lives.
Now, the healthcare organizations that rely on our software are facing a new and unprecedented pandemic. This requires novel software to be developed quickly along with creative approaches to implementation and support. In addition, we must continue our critical work to design and support software that helps save lives for people with conditions like heart disease, sepsis, and cancer.
Over the past several months, our experience has been that results are much better and faster when staff are able to collaborate on new and creative ideas during in-person brainstorming sessions compared to over the phone or video conference. This in-person collaboration, with masks and safe physical distancing, is essential to saving more lives. People with health conditions that put them at higher risk for COVID-19 will be able to participate in meetings virtually.
With individual offices for everyone, a 1,000-acre campus, and 28 buildings, Epic’s campus allows staff to work safely. We have safety measures that follow public health guidelines. We will continue to work closely with local public health officials and infectious disease experts and adjust plans as needed.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.