Coronavirus-19 forced us to time travel to a workforce that may have developed gradually over the next few decades but became the new norm almost overnight. We watched a rapid shift to virtual work and education as well. The recovery isn’t over, but businesses must continue to adapt to the changing workforce trends.
Addressing Evolving Recovery Concerns
The workforce reacted and responded to the pandemic with unprecedented levels of flexibility, new partnerships and adaptability in just weeks. Businesses experienced rapidly evolving organizational priorities.
Given the severity, intensity and impact on both employees and business, the recovery for workforce strategies moving forward requires actions based upon informed and continuous reflection.
According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Small Business Index shows 65% of business owners were optimistic that the worst of the pandemic passed by mid-year 2021. But, employers’ are now reflecting on the ongoing impact of the pandemic.
The contagious virus is not necessarily the top concern for organizations looking forward. After almost a year and a half of quickly shifting and adapting to the situation, other issues like sustainability, navigating a hybrid work environment, and competing for talent are taking precedence.
Employers are more vigilant than ever in reflecting on what has worked during the pandemic and which opportunities were missed. In reflecting upon the changing workforce, employers are bringing in the employees’ perspectives and concerns.
Prioritize Human Resources
Looking forward, businesses are choosing different operational models and alternate resources to use dependent on the employer/employee situation. Businesses and employees are able to focus on addressing
- Individuals or families contracting the Delta virus
- Compliance with ever-changing laws and regulations
- Job protection/reduced layoffs
These pressing business and workforce priorities pivot around human resource departments to address concerns regarding compliance for the safety and protection of their employees to increase productivity, so businesses can financially benefit.
One of the major contributing factors to these concerns is financial stress and limited resources which affects employee productivity. A never-ending cycle of reflection on alternative options and prioritization is required to keep businesses moving in the right direction. It’s all cyclical. Cornerstone Insurance is here to help provide you with solutions and clear direction to create an exceptional HR team.
Improving Employee Well-Being
Focusing on the physical, psychological, and financial concerns of your employees through employee well-being and benefits has a positive and significant impact on COVID-19 recovery.
Employers need to recognize the diversity of workers’ individual expectations and support them in the transition to recovery, which includes being flexible. Workers may return to onsite work, but others may continue to work remotely. Some will adopt a hybrid approach.
Organizations need to help prepare employees with the skills and capabilities required for such a wide range of workforce approaches and practices to address a worker’s mental and emotional health.
The evolving recovery will require a shift in focus to new priorities, new work routines and schedules. How organizations prepare and support their workforces will be a key driver to workforce performance and retaining talent.
The Growing Importance of Benefits
Employers are challenged to attract and retain the workforce they need. Employee benefits can play a pivotal role because they provide protection and support when employees need it most.
As we approach a new benefits enrollment period, now is the perfect time to reflect on what your employees utilize or require to address their concerns that could be impacting their productivity during this COVID-19 recovery period.
Custom Benefits Packages
Employers know a benefits package that is customized to employees’ personal and household needs are:
- 18% more likely to be productive
- 36% more likely to feel engaged
- 37% more likely to feel resilient
- 45% more likely to feel motivated
- 54% more likely to feel valued/appreciated
Cornerstone values the importance of employee education of your benefits program. The value of traditional benefits like health insurance and retirement savings are well-known, but employees may need additional insights to help them recognize how other options can provide just as much support and enhance their financial security.
Cornerstone Insurance can help you determine the best way to adopt an employee-centric approach to benefits as well as a clear communication strategy to help your employees reap the most from what you can and do offer.
With a commitment to your team and your business, we can help you navigate the evolving recovery and to adapt to the continuous changes in workforce trends to emerge stronger than ever.
Are you ready for your business to thrive on the “new normal?” Contact Cornerstone Insurance today with any questions or inquiries. We’re here to help.
As we’re now seeing glimpses of post-pandemic life, it’s no surprise that one of its biggest impacts has been on the workplace. While previously companies had to stay tethered to an office, many have learned how to innovate and adapt to a remote work environment.
But with more individuals getting vaccinated and overall COVID-19 cases decreasing, business owners and employees alike are wondering what the future of remote work looks like to them. According to Gartner, more than 80% of company leadership say they’ll allow employees to continue working remotely after the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you’re considering, or have already implemented, a remote work policy in your workplace, here are some insights on managing your employees from our human resources team.
Remote Work Environment Advantages and Disadvantages
While it isn’t practical for all industries, remote work has been proven to reveal many benefits such as:
- Increased productivity
- More flexibility (and a better work-life balance)
- Reduced stress from commute
- Possible cost savings (i.e. gas, parking, professional wardrobe and less office space needed, thus lower rent)
- Higher company loyalty
- Wider talent pool
These benefits are more likely to be seen from companies that are able to figure out a remote or hybrid model that allows employees to work productively and still meet its business needs.
Not every company or employee has seen the benefits of remote working. Sometimes it can lead to:
- Increased isolation
- More distractions
- Lack of community
- Problems with communication
- Trouble managing accountability
How to Establish Remote Work Policies
Even if your employees are working on a partially remote basis, there should still be clear policies and procedures in place
For exempt workers who aren’t eligible for overtime, this may not be as big of a problem. But if you have non-exempt employees who are eligible for overtime, you’ll want to be careful to continue abiding by FLSA rules.
Some ways in which you can keep employees on task is by having regular check-ins so you know who is working on what, with whom, and when. In addition, employers should make it clear if you have flex hours — where employees are able to work when they’re most productive — or standard business hours. Even with flexible hours, you can establish a period of time when you expect employees to be reachable.
There are also a lot of tools that can help you keep track of remote employees’ hours. Many payroll systems or timekeeping platforms (which you may already have in place) have the option to allow for tracking hours, if you are not already doing so.
One of the trickier parts of remote work or a hybrid workplace is ensuring each of your employees has the tools and resources they need to succeed.
For many companies, it’s as simple as having access to a laptop. But other companies have to get more creative about supporting their employees’ at-home setups. Here are some potential items workers may need:
- Desk or work area with sufficient space for equipment
- Ergonomic office chair
- Desktop or laptop (including a working webcam and microphone)
Some optional items may include an external monitor, phone and office supplies, depending on your employees’ responsibilities.
Your company must determine how this setup is being provided for and make it clear what is still considered company property. You should also establish expectations of how to return equipment in the event of termination, which leads us to the next point.
Discipline & Termination
Employers can — and should — still establish performance expectations of employees, regardless of the employee’s working location. Employees who are working remotely can still be disciplined for failing to meet your standards.
With any disciplinary action, employers should document the steps of discipline, including the conversations with the employee and allow the employee an opportunity to improve their performance.
Unfortunately, if the employee’s performance doesn’t improve, and you move to terminate, it’s best to do so via video conference. This is generally as close to an in-person termination as you can get for your remote workforce.
Many employers will plan to pay for a courier to retrieve any company equipment or send the terminated employee a prepaid packing slip. Some employers may opt to hold final payment until equipment is returned, but this could be a violation of state law. Employers should continue to adhere to final paycheck laws in the state the employee is working in.
Remote work is the future of working. How will your company adapt and ensure your employees are set up for success? Get in touch with your Cornerstone human resources representative to ensure your remote work policies are sound. Contact us today!
Considering the recent events in 2020, it should be more apparent that the seasonal flu is taken seriously. With the COVID-19 vaccine still in preproduction stages, numerous sources are citing it won’t be available until late in 2021. While we are taking more precautions than ever before due to COVID-19, we still need to keep the approaching flu season top of mind.
Protecting yourself against the flu is more important than ever. This fall there will be two respiratory viruses circulating making it possible to contract a double infection. The influenza vaccine can minimize at least one of the potential respiratory infections. If you were to get sick with influenza your body’s immune system is weakened making it more vulnerable to a possible coronavirus infection. Besides protecting yourself, you help prevent the spread of the virus to your family and those in the community who may not be able to get the vaccine.
By now, I’m sure you’ve seen the reports of people testing positive for COVID-19, without ever having any symptoms. The same thing is possible with the influenza virus, you can spread it without ever having symptoms of being sick. This is the reason healthcare professionals are required to get the flu vaccine every year, protecting themselves and the people around them.
The main mode of transmission is by particles in the air and on contaminated surfaces, making washing your hands and using hand sanitizer important to stopping the spread of the flu virus. An infected person can spread the flu virus to an average of 1.3 other people. This number may be higher in families living together and those who are working in close proximity to each other. The virus can be transmitted one day prior to the infected person experiencing any symptoms and can continue to be contagious 5-7 days after the onset of symptoms. Individuals with compromised immune systems may remain contagious for several days longer than that.
The most important step you can take to prevent getting and spreading the flu is getting vaccinated every year. Washing your hands and using hand sanitizer often is are also important ways to reduce the transmission of the virus. Take care to help younger children wash and sanitize their hands often as well. The CDC estimates that over 20 million people each year will contract the flu, however, it is estimated that the flu shot will save around 40,000 lives each year. Even if you are young and healthy, the flu vaccine can prevent you from spending 2 long sick weeks in bed and can save the lives of those around you.
- The flu infects an estimated 20-40 million people a year in the US alone.
- Of those infected, over 61,000 deaths occurred in the 2017-2018 flu season.
- There were a reported 600,000+ flue related hospitalizations in the 2017-2018 flu season.
- Each year the CDC watches trends and tracks the different strains or mutations of the virus to formulate the most effective vaccine for the current flu season.
- The best time to get the flu shot is early on in the season and as it takes up to two weeks for your body to build up an immunity to the virus.
- Once you have the flu, antibiotics will be useless to help with symptoms. Instead, use of antivirals should be taken under doctor supervision as early as possible for best results.
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we need to take care of ourselves and those around us. Be mindful of those who are more vulnerable, or those who can’t get vaccinated due to underlying health issues. Getting vaccinated helps everyone in the long run. For more information on the flu shot, don’t forget to check out our webinar on flu shots.
Navigating the different types of leave available for employees can quickly get confusing. FMLA, ADA, Company Leave, FFCRA, PTO, STD, LTD – it’s a sea of acronyms, each with their own set of rules and guidelines that often overlap or weave together. Keeping track of the various types of leave available can be challenging, but employers would be best suited to strategize which leaves may be applicable to them and develop policies around them. Because employees will inevitably need to take time off, employers need to have a basic knowledge of laws and policies that protect both the employee and protect the company.
Types of Leave
Generally, when looking at the wide variety of time the employee can take off, employers should understand that there are two main functions of defining leave: How does the employee receive pay and How long must the employer hold the employee’s job and/or benefits? Both of these items are very clearly defined in the federal FMLA regulations applicable to employers with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius. Outside of the standard FMLA, employers are encouraged to have a company leave policy that defines these same benefits.
Where FMLA protects the employee for not only their own health condition but that of their immediate family member, the ADA may protect just the employee by providing a reasonable accommodation, which could include a short-term leave of absence. The ADA doesn’t require employers to hold the employee’s job or their benefits nor does it require continuation of pay. However, the employee may be eligible to use Short-Term or Long-Term Disability along with company Paid Time Off, Sick Time and or Vacation time during this absence.
Because these leaves can stack together, employers need to closely evaluate every situation to determine what different leave options may apply.
What to Do Now
Take a moment to review your current employee handbook to ensure that you have a clearly defined FMLA policy if applicable. Even if you are subject to FMLA, all companies should also have a leave policy defined for those employees who are either not yet eligible for FMLA or where FMLA doesn’t apply. In that company leave policy, the employer can define whether the leave is paid or unpaid and how long the employee is allowed to remain on the company benefit plan during leave. Additionally, the employer can define how long they will hold the employee’s job during leave. It is important to be consistent with these guidelines to prevent discriminatory practices.
As more and more states begin to loosen their stay at home restrictions, the question many business owners have right now is, “When can we get our employees back to work, and how do we do so, safely?” Many companies were able to transition to a remote working environment and subsequently have seen their employees really step up to the plate and become very productive working from home. As a result, numerous businesses are making the decision to allow their employees to continue to work from home even as regulations begin to allow a return to work. St. Louis County specifically stated that if a business has been able to efficiently operate remotely, they should consider allowing employees to continue to work from home for a little longer.
Getting Back on the Job
However, not all businesses can operate remotely and may be eager to get their employees back to work as soon as possible. First and foremost, those businesses must follow the protocol outlined in the applicable reopening guidelines as directed by their states or counties. This could include limited staff or patrons in the building, or enhanced cleaning and employee health screenings. In order to effectively follow these guidelines, employers may choose to allow employees back in waves, or stagger office hours, thus, limiting the exposure each employee has to other coworkers. This may be a great solution for the manufacturing industry where employees work closely to one another.
Safety and Sanitization
Not only may enhanced sanitization be required, it can also help ease employee’s minds when returning. Sanitizing shared or frequently used work surfaces multiple times per day will help reduce potential exposure to the virus. We recommend providing access to hand sanitizer or hand washing stations for employees. Many companies are requiring all employees who return to work, wear masks and/or gloves to help protect themselves. Though it is not a requirement, it’s recommended that if the organization is requiring employees to wear masks and gloves, those should be supplied by the company. Furthermore, management should also consider putting new policies in place for all employees returning to work, so staff is aware of these expectations and mandates prior to returning to work.
Health Screenings and Considerations
As businesses reopen, they may be required to perform daily health screenings under applicable legislation, or they may choose to do so in an effort to protect staff. These screenings can include daily health questions to confirm the employee is not exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19 and has not been around anyone with those symptoms. It could also include taking the temperatures of staff or visitors. This may cause an issue with privacy concerns, so employers should take great caution with those administering these tests and protecting the data. Employers do have the right to refuse work to anyone who is sick with COVID-19-like symptoms.
The environment employees are returning to may look very different from the environment they left a few months ago. The dynamic in the office will be a little foreign and helping employees get back into the swing of things and adjusting to the changes, is important. Reminding and enforcing guidelines on sanitization, masks, social distancing, and health screenings can help ease concerns of employees apprehensive of returning. However, there may be employees who are simply too scared to return, and these situations should be handled carefully. Overall, employers should strive to provide peace of mind to know staff and remind them the primary concern is employee safety.
As we continue to navigate this uncharted territory as a society, we will start to learn more about what works best and create new best practices for our businesses. Below are some helpful links from the CDC and OSHA that will help you make informed decisions on how to proceed with safely opening your businesses and getting back to work. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.
To say these are uncertain times is an understatement. COVID-19 has our nation on edge and your employee’s well-being and safety is your top priority. Many employees are teleworking for the first time, isolated from co-workers, friends and family. Disruption of their daily routine can cause anxiety and stress – physically, mentally, and financially. It is imperative that business owners and managers step back, remain calm, and show support for their employees.
As the world health community continues to closely monitor the Coronavirus, also referred to as COVID-19 companies are wondering how this will impact their employees and business. At this time, no one truly knows how severe this outbreak will be, however, given the uncertainty of Coronavirus’s path, we recommend taking proactive steps in your workplace. This is not only to prevent the spread of illness but also to establish policies that define how you will handle long-term illnesses.
Protect Yourself and Those Around You
First and foremost, ask your employees to assist in taking steps to reduce the transmission of communicable diseases in the workplace. Employees should be reminded of the following:
- Stay home when they are sick.
- Wash their hands frequently with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds.
- Cover their mouth with tissues whenever they sneeze or cough, and immediately discard used tissues in the trash. If a tissue is not available, use the “vampire sneeze” by sneezing or coughing into their elbow versus their hands.
- Avoid people who are sick.
- Clean frequently touched surfaces, including their phone, keyboards or remote.
Within the workplace, employers should take measures to routinely clean common surfaces like door handles, coffee pots or copy machines or possibly provide alcohol-based hand sanitizers throughout the workplace and in common areas. You may even elect to offer cleaning sprays or wipes for employees to use to disinfect objects that often get overlooked like their telephone, monitors and keyboards.
Alternate Work Options
This is also a good time to evaluate travel and determine if it is really necessary. Although it may not always be possible, encourage employees to use telephone or video conferencing versus traveling to a remote worksite – not only could this save the company money, but it could also prevent key employees from becoming sick and missing time.
Furthermore, review which positions, if any, can work remotely. You may not have a policy that routinely allows work-from-home, but this could be something that your organization may want to consider, especially if someone does show symptoms of illness. Allowing employees to work from home may prevent the spread of illness through the department. Establishing a remote work program can be done by informing employees telecommuting will be considered on a case-by-case basis for positions with primary job duties that can be performed remotely.
Even with all these measures in place, it’s still very possible that employees will get sick. Take this opportunity to review your sick time or PTO policy and examine the option of granting additional time, or allowing employees to borrow time from next year, in the event of a serious health threat. Reminding your employees of the company’s sick or PTO policy is recommended because it is important employees understand these policies are designed for them to stay home for short-term illnesses.
These policies are in place not only so the employee can stay home to get better, but also so they don’t spread their germs throughout the office. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that employees remain at home until they are fever-free (100 degrees F or 37.8 degrees C) for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications.
Also remind employees they should not report to work if they are experiencing symptoms such as fever (100 degrees F or 37.8 degrees C), cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills or fatigue. If you choose to send employees home who exhibit these symptoms, we would recommend advising your staff in advance that employees who report to work ill will be sent home in accordance with these health guidelines.
FMLA Guidelines and the WARN Act
Cornerstone also recommends familiarizing yourself with appropriate state or federal laws and your company’s policies concerning long term illnesses. If your organization has 50 or more employees FMLA guidelines prevail, but if your company falls under that threshold or certain employees do not yet qualify for FMLA, we recommend establishing a leave policy for employees who will be out longer than just a few days. Your policy should define whether the leave is paid or unpaid, how long the company will hold the employee’s job, and how long the employee will be allowed to remain active on benefits.
In the event COVID-19 escalates so greatly that it impacts business operations or global commerce, you may be faced with temporary shutdowns, layoffs or even permanent downsizing. Before making any decisions regarding layoffs, closures or terminations, familiarize yourself with laws that may protect employees in these instances like the WARN Act, which requires a minimum of 60 days’ notice in advance of plant closure or mass layoff. In addition to the federal WARN Act, there may be similar state or local laws defining notice requirements that must be adhered to.
We recommend establishing these preventative measures so that your organization has a procedure in place in advance of anyone getting ill.
For additional information, contact Bethany Holliday.
A great internship is a first step towards a successful career, and we are committed to giving college students real, valuable experience in a variety of fields through our hands-on summer internship program.
Our 2019 summer interns bring a variety of business and finance interests and skill sets with them, and we are so excited to help them grow over the next several weeks.
Courtney Long will be graduating in December with a major in Finance from the University of Central Missouri. She is from the suburbs south of Chicago.
Her long-term career goal is to someday own an investment property or to renovate a property – but before that time comes, she hopes to get a job in either the banking or insurance industry after graduation. She loves going on hikes, preferably in the mountains, but the Missouri Ozark mountains work just fine. She is excited to start working with such a large wonderful group of people!
We’re all familiar with the down-sides of cigarette and tobacco use – it increases health risks, raises medical costs, and it often lowers productivity in the workplace. It’s costly for the employer and the individual smoking, so many companies are implementing no-smoking policies and even minimizing the number of smokers they hire. As a risk management and human resources company, Cornerstone Insurance Group decided to weigh in on this important topic.
We recommend that a company’s human resources department implements a zero-tolerance harassment policy for the workplace. As we discussed in our last blog post on sexual harassment, employees should have clear guidelines on how to identify and report sexual harassment to the human resources department, and be encouraged to do so.
All employees have the right to work in an environment that is free of sexual harassment or any form of discrimination. It is up to leadership and the human resources department to meet the requirements of Title VII of the of the Civil Rights Act to maintain a harassment and discrimination-free workplace.
Terminations are unpleasant, but avoiding them can lead to bigger issues in your workplace, including lower morale and efficiency.
As a human resources company with over 50 years of experience, Cornerstone Insurance Group has gained valuable insight into how best to handle terminations within any organization.
Developing policies for discipline and termination is a great way to prevent employee claims, especially when the policies are clearly communicated to new hires and maintained throughout the company.
The experts at Cornerstone Insurance Group have over 50 years of experience in Human Resources and compliance solutions, and have seen how the lack of a solid disciplinary policy can negatively impact an organization.
Awareness of the various types of employee claims will help strengthen your human resources strategy and prepare your company for any possible litigation.
Employees can make internal, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), or Human Rights Campaign complaints, or file a lawsuit against the employer with a formal Complaint and Summons. As experts in human resources and risk management, Cornerstone Insurance Group wants to help your team gain the knowledge they need to be prepared.
Lawsuits are expensive and time consuming. When employees take legal action, it can also cause emotional discomfort and tension in the workplace.
In hopes of avoiding any business interruption related to employee discipline, companies may discontinue a relationship with a troublesome employee immediately — but a snap decision can lead to more problems down the road.
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- Adapting to Changing Workforce Trends in a Post COVID-19 Environment
- Promote Healthy Eating in the Workplace
- Top Safety Measures to Avoid Heat Illness in the Workforce
- Why Simplifying Employee Benefits Information Is Important
- Optimize Your Employee Wellness Program
- OSHA’s Walking-Working Surfaces Standard and Fall Prevention
- Remote Work and the Future of the Workplace
- COBRA Subsidy 2021: What Should I Know?
- COVID-19 Vaccination Programs in the Workplace