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May is Mental Health Month

May 07 - Posted at 9:08 AM Tagged: , , ,

Since 1949, Mental Health America and affiliates across the country have led the observance of May is Mental Health Month by reaching millions of people through the media, local events and screenings. They welcome other organizations to join in spreading the word that mental health is something everyone should care about by using the May is Mental Health Month toolkit materials and conducting awareness activities.

While 1 in 5 people will experience a mental illness during their lifetime, everyone faces challenges in life that can impact their mental health. In 2020, their theme of Tools 2 Thrive will provide practical tools that everyone can use to improve their mental health and increase resiliency regardless of the situations they are dealing with. They now believe that these tools – even those that may need to be adapted for the short term because of COVID-19 and social distancing – will be more useful than ever.

 

You can reach their full website here to download their toolkit or let us know and we can send you a copy. 

6 Factors Employers Must Consider When Taking Employees’ Temperatures

May 05 - Posted at 1:00 PM Tagged: , , , , , , , , ,

Employers may be required to take the temperatures of employees when businesses begin to reopen in the coming days and weeks following the expiration of many states’ stay-at-home orders. Screening for fevers is a task never previously undertaken by many companies. Given that many states will require or highly recommend this practice, now is the time for to consider what precautions and procedures to undertake to implement this safety measure.

You should consider these six issues when contemplating whether to take temperatures at your workplace:

  1. Do You Have To Do It?
    Unless required by a local or state order, taking temperatures is not required in most workplaces. Doing so will require extensive planning, training, and could even be quite expensive. In addition, many individuals infected with COVID-19 won’t exhibit any symptoms, and thus temperature screening likely won’t prevent all workers who can transmit the disease from entering your worksite.

    Although the CDC recommends screening employees for fevers of more than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, keep in mind some states make recommend different thresholds. If you decide to screen your employees, also plan to check the temperatures of guests, clients, vendors, and contractors to ensure a safe work environment.

  2. Training And Personal Protective Equipment For Those Taking Temperatures
    The safety of all employees is paramount, but those administering temperature screenings will be especially vulnerable to hazards. If you require employees to be within six feet of any individual who may have COVID-19, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that they wear personal protective equipment (PPE) consisting of some combination of gloves, a gown, a face mask, and/or a face shield or goggles.

    The screening employees should also be trained on the required PPE under OSHA’s PPE standard. You should also prepare a job hazard assessment and PPE certification related to the screening. To the extent that screeners may also be exposed to bloodborne pathogens (BBP), such as mucous or saliva, you should ensure they are properly trained under OSHA’s BBP standard – which requires employers to prepare an exposure control plan.

    Keep in mind that, where not required by a local or state order, the CDC allows employers to screen employees for COVID-19 symptoms, including a fever, without ever touching or interacting with them. You can do so by standing more than six feet away and asking the employee to confirm they don’t have a temperature and making a visual inspection of the employee (e.g., looking for flushed cheeks or fatigue). Only under this method could the employee screener not be required to wear PPE.

  3. Maintaining Social Distancing
    Not only should screening employees be protected, safety measures should also be taken for workers waiting in line to be screened. This includes ensuring employees stand six feet or more from each other while they wait to have their temperature taken.

  4. Logistics
    You may have to screen 50 or more employees prior to the beginning of each shift. This likely will cause delays and create disruption to normal production activities. Be prepared to create outdoor waiting areas (e.g. tents and other temporary structures) where employees must be in lengthy lines prior to entering the facility. Employee privacy, especially where screening takes place and results are announced, should be accounted for during this time.

  5. Privacy Concerns
    Employee privacy concerns will be prevalent during the employee screening process. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has cautioned that employers can ask employees if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, including taking their temperatures, provided that all biomedical information is maintained as a confidential medical record, and separate from the employee’s personnel file. Some states, such as California, require employers to provide a notice to all employees prior to screening them for biomedical data.

    For many businesses, maintaining employee privacy can be challenging as you may not have the experience or knowledge to ensure compliance. To mitigate these issues, and if not required by a governmental order, avoid collecting or storing an employee’s biomedical information to the extent possible. Instead, use an instantaneous-reading thermometer and show the employee their temperature simultaneously with the screening.

  6. Wage Issues
    Keep in mind that employees may claim that their time waiting in line or being screened for a fever before their shift is compensable and thus they should be paid for it. Although no case law or Department of Labor guidance on point currently exists on this topic, it is recommended that you err on the side of paying employees throughout the screening process. This also requires you to implement a system to have employees “clock in” when they get in line for screening and to document their time.

What Should Employers Do?

As you begin the process of reopening, you may want to familiarize yourself with several pieces of information: 

For a more thorough analysis of the many issues you may encounter from a labor and employment perspective, we recommend you review  FP BEYOND THE CURVE: Post-Pandemic Back-To-Business FAQs For Employers and FP Resource Center For Employers.

Florida Governor Amends Safer-At-Home Order And Announces Plan To Reopen State

April 30 - Posted at 3:05 PM Tagged: , , , , , , ,

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis just extended his Safer At Home Order for the State of Florida but announced his plan to gradually re-open the state pursuant to a new Order that will go into effect just after midnight (at 12:01 am) on the morning of May 4, 2020. The new Order initiates the first of three phases to re-open every county in Florida except for Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. Additionally, local governments in Florida will also be able to have more restrictive policies in place if they desire. What do Florida employers need to know?

Essential And Non-Essential Businesses Are Permitted To Operate Pursuant To CDC And OSHA Guidelines

The new Order permits all services and activities currently allowed under the previous Safer-at-Home Order. Any non-essential businesses that were not previously permitted to be open can reopen as long as they also follow CDC and OSHA guidelines. However, The Order contains the following industry specific restrictions:

  • Schools: Schools will remain closed during Phase One and can continue conducting distance learning.
  • Healthcare: Hospitals and senior living facilities are prohibited to have visitors, and those interacting with residents and patients must adhere to strict protocols regarding hygiene. However, elective surgeries can resume, as clinically appropriate at facilities that adhere to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) guidelines. Additionally, any facility that performs elective procedures must be able to immediately convert for treatment of COVID-19 patients in a surge capacity situation, must have adequate PPE, has not sought government assistance regarding PPE supplies since resuming elective procedures, and has not refused to provide support to and proactively engage with skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, and other long term care residential providers.
  • Hospitality: Sit-down dining establishments can operate at 25% occupancy under strict physical distancing protocols. However, bars will remain closed.
  • Retail: Storefronts may operate at no more than 25% of their building occupancy.
  • Museums and libraries: Can operate at no more than 25% of their building occupancy if permitted by local government. Also, any interactive functions or exhibits including child play areas must remain closed.
  • Miscellaneous: Gyms, movie theatres, and professional services (such as hair salons and barbershops) will remain closed.

Every business is required to continue to follow guidelines issued by the CDC and OSHA. These guidelines include:

  • Promoting healthy hygiene practices;
  • Intensifying cleaning, disinfection (e.g., small static groups, no large events);
  • Avoiding non-essential travel, and encouraging alternative commuting and telework;
  • Spacing out seating (more than 6 feet) and staggering gathering times;
  • Restricting use of any shared items and spaces; and
  • Training all staff in above safety-actions.

The CDC also recommends that businesses only reopen after they have implemented safeguards for the ongoing monitoring of employees, including:

  • Encouraging employees who are sick to stay home;
  • Establishing routine, daily employee health checks;
  • Monitoring absenteeism and having flexible time off policies;
  • Having an action plan if a staff member gets COVID-19;
  • Creating and testing emergency communication channels for employees; and
  • Establishing communication with state and local health authorities.

Senior Citizens And Individuals With Significant Underlying Medical Conditions

The Order strongly encourages individuals who are older than 65 and those with significant underlying medical conditions to stay at home. They should take all measures to limit the risk of exposure to COVID-19 such as wearing masks during face-to-face interactions. Additionally, the Order encourages individuals to avoid socializing in groups of more than 10.

Social Distancing And Other Guidelines

Additionally, all persons in Florida should practice social distancing, avoid nonessential travel, and adhere to guidelines from the CDC regarding isolation for 14 days following travel on a cruise or from any international destination and any area with significant presence of COVID-19. The Order also extends Governor DeSantis’ Orders regarding airport screening and isolation of individuals traveling to Florida. Notably, there is an exception for these orders for persons involved in military, emergency, health or infrastructure response or involved in commercial activity.

Criminal Penalties

A violation of the Order is a second-degree misdemeanor which is punishable by imprisonment not to exceed 60 days, a fine not to exceed $500.00 or both.

What Does This Mean For Employers?

Employers with operations in Florida should review the CISA guidance and Miami-Dade County Emergency Order 07-20, and its amendments, to determine if they are deemed essential or non-essential.  

Before reopening, you should have a thorough plan in place to establish a safe and healthy workplace and share that plan to provide employees peace of mind. You should also be prepared to address concerns from older employees and those with underlying significant health conditions regarding whether or not they must come in to work. You should also carefully assess the availability of telework for these employees.

As you begin the process of reopening, you should familiarize yourself with some useful info: 

Remote Work in Times of Crisis: 3 Threats to Employee Engagement

March 27 - Posted at 2:08 PM Tagged: , , , , , ,

Did you know that the number of remote workers has grown by 140% since 2005? And with the current COVID-19 situation, even more people are working remote if even temporarily. Now consider this: 80% of employees reported they’d be more loyal if they had more flexible work options, such as working from home. These numbers prove my point: Remote work has tremendous value for both employees and organizations—and it’s here to stay.

But for all its rose-colored benefits, remote work has some pitfalls that can take a toll on employee satisfaction, productivity, collaboration, and engagement. This is especially true amid the current coronavirus pandemic.

Many businesses find themselves in a unique situation. Large workforces, who have traditionally worked full time at physical offices, have now been mandated by HR to work remotely for extended periods of time (some for 2 weeks and others for at least 1 month, possibly longer)—and rightfully so given the current situation. 

This is an opportunity for HR teams to inform, communicate, and nurture their newly remote workers through this new landscape and give them the resources and tools to be as productive, engaged, and collaborative as possible.

Threat #1

Social isolation can breed loneliness. And loneliness can spur disengagement.

Employees crave human contact and interactions. One of the great benefits of going into an office every day is the relationships with colleagues. Office workers sit together for lunch (or go out to restaurants together); they share personal stories about their social experiences, families, and friends; they tell each other jokes; and they even share photos and videos from holidays, social outings, and more.

But when regular and meaningful human interactions are suddenly taken away, it can be hard for employees.

In light of the coronavirus pandemic, many business executives have been asking employees to embrace the practice of “social distancing” right now for the sake of keeping employees safe and healthy.

But that’s inevitably going to lead to feelings of loneliness. This is supported by the findings of Buffer’s 2019 State of Work report, which found that 19% of the surveyed remote workers struggled with loneliness. This can, in turn, take a toll on employees’ mental health and well-being.

Now consider this: According to a meta-analysis coauthored by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University, loneliness and social isolation are twice as harmful to physical and mental health as obesity.

How to tackle it: 

  • Take several breaks throughout the day so you can be refreshed and re-energized to do great work.
  • Keep the camera turned on when using video conferencing tools.
  • Disconnect (both mentally and digitally) when the workday has ended. That means enabling the “Do Not Disturb” feature on your mobile devices and apps you regularly use like Slack.
  • Don’t be afraid to set up online one-on-one meetings with colleagues just to catch up (without a specific business purpose).
  • Get more personal during one-on-one meetings with teammates. Instead of jumping straight into work-speak, make a concerted effort to spend the first 10 minutes just catching up personally and talking about current events.

Threat #2

Distractions are everywhere, making it hard to stay productive.

In a home setting, the types and number of distractions multiply drastically from those employees might find in office environments. No one is sitting nearby to hold employees accountable. It can be so tempting for employees to watch online videos, scroll through Facebook and Instagram to see what friends are up to, and hop on personal phone calls with friends and family.

A big part of hiring smart people is instilling trust in them to do great work and be responsible for meeting their goals. So instead of panicking about the sudden shift to full-time remote work (or taking on a “Big Brother” mentality/approach to managing them), give employees the necessary technology and digital tools to be as productive as possible. They’ll thank you for it.

How to tackle it:

  • Create a schedule, and stick to it. Accept the meetings that are time-critical and impact-related first. Add in additional meetings as they make sense.
  • Don’t send employees messages or requests outside of regular working hours (even if they are at home). And make sure managers are cognizant of scheduling meeting times that would be inconvenient and cut into their early mornings/evenings. You’d be surprised by how often this actually happens, according to a recent Work-Life Survey.
  • Integrate internal communications tools, like Slack, your employees already use on a daily basis into your scheduling software.
  • Be strategic with time management. Implement time blocking within calendars (to focus on key projects for specified periods of time and avoid wasteful meetings).

Threat #3

Social distancing can cause misunderstandings and breakdowns in communication. 

There’s an art to effective, engaging communication. It’s hard enough to do when your employees are standing (or sitting) face-to-face with colleagues, teammates, customers, partners, and other stakeholders. So as large workforces now set out to work remotely full time for a prolonged period of time, communication will get even trickier.

What will likely ensue are misunderstandings, miscommunication about project expectations/deliverables, and possibly even performance issues. Those can lead to tension and animosity among coworkers, which will inevitably give employees more reasons to avoid, or even cancel, meetings that are necessary to brainstorm, innovate, manage projects, and deliver business results. No business wants these outcomes.

How to tackle it:

  • Enable the video functionality when holding virtual meetings. Facial expressions and body language can say a lot and work wonders to establish personal, human connections with team members, colleagues, and even clients.
  • Be selective in who you invite (and keep group meetings to smaller sizes). Elon Musk has a critical rule for running efficient meetings: If a person isn’t adding value, he or she doesn’t need to be there.
  • Be mindful of other people’s times, and be punctual to scheduled meetings.
  • If you want meetings to run smoothly (and have the desired input and action items), make sure to ask participants the necessary questions ahead of the meeting.

 

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