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Healthy Choices

Most Employees Satisfied With Covid-19 Return-to-Work Plans

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More than three-quarters of employed U.S. adults (79%) are satisfied with their employers’ pandemic-related return-to-work plans, according to the results of the latest American Staffing Association Workforce Monitor® online survey conducted by The Harris Poll.

Eight in 10 men (83%) compared to seven in 10 women (74%) are satisfied with such plans, while generations also differ in their satisfaction levels—with Baby Boomers (85%), Millennials (82%), and Gen X (77%) all more satisfied, and Gen Z (62%) less content.

In fact, eight in 10 workers are pleased with their employers’ response to the pandemic specifically in regard to:
• Office cleanliness protocols: 85%
• Remote/telework policy: 82%
• Communication from employers about the Covid-19 pandemic: 81%
• Benefits (e.g., paid leave, sick leave, etc.): 80%

When planning for employee returns to “brick-and-mortar” job sites, organizations must consider a range of measures to ensure the safety of their workforces. Employed adults indicated that the top five measures that would be critical for them to feel safe on the job are:

1. Social distancing measures (e.g., signage, plan for communal areas, reduced number of staff in workplaces at a time, etc.): 53%
2. Detailed cleaning protocols: 46%
3. Covid-19 testing offered to employees: 44%
4. Personal protective equipment required (i.e., masks): 44%
5. Temperature/symptom screening: 43%

One in 10 workers in the industrial (8%) and office–clerical and administrative (7%) sectors also share this concern.
However, 7% of those employed said that nothing would make them feel safe on the job during the pandemic, with workers in the health care sector more likely to cite this fear (14%) than those in the professional–managerial (6%) and engineering, scientific, and IT (2%) industry sectors. One in 10 workers in the industrial (8%) and office–clerical and administrative (7%) sectors also share this concern.

“Worker health, safety, and well-being are of the utmost importance to all employers, but are even more top-of-mind as the nation continues to navigate the Covid-19 pandemic and businesses begin to resume traditional work and operations,” said Richard Wahlquist, ASA president and chief executive officer. “As part of its continued commitment to safety, ASA is providing new return-safely-back-to-work best practice protocols for all employers, and a checklist specific to ensuring the safety of temporary and contract workers.”

4 tips for mastering remote work.

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The coronavirus pandemic has changed virtually every aspect of how we work and live, including asking millions of workers in the U.S. to work from home — many of whom are doing so for the first time. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent estimate, made well before COVID-19 struck, said just under 25 percent of U.S. workers did their jobs from home. But that number has undoubtedly skyrocketed over the recent weeks.

If you’re one of the folks doing your job from the kitchen table for the first time — or if you just want to get some best practices for remote work — we put together a list of must-know tips for staying productive, engaged and, well, sane while working from home.

set boundaries early

If you’re new to remote work, the first days were likely oddly liberating. No commute. No water cooler chit-chat. No dress code. After a few weeks of remote work — especially when we’re practicing social distancing — you might begin to go a little stir crazy. You may start to miss the structure and interactions that came with office life.
After all, no commute. No water cooler chit-chat. No dress code.

What you initially found freeing can easily become maddening — so make sure to establish boundaries for yourself, your schedule and your loved ones.

don’t sleep in

Your first instinct when working from home for the first time was likely: “I don’t have to commute! That means I can sleep in.” But keeping your morning routine consistent with life pre-COVID is key. “If we throw our routines off, our caveman brain detects a problem. And right now, the world is a problem, so our fight-or-flight responses are on fire and the caveman brain is running the show,” psychotherapist Teralyn Sell told NBC News. “Don’t give it another problem.”

unplug at your normal time

Here’s a surprising fact: Studies indicate that remote workers burn out at a slightly higher rate than those who work in traditional office settings. Why? There could be any number of reasons, but consider that respondents to another study said “unplugging after work” was their biggest challenge when it came to working from home. With no commute to delineate between work and home, it’s easy to see why workers work longer hours from home, but it’s vital that you establish a boundary between work and downtime — and challenge yourself to stick to it.

make it clear when you’re working

Your kids or partner couldn’t tap you on the shoulder while you were at the office, and they shouldn’t be able to interrupt your flow now. If you don’t have a home office with a door you can close, find ways to signal when you’re unavailable. A red sticky note, for example, can indicate you’re in do-not-disturb mode, while a green one can indicate you’re free to chat. Whatever system you use, make sure the others in your household take it seriously.

set up an official worksite

Speaking of home offices, having a proper workstation can help you stay on-task and improve productivity. If your work-from-home situation is temporary, this doesn’t mean you should remodel your house to incorporate a proper office space. It does, however, mean you should find a quiet, well-lit space with room for your machine, phone, files and whatever else you need for day-to-day work.

This isn’t only about having a place for all your stuff. There’s a psychological aspect in play here, too. You likely associate your couch with being in leisure mode and your kitchen table with fun family dinners. So find a space that’s neutral and doesn’t subconsciously encourage you to unplug.
Trello has a great collection of actual home offices to give you inspiration. From minimal to busy and innovative, these spaces can help you visualize what the ideal space for you looks like.

communicate effectively — and often

Technology doesn’t just enable us to work from home. It can also empower us to work even more effectively than we were in the office. But getting there requires regular, seamless communication between leaders and team members.

If you don’t already have regularly scheduled daily check-ins with your team, set one up, or ask your manager to do so. They don’t have to be long, either. Just a 15-minute chat at the beginning of the day can help you stay aligned and on-mission, but don’t stop there. Apps like Slack, Google Hangouts and Google Duo and Skype enable easy, ongoing communication among your whole team. Work with your manager to identify the right tool(s) for your team, but keep in mind that apps that enable video conferencing can be key, as face time with coworkers is key in retaining your sanity while we’re all staying home.

get social

Humans are social creatures, and regular face-to-face contact with others is a necessity for our mental well-being. Not only that, loneliness can suppress our immune systems, which can put us at even greater risk of contracting coronavirus.

While socializing isn’t directly connected to work, it is crucial for staying physically and mentally healthy, which we need to prioritize now more than ever. We’re not suggesting you should throw a party — at least not in real life. But you should consider organizing a remote dinner party or cocktail hour where you and several friends share a meal or a drink via video conference.
Another option is the increasingly popular Netflix Party extension for Google Chrome. It allows groups of friends or family to watch Netflix together and chat via text, emojis, gifs and more. It’s a great way to feel human without putting anyone at risk.

key takeaways

Coronavirus has prompted an experiment in remote work on a scale never thought possible. For those new to working from home, establishing clear boundaries for your workspace, optimizing that workspace for prime productivity, frequent communication with your team and making time for human contact can be the difference between staying productive and going stir crazy.
They’re small steps, but they’ll make a world of difference while the world hunkers down.

A How-to Guide for Hiring During and After the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Our world has turned upside down in the space of a few short months with many companies closed for business, some temporarily and others permanently. Despite the despair and uncertainty in the air, some industries and companies are experiencing highest-ever demand that requires that they adapt to – and continue to work – while we figure out how the world will work. I’m confident that eventually, with some marked changes, we’ll be able to return to a new normal – so we need to prepare to accommodate the new hiring landscape we’ll face once that happens.
According to research by OWL Labs, a little more than half of workers in the US worked remotely at least once a month in 2019. Following this crisis, more businesses than ever will likely offer more comprehensive telecommuting options for all their workers. Adzuna, a platform that tracks jobseeker search and recruitment trends globally, found that remote working jobs postings have increased by about 270% since 2017.

Companies are heeding public health recommendations to encourage home working where possible and are now effectively embarking on a giant work from home experiment.”
“Employers are recognizing that flexible work practices can improve employee productivity, aid talent attraction and retention, and support diversity and inclusion initiatives through more inclusive recruitment practices,” says Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna. “While it’s still too early to know the full effects of COVID-19 on working practices, our data so far this year shows a continued increase in remote working vacancies. Companies are heeding public health recommendations to encourage home working where possible and are now effectively embarking on a giant work from home experiment.”

Clearly, the results of this experiment remain to be seen but the evidence we have so far points to the need – and desire – for a radical change to recruitment and onboarding in the future. So let’s go over some key strategies to consider when hiring now – and to prepare for the future – to see success with remote employees.
The Job Specification:

With the possibility of periodic lockdowns and reduced capacity in public spaces extending through the end of the year, jobseekers are looking for security and safety for themselves and their income. Adzuna notes a 600% increase in jobseeker queries that includes the words “remote”, “telecommute” or “work from home”. When writing a jobs spec now, the scope of telecommuting should be elucidated clearly in the description. Inform candidates if there will be instances of work travel throughout their tenure (i.e needing to go to HQ for evaluations or meetings, travel to meet clients) as some may not be able to do so for a number of reasons (i.e inadequate childcare, being immunocompromised).

When hiring for an in-office role with some remote capabilities, the job description should state that the company follows all cleaning and social distancing protocols instituted by public health authorities. Communicate what the business does to protect employees and minimize the risk to them. These assurances build trust in the company from potential employees, aiding talent attraction and retention and making it more likely for strong candidates to follow through the entire recruitment process. These differentiating practices will make the posting and company unique and shows that you’re willing to reward the risk they take by being customer/office facing.

The Resume:

Remote working is not for the faint hearted; it requires discipline and a proactive and self-motivated attitude which isn’t common among all workers. When reviewing applicant resumes, try to glean where they may have worked remotely in the past (if not explicitly stated) and how successful they were in that position. Indicators of success here include the length of the position (or if they contract/freelance, how many remote projects they’ve completed), whether they had multiple remote jobs or any accolades and successes they achieved while in these positions. Ideally, hiring people with a great level of experience working remotely will be advantageous as they’ll hit the ground running since they already have familiarity with productive telecommuting.

With unemployment drastically high, try where to find talent where you normally wouldn’t. There is a vast amount of talent on the market with the transferable skills, personality and culture to be successful in your business. It’s possible to even secure these employees at a slightly lower market rate due to their lack of experience in the field but their strong background and desire to work. They deserve to be compensated fairly of course, but if you have to tighten your purse strings as a business owner, concessions need to be made to find talent that resides within your budget. (Plus they can always get a raise once times are better!).

The Person:

If the resume looks good (and passed the “6 second” recruiter test), it’s time to move on to the interview. Now, I’m stating the obvious here when saying the interview will be conducted via video conference. Video interviewing may be new to some employers, but there’s already a treasure trove of resources that make it easier and articles with common sense advice about how to evaluate during an interview. Here are strategies I’ve found work best for me.

The first thing will be to arrange the interview as early as you can in the day. This is the first test and just like an in-person interview you’re evaluating the candidate’s first impression. Pay close attention to their appearance. Do they look fresh, prepared and full of motivation or do they look like they’ve just fallen out of bed? Is the location they’ve chosen relatively quiet and free from background distractions? These factors are important to consider as they’ll show how seriously candidates can take working from home, as well as how well they’ve prepared and the ability to present their best selves. This is a good indicator of their work philosophy and future output.
Now, I’m stating the obvious here when saying the interview will be conducted via video conference.

Do your best to make the candidate comfortable by encouraging them to talk about themselves and lead the interview with descriptions of their career path and accomplishments. Encouraging candidates to talk about themselves, as you would in an in-person interview, helps them to loosen up and get more comfortable with the format. Occasionally, candidates may deflect and try to complete phone interviews in lieu of video interviews citing discomfort with video calls. However, with the increased necessity of remote working, I would personally advise against this. You need to know that your employee is willing to set aside the time to commit to work and due to our current reality, you need a candidate who can at least complete a video conference to get the job.

During the interview, be sure to ask about their previous experience working remotely. Investigate how they adapted to the workstyle and the different habits and tactics they used to be as productive as possible. Specific examples are essential here and help you to evaluate the fitness of a candidate to manage themselves without the physical space and structure of an office.

The Offer:

So they aced the video interview and seem to be a good fit with all the skills you need (including being suitable for remote work): congratulations! You’re ready to make an offer. As much as our work habits have changed, you must also adapt the terms of employment offered to new employees. In addition to standard salary and benefits, consider adding additional provisions relevant to our current situation.
Offer a paid subscription to a new wellness app, or complimentary meal/grocery delivery services; these offerings not only make a person feel valued; they are a constant reminder that they are part of a team and a company that cares for them. This is critical at this time as you don’t have the luxury of natural team-building that comes when people come into the office daily. These little gems when they first join the team, let new employees know they are valued and appreciated and improve employee attraction and retention metrics.

Post Hiring:

Managing a remote workforce is different to a traditional one and requires an increased effort from you to keep productivity and spirit is high. As the leader, you need to install a routine in your workforce. Start the day with a message to your team at the beginning of their shift. A group message on Slack or Teams that’s casual and tries to engage everyone in the conversation breaks the ice and brings the team together (so they know we’re all on the same page).

In this same vein, set very clear tasks and deliverables to guide workflow throughout the week. Create a check-in schedule that allows you to monitor progress, address issues, concerns or roadblocks and make any needed changes before a deadline. Provide your staff with plenty of resources to help them complete their work and don’t be shy to drop in the odd call once a week to just check-in with how they are coping and if they have any concerns that might affect their ability to work.
As the leader, you need to install a routine in your workforce.

Keep the social aspect of work alive by arranging things like virtual lunches or happy hour, where food is on the company (it’s difficult to coordinate timely delivery so allow employees to claim back on expenses). This builds a break into the workday and gives people a chance to decompress, socialize and break the monotony and isolation inherent to working at home. You should insist that your workers take part in this to make sure they feel included and most of all, keep a routine.

Being adaptable and teachable are traits that everyone, be it business owner, manager or employee should cultivate – especially for times like these. Your ability to rise up to this challenge will make or break your organization. Having the tools to best tackle the challenge head-on helps mitigate the negative effects of change and crisis and keep you and your employees safe, productive and healthy.