Tips for Nonessential Businesses Preparing to Re-open

Barber trimming a customer’s beard with scissors

Gyms, nail salons, hair salons and barbershops, movie theaters, and other public-facing, nonessential businesses were significantly impacted by COVID-19. As if closing once wasn’t bad enough, all businesses are preparing for a potential second wave from the COVID-19 pandemic. While you might have re-opened or are preparing to re-open your business, there are some best practices to incorporate to ensure you are both taking every precaution necessary to protect yourself, your staff, and your clients, as well as prepared for any unexpected closures or future crises that may arise.

Review Government and Public Health Guidelines

Local, state, and federal government regulations on public health guidance policies will vary by location. For example, states being hit hard by COVID-19, such as Michigan, Arizona, California, and New York may have stricter or extended stay at home orders than states with fewer cases. Governments typically align with public health and safety guidelines to ensure the communities they serve are taking proper precautions and enforcing regulations to prevent further spread. It is imperative for business owners to stay informed of any legal or regulatory changes that may affect their business and maintain compliance with all local, state, and federal guidelines.

Evaluate Your Organization’s Risks

Part of staying ahead of the curve is to identify what’s working and what’s not, as well as being proactive in developing solutions to problems before they occur.

Conduct a walk-through of your office and evaluate any areas of risk for exposure. For example, placing friendly reminders of physical distancing, wearing face masks, handwashing and hand sanitizer usage, and other things that can contribute to preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.

Prepare for worst-case scenario: a second wave. This means developing standards of procedure, creating or updating remote work policies, drafting emergency communications, and assembling an emergency response team should another unexpected crisis occur.

Once you have assessed and identified any risks, the next step is to control the risks and monitor the results. For example, mitigating risk can fall under three categories: (1) risk avoidance – eliminating the risk (i.e., allowing employees to work from home to avoid exposure during peak times), (2) risk control – implementing preventative measures, and (3) risk transfer – involving a third party to assist with managing risk(s). Monitoring the results simply involves measuring effectiveness of risk management and reassessing policies and procedures if needed.

Implement and Enforce Workplace Safety

Implementing workplace safety can range from day-to-day operations to incorporating personal protective equipment and supplies. Day-to-day operational changes might include alternating shift hours to reduce overlap of employees entering and exiting the building, screening employees before entering the building, and improving workplace conditions (i.e., investing in high-efficiency air filters, increasing ventilation, setting up plastic sneeze guards where applicable). Personal protective equipment can include supplying anti-bacterial wipes, hand sanitizer, face masks, and gloves (if applicable).

Maintain Consistent, Transparent Communications with Employees

Effective communications with employees require a balance of consistency and transparency. To maintain consistent, transparent communications with employees, employers should explain management decisions and open to employee feedback, offer as much information as possible and/or necessary regarding the evolving situation, regularly discuss the future of the organization, and convey empathy as everyone responds to situations differently. Similarly, provide as much notice as possible for any substantial changes to the business operations, such as temporary closure or shifting to remote work environments.

Business continuity and strategizing for future unexpected situations can significantly impact an organization’s survival. Partnering with a PEO like VensureHR can also increase your chances as our HR experts are able to provide HR best practices and ensure compliance with OSHA guidance for safely re-opening your business. Contact VensureHR for a free HR diagnostic today!

Source:

HR Insights: Preparing for a Second Wave of COVID

Disability Inclusion in the Workplace

Diversity and inclusion go beyond the common perceptions of race, culture, and language. Oftentimes, different walks of life such as education, experience, and lifestyles are overlooked. Disabilities, such as physical and mental, can present an exceptional challenge to diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Here are some tips for implementing and improving disability inclusion in the workplace.

Modifying the Interview Process. One way to implement an effective, disability-sensitive interview process is through proper HR training.

  • Candidate assessment. Not all candidates will present or disclose disabilities. It is important for interviewers to be able to read body language or cues that indicate any discomfort, as well as adapt to such obstacles. One best practice is to eliminate the assumption or expectation that all interviews will be conducted the same.
  • Flexible interview style. To best understand a candidate’s strengths, incorporating different interview techniques can provide a versatile setting for which candidates may be more comfortable to open up and better communicate their unique personality. Adjust your interview style to match the candidate. This allows you to gain invaluable insight to the compatibility of the candidate to the company/team and vice versa.
  • Mindful of environment. This might sound obvious, but if possible, avoid having interviews in high-traffic areas or noisy environments. For example, some interviewers may conduct their interview outdoors or an open conference room. This may cause disruptions to the interview process, as well as the interviewee’s attention or concentration to the interview questions.

 

This HR training should be extended to all employees, such as non-HR members involved in the interviewing process.

Simplifying Accommodation Requests. A common hurdle the HR department may face are complex processes. To simplify a candidate’s request for accommodation, HR should only include the basics (i.e., the name of the employee or requestor and the accommodation request). Eliminate the required medical questions or irrelevant information on the request form. This can streamline the review process and fulfill the request in a timely manner.

Developing Opportunities to Foster Growth. “How can we support and retain our employees?” This is a commonly asked question HR and management ponder. Opportunities to advance can provide incentives for an employee to stay with the company. Upskilling, reskilling, tuition reimbursement, and other training, education, and skills that can support employee growth and provide opportunities for promotion are great ways to encourage employee engagement and increase chances of retaining your employees.

Ongoing Disability Inclusion Awareness, Training, and Education. Embodying disability inclusion in the business foundation can assist with creating an employee-centric work environment. Best practices include managers checking in with their employees, ensure they have all necessary resources to support their employees, and continue education on bringing disability inclusion awareness into the workplace, training employees on best practices, and developing ways to continue education, such as lunch-and-learns.

You may already have a disability inclusion provision in your employee handbook or training programs and resources in place to ensure inclusion of all walks of life in the workplace. If you would like help reviewing or updating your employee handbook, add additional resources to your repertoire, and continue developing a more diverse and inclusive workplace, please contact VensureHR. Our team of HR experts can provide forward-thinking HR services and solutions to problems unique to your business or industry.

 

Source:

Struggling with Disability Inclusion? 4 Things I Learned from a Free HR Training

Increasing Emotional Intelligence

Diversity, inclusivity, and sensitivity in the workplace go beyond a single, once-a-year training session. It is about building a foundation of emotional intelligence, resources, and continuous training year-round. Emotional intelligence is an individual’s ability to perceive, understand, and manage one’s feelings and emotions, and consists of self-awareness, self-control, intrinsic motivation, empathy, and interpersonal skills.[1] Higher emotional intelligence has shown a positive correlation with job satisfaction and job performance. Investing in continued emotional intelligence training can elevate employee productivity and job performance.

Understanding How Emotional Intelligence Impacts the Workplace

First and foremost, emotional intelligence in the workplace improves:

  • Emotional Stability
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extroversion
  • Emotional Intelligence Ability
  • Cognitive Ability
  • Self-Efficacy
  • Job Performance

These areas of emotional intelligence allow employees to:

  • Respond with compassion
  • Practice active listening and participate in open, honest dialogues
  • Develop interpersonal relationships outside of the workplace
  • Adapt to changing work priorities and situations
  • Maintain composure under pressure
  • Implement creative problem-solving for resolving conflicts

Jumpstart your journey to higher emotional intelligence by watching Robin Paggi, our HR Training and Development expert, Increasing Emotional Intelligence,” webinar to learn more about incorporating sensitivity in the workplace or HR-related topics.

[1] How to Improve Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

COVID’s Impact on Substance Abuse and Tips for Employers

COVID has impacted the world in more ways than we can count. While financial, familial, and social issues have resulted, these stressors have exacerbated mental health issues. A mental health crisis is surfacing in the wake of COVID, causing additional workplace issues for employers to address. Stress is a leading cause for relapse, so it is understandable how COVID has resurfaced or worsened individuals vulnerable to substance abuse or recovering addicts.[1]

With 130 Americans overdosing from opioids and 75% of employers reporting opioid impact in the workplace,[2] employers need to strategize business initiatives to assist employees seeking help, as well as preventing substance-related issues from developing.

Fostering Empathy

Raising awareness in the workplace is one way to demonstrate empathy. Seeking training and resources to educate employees on recognizing signs and symptoms of substance-related issues, as well as expanding de-stigmatization of mental health to substance use can break barriers for individuals grappling with such matters.

Employee Advocacy

Advocating for your employees’ well-being through prompt response to workplace injuries, developing post-injury strategies, and partnering with healthcare providers are great ways to express your compassion for the struggles your employees may face. Create a workplace injury response plan that includes proper employer response, ensuring all documentation and procedures are adequately followed, and developing post-injury care. Post-injury work plans might include easing back to work, flexible work arrangements to allow for proper treatment, transitory roles, and other work accommodations. Reach out to your local healthcare providers, specifically pharmacies to discuss best practices for deterring substance abuse and safeguarding prescription medication compliance with legal regulations and recommendations.

Provide Access to Treatment and Support

The best way to combat substance-related issues is providing readily available and accessible treatment, resources, information, and support.

Employee assistance programs can assist employees suffering from substance abuse or other issues resulting from their workplace injury through professional help. Employers should be prepared for the difficult but sensitive talks regarding an employee’s health that may be impacting their work or others in the workplace. A helpful resource could be a screening toolkit. Sometimes people who suffer from a mental health or substance-related issue don’t even realize it. Screening tools can help individuals recognize, understand, and seek the help they may need.

It’s also important for employers to consider a formal drug-free workplace policy outlining the organization’s expectations and repercussions for violating such policy.

Robin Paggi, Training Coordinator at Worklogic HR – a VensureHR partner, hosted a COVID’s Impact on Substance Abuse and Tips for Employers” webinar discussing substance abuse issues in the workplace, COVID’s impact on substance abuse, and how employers can better assist our employees who may be struggling with substance use issues. To catch up on the latest webinars in our sensitivity in the workplace series, please visit our Webinars page.

If you’re looking for additional help updating or creating a formal drug-free workplace policy, please contact VensureHR. Our team of HR specialists can provide helpful resources and information and customize HR solutions that best suit your needs.

[1] Keeping the Workplace Safe and Drug-Free Amidst the COVID-19 Crisis

[2] Opioid Crisis Exacerbated by COVID-19: What Employers Can Do

Becoming Culturally Competent

Diversity and inclusion involve more than just expanding and revamping your corporate culture; it’s about developing a continuous business strategy with cultural competence built in the foundation. Cultural competence is the combination of cultural knowledge (awareness of cultural characteristics, history, values, beliefs, and behaviors), awareness (openness to cultural change and perception), and sensitivity (acknowledgment of cultural differences but absent of judgment, i.e., one culture is superior to another) through business efficiencies.

The United States is forecasted to become a “majority-minority” by 2043, meaning that “[m]ore than 50 percent of the population will identify as belonging to an ethnic minority group or any group other than non-Hispanic white.”[1] Cultural competency is the key to developing a more robust organization by increasing respect, collaboration, engagement, trust, and productivity, as well as decreasing workplace conflicts, stigmatization, and retaliation.

Promoting Cultural and Global Education and Resources

To determine what your cultural incompetencies are, you should conduct a comprehensive cultural competence assessment of your business. Cultural competency assessments can address the needs and interests of your employees and develop a long-term strategy that may address company values and mission, policies and procedures, and overall structure and best practices. Collecting invaluable free resources and partnering with organizations can assist you in promoting cultural and global education within your organization. For example, a local cultural chamber of commerce, such as the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, may offer unique services to its clients, such as bilingual customer service, and long-standing relationships with Hispanic-owned businesses that may face unique challenges for which your organization can assist.

Surveying your staff and researching what kinds of organizations they hold memberships or volunteer with can provide valuable insights to your employees. For example, you might ask, “What are the cultural, language, racial, and ethnic groups within the area served by this organization?” Employee responses may vary, which can present an overview of problem areas or commonalities in the way your employees think or observe the workplace.

Fostering Healthy Communications and Engagement

A great way to approach developing healthy communications and employee engagement is utilizing the ABCD surveying method. It observes the foundation of what, how, and why people think or act the way that they do.

“A” stands for attitude. Exploring the attitudes and values of employees can shed light on communication preferences, diverse backgrounds, perspectives of business efficiencies, and how people react in different situations.

“B” stands for beliefs. Beliefs can range from religious to political to individual moral compasses. Understanding different beliefs that exist in the workplace can help guide communications. Whether you’re trying to come up with a witty subject line for better engagement or preparing a presentation, be mindful of the varying degree of beliefs and carefully review any jokes, comments, or explanations to ensure there are no misconceptions or room for insensitivity.

“C” stands for context. Make sure that what you’re communicating is delivered through the proper channels, on an acceptable timeline, and in a way that speaks to your intended audience. For example, how you communicate with your employees versus how you communicate with your clients is going to be different.

“D” stands for decision-making. Understanding how your employees make decisions and how their thought or problem-solving process may differ can assist you in navigating proper decision-making strategies. For example, as the employer, you may value an in-depth explanation of why a business decision is made to support company transparency. However, an employee may see it as unnecessary and unprofessional to share business decision-making details.

Robin Paggi, Training Coordinator at Worklogic HR – a VensureHR partner, is hosting a “Becoming Culturally Competent” webinar discussing what cultural competence is, gaining awareness of an individual’s cultural worldview, determining an individual’s attitude toward cultural differences, increasing knowledge of different cultural practices and worldviews, and developing cross-cultural skills. If you have any questions regarding cultural competence or need assistance with culture-related issues in the workplace, please contact VensureHR. Our team of seasoned HR specialists can provide you with industry best practices, resources, and around-the-clock customer service to guarantee your business is equipped to develop and evolve with cultural competence.

 

 

Sources:

Cultural Competence: An Important Skill Set for the 21st Century

Cultural Competence and Patient Safety – ABCD for Cultural Assessment

[1] Building Culturally Competent Organizations

COVID’s Impact on Mental Health and Tips for Employers

In the midst of a global health pandemic, another crisis is unraveling: mental health. From financial hardships and social isolation to coping with loss and daily stressors, the global impact COVID is instilling in mental health is overwhelming.

To support employers with addressing mental health in the workplace, we have provided some quick tips for mental health issues.

Identifying Signs of Distress
The first line of defense for addressing mental health in the workplace is the ability to identify signs of distress. Individuals cope with stress and factors affecting mental health in different ways. The ways in which COVID has influenced an individual’s mental health may vary. For example, someone who has a family member or loved one test positive for COVID may feel differently than someone who has not endured that experience.

Some signs of distress may include:

  • Lower productivity
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Mood swings or outbursts
  • Absenteeism

 

Addressing Existing Mental Health Issues
A Canadian study examining the psychological effects of quarantine conducted during the SARS pandemic revealed that approximately 29% of participants had symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and 31% had symptoms of depression. The study also confirmed that the symptoms were exacerbated by direct exposure to the disease.[1] Anxiety levels have also increased due to a mix of uncertainty, fear, and isolation resulting from the pandemic. A significant rise stress and/or mental health issues can cause alcohol and substance use to resurface or worsen.

Providing Resources and Accommodating Vulnerable Populations
COVID has presented many obstacles for employers, specifically in accommodating vulnerable populations with resources and information. At-risk populations, such as elderly and individuals with compromised immune systems or underlying health issues, public-facing and essential workers, laid off, furloughed or terminated employees, individuals with disabilities or developmental conditions, and language barriers are examples of common populations that may need unique accommodations.

Some valuable resources for assisting these vulnerable populations may include:

  • Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). EAPs are employer-sponsored programs offering access to professional resources for personal issues, such as stress, marital or familial concerns, finances, mental health, substance use, and grief. This is a simple and cost-effective solution to improve employee well-being.
  • Streamlining Transparent Communications. Employees want facts and additional resources regarding updates to evolving situations, such as public health pandemics. Ensuring you have adequate processes in place to quickly address new information and related updates regarding the situation. Streamlining prompt, transparent responses and relaying relevant information and resources to employees will go a long way. Be cognizant of any language or communication barriers, such as individuals’ whose native language is not English, those with disabilities, remote and contract workers, and other similar, applicable conditions.
  • Flexible Work Arrangements. In the instance of COVID, many businesses swiftly transitioned to remote work environments. As businesses re-open and resume daily operations, individuals are still facing issues that influence their work. Childcare, familial and/or marital care, and at-risk individuals are some of the obstacles employers are facing in the recovery phase of the pandemic. Offering flexible work arrangements can be a mutually beneficial solution.

 

Staying Informed
Part of reducing the stigma of mental health and stress of COVID-19 is knowing the facts. Follow local, state, and federal government and public health agencies that can provide real-time updates regarding important legislation, relief information, and resources. Communicating these changes and updating employees on business adaptations to comply with such regulations is critical to reducing the fear and uncertainty that is seemingly at the core of mental health. Connecting with local mental health providers for training, programs, and additional resources to support employees’ mental heath in the workplace can also alleviate the stigma.

Robin Paggi, Training Coordinator at Worklogic HR – a VensureHR partner, hosted a “COVID’s Impact on Mental Health and Tips for Employers” webinar on July 8, 2020. For more information or questions you may have regarding COVID’s impact on mental health in the workplace, please contact VensureHR. We value employee well-being and have HR specialists who are readily equipped to assist you with addressing any mental health issues.

 

Sources:
COVID-19: Coping with Stress
Understanding Employee Assistance Programs

[1] Mental Health Effects Since the Start of COVID-19