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Maintaining Work Relationships While Working Remotely

Young professional female on a video conference call with coworkers, taking notes

During the past year and a half, remote workspaces have become part of the norm. As a result, it’s more challenging to build and maintain relationships among your coworkers without the ability to meet and engage in person. However, it’s still crucial to maintaining these relationships since 77% of workers consider strong relationships with their coworkers essential to job satisfaction. Below are some simple tips you can follow to help maintain professional relationships with your colleagues while working remotely.

Tip #1: Be Available

The ability to work remotely has given employees more control over how they plan their day. From how they balance their family life with work, whether that’s taking some time during the day to help with home-schooling or taking a walk in the fresh air. However, it’s important to remain available for your colleagues to reach you when needed. If you are going to take time out of your day to focus on family matters or self-care, be sure to block out this time on your calendar or let your coworkers know you are stepping away from your workstation, so they are aware of when you’re not available and can work around it. This way your coworkers won’t feel like they can never reach you when they need to.

Tip # 2: Don’t Jump Right into Business

One in-office perk remote working lacks is casual office conversations and in-person interactions. It’s much easier to partake in lighthearted conversations with your coworkers when you’re in the same office, it’s much harder to do remotely. One thing you can do is to set aside a few minutes at the beginning of every virtual meeting for a quick, informal catch-up with everyone present. This is a great way to check-in with your coworkers and avoid meetings feeling too formal, while also showing that you are making an effort to build and maintain relationships with the team. Feeling overwhelmed with too many attendees in an online meeting? Try starting with a fun ice-breaker question for everyone to answer is another way to bring the feeling of being together in the office.

Tip # 3: Schedule Quick One-on-One Meetings

Setting up a casual, 15-minute check-in with colleagues on your team will also help maintain your relationship with your coworkers. This is a time where you can talk about anything, not just work-related items, and connect with your teammates. Taking an interest in their lives outside of work will make your coworkers feel cared for and heard.

Tip # 4: Share Your Skills

Working remotely offers the opportunity to cross-train with your colleagues. Since you don’t need to get everyone in the office on the same day, at the same time, it’s easier to schedule quick trainings to teach your coworkers a new skill, or just show them what you do on the team. This is a great way to teach and learn something new, while also taking an interest in understanding what your coworkers are doing.

If your business is looking for more ways to build and foster stronger professional relationships, a human resource professional can help. At VensureHR, our HR specialists can provide you with the tools, resources, and support you need to manage effective professional relationships for your business. Contact VensureHR to learn more.


HR Magazine- Good Workplace Relationships Have Largest Impact on Job Satisfaction

ThomasNet- How to Build and Maintain Colleague Relationships While Working Remotely

Anyplace- How to Strengthen Relationships While Working Remotely

September 2021: Planning Ahead and Updated Posting Requirements

Plan Ahead

(This section provides you with an overview of current and upcoming laws that take effect)

Law / RegulationEffective Date
Maryland Amends Flexible Leave Act to Include Bereavement LeaveOctober 1, 2021
Nevada Enacts Kin Care Leave LawOctober 1, 2021
Montana Revises Independent Contractor CertificationsOctober 1, 2021
Connecticut Strengthens Lactation Accommodation RequirementsOctober 1, 2021
Nevada Bans Salary History Inquiries, Requires Pay Range DisclosureOctober 1, 2021
Florida Requires New Hire Reporting of Independent ContractorsOctober 1, 2021
Connecticut Amends Sexual Harassment Prevention Training RequirementsOctober 1, 2021
District of Columbia Family and Medical Leave Act Employee Eligibility Requirements Temporarily AmendedOctober 1, 2021
Maryland Amends Mini-WARN Act RequirementsOctober 1, 2021
Connecticut Amends Equal Pay Law, Requires Pay Range DisclosureOctober 1, 2021
Nevada Bans Use of Noncompete Agreements for Hourly EmployeesOctober 1, 2021
Connecticut Tightens Smoking LawOctober 1, 2021
Connecticut Limits Age Information on Employment ApplicationsOctober 1, 2021
Maryland Implements Whistleblower Awards ProgramOctober 1, 2021
Montana Establishes Child Labor Exemption for Student EmployeesOctober 1, 2021
Washington Amends Quarterly Unemployment Reporting and Penalty ProvisionsOctober 1, 2021
Maryland Permits Employers to File for Peace Orders Against Workplace Acts of ViolenceOctober 1, 2021
Bernalillo County, New Mexico, Earned Paid Time Off Accrual and Use Cap IncreasesOctober 1, 2021
District of Columbia Temporarily Expands Paid Family Leave Qualifying Reasons and DurationOctober 1, 2021
Maine Amends Family and Medical Leave LawOctober 18, 2021
Maine Prohibits Direct Deposit FeesOctober 18, 2021
Maine Amends Emergency Responder Leave LawOctober 18, 2021
Maine Prohibits Discrimination Against Domestic Violence VictimsOctober 18, 2021
Maine Adopts Ban the Box LawOctober 18, 2021
Maine Amends Wage Overpayment LimitationsOctober 18, 2021
Maine Adds Protected Classes, Amends Disability RequirementsOctober 18, 2021
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Posting Updates

(This section provides you with an overview of labor law postings for this month. Note: many of these are included in the federal/state labor law poster)

Federal or StateUpdated PostingMandatory or Recommended
   
TBD
FederalFair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) – Overtime Exemptions, Overtime, Joint Employment.ANTICIPATED
FederalMinimum WageANTICIPATED
FederalFamily Medical Leave ActANTICIPATED
ANTICIPATED
IllinoisYou Have the Right to be Free from Job Discrimination and Sexual HarassmentANTICIPATED
New JerseyWage TheftANTICIPATED
New JerseySafe ActANTICIPATED
New YorkDiscriminationANTICIPATED
VirginiaMinimum WageANTICIPATED
New YorkFair EmploymentANTICIPATED
ColoradoHealthy Families and Workplaces LawANTICIPATED
New YorkMinimum WageANTICIPATED
FloridaMinimum WageANTICIPATED
Rhode IslandMinimum WageANTICIPATED
Rhode IslandPay EquityANTICIPATED
MaineRegulation of EmploymentANTICIPATED
ColoradoMinimum WageANTICIPATED
September 2021
IndianaMinimum Wage LawMANDATORY
MissouriVictims of Domestic and Sexual Violence Leave Time AllowedMANDATORY
MontanaDiscriminationMANDATORY
MontanaNo SmokingMANDATORY
GeorgiaWorkers’ Compensation Panel of PhysiciansMANDATORY
NevadaDaily Overtime BulletinMANDATORY
August 2021
MassachusettsWage and Hour LawsMANDATORY
MassachusettsPaid Family and Medical LeaveMANDATORY

September 2021 Virginia HR Legal Updates

Virginia Issues Third Iteration of Emergency COVID-19 Regulations

Update Applicable to:

All employers in Virginia.

What happened?

On August 26, 2021, the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board adopted revised amendments to the Final Permanent Standard for Infectious Disease Prevention of the SARS-CoV-2 Virus That Causes COVID-19 (the Final Permanent Standard).

What are the details?

The amended Final Permanent Standard became effective on September 8, 2021 and contains several notable changes with some detailed below. The full list can be found in the Final Permanent Standard.

Higher-risk workplaces have been re-defined with the new Final Permanent Standard. The standard defines higher-risk workplaces to include those employers with employees who are not fully vaccinated; employees whose workplace is in a location with substantial or high community transmission, regardless of vaccination status; and otherwise at-risk employees in workplaces where there is heightened risk due to factors, such as where employees who are not fully vaccinated or are otherwise at-risk:

  • are working close to one another.
  • often have prolonged closeness to coworkers or potential frequent contact with members of the public.
  • work in enclosed indoor spaces with inadequate ventilation where other coworkers or members of the public are present.
  • may be exposed to the virus through respiratory droplets or aerosols in the air.
  • engage in a common practice of sharing employer-provided transportation and communal housing or living quarters.

Vaccinations for employees is not required in the Final Permanent Standard, but additional requirements are imposed on employees who have not been fully vaccinated.  When verifying an employee’s vaccination status, the Final Permanent Standard permits an employer to rely on an employee’s representation of being fully vaccinated, without providing proof of vaccination. That said, an employer is not precluded from requiring proof of vaccination.

Subject to certain exceptions, employers must provide and require unvaccinated employees, fully vaccinated employees in areas of substantial or high community transmission, and otherwise at-risk employees (because of a prior transplant or other medical condition) to wear face coverings or surgical masks while indoors, unless their work task requires a respirator or other personal protective equipment.

There has also been a change to the requirements for employers to implement an infectious disease preparedness and response plan. Any health care or health care support employer as well as any employers with higher-risk workplaces with 11 or more employees must have an infectious disease preparedness and response plan. When counting the employees, the employer may exclude fully vaccinated employees.

The Final Permanent Standard can be read here.

An article on the Final Permanent Standard can be read here.

What do employers need to do?

Employers should review the Final Permanent Standard and all of the updated changes and requirements to apply any updates to their applicable policies and procedures to stay in compliance with Virginia’s COVID-19 prevention.

September 2021 New York HR Legal Updates

NYC Council Requires Human Service Contractors to Enter Labor Peace Agreements

Update Applicable to:

All employers in New York City (NYC) that contract or subcontract with NYC agencies.

What happened?

On August 18, 2021, an amendment to the administrative code of New York City to require labor peace agreements as a condition to city contracts.

What are the details?

The amended law, effective August 8, 2021, requires human services contractors and certain subcontractors to enter into labor peace agreements with labor organizations seeking to represent their employees rendering services under city human services contracts.

Covered employers must now submit certifications to NYC agencies along with their bid for a service contract or request for a renewal, which must be updated annually.  In addition, covered employers must now submit an attestation within 90 days of entering into a city service contract confirming the status of the labor peace agreement.

The amended law can be read here.

An article on the amended law can be read here.

What do employers need to do?

Employers should review the law here and their policies and processes for contracts/subcontracts with the city to stay in compliance with the new requirements.

September 2021 Minnesota HR Legal Updates

Minnesota’s Minimum Wage Increasing to $10.33 an Hour

Update Applicable to:

All employers in Minnesota.

What happened?

On August 19, 2021, the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry announced an increase to the minimum wage rate.

What are the details?

The increase to the minimum wage rates will be effective January 1, 2022. The rate increase will be dependent on certain factors. The increased minimum wage rates are as follows:

  • Large employers must pay at least $10.33 an hour when an employer’s annual gross revenues are $500,000 or more.
  • Small employers must pay at least $8.42 an hour when an employer’s annual gross revenues are less than $500,000.
  • The training wage rate, $8.42 an hour, may be paid to employees younger than 20 years of age for the first 90 consecutive days of employment.
  • The youth wage rate, $8.42 an hour, may be paid to employees younger than 18 years of age.

The notice of the minimum wage increase can be read here.

What do employers need to do?

Employers should review the information and update their payroll processing policies to be in compliance once the increase becomes effective.

September 2021 Delaware HR Legal Updates

Delaware Enacts Vaccination Mandate for Healthcare Workers

Update Applicable to:

All employers in Delaware with employees in the covered facilities detailed below.

What happened?

On August 12, 2021, Governor Carney and the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) announced a requirement for vaccinations.

What are the details?

The requirement, effective September 30, 2021 through January 28, 2022, states that all employees in the covered facilities must provide proof of vaccination or undergo regular testing for COVID-19. The health care facilities that are covered include:

Long-Term Care Facilities:

  • Nursing homes
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Intermediate care facility for persons with developmental or intellectual disabilities
  • Neighborhood homes
  • Group homes for persons with serious and persistent mental illness
  • Group homes for persons with HIV/AIDS
  • Family care homes
  • Rest residential facilities
  • Intensive behavioral support and educational residences

Acute and Outpatient Providers:

  • Adult day cares
  • Free-standing birthing centers
  • Free-standing emergency departments
  • Free-standing surgical centers
  • Home health agencies: aide only (non-skilled)
  • Skilled home health agencies
  • Hospitals (including psychiatric hospitals)
  • Prescribed pediatric extended care centers
  • Hospice
  • Personal assistance service agencies
  • Office-based surgery

The updated vaccination and testing requirements can be read here.

An article on the update can be read here.

What do employers need to do?

Employers should review the requirements to update any applicable policies and procedures regarding vaccinations and testing of their employees to stay in compliance once the law goes into effect on September 30, 2021.

September 2021 California HR Legal Updates

L.A. County to Modify Health Order on Businesses Required to Provide Proof of Vaccination

Update Applicable to:

Employers in Los Angeles County with employees working in indoor portions of bars, wineries, breweries, night clubs, and lounges.

What happened?

On September 17, 2021, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) released a modified Health Officer Order to expand vaccine verification and requirements to businesses and customers.

What are the details?

Public Health released a modified Health Office Order on September 17, 2021. The modified order would require customers and employees at bars, breweries, wineries, night clubs, and lounges to have at least one dose of the vaccine by October 7, 2021, and both doses by November 4, 2021.

Vaccine verification will also be required for customers and employees at indoor portions of bars, wineries, breweries, night clubs, and lounges. These establishments are primarily attended by adults and already require patrons to show identification. Public Health will prepare a toolkit to assist businesses in confirming vaccinations and will provide education and support to those establishments requesting assistance. While not required, vaccine verification at indoor portions of restaurants is also recommended.

The modified order can be read here.

An article detailing the modified order can be read here.

What do employers need to do?

Employers should review the modified Health Officer Order here and their current vaccination and verification policies as well as any other applicable policies and procedures to stay in compliance with the new law by both dates of October 7, 2021 for at least one dose and November 4, 2021 for both doses.

September 2021 Federal HR Updates

U.S Department of Labor Extends Joint Employer Recission Rule

Update Applicable to:

All employers.

What happened?

On September 20, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced the extension of the effective date for a rule that would rescind the Joint Employer Rule.

What are the details?

The DOL has announced an extension to the effective date of the rule to rescind the Joint Employer Rule. The rule that would rescind the Joint Employer Rule now has the effective date of October 5, 2021. This was previously effective September 28, 2021.

The information on the rule can he read here.

An article detailing the extension can be read here.

What do employers need to do?

Employers should review the rule to make any adjustments to their joint employment policies that are applicable to the extension of the rule.

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U.S. Department of Labor Issues Proposed Rule on Federal Contractor Wages

Update Applicable to:

All employers who use federal contracts.

What happened?

On July 22, 2021, the Federal Department of Labor (DOL) issued a Proposed Rule to increase the minimum wage for federal contractors.

What are the details?

The Proposed Rule, effective January 30, 2022, will raise the hourly minimum wage paid by those contractors to workers performing work on or in connection with covered federal contracts to $15.00 per hour. Additionally, from January 1, 2023 and annually thereafter, it will raise by an amount determined by the Secretary of Labor. The Executive order directs the Secretary to issue regulations by November 24, 2021, consistent with applicable law, to implement the order’s requirements.

The Proposed Rule can be read here.

The Executive order can be read here.

Articles on the order can be read here and here.

What do employers need to do?

Employers should review the Proposed Rule and their current policies and processes for federal contracts and payroll to prepare for the proposed wage increase for federal workers starting January 30, 2022.

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President Biden Enacts Federal Employee Vaccination Executive Order and COVID-19 Safety Protocols

Update Applicable to:

All employers with federal employees or who are federal contractors or subcontractors.

What happened?

On September 9, 2021, President Biden signed Executive orders in his administration’s Plan to Stop the Delta Variant and Boost COVID-19 Vaccinations.

What are the details?

The first Executive order, Executive Order on Requiring Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccination for Federal Employees, requires Federal Executive Branch employees to be fully vaccinated, except in limited circumstances where an employee is legally entitled to a reasonable accommodation. Agencies must work expeditiously so that their employees are fully vaccinated as quickly as possible and by no later than November 22, 2021.

The second Executive order, Executive Order on Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors, directs the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council to create a new contract clause that will be inserted into federal contracts. The new clause will require contractors and subcontractors, for the length of the contract, to comply with all guidance published by the Task Force for contractor and subcontractor workplace locations.

The guidance will be developed by the Task Force by September 24, 2021. Federal contractors and subcontractors will be contractually required to comply with the new COVID-19 protocols that are being developed by the Task Force on or before September 24, 2021. Starting October 15, 2021, the contract clause shall apply to:

  • all new contracts or contract-like instruments;
  • new solicitation for contracts;
  • new extensions or renewals of contracts; and
  • the exercise of options for existing contracts.

The following types of contracts are included in the scope of the Federal Contractor Executive order:

  • procurement contracts for services, construction, or leasehold interests in real property;
  • contracts for services covered by the Service Contract Act;
  • contracts for concessions (including concessions contracts otherwise excluded by the U.S. Department of Labor regulations); or
  • contracts entered into with the federal government in connection with federal property or lands and related to offering services for federal employees, dependents, or the general public.

The Executive orders can be read here and here.

Articles on the Executive orders can be read here, here, and here.

What do employers need to do?

Employers should review the Executive orders here and here along with the safety protocols listed in the orders and the guidance that will be released by the Task Force to prepare and update their hiring, vaccination and other applicable policies and procedures to stay in compliance.

Workload Management: What All Businesses with a Limited Workforce Need

There are approximately 10 million job openings in the U.S.—but only 8.6 million people are looking for work. With the job market being this competitive, it is likely that most employers will be waiting until they find the perfect hire that checks all the boxes, all while making sure workload management is a top priority for the employees you already have.

Although your workforce may be limited, you still need to prepare your employees for success by providing them with the tools, resources, and expertise they need. To help you help your employees, we have a few recommendations to keep your workforce on track:

  1. Make sure your employees aren’t getting burnt out.
  2. Cross-train your employees.
  3. Start using time management software.
  4. Eliminate multitasking.
  5. Use an online project management platform.

No One is Safe from Burnout

Believe it or not, burnout can have a powerfully negative impact on your business.

A study conducted by Gallup of approximately 7,500 full-time employees concluded that 23% of employees reported feeling burned out at work very often or always. In contrast, an additional 44% reported feeling burned out sometimes. Combined, that’s 67% of employees reporting different levels of burnout.

The more burnt out an employee is, the more likely they will be distracted at work or become unmotivated—leaving important work unfinished.

To help offset the effects of burnout, consider using an employee evaluation form to check up on your employees, their progress, and their burnout level.

The More They Know, the Better They’ll Be

Just because some of your employees’ workloads are a bit overbearing, doesn’t mean the majority of the staff shares this sentiment. The employees who have manageable workloads need to have a general knowledge of how to complete a colleague’s tasks—if not, projects and assignment may be prolonged.

An effective way to manage workloads is to rework assigned projects and responsibilities to distribute work more evenly across the team. This works best when employees are cross-trained in various areas and are knowledgeable on all used software systems within the department.

Yes, this may take up some more time during the onboard process. Yes, it may cost a bit more to train an employee in different areas. But it’s an investment that may prove its value down the road.

Too Much to Do, Not Enough Time

Workload management goes hand-in-hand with time management. In order to help your employees, manage their time without fault, consider providing them with an intuitive time management software platform that can track their time in/out, PTO, and sick leave.

While you don’t want to make it seem like “big brother” is watching, it can be a very hands-on way to ensure your employees are staying on track with their timing and completing their assignments in the most efficient way possible.

Multitasking isn’t Always the Most Efficient

Multitasking is not the most efficient way to get a lot done, especially when promoting better workload management practices. According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, multitasking leads to as much as a 40% drop in productivity.

It is much easier to focus on one task at a time—uninterrupted.

Prioritizing tasks and projects can have a great impact on the daily success of your employees. Employees may not innately know which projects are more important than others. In one-on-one or team meetings, leaders should be diving into top projects and goals for each week, highlighting which tasks or projects require a sense of urgency, and discuss next steps for incoming projects with competing priorities or completion dates.

Simple conversations can have a huge impact on individual and team productivity, along with making sure everyone is on the same page about where the team is at in relation to weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual goals.

Seek Help from a Project Management Platform

Project management tools are readily available and easily accessible, which will result in an incredible impact on your workload management efforts. Whether it’s an app that all of your employees can use to collaborate or a simple scheduling resource, it’ll be sure to help keep you organized while you’re keeping your employees organized.

Intimidated by new technology? Don’t worry. Project management platforms provide a number of tutorials to keep you on track, informed, and educated. Operating with a limited workforce can be a tough situation to deal with. Fortunately, there are a number of resources you can use to help get you through these challenges.

September 2021 Oregon HR Legal Updates

Oregon’s Vaccination Rule for Healthcare Workers is Updated

Update Applicable to:

Employers with healthcare providers and staff in Oregon.

What happened?

On August 25, 2021, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) changed the temporary rule for healthcare worker vaccinations.

What are the details?

The rule changes, effective immediately and through January 31, 2022, remove the periodic testing requirement entirely and now require full vaccination against COVID-19 for any healthcare workers in healthcare settings, or for healthcare workers to provide their employer with documentation of a medical or religious exception on or before October 18, 2021.

By October 18, 2021, employers of healthcare providers and healthcare staff must have documentation of their employees’ full vaccination. Employers must keep the documentation of vaccination or medical/religious exceptions for at least two years and provide them to OHA upon request. After October 18, healthcare providers and healthcare staff who are not fully compliant will not be able to “work, learn, study, assist, observe, or volunteer in a healthcare setting.” Employers may also not employ, contract with, or accept the volunteer services of healthcare providers or healthcare staff persons who are not fully compliant.

The rule change can be read here.

An article on the rule change can be read here.

What do employers need to do?

Employers should review the changes brought to the vaccination rule by the OHA and review their vaccination plans and policies to make any applicable adjustments to stay in compliance.