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4 Tips to Manage Seasonal Depression in the Workplace

Everyone has heard of seasonal depression, but not everyone knows that it’s a real disorder that affects millions of people year-round. While seasonal depression is how most people refer to it, the clinical name is Season Affective Disorder (SAD).

SAD is defined as an extreme form of common seasonal mood cycles that can be associated with depression. It is so common, in fact, that the National Mental Health Association (NMHA) says it affects 10 million Americans (mostly women in their 20s) every year. While individuals can experience SAD throughout the year, it’s most prevalent during the autumn and winter months. This is because it is attributed to an imbalance of two chemicals in the brain (melatonin and serotonin) due to less sunlight being available.

Although SAD can be viewed as more of a societal phenomenon, it can have a negative impact on your business. Employees experiencing SAD can cost employers $51 billion according to Mental Health America, due to absenteeism from work and lost productivity. This is a statistic that has cause for concern.

Here are a few tips to help you manage season depression in the workplace.

Know the Signs

Similar to employee burnout, there are many symptoms of SAD that aren’t as easily noticed, and some may be unethical to ask an employee about.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the following are considered symptoms of SAD:

  • Depression
  • Hopelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of energy
  • Social withdrawal
  • Oversleeping
  • Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating and processing information

Some of these could be symptoms of other things as well. However, if you consider the time of the year and your employee’s state of wellbeing during other seasons, it isn’t unreasonable to connect these symptoms to SAD.

It is important to keep in mind that you can check in with your employees, but there’s a fine line between trying to be supportive and asking questions that are offensive. For example, you can ask an employee if there is anything you can do to help them improve focus, but you cannot ask an employee if their noticeable change in physical appearance is due to seasonal depression.

Conduct Regular Evaluations

If you are having difficulties spotting the signs of workplace depression, especially in the winter months, consider conducting evaluations with your employees. If this is a method you are comfortable with, be sure to evaluate all employees, not just a few. This way no one is being singled out.

During evaluations, not only will you be able to identify any problems going on, but you’ll also be able to give positive feedback to your employees which will make them feel more appreciated and boost their mood.

It is important that your employees are happy because it has a direct effect on the productivity of your business. According to Good.co, happy employees have 31% higher productivity, 37% higher sales, and 3 times more creativity than unhappy employees.

If you need help conducting evaluations, use an eval template to guide you through the process.

Offer Flexible Work Environments

Although you may want all your employees in the same place, this may not be an effective solution to managing seasonal depression. Allowing employees to work remotely will give them more freedom to choose their location, which gives them the opportunity to be in a comfortable setting where they can be more productive. This includes a workspace with more direct sunlight.

According to Mind’s Workplace Wellbeing Index 2017/18, more than a quarter of employers (26%) do not have exposure to natural daylight in all their workspaces.

If remote work isn’t a possibility, there can still be more autonomy when it comes to the workplace environment. Autonomy is the power to shape your work environment in ways that allow you to perform at your best. This may include changing desks, sitting closer to windows, or even outdoor working spaces.

Autonomy in the workplace could drastically boost the mental well-being of your employees. The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) conducted a study that shows 87% of employees said flexibility in their next job was either important or very important.

Say Thank You

While it may not seem like much, a simple thank you can go a long way. Your employees work hard and they should be recognized for their efforts. If they aren’t, morale can start to decline.

According to HR Daily Advisor, one in five employees feel their company does not do a good job recognizing their hard work and commitment. Not only will it make them happier to be recognized, but it will also help build your company’s reputation and retention rate. If you still need help managing seasonal depression, consider working with a professional employer organization (PEO) like Vensure Employer Services. PEOs are masters of human resources and can provide a wide range of resources like recruiting guides, onboarding checklists, and more to put you on the right path.

February 2022: Planning Ahead and Posting Updates

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
CaliforniaJob Health and SafetyANTICIPATED
CaliforniaOSHAANTICIPATED
ConnecticutPaid Family Medical LeaveANTICIPATED
IllinoisYou Have the Right to be Free from Job Discrimination and
Sexual Harassment
ANTICIPATED
IllinoisEqual PayANTICIPATED
LouisianaEarned Income CreditANTICIPATED
New HampshirePaid Family LeaveANTICIPATED
New JerseyWage TheftANTICIPATED
New JerseyEmployee MisclassificationANTICIPATED
New JerseySafe ActANTICIPATED
New MexicoHealthy Workplaces ActANTICIPATED
New YorkDiscriminationANTICIPATED
New YorkFair EmploymentANTICIPATED
New YorkElectronic MonitoringANTICIPATED
Puerto RicoMinimum WageANTICIPATED
Rhode IslandPay EquityANTICIPATED
Rhode IslandDiscriminationANTICIPATED
February 2022
San Francisco, CaliforniaHealth Care security OrdinanceMANDATORY
New JerseyWage & Hour Law AbstractMANDATORY
New YorkWhistleblower Protection ActMANDATORY
OregonOSHAMANDATORY
OregonFamily Leave ActMANDATORY


The information and resources provided in this communication are not a substitute for experienced legal counsel and does not constitute legal advice or attempt to address the numerous factual issues that inevitably arise in any employment-related dispute. Although this information attempts to cover some major recent developments, it is not all-inclusive, and any recommendations are based upon HR best practices and procedures. We recommend you consult an attorney for legal guidance.

February 2022: New York Department of Health Extends NY HERO Act

Update Applicable to:
All employers in the state of New York

What happened?
In our previous communication, we informed you about the New York HERO Act that was extended from January 15, 2022 to February 15, 2022. This is an update to that article.

What are the details?

On February 15, 2022, the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) extended its designation of COVID-19 once again through March 17, 2022.

This means that employers must continue implementing their respective Disease Exposure Prevention Plan under the HERO Act, including daily health screenings, among other requirements.  However, even with the designation in place, masking is no longer strictly required for most employers after the New York Department of Labor issued a revised model Disease Exposure Prevention Plan under the HERO Act.

On or before March 17, 2022, the NYSDOH Commissioner will review the level of transmission of COVID-19 in the state and determine whether to continue the designation. 

For more information, please see the links below:

New York Department of Health Press Release

NY HERO Act Website

NY HERO Act Disease Exposure Prevention Plan

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What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the links provided above and continue/reinstate their Disease Exposure Prevention Plan under the HERO Act until more updates from the NYSDOH are released.

February 2022: New Jersey Governor Signs Law Requiring a Written Notice for Tracked Company Vehicles

Update Applicable to:
All employers with employees operated vehicles in the state of New Jersey

What happened?
On January 18, 2022, Governor Murphy signed into law Assembly Bill No. 3950 (AB 3950) that will affect businesses that have employee-operated vehicles.

What are the details?
Effective April 18, 2022, employers will be required to provide their employees a written notice before using tracking devices on vehicles operated by employees.

The law defines a “tracking device” as “an electronic or mechanical device which is designed or intended to be used for the sole purpose of tracking the movement of a vehicle, person, or device.” Devices “used for the purpose of documenting employee expense reimbursement” are excluded from the definition of “tracking device.” Notably, the law applies regardless of whether the employee uses a company-owned vehicle or the employee’s personal vehicle.

The New Jersey law expressly states that it does not “supersede regulations governing interstate commerce, including but not limited to, the usage of electronic communications devices as mandated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.”

An employer that knowingly uses a tracking device on an employee-operated vehicle without providing written notice to the employee will be subject to a civil penalty in an amount not to exceed $1,000 for the first violation and not to exceed $2,500 for each subsequent violation.

For more information, please see the links below:

Assembly Bill No. 3950

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What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the links provided above and prepare to draft written notices to provide to all current and new employees once the law is in effect.

February 2022: New Jersey Passes Law Expanding Parking Lot Liability for Employers

Update Applicable to:
All employers who provide or designate parking areas for their employees in the state of New Jersey

What happened?
On January 10, 2022, Governor Murphy signed Bill S771 into law, amending Section 36 of the New Jersey Worker’s Compensation Act and expanding workers’ compensation liability in parking lots.

What are the details?
S771 amends Section 36 of the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act as follows:

”Employment shall also be deemed to commence, if an employer provides or designates a parking area for use by an employee, when an employee arrives at the parking area prior to reporting for work and shall terminate when an employee leaves the parking area at the end of a work period; provided that, if the site of the parking area is separate from the place of employment, an employee shall be deemed to be in the course of employment while the employee travels directly from the parking area to the place of employment prior to reporting for work and while the employee travels directly from the place of employment to the parking area at the end of a work period.”

Prior to this amendment, an injury was only compensable under workers’ compensation if the employer-owned or controlled the parking lot or directed the employee where to park. This amendment expands those principles in two main ways.

First, an employer will be liable if it “provides” a parking area and the injury occurs in that parking area. The term “provides” is somewhat ambiguous and will certainly lead to creative arguments from petitioner and respondent attorneys as to whether an employer provides the parking. For instance, if an employer leases an office that contains access to a parking lot, is that considered providing a parking area? In the past, the analysis would focus on whether the employer had control over that parking lot. With this amendment, petitioner attorneys will certainly argue that when an employer provides office space with a parking area, it is also providing the parking area. On the contrary, respondent attorneys will argue that an employer can only provide what it owns and/or controls and, if it does neither, it does not provide the parking area.

Second, the amendment makes clear that if an employee parks at an offsite parking area provided by the employer and is injured while traveling directly from that area to the place of employment, that injury will be compensable. A prior New Jersey Supreme Court decision, Hersch v. County of Morris, 217 N.J. 236 (2014), found that an employee injured on a public street while traveling from offsite parking provided by the employer to the worksite was not compensable. This amendment essentially overturns that decision.

This law takes effect immediately.

For more information, please see the links below:

Bill S771

New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Law

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What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the links provided above, ensure their employees’ safety in the designated parking areas, and be aware that an employee injured while traveling to and from the designated parking area and the place of employment must and will be compensated for the injury.

February 2022: California Department of Industrial Labor Released a Notice for the Supplemental Paid Sick Leave and FAQs

Update Applicable to:
All employers with more than 25 employees in the state of California

What happened?
This is an update to our previous communication sent out on February 14, 2022.

What are the details?
The Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) has published the model notice for the recently revived COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave (SPSL). 

These model notices and other related COVID-19 materials are also available on the DIR’s website.

The model notices must be posted in a “conspicuous place” in the workplace and should generally be posted in the same location at which other required workplace notices are posted. Covered employers may also provide the notice electronically or by mail to remote workers. The notices should be posted as soon as possible, and definitely not later than the effective date of the law on February 19, 2022.

The Labor Commission also issued the SPSL FAQs which can be found here.

For more information, please see the links below:

COVID-19 SPSL Model Notice (English)COVID-19 SPSL Model Notice (Spanish)

COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave FAQs

Department of Industrial Relations Article

California Department of Industrial Relations Website

Article

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the links and FAQs provided above and post the appropriate notice in a conspicuous place and provide it to their remote employees electronically or by mail.

February 2022: California Governor Announces Next Phase of State’s COVID-19 Response Plan

Update Applicable to:
All employers in the state of California

What happened?
On February 17, 2022, Governor Newsom unveiled California’s SMARTER Plan, which is the next phase of the state’s pandemic response.

What are the details?
Governor Newsom emphasized that this new phase moves the state away from a crisis mentality to a framework that involves a more intentional, strategic, and informed handling of the pandemic that builds on the knowledge and experience gained over the course of the last two years.

According to Governor Newsom’s office, “SMARTER” stands for:

  • Shots – Vaccines are the most powerful weapon against hospitalization and serious illness.
  • Masks – Properly worn masks with good filtration help slow the spread of COVID-19 or other respiratory viruses.
  • Awareness – We will continue to stay aware of how COVID-19 is spreading, evolving variants, communicate clearly how people should protect themselves, and coordinate our state and local government response.
  • Readiness – COVID-19 isn’t going away and we need to be ready with the tools, resources, and supplies we will need to quickly respond and keep public health and the healthcare system well prepared.
  • Testing – Getting the right type of tests — PCR or antigen — to where they are needed most. Testing will help California minimize the spread of COVID-19.
  • Education – California will continue to work to keep schools open and maintain children’s safety in classrooms for in-person instruction.
  • Rx – Evolving and improving treatments will become increasingly available and critical as a tool to save lives.

While moving into a new phase of addressing COVID-19, the SMARTER Plan also outlines specific steps to anticipate and prepare for the future unknowns. For example, the “S” for “Shots” is not only referencing an individual’s ability to protect themselves by way of the vaccine but includes the state’s capacity to administer “at least 200,000 vaccines per day” on top of existing pharmacy and provider infrastructure. Additionally, while the “M” for “Masks” represents the proper wearing of masks to help slow the spread, it also represents maintaining a “stockpile of 75 million high-quality masks” and the capability to distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) distribution as needed

Under the SMARTER Plan, the state will continue to quickly evaluate the data and best determine how to address future challenges that the virus may bring. 

For more information, please see the links below:

SMARTER Plan

Office of Governor Gavin Newsom Announcement

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What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the links provided above and stay on the lookout for any updates regarding the SMARTER Plan.

Vensure Employer Services will continue to monitor this and send out communications once more news has been received.

February 2022: Federal HR Legal Updates

Congress Passes Amendments to the Federal Arbitration Act

Update Applicable to:
All employers in the United State of America

What happened?
On February 10, 2022, the Senate passed H.R. 4445, an amendment to the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) otherwise known as the “Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021.”

What are the details?
Once it is signed into law by President Biden, employers will be prohibited from including mandatory arbitration clauses in pre-dispute arbitration agreements (i.e., contracts, employee handbooks, or offer letters) that apply to claims of sexual harassment or assault. The proposed bill also bars the inclusion of any provisions waiving an employee’s right to bring sexual harassment or assault claims jointly and/or on a class basis.

Key Takeaways:

  1. The proposed bill applies to claims that arise after it is signed into law. Although the language of the proposed bill is somewhat unclear, the proposed bill goes into effect immediately upon enactment and appears to apply to any claims or disputes of sexual harassment or assault that arise after the bill goes into law. As such, even if an employer entered into a mandatory arbitration agreement with an employee before this bill becomes law, it is unlikely that any claims or disputes relating to sexual harassment or assault that arise after the bill is signed into law will be subject to arbitration.
  2. Employees may still elect to arbitrate sexual harassment and assault claims. Critically, the proposed law provides employees the option to arbitrate such claims if they so desire.
  3. Revisions to arbitration agreements may be necessary. Employers should review any agreements containing arbitration clauses or class action waivers to determine whether the bill, if signed into law, will render such agreements and/or class action waivers unenforceable. Any provisions requiring employees to waive their rights to bring sexual harassment or assault claims may run afoul of the bill.
  4. The proposed law may allow employees to avoid arbitration. As drafted, the proposed bill may create an avenue to avoid arbitration entirely by asserting sexual harassment or assault claims. Although it is not clear whether non-harassment or assault claims included in a lawsuit that also allege sexual harassment or assault would be tried in court or subject to arbitration, there is some concern that plaintiffs’ counsel may include such claims to avoid arbitration and facilitate having an entire dispute heard before a court. These issues will have to be resolved through litigation.
  5. Courts, not arbitrators, will decide challenges. A court, applying federal law, will decide challenges to the validity or enforceability of arbitration agreements covered by H.R. 4445.
  6. The proposed law applies beyond the workplace. While proponents of the bill have been focused on perceived workplace inequity, the bill is not limited to “workplace” sexual harassment and assault. The language affords the same protections to any individual who may be a victim of sexual harassment and assault in non-workplace settings where a mandatory arbitration clause applies.

For more information, please see the links below:

H.R. 4445

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What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the links provided above and should reconsider their arbitration programs and the purposes behind those programs to ensure that their arbitration policies continue to further the company’s objectives and comply with existing law.

Vensure Employer Services will continue to monitor this and send out communications once more news has been received.

The History of Human Resources

Like anything else, human resources has a long history and has evolved drastically since businesses began reaping the benefits of an HR department. The history of human resources dates back just before the twentieth century—many people performed tough work in even tougher conditions.

Due to the working conditions of this time (approximately 1890-1920) the concept of connecting a worker’s well-being and their productivity came to light. This period of industrial betterment brought about new departments called Industrial Welfare and Scientific Management.

At the same time, some European companies like Cadbury in the UK and Jacob in Ireland employed welfare officers to improve working conditions and set up sick pay schemes and subsidized housing.

This was just the beginning—the role of human resources rapidly expanded.

1920s – 1950s

At this point in the history of human resources, there was an increased emphasis on learning and fair compensation—an employee’s value will go up when presented with the opportunity to learn and receive fair compensation.

New Personnel and Manpower Development Departments focused on internal training and working with labor unions to created better compensation packages for employees.

Furthermore, one of the most significant laws for fair labor was passed during this time: The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA). Coming to fruition around the time of the Great Depression, the FLSA mandated minimum wages and other employment laws that were in the interest of employees. Because of the new laws, companies began to develop management teams to handle different areas of business, such as statutory compliance, employee health, and safety.

These management teams would be known as the Human Resources Department.

1960s – 1980s

The focus of HR during the 1960s was largely on compliance issues. The Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963 followed by the Civil Rights Act in 1964. However, compliance wasn’t the only facet of HR that was given attention to.

During this period of history of human resources management, the workforce was introduced to Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory and Deci and Ryan’s Self-Determination Theory—both of which focus on the motivation of employees.

The theories, organizational management, and psychology pushed HR to take a closer look at an employee’s desire for achievement, advancement, and the need for recognition.

1990s – 2010s

Around the turn of the twentieth century, HR began to experience a technology boom, which in turn, played a big role in employee happiness and retention. We saw a shift from personnel management to managing employee engagement and strengthening culture.

There was also an evolution from HR being process-centric to worker-centric.

Due to this shift, the importance of HR moved toward the top of businesses’ necessities list. What was once considered to be an obsolete role is now one of the most dynamic. This time period in the history of human resources is when HR professionals would begin to grow corporate values and act as managers who understand that employees are the only source of the competitive advantage.

Today and the Future

The history of human resources has hardly begun. As businesses continue to grow, the role of HR is going to become even more important.

KPMG’s Head of People and Change in India, Vishalli Dongrie, noted that the next-generation HR function has an essential role to play, replacing traditional ‘best practices and cost-cutting’ approaches with bold new strategies, structures, tools, processes, and metrics.

The need for new tools and process expands past in-house HR teams to service providers like professional employer organizations (PEO). A PEO like Vensure Employer Services can offer any business the resources it needs to thrive like intuitive technology, Fortune 500 benefits packages, and recruiting assistance. A PEO can also extend interactive tools that you can use on a regular basis like evaluation templates, burnout guides, recruiting manuals, and 401(k) guides.

February 2022: Washington Delays Implementation of Long-Term Care Legislation

Update Applicable to:
All employers in the state of Washington

What happened?
On January 27, 2022, Governor Jay Inslee signed House Bills 1732 (HB 1732) and 1733 (HB 1733), which delay implementation and propose several reforms to the Washington Cares Act.

What are the details?
The new bills came after legislative leaders announced an intention to delay premium collections for the Washington Cares Fund in December 2021 and to clarify employer obligations under the Act. The delay will allow legislators more time to address the concerns that led to recent court challenges and a citizens’ initiative with the goal of improving the program.

HB 1732 delays implementation of the Washington Cares Act, including employers’ obligation to deduct premiums from employee pay, until July 1, 2023. The Act requires Washington employers to collect a 0.58 percent payroll tax from all employees, and collections were previously set to begin on January 1, 2022.

Under the new law, any premiums already collected from Washington employees in 2022 are to be refunded within 120 days of being collected.

Under HB 1733, the Employment Security Department will begin accepting and approving applications for voluntary exemptions on January 1, 2023. These exemptions exceed those available under the Act as originally enacted and will allow individuals who already have coverage or who are not likely to receive benefits to permanently opt-out. Importantly, military spouses, employees with nonimmigrant visas, and employees who reside in another state but work in the state of Washington may request an exemption from the premium deductions.

Ogletree Deakins suggests that “ue to the implementation delay, employers currently are not required to collect premiums for the Washington Cares Fund from their Washington employees. For employers that started collecting the payroll tax premiums from their Washington employees on January 1, 2022, HB 1732 requires those employers to refund any collected premiums to the employees.”

The Washington Employment Security Department published instructions for employers. Instructions can be found here.

For more information, please see the links below:

Washington Cares Fund Act (House Bill 1323)

House Bill 1732

House Bill 1733

Governor Inslee’s Long-Term Care Delay Announcement (12/17/2021)

WA Employment Security Department Instructions

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What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the links provided above and should not collect any more premiums for the Washington Cares Fund. It is advised by multiple law firms to begin refunding any collected premiums to the employees within 120 days of the date premiums were collected.