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The traditional workplace of physical offices and desks has changed. The new normal we are all experiencing is the remote workplace. While some are adjusting to this change without any growing pains, some may find it difficult to transition. Follow these tips to help manage your time in this new space.

SET UP A PHYSICAL WORKSPACE

You don’t need to have a home office with a door and desk to have a workspace in your home. Grab a space at your kitchen table or a card table in a corner or even a lap desk on your couch. Make this dedicated workspace the place you do all your work. Doing so creates a familiar location where your brain knows you do your work.

SET A ROUTINE

Just as you had a routine for the normal work week, you need to set up a routine for your home-based work week. This can get tricky because the things that you would normally do to get ready for work like take a shower, get dressed in work attire, eat breakfast, and drive to work may not happen anymore. The folks at Entrepreneur said it best when they said, “Now when you wake up, you’re already at work.”  You have to work at setting up a routine so you can accomplish your work goals from home. Set an alarm and wake up at a scheduled time. Set a time that you begin and end work. Take a lunch break. Make sure you schedule in some breaks throughout the day as well.

SET GOALS

Look at your work and set goals to have it finished. This may look like a list of prioritized tasks so you stay on schedule. Goals can be daily or weekly or task oriented. By setting these goals you set a schedule for yourself and you can follow this outline towards their completion.  Goals also help you eliminate distractions like the TV being on, looking at your phone, or surfing social media by requiring you stay focused on work to achieve them.

SET UP CONNECTION TIME

A remote workplace does not mean an isolated life. Work to stay connected with your co-workers in creative ways. Have a parking lot happy hour in your cars or in camp chairs to reconnect with your office mates at socially distant lengths. Office Zoom calls allow you to see familiar faces all at once. When you stay emotionally connected with your co-workers, you create a culture of support in your office and that’s something we all need!

During this uncertain time in all of our lives, there are tools to help us. Keeping up with work tasks and staying connected to others helps provide the stability that we all crave in this moment. Make sure you keep these tools handy!

Webinar Thursday, May 14th, 11:00 AM PDT: Reopening the Workplace after COVID-19

Advanced Estate & Insurance Services, Inc. (AEIS, Inc.) is excited to introduce Employment and Labor Lawyer Karin Cogbill from Hopkins & Carley as our third speaker in our COVID-19 webinar series.

For more information on our speaker, Karin Cogbill, please click here.

Please join us while Karin discusses key considerations for reopening the workplace. Topics will include:

  • Accommodating employees with medical conditions/restrictions
  • How to manage an employee who does not want to return to work
  • Modifications to the physical workspace
  • Provisions of PPE
  • Overview of additional sick leave requirements in light of COVID-19

Additional Resources:

For many of us, the experience of working entirely from home is a new one. It has required us to rethink the way we work and function as a team. Many of the routines, patterns, practices, and processes we have created over time are no longer effective, and we’ve had to institute new means of collaborating, getting our work done, and elevating the people around us.

With all these changes, there’s bound to be confusion and concern among employees about what’s expected of them. Fortunately, leaders can do a lot to sooth these fears and provide clarity. Below are a few practices I recommend.

Deliberately model what you expect to see
For many employees, working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic has meant navigating a new work environment with new demands, distractions, and interruptions – each of which brings additional stress and frustration. In these circumstances, employees need guidance on where the company can be flexible (e.g., work hours or pace) and where they need to toe the line (e.g., company values).

It’s important to communicate your expectations, whether verbally or in writing, but the most effective strategy is simply to show employees what you expect. Images are powerful, and right now they have the power to clarify and reassure. It’s one thing, for example, for an employee to hear from their manager that it’s okay for them to take a moment here and there to tend to a child’s needs; it’s quite another for an employee to witness their manager tending to their own child’s needs. The former instructs; the latter makes the lesson real. In my own practice, I put 2-3 breaks with my family each day on my public calendar, so employees understand that taking a few minutes out of the day to care for your family is not only accepted but encouraged. Showing rather than simply telling also emphasizes the shared experience: We’re all in this together.

Share your own challenges and creative solutions
Employees won’t see most work-from-home challenges that their leaders face on a day-to-day basis, but knowing their leaders are in the same boat can be both comforting and confidence-building. Share with your team the challenges or emotions you’re working through, and any personal learnings you’ve had about ways to manage this crisis. Your employees don’t necessarily have to do things the same way you do — you’ll get better engagement, focus, and commitment by trusting them to find their own strategies. The more important thing is to communicate that they can be open with their challenges, and that those challenges are legitimate and there’s hope for the future.

Reach out socially and encourage employees to do the same
I’ve encouraged the teams here at ThinkHR and Mammoth to schedule regular, optional social time together. Midmorning coffee hours and late afternoon happy hours have been popular. We also recently celebrated our families with a virtual “Bring Your Kids to Work Day” bingo game. I hosted, and we were thrilled to see 50 kids join the call.

Employees may be hesitant to start or participate in virtual social events, especially during work hours, if they don’t feel the activities have their leader’s support. You can set an example here not only by giving the green light to occasional fun occasions, but also by participating in them. I try to join one virtual team happy hour each week, and I’m confident I get as much or more out of it as our employees.

I also recommend regularly asking your team members on an individual, unplanned basis how they’re doing and what they may need. Encourage them to do the same with their colleagues. We don’t have the benefit of spontaneous office encounters to strike up conversations and check in with each other. We all have to be more deliberate about personal interactions. As elsewhere, you can set an example here.

By Nathan Christensen

Originally posted on thinkhr.com

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on everyone’s mental health. People have experienced financial hardship, additional challenges with childcare and school cancellations, job loss, reduced hours, sickness, and grief. The future is uncertain, and the present is extra stressful. And to make matters worse, many of the networks and practices that people use to support their mental health are currently unavailable due to social distancing.

In this environment, where people are increasingly anxious and may be socially isolated, it’s even more important that managers support the mental health of their team members — both those who are coming into the workplace and those working from home. High stress can quickly destroy trust, inhibit empathy, and break down teams — each of which makes it more difficult for people to do their jobs. Fortunately, employers can provide some support. Here are some things employers can do to help employees manage stress and tend to their mental health:

When possible, give employees a little extra time to slow down and rest
Employees may need a moment to breathe or a day to regain their peace of mind, and they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for time to take care of themselves. The ability to occasionally function at a medium (or even slow) pace should be built into performance expectations so that employees can avoid burnout or breakdown.

Offer PTO, mental health benefits, and flexible schedules if appropriate
In some cases, employees who want to get the mental health care they need can’t afford it. Losing pay from a missed work shift might be too great a hardship, and effective treatments might be financially out of reach. These financial hindrances can exacerbate conditions like anxiety and depression. In other cases, employees can afford the time off and the treatments, but they can’t make regular appointments work with their schedules. If you can offer paid time off, health insurance benefits, or flexible schedules, these can help employees get the care they need.

Offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
An EAP gives employees access to expert, confidential assistance for substance abuse issues, relationship troubles, financial problems, and mental health conditions. These services are offered through an outside provider that connects employees with the appropriate resources and professionals. These programs enable you to provide professional assistance to employees while allowing them confidentiality at work. EAPs are also inexpensive, costing between just 75 cents and 2 dollars per employee per month.

Make reasonable accommodations when possible
If an employee informs you that they have anxiety, depression, or another mental health condition, and they request an accommodation, you should begin the interactive process to determine what reasonable accommodation(s) you can provide in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA applies when an employer has 15 or more employees, but many states have similar laws that require employers to make accommodations at an even lower employee count. You can learn more about the ADA on the HR Support Center.

Create digital spaces for friendships to grow
Loneliness in the workplace can be a serious issue, with significant negative effects on both employees and the workplace. Right now, with many employees working from home, it’s harder to spot signs of it. Employers can facilitate friendships and connections between employees by setting up virtual chat programs and video conferencing apps.

Employees also need to be reassured that it’s fine for them to take a little time during the workday to reach out to others about non-work matters and participate in virtual games and other fun group activities. Managers can set the tone by participating in fun chats and activities and encouraging employees to join in. Helping employees foster friendships is not only the right thing to do, it can also reduce turnover and increase engagement.

Promote good mental (and physical) health in the workplace
Healthy habits are important for everyone to practice. Consider setting time aside during the week or month for employees to participate in activities like yoga, meditation, and mindfulness that develop and strengthen these habits. If you aren’t familiar with these practices, solicit the help of your employees. One or more of them may know a lot about these activities and be able to assist you in setting up a workplace program or modifying a program for employees currently working from home.

Make use of additional resources
During this time, employees might benefit from this three-page list of several virtual recovery resources from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and this COVID-19 resource and information guide from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

By Kyle Cupp
Originally posted on thinkhr.com

The day where people return to normal routines around work doesn’t seem as far off today as it did just a few weeks ago. As politicians itching to “re-open” the world look at ways to revive normalcy, companies now have to do the same as they consider operational needs and employee safety.

As the work environment shifts back toward what it was, what HR teams will find is that a new normal must now exist. Procedures that were once an afterthought, such as how the break room was cleaned, are now top of mind for everyone from entry level employees to the C-suite. Having the trust of your employees that the workplace is safe for them to return to is paramount to productivity.

And it isn’t just during a period of time when the virus subsides temporarily. The lasting impact of the coronavirus pandemic is that even after a vaccine is developed, it will alter the way people view the cleanliness of public spaces and the amenities at their disposal for things such as washing their hands or cleansing shared surfaces, be it a meeting room table or door handles.

There is a lot more to consider than simply reassuring everyone that the facilities are clean and that the company is doing the best it can to assure everyone’s health. There are cultural aspects of day-to-day business to address as well as implications for the organization’s reputation to consider. As an article from the Society for Human Resource Management notes, job candidates interviewed in the future will ask how the company handled this situation and “about the organization’s business continuity plans, pandemic-specific plans and other coronavirus-oriented practices.”

HR departments have a significant challenge ahead, but not one they should shy away from or feel overwhelmed by.

“I think this is the beginning of the most exciting period we’ve ever been part of,” Eric Torigian, Vice President and Assistant General Manager of Global HR for Akebono Brake Corporation USA told us on a recent episode of the HR Exchange Network podcast. “People are going to figure out how to pour their passion into it. The world has been getting ready for this for a while. We’ve been moving to an online world, a gig economy, toward remote work groups. In the next 20 or 30 years, this world is going to change a lot and people are going to come back to this time and ask ‘who were the people that made the difference?’ I think they’re going to look at HR people and say they’re the ones who led us through this.”

Leadership Considerations

To help you manage current and future employee expectations, here are 5 tips for managing your teams’ return to the workplace.

  1. Get the Timing Right

The government telling everyone to get back to work isn’t likely to inspire faith in a lot of people given how things have been handled so far and the fact that social distancing has been as effective as it has. There are many people who would hesitate to return to a normal working environment in the near future and rushing them back early will likely undermine any good will accrued in facilitating remote work and establishing improved engagement practices during this period.

The first thing to consider is the situation in your local area. The number of new cases in the city and state will drive perception among your employees. Even if numbers are on the decline, a return may be seen as jumping the gun, particularly for large companies with bigger personnel footprints.

Once you decide to put things in motion, spend time discussing team needs with managers to determine which teams can remain remote and which ones are required to return. Then, assemble your operations staff and develop a plan to create safer physical spaces.

Finally, engage with your employees to find out how they’re feeling about a possible return to the office through surveys and town halls. Doing so and incorporating their concerns into your strategy will go a long way toward building the type of trust necessary to maintain a good reputation with your employees.

  1. Facilitate Social Distancing

Social distancing isn’t going anywhere any time soon. This means restaurants will likely have to re-think seating arrangements, cleanliness practices and personal protective equipment and testing for staff before they can re-open. That may mean limiting the scale of business and changing the way people flow through the every part of the building.

Offices will have to consider whether desks spaces are separated enough to comply with social distancing standards and retail operations will need to continue limiting the flow of people into their stores for the time being.

How companies react and commit to this new normal is going to determine how well they maintain morale and what the reaction of returning workers to physical locations will be. For new hires, seeing a commitment to social distancing will reassure them that they’ve joined an organization which has their health and wellbeing top of mind.

  1. Culture of Cleanliness

There is always a lot of talk about culture in HR, and in the wake of this pandemic, that is likely going to have to change as well. But as Torigian noted in our discussion, teaching people how to be responsible around each other and avoid the spread of the virus is a challenge for both organizations and society as a whole.

“That’s not just something that’s good for business, it’s something that is going to be required in the new world,” Torigian said. “We’ll learn how to do it and we’ll get really good at it.”

This means changing social norms. For example, banning handshakes in favor of greeting techniques that respect personal space and safety.

Beyond that, HR teams have to consider what mechanisms are in place to ensure cleanliness, such as hand-washing stations and requirements for different roles. Which employees require personal protective equipment, for example, is a key consideration.

Additionally, using company resources to ensure safety will help employees feel the organization is doing everything in its power to prioritize their health and therefore, will be more dedicated to doing their part. Care packages with cleansing wipes, hand sanitizer, gloves, tissues and other items they can use to stay safe is one small act that could go a long way toward inspiring confidence.

  1. Career Transitions

Businesses are bound to operate differently from here on out and with that comes some new realities. People who have traditionally been in office may no longer be required to be there and some, unfortunately, will not be required at all. That, however, does not mean those people must be cut loose.

Now is an ideal time for companies to engage in career mapping exercises to better understand the capabilities and interests of their employees. There is already talk of mass efforts by some in government to retrain much of the workforce for positions that can be done remotely and for careers that offer different prospects going forward than what they’ve experienced in the past, but that is something that may be better led by HR professionals than government programs.

  1. Invest in Employee Wellness

It may seem an invasion of privacy at first, but given the implications for your staff as a whole, monitoring on-site employees’ health and wellness is a matter of public safety. Some public health experts say that office buildings and public spaces such as bars and restaurants cannot be re-opened until there are testing methods that can be done quickly and accurately to determine if someone is carrying the virus.

We’re likely a ways off from that being a possibility for many businesses, but others are already putting measures in place to conduct temperature checks at entrances and getting creative as they find solutions for social distancing buzzers and one way routes through shared spaces so that people don’t cross paths or come face-to-face with one another.

As an article from Bloomberg noted recently: “The way we work, shop, travel and eat in 2020 – and probably beyond – is being plotted out in boardrooms around the world.”

Meanwhile, office spaces may have to be redesigned, moving away from the open floor plans that have been trending for several years and toward cubicles with high walls so that employees have more isolated spaces.

To get ahead of these issues, now is the time for organizations to begin discussing what their path forward is and consider how much risk they are willing to take on in bringing employees back to work. What improvements need to be made to sanitation procedures, ventilation systems and the structure of the workplace are all things that need to be evaluated.

By HR Exchange Network Editorial Team

Originally posted on hrexchangenetwork.com

In the San Francisco Bay Area and around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has made going out in public a risky activity. Even routine doctor’s appointments have become difficult because you may be afraid of exposing yourself or your loved ones to germ-filled waiting rooms and doctor’s offices. If you are looking for a safer way to visit a doctor, then you should look into telemedicine.

Telemedicine, also known as virtual care and telehealth, is a fast, convenient, and affordable way to check-in with a doctor about your symptoms for non-emergency conditions. With telemedicine, there is no need to leave your home.

After you find a program that is covered by your insurance plan, you can call or video chat via phone, website, or app with a certified physician. A telemedicine doctor can even order tests or prescriptions for you. If the physician is unable to help you via virtual care, she can point you in the right direction for further treatment.

You may even be able to schedule a phone or video call with your current general practitioner or specialist. Be sure to call your doctor’s office and insurance company to see if your physician is offering covered telemedicine services. But in the case of an emergency or life-threatening illness, always seek immediate medical attention at an emergency room.

Telemedicine programs and services may vary depending on your health insurance carrier and plan. Access to telemedicine could even be a part of your hidden benefits in your health insurance plan. Below you can find California telemedicine services by various insurance companies. (Please note that this list may vary by state, is subject to change, and that you should always confirm with your broker and health insurance carrier that you are covered under your specific plan before booking an appointment.)

 

This list is by no means exhaustive so make sure to find out with your broker what telemedicine and telehealth options you may have under your plan.

In order to use many of these services, you have to create an account and log in with your health insurance carrier. You can find member registration links here.

Being sick is hard enough as it is, especially when you want to minimize further exposure to COVID-19. Telemedicine is another great option at your disposal to stay safe and to have your questions answered in a quick and convenient fashion.

We encourage you to call us today to make sure that you and your employees are covered in a plan. For more information on telemedicine services, email Dillon Castro at Dillon@aeisadvisors.com or call us at 650-348-6234.

 

Disclaimer: Any compliance or medical-related information in this blog is intended to be informational and does not constitute legal or medical advice regarding any specific situation. Should you require further compliance assistance or legal advice, please consult a licensed attorney. Should you require medical treatment, please contact a licensed medical physician. You should familiarize yourself with your available health insurance benefits before you may need them. In case of an emergency seek immediate medical attention and call 911.

By Wyatt Bland

The cannabidiol (CBD) market in the United States has taken off like a rocket. Some projections have this market reaching $16 billion by 2025. After years of singing its praises for treating, albeit illegally, a myriad of health issues, supporters of cannabis have seen an uptick of mainstream support in the last 2 years with the legalization of this herb in many states. The exact truth about its benefits is still under review. Let’s dive a little deeper into this trending topic.

HISTORY & STATISTICS

The first use of cannabis can be traced back as far as 500 BC as a Chinese pharmacopeia. Made from the hemp plant, CBD does not produce the hallucinogenic aftereffects of its popular cousin, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) derived from the same plant. In fact, CBD must contain less than 0.3% THC. In 2018, President Trump signed the Farm Bill which allowed farmers to legally grow hemp. Since this victory, the CBD market has definitely been amped up and its use has become so commonplace in our society that you can find a CBD store (or two or ten) in every city.

  • More than 60% of users claim CBD is being used to treat their anxiety.
  • Other widespread uses for CBD are for depression, sleep disorders, and PTSD.
  • In 2018, the FDA approved the first CBD product, called Epidiolex, to treat those with rare seizure disorders Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.

FACTS

Users of CBD speak to its benefits in treating anxiety issues. With its widespread availability, consumers can find it in lotions, baked goods, and even makeup.  Because of this prevalence in the marketplace, the FDA and FTC are quick to squash claims that are unfounded in trials. Here are the facts:

  • CBD can come in varying methods of delivery.
    • Tinctures: concentrated herbal extracts suspended in alcohol or vinegar
    • Ointments
    • Vaping oils
    • Oil: extracts from seeds or flowers or stems of hemp put in a base oil to aid absorption
  • The exact amount that can safely be used in a day is unknown.
  • Side-effects include: drowsiness, digestive issues such as diarrhea, and irritability

FICTION

There is only one FDA approved use of CBD and that is for rare cases of epilepsy. So, when you see health claims for other than that use, they can be false.

  • NOT proven to be a treatment for cancer
  • NOT without consequences. Serious side-effects can cause serious damage to your health.
  • NOT proven to battle COVID-19.

The use of CBD definitely has its supporters and detractors. When making a decision about its use, it is helpful to weigh the pros and cons and seek the truth. One thing is for sure—CBD is a swiftly growing market with high demand.

As companies frantically try to adapt to the coronavirus pandemic, many HR teams find themselves with an alarmingly jam-packed workload. Employee interviews need to be postponed, telework policies implemented or adjusted, health and wellness protocols changed. And when everyone is in crisis mode, it’s easy to let a simple, but crucial, aspect of the job fall to the wayside: being there for your employees.

While setting up work-from-home, sorting out paychecks and PTO, and all the other ins and outs of your company’s crisis plan does help your workers, what many people need right now is empathy, compassion and someone to talk to. This is a stressful and downright scary time for many, and as human resources professionals it’s our job to be there for our coworkers when they need that support.

Here are a few things you can do (remotely) to help emotionally support your employees as we withstand the global coronavirus pandemic.

1. Set Up Regular Video Check Ins

With a large portion of the American workforce practicing social distancing, quarantining, and working from home, it’s easy for employees to feel isolated and disconnected. While many workers will get a chance to get some face time with their team members over video conferences and meetings, it’s important they also get time to simply chat, catch up, and be there for each other—just as they would in the office. Consider setting up daily or biweekly video conferences, either one-on-ones or small groups, that allow workers to hang out and converse about non-work-related topics.

2. Be Considerate Of Each Individual Work Environment 

While it’s certainly possible to be just as productive working from home as you would be in the office, it’s important to keep in mind that everyone’s new work environment is going to be different, and potentially present new challenges. Workers may be sharing cramped office spaces with a spouse or roommate, and employees with children who are home from school may have to juggle parental duties in between their typical responsibilities. It’s important to be understanding and compassionate as both employees and employers adjust to these new circumstances, and not to hold the growing pains of mass teleworking against them.

3. Lead With Care

Above all, openly let your employees know that you are a resource for them in these turbulent times. By leading with compassion, care, and empathy above all else, you can help keep office morale high and enable employees to feel safe and secure, despite the global pandemic.

By Bill Olson
Originally posted on ubabenefits.com

With so many people working from home or not being able to access their office spaces, the carriers are working to be able to assist their policy holders with ways to continue administering their plans with as little disruption as possible. For your convenience, we have included the links to the various carriers pages below.

Employer Registration

Many of the carriers have the ability to provide billing statements online, receive payments online and enroll or terminate employees via their online platforms. Be sure to take advantage of this access by registering for their employer service portals, if you have not done so already.

Member Resources

Your employees can also have access to their health information via many carrier online sites once they register. Many medical carriers offer virtual visits, options to email physicians, and the ability to get answers to frequently asked questions, all through their member portals. We have included the registration links below as well as links to mobile apps that many of the carriers provide. Please share this information with your employees. Keeping social distance is especially important in healthcare facilities and these features allow members to receive care without having to go out into the spaces where they could be most at risk for transmission of COVID-19.

Member Registration Links

Mobile Apps for Members’ Smart Phones

Please contact your AEIS Personal Account Manager if you have any questions. We are here to support both you and your employees during this critical time.

Disclaimer: Any information related to compliance or other subject matters in this email, including any attachments, is intended to be informational and does not constitute legal advice regarding any specific situation. The content of this email is based on the most up-to-date information that was available on the date it was sent and could be subject to change. Should you require further assistance or legal advice, please consult a licensed attorney.

So much has happened in the last few days and weeks that I feel like months have passed. Social distancing is now on everyone’s lips. And the goal is noble: flatten “the curve” and prevent more people from getting sick from the Coronavirus.

The impact, though, is being felt in so many ways by so many people: Schools are closed and parents need to stay home to take care of their children and can’t work. Restaurants, bars and local retail shops are shuttered, and all the people who own those businesses or work there or supply them are in financial peril as well. Many, many people are not only worried about getting sick, but worried about whether they will have a job to return to and if they can pay their bills in the meantime.

But I want to shine a light on a financial lifeline—a solution—you may have forgotten about. Permanent life insurance. Many people buy it for its lifetime protection. It’s often a “set it and forget it” solution. But the beauty of this financial tool is what it does while you aren’t paying attention to it: It accumulates cash value. Money—money that you can tap now to help tide you through this financial uncertainty.*

Mike Jaap owns a successful recycling business. When the last major financial crisis hit, he thought his business was doomed. Fortunately, his financial advisor had helped him put a permanent life insurance policy in place, which he was able to tap to see him through that tough financial time and keep his staff employed. In essence, his life insurance saved his business. You can watch his story here.

If you currently have a permanent life insurance policy (not a term policy—click here to understand the difference), contact your insurance agent or financial advisor and talk through how you can tap into that money. You can often access it in days. Or you can contact your insurance company directly as well.

You may not remember the conversation you had with your insurance agent or advisor when they talked you through the benefits purchasing permanent life insurance. But I can tell you with 100% certainty that one of the reasons they wanted you to have this coverage is so that right now, in a time like this, you could access that money—that cash value—to be OK financially. They did their job well then, and you can enjoy the benefit of your good financial decision now.

[*Keep in mind that if you withdraw or borrowing funds from your policy, it will reduce its cash value and death benefit if not repaid.]

 

By Faisa Stafford

Originally posted on lifehappens.org

Thank you for putting the Plan Document together for us!  It is a big accomplishment knowing that we are in compliance!   Once again we are grateful and thankful for your continuing support and enjoy the relationship that we share.

- Office Manager, Food Distribution Company

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