Tips and tricks to help you stress less

We all feel and complain about stress. While stress can be unavoidable, it's important to learn how to deal with stress in healthy ways. Read this blog post from UBA to learn more about stress management.


Stress. We all feel it. We all complain about it. And we probably just accept it as being the price we pay for living in today's hectic world.

While it's true that stress is probably unavoidable – whether it's caused by a traffic jam or a bigger challenge like a job loss or a chronic illness – it's also true that you can learn to deal with stress in a more healthy way. And that's important, because stress can wreak havoc on your health. The longer you're under stress, the worse it is for your physical well-being. Here are some things to try to help you manage stress.

  • One of the first things you should do to manage stress is figure out what it is that stresses you out. Then, reflect on how your own behaviors or attitudes might be contributing to your stress. It might help to keep track of your stressors, how they make you feel, and what you did about them. You might begin to see patterns.
  • Look at your stressors and ask yourself which of them you might be able to do away with. Is there constantly too much on your plate because you can't say no?Do you stay at a job that's eating away at you instead of looking for something new? If you have media overload, can you hit the “off” button?
  • Take care of yourself. Try to stick with a healthy diet, get some exercise, and get enough sleep.
  • Listen to yourself. If you tend to be negative, try to reframe your thoughts to be more positive. For instance, instead of “I'm so stupid! I can't believe I'm over drawn at the bank,” say “I made a mistake. I'll keep better track next time.”
  • Don't try to be perfect. Setting yourself up to meet unrealistic expectations does you no good.

Some stress quick fixes

Dealing with stress as a big-picture life issue is one thing. Making the kinds of changes listed above will take time. But on a day-to-day basis, you can learn to focus on some of life's simple pleasures and give yourself a little time to enjoy them. Some ideas:

  • Take deep breaths in and out. Feel your body start to relax.
  • Get up and walk around—even if it's just moving from one room to another, it'll give you a needed break.
  • Ask for a hug from a friend or loved one when you need it. Or pet a dog or cat. Small moments of connection can help.
  • Listen to some favorite music, sing, or play an instrument.
  • Take a bath. Don't forget the bubbles and soothing essential oils.
  • Spend some time in nature.
  • Consider taking up yoga or meditation.
  • Laugh! Whether you're laughing at a comedian on TV, your cat's antics, or even yourself, laughter is a natural stress-buster.

Do a little experimenting. See what methods work for you. And then practice them. You may be surprised how these strategies can lessen the grip stress has on your life.

Sources:

American Psychological Association. Managing stress for a healthy family. http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/managing-stress.aspx Accessed 6/11/18

American Psychological Association. How stress affects your health. http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress.aspx
Accessed 6/11/18

American Heart Association.Three tips to manage stress. https://healthyforgood.heart.org/be-well/articles/3-tips-to-manage-stress Accessed 6/11/18

SOURCE: Olson, B. (11 June 2019) "Tips and tricks to help you stress less" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://blog.ubabenefits.com/tips-and-tricks-to-help-you-stress-less


Here’s how to get the best ROI on a wellness program

According to the International Labour Organization, Americans work nearly 500 more hours per year than French workers and 260 more hours per year than British workers. Read on to learn how employers can get the best ROI on a wellness program.


U.S. employees are working harder than ever and need more support from their employers as a result.

In fact, according to the International Labour Organization, Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and nearly 500 more hours per year than French workers.

With that growing burden — along with more individuals of all ages recognizing how important their health is — comes an increased need for companies to invest in well-designed health and wellness programs. Rolling out these programs can lead to better employee morale and engagement, a healthier and more inclusive culture and fewer absences due to illness, according to research — all of which are especially important in today’s fast-paced work atmosphere.

In addition, the rise of social media means that businesses are being held accountable by their employees in a way that was not the case for previous generations. According to the British Standards Institution, employees trusting their employers’ commitments is now an increased focus. Health and well-being are becoming a significant part of that workforce trust agenda.

With these points in mind, it’s important to recognize that your organization needs to make and keep commitments to investing in and executing successful health and wellness programs for your workforce. These programs must keep trust momentum going to ensure healthier and happier workers, and it is proven that happier and healthier workers are more productive. This can lead to overall company success.

For example, a recent employee wellness study from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce showed that effective wellness programs have good return on investment of $1.50 to $3.00 per wellness dollar spent over a two to nine year timeframe. Another study from the Australian-based Black Dog Institute concluded that thriving and healthy workforces typically perform more than two times above average, compared with organizations that do not invest at all in their employees’ health and well-being.

BSI recommends a three-pronged approach for successfully investing in your employees’ health and wellness. First, it’s important to define your health and well-being initiative and what it means for your company. While there are many definitions, BSI recommends considering one that recognizes the need to manage workplace occupational health and safety, in addition to the promotion and support of managing healthy behavior, such as stress management, work-life balance and an ever-changing work environment.

Next, employers should define what their health and wellness program for workers should include. In particular, BSI suggests a good model to follow: the U.S. federal government’s recommended approach for workplace health and well-being programs. Created by the Center for Disease Control’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the program is called Total Worker Health.

TWH is a holistic approach to occupational health and safety and worker well-being. It recognizes that work has an important function in the social determinants for health and is defined as “policies, programs, and practices that integrate protection from work-related safety and health hazards with promotion of injury and illness prevention efforts to advance worker well-being.”

However, this program also goes much further than other wellness programs and reflects the nature and challenges of the changing workplace, from new forms of employment to new technologies. It also reflects that non-work-related illness and stress can be adversely impacted by work, can have health and safety implications within the workplace, and the way an organization manages absence and rehabilitation policies can have hugely positive or negative impacts on the individual and the business.

Once you know what health and well-being means to your business and what kind of program your organization wants to execute, it’s time to move forward. For step three, BSI recommends companies review and implement ISO 45001, the new global management system standard on occupational health and safety. This standard has physical, mental and cognitive well-being and health at its core, while continuing to drive high safety standards for companies.

ISO 45001 also recognizes that the most successful and productive organizations take a holistic approach and therefore, good occupational health and safety management can be integrated with employee well-being initiatives. Related to this, holistic employee wellness programs can be used as a recruitment tool. Evidence from WhenIWork.com suggests that employees want their employers to take an active role in their health, so if you can show potential employees that you are invested in their well-being, you will gain an advantage over companies offering only bare-bones benefits.

As a global standard, ISO 45001 also enables a consistent worldwide approach. With its focus on culture and employee participation, it also provides businesses a best practice model for developing an effective health and well-being program. And employee participation will happen. For example, experts from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health recently analyzed surveys to determine the overall perceptions of wellness programs from employee and employer perspectives. Its data analysis revealed that nearly 60% of employees think employers should attempt to improve the health of their workers.

Overall, seeking accredited certification of the standard not only builds trust within the organization, but also provides external assurance to customers, shareholders and the wider community. Investing in employee health and wellness programs increases healthy behavior and curbs the risk of lifestyle-related disease, leading to happier workers, more productivity and overall company success.

SOURCE: Field, K. (4 June 2019) "Here’s how to get the best ROI on a wellness program: (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/how-to-get-the-best-roi-for-your-wellness-program


Why employers can’t hit snooze on tired employees

Did you know: More than a third of American adults are not getting the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Research shows that a lack of sleep can negatively impact performance and mental and physical health. Continue reading to learn more.


It’s time for a wake-up call. We’ve all heard the familiar phrases — sleep when you’re dead or burn the midnight oil from high-powered CEOs and celebrities touting how they sacrificed sleep to advance their careers.

But research shows that lack of sleep may have the opposite effect. Rather than helping people get ahead at work, losing out on sleep can negatively impact performance and, more importantly, mental and physical health.

It’s time for employers to recognize the role sleep plays in employee well-being and take steps to foster a workplace culture that reinforces and encourages healthy behaviors.

More than a third of American adults are not getting the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A lack of sleep can lead to:

  • Increased absenteeism and illness. The U.S. loses an equivalent of around 1.2 million working days due to insufficient sleep, and research has found that sleeping fewer than five hours consistently is associated with staying home sick for 4.6 to 8.9 more days.
  • Lost productivity. Losing even just a bit of sleep can affect productivity. A recent study found that participants who lost just 16 minutes of sleep on a nightly basis reported having more distracting thoughts at work.
  • Consequences for physical and mental wellbeing. Lack of sleep has major consequences on long-term health, including increased rates of chronic diseases and conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.

Lack of sleep affects workers regardless of occupation. For employees who work shifts (often overnight), such as in call centers, manufacturing, hospitals and oil and gas, losing sleep can become a safety risk. In fact, findings have shown that shift work sleep disorder impacts approximately 10% of the night and rotating shift work population.

So how can we promote a healthy sleep culture? There are a number of tools and programs that employers can use to show they value and encourage healthy sleep habits, educate employees about how sleep can improve their work performance and support them in sticking to sleep goals. Organizations like the National Sleep Foundation offer employers resources to learn more about the benefits of sleep tracking to monitor sleep stages and tips to improve sleep for everyday health.

Employers can provide employees with tip sheets, send emails or hang posters around the office to encourage healthy sleep habits and explain how critical sleep is for their wellbeing. Tips employers can share include shutting down electronics 30 minutes before bedtime, keeping smartphones and laptops away from bed to create a sleep zone and using a guided breathing exercise or meditation apps to help the body wind down. It’s also important for managers to lead by example and encourage healthy sleep habits, including avoiding sending emails too late in the evening and being conscious of employees working in other time zones.

Wearables can also help people track their activity, sleep and overall health goals. Before the launch of wearable devices, many types of health data, including quantity and quality of sleep, were only accessible to study participants via sleep labs – which are both costly and time consuming. With today’s technology, employees can better understand their sleep patterns and use that data to find a sleep plan that works for them.

Sleep tracking can also be useful to help employees correlate data and insights based on their schedules, activity levels and what they’ve had to eat or drink. For instance, someone who tracks their sleep may find that getting exercise after work helps them get a better night of rest. Having a different sleep pattern on work days versus days off can cause social jetlag — a feeling almost like changing time zones that can take a significant toll on sleep cycle and overall health. That’s why it’s important to keep a consistent sleep schedule throughout the week and the weekend.

Here’s the bottom line: insufficient sleep contributes to poor productivity, worse health outcomes, absenteeism at work and can create safety risks. Today, more and more employers are working to combat the idea of sacrificing sleep in corporate culture and are recognizing that it is an asset to the workplace, not an enemy.

SOURCE: McDonough, A. (28 May 2019) "Why employers can’t hit snooze on tired employees" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/sleep-deprivation-impacting-company-bottom-line


What HR can do about the measles — and what it can't

A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that measles has been confirmed in 26 states since the beginning of 2019. This affects not only schools, medical facilities and public areas, but also the workplace. Read on to learn what HR can do and cannot do about the measles.


After decades of near-eradication in the U.S., measles is making a comeback. Its return affects not only schools, medical facilities and public areas, but also the workplace.

As of May 24th, there were 535 confirmed cases of measles in Brooklyn and Queens since September, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. On the other side of the country, the Los Angeles Times recently reported a confirmed case of measles linked to Google's Mountain View campus.

Measles has been confirmed in 26 states since the start of 2019, as of May 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — the greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since 1994; measles was actually declared eliminated in 2000.

Given that measles is "very contagious" and can lead to serious health complications, HR needs to know how to keep employees safe while at the same time remaining in compliance with all applicable health privacy and anti-discrimination laws.

Measles transmission and symptoms

"Measles spreads when a person infected with the measles virus breathes, coughs, or sneezes," said Martha Sharan, Public Affairs Specialist at the CDC, speaking to HR Dive via email. "It is very contagious. You can catch measles just by being in a room where a person with measles has been, up to two hours after that person is gone. And you can catch measles from an infected person even before they have a measles rash."

In addition to a fever that can get high, Sharan said, other possible symptoms include cough, runny nose, and red eyes; a rash of tiny red spots that starts at the head and spreads to the rest of the body; diarrhea; and an ear infection.

Can employers require vaccinations?

In general, requiring employees to get vaccinated is a legally risky proposition for employers; there are some limited exceptions for employers in the healthcare field.

However, many employers — particularly those in the healthcare field — are "starting to be a little more aggressive in terms of asking employees whether they have been vaccinated as the [measles] outbreak continues and in some cases continues to grow," according to attorney Bradford T. Hammock, a shareholder at Littler Mendelson P.C.

"Employers must be very careful about these types of inquiries, but some healthcare employers have made the determination that this is permissible under the [Americans with Disabilities Act] as job-related and consistent with business necessity," Hammock said. He added that employers must also be aware of state and local considerations.

Steve Wojcik, VP of public policy at the National Business Group on Health, said the current concern about measles provides employers with an excellent opportunity to communicate the importance of vaccines and immunizations generally. "Remind employees that the measles vaccine is free, essentially, with no cost-sharing as it is one of the preventive services under the Affordable Care Act. It's a good reminder about preventive services in general."

Wojcik added that employers should encourage employees to check their specific vaccination records to confirm not only that they have received the measles vaccine, but that they have been effectively vaccinated. "Depending on age and when you were vaccinated, some early vaccines may not have been as effective as once thought," he said. Wojcik said that employees born in or before 1956 are assumed to have been exposed to the measles at some point and have some natural immunity, but in the early 1960s, the measles vaccine was "not so good," he said. "It's not as simple as flu or other vaccines."

If your workplace has been exposed

Whatever you do, "be incredibly careful about privacy," said attorney Carolyn D. Richmond, a partner at Fox Rothschild LLP. "Don't go announcing that 'Joe Smith has measles!'" Instead, Richmond advised, "call the local department of health first and find out what they have to say. Every jurisdiction has little tweaks that may affect reporting."

While you can send out a notice to employees stating they may have been exposed to measles, "again, be super careful and don't hint who it might be," she cautioned. "Your local health department will be able to tell you what you can say."

Get your leave policies in order

"Those sick with measles should stay at home for at least four days after developing the rash," said Sharan. "Staying home is an important way to not spread measles to other people. They should talk to their doctor to discuss when it is safe to resume contact with other people."

Wojcik recommended working from home and flexible work arrangements for employees who may have been exposed, particularly those who live in (or have traveled to) areas with known outbreaks. Richmond also suggested providing PTO or work-from-home arrangements for employees who have not been vaccinated or who are immunocompromised.

"We assume that those with measles will absent themselves from the workplace, and an employee with measles may be out for a number of days or longer. Follow your policies and practices with return to work," Richmond told HR Dive in an interview.

Stay in touch with your local health department and the CDC

"Continue to be in contact with your local health department, and follow along with the CDC in terms of guidance," advised Hammock. "Depending on the status of the measles outbreak in your particular area, the analysis may be different."

Richmond concurred. "Contact your local health department and your local counsel — and contact your local health department first. The bottom line is privacy, privacy, privacy."

SOURCE: Carsen, J. (29 May 2019) "What HR can do about the measles — and what it can't" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.hrdive.com/news/what-hr-can-do-about-the-measles-and-what-it-cant/555219/


7 HR technologies for managing the employee lifecycle

What do you consider your company’s most valuable resource? While employees are often considered an organization’s most valuable resource, the best results often come when great workforces are provided with great technology. Continue reading this blog post for seven HR technologies that help manage the employee lifecycle.


It’s no secret employees are the foundation of any company: Without them, products can’t be made, services can’t be provided and customers can’t be satisfied.

That’s why an organization’s workforce is often considered its most valuable resource — because while great people can overcome a lack of process or technology, it’s much harder to forego having great people in place. Still, the best results come when great people are provided great technology and supported by great processes.

But the constant flow of employees in and out of an organization can make effectively and efficiently managing the support needed at each stage of the employee lifecycle a difficult task for employers and human resources teams. Luckily, these HR technologies can help with managing the employee lifecycle.

Applicant tracking system

An applicant tracking system is an online platform that simplifies and streamlines the entire recruitment process — from sourcing to selection — by allowing recruiters and hiring managers to seamlessly direct every stage of the process all from one electronic system, eliminating the never-ending paper chase of traditional recruiting. Every ATS is different, but most will include access to an online resume database, automated hiring workflows, communication capabilities and reporting tools.

Onboarding

Half of all new workers leave their jobs within the first 90 days of employment. Organizations with successful onboarding programs, however, have significantly better new hire retention rates.

A big component of a successful onboarding program is removing the hassle of all that tedious paperwork employees have to complete. The first day on the job is already stressful enough for a new hire without the added inconvenience of required employment paperwork. Investing in an online employee onboarding technology platform allows employees to complete the majority of this paperwork (like W-4s, direct deposit authorizations, I-9 forms and other consent forms) well before their first day. Electronic employee onboarding programs also reduce paper costs while minimizing the possibility of errors by providing new hires online access to all necessary employment forms so they can easily review, complete, sign and submit their forms within minutes.

Benefits enrollment

Switching from a paper-based benefits enrollment process to an online enrollment process comes with a wide array of advantages. Not only does an online benefits enrollment process save time, but it also gives employees the time and independence to make their own elections, and helps reduce costly mistakes and errors.

Time and attendance

Online time and attendance platforms not only reduce errors and help managers keep track of days of requests, they also are vastly more efficient for employees to use than paper-based timekeeping systems. (Along with some other really great advantages.)

Payroll processing

Payroll is one of the biggest line items in an organization’s budget. Processing payroll also can be one of the most time-consuming aspects of an organization’s HR functions, and when it’s not done right it can also be the source of some serious employee complaints.

Payroll technology platforms help minimize the potential for errors, and can greatly reduce the time it takes to process a payroll.

eLearning/learning management systems

With the “skills gap” widening as older employees exit the workforce faster than new employees can fill their shoes, employee development initiatives and corporate training programs have become a priority not only amongst large employers, but small and mid-size businesses as well.

Online learning management systems provide employers with convenient options to help train and develop their workforce’s skills and abilities.

Performance management

As with many employee management functions, employers are now taking advantage of online HR technology platforms that allow them to more efficiently streamline the performance management process. In many cases, an online performance management tool allows employers to more effectively evaluate and record employee performance, as well as providing a place for managers and employees alike to keep track of organizational and personal performance goals, record journal entries and maintain an ongoing performance record. These platforms tend to be more popular among larger organizations, mostly because small and medium-sized businesses often feel the price is prohibitive unless they can access discounted rates through an HR outsourcing provider.

SOURCE: Grijalva, A. (5 June 2019) "7 HR technologies for managing the employee lifecycle" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/list/hr-technology-for-managing-the-employee-lifecycle


5 myths about returning to work after a disability

How is your return-to-work program? Many employers, human resources professionals and benefits experts have misperceptions about return-to-work and the accommodations that are used to make programs successful. Continue on for five myths about returning to work after a disability.


Carl was 58 when he found out he needed a hip replacement, and the environmental services worker was told he’d be out of work for three months to recover.

But less than eight weeks after his surgery, Carl was back on the job. It wasn’t because he couldn’t pay his bills without a paycheck — his short-term disability insurance through his employer helped with that. Instead, it was for two reasons: One, he was eager to get back to his normal life, and two, his employer was willing to support a plan for a gradual transition back to his usual duties. With his doctor’s approval, he worked half-days for two weeks as he built back his endurance and work stamina, and soon was working full-time again.

The result: Carl’s transition back to work over a 14-day period got him back on the job 40 days earlier than expected, based on initial estimated date. The transition plan also allowed him to return to work without needing to tap into his long-term coverage. At the same time, his employer was saved the cost of hiring and training replacement staff or paying overtime to other workers.

With a win-win like this — and it’s just one of thousands of examples I could share — you’d think all employers would be on board with return-to-work strategies. Instead we’ve found a surprising number of employers, human resources professionals and even benefits experts have misperceptions about return-to-work and the accommodations that can make it successful. And it’s hitting them and their employees hard on the bottom line.

Here are five of the most common myths about returning to work after a disability. See how many you mistakenly believe.

1. It’ll create a workers’ compensation claim. Some employers are afraid an employee who’s had a disabling injury will be a safety risk, getting reinjured on the job and creating a costly workers’ comp claim. The reality is a gradual transition back to full-time work makes employees safer as they regain strength and rebuild skills.

2. We don’t have to provide accommodations unless the injury happened at work.
This one’s not true, either, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Council. Employers legally can’t differentiate between employees who suffer a disabling injury at work and those who’re injured at home or elsewhere. Smart employers focus on getting a valuable employee back to work, not the injury or illness and where it happened.

3. Employees must be 100% or they can’t perform productive work.Employers willing to be creative often find there are many tasks a skilled, knowledgeable employee can perform during a transition period. True, some jobs have more rigid requirements than others. For example, a nurse might not be physically able to go straight back to patient care. But if you’re like most of us, you have a stockpile of back-burner projects that would benefit your business. A transitioning employee could have the perfect skills to take those on. In other cases, simple, inexpensive accommodations can help an employee perform better: An assembly line worker who can’t stand for an eight-hour shift could use a leaning stool for support and be just as productive.

4. Customer care or service will be negatively impacted. This one might seem logically true, but it really isn’t when you crunch the numbers. Accommodating a returning employee with part-time hours or different duties for a period of time has less impact on service and productivity than hiring, training and ramping up replacement staff. Routinely cross-training employees in other jobs also gives employers the flexibility to move resources where they’re needed at any time.

5. Other employees will also want “light duty.” This may not exactly qualify as a myth, as some employees really might want what they perceive as easier work. The issue is the term light duty itself, which is both loaded and vague. Effective communication is essential here: Consistently refer to new, alternate or modified job tasks, be transparent, and make sure employees understand return-to-work options. Having a return-to-work program where employees feel valued impacts the morale of the whole team, boosting productivity.

How to make return-to-work work well

Helping your valued employees rejoin your team doesn’t have to be costly or difficult. Here are a few tips to make it successful.

Communicate early and often. Meet or talk with the employee before the leave and stay in touch while on leave. Talk before the return to work to set expectations.

Be flexible. Consider a graduated return-to-work plan to allow the employee to ramp up to full time. Allow work at home for part of the day or week, if possible. Make hours flexible to allow for medical appointments.

Be welcoming. Meet with the employee upon return, and ensure the manager conducts regular one-to-one meetings with the employee. Allow the employee time to reintegrate, perhaps with the aid of a mentor.

Focus on the job, not the illness or injury. Instead of asking the employee how he or she is feeling, ask how the company can better assist him or her in performing the essential functions of the job.

Be creative. Avoid making assumptions about what the returning employee can do. Flexible work arrangements, accessible technology or inexpensive adaptations can often help the employee do the job in alternate ways.

SOURCE: Ledford, M (5 June 2019) "5 myths about returning to work after a disability" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/myths-about-returning-to-work-after-a-disability


Talent test-drive: Micro-internships may benefit students and employers alike

Are you looking to hire interns this summer? Micro-internships are project-based internships that are emerging as a way for students to get a foot in the door and for employers to test talent before hiring someone on. Continue reading to learn more.


"Micro-internships," or project-based internships, are emerging as a way for students to get a foot in the door and for employers to test talent before making a commitment.

Lasting just days or weeks, micro-internships can create a more meaningful experience, too, according to Jeffrey Moss, CEO of Parker Dewey, a platform that enables such arrangements. Rather than longer programs that involve a fair bit of busy work, micro-internships often focus on one, substantive project.

This could have an intern writing a blog post or compiling research, for example, he said. For many companies, these are tasks that are important, but don't always get done. "It gives the career professional or student early insight into what the job is really about," said Moss, "and manager buy-in is high. Rather than a department head trying to create an interesting day or weeks full of intern work, micro-interns get specific projects done for the manager."

Testing talent before you hire

For employers looking to test drive talent, Moss said, micro-internships offer insight into the way a person works. Projects are tangible and can demonstrate how someone executes instructions. For students or career re-launchers, they offer a chance to showcase their talents as they grow. "They develop an authentic relationship with someone who may be their manager down the road," said Moss. "They're paid for their work and get real-world experience for their resume, typically in a few days or weeks, and generally done remotely."

The ability to work remotely creates a more democratic system for interns, as well. Students who don't have access to large markets or businesses can still get a foot in the door. For underserved populations, that access could be a key factor in their career trajectory.

Immediate gratification

Adam Rekkbie was an undergraduate at Bentley University when he learned about the opportunity to do project work through Parker Dewey. He emailed HR Dive from Peru to talk about his experience: "I figured this would be a good way for me to earn a little extra money while also expanding on my skills and learning more about different industries," he said.

Generally, employers choose students to work on a project, building a relationship with them and offering help along the way, Moss said.

Rekkbie has completed nine projects to date, and they run the gamut: market research, creating a business plan for a doctor, migrating and cleaning up data, product research and more.

Everybody wins

Rekkbie said the arrangement was a win-win for him and the employers. As a full-time student, he enjoyed the flexibility of working around his schedule. He also said he gained insight into a broad range of industries while still making money.

And employers say the fast access to high-quality talent is invaluable. Ryan Sarti, director of marketing and sales operations at Sturtevant Richmont, is a convert. In a one-person department, he told HR Dive, there are lots of projects that are high priority, but bandwidth is limited. With micro-internships, he can spell out what he needs and when and then choose among candidates; "I can organize a project quickly, hand it off with minimal time and feedback, and get really good high quality work done."

Larger companies are using these as a way to test potential employees, Moss said. Microsoft, for example, is using micro-internships for immediate support and early access to talent.

Growing the talent pool

Feedback throughout the project is open-ended. Sarti said he likes to give and get detailed comments. Interns ask good questions, he said, and the more feedback you give, the more they grow. That's critical because, after all, they may be working with you one day, he said.

Rekkbie noted the networking opportunities, too: "I have had a couple clients I did work for come back to me and ask for help on additional projects because of how satisfied they were with my initial work," he said. "These clients also provide me with valuable insights related to careers."

And while students may not snag a job directly from the internship, Moss said, they'll be better able to articulate to other employers the direct experience they have.

SOURCE: O'Donnell, R. (28 May 2019) "Talent test-drive: Micro-internships may benefit students and employers alike" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.hrdive.com/news/talent-test-drive-micro-internships-may-benefit-students-and-employers-ali/555487/


How to Respond to the Spread of Measles in the Workplace

How are you responding to the spread of measles? With measles now at its highest number of cases in one year since 1994, employers are having to cooperate with health departments to fight the spread. Continue reading this blog post from SHRM to learn more.


Employers and educators are cooperating with health departments to fight the spread of measles, now at its highest number of cases in one year since 1994: 764.

Two California universities—California State University, Los Angeles (Cal State LA) and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)—recently quarantined staff and students at the request of local health departments.

In April at Cal State LA, the health department told more than 600 students and employees to stay home after a student with measles entered a university library.

Also last month, UCLA identified and notified more than 500 students, faculty and staff who may have crossed paths with a student who attended class when contagious. The county health department quarantined 119 students and eight faculty members until their immunity was established.

The quarantines ended April 30 at UCLA and May 2 at Cal State LA.

Measles is one of the most contagious viruses; one measles-infected person can give the virus to 18 others. In fact, 90 percent of unvaccinated people exposed to the virus become infected, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes.

Action Steps for Employers

Once an employer learns someone in the workplace has measles, it should immediately send the worker home and tell him or her not to return until cleared by a physician or other qualified health care provider, said Robin Shea, an attorney with Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete in Winston-Salem, N.C.

The employer should then notify the local health department and follow its recommended actions, said Howard Mavity, an attorney with Fisher Phillips in Atlanta. The company may want to inform workers where and when employees might have been exposed. If employees were possibly exposed, the employer may wish to encourage them to verify vaccination or past-exposure status, directing those who are pregnant or immunocompromised to consult with their physicians, he said.

Do not name the person who has measles, cautioned Katherine Dudley Helms, an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in Columbia, S.C. "Even if it is not a disability—and we cannot assume that, as a general rule, it is not—I believe the ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] confidentiality provisions cover these medical situations, or there are situations where individuals would be covered by HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act]."

The employer shouldn't identify the person even if he or she has self-identified as having measles, Mavity noted.

Shea said that once the person is at home, the employer should:

  • Inform workers about measles, such as symptoms (e.g., dry cough, inflamed eyes, tiny white spots with bluish-white centers on a red background in the mouth, and a skin rash) and incubation period—usually 10 to 12 days, but sometimes as short as seven days or as long as 21 days, according to the CDC.
  • Inform employees about how and where to get vaccinations.
  • Remind workers that relatives may have been indirectly exposed.
  • Explain that measles exposure to employees who are pregnant or who might be pregnant can be harmful or even fatal to an unborn child.
  • Explain that anyone born before 1957 is not at risk. The measles vaccine first became available in 1963, so those who were children before the late 1950s are presumed to have been exposed to measles and be immune.

Employers may also want to bring a health care provider onsite to administer vaccines to employees who want or need them, Shea said.

"Be compassionate to the sick employee by offering FMLA [Family and Medical Leave Act] leave and paid-leave benefit options as applicable," she said.

When a Sick Employee Comes to Work Anyway

What if an employee insists on returning to work despite still having the measles?

Mavity said an employer should inform the worker as soon as it learns he or she has the measles to not return until cleared by a physician, and violating this directive could result in discipline, including discharge. A business nevertheless may be reluctant to discipline someone who is overly conscientious, he said. It may opt instead to send the employee home if he or she returns before being given a medical clearance.

The employer shouldn't make someone stay out longer than is required, Helms said. Rely instead on the health care provider's release.

SOURCE: Smith, A. (9 May 2019) "How to Respond to the Spread of Measles in the Workplace" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/pages/how-to-respond-spread-measles-workplace.aspx


Extended reality promises a holistic training experience, experts say

Employers are beginning to embrace the use of virtual environments for employee training and development programs. Are you? Read this blog post from HR Dive to learn more.


As more employers embrace virtual environments for training, tech gurus are fine-tuning the technology to be more accessible to employers. Some organizations have developed apps to take employees through soft skills training; others customized VR experiences to suit their specific training needs.

As the potential of AR and VR technology continues to unfold, and workforces reap benefits from using it, employers will need to decide how to best implement the tech in their own learning and development initiatives.

Why merge AR, VR and L&D?

When it comes to virtual training, XR (extended reality, which includes VR and AR) may the best option for employers with tricky needs, according to Toshi Anders Hoo, emerging media lab director at the Institute for the Future. "XR training is valuable in situations when the experience is too expensive, too far away, too infrequent or too dangerous," he told HR Dive. "It allows users to experience pretty close to what it's like, and that includes the physical and psychological experience."

XR isn't just for standard operating procedures, Anders Hoo added; it creates a holistic understanding, providing emotional preparedness for difficult situations. He cited Walmart's well-known VR training, which prepped employees for Black Friday shopping, but noted that the applications can be even more varied. XR can acquaint learners with the emotional experience of public speaking, uncover hiring biases or replicate the pressure of a surgical operating theater, he said.

AR and VR can also help employers better understand workers' strengths and weaknesses, Amy Vinson, associate director, safety analytics, health and safety at Tyson Foods told HR Dive in an email. It can also enforce better, safer working habits. "[Trainees] can put on goggles and virtually practice operating our plant's robotic arm to safely stack heavy boxes in high areas," she said. "It helps team leaders better understand training areas that may require extra attention."

XR can also be "an empathy engine," Anders Hoo noted, by providing anyone with a perspective on an unfamiliar challenge. "Consider a medical emergency: the learner can be the doctor, watching a patient bleed, or a loved one, helpless to assist. These scenarios have major implications for critical thinking and to help learners expand their points of view."

How does it work for learners?

The biggest challenge for classroom learning is retention, according to Shawn Gentile, training content development and delivery leader at Vitalyst, because the majority of knowledge is lost over time. Simulation-based learning, however, can be done continuously, said Gentile; "Learners can go right back into the simulation and continue to build on their competence.

And when L&D pros are examining why training is or isn't working, the tech can eliminate some of the guesswork, he said. "With simulation-based training, you can see where they're not learning and why, targeting learning points to increase retention." Accessing this data removes deviation points and allows training to focus on the organization's objectives, he added. Uniformity is another consideration: Different instructors may perform training differently, but the consistency of AR and VR training provides better knowledge, higher retention rates and a better ability track failures and update training to meet objectives, according to Gentile.

Anders Hoo said that XR, unlike video-based training, is more than the mere "illusion of learning." Videos can give learners the false perception the task they're learning will be as easy in real life as it looks, which can create performance gaps and discourage some, Anders Hoo said. However: "If you show someone a video of someone juggling," he said, "but they're holding the juggling club, they're much less likely to be discouraged when trying to learn the skill."

Forecasting the future

One concern to consider, according to Anders Hoo, is data privacy. XR captures biometric data that can identify a person by how they move their hands and head. In a one-hour VR session, he said, thousands of data points are captured that can potentially be used to later identify someone in, for example, a surveillance camera. Next-generation XR will have eye tracking capabilities and may even be able to track your heart rate and emotional state, he said. "The same systems that allow us to have more immersive experience are the same that make for very sophisticated surveillance systems," he said. As with all new HR tech, L&D pros will have to remember to ask the right questions.

For Anders Hoo, one of the most interesting things about this futuristic tech is that it's really not new at all. It was adopted in the early twentieth century for flight simulations. Almost 100 years later, it's still seen as the newest thing because developers have begun to iterate on it more. "People overestimate the impact of tech in the short term," he said, "and underestimate its impact long term."

SOURCE: O'Donnell, R. (21 May 2019) "Extended reality promises a holistic training experience, experts say" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.hrdive.com/news/extended-reality-promises-a-holistic-training-experience-experts-say/554872/


3 summer workplace legal issues and how to handle them

Summer is right around the corner, leaving employers little time to brush up on seasonal employment law issues. Issues such as hiring interns, dress code compliance and handling time off requests can cause legal issues for employers. Read this blog post to learn more.


Summer is almost here and with that comes a set of seasonal employment law issues. Top of the list for many employers includes hiring interns, dress code compliance and handling time off requests.

Here’s how employers can navigate any legal issues that may arise.

Summer interns

Employers looking to hire interns to work during the summer season or beyond should know that the U.S. Department of Labor recently changed the criteria to determine if an internship must be paid. In certain circumstances, internships are considered employment subject to federal minimum wage and overtime rules.

Under the previous primary beneficiary test, employers were required to meet all of the six criteria outlined by the DOL for determining whether interns are employees. The new seven-factor test is designed to be more flexible and does not require all factors to be met. Rather, employers are asked to determine the extent to which each factor is met. For example, how clear is it that the intern and the employer understand that the internship is unpaid, and that there is no promise of a paid job at the end of the program? The non-monetary benefits of the intern-employer relationship, such as training, are also taken into consideration.

Though no single factor is deemed determinative, a review of the whole internship program is important to ensure that an intern is not considered an employee under FLSA rules and to avoid any liabilities for misclassification claims.

Companies also should be aware of state laws that may impact internship programs. For example, California, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland and New York consider interns to be employees and offer some protections under various state anti-discrimination and sexual harassment statutes.

All employers should be clear about the scope of their internship opportunities, including expectations for the relationship, anticipated duties and hours, compensation, if any, and whether an intern will become entitled to a paid job at the end of the program.

Summer dress codes

Warmer temperatures mean more casual clothing. This could mean the line between professional and casual dress in the workplace is blurred. The following are some tips when crafting a new or revisiting an existing dress code policy this summer.

If the dress code is new or being revised, the policy should be clearly communicated. Sending a reminder out to employees may be helpful in some workplaces. In all cases, the policy should be unambiguous. List examples to make sure there is no confusion about what is considered appropriate and explain the reasoning behind the policy and the consequences for any violations.

To serve their business or customer needs, companies may apply dress code policies to all employees or to specific departments. They should also make sure the dress code does not have an adverse impact on any religious groups, women, people of color or people with disabilities. Company policies may not violate state or federal anti-discrimination laws. If the policy is likely to have a disparate impact on one or more of these groups, employers should be prepared to show a legitimate business reason for the policy. Also, reasonable accommodations should be provided for employees who request one based on their protected status. For example, reasonable modifications may be required for ethnic, religious or disability reasons.

Finally, failure to consistently enforce a neutral dress code policy or provide reasonable accommodations can expose a company to potential claims. As always, dress codes and any discipline for code violations should be implemented equitably to avoid claims of discrimination.

Time off requests

Summer time tends to prompt an influx of requests for time off. Now is a good time to review policies governing time off, as well as the implementation of those policies to ensure consistency. Written time off policies should explicitly inform employees of the process for handling time off requests and help employers consistently apply the rules.

An ideal policy will explain how much time off employees receive and how that time accrues. It also will include reasonable restrictions on how time off is administered such as requiring advance approval from management, and how to handle scheduling so that business needs and staffing levels are in sync.

Most importantly, time off policies and procedures must not be discriminatory. For instance, if a policy denies time off or permits discipline for an employee who needs to be out of the office on a protected medical leave, the policy could be seen as discriminating against employees with disabilities. Companies should train their managers on how to administer time off requests in a non-discriminatory manner. Employers generally have the right to manage vacation requests, however protected leave available to employees under federal, state and local laws adds another layer of complexity that employers should consider when reviewing time off requests.

To minimize employment issues this summer and all year around: plan ahead, know the relevant employment laws and train managers and supervisors to apply HR best practices consistently throughout the organization.

SOURCE: Starkman, J.; Rochester, A. (23 May 2019) "3 summer workplace legal issues and how to handle them" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/how-employers-can-handle-summer-workplace-legal-issues