Summertime—and Working Ain’t Easy

Summertime is often a season when work takes a back seat to barbecues and beach vacations. Providing flexibility during the summer months is often appreciated by employees and can help boost engagement. Read this blog post from SHRM for best practices on managing staff during the summer months.


Summertime is that season when "the livin' is easy," as the famous tune by George Gershwin goes—a season when work often takes a back seat to pool parties, barbecues and beach vacations.

How do employers keep workers' heads in the game when their toes are itching for the sand? Or how do they plan for the disruption that summer holidays and vacation schedules inevitably bring? What are their best practices for keeping productivity high?

In the health care industry, patients' needs mean productivity can't fluctuate with the seasons. At Maine Medical Center in Portland, nurse manager Michele Higgins oversees a staff of 70 on an adult general medical unit.

"Summer is busy in health care, especially at a level-one trauma hospital such as Maine Med, but we continue to care effectively for patients, and we remain patient-centered," she said.

Anticipating higher patient traffic in the summer months, the hospital pushes out its June, July and August schedules as early as March. Staff view the schedules, are reminded of guidelines for taking vacation time, and plan time off around shifts or swap shifts with co-workers.

But what happens when an employee unexpectedly calls out "sick" over the Fourth of July weekend? A pool of floating in-house nurses responds to shortages. When the pool of nurses cannot meet the demand, managers ask staff to cover shifts for incentive pay. According to Higgins, a 10-year Maine Med veteran, the numbers typically work out and the medical center maintains favorable nurse-to-patient ratios. But she's always prepared to show up in scrubs and jump in as needed. "Being present is important to me," she said. "I make myself accessible and stay positive, supporting the staff and recognizing their efforts."

Higgins rewards her staff with hospital-sponsored special events throughout the summer. These include "nurses' week" at the beginning of May, when employees win gift cards and goody bags in daily raffles, participate in a book swap, and play games like cornhole. Later in the summer, senior leaders host staff appreciation lunches, smoothie breaks on the patio and an ice cream bar. The hospital also reserves box seats for each of its 23 units at minor league baseball games at Hadlock Field in downtown Portland.

"Maine Med is a great place to work," Higgins said. "But busy is the norm."

Workers Appreciate Flexibility

For employees who are parents, juggling work and school-age children who are either home for the summer, at camps or in day care can be challenging—and expensive.

Recognizing this, some employers observe summer hours so parents can start and end the workday earlier. Employees at Princeton University call it quits at 4:30 p.m. instead of 5 p.m. from June 1 through Labor Day.

River City Dental, a dental office in Williamsport, Md., operates on an 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. schedule in June, July and August. Office manager Lori Robine reports that the employees, many of whom are parents, appreciate the flexibility of the shortened workday and increased free time.

Workplace flexibility is another benefit that can boost spirits—and productivity—during the summer months. Maine Medical Center can't tweak its summer hours, but fewer meetings are held, and they're even put on hold in July.

When summer arrives, workplace productivity doesn't have to suffer. Employers can look for opportunities to be flexible with scheduling and dress codes, find ways to recognize and reward employees, and host events that celebrate the warm months.

Michele Poacelli is a freelancer based in Mercersburg, Pa. 

SOURCE: Poacelli, M. (12 July 2019) "Summertime—and Working Ain’t Easy" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/employee-relations/Pages/employee-engagement-in-the-summer.aspx


Top 10 Workplace Trends for 2019

The importance of looking forward three to six months or even a few years for new and emerging trends was discussed during this year's SHRM's Annual Conference & Exposition. Factors such as technological developments, economic changes, globalization and automation, all affect how companies do business and attract top talent. Read this blog post to learn more.


LAS VEGAS — HR professionals and organization leaders have a lot to keep up with: technological developments, economic changes, globalization and automation. All of these factors affect how companies do business and attract and retain talented workers.

"If we don't keep up with all the changes going on around us in terms of the tasks we do every day, we become obsolete," said Dan Schawbel, partner and research director at New York City-based Future Workplace, an executive development firm dedicated to rethinking and reimagining the workplace.

It's more important now than ever for business professionals to look forward three or six months or even a few years, he said during a mega session at the Society for Human Resource Management 2019 Annual Conference & Exposition.

Conference attendee Jessica Whitney said she hoped to learn about any new trends for the workplace so she could compare what's discussed to what her company is currently doing—to see what it's doing right and if there are any new ideas she can take back to the office. Whitney is a people partner at Unum Therapeutics in Massachusetts.

These are the top 10 trends that will impact HR departments in 2019, according to Schawbel's research.

1. Fostering the relationship between workers and robots.

One of the biggest trends of 2019 is the partnership between robots and humans. "The human element will never go away," Schawbel said. HR will continue to manage the human workforce, and information technology (IT) teams will manage the robots. "The big opportunity moving forward is for HR to partner with IT and even other departments … in order to collaborate and manage the human experience," he said.

2. Creating flexible work schedules.

"Flexibility is something that we want because we're working more hours than ever before," he said. Regardless of age or generation, employees want to have a life outside of work.

3. Taking a stand on social issues.

Younger workers, especially, want to work for companies that are making a positive difference in the world, Schawbel said. Companies that take a stand on social issues will be unpopular with some people, he noted, but if they want to attract the right talent, they have almost no choice.

4. Improving gender diversity.

Compared to men, few women hold executive positions. The New York Times reported that "fewer women run big companies than men named John." That's the bad news. "The great news," Schawbel said, "is that countries are getting involved, companies are getting involved, and it looks like changes are on the horizon."

5. Investing in mental health.

Many people either have mental disorders or interact with someone who does, and mental health is becoming less stigmatized as more people speak publicly on the topic. Britain's Prince Harry, for example, is partnering with Oprah Winfrey and Apple on a series about mental health and has also asked employers in the United Kingdom to sign a pledge to take a stand on this issue. Schawbel noted that employers who sign the pledge signal to employees that they take mental health seriously.

6. Addressing the loneliness of remote workers.

Many employees today can work from wherever they want. Remote work is great—and employers need to promote flexibility—but there is a cost, Schawbel said. The isolation employees feel when they don't interact enough with co-workers may cause them to check out. Investing in offsite and team-building events can help. Connecting with remote workers in person even once a year can make a huge difference and build trust, he noted.

7. Upskilling the workforce.

There are 7.4 million open jobs in the U.S., and the unemployment rate is 3.6 percent. So employers need to find creative ways to close the skills gap. Companies are starting to hire more older workers, workers with disabilities, workers who were formerly incarcerated and veterans. "The [talent] pool is getting wider and wider, which is great," Schawbel said. "It's great because talent can come from anywhere." Companies are less focused on age, gender and other factors and more concerned with whether the person can do the joband work well with others, he added.

8. Focusing on soft skills.

"Soft skills are the new hard skills," Schawbel said. Ninety-one percent of HR professionals surveyed by LinkedIn believe soft skills are very important for the future of recruiting. "You can train for hard skills, but soft skills take a long time to learn," Schawbel noted. "If you hire someone who has a positive attitude, good organizational skills, is able to delegate work … they're going to be incredibly valuable in today's world."

9. Preparing for Generation Z.

Employers need to understand Generation Z, the demographic born between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s. Many in this cohort identify anxiety as a major issue that gets in the way of their workplace success, which relates to addressing mental health, Schawbel said. And even though Generation Z workers self-identify as the digital generation, they say they want more face-to-face interaction at work. Additionally, they tend to expect quick promotions, so employers should set realistic expectations, he noted.

10. Preventing burnout.

Employees must grapple with an "always on" work culture, and many employees leave their companies as a result of being overworked. Employers should recognize what causes burnout and aim to fix it, because it may cost them more over time if they don't, Schawbel said.

"We have to think about work differently," he added. "The future is uncertain … but we can make changes today that will give us a better tomorrow."

SOURCE: Nagele-Piazza, L., J.D., SHRM-SCP (27 June 2019) "Top 10 Workplace Trends for 2019" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-news/Pages/Top-10-Workplace-Trends-for-2019.aspx


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


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/


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


Safety Focused Newsletter - June 2019

Emergency Preparedness During National Safety Month

It’s always important to take a proactive approach to safety in the workplace, but sometimes an emergency can arise at a moment’s notice. Taking some time to plan before an incident takes place can help you take action quickly and ensure the safety of yourself and your co-workers. And, because the National Safety Council organizes National Safety Month every June, it’s a great time to review emergency preparedness in various workplace settings.

Here are some strategies to help ensure you’re ready to respond to an emergency in the workplace:

  • Check workplace policies—There may already be plans in place for how to respond to an emergency, but they’ll only be effective if you and your co-workers follow them. These plans may also include evacuation routes or strategies to help contain a hazard.
  • Stay focused and calm—You may not have time to react to an emergency, so you should always be ready to get to safety at any time. Try to keep essentials on hand so can take them with you, as you should never go back to a dangerous area to gather your belongings.
  • Have a communication plan—After you’re in a safe area, you should have a plan to communicate with your manager, co-workers or emergency responders. Try to meet in a designated location that’s established by a workplace policy and give an update on your status as soon as possible.
  • Help others when possible—Make your own safety a priority during an emergency, but offer any help you can if there aren’t any hazards present. It may be a good idea to check the locations of first-aid kits in your workplace if you need to treat an injury.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are about 330 heat-related fatalities every year.

5 Tips for Outdoor Heat Safety

The hot summer months can cause body temperatures to rise to unsafe levels, especially when combined with strenuous work. Outdoor workers are also be vulnerable to heat-related illnesses since they spend long periods in direct sunlight.

There are many types of heat illnesses, such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion, dehydration and heat cramps. Each of these conditions have various symptoms, but they commonly cause dizziness, weakness, nausea, blurred vision, confusion or loss of consciousness.

Here are some tips for staying safe in the heat while working outdoors:

  1. Wear loose, light-colored clothing so your skin gets air exposure.
  2. Shield your head and face from direct sunlight by wearing a hat and sunglasses.
  3. Take regular breaks to rest in a shaded area. If you’re wearing heavy protective gear, consider removing it to help cool off even more.
  4. Ease into your work and gradually build up to more strenuous activity as the day progresses. You should also avoid overexerting yourself during the hottest hours of the day.
  5. Drink water frequently, even if you aren’t thirsty. Experts recommend drinking at least eight ounces every 20 to 30 minutes to stay hydrated. Stick to water, fruit juice and sport drinks and avoid caffeinated beverages, as they can dehydrate you.

Employees should take care to monitor themselves and their co-workers on hot days. If you notice any signs of heat illness, notify your on-duty supervisor immediately.

Heat illnesses can usually be treated by being moved to a cooler area and drinking cool liquids. In extreme cases when heat illnesses cause unconsciousness, health care professionals should be alerted immediately.

Taking some time to plan before an incident takes place can help you take action quickly and ensure the safety of yourself and your co-workers.

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Commercial Risk Advisor - June 2019

Benefits of Crime Insurance

While you may think your business would never be the victim of a crime, the harsh reality is that nearly every business can become a victim. In this day and age, criminals (including employees) do not need direct access to cash to steal from you—merchandise, supplies and securities are all fair game. Standard commercial insurance policies may provide some protection from criminal acts, but they often do not cover losses resulting from all types of fraudulent activities. Crime insurance was developed to deal with the limitations of other policies and extend protection to include coverage for a wide variety of wrongdoings:

  • Coverage for the misuse of funds—It is likely that a number of your employees have access to company funds or financial information. In some cases, employees may abuse this access for personal gain. Crime insurance can protect organizations from the misuse or illegal transfer of funds, ensuring your finances are safe from internal criminal acts.
  • Insurance for goods in transit—Goods in transit are particularly vulnerable to employee theft and, in some cases, organizations may not notice anything has been stolen until it is too late. What’s more, if the theft takes place outside of the organization’s premises, it can be difficult to prove, often leading to drawn out and expensive legal battles. Crime insurance policies can provide ample protection for goods in transit and reduce the likelihood of extreme losses whenever you send or receive products.
  • Coverage for forgery and alteration—Your employees may have access to checks that they can easily alter for their own gain. Crime insurance policies provide coverage for losses that result from the forgery or alteration of a check.

The only way to ensure your company has the protection it needs is through crime insurance. To discuss your unique risks and to learn more about crime insurance policies, contact your insurance broker.

Fire Protection Impairment Programs

A fire can be extremely damaging to your organization, and while a fire protection system may be able to protect against many threats, impairments are an inevitable part of a fire protection system’s life cycle. An impairment is any time that a fire detection, alarm or suppression system is out of service or unable to operate to the full extent of its intended design. During an impairment, the chances of a fire developing and causing major damage is greatly increased.

There are two types of impairments: planned (the system is purposely put out of service for maintenance) and unplanned (the system is unintentionally out of service). These are further grouped into two different levels of severity—major and minor:

  1. Major—The impairment lasts more than ten hours and/or affects multiple systems.
  2. Minor—The impairment lasts for fewer than ten hours and is limited to a single system.

Ensuring safety and efficiency during an impairment requires a great deal of work, planning and coordination. To be prepared for an impairment, organizations should develop a written program, assign responsibilities to staff and train employees in the procedures to be followed during an impairment.

The written program should outline exactly what to do before, during and after an impairment based on its type and severity, as well as assign and detail the role and responsibilities. The most important role to consider is that of the impairment supervisor, who will implement and manage the fire protection impairment program, take care of scheduling planned impairments and carry out the plan during unplanned impairments.

Above all, the goal of a fire protection impairment program is to minimize the risk of a fire developing and spreading during an impairment while maintenance, repairs and tests are performed to the system. Before an impairment period, or upon discovering an unplanned impairment, the impairment supervisor should obtain a copy of the organization’s fire protection impairment program form and fill it out. This form must be updated as progress is made to include further details of the impairment and repair process.

To learn more about fire protection impairment programs, contact Hierl Insurance Inc. today.

The Following Parties Should be Notified in the Event of an Impairment as Soon as Possible:

Insurance company or companies

The local fire department

Safety managers, or relevant managers and supervisors

Staff

Building owners or their designated representative

 

Standard commercial insurance policies may provide some protection from criminal acts, but they often do not cover losses resulting from fraudulent activities.

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Working from home for medical reasons poses challenges for employers

There has been an 11 percent increase in remote work since 2014, according to SHRM. This increase in remote work is posing new challenges for HR teams when the request is due to medical reasons. Read this post to learn more.


While working from home has become much more popular in recent years – an 11% increase just since 2014, according to SHRM – this can pose challenges for HR teams when the request is due to medical reasons.

Even if your workplace has guidelines for remote workers, requests to telecommute as an accommodation must be carefully reviewed to assure you’re in compliance with ADA regulations

The ADA prohibits discrimination in employment based on disability, and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to applicants and employees. A reasonable accommodation entails any changes in the work environment, or in the way things are customarily done, which enables an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities.

In these cases, it’s important for both the HR rep and a physician to gather information about the accommodation request to gauge if telecommuting is medically necessary or simply a personal preference.

The HR rep needs to gather specific information from the employee, including the following:

  • Explanation of why it’s medically necessary to work from home
  • The essential job functions the employee finds challenging to perform in the office
  • The duration of the request to work from home
  • Whether telecommuting for a period of time enables the employee to return to work in the office and perform essential functions of the job
  • Confirmation that they have a dedicated workspace with phone, Wi-Fi and other essential technology

Meanwhile, the physician should gather certain information from the HR rep, including:

  • A description of the medical condition
  • How working from home will help the employee better manage that medical condition and perform the essential job functions
  • The restrictions (things the employee cannot do) and limitations (things the employee should not do)
  • Why the employee can work from home but not in the office
  • How long the employee will require the accommodation (short or long term)
  • Likelihood that the employee will ever be able to perform their essential job functions from the office

With more offices adopting an agile model with open workspaces, employees now have more natural lighting, feel less cramped and have more opportunity for collaboration with their colleagues. However, these advantages to many people can be challenges for others.

Light and odor sensitivity, as well as distractions, are some of the most frequent triggers of medical conditions that drive the need for accommodations. In many cases, some simple modifications to the workplace can help solve or alleviate some of the employee’s challenges.

Light sensitivity, or photophobia, is intolerance to light, which can cause a painful reaction to strong lighting. Adjustments can be made to help alleviate this, including head lighting modifications, window shading, cubicle shields for fluorescent lights, polarized glasses and/or prescription eyewear.

Odor sensitivity is another common issue in open workspaces – especially for employees who previously were in a contained space with infrequent interaction with colleagues. Consider workplace signage prohibiting perfume or cologne in the office, enforcing a fragrance policy, air purifiers throughout or in select areas, a transition to scent-free cleaning products, or upgrading the ventilation system in the office to allow more air flow. For food smells, ask employees to eat in a designated area and not bring food to their workspace.

Distractibility is the inability to sustain attention or attentiveness to one task. With agile workspaces often involving moving around frequently or being positioned in a high-traffic area, this can be challenging to some employees. Consider providing noise-canceling headphones, white noise machines, cubicle shields, noise barriers or an adjustment to the office configuration. Consider allocating space within the open work plan that’s off-limits for meetings and away from heavy foot traffic.

While agile workspaces have many benefits, they can pose challenges to your workforce. It’s your responsibility to work with employees to accommodate medical requests which may result from light sensitivity, distractions or even odors. Following these simple tips can help assure a healthy, happy and productive workplace for your team.

SOURCE: Holliday-Schiavon, K. (23 May 2019) "Working from home for medical reasons poses challenges for employers" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/remote-work-for-medical-reasons-challenging-for-employers