Recommended Strategy for Employers for COVID – 19

There are many issues and “what if’s” concerning COVID – 19. We know Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that causes COVID- 19 and is now spreading from person-to-person, globally. In some cases, a panic has arisen over how fast this disease may spread. As an employer or employee, we can play a part in stopping this virus from spreading so quickly.

 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes the following actions as precautionary measures that may help Coronavirus from spreading at work.

 

Recommendations are:

 

Actively encourage sick employees to stay home. If your employees are exhibiting signs of a fever for at least 24 hours, they should notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick.

Re-evaluate your sick leave policies to ensure they are flexible and consistent with public health guidance. Ensure that your employees aware of your sick leave policy.

 

Don’t require a note from a health care provider for a day or two of absences. Be flexible and realize that employees may need to stay at home to care for sick children or other sick family members more than is usual.

Separate sick employees. Employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (i.e., cough, shortness of breath) upon arrival to work or become sick during the day should be separated from other employees and be sent home immediately.

Emphasize common sense respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene by all employees. Sick employees should cover their noses and mouths with a tissue when coughing or sneezing (or an elbow or shoulder if no tissue is available). Provide tissues and no-touch disposal garbage cans for use by all employees. Wash hands often, using soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If hand sanitizer is available, keep it in visible places where employees will be encouraged to use it. The hand sanitizer should contain at least 60-95% alcohol. Visit the coughing and sneezing etiquette and clean hands webpage for more information.

Routinely and thoroughly clean the work environment. All frequently touched surfaces in the workplace should be cleaned using cleaning agents that kill the Coronaviruses, following directions on the label. Workstations, countertops, doorknobs, and keyboards are some of the surfaces that need extra attention.

If employees must travel, advise them to take certain steps. Advise employees to check themselves for symptoms of acute respiratory illness before starting travel and notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick. If employees become sick while traveling, ensure they understand that they should call a healthcare provider if needed, and to notify their supervisor.

There are important additional measures in response to currently occurring sporadic importations of the COVID-19 as suggested by the CDC.  Employees who are well but who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19, should notify their supervisor and refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.

If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

It is important to revisit your employee handbook to ensure that you have a communicable or infectious disease policy. As part of this policy include social distancing and a business continuation plan. Whether an employer or employee, if we all play it safe and follow particular recommended guidelines, we can help stop the spread of this virus.

If you need any further advice or help with policies or business continuation plans, contact a trusted Human Resources Company for planning.

The Joy of Noise

Attending a Women’s Business Conference Breakfast in DC, I will always remember a scene, as if played in a movie. It was a simple moment, but spoke so clearly to me about humans and our need for face-to-face communication. 5 tables away from me there was lively conversation going on. It was noisy, but it was wonderful! Laughter filled the air, loud voices, and even some anger in the mix of words and sounds. Someone stood to take a picture of the group and whistled to get their attention. Abruptly, all noise stopped and there was sudden silence. It was almost unbearable. Feeling a bit philosophical, I wrote a message in my notes, “Is this how our world will become as we talk less and less to each other?”

There is good reason why we do the things we do.  There is much to fit into 24 hours. The faster that we can accomplish our lists, the more we think we can fit into a day—whether that is more work or more fun.  We want everything to be streamlined, unchallenging, and effortless, BUT, what are we losing in the process?

It’s human nature to want to take the easiest way; the easiest way to accomplish a task, a shorter route to work, and the most straight-forward way to communicate with those around us. Let’s face it, if we have business to take care of, it is easier to write an email and wait for a response as opposed to picking up the phone and engaging in a conversation. We don’t need as many “soft skills” compared to when dealing with an individual face to face.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are the skills that are not technical or job-related. Communication, making decisions, self-motivation, team work, and conflict management are just a few of the skills considered to be “soft.” These are vital to have, yet 44% of executives said a lack of soft skills was the “biggest proficiency gap” they saw in the US workforce, according to a survey done by Adecco Staffing USA.

When discussing job candidate qualifications with local companies, communications skills are generally the highest priority on their list.

It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” 95% of our communication is considered non-verbal (not the non-verbal such as texting.) We use body-language, voice inflection, and eye contact.

I think we are failing at communicating with one another in a real way. We must never forget the human equation and the art of communication.

What can we do about it?

Good news is “what’s lost can be found.” People can learn soft skills—many times slowly, but surely and with practice. It’s hard to quantifiably measure soft skills because they are subjective; it is definitely apparent when they are missing.

Fail, but then try again.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

–Thomas Edison

 

Do you know anyone who has never failed—at anything? We should not fear failure; it’s a natural part of everyone’s life. Some people want us to think they’re infallible. News flash: everyone makes mistakes and fails.

 

In 1957, Morris D. Rouff’s Michigan company was working on inventing a commercial strength degreasing cleaner for industries that had difficult cleaning problems. The first formula was a failure, as were the second, third, and forth. The 101st formula still did not produce the results that were needed, but the 309th formula was getting closer. Finally, the 409th batch was just what the inventors were looking for. “Formula 409” went on to become one of the most used cleaning products of our time. Before the 409th try, which became a success, there were 408 failures. The scientists working on “409” had the tenacity to continue through many unsuccessful attempts.

 

If we’re not prepared to fail, we may never come up with anything innovative. Failing can be a win; after all, do we learn more from our successes or our failures?

“Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston S. Churchill.

How do we go from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm?

  1. Accept responsibility, no matter how large or small the failure—it was a mistake. Don’t pretend like it didn’t happen, don’t try to take others down with you.
  2. Accept the consequences, make amends when and where you need to. All of our decisions affect someone or something. If you don’t need to apologize to a customer, client, or associate directly, maybe you need to forgive yourself to move onto the learning stage. There will be consequences–adverse and secondary unwanted effects. Prepare yourself to shoulder these. Taking care of the mess that you made is beneficial in the long run.

 

  1. Access and learn, ask questions: “What went wrong?” “What part went right?” What was out of my control?” “What part did I control that I could have handled more appropriately?” “Was I working too fast? “Would more research and preparation have been beneficial?”

After the assessment, plan to “not” make the same mistakes again. Put provisions, policies, or whatever is needed, in place. We must change our frame of thought and “learn” from this failure.

 

  1. Move forward: failure is hard to stomach, but we must pick up the pieces and move on. When we begin to obsess over what went wrong, we must pause and tell ourselves that everyone makes mistakes. We must clear our minds, breathe, and move forward. Do not fear. Realize that if you are fearful of taking missteps, you may not take any steps.

 

As an Entrepreneur, failing is a part of life, heck, as a human, it’s inevitable! We need to learn to accept failure, pivot, learn from our mistakes, and don’t waste a “fail! “Jeff Bezos of Amazon said, “Good leaders make it safe to fail. They normalize failure. If you aren’t failing more, you aren’t taking big enough chances.” The lesson here is that failure leads to success if we learn from our mistakes

The little things can make a big difference

As the year draws to a close, it is a time to reflect on the things that we appreciate, not only in our personal lives, but our professional lives, as well.

Simple things I appreciate:

1. “Control z” — the “undo” function or the backspace key — is the most practical function on the computer. I have taken a liking to the fact that modern technology allows for the eradication of simple or even complex errors. The actual ability to travel back in time to start over again or recapture something that has been lost really exists.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t come with a “control z.” We need to be mindful in our interactions with others, to be considerate. We need to show respect and kindness with coworkers, customers, clients and employees.

2. “Only if my mouth had a backspace key.” This leads us to the second item of thankfulness: People who are forgiving.

It’s difficult to always maintain a high level of professionalism. Things may come out of our mouths that surprise us — words that aren’t meant to spew forth and present themselves as they sometimes do. Most misunderstandings and miscommunications can be avoided simply by forgiving or asking for clarification on what was meant.

3. The ability to give back, no matter what the profit or loss margin may be.

A mentor told me I couldn’t give back to charitable or worthy causes until my gross margins doubled and my net income increased. I heartily disagreed. There are so many needs within our local communities and numerous ways exist to support these needs. We can scale our financial support according to the size of our business. We may not be a member of the Gates family with billions to donate through a foundation, but the fact is that we all have means to do “something.”

We may want to donate a coat or gloves to the Allegany County Social Services Safe and Snug program. Another option is to donate your time to Allegany County Animal Shelter, which helps with lost, abandoned and homeless animals in Allegany county. There’s the Western Maryland Food Bank, a warehouse that serves the local community through organizations that give out food to those in need. There are also family crisis centers, homeless shelters and many other worthy causes within our tri-state region that need or could use donations of time, goods or money.

4. Those who are close to us.

As the holidays are before us, let us remember those around us that have touched our lives. It is important to help those who need a meal or a warm coat, but what about those that need a warm smile? Sometimes those who are less fortunate may not just be found in the street. Sometimes those who are less fortunate may be sitting in the seat beside of us, bearing burdens that are heavy.

We touch others’ lives in so many ways and sometimes a listening ear, a hug or a smile does as much as feeding the hungry.

We need more kindness and gentleness this holiday season and through the coming year.

As you reflect on simple things you are thankful for, remember that the small things you do can make a big difference.

Personal problems can cause setbacks at work

Without setbacks and mistakes, no experience. Without experience, no learning. — Robbie Vorhaus

•••

I’ve had a rough week— I experienced several setbacks every day of this entire week. Now, for me to divulge this is highly unusual. It’s not in my vocabulary to say that I had a bad day. I truly believe that there are “bad” moments. You forgive yourself or anyone who you feel has wronged you and move on. So, when I talk about an entire week being full of difficulties — it was.

It was hard to keep my mind focused on my work. I enjoy what I do and the people I work with. I was making dumb mistakes that should have been obvious to the naked eye. I even lost it in the form of tears in front of a colleague, which I think is highly unprofessional.

Among a gazillion things and pressures at home and at work, I had my longtime friend and business mentor tell me that the doctors believe he has cancer. Cancer has touched all our lives. I lost my brother several years ago to kidney cancer.

My mentor is the man I go to for direction when I’m not sure what my next move should be. He and I have shared many meals and good times. His life is a good one. He has been a certified business mentor and helped many businesses begin or to thrive for over 17 years since his retirement, getting nothing in return.

This was one of several issues that my mind was having a difficult time processing and the mistakes I was making became setbacks in my workday and a few to my business.

Where am I going with this?

“Hiccups” are all that setbacks really are. I have read they are more like speedbumps that just slow you down a bit.

Almost 50 percent of employees say that problems in their personal lives affect their work performance at some point, according to research by Bensinger, DuPont and Associates. Their personal problems caused absenteeism and problems with concentration at work.

Get your work life back on track:

First, forgive yourself. Realize that you are human and that ALL humans make mistakes. We all know the story of Colonel Sanders and that he failed many times over but kept trying until he succeeded. It’s a fact that there are more successes and failures coming in your life.

Be mindful of the moment. Seems like “mindfulness” is the latest hot word; it means being present in the moment. Find something about the task that you’re working on to enjoy and focus on that. Push the other things that are preoccupying your thoughts aside. It they creep back, push them away again.

Take a relaxing lunch break. Make sure you get away, even for a bit from the job and focus on other things. Find a quiet place to sit with your thoughts for 15 minutes, but let the negative ones go. Take a walk and breathe deeply. Forbes.com says that taking a deliberate break and detaching from work is a mindful way to improve your concentration, facilitate greater awareness and reduce that afternoon slump.

Last, but not least, find something to be grateful for. Write a note about something positive that happened at work during the day that you are grateful for. Many studies show that when a person expresses gratitude that dopamine is released and makes you feel good.

For more information on this topic, visit https://positivepsychology.com/benefits-of-gratitude/.

•••

“If a man falls, he gets up again. If a man goes the wrong way, he turns around and comes back.” — Jeremiah 8:4

Taking a breath of wellness in workplace

Did you know that you can control your response to stress at work? It is called “controlled breathing” and it is simple to learn to do.

Let’s face it, work can be stressful! Not all stress is “bad.” Some stress is good and helps motivate us to meet goals and finish projects. But, there is such a thing as too much stress at work.

The American Psychological Association has told us that work-related stress doesn’t just disappear when you head home at the end of your day. When stress continues in the workplace it may lead to chronic conditions such as anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure and more. Most of us deal with stress by “not” dealing with it. This can lead to bad habits such as overeating, eating the wrong kinds of foods or drug and alcohol abuse.

Controlled breathing is an effective way to manage stressful situations. Lowering your breathing slows heart rate, reduces muscle tension and calms emotions.

Laura Peterson, a registered nurse, says that breathing works with controlling the actual physical symptoms that go along with stress and the impact it has on our bodies. Breath work has other benefits, too. It can increase alertness and oxygen flow and allow your body to release toxins more readily. Although breathing is something your body naturally does, it’s also a skill that can be sharpened.

The breathing technique that I use and teach to employees during workshops is called “square breathing” (aka “box breathing”).

Square breathing is a simple technique that a person can do anywhere, including at a work desk or standing in a relaxed position. Here’s how you do it:

1. Close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose while counting to four slowly. Feel the air enter your lungs.

2. Hold your breath inside while counting slowly to four. Try not to clamp your mouth or nose shut. Simply avoid inhaling or exhaling for 4 seconds.

3. Begin to slowly exhale for 4 seconds.

4. Repeat steps 1 to 3 at least three times. Ideally, repeat the three steps for a few minutes, until calm returns.

It may take some practice, but with an investment of a little time you will find benefits and a calmer, more focused “you.” More information found at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321805.php.

We need to come together to battle U.S. drug epidemic in ‘a balanced way’

This week is not just a business article, but also a personal story. After all our personal lives impact our professional lives.

On Friday, June 28, my niece was found dead from an overdose at a little hotel in our local area. It was room number 13. Her body was found behind the door and had to be moved to gain access to the room. She was found by a good friend who was trying to get her into rehab. Was she a victim of the heroin that was laced with fentanyl? We don’t know yet.

Surrounding her death are a plethora of facts and rumors, enough to build a crime novel plot. But, this is real life.

This is not just a story I have to tell, but many within this area have suffered from such bad news. A friend, a loved one or an acquaintance; we most all know someone who has died from an overdose.

An entire generation impacted by the abuse of opioids is now in what is being coined the “third-wave.” From 1999 to 2017, more than 700,000 people have died from a drug overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates the yearly economic costs to be nearing $80 billion to the U.S. economy.

This is much more, though, than just an economic issue. What inventions will we miss out on? What businesses will not be started? Whose hopes and dreams have died at the end of a needle? Can we afford to lose the talents of what is nearing to be a million people? The losses are soon comparable to all who died during the Second World War.

My niece had gone to rehab, not once, but many times over. In her journals that she kept — she talked about how hard it was to go off of the drugs. The pain was overwhelming. Some of the darkest moments in her life was during her withdrawals. It was easier to find another fix than it was to overcome the addiction.

It is common knowledge where the drug dealers are. I have heard of pastors who are brave enough to go into these drug-infested areas to ask the dealers to stop selling to the children. Some of the dealers have complied, but many don’t care. They understand that once you get someone “hooked” you have a customer until they die. How sick!

Do I have a solution?

We cannot allow this to continue. We need to come together on local, regional and national levels to not just pass legislation, but to find real-time solutions to this horrid epidemic. Many articles have been written, studies conducted and lives lost. Laws alone won’t solve this deeply rooted problem. It may alleviate some of the issues, but the drugs and what is happening are already illegal.

Locking all of the dealers and users up would overwhelm the legal system.

We need to look for answers in a balanced way. It will take cooperation between government and non-government institutions. It will take cooperation between government and citizens to end this epidemic.

How many more thousands will need to die before we step forward, speak out, share ideas or find solutions?

Kindness should spill over to workplace

“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: Kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.” — Mother Teresa

Why is it so hard for some people to be kind to others? In many work environments rudeness, crudeness and all out incivility rule the culture. Verbal abuse from a manager, blaming mistakes on others and talking down to individuals are just a few unkind ways that 98% of people polled across 17 industries reported being treated at work. (Harvard Business Review) Unkind work environments have a negative impact on employee productivity and engagement. Almost 50% of employees who work in these environments report intentionally decreased work effort, spending less time at work, and said that their commitment to the organization declined.

How can “kindness” help business to have a competitive edge?

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, there is a strong business case for kindness. It strengthens relationships within the organization and with other business partners and investors.

A culture of kindness can attract employees to a company and lead to lower recruiting, hiring and training costs. This also, in turn, will lead to higher productivity.

Kindness in the workplace enhances employee engagement and business performance. Employee engagement has become a significant predictor of an organization’s profitability and productivity. According to a Gallup study, actively disengaged employees cost more than $483 billion each year in lost productivity.

What can we do to promote kindness? First we must realize that kindness is simply actions intended to benefit others.

Hold your tongue. Do not literally put your fingers in your mouth and grab your tongue to stop yourself from talking, but think before you speak. Are the words you intend to say going to help the situation at hand or are they going to do more harm than good? Giving someone a “piece of your mind” will only relieve your stress for a short time and may damage the other person in the long term. Remember, that how you feel is simply an opinion and may not be

based on fact. It is not always appropriate to share these words — especially if you are in a management or superior position.

Treat others like you want to be treated. Yes, also known as the Golden Rule for good reason. If you would like to hear “good job” more frequently, then say it a little more. If you can drop something off at someone’s work station for them, do it. If cookies or donuts bring smiles — every once in a while, share a few.

Be grateful. There is a co-worker, a team member or a subordinate who needs to know that something, even small they did, helped you in some way. Say “thank you” and practice saying it often.

Say “good morning” and “good evening” to the people around you. If you ask them a question, actually listen to their answer. You probably spend more time with these people than you do some of your family members.

Small acts of kindness carry a lot of clout. 

Heidi Shadel | Human capital — taking care of your employees

Yep! Earned my OSHA Construction Safety and Health Card a little over a year ago. Am I proud of it? Probably — just a little. If you sit through several days of training on what you should and should not do on a ladder or in a ditch on a construction site, you would be just a bit! (I do a variety of things to better understand the clients’ needs.)

The training spread across three Fridays and for the most part, I was the only female in the room with 20 burly men. My presence in the room was making these guys uncomfortable. It was obvious in their body language. They would joke around and make comments to one another. If one worker thought the other was saying something inappropriate he would elbow the guy next to him. They would both turn around and look at me out of the corner of their eye.

I have to admit that I was uncomfortable at first, too. When these men realized that they could talk without me becoming offended they relaxed and were quite fun. During donuts and coffee breaks I was able to get to know them better.

These were hard-working guys who did what they needed to do to get the job done to “take the paycheck home.” According to their stories, it was not always in the safest of ways — thus the OSHA training.

I learned more about Human Capital through this training than I did on how to mark and safely secure a hole in the ground.

Human Capital was the lifeblood of this business — these guys not only represented the business, they were the business. This company had to take care of their employees because their employees were taking care of them.

Every company who has employees MUST take care of them. It is a good business strategy to always be thinking and asking, “What do my employees need?” If you have happy employees, 90% of the time you will have happy customers. Taking care of your employees just makes good business sense.

And YES, now I can properly secure a ladder to the side of my house.

Heidi Shadel is a Cumberland business owner and graduate of Frostburg State University with a masters in business administration. She believes in small business and the power that it holds in America’s economy, especially having a passion for helping small businesses succeed within the tri-state region. Connect with her on LinkedIn, follow her on Twitter at Heidi Shadel @heidiann73.

Another Pain in the Rear for Employers – The New I-9 Form

A New I-9 Form

By Heidi Shadel

As if you didn’t already have enough to keep up with—on September 18, 2017, there is a new I-9 Form that we must use. What is the I-9 form? The I-9 is simply the form used to verify the eligibility of someone you want to hire to work legally in the U.S. If you are an employer you are required to verify every individual that you hire.

If you have hired an employee and do not obtain required and appropriate documentation you may be fined penalties which have recently nearly doubled. The fines and penalties are for each category that has not been properly completed or verified. You are not just responsible for filling them out but you must also maintain them. Penalties and fines can add up quickly.

Did you know that it is “best practice” to keep a separate I-9 Form file for each of your employees? Do not keep them in with other documents for that employee. Why? It is elementary, dear Watson (remember Sherlock Holmes). I-9 Form audits are on the rise, you may have already been asked to show an official your I-9 Forms to see if you comply. If you are audited and the person doing the audit notices that you are not in compliance with some of your other forms—they may pass this information on to another regulatory body. This will most likely result in yet another audit.

When did all this start? In 1986 the Immigration Reform and Control Act was passed, in which Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification had to be completed for all new full-time and part-time employees. It does not need to be completed for independent contractors. The burden of proof falls completely on the employer to ensure that all employees, citizens and noncitizens, are correctly identified and legally authorized to work in the US.
Form I-9 is not a big scary form, but the instructions must be read carefully and adhered to—pay attention to the details. It is advisable to seek guidance, sometimes, beyond just reading the instructions.

What are the changes?

The basic document has remained the same, the acceptable documents list and retention requirements have not changed. There are now three ways to complete Form I-9: 1) manually, pen to paper, 2) electronically, then print and sign, or 3) use an electronic I-9 vendor. The written instructions for Form I-9 has increased from 6 pages to 15 pages, you know, to simplify things (cough, cough!).

Even though these documents must be witnessed for verification by the Employer, it has some of us puzzled as to why webcams or some other forms of technology are not acceptable to aide in proving that these verification documents were presented.

Just a reminder – Employers do not have to update or use the new I-9 for existing employees.

You do not have to worry about this – just read the instructions carefully, watching for details. If you need help, ask for it.

Heidi A B Shadel
(888) 552-8747
ATR Advantage
122 S Centre St, 3rd Floor
Cumberland, MD 21502
Email Address: habshadel@gmail.com

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