Clearing Up COVID Confusion

The Workplace Routine

For many, getting back to work is a long-awaited blessing. However, as we have seen COVID-19 cases spike across Ohio over the last several days, business-as-usual it is not. More employers and employees are working to meet the challenges of COVID-19 and are attempting to understand how to properly respond to COVID-19 incidents.

Although resources related to handling COVID-19 are vast, many employers continue to be unsure of what is necessary to minimize risk to employees and others. For that reason, we thought it may be helpful to bottom-line some workplace best practices, particularly for responding to situations where someone has been in “close contact” with a person or persons with COVID-19.

Download the Employer COVID-19 Checklist

First of all, where did we get our information?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) has developed a raft of guidelines to address responding to possible exposure to COVID-19. We additionally consulted the resources available to assist employers through the Ohio Department of Health dedicated Coronavirus website.

Who can you trust?

Unfortunately, we have a pandemic that has been politicized creating a lot of hyper-partisan back and forth. Ultimately, this has led to a confusing landscape with people unsure of what to listen to and who to trust. The State of Ohio has gone through great lengths to help employers and employees in every field understand how to implement and innovate under the threat of COVID-19.

What is “close contact” with COVID-19?

The CDC has issued guidance regarding the proper response to situations where an individual has been in “close contact” with a person with COVID-19, which they updated in late September 2020. “Close contact” is defined by both the CDC as spending at least 15 minutes within six feet of a person with a confirmed case of COVID-19, or a direct exposure to possibly infected droplets of saliva or nasal mucus (e.g., being sneezed or coughed on in the face).

“Close Contact” Bottom Line

  • If a person does not have COVID-19 symptoms but has had “close contact”, the person should remain in self-quarantine at home for 14 days from the last exposure if the person has tested negative (or has not been tested);
  • If the person has a positive test but no symptoms, he or she should stay home in quarantine for 10 days after the test.
  • If a person has had both close contact and COVID-19 symptoms, the person (regardless of COVID-19 test results) should stay in self-isolation for at least 10 days since the onset of symptoms and until at least 24 hours have passed with no fever (without medications) and with the improvement of the other symptoms.
  • In addition to the above, new therapeutics are hitting treatment facilities showing merit for shortening the cycle. If in doubt, trust your health professionals to provide guidance on when it is safe to return to work.

Download the Potentially Exposed? Checklist

“But, I was wearing a mask”…

Just because an employee was wearing a mask when they came in “close contact” does not mean they can skip quarantine procedures. While wearing a mask aids in the fight to control COVID-19, the CDC guidance does not give one a “pass” from the quarantine requirements due to the fact that one was wearing a mask when in close contact with a person with COVID-19.  The same quarantine requirements still apply.

“But, I tested negative”…

Many employers are asking that employees that have been in “close contact” to be tested before returning to work. While this is a good step, it has caused some confusion. Given that the virus can develop and symptoms may not appear for up to fourteen days post-exposure; being exposed and then testing negative the next day does not mean an employee is in the clear. Simply put, even if an employee tests negative for COVID-19 or feels healthy, they should quarantine if they have been in “close contact” with someone with COVID-19. Today’s negative test can become tomorrow’s positive test.

“I vacationed or traveled to a hot spot, now what?”

Hot spots are popping up in a variety of areas across the country. If an employee travels for personal or professional reasons to a COVID-19 hot spot (classified as such due to the high rate of spread in the area), a traveler is exempt from the self-quarantine requirement if he or she has had a negative COVID-19 test in the seventy-two (72) hours prior to arrival back in Ohio or since returning.  However, if while visiting a hot spot a person was in “close contact” with someone with COVID-19, then it is recommended to follow the CDC guidelines for potential exposure.

More Resources Available

Ohio Department of Health, as mentioned at the top of this post, has assembled many resources for employers. With the September 14th law, HB 606, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine provided employers legal protections when it comes to their efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19, making Ohio one of a growing number of states granting similar civil immunity. However, it is important to note, HB 606 does not offer blanket protection for employers, as it additionally provides protections for employees who can prove “reckless disregard for consequences” by an employer.

One particularly useful area of resources on the Ohio Department of Health website is a section dedicated to common questions around COVID-19, as well as a number of downloadable checklists and employer resources. We would encourage you to check that out: COVID-19 Checklists


Saxon Gives Back

Community Strong: FamiliesFORWARD

Saxon took time out to give back by assembling school supply kits for FamiliesFORWARD.

FamiliesFORWARD is a neighborhood-based resource center devoted to helping children reach their full potential through many programs and partnerships within the community. We invite you to take a few moments to learn more about the FamiliesFORWARD mission and how you can get involved.

How You Can Help

doctor and patient

Pandemic Causing Many to Lose Employer-Sponsored Health Coverage

Many small businesses have suffered due to the implications that the coronavirus pandemic has placed on them. Many of those struggles are rooted in financial instability during this time which has caused many to stop paying health insurance premiums. Read this blog post to learn more.


The COVID-19 pandemic forced many small businesses to stop paying health insurance premiums to insurers, leaving their employees without group health care coverage. Even more workers could find themselves without health insurance if businesses can't afford to renew their group plans for 2021, when premiums are expected to trend slightly higher.

If the coronavirus spikes again across the U.S. and a "second wave" further restricts business operations, more employees could find themselves uninsured.

We've rounded up articles from trusted news sources on the loss of employer-sponsored health insurance and what might be coming.

Employers No Longer Able to Afford Coverage

Health insurance coverage is a major expense for employers, especially for small businesses. As they struggle with the economic fallout of the pandemic, many may face end-of-year renewal deadlines that are harder to afford.

Thousands of small businesses that had always expressed difficulty in providing employee health insurance under the Affordable Care Act are now in far worse trouble because of the pandemic.

While estimates vary, a recent Urban Institute analysis of census data says at least 3 million Americans have already lost job-based coverage, and a separate analysis from Avalere Health predicts some 12 million will lose it by the end of this year. Both studies highlight the disproportionate effect on Black and Hispanic workers.

"The odds are we are on track to have the largest coverage losses in our history," said Stan Dorn, the director of the National Center for Coverage Innovation at Families USA, a Washington, D.C., consumer group.
(New York Times)

Race-Based Disparities in Coverage Loss

Overall, 8 percent of Americans reported in September that they had lost their health insurance specifically due to the pandemic, according to a series of surveys conducted by data research firm Civis Analytics and global communications firm Finn Partners. That figure was higher among Black Americans, with 10.4 percent reporting they had lost their health insurance because of the pandemic. In contrast, 6.8 percent of white Americans said in September they had lost their health insurance because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Overall, among Black Americans, 26 percent were uninsured in September, up from 17 percent in February. Among white Americans, 12 percent were uninsured in September, up from 11 percent in February.
(ValuePenguin)

Small Businesses Under Pressure

Small businesses, defined as those employing fewer than 500 workers, are under extreme pressure to cut costs. But in spite of across-the-board cost-cutting, a survey of small U.S. businesses in late June found only 5 percent had resorted to cutting health insurance benefits for their employees.

However, nearly one-third of survey respondents indicated they were not sure they could keep up with premium payments beyond Aug. 15.

To examine whether federal financial assistance enabled businesses to maintain health insurance coverage, researchers compared health care offer rates to employees by businesses reporting they had been approved for federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds with rates for those not approved, as of June 15. The firms that received PPP funds were much less likely to drop coverage than firms that did not.

The PPP stopped accepting loan application requests in early August.
(NEJM Catalyst)

Indiana's Experience

In April, Indiana saw about 560,000 residents losing employment, according to Mark Fairchild, director of public policy at the nonprofit Covering Kids & Families of Indiana. At the start of September, the number had fallen below 400,000 and is trending downward.

"We've recovered dramatically, but that still is going to leave over 10 percent of Hoosiers without a job," Fairchild said. "And related to that, of course, the insurance that goes with that impacts not just them, but their family members, too."

Counting the spouses and children who may have been covered by family plans, he estimates that upwards of a million Indiana residents may have lost employer-sponsored health coverage during the pandemic.

The loss of health insurance doesn't fall equally on everyone, as some sectors of the economy, like hospitality and service jobs, have been hit harder than others.
(Side Effects/WFYI Indianapolis Public Media)

DOL Temporarily Extends COBRA Sign-Up Deadlines

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) temporarily extended the period in which eligible employees can elect COBRA health insurance continuation coverage and the deadline for them to begin making COBRA premium payments.

The final rule extended most COBRA deadlines to beyond the "outbreak period," defined as from March 1, 2020, to 60 days after the end of the declared COVID-19 national emergency, or another date if provided in future guidance.

"Any COBRA premiums due during the outbreak period will not be considered delinquent if the COBRA premiums are paid within 30 days following the end of the outbreak period," said Paul Yenerall, a Pittsburgh-based attorney with Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott.

Employers may require individuals to pay for COBRA continuation coverage. The premium that is charged cannot exceed the full cost of the coverage, plus a 2 percent administration charge. That cost is not affordable for many newly unemployed workers.

During the pandemic, however, some employers are choosing to pay for a former employee's COBRA coverage if the person has been laid off, or to do so for current employees who lost group health plan coverage when they were furloughed or had their hours reduced.
(SHRM Online)

SOURCE: Miller, S. (01 October 2020) "Pandemic Causing Many to Lose Employer-Sponsored Health Coverage" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/pandemic-causing-many-to-lose-employer-sponsored-health-coverage.aspx


3 Ways to Motivate Your Team Through an Extended Crisis

Another month of working remotely has passed, and many employers are beginning to flag a lack of motivation, performance, and well-being coming from team members. It's important for managers to re-energize their teams and to identify the struggles which are holding them back. Read this blog post to learn more.


As we flip our calendars to yet another month of our large-scale Covid-19 remote-work experiment, it's no wonder that motivation, performance and well-being are flagging for many. Months in, managers need new tools to reenergize their teams, to accurately identify and diagnose recurring struggles and to empathetically help employees address their problems.

A large part of a leader's responsibility is to provide structure, guidance and regulation; yet many workplace studies point to the fact that the most important gauge for a healthy work environment isn't a strong external framework, but whether individuals can foster internal motivation.

Using a well-established theory of motivation called self-determination theory, or SDT, we have identified three main psychological needs that leaders can meet to help their employees stay engaged, confident and motivated.

1. Relatedness

This means that your employees feel cared for and that you've fostered a sense of belonging. Make time to listen to your employees' perspectives and make them know that they are heard and valued. A few simple practices may help:

  • Acknowledge and validate your employees' emotions as well as their reactions. ("I know it can be tough to stay focused right now, but we'll figure it out together!")
  • Don't let people get lost in the crowd: Reduce team size and acknowledge each member's work and achievements to the extent possible.
  • When problems arise, make sure to get full feedback from those involved. This helps you identify the biggest issues and obstacles, while strengthening connection and encouraging communication.
  • Emphasize that people's contributions are unique and necessary; do not let good work go unacknowledged.
  • Communicate that you care about employees' well-being, not just their productivity.

2. Competence

This refers to when a person feels effective and experiences growth. Research shows that holding employees accountable for achievable goals can improve performance, and motivational science also suggests that trust begets trust. Try these approaches to help ignite your team's internal motivation:

  • Involve your employees in decisions where their input could be valuable. Asking for suggestions to optimize an ongoing process, for example, can help maximize a sense of empowerment, progress and ownership.
  • To demonstrate their mastery of a particular task or skill, ask an employee to explain to their colleagues what they're working on or why they chose a particular strategy.
  • Set up check-ins to regularly discuss progress on individual goals and create strategies to meet them.

3. Autonomy

Effective leaders foster internal motivation by empowering employees' sense that they are the authors of their actions and have the power to make choices that are aligned with their own values, goals and interests, as well as their team's. Leaders should encourage autonomy and be genuinely caring while also recognizing that each employee carries responsibilities for achieving team objectives. To help foster a sense of autonomy we recommend that leaders:

  • Encourage self-initiation and participation. Perhaps ask, "What part of this project can you see yourself leading?"
  • Avoid controlling language ("Get this to me by tomorrow!") and minimize coercive controls like unrealistic deadlines and constant monitoring of your employees. Instead, find ways to motivate them through encouragement and positive feedback, such as, "I know it's a tight deadline, but having your skills on this team will be so helpful to our client."
  • Be transparent by providing the rationale behind demands. People are more willing to put in their full effort when they understand why a given task is important.

A person's work environment plays a big role in whether these three channels surge or jam, so it's no surprise that motivation is especially at risk in these pandemic times. No matter what the circumstances are, we are most energized and committed when we are internally motivated by our own values, sense of enjoyment and growth — in short, internal motivation inspires us to be our best selves. By meeting the three psychological needs, leaders help employees be engaged and feel valued at work (relatedness), feel motivated by growth (competence), and feel empowered and confident in their skills (autonomy). Employees who feel unappreciated or coerced will, at best, often half-heartedly comply with a boss's orders without whole-heartedly committing to excellence. At worst, they will lose all sense of motivation and fail to meet goals and deadlines.

SOURCE: Bradford, A.; Ryan, R. (02 October 2020) "3 Ways to Motivate Your Team Through an Extended Crisis" (Web Blog Post). Received from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/3-ways-to-motivate-your-team-through-an-extended-crisis.aspx


Three keys to creating remote team chemistry

The chemistry between team members is often a key building block in successful communication and growth. Now that most workplaces are working remotely and team members are not face-to-face each day, creating a powerful and positive team takes a more delicate approach. Read this blog post to learn more.


Scottie Pippen once said, “Chemistry is a very important element for any team that wants to be serious about winning.” As a six-time NBA champion, Pippen knows a thing or two about winning. His chemistry with Michael Jordan and the Bulls’ supporting cast created one of the greatest dynasties in sports history.

Chemistry — the way teams work together — has always been the X-factor in success stories. Today, in a world where working from anywhere is becoming the standard, creating and harnessing chemistry is newly challenging but just as important as ever.

One of the great challenges of working remotely is replicating the interactions and relationships that develop naturally in a physical office. Camaraderie and morale, huge factors in developing positive team chemistry, can’t be forced. Chemistry isn’t quantifiable or trackable; it’s an organic quality that changes over time, much like company culture. Leaders can’t force chemistry to happen nor should they try. Instead, creating a powerful, positive team chemistry remotely takes a more delicate approach.

When it comes to chemistry building, consider being both active and passive. If you’re too active in promoting bonding and friendship, your efforts may end up ringing hollow. If you’re too passive, you won’t know what’s going on with your team. A healthy remote management style will go a long way in promoting chemistry but won’t get you all the way there. You have to supplement good managerial practices with procedures designed to promote trust and kinship between team members.

 Create a space for chemistry

One of the first steps to establishing remote chemistry is to provide people with a space to talk about non-work matters. When you had an office, this space already existed in the form of hallways, breakrooms, the moments before and after a meeting, and more. Creating a virtual water cooler (you can even set specific hours for it in Zoom) will encourage people to discuss their lives outside of their careers. These discussions bring people together, making them more likely to trust and rely on one another.

Better than just providing a space for these talks is giving folks something to talk about. Creating a book club, fantasy football league or TV-watching group will ensure that people will have common experiences to talk about. If you want to go full meta, you could even watch the Emmy-winning documentary series “The Last Dance” about the Chicago Bulls and discuss team chemistry itself.

Welcome new team members

If you’ve added new employees during 2020, you know how hard it can be to make them feel like a part of the team. Odds are, new hires have never met the people with whom they are most closely collaborating. It’s not hard to see how that could create a problem. To avoid a world where new team members feel like anonymous hired guns, you have to actively create warmth and kinship.

New hires should receive both formal and informal introductions to their new coworkers. A structured meet and greet will allow people to learn quick facts about each other, work preferences and other essential details. A virtual happy hour will give people a chance to get to know each other in a less rigorous way. By the end of a new employee's first week, they should have experienced both.

Share challenges and victories alike

Nothing brings people together like shared experiences. When you go through a tough client experience with fellow team members, you grow closer to them. When somebody helps you on a project that yields great results, you trust them more than you did before. The essential value of team chemistry comes from a sense that you’re all in this together. To make people feel that way, you have to let them talk about what they’re going through.

Talk about Zoom fatigue. Talk about the clients who struggle to accept a tech-heavy reality. Talk about what’s working and what isn’t. Talk about how hard it is to juggle a family and work with everyone under one roof. Talk about it all. When it comes to team chemistry, conversation is never an enemy.

SOURCE: Vetter, A. (05 October 2020) "Three keys to creating remote team chemistry" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/list/three-keys-to-creating-remote-team-chemistry


Companies to shrink offices as work stays remote after pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has taught companies many things, one of those being that it may be time to allow employees to work remotely full-time when the pandemic ends. Read this blog post to learn more.


More than half of companies plan to shrink their offices as working from home becomes a regular fixture after the COVID-19 pandemic ends, according to a survey by Cisco Systems.

Some 53% of larger organizations plan to reduce the size of their office space and more than three quarters will increase work flexibility. Almost all of the respondents were uncomfortable returning to work because they fear contracting the virus, the poll found.

Cisco, the largest maker of networking equipment, recently surveyed 1,569 executives, knowledge workers and others who are responsible for employee environments in the post-COVID era. The findings suggest many of this year’s radical changes to work life will remain long after the pandemic subsides.

The poll, conducted for Cisco by Dimensional Research, concluded that working from home is the “new normal.” More than 90% of respondents said they won’t return to the office full time. 12% plan to work from home all the time, 24% will work remotely more than 15 days of each month, while 22% will do that eight to 15 days every month.

Cisco’s Webex video conferencing service has benefited from lockdowns that have kept millions of people working and studying from home. It’s also faces rising competition from Zoom Video Communications.

For employees who do return to the office, Webex is adding environmental sensors that plug into its current video-conferencing gear. That will help companies identify over-used and under-utilized spaces, while complying with room capacity limits and checking if workers are wearing masks.

SOURCE: King, I. (06 October 2020) "Companies to shrink offices as work stays remote after pandemic" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/articles/companies-to-shrink-offices-as-work-stays-remote-after-pandemic


U.S. Adds 661,000 Jobs; Unemployment Rate Drops

According to recent studies, the job-loss numbers that businesses saw at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic has begun to shrink. The unemployment rate fell from 8.4 percent to 7.9 percent in August. Read this blog post to learn more.


U.S. payrolls increased by 661,000 in September, according to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)—falling below what economists expected. The report is more evidence that the pace of hiring has slowed, as more layoffs loom.

The unemployment rate fell to 7.9 percent from 8.4 percent in August. Economists had been expecting an employment gain of 800,000 and the unemployment rate to fall to 8.2 percent.

The economy has now recovered 11.4 million of the 22 million jobs lost in March in April at the beginning of the pandemic, but job growth is stalling—September was the first month since April that net hiring was below 1 million.

This slowdown is occurring as large corporate layoffs not reflected in the report are imminent: Walt Disney Co. announced 28,000 permanent layoffs and U.S. airlines are proceeding with tens of thousands of job cuts.

"The economy may have added jobs, but at a pace way too slow considering how many jobs were lost earlier this year," said Nick Bunker, an economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab. "The unemployment rate may have dropped, but the share of people with a job only moved up slightly. This report is an illusion of progress at a time when we needed accelerating gains in the labor market. We are not where we need to be, nor are we moving fast enough in the right direction as we head into fall."

The BLS report is the last one before the presidential election on Nov. 3.

"The report shows we are still clearly in the snap-back phase of the recovery, as jobs that were switched off because of COVID are blinking back online," said Andrew Challenger, senior vice president of global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, based in Chicago. "While we're seeing jobs come back, there is concurrent destruction occurring in the labor market as companies right-size their organizations to meet the decidedly lower demand they expect to face over the next two or three years," he said.

Employers continue to bring back workers—about half of the workers furloughed or laid off at the onset of the pandemic have now been rehired—but the pace of recovery is slowing while there is still a long way to go, said Julia Pollak, a labor economist at ZipRecruiter, an online employment marketplace in Santa Monica, Calif. "Even after the recent gains, we still have nearly 11 million fewer jobs than before the pandemic," she said. "By comparison, we lost 8.7 million jobs in the Great Recession."

Becky Frankiewicz, president of ManpowerGroup North America, said that the BLS report shows steady improvement, especially hiring in leisure and hospitality and operations and logistics.

Job gains were broad-based, with most sectors of the economy adding to payrolls in September, said Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor.

Employment in leisure and hospitality increased by 318,000, with almost two-thirds of the gain occurring in restaurants and bars. Despite job growth totaling 3.8 million over the last five months, employment in this sector is still down by millions since the onset of the coronavirus.

Retailers added 142,000 jobs, with most of those coming in clothing stores.

"The recovery is primarily being driven by continued rehiring in the hardest-hit industries including leisure and hospitality, retail and health care," Chamberlain said.

"Many service-sector industries are continuing to recover briskly as many states and cities eased coronavirus restrictions and increased capacity limits on restaurants, gyms and stores," Pollak said. "As restrictions are lifted in the largest cities, we can expect to see a rapid bounce back."

She added that some industries haven't yet begun to recover. "The education sector is still shedding jobs, as are the performing arts and spectator sports, hospitals, coal mines, facilities support services and travel agencies."

Professional and business services contributed 89,000 jobs and the transportation and warehousing sector was up 74,000 jobs. Manufacturing grew by 66,000, financial activities added 37,000 and construction employment grew by 26,000 jobs last month, mostly in residential building. By comparison, nonresidential building gained 5,300 jobs and infrastructure work lost 3,400 positions.

Public-sector employment declined by 216,000 jobs in September, mainly due to state and local public schools failing to reopen due to the national health crisis. "Another deeply concerning thing is that we are down 1.2 million state and local government jobs over the last seven months, more than two-thirds of them in education," said Heidi Shierholz, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. This will only get worse without aid from Congress, she added.

A decrease of 34,000 jobs in the federal government was driven by a decline in the number of temporary Census 2020 workers. "Nearly a quarter of a million jobs are temporary jobs related to the decennial census that will disappear in the next few months," Shierholz said.

Unemployment Concerning

The official unemployment rate is now in line with previous recessions.

Chamberlain pointed out that the number of workers on temporary layoff declined sharply from 6.2 million in August to 4.6 million in September, "a reminder that the nation's impressive job growth in September is still largely driven by rehiring of furloughed workers as a patchwork of state and local government health restrictions are gradually lifted throughout the country."

But the number of workers whose layoffs became permanent rose in September, a sign that joblessness will become longer lasting. "There was a surge of 351,000 workers who have been permanently laid off," Shierholz said. "This does not bode well at all for the pace of the recovery."

Shierholz argued that the unemployment picture is much worse than the headline number of 12.6 million workers officially counted as unemployed. She said that there were an additional 800,000 workers temporarily unemployed but misclassified as employed and another 5 million workers out of work as a result of the virus but being counted as having dropped out of the labor force because they weren't actively seeking work.

"If all these workers were taken into account, the unemployment rate would have been 12.5 percent in September," she said. "There are also 9 million workers who are employed but have seen a drop in hours and pay as a result of the virus."

Another concern is that the decline in the unemployment rate came along with a 0.3 percentage point drop in the labor force participation rate to 61.4 percent. That's nearly 700,000 people.

"The decline in the unemployment rate in September was mostly for bad reasons—people dropping out of the labor force, not people getting jobs," Shierholz said.

The prime-age employment rate also decreased and long-term unemployment (unemployment lasting more than six months) increased by 781,000 to 2.4 million workers.

However, a measure that counts discouraged workers and those working part-time for economic reasons also declined, falling from 14.2 percent to 12.8 percent.

The unemployment rate fell for all demographic groups. The rate declined for Asian workers from 10.7 percent to 8.9 percent; for Black workers from 13 percent to 12.1; for Hispanic workers from 10.5 percent to 10.3 percent; and for white workers from 7.3 percent to 7.0 percent.

"One surprising thing about the job loss of March and April is that it was fairly racially equitable—the black and white unemployment rates both rose by about 11 percentage points," Shierholz said. "But the period since then has been a totally different story. Since the peak, the white unemployment rate has come down more than 50 percent faster than the Black unemployment rate."

Pollak said that women also continue to bear the brunt of the economic pain. "This is the first recession where the percentage decline in service-sector employment has exceeded that in the goods-producing sector," she said. "The industry distribution of job losses has been unfavorable to women, who are heavily concentrated in face-to-face services. School closures have also had a larger effect on female labor force participation. Since February, the labor force participation rate for men aged 25 to 54 has fallen by 1.6 percentage points, while that for women in the same age group has fallen by 2.8 percentage points.

The unemployment rate for men fell from 8.0 percent in August to 7.4 percent in September. The rate for women dropped from 8.4 percent to 7.7 percent during that time.

Declining female workforce participation is an area to watch and take action to address, Frankiewicz said. "We're advising clients to focus on offering flexible work options, autonomy for people to choose schedules that work best, and to think about the skills that are needed vs. desired for new roles."

SOURCE: Maurer, R. (02 October 2020) "U.S. Adds 661,000 Jobs; Unemployment Rate Drops" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/bls-hr-jobs-unemployment-october-2020-covid19-coronavirus.aspx


8 Diversity Recruiting Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Diversity in the workplace involves taking a close look at each step within the recruiting process, and companies must commit to their diversity in the hiring process to complete the hiring puzzle. Read this blog post to learn more.


Employers are re-evaluating workplace diversity at their organizations, starting with being more thoughtful about recruiting from a broader range of talent.

"An effective diversity recruitment program involves taking a close look at every step of the recruitment process, from sourcing and recruitment marketing, to screening and interview practices, to how you present an offer," said Matt Marturano, vice president at executive search firm Orchid Holistic Search in the Detroit area.

Companies must commit to their diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, and hiring is one of the most critical pieces of the puzzle, said Liz Wessel, CEO and co-founder of WayUp, a New York City-based jobs site and resource center for college students and recent graduates. "Most employers think that the reason they aren't hiring enough diverse people is because of a 'top of funnel' problem—not getting enough diverse applicants. However, in most cases, an equally big problem is the funnel itself, meaning they have parts of their hiring process and criteria that don't bode well for underrepresented candidates."

WayUp produced a report identifying eight of the most common barriers to attracting and hiring diverse candidates for emerging professional roles, along with tips for eliminating bias and improving diversity in the hiring process.

1. GPA Requirements

Recruiters can increase the number of Black and Hispanic candidates to their jobs by eliminating GPA minimums.

"By setting a minimum GPA for early-career candidates, companies are inadvertently creating an employment test that disproportionately hurts Black, Hispanic and Native American candidates," Wessel said. That's because data suggest that since Black, Hispanic and Native American students are more likely to come from lower-income households and work longer hours in college, their GPA suffers, she said. She added that data show GPA is rarely correlated to performance.

2. Relocation Stipends

Offering financial support for moving expenses is important to attract diverse, early-career candidates given that low-income students without the means to relocate for a new role are disproportionately Black or Hispanic. Black candidates are almost twice as likely as other candidates to be unwilling to relocate for a position if there is no stipend provided, WayUp found. "This means that Black candidates will be less likely to apply or more likely to drop out of your process or reject your job offer entirely," Wessel said. "Relocation stipends level the playing field for people of all socioeconomic statuses," she added.

Recruiters and hiring managers assume that everyone in college has the financial ability to move to take a job, said Margaret Spence, founder of The Employee to CEO Project, aimed at coaching diverse women to attain C-suite leadership roles. "The reality is that for most minority students, they are existing from a community putting together funds for them to be in school," she said. "They are financially strapped and already working to get by. Recruiters must have cultural awareness to understand that their candidates are coming from different backgrounds."

3. Interview Scheduling

When and how interviews are scheduled can impede engagement with minority candidates. That's because there are millions of low-income students—disproportionately Black or Hispanic—who work while in college, which leaves them less time to schedule interviews during traditional business hours.

"When I was a student, I worked full time as a waitress," Spence said. "That is the reality for many students right now. If you are asking someone to do an interview at 11 a.m., maybe that person is in a class or working a part-time job. It would be better to create a calendar opportunity that allows a student to go in and pick a time when they are available."

4. Interview Technology

The trend toward using video interview technology is growing, but the method presents a challenge to low-income job seekers who don't have access to the technology required. According to a 2019 Pew Research Center survey, only 58 percent of Black respondents and 57 percent of Hispanics reported owning a desktop or laptop computer. And just 66 percent of Black respondents and 61 percent of Hispanics reported having Internet access.

"Leveraging AI or video to help screen candidates seems like an easy win from an efficiency perspective," Wessel said. "But if you're trying to hire diverse entry-level talent, our findings suggest you should rethink that strategy."

The tools and tech-related skills that are needed to be hired are not equally available to everyone, Spence said. "Talent acquisition should get more involved with college career-development programs to teach people how to build a LinkedIn profile and how to apply for a job virtually, instead of just throwing the tech at them. The technology is an enhancement; it cannot be the only tool."

Wessel said the solution is to embrace high-touch recruiting. "Avoid using prerecorded interviews as a method to screen candidates if you can," she said. "Instead, build trust with your candidates by removing bias from the candidate screening process, including the interview itself."

5. Paid Internships

According to Wessel, this one couldn't be more simple: Unpaid internships perpetuate inequality. Most people cannot afford to work for free. The average cost of an unpaid internship for students is $6,800, according to WayUp, and that number only goes up based on the hottest job markets.

Spence shared that a client told her it was having problems getting minority interns to show up on day one. Managers thought they were being ghosted. But when recruiters inquired with the candidates, they realized many people didn't have the money to travel or live as unpaid interns. All the hired interns showed up the following year once the company offered a stipend and housing.

6. Job Posts

A common type of unconscious bias can be found in how job posts are written. "The bias in your job post predicts who you'll hire because the language changes who applies to your job," Wessel said. "Job-posting language can deter diverse candidates, but it can also drive more minority applicants when done well," she said.

"It's been an issue for years now," said Tai Wingfield, senior vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion in public relations firm Weber Shandwick's corporate practice. "That also goes for unconscious bias in how interviews are conducted and the types of questions that are asked. These biases have the potential to disqualify diverse talent capable of driving significant innovation."

Marturano said it's easy for stereotypes and bias to creep into job-post language, and taking the time to fully consider what job posts say and how they say it "speaks volumes to diverse candidates about how your organization operates and if seeking an interview would be worth their time and effort."

Wingfield added that "using words like 'fearless,' 'go-getter' or 'will work around the clock' can be very off-putting to those who are very capable but who struggle to maintain an 'always-on' work culture while prioritizing the education of their children during this time. Think about working parents."

Marturano recommended that organizations integrate diversity imperatives into a mission statement, include diverse benefits in the compensation package, and highlight possible career trajectories and any active employee resource groups.

7. School Sourcing

If your company focuses on the same select schools or only the elite schools for campus recruiting, the available talent pool is already diminished.

"By focusing your recruiting efforts on the same schools every year, you're focusing on the same type of candidates and likely discriminating against diverse students who don't get targeted by your company because they don't attend a top school," Wessel said.

Likewise, she said, employers shouldn't just focus on historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to reach diversity hiring goals. "While HBCUs are incredible schools, we recommend taking a more holistic approach," she said. She noted that Spelman College, an HBCU in Atlanta, has just over 2,000 students, most of whom self-identify as Black, but Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., has nearly 3,000 students who self-identify as Black.

"HBCU outreach is critical, but I was a student at the University of Maryland, where we had more Black students in our undergraduate class than nearby HBCU Howard in Washington, D.C.," Wingfield said. "Yes, companies should look beyond the HBCUs, but diversity recruiting requires culturally competent recruiters. Most large colleges and universities have affinity groups to partner with. I was a part of the Black student union. We held networking events and career fairs. Working with the student chapters of professional organizations on campus will also help recruiters find diverse talent from a broader bench of schools."

8. Technical Assessments

Technical assessments are one of the biggest culprits when it comes to bias in the hiring process, Wessel said. Hiring should never be based solely on one of these tests, she said. "Much like standardized tests, technical assessments are unfair to students who don't have access to training. Many universities, especially wealthier ones, are more likely to teach students how to take coding assessments. The same cannot be said for students who attend less economically advantaged universities." Instead, the technical assessment could be used as a guide to help recruiters and hiring managers determine a candidate's weaknesses and strengths, and point out areas for skilling, she said.

Spence said employers that want candidates to be proficient with certain technical skills should be partnering with schools on curriculum. "To move the needle on diversity in the tech space, employers will have to get more involved in developing the education they're seeking," she said.

SOURCE: Maurer, R. (28 September 2020) "8 Diversity Recruiting Mistakes and How to Avoid Them" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/8-diversity-recruiting-mistakes-how-to-avoid-them.aspx


Working from home in a pandemic is not shirking it

Juggling work and personal lives was a challenge before the coronavirus pandemic, but now as many are still continuing to work from home, employes are beginning to become worn down from having to manage their home life and work-life all at once. Read this blog post to learn more.


Working from home, once jokingly dismissed as “shirking” from home, is back as a pandemic lifeline for economies amid a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Europe. Governments in Britain and France, having goaded workers back to the office after lockdown, are now urging them home again. The sound of frustrated bosses gritting their teeth can be heard across the City of London, as big firms from Goldman Sachs Group to Citigroup pause the back-to-work push while keeping the office open.

There’s a sense of whiplash among white-collar workers, who just weeks ago were told that it was time to put the economy first and get back to their cubicles and open-plan desks. There should also be palpable relief. Being able to pull in a salary while safe at home is a privilege hospital staff, care workers and supermarket cashiers can’t have.

Still, we know from the first wave of lockdowns that those stock images of remote workers logging on from bed with a smile and tousled hair, or of barefoot parents deftly bouncing toddlers on their knee while firing off an email, are a fantasy. While surveys suggest working from home is popular among employees crushed by the grind of the daily commute, the grumbling of CEOs that productivity and company culture are vulnerable isn’t entirely wrong.

The mass push to work from home earlier this year was unprecedented. It represented an estimated 42% of the U.S. labor force (or more than two-thirds of economic activity when weighted by contribution to GDP), but it had drawbacks. The apparent productivity gains of being at home instead of on the subway began to look more like the result of a steadily lengthening work day, according to multiple network operators, rather than supercharged efficiency.

Juggling Zoom calls and childcare made matters far worse, one reason governments in Europe put so much emphasis on reopening schools this fall. “We are home working alongside our kids, in unsuitable spaces, with no choice and no in-office days,” Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom said in March as he warned of a looming “productivity disaster.” He’s usually much more positive: His past research has linked working from home to a 13% rise in performance and a 50% drop in employee departure rates.

While corporate bean counters dream of one day dumping costly commercial real estate for digital offices in the cloud, the reality of the cost of living in big cities means home offices aren’t up to scratch.

More than half of Americans working from home do so from shared rooms or bedrooms; more than one-third have poor internet connections or none at all. A June survey of Japanese workers found that even among early adopters of remote work, only a third found it more productive than working in the office, citing poor equipment. Deutsche Bank AG’s monthly survey of financial-market professionals found their assessment of whether they were on balance more productive or less productive at home declined from 20% in June to 11% in September. (It had plunged to -13% in April as everyone was forced home full-time all at once.)

That’s the short-term assessment. We don’t yet have evidence of mass remote work’s impact of longer term on company productivity, but the current outlook is mixed at best. It’s hard to see how the field of research and development — already being thinned out by recession-related cuts — is going to win out in this environment.

Given there’s little freedom right now to create a hybrid model combining office and home — the preferred option for the majority of workers surveyed at French carmaker PSA Group, for example — bosses should do more to make the work-from-home experiment palatable and safe for all involved. Subsidizing utility bills, workspace equipment like ergonomic chairs, and even expenses such as rent (as one Swiss firm was ordered to do in May) would increase satisfaction. Managerial habits should also change, with more trust given to employees, if companies are serious about attachment to “culture.”

The right to disconnect, which had begun to spread worldwide before the pandemic, is critical. The output gains of remote work come from contented and engaged workers, not the cheaper transaction cost of being able to hire, fire and manage via the Internet.

None of this is to idealize the world of physical offices, so easily skewered by the likes of Scott Adams’s Dilbert. And complaining about neck pain, or bosses constantly “checking in” online, might ring hollow to medical staff and delivery drivers who are on the frontlines. But given remote work is now such a critical lifeline for the economy, it would be a shame to let the current experiment fail as others have before. Choosing between your job and your health is a grim trade-off, and one that really shouldn’t exist in a pandemic like this one.

SOURCE: Laurent, L. (25 September 2020) "Working from home in a pandemic is not shirking it" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/articles/working-from-home-in-a-pandemic-is-not-shirking-it


How to Help Your Small Workplace Team Succeed

Often many small workplace teams have higher rates of productivity, due to a lesser amount of disruptions. Although there are more projects put onto single people instead of groups, it may not be a bad thing. Read this blog post for helpful tips on how to help your small workplace team succeed.


Are small workplace teams effective? Some savvy business innovators think so. After all, it was Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos who once said, "If you can't feed a team with two pizzas, it's too large."

Academia agrees. A 2019 Harvard Business Review study leans toward smaller teams. The study suggests that small workplace teams can "disrupt" conventional wisdom and get things done, according to authors Dashan Wang, a management professor at Northwestern University, and James A. Evans, a sociology professor at the University of Chicago.

"Our research suggests that team size fundamentally dictates the nature of work a team is capable of producing, and smaller team size confers certain critical benefits that large teams don't enjoy," Wang and Evans stated.

The study sought to "measure the disruptiveness" of workplace teams using "an established measure of disruption that assesses how much a given work destabilizes its field."

"This told us how the research eclipsed or made us rethink the prior 'state of the art,' setting a valuable new direction for others to follow," Wang and Evans wrote.

Why Small Teams Can Succeed

As Bezos and the Harvard Business Review study authors show, bigger is not necessarily better when it comes to workplace teams.

"Given the right resources, small teams can be incredibly powerful," said Michael Solomon, co-author of Game Changer: How to Be 10x in the Talent Economy (HarperCollins Leadership, 2020) and co-founder of 10x Management, a technology talent recruiting firm in New York City.

Solomon deploys an armed forces analogy to highlight the effectiveness of smaller workplace teams.

"If we think about the military, special ops are usually small units of highly trained, highly synchronized individuals who have prepared extensively, know each other incredibly well and are working toward a common goal," he said. "If companies can create a culture for small teams where there is a shared mission, a safe environment for constructive feedback and trust, there is little that can't be done."

For one project at his company, Solomon said, a team of between three and five people replaced a group of 35 to rebuild a product. "It was the right group of people with the right skills in the right culture, and they were able to literally achieve 10 times the result" of the larger team.

While smaller, more-nimble teams are commonplace at small businesses and startups with tight budgets, the concept can work at any company.

"Small teams can definitely be competitive against bigger teams, but the strategies are different," said John Doherty, chief executive officer and founder of GetCredo.com, a digital marketing company in Denver. "For instance, bigger teams will often have a lot more meetings and voices at the table, whereas smaller teams tend to motivate around a singular goal and focus. It really depends on what a company wants to achieve."

Getting Results with Smaller Teams: Top Tips

Team-building experts advise managers to consider these tips when building small teams:

Build an "ownership" mindset. Emphasizing ownership in a specific skill set is a great way to build small teams.

"Giving each person on a team an area of ownership helps small teams become more effective," Doherty said. "For example, I own business and marketing, my business partner owns the technology/software side, and we also have specialists on accounts, operations and finance."

Doherty's team uses Front, a business management tool, to steer tasks to the right person. "If something comes into our respective e-mail inboxes that should be handled by someone else, we can easily assign it to them and keep moving forward," he said.

Make accountability non-negotiable. Since fewer staffers are available, holding team members accountable is a must for small workplace teams.

"A smaller workplace team needs a combination of ingredients to succeed," said Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com, a business startup services provider in Calabasas, Calif.

Sweeney lists several traits she looks for when building smaller, efficient company teams:

  • They must own their responsibilities. "Team members must be accountable for their work and for being able to drive assignments and initiatives."
  • They should be accessible. "There must be an understanding of how to reach a team member with open communications leading to answers."
  • They must be flexible. "Being flexible is important, as things quickly change and each member of a team must be nimble enough to handle those changes."
  • They must be creative. "Smaller workplaces have fewer resources and less budget than companies with more money and team members. Creativity allows you to brainstorm ideas with your team that are cost-effective. These ideas may help differentiate your brand [from] an expensive option."

Start planning early. Waiting until the last moment to get an assignment started and accomplished is a non-starter for those managing smaller teams.

"Sometimes, starting late cannot be helped, as some assignments come through with tight deadlines," Sweeney said. "When that happens, it's critical that managers address the new priority with their teams, put a hold on existing work, and divide and conquer to quickly get the item with the most urgency completed."

When possible, managers should also encourage small teams to work ahead. "If they're caught up with one piece of their workload, have them start a piece that has been set aside for later," Sweeney added.

Curb team meetings. "With a smaller staff, I strive to avoid meetings," said Lotus Felix, founder of Flawless Content Shop, a content marketing company in West Palm Beach, Fla. "Conventionally, meetings may appear as the backbone of businesses, but there is so much your team can achieve when you slice down the frequencies of these meetings. At Flawless Content Shop, we have been able to up our monthly output by 175 percent by keeping some days entirely meeting-free."

Felix said having a full day without meetings allows his team to build incredible momentum. "This way, my staff can get fully enveloped in their daily to-do lists," he said.

Give your team flexibility, across the board. Felix strives not to "drown staffers in overbearing professionalism.

"For example, we don't have a strict dress code," he noted. "Personally, I have gone to the office in slippers. I wear ripped jeans on casual days, and most Fridays I Rollerblade to work."

Felix said he views this as "a deliberate attempt to unshackle my small team, giving them more vacuum for creative expression."

Measure performance and value. Focus on how your workplace team adds value using three measures: how they help make money, save money or reduce your company's risk.

"Keep track of your team's accomplishments and, as much as possible, determine the return on investment for your smaller team's contributions to the company," said Terry McDougall, owner of Terry B. McDougall Coaching, in Highland Park, Ill. "When you can demonstrate a positive return on investment, this is generally when C-suite leaders feel confident that increased investment in your team will result in a greater return for the company."

Let go of bad performers. Above all else, don't let underperforming team members stick around, because total team performance can suffer.

"With smaller teams, one bad apple can really destroy the culture of a team," Solomon said. "Believing that you can overlook one underperforming or difficult member of the team may be the biggest mistake managers make in running small teams."

In his book, Game Changer, Solomon talks about workers with a "sabotage impulse" who "avoid responsibility for their own actions and are very quick to blame others. No one is eager to have them around because they never feel safe with someone around ready to blame others for their own mistakes."

Too often, team leaders overlook these behaviors in hopes that the worker will rectify his or her behavior.

"In reality, these types of individuals … can be incredibly destructive for small workplace teams," Solomon said. "It's very important to remove them quickly to avoid an adverse impact on the rest of the team."

SOURCE: O'Connell, B. (29 September 2020) "How to Help Your Small Workplace Team Succeed" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/people-managers/pages/helping-small-teams-succeed-.aspx