Offices struggle with COVID-19 social distancing measures

Across the nation, many are beginning, if they have not already, are allowed to work from their offices, instead of having to work remotely. Now, due to the coronavirus pandemic, there are several new protocols that many may struggle to maintain. Read this blog post to learn more.


Millions of workers in recent months have returned to offices outfitted with new pandemic protocols meant to keep them healthy and safe. But temperature checks and plexiglass barriers between desks can't prevent one of the most dangerous workplace behaviors for the spread of COVID-19 — the irresistible desire to mingle.

“If you have people coming into the office, it’s very rare for them consistently to be six feet apart,” said Kanav Dhir, the head of product at VergeSense, a company that has 30,000 object-recognition sensors deployed in office buildings around the world tracking worker whereabouts.

Since the worldwide coronavirus outbreak, the company has found that 60% of interactions among North American workers violate the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s six-foot distancing guidelines, as do an even higher share in Asia, where offices usually are smaller.

Most people who can work at home still are and likely will be until at least mid-2021. But as some white-collar workers begin a cautious return, it’s becoming clear how hard it is to make the workplace safe. A bevy of sophisticated sensors and data are being used to develop detailed plans; even IBM’s vaunted Watson artificial intelligence is weighing in. In many cases the data can only verify what should be evident: The modern office, designed to pack in as many workers as possible, was never meant to enforce social distancing.

To date, the coronavirus has infected more than 8 million Americans and is blamed for 220,000 U.S. deaths. So far, efforts to get large numbers of workers into the office haven’t worked out very well. Some workers at Goldman Sachs Group and JPMorgan Chase tested positive after they returned to work and were sent home. With infection rates rising again nationwide, many companies have told most employees to work from home until next year, or even forever. Michigan’s governor approved new rules last week that bar employers from forcing workers back to the office if they can do their job at home.

For those employers pushing ahead with a return to the office, sensors that measure room occupancy are proving to be a necessity, said Doug Stewart, co-head of digital buildings at the technology unit Cushman & Wakefield, which manages about 785-million-square feet of commercial space in North and South America. Most offices are already fitted with sensors of some kind, even if it’s just a badging system or security cameras. Those lagging on such capabilities are now scrambling to add more, he said.

The systems were used before the pandemic to jam as many people together in the most cost-effective way, not limit workplace crowding or keep employees away from each other, Stewart said. With that in mind, companies can analyze the data all they want, but changing human behavior — we’re social creatures, after all — is harder, he said.

“Just because technology identifies it, and the analytics is flagging it, doesn’t mean the behavior will change,” Stewart said.

Because office crowding can show up in air quality, proper ventilation has replaced comfort as the focus for building managers, said Aaron Lapsley, who directs Cushman’s digital building operations with Stewart. Measuring the amount of carbon dioxide or the concentration of aerial particles can determine if airflow needs to be adjusted — or whether some people need to be told to leave a specific area. Employees are now more likely to use smartphone apps to receive alerts and keep tabs on the health and safety of the building, he said.

Something even as trivial as a trip to the bathroom or coffee machine has to be re-examined, said Mike Sandridge, executive director of client success at the technology unit of Jones Lang LaSalle, which oversees about 5-billion-square feet of property globally. Some restrooms have had to be limited to one person, and a red light will come on to let others know whether it’s occupied, based on stepping on a switch. When it’s free, the light turns green. Companies can also monitor whether the snack area is getting crowded, he said.

To help get some of its 350,000 employees back to its 150 offices around the world, International Business Machines is using its problem-solving Watson AI to analyze data from WiFi usage to help design and adjust office occupancy, said Joanne Wright, vice president of enterprise operations.

Understanding worker habits is more useful if you have a way to nudge them into new patterns. Since the pandemic began, Radiant RFID has sold 10,000 wristbands that vibrate when co-workers are too close to each other. The technology was originally designed to warn workers away from dangerous machinery, not other people. So far, the wristbands are responsible for reducing unsafe contacts by about 65%, said Kenneth Ratton, chief executive of the company, which makes radio-communication devices. At this point, the data on more than 3 billion encounters shows the average worker has had about 300 interactions closer than six feet lasting 10 minutes or more.

“The biggest problem is we as Americans haven't really been socially distanced, ever,” Ratton said.

Nadia Diwas is using another kind of technology: a wireless key fob she carries in her pocket made by her employer, Semtech, which tracks her movements and interactions, making it useful for contact tracing if someone gets sick, which is as important as warning people they are too close. The technology originally was developed by Semtech to help devices such as thermostats communicate on the so-called internet of things.

The reality is that people still need to work together, and if you’re back in the office, that means face-to-face interaction, said Diwas, who works in an electronics lab with two and sometimes three other people. She said she comes in contact with more people at the grocery store than in the office.

“It does make me more aware and more careful,” Diwas said in an interview. “The way I picture it in my head is that if both of us stretch our arms out, we should not touch each other.”

For most office workers, the best way to keep a safe distance from colleagues for the foreseeable future will still be on Zoom.

SOURCE: Green, J. (26 October 2020) "Offices struggle with COVID-19 social distancing measures" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from employeebenefitadviser.com/articles/offices-struggle-with-covid-19-social-distancing-measures


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


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


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


Three Communication Tips to Raise Productivity

Communication is often the key to success especially within the workplace and during team projects. If communication expectations are laid out and shown to employees, the chance of higher productivity is more common. Read this blog post for helpful tips.


If you're looking for ways to bump productivity, rescue slumping performers or improve teamwork, start with your expectations. These subtle—but very powerful—elements of your leadership toolkit can produce lasting results.

Raising your expectations doesn't require you to adopt a perpetual cheery optimism, but it does require you to make a brutally realistic assessment of current conditions. If productivity is low, cycle time is horrible and/or quality is poor, you need to acknowledge the facts—or you'll never be able to improve performance. And part of that brutal assessment requires looking in the mirror. Perhaps, without realizing it, your underlying beliefs are contributing to the performance situations you see around you.

Three components make up the messages you send: the words you use, the way you say them and your nonverbal cues.

Words

Here are some examples of how to frame your expectations for performance improvement in three different situations.

  • If productivity is down, you might say: "Well, as we look at productivity, we can see that it's 2 percent below where it was last year. I know we can get back to where we were—and eventually beyond—because we have the horsepower right in this room to do it." In selecting these words, you've acknowledged where performance is and expressed confidence about improvement.
  • If you're making progress in an area—but more progress is required—the message might be: "While we're making progress on quality, it's still not where it needs to be. I know we can get to where we need to be by continuing our Six Sigma efforts. Let's look and see where we need to put our resources next."
  • If performance is good and you want to boost it more, the message should be: "Cycle time is good, never been better. Let's look at how to cut it even further. I know we can do it if we work together to figure out how."

In each example, your words describe the present situation in simple and direct terms and also express confidence in moving to further improvement.

Verbal Intonations

The tone of your voice is the second element of your message. Everyone has experienced situations where the words sent one message and the tone of voice sent another. When there's a conflict, most people believe what is conveyed by the tone of your voice. So, make sure that your tone matches the positive message of your words. Not only should you avoid the obvious mismatch, but also the unintentional mismatch—those occasional situations where your words say one thing and your tone of voice says another.

Nonverbal Cues

The bulk of the meaning lies here. You can say the words, and your tone of voice can match the words. But if you're looking around, tapping your fingers, shaking your head "no" or doing any one of the hundreds of other seemingly little things that say, "I don't believe in you," you're not going to get the performance you want. Here are five categories to check yourself against:

1. Body position. If your arms are crossed, your legs are crossed away from the person you're communicating with or you're giving the "cold shoulder," then you're sending negative messages. On the other hand, if your body position is open—you're facing the person rather than looking away—you communicate honesty, warmth and openness. If your posture is erect rather than slumping, you communicate positive beliefs. And if you're leaning slightly forward, you demonstrate interest in the other individual.

2. Hand gestures. Avoid tapping your fingers ("I'm impatient"), hiding your mouth ("I'm hiding something"), wagging your finger (the equivalent of poking someone with your finger) and closed or clenched hands ("I'm upset"). These gestures all conflict with an "I believe in you" message. Instead, use open hands with palms up ("I'm being honest with nothing to hide") or touching your hands to your chest ("I believe in what I'm saying"). Both of these emphasize a positive message.

3. Head. If your head is shaking back and forth or tilted off to one side, you're sending a message of disbelief. On the other hand, if your head is facing directly toward someone and you're nodding up and down, you're delivering a nonverbal message of belief and confidence.

4. Facial expressions. Smile, and keep your mouth relaxed. Show alertness in your face and act like you're ready to listen. Do these regularly and you'll have created an open communication pattern with someone who will believe in your sincerity. On the other hand, if you're tight-lipped, are clenching your jaw muscles and have only a grim smile, no smile at all or a frown, you'll send a message that says: "No way can you possibly succeed at this project."

5. Eyes. Maintaining good eye contact is one of the most important nonverbal signals you can send. It conveys the message, "I'm interested in you and when I say I believe in you, I really do." Making sure that your eyes are open wide is also helpful. Squinting can deter the recipient. Worse yet is looking around, paying attention to other things and not paying attention to the person or topic at hand.

Communicate high expectations well enough and you may even have to step aside to avoid getting run over by a team of committed players whose performance is accelerating.

SOURCE: Connellan, T. (29 September 2020) "Three Communication Tips to Raise Productivity" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/people-managers/pages/three-communication-tips-to-raise-productivity.aspx


HR Professionals Struggle over FMLA Compliance, SHRM Tells the DOL

In addition to the daily struggles that HR Professionals have to resolve, they are faced with many frustrations that have stemmed from the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Read this blog post to learn more.


In a Sept. 15 letter to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) highlighted many of the challenges and frustrations that confront HR professionals as they comply with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

"SHRM supports the spirit and intent of the FMLA, and our members are committed to ensuring employees receive the benefits and job security afforded by the act," wrote Emily M. Dickens, SHRM's corporate secretary, chief of staff and head of Government Affairs. "While it has been more than 25 years since FMLA was enacted, SHRM members continue to report challenges in interpreting and administering the FMLA."

The letter, developed with input from SHRM members, was in response to a request for information issued by the DOL's Wage and Hour Division on July 17. The DOL solicited comments and data "to provide a foundation for examining the effectiveness of the current regulations in meeting the statutory objectives of the FMLA."

According to Ada W. Dolph, a partner at Seyfarth Shaw who practices labor and employment law in Chicago, “SHRM’s comments echo what we are hearing from clients in terms of their challenges in implementing FMLA leave, particularly now with the patchwork of additional state and local leave requirements that have emerged as a response to COVID-19."

She added, "Our experience shows that regulatory gray areas add significant costs to the administration of the FMLA and impact the consistency with which the FMLA is applied to employees. We are hopeful that [the DOL] will implement SHRM’s proposed revisions, which provide much-needed clarity for both employers and employees."

Wide-Ranging Challenges

In its comment letter, SHRM addressed several issues its members have reported:

CHALLENGES WITH CONSISTENTLY APPLYING THE REGULATORY DEFINITION OF A SERIOUS HEALTH CONDITION

"Continuing treatment by a health care provider" as currently defined in federal regulations creates uncertainty for SHRM members on how to treat an absence of more than three consecutive days, according to SHRM's letter. "If there is not 'continuing treatment,' then it does not constitute a 'serious health condition' under the regulations," the letter explained. "However, if the employee does receive additional treatment, it's not clear whether these initial three absences are related to a serious health condition."

SHRM pointed out that several members "have suggested increasing the time period of incapacity, indicating they spend a lot of time processing employee certifications for missing four days that they believe more readily falls under sick time or paid time off."

Further guidance, including criteria and examples of when employers may obtain second and third medical opinions, "would be helpful, as many SHRM members reported declining to challenge an employee's certification at all because the conditions under which they may challenge those certifications are unclear or cumbersome," SHRM said.

Members also reported that obtaining documentation from health care providers on the need for employees to take leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition was difficult, and that doctors were often vague about identifying how the employee fits into the caregiving equation.

CHALLENGES WITH INTERMITTENT LEAVE

SHRM members reported that intermittent leave-taking is the most likely FMLA leave to be abused by employees.

"Employees are permitted to take incremental leave in the smallest increment of time the employer pays, as little as .10 of an hour, which members reported allowed employees to use the time to shield tardiness or other attendance issues," the letter read. "SHRM strongly urges [the DOL] to increase the minimum increment of intermittent or reduced schedule leave that is unforeseeable or unscheduled, or for which an employee provides no advance notice." SHRM suggested several alternative approaches.

For instance, the DOL could:

  • Require that employees take unforeseeable or unscheduled intermittent or reduced schedule leave in half-day increments, at a minimum.
  • Establish a smaller increment, such as two hours, that automatically applies in any instance in which an employee takes unscheduled or unforeseeable intermittent or reduced schedule leave.

Additionally, when an employee takes intermittent or reduced FMLA leave, an employer may transfer an employee to an alternative position. However, under current regulations, employers may only require such a transfer when the leave taken is for "a planned medical treatment for the employee, a family member, or a covered servicemember, including during a period of recovery…."

"Given the potential burden and hardship that intermittent and reduced-schedule leave have on employers, SHRM believes that an employer should be permitted to temporarily transfer an employee on intermittent or reduced-schedule leave to an alternative position, regardless of whether the leave is foreseeable or unforeseeable or whether it is scheduled or unscheduled," SHRM told the DOL.

CHALLENGES REGARDING EMPLOYEES WHO ARE CERTIFIED FOR INTERMITTENT LEAVE FOR CONSECUTIVE YEARS

Employees continue to regularly exhaust and replenish their 12-week FMLA entitlement, based on the rolling 12-month entitlement period, SHRM members reported.

"Combined with the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act requirements to accommodate absences under some circumstances, these unrelenting absences become unreasonable and unduly burdensome to employers," SHRM commented.

Similarly, many SHRM members reported being frustrated that there weren't more mechanisms to challenge potential abuses of intermittent leave (e.g., when employees take every Friday or Monday off).

FRUSTRATION WITH EMPLOYEES NOT PROVIDING SUFFICIENT NOTICE OF THE NEED FOR LEAVE

Many employees provide notice of even foreseeable leaves after the leave has begun, noted SHRM, which recommended that notice of foreseeable leave be required prior to the commencement of leave and not "as soon as practicable."

SHRM also suggested that "a more definitive requirement be imposed so that employees understand clearly that they must provide notice of leave prior to beginning leave," and that "if an employee does not give advance notice, it should be the employee's burden to articulate why it was not practicable to provide such notice prior to the start of the leave. If they are unable to meet this burden, the regulation should permit and specify the consequences."

DIFFICULTIES OBTAINING TIMELY RESPONSES FROM EMPLOYEES AND THEIR PHYSICIANS TO SUPPORT THE REQUESTED LEAVE

If an employee fails to provide sufficient information to demonstrate that he or she may seek FMLA leave, then the employee can be required to provide additional information "to determine whether an absence is potentially FMLA-qualifying," SHRM explained. "However, there is no deadline by which the employee must provide this clarifying information, resulting in extensive, continued delays and continued administrative burdens."

SHRM recommended tightening this time frame to seven days and that the DOL "endeavor to provide firmer and clearer deadlines and notice requirements throughout the regulations."

SHRM members also reported that health-provider fees for completing paperwork often slowed or halted the certification process and asked whether providers' ability to impose these fees could be limited.

New FMLA Forms

Overall, SHRM members expressed satisfaction with recently updated FMLA forms. However, members continue to report that the information received from medical providers is often unclear and that they struggle to determine whether the reported condition constitutes a serious health condition.

The new forms do not account for the possibility that an employee does not qualify for FMLA because the employee doesn't meet the requirement of being unable to perform the functions of his or her job. "As such, we suggest that the medical provider be given the option to indicate that an employee does not meet this requirement," SHRM wrote.

Many members suggested that the DOL allow completion of online forms to speed processing times and reduce the administrative burdens of processing FMLA leave.

Among other issues, SHRM members also reported struggling with how to effectively reconcile FMLA with other leave laws enacted in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

SOURCE: Miller, S. (21 September 2020) "HR Professionals Struggle over FMLA Compliance, SHRM Tells the DOL" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/hr-professionals-struggle-over-fmla-compliance-shrm-tells-the-dol.aspx


Pandemic Forces Organizations to Get Creative in Prepping Young Employees for the Workplace

Many are still having to work remotely, and become introduced to a company while not in an office setting. This may be hard for many entry-level beginners, interns, and recent college graduates. Employers are now trying to find ways to creatively prepare young employees for a non-traditional workplace. Read this blog post to learn more.


Pairing remote "buddies" with interns, creating leadership boot camps and hosting virtual presentations with college students are a few of the ways employers are preparing young employees for the workforce at a time when the pandemic has forced many employers to adopt a work-from-home culture.

"This pandemic has necessitated all employers to be agile and adapt to a 'new age' workforce and workplace—namely, a decentralization of employees and ability to work remotely," pointed out David Owens, director of campus recruiting at Addison Group, a national staffing and recruiting firm based in Chicago.

"Prepandemic, the majority of internships and entry-level employment opportunities were in-office or involved a majority of in-person daily responsibilities and tasks. Thankfully, in today's climate, we have the capability and technology to shift these in-person or in-office duties virtually. Leading organizations were already transitioning to a more modern concept of work," he said.

"This has been a hot-button inquiry from new graduates and this incoming generation of talent, many of whom are looking for their future workplace to be flexible and agile. More and more organizations will be tested on their adaptability to offer similar work options."

The pandemic has created a need for more in-depth and strategic partnerships with colleges and universities for recruiting students, Owens noted. Hosting a virtual panel or presentation for students is a better option right now than setting up a booth at a widely attended career fair, he said.

"I also recommend forming strategic partnerships with related student organizations and clubs that have a strong presence on campus. Additionally, be an ally to students, many of whom are stressed-out enough adapting to a hybrid or entirely virtual school year. Offer resume reviews, mock interviews, short-stint internships and networking events. Even if they don't apply for a full-time position, it helps to build brand recognition, and they could even end up applying to work at your organization down the road."

Online Networking

"We've been hosting online network events for individuals who are looking to come into the industry," said Carla Diaz, co-founder of BroadbandSearch, a company with 15 employees who all work remotely. Her company helps clients find the best Internet and TV service.

"Since we have connections within the world of ISPs [Internet service providers] and the like, we thought it would be a great idea to give up-and-coming professionals the chance to meet people within the industry—especially since many networking events were canceled as a result of COVID-19."

The events are not large, she said, but they can help young adults make important connections. Some, for example, have led to internships at Broadband.

'Firsthand Exposure'

Synoptek, a global systems integrator and managed information technology (IT) services provider headquartered in Irvine, Calif., designed DiscoverIT for recent college graduates in the U.S. It is a six-month, highly intensive training in technology, project management, the Information Technology Infrastructure Library, security and leadership. The program includes mentorship and technical and leadership boot camps, according to Danielle Andersen, vice president of global human resources at Synoptek.

The company continued its college recruitment program during the pandemic, hiring six employees during the summer.

"The program gives fresh college graduates firsthand exposure to IT consulting," she said.

And its 12-month mentorship, which pairs mentees with a company business leader at its various sites, has been using Microsoft Teams during the pandemic to meet semimonthly. It's a chance, Andersen said, for mentees "to gain more in-depth knowledge about our business model, polishing their professional image and building overall leadership skills."

The coronavirus outbreak should not be a hindrance for young professionals, said Sonya Schwartz, managing editor at Her Aspiration in the Jackson, Miss., area and founder of Her Norm, a relationship website. Her fully remote company, which employs six workers, hires at least one new graduate per department annually and plans to continue to do so, she said.

"I make sure to expose them to the ins and outs of the company to make them more familiar with the whole working process. There is a specific employee assigned for their virtual training, and chatrooms designated for them are made to ensure that all of their questions or clarifications are answered," Schwartz said.

A senior employee assigned to train a new employee also serves as the new hire's guide for daily tasks.

"Initially, we ask the new grad which part of their career they want to focus on and enhance so that they could undergo training, and, once they have decided, we will assign them to the person who we believe can contribute and can train them well in that field and will also serve as their immediate superior," she said.

Trainees attend meetings with potential clients to learn the importance of effective communication and are assigned minor projects, such as conducting research and minor layout of content. They also are given social media management tasks to develop industry-related skills.

Buddy System

The Expense Reduction Group in Baltimore stresses role modeling as a way to prepare and transition emerging professionals, according to founder and CEO Michael Hammelburger. The company, which opened in 2019, employs four staffers.

"Each new hire is unique; that's why I have implemented a buddy system for them," said Hammelburger, financial consultant for small and midsize businesses.

"We assign each of our newbies a tenured employee they can ask any question about the company to make them feel more comfortable as they adjust to their new workplace." During the first six months of hire, each buddy does a daily Zoom meeting, and there are weekly team meetings that include the buddy's new-hire cohort.

"It also breaks away from the formal onboarding seminars that are dull and boring. During our feedback process, our new hires always mention how easy it became for them to adjust."

SOURCE: Gurchiek, K. (23 September 2020) "Pandemic Forces Organizations to Get Creative in Prepping Young Employees for the Workplace" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/organizational-and-employee-development/pages/pandemic-forces-organizations-to-get-creative-in-prepping-young-employees-for-the-workplace-.aspx


How to Evaluate Hiring Assessments

HR professionals and managers need reliable ways to gather and evaluate various assessments. Read this blog post to learn more about how to evaluate assessments.


When faced with a hiring decision, HR professionals and managers have to consider everything they know about the applicants. But that might not be enough information to make a choice. To get more information and add objectivity to the decision-making process, many organizations use assessments.

"When these tools are used correctly, they're tremendously valuable," said Eric Sydell, Ph.D., an industrial-organizational psychologist and the chief innovation officer at Modern Hire, a hiring platform. "There's a level of objective assessment about a person that can be very predictive."

HR professionals and hiring managers don't have the ability to make accurate predictions in the same way assessments can. "Our brains don't work that way," he said.

But buyer beware, Sydell warned, "There are a lot of tools out there that sound great on the surface" but fail to deliver valid and reliable results.

Multiple Options Present Tough Choices

Ryne Sherman, chief science officer at Hogan Assessment Systems in Tulsa, Okla., said he suspects that most large corporations are probably using reliable and valid assessments, while smaller businesses may not be. Unfortunately, he said, "With this industry, there is no regulating body at all—literally anybody can make an assessment tool and start selling it with no background and no science put into it whatsoever."

Perhaps because of the open nature of the field, there are a lot of tools to choose from and many of them are complex, making the selection of one of them a potentially confusing—and even risky—decision to make.

Must-Haves for Effective Assessment Tools

Ryan Lahti, Ph.D., is an industrial-organizational psychologist and the founder and managing principal of OrgLeader, a management consultancy in Newport Beach, Calif. He uses a variety of assessment tools in his work. There are many factors to be considered when evaluating an assessment tool, he said, but the three key ones are validity, reliability and the population that was used to develop it.

Validity deals with how accurately the tool measures the concepts it claims to measure. Lahti pointed to three forms of validity:

  • Content validity indicates how well the tool measures a representative sample of the subject of interest. At a minimum, he said, you want a tool that has content validity.
  • Criterion validity indicates how well the tool correlates with an established measure or outcome—for example, correlation to strong performance ratings.
  • Construct validity indicates how well the tool measures a concept or trait—for example, conscientiousness.

Reliability is a measure of how consistently the tool measures issues of interest. If you were to give the same assessment to the same candidate more than once, how similar would the results be?

Finally, the population used to develop the tool is an important consideration and should be the same as the population being assessed. "For example, you would not want a tool developed on an adolescent population to be used to assess working adults," Lahti said.

Sherman offered the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) test as an example. The popular assessment tool used by organizations to screen candidates was designed for diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions, he said. That can be a risky tool to use for assessing the potential of job applicants.

What to Watch Out For

As HR leaders consider various assessment options, they need to thoroughly evaluate whether the assessments they're considering incorporate the must-haves. Look out for companies that don't publish information on validity, reliability and the population used to develop the assessment.

Some companies, Lahti said, will say that their tools are used by a lot of Fortune 500 companies.

"While this argument shows they have good sales and marketing departments, it does not prove the companies have sound assessment tools," he said.

Sy Islam, Ph.D., an associate professor at the State University of New York at Farmingdale and a vice president at Talent Metrics consulting firm in Melville, N.Y., said employers should ask test companies to show their worth. "Vendors should be able to provide you with a validity coefficient, which is a statistic—a correlation coefficient—that indicates how much predictive validity the assessment has," he said. He warned against accepting "black box" explanations like "the tool is proprietary and cannot be explained." The ability to support your assessment could become an issue if your company becomes involved in a lawsuit, he said.

"What you don't want to do is rely on high-level summary statements, marketing statements or hype that is generated by these companies," Sydell said. "There are a lot of different buzzwords and catchphrases that vendors will throw out there. It's really important to look beyond that and dig below the surface." And, while he says you don't need a Ph.D. to do that, it is a good idea to seek help from someone who is familiar with these types of assessments and can help evaluate their efficacy.

"I would strongly advise finding a local industrial and organizational psychologist who can evaluate different vendors and talk to you about best practices," Sherman said. The proper assessment and selection of candidates is just too important, and potentially risky, to cut corners.

SOURCE: Grensing-Pophal, L. (27 February 2020) "How to Evaluate Hiring Assessments" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/how-to-evaluate-hiring-assessments.aspx


Employees say ‘feeling stressed’ is top reason for lying about sick days

Many employees use their sick days for their physical and mental health when they feel as if they won't be at their peak to perform their job. With that being said, employees may also use sick days when they feel stressed. Read this blog post to learn more.


A third of employees have lied to their employer about their reasons for taking a sick day, with the most common reason being stress, according to a new report by international health benefits provider Aetna International.

As the world’s attention turns to the mental health impact of COVID-19, these confessions suggest that the stigma remains in workplaces.

“If employees have physical or mental health problems, then they're not going to be at their peak to be able to do their job,” says Dr. Hemal Desai, global medical director at Aetna International. “When people lie to take a day off, it really hides the problem, and when they are at work, presenteeism is a really big issue.”

The Employee Perceptions of Mental and Physical Health in the Workplace report explores the views of employees in regards to taking sick days, discussing health issues at work and the impact a mental health diagnosis can play in reducing their experiences of stigma.

Out of the employees surveyed in the U.K., the U.S., Singapore and the United Arab Emirates, those in the U.S. are the most likely to lie to their employer about their reason for taking a sick day. While “wanting a day off” was the second most frequently cited reason for lying, the most common reasons overall related to mental and emotional health, ranging from feeling stressed or down to not thinking their boss would understand.

In the U.S., about 40% of people reported a mental health diagnosis, but less than half of adults receive treatment, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The fear of stigma around these mental health challenges is an issue employees must address, Dr. Desai says.

“Employees don't feel that taking sick leave for mental health problems is something that will either be accepted or considered as good practice by their employers,” Dr. Desai says. “It’s important employers address this hidden problem, because it will ultimately drive better productivity and wellbeing of their workforce.”

Creating a culture of acceptance, especially from a company’s leadership team, is a first step employers can take to easing the stigma of speaking up.

“Employers can do a lot to try and foster more transparency and reduce stigma. Making that parity between mental and physical health will create much more transparency and build trust within an organization, especially if there’s an open culture, particularly by senior leaders, where you can talk about mental health issues,” he says.

Employers also need to ensure employees are aware of and are using mental health resources and benefits, Dr. Desai says. A large majority of companies offer mental health benefits through an EAP, but utilization rates for these services are typically below 10%, according to SHRM. Boosting usage is key to supporting employee wellbeing.

“Employers need to be working with health and benefits providers, because the providers will have a lot of support tools that can help employees,” he says. “Making sure that that support is there from the employers is really key, so that you can drive a really happy and healthy workforce that can be productive, which is particularly important during this COVID-19 situation.”

SOURCE: Nedlund, E. (11 June 2020) "Employees say ‘feeling stressed’ is top reason for lying about sick days" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/employees-say-feeling-stressed-is-top-reason-for-lying-about-sick-days


Strategies for making mental healthcare core to your organization

Mental health in the workplace has been a topic of discussion for a continuous-time, but due to the coronavirus and many rules and regulations beginning to rise, there has been a rise in mental health numbers these past few months. Read this blog post to learn more.


American workers’ mental health improved last month after hitting a three-year low, but overall remains poor, as people struggle with the physical, psychological and financial stressors of the pandemic.

According to HR technology company Morneau Shepell’s May Mental Health Index, which surveyed 5,000 U.S. employees, the overall mental health score for May was -6, up slightly from April’s score of -8, the lowest in the last three years. However, with negative scores indicating worse mental health, the results show that American sentiment remains low.

The rise in May is likely due to state decisions to begin a phased reopening of non-essential retail businesses and restaurants, as well as employers allowing workers to return to the physical workplace, says Paula Allen, the senior vice president of research, analytics and innovation at Morneau Shepell.

“People are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” she says. “But this is for sure not going to be linear. The possibility of a second wave of COVID is quite high.”

The coronavirus and its economic impact is not the only uncertainty that employees are facing. Protests demanding racial equality and justice for the victims of police brutality have erupted across the nation in response to the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Thirty-percent of Americans experienced symptoms of anxiety last week, according to data from the CDC.

“It’s kind of like having the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression, and the Civil Rights Movement all at the same time,” Allen says. “It would be unusual if that doesn’t impact people’s mental health and well-being because you really are taking away a sense of predictability, a sense of certainty, a sense of safety, with all of these things happening at the same time.”

The coronavirus crisis has brought to light the necessity of promoting better mental health in the workplace. Seventy-eight percent of companies offer an EAP with mental health resources, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. Ninety-three percent of companies have encouraged employees to take advantage of EAP resources like telehealth and virtual mental health programs in response to the pandemic, a recent Business Group on Health survey found. Morneau Shepell recommends that employers make mental health more visible in the organization and continue to provide support for employees.

“It works very well when an organization doesn’t look at mental health as a separate program or a separate project that they have a coordinator working on. It’s really built into their business culture as something that they see as valuable and they look for opportunities in every single way to help their employees,” Allen says.

With organizations feeling the effects of the economic downturn, 34% of companies in North America are considering or have implemented pay cuts, according to research from Korn Ferry.

The Morneau Shepell research shows, however, that this can actually be more detrimental to morale: Employees whose salaries were cut had lower mental health scores on the Mental Health Index than those who lost their jobs.

Those who experience a salary cut are put in “a position of limbo” as opposed to having “a clean break” from an employer, Allen says. While an organization may look at reducing an employee’s salary as a lesser evil when compared to terminating them outright, this can cause more anxiety than actually letting the employee go.

“The main thing is we’ve put people in a position of uncertainty, and that increases anxiety, ” she says. “It’s an important thing for organizations to pay attention to because often they will feel that it is a benevolent thing not to terminate someone but to keep them in a way that they can afford, which is to reduce salary. But the other side of the coin is recognizing that this does have a very real impact on people, and anything that those organizations can do to continue to make those people feel connected, to continue to make them feel valued and recognized, make sure that there’s outreach to them by managers, anything to balance the situation is what we would recommend.”

To improve mental health in the workplace, leaders should talk about the importance of good mental health and make employees aware of support services offered, such as an employee assistance program, Allen says.

“Make mental health a very visible thing in the organization. Communication from senior leadership that speaks about the importance of mental health, that the organization cares about the employees’ mental health, and makes sure that people are aware of services that the organization might sponsor,” she says. “That strong voice is important to build awareness and to reduce stigma.”

Organizations must also train their managers on how to handle mental health issues in the workplace. Sometimes managers will notice a change in an employee’s behavior and be at a loss as to how to deal with it, Allen says.

“They might ignore it, they might let it get worse, they might try to step in and become a counselor when they’re not a counselor,” she says. “But if a manager handles that situation well, often it’s a good trigger point for the employee to get the kind of help that they need.”

SOURCE: Del Rowe, S. (12 June 2020) "Strategies for making mental healthcare core to your organization" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/strategies-for-making-mental-healthcare-core-to-your-organization