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Coronavirus: The ‘Messy Middle’

Here we are in the ‘messy middle’ – you have survived the shock of the coronavirus and have accepted that we do not know when or how it will go away. Now you need to decide what to do about short-term and mid-term issues. A vaccine will not be a quick fix since it is estimated to take two full years to vaccinate the US once approved and we do not know how many will get vaccinated or how effective any vaccine will be yet.
Whether you closed your office completely or not at all, you need to pay attention to your office and employee needs in this difficult time for everyone.
If you closed your office in full or in part, you may be struggling with planning the return. I am seeing lots of organizations planning for a return Jan 4, 2021 – often after planning for earlier dates. They and others also have multiple employees who want to come in some days each week now. What will you allow, how will you manage it?
A late June Gensler survey showed 44% of employees want to return full time and another 26% want to be there the majority of the week. A separate study in late August puts that total at 83%. At the same time, you will have employees fearful of coming into the office whenever you return. You must think now about what you will plan for and allow.
Human Fatigue
Many people are dealing with anxiety and fatigue from the changes to their lives during the pandemic. This includes founders, leaders, and managers in small businesses.
Here are some ways to help your staff and yourself cope:

Talk to people about how they are, instead of discussing […]

By |September 10th, 2020|Business planning, Communications, Policies and Practices, productivity, Small Biz, SMB|Comments Off on Coronavirus: The ‘Messy Middle’

Good Trouble

I first heard of John Lewis when I was in college. Not from his speech at the March on Washington, which I did not hear. When he crossed the bridge in Selma and was beaten and then said that the President should send in the military to protect marchers seeking to vote (protecting voters – sound familiar?) I did hear that. My teen years were full of civil rights issues. Early on it was for school integration – and suddenly Americans everywhere saw in magazines, newspaper, and TV – the screaming crowds, their faces contorted by rage and hate and fear fighting against small children going to school. We saw the ‘colored’ signs on doors and water fountains and more.
Between the courts ruling for integration of schools in the 1950s and then Congress and LBJ reacting to the pressure of the demonstrators, the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964.
By my mid-late teens the demonstrations were for voting rights. Same visuals plus police beating and turning almost rabid-looking dogs on men and women dressed in their Sunday best who were peacefully marching. Murders. violence, arson, and more murders – of little girls, Freedom Riders, and local blacks and the whites who joined them in attempting to enroll voters. John Lewis was there with MLK and Medger Evers, CT Vivian (who also died yesterday) and many more. Peaceful was the watchword and they were, the whites in view were often not. While there was plenty of discrimination in the North, these scenes in the South were most shocking to us. These marches and demonstrations and the reactions to them helped LBJ get the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965. (Something we need to do again.)
The […]

By |July 23rd, 2020|culture, values|Comments Off on Good Trouble

More Re-Opening Issues

As you plan to re-open your offices or bringing more people in, employees may be concerned about returning. If you already have a telework plan, does it need any changes now? If you do not, now is the time to develop one. While most employees want to work in the office at least part-time, nearly a third are interested in full-time remote work. You need to assess what you want to offer in advance and make that clear early. As soon as you have a basic policy on telework, communicate it. Do the same with your re-opening plan.
There are also some legal issues to be aware of in your preparation and in talking with your staff.
FFCRA
You may remember the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, passed in March. If you have not thought much about it, now is the time. The considerations under FFCRA run until the end of the year. More employees may be asking for added time off as you re-open your office or reduce telework options.
FFCRA covers all small employers (under 500 employees.) If an employee is unable to work or telework, it provides options for paid leave.
Sick Leave:
Up to two weeks (80 hours) at an employee’s regular rate of pay to a max of $511 per day and $5110 in total over the two-week period where the employee:
1) is quarantined and/or is experiencing Covid19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis, or
At a rate of 2/3 regular pay up to a maximum of $340 per day
2) because of a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine, or
3) care for a child, under 18, whose school or childcare provider is closed due to Covid19
Up to an additional 10 weeks […]

By |June 29th, 2020|Business planning, Communications, Policies and Practices, Small Biz|Comments Off on More Re-Opening Issues

Re-Opening: Offices

Wherever your organization is now, you need a plan for what is next. My clients range from those whose business kept on as essential, those who moved all to remote work from home (WFH), to those with 1-2 people left. Your plan needs to look ahead across various options. What has already changed, what other possible changes may be likely? What are you going to do now? Over the summer? In the fall? If there is a second spike, as predicted, this fall?
No-one knows how many ‘phases’ we are likely to go through to any ‘new normal’. Some think the ‘new normal’ will be pretty much the same as the past, while others see a whole new world of work evolving.
What does ‘back to work’ mean for your organization? How do local or state restrictions and regulatory compliance affect you? How will you incorporate your culture and values into your planning?
Infectious disease specialists think that wearing masks and maintaining social distancing will be with us until a vaccine is available to all. How does that assumption impact your planning? HR people are discussing all sorts of office redesigns, staggered work-days or shift work, more remote workers, core hours, limiting meetings and travel, extra cleaning, and more.
RISK MANAGEMENT
What will you consider in terms of Covid-19 testing? Are you required, by state or local agencies, to do anything specific? Some businesses are considering daily temperature checks and routine testing. Temporary Federal regulations allow you to ask if an employee has Covid-19 symptoms and ask for a doctor’s certification.  You may require sick or quarantined employees to stay home
The EEOC allows temperature checks and Covid-19 testing – through the end of 2020 – as long as they […]

By |May 28th, 2020|Business planning, Communications, Small Biz, Smart practices|Comments Off on Re-Opening: Offices

Employees, ‘New Normal’: A Framework for Planning

This framework outlines employment considerations in planning a return to more normal operations. It is organized in building blocks. Section A applies to all employers. Other sections define issues based on levels of business impact.
In general, you should begin or complete:

Preparing your facilities
Developing new policies, as needed. (i.e. telework, safety)
Creating a physical distancing plan
Controlling access for safety and health issues
Increased cleanliness, reduced touch points
Enhanced employee communications

Many professional and industry organizations have specific return-to-work guidelines too. Check for those in your arena.
A. ALL EMPLOYERS
1. Strategic review
Impact of current/planned business changes on employment and employeesChanges due to states of emergency impact plus 2-5 below
2. Community Preparedness needed to support for return to work

Schools/daycare open
Public transportation – normal schedules
Medical care available
Food services

3. Building/Office Preparations

Increased sanitation and air-handling building-wide
Office cleaning services enhanced
Physical distancing/barriers for employees and visitors
Need for personal protection equipment (PPE), if any
Common space changes (i.e. closed kitchens, conference rooms)
Employee responsibilities and cleaning resources for desks, work area, hygiene

4. Employee Concerns
Consider a survey to determine individual needs and concerns
Vacation/Paid-time-off, if offered:     Fiscal year ends in Jun – Sep and you cap carryover, what changes are smart?     FY = CY, will you need restrictions on use through Dec 2020 to meet business needs?
5.Safety
CDC Guidelines    Guidelines for Business
The EEOC is allowing some medical checks or self-reporting for coronavirus symptoms or exposure. Will you require any checks or self-certification on health each day? If so, how will you maintain required confidentiality? How implement?
6. Legal Issues
All employers:     OSHA – requires provide safe workplaces     HIPAA – treat medical information as confidential     FFCRA – requires paid coronavirus-related leavePaid Leave FAQs
Over 15 employees:     EEO – requires non-discrimination in treatment (e.g. retention, medical checks)     ADA – equal […]

By |May 12th, 2020|Business planning, Smart practices|Comments Off on Employees, ‘New Normal’: A Framework for Planning

Covid-19 What to Think About Now

Across social media, people have made reference to how each day seems a month long or how many years it seems since the first physical distancing started. In most small businesses, the rush and uncertainty creates the same effect.
What happens next is partly unknown. You do control your planning and how you are treating employees now. The HR world and a fair amount of public comments have highlighted those employers who have not treated employees well. Zoom meetings to tell everyone watching they were out of a job, cuts in pay at lower levels only, and poor safety are among those you are most likely to have seen. I mention this because how any employer treats people during such an emergency directly hits future retention as well as hiring.

Are you or your managers talking to employees individually?
Do you make time for asking how they and their families are doing?
For a little small talk beyond just a work assignment?
Offering some help with a problem that is hindering their work?
Have you maintained regular communications across the organization too?

Sharing articles is another helpful form of communications. Here is one on working from home –  New rules for remote work-pandemic edition
A guide on coping and developing resilience is from UC Berkeley’s Greater Good center   Guide to well-being
What Are You Planning for the Future?
Now is the time to think about what your organization will look like in one month, three months, and through the end of the calendar year. Yes, this shutdown has no defined end yet. And there are indications a future shutdown is possible later this year.  But you need to plan, based on your values and the current conditions of your organization.  Carpe diem indeed.  
If you […]

By |April 13th, 2020|Business planning, Small Biz, Small Business Development Centers|Comments Off on Covid-19 What to Think About Now

Covid-19: New Law and Tips

How are you managing the impact of Covid-19 on your organization? Now that we are a few weeks in and have at least another month to go in stay-at-home and other restrictions, it is a good time to give yourself an hour to think. What is working reasonably well? What needs to be fixed?

If you need loans or grants to help your organization stay afloat, do contact your local Small Business Development Center. They offer expert advice, information resources, and other help to navigate old and new options.

New Law

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act goes into effect today, April 1, 2020. This law offers new paid benefits for employees and their families during the rest of 2020 which you must understand. While there is a proposed exemption from parts of it for small employers – 50 or less including all employees – the implementing instructions for exemption are not yet clear. More guidance is available in these FAQs. The info in numbers 4, 58, and 59 specifically address the small employer issue.
Families First Coronavirus Response Act FAQs

The law requires you to provide a poster for each work location which should be placed in an area where all employees will see it. If you are currently having all employees work from home or regularly have some telecommute, you must provide each such person with a copy by April 1. Here it is:

FFCRA Poster

Communications

One of the biggest issues in times of uncertainty is effective communications. Your employees – and you too – are wondering

if they will get sick,
if their families are in danger,
how long this will last,
whether their job and paychecks will continue to exist, and
how to move forward.

Clarity on what […]

By |April 1st, 2020|Business planning, Communications, Smart practices|Comments Off on Covid-19: New Law and Tips

Covid-19 Ideas and Tips #3

While bills to support small businesses are still being debated in Congress, there is help through the SBA’s loans for disasters. This program is in high demand but it is worthwhile to get yourself into line now if you may need such help. More information on the Small Business Disaster Loans and other Covid-19 info via Alexandria’s Small Business Development Center –
Aleandria SBDC Covid-19 info

Working from Home (WFH)

Many organizations have gone to full work from home operations at least temporarily. Others may have a blend, depending on the field they are in. Some have had to close and lay-off almost all employees.  Support your local restaurants and retailers if you can.

If you have people working remotely but it is a new method for many, you need to consider how to support your staff in teleworking effectively. Twitter has provided a lot of ‘epic fails’ stories to laugh and cry over – naked spouses in the background, kids and animals interfering, and so on.  Few of us want to be ‘that guy.’

Many smaller companies and associations are holding all-employee meetings each morning. If you want to do something like a regular ‘all hands’ or ones by function, think carefully about the planned time – what family demands may some employees be facing? How long will it be? Short is always better – for focus, effectiveness.  Periodically add in some time and actions to help employees feel connected. Although I cringed as a recent daily list of what one organization was planning which featured some time each day where one day everyone had to be in costume and another showing animal pictures, the concept behind them was good. Make sure yours are tailored to your culture. […]

By |March 23rd, 2020|Business planning, Communications, Small Biz|Comments Off on Covid-19 Ideas and Tips #3

More Covid-19 Ideas and Answers

After my first blog on this last week, I have gotten some questions and concerns. Here is additional information to assist in your business planning.

A recent Paychex survey indicated 59% of small business owners have a disaster plan. 54% can accommodate remote work if needed. Yet on HR forums, many small employers are still trying to figure out such issues.

Business Planning and Employee Issues

Do you have an Emergency Operations Plan? Does your structure change in such conditions? Who knows how that will work? What training is needed?

Have you assessed which functions are critical and must be maintained? Which may have less critical aspects which could be delayed or reduced if needed? What is non-critical, hence can be eliminated? These assessments form the basis for decisions about employees and customers/clients who will need notice of changes and timing.

Whatever type of small employer you are, you may face decisions on having to close your organization or an office. Closure may result from a lack of demand, a lack of employees, or a government order. How will you address this?

What about remote work? Do some or all of your functions lend themselves to telecommuting? Do you have the equipment and services to make that work? Have you had a ‘practice day’? Some small organizations are already having employees take their work laptop home each night, just in case there is an emergency closure.

Could you institute ‘social distancing’ at work? Would using meeting or conference rooms allow you to spread employees out so that no-one is sitting too near another person? Should you have a sign on your door or shop entrance saying it is a ‘no handshake’ zone?

Many small employers have already cancelled travel to meetings or […]

By |March 11th, 2020|Business planning, Communications, Compensation|Comments Off on More Covid-19 Ideas and Answers

EPIDEMIC, PANDEMIC – PLAN NOW FOR POSSIBLE ISSUES

The coronavirus ( covid-19) epidemic has the attention of most people now. The uncertainty of what may happen and when makes this a difficult threat.

There is no reason to panic. There is every reason to plan!

Pull out your emergency or business continuity plan as a first step. What does it offer that you need to think about now? Plan for? Update?

Your first two big considerations are the potential impact on your business and what you will do about your employees. Knowing what issues you may face helps you to prepare and will help calm fears.

A recent survey indicated over 2.5 million bot-related disinformation efforts related to the coronavirus within two days. Area stores, here and in other locations, are running low on face masks. People are scared. Your efforts can help employees know what to do and where to go for valid information – both good ways to build resilience and reduce over-reactions.

What are the business risk you face?

Assess this first. Look at your options. A retail business which depends on products made in China may face delays in production and delivery. A hotel may face significant loss of business if travel is restricted or people cancel trips in fear. Be realistic about the issues your business may face and develop plans to deal with each potential problem. Involve employees in developing plans where possible. Communicate to employees – and customers, as needed – the outlines of your plans.

What employee risks do you face?

You need to make clear that employees’ health and safety is top priority.  Legally, you must provide a safe workplace but there are few other legal requirements which apply to this situation.  Start by thinking:

What is the impact if multiple employees […]

By |February 26th, 2020|Business planning, Smart practices|Comments Off on EPIDEMIC, PANDEMIC – PLAN NOW FOR POSSIBLE ISSUES