One year down, what’s your next consideration?


Many of my clients and other businesses are trying to decide what to do about vaccinations. Should you go to mandatory for everyone? The EEOC announced last year that this was possible under the laws they administer so long as companies complied with the disability and equal opportunity laws. They deferred to the CDC for further guidance which has not come.

Legal advice has been confused, to be polite. There are firms which say it is legal to make it mandatory, others say it is for certain types of work, and those which say it is not. The negative view is tied to the way the vaccines were approved – under emergency use authorizations, which prohibit anyone from being forced to take them. There are a few lawsuits against employers for mandating the vaccines but these will take a long time to yield answers you can use. There is also legislation pending in several states either to allow it to be mandatory or to forbid it. I tend to think that it may be illegal under federal law, but as usual most small organizations will not be targets.

If you are still considering this topic, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the business case for mandating vaccination?
  • Does this apply to all employees or only certain categories?
  • What do your values and culture support?
  • Will you encourage vaccinations if you do not mandate it?
  • How will you explain the need and either decision to your staff?

Encouraging employees and their families to get vaccinated does help if you do not mandate it. This will make returning to work easier if you have people who are not currently there. It supports the goal of getting the US to enough vaccinated people to reduce the development of variants and to open the economy. And for many people getting fully vaccinated is comforting and allows more openness.

Employment Issues

As you plan forward for the rest of this year, change may still seem constant. While you should be aware of options and external influences, keep your organizational values and culture foremost in your decision-making.

The business press is currently full of articles on what will happen as the pandemic is brought under control. These range from ‘ work is forever changed’ to ‘no changes are likely to stick.’ Surveys show a wide range in worker attitudes to change as well. Many of the technology changes seem most likely to stick, at least to me. But I also think we will go back to a lot of in-person meetings and business travel and fully-staffed offices or facilities.

Companies which announced all employees could work from home forever are beginning to reopen their offices. No-one is sure how the rush to work from home ( WFH) will influence future work plans yet. Many employees would prefer some hybrid work week where they could work from home two-three days and be in the office the rest. Will we see this becoming common? If you are willing to do this, be sure you have a clear policy and practices that support it. Ask if you need some ideas on what to include. Most organizations have a written agreement with workers who work from home or remotely.

Studies show that workers lose out on promotions and pay raises if they are not face to face with their bosses. Whether this will change if more people commonly work remotely is still in question. What will you consider to reduce this problem and retain your best employees?

During the pandemic WFH led to increased productivity early – but that then declined. Many managers still prefer to see their employees daily. This productivity drop increased fears about allowing WFH at high levels. Will these concerns change as we emerge? How will you manage productivity and train yourself and your managers to be effective in managing remote workers?

Many people have had a tough time coping with all the changes during the pandemic. Older workers are the most resilient. You have probably dealt with a number of changes in your business. People have also dealt with the difficulties of educating children, elder care, a sense of dislocation and loss, and often grief from family or friends lost to Covid-19. Does your health insurance broker offer any seminars or education on mental health? Have your managers made an effort to understand and support employees individually? Providing added support is worthwhile to retain employees and enhance productivity.

Remote work opportunities enhanced inequity between workers who had to go to work and those able to WFH. Women were disproportionately hurt by job loss, this was even worse among minorities. Women who could WFH often also had to deal with childcare or eldercare demands and increased housework loads. Many left the workforce or went to part-time in response. These effects may take years to redress. One study recently estimates women’s pay equity also was set back dramatically and now will take nearly double previous estimates to achieve. This may present an opportunity for many small organizations to hire top talent.

Younger people and new hires also were disadvantaged as it is harder to learn the informal rules and culture of their workplace and to build an internal network of support virtually. Companies remain unsure how to address this effectively. What have you already done to address this? What else can you do?

Finally, there is more of an interest in fully remote work – people moving to other locations away from the job. What will your company’s reaction be to a request for permanent, fully-remote work? This creates a lot of issues and potential costs. You will have to register with each state and comply with their laws. This may change your taxation as well. The cost of providing benefits in new states may be substantial. If you are willing to consider allowing an employee to do this, be sure to talk with your accounting and payroll firms as well as an employment attorney first.

Mid to large companies usually have pay schedules based on location. Are you willing to maintain current pay levels or consider a pay cut or reducing future pay raises if the chosen location has lower pay? How will you decide? Communicate this decision? While a few big tech companies have said that people moving to other areas will not lose pay, this is not yet a trend.

Congratulations – you and your organization have made it this far. The economy seems to be improving while the pandemic is slowly declining. Now is the time to take the actions needed to help your organization and employees move forward successfully.