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What Employers Must Know About Employee Mental Healthcare in 2021 and Beyond

Every year, the US spends $3.8 trillion on healthcare. What’s more, 90% of this goes to caring for chronic conditions. In an effort to reduce costs, improve the quality of life for their employees, and improve employee retention, for years, employers have shown support for five major chronic conditions: high blood pressure, diabetes, lack of physical activity, obesity, and smoking. These chronic issues cost employers an estimated $36 billion annually. Therefore, making advances towards addressing these issues can result in a significant impact financially. This is more important than ever because – the inconvenient truth is –  that $36 billion is only expected to increase.

The pandemic revealed many issues facing employers. Among them is employee behavioral health. While behavioral health has often been ignored by employers, it’s all but certain that it will emerge as a sixth vital chronic care condition. With all of the challenges brought on by the pandemic, it’s no surprise that employees are reporting higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression than ever before. Research shows that the pandemic could result in a 50% increase in behavioral health issues. This would mean that one-third of all Americans would be in need of care in 2021 and is projected to cost an additional $100-140 billion this year alone. 

With healthcare costs on the rise, the list of conditions growing larger, and the increasing demand for a remote workforce, many employers are turning to technology for solutions. With a growing list of mobile apps that offer guidance for cognitive behavioral therapy in a market that is rapidly expanding, tech solutions are more available than ever before. Here are a few considerations that employers need to be making as they address these new issues:

Behavioral Health is a Chronic Condition

It can no longer be ignored. Behavioral health issues are at an all-time high with 67% of Americans reporting to have increased stress levels in 2021. This comes with a significant financial impact. The global economic losses related to behavioral health are estimated at $16.3 trillion between 2011 and 2030, almost equal to that of cardiovascular disease and surpassing other chronic conditions. In addition, research shows that employees with these behavioral health conditions spend roughly $6,500 more annually than employees without.

Regardless of the growing awareness of this critical issue, studies revealed that there is a looming disconnect among employers. When asked to rank chronic conditions by importance, only 33% ranked behavioral health as being a significant concern, putting it seventh on the list overall. Meanwhile, diabetes was ranked number one for 61% of employers surveyed, despite the fact that data shows behavioral health to have a significantly higher impact financially. In a recent study, research showed that behavioral health conditions cost employers $17 each year per employee in disability wage replacement costs. The next most costly chronic condition is diabetes, costing employees $2 each year per employee. In another study, research showed that lost productivity for those experiencing behavioral health issues cost employers roughly $109 per employee, compared to those with diabetes, costing employers $9 per employee.

With the knowledge of the financial and personal impact that behavioral health conditions have on both employers and employees, employers need to identify solutions for the most prevalent diagnoses. As mentioned above, the solution may be found in tech for chronic care management. Studies have revealed that digital screenings, teletherapy, and digital CBT tools are effective for mitigating both symptoms and costs. Additionally, providing care early on has a significant impact, with the average cost for employees taking leave for a mild form of a condition like depression can be up to 52% lower than the average cost for a severe form of that same condition.

Traditional vs Modern Solutions

A recent analysis of the digital app space showed that there were roughly 300,000 health-related apps available for download on mobile devices. This market is projected to grow to over $230 billion in value by 2023. While new tools are welcomed and many of them show promise, the swift expansion of digital options can make it difficult to know which tools are worth utilizing. It is important that employers are thorough when selecting which tools they will use as it is likely that the more mature digital solutions will become the most robust and engaging tools, ultimately, making them the most effective.

That said, the focus of employers is to find a singular solution. In a recent study, research showed that 71% of employers said that a singular digital solution to behavioral health management was of high importance. The same is true for enterprise-level solutions, with each solution promising mitigated chronic conditions, optimized personal management, and a decrease in employer healthcare costs.

However, regardless of these solutions, the disintegrated nature of behavioral health management creates a significant challenge for employers. The single-issue solutions struggle to have widespread engagement among employees which has a significant impact on the long-term success of their adoption. Studies show that 47% of employers attribute lack of employee engagement as the main obstacle to the adoption of digital solutions. Another study revealed that engagement rates for health insurer’s behavioral health management programs were only 13% on average.

This is why it is important for employees to prioritize more mature digital solutions. The next few years are likely to see many large consolidations as the more mature solutions buy out the single focus tools, creating more robust solutions that deliver better returns. By sticking with more mature solutions, employers will see more engagement as the market and the tools within it grow.

Prevention Over Cures

The obvious real return on behavioral health solutions is that they are positive for both employers and employees. Not only do they improve the health and well-being of employees, but that, in turn, improves the employer’s bottom line. In a recent study from Harvard, research showed that effective workplace wellness programs resulted in a return of $2.37 for every dollar spent on average. Emerging tech solutions help treat behavioral health conditions in ways that were unimaginable before. Teletherapy can connect employees to licensed practitioners with just one click. While they might be costly upfront, immediate returns shouldn’t be the primary focus of employers. The long-term reduction in the cost of behavioral health treatments, drugs, and therapy will undoubtedly result in healthier, loyal employees.

Digital management solutions provide an opportunity to make a significant and real change for your employee’s mental well-being. While it’s easy to be discouraged by growing healthcare costs and troubling statistics on American mental health, now is the appropriate time to provide your employees with a comprehensive behavioral health management solution. In doing so, you will be making progress towards a healthier workforce and a brighter future for all.

The trajectory of behavioral healthcare might be daunting and more unpredictable than ever before, however, digital solutions bring promise. These tools not only help improve the health of your employees, but they can also have a positive impact on costs, retention, and resilience. Employers that embrace the behavioral health concerns, seek out a singular solution, and focus on long-term employee health will be better equipped to handle the issues of rising healthcare costs and the evolving needs of their employees.

Employee Fraud, Waste, and Abuse During the Time of COVID-19

The COVID-19 Pandemic, which began over a year ago, has changed the workplace in many ways. Some of these changes have been for the better, such as reduced office space overhead for employers. Other changes have been for the worse, like employee isolation, mental illness, and low team morale.

One alarming trend that has been shown in recent reports is that employee fraud, waste and abuse have increased during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

In this post, we’ll discuss this trend in detail. Specifically, we’ll cover:

  • Reports show employee fraud, waste, and abuse have increased during COVID
  • How This Trent Relates to the Fraud Triangle
  • What Employers can do to Combat this Trend

Reports Show Employee Fraud, Waste, and Abuse have Increased During COVID

A recent report by the risk mitigation technology firm Oversight reveals that instances of employee fraud, waste, and abuse have increased during the pandemic.  This report specifically describes such instances in terms of spending and purchasing.

According to the report, overall purchasing activity has decreased during the pandemic. This is probably due to reduced revenue and uncertainty about the future of many industries as a result of the world-altering year of 2020. However, the report also found that:

  • Spending risk has nearly tripled in the last year. A comparison between 2019 and 2020 shows travel and expenses decreased by 55%, but violation rate increased by 29%.
  • Out-of-pocket expenses that are considered to be “risky” have increased. Starting in March of 2020, they increased as high as 120% of what they were before the pandemic. One potential explanation for this spike is that many workers had to pay to set up virtual workspaces out-of-pocket. Reimbursements for this type of expenses are complex and inherently carry a lot of risk.
  • Two other risky expense categories are “miscellaneous” and “mail/phone orders.” These two expense categories accounted for a greater portion of overall spending in 2020. The potential issues with these categories are obvious when considering the vagueness of expenses that are classified as “miscellaneous” and the ease of abuse with expenses classified as “mail/phone orders.”

Although the report we’ve referenced in this post only discusses financial abuse in terms of purchasing and expenses, it’s easy to consider how other forms of business fraud, waste, and abuse may have increased during the last year. In the following section, we’ll explore these causes.

How This Trend Relates to the Fraud Triangle

Organizational behavior experts have historically explained workplace fraud, waste, and abuse in terms of the “Fraud Triangle.” The Fraud Triangle presents three factors that heavily influence whether an employee will engage in behavior that could be considered fraudulent, wasteful, or abusive. The three elements in the fraud triangle are:

  1. Opportunity
  2. Pressure
  3. Rationalization

Let’s take a moment to consider each of these elements as they relate to working remotely during the pandemic. For the purposes of this section, we’ll refer to “fraud, waste, and abuse” simply as, “fraud.”

Opportunity

Employees are more likely to engage in fraud when the there are many opportunities to do so. Generally speaking, whenever there is less supervision over employees, there will be more opportunities for fraud. Fewer interactions with management and supervisors may cause an employee to feel like they will be able to get away with fraud more easily.

This presents a problematic dilemma for employers in the era of remote workers. With employees potentially scattered all over the country, how can an employer properly make sure employees are not wasting resources or participating in other abusive or fraudulent behavior?

Pressure

As we’ve explained in recent posts, employees are experiencing more stress now than ever before. This is especially true for younger workers who are working remotely. Uncertainty about the future can be a primary cause for this stress.

If employees feel worried about the future, those feelings will likely coincide with feelings of added pressure to care for themselves and their families. The fear of being laid off or experiencing other employment hardships could cause employees to make rash decisions to engage in fraud to help them mitigate perceived financial risk.

Rationalization

The third and final element of the fraud triangle is rationalization. Just like fear of an uncertain future can make an employee feel added pressure to commit fraud, the same fear could make them try to rationalize their fraudulent decisions.

For example, consider an employee who uses company money to purchase a personal item. The employee might say to themselves, “This has been a hard year for me and my family. I’ve had bad luck. I deserve this item. It’ll help me be a better employee in the long run, so it’s no big deal that I spent company money on it.”

What Employers Can Do to Combat This Trend

After reading the previous sections about the fraud triangle and trends related to fraud, waste, and abuse trends in the workplace, you may find yourself concerned about the status of your workforce. Managing these unique and unprecedented circumstances is no easy task. Consider the following tips:

  • Make sure you are regularly checking in with your employees, especially if they are working remotely. Every employee should have a short phone call or virtual meeting with their immediate supervisor at least once a week, if not more. The more often they touch base with you about their projects and other priorities, the less likely they will be to seize an opportunity for fraud.
  • Do everything you can to reduce stress for your employees. Talk with your company’s health care provider and your HR staff to make sure mental health options are available for your employees. Provide perks such as gym reimbursement or exercise incentives to help your employees relieve stress in healthy ways. Doing so will reduce the chances of employees committing fraud due to pressure or rationalization.
  • Don’t be afraid to consider installing monitoring software on your employees’ computers to catch certain types of fraud, waste, or abuse. However, you’ll want to be fully transparent about this practice. If you decide to implement a new software to help the company reduce fraud, make sure employees are involved in that decision process and help them understand how it is for the good of the company.

Key Takeaways

The COVID-19 pandemic has created opportunities, pressure, and rationalization for employees in the modern workplace to commit acts of fraud, waste, and abuse. Data provided by leading risk mitigation firms shows that this is certainly the case for purchasing fraud. A thoughtful consideration of the “Fraud Triangle” makes it easy to see how other aspects of fraud are more common now as well.

To help reduce the chances of fraud in their workplace, employers should consider doing the following:

  • Make sure you are regularly checking in with your employees.
  • Do everything you can to reduce stress for your employees.
  • Don’t be afraid to consider installing monitoring software on your employees’ computers to catch certain types of fraud, waste, or abuse. However, involve your employees in this process. 

What Employers Need to Know About the American Rescue Plan

The $1.9 billion relief bill, known as the American Rescue Plan, has passed Congress and will
head to President Joe Biden for a signature. Highlights of the bill include extended
unemployment benefits, direct checks to individuals and more.


While some of the bill was changed during its time in the Senate, it’s largely similar to the
initial version passed by the House. However, some key provisions, such as a higher minimum
wage, were scrapped amid efforts to pass the bill swiftly.


This article outlines the most relevant provisions included in the bill.


SMALL BUSINESS ASSISTANCE
The bill invests billions toward small business assistance. Here is the current funding
breakdown:
-Emergency Injury Disaster Loan program: $15 billion
-New grant program for bars and restaurants, specifically: $28 billion
-Paycheck Protection Program: $7.25 billion


DIRECT PAYMENTS
Just like the two other COVID-19 relief bills passed during the pandemic, this version also
features direct payments to Americans. This time around, eligible recipients can expect
$1,400 per person ($2,800 for couples), including adult dependents—a family of four could
receive up to $5,600.


However, payment parameters are stricter this time around than with the previous direct
payment. The full amount will go to individuals earning under $75,000 (or $150,000 for
couples), with payments cut off entirely for individuals earning over $80,000 (or $160,000 for
couples). Individuals earning an amount between those figures will receive a reduced sum.


UNEMPLOYMENT AID
The bill extends two previously established pandemic unemployment assistance efforts: the Pandemic
Unemployment Assistance Program and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation
program. Unemployed gig workers, freelancers, contractors and others who previously qualified for aid
will continue to be eligible under these programs. The financial assistance provided by these two
programs is currently set to expire in mid-March, which pressured legislators to act quickly.
The bill also provides for enhanced unemployment assistance payments of $300 per week. Under the bill,
these programs and their financial aid are extended through Sept. 6.


HOUSING ASSISTANCE
The bill sets aside billions in financial aid to homeowners and renters. Here is the funding breakdown:
-Aid for emergency rental assistance: $22 billion
-Aid for mortgages, utilities and property taxes: $10 billion
-Aid to states and localities to help individuals at risk of becoming homeless: $5 billion


EMERGENCY PAID LEAVE
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), signed into law on March 18, 2020, required certain
employers to provide employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified
reasons related to COVID-19. That requirement expired Dec. 31, 2020.


The American Rescue Plan maintains the status quo, in that it does not require employers to offer leave
under the FFCRA framework. However, the bill does provide tax credits for employers that voluntarily
provide leave under the FFCRA framework through the end of September 2021.

AID TO SCHOOLS AND CHILD CARE
A significant portion of the relief bill involves aid to states, including schools and child care facilities:
-Aid for getting K-12 schools ready for in-person learning: $125 billion
-Money may be used for purchasing protective equipment, improving ventilation systems
and hiring support staff. However, 20% of the money schools receive must be used to
address pandemic learning loss—for example, extending learning time into the summer.
-Aid for colleges: $40 billion
Institutions will be required to spend at least 50% of their allocated funds on emergency
financial aid grants to students.
-Child care provider assistance: $39 billion
-Funds may be used for payroll, rent, protective equipment and other expenses.


TAX CREDITS
The relief bill provides an overhaul of the child tax credit for the 2021 tax year. The bill increases the
amount of the credit to $3,000 for each child under the age of 18 and $3,600 for children under the age
of 6. The credit will also become fully refundable, meaning low-income individuals would receive the
benefit.


The bill also expands the earned income tax credit for individuals without children. The maximum credit
will be nearly tripled, and eligibility will be expanded as well.


HEALTH INSURANCE
The bill subsidizes private health insurance premiums for unemployed workers through the Consolidated
Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). The provision allows individuals eligible for COBRA insurance
coverage to maintain their employer-sponsored coverage after losing employment without having to pay
any portion of the premiums through the end of September 2021.


Additionally, the bill invests nearly $35 billion in premium subsidy increases for those who buy coverage
on the ACA Marketplace. The bill increases the subsidies provided to currently eligible individuals, and
removes the 400% federal poverty level cap (equal to approximately $51,000 for an individual) on subsidy
eligibility.


AID TO STATES, LOCAL GOVERNMENTS, TRIBES AND TERRITORIES
The bill provides billions in financial assistance to states, local governments, tribes and territories. Here is
the current funding breakdown:
-Aid to state and local governments: $325.5 billion
-Aid to tribes and territories: $24.5 billion
-Creation of the Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund, to carry out capital projects directly enabling
work, education and health monitoring: $10 billion


WHAT’S NOT IN THE BILL
A minimum wage hike of $15 per hour—one of the most discussed provisions from the initial bill—has
been removed from the final version due to strict rules governing budget bills in the Senate. Some
Democrats have suggested this provision may be considered as a standalone bill, but any movement on
that front remains to be seen.


Additionally, the bill does not include an extension of the eviction moratorium, which is set to expire on
March 31, or an expansion of mandated paid sick and family and medical leave. While neither were
included in the original House bill, these were popular provisions contained within one of the previous
bills.


SUMMARY
While there are many complex provisions in this nearly $2 trillion relief bill, Launchways is here to help
employers make sense of everything. Reach out with questions about how this new bill may affect your
organization.

Eight Employment and Labor Changes to Expect in 2021 and 2022

Businesses were already expected to acclimate to rapidly changing regulations and workforce demands, and the COVID pandemic has heightened those expectations even more. This has led many business owners to wonder what additional changes are on the horizon. The recent change in presidential administration has also led many employers to consider how prepared their organization is for impending legislation.

In this post, we’ll cover some anticipated changes employers may encounter over the next two years in the worlds of labor and employment. The specific changes that we’ll discuss include:

  • Expanded Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) Enforcement
  • Federal Minimum Wage Increases
  • Labor Management Reporting Disclosure Act Persuader Rules
  • Expanded Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Reporting Requirements
  • Temporary OSHA COVID Rules and Guidance
  • Paid Sick Leave Changes
  • Removal of Key Trump Regulations
  • Return to the Obama-era FLSA White-Collar Exemption

Expanded OSHA Enforcement

Under Trump’s presidency, the number of OSHA audits, inspections, penalties, and overall enforcement personnel decreased from year to year. As is the case for many Trump-era regulations, this trend is likely to reverse under President Biden. You can expect Biden to direct OSHA to hire more enforcement personnel, and to conduct more inspections. With more inspections, you can expect OSHA to be handing out more penalties as well. These increased inspections will be related to COVID as well as other occupational safety concerns.

Federal Minimum Wage Increases

President Biden has long been a proponent of a higher federal minimum wage – specifically $15/hr. This increase, which would more than double the current $7.25 federal minimum wage, will face an uphill battle of legislation. However, incremental increases over the next several years may be agreed on through a compromise across party lines, so employers should start preparing for this very real possibility.

Another minimum wage order that Biden has already issued is to direct his administration to start working on a $15 minimum wage for all employees of federal contractors. His plan is to implement this executive order within the first 100 days of his presidency. Examples of such contractors include cleaning and food service employees.

Labor Management Reporting Disclosure Act Persuader Rules

Towards the end of the Obama Administration, the Department of Labor revised the Labor Management Reporting Disclosure Act (LMRDA) “persuader” disclosure rules. Although these revisions never took effect, their intention was to broaden the scope of companies and individuals that had to file LMRDA disclosure paperwork. This would have removed the “advice” exception, which held that consultants or attorneys who only provided advice to employers (not directly persuading them) were not required to file disclosures under the LMRDA. Biden is very likely to try to make this revision again and reinstate the revised persuader rules.

Expanded EEOC Reporting Requirements

Your organization should begin preparing to track and report on wage and salary data based on race and gender. The EEOC under President Biden will most likely implement new reporting requirements to improve pay equality in the United States.

Temporary OSHA COVID Rules

One of President Biden’s first executive orders, which he signed on January 21, 2021, was to direct OSHA to provide new guidance to employers to help them improve workplace safety during the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic. OSHA responded quickly to this order and issued new guidance on January 29, 2021.

This guidance can be summarized into the following themes:

  • Hazard assessments
  • Measures to limit the spread of COVID-19
  • Isolation or separation measures of infected workers from the workplace (physical distancing, installing barriers, or staying home)
  • Use of personal protective equipment
  • Improvements in ventilation, hygiene, and sanitation measures
  • Industry specific guidelines.

Paid Sick Leave Changes

Biden has long been an advocate of 12 weeks of annual paid family and medical leave. However, experts are skeptical about the feasibility of such legislation. Last year, Congress approved two weeks of paid emergency FMLA leave. This new paid leave might push some Republican senators to warm to the idea of providing further paid leave.

Removal of Key Trump Regulations

Since day one of his administration, President Biden has been rolling back or removing some key Trump regulations. Examples include:

  • Withdrawing Trump-era Department of Labor opinion letters on the topics of tip pooling and employee classification.
  • Freezing the independent contractor rule. Under this rule, it was easy for employers to classify “gig economy” workers as independent contractors.
  • The Department of Labor under President Biden will most likely roll back Trump’s tip pooling regulations and revert back to the former rules. The former rules do not allow “back-of-the-house” workers, like restaurant kitchen staff for example, to participate in tip pools.

Return to the Obama-era FLSA White-Collar Exemption

Under President Obama’s Fair Labor Standards Act regulations (FLSA), the salary below which workers are entitled to overtime was raised to $47,476. Trump lowered this amount back down to $35,308. Employers can expect that during the Biden Administration, this amount will increase back up to Obama levels, or potentially even higher.

Key Takeaways

Employers can expect many changes over the next two years in the worlds of employment and labor. Most of these changes are a result of the recent change in presidential administration. President Biden will be reversing many of the regulations and executive orders that President Trump put in place. Many of these changes will bring back Obama-era regulations, although there will be some differences.

The most important changes that employers can expect fit into these categories:

  • Expanded Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) Enforcement
  • Federal Minimum Wage Increases
  • Labor Management Reporting Disclosure Act Persuader Rules
  • Expanded Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Reporting Requirements
  • Temporary OSHA COVID Rules and Guidance
  • Paid Sick Leave Changes
  • Removal of Key Trump Regulations
  • Return to the Obama-era FLSA White-Collar Exemption

New OSHA COVID-19 Guidelines

In late January 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued updated guidance on mitigating and preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.

This guidance is meant to help employers and workers determine appropriate COVID-19 control measures, and to educate employers and workers about the risks of being exposed to or contracting COVID-19 in the workplace.

In this post, we’ll be highlighting the most important aspects of this updated guidance and what employers need to know moving forward. Specifically, we’ll discuss:

  • The Purpose of This New Guidance
  • Guidance Highlights
  • What Next for Employers

To read the new OSHA COVID-19 guidance in its entirety, click here.

The Purpose of This New Guidance

OSHA released this updated guidance with the purpose of helping employers plan their COVID-19 prevention and mitigation strategies. OSHA strongly recommends that employers implement COVID-19 prevention programs in the workplace, especially in industries where employees are unable to work from home. The most effective mitigation strategies engage workers and their union or representatives in strategy development, according to OSHA’s recommendations.

The guidance covers the following:

  • Hazard assessments
  • Measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 (roles of employers and workers and training on COVID-19)
  • Isolation or separation measures of infected workers from the workplace (physical distancing, installing barriers or staying home)
  • Use of personal protective equipment
  • Improvements in ventilation, hygiene and sanitation measures

We’ll discuss some highlights about some of the above topics in the following section.

Guidance Highlights

In this section, we’ve compiled some of the most important points from OSHA’s new guidance, organized into the sections that we explained in the previous section:

Hazard Assessments

Employers should conduct a hazard assessment of their workplaces. According to the new OSHA guidance, the purpose of this is, “…to identify potential workplace hazards related to COVID-19.” The guidance also suggests that, “This assessment will be most effective if it involves workers (and their representatives) because they are often the people most familiar with the conditions they face.”

Isolation or Separation Measures of Infected Workers from the Workplace

The OSHA guidance strongly recommends that employers do everything they can to minimize the negative impact of quarantine and isolation on infected workers. Specifically, they suggest:

  • Allow them to telework or work in an area isolated from others, when possible. If not possible, allow workers to use paid sick leave.
  • Consider implementing paid leave policies to reduce infection risk for everyone in your workplace.
  • Remember that The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) provides certain employers 100% reimbursement (primarily through tax credits) to provide employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. This option will remain through March 31, 2021.

Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

In the updated guidance, OSHA acknowledges that not every industry can allow employees to work from home. In many industries, the only way for employers to perform their job responsibilities is to be at work in person. In this case, the use of PPE is necessary. Specific guidance related to employer provision of PPE includes:

  • Determine what PPE is necessary to adequately protect your employees.
  • Provide all PPE, if necessary, including respirators, face shields, protective gowns, and gloves, to the workers at no cost.
  • Make sure to provide PPE in accordance with relevant OSHA standards and other industry-specific guidance. Later in this post, we’ll explain where you can find industry-specific guidance.
  • Understand that there are instances in which PPE is not required under OSHA standards or other industry-specific guidance. Some workers may have a legal right to PPE as a “reasonable accommodation” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In other cases, workers may want to use it if they are still concerned about their personal safety (for example, if a family member is at higher-risk for severe illness, wearing a face shield in addition to a face covering as an added layer of protection). Employers should encourage and support voluntary use of PPE in these circumstances.

Improvements in Ventilation, Hygiene and Sanitation Measures

In addition to PPE, providing resources to help your employees maintain good personal hygiene is important to help them mitigate the risk of being infected with COVID-19. Specific recommendations include:

  • Provide tissues and no-touch trash cans.
  • Provide soap and warm or tepid water in the workplace in fixed worksites.
  • Place touchless hand sanitizer stations in multiple convenient locations throughout the office.
  • Provide workers with time to wash their hands often with soap and water (for at least 20 seconds) or to use hand sanitizer.
  • Place informational posters that encourage hand hygiene and physical distancing to help stop the spread of COVID-19 at the entrance to your workplace and in other workplace areas where they are likely to be seen. Be sure to include versions of the poster in different languages.
  • Promote personal health monitoring and good personal hygiene, including hand washing and good respiratory etiquette.
  • The supplies necessary to carry out each of the above hygiene recommendations should be provided at no cost to employees.

Other Measures to Limit the Spread of COVID-19

In addition to everything listed above, OSHA has recommended the following best practices to consider in order to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. Visit OSHA’s updated website for more information about these recommendations.

  • Assignment of a workplace coordinator. 
  • Identification of where and how workers might be exposed to COVID-19 at work. 
  • Identification of a combination of measures that will limit the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, in line with the principles of the hierarchy of controls.
  • Consideration of protections for workers at higher risk for severe illness through supportive policies and practices. 
  • Establishment of a system for communicating effectively with workers in a language they understand.
  • Educate and train workers on your COVID-19 policies and procedures using accessible formats and in a language they understand.
  • Isolating workers who show symptoms at work. 
  • Performing enhanced cleaning and disinfection after people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 have been in the facility.
  • Providing guidance on screening and testing.
  • Recording and reporting COVID-19 infections and deaths that occur in the workplace.
  • Implementing protections from retaliation and setting up an anonymous process for workers to voice concerns about COVID-19-related hazards.
  • Making a COVID-19 vaccine or vaccination series available at no cost to all eligible employees.
  • Not distinguishing between workers who are vaccinated and those who are not.

Industry Specific Guidance

OSHA has published a separate webpage with guidance for specific industries (click here to access this page). Some specific industries that are included are:

  • Airline Operations
  • Construction
  • Dentistry
  • Food Manufacturing and Processing
  • Laboratories
  • Manufacturing
  • Oil and Gas Operations
  • Pharmacies
  • Retail
  • Waste Management

Many other industries are included on the website, so be sure to take a look to see what is recommended for you and your employees.

What Next for Employers?

Keep in mind that OSHA will continue to update the guidance over time as new developments arise. OSHA fully intends to include additional situational and industry-specific guidance as we learn more about COVID-19 moving forward.

Employers should review this recent and any future guidance carefully and implement any new recommendations as applicable. Employers should consider assigning someone on their staff to regularly monitor the OSHA website for any changes in COVID-19 best practices and standards.

As we mentioned in the previous section, OSHA has published many industry-specific recommendations. Business leaders are strongly encouraged to review the specific guidelines that OSHA has provided for their industries.

Key Takeaways

OSHA has issued important updated COVID-19 guidelines for employers. These guidelines can be summarized into the following themes:

  • Hazard assessments
  • Measures to limit the spread of COVID-19
  • Isolation or separation measures of infected workers from the workplace (physical distancing, installing barriers or staying home)
  • Use of personal protective equipment
  • Improvements in ventilation, hygiene and sanitation measures
  • Industry specific guidelines.

Employers should carefully review the specific details of this guidance, which we’ve summarized in this post and are also available by clicking here. Employers should also consider assigning someone on their staff to regularly check back on OSHA’s website for further COVID-19 prevention guidelines. 

COVID-19 Burned Out HR Leaders Everywhere: Here’s How to Help

Many HR professionals would agree that the year 2020 was the most challenging year to date when it comes to managing human capital effectively. The COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses to adapt in a variety of ways, including restructuring workforces, transforming product offerings and operations, and doing everything possible to keep businesses open while physically distancing employees from one another. These challenges, among many others faced during the ongoing COVID pandemic, has led to burnout among many HR professionals.

We’ll address HR employee burnout in this post. Specifically, we’ll discuss:

  • Identifying the Issue
  • What HR Leaders Can Do to Improve the Situation
  • How Company Leadership Can Better Support their HR Team Moving Forward

Identifying the Issue

As an HR leader, you need to be able to understand burnout in yourself, your HR teammates, and all employees at your company.

HR professionals are often expected to be the most empathetic people in an organization. If someone is having a stress/anxiety or interpersonal related issue, HR will often be their first stop. This can lead to something called compassion fatigue. Showing empathy is a skill, but it’s not an easy one. Even the most empathetic people can feel drained of energy when they are showing compassion to multiple people in a short amount of time. This is one of the primary reasons that so many HR professionals are feeling burnout.

During 2020, HR was asked to make a lot of hard decisions. They were also charged with communicating these decisions to employees. Telling everyone that they need to work from home and isolate themselves from as many people as possible is no easy task. And in worst case scenarios, HR leaders were tasked with implementing large-scale furloughs or layoffs. On top of this, federal regulations became a moving target for HR leaders during COVID. Adapting to FFCRA in the midst of transitioning to remote work or altered operations was a super challenging task. After making these tough decisions, dealing with any pushback from staff, and navigating incredibly complex compliance challenges, it’s no wonder that burnout has become so common for HR employees.

What HR Leaders Can Do to Improve the Situation

As an HR leader experiencing burnout, it may be time to consider burnout best practices that could apply to anyone in your workforce. Think about the advice that you would give to any non-HR employee who might approach you with concerns about feeling burned out. What would you tell them? Take that advice, and apply it to yourself. Here are some things you might consider:

  • Don’t be afraid to take time off. HR employees too often feel like they have to be extra conservative with their vacation days. They feel like they have to set an example of when it is or is not appropriate to take time off. Throw this idea out the window! If you are experiencing burnout and you have PTO available, use it! Even if travelling is unrealistic right now due to COVID, taking a few days off and spending time exercising, doing hobbies, or relaxing with family and friends can go a long way towards quelling burnout.
  • Find a listening ear. It’s very possible that the employees best equipped to listen and show empathy about employee burnout are your HR coworkers. If you don’t feel comfortable discussing your burnout with them, reach out to friends you have in the industry. Think about who you worked with at a previous job, who you met at a conference in recent years, or someone you might be connected with on LinkedIn. Join and online community of HR leaders in your local area. You’ll be surprised at just how willing people in your professional network will be to help you by listening to your challenges and providing guidance.
  • Ask for the help you need. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. HR employees don’t need to be examples of perfection. It’s okay to feel down and unmotivated during these troubling times. There is no shame in this. Whatever help you need, get it. A few months or years from now, you’ll thank yourself for doing whatever it took to get yourself back on track using healthy strategies.

How Company Leadership Can Better Support their HR Team Moving Forward

As counter intuitive as this might sound, HR isn’t always equipped to solve every people-related challenge in the workplace. Often the support of company leadership – the CEO, Founder, President, etc. – is needed.

Company leadership should go above and beyond to acknowledge HR accomplishments during this difficult time. Awarding the “employee of the month” title to someone in HR, sending a hand-written thank you note, or even a “shoutout” included in an internal company communication will go a long way towards making your HR team feel recognized for the hard work they have performed over the last year. Could you go as far as gifting your organization’s HR leader a gift certificate to a spa or have lunch delivered to their home form their favorite restaurant? Get creative in showing your HR teammates just how much their effort means to your company during this challenging time.

Also important, company leadership should consider potential gaps in employee benefits. Could your employee assistance program be expanded? What does your company’s mental health coverage lack? Understanding these gaps in benefits and acting on them will go a long way towards ensuring your entire team’s mental and physical health are cared for, and especially your HR staff during this challenging time.

Key Takeaways

Burnout among HR employees is becoming very common in the wake of the challenging year 2020. Compassion fatigue, combined with the weight of having to make and communicate so many challenging decisions, are the primary reasons for this burnout. HR employees can help themselves overcome burnout by doing the following:

  • Don’t be afraid to take time off.
  • Find a listening ear.
  • Get the help you need.

Company leadership should also take the initiative to help their HR team overcome burnout. Two ideal strategies for achieving this are:

  • Going the extra mile to make sure HR is acknowledged and thanked for the challenging work they have been performing over the last year.
  • Ensure that there are no gaps in benefits coverage that are limiting your team’s ability to take care of themselves and their mental health.

Launchways Provides HR Leaders the Support They Need So They Can Focus on Strategic Initiatives

At Launchways, we partner with organizations to help alleviate the administrative and compliance burdens placed on HR professionals. With Launchways’ support, HR leaders have more time to work on strategic initiatives rather than getting bogged down by tactical day-to-day items. Learn more about how Launchways helps HR leaders.