Webinar: Butts-in-Seats vs. Remote Work

This recorded session was presented live on April 20, 2023.

Presentation Slides


Rather than being an equalizer, remote work hasn’t leveled the playing field for employees. It has also presented unique cultural challenges. By now, employers should know a thing or two about the liability risks and HR complications that come with a distributed workforce – but it’s still confusing. And what if remote work simply won’t work for your organization?

In this webinar, co-sponsored with our HR Partner Mineral, we looked at the current remote work landscape and used our crystal ball (read: deep knowledge of employment trends from working with tens of thousands of clients) to make predictions for the future.

Presenter: Kara Govro, JD, SPHR | Senior Legal Analyst

Kara GovroKara is an attorney and certified Senior Human Resources Professional. As the Principal Legal Analyst at Mineral, she spends her time digging into new and amended employment laws as well as trends in HR, translating legalese into plain English and finding the key takeaways for employers. She is a subject matter expert in several areas and has presented at local and national conferences for attorneys, HR practitioners, and industry groups. She loves sharing straightforward guidance to help demystify HR and compliance.

Session Transcript:

Kara Govro: So, we will email you a recording of the slides as well as the video recording within about a day. We’ve got a couple of polls we’d love your participation in, and if you want to submit questions throughout the presentation, I will take some of those at the end if we have time. I will try to get through our material a little bit quickly today since we got a late start.

So, [00:00:30] we will start with the current state of affairs with remote versus hybrid work, or the two of them in general, not necessarily versus. We will talk about essential steps for remote and hybrid success, there’s a range of things to look out there. We’ll talk about boundaries and building community within a remote workforce and compliance issues. Then we’ll talk about things that you can consider offering if hybrid work really isn’t in the cards for you, and then we’ll talk about attracting and [00:01:00] then retaining talent, which seems a little bit off topic, that got squished in here because if you can’t offer remote or hybrid work, you might need to be thinking even harder about what you can do. But that section is applicable really for all employers.

So, the current state of affairs, let’s look at the desire for remote work versus what employers are doing. And [00:01:30] a couple of months ago I went looking for really recent data on this. We had early pandemic remote work data, but this stuff is fresher. So, we do have some assorted surveys that tell us that 56% to 65% of employees do want to be fully remote, 30% to 40% ish would like a hybrid work environment, some number in the middle there between [00:02:00] a third and maybe more than a half would leave their job if the company didn’t offer remote work, obviously these are employees who are able to work remotely, what they do is inherently remote workable. Presumably people who have a long history in retail customer service are not the ones who are saying that they are only going to take remote employment, so [00:02:30] obviously there’s some self-selection in that question.

Employees are 22% happier working remotely than in an onsite environment. I think that particular statistic might have been specific to call centers, but you can definitely find other statistics along those lines. 22% happier seems a little bit hard to gauge, but presumably they did have some reasonable metrics [00:03:00] there. And then 70% said their job happiness has greatly increased due to remote work. That was the call center date. All right, so, interestingly though, employers, despite that information, are taking a pretty different tack.

So, 90% of companies are requiring employees to return to the office in 2023, and that doesn’t necessarily mean 100% of the time, but they are requiring some kind of return. 21% [00:03:30] said they’ll fire workers who don’t return to the office, and that makes sense if you have said, “Hey, everybody has to return,” and someone is just completely refusing, then termination is probably the logical option. And then 88% of companies though do realize that they may need to offer incentives to get employees [00:04:00] to return, and that might include catered meals, commuter benefits, higher pay, or a wide range of perhaps smaller perks that I’ll be talking about later on in the webinar.

So, why do employers so desperately want people back in the office? Well, you all are employers, so you’ve got your own reasons, but there are a few pretty basic ones. Culture is [00:04:30] harder to maintain and to build. On the job training is of course more difficult. Can it be done? Yes. Our company is, we say remote first, but for all intents and purposes we’re fully remote in my mind, and we’ve hired many people during the pandemic and managed to train them. But I will fully admit, sometimes it is just easier to point at something on the screen and say, “You [00:05:00] will click this and then you will drag this here,” as opposed to trying to communicate this over [inaudible 00:05:06] I understand Slack or Teams. I’ll probably refer to instant messaging that companies use as Slack because that’s what we use, that’s my default, but that could be Microsoft Teams, it could be an assortment of other instant messaging programs that you use.
And then really I think the key reason employers want people back is because they don’t really [00:05:30] trust that employees are productive at home. So, that’s an interesting one and we can dig in a little bit on that because obviously productivity is key to your bottom line and to getting things done. Employees are saying they are more productive working at home. Employers feel like they are less productive, but I think that’s just because they can’t see it in a lot of cases. Certainly, I don’t want to dismiss [00:06:00] anyone’s lived experience. You may have tried remote work and you have the ability to track it and you know that productivity went down, so I don’t want to say that’s not a possibility, but in general I do think productivity has gone up and we have a fair bit of data to support that.

You can just do a wide open Google internet search and find lots of results about increased productivity. An interesting one came out from Microsoft and they titled [00:06:30] this Productivity Paranoia, the problem is called that, and they did some really interesting research. They surveyed over 11,000 employees and they looked at trillions of Microsoft 365 productivity signals, is what they called them, to [inaudible 00:06:50] how things changed now that a lot of people who’ve gone remote, and earlier in the pandemic perhaps everyone who could be remote was remote for a while, [00:07:00] and what they found is that meetings are up 153%, which is crazy, double booked meetings are up 46%, and 42% of people are multitasking in meetings.

So, this is amazing that they can figure this out. Well, maybe it’s not amazing at all, it amazes me. But what Outlook can tell is that you are supposed to be in one meeting or two meetings and you are using Microsoft Teams to ping someone while you are in one or both [00:07:30] of those meetings, so that’s what they’re calling multitasking. It’s really task switching, which we’ll talk a bit more about. But Microsoft’s takeaway is that the great employer concern that people are just being wildly unproductive at home is really not the case and they would like us to end Productivity Paranoia.
So, I mentioned just a second ago that there really isn’t multitasking. [00:08:00] If someone is sending an email in a meeting, they have stopped paying attention to the meeting to send the email. For 98% of humans there is no such thing as multitasking, and if you search on Google, “Humans don’t multitask NIH,” that stands for National Institute of Health, you’ll find a great peer reviewed published article about this that also has links to whole bunch of other studies, sorry I didn’t get that on the slide for you. [00:08:30] But, again, if you just Google, “Humans don’t multitask NIH,” that’s going to hit the top of your search list, and it’s got a lot of great info in there. I’m not making it up.

So, it can take us 15 minutes to really get into task and take us as much as 25 minutes to get back to a task after we’ve been interrupted. And it’s going to take, because of that, significantly more time to get multiple tasks done if we’re switching back and forth as opposed to if we just [00:09:00] commit to one and do it and then go on to task number two. And I am the queen of task switching and I know I make my life harder by doing this all day long, so I think that might be one of my goals for the rest of the year is to really work on blocking my time and not task switching.

I think it might be revolutionary for me, I think it would probably be revolutionary for a lot of employees, including probably many of the people on the call [00:09:30] right now. Task switching causes more errors, particularly if the task is complex. And if you’re switching a lot during the day, it can add up to a 40% loss in productivity. Again, lots of data out there, you can find this yourself, I’m not making it up, but task switching is a real problem and I think it has been significantly exacerbated by remote work, which I’ll talk [00:10:00] a little bit more about in a minute.

Right now I’d like to pause really quick for a poll and see what you all are thinking this year. So, ideally, what percentage of your workforce would have a hybrid schedule? And the poll tab is located below the video that you’re watching, so if you [00:10:30] scroll down you’ll see a poll tab and you can answer this first poll and see the results there. So, I’m just curious, and you can answer this in the chat actually, [00:11:00] this is a whole new poll question, I realize, how many of you were fully in the office before the pandemic and now are doing some amount of hybrid work or have gone fully remote?

If you want to answer that in the chat, basically you used to be totally in the office and now you’ve changed. [00:11:30] Did that happen to you during the pandemic? Did that cause you to make a change in how you work long term? All right, we will move on from that, I’m looking forward to your answers but I won’t pause there and you guys can see what the rest of you are saying. Definitely some of you are saying totally in the office before and hybrid now, which is what I’m anticipating a lot of, but I’d love to see what you got there.

All right, so remote [00:12:00] and hybrid work, essential steps for success. Since a lot of you are already doing this, you may have worked through it, you may have figured this out, but for those who are still struggling or who are just looking at it now to become competitive, this still feels relevant, so let’s dig in on some of this.

First of all, we of course have to accept that command and control is not going to work. [00:12:30] Unless you’ve implemented surveillance where you’re watching their every keystroke or their move on the web or possibly installed a webcam over their computer, you’re going to need to find other ways to measure success and productivity. And, honestly, even watching their keystrokes and their browser history and their face on video is not necessarily going to tell you whether they’re being productive or not, so that was never a really great system. It may have been a common [00:13:00] system but it wasn’t a great system, so we need to come up with a different way to measure productivity aside from seeing that someone is sitting at their desk all day. And I realize we’re not all desk workers, but in their workspace, at the workplace, whatever the case may be.

So, we need to give employees the benefit of the doubt when we’re trying this out, or perhaps you’re already doing [00:13:30] it but you’re hiring a new employee and perhaps they’re fully remote, you’re not going to meet them in person at all, your reflex might be to micromanage them from the start. Obviously we want to make sure that they’re getting the necessary attention and that they’re comfortable with all of us, but we will need to give that new employee the benefit of the doubt. It’s better to assume good intent and be proven wrong later than treat those employees as if they’re going to misbehave. Nobody likes [00:14:00] being distrusted from the outset, that’s just not a good way to build a relationship. And keep in mind that even in the office employees are not as productive as we would probably like them to be. There was apparently a Bureau of Labor statistics study in 2018 that came up with a number that said in an eight hour day employees will only be truly productive for two hours and 53 minutes of it.

I don’t know how they [00:14:30] were measuring productivity, it may have been specifically on one task and not conversations with coworkers about the task. I’m not sure what they measured, but the number was low, it was not seven out of eight hours, it was two hours and 53 minutes out of eight hours. And that was in the office, so plenty of goofing off can happen in either place, so keep that in mind, and it’s even more reason to implement better ways [00:15:00] of tracking productivity and better ways of tracking progress towards goals. So, if you don’t have a smart goal system or something pretty similar, it’s a good idea to have one. So, smart goals means specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound.

If you set goals like this, you’re going to be able to track how employees are doing, even if you [00:15:30] can’t see the whites of their eyes at their desk all day. So, again, I’m sure most of you are familiar with this, you have goal setting systems, but if you’ve been struggling or your current system isn’t working that great, you might want to think about these five key things and make sure that they are in fact integrated into whatever system you are using for goal setting and progress.

[00:16:00] While we’re using our smart goals, we of course need to go ahead and track those outcomes and adjust as needed. So, we are looking for results, we’re not just looking for someone being busy or sitting at their desk all day. We want to keep checking that progress, and if we’re not making progress, that doesn’t mean we have to throw the whole thing out and make the employee come into the office and give up on remote or hybrid work entirely. It just means [00:16:30] we need to make some adjustments, and often employees know what the problem is, and if you ask them, “What is in your way, what do you think the issue is?” They can tell you and then you can work together to solve it. But if you don’t ask, you won’t necessarily receive that information from them, so if someone is struggling with remote work or you’re struggling to see the results you need, talk to employees, don’t just assume that it’ll never work because there might be something [00:17:00] really simple that you can help them with, like having them stop with the task switching.
So, it might be that someone is so desperate to appear that they are busy and available all day long that every time they get a message on Slack or Teams, they drop what they’re doing and they go over there and they respond to that person because they want to prove that they’re at their desk and they’re available and they’re not cheating, but as a result they’re losing [00:17:30] their concentration on a high concentration project that they need be working on. So, that might be really simple, you say, “Hey, close your Slack or your Teams for three hour blocks and just do heads down work.” So, there might be simple solutions to some of these things, so don’t give up right away. Also, some employees might really want more structure, some people [00:18:00] work really well freeform, you give them a stack of work and you say, “Do this at a reasonable speed and we’ll be happy with you.”

Other employees might really need deadlines. Some people just do better with deadlines and they might need intermediary deadlines too. I’m a person if you give me a deadline, it is going to be done on the deadline. It’s not going to be half done long before the deadline, the whole thing is going to get done right before the deadline. [00:18:30] So, that works for a lot of people and it might work for their bosses too, but if you’re the kind of boss where you want to see steady progress, make sure your employee knows that, and use those smart goals and use those check-ins along the way to make sure things are getting done and you’re comfortable with the pace of the work.

All right, so we’ll switch gears just a touch and talk about some basic culture building for remote [00:19:00] work or hybrid work. So, this is for remote work where you’ve got people spread nationwide, at least this first bullet is. Treat employees, if you can, as equally as possible in different locations when they have different benefits that are required by law. So, what I’m getting at here is employees in, let’s say, California, are entitled to a whole [00:19:30] bunch of benefits. Employees in Iowa are entitled to almost no benefits, and I’m talking sick leave, pregnancy leave, family and medical, this, that, and the other thing, school attendance leave, reporting time pay. If you operate in California, you know the list is long, if you operate in Iowa, you might not realize how short your list is. So, if you’ve got employees spread across the country, I would encourage you to try to offer [00:20:00] the higher, or even highest, level of benefits to everyone, even if it’s not required by their state law.

I know there are a lot of things you do in California only because the state requires it, but if you can offer some of those benefits to your employees in other states, they’ll really appreciate it, and it will feel [inaudible 00:20:20]. I do know that California in particular is a little over the top in some cases and you might not want to… Let’s say you’ve got two employees in California [00:20:30] and 100 in Iowa, you don’t necessarily want to give a hundred employees in Iowa these sometimes very expensive benefits that are required in California, so I get that. I’m not saying you have to do this, but it’s something to consider and it certainly does impact morale if you have employees receiving vastly different benefits based on where they live.

All right, coming off the national employee problem, or the dispersed [00:21:00] workforce problem, in general we want to try and maintain equity between teams, and I do think with remote and hybrid work it can happen more often. There’s a little bit less visibility when not everyone is in the workplace all the time, so you don’t necessarily know what other teams are doing. Let’s say you’ve got a content team and a marketing team and it turns out the marketing team is having monthly lunches remotely where the director of marketing is sending Grubhub or DoorDash gift [00:21:30] certificates to all the employees so they can order themselves some delivery, and they have a 15 minute meeting and then they chat for an hour and share kid photos and funny stories, and maybe they’re doing that monthly and that sounds fantastic and it’s building a lot of culture for them, but maybe this has not occurred to the content team that they could do something similar because, I don’t know, it sounds hard and expensive.

So, just someone should be paying attention. [00:22:00] It could be the executive, it could be HR, but just try to make sure that there aren’t teams that are having a lot of fun while other teams are not having a lot of fun when perhaps they could be and they just don’t know it. Encourage the kind of connections that happen in the office, even remotely. So, you can have coffee talks or get togethers. We [00:22:30] have something I think once a month where we get a couple of our key leaders, usually our CEO, together in a little virtual chat room and it’s just an hour of conversation and it’s awesome. It makes some of our leaders available to anybody who wants to show up, we cap it at 10 people. It’s a really great opportunity to connect informally. I know I’m just giving you guys a lot of examples of what we do, but I think our culture has worked out really [00:23:00] well even though we’re totally remote, so I am relying on personal experience here.
We have, I want to say, quarterly ask me anything sessions, that’s in Slack or whatever instant messaging service you might use, where all of our leaders get together for half an hour and make themselves available to answer questions on the fly, and it’s awesome. So, anyone in the company can ask any of the leaders, “How is progress going toward this goal?” Or, “What are you going to do for me in respect to this? Are we considering [00:23:30] X-Y-Z tactics?” And the leaders are available for that and that’s really awesome. I think our company, our employees, really enjoy that. Also allowing ample time for Q and A after meetings, so in person, again, you can just run into people in the hallway and ask them that question or hang over their cube wall or knock on their door. That’s often harder to do and sometimes Slack and other instant messaging [00:24:00] can get a little bit overwhelming, so leaving extra time for questions after meetings I think is advisable.

And keep in touch with your direct reports and those who have a dotted line to you and it doesn’t need to be formally, and it also doesn’t need to be every day or twice a day. Figure out what works for you all. Some employees will tell you, “Yeah, I really want to hear from you daily, I love to just say hi daily, so you know what I’m hearing, [00:24:30] we both know we’re around.” Other employees might be like, “I really work best when nobody bothers me for a week,” but make sure you are available if they want to talk, if they want to see you, and if they are the kind that really feels like they need to hear, “Good morning,” then provide the good morning. That’s a low effort way to make people feel like that connection is maintained.

[00:25:00] All right, is your focus more on bringing people back to the workplace or figuring out how to make remote work a long term option? And this is in the polls as well, if you guys want to scroll down and use that. And I know you may be doing both simultaneously, or both bringing people back and trying to make remote worth a long term option, [00:25:30] but what’s harder for you? What perhaps drove you to this webinar more so than the other? Let us know what your focus is this year. All right, we’ll give you just one more second on that poll and [00:26:00] it looks like it’s about 50-50. So, good, I hope there’s a little something for everyone in here. They are both hard and that’s interesting and I think that number is probably changing over time for employers, so thank you for that. And let’s then talk remote and hybrid work, again, some more, and we’ll talk on boundaries and community now.

[00:26:30] All right, so we want to acknowledge and support boundaries, right? Boundaries get a little harder when people are working from home because that one mile or 15 miles that separated their bedroom from their office no longer exists and it’s probably a matter of feet, in my case it’s about six feet from my bedroom door to my office door, so boundaries can certainly get blurry. First up, we do want to make sure [00:27:00] that we’re not just taking over the employee’s commute time and saying, “That’s mine now.” That is probably the primary reason that people enjoy remote work, so we don’t really want to take that away and that does not feel good. Of course if you are taking their commuting time back and they’re not exempt employees, then of course you need to pay for it, so it would be more costly to do that as well.

We do still want to respect the workday and the weekends, and in many cases it’s not the employer [00:27:30] pushing that on people, it’s the employee who struggles to find the boundary and find the line because their computer is set up right there and they thought about this work thing so they go do it and maybe they get absorbed and 45 minutes later they’ve done 45 minutes of work. So, help people find that boundary and you as the employer try to respect that boundary as well. We still really only want people working whatever their shift is. [00:28:00] Maybe you’re thinking, “Oh, no, I think it’s great that they’re working longer than they used to,” and that might work for a while but eventually it’ll probably lead to burnout and people looking for a new job, as probably working a lot harder now that they’re remote than they did when they came to the office.

Of course, if you have people in different time zones, you need to establish expectations and how things are going to work. You might be having people, [00:28:30] maybe you were all 9:00 to 5:00 before, or 8:00 to 5:00 when you were in the same place, and now you’ve started hiring remotely all across the country. West Coast and East Coast are very different when it comes to the feeling of the workday. I’m on the West Coast, I manage someone on the East Coast, and as a result, there are a lot of hours of the day where we are not together or able to contact one another.

But that’s something you [inaudible 00:28:56] through, you just want to create expectations and [00:29:00] backup plans if necessary. If you need some breaking deadline, breaking news, whatever it is, to be taken care of after 5:00 PM on the East Coast, because you’re on the West Coast and you have West Coast clients who need that thing right now, obviously set up ahead of time with your East Coast person who’s going to have to respond to that, that sometimes they’re going to need to be working after hours. Or if they can’t because that’s [00:29:30] outside of the boundaries that you originally established, figure out who can do that on the West Coast. What is your backup plan?

Don’t watch people on video all day. A shocking number of employers, not 50% or anything, but still a shocking number have asked us and it’s been discussed on the internet where they literally want to put a webcam on someone all day. I think that’s a terrible idea [00:30:00] and employees won’t like that. That’ll be bad for morale. They’ll start looking for a new job, at least that’s my take. I would certainly start looking for a new job if my employers wanted to put me on a webcam, and it’s not because I’m goofing off or doing anything they shouldn’t see, it’s just creepy and over the line for me personally.

I know a lot of employers do this in person and virtually, but they make sort of mandatory happy hours. Happy hour is not happy if you have to be there when you don’t be there. So, if [00:30:30] happy is mandatory, you should pay people for it, and if it’s not mandatory, then it really shouldn’t be a wink, wink, nudge, nudge, “You have to come or you’re in trouble,” we really do want it to be optional.

I’ve talked about this a lot, the instantaneous responses on messaging systems and email aren’t usually necessary and they’re going to hinder productivity, so that is something you can talk about and establish with people. If they want to take a coffee run to Starbucks, [00:31:00] to their kitchen, if they want to meet together in person to do this every once in a while, if you’ve got people who live nearby or they want to meet at the office, be in favor of that. That is a connection point that they used to get if you were all in the office that they do not get anymore.

So, I’ve mentioned this already, but closing Slack, closing Microsoft Teams, giving yourself [00:31:30] focused work time I think is really key. It can alleviate stress about not responding instantly. If you schedule a meeting and it literally says focus time and you make that available for other people to see, or if you don’t want to open your whole calendar up, you can tell people, “Hey, if you see a block of time, I’m just focused. I’m here but I’m focusing on a project.” That will, almost guaranteed, increase productivity. And I’m saying this for you, [00:32:00] you are listening to this, and me, myself, this is something probably all of us could benefit from, including your employees.

Maintaining community of course is hard. Harder, I should say, remotely or hybrid if you are only in the office part of the time. And that’s unfortunate, but it can be worked with. Like I said, I think [00:32:30] there are companies who are doing remote really well and they’re thinking about things like this. So, have team lunches. I was talking about marketing versus the content team and how some teams might do more than others. Make sure everybody’s doing something, and it doesn’t have to break the bank, but do make sure that that community is being maintained. Reach out to talk to people about non- [00:33:00] work topics, that should feel okay, just like it did around the water cooler or in the lunchroom.
You can create drop-in workspaces. Personally, I really like this idea, it’s kind of weird, you know all just go into a Zoom room or a RingCentral or whatever you use, and just sort of hang out. You’re on video doing your own work. You might ask each other questions about the project if you have a shared project, or someone might just interject [00:33:30] with something funny that they just read. It’s a way to work together like we all used to in the office. By all means, let the kids and the pets say hello. I’ve never seen a downside to letting a little bit of your real personal life sink in. I also don’t think a lot of employers are having a fit when pets make a cameo, so maybe that doesn’t even need to be said, but I’d [00:34:00] say live it up and enjoy that part.

And then we have community channels for non-work conversations. I think most employers probably do. We’ve got a ton of them, so many. We probably have more goof off channels than we do serious channels, I’m not sure about that, I haven’t counted, nobody quote me. But we’ve got stuff like cycling, music, Pokémon Go, cryptocurrency, we’ve got a dog channel, a cat channel. All of this can help people feel connected, [00:34:30] and especially across teams. I think that’s the hardest part is getting to know people on other teams because you just don’t interact with them nearly as often. But these wide open communication channels can be a really great way to meet other people and get some familiarity with them, and have a connection point that’s fun to talk about at anytime, like their dog or their cat or their favorite dish.
[00:35:00] Okay, here’s another one I would love for you all to answer in the chat, and since a lot of you are hybrid or fully remote, what is one special or creative way that you’ve built or maintained a feeling of community with your remote workers or your hybrid workers? So, you might have a lot, but what’s your favorite? What do you think has been the most successful? Share your secrets with your colleagues here, if you have a particularly [00:35:30] cool thing that has worked out well for you or that you’re really proud of thinking of, go ahead and put that in the chat and we’ll see what the range out there is.

Last time I asked this question, we definitely had a lot of team lunches, which I didn’t get to the bottom of it, but I assumed that that was sponsored in some fashion or another by the company. [00:36:00] We’ve got bring your dog to work day, that’s awesome. We’re seeing team chat. Cocktail hours with, I’m guessing that’s some kind of game, Skribbl. Oh, my gosh, is that a drawing game? That would be so fun. Anyhow, okay, loving these ideas, but I will move on since we did get a late start [inaudible 00:36:26].

Okay, let’s talk quickly about remote and hybrid work [00:36:30] compliance, just a few things to hit on here. Time tracking for non-exempt employees, beware of that off the clock work time. So, like I said, they might go to their computer to do a very quick thing and 45 minutes later they’re still at their computer and it’s 8:00 PM. We do want to make sure that that time is getting tracked and reported, it’s not free just because it’s happening in their house. We need to know about it, we need to report [00:37:00] it. We want to have a detailed policy that tells employees what we expect here.
And, this might be my next slide, but we need to pay attention to meal and rest breaks as well. Yes, that is my next slide. All right, so, meal and rest breaks, these still apply even when employees are working from home. They’re required by state law, if your state law requires that. So, they need to be logged, they need to be [00:37:30] taken. You can still be in just as much trouble with the state even though you can’t supervise it yourself. Breaks are also a really good idea. So, they restore motivation, they help us retain information, they improve productivity, creativity, and focus, they reduce decision fatigue. You can look up, “How do work breaks help your brain,” that’s a Psychology Today [00:38:00] article, but there’s lots of data about this too, so you can look this up. Again, I’m not making it up, breaks are really key. I’m always trying to get my people to stand up and walk away from the computer and take an honest to god 30 minute lunch. I just think it’s really important and really helpful.

Posters and notices are probably one of our biggest compliance pain points for remote workers. If you’re hybrid [00:38:30] and you’ve got people coming in at least once a week, I don’t think you need to worry about this, but for those who are fully remote, what do you do with all those dang posters that are required by law? How do you manage that? Most of those laws say that posters need to be posted in the workplace in a conspicuous location where employees will see them. So, what does that mean if your employees are remote? Well, unfortunately we don’t have a real good answer on this yet. Laws about postings are evolving, so [00:39:00] in the last year or two I’ve seen laws that say this poster or information or whatever can be provided electronically, but there are still hundreds of laws on the book that require notice be posted on a wall.

So, I think it’s pretty low risk to post these things on the company intranet, so an internal webspace basically where your employees can go, and then call their attention to that space maybe a couple of times [00:39:30] a year, remind them where all those posters are and where they can learn about their rights and all the rest. Just make sure that you’re pointing that out once in a while and hopefully in the eyes of the law that will be as good as posting in a conspicuous location where employees will see it. Is it perfectly safe under all the laws? No, I can’t guarantee that, so this comes down to risk tolerance. If you are very risk intolerant [00:40:00] and you want to do the safest thing possible, you could literally print and mail these posters or send people the all in one poster to their home. I think that’s probably overkill, but if you want to know that every I is dotted perfectly and there’s no risk there, that would be the way to do it. I haven’t met an employer yet who’s doing that.

Safety obligations. You don’t have the same OSHA [00:40:30] safe workplace obligations as you would in the workplace. So, you are not responsible for making their home office perfectly safe. That said, you should still be thinking about making their home office reasonably ergonomic, and if you can tell that there’s a problem with their workspace, you’ve literally seen them trip over their computer cords onscreen, I would encourage you to have that discussion and talk to [00:41:00] them about it as well. Worker’s comp has come up, are we liable for worker’s comp claims that happen in the home? It really depends, that’s going to be a fact specific question.

It’s possible that if they tripped on a whole bunch of computer cords, it could be a worker’s comp claim. If they trip over the dog in the kitchen on their lunch break during the workday, probably not a worker’s comp claim. Certainly things like carpal tunnel, the things that we can get [00:41:30] from doing work at a computer, I don’t see how that’s going to be treated any differently. So, you do still want to keep a lot of those things in mind. The risk is lower, or I should say your liability is lower, at least in terms of OSHA safety, but it’s not nothing.

Okay, so if remote or hybrid work isn’t in the cards, what are the parts that we can offer? And, again, these apply to all [00:42:00] employers, these are still good things to think about, just here we’re framing them as, well, if you can’t do the remote thing, what else should you think about? Well, what do people like about working from home other than flexibility? If you’re bringing them back and they’re grumbling about it, ask the question. Say, “What did you like about working from home that we can help with?” Lots of times commuting and parking is expensive, if you can help pay for that, that’s awesome.

Maybe they like the ability to sit or stand or be on a couch, [00:42:30] maybe you can throw a couch or two into your workspace and that’ll make people a little bit happier. I put better lighting on there because I, for one, have migraines that are triggered by fluorescent lighting, so working from home has been great that way, but it would be simple enough in your workspace to possibly offer a certain area where you’re not going to use the overhead lights and you buy a couple of cheap standup lamps from Target for 15 [00:43:00] bucks a piece, throw them into the corners, and then people don’t have to deal with the fluorescent lighting.

Also, a lot of people enjoy saving money on lunch by cooking at home or making something at home, so consider whether you can maybe improve your lunch area. Maybe your lunch area is awesome, but if someone tells you, if ask your employees, “How can we make things better?” I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that there’s not enough fridge space or [00:43:30] maybe there’s not enough counter space to assemble food. So, it’s possible that more fridges will allow people to make themselves better lunches that are still low cost. Maybe what your people want more than anything is a really fancy espresso machine, and that will be a one-time investment that will be really great for morale. So, ask your employees.

Be flexible when you can, just because they are in the workplace doesn’t necessarily mean [00:44:00] you can’t let them leave for a little while or take longer lunches to run those errands that might have been so much easier to do from home. Consider whether they can change their shift on occasion. Maybe that means they have a somewhat flexible shift all the time, or maybe it means feel free to rearrange with your coworkers and swap. Just think of ways that you can make it more flexible even though they are at work.

[00:44:30] The flip side of this is that if you can make schedules really consistent and promise not to change them, that appeals to a lot of employees as well. So, we have a number of localities, I think Oregon’s the only state so far, but a number of cities have passed what are called fair scheduling laws, and they require that employers provide schedules X number of days in advance, often two weeks, [00:45:00] and that if they make any changes at the last minute they owe some kind penalty to the employee, like extra pay. So, this is the flip side of flexibility if you’ve got shift workers, which is to basically guarantee that you’re not going to mess with their schedule, because messing with someone’s schedule when they have kids to pick up or drop off, or they really need the money and you’re canceling hours on them, that can be really hard. So, consider whether you can actually lock down scheduling [00:45:30] a little bit more if you are that kind of employer.

All right, final bit on attracting and retaining talent. Stand out on paper, of course you want your job ad to look good and be good and sound cool. Talk about your culture, talk about your values. Of course, all employers are getting better at this, so it’s getting harder to stand out on paper, but do include what’s unique about your organization and then hopefully that will attract the right people.

[00:46:00] This got big a couple of years ago, don’t drug test unless you really need to. Obviously if your people do a lot of driving or use forklifts or whatever, there are definitely safety situations where you’re going to do drug testing and you’re not going to stop drug testing, and that’s totally fine. But if you’re an office environment, let’s say you employ a bunch of software developers, you probably don’t need to drug test, not [00:46:30] really. And cannabis in particular is legal in 21 or more states recreationally and almost 40 states medically, so if someone is using cannabis occasionally and you say you’re going to test for that, there’s a really good chance they’re just not going to apply for your job. And if you want to be a stickler on this, go for it, I’m just adding this to the list of things you can consider to help attract applicants, or not deter applicants in this particular [00:47:00] case.

Think about ways you can help people grow or make them feel better, like they are in fact leveling up in the organization. So, if you only have two levels of a particular type of job or three levels of a particular type of job, but someone could be doing it for 30 years, then they’re only going to feel like they’re leveling up every five, 10, 12 years, so make more levels. [00:47:30] Titles are really important to a lot of people, so you can create more levels, even just in title, that can make people feel better. Of course they also want money and sometimes they want to become managers, but think about the simple things you can do. Also, cross training people, letting them learn different areas of the business, mentoring them, paying for outside education or training. And this doesn’t mean you’re [00:48:00] going to move them into a different position, it just means you’re going to help them learn more, because a lot of people like learning and that’ll make them feel like they’re expanding their capabilities at work.

So, I’ve touched on this a bit, but we want to offer benefits that appeal to your employee demographic, so ask them what they want. The executives or the people in HR might have a completely different idea of what sounds fun and awesome than what the rank and file want, so ask [00:48:30] the rank and file what they want, if that’s who we’re trying to attract and retain. And then just wrapping up on working on your culture, so solicit employee feedback but then make sure you are willing to act on it. Care personally, reach out to people like we talked about, just because. Create that water cooler friendly environment, even remotely. Respect boundaries, be transparent, communicate [00:49:00] a lot about what the company is doing, be open to questions. And then a really big one I think is saying thank you. Even though you’re paying people to do the job, saying thank you can go a very long way.

All right, if you all have any questions, feel free to put them either in the questions or the chat, I have both pulled up and I’ll see what we’ve got here. It looks like we have one coming in. [00:49:30] Someone said, “If you have an employee call out but then let you know that they will be in or are able to work the following day, but you’ve already retasked all their work, how do you handle that?” Well, I think that’s really going to depend on your company culture, how hard it was to retask the work, [00:50:00] and probably also why they called out. If they called out for sickness, and depending on federal and state law that might apply, you wouldn’t want to punish them by not allowing them to work the following day because you’ve reassigned their work. That could certainly look like retaliation for taking a sick day. So, it really depends on why they called out and if you have any policies that address that already.

[00:50:30] All right, it looks like that’s pretty much it. Thank you all for joining us today. I do sincerely apologize for the troubles at the start, and thank you very much for hanging on. If you did, we will absolutely send a recording as well as the slides sometime tomorrow, so we will get that to you as soon we can. Thank you and have a great week.


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