Tips to Consider While Writing Your Employee Handbook

Many companies have an employee handbook to clarify and dictate proper behavior, social norms and legal issues. Creating a handbook is a big project, and companies strive to write their guide in a way that’s thorough and clear, without being boring – employees should actually read the guide, after all. Moreover, companies have to make sure that they’re covering everything necessary to protect themselves and to avoid liability in the future.

Create the Handbook with the Masses in Mind

Every business is going to have a few bad seeds who like to push boundaries, break the rules, and get themselves or even the company in trouble. This is why creating a clear employee handbook is important, as a handbook will clarify what is okay and what isn’t, with little room for interpretation. Most employees will appreciate a guide to what conduct is expected at work, but if you create a handbook that sounds threatening and that scolds your employees before they even do something wrong, you’ll put your employees on edge and build mistrust from the beginning. Instead, you can clarify and outline the rules and repercussions while still being respectful of your employees.

Avoid Boilerplate Policies

You can easily find employee handbook templates online, but copying and pasting this information into your own handbook isn’t going to provide the information your employees need or the protection your company needs. Boilerplate information is meant to be used as an example or a starting point. You have to adapt this information to account for current laws, your industry and your location.

The same goes for covering scope of employment. The handbook should clarify what’s expected of an employee depending on their role. This can protect the business if the employee breaks a law by performing an act that falls outside their scope of employment. Usually, an employer is only liable if the unlawful act falls within the scope of employment.

Include Disclaimers

Every employee handbook should include disclaimers. Here are a few things that these disclaimers should make clear:

  • The employee handbook does not serve as an employment contract.
  • The employee is still considered an at-will employee.
  • The handbook can be modified at any time by the employer or HR department.

Disclaimers serve two purposes: they help the employee understand what they’re agreeing to and they also give the company the flexibility to make amendments as needed.

Don’t Skip Company Culture

Your employee handbook has to cover legal bases, but you shouldn’t skip over the backbone of your company: its values, mission, and ethos. That’s what employees truly care about, especially if you’ve vetted and hired the right people for your team. To the right employees, that sort of information is going to be a lot more important than the minutiae of lunch break and work shift policies. On the same note, think in terms of the culture you’re in, such as the industry you’re part of and the age group and interests of your employees. This will help you create an engaging handbook instead of a dry and boring one.

Explain the Thought Process Behind Policies

If you on’t explain why a policy is the way it is, employees are going to make assumptions and guesses, and they may talk themselves into being displeased with the policy. For example, let’s say one of your company policies is that no more than five employees can take their lunch break at the same time. To the employee, this may sound like the company doesn’t want coworkers to mingle or get to know one another. In reality, though, this could be so there are always enough people monitoring communication so that there’s never a long wait for a customer.

Here’s another example: your employees may not realize why proper retention and disposal of customer records is important. They may assume that you’re just being picky and over-cautious. By explaining that those records have personal information or health information protected under HIPAA law, employees will take document retention and shredding more seriously.

Ask for Feedback

There’s nothing wrong with asking your employees for their opinions about the employee handbook. You may find out that something is unclear, that they were told different information during the hiring process or that your policies aren’t aligned with industry best practices. While you don’t have to make changes to the employee handbook simply because some employees have a problem with it, you’ll open yourself up to new viewpoints you may not have thought of yourself.

Make the Handbook Accessible Online

Employees will get the most value from a handbook if it’s accessible and searchable. Storing your employee handbook online means that employees (and management) can access it from anywhere and search for exactly what they want without thumbing through page after page. Also, any changes made to the handbook can be highlighted or mentioned on an introductory page. It’s also a good idea to let employees comment on parts of the handbook in case they have questions or concerns. This is especially important for remote workers and freelancers who need to be able to digitally communicate with the company from wherever they are in the world.

The Future of Your Employee Handbook

There’s no such thing as a final edition of your employee handbook. You’ll update and revise the handbook as necessary when policies change or need to be clarified, and also when laws change. Make sure that you’re keeping up with any updates or additions to employment law so that your handbook can reflect the changes. In many cases, it’s better to start with a broad handbook and then expand and add detail over time. As long as you’re covering your legal bases (it’s best to consult a lawyer), you don’t have to worry about your handbook getting you in trouble.

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Providing Support to Employees With Serious Health Conditions

When an employee has a serious health condition, a certain level of accommodation is legally required. However, an employer’s obligation doesn’t stop there. Every person with health issues has their own needs, which may change over time.

Building and supporting employee wellness in the workplace means using effective communication tools, supporting employees by helping them access information, providing flexible work opportunities, and staying attuned to their changing needs.

Confidentiality, Empathy, Openness, and Support (CEOS)

Fostering a positive workplace culture is essential. CEOs, as well as management, needs to embrace the importance of CEOS. This acronym stands for confidentiality, empathy, openness, and support — the necessary foundation to build trusting relationships on. These tools can help you communicate with your employees about health challenges and support them:

  • Confidentiality: The last thing you want is a distrustful employee who ghosts you and fails to communicate, and the last thing an employee wants is to lose their job due to health issues or needing time off for appointments at the doctor’s office. By ensuring confidentiality when discussing healthcare concerns, you provide a foundation for better communication.
  • Empathy: When an employee faces a healthcare crisis, they may feel conflicted. They want to feel heard and understood, but they also need to remain professional and carry out work obligations. Many employees simply quit or find themselves laid off after facing a health crisis, so they may feel that it’s a risk to have a conversation with you about health-related topics. You can retain an employee’s trust by showing empathy. Listen actively and ensure you understand their needs and concerns by summarizing and confirming. A little empathy can go a long way.
  • Openness: Openness means you’re ready to support your sick employees when they come to you. This involves preparation. It’s also about how open the employee wishes to be about their illness. Some may find help in sharing details about their struggle, while others will wish to remain extremely private about it.
  • Support: Confidentiality, empathy, and openness are paths to support. If you’ve managed to implement these objectives, you can offer support to the employee. The best thing you can do here involves asking the employee what they need and helping them find a solution you can employ.

Understanding Invisible Illnesses

Invisible illnesses are especially important for managers and HR professionals to understand. Especially when it comes to chronic health pain and related conditions, you can’t always see that someone is in pain or understand their pain level.

When individuals suffer from chronic conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia, they may experience periods of remission (when there is little to no pain), as well as flare-ups when symptoms are at their worst. For some, this status can change in a matter of hours, and factors like the weather or office temperature are not-so-obvious contributors to pain for some patients.

Regular treatments for some conditions can create more pain in the short-term to improve health overall. Examples include physical therapy and chemotherapy.

Many employees facing invisible illnesses, including digestive illnesses like GERD, also need to make significant lifestyle changes, including new medications. Further, new diets and exercise routines can impact how employees relate to family and friends — and they may entail a real adjustment period for the employee.

Overall, managing chronic health conditions is different than curing them. Accepting major life changes after being diagnosed with a chronic health condition can be traumatizing, and finding specific solutions for pain management is often a challenging road.

Mental Health Considerations

One in five people have mental health issues, and these are not immediately obvious. Does your company have a policy allowing for mental health days? What do you do to take mental wellness as seriously as physical health? Thinking ahead can help you support employees in this regard.

Mental health conditions often accompany serious physical health conditions. Dramatically changing pain levels, various medications, and the strain of being sick is very taxing on the mental health of people with physical illnesses. Plus, it’s not always obvious: Many car accident survivors develop PTSD, so even the act commuting into work can be extremely stressful for them.

Three out of four PTSD patients respond well to medical marijuana, but many businesses are a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to marijuana use. Does your company policy on drug testing accommodate employees suffering from mental health issues or chronic pain?

The Insurance Problem

If you’ve ever been sick while covered by employer-sponsored health insurance, you likely understand how defeating and demoralizing it can be to deal with the insurance company. This problem magnifies when you have a serious condition like cancer.

To help employees access their insurance, make sure you have the insurance company’s contact information on your employee portal and in your welcome materials. Ensure this information is clear when you provide employees with any information about benefits packages as well.

While you aren’t customer service for the insurance company, survey your employees routinely. Stay aware of recurring gripes about the health insurance coverage and attempts to communicate with the insurer.

Human Resource Technology

Especially for larger organizations, human resource technology is crucial to supporting employees with health conditions. Provide a centralized location that harbors documentation and contact information for employer-sponsored insurance. Include contact information for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — not only to provide the resource, but to show that your organization values conversations around mental health.

Software tools like Zenefits and Bamboo HR allow you to provide digital resource centers to your employees. Additionally, many employees struggling with serious health conditions have a more challenging time with professional development. Your digital resource center can provide a framework for employees to learn about and express interest in new positions, participate in self-training, and provide feedback on whether they feel you’re using their skills fully, which is crucial for neurodiverse employees who require direct feedback.

Managing Remote Employees

The most common accommodation for employees with serious health conditions is work-at-home flexibility. In the United States, 36 million people miss work due to pain at least once per year. Most of these workers lose between four and five hours per week due to pain issues, and most chronic pain sufferers feel like they are not effectively managing their pain alone or with the help of a doctor.

For a chronic pain patient, working at home can mean the difference between missing work and showing up. For the person having a panic attack every time they get in the car due to a recent car accident, a temporary work-at-home solution not only enables them to work but shows you have empathy for their experience.

Off-site employees can interface with on-site teams easily by leveraging tools like:

  • Skype for Business: This provides face-to-face and text-based communication instantly.
  • Time-tracking tools: Time-tracking software allows all employees to log in and out electronically, preventing the need for micromanagement, especially for at-home workers.
  • Project management tools: Programs like Trello and Asana allow employees in various locations to work with one another to complete pieces of projects.

With communication, compassion, and reliance on technological resources, you can support employees facing serious health conditions and enable continued productivity through flexibility. Only then will you reap the benefits on employee engagement.

How to Ensure Greater Workplace Safety

Occasionally, you’ll see a headline on your local news station about someone who tragically lost a limb at a local factory, and is now suing his or her employer for a grand sum. For someone who works in HR, the incident may bring into question the risk this lawsuit poses to the employer, who may or may not be a long-running local establishment. As the story rages on, you may find yourself mulling over two different thoughts: one, how could those in charge be reckless enough to allow this to happen? Two, I hope it never happens to me or my employees!

However, nobody is above reproach. If you find yourself harping especially on that second thought, then maybe it’s time to take a look at the things in your area of work that could cause an employee harm. Improving work safety will keep your workers feeling comfortable, operations running smoothly, and ensure you all have jobs!

Let’s take a closer look at just how to evaluate your workplace risks, and find things that need changing. It can be a hassle at first, but ultimately it could be saving a lot of time, trouble, and even lives if you address it quickly. After all, why do tomorrow what you could do today?

Catering to The Risks of Your Work Environment

Every work environment is different, and thus the dangers of each occupation vary. For instance, the risks a worker faces when they go to work on a construction project are vastly different than the dangers you experience in an office space like Dunder Mifflin. As an HR manager, it’s your job to cater your mindset to your work environment.

This typically starts by recognizing the dangers of machinery used by employees. It’s extremely important that you enlist safeguarding methods to stave off incidents that could result in amputation or another life-altering injury. Educate employees as well to be sure they understand the dangers of such an environment and the dangers of loose jewelry and clothing in these environments.

However, this moves beyond machinery and maintenance jobs. For instance, asbestos poisoning can be found in a variety of fields, from old office spaces to aeronautics fields. Even those who work in the outdoors have to be on the lookout for dangerous wildlife, including animals and plants. The point is that, as an HR professional, knowing firsthand what your employees work with on a daily basis and how it might affect them in the worst possible scenarios is a crucial step toward ensuring they are protected from these dangerous variables.

Setting Up Safety Nets

If you’re not setting up safety nets for your employees, one of the consequences you might be forgetting is potential financial ruin in the wake of a lawsuit. This could come by neglectfully putting employees in danger, but also by not hiring the best talent because you don’t have a reliable and trustworthy safety net in the workplace — and that’s not including the potential for legal recourse from governing bodies, as most industries have strict safety laws depending on the profession. For instance, this year FedEx was ordered to pay someone $5.3 million for mishandling a job injury complaint. Inevitably, workplace injuries happen, and it’s an HR professional’s job to figure out how they can be best prevented.

The most popular kind of protection that places of business establish is workers’ compensation (also known as “workers’ comp”). Workers’ comp is necessary for the wellbeing of employees, but don’t forget that it helps employers as well. While it makes the former feel safer about coming to work, it is put in place to ensure that employers don’t have to deal with reputation-damaging consequences or lawsuits.

Of course, establishing the right kinds of safety regulations for your particular work environment can be a difficult task. What if you miss something? For this reason, some HR teams hire Health Safety specialists to check deeper into these things, including individual job duties and where safety oversights might be occurring before a problem happens. Through their inspection, businesses can better prepare, compile, and implement important safety net programs. Additionally, they sometimes offer prizes and incentives for such a thing, as seen in this rate-based incentive program from 2008 from Walter Scott Energy Center.

Opening the Doors for Communication

As we have already established, it’s HR’s job to be in the know about potential dangers, including allergens. Additionally, it’s their job to listen to employees, hear their concerns, and take action to address them. Employees make a company go round and are the cogs in the machine that allow their peers to pay the bills. More than anyone else, they need to be heard, or else the machine will stop running.

Here are some ways that you can ensure the employees at your place of business are being heard:

  • Making time for open, one-on-one discussion while you’re in the office.
  • Establishing an HR e-mail inbox designed to take complaints and requests from employees.
  • Setting up an anonymous suggestion or concern inbox.
  • Making a list of all concerns and bringing them up at scheduled meetings with other HR representatives or company heads.

If you are able to establish an open environment, the attitude of your work environment will be more positive for both employees and employers. After all, studies show that a positive work environment brings out more productivity. The willingness to work with employees to build that environment, including listening to them, protecting them, and serving them, will not only help create a safer work environment but also train and build a team that is equally dedicated to keeping the workplace safe.

In Conclusion

Every work environment is different, but the need for safety standards applies to all. To ensure you’re putting the right employee protections in place, speak with your employees, walk a mile in their shoes, understand and address their concerns, and consider the tasks they undertake every day. With the right safety nets and a culture of communication, you’ll foster a work environment that’s both safe and healthy.

The Importance of Having Military Veterans as Employees

Hiring good employees is tricky business. It takes skill to weigh not just the capabilities but also the character and personality of each candidate in an attempt to figure out who is the right fit for each position that needs to be filled. However, one element that can go far in helping make your hiring decisions is the knowledge that you’re dealing with a veteran. Veterans tend to come equipped with a unique skill set as well as a host of hands-on life experiences that few other applicants can come close to equaling.

There are nearly 20 million veterans in the United States, with nearly a million of them unemployed as recently as the end of 2017. This number represents a huge pool of potential employees who have quite a bit more to offer to your workforce than your average applicant. Let’s take a look at some of the specific reasons you’re absolutely going to want to have veterans as part of your company’s team.

The Unique Qualities of Veterans

Often veterans are brought into the limelight for issues like PTSD as well as other challenges that they often face as they re-enter civilian life. However, while these are certainly genuine concerns that deserve to be addressed, they shouldn’t overshadow a veteran’s chances at landing a job in your company.

On the contrary, as already mentioned, the average veteran brings a tremendous skill set to the table. Here are just a few of the personal traits that tend to make each veteran an invaluable asset to a business team:

  • Veterans are responsible: Vets are used to high-stakes scenarios and have been trained to take responsibilities very seriously.
  • Veterans are achievers: They also understand what it means to set goals and to stick to them. Their work ethic is typically exceptional, and they’re able to function on their own without close oversight.
  • Veterans are organized: One natural side effect of life in the armed forces is a honed ability to remain well organized, which military personnel often continue to keenly possess upon re-entry into civilian life.
  • Veterans are leaders: They have often had intimate experience in leadership positions and are comfortable making decisions that might cause other employees to hesitate. This also can manifest in the important ability to take responsibility for their actions and use their intuition with confidence.

Education

It’s no secret that veterans are able to receive well-earned government-backed funding to help them pursue a college education. What this means for you as an employer is that you will have employees who are equipped to continue furthering their college education even while they’re working for you. This will allow them to deepen their current knowledge in their field as well as continue to improve their skill set over time.

In addition to the aforementioned college experience, veterans have also typically been exposed to various forms of advanced tech during their time in uniform and are accustomed to a lifestyle of continued education, learning, and development while on the job.

To summarize, as far as education is concerned, whether it comes via college classes, during work hours, or a combination of the two, veterans are knowledgeable, comfortable with technology and willing to maintain a learning mindset.

Diversity and Incentives

Another benefit of hiring veterans is increasing the diversity of your workforce. For example, many businesses struggle with diversifying their global mobility efforts, a fact that can have serious side effects. However, choosing to hire veterans, many of whom have traveled extensively throughout their military careers, can allow for a greater incorporation of diversity of experience into your global mobility efforts.

Of course, the example extends beyond working abroad, as well. Diversifying your workforce by including veterans and their unique set of skills and experiences can be an excellent way to observe an “iron sharpens iron” mindset amongst your employees.

Another obvious benefit to hiring veterans comes in the form of government incentives and tax credits. For example, the Returning Heroes Tax Credit and Wounded Warriors Tax Credit can combine to offer a significant $9,600 in tax benefits. It’s important, though, that you ensure that you’re hiring employees who are eligible for these credits before you assume they’ll apply to your situation.

Enabling Those who Enable Us

There are nonprofits in the US that are helping to create stable environments for veterans. These nonprofits help with PTSD treatment as well as general life skills. These treatments and skills give veterans a sense of stability that they may have been lacking since they left the military. This newfound sense of stability in turn contributes to their overall employability.

However a company goes about creating opportunities for the wounded and retired warriors amongst us, it’s important that companies make an effort, at the least, to acknowledge the competitive edge that veterans bring to the table.

The United States Postal Service, for example, rewards points for certain positions to veterans based on factors like their service time or disabilities, all of which can help give them a well-deserved preference over other candidates.

In an era where new technologies like AI and automation enable us to use increasingly complex candidate screening software and other hiring tools in order to vet applicants, it’s important that hiring personnel still take the time to purposefully step back from the facts and data and recognize the veterans amongst us. From their role as inherently responsible, organized achievers to their willingness to continually learn and grow, veterans add a uniquely genuine element to any workforce.

The Importance of Contributing to a Savings Fund

On a normal weekend, you do your regular chores: check on the garden, cook meals for the week, mow the lawn and play with your kids. By Sunday night, your back is killing you. By Monday morning, you’re in so much pain you can’t get out of bed, let alone go to work. Your run-of-the-mill weekend stressed your back so much that you need medical care and several days off. You have no idea how you’re going to keep up with your bills – you’re out of sick time and you don’t have extra money to spare. This is exactly the sort of unexpected medical problem that a savings account could solve.

4 Reasons to Contribute to a Savings Fund

Money definitely won’t solve all of your problems, but the padding that a savings account can give you will certainly solve some of them. Here are four reasons to save money:

  1. You’ll have peace of mind: If you’ve ever laid in bed at night, unable to sleep because you’re stressed about upcoming bills, you know what even a little extra money can do for your peace of mind. Even if you don’t dip into your savings account for monthly bills, simply knowing it’s there as a backup will ease your stress.
  2. You’ll have options: While you may not touch your savings for several months or years, it does give you options should you want to make a major life change. If your job is impacting your health and you want to quit, having several months of expenses saved can give you the flexibility to do that. If your neighborhood is becoming unsafe, you can start looking for a new apartment or house somewhere else.
  3. You’ll save more (and more): The more money you save and the more frequently you save, the easier it is to continue saving. You’ll see your savings build up, which will encourage you to save even more. It will also become a habit instead of something you force yourself to do.
  4. Your money can work for you: By carefully choosing the accounts where you put your money, you can earn as your money sits. Some regular bank savings accounts let you earn interest on the money in your account. Specialty accounts, like a retirement 401(k), will give you options for investing in stocks.

You may not have enough in savings to cover all of the many things that could cost money, but having that little extra wiggle room will give you more control over your circumstances.

Types of Savings Accounts

While you may think of a savings account as simply a place to keep the money you don’t plan on spending soon, there’s a lot more to them. Different accounts offer different perks, like gaining interest, stock investment opportunities and employer contributions. Here are a few types of savings accounts to consider opening:

  • Bank Savings Account: This is the most basic type of savings account. It’s simply a place to hold your money away from your checking account. There may be limits to what you can withdrawal and requirements for how much needs to be deposited.
  • Emergency Savings Fund: If you create an emergency savings account, a good starting goal is to save three months of expenses. If you’re injured and can’t work or if you lose your job, you’ll know your expenses are taken care of for at least a few weeks. From there, continue adding money to your emergency fund until you have six months or more of savings.
  • Health Spending Account: If your employer offers a health spending account, you can deposit money (or it can be automatically deposited) before being taxed. Then, if you have to pay out-of-pocket for medical costs, you’ll be paying with tax-free money. You may also be able to earn interest on your money as it sits in the account.
  • Retirement Savings Account: There are a few different types of retirement savings accounts, like a 401(k) or a Roth IRA. These accounts let you invest your money in the stock market as you save for retirement. According to the Investopedia link referenced above, you can earn up to 8% per year on average. Even better is that you won’t have to pay taxes on those extra earnings. Talk to your job’s HR department – some companies will match what you contribute up to a certain amount.

Spend some time comparing the different requirements and features of savings accounts. Your goal should be to differentiate the accounts you invest your money in.

Saving When You Don’t Have Extra Money

While saving is great for accumulating money, of course, it’s also good to get into the habit of saving. You may not have a lot of extra money right now, but even $5 per week is enough to make the act of saving a habit. As you earn more money, you’ll naturally start to put more away because you’re already in the habit of saving a little extra each week. You may also start to look for more ways to save as your growing savings account acts as a motivator.

Think about the different ways you can cut back on your current expenses to save a little extra each week. Are there any essential items that you can buy at a discounted rate by buying in bulk or switching brands? Are there any non-essentials you can live without or cut back on? Keep a spending journal for a month. Write down everything you spend money on and how much you spend, then go over it to see if there are ways to cut back.

Final Thoughts

When deciding which savings accounts are right for you, don’t hesitate to speak with a professional and ask questions. At your bank, a representative will be able to sit down with you to explain your options. If you’re taking advantage of an employer-sponsored savings plan, which can offer a lot of tax breaks, discuss your options with the HR department.

Drugs and the Workplace: Testing, Workers’ Compensation, and Recovery Assistance

As a company’s human resources representative, a lot of responsibility falls on your shoulders when it comes to the general well-being of employees. You’re responsible for creating initiatives to help employees thrive, as well as protecting them from falling victim to any injuries that could occur in the workplace while on the job.

One of the main preventative measures that HR reps take to avoid putting the company and its employees at risk is requiring drug testing for anyone who joins the team. This can help ensure that everyone who becomes a part of the work team doesn’t participate in risky behaviors in their private life and doesn’t have a problem being sober during work hours.

However, there are many aspects and scenarios regarding drugs in the workplace that HR reps must be ready to handle: drug testing, workers’ compensation issues, and addiction recovery assistance.

Drug Screening

Drug screening is an important part of the hiring process because of how interruptive drugs can be in a workplace environment. Through drug testing, employers can mitigate the risks that come with hiring certain candidates that may not be stable enough to perform the job they’re applying for. Similarly, using a background check service can help you make sure that the person you’re hiring is legally compliant and who they say they are.

By drug screening applicants at your company, you can help decrease employee turnover and absenteeism, as people who get involved in drugs may often be unable to attend work. They may also eventually become too ill and distracted to keep their jobs. Whether the position you’re hiring for is an office job or one that requires physical labor, ensuring that whoever you hire is not a habitual drug user will increase safety in the workplace.

It will also improve the safety of those tested, especially if an individual’s duty involves driving or working with heavy machinery, and doubly so if the drug in question is highly addictive and debilitating. Methamphetamine, for example, can be an extremely damaging substance that can form an addiction that is difficult to recover from. If a drug test detects the presence of a substance like this, it may spur the individual to seek recovery (more on this later).

Drug screening helps to reduce an employer’s risk in the workplace by lowering workers’ compensation incidence rates and workplace accidents. However, just because someone’s drug test comes back clean once doesn’t mean they won’t ever use drugs in the workplace. This is why it may be a good idea (and possibly legally mandatory, depending on your state) to test employees regularly, especially if their job involves driving or operating heavy machinery.

Worker’s Compensation

Accidents and injuries should not be occurring in the workplace if employees are abiding by set safety regulations. When an accident or injury occurs, it’s often a sign that something went wrong — or that someone was distracted and not doing their job. Although accidents can occur even when everyone follows all the rules, requiring drug testing after workplace injuries is a common policy simply to cover the company’s bases.

If your company has a zero-tolerance policy in regards to drug use, and you discover that the person was injured as a result of the effects of drugs or alcohol use during work hours, the company may not be responsible for the injury. The company would not be liable for paying workers’ compensation for an injury that was not their fault. Although employers should be willing to compensate employees when something goes wrong, an employee under the influence at work isn’t doing their job, and they’re even putting their other coworkers at risk.

Recovery Assistance

However, it’s important to remember that addiction is a public health issue, sometimes even leading to overdoses in the workplace. If your workplace doesn’t involve physical labor, driving or regular drug testing, there are often still occasions when an employee may be discovered or come forward about struggling with addiction and say that they will be undergoing substance abuse treatment. Under these circumstances, the HR representative will need to ensure they comply with federal laws regarding substance abuse in the workplace.

One of the most common laws used under these circumstances is the Family and Medical Care Leave Act, which protects an employee’s position at work if they are seeking treatment for a drug or alcohol addiction problem. This law applies to all public agencies and private employers with more than 50 employees. It protects employees who have been at a company for over one year and permits them to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave to deal with substance use disorders. A good employer should be supportive and offer resources for recovery.

The treatment plan for those struggling with addiction may involve prescription drugs, and it’s important to understand the implications of some of these medications. For instance, those suffering from opioid addiction may be prescribed Suboxone, an oral film that is used to reduce opioid misuse. However, because this drug has some opioid effects, it may show up on certain drug tests. Therefore, a subsequent positive drug test may not indicate that an employee is failing to comply with their addiction treatment program. Considerations like this are important to keep in mind while helping an employee through this troubling time.

Drugs in the workplace can be a stressful situation for HR reps to deal with, but it should be one that you feel ready to handle at all times because it is a prevalent issue. Drug screening as part of the hiring process can help ensure that the workplace environment is safe and conducive to productivity from the very beginning. Drug screening after injuries is a standard procedure to prevent more accidents from occurring.

However, sometimes dedicated employees will find themselves in a difficult situation regarding substance abuse, and it’s important to give them support and help them get back on their feet. Whatever the situation is, it must be handled with delicacy and respect to ensure that the company is being fair to their employees and abiding by federal workplace laws.

Injuries in the Workplace and How to Prevent Them

Getting injured on the job is a risk that no one really wants to think about. Not only do workplace injuries cause damage to your body, they can hurt you in your wallet as well, as injuries can prevent you from returning to work for an extended period of time. While construction workers, police officers, and electricians all have jobs that put them into situations that obviously result in injury, there are plenty of professions out there that may seem safe but actually have the potential to result in serious injury.

Workplace Injuries Are Common

Injuries in the workplace happen every day, and while some professions are more liable to incur injuries than others, the fact remains that they happen more often than anyone would like. Common workplace injuries often result from strains and overexertion from repetitive tasks, office supplies falling from shelves and striking employees, or even something as simple as slipping and falling. Slips and falls account for one out of every six workplace injuries, and poor workplace ergonomics contributed to nearly a third of the workplace related injuries in 2013, so while they might seem mundane, these injuries are actually serious business.

When an employee suffer an injury at work, it is important to know how to move forward. Handling workplace injuries can seem daunting, but it is necessary that it be handled in a timely and appropriate manner in order to ensure the employee has the best chance of recovery, and that a workers’ compensation insurance claim can be filed. Injuries should be immediately reported, and treatment should be sought as soon as possible. Only after these steps are taken can employer and employee reach an agreement and begin to ensure that whatever caused the injury doesn’t happen again.

By far the most dangerous jobs in the U.S. tend to be those involving physical labor, heavy machinery, and elevated working areas. The logging and fishing industries see the most fatalities, closely followed by construction jobs like roofing or structural steel working. While it certainly isn’t surprising that many of these labor-intensive jobs involving work with potentially dangerous machines can lead to injury or even death, there are some less obvious but highly dangerous professions where people are still at risk, even though it may not seem like it from the outside.

Accidents Happen to Everyone

There are unexpectedly hazardous jobs in every sector, even if they seemingly would not pose any more harm than a desk job. Being a pet store worker, for instance, is one of the most dangerous jobs in America due to handling potentially dangerous animals on a daily basis, as well as running the risk of overexertion because of the many heavy items available at pet stores. Ski facility workers are at high risk of injury due to the inherently dangerous nature of extreme sports. Leather and hide tanning and finishing professionals work around incredibly volatile chemicals daily.

Those working in the medical field also run a high risk of suffering work-related injuries. While it may seem like the biggest danger to medical professionals is handling heavy equipment or exposing themselves to hazardous waste, many nurses and doctors find themselves battling workplace violence.  Nurses often find themselves face to face with individuals suffering from mental health issues which can lead to violent tendencies and even outright assault of hospital staff.

The majority of workers will only have to worry about the ergonomics of their office chair contributing to their risk of a workplace injury. However, there are hidden risks associated with every profession, whether it is carpal tunnel syndrome, constant risk of dog bites, or a patient potentially becoming physically violent. No matter what industry you’re in, there are steps you can take to reduce your employees’ overall risk of becoming injured on the job.

Tips on Prevention

Avoiding workplace accidents can be as simple as making sure that your work area is well maintained. Keeping your area clean, providing proper signage regarding potential dangers, and providing appropriate training can all contribute to a safer workplace. Also, avoiding any shortcuts, no matter your profession, can make a world of difference. When you skip steps or dodge protocol, accidents are always far more likely to occur.

Floors should always be kept clean and free of obstruction, as slips and falls are among the most common workplace injuries. Further ways to optimize workplace safety include following all regulations regarding the handling and storage of hazardous or flammable materials, appropriately controlling any presence of insects or pests, and getting rid of any general clutter. While it isn’t the most exciting solution, keeping your workplace clean and following rules and protocols are the best ways to avoid injury.

Another way to avoid workplace injury is to be highly aware of your employees’ surroundings and the dangers they might pose. If they work with heavy machinery, they can become overly comfortable using it, forgetting the fact that it can cause serious damage if handled improperly. Encourage workers to be on the lookout for safety violations — if an individual see a coworker putting themselves into a dangerous situation, they must let them know of the danger and report the situation to their supervisor.

Avoiding workplace injuries isn’t glamorous, and it can often be downright boring. However, no matter your profession, getting injured at work is one of the worst things that can happen. Exercising just a bit more caution can keep your workforce happy, healthy, and working longer without worry.

Workplace Safety Standards: What HR Needs to Know

There are many risks in workplaces that can present a serious danger to the well-being of employees. Even in seemingly low-risk positions, these can seriously impact a business, and a serious incident can potentially shutter operations entirely.

According to the International Organization for Standardization, “more than 2.3 million people die each year as a result of workplace injuries and disease.” This doesn’t count the millions of people who sustain non-fatal injuries at work. That being said, workplace safety is important for all employees. Every employee deserves to work in a safe and protected environment — one that reduces costs to the organization and improves safety in the long run.

While most job industries have safety risks, management and HR should devote more time making their work environment safer for everyone. In order to do so, however, both parties need to prioritize employees and take steps that benefit them. This will not only help improve the work environment, but it will also help improve safety standards as well. With that in mind, here are three things company leaders and HR personnel need to keep in mind while developing safety standards:

Recognizing Potential Dangers

When it comes to recognizing the potential dangers ahead of time, it’s important for HR staff to think outside the box. That’s because every industry has potential dangers. Here are a few examples:

  • In the food industry, there’s always the possibility of foodborne illness reaching the public, and in order to prevent this from happening, HR needs to equip kitchen staff members with the right tools. This includes things like stainless steel appliances, cleaning supplies, and proper hygiene standards. These all help limit the growth of bacteria found in kitchen environments.
  • In office work environments, there are many potential risks. In office areas with many workers, walking paths should be cleared of obstructions in order to prevent slip and fall accidents. Further, being physically near many coworkers can make it easier for the flu to spread, which may necessitate sanitation supplies and health advisories.
  • In healthcare facilities, HR must take steps to protect both patients and employees. In addition to the hygiene concerns mentioned above, they must provide a safe work environment by soliciting employees for feedback and listening to workplace complaints concerning potential ethics violations. Everyone needs to be on board; according to Regis College, “full organizational participation — from executives, managers and all staff members — remains the most important factor in upholding a highly ethical workplace culture.”

Another thing that could cause havoc in the workplace is something most people don’t even pay attention to is plumbing. Having access to high-quality water is important, and the last thing you want your employees to do is to drink contaminated water, which could result in illness, lawsuits, and a bad reputation. That being said, HR should ensure that the pipes holding the water aren’t contaminating drinking fountains. By making sure these things are taken care of, HR personnel can provide a safe work environment for employees and guests.

Keeping the Workplace Free of Allergens

Sneezing, wheezing, and watery eyes can leave any employee unfit for work. That’s because nearly 75 percent of all allergy symptoms affect the victim’s eyes. For some jobs, there are environmental triggers that can cause employees to feel discomfort and make it hard to breathe. Look for triggers like:

  • Chemical fumes
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Fragrances
  • Dust
  • Pets

Allergic reactions can make any work environment unpleasant. For HR representatives, making sure the work environment is well ventilated and has a sufficient amount of humidity is extremely important — especially since doing so can reduce the chances of mold. Dusting the workstation regularly may also help.

Closing open windows to eliminate excess pollen, utilizing humidifier, getting HVAC systems regularly cleaned/replaced, establishing a no-pet policy, and checking for food allergies before potlucks can also make the workplace safer for employees. Although some employees may still experience allergies, workplace accidents should cease to exist as long as you take steps to prevent it.

Common Workplace Accidents & Safety Tips

Generally speaking, when people hear the phrase “workers’ compensation,” they typically envision heavy machinery, employees being exposed to harsh chemicals, or potential hazards around every corner. Truthfully, a work-related injury can happen at any time, even from behind a desk. As noted above, slip and fall accidents are a serious concern. When it comes to office jobs, slip, trips and falls account over 30 percent of all personal injuries.

So, what’s something that can cause employees to slip? Any area that has a wet or oily surface can cause employees to slip and fall. This might include break rooms, door entrances, and restrooms. The weather should also be taken into consideration. In other words, if it’s wet outside from either rain or snow, floor mats should be placed near door areas to prevent employees from falling.

What causes employees to trip? A trip may occur when an employee’s view is obstructed. Poor lighting, blocked or cluttered areas, uncovered cables, wrinkled rugs, and uneven walking surfaces may all contribute to an employee falling over. Luckily, these things can be avoided by making sure that work areas are clean, walking surfaces are even, employees are wearing proper shoes, and staff members are paying attention to where they’re going. Employees should also be encouraged to report dangerous (cluttered, obstructed, or damaged) areas to HR. That way, other employees are aware of the situation.

Conclusion

Regardless of the industry, safety should always come first, and it’s up to HR to get employees to contribute to improving workplace safety efforts. This can be done by encouraging employees to become actively involved. If employees are curious, share workplace injury statistics with them. This will help put things into perspective and demonstrate just how serious these events are, no matter the job type. Lastly, be sure to provide some sort of incentive that rewards them for showing great workplace safety behavior.

How Machine Learning Is Improving Customer Service

Efficient customer service is crucial to the success of client-facing businesses. The $350 billion industry has transformed over the last couple of decades with the mass adoption of the internet and social media, taking the customer service channels for many businesses online. Although the increased connectivity provided by technology has helped facilitate customer service processes, it has also increased customer expectations.

To keep up with these expectations, businesses are finding ways to implement machine learning into their customer service processes in hopes of efficiently handling as many customer inquiries as possible.

Customer Service Needs

Although the internet can often provide answers to almost any question a customer could have, customers more comfortable speaking directly with a person will often reach out to customer service agents. This frequently results in customer service representatives spending large amounts of time answering very basic queries, which can be monotonous and frustrating for agents. To reduce the need for customer service reps to answer these types of questions, businesses have been using AI to offer answers for basic questions before transferring clients to a customer service agent.

This is done both on the phone and online through the use of chatbots that are often employed on a business’ website and Facebook page. Over the phone, automated recordings help navigate customer calls by asking questions that the AI will either be able to answer or transferring their call to the proper department.

Online, chatbots have become a huge resource for businesses to attain customer information, gather feedback, and provide customers with quick responses to standard questions. The use of chatbots and other forms of AI is expected to help businesses manage 85 percent of their relationships with customers by 2020.

Machine learning also facilitates security processes for businesses that handle sensitive customer information. In the past, customers have been required to verify their identity by providing personal information, a process that could take many minutes, especially if a customer forgot their answers to security questions.

However, many businesses are now using two-factor authentication to verify customer identity during customer service calls. This involves verifying two pieces of information: a security question, followed by phone verification. Customer service agents will use machine learning to send a code to the phone number on file with the company, and once a customer verifies they received the code, their identity is confirmed. This approach has improved security measures and can be completed quickly.

Growing Use of Tech in Customer Service

Overall, the use of AI in customer service has increased job satisfaction for customer service agents, as well as help businesses keep up with customer expectations. Businesses need to constantly look for ways to improve customer service. One of the results of implementing AI to help facilitate customer service has been giving customer service agents more time to handle complicated customer inquiries. Increased job satisfaction for customer service representatives and reduced call volume provides them with a greater opportunity to dedicate time and empathy to customers who need a human touch for their inquiries.

As more businesses use machine learning to automate routine tasks and data entry during customer service calls, call time should be reduced, leading to an increase in customer satisfaction. Currently, in a typical six-minute customer service call, 75 percent of that time is devoted to agents doing manual research. Only 25 percent of call time is spent interacting with the customer. AI can streamline this process by memorizing customer information and creating easier routes to accomplish tasks online.

This also provides customer service agents with more time to do important customer service work online, such as responding to customer reviews, which has become a high priority for businesses over the last few years.

As more customers go online to offer feedback or complain about poor experiences with companies, the need to moderate reviews and comments has grown. In the internet age, 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Therefore, if a business receives many reviews, they must dedicate resources to responding to them. This will increase customer trust in a business, as well as its ranking with Google.

As more businesses implement AI, machine learning will become the standard for customer service expectations. Although the impact AI will have on jobs within the customer service industry is unclear, the new and rapidly advancing technology will soon provide efficient customer service to consumers looking for help. AI will also help improve the job environment for customer service representatives and open the door for better customer service and increased customer satisfaction. With the implementation of machine learning, the future of customer service looks to be promising.

How to Create a Modern and Stylish Aesthetic for Your Brand

Branding is all about the impression you give to your customers and clients. The question becomes, what kind of impression do you want to give them? Regardless of the type of business you have, presenting a professional atmosphere that is still welcoming and comforting is essential, yet you want to be on the edge of business innovation as well. You want your brand to be memorable, but you want to be remembered by the right reasons. A modern and stylish aesthetic can help you appeal to a variety of customers, from millennials to baby boomers.

However, this can be a challenge. If you are in an older office building or have limited resources, changing the aesthetic of your brand can seem like a huge task. It is often difficult to determine where to start. Here are some tips on how to create a modern and stylish aesthetic for your brand:

Work From the Outside In

The first impression customers and clients have of your brand at your physical location is the outside appearance. There is often little you can do about this when it comes to the building you are in, but there are some touches you can improve on to make your brand more appealing.

  • Your Sign and Logo: Your sign and logo may be outdated. If you have not changed them in a while, give them a fresh look. You can even get a logo created by artificial intelligence if you really want to be hip.
  • Your Door: Even if you are inside a building, you might not have much choice about certain parts of the decor, but you can install a new door for your business, or add a window decal or other touches to make a better first impression.
  • Window Coverings: If your windows are visible from outside or even the hallway, consider updating your window coverings to ones that give a more modern and stylish look. Don’t forget color and the impression it makes on clients.

The first impression customers or clients get of your business is the outside, and no matter what your limitations are in your commercial building, you can work to make a better first impression and make your brand modern and stylish from the outside in.

Remodel the Interior of Your Business

Once customers enter your business, they get an entirely different perspective. The atmosphere of your business is set right away. This involves everything from color to the way you use your space. Want a more modern and stylish aesthetic? Here are some simple tips:

 

  • Color: You should never overlook the psychology of color when decorating your office or any other space. Color has a certain effect on customers and clients, and knowing how that relates to your aesthetic is truly important. Throw pillows, window coverings, and even the color of your furniture and lampshades make a huge difference.
  • Lighting: Harsh, fluorescent lights are common in buildings and office spaces, yet they are often hard on your employees’ eyes and give your clients and customers a very flat impression. Add modern lamps, light fixtures, and other unique lighting wherever you can.
  • Furniture: Older tables and chairs, especially ones that are outdated or worn give a negative impression. Don’t forget comfort though. Form and function are both important when it comes to furniture.
  • Creature Comforts: Things like a modern fireplace when it is cold or a stylish bladeless fan when it is warm give your office a modern and sleek look, but also ensure that your customers, clients, and employees are comfortable.

There are other things you can do to improve the atmosphere as well. Smart furniture often includes USB plugins for charging phones and other features, and installing devices like Alexa or the Apple Home Pod to allow your smart furniture to be voice controlled is a great idea.

Your employees will love smart desks that can show them calendar alerts, phone messages, and even remind them to stand and walk around. The interior of your business and the comfort of your employees, customers, and clients is one of the best investments you can make to create a modern and stylish aesthetic for your brand.

Improve the Look of Your Employees

There are two ways to control the look of your employees: One is to have uniforms, and the other is to have a dress code. Uniforms, if opted for, should be fun, stylish and updated frequently as fashion changes. Adding fun accessories like colorful ties and hip and stylish suspenders can help you attract and keep new customers.

Even if you don’t have uniforms, a well-defined dress code can keep all of your employees on the same page and create an innovative culture that will also attract the right customers and clients. This can mean including brands in your dress code, specific colors, and the type and style of clothing that is acceptable.

Many companies offer employees a clothing allowance to ensure employees can be in compliance regardless of their financial situation. Improving the look of your employees is another great way to create a modern and stylish aesthetic for your brand.

We all want our company to be as hip as Google or as fun a place to work as Facebook. We want new customers and clients from millennials to baby boomers to be impressed by us. To accomplish this, making your brand aesthetic modern and stylish is essential.