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.

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How to Find and Hire Remote Workers

01 Remote Workers

Hiring remote workers is becoming more commonplace by the day. Remote workers tend to be more productive and considerably less stressed compared to their office-bound counterparts. Hiring remote workers also provides companies, both small and large, a big advantage when it comes to the quantity of candidates available for hire.

There’s a lot to learn about remote workers and in this article we will cover everything from the different types of remote workers, to how to find and hire them.

What is a Remote Worker?

A remote worker is a person who works outside of a conventional office environment. This does not necessarily have to be from home; the employee could even be working from a coffee shop or other off-site establishment.

Companies use different names to identify remote workers, some of these include:

  • Virtual workers
  • Remote employees
  • Telecommuters
  • Web workers
  • iWorkers
  • Mobile professionals

Do You Need Remote Employees?

Having access to remote workers can be a godsend, especially when your company needs help filling open positions. However, there are some disadvantages that should be taken into consideration when deciding whether to hire remote workers. Below we discuss the pros and cons of remote workers.

Pros of Remote Employees

  • You can hire both foreign and domestic workers from locations outside of where your physical offices are, giving you access to a greater talent pool.
  • Using remote workers to outsource certain tasks can save money.
  • If managed right, remote employees in various time zones can enhance the ability to ensure work is getting done around the clock.
  • Employees working remotely have less workplace distractions and are less susceptible to stress.

Cons of Remote Employees

  • If you choose to hire remote workers from overseas, language barriers can come into play.
  • Not being able to meet in person on short notice can cause communication difficulties.
  • It can be much harder to train and onboard new employees who are not in the office.
  • Company culture and camaraderie can suffer from having too many remote workers. Spending time at the water cooler interacting with coworkers is a great way to get to know people’s lives outside of work. This can help nurture better workplace interaction and communication.

Finding Virtual Employees

Where Should You Look?

Although you can find remote workers on a number of major job boards, it is important to note that there are plenty of websites that are designed specifically for remote workers. You are more likely to find suitable employees on these websites with the skills and desire to work remotely. The following are some platforms that are worth considering:

Create Effective Job Postings

You will have to write job postings that get the best remote workers excited to apply for your position. These workers are typically more on the freelance side of business and are usually entertaining more than one job or job offer at once, so creating a job posting that makes people want to work for you is key.

You can achieve this by including your website link, links to various articles that reference your business, information regarding owners and founders, and anything else that can reinforce your reputation/culture as a company. Another good strategy is to include a blurb on your job posting that discusses what life is like as a remote worker at your company. This will let applicants know that you have a fleshed out process for hiring remote workers, making them more likely to apply.

Also important for finding and attracting qualified remote employees is utilizing the many recruiting tools at your disposal. Some of the key resources that should be in your recruiting tool belt are:

  • An applicant tracking system
  • Social media recruiting strategies
  • Performance reviews of past employees to know what works for your company

Interview to Identify the Best Workers

Interviews are always a critical part of the hiring process; however, with hiring remote workers, it’s even more important to get it right.

Draft a suitable email introducing your organization a little more, and ask the candidates to answer about five to ten questions about themselves. Focus these questions on how they will handle various tasks that are relevant to the job. Through these answers you can approximate how eager and motivated candidates are to work for your company.. With remote workers, traits such as conscientiousness, intrinsic motivation and ambition are going to be more important than ever.

With this slimmed down list of remote candidates, it is important to ask the right interview questions. Since these workers will not be under direct supervision, make sure to properly evaluate their abilities, personality and confidence relating to the role. You can ask questions such as:

  • How do you schedule and organize your work day?
  • How do you manage your calendar?
  • How do you organize links, files and tabs on your computer?
  • How do you prioritize tasks?

The ability to concentrate in a distracting environment is an important ability that all remote employees must have. Lack of supervision makes people more prone to various distractions, so a strong work ethic is going to be key.

Look for candidates who have been successful in jobs that involved ownership of projects and activities, and unsupervised time at work. This will ensure you hire the best remote workers.

Final Thoughts

Hiring remote workers is an effective method for solving critical staffing problems as well as raising both productivity and employee morale at your organization. However, it’s important to consider the cons of remote workers as well to ensure it is the best option for your company.

Finding, interviewing and onboarding remote workers can be an involved process. Newton Software offers a full service applicant tracking system built by recruiters who understand the hardships of the recruiting process. Check us out and hire the best remote workers in the most efficient way possible.

Unemployment in Changing Times – Are Seasonal Workers Protected?

Written by Jackie Edwards, specially for The HR Tech Weekly® ▸

Unemployment in Changing Times - Are Seasonal Workers Protected?

In many industries, there is an ever shrinking demarcation of the traditional working day. The fact is, we live in a 24/7 consumer society, and those demands are cascaded through to businesses throughout the value chain. This is particularly the case in the tech industry, where the growing trend in flexible and remote workers means the boundary between home and work balance is becoming ever more blurred. When it comes down to it, the 9-5 working day and 35 hour week with time off for good behavior that was the norm for our parents and grandparents is actually quite a rarity today.

But flexible working practices do not just mean fitting hours to suit personal and business needs, and seeking that holy grail of 21st century existence, the mythical work life balance. Seasonal work is also becoming more common in industries outside the traditional farming and recreational sectors, and is starting to be seen in everything from retail to back office to academia. Here, we take a look at how employment law applies to workers falling into this ever widening category.

Claiming Unemployment Benefit

Even for those who have been in regular employment within the HR tech industry, the rules might seem complex due to variations between states, but the underlying principles are simple enough. If the worker has been laid off through no fault of his or her own, and meets the requirements for the amount of time he or she was in work, then benefits are available.

For seasonal workers, the same principles are in play, but they are a little more complicated to navigate. Specifically, the lack of work at certain times is an understood and acknowledged part of the deal. As such, workers are not actually unemployed, and so many states will not subsidize them during this “lull” period.

States that have a more generous attitude towards seasonal workers, typically those with a significant tourist sector and therefore a larger proportion of people falling into this category, calculate the amount payable on the basis of what was earned during the base period, just as they would for someone who had been in full time employment.

How about Contractors?

Almost three quarters of employers use contractors to provide tech support at one time or another, so how is this sector affected? Only an employee can claim benefits, and in the vast majority of cases, contractors are considered to be self employed, and are therefore ineligible. Even more complex is where the contractor hires seasonal assistance. In this case, however, the key word is “hires” – the assistant is not considered an employee any more than the contractor is, and therefore is not generally going to be able to claim unemployment.

If in doubt, ask

The above all suggests that where unemployment benefits are concerned, the deck is clearly stacked in favor of full time workers, and it could be argued that seasonal employees are not as fairly treated as they could be. Ultimately, though, it is important to remember that rules can vary significantly, so if you are unsure regarding an individual’s eligibility to claim, it always makes sense to check with your state unemployment office to get specific advice.


Not everyone fits the traditional, eight-to-five, year-round job scenario. Seasonal employees work for defined, often short periods of time during specific times of the year. This phenomenon is created by variations in certain industries that are affected by seasonal shifts in demand or weather-related impediments.

Click here to learn more: Unemployment Rules for Seasonal Workers | AboutUnemployment.org

Benefits Of Working From Home | The HR Tech Weekly®

Benefits Of Working From Home

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Working from home is not an easy walk. It’s different from what other people think about a remote worker. It requires more discipline and responsibility, more self-motivation, self-engagement, and self-control. It gives you less freedom while many think opposite. And finally it may give you more working hours in fact with an early start, later end and less breaks.

So, why a lot, lot of people make their choices for working from home? Why companies tend to hire remote workers? What benefits it gives to both sides? How it is influenced by the economy and technology? What is the best way to organize the remote work both for employers and for employees? A lot of questions…

Gig-economy or on-demand economy and digital technologies give people new exciting opportunities, from one hand, and determine their choices from the other one. Relations with remote and contingent workers and organizations became more contractual, more entrepreneurial, and more like with the third parties before the world of work has changed.

Modern HR technologies allow organizations to keep people engaged, stay connected, let them feel on board and be a part of the team while staying miles away. But it’s harder than just control over the process and results. It requires new hard and soft skills from HR and line managers.

The new infographic from Nucleus gives us an overview on a phenomenon of the remote work as well as some insights about new challenges for managers and workers, and technologies that could help to organize it better.

Nucleus Smart Office Solutions


If you want to share this infographic and original comments the reference to Nucleus, Alexey Mitkin and The HR Tech Weekly® is obligatory.

 

Signs it is Time to Take Your Organization Virtual

Signs It Is Time to Take Your Organization Virtual

Signs to go virtual
How to ask your boss that you want to do your work from home?

Is It Time to Take Your Organization Virtual? Here Are the Signs It Is

The on demand skills based economy is here. With today’s top talent adapting to the new climate of the workforce, organizations now must find new ways to engage and retain their staff while bringing in the best talent available as needed to survive and thrive in complex economic times. The workforce has taken their careers and income earning opportunities into their own hands and crave the flexibility that virtual organizations provide. Whether you need to incorporate contract or freelance work into your operations or want to give flexible working arrangement incentives to your existing permanent team, there are many benefits to taking your business virtual.

Below are a few signs it may be time to take your organization virtual.

Your Industry Has Already Shifted

Does the competition incorporate contract and temp work for their teams to execute projects and deliverables? Do they have satellite offices with less overhead dispersed throughout a greater geographic region than you? You may be paying for more office space than is required or missing opportunities for growth by not shifting alongside your competitors that are gaining more market share through virtual teams and contracted project management.

Accessing the Best Ability When You Need It, Cast a Wider Net for Talent

Human capital is and always will be critical for organizations to grow. The top talent of today’s workforce is already embracing the shift of the gig economy for their careers. Contract and freelance work for projects may be one of the only options for reaching some of the most talented professionals that you do not have access to in traditional employment engagements. Leverage the strengths, talents and skills of top performers available to compliment your permanent staff. Changing up your business model to attract and leverage the best talent available for your organization is critical and inevitably necessary. There are specific projects or initiatives that do not require full time engagement, try contracting out this work with the support of your existing team.

There is Flexibility to Be Gained by Both Sides with Less Commitment

A short term project to gauge ongoing working compatibilities allows each side to have less binding ties than an official employment contract. By allowing both sides to test the waters, there is flexibility to expand working relationships or simply part ways conveniently for both parties.

You Already Leverage Collaboration Tools in the Cloud

The cloud is here to stay and the same tools that are used for internal personnel communications and document management, have made their way into the workforce. The same affordable tools already invested in, can be leveraged by personnel logging on from anywhere. Programs such as Office 365, Dropbox, Slack and Google Drive allow teams to collaborate from dispersed locations in different time zones to accomplish tasks and achieve goals remotely. Implementing electronic systems and procedures will be necessary but also provide the necessary guidance and structure to improve operational efficiencies and help designate roles and responsibilities between members of the virtual team.

You Want to Incorporate Work from Home Policies as an Incentive

More and more companies are realizing the benefits of an engaged workforce by offering the flexibility to incorporate part time working from home policies. As with any incentive, it has to be carefully managed so teamwork can be developed through defined deliverables with accountabilities in place. Conference calls, in person meetings, team brainstorming sessions can help teammates engage virtually while allowing them designated time to manage their personal and professional lives more flexibly.

You Need to Scale with Speed Affordably

Small dispersed teams optimally performing are considered a threat in today’s workforce. With the right mix of trust, relationships and business process, virtual teams can deliver unprecedented results with the right controls and check and balances in place. Having a plan in place with defined goals and objectives so the project delivery can be optimized by the virtual team’s performance will be a key to the team’s success.

Your Management Team has the Soft Skills to Manage Virtually

Teamwork and accountability can be fostered through well-defined objectives and project management milestones. Team engagement through regular meetings that encourage brainstorming, strategic discussions, presenting and reporting will help make the virtual team successful. Periodical in person face-to-face meetings and engaging collaboration tools that allow you to share mini bios and personal pictures can help develop comrade from teams that do not regularly work together. Leaders of virtual teams need to have the right balance of soft skills and technical aptitudes to adapt their management style accordingly.

Is it time to take your organization virtual?

About the Author

Eric Apps, Organimi

Eric Apps is a seasoned technology entrepreneur, lawyer and early pioneer of today’s growing modern workforce methodologies. Eric has owned, operated and held board or senior management positions in several public and private technology companies. Today he is partnered in Aluvion and Organimi, Canadian law and technology firms, where he is an early adopter and advocate of building virtual teams and services to grow his companies. By leveraging the power of new technologies to streamline workflows, while utilizing a virtual network of highly skilled, and highly responsive professionals to develop his companies, Eric is a thought leader and advocate for the growing freelance/gig based economy.

Twitter | Facebook | Linkedin

For more information, visit http://organimi.com

To book an interview or to request information, please contact Nicole Ragno at nicole.ragno@organimi.com

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Strategies for Being Productive While Working Remotely

Strategies for Being Productive While Working Remotely

Working Remotely is Trending Upward

I was reading an interesting article the other day on Fast Company’s site regarding work trends. It was estimated that more than 50% of the work force will be working remotely by 2020. Additionally, 25%, of the business leaders surveyed, indicated that more than three-quarters of their employees would not be working in a traditional office by 2020. Of course the definition for the word “remote” has been debated often. Does this mean working somewhere outside the office for 1 or 2 days/week? If you work off-site or in coffee shops does this ‘count’ as working remotely? If you work any at home during the weekend are you considered to be a ‘remote employee’? Therefore, if we widen the scope of the definition says, Sara Sutton Fell (CEO of FlexJobs) then:

In most white-collar jobs, I’d say 99% of people are already working remotely in that they take work home. It creeps into our work style already. I think it’s just not formalized by either the employer or employee… If remote work means that you check email on Sunday night then congratulations! You already have a work-from-home job.

There is little question that workers often rank ‘flexibility’ as one of their top reasons they are attracted to more desired jobs. Given the impact of the digitization of work millennials (and other age groups as well) really value the option of, “…taking an afternoon off and catching up on Saturday morning.” Further, a more flexible schedule allows for more spontaneous interactions with co-workers, but also time for focused, head-down productivity as well. For recruiters and other small business owners the power of working remotely is truly endless.

How to Remain Productive when Not in the Office

If the trend is toward more of us working remotely and/or from home what are some tips and tricks we can take advantage of to ensure success?

This article will provide a short list of tactics that have worked for me as well as a few suggested by others who are experienced at being productive while working remotely (PWWR). I’ve worked remotely (in some capacity) as a college professor and content marketer for the past 15 years and learned a few tips and tricks along the way. One thing I know for sure is you need a strategy and plan, for remote work, or it can lead to problems. There are real pluses to working at home/remotely and also pitfalls if not approached with a solid plan.

Strategies for Working Remotely

  • Work off of a Daily List of Tasks to be Done: One of the challenges with working at home (or in any other remote location) is how easy it can be to become distracted and taken off course. Therefore, it’s a good idea to put 2-4 things you want to get done on a list daily. During the day go back the list a couple of times to ensure you are staying focused. As things get accomplished you can cross them out. At the end of the day update the list by checking off what has been finished and what is pushed to the next work day. Psychologically it can be very satisfying to see items get ‘checked off’ the list. The goal is to make steady progress every work day (usually on several small tasks).
  • Don’t become a Silo & Consistently Communicate: It takes personal discipline to work remotely and remain productive. One thing to remember is avoid being a ‘silo‘ and working independently for long stretches. In other words, check in often with co-workers and bosses to let them know what you are working on and to be available to help others if needed. It can be easy to ‘fall off the radar’ when working from home, but if you are intentional about consistently communicating it will serve you well. Also, consistent communication lets everyone on the team know that you are engaged and working toward pre-planned goals.
  • Be sure to take Breaks/Change of Scenery: It may seem obvious but be sure to take breaks when working remotely. Given that you do not have other co-workers around (who can be distracting) often we can really get in a groove and get a lot accomplished while working remotely. This is great, however it’s also easy to work even more hours and ‘forget’ to take breaks. I find taking a 20-minute walk, grabbing a lunch off-campus, getting a quick coffee, or doing a chore or two around the house can serve as an effective change of scenery/break in the monotony.
  • Put Together Reports to Update Colleagues on Progress: Given the way our work places are organized, in this digital era, often we are working on individual/independent tasks that are connected to bigger goals of the company/agency. What’s more, our colleagues may or may not know what we are working on and, more importantly, the progress that is indeed being made. Therefore, if you can provide monthly and/or weekly summaries of tasks that are getting done and how they are edifying the long-term goals of your company this can be super helpful. Also, this helps for summarizing how all of the small tasks are helping move the business in the right direction. It can be easy to get bogged down in the details and not “see the forest for the trees”.
  • Have a Dedicated Work Space: Whether you are working at home or at a coffee shop it’s critical to have a work space that is ‘only for work’ and not used for other things (you may do in your spare time/down time). It helps if your home or remote location is similar to your office at work.

Optimizing Working Remotely Important

As more and more people work remotely (and the time they do so also increases) it is going to become even more important to continue finding ways to optimize this type of work environment. For even more information check out a recent article from The Muse: 10 Reasons Working Remotely is Even Better than You Thought it Was.


Source: Strategies for Being Productive While Working Remotely – Crelate