ENGAGING REMOTE WORKERS

Prior to COVID-19, remote work was considered a company perk. Yet, within a few weeks it had become mandatory and viewed as a business disruption. Though it seems inconvenient, remote work may be beneficial to our current employee engagement practices. Now that organizations are experiencing a lot of unknowns, positive workplace morale is vital to keeping businesses afloat.

Due to the pandemic, employees have heightened levels of professional and personal concerns. According to data from studies conducted by Willis Tower Watson and Josh Bersin Academy, the top four areas of concern for workers are financial security, health and wellbeing, family and productivity at work.

Although leaders cannot guarantee good health or job security, making time to keep employees engaged demonstrates that leaders are empathetic to the nuances of working from home. It can also align organizations to become employers of choice by enhancing their organizational brand.

Here are a couple of ideas that will keep you and your workers engaged along this journey.

Virtual Development Opportunities- Encourage workers to participate in online development opportunities. Whether sessions are provided internally or hosted by outside sources, workers will appreciate opportunities to learn new things. This is the time to think outside of the box and consider personal development options as well. They provide overall balance, and many are of low to no cost to the company.

Virtual Engagement Opportunities- These sessions are priceless. Whether you are simply “checking in”, discussing a project status or connecting the entire team, trust and a sense of worth will be the likely response from these interactions. Assign team members the responsibility of planning virtual activities. This can get their creative juices flowing, while creating an inclusive work environment.

Leaders who authentically demonstrate care and value for employees create engaging environments. They also provide a level of relief for those who work alongside them to keep businesses sustainable.

Takiyah J. Cunningham, M.S. HRD
https://www.linkedin.com/in/takiyah-cunningham/

Your company needs more help but you aren’t sure if it’s time to add more staff. Your Senior Leadership team approaches you about bringing on temporary workers or Independent Contractors to fill in the gaps indefinitely until they can “figure it out.” Read what guest columnist, Anitra Walden-Jacobs of Jackson Lewis P.C (Cincinnati, Ohio) advises what to consider when considering utilizing a “Contingent Workforce”. Jackson Lewis P.C. specializes in representing management exclusively in workplace law and related litigation.

 

The “Dos” and “Don’ts” Of Managing A Contingent Workforce

Anitra Walden-Jacobs
Attorney at Law

 

As employers continue to look for ways to do more with less, they have increasingly relied on a variety of arrangements commonly known as "contingent work." The contingent workforce typically consists of independent contractors, temporary employees, and seasonal and leased workers.

Companies have many reasons for choosing to utilize a contingent workforce, including avoiding certain obligations and potential liability associated with regular employees. However, a contingent workforce is not without its own risks, especially when the company – or someone authorized to act on the company’s behalf – does something to change that relationship in the eyes of the law.

To maintain the benefits of a contingent workforce, employers must be careful to safeguard the scope of their intended relationship and ensure that contingent workers do not become employees under the law. At the same time, it is also important to create a sense of inclusion for your contingent workforce. To assist with that endeavor, here are a few best practices for utilizing a contingent workforce:

THE DOs

  • DO leave the selection of temporary workers to the service provider, including recruiting, interviewing and on-boarding. Remember, you want to keep a distinction between your temporary workers and your regular employees. This is especially important with terminations. The temporary workers are employed by the temp agency – only the agency can fire those workers. If you no longer want a temporary worker at your workplace, communicate with the agency and have the agency handle it.
  • DO make contingent hires familiar with your corporate culture. Just because a worker is not regular employee does not mean he or she should not be familiar with your corporate culture and general expectations.
  • DO provide access to the same services regular employees enjoy. While contingent employees are not eligible for the same benefits as your employees, you can still allow contingent employees to have access to the same services as regular employees. This may include simple things like being permitted to park in the same lot, enjoying access to employee purchase discounts, staying informed about casual days, and being invited to office parties. It will improve morale, and happy workers are productive workers – even if they are not your employees.
  • DO consider positions on a case by case basis. Money, while important, should never be the sole reason to hire a contingent worker instead of a regular employee. If the position requires a lot of company control with little flexibility, it probably should not be outsourced to contingent workers. Likewise, why would you want to spend considerable resources training someone who you plan to replace on the next project?

THE DON’Ts

  • DON’T create confusion when it comes to benefits. Your benefit plans, such as health insurance and paid time off, typically specifically exclude contingent employees from participation. You do not want to risk violating your plan. You also want to avoid taking actions that would support a finding of an employee/employer relationship in the eyes of the law.
  • DON’T risk misclassification. Again, part of the appeal to using a contingent workforce is being able to avoid the requirements of certain wage and hour and employment statutes that only apply to employees. You can pay someone via 1099 and call them an “independent contractor,” but if you are controlling the means and manner by which they complete the assigned tasks, the law may consider them an employee and your company will be required to comply with those statutes.
  • DON’T forget the contract. What you call it (i.e., “Independent Contractor Agreement”) is not determinative. What matters is what you want the person to do and how much control you have over how they do it. Clearly establish in writing the terms of your working agreement with a contingent hire. Do not rely on verbal agreements or casually mentioned expectations. Instead, create a written agreement in which the employer and worker both clearly define their expectations, working terms, and goals, as well as the estimated length of the assignment and the anticipated deliverables.
  • DON’T throw your managers out there without a safety net. Make sure your managers have clear guidance on how to deal with issues that may arise with contingent workers. Consider having training on the issue and invite your managers to submit questions beforehand so everyone can be on the same page.
  • DON’T ignore complaints about contingent workers from your customers and, especially, do not ignore complaints from your own employees. You can still be exposed to liability in how you respond, so respond quickly and appropriately.

About the author….

Anitra Walden-Jacobs is an associate at Jackson Lewis P.C. She represents and counsels employers with respect to a variety of workplace matters, and uses a proactive and collaborative approach to correct current issues and prevent future problems. In addition to conventional labor and employment issues, Anitra also assist employers and Third Party Administrators with managing issues arising under the Ohio Workers' Compensation Act. If you have questions regarding this topic feel free to contact Anitra at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., www.jacksonlewis.com.

 

  

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