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Are Mandatory Vaccines Legal in the Workplace?

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Are Mandatory Vaccines Legal in the Workplace?

As we ride out yet another COVID-19 wave, returning to the workplace is now in jeopardy. In fact, some businesses are delaying this until next year. Others, however, are still planning on bringing back employees in at least some capacity this fall.

As a result of the spread of the delta variant, physical safety concerns are making some employees reconsider their return to work plans. According to a survey conducted by The Harris Poll, which was on behalf of Glassdoor, nearly 9 in 10 employees, 89%, still worry about returning to the office. In addition to their physical safety, employees are concerned about how they’ll interact with their employers, present themselves, and how they commute to and from work.

How can you address these concerns? Well, you may want to allow your team to work remotely. Or, at the very least, build and manage a hybrid team.

Even with a hybrid team, there will still be concerns about the recent surge in COVID-19 cases. And, one answer might be the controversial topic of requiring your team to get vaccinated. But, is this legal, and how can you have this discussion with your team?

Is There a Legal Precedent for Requiring Vaccines?

“There is Jacobson v. Massachusetts, [a Supreme Court case from 1905]. The case itself was about a vaccination mandate,” Lindsay Wily, a law professor at American University, told NPR.

“In the early 1900s, smallpox outbreaks were fairly frequent, and many people had been vaccinated earlier as children, but needed to be vaccinated as their immunity waned,” adds Professor Wily. “The state of Massachusetts passed a law that gave authority to local boards of health to decide at any given moment in response to an outbreak that smallpox vaccination should be mandatory for all residents of their local area if — in the opinion of the medical experts who were serving on the board — it was necessary to protect the public’s health.”

That decision was made by the city of Cambridge. After that, outreach efforts were undertaken to reach out to everyone in the community. When they approached Henning Jacobson, however, he objected. Vaccines, he said, are ineffective. According to Jacobson, they do not prevent transmission. Moreover, he argued that these practices are harmful.

“The court described those arguments as not seeking a medical exemption, but rather reciting the alternative views that differ from medical consensus and that those arguments did not warrant an exemption from the requirement to be vaccinated,” says Wiley.

But, what about private employers?

Flu shots and other shots are often required by employers in the health care industry. This is a precaution to protect patients, as well as to offer some protection for employees. “So, for example, many require hepatitis vaccinations in addition to flu shots and all of the kind of childhood vaccines that we tend to get as a condition of attending school,” explains Wiley.

“The other kind of common requirement applied to adults who are over the age of 18 has been university requirements — college attendance requirements,” Wily adds. “College students in many states are required by law, not just by the [decision] of the college, to get a meningitis vaccine because of a higher incidence of meningitis outbreaks in the kind of congregate setting on campuses.” So as far as vaccination requirements for COVID go, we’ve seen this group lead the charge.

Can Employers Make COVID-19 Vaccination Mandatory?

Short answer? Yes.

If you’re an employer, you can require your employees to be vaccinated. However, this is considered a “condition of employment,” which is equivalent to job qualification. And, while employees can refuse to get vaccinated, they don’t have much legal protection.

“Employers generally have wide scope” to create rules for their workplace, said Dorit Reiss, a law professor who specializes in vaccine policies at the University of California Hastings College of the Law. “It’s their business.”

But, wait a minute? Isn’t asking your team about their vaccination status a HIPPA violation? Despite what folks like Majorie Tayor Green and Dak Prescott have proclaimed, nope.

At the same time, there are valid exceptions that you certainly should be aware of.

“An employee with a religious objection or a disability may need to be excused from the mandate or otherwise accommodated,” clarifies John Lomax, an attorney with Snell & Wilmer in Phoenix. “Additionally, if an objecting employee is a union-represented employee, the employer may need to bargain and reach an agreement with the union before mandating vaccines.”

If you do have employees who can be exempt from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, try to make reasonable accommodations. The most obvious would be allowing them to work remotely or take a leave of absence. You could also have them sign waivers or work under specific conditions, like wearing masks or practicing social distancing.

“If an employee cannot get vaccinated because of a disability or sincerely held religious belief, and there is no reasonable accommodation possible, an employer could exclude the employee from physically entering the workplace,” said Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, the Society for Human Resource Management’s president and chief executive officer. “But this doesn’t mean an individual can be automatically terminated. Employers will need to determine if any other rights apply under the EEO laws or other federal, state, and local authorities.”

Having a Conversation With Your Team About the COVID-19 Vaccine

Because this is such a controversial and polarizing issue, you must sit down with your team and discuss the COVID-19 vaccination. Afterward, the employee can then make a more informed decision.

Here are some pointers to keep in mind if you want to talk with employees about a supportive COVID-19 vaccination.

Set the stage.

You can talk to your team either one-on-one or as a group. You can then let them know why you want them to get vaccinated. Mainly to prevent illness, which is for the greater good of the team.

Address possible concerns.

You will no doubt come across numerous questions and concerns regarding the vaccine. Keep the following in mind to put your team at ease;

  • Consider flexible scheduling options that are not punitive (such as paid sick leave) for employees who experience side effects after vaccination.
  • Remind everyone, even if they’re young and healthy, that the vaccine is effective. While the research is ongoing, COVID-19 vaccines are estimated to be about 95 percent effective in preventing serious illness.
  • Not everyone enjoys getting jabbed. Assure them that the COVID-19 shot isn’t any worse than getting a flu shot.
  • Encourage them to seek out reputable information regarding the vaccine, aka not getting their info from social media. Steer them in the direction of the CDCJohns Hopkins University, or the Immunization Action Coalition (IAC)
  • Host a vaccination clinic at your workplace to make this more convenient for your team. Contact your local health department for assistance.

Closing the conversation.

Finally, if you have team members who aren’t vaccinated, but plan to, find out what’s holding them back. Do they need further information? Or are they just afraid to ask for time off? Finding this out can help you assist them in getting vaccinated.

What if you have employees who still refuse to get vaccinated? Again, you could ask them why. You don’t need to press too much. But, it could be something as simple as them not wanting to take time off for work.

If they have valid reasons, try to accommodate them. If possible, for the time being, allow them to continue working from home. But, if that’s not possible, and they’re in jeopardy of the health and well-being of the rest of the team, you may have to let them go.

How to Bounce Back from a Setback in the Workplace

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10 Deliberate Sacrifices You Must Make if You Want to be Successful

Business is full of pressure to succeed. As a leader, your team members depend on you to have a vision and answers to their questions. So what happens if you fail in front of them? 

Perhaps you dropped the ball on an important project. Maybe you misdirected your team in a way that hurt the company. Or maybe, you’ve upset your team in a personal way. These actions jeopardize the rapport you’ve built with them.  

As a leader, solving problems is an essential aspect of your role. But when you’ve caused the problem, solving it gets a bit more complicated. What’s more, the impulse to overcompensate is ever-present and can make matters worse.

Despite the complications, there are basic steps you can take to bounce back from major setbacks. Take a look at the following ways to do so without overcompensating: 

1. Accept personal responsibility.

Often when we fail, we may get defensive. These tendencies cause us to blame others or deflect from the issue. But bouncing back from a setback starts with accepting your mistakes. 

When you deflect and blame others, you become a victim of circumstance. But accepting personal responsibility gives you a sense of control. By seeing the ways that you contributed to a problem, you are able to be part of the solution. 

Accepting personal responsibility is a multi-step process. Get started by:

  • Reflecting on the process that led to the failure
  • Unpacking your thoughts and feelings associated with the failure
  • Responding graciously when others point out your mistake
  • Being intentional about rectifying the situation

 

Even if others contributed to the problem or failure, you’re better off focusing on your role. From there, you can begin to rebuild.

2. Don’t succumb to depression and anxiety.

Depression and anxiety are common responses to your problems and failures. And they can creep in as a result of accepting personal responsibility. 

When you’re going through these emotions, it’s best to take a step back. This might mean taking a short break from work. Or it might mean engaging in an activity that you love in order to recover. 

You don’t need to rush your recovery. Whatever it takes, take the time to get to a healthier state of mind. 

3. Reframe the issue.

One way to stop yourself from wallowing in your problems is to reframe the issue. It involves taking a step back and thinking of your situation from a different angle. 

Instead of viewing a setback as an insurmountable problem, try seeing it as an opportunity to grow. For example, if you’ve strained a relationship with an employee, focus on how reconciling can strengthen the relationship.

Reframing an issue is not necessarily about looking at the bright side. That approach can lead to toxic positivity. On the contrary, reframing is looking at the objective facts of a situation. Those facts will show you that failure is inevitable for everyone — but is also fixable by everyone.

From there, use those facts to embrace your potential. You are defined more by how you rise from failure than the failure itself. 

4. Address the problem with your team. 

Actions speak louder than words, but words are also important. It can be awkward in the office to carry on regularly as though nothing significant happened. You might think you’re saving face, but this is nothing more than overcompensation. You need to acknowledge these issues with your team. 

Doing so is key to maintaining transparency at your company. Unless you speak up, you’ll struggle to build and maintain trust with your team. This is especially important when your failure in leadership has caused persistently problematic team relations. 

A moment like this calls for a meeting. Give your team a heads up about what you’d like to talk about, and encourage them to bring their own challenges. After all, you’ll need everyone on board to move forward. 

5. Create a plan to remedy the situation.

Detailing the actions you’ll take to solve the problem is the final and most important step in a successful bounceback. As a leader, it’s also an opportunity to demonstrate your competence. 

The good news is, you won’t be in it alone. The input from your team members will help you refine your plans and put them into practice. Lean on them to build a healthier, more stable culture across the team. 

Good leaders are built through tests. A major setback might be hard to go through — but it may also be just what you needed to transform into a better version of yourself. 

How to Build a Relaxing Office Environment on a Budget

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Your staff may be stellar. You may be the best at what you do. But neither necessarily mean your clients are coming away happy.

One of the easiest ways to soup up your client experience? Sprucing up your office space.

The environment you create sets the tone for how clients interact with your business. A winning office can make customers excited to come in, reduce complaints, and build customer loyalty. 

You want your customers to feel comfortable and calm. This is especially true if you’re in a line of work that makes people nervous: law firms and doctors offices, pay attention.

The good news is, you don’t need a full renovation or an interior designer to make your office a more welcoming place. Take a look at the following ways to create a relaxing environment without breaking the bank:

1. Declutter the office.

In an office, things will pile up. And if you just keep stuffing things in nooks and crannies, you’re only creating a bigger problem for the future. 

Take care of clutter by dedicating time to clean up the office. Be thorough: When you work in the same space consistently, it’s easy to miss things that customers are sure to notice. Mess can make them feel uncomfortable at best and claustrophobic at worst. 

Once you’ve gotten rid of things that you don’t need, reorganize your office to give it a full reset. It’s an opportunity to try something new instead of sticking to the status quo. In doing so, you create space both physically and mentally for your customers.

2. Change your color palette.

Have you ever considered how much color impacts the way clients experience your office? It’s a big deal. 

You can cultivate a relaxed mood in your office with earthy colors. Try a warm white accented with green and natural-looking wood. If you rely on warm colors, like reds and oranges, you’ll create a more cozy/sleepy vibe. If you use dim colors, your space might feel depressing. 

Aside from painting, you can freshen up your office’s colors by:

  • Bringing in plants that complement your furniture
  • Allowing as much natural light into the office space as possible
  • Putting art on the walls that depict serene, earthy scenes
  • Rolling out soft, neutral rugs
  • Replacing old drapes with flowing, semi-transparent curtains

A relaxed atmosphere keeps people calm yet alert enough for an office. It’s like what people experience when they are in nature. 

3. Check the temperature.

It’s easy to forget how much of a difference adjusting your thermostat even a few degrees can make. With that said, temperature can be a tough thing to get right in an office.

Everyone will have a different opinion about how warm or cold it should be. Employees may want control, but customers should also have a say. Find a happy medium: Maybe your chilly team member can put on a sweater, if it means setting the thermostat where customers want it. 

Don’t be afraid to adjust your thermostat frequently. If someone comes in shivering, turn the heat up a notch. And if they start sweating, switch it right back down.  

4. Provide snack options. 

Snacks are delicious, but they also lend a certain ambiance to an office space. Even if they aren’t hungry when they come in your door, customers like to know they have options. Munching on a cookie or apple can be soothing while they wait. 

Speaking of, it’s important to have a variety of snack options. Leave out some healthy options, but don’t be afraid to squeeze in salty and sweet snacks as well. Particularly if appointments run long, customers will be grateful for the bite. 

5. Don’t forget a good demeanor. 

Your office environment includes the people in it. Don’t forget to smile and maintain a positive demeanor.

Some employees are naturally gifted at making people feel welcome. Those who don’t may need to work on their relationship-building skills. Add people with a good aura to a relaxed environment, and you’ll have a winning combination.

Just because you don’t have a budget to completely change your office space doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Do what you can right now, and save the bigger changes for when you have a little more play in your budget. 

5 Ways to Encourage Reading at Your Workplace

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5 Ways to Encourage Reading at Your Workplace

Many business moguls, including Warren Buffett, swear by reading. But while reading is a great way to grow, it’s awfully time-consuming.

If members of your team are struggling to find time to crack a book, productivity hacks can help you make space in your schedule. Tactics like time-blocking can prevent other priorities from stealing time you’d meant to spend reading.

Encouraging employees to carve out reading time makes sense on multiple levels. Not only is it a great approach to personal development, but it also builds community. Book clubs help team members connect from afar, and everyone appreciates a good book recommendation. 

Reading is a key employee development strategy, especially at a time when people are stuck at home. Take a look at these tips to get your team members into the habit:

1. Set the example.

Like other aspects of company culture, teamwide reading starts at the top. If you never read anything, then how can you expect your employees to do so?

Start by setting a goal for how much you want to read in a month. Also, make note of what you want to read. Once you get into a rhythm, you can challenge yourself with more frequent reading or more challenging literature.

Not sure what to start with? Consider some of this year’s top-rated leadership books, such as Brené Brown’s “Dare to Lead.”

Don’t worry too much about showing off your reading. In team conversations, you’ll naturally bring up ideas that you find interesting. Soon, others on the team will start to do the same.

2. Start an office book club.

Reading might not seem like a social activity, but it’s a great way to build relationships. The readers on your team can provide new perspectives, which are fun to discuss and can enhance your leadership skills. 

A book club is a great way to do this. Select a different book each month and designate a time to discuss it. Let a different person choose the next book when you’re finished. Make a game of it: Perhaps the first person to finish the current book gets to select the team’s next read. 

The books chosen do not need to be directly related to work. The benefits of reading can come from fiction as well. You might be surprised by what insights you can glean from even the most “left field” readings.

What if people can’t agree on what to read? Don’t force everyone on the team to read the same thing. A happy hour where people discuss their favorite books is less formal but still beneficial. 

3. Create an office library.

Sometimes, the barrier to reading is merely accessibility. If there are reading materials around, people are more likely to utilize them. 

Think about waiting rooms: Customers naturally pick up magazines left out to pass the time. An office library takes this to the next step by giving meaningful and varied choices to your team. 

Of course, you’ll need books to fill the library. Get your employees’ help choosing what to include. Aim for a good mix of nonfiction and fiction books. 

Bookcases are a must, but you can’t just put books on a shelf and call it a day. Change up your display periodically. Implement a checkout system so you can track what’s been removed and returned.

Finally, make sure your library has a reading space. Put a comfortable chair by a window. Leave out a selection of coffee and tea nearby. 

4. Set up a Goodreads account.

Goodreads is a site that tracks the books you’ve read. Readers are able to friend each other and see what people are reading. 

Until COVID-19 is over, this is one way to make an office book club work remotely. Set up a company account and ask employees to connect their personal accounts to it. Give a small incentive, such as a gift card, to the employee who manages to read the most books in a quarter or year. 

5. Stick with it.

A reading culture won’t take off by itself. The good news is, you don’t have to be the one to keep it going. Appoint a team member who’s a particularly voracious reader. 

Consider giving a raise or desirable title to the person leading your reading group. Even extra days off can make tempt people to take the position.

What if the book group’s leader is struggling to make enough time for it? Encourage them to delegate some of their other responsibilities. Creating culture can be a full-time position by itself, so don’t treat it as a small side project. 

When you put the right pieces together, you can have a robust reading culture. And when team members are constantly consuming new ideas, they become more valuable to the company. Treat reading like a critical part of their professional development because, after all, it is. 

4 Ways You Can Improve Teamwork

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Regardless of how talented your individual team members are, you won’t get very far if they don’t work cohesively. As the business owner or manager, it’s your job to implement strategies that will improve teamwork. When your team works together, trust begins to build and responsibilities become clear. A healthy team knows how to be honest with one another even if it means putting forth harsh criticisms.

That all said, here are seven ways you can improve teamwork in your company.

Establish a clear team mission.

This applies to your overall company mission, and the mission of each project you kick off with your team. It may take five, ten, even twenty years to build a successful company. During that time, you may kick off projects that drag on for months if not a year. Regardless of what stage you’re in, you need to establish a clear team mission. If you can paint the big picture and align everyone with the same goals, your team will be motivated and productive.

Create a reporting infrastructure.

In every organization there will be problems. The last thing you want is to have an employee sit on an issue and not have anyone they can report to. On the flip side, you also don’t want that employee to gripe about their problems every time they arise. The best way to handle this is by creating a reporting infrastructure. First and foremost, you need every team member to understand their roles and to whom they report issues to. If there is a disagreement, there needs to be a process in which that issue gets discussed. Last but not least, you need to decide which members of the team make the final call. Establishing these ground rules is key to improving overall teamwork.

Make the right hires.

While this one sounds obvious, it’s surprising how many managers fill roles with unqualified employees. The problem is, most hiring managers overlook the importance of personality fit. A fancy resume and a proven track record may look good on paper, but if they don’t get along with the rest of the team what’s the point? As you go through your interviews you need to focus on both skill and personality qualifications. If they seem promising, you should always throw them in the mix and let them work amongst the team for a few days. If things don’t work out, try shifting things around or look for another candidate.

Build relationships outside of the workplace.

In order to build honest and lasting relationships you need to encourage team bonding outside of the workplace. Work can get stressful, and that stress can really weigh down on people. Instead of trying to fix things at the office, take your team out to lunch or organize a team field trip. Not only will this give your team a breath of fresh air, it’ll give them the chance to get to know each other on a personal level. One great option is to have your team join a sports league together. First and foremost, health and fitness is as popular as it’s ever been. Second, team sports is one of the best ways to build team chemistry. For tech companies, there are plenty of sports leagues you can join where you compete against other companies. This way you can network, exercise, and foster teamwork all at the same time! At the end of the day, building teamwork takes time – so it’s in your best interest to start now. For starters, use the four strategies above so you can improve teamwork.
Originally published here.
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