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WORKPLACE SAFETY

Most of your law office employees are vaccinated. Now what?

By Lynne Curry bio Most of your office staff have received vaccines. Those who remain unvaccinated either haven’t decided whether they will or have refused to get vaccinated. What’s next? Can you relax your workplace protocols? New CDC guidance In recent weeks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provided new COVID-19 guidance for fully vaccinated individuals.1 Fully vaccinated individuals may interact indoors with other vaccinated individuals without wearing masks or physical distancing. Fully vaccinated individuals, except for those who live in a group setting or themselves experience COVID-19 symptoms, no longer need to quarantine and test if they’ve been around someone who has COVID-19.2 Fully vaccinated individuals do need to wear a well-fitted mask, physically distance and practice other prevention protocols when interacting with unvaccinated individuals from multiple… . . . read more

MANAGING STAFF

How to deal with new friction between the vaccinated and unvaccinated

By Lynne Curry bio After five employees boarded an elevator, two additional employees attempted to get on as well. One of the employees already on the elevator asked these two not to board. “We can’t remain six feet apart if you get on.” One of the employees wanting to board said, “It’s only a short distance.” After the employees arrived on their floor, the back and forth between these two employees continued. “Your mask isn’t on tight.” “I’m okay with it.” “Are you vaccinated?” “I don’t trust the vaccines.” “You put the rest of us at risk.” “If you’re vaccinated, you have nothing to worry about.” “Not if you contract a variant, infect the rest of us, and we take the problem home to our families.” In workplaces across the… . . . read more

HUMAN RESOURCES

How to conduct a virtual investigation

By Lynne Curry bio Question: We have a messy situation we need to investigate involving 12 and possibly more employees at remote locations. Nine months ago, we laid off our human resources officer. The accounting manager and I inherited many of her duties. Both of us have investigated minor issues in each of our departments, and our former human resources officer left a good protocol for conducting investigations in her file. The protocol calls for bringing involved individuals into the corporate office to interview them. In the past, we spent considerable money flying employees in from the field for interviews. We lack the financial resources to do that this time. Also, while we know who was immediately involved in the situation, we won’t know which other individuals we may need to… . . . read more

Don’t write a positive reference for a problem employee; instead…

By Lynne Curry bio Question: After an investigation, we fired one of our employees for threatening and stalking two co-workers. He now demands a positive letter of reference, which I’m writing. I tried to appease him with an innocuous letter that gave the dates on which he’d worked here along with what his job duties were.  He refused to accept this, and frankly he scares me. Can you give me any pointers for writing a reference letter that sounds positive but not too positive? Answer: Yes: Don’t. If you write a falsely positive or even neutral reference, you can be sued for “negligent referral,” defined as “the failure of an employer to disclose complete and factual information about a former or current employee to another employer.” True story When Allstate… . . . read more

PRODUCTIVITY

Why it’s harder to focus during a pandemic

By Indira Totaram bio The uncertainty and worry surrounding the coronavirus appear to have no end in sight—and it’s affecting the way we think and function. Since the onset of the pandemic, many of us find ourselves troubled by the inability to focus on even simple tasks. It’s as though our attention span is shorter or we are more distracted and overwhelmed than usual. And you wouldn’t be wrong to feel that way. In fact, 40 percent  of American workers are feeling less productive than usual. One helpful approach for understanding this occurrence is “Cognitive Load Theory,” which characterizes our minds as information processing systems. When solving for an unfamiliar problem, we rely on our “working memory,” which is limited in its capacity to retain information. However, if we are an expert… . . . read more

PRODUCTIVITY

8 ways to cut the chaos on Zoom

By Lynne Curry bio Question: Our department’s weekly Zoom meetings are a train wreck. One coworker’s kids pop their heads in front of the screen and wave “hello.” Another guy’s kids are on the other side of the table from where he sits, and they interrupt him when he’s talking to argue with him. I’m obligated to attend these meetings. Any advice would be appreciated. Answer: Every train needs a conductor; yours appears to be asleep at the wheel. Zoom meetings go off the rails when those who attend forget that while they’re at home, they’re also at work. If you ask every attendee to observe eight guidelines, it might get your meetings back on track. Professionalism: Please demonstrate professionalism as well as comfort in your attire. Use your video… . . . read more

COMPLIANCE

Here’s why the NLRB hates your no gossiping policy

By Paul Edwards bio I keep running into this problem as we evaluate pre-existing employee handbooks across the country. The issue is that, as an employer, you want to address employees standing around and gossiping. Or standing around and not being productive, or standing around and distracting those who are being productive. In fact, you don’t want employees standing, or sitting, around at all. So you get creative, and a new policy is born. Here are examples we run into all the time: No gossiping! Employees may not stand around or be inactive for more than 10 seconds. Employees may not conduct personal business during working hours. Employees must not intentionally create problems for other team members, managers, or others. Doing so may result in warnings and/or termination. Employees must not… . . . read more

HUMAN RESOURCES

How to help employees at peak burnout

By Indira Totaram bio It’s the feeling of being drained but unable to recharge, the frustration of a tiring routine, the everyday distress in response to the current state of the world—employee burnout is now more widespread than ever. As the pandemic endures and its effects trickle down, many are struggling to keep up with workplace demands, longer hours, and remote work conditions. Burnout refers to the experience of chronic workplace stress, characterized by exhaustion, fatigue, cynicism, and feelings of reduced professional ability. Have we reached our physical, mental, and emotional limits? If so, how can we recover? Read on to learn more about reaching peak burnout: The mental health crisis Studies show that mental health in the United States is deteriorating among all age groups. Researchers and health officials are… . . . read more

MANAGING STAFF

Exit interviews: You might be surprised by what you learn

By Lynne Curry bio “Good riddance” the supervisor mutters the day his employee leaves. As the practice manager, however, you have doubts. “Kate” is the third employee who’s resigned from your practice in the last 18 months. All three worked for “Jim.” If you want to learn the truth, you need to talk to these employees who’ve chosen to leave—before they carry away the answers you need. Here’s how: Let each resigning employee know you’d consider it a gift to the employee’s coworkers and you to learn his or her thoughts about working in your organization. If the employee worries about potential retribution, find out why and offer to hold the information you learn confidential. You can also allay any fears the employees may have by offering to provide reference… . . . read more

TOOL

Voluntary COVID-19 vaccination policy

It is important for you to ensure that your law office workers get vaccinated against COVID-19 to protect not only themselves but also co-workers, clients and others at your facility. But what if employees neglect or just plain refuse to be vaccinated? There are two basic options: Option 1: Require workers to be vaccinated Option 2: Encourage workers to be vaccinated voluntarily Here’s a Model Policy you can use to implement Option 2.


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