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MANAGING STAFF

How to resolve conflicts in a virtual, remote work environment

By Lynne Curry “We had a situation blow up this morning,” the law practice partner said when he called for advice. “It came out of nowhere. One small issue, a manager not letting his peer know about a meeting, unleashed a tidal wave of anger from her. We talked to the first manager. He said he’d accidentally overlooked putting the other manager on the Zoom invitation. He reminded us the other manager hates meetings and complains about how many she is forced to attend.” “And you believe him?” I asked. “Does the other manager?” Conflicts flourish in a virtual work environment. Rarely do explosions come out of nowhere. Why conflict explodes in a virtual environment Virtual and remote work environments can become petri dishes for conflict. When we work with… . . . read more

MANAGING STAFF

How you can lure your employees back to the office

By Lynne Curry Question: Like many law offices, we want our staff to return to working on-site, but don’t want to force them to return and have many of them quit. We want our employees to want to return. How do we do that? Answer: A recent Wall Street Journal article said, “There is a magical land where the temperature is always 72 degrees, the Wi-Fi never goes down, and there is always someone to talk to.”1 Except—multiple surveys show few employees want to return full time to that magical land, their former workplace. Many employees want to work from home three or more days a week.1 If you’re an employer, how do you change that? Envoy/Wakefield’s August 2021 online survey of 1,000 U.S. employees2 and Leanin’s June to August 2021 survey… . . . read more

MANAGING STAFF

Making hybrid work: Charting a new playbook for a future-ready workplace

By Lynne Curry Employers thought employees would want to come back to their offices, where they had easy access to equipment, coworkers, and managers. They were wrong. COVID-19 untethered us from our traditional workplaces and many employees don’t want to return. Employees enjoyed the flexibility and freedom, sometimes from micro-managing supervisors, they had when working from home. They discovered they could better balance home and work when they didn’t have to commute or leave home for eight hours daily. When the C-suite consulting firm McKinsey & Company surveyed more than 5,000 employees, it reported three-quarters of them want to work from home two or more days per weekly, with more than half of them wanting to work from home at least three days a week.1 Given this disconnect, if employers… . . . read more

COMPLIANCE

How to give your analog workplace harassment policy a digital makeover

One of the only nice things about the pandemic is the relief it’s provided from workplace harassment. After all, employees are far less vulnerable to workplace harassment when they work from home. Right? Absolutely wrong!!! Since the pandemic began: More than 4 in 10 U.S. workers (41 percent) reported that they’ve been subjected to some form of digital harassment (Pew Research); Nearly half (45 percent) of women experiencing sexual harassment say it happened remotely (Rights of Women, UK and Wales (“ROW”)); 23 percent of women reporting that they’ve been harassed say the problem has actually gotten worse since they began working from home (ROW); and More than 7 in 10 (73 percent) of victims say they don’t think their employer is doing enough to protect them from remote harassment (ROW)…. . . . read more

EMPLOYMENT LAW UPDATE

Watch for vaccine mandate and outcome of remote work lawsuit

By Mike O’Brien  Watching for OSHA’s new vaccine mandate rule President Joe Biden has instructed the United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to develop an emergency rule that will require private-sector employers with 100 or more employees to mandate that their employees be vaccinated or receive a weekly negative COVID-19 test. Employers who fail to do so will face fines. In addition, regardless of employee headcount, OSHA will require all federal contractors to mandate vaccinations for their employees with no option for employees to receive weekly testing instead. Similarly, OSHA will require all employers in healthcare settings that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement to mandate employee vaccinations, with no weekly testing option. President Biden’s announcement was welcomed by many business leaders but criticized by Republican… . . . read more

COMPLIANCE

Beware of privacy pitfalls when remotely monitoring telecommuters

Before the pandemic, 80 percent of U.S. employees worked primarily from an external workplace; today, only 21 percent do. Coaxing employees to return to the workplace will be an uphill battle, with recent surveys, including one from Pew Research, suggesting that 54 percent of those who are currently working remotely want to continue spending at least some of their working hours at home. In short, as with other employers, law offices need to adjust to the realities of telecommuting. Among the biggest challenges will be maintaining productivity. One potential solution is to deploy technologies that monitor employees’ whereabouts and use of computer and other work equipment to verify that employees who work remotely are actually doing their jobs. Unfortunately, doing this exposes your office to liability risks under privacy and… . . . read more

TOOL

Tool: Model Lab Employee Remote Monitoring of Telecommuters Policy

Letting employees telecommute poses significant operational and management challenges to employers, not the least of which is ensuring that employees are actually doing their jobs and meeting expected productivity standards when working from home. Software, apps and other monitoring technology can go a long way in meeting this goal; but it can also get you into hot water under privacy and other laws. The best way to manage privacy liability risk is to include specific language in your telecommuting policies and arrangements that provides for monitoring. The idea is to let employees know exactly what you’re going to do and how, and ensure they don’t have reasonable expectations in the information collected. Here’s some model language you can adapt for your own use.

MANAGING STAFF

Staffers push back about returning to work

By Lynne Curry Question: We’re getting enormous pushback from our staff to an email we sent out last week stating that employees need to return to the workplace. At the same time, our organization, which is set up to serve clients, can’t survive if we let all the employees who want to work from home do so. It’s not fair to our clients or the employees who show up at work. Further, when I call those who allegedly work full time but at home during the workday, they often let slip the fact that they’re not working. I’ve been told, “let me turn down the TV” or “sorry I didn’t answer right away, I was out in the garden.” Those who want to work from home insist they’re afraid they’ll… . . . read more

TOOL

Telecommuter home office hazard assessment & inspection checklist

While not an OSHA obligation, it’s highly advisable to take measures to protect the health and safety of telecommuting office employees who work from home. How? By having employees seeking approval to telecommute designate a room or area as their home workspace and arranging for somebody to perform a hazard assessment inspection to verify that the workspace is safe, healthy and appropriate for the proposed use. Option 1: Have an office supervisor or manager visit the site and do a physical walk-through inspection; Option 2: Have the employee videotape the space and/or submit detailed photos and a floor plan and do the inspection virtually; Option 3: Have the employee inspect the space himself/herself. Whoever does the assessment should use the Checklist below.

COVID & Telework

Are employers responsible/liable for an employee’s home ergonomics, safety and expenses?

By Lynne Curry bio Question: COVID-19 has caused employers large and small to require the employers work from home rather than their employer’s worksites. Word has it that this may continue beyond weeks and months and become the new normal. What is my employer’s responsibility/liability for workplace ergonomics and safety when my home becomes my workplace? Do they need to compensate me for my expenses in upgrading my WIFI and getting a new office chair? Answer: “That depends,” says FisherBroyles management-side employment attorney Eric Meyer. According to Meyer, because the “Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) ensures safe and healthful working conditions–even outside of the normal workplace, employers technically have a duty to protect remote workers at home.” “But in reality,” notes Meyer, OSHA won’t inspect employees’ home offices. Additionally,… . . . read more


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