We’ve been both super busy and understaffed recently. Is there anything we can do during this time to help our employees avoid extra stress or burnout before we can hire more employees?
Yes. Here are a few things you can do to make this time run as smoothly and stress-free as possible:
Remove nonessential work duties: For the positions that seem most stretched, make a list of tasks that could be put on hold (or perhaps reassigned). You can invite input from employees, too, but I’d recommend acknowledging that they’re overwhelmed and saying that you’ll do your best to alleviate some of the pressure. Then hold off on nonessential tasks until business slows down or you’ve increased your headcount.
Allow for flexible scheduling: If employees need to work longer hours on some days during the week, consider allowing them to work fewer hours on other days of the week. Note that some states have daily overtime, spread-of-hours, or split-shift laws.
Budget for overtime: Employees may need to work extra hours to keep up with the current demands of their job, so allow them to work overtime if you (and they) can swing it. If you’re pretty sure overtime will be necessary, inform employees of that ahead of time, so they can plan accordingly.
Ensure all equipment is fast and reliable: It’s important to identify, troubleshoot, and correct any slow or nonworking equipment issues (such as laptops, internet hardware, cash registers, or vehicles). If not resolved, these issues can slow down work and add to everyone’s stress.
Look for ways to automate: Consider whether any of your employees’ manual and time-consuming tasks could be eliminated or simplified with the use of new or different technology.
Increase safety protocols: Employee absences related to COVID have created a significant strain for many employers during the pandemic. Shoring up your safety protocols may reduce the risk of COVID-related absences because of sickness or exposure. Depending on your circumstances, examples include improving ventilation, encouraging or requiring vaccination, requiring employees to wear masks, and allowing employees to work remotely when possible.
Is there anything special we should know before terminating a remote employee?
Terminations involving remote employees function much the same as those in a physical worksite, but there are some things to keep in mind:
- If the employee works in a different state, you’ll need to follow that state’s laws regarding termination procedures, paperwork, and final paychecks. Look these up on the platform ahead of time. You don’t want to miss any deadlines.
- Coordinate with IT so they are prepared to remotely revoke the employee’s access to company systems immediately upon termination.
- Have a clear process in place for the employee to return any company-owned computers, monitors, phone systems, etc. and plan to pay for shipping. Go over the process at the termination meeting.
- Don’t make deductions from the final paycheck because the employee hasn’t returned company property or has returned things damaged unless you’re sure it’s legal in the state where they work and that you’ve complied with any related requirements.
- As with most terminations, be sure to have documentation of behavior and performance issues, conversations you had, disciplinary actions you took, and warnings to the employee about the consequences if they failed to improve. This documentation may be helpful if the termination is ever challenged.
We’ve received suspicious emails that appear to be from employees asking to change their direct deposit information. What should we do?
This is likely a phishing scam—a type of con in which scammers use emails, texts, or phone calls to trick someone into providing company or personal information that then allows the scammer to steal from them. These messages often appear to come from someone the recipient knows—in this instance, your employees.
A successful scam can be a costly data breach with legal consequences for employers. In this case, had you fallen for the direct deposit scam, your employees would not have been paid on time, and you’d be out the money you owed them.
To protect your organization from this and other phishing attempts, we recommend taking the following steps:
- Verify that the message is not legitimate. In this case, inspect the email addresses for validity and reach out to the employees to confirm they didn’t request to have their bank information changed.
- Notify your IT department of the potential phishing attempt.
- Inform your workforce that scammers are afoot and remind them not to respond to emails that are suspicious or to email sensitive information. Email is like a postcard, potentially visible to anyone, so employees shouldn’t email their banking or other sensitive information.
- Work with your IT department to train employees on how to recognize phishing attempts and what to do if they notice or fall prey to one.
- Ensure employees update their security software, internet browser, and operating system regularly.
- Create processes and policies that staff should follow in case of a breach, including what notices need to be given.
This Q&A does not constitute legal advice and does not address state or local law.