Pandemic Pragmatism: Return To Work Advice for Employers

This is a message to employers who look out upon a sea of empty cubicles and yearn for normalcy. We understand the temptation to welcome employees back in droves. Business is not as usual, and we all feel it: no sector is immune to the effects of COVID-19. As we grapple with our ‘new normal,’ it is imperative that employers handle the return of employees to the physical workplace with proverbial ‘kid gloves.’

Here are some safeguards to consider as you reopen your doors to the employee population:

  • Constant vigilance is key. That employee who tested negative yesterday could arrive at the office this morning as a COVID-19-infected individual. Therefore, daily health checks are necessary, and the EEOC has ruled that employers may ask workers whether they are in fact suffering from COVID-similar symptoms. *Compliance with the ADA is still mandatory; any medical information gleaned from such daily checks becomes part of the individual’s confidential medical record.
  • Thanks to human ingenuity, we already have multiple options for these checks, including:
    • COVID-19 and antibody testing – Antibody testing is not, at this moment, FDA approved. It demands a blood draw and can take days to reveal results. A person may test negative for COVID-19 one day and positive the next, making such testing an unlikely option for regular use.
    • Medical screenings conducted by medical personnel – In this scenario, employees stay in their vehicle while a medical professional takes their temperature and administers a brief questionnaire. Anyone with a temperature at or below 100.4 is cleared to enter the building.
    • Non-contact thermometer at building entrance. Not every person infected with COVID-19 has a fever. However, the thermometer check will identify some infected individuals.
    • App use requiring daily report of symptoms, exposure, and temperature – Responses are recorded. If suspected COVID-19 is identified, correct company personnel is notified.
  • Remember that discriminatory practices are not admissible just because a pandemic is at large. However, individuals aged 65 or older may be given more flexibility than compared with your younger employee population. Those within the older age group are at higher risk to suffer complications from COVID-19. Treatment of demographic groups such as pregnant women and those with family responsibilities is discussed at length here.

Return to work symbolizes a return to normal, and that is what we as a society yearn for during this age of uncertainty. Still, don’t rush the Welcome Back celebration. Work with your HR department to outline clear and concise policies that protect the health of everyone in the organization. For assistance, contact W3 Benefits and Wellness Strategist Trish Blocker at tblocker@w3ins.com or 727-522-7777 x173.

Hurricane Preparation in the Time of COVID-19

Not to be outdone by the COVID-19 pandemic, the hurricane season of 2020 is forecasted to be a doozy. The season begins June 1, and early prediction models warn of 16 potential storms featuring tropical-strength winds. Among these, eight have the potential for U.S. landfall. It’s always important to prepare for hurricane season. How will COVID-19 make this one different?

Hint: extra face masks are advised, but that’s just the beginning. Read below as we examine some of the extra precautions you and your family should take in order to ensure you are safe from both storm and pandemic this hurricane season.

Proper hurricane prep in the time of COVID-19 looks like this:

  • An updated emergency preparedness kit. FEMA recommends hand sanitizer, two cloth face coverings for each person, soap, disinfecting wipes and other disinfecting agents. Add those to the standard hurricane kit suggestions shared here.
  • Your regularly advised shelter may be deemed too close-for-comfort, so check the evacuation plan your city has released long before that cone of uncertainty shows up on the radar. If you do end up at a shelter, maintain 6 feet of space between others.
  • Does your family know the emergency plan? If not, it’s time to share it. You can make your household’s hurricane plan here and avoid last-minute ‘What should we do…where should we go?’ decisions. Find a template here.
  • If you choose to opt for storm coverage, do it now. It’s too late to opt for coverage once the hurricane forms over the Atlantic. At that moment, you’ll want to know that you have all the safeguards in place to keep you and your family safe, COVID-19 or not. Consider that insurance coverage is just one more vital piece of your hurricane preparedness plan.

Contact the advisors at W3 Insurance for guidance regarding storm coverage. You’ll receive advice regarding the different types of coverage you can consider, and information about what happens if a named storm does head your way. For both homeowners and boat owners, this coverage is a blessing in a time of peril.

So how does hurricane preparation during the time of COVID-19 really vary from years before? Mainly, it’s important to practice social distancing guidelines and sanitize as much as possible. This year, showing up at a shelter does not earn you a proverbial ‘gold star’ for hurricane preparedness. Today, as never before, we must all look to further measures to keep us healthy.

Wellness in the Time of COVID-19

Much of the workforce is still tapping away on those home laptops. Kids are trying to learn calculus or sight words or American Revolution facts right alongside their parents. The threat of exposure to the pandemic looms like a mystery cloud of despair. In this time of uncertainty, close quarters and overall life disruption, what’s a company to do?

It’s time to call in the Employer Assistance Program.

Employers, an EAP can be one of your closest allies right now. Here’s how to make yours a visible tool to your employee population – a tool that they actually use for good.

  • First, remind your workers that the EAP actually exists. It’s quite possible they’ve never used it before. It’s designed to help employees with stressors both large and small, and it’s confidential. Remind employees that the company will not be able to access personal information through it. This is confidential assistance.
  • Share general examples with employees regarding how the EAP can help. For example, consider the following scenario: An employee was wondering whether or not he was drinking too much. He was feeling especially anxious about his ability to perform his work at a high level while at home. Seeking expert advice on the matter, he reached out through the EAP and was able to secure a therapy appointment.
  • Another scenario might look like this: For the past few weeks, nothing seems to make this employee happy. He’s worrying all the time, and it’s difficult for him to complete his work because his heart is just not in the task. As a matter of fact, nothing is really making him smile anymore.

Individuals with situations that mimic the examples above would be referred to a therapist who would address their issues specifically. Note: Most EAPs are not going to take an individual through long-term counseling. But for the scores of people feeling ‘not quite themselves’ in this time of Coronavirus, an EAP can provide exactly what they need in order to put themselves on a sturdier road toward mental health.

For more information regarding EAP help in the time of COVID-19, take a look at the International Employee Assistance Professionals Association resources specifically aimed at EAPs: https://bit.ly/2yKAqdG.

For answers regarding your specific EAP and further advice regarding how to communicate the benefits of it to your organization, call your W3 advisor. And remember this one silver lining throughout this time of uncertainty: Thanks to the EAP, people can continue to access the help they need.

Home Business Coverage – Who Needs It?

From Etsy store owner to multi-level marketing mavens and every aspiration in between, plenty of business owners choose the home front as their business address. It’s conceivable that the coronavirus pandemic’s ‘stay at home’ directive has spurred a new wave of stay-at-home inspiration. After all, plenty of people are finding ways to work from home. How does this class of businesspeople protect themselves and the organizations they cherish?

Do home business moguls need to take insurance along for the ride as they build an empire?

The answer is likely ‘yes.’ Just because an office is a kitchen table and the commute involves a grueling six steps from the bedroom, that doesn’t mean that it’s time to neglect insurance coverage. Coverage is available for a wide variety of home-based businesses; opting for it is often a good idea. Here’s why.

  • The overbooked photographer scenario – Let’s say you’re a photographer who overbooks (gasp) a wedding. First, congratulations on being so popular. Secondly, be prepared for the possibility that you could be sued. The angry bride or groom-to-be who booked with you originally could sue you for the cost of a replacement photographer.
  • The home-based business accident – Do customers visit your home for business purposes? If so, it’s imperative to purchase insurance. Imagine the shock of the in-home piano teacher whose student tripped on a slick floor and broke his ankle, or the computer repairman who fell as he carried his overheated laptop up the driveway and needed multiple surgeries to repair a fractured hip. Guess who foots the bill for these medical snafus? -Hint: It’s often not the injured person.
  • Annihilated inventory – Are you a maker? A baker, crafter, or an all-around-artsy person? Do you store your products in the home? Don’t expect your homeowners policy to cover that collection that took you months to amass. Make sure that you have the correct coverage in place so that if something happens, you’re able to replace and rebuild. Business income coverage will go a step further by compensating a portion of lost income as a result of a covered accident.

So who is actually eligible to elect coverage? Crafters, jewelry makers, cosmetic/beauty sales consultants (Rodan + Fields, Monat, doTERRA), teachers/tutors, disc jockeys, bakers and photographers are some of the more common eligible professions. But even those that are commonly not eligible may find coverage through a commercial or professional lines form.

That’s why it’s so important to cultivate a relationship with an insurance provider who gives good advice regarding your personal and business coverage needs. And that’s where W3 Insurance shines. As an all-lines agency, W3 serves as your comprehensive coverage source. Contact an advisor today. Describe your business and its liability. A W3 advisor will advise you regarding coverage type and scope, so you can get back to what’s really important: focusing on your home business dreams.

Your One-Stop W3 Covid-19 Resource Center

Need answers? Find them here.

As we continue to deal with the ramifications of COVID-19 on our lives and livelihoods, W3 is staying vigilant. We are continually striving to answer the question: What does this pandemic mean for businesses? The answers vary day-to-day; therefore, we have developed a one-stop W3 COVID-19 Resource Center to provide regular updates and issue sound advice.

W3 Coronavirus Resource Center

Within this Resource Center, you’ll find timely information regarding:

  • Insurance coverage – How will your policies be affected? Can premiums be deferred or delayed?
  • Human Resources and Compliance – HR professionals: How will you keep your office in compliance with federal regulations surrounding COVID-19? For those non-essential businesses facing a newly remote workforce, how should you navigate this ‘new world’ of employment?
  • Financial and Tax Legislation – Interested to know the latest financial and tax legislation news? -We’ve done the research for you.
  • Employee Benefits – How does COVID-19 affect employee benefits?
  • Health & Safety – Are OSHA concerns different for remote employees? How can an organization strive to keep the workforce as healthy as possible in the midst of a pandemic?
  • Reasons to Smile – It’s not all ‘doom and gloom’ out there, friends and colleagues. In this time of social distancing, businesses are providing grocery cards to employees, sending heart-warming messages and encouraging everyone to slow down and smell the proverbial roses. Here, you’ll read real-life examples of employers doing what they can to give their employees a reason to smile.

Visit w3ins.com/covid-19 and view our extensive information library. And remember: We consider ourselves your ‘partner in protection.’ This pivot of providing information related to COVID-19 is just one more way we offer you ‘Raving Fan’ service.

Let’s all take care of each other. Hopefully, the W3 COVID-19 Resource Center will make doing that easier.