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Panic is mounting across the U.S. in response to COVID-19. Here are some tips for small business owners looking to manage coronavirus fears among employees.

Many people are concerned about the long-term implications of the novel coronavirus, including your employees.

For small business owners looking to prioritize the safety and well-being of their employees, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce put together this toolkit as a helpful resource, consolidating the recommendations of the CDC.

In addition to those recommendations, following are five ways small business owners can address and calm coronavirus fears among employees.

1. Communicate frequently with your employees

During stressful situations, it’s important to have a plan in place for how you’ll communicate with your employees. You need to have a way to update your employees on any coronavirus updates that affect the business and their work schedules.

Try to err on the side of communicating more frequently than you need to, even if nothing new is happening. Frequent communication will put most employees at ease and show them that you’re aware of what’s going on.

On the other hand, radio silence could make employees feel like you’re either uninformed about the coronavirus, are ill prepared or are not taking it seriously.

2. Take steps to keep your employees safe

As a business owner, the most important thing you can do is to ensure that your employees are safe. The best way to do this is by practicing good hygiene and avoiding physical contact, like shaking hands with others.

Have cleaning procedures in place and regularly wipe down all surface areas with antiseptic. Disinfect commonly used surfaces, like doorknobs, tables, desks and handrails, and encourage your employees to wash their hands immediately upon entering the room.

All of this will lower your employees’ risk of exposure to the virus. And if one of your employees starts feeling under the weather, you should let them stay home with no questions asked.

3. Establish flexible workplace policies

Try to be as accommodating as possible when it comes to working arrangements. Schools across the country are closing and some of your employees may need to stay home with their children.

If possible, try to find a way for your employees to get their work done remotely. Many workplaces are doing this by utilizing video conferencing software.

If working remotely isn’t possible for your small business, there are still ways to accommodate your employees at work. Consider staggering shifts so that all your employees aren’t in the same place at one time.

4. Limit travel as much as possible

Your employees want to know that you’re making their health and safety a priority, so don’t require employees to attend meetings, even if it’s only with a limited number of people. At this point, it’s probably a good idea to cancel in-person meetings or work events.

Also, allow employees to cancel business travel, even if it’s usually a part of their job. Even if they travel and don’t get sick, this could lead to low workplace morale.

5. Coordinate with state and local health officials

Finally, the intensity of the coronavirus outbreak will vary depending on the state and community you live in. State and local guidance will likely be changing frequently, and these changes could have an impact on your small business.

Stay informed about any new information that comes out from the CDC, your local government and local health department. Communicate with your employees regularly and share with them what you’re learning and how you’re responding to it.

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COVID-19: Best Practices in the Workplace
March 17, 2020

Answer the pressing questions of many employers during this growing pandemic. Employers should consider implementing strategies and policy changes to reduce the risk of infection in the workplace while still complying with their obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This is a developing topic, with many states imposing quarantines and Congress taking up the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. We will stay on top of these developments.

In addition to good hygiene requirements that many employers already have implemented, the EEOC has provided guidance on what employers can do during an influenza-like pandemic.

Responses Employers Can Take to Respond to COVID-19 Issues that Comply with the EEOC’s Guidance Regarding Pandemics and the ADA

  • Symptoms of COVID-19 typically include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.  Reported cases have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness. Employers may send employees with these types of symptoms home.
  • As a general rule, employers should not take employees’ temperatures to determine whether they have a fever. But, it is permitted if local health authorities or the CDC declare the virus widespread in your community.
  • Employers may ask employees who report feeling ill at work or who call in sick if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, including a fever, cough, or shortness of breath, and respond accordingly. Employers must maintain strict confidentiality over this information about an employee illness.
  • If an employee is returning from travel, an employer may ask whether the employee is returning from countries that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have a Level 3 Travel Health Notice (currently China, Iran, South Korea, Italy, and a growing number of countries in Europe), even if the travel was personal. The CDC recommends individuals stay home for a period of 14 days after leaving an area that has a Level 3 Travel Health Notice, and employers may require those employees to adhere to this guidance.
  • Employers may request that employees who have tested positive for COVID-19 notify their employer so the employer can inform fellow employees of their possible exposure. Employers should maintain confidentiality as required by the ADA.
  • Employers may request that employees who have a family member at home with COVID-19 notify their employer so a risk assessment can be conducted.
  • Treat requests from employees with disabilities that put them at high risk for complications of COVID-19 to work from home in order to reduce their chances of infection as you would any other request for a reasonable accommodation.
  • Employers may ask an employee why he or she has been absent from work.  Employers are always entitled to know why an employee has not reported for work.
  • Employers may require employees who have been away from the workplace during a pandemic to provide a doctor’s note certifying fitness to return to work, though the CDC and Department of Labor are advising against these types of requirements at this time because healthcare providers are overwhelmed and may not be able to timely provide such documentation.

Reducing the Risk of Workplace Exposure to COVID-19

Most employers have taken these steps already, but these infection prevention strategies should be implemented as soon as possible if they are not already in place:

  • Promote frequent and thorough handwashing. If washing stations are not immediately available, provide alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Encourage employees to stay home if they are sick.
  • Encourage employees to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue to cough or sneeze or, if tissues are unavailable, to cough or sneeze into an upper sleeve.
  • Provide customers and the public with tissues and trash receptacles.
  • Discourage workers from using others’ phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment, when possible.
  • Routinely clean frequently touched workplace surfaces and provide disposable wipes for employees to wipe down commonly used surfaces before each use.
  • Cancel or postpone in-person events with 50 or more attendees that were scheduled to be held within the next eight weeks, or arrange for these events to be held virtually.

Consider Appropriate Changes to Workplace Policy

Best practice responses to the pandemic will vary by industry, employer size, location, and other factors, but may include:

  • Minimizing contact among employees, clients, and customers by replacing face-to-face meetings with virtual communications and implementing telework where feasible.
  • Discontinuing nonessential travel.
  • Developing emergency communication plans, including a method for responding to employees’ concerns.
  • Training employees who need to use protective equipment or clothing regarding when to use it, how to put it on, use it, and take it off correctly.
  • Updating sick leave policies in accordance with any changes to national, state, or local laws and ensuring employees are aware of these policies.
  • Designating a local manager at each business location with the authority to take appropriate actions based on the condition in each locality.

As employers make changes in the workplace, they must continue to be aware of applicable anti-discrimination laws, paying particular attention to ensuring that employees are not treated differently on the basis of race, country of national origin, or disability (actual or perceived). If an employer anticipates it may close facilities for a period of approximately six months or more, it should be cognizant of its obligations under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.

Employers are also encouraged to consult guidance published by the CDCDepartment of Labor, and EEOC as they prepare any pandemic response plan.

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The coronavirus, also referred to as Covid-19, is causing concerns all over the world. Human Resource departments are gearing up on how to respond to such a health epidemic, if it comes down such a thing. Questions such as; How to handle sick employees? How to handle scared employee who don’t want to risk infection? How to handle making the work environment safe? How to keep productions levels where they need to be?

Information from government resources will be key in understanding the effect of the virus on the workspace and how to respond to the changing environment. To help with organizing the information needed, Staffing Industry Analysts launched this week its Coronavirus Resource Center, which includes an organized, curated list of relevant links for up-to-date information relating to the coronavirus.

The Resource Center features live statistics and general information including links to live trackers, up-to-date information on the number of cases across the globe, World Health Organisation guidance on the outbreak and statistics.

It also includes corporate policy announcements and actions. Users can stay up to date on coronavirus-related cancellations and travel bans, find out the latest precautionary measures employed by companies around the world and it also features an article focused on what employers should ask about the coronavirus outbreak.

The Resource Center also has a section for “Legal and Human Resources” which covers tips for staffing firms in the wake of the outbreak and a comprehensive FAQ.

Additionally, the Resource Center includes articles that cover the economic impact of the coronavirus.

SIA will be monitoring and updating links to the data sources. Click here for SIA’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

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Many people think that it will cost them money to work with a staffing agency to find a job. In actuality it is usually the employer who pays the fees. There is no cost to the employee who is searching for a job.

If you’re currently on the hunt for a job and don’t know about the benefits of working with a staffing agency, it is time to find out! Keep reading to learn more about the services that a staffing agency will provide you free of charge.

WHAT A STAFFING AGENCY DOES

Staffing agencies like Alternative Staffing are hired by the employer to match workers like you with temporary, temporary-to-permanent, and permanent positions. Those that fill temporary positions will continue to provide you with new opportunities as the current one is ending.

Some benefits of working in temporary positions include:

  • Being able to earn quick money while looking for a permanent job.
  • Gaining experience, developing skills, and networking in the field that you wish to grow within.
  • Flexible hours and working conditions that could possibly accommodate your existing personal situation.
  • The opportunity to get your foot in the door at a business you like, show them what you’ve got, so they end up deciding to hire you on full-time.
  • The opportunity for you to test out the company or industry yourself and see if it is the kind of environment you would like to continue in.

More services that staffing agencies provide:

Not only do staffing agencies work to place you in the type of work that will most benefit you and the employer that hired them, they will also often help you to put your best foot forward by:

  • Helping you build and optimize your resume to fit the qualifications for the job.
  • Coach you on your interviewing skills.
  • Providing you with the support of health benefits if you work with them on a continuous basis.
  • Continue to work with you on your work environment preferences.

TIPS FOR WORKING WITH A STAFFING AGENCY

Do your research on the staffing agency you are considering and make sure you are clear on what to expect from them and what’s expected of you. If you are engaging in a short term position, ask about the pay rate, benefits, and the length of assignments. Be transparent about your availability, if you are willing to work overtime, and what your transportation and money needs are.

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Earlier this year, the IRS released a draft of the new Federal Income Tax Withholding Methods (Publication 15-T). The draft included:

  • An Employer’s Withholding Worksheet, which allows employers to calculate 2020 withholding using either previously completed Forms W-4 or the newly designed draft form
  • Percentage Method Tables
  • Wage Bracket Method Tables, which include three filing statuses: single, married filing jointly and head of household

The biggest change? No more allowances.

Employees fill out IRS Form W-4 (Employee’s Withholding Certificate) with information employers need to determine the amount of federal income tax to withhold from each of the employee’s paychecks. As part of the TCJA, the IRS separated the form into five steps and removed withholding allowances.

Previously, the value of withholding allowances was tied to personal exemptions. But starting January 1, 2020, employees won’t be able to claim personal or dependency exemptions anymore. That means employees can no longer request adjustments to their withholding via allowances. Now, they’ll need to use the revised 2020 Form W-4 to indicate specific increases or reductions in taxes and wage income subject to withholding.

These revisions were intended to reduce the form’s complexity and increase withholding accuracy. It uses the same basic information but replaces worksheets with questions that are supposed to make the process easier for employees. That said, any change to tax law can be confusing—and this is the first major overhaul in 30 years. If your employees have questions about filling out the new draft Form W-4, point them to this helpful FAQ from the IRS.

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1) Encourage influenza immunization

The influenza vaccine is the most effective way (other than staying locked away) to reduce the likelihood of getting the flu. While flu-shot effectiveness can vary from year to year (as the immunization is predictive of which strains are most likely to break out), getting a flu shot is usually the best way to avoid getting the flu.

2) Clean and disinfect

Doorknobs, handles, keyboards and even the buttons on the copy machine harbor cold and flu germs and are great places for unsuspecting employees to increase their odds of becoming ill. In addition to having your cleaning staff disinfect common surfaces on a daily basis, place antibacterial wipes near surfaces that are shared by staff and encourage them to wipe before touching during the cold and flu season.

3) Develop a Sick Policy for your place of work and communicate it

As an employer, if you don’t want your employees to spread illness around the office, you have to be comfortable with allowing your workforce to stay away from work if they are contagious. A cold can be contagious for 3 to 5 days and the flu is contagious for 5 to 7 days. Much to the dismay of many co-workers, people often feel pressure to show up at work while they are contagious.

4) Encourage employees to avoid or minimize close contact with people who are sick

Let your employees know that it’s not “crazy” to avoid and minimize contact with those who are coughing, or with those who have a runny nose, sore throat or fever. Some people feel singled out as “paranoid” if they try avoid those who are sick. The fact is, it’s wise.

5) Encourage workplace hygiene

– Washing hands, especially before touching the mouth/nose/eyes, can greatly reduce the chances of catching an illness. Wash for 30 seconds or so with soap and warm water, making sure to get under the nails.  You should wash your hands for as long as it takes to sing (or hum) the “Happy Birthday” song twice.

– Cover coughs and sneezes with tissues or the elbow to minimize the spread of germs. Sneezing can spread germs up to 200 feet (according to the MIT sneeze study). While most sneeze droplets land within 3-6 feet, many become airborne and can circulate throughout the workplace.

– Encourage employees not to touch their eyes, nose or mouth, which are the areas through which viruses are spread.

6) Promote a healthy lifestyle 

Encourage employees to get adequate rest, exercise and to manage stress and other health conditions. A healthy mental and physical state, along with managing chronic health conditions, can go a long way in boosting the immune system.

 

Remember that someone with the flu is contagious for up to 7 days and a cold can be contagious for 3-5 days. If employees feel pressured to be at work when they are sick, they can spread these illnesses to other workers

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Things are getting a little hairy in the Alternative Staffing office these days.  Our recruiting team, Paul Kirkland, Chris Wages, and John Gooch have decided to bring No Shave November to the Alternative Staffing office. These three fellows have said goodbye to the 5 o’clock shadows and are welcoming a much darker do. Be sure to follow Alternative Staffing on Facebook to see the hairy updates!

No Shave November is a unique yet simple way to raise cancer awareness. What better way to grow awareness than with some hair? The concept of this month is to raise awareness by embracing our hair, which most cancer patients loose due to chemo therapy and radiation treatments. Also, take the money that you usually use on shaving products, and donate instead to help those who are fighting the battle.

There are a few hairy hashtags to go tag when you share your No Shave pictures on social media. For every picture posted in November to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Tumblr with #ChickenStache Dairy Queen & Dr. Pepper will donate $1 to No-Shave November.

Ladies, don’t feel left out. Put the razor away and let your legs get a little hairy too! For every photo shared in month of November with both #5MileShadow & #NewtonRunning, Newton Running Company will donate $1 to No-Shave November.

Show your support and learn more at www.no-shave.org. #letitgrow

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Benefits of using a Warehouse Staffing Agency

If you work with a seasoned staffing agency such as Alternative Staffing, we will know how to navigate getting you the best job placement. Some examples of benefits you will experience from work with Alternative Staffing include:

1. We Want To Place You Where You Will Be Most Successful

Staffing agencies are paid by the warehouse company. Therefore, agencies are determined to find employees that will do a good job for their partner companies. Agencies will make sure to look at your individual personality and skill set and do their best to match you with the positions that best suit you. You are less likely to end up in a position you have difficulty with if a staffing agency is assisting you because they want you to succeed.

2. Experience Is Not Required

If you are trying to break into a new line of work, the warehouse industry is a great option for those who have little to no experience under their belt. Because staffing agencies work with these positions so much, they will know what positions are best for newcomers and give you all of the information you need to get started.

3. You Won’t Get Bored

Doing temporary warehouse work allows you to change things up every so often without the stress of having to search for a new job all on your own. You will have the refreshing change of a new environment and project to work on, but the consistency of working for a staffing agency that knows you.

4. Quick Work Guaranteed

Staffing agencies know where the work is. They have all the connections and they can find you work when you need it. You may be looking for a longer stint or a quick few days of work to get toward that paycheck faster. The agency has a bunch of different warehouse positions that need to be filled, and they will work with you to match up to what you are looking for.

5. Health Benefits

Most agencies offer different health coverage options to temporary employees depending on how long the employee has worked with them. If this is an important factor for you, make sure to ask the agency about their health coverage options and requirements when deciding if you want to work with them.

6. Potential For An Eventual Full-Time Position

Temporary work might not always be what you prefer. Working with a staffing agency will get you into many different doors and gives you an opportunity to develop relationships with companies that may wish to bring you on full time. Through your different experiences you will gain knowledge about the warehouse industry and the type of environment you prefer so that when the times comes, you will know if the company is somewhere you would like to stay permanently.

IN CONCLUSION

Whether you are just starting out, or you are simply having difficulty finding consistent work, a warehouse staffing agency can find work for you. There are endless opportunities for growth and the development of your career through the agency’s services, and the warehouse industry has positions for everyone. For more information on warehouse staffing agencies and the benefits of working with one, contact Alternative Staffing.

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New business owners quickly discover how imperative it is to calculate their service company labor and overhead rates in order to keep their finances healthy. Every industry needs to take these numbers into consideration so they can break down costs and ensure that they are making a profit.

In order to do so, you will need to determine the cost of each employee. However, this does not just mean the sum amount of what you are paying them yearly, there is more you need to factor in. It might seem like their pay is the most important number, but the extra stuff adds up quick. Don’t make the common mistake of looking over those ‘little’ extra costs. Keep reading for everything that needs to be factored in when using an employee cost calculator.

CALCULATING OVERHEAD COST PER EMPLOYEE

Many companies often exclude the cost of labor from their direct service overhead and final cost of production. However, labor costs tend to contribute a great deal to the expenses of each business. Calculating the overhead cost per employee is not overly complicated, you just need to factor in the cost of each employee’s:

  • Salary/hourly rate.
  • Payroll taxes.
  • Fringe benefits.
  • The supplies and expenses required for the employee to accomplish their job.
  • Insurance.
  • Any cost from equipment used by the employee.

FACTOR IN EVERYTHING

As mentioned above, every little cost counts. Guessing a loose estimate of what each employee costs could lead a company to some serious money troubles. In addition to the general expenses presented in the first list, make sure to also include the following, if they do apply to any of your employees:

  • Paid time off.
  • Retirement and/or union benefits.
  • Training and/or any extra time spent working on enhancing the skills of the employee.
  • Any equipment that has been damaged by the employee.
  • Errors made by the employee that has caused production to move slower or possible loss in customers.
  • How much supervision and support needed by the employee.

With this information, you can now calculate the true cost for each employee.

CONCERNED ABOUT YOUR LABOR COSTS?

Many companies struggle to keep their labor costs low enough so they can grow. Fortunately, there are solutions for this, it just requires some adjustments in the way that the company is staffed. With the assistance of a staffing company, a business does not have to cover the expenses of screening, testing, interviewing and reference checking. This will allow current staff to continue focusing on more critical activities and reduce the time to hire. In addition, they can provide you with capable temporary employees who can come in when you anticipate a peak in business.

Once that peak is over, you will not have to continue to find hours for them and watch your labor costs fly through the roof. Our team will work with you to ensure that you are adequately staffed and not wasting time and money attempting to do so. Want to hear more about how Alternative Staffing can help reduce your labor costs?

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At Alternative Staffing we make it a point to reduce, reuse and recycle. We’ve made “Go Green in 2019” our slogan. Recycling bins around the office make sure that employee are recycling all products available. Reuse of one sided copy paper is flipped over and used again by owner, Jan Cappellini.

Alternative Staffing is always looking for ways to better our carbon footprint. So we did a little research and came up with a few office practices to incorporate into our days; and we encourage other businesses to do the same!

Tips to Going Green in 2019:

  • Recycle. If recycling seems so simple, then why don’t more people do it? Make it convenient for your employees. Put a recycling bin right beside every trash can – then no one has an excuse to pop that can in the recycling bin instead of the trash. Put a sign on the recycling bin to tell people what they can/cannot recycle. For example: Please recycle all paper, plastic, glass, and tin. Thank you! Sometimes people respond better when they see something word for word. Reuse your paper like us! Just flip it over and reprint on the other side. And who needs post-its when you have a plethora of note pads at your fingertips? Reuse copy paper by cutting it up into square pieces to use for notes, voicemail messages, and more!
  • Metal Straws. We’ve purchased metal straws to be washed and reused. We’ve given many of these straw out with our marketing material. These straws go great with the popular Yeti Tumblers.
  • Get rid of plastic water bottles. First of all, there is a lot of health conscious skepticism around the use of plastic water bottles; but we will focus on the earth friendly benefits of limiting the use of them! According to Ban the Bottle, Americans used about 50 billion plastic water bottles last year. However, the U.S.’s recycling rate for plastic is only 23 percent, which means 38 billion water bottles – more than $1 billion worth of plastic – are wasted each year. So nix the plastic water bottles and switch to refillable water bottles. Add a purifier to your tap and you’re done! Again, you can customize for each employee and add company branding. Plus: This will reduce your office expenses!
  • Limit your gas consumption. We all know that highways in the Charleston Tri-County area can be a disaster from time to time. Make your commute fun and carpool with a co-worker, while using less gas. Use your bike to go to work if you live close by. Instead of driving somewhere for lunch, take your bike or add a brisk walk.
  • Reusable grocery bags. Make plastic and paper bags a thing of the past and go green with reusable bags! These are perfect for going to your local office supply store to buy supplies, office grocery store runs, or picking up lunch for the team. Do you see another branding opportunity here? We do!
  • Go green, literally, with plants. Having beautiful plants in the office are not only nice to look at but they make you feel better and even improve air quality. According to a NASA study, houseplants were able to remove up to 87% of air toxins in 24 hours; and a study from Exter University concluded that employees were 15% more productive with plants in the office. Tip: Double dip and invest in an aloe plant. If someone gets cut or is burned, snip a piece of the aloe and rub on your skin!

Join Alternative Staffing and make the commitment to GO GREEN IN 2019 for a sustainable work environment! Mother Earth will thank you!