Johnny C. Taylor Jr., a human resources expert, tackles your questions as part of a series for USA TODAY. Taylor is president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, the world’s largest HR professional society.
The questions are submitted by readers, and Taylor’s answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Have a question? Do you have an HR or work-related question you’d like me to answer? Submit it here.
Question: I have been working from home for about a month now due to the coronavirus. It was fine at first, but I’m beginning to feel disconnected from my work and my team. How can I ensure my colleagues and I remain on the same page? Unfortunately, things are not business as usual around here. – Anonymous
Answer: I’m sorry to hear you feel disconnected. Telework is certainly not ideal for everyone – especially when it’s effectively mandated, rather than freely chosen.
If it’s any consolation, you’re not alone in your remote work difficulties. Forty-one percent of U.S. employees feel burnt out from work during this pandemic as many find themselves working longer hours and struggling to stay connected with colleagues.
In fact, it’s likely your boss is struggling with the same problem – albeit from a different perspective: 65% of employers say maintaining employee morale has been a challenge.
Here’s my advice for you: Communicate, communicate, communicate.
If you think your team is desynchronized, be sure to let your boss know. Tackling this could mean scheduling weekly meetings to discuss projects, housekeeping items or even simple check-ins. Or there may be a better way to share information by centralizing and organizing the tasks and projects you’re collaborating on.
Missing workplace banter and face-to-face interaction? Set up a video call with a co-worker and ask how he or she manages remote work. Odds are, that person may feel disconnected, too, and will be happy to hear from you – and might be able to share some remote work tips. You could even start a group instant message about recommended TV shows, books and movies to enjoy during downtime under lockdown.
Believe me, I understand the difficulties. But as a radical optimist, I can’t help but see the silver lining.
Though we may be more isolated, we’re not alone – the struggle is shared by us all. The teams that see that and come together to create connection won’t merely survive this crisis. They’ll come out the other side better because of it.
At risk for COVID-19: What if you are an at-risk worker and your company won’t let you work from home? Ask HR
Q: Can you be fired for not getting the flu shot or other vaccinations? – Anonymous
A: I get this question a lot lately because the whole world is searching for a COVID-19 vaccine and employers want to know whether they can mandate their employers take it once it’s available. The answer is complicated, so bear with me.
Generally speaking, the answer is yes. Your employer can require or mandate a vaccine as a term and condition of employment.
For decades, health care and education employers have required employees to take the flu shot and show proof of other major vaccinations – such as those for tetanus, polio or measles – since they are in close contact with vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly and immunocompromised people.
I predict, because of the damage COVID-19 has done to lives and livelihoods, we will see many more employers in other sectors make this a requirement.
There are exemptions under federal and certain state laws protecting the rights of people who wish not to be vaccinated. These exceptions require more than an employee stating a generalized belief that vaccines may be harmful. Some exemptions pertain to religious or philosophical views, though there are also medical reasons – such as an underlying condition – that could put certain vaccines out of the question.
You didn’t mention whether you are personally concerned about required vaccines. If you are, and your job requires vaccination, you will need to have a conversation with your employer about your refusal, your reasoning and whether an accommodation can be made.
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