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Five Ways to Work Better From Home

From the Wall Street Journal

 

For millions of Americans, November will mark the eighth month of remote work.

Some have adapted: A recent survey of more than 4,000 people working full time remotely during the pandemic found that 65% would like to make the arrangement permanent, according to FlexJobs, a remote job-listings website.

But a survey of more than 12,000 employees, managers, human-resources leaders and executives in 11 countries released this month by Oracle and the advisory firm Workplace Intelligence found that seven in 10 people called this the most stressful year of their working lives; 41% said there no longer was a distinction between their personal and professional lives.

“For so many people, Round One of this whole scenario was fueled with adrenaline,” said Karen Mangia, vice president of customer and market insights at Salesforce. “What I’m hearing so many people ask is, ‘How long is this going to last?’ ”

Whatever the answer, workplace authorities agree that there are a few simple steps anyone—no matter their industry, seniority or number of roommates—can take to improve the work-from-home experience.

Vet your setup

The best way to a better workday is to put your home setup under a microscope, experts said, and fix what isn’t satisfactory. “What I usually recommend people do is focus on where they feel the most friction,” said Brie Reynolds, career development manager and coach at FlexJobs. “Where are the biggest pain points during the day? Where do [workers] feel the most stressed or the least comfortable?”

Make space

dedicated workplace helps productivity, consultants agreed. Improving your home office, whether it is a whole room or a corner of a table, can be as simple as taking a moment to consider whether your chair is comfortable, Ms. Reynolds said. If private space at home isn’t possible, try equipment such as noise-canceling headphones.

Eliminating clutter also is crucial, especially in tight quarters, according to Wendy Ellin, a workplace-productivity consultant. “Not everybody has an office with a door,” she said. “If you’re looking around and you see a bunch of piles—junk, laundry—is it serving you well?”

Find your focus

Working from home lets many people organize meetings, emails, conference calls, workouts and personal errands however they choose during the day. While this works for some, others find themselves struggling to focus on individual tasks.

“At home, it’s not just that we’re trying to battle work distractions, it’s also that we’re getting distracted by all the other things we feel like we should be doing there,” said Ms. Mangia, who recently published “Working From Home: Making the New Normal Work for You.” She recommends setting a timer for 30, 60 or 90 minutes of focused work, free of distractions such as email, app alerts and beeps from devices. After a sprint of work, go outside, stretch, have lunch or just take a break. “It’s amazing what you can accomplish in a small amount of focused time,” she said.

Heed your stressors

In September, the number of people in the U.S. reporting signs of anxiety and depression through an online screening tool from nonprofit advocacy group Mental Health America since the pandemic began hit a high.

Rebecca Haskell, founder and chief executive of Just Design Consulting, a workplace-advisory firm in Oakland Calif., recommended that people identify what makes them feel most stressed and how they can mitigate stress and feel better. “It’s less about having a best practice and more about knowing yourself and what you need,” she said.

Some of her clients say they can’t stop scrolling through headlines on social media, which makes them feel anxious and guilty about wasting time. “I don’t think it’s helpful to not read the news and pretend that things aren’t happening around us,” Ms. Haskell said. Instead, she recommends setting aside time for reading the news and checking social media, especially if it plays a role in one’s job. Afterward, take a short break and prepare to return to work.

Understand expectations

Now—almost a year into remote work—is a great time to ask your manager how things are going, Ms. Reynolds said. Inquire about short- and long-term goals and your manager’s expectations about when you are starting and ending the workday.

It is equally important to be upfront about your own needs, whether it is a few hours to finish a project when you won’t be answering calls or emails or a warning at the beginning of a video meeting about a potential interruption.

“Transparency helps everything,” Ms. Ellin said. “Give me the heads-up and let me know going in that you have a kid that’s napping and they’re going to wake up.”

 

Stuck in your job search?  Let Allied help!  Apply with us today!

Collecting Unemployment vs. Collecting a Paycheck

For the past several years the labor market has held many opportunities for workers in all fields and with all levels of skills and experience.  Often referred to as an “employee’s market”, since the end of the Great Recession companies have been hiring at a rapid pace and motivated workers could be selective about the jobs they chose.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the booming employment market has screeched to a near halt, where the only work available is for workers at essential businesses or those with jobs that are able to be performed remotely.  For many out of work, the solution has been receiving unemployment benefits.  With the CARES Act, weekly unemployment benefits were increased to assist families struggling with the financial impact of this crisis.

Making the decision to file a claim for unemployment benefits can be a difficult one for many people, even with the additional benefit included in the CARES Act.  But in the long run, benefits associated with choosing a job can outweigh the short-term gain of unemployment.  There are a few things everyone should consider regarding working vs. collecting unemployment.

  • Think big picture.  We have always stressed the importance of looking beyond today and thinking about  “the big picture.”  Envision what you want your career to look like in a few years, and how choices you make now might affect that vision.  Passing up an opportunity to work now could close some doors down the road that otherwise might have been open.
  • Beat the competition.  Everything must come to an end eventually.  That means not only will your unemployment benefits eventually end, but the current state of the economy will end too.  If you have ever searched for a job during a competitive labor market, you know how frustrating it can be to find a steady, well-paying job.  Right now there is less competition for the work that is available, so it’s a great time to start a new job.
  • A chance to stand out.  It is easy to imagine that in a few years many, many people will have a big gap on their resume that represents 2020, and it can be tempting to just fall in line with the majority.  But what about people that started a new job in 2020?  Those are definitely going to be the people that stand out.  Even if the job isn’t something long-term or the perfect fit with your prior experience, just the fact that you will be able to share how you spent 2020 differently than most people will definitely set you apart from the crowd.
  • New opportunities.  Essential businesses need workers now, so many positions that previously required experience are being opened up to entry-level employees.  If you’ve always wanted to reinvent your career, now could be the perfect chance. (And if you aren’t quite sure how your skills can be applied to something new, give us a call, we can help!)
  • Benefits.  Wages aren’t the only thing a weekly paycheck includes.  When you are working full-time your benefits may include paid time off, access to health benefits, and contributions to your retirement.  If you are able to retain any of these benefits while collecting unemployment the cost will certainly be higher.  In addition, any benefits that accrue and increase over time will be impacted while you are unemployed.  Other benefits, like healthcare and 401k contributions, are costly to maintain outside of full-time employment.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created tremendous turmoil and uncertainty for everyone.  The economic impact of the current conditions will be long-lasting and some businesses will never recover.  The labor market will likely be very different than it has been for the past few years, with more opportunities in some areas and less in others.  Decisions made now about work could affect the trajectory of your career for years to come, so the best advice is always to consider all of your options and try to look beyond the present and put yourself if the best possible position for the post-COVID world of work.

Allied is hiring!  We work with many essential businesses that need workers to support the fight against COVID.  Check out our current openings and apply today!

 

 

 

Unemployment Compensation Information for Pennsylvania Employees

If you are employed in Pennsylvania and are unable to work because of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), you may be eligible for Unemployment or Workers’ Compensation benefits. The Department of Labor & Industry will continue to provide important employment benefit updates as the situation evolves.

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UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION (UC) BENEFITS

You may be eligible if:

  • Your employer temporarily closes or goes out of business because of COVID-19
  • Your employer reduces your hours because of COVID-19
  • You have been told not to work because your employer feels you might get or spread COVID-19
  • You have been told to quarantine or self-isolate, or live/work in a county under government-recommended mitigation efforts

Apply:

  • Online – it’s the fastest and easiest way to get started

Important info:

  • If you are eligible for UC, you will receive two letters and a four-digit PIN
  • Your PIN will arrive in the U.S. mail – keep it in a safe, easy to remember place
  • If approved, your first benefit payment should arrive within four weeks of filing for UC
  • Continue filing your bi-weekly claim (every two weeks) – even while waiting for approval
  • We are experiencing very large call volumes.  Please email us at uchelp@pa.gov, or via UC LiveChat.
  • (NEW) The Waiting Week is suspended.  Previously, claimants were not eligible for benefits during their first week of unemployment (the “waiting week.”) This has been suspended; eligible claimants may receive benefits for the first week that they are unemployed
  • (NEW) Work Search and Work Registration requirements are temporarily waived for all UC claimants.  Claimants are not required to prove they have applied or searched for a new job to maintain their UC benefits.  Claimants are also not required to register with www.PACareerLink.gov.
  • At this time, benefits are not being extended beyond 26 weeks.

Find more information at the PA UC website.

LVEDC Q&A: Susan Larkin Discusses Staffing Challenges During COVID-19

The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) is led by a Board of Directors with expertise that represents a broad cross-section of the regional economy. LVEDC Director and Allied Personnel Services Vice President Susan Larkin, who has more than two decades of experience in the staffing industry, recently shared her insights about the employment challenges businesses face during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Q: Please tell us about Allied Personnel Services and your role there.

A: Since 1984 Allied has been providing staffing and employment solutions to Lehigh Valley employers. We develop long-term partnerships with our clients, and many of the area’s most successful companies have been clients for 30+ years.  A key to Allied’s success is our ability to deliver ti

mely and effective talent solutions that are flexible to quickly adjust to changing market conditions.

My role as Vice President is to oversee operations and to consult with our clients, developing strategic staffing programs and sharing critical labor market information based on the diverse insight and experience I’ve gained over my 25 years as an executive in the staffing industry.

Q: Before the pandemic, when unemployment was at record low levels, attracting and retaining talent was the biggest issue facing employers. How has the pandemic changed employer perspectives on the importance of talent supply?

A: The pandemic has elevated employers’ awareness of how fragile the talent supply is and how a high rate of unemployment doesn’t always equate to a robust talent supply.  Because of the strong distribution and biotech sectors in our area, layoffs in those areas were not as significant.  Add to that the challenges families face finding child care, the fears surrounding a return to work in the face of COVID, and the financial incentives offered through FCCRA [Families First Coronavirus Response Act] and unemployment, and the supply of available talent hasn’t significantly increased.  Retaining talent has really become an even bigger focus.  Keeping the hardworking, reliable, skilled employees on staff is critical to success when industries see a return to prior levels of workload.

Q: What types of jobs do employers need to fill during the quarantine economy and how do you expect that to change as restrictions are eased?

A: There continues to be a demand for skilled manufacturing roles, logistics staff, and scientific roles like quality control and lab work.  As restrictions ease, we expect to see the offices and smaller businesses rebound with a corresponding increase in demand across all skill levels.

Q: What role did school closures and the availability of child care play on employment during the pandemic and how will that affect the local economy as the economy opens back up?

A: It is an extremely difficult hurdle for families.  Some people were forced to leave the workforce completely to stay home with small children.  Others that had the luxury of moving to a work from home arrangement were forced to figure out how to both educate their own children and keep up with their own work.  If daycares and schools do not reopen in the fall, this will have a long-term negative impact on the talent supply and productivity of at home workers.  Workers will require increased flexibility for child and family care and employers should be prepared to adapt to accommodate these new employee needs.

Q: Explain why enhanced employment benefits may be a challenge for some employers to find workers?

A: Enhanced employment benefits were intended to provide workers affected by the pandemic with immediate, significant financial assistance to allow them to remain home during the stay-at-home order.  Unfortunately for essential businesses that have continued to operate, these enhanced benefits have had the unintended consequence of incentivizing people not to work.  Many are able to make significantly more money each week with unemployment than they could earn with the jobs available to them.  This has made recruiting for all types and levels of employees a challenge.

Q: How does social distancing and more rigorous disinfecting impact the number of workers an employer can hire even if there is demand for the product or service?

A: Complying with the ever-evolving CDC and OSHA guidelines has forced companies to rapidly adjust their operations.  Hiring, training, scheduling and workflows have all been adapted, and in some cases the number of workers able to work in certain areas has been reduced in order to comply with social distancing guidelines.  There have been some opportunities created with increased needs for sanitation and medical screening workers.  We’ve seen our clients reacting well to these new challenges, and certainly those who are able to pivot to a new normal quickly will see a quicker recovery.

Q: How does the Lehigh Valley talent supply initiative position the region coming out of the COVID-19?

A: The LVEDC Talent Supply Initiative recognized the need to prioritize building a strong workforce before COVID-19, and the work around developing and retaining talent will easily be able to be applied to the post-COVID labor market.  Areas such as career pathways, internships, and apprenticeships will all be vital in reshaping the workforce as we move forward, and the work that has been done in these areas already has prepared the Lehigh Valley to respond to the new challenges that employers will face.

Source:  LVEDC

Working During COVID-19: What It’s Really Like

Living through a pandemic is not something anyone expects to do.  Pandemics are the things of movies, not something that happens in real life.  Without having any real-world experience with anything remotely similar to this, there are many questions about what to expect and just as much uncertainty about working during a time like this.  Even with all of this, essential businesses remain open and people continue to go to work on a daily basis.

Every business within the United States is required to follow guidelines set in place to maintain a safe work environment. These guidelines have grown tremendously in the last few months with temporary measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.  The way these guidelines are followed is different for each business depending on the company size and the nature of the business. Based on conversations with both current essential workers and the employers they work for, here’s what to expect when returning to work.

  • Temperature screeningSymptom Awareness: Many businesses have implemented daily temperature checking routines.  The majority of this is done on the arrival of all employees and guests, while other companies have multiple checks throughout the day.  At some businesses, a COVID-19 questionnaire must be completed by new employees and visitors upon arrival asking if they are showing any of the current symptoms identified by the CDC and if they have been exposed to anyone diagnosed with Coronavirus.  Only those who pass both of these checks are allowed to enter the business.
  • Social Distancing: All businesses are required to enforce social distancing, ensuring employees maintain a distance of six feet whenever possible.  In the most extreme cases, entire companies have emptied their sites of workers, forcing many employees to work from home.  Of those who are able to continue working on-site, they are doing so with adjusted operations.  Companies have created new shifts or modified work hours to allow for less staff to come in direct contact with each other.  Breaks are now staggered or break areas have been expanded to spread out workers.  Warehouses have adjusted the way work is completed, with the number of employees operating a machine or working on a line decreasing significantly.  In some locations, visual pieces have been added to the manufacturing lines to assist in maintaining a six-foot distance.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): With the latest state mandate, every company open to the public within Pennsylvania now must require all essential staff and visitors to wear a mask PPEwhile on site.  Some may also require employees to wear gloves, which are to be frequently changed or cleaned.  These are generally provided by the company and are to be worn at all times within the business.
  • Cleaning: Businesses have started implemented more rigorous cleaning.  In larger companies, extra staff has been hired to ensure that all surfaces are being disinfected regularly throughout the workday.  Smaller businesses have provided staff with cleaning supplies that can be used to disinfect work stations or communal areas.
  • Atmosphere: With everyone in our community going through this together, there is a stronger sense of unity.  Employees are working more as a team than ever before to ensure work is being completed efficiently and safely.  People who remain working are thankful for the position they have and have a positive outlook on each and every day.

There are many fears surrounding starting a new job and those fears have only grown with COVID-19.  Having the knowledge of what to expect on your first day and the information on what is being done to keep employees safe makes things much easier.

Although things are nowhere near what they were a few months ago, people are adapting to the current way of life.  This new sense of normalcy has taken time to get used to, but it is manageable.  People and companies continue to function and life carries on.

Allied continues to support the many essential businesses in the Lehigh Valley and we are hiring!  Visit our job board and apply today!

COVID Information Resource Center

Allied Personnel Services’ offices are open!  We are available Monday–Friday, 8am–5pm by appointment only.  You can call or text us at 610.821.0220 (Allentown) or 610.253.9779 (Easton), send an email to info@alliedps.com, or apply online.

Information for Employees

Information About COVID

Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

Unemployment Compensation Information:  Pennsylvania

Unemployment Compensation Information:  New Jersey

Covid Alert PA App

Information for Businesses

CDC Guidelines for Businesses and Workplaces

Process to Reopen Pennsylvania

Coronavirus/COVID-19 Information for New Jersey Businesses

 

COVID-19 RESOURCES FOR THE LEHIGH VALLEY

coronavirusIf you do not have a regular health care provider, or if your provider is unavailable:

COVID-19 Patient Facing Hotline @ 1-888-402-5846, option 3.

The Lehigh Valley Health Network can perform testing for COVID-19, but other causes for respiratory tract infections must be investigated in addition to COVID-19.  Several sites are currently available for testing, if further evaluation is needed.

Local Health Bureaus should be called if there is reported contact with COVID-19.

Allentown Health Bureau:  610-437-7760

Bethlehem Health Bureau:  610-865-7083

The Pennsylvania Department of Health:  1-877-724-3258