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Dear ReWorker: Some of My Employees Don’t Want to Return to Work—What Should I Do?

Suzanne Lucas

Founder, Evil HR Lady

Dear ReWorker,

We’ve been given the go-ahead from the government to re-open our business. The only problem is that the employees don’t want to come back. The hourly staff is making more on unemployment than they do working, and the exempt staff has been working from home and aren’t thrilled about returning to the office. Is there anything I can do to get our staff to come back?

Sincerely,

Flying Solo

_______________

Dear Flying Solo,

First off, know that many other HR professionals are in a similar situation. A recent poll found that 45% of employers are struggling to accommodate reluctant employees. And while you could just offer everybody a big raise so that they earn more at work than they do on unemployment, I suspect that’s not exactly in your budget. It also probably isn’t the main source of hesitation—which, I imagine, is fear. When you’re tackling this issue, it’s best to go through the most common reasons people don’t want to come back and address them one-by-one.

1) They Get More Money on Unemployment

Let’s start with the monetary issue you mentioned. Unemployment payments are generally terrible, but the federal government temporarily allotted each person an additional $600 per week. The key word here is "temporarily." As of right now, this is scheduled to end in July—and then what? It drops to regular state unemployment, which, as I mentioned, isn’t good.

Prepare to let your employees know that, unfortunately, you can’t hold their jobs for them. They are welcome not to come back—in truth, everyone is making difficult decisions about what’s best for them and their families—but you’ll need to replace them. Technically, you can notify the unemployment board that you’ve offered them their old job again, and they’ll get zero financial assistance, but certain companies are opting not to do this.

2) They Want to Work From Home

Take a step back for a minute. How has remote work been going for your organization? If productivity has remained relatively high, then perhaps you should consider making it a permanent arrangement. Twitter and Square both recently announced that they were giving some employees the option to work at home full-time indefinitely.

Obviously, this won’t work for everyone. Some jobs can be done remotely quite easily, while others necessitate being physically present. For instance, a plant supervisor may have been able to do a ton of organizing and planning from home, but when production starts up again, she’ll need to be on-site. Perhaps a different schedule will work in this case—it’s at least worth considering to alleviate the anxiety of many workers. Most employees would be thrilled with the extra flexibility to work from home even a couple of days a week. See if that can work for you.

3) They Have Legitimate Health Concerns

This is a virus that no one seems to be able to pin down. There’s the ever-growing list of symptoms, from prolonged cough and fever to loss of smell and taste and "COVID toes." Some people are asymptomatic, while others lose their lives. There’s still so much we don’t know—and likely won’t for some time.

In the meantime, it’s critical to make sure your business is carefully following all CDC and state guidelines for re-opening. Reassure employees that you are working to keep them and their families safe. If someone has a health concern, consider a leave of absence. If your business has fewer than 500 people, you’re subject to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which can help pay employees who are sick, have been exposed or need to care for someone else who has been.

4) They Are Struggling With Child Care

Many schools don’t appear to be re-opening, and summer camps are a mystery right now. Again, if you have fewer than 500 people, you’re subject to the FFCRA and required to let people who have children at home take protected paid leave to care for them (yes, the act covers both health and child care complications). Let your employees know that you’ll be following the law and help walk them through how it applies to their particular situation.

It’s also a good time to revisit the flexible scheduling arrangements I mentioned earlier. If your employee can get their work done, but it tends to be during more "off" hours because they’re watching children, explore this path. Just make sure there’s enough communication and overlapping hours to allow for quality collaboration with coworkers, if needed.

If you go through all of these options and they still don’t want to come back, genuinely thank them for their service and let them go. While you’ll have to recruit and train new hires, you’ll likely be able to find individuals who want to be there. Unemployment rates are astronomically high right now (and will likely continue to rise). And if Walmart was able to hire 200,000 people in a little more than a month, you can hopefully find new people as well.

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4 Ways to Expand Your Social Media Recruiting Strategy

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Cartoon Coffee Break: Unconventional Recruiting

Editor's Note: This post is part of our "Cartoon Coffee Break" series. While we take talent management seriously, we also know it's important to have a good laugh. Check back every two weeks for a new ReWork cartoon. Missed the Recruiting Trends conference? From the state of recruiting automation adoption, to the role that the human element still plays in recruiting, our recap covers everything you need to know. Header photo: Creative Commons

The Latest Office Benefit Is Tackling Student Debt

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The Latest Office Benefit Is Tackling Student Debt

Modern companies are more than just employers — increasingly, they are also gyms, cafeterias and even laundromats. As perks like yoga class, free lunch and complimentary dry cleaning become the norm, companies continue to push the boundaries on ways to attract and retain top talent by providing much more than a paycheck to employees. The latest in the slew of new workplace benefits? Student loan assistance. In April, Chegg partnered with Tuition.io to give full-time employees extra cash for student loan reduction. Then in September, consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers announced it would provide up to $1,200 to help employees pay off loans annually. As a benefit, student loan assistance programs are certainly still in their infancy— one survey found that only 3 percent of companies offer such a benefit. But experts say that may soon change as companies seek to differentiate themselves in a competitive hiring environment. "We think student loan benefits are poised to be the next big benefit; similar to what 401(k) matching was when it was first introduced," says Dana Rosenberg, who leads employer and affinity group partnerships at Earnest, a lender that offers student loan refinancing and works with companies to create loan pay-down programs. The Burden of Student Debt Such programs could be extremely attractive to debt-laden Millennials. Around 40 million Americans collectively carry $1.2 trillion in student loan debt, and the graduating class of 2015 was the most indebted class in history with an average debt of $35,000 (a superlative they won't hold for long come May 2016.) For employers looking to adjust benefits to correspond to the changing demographics of their employee base, student loan programs hit the mark. "In 2016, our employees will be 80 percent millennials, and we also hire close to 11,000 employees directly out of school each year," says Terri McClements, Washington Metro managing partner of PwC. With student debt often preventing young people from participating in 401(k) plans and reaching traditional life milestones, the benefit could potentially make a large impact on employees' financial and personal well-being. A study from the American Student Association found that 73 percent of people with student loans reported putting off saving for retirement or other investments due to their debt, 75 percent reported delaying a home purchase and 27 percent reported it was difficult to buy daily necessities. "Student loans can be a very stressful thing to deal with, so if we can give our employees peace of mind, that's great," says Caroline Gennaro, corporate communications manager at Chegg. The Allure for Employers Student debt assistance programs aren't just attractive to employees, either. Rosenberg says there are significant benefits for the organizations that offer them as well. "Employers that offer programs to help their employees get out from under their debt load are seeing big benefits: increased retention, more competitive recruiting and, perhaps most importantly, happier employees who have additional cash flow to put towards their life goals," Rosenberg explains. Rosenberg says happier employees are more engaged employees, who tend to be more productive. Studies show that companies with high employee engagement experience lower turnover and have double the rate of organizational success than their less-engaged counterparts. Student loan benefit programs may also lead to a more diverse workforce, attracting employees whose financial backgrounds meant they had to take on more debt for their education. "Diversity and inclusion are also very important to us, so the ability to offer this benefit can help minorities who come out of school with a higher debt burden," says McClements. A Promising Response Companies say the response to their student loan assistance programs have been overwhelmingly positive. Chegg has had more than 80 people sign up since they started their program this summer, and they've already eliminated roughly 86 years of collective loan repayments for their employees. Companies are also finding these programs are a way to differentiate themselves from organizations that may offer more generic benefits. "As a company in the San Francisco Bay Area, we are always looking to attract the best and brightest in the industry, and this benefit is a big draw," says Gennaro. Photo: Shutterstock

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