Working From Home Might Never End

It’s now been more than two years since many workers were sent home, and while the pandemic is easing, some just aren’t coming back to the office. This blog looks at what this means for hiring and retention as many employees regard working from home as worth anything from a 5-10% pay raise!

In a new report, HSBC economist James Pomeroy noted office attendance rates are struggling to get back above 40% to 50% of where they were before the coronavirus hit. Data from Kastle Systems for the U.S. shows the current highest rate of office occupancy is Austin, Texas, and that’s still only 53%. The lowest is San Francisco at around 30%.

And it’s not just the US. As of February, Transport for London data recorded only 70% of 2019’s journey volumes, suggesting commuting is still down.

Employer HR now faces a new competitive issue when it comes to hiring and retention. What is your working from home or hybrid working policy going to be? How will it impact organizational effectiveness? How will it help attract new talent and retain existing talent? This could be “forever”.

That’s all despite restaurants, cinemas and flights seeing as much as 90% of the 2019 volumes, which implies people are confident going out — just not to the office.

“With offices only half full in most of the developed world, many will be expecting office occupancy to grind higher,” said Pomeroy. “However, it’s worth keeping in mind the alternative: that occupancy could already be close to a peak.” This could be forever.

The trend is evident in other data. WFH Research reported earlier this month that according to its survey of more than 32,000 people in 25 economies, the average worker values a day from home as much as a 5% pay rise.

Serbians associate flexibility with 10% more pay, while Americans reckon it’s worth a 6% hike.  

Furthermore, 15% would seek out a new job if their current employer forced them back to the office five days a week. The numbers are higher in the U.K., Australia and Canada.

This is not surprising. Employees faced with the prospect of going into New York City regularly sited additional costs of up to $10,000 a year in travel costs (Vehicle depreciation, mileage, public transportation, lunch, additional dry cleaning, etc.) plus lost personal time.

An employee driving 20 miles a day to work is spending 10,000 miles, or around $5,000 a year, in after-tax income just to get to work and back.

There’s also a gap between the hopes of workers and employers. WFH Research’s survey indicates employee’s desire about two working days at home each week. Bosses are generally planning offering just one even though the same study suggests staff are 4% more efficient when at home versus business premises.

Pomeroy sees various economic implications from the latest data:

  • Businesses will need to compete in different ways to attract talent, be it by offering a hybrid experience or more flexible hours.
  • Rent and house prices are now being driven by demand for suburban and rural properties rather than homes in city centers. Many employees have, or want to, relocate to lower cost areas.

What does this mean for hiring and retention?

  1. If you have positions that could be done from home, or are being done from home, make sure the working from home option is a big part of your job postings.
  2. If retention is a concern, develop a hybrid working plan so existing employees can take advantage of working from home if they want to.
  3. Working from home is not for everyone or every organization. Make sure your hybrid working plan addresses the needs of all types of employees, including those who enjoy coming into the office.
  4. Establish clear rules for working from home and regular remote meetings. Consider mandatory video calls.
  5. Employees still want to socialize with colleagues. Consider taking savings in rent from the reduction in leases/square footage. Use that money to fund team building events.
  6. Consider paying employees who work from home a non-taxable stipend for using their mobile phone.
  7. Some companies allow extra flexibility for employees with young children to manage disrupted day care and school schedules.

Using PTO Cash Outs to Help with the Holiday Season

The labor shortage, particularly for agencies managing group homes, shows no sign of abating. These are new and old remedies providers are using to fill and cover visits.

  • Allow staff to cash out their PTO and work extra shifts. This doesn’t cost anymore real money and helps provide extra hours of coverage. Many DSP’s welcome the extra money.
  • Encourage all qualified staff to apply for extra hours through your scheduling system. This helps share the overtime around, and may even reduce overtime if part time workers request the hours.
  • Communicate open shift opportunities to all staff automatically.
  • Pay staff 150% or 200% uplift when they work a holiday. Replace guaranteed holidays with extra PTO that has to be requested like other PTO days. This helps fill difficult to fill shifts.
  • Include overtime and holiday pay uplift in job postings. Amazon and Walmart don’t pay out much (if any) overtime, especially to new staff.
  • Create a DSP transition training program to encourage people from other industries who have been displaced, or are still at home, to see how they could quickly become a DSP.
  • Use pay differentials for difficult to fill shifts and visits. This avoids a long term commitment to base pay if and when extra funding is reduced or the labor market returns to normal.

The 2021 MITC DSP Winner

MITC has awarded a total of $5,000 to Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) who stand out and go above and beyond to provide exemplary service during the current emergency.

MITC values the hard work put forth by DSPs everyday, and is hoping to show our appreciation through these prizes!

After receiving 684 nominations from hundreds of agencies, the 2021 winners of the MITC DSP Awards was chosen. After reading through his incredible story, Matthew Green was chosen as the $1,000 grand prize winner.

Matthew is a DSP at Aspire Living & Learning, a private, non-profit human service and educational organization, serving individuals in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Maryland. 

Matt Green is not your usual DSP. In fact, he’s a behavior analyst who usually is supporting DSPs to help individuals learn new communication and social skills to replace behaviors that aren’t serving them well.  All that changed during the pandemic when one of our most challenging individuals was about to become homeless. 

Aspire was arranging for 24-hour emergency staffing, when Matt stepped forward and said he would be willing to move in with him for a couple of months if they provided some relief staffing and continued the 2:1 day supports. The individual didn’t have a home, and Matt’s home was not suitable. Matt then leased a home on his own and changed his legal address. They moved in together and began a two-month journey that had a great ending.

Because the pandemic was raging, Matt increased his personal risk substantially by choosing to live in a staffed situation where multiple people were coming and going. He could have chosen to continue working remotely as a behavior analyst, had he wanted to.

While Matt was relieved of his other responsibilities, he continued to touch base with others in difficulty and remained an active team member. He went well beyond anything Aspire would have asked him to do.

Because of Matt’s tireless work, Aspire’s understanding of the individual’s needs increased substantially. 

Matt is truly committed to the success of each person he supports, even when that requires great personal sacrifice on his part.  He does so with a consistent positive attitude. He goes the extra mile, the extra 1000 miles really!

Walmart Guilty of ADA Violation

A jury found Walmart violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when they fired a longtime employee with Down syndrome in Wisconsin after implementing a new computerized scheduling system, CNBC reported.

Aggressive scheduling systems used by major retailers are notorious. Some jurisdictions have passed laws to protect employees from anti-social schedules such as being asked to work two short split shifts in one day or schedules that don’t allow staff sufficient time to sleep and rest.

The U.S. Equal Employment Commission wants the judge to put the nation’s largest private employer on notice. In a motion, the federal agency said Walmart should be under tighter oversight for the next five years and required to make clear, in company policies that employees with disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations. Plus, the EEOC said, Walmart should be forced to post a sign about the lawsuit and its actions at more than 100 stores.

A draft of the memo, which the EEOC made and shared with the judge, lays out why the company was wrong to fire Marlo Spaeth, a longtime employee, and uses it as a cautionary tale about the consequences of violating the ADA.

The federal agency is asking for the memo to be posted for five years in the region where Walmart violated the ADA. A judge will ultimately decide whether or not to grant the measures.

Walmart is reviewing the filing, company spokesman Randy Hargrove said. In a previous statement, he said Walmart’s leaders and managers “take supporting all our associates seriously and for those with disabilities, we routinely accommodate thousands every year.”

Spaeth, who has Down syndrome, worked for nearly 16 years as a sales associate at a Walmart Supercenter in Manitowoc, in eastern Wisconsin. She was fired from her job after the store began using a new computerized scheduling system, which changed her hours. Managers refused to reinstate Spaeth’s longtime work schedule.

In July, Walmart lost the lawsuit, and was ordered by the jury to pay a more than $125 million verdict — one of the highest in the federal agency’s history for a single victim. The damages were reduced by the judge to $300,000, the maximum allowed under the law.

In the motion, the EEOC said Walmart should pay nearly $187,000 on top of those damages to make up for Spaeth’s years of lost wages. It asked the judge to require Walmart to reinstate Spaeth as an employee or pay the equivalent of ten years of wages in lieu of reinstatement.

The federal agency also called for the strictest oversight of Walmart — and the posted signs — in the region where Spaeth’s store is located. 

In that region, it said Walmart should require ADA training for all managers and supervisors and incorporate adherence to those policies into annual performance reviews. It also said Walmart should be forced to notify the EEOC within 90 days about any request for accommodation of an employee’s disability and to share details about that request, including the person’s name and contact information — as well as how Walmart responded.

Not Vaccinated? Your Health Insurance Costs $200 More a Month

Delta Air Lines is raising health insurance premiums for unvaccinated employees by $200 a month to cover higher Covid costs.

Starting November 1, unvaccinated Delta employees who have health insurance from the company will face $200 monthly surcharges. Starting September 12, unvaccinated employees will have to take a Covid test every week, while “community case rates” are high, and wear masks effective September 12.

According to a Delta employee memo: “The average hospital stay for COVID-19 has cost Delta $50,000 per person. This surcharge will be necessary to address the financial risk the decision to not vaccinate is creating for our company. In recent weeks, since the rise of the B.1.617.2 variant, all Delta employees who have been hospitalized with COVID were not fully vaccinated.”

Delta also said starting September 30, “in compliance with state and local laws, COVID pay protection will only be provided to fully vaccinated individuals who are experiencing a breakthrough infection.” Unvaccinated employees who contract Covid, without exemptions, will have to use their sick days.

Delta CEO Bastian said that about 75% of Delta’s roughly 75,000 employees are already vaccinated and that “aggressiveness of the [delta] variant means we need to get many more of our people vaccinated, and as close to 100 percent as possible.

Delta earlier this year started requiring new employees to be vaccinated against Covid. United Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines say they will mandate vaccines for employees.

Vaccination Mandate Announced

The U.S. government has announced a broad plan to increase Covid-19 vaccination rates in the U.S. as cases plateau at a high number, pressuring private employers to immunize their workforce, as well as mandating the shots for federal workers, contractors and employees of health-care facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding.

  • The USA is reporting an average of 151,500 new cases per day, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, hovering around levels seen in late January. The USA is also reporting an average of about 1,500 Covid deaths per day, according to Hopkins’ data, in line with numbers seen in March when the U.S. was coming down from its winter surge.

The plan is intended to get more people vaccinated, allow schools to reopen safely, increase testing, improve care for patients and boost the economic recovery.

  1. Federal employees will be required to get a Covid vaccine, with no option for regular testing.
  2. The executive order will extend to contractors that work with the U.S. government, impacting a total of 2.1 million employees. Previously, all federal employees to get vaccinated or submit to a series of rigorous safety protocols.
  3. The Department of Labor will issue a rule that requires employers with more than 100 employees to mandate vaccines or testing, according to officials.
  4. Health-care facilities that get Medicare and Medicaid funding to have staff fully vaccinated.

Overall, the new vaccination requirements will cover about 100 million employees, affecting two-thirds of U.S. workers.

  1. As part of the multi-pronged plan to combat Covid, the US is increasing the average weekly pace of shipments of free monoclonal antibody treatments for Covid by 50%. More than 800,000 doses were shipped in July and August.
  2. The Transportation Security Administration is also doubling fines for travelers who refuse to follow a federal mask mandate for air travel. Fines will soon start at $500 and go up to $3,000 for repeat offenders.
  3. The USA additionally plans to call on all schools to set up regular testing when Covid is spreading in a community for students, faculty and staff who aren’t fully vaccinated, according to an administration official.
  4. The Department of Education will make additional funding available to help local school districts backfill salaries and other funding where it has been withheld by state leaders for implementing Covid safety measures.
  5. $2 billion will be put towards the production of 280 million rapid and at-home Covid tests using the Defense Production Act. The plan expands the USA’s free Covid testing program to 10,000 pharmacies nationwide and provides community health centers and foodbanks with 25 million free rapid tests to distribute.
  6. Private businesses will also distribute discounted tests: Walmart, Amazon, and Kroger will start selling at-home Covid tests “at their costs for the next three months”. The discount will reportedly make the tests 35% cheaper for consumers.

Only just over 176 million Americans, or 53.3% of the total population, are fully vaccinated, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

7 Million Lose Unemployment Benefits

More than 8 million people now have no unemployment compensation at all, while another 2.7 million lost the $300 federal weekly boost but will continue receiving state payments. They join the roughly 2.7 million cut off from some or all of their benefits in June or July after 24 states opted to terminate at least one of the programs early.

Though there are 10 million job postings in the US, hiring is not expected to improve dramatically, at least not right away, experts said. The labor markets did not greatly improve in the states that ceased benefits over the summer.

Benefits are not the only reason for hiring problems, though. Disrupted child care and health concerns are also major factors.

More than 5.5 million people said they are not working because they are caring for children who are not in school or day care, according to the most recent Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey, conducted in the first two weeks of August. Another 3.2 million said they are concerned about getting or spreading the coronavirus.

Economic uncertainty is also an issue. People are being thrown into the labor market at a time when the Delta variant is affecting consumers and businesses, said Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at The Century Foundation. The uptick in Covid-19 is prompting people to pull back on traveling and eating out. Many agency associations have cancelled in-person events. That may lead employers to scale back their hiring.

“We’ve protected people up until now from the real damage of long-term unemployment,” Stettner said. “Now we have to see whether this job market is really strong enough to keep people out of long-term harm at a time when people don’t have some of the other protections — like the housing protections — they had during the pandemic.”

Coronavirus Concerns Remain High for Some

Fear of the coronavirus has kept some from returning to the labor market. CNN conducted the following interviews.

Rebecca Ruiz started homeschooling her two young granddaughters after her husband died of Covid-19 earlier this year. Ruiz, who has custody of the girls, is worried they could bring the virus home to her – a chance she’s not willing to take.

After losing her husband to Covid-19, Rebecca Ruiz is home schooling her two granddaughters because she fears they could catch the coronavirus at school.

The $900 she received in unemployment payments every two weeks, coupled with Social Security benefits, helped the family survive – especially after they lost her husband’s income from his job at a supermarket. “Right now, all I can do is make my pennies stretch,” said Ruiz, who did office work for a trucking company that shuttered at the start of the pandemic. The California resident is now hoping to find a position that will allow her to work from home.

Meanwhile, some laid-off Americans report they aren’t getting interviews or offers despite sending out a multitude of resumes.

David Grein, who has worked in hospitality for more than 30 years, has been applying for jobs throughout the pandemic after losing his position as a chef at a retirement community in early 2020. Most of the postings call for less experience and offer a lower hourly wage than he’s made in the past. Grein, who turned 64 on Monday, suspects his age also plays a factor.

Though he’s applied for jobs throughout the pandemic, David Grein is having trouble finding work as a chef.

“I’m at the point that the gun is to my head regarding income. I have none,” he said, noting that he also needs employer health insurance to cover his diabetes care.

Covid-19 Delta Variant Delays Return to Normal

The Washington Post reported on Saturday, August 14th that families, especially moms and single parents, are facing new challenges to staying in, never mind returning to the workforce.

A lot of moms dropped out of the workforce last September as the school tear began. Now the “mom recovery” could be imperiled again.

The US census bureau reports there are still 1.5 million fewer working moms than in 2019.

Parents in the south-east are particularly hard hit.

Some economists are warning that the United States may be on the verge of a massive second wave of women dropping out of the workforce if the delta variant is not stopped. This would make the DSP hiring crisis even worse.

“I really do worry this will lead to a second wave of women leaving the labor force” economist Alicia Sasser Modesto, an associate professor at Northeastern University is quoted.

Click here to read the full article.

In addition, a number of association conferences for the fall have been cancelled, switched to virtual, or are implementing vaccination and masking requirements.

  • In Pennsylvania, a leading provider association has cancelled its annual conference
  • In Michigan, another association has switched its in-person conference to virtual
  • In Colorado, an association is still going ahead but with vaccination and masking requirements

Covid Vaccine Mandates in Job Listings Jump by 34%

The amount of job posts requiring a Covid vaccine were up 34% on August 7th when compared to the prior month, according to job site Indeed.

The jump comes as the Covid delta variant fuels a surge in new U.S. cases. Large employers like Walmart, Google, Tyson Foods, United Airlines, US Military and McDonald’s are starting to mandate vaccines for some or all workers, and more businesses mandate vaccination as they bring their workforces back to the office.

Some job ads aren’t specific. The ads ask for vaccination without explicitly mentioning Covid. Those listings are up 90% over the same period. “They don’t mean the polio vaccine. It’s so apparent [they mean Covid-19],” according to AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab who authored the analysis.

The jump in businesses requiring a vaccine for new hires also coincides with a record number of job openings in June.

Several big firms have also postponed plans to bring employees back to the office. Facebook, Amazon and Lyft, for example, recently delayed return-to-work plans into 2022.

The growing list of businesses mandating vaccination may normalize the requirement and lead other hesitant employers to do the same, Konkel said. That’s especially likely if the Food and Drug Administration grants full approval to one or multiple Covid vaccines.

EVV Details Published for Missouri

DSS/Sandata have published the first public specification for EVV in Missouri. The requirements are similar to those of other states using Sandata as the EVV data aggregator.

  • Providers need to transmit three files to Sandata before each billing
    • Employees (Caregivers)
    • Clients
    • Visits
  • The employee file must contain the Family Care Safety Register Number.
  • The client file must contain the Client’s Phone Number and the 8 digit Departmental Client (Medicaid) number.
  • Tasks (documentation) is currently required for 5 procedure codes.
  • Four main methods of EVV data captured are supported:
    • Mobile/GPS
    • Telephone/Caller-ID
    • Fixed Verification Device
    • Manual
  • Manual additions and edits need to have an “EVV Reason Code”. The EVV Reason Code must be attached to each manual addition or edit.
  • Manual additions, edited originals and replacement records must be identified as such (most states give providers a “budget” for the percentage of edits without an audit or denial being triggered).
  • The original EVV record cannot be over-written and must be available for audits.

Agency Workforce Management includes a Sandata Pre-Verification system to help providers minimize rejections, and standard reports that can be used to highlight “missing” information.

Agency Workforce Management automatically reports the percentage of manual additions and edits. The national average is currently around 15%.