Source: Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr

Law firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr has outlined some of the key considerations for employees returning to work this January.

Returning from holiday and working from home

Where an employee is able to work from home while quarantining, the employee may do so and will therefore be entitled to their full salary. In cases where an employee is unable to work from home, the employee may make use of their annual leave for the quarantine period.

Where an employee has exhausted their annual leave, the principle of no work no pay will apply and the employee will be placed on unpaid leave.

Employers should alert employees to the fact they will be required to self-quarantine upon return from a hotspot area and that they will need to make use of annual leave or unpaid leave for this period where they are unable to work from home.

Under the exceptional circumstances of Covid-19, requiring an employee who has returned from a hotspot area to self-quarantine, it can be argued that this does not amount to unfair discrimination

“Unless the employer can show that the conduct of the employee has damaged the employment relationship in some way, the employer is not entitled to discipline the employee for their conduct outside of the workplace,” Cliffe Dekker Homeyr said.

“A balance must be struck between an employer maintaining a safe working environment post the holiday season and an invasion of an employee’s privacy. Employers can only encourage employees to adhere to government protocols outside of the workplace.”

Obligations at the workplace

In terms of the adjust level 3 regulations, an employer has the following obligations and responsibilities:

  • To adhere to all sector-specific or other health and safety protocols issued to date;
  • To appoint a compliance officer to enforce compliance with the adjusted level 3 regulations and all other health and safety protocols issued to date;
  • Prohibit employees from entering the workplace or performing their duties unless an employee is wearing a face mask;
  • Determine the floor plan area of the workplace and the number of persons who may enter the workplace based on the floor plan area, while still maintaining a physical distance of 1.5 metres;
  • Ensure all persons queuing either inside or outside their premises maintain a physical distance of 1.5 metres;
  • Take measures to enforce physical distancing of 1.5 metres in its workplace, including implementing measures such as remote work, restrictions on face-to-face meetings and taking special measures in relation to employees who are considered vulnerable due to their age or co-morbidities;
  • Provide hand sanitisers outside its premises.

The office of 2021

The coronavirus pandemic will have long-term effects on offices around the world, as the habits and routines developed over a century of work have seemingly vanished overnight.

“While the office has an important future, the 2021 version is likely to be markedly different: materials, layouts and even how we interact with it will all evolve,” says Linda Trim, director at Giant Leap, one of South Africa’s largest workplace design specialists.

The office as a whole

Keeping the office as germ-free as possible will require material changes. Surfaces like unfinished wood, soft stone, and stainless steel can be breeding grounds for germs and bacteria and are on their way out.

“Offices might turn to furniture made of antimicrobial synthetic materials, plus metals like copper and brass for door handles and other high-touch surfaces.

Other touchpoints, like keypads and control panels for lighting, climate control, and AV systems, will likely be replaced with apps on employees’ phones,” Trim says.

Ultraviolet lights installed in ducts could purify air before it’s blown out onto the office floor. Architects might even make tweaks like curving the place where the floor meets the wall. This can eliminate corners that collect filth and germs, a practice that some hospitals have been using for decades.

Larger-scale changes may also be coming.

Says Trim: “With more employees working remotely, some desk space could be converted into more thoughtfully designed open spaces. And companies will certainly seek out offices with more access to outdoor space both as a means of social distancing and a way of making them more inviting to employees whose alternative is to stay home.”

From here on, the office will be purposely designed to be more than just a workplace, It will be a community place, a cultural place, a place of learning.

The workstation

For the sake of cleanliness, companies might have to reconsider the long-held tradition of assigned desks. Forcing employees to remove their belongings at the end of each day will allow for more effective cleanings that can’t happen when desks are covered with clutter.

“An alternative to that approach is to keep the dedicated work station but implement a ‘clean desk policy’: Each employee gets a cubby or locker in which to store things at the end of each workday, and desk surfaces are cleaned each night. The employee is then the only one in that space. There won’t be this introduction of another person sitting in that chair or touching those surfaces,” Trim said.

Adding more separation between workstations–something being done out of necessity in the short term, might become a long-term trend meant to give employees more privacy.

The remote-friendly workplace

“We’ve long advocated for choice in the office: you can sit in a lounge space or small huddle room or the outdoor patio, depending on what allows you to do your best work.”

Many more companies will update their office spaces so that the choice of workspace is not just a nice to have someday but it’s rather a must have soon. These changes will also be a major factor in businesses being able to attract and retain top talent.When we only come into the office a few days the quality at the office has to be exceptional. “It’s no longer about having just a gorgeous front entrance. It is now about giving your team the best facilities and environs for a great sense of purpose and that are better by degrees than what they can get at home, “ Trim concludes.

BTS: expert tips for staying healthy

Source: Healthline

Back-to-school season is often full of anticipation and excitement. But it can also bring on a whole lot of germs.

As your kids head back to the classroom, you might be wondering what you can do to protect them and the rest of your family, not only from COVID-19 but also from the flu.

Taking a proactive approach can help your kids — and you! — stay healthy as they head back to school. Here are seven expert tips to get you started.

Practice proper hand-washing
It’s one thing to tell your kids to wash their hands, but it’s another to make sure they’re following the correct steps.

“It is so important to ensure that children learn to properly wash their hands by scrubbing them with soap and water for 20 to 30 seconds,” explains Gina L. Posner, MD, a paediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Centre.

If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser and rub it into your skin for 20 to 30 seconds.

Remind your kids to avoid touching their face and keep their hands away from their eyes, nose, and mouth. Also teach them to properly wear a mask and maintain social distancing in school and among their friends during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stay current on vaccinations
It’s vital to keep your children up to date with their vaccinations, especially their flu, pneumonia, and whooping cough shots, according to Daniel S. Ganjian, MD, a paediatricians at Providence Saint John’s Health Centre.

Even if you’ve skipped the flu shot in the past, experts stress that this isn’t a good year to opt out, due to COVID-19.

“We want to protect their lungs as much as possible,” says Ganjian.

And the same rules apply to the rest of the family.

“The entire family should be up to date with their vaccines to increase the herd immunity in the household,” explains Ganjian.

Make mealtime all about the rainbow
Why not make mealtime full of colourful fruits and vegetables?

“Fruit and vegetables contain immune-supporting antioxidants like vitamin C,” says Katie Cavuto, MS, RD.

Kids need about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of fruit and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables each day. Fill their plate and lunchboxes with foods like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, spinach, broccoli, and kale.

Get back on a regular sleep schedule
It’s easy to get caught up in everything you want to get done in a day, but don’t neglect the importance of sleep.

“Sleep is essential for immune system health and general well-being, and not getting enough can also lead to an increased inability to fight off infections,” says Cavuto.

The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends 9 to 12 hours of sleep each night for children ages 6 to 12 and 8 to 10 hours each night for teens ages 13 to 18.

A simple starting point is to create and stick with a sleep routine.

“Our bodies like consistency, so aim to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. And kids and adults alike respond well to a bedtime routine that includes wind-down activities like screen-free time, reading, warm baths or showers, and soothing sounds or a guided meditation,” Cavuto adds.

Get plenty of exercise
Daily exercise can help reduce stress and boost your child’s overall health. And the best part? It takes only 60 minutes per dayTrusted Source to see and feel the benefits.

Aerobic activities like bike riding, playing soccer, hiking, and swimming all get their heart pumping, while activities like climbing or doing pushups strengthen their muscles. But remember to make it fun.

“Kids need to have more fun in their lives — more than ever before,” says Ganjian.

When you increase their fun, you increase their happiness, which Ganjian says helps boost resilience to diseases.

 

Why the office still matters

After working from home and collaborating from afar, the importance of the workplace and all that it offers has become clear: an office is more than just a place to work and while some people have adapted to WFH, many people miss the office, perhaps even surprising themselves.

“The workplace drives innovation and growth and fosters culture and sense of community, while providing the tools and resources people need to be truly productive,” says Linda Trim, director at Giant Leap.

There are countless benefits to having a physical place that brings an organisation’s people together. Here are just 5 reasons why the workplace matters – and will continue to matter.

Personal and corporate growth: The post-COVID economy has ushered in a season of survival mode for companies. “But the pivot back to growth mode for people and businesses will be here soon. Growth depends on innovation, and that’s driven by people coming together to collaborate and think,” Trim said. “And dare we say it: Make sure we are better prepared for another even that disrupts business continuity.”

Further digital transformation: If companies weren’t thinking about digital transformation before COVID-19, they certainly are now. Organisations have been forced to compete and manage a range of disruptions — internal and external, domestic and global.

Says Trim:”They’re launching new business models and equipping teams to be ready for anything; digital transpiration will evolve for years to come.”

  • Attract and retain talent – the workplace is a key tool to help organisations attract, retain and engage talent. Not only is space an expression of the company, it sends important cultural signals about what new talent can expect in your organisation. Is there choice and control? Are there social spaces to meet with teammates?
    “While technology can help with some elements, like onboarding, it’s hard to build community and nurture the kinds of relationships needed to engage talent and strengthen teams over Zoom,” Trim notes.
  • Innovation – research shows that successful innovation is typically ‘place-based’. Workplaces foster these connections and promote innovative activities like building models, sharing content, testing prototypes, iterating in real time, collecting annotations and ideas and building on the collective efforts of the team. Two-dimensional technology simply cannot move the needle like three-dimensional interactions can.
  • Collaboration and connection – collaboration is a key, place-based business behaviour with demonstrable links to growth and innovation. Sharing ideas, brainstorming and bringing others along through discussion creates new concepts. Body language and other unspoken behaviours provide social cues that can be easily missed when not in person. When every meeting starts and ends on time, there is no room for the magic of serendipity. At the same time, people who don’t interact with others or participate in the workplace risk becoming irrelevant, undervalued or overlooked. “These factors don’t just impact individuals’ career paths, they impact a company’s ability to fill the talent pipeline. Having a place to create meaningful connections is more important than ever,” Trim concludes.

Using emojis can be legally binding

Think that the use of a specific emoji colour is fine? Think that a black smiley used by a white person is acceptable? Think that sending an image of an eggplant is perfectly normal? The courts in countries like the USA and France say no, and it’s very likely that these rulings are soon going to make their way into South African courts and organisations. According to Nicol Myburgh Head: CRS Technologies HCM Business Unit, emojis can be used as evidence against employees and companies in a court of law.

“The inappropriate use of an emoji is going to make an appearance in this country very soon,” he predicts. “People must become far more circumspect in their use of emojis and images when engaging in communication with fellow employees, otherwise they run the risk of being accused of discrimination or harassment, among other things.”

If a white person uses a black smiley in their communication with a fellow employee, that could be perceived very negatively, no matter what thought process may have been behind its use. For some, this could be seen as ‘blackface’ or as a form of discrimination, and it could cause immense distress among employees.

“Of course, any use of an emoji requires context,” says Myburgh. “Labour law looks at the balance of probabilities. Was the emoji used in a negative context or was it part of the flow of conversation? Did it have a racial intent or was it meant to be a way of connecting with someone? If a person, according to the balance of probability, has a reputation for making racial statements, then this use case could be used as proof to take them to a tribunal.”

The same applies to the use of apparently innocuous emojis such as the eggplant. Yes, that could just be a vegetable, but it could also be innuendo and sexual harassment and the same rules apply. Different people see things in different ways and this is influenced by age, gender, culture and situation. For Myburgh, the best way to avoid being caught in the emoji trap is to keep them out of the workplace entirely.

“If you want to avoid a court case or office in-fighting, just don’t use emojis,” he adds. “Of course, that isn’t going to happen; this is neither practical nor realistic so instead adopt the same strategy as you would with verbal conversations – be aware, be careful and be respectful.”

Another example of how emojis could potentially impact on a company or a career is in their interpretation as a tacit agreement. The thumbs up emoji, for example, could be used to make an argument that verbal or visual confirmation was given to something.

“You may be just saying ‘noted’ but the reader may see the thumbs up and think, ‘wow, I got the job’,” concludes Myburgh. “The rule of thumb in any office environment or communication is to stay away from emojis that could have harmful or offensive connotations, such as eggplants, tacos, hearts, kisses, thumbs up, rude gestures or certain types of animals. That way you can avoid unnecessary conflict and an extremely unpleasant court case.”

 

Remote working is the way of the future

By Mark van Dijk for JSE Magazine

Unless you’re a front-line health worker or provided an essential service, you will have joined millions of employees around the world in working from home during the COVID-19 lockdown. You’ll know the feeling of ‘Zoom fatigue’. You may have met up with friends or colleagues (virtually, of course) for ‘locktails’ and ‘quarantinis’. And you’ll certainly have enjoyed the short ‘commute’ from your bed to your desk. Chances are, despite the disruptions of the working from home – WFH – revolution, you’re as productive as you’ve ever been, even though you’re not in the office.

Apart from a handful of people who continued to go into the building as an essential service, the vast majority of the JSE’s staff worked from home through the lockdown, as JSE Group CEO Leila Fourie told the Daily Maverick. ‘I find people are working much harder,’ she said. ‘[Physical workplace] presence does not translate into productivity. Leaders [used to] have a false sense of security in employees showing up at the office.’

Fourie adds that the crisis (and, make no mistake, this was an unprecedented crisis) has unlocked a level of solidarity and unity in the team. “We’ve built a new level of trust.”

When asked if he thinks SA businesses will go back to ‘normal’ after the lockdown, media analyst Arthur Goldstuck says yes, and no. ‘One of the things that we’ll find across the different aspects of the way we live our lives – working, shopping and so on – is that part of the shift that we’ve all experienced will become permanent. But that doesn’t mean that we’re going to transition into this new way in totality.’

For Goldstuck, it’s a question of digital transformation – and here he draws parallels with the move towards e-commerce. ‘A large proportion of South Africans discovered online shopping during the lockdown, and many will continue shopping online, while many will go back to traditional shopping,’ he says. ‘Those who find online shopping comfortable, convenient and quick will carry on doing it; those who found it didn’t quite work for them will go back to the old way.

‘And even within that there are nuances. Some will become regular online shoppers, while some will now be willing to shop online on occasion. It’s going to be a varied approach, depending on the person’s experience and on their openness to the technology.’

This, he explains, can be extrapolated into the working environment as well. ‘Businesses that have found it difficult to have staff working remotely will go back to the old way,’ he says. ‘But again, you’ll find that even in the businesses that do go back to the old way of working, remote will be allowed far more regularly.’

Yet many employees don’t want to make a permanent move to WFH. A nationwide survey by workplace consultancy Giant Leap found that 86% of South Africans want to go back to working in an office. Giant Leap director Linda Trim says that while remote work was very popular at first, as time wore on people realised that it came with loneliness and a lack of work-life balance.

‘The survey showed 70% of people missed the general social interactions of the office, while 85% said they missed the “colleague interaction” while working at home,’ she says. To that point, about 81% of survey respondents said that working remotely made work communication harder, while more than half said they missed meeting, socialising and having ‘impromptu face time’ with their colleagues.

The erosion of company culture, then, is the biggest concern about – and the last great hurdle before – a complete move to remote working. Virtually every team that gathered together on Zoom meetings during the lockdown already knew each other and already had established relationships. Those bonds can erode over time and can be hugely difficult for new hires to build.

If – as many are predicting – the old model of Monday-to-Friday, 9-to-5 does indeed change to something more fluid and flexible, offices will have to change to meet those new requirements. Looking ahead, there’s the realisation that while the work may stay the same, and the workforce may adapt, some of the most interesting changes will happen in and to the workplace. Wherever that happens to be.

How do you select who to retrench?

Source: LabourNet

South Africa has experienced several negative economic factors including the Covid-19 pandemic that have adversely affected the performance of companies in all industries. Companies have failed to achieve budgeted revenue while significant financial losses over the past few months have increased.

This has led to an increase in employers being forced to reduce the number of staff through retrenchments by following Section 189 and 189A of the Labour Relations Act. Dismissals based on the employer’s operational requirements include the employer’s economical, technological, structural or similar needs.

Employers must ensure that the termination due to retrenchment must be substantively and procedurally fair to avoid spending time and money at the relevant dispute resolution forums like the CCMA, Bargaining Council and the Labour Court. When an employer is forced to enter into retrenchment consultations, the selection criteria used when selecting which employees may be affected falls within the fairness of the dismissal.

The LRA in section 189(2) prescribes that a joint consensus seeking procedure must be followed and further continues in Section 189(2)(b) that an attempt to reach consensus on the method for selecting the employees to be dismissed. Section 189(7) prescribes that the employer must select employees to be dismissed according to a selection criterion that has been agreed between the parties or failing agreement a criterion that is both fair and objective.

This agreement can be agreed upon in the collective agreement between the Union and the employer and could further be agreed upon between the parties during the consultation process.

Should there be no agreement between the parties, the employer should follow Section 189(7)(b), which refers to the fair and objective selection criteria. The principal of “LIFO” last in first out, that refers to the employee’s years of service is the most commonly used selection criteria in the absence of an agreement between the parties. This is however not the only alternative selection criteria that may be used, when an employer is exploring a fair and objective selection criteria the employer should keep in mind that this selection criterion may not discriminate against a certain group of people.

Performance, skills and qualification or a combination of these criterions is frequently used as a selection criteria during retrenchments.

In Oosthuizen v Telkom SA Ltd [2007] 11 BLLR 1013 (LAC) the court found that the dismissal of the applicant was unfair when the respondent made use of skills, suitability and the company’s employment equity policy, without taking into consideration the appellants years of service.

It is important that the selection criteria should be fair and objective, not only one of the above. By pulling employees names out of a hat could be seen as objective, however it could still be seen as unfair should an employee be selected on this basis with significant more years of service than the employee who is not affected unless this was agreed to by the consulting parties.

There are different ways and means for employers to make use of selection criterions when faced with retrenchments. The sustainability of the business going forward is of outmost importance, however the use of the last in first out “LIFO” principal has been accepted and endorsed by the courts.

Examining your commercial space

The entrepreneurial world’s evolutionary pace has been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Great commercial design is centred around accommodating clients, facilitating optimal workflow, and epitomising the company’s brand to communicate a sense of the company’s culture and ethos. The fundamentals of corporate design, though influenced by regulations, have not changed. Now more than ever, the call for businesses to focus on their employee’s wellness and productivity must be brought to the fore.

Here are the top seven elements to examine in your commercial space:

1. Analyse your daily operation, industry, and company culture to clarify your company’s mission and vision. Determining if staff working remotely is in line with your company’s core beliefs is important because values, such as inclusion and collaboration, are trickier to navigate in a remote working environment.

2. Start small. Cutting down on existing furniture, shuffling waiting areas and canteen areas around, modifying modular desks and introducing regulations like plastic screens will ensure compliance with limited spend.

3. Be creative with your design. Compliance does not have to be tedious. Ribbed, or coloured Perspex screens make for a unique and retro design feature in an office and popping a beautiful rental plant between desks on the left and right of individuals is a softer way to ensure social distancing.

4. Keep an eye out for a flexible landlord. Although, many have offered rental holidays or reductions to preserve their relationships with their tenant, if your landlord is not lenient, look for alternatives. Many landlords are offering flexible short-term leases of between 3 – 6 months to offer companies a grace period to recuperate.

5. Co-working offices are not as treacherous as you may think. Many are designed to accommodate private offices which could offer short term relief to your team. Co-working spaces are especially handy because of the facilities they offer that we may not have at home. These include being professionally cleaned regularly, having access to high speed uncapped WIFI, conference areas for teams and being quiet for focused work.

6. Formally assess your health and safety protocols. A safety officer can compare your company’s perception of health and safety with the reality and find invaluable discrepancies to give you a good idea of where to start modifying your space.

7. Redesign your team’s office with your teams’ input. Your space can be effectively and economically redesigned by getting your teams opinions of its current and future purpose. Collaborating with your colleagues, design consultants, and landlords will ensure compliance and efficiency for your team that is sustainable for years to come.

Successful businesses during the COVID19 pandemic have shown how valuable the ability to read the industry climate and how effective making micro-adjustments can be. Finding a space that balances people’s health, financial sustainability and beautiful design should not be underestimated in its power to help us settle into the “new normal”.

Why Zoom calls drain your energy

By Manyu Jiang for BBC Worklife

Your screen freezes. There’s a weird echo. A dozen heads stare at you. There are the work huddles, the one-on-one meetings and then, once you’re done for the day, the hangouts with friends and family.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, we’re on video calls more than ever before – and many are finding it exhausting.

But what, exactly, is tiring us out? BBC Worklife spoke to Gianpiero Petriglieri, an associate professor at Insead, who explores sustainable learning and development in the workplace, and Marissa Shuffler, an associate professor at Clemson University, who studies workplace wellbeing and teamwork effectiveness, to hear their views.

Is video chat harder?

Being on a video call requires more focus than a face-to-face chat, says Petriglieri. Video chats mean we need to work harder to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, and body language; paying more attention to these consumes a lot of energy. “Our minds are together when our bodies feel we’re not. That dissonance, which causes people to have conflicting feelings, is exhausting. You cannot relax into the conversation naturally,” he says.

Delays on phone or conferencing systems of 1.2 seconds made people perceive the responder as less friendly or focused
Silence is another challenge, he adds. “Silence creates a natural rhythm in a real-life conversation. However, when it happens in a video call, you became anxious about the technology.” It also makes people uncomfortable. One 2014 study by German academics showed that delays on phone or conferencing systems shaped our views of people negatively: even delays of 1.2 seconds made people perceive the responder as less friendly or focused.

An added factor, says Shuffler, is that if we are physically on camera, we are very aware of being watched. “When you’re on a video conference, you know everybody’s looking at you; you are on stage, so there comes the social pressure and feeling like you need to perform. Being performative is nerve-wracking and more stressful.” It’s also very hard for people not to look at their own face if they can see it on screen, or not to be conscious of how they behave in front of the camera.

How are the current circumstances contributing?

Yet if video chats come with extra stressors, our Zoom fatigue can’t be attributed solely to that. Our current circumstances – whether lockdown, quarantine, working from home or otherwise – are also feeding in.

Petriglieri believes that fact we feel forced into these calls may be a contributory factor. “The video call is our reminder of the people we have lost temporarily. It is the distress that every time you see someone online, such as your colleagues, that reminds you we should really be in the workplace together,” he says. “What I’m finding is, we’re all exhausted; It doesn’t matter whether they are introverts or extroverts. We are experiencing the same disruption of the familiar context during the pandemic.”

Then there’s the fact that aspects of our lives that used to be separate – work, friends, family – are all now happening in the same space. The self-complexity theory posits that individuals have multiple aspects – context-dependent social roles, relationships, activities and goals – and we find the variety healthy, says Petriglieri. When these aspects are reduced, we become more vulnerable to negative feelings.

“Most of our social roles happen in different places, but now the context has collapsed,” says Petriglieri. “Imagine if you go to a bar, and in the same bar you talk with your professors, meet your parents or date someone, isn’t it weird? That’s what we’re doing now… We are confined in our own space, in the context of a very anxiety-provoking crisis, and our only space for interaction is a computer window.”

Shuffler says a lack of downtime after we’ve fulfilled work and family commitments may be another factor in our tiredness, while some of us may be putting higher expectations on ourselves due to worries over the economy, furloughs and job losses. “There’s also that heightened sense of ‘I need to be performing at my top level in a situation’… Some of us are kind of over-performing to secure our jobs.”

Shouldn’t  Zooming my friends relax me?

Lots of us are doing big group chats for the first time, whether it’s cooking and eating a virtual Easter dinner, attending a university catch-up or holding a birthday party for a friend. If the call is meant to be fun, why might it feel tiring?

Part of it, says Shuffler, is whether you’re joining in because you want to or because you feel you ought to – like a virtual happy hour with colleagues from work. If you see it as an obligation, that means more time that you’re ‘on’ as opposed to getting a break. A proper chat with friends will feel more social and there will be less ‘Zoom fatigue’ from conversations where you’ve had a chance to be yourself.

Big group calls can feel particularly performative, Petriglieri warns. People like watching television because you can allow your mind to wander – but a large video call “is like you’re watching television and television is watching you”. Large group chats can also feel depersonalising, he adds, because your power as an individual is diminished. And despite the branding, it may not feel like leisure time. “It doesn’t matter whether you call it a virtual happy hour, it’s a meeting, because mostly we are used to using these tools for work.”

So how can we alleviate Zoom fatigue?

Both experts suggest limiting video calls to those that are necessary. Turning on the camera should be optional and in general there should be more understanding that cameras do not always have to be on throughout each meeting. Having your screen off to the side, instead of straight ahead, could also help your concentration, particularly in group meetings, says Petriglieri. It makes you feel like you’re in an adjoining room, so may be less tiring.

In some cases it’s worth considering if video chats are really the most efficient option. When it comes to work, Shuffler suggests shared files with clear notes can be a better option that avoids information overload. She also suggests taking time during meetings to catch up before diving into business. “Spend some time to actually check into people’s wellbeing,” she urges. “It’s a way to reconnect us with the world, and to maintain trust and reduce fatigue and concern.”

Building transition periods in between video meetings can also help refresh us – try stretching, having a drink or doing a bit of exercise, our experts say. Boundaries and transitions are important; we need to create buffers which allow us to put one identity aside and then go to another as we move between work and private personas.

And maybe, says Petriglieri, if you want to reach out, go old-school. “Write a letter to someone instead of meeting them on Zoom. Tell them you really care about them.”

 

By Phumi Ramalepe for Business Insider SA

Discovery Health has dismissed 10 employees for being part of a private WhatsApp group that apparently aimed to get its Cape Town offices closed.

The 10 young call centre employees apparently asked to be allowed to work from home around the beginning of lockdown. Three of them said they contracted Covid-19.

Their lawyer says their privacy was violated. Discovery says the evidence it obtained through a whistleblower is grounds for dismissal.

Discovery Health fired 10 call centre employees during lockdown for being part of a WhatsApp group that, apparently, sought to “shut down” local Cape Town offices in March, for fear of the coronavirus.

Now the employees want compensation, and their jobs back, but Discovery says it had solid grounds to dismiss them – even though the chat group was private.

According to Discovery, another employee, who had been an active participant of the group, provided information about posts in the group. The company characterises the conversations as bringing it into disrepute, while, it says, the employees failed to raise their concerns internally.

“Ten employees were plotting to sabotage Discovery Health, including plans to involve external third parties to bring the company into disrepute,” said Ryan Noach, the CEO of Discovery Health.

“The motive appeared to be an attempt to achieve the closure of the local Discovery Health offices, in order not to have to work during the period.”

Although the group chat was private, Discovery insists that the employees were “acting subversively”, based on evidence from the whistleblower.

After investigations were conducted, the employees were dismissed in July.

The employees’ pro bono lawyer, Nkosinathi Malgas, said the employees were dismissed unfairly, and only created the WhatsApp group to support each other after Discovery Health refused to let all of them work from home while three of them contracted Covid-19.

“The contents of the WhatsApp group were them talking about their safety in the workplace, and they were supporting one another in terms of the emotional trauma that they were going through,” said Malgas.

Malgas argues that the employees’ right to privacy was also violated, since information that was meant to be private was used against them.

“Constitutional rights of citizens override any social [media] policy. This information was processed from their personal cellphones and these individuals have got a right to privacy.

“Their information is protected in terms of the Protection of Personal Information Act, and therefore anyone who wants to get into your personal information must do so with your consent as well as a court order,” said Malgas.

It would have been a different story had the employees used Discovery’s tools of trade, according to Malgas, rather than their own cellphones and a chat platform unconnected to the company.

Noach, however, insisted no one’s rights were infringed throughout investigations.

“It should also be entirely clear, that all device information utilised in this disciplinary investigation was submitted voluntarily and without coercion, by a whistleblower who made their personal device available.

“There was certainly no infringement of any personal confidential device information whatsoever,” Noach said.

An arbitration that wasn’t
Discovery and the employees had been due to appear before the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) on Monday, but Discovery did not show up, according to Malgas.

A clause in the employees’ contracts stipulates that any dispute related to labour matters, dismissals or termination of employment will be referred to a private arbitration, Malgas said, which means they will have to pay a potion of the cost of such private arbitration.

Discovery tells a different story, however. It had applied for the CCMA matter to be heard virtually, the company said.

“The Commissioner tasked to deal with the matter was unfortunately unavailable and the file was handed to another. It was unfortunate that technical issues were experienced on the side of the CCMA and we could not engage further,” Noach said.

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My Office News Ⓒ 2017 - Designed by A Collective


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