Here’s Our Top Workplace Stories of 2013

Telecommuting Ban, Twitter, & TerminalGate

CHALLENGER LISTS THE TOP WORKPLACE STORIES OF 2013

As the year comes to a close, global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.  presents some of the most outrageous, unbelievable, and compelling workplace stories of the year. Challenger, which released the compilation Monday, remembers Yahoo’s major decision, government impasses and how the climate has impacted jobs.

TOP 10 UNBELIEVABLE WORKPLACE STORIES OF 2013

10) Yahoo drops telecommuting, February –Yahoo! Inc. announced an end to its telecommuting program, which according to a leaked memo stemmed from the belief that “speed and quality are sacrificed when people work from home.” The decision came down from the internet giant’s new CEO Marissa Mayer, who has been determined to shake things up at the struggling company. “To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.”

9) Companies move retirees off insurance plans, September - Within two days of each other, Time Warner and IBM announced that they will move retirees from company-provided health insurance plans into privately-run insurance exchanges and/or the taxpayer-funded public exchanges established under the 2010 Affordable Care Act.  Last year, GE made a similar announcement.  Altogether, about 44 percent of employers plan to stop administering health plans for their former workers over the next two years, according to a survey by Towers Watson.

See them all here.

Workplace Costumes Could Cause a Scare

Halloween Costumes in the Workplace

Halloween can be more trick than treat for the nation’s employers, who must approach the annual holiday with an eye toward the potential pitfalls.  For some employers the pitfalls, ranging from complaints of inappropriate costumes to lost productivity, outweigh the potential positive effects on employee morale and they prohibit staff from observing the holiday in the workplace.  Some, however, may embrace the holiday, encouraging employees to wear costumes, bring candy to hand out, or even allow workers with kids to leave early to be home for trick-or-treating.  Most employers, though, simply do not give any thought to having a policy on Halloween, which could prove to be a costly oversight.  A 2007 survey by Vault.com found that 37 percent of employees celebrate Halloween with co-workers, and 27 percent dress in costume.  “This can be great for building camaraderie and morale, but there definitely are some risks.  A naughty nurse costume or a costume that is racial insensitive could open the company to sexual harassment and hostile work environment claims.  Certain costumes may present safety risks in a plant or warehouse.  Meanwhile, some people are offended by the entire celebration of Halloween due to religious beliefs.  It is critical that companies be aware of the risks,” said John A. Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

What are the pitfalls associated with Halloween celebrations in the workplace?  How should employers and employees handle a costume that could be considered inappropriate or offensive?  How can employers strike a balance between creating a fun work environment and one that doesn’t put the company at risk?

 

Survey Results: Are Employers Prepared For The Affordable Care Act?

Despite the potential for increased costs and more regulatory red tape, 82 percent of companies recently surveyed by global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. plan to continue providing health care coverage to their workers when the employee mandate provision of the Affordable Care Act goes into effect on January 1, 2014.

Surprisingly, none of the 100 human resources executives surveyed by Challenger said that their companies plan to drop health coverage when the mandate begins.  Only 2 percent of respondents indicated that their companies do not currently offer health coverage and have no plans to add coverage beginning in 2104.

While the employer mandate is just six months away from kicking in, about one in ten (11.1 percent) said their companies have not reached a decision on health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

“It appears that concerns about companies’ nationwide dropping health plans may have been premature.  Certainly, some companies will decide it is more economical to pay the penalties than provide healthcare, but for those that have been offering coverage voluntarily for many years, it is unlikely that the new law will prompt them to suddenly stop, ” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Continue reading

Tattoos in the Workplace? One Employer Says, “Absolutely”

Some employers frown upon tattoos and others begrudgingly accept them, knowing that sometimes the best talent comes adorned with body art.  However, one employer appears to have not only embraced tattoos, but is actually encouraging employees to decorate their bodies…with a tattoo of the company logo.  What do employees get for this extreme demonstration of loyalty?  A 15 percent bump in pay, according to a report last week by the CBS affiliate in Albany, New York.  Rapid Realty, based in Brooklyn, New York, even pays for the tattoos, which can cost up to $300.  Since the “loyalty program” was announced, 40 employees have been inked.  “In an era where job security is no longer guaranteed, particularly in an industry as volatile as real estate, it is surprising that so many employees would permanently brand themselves with an employer’s logo.  There is also a real risk that such a visible demonstration of loyalty will backfire if employees who did not get tattoos are treated differently or even perceive that they are valued less because of their decision,” noted John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.  What are the pitfalls for both the employer and the employee in this type of loyalty building program?  How do most employers view tattoos in the workplace?  Are tattoos an obstacle to job-search success?  What are other ways that employers boost loyalty and morale?   

Mid-Week Bulletin: Retirement Concerns; Napping At Work

Retirement Worries May Create Workforce Gridlock

 A new survey this week showing that older Americans are more pessimistic than ever when it comes to their ability to afford retirement could be a sign that an increasing portion of the workforce will opt to continue working beyond the traditional retirement age. While continued employment will help aging Americans avoid financial hardship, it could make it increasingly difficult for younger workers to climb the employment ladder. In the widely reported survey conducted by the Employee Benefits Research Institute, nearly half of all American workers and retirees were either “not too confident” or “not at all confident” about being able to afford a comfortable retirement. There is good cause for concern for many older workers, according to the survey, which found that 52 percent of those 55 and older have less than $50,000 in retirement savings. Despite the concern and the lack of savings, only 23 percent of survey respondents have sought professional financial advice to help them plan for retirement. These trends create a lot of problems in the workforce, according to employment authority John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement and executive coaching consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. “These older workers will want to…make that, need to stay in their jobs longer. And employers may oblige, since they value the experience and increased productivity these workers bring to the table. Employers may even be able to negotiate lower salaries for the prospect of increased job security. This is great for the experienced workers trying to delay retirement, but it significantly diminishes advancement opportunities for younger workers. Of course, this could backfire for employers when these older workers finally retire and they are faced with a wide experience gap between those leaving and those who remain.” What are the pros and cons of older workers staying on the job beyond the traditional retirement age? What can companies do to ensure that younger workers have opportunities to advance within their organizations? What other employment/second career opportunities exist for experienced workers who do not want to stay in their current job or want to re-enter the workforce? Continue reading

Challenger Survey: Most Companies Not Following Yahoo, Best Buy

When struggling big box retailer Best Buy followed in the footsteps of Yahoo! Inc. by altering its telecommuting policies for employees, some undoubtedly concluded that there would soon be a flood of companies doing the same.  However, a new survey indicates that Best Buy may be in the minority, with the overwhelming percentage of companies planning to maintain their telecommuting policies.

According to the survey, 80 percent of the 120 human resources executives polled said their companies currently offer some form of telecommuting option to employees with 97 percent of them saying there are no plans to eliminate that benefit.

The survey was conducted by global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. in the days following Yahoo’s widely reported and controversial plan to bring work-at-home employees back to the office.

“When major companies like Yahoo and Best Buy make notable policy changes, there is no doubt that other employers will take notice and some may even re-evaluate their policies.  However, it would be misguided to assume that other companies will follow blindly without considering their own unique circumstances,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Get the full report here.

Monday Bulletin: Telecommuting Turnaround at Yahoo; Sequestration Cuts To Come

Telecommuting Trend Turnaround at Yahoo!

At a time when many Silicon Valley tech firms are battling each other to attract and retain the best talent, the decision by Yahoo! Inc. to end its telecommuting program may prove to be shortsighted. The move, which was widely reported this morning after a leaked memo made its way to the press, stems from the belief that “speed and quality are sacrificed when people work from home.” Yahoo’s new CEO Marissa Mayer is determined to shake things up in an effort to turn the struggling company’s fortunes around. “To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together,” the memo reads. According to John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., there is some wisdom behind the memo’s sentiment. “Yahoo is definitely in a fourth-and-long situation, so it needs to try new tactics. There is a collaborative advantage to having all of your employees in the office. However, there is also an advantage in having the best and brightest tech workers on your payroll. The question is whether this move will result in an exodus among the company’s top talent,” he said. Could the move to end telecommuting backfire for Yahoo? What are the pros and cons of telecommuting programs? Will other companies follow Yahoo’s lead and end or rein in telecommuting options?

Sequester Could Send Government Job Cuts Soaring

Will failure to reach a budget deal by March 1 ignite another round of government job cuts? Automatic spending cuts totaling $85 billion are scheduled to take effect Friday and will impact federal agencies, including transportation and defense, as well as cut aid to states. Instead of finding a solution, Democrats and Republicans are arguing the overall impact of the cutbacks, with Democrats taking a “sky-is-falling” stance while Republicans argue that the cuts, which amount to less than 3% of the $3.5 trillion budget, will barely be felt by most Americans. The truth, as usual, probably lies somewhere in the middle. “The thousands of federal workers forced to take unpaid furloughs will certainly feel the pinch in their annual budgets. Meanwhile, state governments will have to pass along the cuts by eliminating jobs. In Missouri, for example, the automatic budget cuts will slash about $12 million in school funding and will put about 160 teaching jobs at risk. That may not seem like a lot of jobs in the big scheme of things, but it’s everything to the 160 teachers who could ultimately find themselves unemployed due to political gamesmanship,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. Last year, announced job cuts by government agencies fell to 19,128 after reaching 142,503 in 2011 and 183,064 in 2010. What will be the overall economic impact of automatic budget cuts that kick in March 1? Will automatic budget cuts send government job cuts to 2010-2011 levels? Are consumers and businesses spending enough now to hold up the economy if government spending declines?

Romance Rocks The Office

SOME EMPLOYERS OUT TO NIP OFFICE ROMANCES IN THE BUD

The approach of Valentine’s Day may have many human resource managers on the lookout for any evidence of budding or ongoing romances between co-workers or, even worse, between a worker and supervisor. With some surveys indicating that as many as 60 percent of co-workers, casually dating, hooking up and/or finding love in the workplace, it is an issue that keeps many human resource executives up at night. “Office romances are fraught with pitfalls that can impact workplace harmony, productivity, more and, in some cases, the bottom line if they end badly and a lawsuit is filed,” noted workplace authority John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. Despite the pitfalls, 35 percent of employers in a 2007 Challenger survey had no formal policy regarding romance between co-workers. The survey revealed that while many companies discourage such relations, others simply maintain a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The growth of social media and networking sites, including Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, are helping co-workers find each other and interact under-the-radar. A host of new social apps specifically designed to facilitate romance or more casual “hook-ups” between friends, work colleagues, or even married people, could create even more challenges for human resources professionals trying to keep a lid on workplace romance.

Should employers try to prevent workplace romance? Is there an upside to allowing co-workers to be romantically involved? What guidelines should romantically-involved co-workers follow to prevent any negative impact on the workplace?

Companies Plan More Holiday Parties in 2012

While companies continued to hire at a less-than-stellar rate in 2012, strong corporate profits are giving them plenty of reason to celebrate.  A new survey shows that more than 83 percent are planning year-end holiday parties this year, up from 68 percent in 2011.

In its annual survey of human resources executives, global outplacement and workplace coaching consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. not only found that more companies are hosting holiday parties, but 17 percent said more money is being budgeted for the festivities.

Despite the increase in holiday parties from a year ago, the percentage of companies holding year-end functions remains shy of a pre-recession 2007, when about 90 percent of companies surveyed held holiday festivities. Continue reading

Black Friday Becomes Black Thanksgiving

Retailers Bet on Black Thanksgiving

In the push to get the most out of the Black Friday sales, several retailers, including Walmart and Target, have announced they will open as early as 8pm on Thanksgiving Day to kick off the holiday sales season. The decision further extends the controversial but lucrative strategy in recent years that saw a growing number of big box retailers open at midnight on Black Friday. The action has spurred numerous online petitions to the stores to rethink this move, including one on Change.org started by a California Target employee upset about spending the holiday working instead of with family and friends. If successful, there will be little doubt that retailers will continue the practice in the future and even possibly extend store hours into the afternoon on Thanksgiving.  How might the decision to open earlier on Thanksgiving impact employee morale? Could the move backfire with consumers? Will earlier Thanksgiving openings create more opportunities for holiday job seekers willing to work on the holiday?