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Boss still wants you in despite coronavirus? Here's what you should do

An HR expert says take the sick time or PTO now if you have it.
Credit: Sharon Yoo/KARE

MINNEAPOLIS — People sleep, spend time at home and they spend time at work. It's an overly simplified way of looking at life, but it is the truth for so many of us.

However, the coronavirus is now tipping the scales of work-life balance, raising questions about what employees can do during this challenging time.

Dr. Mia Mulrennan, a human resources expert with a psychology focus, said this is a new situation that both bosses and employees are navigating together.

"Those are two sides of the coin," she said. "How do you run a business but at the same time, pay attention to the people-side of it?"

While many have the green light to work remotely, some expressed that they are being pressured to come into work despite the coronavirus outbreak. Mulrennan said, if that's the situation you're in, opt to use the sick time or PTO days if you have them.

"If you're able to take sick leave, able to take even vacation - I know that's painful - it might be worth taking that right now because there could be changes that happen in a day or two or a week from now that means you would end up getting reimbursements," Mulrennan said. "Or payments that people weren't even expecting."

She said things are changing so rapidly that you never know if things might shake out in your favor in the end. 

However, if you are out of days to take or have specifically been told not to take sick leave for the coronavirus, Mulrennan said she is encouraging employees to take charge of their own fates and at least have a conversation about it with the bosses. It might change their mind, in the best case scenario.

"Ask your boss specifically why you are being asked to come in," she said. "First of all, it could be because they think you're the best worker they have. Good info for you to know because you can document all of this as well. But it does come down to your own decision."

If in the end you decide to stay home without pay, Mulrennan said there isn't much you can do at this point. However, she said she expects that to change.

"I cannot see an organization faulting employees for making the decision to stay in place at this point in time," she said. "I just see that things will change to be more balanced."

Mulrennan is calling the coronavirus the great equalizer between bosses and workers. Everyone is new to this, but she said people won't forget about the businesses that forgot about their employees.

"In the end, when this does pass, those organizations will suffer," Mulrennan said. "People will remember organizations who responded in a more humanitarian way. Those are the organizations people will buy from and want to work for."

For more info on human resources both from the employer and employee side, Mulrennan recommends checking out websites like Humu. She also reminded people to not forget about the basics. If you are laid off, apply immediately for unemployment through the state. If you fall under the vulnerable population for the coronavirus, Mulrennan said you are entitled to take a sick leave during this time.

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KARE 11’s coverage of the coronavirus is rooted in Facts, not Fear. Visit kare11.com/coronavirus for comprehensive coverage, find out what you need to know about the Midwest specifically, learn more about the symptoms, and keep tabs on the cases around the world here. Have a question? Text it to us at 763-797-7215. And get the latest coronavirus updates sent right to your inbox every morning. Subscribe to the KARE 11 Sunrise newsletter here. Help local families in need: www.kare11.com/give11

The state of Minnesota has set up a hotline for general questions about coronavirus at 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903, available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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