Opening the Office vs Working Remotely: Finding a Compromise

There are no two ways about it: the COVID-19 pandemic has brought havoc to hundreds of workplaces around the globe. Many have been forced to send employees home out of health concerns and those that have stayed open have put themselves and their employees at risk. Beyond that, most are dealing with boom-and-bust style business as customers either avoid their stores or buy in bulk to limit their exposure. 

 

To say a company hasn’t been impacted in some way would be naive.

 

Now businesses are under more pressure than ever to reopen. As already limited and confusing federal and state aid expires, most companies are finding themselves forced to decide between paying the bills and putting employees and customers at risk. Finding creative ways to strike a balance between staying remote and opening the doors has become a goal of most successful businesses.   

Staying Remote

Pros

There are certainly pros to staying as remote as possible. The primary one being that you are prioritizing employee safety and encouraging them to look after their and their family’s health. Focusing on taking care of employees and promoting a safe workplace for everyone is a valuable bonus both for employees and customers — some employees even love working from home so much they are hoping to do so permanently

 

Additionally, modern technology allows for employees in many sectors to do their jobs completely online. Likewise, employers can encourage their employees to capitalize on technology to keep track of their mental and physical health. The mental health aspect can be especially valuable when they are stuck working from home.  

Cons

Of course, there are some cons to stay remote as well. The biggest most employers are worried about is a decrease in overall productivity. This can come from several things such as an employee’s inability to easily communicate and collaborate with co-workers and partners. It could also be a problem associated with the many distractions that come from working from home. 

 

Many employers also feel as though their company culture is suffering while employees are working remotely. It can be challenging for employees to feel connected and part of a supportive workplace community. Fortunately, there are some ways to help maintain company culture while working remotely

Opening Offices

Pros

However, for some employees, the ability to get everything done while having employees work remotely is elusive at best. Some jobs simply require in-person service. For businesses that require some level of human interaction, opening up can be the only thing that will keep you afloat. And it might not be a bad thing — many people are eager to interact with their favorite stores in some way, even if it isn’t traditional.  

 

Many of the reasons that business owners are hesitant with continuing to work remotely are also major pros to reopening. You can more easily monitor the productivity of employees and work towards rebuilding company culture. The idea of moving back towards normal is also tantalizing and there are plenty of ways to be successful in reopening

Cons

The big elephant in the room for reopening is the risk of a Covid-19 outbreak in the office space. Forcing employees to come back and having an outbreak could bring all sorts of legal challenges to your business. This is especially true if your employees are completing high-risk jobs without proper protections.

 

Additionally, it can be a real issue for your company’s image down the road. Customers are not itching to go back to businesses that have experienced a COVID outbreak even after the risk has been mitigated. Choosing to open the doors too soon — especially with the massive rise in cases across the U.S. — could spell disaster for the company.  

Making a Decision

Deciding to keep employees working remotely or sending them back to work and reopening your public-facing business is really difficult. There are plenty of pros and cons to each choice, many of which could make or break your company. As you weigh your options, think about the risks, benefits, and needs of your company.

 

Don’t be afraid to get creative with your options either. To keep their businesses running, some companies have altered their products and services to make things that are in demand like hand sanitizer while others have greatly boosted their online services. Striking the right compromise may also involve switching things up for employees such as half coming into the office while half remain working from home. 

 

Weigh the pros and cons, choose what is right for your business and your employees. Sooner or later we will adapt and get through this difficult time and many companies will be better off for it. What have you been considering as a business leader and what has led you to make the decisions you are making?

2020 The Year of Remote Work

It is only June, and thanks to COVID-19, people have declared 2020 as the year of remote work. While telecommuting seemed beyond reach in most industries only a few months ago, this year it has become a necessity. The pandemic has forced employers to come up with novel and successful ways to keep their businesses afloat. For this reason, many companies have asked their employees to work from home. Google has taken the whole matter a step further and advised remote work to its workforce for the rest of the year. Even though some might struggle with this work mode, it is actually quite beneficial for both employers and employees.

Most employees are used to going to work and spending eight or more hours in the office. At first, the sudden change of routine may be strange for them. However, once they recover from the initial shock, they stand to gain quite a lot.  Working from the comfort of their home can considerably boost their productivity and performance. Also, it can have a huge impact on their mental and physical health as well.

The employees no longer have to waste their time commuting. They will be more punctual because traffic jams and parking spaces don’t pose an issue for them in the morning. Once they log on to the selected platform, they are in the workplace ready to reach their daily goals. As a result, travel and accommodation expenses are significantly reduced. If the companies ultimately switch to this work mode, it will bring substantial benefits to the environment too. The reduction of toxic emissions and pollution raises awareness on environmental protection.

What worries employers the most in this situation is employee productivity and performance. There are many distractions at home and most employees are forced to turn their space for relaxation into an office. However, with the right internal communication app, the employers have nothing to worry about. Effective communication is one of the pillars of a successful business. These collaborative business solutions keep everyone well informed and on the same page. Dropbox, Google Hangouts, or Google Drive allows employees to communicate and cooperate on different projects and documents simultaneously. The social aspect of the workplace isn’t neglected as coworkers now use online group chats instead of the good old chatting by the water cooler. Still, for boosting employee performance, everyone has to agree on the preferred communication tool. Forcing tools and channels might cause the opposite effect.

While it seems the pandemic is coming to an end, its consequences are yet to be felt in the months to come. Among good things to come out of this mess is definitely a stronger bond between colleagues. When employees have good work relationships with their coworkers and managers, it positively reflects on the business. Friendship and team spirit largely contribute to creating a healthy work environment. Working under such optimum conditions improves employee productivity and spurs their collaboration. Managers now than ever have to invest time and effort in team building activities and a pleasant work atmosphere. As a result, the employees will maintain their sense of belonging and actively contribute to reaching the corporate aims.

In the long term, remote work may change the whole attitude about work and provide some new perspectives. Millennials are swooping in and along with talent, come with certain expectations about the workplace and work process itself. One of their priorities is having a healthy work-life balance. For this reason, the younger workforce is largely attracted by flexible schedules and working hours. This would enable them to provide for themselves and their families while also pursuing other activities. If the companies want to keep and compete for top talent in the future, they have to make fundamental changes in their management. Allowing the employees to plan their own schedule might prove to be crucial when offering jobs to potential associates. Similarly, instead of being compensated for the hours they spent working, they would like to be rewarded for their accomplishments.

To conclude, due to the unprecedented situation, most companies have started working remotely. Although it seemed quite a challenge, employers have discovered numerous perks of this work mode. Employees are right on time for work and the commuting expenses are significantly reduced. On the other hand, what is boosted are productivity, communication, and collaboration. Through proper communication channels, everyone gets timely updates. As a result, they complete work tasks promptly and without any delays. Besides, remote work enhances work-life balance which is one of the top priorities of the millennials. Their work-related expectations will without a doubt, shape the workplace and the whole work culture in the years to come.

Tips for Reopening Your Business in the Wake of COVID-19

Employee safety in the wake of COVID-19 is more of an issue than ever before. With the concerns of the pandemic atop the economic difficulties of reopening a business or starting a new one, human resources now means giving employees and coworkers the tools to stay safe and maintain social distancing.

 

No matter the challenges, you can create an office space that is safe, sustainable, and functional. All it takes are the right steps and tools to help you open or reopen your workplace post-coronavirus. 

 

Here are five tips for reopening your business safely and successfully:

#1: Write or Rewrite Your Business Plan

Whether you are planning to start a business fresh or are restarting after COVID-19 shutdowns, the pandemic has changed many factors. Reconsider how you’ll conduct business and employee procedures from the ground up. This means reworking your business plan. 

 

A business plan can include everything from long-term goals to the structure of day-to-day procedures. The most important factor involved in the business plan are the financials. From a value proposition to financial projections, the state of the pandemic economy has likely affected your plans. Rework your business plan when starting or restarting a business to set clear and updated expectations for yourself, your employees, or your investors. 

 

#2: Calculate the Costs

 

Successfully restarting a business after the pandemic comes down to a realistic calculation of the costs involved. Take inventory of all expected expenses that come with returning to an office space, potentially onboarding new employees, and restructuring for social distancing.

 

Use a helpful budgeting tool to take inventory and calculate these costs. Mobile apps and digital tools help you keep track of all expenses on the go as you work out a realistic cost analysis.

 

Take advantage of the mobility and flexibility offered by budgeting apps as you consider the costs surrounding reopening maintenance, furnishings, equipment, personnel, and so much more. 

 

#3: Factor in Reopening Procedures

 

With a physical office location, you need to take into account the maintenance procedures that will be required before moving employees back to the office. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) list the dangers of a dormant building, citing the risk of mold and Legionella. Prevent problems by taking the proper steps when returning to the office. 

 

Start by developing a plan for water management and ensure that the water heater in your building is functioning properly. Then, flush your water lines with hot and cold water. This is vital in killing Legionella growth and replacing all water in the building’s piping with fresh, clean water. 

 

Follow up with ensuring that all water storage and maintenance systems like cooling towers, sprinkler systems, and eye wash stations are clean and functional. Finally, disinfect all water fountains and features.

 

There are costs associated with these necessary procedures that you’ll need to prepare for and document, but completing them helps guarantee employee safety. 

#4: Redesign Your Space

Your original office layout likely isn’t up to the standards of a post-COVID social distancing world. This means a redesign of your workspace, including areas you might not have considered. Not only should the office layout be managed to maintain a distance of six feet between employees, rooms, and walkways that typically saw more traffic should be adjusted for the new normal.

 

Create indicators in hallways and bathrooms to maintain one-way traffic or individual use so that your coworkers aren’t in close quarters when they don’t have to be. Breakroom furniture and layouts should be adjusted to accommodate fewer individuals at a time. Sanitization stations and equipment should be accessible and neatly organized.

 

A comprehensive redesign will allow the members of your team to keep a safe distance while maintaining functionality but take the opportunity to have fun with your work environment. Consider redecorating with sustainable decor. Add some plants. Integrate color. Create a fun, thriving workplace despite the added anxiety of social distancing rules that will help your employees and coworkers adjust to the new normal. 

#5: Focus on Employee Safety

First and foremost should always be the safety of those working in an office. Consider measures you can implement to enhance employee safety and combat the pandemic. 

 

There are many different strategies you can integrate into your redesigned business plan; here are just a few ideas:

 

  • Contract healthcare professionals to monitor temperatures of those entering the building
  • Educate and be consistent on proper facemask procedures
  • Provide sanitizing equipment and individual office supplies to reduce sharing
  • Limit the number of employees on break and in shared spaces at any given time
  • Allow able employees to work from home
  • Integrate smart solutions for visitor monitoring and employee security

 

Start with your broad business plan and narrow it to specific ways you can maintain employee safety. In the wake of COVID-19, businesses need to implement every policy they can for team member comfort and morale. These are but a few suggestions for a safer future. 

 

By following these strategies to redesign your business before opening or reopening, you will provide your team with a safe office environment with the resources they need to be successful. 

 

How To Ensure You’re Providing Employees With a Healthy and Safe Workspace

It may come as somewhat of a shock to most of us, but workplace safety is actually a pretty substantial issue in the United States. For a developed country, we have a lot of preventable accidents happen — nearly 7 million workplace injuries per year! This number certainly doesn’t include all of the times employees feel like they have to take unnecessary risks to get a job done or fail to report relatively minor injuries and close calls. 

Obviously, as a manager, one of the most important things you can do is take steps to ensure your employees are working in a safe and healthy work environment. Where there are inherent risks, it is your duty to educate employees and put forth an effort to mitigate them as much as possible. Beyond just physical health, this also means providing a safe place mentally and socially as well. 

 

Especially in the era of COVID-19, taking the time to assess risks and make calculated efforts to limit health disasters is of the utmost importance. The challenges may be different, but ultimately the responsibility is the same. 

 

Here are some things you can do as a manager to help ensure a safe and healthy work environment for all of your employees. 

Encourage a Culture of Safety

It isn’t always easy to encourage employees to take workplace safety seriously, If your company has been fortunate enough to have avoided injuries for quite some time, it can be easy to become complacent. In these situations, one of the best things you as a manager can do is lead by example. Take safety seriously and do your best to encourage others to do so as well. 

 

Education and constant reminders are some of the best tools for building an atmosphere of safety. Take steps to ensure that all employees are properly trained and have received the appropriate equipment to complete their jobs prior to them starting work. In addition, put signage and other forms of visual reminders where people will see them regularly. 

 

Some of the most common workplace injuries come from tasks that employees do nearly every day without an issue. It can be in the form of an object falling on them, repetitive motion injuries, strains, overexertion, or overexposure to loud noises. As a manager, encourage employees to take the time they need to do the job effectively and safely without rushing. Frequent breaks to rest and stretch can also help. 

Promote Personal Health

No matter what you think is going on in one of your employee’s lives, chances are you don’t really know or understand the whole story. Employees could be dealing with all sorts of hidden issues or unseen disabilities that make work more challenging than it should be. Although personal issues really shouldn’t be allowed to impact work performance, we’re all human and occasionally things leak over on accident. 

 

As a manager, strive to help employees promote their own personal health in any way that you can. For instance, make sure you are ADA compliant and capable of supporting all employees no matter the situation. 

 

Likewise, encourage employees to do small things that will benefit their health in the long-term. For instance, taking regular work breaks and going on walks can relieve stress and help tense muscles relax. If possible, work towards offering wellness programs and health-related perks to employees such as gym membership discounts or free yoga classes once or twice a week during lunch. 

Create a Friendly Atmosphere

The atmosphere of your workplace is a commonly undervalued factor when assessing the health and safety of a workplace. It may not seem obvious, but a negative company culture or a few tasteless or rude employees can completely change the tone of an office space. This can lead to decreases in employee satisfaction and productivity as well as increase feelings of stress and anxiety in the workplace — neither of which should be present in an employee truly feels safe. 

 

One of the big things you can do as a manager is spot problems early and work towards addressing them before they blow up. Encourage the use of inclusive language in the workplace — this can help employees feel less alienated by coworkers with different values and more part of a larger team. If disagreements do arise, work through them as a neutral character and try to address them with empathy and compassion. 

 

The role of employers is changing when it comes to workplace safety. Twenty or thirty years ago safety may have only included physical health; now it includes not only physical health, but mental health, inclusion, protection from harassment, and cybersecurity. As a manager, this means there is a lot on your plate when it comes to the health and welfare of your employees. 

 

***

 

Workplace safety is a serious issue in many workplaces. Managers must work to encourage an atmosphere of both physical safety, equality, and inclusiveness in the workplace. It isn’t always an easy task, but it can be a rewarding one at the end of the day. 

 

The Pros and Cons of Buying a Franchise

Most would-be entrepreneurs consider buying a franchise as an interesting business opportunity.  This is mainly because you get a chance to be your own boss from the start and don’t need to start a business from scratch. Also, when you start a new business you are faced with a  lot of unknowns, whereas with a franchise you get a successful model that is already in motion.

Although franchising offers several advantages for most would-be business owners, there are some disadvantages you should be aware of, before deciding to buy an existing franchise.  It’s a decision that shouldn’t be made overnight and the key thing to remember is that the popular notion that franchises are less likely to fail than other businesses is just a myth. Running a franchise is also hard work and you need to be prepared to operate your new business based on someone else’s rules.

In this article, you find some basic pros and cons you should be aware of before embarking on a journey of buying a franchise.

The Pros

Startup stage skipping

Just like with most things in life the beginning of a new business is hard.  At the startup stage, you need to write a business plan, do market research, test your product, and if the testing goes well, scale it. When you buy an already established franchise you are able to skip these sections.  The whole system has already been tested and it has proven itself to work and so basically you need to apply an established system to your market.

Name recognition

In the beginning, it is always difficult to get your customers to recognize your brand.  With a well-known franchise, you already have a name that people know and trust. So, when you purchase a franchise most of the work is already done for you, and customers know what to expect.

Lower risk

Most established franchises have the backing and support from large and established corporations. Most of these corporations have already tested business models in different markets across the country and are without a doubt effective. Because of their history of success getting a loan for a buying a franchise is always easier than getting a loan for starting an independent business. Banks are always more eager to invest in an existing franchise than in a new business that hasn’t had an opportunity to prove itself in the market.

Training program

Every successful franchise has an easily replicable system. This includes employee training on how business is done at every location. New employees will get on-site training on opening procedures, daily procedures.

Marketing and advertising

Naturally, when you purchase a franchise, you will be required to invest your time and money in

Marketing and advertising. The big advantage is that the franchises themselves will promote your business through nation-wide campaigns that will be broadcasted on TV, radio, and online.

Be sure that you will have a dedicated input from your franchise on how to create and execute your own effective campaigns. What they may also provide is a marketing plan that will cover market analysis, sales forecast, and budget.

Gain increased purchasing

The main advantage every big business has over small businesses is their access to increased buying power. Franchises often purchase large amounts of inventory on behalf of their franchisees, which means you will acquire these major assets at a low cost. Also, you will benefit from your franchisor’s deep-rooted relationship with suppliers.

Access to financing

The biggest obstacle in buying a franchise is naturally the price.  Although the exact cost differs depending on the franchise,  there are franchise fees that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and in some cases, the whole investment can cost one million $. On the other hand, some cost tens of thousands of dollars but even that can be a big investment for most people. Not to mention the royalty fees and other startup expenses

Most business owners commonly seek financing whether they are starting a new business or buying a franchise. Getting secure financing is never easy.  The gold standard in financing is SBA loans and in order to get them, you need to satisfy stringent eligibility requirements.

Some of the SBA loans are specifically reserved for franchises but keep in mind that you can obtain a loan easier if you qualify for an SBA microloan for starting a business of your own.

Developed technologies, work methods, and deep-root relationship with suppliers

After you join the franchise network, you will quickly obtain knowledge and technologies created and fine-tuned by the former franchisor. This way you will be able to avoid mistakes that are common at the business start, you will have access to already proven suppliers and developed work methods.  This will essentially reduce the possibility of bankruptcy and potential damage which commonly happens due to business inexperience. Also, it will decrease the time needed for launching a business and achieving operational quality.

The benefit of economies of scale

When you join the franchise network, you will have the chance to use the advantages of economies of scale.  These include areas of goods and services supply, marketing, scientific research, technological development, and other crucial business processes.  When developing a non-franchised business, you don’t have the chance to receive the same cost and benefit ratio you would have by joining the franchise network.

You are your own boss

When you own a franchise, basically you are your own boss. You will be able to create a more flexible schedule for yourself and overall will have more autonomy over your career and even work from home.  

The cons

Working by the franchise’s rules

Every business owner loves to be his own boss, but with franchises, things are a little bit different. You will maybe have autonomy in how the business operates, but most of the time you will have to follow the rules. Which means system operations, regulations, and instructions of the franchise. Also, if you have discovered a more efficient way to do business, that might not mean anything if the company doesn’t approve of it.  You probably won’t get the resources for your idea also.

High initial investment

Of course, it always depends on what franchise you are going to invest in, but some initial investments can be very costly, especially for big-name franchises. However, there are always lots of franchises that can be afforded with any budget. Do your research, and watch out for the royalty fees some franchises charge their franchisees. Typically, the royalty fee is 4-6 % of your gross sales revenue and it shows depletion to your profit potential.

Limited creativity

Franchises always have a pre-established brand, therefore there are significant creative limitations for franchisees who are looking to explore, make changes, or add something new to the company’s business model or brand.  You will also have restrictions set on where you can operate, what you can sell, and also what suppliers you can use due to the pre-established business model.

Shared financial information

Most franchisors frequently gather financial information from their franchise as a way of improving their business model and analyzing royalty payments. Because of this, franchisees have very little privacy in their business finances. However, renowned franchise companies have a good habit of sharing most of the financial information back with their franchisees. This allows them to compare their performance with the rest of the franchise system. By doing this, franchisees are able to improve their performance and profitability.

 Franchising contracts aren’t irreversible

An important thing you should be aware of is that the contract you made with your franchisor isn’t permanent. When the contract finally reaches its end date, the franchisors have the right not to renew it. However, you also have the power not to renew it, if you are not satisfied with your franchise.

Marketing and advertising expenses

When you invest in a franchise, many contracts will oblige you to pay for the marketing and advertising expenses.  Because of this, you must always read your contract thoroughly in order to be aware of all the conditions you are accepting.

Reputation management issue

It doesn’t matter how good your franchise is positioned, it is still bound to the national franchise. This means that if the brand has any issues it will always affect your business outcome. Also if there is a scandal in the national office or another franchisee gets bad publicity, your business can also be affected.

Contractual agreements

When you decide to purchase a franchise, you will be obliged to sign a Franchise Disclosure Agreement, which states what you can and cannot do as a franchisee. If you break one of these requirements you can easily lose your business. Also, if you decide to leave the business, the process of shutting down your business will be much more difficult than if you didn’t sign a contract with the national franchise.

 How to find the right franchise?

If you’re having trouble finding a franchise that interests you, then maybe you should attend some annual franchising trade shows. There you will have the chance to many franchisors and experts in one location. From time to time, these shows educational seminars that can help future franchisees get a better insight on what to expect and what are the advantages and disadvantages of owning a franchise.

If you already have a clear idea of what franchise you would like to own, the best way to start is to contact the franchisor.  By doing this you will get all the information about the availability, cost, and other crucial details about the franchise.

Another way is to contact existing franchisees who are already looking to sell their franchise.  This way you will probably save some money because you may avoid some of the initial franchise fees.

Investigate the franchise

Before you do anything, it is best that you do a thorough investigation of the franchise you are interested in. The time you spend investigating the industry, market and the franchise itself will make you more confident in your decision on whether to buy or not to buy. If you rush things and make the wrong decision, it can cost you tens of thousands of dollars and not to mention the loss of time and energy it will create.  So, try to be thorough and don’t rush this important step.

 Before you decide to buy, make sure that the franchise has an established reputation, quality products or services, adequate capital, and foremost satisfied franchisees.

Dangerous waters and detailed questions

Sometimes buying a less-known franchise that is not that expensive can be dangerous.  Just because a business is selling franchises, doesn’t mean that it will be successful. Remember, sometimes selling their franchises is their business and that’s all they are interested in. The success of individual franchises is quite irrelevant to them. This doesn’t mean that inexpensive less-known franchises are worthless, but a reminder that thorough investigation is necessary

If you decide to go this way, don’t be surprised if you are asked detailed questions about your finances. A franchisor will also want to know about your personal assets, and this is mainly because they want to make sure that you have a fall-back position to carry the business if it goes into financial difficulty. You will also be asked about your spouse’s financial situation, in order to make sure that you both are ready for the financial commitment that is necessary for running a successful franchise.

You will surely be asked about your background, experience, and aspirations. These questions are carefully designed to help the franchisers decide whether you are the right person to run the business successfully.

Final thoughts

Remember that franchises prosper from teamwork. Other than just you, there is your franchiser and every franchisee that works for your company.  The community should be supportive collaborative an that’s why before you decide to purchase, make sure in what kind of community you are getting yourself into. Do your research and if you pick the right franchise, you will be on your road to success.

How Did COVID 19 Affect People with Disabilities

COVID 19 presents a global threat, and the pandemic is particularly dangerous for many groups, including the elderly, people who already have a health condition, and people with disabilities. Everyone in the world is affected by this crisis in some way or another.

The risks are not just health-related. The global economy has suffered a lot thanks to the virus, and many people are endangered, as they can’t provide for themselves and their families. Some people are given opportunities to work from home and keep their income steady, while others don’t have the same luxury. Read on for a thorough breakdown of how COVID 19 affects people with disabilities.

1. Not All Disabled People Are Affected the Same Way

We shouldn’t bundle all people within a group together, because being disabled can be a lot of different things. What we’re getting at, is that some disabled persons live alone, and cope with it just fine, while others depend on help from others.

A lot of disabled people live in groups, such as nursing homes. People who live in such facilities are impossible to isolate. As everyone already knows, isolation is the best prevention against COVID 19. The people who can’t isolate themselves are at the highest risk of exposure to the virus.

Imagine living in close quarters with many other disabled people, with no chance of isolation. In those conditions, people with disabilities are at high risk of contracting COVID 19, because they aren’t just in contact with other invalids, they are also in contact with the helping staff. It’s not a single doctor or nurse who takes care of them, they’re a dozen.

The medical staff is very exposed to COVID 19, and they take the biggest risks. Furthermore, their patients are at risk too, meaning that medical facilities aren’t exactly the safest right now. Finally, we can conclude that people with disabilities aren’t affected equally, and their disability isn’t the biggest risk. On the contrary, the risk lies in their living arrangements and their possible exposure to COVID 19.

2. Economic Stability Is a Huge Factor Too

The harsh reality in any crisis is that well-situated people are generally safer than those with low or no income at all. The same goes for the disabled. Being rich or having some financial backing goes a long way for treating any medical condition, and preventing exposure to a virus as widespread as COVID 19.

Money is not a bulletproof shield, but it is a shield of sorts. In a state of emergency, it can help immensely because it can provide the necessary protection and coping mechanisms. Generally speaking, people with disabilities usually aren’t as financially stable as those with no medical conditions. People who live in countries with proper social care systems don’t have to worry as much as those in low-income countries.

Money can get you medical, hygiene, and food supplies to last in this difficult situation. If you have money to spare, you can pay for various delivery services, which are extremely popular these days. Most people, not just those with disabilities, don’t have big savings for dark days.

You can say we’re all experiencing those dark times right now. Social service programs that help the disabled financially aren’t exactly giving out enough money to provide savings. Those cheques are usually instantly spent on basic needs. If you’re disabled and manage to get a job, which is incredibly difficult right now, you can say goodbye to the social support cheques.

3. Is Working an Option?

People with disabilities have a much harder time finding a job at any time, let alone during a crisis. Some disabled people are lucky enough to have jobs that can be done from home. They are in the best position right now because they have a steady income and they can self-isolate.

On the other side are people with disabilities whose work involves human contact. They’re at risk, and there’s nothing to be done because they can’t just go and work from home. If they leave their job, they won’t have any income unless they manage to get some social security fast. What’s better, to be poor and “safe”, or to keep your job and stay exposed to COVID 19? There’s no right answer to that question since both options are far from perfect.

If you’d like to help people with disabilities in this time of crisis, it’s best to apply for the NDIS registration process at Provider Plus. It’s a very difficult process, so you shouldn’t do it without professional help. Provider Plus is an all-in-one service, which can help your business become an NDIS registered provider in no time. They have a 100% approval rate for all their clients, which speaks volumes about their success.

Conclusion

Even though maintaining physical health is important, we shouldn’t disregard mental health either. This global state of alert is not beneficial to the mental state of anyone. Isolation is more difficult for those with mental issues. They must be given some leeway, and the right to occasionally go outside and take a breather.

People with disabilities are usually bundled together, under the same banner, but they are not the same. Their disabilities differ, some have physical disabilities, while others have mental health conditions. Each of these conditions should be addressed specifically, and these people should be given appropriate help, especially in these dire circumstances.

Is Drug Testing at Workplace a Good Idea?

Here we have a slightly controversial topic on our hands. Objectively looking drug testing at the workplace has its benefits and of course, it has its drawbacks.

Many companies consider drug testing at the workplace a fair policy and safety precaution – they are not only protecting their business but their employees as well. There are even laws and regulations regarding workplace drug abuse.

Let’s start with all the types of drug testing methods available for workplace testing and work towards whether or not it’s a good idea.

Types of drug testing methods

A drug test determines whether or not an employee is using any illegal substances. Currently, many employers, as well as employees, are starting to realize the importance of this policy. This is also why both employees and employers should be aware of all the possible types of drug testing methods.

The most important thing to know is that you have options as there are at least five types of methods available for workplace drug testing.

The first option is the most common option used for drug testing and that’s a urine drug test. If someone has been using drugs recently, the traces of it will most definitely be detected in the urine.

While urine drug testing is the most common type of drug testing, a saliva drug test is the most popular one. This type of test is pretty self-explanatory and the reason for being so popular is due to its less invasive nature. Besides this method is not as expensive as all others.

The hair testing method is another good way of seeing whether a person has been using drugs. However, many people claim that this method is no good because it doesn’t measure current drug use but it can detect if someone used months before – which is not the point when it comes to workplace drug testing.

Another method includes blood testing. This method is the most invasive one and at the same time the most expensive out of all. And even if this method is often avoided because of its cost and invasiveness, it’s the best way to detect the presence of substances as well as the exact amount of substances used.

The fifth method includes perspiration testing. This method is fairly new and it requires wearing a sweat path on the skin for a couple of days. This patch will detect the presence of drugs through perspiration.

Benefits of drug testing at the workplace

Safety of the employees

The number one reason why drug testing at the workplace is a good idea is safety. Every employer should provide a healthy and safe work environment. One of the ways to do this is to implement the drug testing policy.

Workplace injuries and hazardous situations are often related to substance use. People who use drugs are less aware and they also tend to be less concerned about their own safety and the safety of others. Additionally, drugs tend to slow reaction time which means that those who use drugs are at risk and pose a risk to their coworkers as well.

Drug testing at the workplace will ensure that all employees are safe and healthy and it will prevent a dangerous situation, especially in high-risk jobs.

Avoiding legal problems

The drug-testing program can save you a lot of troubles, especially those of a legal kind. Just imagine how many legal problems can an employee who uses drugs cause. They can endanger not only their own lives but the lives of their coworkers as well as your own company.

Workplace drug testing program ensures that all your employees are safe, that the environment that they work in is also safe and that no one poses any risk.

Avoiding problems and maintaining good company image

Employees who use drugs can’t perform their duties to the best of their abilities. Drug intoxication causes many problems, and one of those includes making mistakes and giving poor results at work. Consequently, this affects the image of your company.

The best way to ensure that your employees are giving the best possible results and thus maintaining a good public image of your company is to implement a drug testing policy into your company.

Drawbacks of drug testing at the workplace

Invasion of privacy

Drug testing at the workplace is often seen as an invasion of privacy. Many employees feel like drug testing is a violation of their privacy, their freedom and also a lack of trust from their employer.

This is especially true in cases of random drug testing when a random employee is chosen to do the test. That individual may feel resentful and insulted.

Expensive drug tests

As mentioned above, there are several different types of drug tests and some of them can be pretty costly. This is the main reason why so many employers tend to stay away from implementing drug testing programs.

Bottom line is that in many cases the benefits of workplace drug testing outweigh the drawbacks. Nothing beats the safety of your employees and the safety of the work environment.

There are different methods of drug testing that don’t have to be all that expensive and yet they do the work. Ultimately, the decision about whether drug testing at the workplace is a good idea or not is on the employer.

The Impact of COVID-19 On SEO

All across the globe, the pandemic of COVID-19 has changed people’s lives and not for the better. However, hard as these measures may be on the lives of individuals, the impact on society as a whole can be just as terrifying. People are losing their jobs, enterprises are getting shut down and even those that are still running are worried about their future. Even industries that exist in the digital environment are affected by all that is going on.

A perfect example of this is the industry of digital marketing, specifically the field of search engine optimization (SEO). This impact, nonetheless, is not so easy to analyze, mostly due to the fact that it has so many contextual factors to take into consideration. So, in order to further examine the effects of COVID-19 on SEO, we need to cover the impact on the technical aspect of SEO and the state of the industry as a whole. Here’s what you need to know!

1. Essential vs. non-essential employees

While it may be true that a lot of people are getting jobless due to the fact that their workplace is getting shut down, when it comes to those working in the digital environment, things are not so clear-cut. In fact, the majority of digital marketing agencies already employ telecommuters and allow their employees to work from home (if only a day or two every week). This means that the structure of the workforce in the industry shouldn’t change that much. With adequate tools like web conferencing software, collaboration software and employee management software, the majority of SEO agencies will be able to efficiently transfer all of their work into the digital environment.

2. The clients

Other than the employment status of their staff, SEO agencies are mostly concerned by the willingness of their clients to invest. First of all, a lot of businesses are seeing a massive fall in workload and revenue. Now, due to the fact that their marketing budget is usually a percentage of their average annual revenue, a lot of enterprises might start pulling their investment. On the other hand, online businesses are currently seeing an increase in workload, seeing as how people are spending more time at home and, therefore, have more time for online services. They also consume far more content. Also, due to the fact that the majority of them are looking to avoid crowded malls, e-commerce is also more popular than ever before.

Keep in mind that online businesses are probably the ones that were the most eager to invest in SEO, to begin with, seeing as how their SERPs directly affect their traffic and their revenue. Since now the competitiveness is even higher, the majority of these enterprises realize that scaling down on their marketing spending is definitely not a wise idea. After all, after every recession, those who managed to maintain continuity are the ones who get back on track the fastest.

Finally, we need to try and figure out which industries are marking the biggest growth amidst all of this. First of all, you have the retail industry which is marking a 34 percent spike in March. The gaming industry is also huge, seeing as how even the most adventurous people are now forced to commit themselves to indoor activities. For this very reason, social media is also marking a substantial increase (about 29 percent). However, industries like travel and tourism, as well as the event industry, are on an expected decline. For how long will this trend last… well, it’s hard to tell at the moment.

3. The content

Content marketing is pivotal to any successful off-site SEO project. Now, when it comes to the content itself, it’s more than clear that people nowadays are mostly concerned with the epidemic, which is why content dealing with this sensitive topic has the greatest CTR. Nonetheless, seeing as how we’re talking about something that people are genuinely interest and affectionate about, it’s vital that content creators realize that it’s their moral duty to do these things right. This is why you need to ask yourself is your use of keywords related to coronavirus relevant to your topic, as well as – is it ethical? This is especially true if the topic is more opinion than fact-based.

Naturally, due to the fact that they’re bored senseless, people are also looking for content that will provide them with fun indoor activities. Therefore, DIY projects are far more popular than ever before. Another major boost in popularity can be seen in the field of microlearning. More and more people are exploiting this chance to take online courses but also to work on things they always wanted to try out but never had the time or energy to pursue. For instance, those with more athletic aptitude are more likely to look up calisthenics workout routines and tips.

4. Professional assistance

There are a lot of guides and tools out there that promise small business owners an opportunity to handle their own digital marketing campaign. The thing is, however, that the end result is never quite the same. Sure, a DIY SEO project can help you somewhat improve your rank, however, in a world where 33 percent of all searches end with the No.1 result, can you really afford to settle for being on the first page? The truth is that those who plan to stay competitive want to invest in professional SEO services. This way, they can get an end-to-end SEO project with guaranteed results and continuity in terms of ranking.

5. On-site optimization and updates

A lot of things have changed due to coronavirus and its consequences. Having proper metadata is as vital as it ever was, nevertheless, there are other factors in play, as well. For example, you might have been forced to close your brick and mortar office, which is why you need to update the info on your website. If you were forced to downsize your team and therefore operate on a smaller capacity, you need to let your audience know this in advance.

For instance, companies in the e-commerce industry are receiving an unprecedented number of orders on a daily basis, which causes a lot of logistical delays. It is, therefore, a great move to address your audience about this issue either immediately upon entering your site or via email outreach. You can even promise them special rewards after the crisis is over, nevertheless, this is a more of a PR issue than it is an SEO one.

6. Watch up for Google updates

While it is true that google updates are a fairly regular occurrence, you need to understand that the situation at the moment might facilitate these things a bit. Why? Well, first of all, we’ve mentioned the fact that there’s much more content being both published and consumed than is usual. Second, it’s important to mention that there’s a lot of false information circling around, which can potentially damage the reputation of the search engine as a whole. Therefore, it’s logical to expect that the staff behind the algorithm will be much more alert and active in the following weeks.

7. Survey your audience more regularly

Like Google, businesses and digital marketers need to be quicker to change and adapt, as well. As we’ve mentioned before, the behavior patterns of your audience have changed overnight and marketers can no longer stick to pre-COVID-19 numbers. The amount of time that people spend on social media, blogs and YouTube, the quality of content and many other factors have their own metrics that need to be adjusted. Therefore, it is pivotal for every serious digital marketer to start new surveys and see what the numbers show.

In conclusion

As you can see, even amidst the crisis, there’s no rest for those who want to lead their business towards a brighter future. Businesses that aim to survive the incoming crisis need to find a way to stay competitive. Seeing as how the majority of people in self-isolation turn to the internet for answers and pastime, SEO might just be the most effective way of achieving this.

Ways Businesses Can Use SEO to Combat Coronavirus Impact

While it is true that some businesses and industries are suffering due to the effects of COVID-19 on the industry and society, not all businesses are doing as badly in these conditions. You see, while people are being locked in their homes, which means that they’re either forced to work as telecommuters or are losing their jobs, for some businesses, there are also those who can see past the crisis. Naturally, even those businesses that get shut down will look towards rising again, after the dust has settled. Speaking of which, why would you have to start from scratch? With the help of SEO (and digital marketing, in general), you can successfully combat the effects of Coronavirus. Here are several tips to help you do so.

1. People use online services to overcome this situation

If your business is providing an online service or a door-to-door delivery like the majority of e-commerce businesses, chances are that your services are now more in demand than they ever were before. You see, people are turning their backs on traditional retail in favor of e-commerce, seeing as how this approach allows them to keep up with their social distancing practices. In other words, while some industries are not doing so great, your own revenue might go up.

Now, rule of thumb is that you should use about 10 percent of your average annual revenue, however, if the industry is particularly competitive, setting aside anywhere between 20 and 50 percent may be acceptable. If your revenue is growing, so should your marketing spending. Just keep in mind that you’re not the only one with this idea. Since about 33 percent of all online searches end with the No.1 result, chances are that your position on the SERPs will determine your audience and your revenue. This means that when it comes to your Google position, now’s not the time to start being skimpy.

2. People consume more content

The next thing you need to understand about coronavirus and its consequences is the fact that they’re keeping people indoors consuming more digital content and craving more entertainment. This is why, despite the fact that some industries are currently doing quite poorly (manufacturing, energy, etc.), online businesses are on a steady rise. More apps are getting downloaded than ever before, more shows binged and more video games played. Other than this, people are watching more YouTube, spending more time on social media and, overall, consuming all sorts of content from traditional text-based posts all the way to podcasts. Ensuring a better position for your content, through SEO, is, therefore, a great idea.

3. A campaign to counter the effects

In order to protect your business, you need to know exactly what you’re up against. This means getting the right assessment of your current situation and the effects that this situation may have on your business, as a whole. The first step in getting this done lies in hiring the right team. In order to get the maximum effect out of your digital marketing campaign, you can’t leave anything to chance. Ideally, you would find a trusted SEO reseller that specializes in white label SEO. This should provide you with an end-to-end SEO service. DIY SEO methods can be quite effective but without a bigger picture, they’ll never give you what you truly desire.

4. Cutting less leads to bigger returns

Saving money is a good idea, in general, however, saving money at any cost is never a smart move. Why? In the past, we had several financial disasters and crises and all of them showed one thing. By cutting less during downtime, you’re gaining more in better times. Why is that so? Well, first of all, you’re not disrupting your business, which means that you need to take a smaller leap in order to get back to your full capacity. Second, due to the fact that you’re demonstrating resilience, you’re creating a stronger case in the eyes of your audience and potential investors.

5. A chance to overcome your competitors

Even though we’ve listed many reasons why keeping up with your marketing is such a good idea, there are a lot of your competitors that are going to ignore this advice entirely. Some of these competitors even had bigger marketing budgets than your own enterprise, which means that, in regular conditions, you had a tough time overcoming them. This is where your SEO plays huge in days to come. By providing your business with higher Google rank and better SERPs, you’re demonstrating a clear superiority of your brand over theirs. Due to the fact that these companies were industry top-dogs in the pre-COVID-19 days, your feat will seem even more impressive in the eyes of your audience. In other words, you’re using the strength of their own brand to your own advantage.

6. Checking the customer sentiment

It goes without saying that a lot of customers are changing their shopping habits in isolation. Why? Well, first of all, the fact that they may soon be in a much worse financial state makes them reconsider their priorities. In other words, they’re more reluctant to spend money on luxury goods and services. Also, due to the fact that they’re not going out so much, they’re less likely to spend money on clothing and jewelry items. The same goes for all sorts of cosmetic goods. Still, all of this is situational and depends on the region and the service in question. A great SEO analytics effort can help you figure this one out quite effortlessly.

In conclusion

At the end of the day, combating the Coronavirus impact will require a lot of PR and sometimes, exploiting the rising organic traffic might be the best way to do so. Inbound marketing is quite effective at subtly making a great impression on your audience, which is just what you need, at the moment. However, this requires a lot of technical knowledge and strategy development, which is why you definitely need some professional help. Needless to say, moments of crisis are the time for you to display your entrepreneurial prowess.

How Chatbots Can Help You Increase Conversion

Chatbots have evolved impressively thanks to the rise of artificial intelligence. Many brands have recognized the potential of these sophisticated tools and now use them to provide seamless user experiences. Studies predict that 85% of customer interactions with brands will be handled without a human agent by 2020. 

From immediate feedback to humanizing brand presence, chatbots can improve your conversion rates on multiple levels. Here is what to know.

Providing Excellent Customer Support

With the advent of mobile technologies, social networks, and natural language processing, online customers’ expectations have also grown. Being held on hold while trying to connect with a customer support representative is not an option for them anymore. They want brands to provide exceptional customer service 24/7, across multiple online channels. Research says that most customers want brands to address their problems and questions within 24 hours.

This is exactly where chatbots shine. They are available to your prospective customers 24/7, providing them with real-time assistance. Chatbots will ask customers relevant questions to learn more about their needs and problems and provide clear, accurate, and helpful feedback. Precisely because of that, online users often consider them a faster, more convenient, and real-time resolution to their minor problems.

Another great benefit of chatbots lies in the fact that they streamline your customer support assistants’ jobs. By automating many repetitive tasks, they help them focus on more challenging tasks and, therefore, boost customer satisfaction.

Simplifying the Customer Journey

Statistics say that one of the most common reasons why people ditch shopping carts is a too complicated checkout process, as well as the fact that they need to create new accounts. They often need to fill out a lengthy form and then verify their email address before finalizing the purchase. This is a tedious process that may frustrate your target customers and prevent them from buying from you. 

One of the easiest ways to optimize your checkout process is to use chatbots on your website. Use them to simplify buyers’ journeys and provide customers with guided task completion. One such example is Ebay’s ShopBot. It asks customers numerous questions, such as what brands or product features they are looking for. The bot interactively guides users, encouraging them to complete the purchase. Another amazing example of using chatbots to improve sales and user experiences is Lyft that lets users request a ride via their Messenger bot, Slack bot, or Amazon Echo. The bot provides data about their driver’s location and sends the photo of the license plate and the car model to ensure a client’s security.

Evoking FOMO

In today’s oversaturated digital marketing landscape, when your prospective customers are bombarded with different brands and products, getting yourself noticed can be extremely challenging. To engage users and entice them to convert faster, many brands focus on triggering customers’ fear of missing out, or FOMO. For example, they offer time-sensitive deals, exit-intent popups, exclusive offers for VIP customers, etc. Many SaaS brands rely on social proof tools like Cue that displays real-time notifications about new webpage visits or product purchases. 

Combining your most powerful CRO tools with chatbots can also be highly effective. For example, you could use bots to inform users about your brand’s latest news or trends. Chatbots help you promote exclusive content to generate leads and time-sensitive offers to inspire impulse purchases. 

Providing Personalized User Experiences

Research says that 63% of online users don’t know that they’re talking to a bot. While your goal shouldn’t be to deceive your prospective customers, it is still good to know that chatbots can provide reliable user experiences and humanize your brand. 

This is exactly where you need to hire reliable content creators. Their task is to create an engaging chatbot script that reflects your brand’s personality and values. Your goal is to keep users’ conversations with your chatbot more natural and consistent. To humanize your chatbot, consider giving it a human name, such as Ross, Siri, Cortana, or Alexa. 

Apart from using chatbots to make customer conversations more relaxed, you could also provide more personalized product recommendations. For example, Sephora’s bot asks users about their needs and preferences and, based on them, recommends the right products. A user can even upload a photo and try out different makeup products.

Collecting Feedback from Users

Online businesses are continuously trying to understand their customers. They use numerous techniques for collecting customer feedback, such as surveys, online reviews, social media polls, quizzes, website analytics, heatmaps, and so forth. 

This is exactly where chatbots can help. For example, if a user is leaving their shopping cart, a chatbot could ask them why they are leaving. It could offer several options for users to choose from, such as “not interested,” “the price is too high,” or “I want to explore other options.” Or, you could create a one-question survey in your chat to assess users’ satisfaction with your website, products, or brand. 

This sort of feedback is immensely important to any marketer wanting to improve their conversion rates. By gathering honest feedback directly from your customers, you will be able to identify the most common user experience issues and resolve them fast to improve conversions. In the abovementioned scenarios, a chatbot can even help you save the sale. For example, if it finds that the product is too expensive for a customer, it could recommend more relevant products that suit their budget.

Over to You

With the rise of artificial intelligence, chatbots have become an inseparable aspect of your conversion rate optimization strategy. They give you the opportunity to simplify buyers’ journeys, provide personalized product recommendations, and evoke their emotions. Above all, you can collect customer feedback easier and use it to improve user experiences and sales.

 

How do you use chatbots to improve conversions?