About Workers’ Compensation for HR Administrators

How well do you know the facts about workers’ compensation? Regardless of your business, there is always the chance that a worker can get hurt on the job. If they are, you want to be sure that your company is prepared to proceed appropriately.

Workers’ compensation helps employers and employees alike, so all human resource administrators should brush up on state regulations and know how to tackle a workplace incident. Here is a workers’ comp refresher for those new to HR.

What Employers Need to Know

In general, workers’ compensation is a program meant to protect employees and employers alike when a worker is involved in an accident that results in harm or prevents them from working in the future. The first responsibility of the employer is to have workers’ comp insurance, which is required by most states for a majority of companies, with the usual exception of independent contractors. This type of insurance is instrumental in preventing lawsuits in civil court. 

To prevent a claim from getting to that point, workers’ compensation insurance provides wage and medical benefits based on the requirements of the state in which they work. The insurance also pays death benefits to the families of employees who die on the job. However, there are circumstances that insurance doesn’t cover including intentionally sustained injuries, injuries while intoxicated, and emotional harm.

If an employee is injured on the job, it is important to remember that they cannot be denied medical care. Also, if there is a legitimate claim, then the employer must bring the employee back once they are ready to return to work. Most importantly, a company should not hold any grudge or retaliate against an employee for filing a claim. It is their right to get the help they need, and failure to comply could result in a lawsuit.

Employee Responsibilities and Claims

When an employee gets hurt on the job, they have a responsibility to report the injury immediately to your HR department. HR will then take a detailed report of the incident, including the date and time, the type of injury, and where it happened. If it is an emergency, the employee should be brought to the hospital. For less threatening injuries, they should consult a doctor. In any case, a medical report is needed.

HR is responsible for providing all necessary forms to the employee, including insurance forms and information about their rights, as well as what happens when they are ready to return to work. A claim is then filed with the insurance carrier, and it is there that the claim is either approved or denied. If it is approved, the employee will get an offer or settlement for their damages. If it is denied, then the employee can appeal.

During this time, the company must keep the job open for the potential return of the worker. If the employee cannot return to work due to disability, then the insurance company may continue paying benefits for an undetermined amount of time. All records of the claim must be filed by the employer and kept for a pre-set amount of time as determined by your state laws, which is usually a number of years.

How to Prevent Workers’ Comp Claims

It is very important for employers to not take a workers’ comp claim personally or hold it against the employee. Not only is it the law to avoid doing so, but the employee isn’t out to get you. Instead, they are only trying to get the monetary amount that will allow them to take care of themselves and their family. The best defense against workers’ comp claims is to have a proactive approach and a safe work environment.

Create a culture of safety at your workplace where everyone watches out for one another, and any hazards are immediately reported. Hold safety meetings on a regular basis where you reward employees for meeting safety goals. Create posters and signage to remind employees of general hazards and make sure all hazardous materials are properly attended to and labeled.

Even if you have all of these processes in place, it is possible that an employee could still get hurt by doing repetitive processes without proper safety precautions. Not lifting heavy items properly, using a computer for long periods of time without proper support, and standing in one place for too long can all result in common injuries ranging from carpal tunnel syndrome to bursitis, which affects the joints.

Keep in mind that not all states cover repetitive motion injuries, so be aware of your state laws when filing. Regardless of the state law, as HR administrators, ensure that all employees are taking their regularly scheduled breaks, sitting in proper chairs that encourage good posture, and are using an ergonomic mouse that reduces the risk of carpal tunnel.

When it comes to the well-being of your employees, extensive knowledge of state laws and policies is a must. Be informed about workers’ compensation, so your employees can get the care they deserve.

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5 Things That Produce Customer Loyalty

Every business understands the importance of attracting new customers. You can reach new demographics, grow your business, and see success when you have a marketing plan that attracts people to your goods or services. 

But, there are a few problems with only marketing to new target audiences. Eventually, those audiences will run out or start to dwindle. You’ll run out of people to attract to your business on your own. Furthermore, small businesses don’t typically have the budgets or resources to compete with big businesses when it comes to attracting new customers. 

So, what’s the answer for a business looking to grow and find success? It’s about focusing more on customer loyalty and their experience as well as building onto your business’ foundation, rather than constantly chasing target markets. 

The best businesses know how to treat their customers well and give them the things they want, so they’ll not only keep coming back, but they’ll tell others about the business. There is no better form of advertising than word-of-mouth, and the best way to achieve that is to create a following of happy, loyal customers. 

1. Make it More Than Marketing

A solid marketing plan is important for the growth of any business. Your marketing plan should have achievable goals you can reach quickly, as well as long-term goals. But when you’re trying to appeal to people and promote your brand, it’s about catering to their psychological triggers. 

What does that mean? Instead of creating a marketing plan solely focused on a new product, service, or deal, determine what the people who already love your business really want. Treat your current customers like royalty. Provide them with superior customer support and dedication. It’s easy to create a marketing plan when you’re trying to attract someone new. But, when you’re developing new ideas, don’t ignore the people who have stood by your business for a long time. By including them in your marketing budget, you’ll ensure that they keep coming back to you. 

2. Cover Your Bases

No business is perfect, but the ones who come close tend to cover their bases in every way so they always appear trustworthy and reliable to their customers.

You’ve probably heard about some data breaches and hacks in various companies over the last few years. Hackers are looking for everything from personal information like social security numbers to financial information like credit cards. When they get that kind of info, they can steal identities, spend money, and learn just about everything there is to know about your customers. While bigger companies can sometimes get away with this kind of hit, not every business is so lucky. 

Protecting your customers is crucial, which is why it’s a good idea to have proper storage solutions in place for records and data. Implementing a business record retention program is a great way to have your customers’ important information at your fingertips. A record retention program can keep track of business records, financial records, insurance records, copyrights, and more. It will also help you to determine how long you should hold on to certain documents and when it’s okay to get rid of them via shredding. 

Covering your bases as a business also means preparing for any possible scenario when you’re ready to launch a new product, service, or campaign. No solid company wants to think about all of the things that could potentially go wrong, but the ones that do are prepared and take less of a blow if one ever occurs. Some companies create user experience scenarios when launching a new product, deal, service, etc. This helps them to see what could potentially go wrong, what they could do better, and how people might respond. As a result, they can go back to the drawing board if needed and make sure their loyal customers will be pleased when the final product or idea is eventually rolled out. 

They’ll also be prepared for any potential problems. For example, take a look at Gap. Back in 2008, the clothing company launched a new logo in an effort to be more modern. The logo instantly received an overwhelming amount of backlash, and it only took the company two days to return to its original imagery. 

Of course, it’s important to protect yourself from a legal standpoint, too. Strong companies fully understand the legalities behind the promises they make and the things they offer their customers. It’s important to have a working knowledge of legal terminology and how to understand contracts when you’re in the business world. It will keep you from getting burned, and ensure the promises you make your customers are always kept. 

3. Offer Rewards

Everyone likes to be rewarded. Attracting new customers and audiences with special incentives and deals is great, but don’t forget about your loyal customer base. Creating a customer loyalty program is a great way to get people coming back. 

For some small businesses, a loyalty program can be something as simple as a punch card — buy five coffees and get your sixth one free! After all, customers are 82.4% more likely to shop at a store that has some type of loyalty system in place. 

If you want to go bigger, you can create a “points” system to reward loyal customers. Popular retailers like Old Navy, American Eagle, and Carters have reward point programs. The more customers spend, the more points they receive that can later be turned into discounts or money to spend at the store. This allows your business to keep adding revenue and tips your hat to those who are consistently spending with you. 

4. Take Feedback Seriously

Customers want to feel as though they have a relationship with the businesses they frequent. So, take their feedback seriously, whether it’s positive or negative. Even small businesses will benefit from some kind of customer support team. When a customer feels ignored or that their comments are falling on deaf ears, it never sits well. Even acknowledging what they have to say will make a difference in their overall experience. 

There are tools you can use to stay within your budget and still handle customer feedback with professionalism. There are a variety of resources that are great for offering customer service on virtually every channel possible. 

Getting caught up in the excitement of attracting new people to your business can be fun, but it isn’t a sustainable business plan that will allow you success and growth. Keep your current customer base in mind when it comes to everything you do. The loyalty you show back to them will end up rewarding your business in the long run. 

 

Considerations Before You Increase Employee Monitoring

There are all sorts of workplaces out there. Some require clocking in and out so that management can ensure every employee is logging a certain amount of hours each week. On the other end of the spectrum is the type of company that doesn’t invest in any employee tracking at all, other than for security purposes. Their staff can come and go as they please, create their own schedules, and even work from home. 

However, even seemingly lax companies may monitor employee email or software use. When it comes to employee tracking, ethical and legal issues pop up, along with issues surrounding company culture. Understanding how and why companies track employees is the first step toward deciding what’s right for your business.

Types of Employee Tracking

There are numerous ways for a company to keep an eye on what employees are doing. From direct observation in the office to secretly logging every keystroke an employee makes on their computer, some types of monitoring are helpful, while others can feel invasive:

  • Direct monitoring: If a manager wants to directly monitor what’s happening, they may put workspaces in a central, open area. Using hardware that logs keystrokes is another type of direct monitoring.
  • Email monitoring: Email monitoring ensures that everything being sent from a company email address is in-line with the company’s values. It will also clear out spam before it reaches an inbox, which helps the employee do their job more efficiently.
  • GPS monitoring: Depending on the type of job an employee performs, GPS monitoring may or may not be worthwhile. For example, it’s best when used for the employee’s safety and to prevent accidents, like in the fleet industry. GPS tech can monitor how often a driver hard brakes or speeds, and an in-vehicle buzzer can alert the driver to risky driving so they can improve.
  • Network monitoring: In order to keep the company’s network secure and free of viruses, it’s necessary to monitor it. Network monitoring includes tracking the content that’s sent over the network and monitoring who is accessing files.
  • Software monitoring: For companies with dispersed teams or remote workers, software monitoring allows managers to keep an eye on what’s happening even when they’re not in the same physical location as employees. Software monitoring logs information like changes to files, conversations, and screenshots. 

Regardless of which types of monitoring you decide are right for your business, you have to let employees know how they’re being monitored. You should also have employees sign to acknowledge that they understand how and why they’re being monitored. If your monitoring strategies change, you should update employees right away, preferably before the changes are put in place.

Ethics and Legalities of Employee Tracking

If you don’t approach employee monitoring the professional way, a lot can go wrong. If you neglect to let the employee know they’re being monitored, they may feel betrayed and concerned about working for you. They may wonder, “What else don’t I know?” 

Even if they’re aware of the monitoring, employees may feel like their privacy is being invaded. They don’t want a micro-manager who needs to see every single thing they do at every moment of the workday. They’d rather work for someone who trusts them. 

Furthermore, certain states have specific legal guidelines to follow. For example, in Connecticut, employees cannot monitor employees without getting consent first. Ensure that your organization is legally compliant in order to avoid issues down the road.

Alternatives to Employee Tracking

Consider why you want to track your employees. There may be another way to achieve the same results. For example, let’s say you’re worried that employees are wasting time at work. They seem to be meeting deliverables and deadlines, but every time you walk into their workspace, they’re on social media or chatting with one another. Instead of monitoring what they do to catch them in the act, talk to them to find out if they’re bored or not challenged enough at work. The problem could be that they don’t have enough to keep them busy.

Here’s another example: Let’s say you need to cut costs, so you want to see who’s clocking in late or leaving early. Unless you have a good reason to think this is happening, a better first step is to audit the workplace and see where waste can be reduced. You may discover that you’re regularly replenishing inventory that isn’t actually being used or that you can use alternative packaging that’s less costly and wasteful. 

Final Thoughts

There are times when tracking is useful to both the company and its employees. For example, applicant tracking systems make it easier for companies to source potential hires and go through hundreds of job applications to hone in on the best ones. For the applicant, that means they’ll get a response sooner rather than later because managers don’t have to manually sort through tons of applications. 

On the other hand, some employee tracking feels unethical, giving employees the impression that they’re not trusted by the company they work for. Getting to the root of the issue and determining why you want to track employees will help you decide the best way to monitor them or if they have to be monitored at all.

How HR Can Help During Tax Season

While HR is generally seen as being associated more closely with payroll than taxes, there is a huge overlap between the two. This means that at some point any given business will end up relying on its HR team to help in ensuring that its taxes are filed and paid appropriately. HR professionals can provide invaluable help with both employer and employee tax filing if they educate themselves, stay organized, and keep up to date on the ever-changing tax code.

Both Employers And Employees Rely On HR During Tax Season

Though HR professionals are by no means tax experts, their role within a business often leads to tax questions from both employers and employees. A well-trained HR team will be able to address questions from both with ease, whether they are related to personal or business taxes. HR departments are the main conduit of communication between organizations and employees, and it is important that they be able to help either when it comes to tax preparation.

The tax code changes relatively regularly, so it is to be expected that employees may have questions that go beyond how to appropriately fill out a W-4. For example, many employers encourage their employees to open health savings accounts, and employees who do might find themselves wondering what contributions to their HSA are deductible or what the limit for annual contributions might be. HR staff should be prepared to assist with these questions as it will ultimately help both the employee and the organization.

Assisting your employer with proper filing and helping employees with any questions they might have is important as an HR professional, however, there are limits to what can be done. HR teams can give as much advice to employees as they like regarding how to fill tax forms like a W-4, but filling one out for an employee is illegal. Understanding the limitations of how much an HR department can and cannot do helps to maximize efficiency while reducing any legal risk to the organization.

Organization Is Key

When HR teams assist a business with the proper filing of taxes, it is of utmost importance that they maintain a high level of organization. Keeping an accurate record of tax records through digitally scanning them and avoiding using easily lost physical documents is essential. Additionally, keeping a detailed log of business expenditures within the HR department and any documentation that might prove useful when filing taxes should be a priority.

Timekeeping is also incredibly important for HR professionals. Keeping track of nonexempt employees’ hours worked is essential in order to remain compliant with both national and state tax authorities. Doing so will prevent headaches in the long run and make the job of filing appropriately that much easier.

The ability for HR professionals to keep tax-relevant documentation organized is increasing rapidly. This is due largely in part to the rise of advances in cloud storage and big data. These new and powerful technologies allow HR professionals to not only execute their daily operations more efficiently but to keep important information like tax documentation organized and readily available as well. Despite the ease of the cloud for storage, however, it’s imperative that HR professionals understand how to make and keep backups of all important data as well, in case of emergency.

Keeping Up With The IRS

The IRS processes around 240 million tax returns every year generating nearly $3 trillion in tax revenue. While this is impressive, the IRS relies on both private citizens and companies alike to file their taxes promptly and appropriately in order to avoid having to perform an audit if there are any discrepancies detected. Avoiding an audit is obviously preferred for any organization, so ensuring that all levels of an organization, including the HR department, are well versed in recent changes to tax code is a good idea.

The United States tax code recently saw its most substantial reform in over 30 years in the form of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The changes made to the tax code by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act have far-reaching implications for both employees and the organizations that employ them and because of this, it is imperative that HR professionals understand how the changes to the tax code affect their business. 

Payroll systems had to change across the board after this legislation passed as it affected individual income tax rates and brackets. Additionally, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminated the ability to deduct the expenses from popular employer-provided fringe benefits such as deductions for parking and transportation expenses for employees. 

In an era where transparency is increasingly appreciated by employees, especially when it comes to salary and payroll, it is important for HR professionals to be able to explain these changes if questions arise. While there is no certainty what future tax code reforms might hold for employees and organizations, HR professionals would be wise to remain up to date on any changes that might affect them.

HR teams are some of the most important and unsung aspects of any business or company, and the ability to assist both employers and employees with tax filing questions adds yet another notch to an already impressive list of skills. If HR professionals stay on top of keeping the appropriate documentation organized and accessible and stay on top of any changes to the U.S. tax code, they will be more than equipped to answer nearly any question asked of them.

How HR Professionals Can Be More Supportive of Parents

In about 46% of two-parent households in the United States, both parents work full time. This is a shift from the past, where more women stayed home to raise the children and take care of the family. 

More parents want to keep working and further their careers after having kids. It’s possible to do so, but companies and large organizations need to take steps to facilitate continued career growth for these individuals. Businesses need to support parents by offering a better work-life balance. This will help them attract new employees and retain current ones. 

There are many benefits to supporting parents within your company. It starts with understanding what parents really value and what they need. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how you can be more supportive of the parents who work for you or will work for you in the future.

What Expecting Parents Really Want 

When companies and HR professionals are considering which benefits to offer their employees, they have to hit the right marks. One survey suggested that 80% of employees would prefer a better benefits package over a raise. Benefits are likely even more important for parents or for those who are expecting. 

Support for new parents or those who are about to have a baby can make a difference in employee retention. For expectant couples, supportive benefits can include things like paid maternity and paternity leave, as well as insurance benefits that will help employees deal with the medical expenses of having a new baby. 

It’s also essential to avoid discriminating against expectant mothers in your workforce. Pregnancy discrimination in the workplace is unethical, but it still happens. By making sure your policies reflect a positive and non-discriminatory attitude toward pregnant employees, you can create a more welcoming and comforting family atmosphere within your business. 

The number one priority for any pregnant woman is to keep herself and her baby as healthy as possible. Here are some ways to make your workplace more inclusive of pregnant mothers:

  • Your company can support that by offering things like healthy complimentary snacks or water. 
  • Make sure restrooms are easily accessible for everyone. 
  • Offer exercise or yoga classes for expectant mothers who want to stay active. 
  • Encourage more flexibility in their hours so they can have more time at home to rest and get some sleep

It’s a good idea to include some pre-birth perks for expecting dads too. Paternity leave is important and should be a part of any benefits package. Also consider sponsoring birthing classes and encourage expecting fathers to join support groups to know what to expect. 

As with expectant mothers, flexible hours for fathers-to-be can also be a big draw, as they allow men to go with their partners to doctor’s appointments, classes, and more. This can be especially helpful for same-sex couples who are going through the adoption process or using a surrogate. Some companies actually offer surrogacy compenasation, which can be huge for same-sex couples or couples who can’t have children on their own. 

As you can see, none of these offered benefits or resources have to blow your budget. By making a few small policy changes, you can create a complete shift in how pregnant women and even fathers who are expecting are viewed and treated within your company. 

Better Benefits for Families

For individuals or couples who are already parents, employers can offer more paid time off, daycare services, lactation support services, and more flexibility. 

Offering various family insurance plans, as well as life insurance plans can also attract new parents to stick with your company, since they’ll know they can be protected if anything were to ever happen. Life insurance can be used to protect a family, to pay off debts, or for parents to simply have peace of mind when it comes to leaving something behind for their children. Even if your company chooses not to offer life insurance, it’s a good idea to have a few agencies in mind to work with so you can point your employees in the right direction. 

New parents might want to return to work, but that can be hard to do with a baby or young child at home. To show your employees their real value, offering work flexibility can make a huge difference. This includes offering non-traditional hours or even work-from-home opportunities. Thanks to technology, working from home has become very popular. It’s a great option and can be very successful for single parents, and there are many companies that cater to these families. By offering that kind of flexibility, your employee is more likely to take the job seriously from home, and they won’t experience burnout or resentment from having to leave their family. 

How HR Makes a Difference

When it comes to supporting new parents, your focus should be less about money and more about relationships. While a raise is always nice (and likely always appreciated), you can form a better lasting relationship with your employees by showing them you care about their families, their health, and their overall well-being. 

When your employees are ready to get back to work, keep the benefits rolling, and they’ll be likely to ease back in comfortably. Companies like Amazon offer “on-ramp” programs that help employees to start working again at a comfortable pace. It starts out with a shorter schedule and offers a lot of flexibility and paid time off. 

If you’re not sure what the parents working for you really want, don’t be afraid to ask! Taking an interest in your employee’s wants will show them that you care about their lives, and they aren’t just a number to you. Being a parent and working at the same time isn’t always easy, and it typically requires a lot of juggling. You can make it easier on your employees, boost their sense of self-worth, and give your business a boost when you offer the right kind of support.

Why You Should Invest in Personal Finance Training for Your Employees

Personal finance and budgeting play a role in everyone’s life. It’s no secret that your ability to wisely allocate financial resources has a significant impact on your quality of life. 

Unfortunately, most individuals — including your employees  — are probably not as financially capable as they ought to be. High schools and colleges have stopped making financial literacy a requirement to graduate, and so many individuals are completely unaware of personal finance basics of personal finances. 

At this point, you might be wondering why you, as an employer or someone in HR, should care about this. Why should it matter to you that employees can successfully manage their finances? Well, here are just some of the reasons why you should invest (or advocate that your business invest) in personal finance training for employees:

Less Stress, Higher Productivity

For one, stress as a result of personal financial mismanagement is a common problem of the workforce today, resulting in lower rates of productivity and ultimately affecting a company’s bottom line. About 68% of employees are not fully engaged at work, and much of this can be attributed to financial stress. 

This is backed up by Dr. Thomas Garman, a Virginia Tech professor, who states, “Workers waste 20 hours of company time a month thinking about and dealing with personal finances.” Further, 40% of employees have even openly admitted that personal stress greatly affects their productivity at work.

With these figures in mind, teaching your employees about personal finance management can only be a win-win. Most employee learning takes place during work hours, so it makes sense to offer opportunities for employees to learn more about personal finances. In return, they will get rid of financial stress and become more productive. 

Retain Top Talent

Providing a benefit like personal finance training for employees can also help you attract and retain top talent. In fact, a Society for Human Resources study found that “employees are looking to their employers for help with managing their financial wellness.” Today, with the rise of the gig economy, many workers are able to control their work hours and get paid for extra time on the clock. Given the fact that the gig economy as a whole can offer more pay, this provides the means for employees to feel financially secure while also attracting top talent. 

Jobs as part of the gig economy rarely come with benefits, so including personal finance training in your benefits package gives yourself an edge when it comes to recruiting talent. Thus, including financial wellness training as a part of an employee’s benefits package can yield positive results. This is a great way for a company to demonstrate their commitment to the well-being of those they employ.

Ripple Effect on Society

An often-overlooked advantage of providing finance training for your employees is the ripple effect it can have. Giving employees this information enables them to spread financial best practices to friends and family, ultimately improving the well-being of those around them. While this may not immediately and directly benefit your company, it does create for a more financially stable community in the long-run. In turn, this new, more skilled society will help your business’ bottom line. 

These are just a few of the reasons you should consider financial training benefits for your employees. As you can see, alongside enhancing employees’ lives, your company stands to benefit greatly from this inclusion. The best part is that personal finance training programs are actually quite easy to implement. Here are some tactics to consider: 

Give a Financial Self-Assessment 

The first step in promoting the financial wellness of your employees is gauging how much they know about personal money management. People often struggle with planning their finances because they neglect (or intentionally avoid) thinking about them critically. As a result, they are unable to adequately plan for the future.

A financial self-assessment solves this problem and allows for both managers and employees to learn about their personal financial capabilities. Once this is done, your employees can identify pain points in their financial planning and take the appropriate steps to make changes. There are many free financial assessment quizzes available online that you can hand out to your employees. A good starting point for a personal finance self-assessment can be found at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website.

Offer Classes/Training Seminars 

Fixed classes or seminars are effective ways of teaching financial wellness on an ongoing basis. You could devote one hour a week to a training seminar where employees could be given the chance to hear from various experts and financial planning. Each seminar could cover a different topic under the umbrella of personal financial wellness, including how to improve and maintain good credit, how to pay off credit card debt, how to plan for retirement and a child’s education, how to invest, and more. 

Even if you aren’t in the position to host seminars, you could consider giving your employees the option to enroll in online money management classes and cover the cost. Alternatively, you could offer premium access to sites like SkillShare or Udemy that offer classes from experts across a range of topics. 

Provide Budgeting Tools

Budgeting is key to personal finance management. Make sure your employees know basic budgeting skills — you could even start with the “give, save, and spend” concept that is used to teach children about money. From there, teach employees about the principles of setting up a household budget such as identifying income, tracking spending, and determining goals. You could also keep an eye out for financial tools that could help your employees. These include free retirement planning tools, investing tools, budgeting apps, and more. 

Spread Awareness About Cost-Effective Options

Another initiative that is easy to implement is spreading awareness about resources that outline how to get the most cost-effective services. Choosing cost-effective options can increase savings and aid money management efforts. One way to do so is to teach employees how to evaluate various deals for everyday services through a monthly email newsletter. 

For instance, you could send out a newsletter that details how to pick the best internet deal for one’s home, covering pointers like looking for plans in the “Back to School” period in August. The following month you could send out a newsletter about how to pick the best car insurance, and what to consider when choosing one. Spreading awareness about ongoing deals that you have researched, as well as knowledge about how to choose cost-effective options is a good way to educate employees about making financially sound decisions. 

Promoting the financial wellness of your employees is a great investment, benefitting both your company and your employees. Use these tips to introduce personal finance training into your employee benefits package to build a more productive and financially savvy workplace.

Backlog Management: Making Sure  Your Backlog Is Lean 

A lot goes into running an online business. An online business can be classified as a variety of different things. You can run a website, build software, create an app or a wide range of other ventures. While more and more people are venturing online to start a business, it isn’t an easy task. There is not only a lot of competition but many new startups (whether online or not), will fail.

However, running a business today can also be easier than ever. There are many tools, software, and programs that can help with numerous aspects of your business. For example, with how important coding is to many businesses, there have been several different tools that can assist with your coding and monitoring your app. If you want to learn more about some of them, check out this link: JavaScript Error Logging Service Error Handling.

Unfortunately, trying to do too much or bloating your company with tools or other things can also often be problematic. Clutter or bloating in a company can cause many issues, and this is especially true when it comes to your backlog. A backlog is a collection or list of different new features, bug fixes, changes and more than your team wants to implement. If this backlog is too big or clogged up with stuff, it can hurt your business in many ways. It can slow down innovation, lead to confusion and can greatly reduce your time to market. With that in mind, this article is going to look at a couple of different tips to ensure your backlog is lean. 

Do Your Best to Prevent or Eliminate Waste

When you have a ton of unnecessary items in your backlog, it does nothing but wastes both time and resources. It can also make it quite tough to focus on the actual important items that could be buried in the backlog. As a result, you should get rid of any unnecessary entrants. Reducing the inventory to only things that are essential can go a long way. 

In addition to this, you should be sure to prevent any future waste or overproduction in your backlog. This means you should only look to provide what customers and users actually need, and not try to go above and beyond by overproducing. This will keep everything clean and concise and helps people focus on what is most important. 

Know When to Say No

As you are likely aware, it can be incredibly challenging to say no. This is especially true at the workplace and responding to colleague or coworker requests. However, when dealing with your backlog, it is incredibly important to be able to say no. Any ideas or potential entries that don’t contribute to the overall goal of the team should be declined.

This will ensure your product, software, company or program never becomes bloated. Sure, turning ideas down can be disheartening, it needs to be done. The less amount of items within the backlog, the leaner it will be. Even if something might be important later on, refrain from adding to the backlog to ensure it stays lean. Instead, you could add it to your roadmap or simply keep it on the back burner until it is time to make use of it.

Manage and Prioritize Your Backlog 

Of course, how your team actually manages the backlog can have a huge impact on how lean it is. You need to come up with a management plan and ensure everyone is on the same page regarding it. Everyone should be a part of ensuring the backlog is continuously updated and kept fresh. 

In addition to managing the backlog, it needs to be prioritized as well. You and your team need to work together to decide when and how each item should be implemented. Is it needed right now? Or can it wait for a future update? Addressing this early and often will make sure your team always knows how to move forward. 

In conclusion, hopefully, this blog post is able to help you make sure your backlog is lean. 

What HR Can Do to Promote a Healthy Work Environment

Most workspaces present some kind of challenge for an employee’s health. Whether that be too many unhealthy temptations, a job that’s physically demanding, a job that isn’t physical enough, or even one that challenges a person’s mental health, each working environment can do more to prioritize employee health. Not only do healthy employees work better, it’s also beneficial to workplace culture for employees to feel as though their employer cares about their well-being and not just the bottom line. 

In order for HR to promote a healthy work environment, there are a few things they can do. By taking steps that prioritize employee health, employees can go from experiencing wellness challenges to watching their health thrive in the office. 

Be a Source of Health Information

There is a wealth of health information available out there, but it can be difficult to sift through studies, warnings, and updates if you’re not familiar with health news. For this reason, it can be helpful to be a source of health information for employees. You can do this by releasing a health newsletter each month, which can include things like medication news that may impact their health, food and drug recalls, or new CDC research. You might also recruit experts to speak or offer a health fair to allow employees to research wellness options in their area. Include various types of insurance, holistic health services, and mental health physicians as well. This way, you can be a reliable source of health information for your employees. 

Understand Employee Health Gaps

Not every work environment will require the same things to promote health for employees. The key is in identifying employee health gaps and working to provide ways to remedy them. For instance, if your employees sit for a large portion of their work day, promoting a healthy work environment will involve encouraging walking breaks or purchasing standing desks. If your employees have a physically demanding job, promoting a healthy work environment will involve offering rest breaks and comfortable areas for relaxation. 

Both health gaps are damaging to employees’ overall health and wellbeing. In addition to the type of work done, it’s also important to offer support for each employee’s specific health condition by providing what they need to be productive, safe, and fulfilled in the workplace.

Provide Healthy Alternatives

An office environment can be problematic to a person’s health because of all of the unhealthy temptations that can occur. Morning donuts, pizza luncheons, complimentary soda, etc., can all derail a person’s health goals. This doesn’t mean cutting out the bagels and complimentary lunches altogether, it just means you can promote a healthy work environment by offering healthy alternatives as well. 

For instance, some may prefer the health benefits of tea over coffee, so offering both can help employees to stick with their preferred beverage. The same is true for fruit and granola in addition to donuts and bagels, a salad bar in addition to pizza, or low-calorie and no-sugar drinks in addition to soda. 

Promote Exercise and Wellness

Exercise and wellness are staples of health, and promoting them at work can do a lot to create a healthy work environment. Exercise is a great way to reduce stress and promote physical and mental health, so providing a benefit like a gym facility or a paid gym membership can go a long way for employee wellness. You might also organize an exercise outing for those who wish to participate, such as a group hike or an employee team for a local 5k. 

This way of promoting a healthy work environment is great for workplace culture, which is great for company reputation as well. You can promote wellness in the office by offering on-site flu shots, organizing a health clinic, providing wearable medical tech, or designating a quiet area for meditation and relaxation to relieve stress. 

Prioritize Mental Health and Safety

Providing a healthy work environment isn’t just about offering healthy snacks and a gym membership, it’s also fostering a work culture that isn’t detrimental to their mental health and an environment dedicated to keeping them safe. Work on promoting a healthy work-life balance by offering PTO, flexible schedules, adequate pay, and the freedom to take time if they are burnt out. Be open about any mental health information employees may need, and make sure any insurance plans include mental health services. 

You might also offer sexual harassment training to ensure all employees understand consent, boundaries, and appropriate behavior in and out of the office. Work hard to make employees feel safe, and establish trust so they feel protected enough to report any incidents if they should occur. 

A healthy work environment should make an employee feel happy, healthy, fulfilled, and safe. It’s impossible to cater to every employee perfectly, but you can reach many of them by providing them with a few resources to help promote a healthier lifestyle. Not only is this better for employee morale and workplace culture, it also works to build better employees who enjoy their jobs and feel more productive. Employees will be happier and healthier overall when you show them that you are invested in and care about their health.

What to Consider Before Implementing a Pet-Friendly Office Policy

If you’re looking for a way to reduce stress in your office and improve employee productivity, adopting a pet-friendly office policy might be the solution. Having dogs in the workplace can encourage employees to interact with each other and may even result in reduced employee absenteeism. Another perk is that a pet-friendly office can even help to recruit millennials

But adopting a pet-friendly office policy is something that needs to be done strategically, since it can also have some downsides. The safety and happiness of both employees and their pets needs to be a priority, and bringing pets into the workplace also creates some legal liabilities that you should be prepared for. 

Options for Employees Who Can’t Be Around Dogs

While many of your employees may love the idea of a pet-friendly office, you’ll need to consider the employees who either can’t or don’t want to be around dogs. According to Square Foot, employees with pet allergies can experience mild to severe symptoms with dogs in the office. The Americans with Disabilities Act recognizes allergies as a disability in some cases, and if your office cannot accommodate the needs of employees with pet allergies, you could be discriminating against an employee with a disability (and breaking the law in the process). 

It’s also important to consider the fact that some employees may be fearful of dogs. Square Foot states that fear of dogs is one of the most common phobias, and bringing dogs into the workplace could create a situation where employees feel unsafe or even are unable to function. 

The layout of your office may allow you to create dog-friendly areas, so employees can avoid dogs if they need to. This solution does risk causing some employees to feel isolated or left out, though. 

Liability Insurance with Pets in the Workplace

Bringing pets into the workplace can increase your company’s liability. If employees or customers are injured by a pet or a pet causes damage in the building you’re renting, your business could be held liable. 

To understand how pets could affect your liability and your business insurance, start by having a conversation with your current insurance company. You may need to take out an additional business liability policy that specifically covers pets in the workplace. 

In addition to taking out liability insurance, you should prepare a plan in case an employee is ever bitten by a dog while in the workplace. Your plan should incorporate elements like a method for promptly gathering information about the incident, reporting the bite to the authorities, ensuring the employee gets immediate medical treatment, and removing the dog from the workplace. 

Dog Insurance to Protect Employees

When you bring multiple dogs into the same area for long periods of time, accidents and incidents can happen. Dogs can injure themselves while roughhousing with each other, and dog fights can and do occur. These incidents may result in costly vet bills. 

Pet insurance can help dog owners to cover the costs of unexpected vet bills and medical issues. If a dog gets into a fight, accesses some food that he shouldn’t eat, or has any other type of accident in the workplace, having pet insurance can reduce some of the financial stress that a trip to the animal ER or vet can create. You may want to recommend that your employees look into pet insurance policies before bringing their pets to the workplace. 

Having dogs in the office can carry the risk of diseases spreading, too. Kennel Cough is a highly contagious disease that can quickly spread when dogs are in close quarters. It results in a dry, hacking cough, and symptoms can last between one and three weeks. The disease spreads similarly to the way that colds spread among humans, and if dogs are together in an enclosed environment, like an office, the disease can spread rapidly. Employees may want to invest in a Kennel Cough vaccine for their dogs before bringing them to the office. 

Pets as Workplace Distractions

Pets are great for relieving stress and driving engagement between employees, but a workplace filled with pets can also be distracting. Multiple pets underfoot can disrupt employees’ attention spans, and the sound of dogs barking the background doesn’t make for a professional conference call with clients. 

If you decide to make your office pet-friendly, plan for ways to manage the pets and ensure employee safety. This may mean a restriction on the number of pets in the office each day and a requirement that pet owners bring in crates or baby gates to keep pets contained when they have to go to other rooms for conference calls. You may want to write a pet policy that dictates minimum age and training requirements for pets, office areas that are out-of-bounds, required vaccines for pets, and more. 

Informing an employee that their pet’s behavior is not acceptable and that their pet cannot continue to come into the office can create a difficult situation, but these types of situations can and will arise when you have pets in the office. By making a pet policy as detailed and clear as possible, you can help your employees to understand what’s expected of them and their pets. A detailed pet policy can also help to avoid problems before they happen. 

Plenty of offices are successfully pet-friendly, but it’s a decision that requires careful deliberation and preparation. Think about it thoroughly, and consider every scenario that could arise with the implementation of a pet policy. Get the opinion of all the office employees, and if it’s an overwhelming want, you can successfully make it happen. 

 

Five Tips To Nail Your College Entrance Essay

pic-college

Type, research, edit, type again, re-read, review, and print out.

Do more grammatical edits and send to your references. Get it checked.

Edit again and re-write.

Then finally: hit send.

The time to impress your college admission officers with an outstanding essay has arrived. An essay for a college application can be the key and walk the borderline between getting accepted or rejected.

This process could take a lot of time researching and structuring, months even on just writing one essay, but the college admission officers will screen it within just  a few minutes.

Just like all great authors and writers know, it is important to attain their maximum attention—in the first few words.

If your main concern is how to make your essay stand out (which is should be since there are many other applicants with similar backgrounds), here are five good tips that will get the most attention from the college admission officers:

  • Allocate your Time: If you’vewritten your essay in one sitting, your ideas have not had a chance to sit.

Take your time after you’ve written it to let it sit for a while before going back to edit.

On the other hand, if it takes more than a month to complete your essay, that time’s much too long, your ideas will have lost their energy and may not be able to maintain the same excitement as it was when fresh.

Generating an original and considerate essay will inevitably take a good amount of brainstorming but if your start early enough, you’ll be able to finish it within a good amount time, without losing focus and maintaining your excitement for admission. It’s important that you feel good about your submission.

  • Read instructions carefully and start with a convincing introduction: Starting an essay is the toughest part.

Mentioning that you need to read instructions carefully may seem redundant but considering all the stress and excitement that describe this time of your life, highlighting it is required.

The college admission officer won’t be slow to assume that you are not be able to follow the university’s program if your first impression is that you can’t follow guidelines to the application essay.

You should be able to follow the rules like: page and word limit, and the organization of your submission. Take a few minutes to go through instructions, gather notes, and the start to generate a vivid introduction.

The university will spend a small amount of time to review your essay therefore, writing a compelling introduction will keep the college admission officer engaged.

Open with an anecdote that will reveal the best side of your personality and character, giving an insight into the admission officer to get to know who you are.

  • Evade clichés: When selecting a topic for your personal statement, it is important to avoid common or cliche topics because they will not differentiate you with other applicants.

You will get encouraged when you go through some examples of prodigious essays and get inspired, which is a good exercise. However, many students allow themselves to be carried too much by these examples anduse too many clichés in their urge to impress their college admissions (and emulate those examples).

Such common topics (and clichés) are generic and applicants should avoid them.

As an applicant, focus on an essay that makes you unique and which you can speak about in depth and personally. Pick something that shows who you are.

  • Pick one topic and stick to a clear essay plan: Many students try to stuff awards, activities, and distinctions in their essays—which is simply spewing off their resumé in essay-form.

A personal statement in your essay can help youpaint a picture of who you are apart from GPA, co-curricular activities, and standardized examinations. The admission officer wants to know who you are—it’s important that you inject your personality within the text.

To help you do so, pick one subject, occurrence or event to help show you off as a person and more so—as somebody whom the college wants to bring in.

Sticking to a clear plan will enable you to avoid writing many words without meaning. You only get a set number of words—use them wisely.

  • Remember who the reader is and ask someone to go through your work before you submit: The most important is to remember why the admission officers are reading your essay among other essays.

The admission officers receive many essayson a daily basis. Since they don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to each essay, they want a piece that will distinguish your essay from the rest.

Your first paragraph should be attention-grabbing and the background of your anecdote should be well-explained as well as able to pull the reader into your story.

Lastly, you should ask someone to proofread your work before submission.

Since you want to create a good college application and essay, it will be important to look overit for grammar, spelling, and typo errors.

As we focus too hard on things, we become blind to mistakes that can be conspicuously obvious to others.Therefore, ask somebody else to have a look at your essay.

It is important to ask only two or three people because if you ask too many people, numerous types of feedback could confuse you, lowering the quality of your essay as you review according to each person’s advice.

Wrapping Up Your Essay: Conclusion

Writing a college essay can be overwhelming, particularly when one is uncertain of what to write about or how to write it.

However, an essay that is sincere and thoughtful about an experience or event that is important to you, can be powerful and express the unique qualities that you will bring to college.

Creating an original and in-depth essay needs time. Write it and let it breathe. Brainstorm and edit it to make it flow.

Ensure you proofread your work to make sure it is captivating and impressive to the university admission officers.

Before staring at the blinking cursor on your blank page, take a deep breath, follow the above tips, and write a killer essay.

Author Bio

Anne Baron is highly experienced educator, writer and copywriter specializing in academic research.  She has a Ph.D. in Educational Administration with almost 25 years of experience in teaching and academic writing.  She spent a dozen years managing a large college peer-tutoring program and another dozen years in the classroom teaching college students.  She has since retired from teaching and devotes her time and efforts to freelance writing for institutions, businesses and colleges like Patrick Henry College.