Benefits of Transitioning to a Remote Workforce

Remote working has increased greatly in popularity over the last few years. There was a 159% increase in remote workers between 2005-2017, and today 4.3 million people in the U.S. work remotely at least half the time.

 

It may have already been a rising trend, but the coronavirus pandemic has made remote working a reality for millions of employees across the country. Some of those workers may remain in their remote positions while others will eventually go back to a traditional working environment. Either way, it can be more challenging for some to work from home than others. 


As a business owner, it’s important to understand some of the pros and cons of remote work from the standpoint of your employees, as well as how it will impact your success. So, how can you help your employees transition to a remote workforce, and how can you keep both motivation and morale high even in uncertain times, when you’re not able to directly connect? 

The Pros and Cons of Remote Working

Remote working has many benefits for both businesses and workers. Though you might think your employees would be less productive at home, research has shown that 77% of employees are actually more productive when they’re working remotely. As an employer, some of the biggest benefits your business can gain from letting your employees work from home include: 

 

  • Increased retention
  • Less interpersonal conflict
  • More transparency
  • A lesser need for a large physical space
  • Attract better talent

 

For employees, the benefits include flexibility, freedom, and a customizable space to get work done. 

 

Many people benefit from working remotely because it helps to reduce their stress levels. Employees that are unhappy or stressed are less likely to be productive. Yet, 25% of workers cite their job as their number one source of stress. By allowing employees to work remotely, you’re showing that you’re invested in their long-term health and care about their mental and emotional wellbeing. 

Encouraging a Work-Life Balance

Speaking of mental health, one of the biggest challenges for remote workers is finding a work-life balance at home. It’s far too easy for someone to wake up whenever they want, shuffle to the couch, grab their computer, and try to “work” while watching television. While that might sound relaxing, it isn’t exactly productive or effective. 

 

A stable work-life balance is just as important for remote workers as it is for anyone who works in an office. 

 

One of the best ways to encourage a better balance is to have a separate office space or workspace from the rest of the home. The beauty of being able to do that is that employees who work from home can set up their office spaces in such a way that boosts their own creativity and productivity. Family members within the home should know that designated space is off-limits and distractions need to be limited throughout the day to keep work from bleeding into their personal lives. 

 

If you’re trying to make the transition to working at home, yourself, another great solution is to keep a normal routine. Wake up with an alarm and go over the same routine you would if you had to go into an office. Set normal working hours through the day, give yourself breaks, and “quit” working at a certain time each day. It’s easy to get distracted at home, so limit those distractions as much as possible by unplugging from unnecessary devices and keeping yourself as focused as possible. 

How Can Businesses Benefit?

There are a few challenges your business may face in utilizing more remote workers, including: 

 

  • Communication
  • Performance tracking
  • Security

 

Thankfully, technology has stepped in to combat most of these issues. For example, Zoom has added over 2 million users so far this year, largely due to more people working remotely during the coronavirus pandemic. But programs like Zoom and Slack are making it easier for employees and employers to connect on a regular basis without having to get together in person. 

 

In many businesses, the pros tend to outweigh the cons when it comes to encouraging remote work. Not only will your company cut down on costs, but companies who allow employees to work remotely have a 25% lower turnover rate than those that don’t. You’ll attract new employees, retain your best ones, and boost productivity all at once. 

 

If your business hasn’t yet jumped on board with the idea of remote working, this might be the perfect time to see just how impactful it can be and how both your business and your employees might benefit from making such a transition. It can take some time for everyone to get used to, but knowing how to make the change fluidly and efficiently can improve your employees’ mental health and boost your business all at once. 

 

Supporting Diversity & Inclusion Through Benefits

By Chris Bruce, MD and co-founder, Thomsons Online Benefits

 

Last year, 800+ executives in the U.S. pledged to make elevating diversity and inclusion a workplace priority. This work is crucial, especially in Silicon Valley where half of startups still do not have any women in their leadership teams. Attracting and retaining diverse talent can be challenging, but it’s imperative that HR teams use all resources available to them in this effort, and that processes are in place to ensure female talent is nurtured, developed and has equal opportunity to progress in the organization.

 

Employee benefits can play a critical role in ensuring everyone feels included and cared for. Here’s how, from data analytics to benefits personalization, companies can use technology and benefits programs to create an employee benefits proposition that appeals to all.

 

Personalizing through wellness pots

 

Instead of using a one-size-fits-all solution that may only serve the needs of a limited number of employees, wellness pots can serve differing interests and needs. Companies offering wellness pots to support employees’ mental and physical wellbeing are automatically ahead of the curve. These employees are able to spend their wellness pot contribution on the benefits offerings that best support their diverse interests and needs. For example, one employee might take personal training, another could join a mindfulness program and a third take up drumming lessons. Not only do people feel better supported, but they have even more reason to regularly engage with their benefits which can lead to them using and valuing them more.

 

Employing data and analytics

 

To help companies make better decisions to support D&I, those that use pulse surveys to gather feedback from employees should begin segmenting the data by gender, generation, ethnicity, geography, and any other relevant subsection within the company. Not only does this give HR the opportunity to be proactive, but by only looking at total numbers there is a risk of missing  opportunities to identify and fix issues for specific groups.

 

Additionally, there’s a wide range of data available to employers from benefits software that many are not taking advantage of. For example, our research showed that only 48% of organizations measure benefit take up levels and 46% measure employee wellbeing. Companies are however beginning to understand just how important data and analytics are. Over a quarter of respondents are intending to begin collecting this information on benefits take-up and program engagement this yea. Combining the qualitative data from surveys with the quantitative data that can be derived from benefits technology, can create a powerful tool for HR and benefits teams.

 

Increasing flexibility

 

Another way to support all employees is by offering ‘floating’ PTO days to accommodate all employees’ civic or cultural preferences. For example, employees could choose to switch out their Presidents Day holiday for Election Day. What’s more, employers can also give the option to work remotely when needed to accommodate employee needs if something of importance to an individual worker, like an Ash Wednesday service, won’t take the entire day.

 

What’s more, those who work from home have been shown to be more productive, working an additional 1.4 more days per month, although it will be seen in the coming months how productivity is impacted under the new circumstances of working from home due to COVID-19. This is a win-win for both employees and employers and should alleviate any fears around productivity and flexible working. Beyond that, there can be additional long-term payoffs for companies that are sure to be inclusive: our research found that 80% of HR decision makers believe that flexible working arrangements are important when considering talent retention.

 

The bottom line

 

Research has found that 85% of candidates ask about benefits at some point in the interview process so as a key talent attraction tool they must be strategically planned if they are to effectively support D&I right from the start of the employee journey. With this in mind, employers must make their benefits more relevant, easier to access and more engaging in order to meet the needs of an increasingly demanding and diverse workforce. Only then will every employee – of any age, from any location, of any background or culture – be able to get the most out of their benefits and really feel their value.

 

 

 

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.

How to Improve Interdepartmental Communication

While there are many factors that determine an organization’s success, one that is too often overlooked is interdepartmental communication. Clear, open communication between departments is essential for your company’s continued growth.

 

Weak interdepartmental communication can greatly limit a company’s progress. As an HR manager, you have the power to help your organization achieve greatness through cultivating a culture of strong interdepartmental communication. To do so, you need a strategy to determine how different teams can best communicate with each other.

 

Even if your company has yet to experience interdepartmental communication issues, you should still put strategies into place. It’s difficult to hit the reset button on a dysfunctional team. Instead, work to foster good communication from the get-go through interdepartmental collaboration and ethical communication best practices.Team members working remotely isn’t an excuse for weak communication between departments. Thanks to a variety of tools and technology, good interdepartmental communication knows no distance.

Ideas for Interdepartmental Collaboration

As an HR manager, you have a lot of say when it comes to facilitating and encouraging better communication. With the goal of bringing together cohesive, aligned teams, you must decide which ideas for interdepartmental collaboration fit best with your organization’s needs and the personalities of its team members. At the core of every suggestion concerning how to improve communication between teams is the understanding that building collaboration means building trust. You are looking for ways to foster genuine relationships between team members in which mutual respect is a given.

 

An easy place to start communicating is by putting together a regularly issued newsletter. When shared throughout the organization, a thoughtfully written newsletter is a great way to ensure all team members are aware of the overall goals of the business and what each department is doing to work toward those goals. 

 

Of course, face to face interaction is equally, if not more, important to improving interdepartmental communication. While open house meetings and lunch and learn events can improve communication, informal environments are often better suited to encouraging authentic relationships between employees from different departments.

 

Volunteering has a myriad of team-building benefits. When departments work together, it instills a sense of camaraderie in a more natural way. Volunteering is an opportunity for employees to connect outside of the office. It gives team members a chance to get to know one another without the pretense of their typical roles. 

 

Furthermore, volunteering is a chance to collaborate on something unrelated to work. It can be the change of scenery necessary for a more well-rounded understanding of how someone completes tasks. Think of it as stepping back to see the bigger picture. Volunteering gives team members a chance to get to know each other’s personalities.

 

When you know someone’s personality, you’re more likely to appropriately interpret their behavior and less likely to assume malicious intent. Other ideas for interdepartmental collaboration on this deeper level include interdepartmental lunches and job-shadowing opportunities. 

 

Ethical communication best practices

As you move to organize interdepartmental collaboration opportunities for your organization, it’s important to keep ethical communication best practices in mind. Rather than assuming everyone is familiar with the best practices, it’s a good idea to provide a refresher lesson. Ethical communication is founded upon a culture of respect and trust. Neither you nor your team members should take that as meaning there will never be conflict. 

 

Rather, when there’s a company culture of respect and trust, team members refrain from personal attacks in favor of constructive communication. Misunderstandings are inevitable, but when everyone is committed to ethical communication best practices, uncomfortable conversations won’t lead to a breakdown in communication.

 

So much more than just “working together,” best practices and collaboration skills allow team members across departments to engage with one another in an efficient manner for maximum productivity. Top companies like Apple know teamwork is key. To tap into maximum productivity and to communicate effectively, it’s critical to make known the exact roles and responsibilities of each team member.

 

Once everyone’s roles and responsibilities are established, all team members should understand the organization’s big goals and how each team fits into achieving them. If employees are going to prioritize the group goals ahead of their own personal satisfaction, they need to see how collaboration benefits everyone.

 

Other ethical communication best practices include being aware of both verbal and nonverbal cues. For example, if one department frequently ignores emails and memos from another department, there’s likely going to be an issue. When situations do arise, it’s imperative to speak directly to the issue at hand and be willing to apologize. Forgiveness is equally important since maintaining a grudge can derail future collaboration.

Tools for facilitating better communication

Whether hashing out a misunderstanding or collaborating on a project, technology and tools can help facilitate better communication between departments and streamline staff management. Such technology is especially useful when team members are working remotely. By utilizing shared boards, folders and apps, team members can quickly access each other’s work and more easily share ideas. As HR manager, you should organize training for any collaboration tools your organization decides to utilize so that everyone knows how to access them and is on the same page.

 

When some or all team members are working remotely, digital communication channels such as instant messaging and video conference tools are essential. In a pinch, you can even send a fax from your phone. For your digital communication needs, check out these tools:

 

  • Asana: A mobile app that allows team to track and manage their work
  • Slack: A “collaboration hub” that allows team members to chat as a group or one-to-one 
  • Zoom: An easy to use platform for video and audio conferencing
  • Google Drive: A cloud-based file storage which gives team members the option to grant access of files to one another

While these tools can help facilitate better communication, it’s important to remember the key to improving interdepartmental communication is an environment of trust and respect which you,as an HR manager, have the power to cultivate. From making your recruiting process more collaborative to enhancing company morale, strong interdepartmental communication is vital for growth and success.

Best Practices for Outsourcing Data Services

A lot of businesses today use cloud-computing in one way or another. Cloud-based services became widely popular over the years and companies of all sizes make use of them. Allowing a third-party vendor or a service provider to handle your business needs turned out to be cost-effective, beneficial for business scaling and, of course, convenient.

One of the most popular cloud-based services is data services, commonly known as DaaS (Data as a Service). But what does that mean? Simply put, data services are also web services designed to handle programming and logic for data virtualization in a cloud infrastructure. 

In other words, data can be delivered anywhere from a centralized spot or various locations, thus allowing companies to leverage data to its fullest potential in any situation. However, outsourcing these activities is the tricky part. Finding a reliable outsourcing partner is the first priority and sorting out any concerns is vital. With that in mind, here are a few best practices for outsourcing data services. 

Determine your needs

For some time now, many companies believed that only large enterprises could afford to outsource data services and other business operations. However, over the years, outsourcing became much more accessible and affordable. 

Therefore, the question isn’t about whether you can or can’t outsource but about why you should outsource. That said, you must determine your needs and the reasons for outsourcing before you actually commit to it. 

When outsourcing data services, take into consideration the fact that data is stored in the cloud and made available to anyone within the company on-demand. 

Data can be provided to users as information that goes through various tools, applications and analytics. Therefore, if your business need is to scale properly and grow, your main reason to outsource data services would be more informed and data-driven decisions this type of service can provide.  

Choosing the right outsourcing partner

There are many cloud-based data service providers nowadays. You have to find an outsourcing partner that will meet your business needs. That doesn’t have to be difficult if you commit time and effort to conduct some research, beforehand. For example, here are a few things you should focus on when choosing an outsourcing partner:

  • Look for a partner with experience and expertise to match your needs.
  • Check for any online reviews regarding their services.
  • Check if they use the latest technologies and solutions.
  • Make sure they follow the best practices.
  • Ensure that they’re transparent.
  • Check how they communicate with clients.
  • Determine how they secure data and if they’re compliant with regulatory requirements.

Consider the benefits and advantages

Not all providers are the same, even if it seems that they all offer similar services. Looking for unique advantages and benefits is vital when choosing an outsourcing partner. Everyone has a unique sell and it’s up to you to determine which of those unique offers will provide your business with the right advantage. 

For example, an enterprise cloud computing solution allows you to migrate vital business applications to the cloud while allowing you to leverage improved cloud architecture with enhanced security protection. 

This type of service provides more benefits than simple data services. Moreover, considering other advantages that will benefit your business in some way is also important. Here are a few things you should keep an eye out for: 

  • Support for remote work – Delivering information via data services means data access on any device regardless of the geographical location.
  • Data backups – Ensuring there’s no data loss in case of a server failure, disaster or other issues.
  • Ability to boost organizational transformation – Supports companies in the process of digital transformation.

Addressing concerns

Your outsourcing partner should be able to address any concerns you might have regarding outsourcing data services. Every company is concerned about something, especially when it comes to allowing a third-party to access, store and manage your data. 

Therefore, talk to a potential outsourcing partner about those concerns before you decide to partner up with them. How they approach those issues should tell you a lot about their capabilities. Here are a few common concerns companies have when outsourcing data services:

  • The security of data and usability of services
  • Hardware resources and server environment
  • Control of data and data retention in case of a disaster
  • Server downtimes
  • Reusability of data for future development
  • Hidden costs and additional fees

Every cloud-based service provider should have policies and practices that will address such concerns. After all, outsourcing relationships should be based on trust. If your potential outsourcing partner cannot ensure that they can meet your expectations, you should look elsewhere. 

 

Choosing an outsourcing partner isn’t difficult but it’s a time-consuming task. If you don’t conduct the necessary research, you may make a mistake. Therefore, an outsourcing partner for data services isn’t just a service provider but, indeed, a partner that will help your business grow, develop further and make the best possible use of data.

Tips for Creating a Productive Home Office

Thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic, many people have found themselves working from home in order to keep their business above water and even to continue growth and success. When you’re in a leadership position, it’s important to stay motivated and productive while you’re working remotely so you can inspire others to do the same. 

 

The good news? Studies have shown that working from home can actually increase productivity

 

Having a designated office space for yourself while you work from home can help you to stay on task, inspire your team to do the same, and set your business up for continued success throughout these uncertain times and beyond. 

 

How can you create a productive work environment in your own home? Can an office space really make that much of a difference? 

Setting the Scene for Success

How you set up your office space can make a big difference in your productivity level. A good rule of thumb is to prepare a separate room or area of your home that will strictly be used as your office. As tempting as it can be to sit on the couch and work, there are a few drawbacks to that. First, more people than ever are using video conferencing platforms: 

 

  • Zoom
  • GoTo Meeting
  • Google Hangouts

 

As a leader within your business, you’ll want to make sure your space looks professional if/when your team is able to see it through an app or program. Not only does it set a positive example for them and can earn you a certain level of respect, but it can actually help your team members adjust to the “new normal.” Some people aren’t used to working remotely. Showing your team that you still have certain expectations for yourself and them while you all work from home will help you to maintain an office culture of success, even when you’re not in the office. 

 

You don’t have to go overboard with your home office, but there are a few basics you should invest in to set yourself up for success: 

 

  • A functional desk
  • A comfortable chair
  • Proper lighting (utilizing natural light can help to boost productivity)
  • Necessary technical equipment
  • Office supplies

 

Once you have what you need, you can go one step further with your home office setup by creating an environment that encourages productivity. Painting the walls a non-distracting, neutral color can help, as can adding a few plants to the room or mirrors to make the space look bigger and brighter. 

Maintaining Your Motivation

As a leader or HR professional, one of the responsibilities that may fall on you is keeping your team motivated and ready for success while you’re all working from home. That is difficult to do when you’re struggling to stay motivated yourself. 

 

One way you can improve your motivation is to keep to a routine. While it can be tempting to stay in your pajamas and sleep in, you should follow the same daily routine you used to get ready for work when you had to go into the office. Wake up at the same time, do your morning rituals, and get dressed as you normally would have done. 

 

Then, make sure you have specific working hours for the day. You don’t have to “clock in” at a specific time, but if you’re used to working 8-5, continue with that schedule. Be sure to take breaks throughout the day to avoid burning out or feeling overwhelmed by some of the challenges that can come from remote working. 

 

The most important thing you can do to maintain motivation is to strike a healthy work-life balance. When you limit yourself to working certain hours of the day, you can dedicate your time after work to your family, your children, or even to self-care. 

Be a Resource for Remote Working

Not everyone is used to working remotely, and some employees will handle it better than others. It’s important for you to be a resource to all of your employees of all different ages. Communicating effectively to the different generations who work with you will help everyone to feel more comfortable and knowledgeable about what’s expected of them during their time working at home. 

 

It’s still your job to banish stereotypes, rethink company culture, and use as many different forms of communication as possible to defuse generational conflict. Walk your employees through apps like Zoom for meetings, or how to connect with you one-on-one. If you’re worried that some of your older employees might be struggling with working remotely, check in on them. Or let technology come to the rescue by using apps like CircleCare, which can help you to directly connect with employees. Encourage them, motivate them, and check in on their mental health and well-being. If you have workers who are struggling to transition to the remote lifestyle, be a resource for them to make the adjustment easier. 

 

You might also consider hiring more remote workers during this time, especially if your business has picked up or you need knowledgeable, independent contractors to fill in the gaps. 

 

This current pandemic has shown businesses across the world how valuable remote working can be. For some people, it might become the “new normal.” For others, getting back to a traditional office environment will be the most beneficial thing. Focusing on keeping your team motivated and successful at this time starts with what you can do at home, so be sure you have an office space that keeps you on task. 

 

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.

How To Recover From A Sudden Fall In Traffic

We are living in the digital age so it is quite understandable that traffic on your website has a direct relation to your company’s success. The data you can collect and analyze via Google Analytics is used as a tool for the best marketing strategies for several years now. It is the direct feedback on your visitors and the conversion rate, so you can keep track of what is working for you, and what you need to improve. Leading a business is a game of strategy, so if you notice that your website has a significant decline in traffic, the first thing to remember is not to panic. There are various reasons why this can happen, so you ought to find out the answers before any further steps.

Make sure the data is correct

This may seem quite obvious, but mistakes can happen, and it is a real possibility that the correct results were simply not fully uploaded. Nowadays, we rely on the Internet, perhaps even too much, but there are so many factors in the connection and servers which can lead to faulty data. This is why your first step of action after you’ve calmed down, is to visit your analytics and log into your admin account. You’ll have an option to check the tracking code, under the tracking info section. This option will allow you to see if all the data has been reported for the previous two days.

The most common reason for any missing data is some update on the website which has altered the code. Now visit your website and open the code to inspect, then type “analytics” in the search box. To open the search box, press the command/control plus f, and at this point, you’ll gain valuable input on your code. Hopefully, you will find the missing piece and an inappropriately installed code, which would mean you don’t have a problem, and you’ll have the easy fix. If your code is working perfectly fine, the search continues.

Thorough inspection

Understanding exactly what happened is the key to the appropriate solution. You should compare the results with several previous weeks and find the discrepancies. Check out the difference between the decline in both the organic and non-organic traffic, in order to draw any conclusions. Ranking on Google and SEO listings, in general, is a highly competitive field, so bear in mind that this may be a consequence of your competitors having a more aggressive approach to it. Optimization is the leading trend in digital marketing for years, and companies all over the world are investing more and more on a daily basis.

Investigate and pinpoint the exact problems in terms of keywords and pages when it comes to the decline. This can help you understand the reason behind it, and find several solutions. If you have a list of certain keywords that turned out to be problematic, you can simply alter them, or completely change. A lot of things can influence the context within the keywords, so regular inspection and modification is highly recommended. However, if you can’t find any specific problem, it may be time to check for issued penalties.

Google penalties

If the fall was very sudden, you may have been issued a Google penalty. There are several reasons for this to happen, and you need to check for manual penalties first. If this kind of a penalty has been issued, you were supposed to receive a message from Google. Go on the “security and manual actions” option, and choose “manual actions” field. You will either receive the message that no issues were detected, or the details about the issue, as well as a way to resolve it. Google reserves the right to do this, and it can happen due to some broken links or duplicate content.

Conduct a meticulous inspection of your on-site and technical optimization. Check the speed and any reported algorithm changes, along with the optimization for various devices. Maybe it’s time to update your website. Any loss of internal links, broken images or links, failed implementations of redirect can be a cause of your problems.

Damaging content

If there are no penalties and you can’t find any other issues we’ve mentioned, it is a possibility that someone has been posting damaging reviews. This kind of publicity can heavily damage the reputation of a company, reduce the loyalty of consumers, and negatively affect your brand awareness. In order to fight it, you’ll need to develop a campaign to help you get back on the right track. You should invest in the help of marketing experts in doing so, as it can be a challenging task. When you’ve found the source, you’ve found the reason. We suggest investments in paid ads, better optimization and the most engaging form – videos.

Over the past several years video has become the most attractive form of reaching people and engaging them, which results in higher loyalty and conversion rates. If you’re dealing with the misleading and damaging content, you should book a consultation and have them guide you to the best solution. There are many quality companies dealing with video production in Sydney, as we believe is the case with all the major cities. Ask for recommendations, or find a campaign which you’ve liked to find out who was working on it. This is the best way to do damage control. Additionally, reach to people who wrote said reviews and ask for feedback on your service. You can offer to correct the mistake, and they might change or remove their reviews, which would significantly help for future reference.

Conclusion

Whatever the reason behind the decline in traffic is, the only thing that matters is that you work on fixing it as soon as it happens. For this, and many other reasons, it is essential to constantly monitor, analyze and adapt your website, as well as your approaches in digital marketing. Optimization is a major part of it, especially now in 2020, and the future of it. Furthermore, it provides you with long-term results, unlike paid ads for example. Just remember, go one step at a time! And that there is always room for improvement. True leaders should always search for a way to make their business better, and turn it into a legacy.