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Monthly Archives

July 2016

What to do When You Hate Your Job

By Your Employee Matters | No Comments

em-july16-3When you feel stuck at a job you hate, it’s easy to focus on your misery. You may even be tempted to switch jobs. Before you find yourself stressed out, unemployed or burning important professional bridges, though, consider taking these steps.

    1. Determine what needs to change.

      Maybe a different boss, easier clients or a raise would help you be happy at work. Maybe you’re tired of the commute, itching to climb the ladder or perturbed by a co-worker. Identify the cause of your frustration as you figure out exactly what you don’t like about your job.

    1. Be clear about what’s important to you.

      Your job frustration could stem from the fact that you’re not getting something that’s important to you. For instance, maybe you value work/life balance but work a lot of overtime. By determining what’s important to you, you can decide if you can live with your job or if you need to find something new.

    1. Talk to someone you trust.

      Sometimes, it’s difficult to see a situation clearly. Confide in a trusted friend or mentor and get a different perspective on your job situation.

    1. Make changes.

      Perhaps the problem with your job is the commute. Can you alter your work schedule to avoid rush hour traffic or work from home? A simple solution may be exactly what you need to find job satisfaction again.

    1. Be discreet.

      Misery loves company, but try to keep your job displeasure to yourself. If you share with co-workers, you potentially jeopardize your job. Plus, complaining never makes any situation better.

    1. Start looking for a job.

      Rather than wait until you’re absolutely sure you should quit your current job, start a job search now. You might end up finding something with a shorter commute, better work hours or hands-off manager. Simply searching job postings online can help jumpstart a new career you love.
    1. Find something new before you quit.

      No matter how much you hate your job, don’t quit until you secure another job. It’s easier to get a job while you’re still employed, and it’s almost always better to receive a paycheck from a job you hate rather than be unemployed.

    1. Preserve your bridges.

      Your future success could depend on the relationships you have at work now. As an example, you need your current employer to give you a good reference. Be careful about how you act and don’t burn your bridges.

Fourth of July Safety Tips

By Life and Health | No Comments

lh-july16-2 (1)Fourth of July fireworks, parades and cookouts are an excuse for you to relax with family and friends. As you plan your celebration this year, take several steps to ensure safety for everyone involved in celebrating the United States’ birthday.

Use Fireworks Safely

Public fireworks displays are the safest way to enjoy the beautiful colors and terrific booms of this July 4th tradition, especially when you maintain a distance of at least 500 feet between you and the show. Firework displays at home can be fun though too. If you go that route, take these precautions.

    • Follow the instructions on the packaging.
    • Never allow children to play with the fireworks.
    • Stock a fire extinguisher or water supply nearby.
    • Wear eye protection when lighting fireworks.
    • Remove flammable materials from the area.
    • Never point fireworks toward people, animals, vehicles or structures.
    • Properly dispose of duds rather than trying to relight them.

Take Precautions While Grilling

Burgers, hot dogs, fruit and pizza taste delicious when they’re grilled. Grab your favorite side dishes and follow a few precautions that ensure you and your guests grill safely.

    • Always supervise the grill when it’s in use.
    • Never grill indoors or in a fully enclosed area such as a garage or tent.
    • Use lighter fluid sparingly and never after the coals are ignited.
    • Keep children and pets away from the hot grill.
    • Remove flammable objects, including trees, from near the grill.
    • Use long-handled tools to handle food.

Stay Safe on the Beach

Swimming is a fun summer activity, and it’s good exercise. At the beach, lake, public pool or backyard pool, stay safe with these tips.

    • Swim only in designated areas.
    • Obey the lifeguard and all posted signs.
    • Swim sober.
    • Get out of the water during a storm or if you hear thunder or see lightening.
    • Require children to wear life jackets.
    • Don’t dive into shallow water.

Wear Sun Bathing Protection

Picnics are part of many July 4th celebrations. You should also take these protective measures.

    • Wear sunscreen that’s at least 15 SPF.
    • Remember to apply sunscreen to your ears, hair part and the tops of your feet.
    • Avoid direct sunlight between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the UV rays are strongest.
    • Reapply sunscreen every two to three hours or more frequently if you’re sweating.
    • Drink plenty of water even if you’re not thirsty.
    • Wear a hat, sunglasses and long sleeves if you have to be in direct sunlight.
    • Watch for signs of heat stroke, including hot, red skin, shallow breathing and rapid, weak pulse.

Your July 4th celebration will be safe when you take these steps. For more advice, talk to your health insurance agent. He or she stands ready to help you have the best birthday party ever.

Three Things That Are Safer Than You Think

By Cyber Security Awareness | No Comments

cyber-july16-2 (1)There are threats to watch out for in cyber security, and then there are things that are a lot safer than we tend to think. For instance:

Browsing The Global Web

We’re not saying that you don’t need antivirus software and a routine security check on your phone and laptop now and then. It’s just that the odds of getting a serious data-compromising infection are relatively slim as long as you practice basic security measures. If you’re not downloading zip and exe files from questionable sources, if you’re not cruising the deep web, if you’re not handing your email out to everyone who asks for it, then you have very little to worry about.

Your Devices

A cyber attack is more likely to target your network than it is your devices. Hacking an iPad gives a cyber-criminal a piece of the puzzle. Hacking the network gives them the entire thing. In any event, the gateway to your data is more likely to be your people than your hardware. It’s been noted that many leaks began with a misplaced USB drive or a laptop left open in a public place or an ex-employee who bears a grudge. Targeted, web-based cyber attacks are relatively few and far between. Cyber-criminals tend to be opportunists, not masterminds. Keeping your network secure and your hiring the right people will do more good than adding another layer of encryption onto your desktop computer.

The Cloud

In a survey, 76% of those polled said that their main security concern was cloud-based services, with almost half believing cloud-based services to be inherently insecure. However, a good majority of data breaches involve on-site servers. In truth, some cloud services are safer than others, the same with any other area of data, but the cloud is not nearly as at-risk as many believe it to be. Again, the real threat is in “social engineering.” People who give their information to the wrong people, employees who have more data than they actually need in order to do their job and so on.

The moral of the story is simply that the hardware is not the most at-risk gateway in any organization. Serious cyber-criminals rely more heavily on social engineering and opportunism than they do on any inherent security flaws in a server or a wireless device.  You can’t improve your cyber security by rejecting cloud-based services, but you can do a world of good by hiring the right people and giving them the right training.

Five Things Every New Renter Should Know

By Personal Perspective | No Comments

bb-july16-1Renting a new home is exciting for novice and seasoned home renters. Before you sign your next lease, consider five things every renter should know.

Safety Comes First

You need and want to feel safe in your home, so take time before you move in to check out the safety details. Make sure the locks have been changed since the last tenant moved out, and get keys for all the doors, including the deadbolt. If the doors look flimsy, don’t have deadbolts or do not have peepholes, ask for new doors. Install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, and hang fire extinguishers, too, as you prioritize safety in your new home.

Pay Your Rent 

Check your lease to see when your rent payment is due and which payment method your landlord prefers. Whether you pay by check, cash or credit card, always pay on time. Save a little money each week if you have to because late payments could cost you fees as outlined in your lease. Being late also hurts your relationship with your landlord, which could affect your ability to extend the lease or get a good referral if you find a different place.

Buy Renters Insurance

Your landlord has purchased a homeowner’s insurance policy for the house or apartment building. That policy covers structural repairs and can pay for storm damages to the house itself. It does not cover your personal belongings. Purchase your own renter’s insurance policy to protect your possessions if they’re stolen or damaged.

Mind the Neighbors

You’ve probably heard horror stories of neighbors who partied all night or let their trash accumulate on their front lawn. Don’t be that neighbor! Read your lease and be aware of any restrictions you need to follow. Check on details such as how many visitors you can have at a time, where you can park and when to take out the trash, too, as you become a respectful neighbor.

Report Problems

A small roof leak or a broken stair railing can turn into a big issue down the road, so report problems as soon as possible. Post your landlord’s contact information on your fridge or in your phone so you can contact him or her right away. When you see yourself as a caretaker of the property and try to leave it in better condition than you found it, you protect your home, increase your chances of getting a good referral from your landlord and do the right thing.

If you’ve decided to rent a house or apartment, do these five things. They help you be a responsible caretaker of your home.

Laws Enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

By Employment Resources | No Comments

er-july16-2Since 1965, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has taken a leading role in preventing discrimination in the workplace. It is responsible for enforcing a number of federal laws for employment agencies, labor unions and companies with at least 15 employees and deals with practices related to hiring, firing, promoting, training, harassing and benefits. Whether you’re a current employee or looking for work, you should understand the EEOC’s role as you protect yourself from discrimination.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII)

This law prevents an employer from using race, color, national origin, religion or sex to determine whether or not it hires, fires, promotes or trains applicants or current employees. It also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for religious practices.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act

An amendment to Title VII, this law states that employers cannot discriminate against a woman because of her pregnancy, childbirth history or any medical condition that’s related to pregnancy or childbirth.

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA)

Because of this law, men and women must receive the same wages for equal work.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)

People who are over 40 may not be discriminated against simply because of their age.

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)

In addition to federal employers, the ADA law applies to private sector, local government and state employers. A qualified person with a disability may not be discriminated against, and employers must provide reasonable accommodations for known physical or mental limitations.

Sections 102 and 103 of the Civil Rights Act of 1991

This law amends Title VII and the ADA and allows anyone in an intentional discrimination case to receive a jury trial, compensatory and punitive damage awards.

Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Qualified applicants and employees of the federal government may not be discriminated against because of their disability. Employers must also make reasonable accommodations for known physical and mental limitations that will not cause hardship to the business.

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA)

Because of this law, employers cannot use genetic information against an applicant, an employee or an individual’s family members. Genetic information includes genetic tests, medical histories and information about any genetic disorder, condition or disease.

The EEOC enforces several laws that protect you from discrimination at work. In most cases, these laws also protect you from retaliation if you choose to complain about discrimination, file a discrimination charge or participate in a discrimination investigation or lawsuit. Know the laws as you protect yourself.

Should You Offer Employee Tuition Reimbursement

By Risk Management Bulletin | No Comments

rr-july16-4Employee retention boosts your business’s revenue, productivity and morale. One way you can retain employees is by offering a tuition reimbursement program that allows your team members to finish their degrees or learn new skills. Discover more about tuition reimbursement programs as you decide whether or not to include this valuable addition in your employee benefit package.

What Types of Tuition Reimbursement Programs are Available?

There are multiple tuition reimbursement programs, but they all fall into two basic types: prepaid and traditional.

The prepaid method requires you to pay the school for courses your employees take. Because payment is due before the class is finished, you could potentially lose money if your employee quits or fails the class.

The traditional method allows you to create guidelines your enrolled employees must follow. Those guidelines may require employees to earn passing grades and complete courses within a certain time frame. Employees pay for the classes out of their pocket and sign a written agreement stating that they will comply with the requirements before you reimburse them for the classes they take.

How to Establish a Tuition Reimbursement Program

Before you announce your intentions to start a tuition reimbursement program, outline the rules so your employees can understand the program and their obligations.

    • Determine any employee qualifications for the program
    • Indicate how long a person must be employed before they become eligible for tuition reimbursement
    • Specify the amount of time an employee must remain with your company after they earn a degree
    • Decide if employees can attend online or campus-based schools and whether they can go full-time or part-time
    • Set a yearly cap
    • Outline expected grade requirements
    • Note the documentation required to show program requirement completion
    • Create a monitoring system that verifies that employees meet program requirements

The Benefits of Tuition Reimbursement Programs

If you decide to offer tuition reimbursement, make sure it’s beneficial for you and employees. Ideally, you should gain more knowledgeable and skilled employees, and the employees should receive a free education that enables them to be more productive and earn more money.

The Tax Advantages of Tuition Reimbursement

Tuition reimbursement programs can provide you with a tax break. To be eligible, meet one of two IRS methods.

    1. Submit a formal plan in writing. It defines employee eligibility, includes a financial cap on your participation (normally $5,250) and is free from all forms of discrimination.
    1. Implement a working condition fringe benefit. No written plan is required, you don’t have to cap benefits and you can pick and choose employees to participate in the program.

A tuition reimbursement program can help you attract and retain quality employees. Consider implementing one for your company. For more details, talk with your accountant or financial advisor.

How Much Should You Save In An Emergency Fund

By Risk Management Bulletin | No Comments

rr-july16-3As a small business owner, you always look for ways to improve your company’s bottom line. Sometimes, you may be so focused on helping the business succeed that you forget your own needs. Be prepared for unexpected financial challenges, give your family peace of mind and reduce stress when you save an emergency fund. It’s an important part of your financial portfolio.

What is an Emergency Fund?

    • Your biggest client sells the company and stops placing orders.
    • Your husband discovers termites in the basement.
    • Your son needs oral surgery that’s not covered by insurance.

These emergencies are a few examples of unexpected expenses that affect your finances. You could withdraw from your 401(k) or IRA, take out a loan or borrow from your business, but those steps cause severe penalties both now and in the future. With an emergency fund, you can weather these challenges with little ill effects.

How Much Should you Save in an Emergency Fund?

Everyone’s needs are different. Use these guidelines as a starting point for deciding how much money your emergency fund should have.

    1. At minimum, save three months of living expenses. These expenses include your mortgage, utilities, insurance, food, entertainment, debt repayment, school tuition, clothing and other daily living expenses. As an example, you should save $9,000 if your monthly living expenses total $3,000.
    1. If you have dependents, including a spouse, children or aging parents, save six months of living expenses. This figure protects your loved ones and accommodates the higher cost of living you may incur.
    1. If you’re a high wage earner or concerned even a little bit about your business’s financial future, save 12 months of living expenses. This figure is significant, but it gives you peace of mind in case something goes wrong.

Where Should you Invest Your Emergency Fund?

Because you need your emergency funds accessible, don’t invest them in an account that will penalize you for withdrawing from it. Instead, consider a short-term certificate of deposit or a regular savings account at an online bank. Shop around to find the best interest rate.

How Can you Boost Emergency Fund Savings?

It can be intimidating to save thousands of dollars in an emergency fund, but you can do it one dollar at a time. Start saving money automatically from every paycheck. You can also give up a coffee or two each week and look for other ways to cut expenses. Consider selling unused items as you build your emergency fund, too.

Saving an emergency fund gives you a cushion in case something happens to your business or at home. For more details about how much you should save, talk to your financial advisor or accountant.

Fire Extinguisher Safety

By Risk Management Bulletin | No Comments

rr-july16-2Every small business needs to be equipped with functioning fire extinguishers. Local and city codes and your insurance company mandate specific requirements, and here a few of the guidelines you’ll need to know as you practice fire extinguish safety.

Ensure Extinguisher Accessibility

During a fire, you don’t want to have to search for the fire extinguisher behind a pile of boxes or in a closet. Mount it somewhere that’s easily accessible but does not hinder anyone from exiting the building. Also, if the fire extinguisher weighs less than 40 pounds, mount it on a permanent structure that’s three to five feet off the floor.

Use the Correct Size and Type

The fire load of your business determines how many fire extinguishers you need and what size they are. As an example, a retail space with less than 3,000 square feet of space may need only one 5-pound extinguisher, but if candles or pool chemicals are sold in that space, two extinguishers located at opposite ends of the building may be required.

Test Extinguishers Regularly

Like most things in your office, fire extinguishers do wear out even if they’re not used. Follow this testing schedule to ensure your extinguishers are ready to go when you need them.

Six years after your dry chemical fire extinguisher is manufactured, it must undergo routine maintenance. The handle, stem, internal parts and chemicals are removed and the cylinder is pressure tested and inspected for wear, tear, damage and defects. The extinguisher is then reassembled, charged and tested to ensure it doesn’t leak. A new inspection tag is attached if the extinguisher passes all these tests.

Twelve years after the manufacturer’s date, perform a hydrostatic test on your extinguisher. It receives a hydrostatic test sticker or stamp if it is serviceable.

You’ll also want to perform monthly checks on your extinguisher. Be sure the extinguisher hasn’t been tampered with, vandalized or damaged and check for missing parts and improper pressure. The supervisor or designated employee who does these monthly checks should initial the inspection tag to verify that the extinguisher is ready for use.

Provide Proof of Inspection

The fire extinguishers in your business much be inspected annually by a licensed technician. During the inspection, the technician will verify that the extinguisher is undamaged and not discharged, is the correct pressure, has a debris-free hose and is properly mounted. Each extinguisher that passes inspection receives a tag that’s punched with the inspection month and year.

The fire extinguishers in your building could save lives. Follow these safety tips to ensure your extinguishers are ready for action. You can also ask your insurance agent or building inspector for additional safety tips.

What is a Continuity of Operations Plan

By Risk Management Bulletin | No Comments

rr-july16-1Is your small business prepared if a natural disaster, equipment malfunction or other unforeseen event disrupts daily operation? A Continuity of Operation Plan or COOP analyzes your business, identifies critical resources, personnel and weaknesses, and outlines a contingency plan. You need a COOP to protect your business’s future, and these tips help you create one today.

Do a Business Impact Analysis

When creating a COOP, start by doing a Business Impact Analysis (BIA). It removes all the layers in your business until you only have the absolute necessities required for your company to continue operating. Consider your personnel, finances, operations, ordering and distribution as you do the BIA.

Assess the Risks

After you identify your company’s BIA, make a list of risks, threats and hazards your business faces. Those risks will be unique to your area and could include natural disasters like tornadoes, hurricanes or floods, equipment malfunctions, data breaches or illnesses of key employees.

With your list of risks, you can create contingency plans that account for the worst-case scenarios and ensure your business can remain operational. As an example, let’s say you rely on two key pieces of heavy equipment that sit outside. Plan to store those machines in an alternative location nearby during hurricane season so that they’re protected and available to you if bad weather strikes.

Plan for Resiliency

The most successful businesses are resilient in the face of adversity. Your business can be, too, as you prepare for potential risks, threats and disasters, but resilience requires planning. Depending on your BIA, you may need to take these steps as you prepare for anything.

    • Cross-train employees to cover necessary duties if your key people are unable to come to work.
    • Decentralize operations of key tasks to ensure at least parts of your business are up and running when disaster strikes.
    • Have another location on-call in case you can’t access your building.
    • Back up critical data at least once a day to prevent loss.
    • Store records online or in a separate location to decrease the risk of a data breach.
    • Know how to reach key employees and customers any time day or night.
    • Protect your equipment or prepare back-up equipment if yours is damaged or inaccessible.
    • Open a financial account with emergency money to cover operations in the event you cannot access your regular accounts.

Your Continuity of Operations Plan can keep your business operational in the face of disasters and emergencies. When preparing your COOP, talk to your insurance agent. He or she can help you write a comprehensive list of threats and risks, assist you in creating a plan that addresses those issues and increase your business’s likelihood of surviving adversity.

Protect Kids from a Furniture Tip-Overs

By Personal Perspective | No Comments

pp-july16-4You wouldn’t let your kids ride in the car without a seat belt or play with a bottle of cleaning chemicals. Yet you may not have considered the danger your kids are in because of your home’s furniture. It only takes a second for an accident to happen, so protect your kids from furniture tip-overs.

Mount TVs Properly

Every 45 minutes, a child visits the emergency room and every three weeks one child dies because of TV tip-overs. Instead of placing your TV on a cabinet or other piece of furniture with no security, always use anti-tip devices. If you watch a box-style TV, secure it to a low piece of furniture that can handle the weight, is stable and can’t tip over. Mount your flat-panel TV on the wall according to the manufacturer’s directions.

Secure Furniture

Bookcases, china cabinets and even your refrigerator could be unstable and top-heavy. They can topple over if your child tries to climb them or pulls hard on the doors. Use anti-tip devices, brackets, wall straps or braces to secure these pieces of furniture to the wall and floor.

Stop Drawers

Furniture drawers are designed to slide easily which compromises the stability of the dresser or cabinet and increase its likelihood of toppling over. Install stops that prevent drawers from being pulled out all the way.

Rearrange the Furniture

When you place heavy furniture in the playroom, you increase the likelihood that your kids will want to explore it and possibly be hurt. Instead, locate heavy furniture to a low-traffic room.

Remove Tempting Objects

Where you place household items can increase safety. Place heavy items on bottom shelves or drawers to reduce its chances of tipping over. Don’t put food, toys or other kid-friendly items on the top shelves, either, since your kids may reach for or climb up to those items and be hurt.

Remove all Unused Furniture

It’s tempting to let that old dresser or old TV you no longer need or use to sit around until you need them. Those items pose potential threats to your kids, though, so recycle unused furniture as soon as possible.

Look at Your Home Through a Child’s Eyes

To you, the dresser in your child’s bedroom is useful for sorting clothes. Your child or one of their friends may see it as a jungle gym or the perfect spot for hide and seek, though. Take time to walk through your house and look at everything as if you were a child, and remove any furniture that’s potential dangerous.

Furniture safety can prevent fatal furniture tip-overs. Follow these tips and discuss additional ways you can protect your kids when you meet with your home insurance agent.