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Monthly Archives

February 2017

What’s Killing Your Office Productivity?

By Your Employee Matters | No Comments

The genius that happens every day in the offices of the world requires a certain amount of focus. Unfortunately, most offices are awash with both physical and mental distractions that pull our attention away from the task at hand. To help you identify common pitfalls, we’ve zeroed in on the top five productivity killers in the modern age. Better still, we gathered expert advice on ways to block out the noise and get to work.

Social media

Rieva Lesonsky, CEO of GrowBiz Media & com, admits her primary distraction is self-inflicted. “Social media can take me off task, especially Twitter. (I’m addicted.)”

It happens to the best of us. You’re at a lull in your work, and you get that nagging sensation that something amazing might be happening on Facebook. Why not take a quick peek, just to make sure the world’s not passing you by? These brief breaks may seem harmless enough, but making compulsive social media checks during the day can add up to hours a week of lost time.

Instead of checking Facebook or Twitter throughout the day, try scheduling your social media time after lunch and limit it to 15 minutes. Having a special time slot for checking out the latest hijinks of Grumpy Cat will leave the rest of your day free for more productive endeavors. And if you really can’t help trying to scratch that itch, consider blocking your most visited social websites with your browser’s security settings.

A crazy commute

If you live or work in a large city, the morning commute can be an exercise in extreme frustration. What should be a 15-minute drive can turn into an hour or more of unproductive stress during rush hour.

Fortunately, thanks to cloud computing, working remotely is easier than ever. With web-based software and collaboration tools, office workers can get everything done even when they’re miles away from home base. More and more, corporate leaders are warming up to the idea of telecommuting as remote employees report higher productivity and morale. Even if you can’t work remotely all the time, you may be able to slightly shift your work schedule so you’re not traveling at rush hour, or just handle the first hour of your workday from home before you hop in the car.

Loud-mouthed colleagues

Who can’t relate to this scenario: you’re just settling in for some hard-core focus time to bang out a monthly report when the guy in the next cubicle starts in on a high-volume recap of last night’s episode of Game of Thrones—and you haven’t seen it yet (spoiler alert!). Working in an office can be great for collaboration and easy communication, but not so great when you’re doing focused solo work. Diplomatic requests for quiet might buy you a few minutes of peace, but let’s be realistic: some people do not possess an inside voice. Treat yourself to a pair of noise-canceling headphones and crank your favorite background tunes or soothing sounds from a white-noise website like Noisli.

The unfocused workday

You may have a truckload of work, but without a clear plan of attack, you may leave the office that night wondering what you got done and why you spent time on the wrong tasks. Ramon Ray of Smart Hustle Magazine zeroes in on the root of the problem. “Lack of clear understanding and planning. When I’m clear and highly organized, things flow!”

Jeff Marcoux, CMO lead for Worldwide Enterprise Marketing at Microsoft, agrees. “Randomization is the killer of productivity.” To get his house in order, he spends the first 10 minutes of his day making an explicit to-do list, following guidelines set out in this Harvard Business Review article. If you have trouble organizing your tasks, check out a mobile productivity tool like ToDoist or LeanKit.

Email

It’s impossible to avoid in the modern workplace, but email is as much a hindrance as it is a help. Andy Karuza, owner of BrandBuddee, notes, “being ‘too connected’ can be a major productivity killer. This is because task switching wastes lots of time from having to reset your train of thought and pick up where you left off on the previous task.”

Answer emails and social media messages together at the top of the hour. Knock them all out at once and then wrap yourself up again in that Excel spreadsheet you were working on.

Your email inbox forces you to switch focus from your task at hand, wasting precious minutes of your targeted energy. Karuza suggests taking a structured approach. “Answer emails and social media messages together at the top of the hour. Knock them all out at once and then wrap yourself up again in that Excel spreadsheet you were working on.”

You may also be doing work that is better done by a machine. Try to automate some basic email tasks to help you prioritize your inbox so those sprints of replying to email are as efficient as possible.

Whether you’re working from home or at the office, there’s always something there to distract you. Identifying your own biggest distractions is the first step to eliminating them.

Renters Insurance – Don’t Gamble with Your Property

By Personal Perspective | No Comments

A recent nationwide survey found that only 34% of tenants carry a Renters policy which means that most renters are taking a financial gamble with all of their belongings.

The three leading reasons that respondents gave for not buying Renters insurance show that many people don’t understand what this policy covers – and doesn’t cover:

  • Nearly three in five (57%) felt that their rented home has such effective security that they don’t need protection against losses from theft.However, without a Renters policy, tenants still remain highly vulnerable to other risks. A fire could damage or destroy their possessions, requiring replacement at a high cost. An accident might leave the unit temporarily unlivable, costing hundreds or thousands in living expenses. An injury to a visitor on the premises could result in costly medical bills – not to mention a lawsuit. The typical Contents policy will provide protection against these losses – and a wide variety of other risks.
  • More than half (52%) believed that they couldn’t afford the coverage. Among respondents, 21% estimated the annual premium at $1,000 or higher, while another 60% pegged the cost as $250 a year or more.However, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), the average Renters policy costs only around $185 a year.
  • Nearly half (48%) thought that the landlord already had coverage.Although the landlord carries insurance in the building itself, the policy does not cover risks to tenants’ property and liability.

For more information on how Renters insurance can protect you, feel free to get in touch with us.

Weddings and Mishaps – Protect the Big Day

By Personal Perspective | No Comments

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As the average cost of getting hitched keeps rising (to $27,000 in 2012), more and more couples are using Wedding Insurance to protect their investment against mishap – and help ensure peace of mind on this special day.

Wedding policies will reimburse you for losses due to:

  • Weather: The cost of rescheduling if the event has to be postponed because of rain or other bad weather.
  • Illness or injury to the bridal party. The expenses of postponing the wedding if essential people (such as the maid of honor or best man) can’t be there.
  • A missing celebrant. Some of the costs if your minister, justice of the peace, rabbi, or other celebrant doesn’t show up.
  • Missing vendors. Some, or all, of the expense (including rescheduling) if the caterer, florist, photographer, or other key vendor is missing in action.
  • Damage to the venue. Your losses if fire, electrical or mechanical outage, or going out of business makes the wedding or reception site unusable, forcing you to reschedule. (This coverage might not apply if the sites already carry insurance).

You can also buy coverage “riders” for a variety of other risks, ranging from a military service call-up to the bride or groom and damage to a wedding gown or tuxedo, to stolen or damaged gifts, and cancellation of your honeymoon due to illness, bad weather, or other mishap. If you’re holding the ceremony in your home, you might also want Liability insurance in case a guest gets hurt or injures someone.

Premiums can range from $100 to $1,000 (if you buy Liability coverage and host an open bar).

We’d be happy to tailor a Wedding policy to meet your needs, and budget. Just give us a call.

The Need for Cyber Privacy Liability

By Cyber Security Awareness | No Comments

BB_1208-02In today’s high-tech world, individuals can carry thousands of client files on flash drives in their pockets or purses. People are conducting business on the go and sensitive information is accessible at the click of a button. Managers are using their laptops or tablets through “hot spots” at local coffee shops to access customer databases. Healthcare professionals shopping at supermarkets can get patient files on their smartphones. If you think of information security breaches primarily in terms of malicious hackers cracking the networks of big corporations from thousands of miles away, think again.

The hacking of such corporate giants as Global Payments, Epsilon, and Sony prove that size and sophistication can’t stop data thieves. However any company that stores customer information in electronic format is vulnerable to cyber privacy liability exposures than can cost megabucks – or even put a firm out of business – which means they need insurance against these risks.

Cyber Liability coverage can protect your business against breaches of privacy from unauthorized access, physical taking, or the mysterious disappearance of confidential information that leads to third-party losses resulting from identity theft. Depending on your needs, the policy can also provide a variety of coverages, such as Business Interruption, Cyber Extortion, and Systems and Data Recovery. Other options can cover the cost of contacting those affected by the data breach, computer forensics to analyze the breach, fines and penalties, potential HIPAA (client medical records) exposures, and online activities on your company site. The development and expansion of Cyber Liability coverage during the past two decades has paralleled the explosive growth of computer technology: Today’s policies are increasingly comprehensive – and inexpensive.

Security Tips Provided by a Professional Hacker

By Cyber Security Awareness | No Comments

cyber-1702-2“Cybersecurity is definitely no longer a server room issue,” says David Finn, Executive Director at the Microsoft Cybercrime Center. “It’s a boardroom issue.” He notes that on average, it takes 243 days before an organization even knows that it was penetrated by a cybercriminal.

Today, when one in five businesses are the target of a security breach, bad things are inevitably going to happen. That’s why looking at your organization from “the bad guy’s perspective,” says Tiffany Rad, is crucial. Rad is rated one of Bloomberg’s top “white hat” hackers (computer specialists who break into protected networks to test security and advise organizations on improvements).

One of the most difficult things in Rad’s industry is protecting against insider threats. But she notes there are products entering the market that have “an algorithm to check for abnormal patterns, when it looks like someone’s going to sites perhaps that they shouldn’t be during working hours or they’re on different hours than normal.”

In terms of external threats, there’s a lot of attention on protecting businesses as they move to the cloud. Ken Biery Jr., Verizon’s Managing Principal of Governance, Risk and Compliance, explains that it’s important to provide physical and logical security. Rad agrees, noting that in addition to firewalls and antivirus software, protection against malware is critical as more and more hackers look to steal intellectual property to give themselves or your organization’s competitors a heads-up on what your organization is planning.

You’re “only as safe and secure as your weakest link,” says Finn, admitting that when you rely on the cloud, “you trust that an organization is going to invest enormously in your security.”

But, as Biery sees it, “the good thing about a lot of the cloud providers that are out there is their default security, and the security they built into their environments are often better—especially for small and medium businesses—better than what they could do themselves.”

Biery also points out that companies need to stay in control with the advent of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). With mobile device management, “you can take and keep your sensitive information in an encrypted container on that employee’s phone. So it kind of exists as its own virtual machine in that environment,” he says, explaining that you can delete access and the encrypted container without affecting personal data such as photos.

The bottom line, agree the experts, is that companies of all sizes need to amp up protection. Even if you think your business information isn’t of interest to others, Rad assures us that there will always be hackers that find your digital footprint interesting and will do something with it—if only because they can.

Good Viruses?

By Cyber Security Awareness | No Comments

cyber-1511-4By definition, there’s nothing really wrong with viruses. They’re just self-replicating, that’s all. If the cash in your wallet was self-replicating, you probably wouldn’t complain. Virus researcher Fred Cohen has even put out a $1,000 bounty for the first developer who can come up with a truly helpful virus. So far, he hasn’t paid out, but theoretically, a good computer virus is possible.

“Helpful” worms, however, may prove that even a “good” virus is a bad idea.

Helpful worms like Welchia, Den_Zuko, Cheeze, Mellenium and CodeGreen were designed in the name of helping the user. Welchia’s design was actually kind of clever, finding and eliminating the Blaster worm by seeking out the same vulnerabilities as the Blaster worm, and then, usually, applying a security patch to keep any other worms from working their way in. The Welchia worm was programmed to automatically remove itself at a set date.

Here’s the problem though: The main thing that worms do is slow down your network by feeding a constant stream of data through it. Whatever else they might do, that’s the main thing people hate about worms. A helpful worm slows down the network just as much as a harmful worm will. Additionally, helpful worms are known to reboot the computer without the user’s consent, which can be a major problem if you’re right in the middle of a project that you haven’t saved recently.

Helpful viruses are an interesting idea in theory, but they still self-replicate without the user’s consent, they still eat up RAM and other resources, they still slow the network down. As technology advances we may see a day when helpful viruses are able to actually improve a computer’s performance without any adverse effects. For the time being, however, there is that old saying about where the road paved with good intentions leads to…

Customer Service Evolution in the New Age

By Cyber Security Awareness | No Comments

Technology has advanced the speed and scale at which consumers can communicate about their brand interactions. As a result, businesses have had to determine how to respond to customers on a personal level in what is now a very public, digital space.

If a person had a poor customer experience at a restaurant a few years ago, they may have warned friends not to eat there or written down their complaints on a comment card. Today many people feel comfortable venting their frustrations to an exponentially larger, public audience: the entire Internet. Many companies are still struggling to identify which grievances necessitate a personal reply, which ones can be left alone, and which complaints require escalation and/or a security response.

We reached out to our Microsoft privacy experts again this week to ask how companies should approach online customer feedback, especially where privacy and security are concerned. In an interview with Microsoft for Work, Marisa Rogers, Global Sales and Marketing Privacy Manager, and Kristi Berry, Senior Privacy Manager weighed in on the issue.

Berry: This is a huge question. Things have changed a lot because of evolving industry trends and evolving attitudes towards technology and social media. In general, people are much more comfortable with these types of data collection and comfortable with this social, digital world. They are more aware and paying much more attention to what’s going on. For us that makes it more and more important to provide the right levels of controls for the customer to manage their privacy.

Rogers: There were recent news reports of a man who was boarding a Southwest flight and tweeted about his bad customer service experience with the gate agent real-time. He included the agent’s first name and the gate location where he boarded his plane. It caused him to be removed from the plane and to be interviewed by security officials before he was allowed to go on the flight. Certainly in the public space, people are increasingly using social media to comment both positively and negatively on customer service.

Now, in this particular case, [there was] heightened sensitivity because it had to do with a situation in an airport where someone was complaining about a bad experience. Companies will need to carefully consider how they respond to make sure the response is proportionate to the complaint. There are many examples of companies responding to feedback on social media that are both good and bad.

Rogers: In the first place, you have to be prepared to receive the complaints. You should have a plan of action on how you want to address questions or comments that are neutral-to-negative to your business. This may include having some standard answers ready to go and thinking about how to diffuse difficult situations through social media. Remember you can take it offline if it’s more appropriate to address the person’s specific issue.

Building Your First Home

By Personal Perspective | No Comments

If you’re building a new home, congratulations! However, if you don’t insure your new residence during construction, you’re exposing yourself to a huge risk if a fire, theft, or other event damages or destroys your partially-completed home.

You can protect yourself by buying a standard homeowners policy on the new dwelling. This will cover you for any damage to the home as it’s being built, and might also provide some coverage for theft of building supplies (although the building contractor’s insurance should also cover this).

The policy includes liability insurance, which would come in handy if one of your friends trips during a “tour” of your dream house and decides to sue you. However, homeowners insurance will not cover your personal property until the building is secure or “lockable.” Once construction reaches this point, you can add coverage for your personal property.

As an alternative, consider a dwelling and fire policy, which covers damage to the physical structure, but provides no theft coverage. This might be an appropriate choice if you’re living in your old house during construction, because the homeowners policy on this dwelling would cover theft of items from the construction site. Dwelling and fire insurance also provides liability coverage.

Once your new home is complete, it makes sense to re-evaluate your coverage. If you chose dwelling and fire coverage, you might want to replace it with a homeowners policy. If you have a standard homeowners policy, make sure that you have insured the home to its full value, especially if you have altered the original building plans (for example, by adding a room or upgrading building supplies).

If you have any questions about protecting your new home while it’s being built, just give our insurance professionals a call. We’re always here for you.

Minimize Damage of a Scorned Employee

By Risk Management Bulletin | No Comments

It’s always difficult to terminate an employee – especially in this age of employment litigation and privacy concerns. Even if a worker leaves voluntarily, you need to make sure that he or she no longer has access to confidential information

The key to making sure that you’ve covered all bases of your bases is to follow a Departure Checklist:

  • When an employee leaves, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, notify all staff immediately to help reduce rumors, hurt feelings, and concerns. Keep the announcement positive.
  • Remove the employee from your facility soon as possible. Offering to have the person stay is nice, but might not always be helpful. If you decide to let the employee stay for the customary two weeks, assign him or her specific tasks to complete. Collect keys immediately and assign someone to work with the departing employee for the duration of their stay.
  • Once the decision has been made, restrict the employee’s access to sensitive company information at once; be sure that this restriction includes any VPN or private access.
  • Have the employee review all items on which he or she is working and write a synopsis of what’s needed to complete each item. Then review these items to create a specific workload transition plan, and assign them to other employees. The sooner you do this, the better.

The more you think through this process before a problem arises, the more effectively you’ll be able to deal with it. We stand ready at any time to help you develop and implement an effective plan that can go a long way to help you protect your business from this risk.

The Surprise Risk Management Tool: Social Media

By Risk Management Bulletin | No Comments

Http://Given the dramatic impact of social media on the speed and delivery of news and information, it makes sense to make this fast-growing technology part of your risk management program.

More and more reputational crises — such as the recent stranding of the Carnival Triumph cruise ship — are born on social networking platforms and can grow exponentially if mishandled. Consider how Apple Inc. responded to consumer displeasure with the iPhone 4 shortly after its 2010 introduction. Negative comments about the product spread quickly over social media channels, but were largely ignored by Apple executives until mainstream news outlets began reporting on its flaws.

Failing to actively engage social media users in conversations about crisis or business practice of your company means losing an invaluable opportunity to protect your reputation. Otherwise, you risk having other people tell your story.

Social media participation gives you a way to enhance this reputation through regular interaction with customers, business partners and the public. Using this tool to develop relationships and help people, rather than just sell products and services, can create some valuable allies.

Encouraging your employees to participate in social media offers a great way to use them as advocates for your company. A 2012 poll of more than 1,000 registered voters by Hill+Knowlton Strategies found that a corporation’s employees are the second-most trusted source of information about its business practices, second only to friends and family members.