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Effective Ways To Relieve Stress When You Have A Child With Autism

By Life and Health | No Comments

One in 64 children is diagnosed with autism. Coping with the diagnosis and everyday challenges can be stressful for parents. In honor of Stress Awareness Month and Autism Awareness Month, consider effective ways to reduce stress in April and throughout the year.

Eat a Balanced Diet

Your child may only eat a few foods, but you should eat a balanced diet. Whole, real foods fuel your body, balance your hormones and reduce the effects of stress. If your health insurance covers dietitian services, schedule a helpful consultation.

Exercise

After running around all day, you may not feel like exercising, but regular movement releases endorphins that clear your brain, calm your body and lower your stress. Try running on the treadmill, dancing to music or doing other doctor-approved exercises as you relax.

Practice Good Sleep Hygiene

A good night’s sleep equips you to handle each day’s challenges. To achieve good sleep hygiene:

  • Avoid caffeine in the afternoon.
  • Practice relaxation techniques before bed.
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time.

If you’re worried about your child waking up or eloping as you sleep, install a baby monitor or bedroom door alarm.

Go to your Happy Place

When you start to feel overwhelmed, close your eyes, think about your favorite place in the world, and feel the sand between your toes or the sun on your face. This guided imagery technique will instantly lower your blood pressure and your stress.

Breathe

A few deep breaths help you slow down, take time to think and calm your body. Breathe in through your nose, hold it and exhale from your mouth whenever necessary.

Get Organized

Juggling doctor appointments and all your parenting and personal duties requires organization. Find an app, calendar or other tool that helps you track and stick to your daily schedule. Getting organized keeps both you and your child calm.

Engage in Self-Care

Every day, drink a cup of hot tea, read a magazine or call a friend. See your doctor for regular physicals, too. Even a five-minute break can remind you of your value and help you feel centered.

Ask for Help

You may not trust many people to care for your child, but try to find one or two trusted family members, friends or professional respite workers who can give you a break. You could also hire someone to clean the house, run errands and ease your burden.

Connect with Other Parents

Find an in-person or online support group and chat with other autism parents. Then share helpful resources, tools and encouragement as you manage everyday life.

Manage stress as you parent your child with autism in these ways. They help you cope successfully with everyday life.

Unemployment Benefits For Seasonal Layoffs

By Employment Resources | No Comments

The slow winter season may lead certain employers to lay off employees for a few weeks or months.  If you’re affected by a layoff, you could file for unemployment. Understand this coverage and how to file for it so you can receive financial benefits as you wait to return to work.

What are Unemployment Benefits?

Most employers pay unemployment insurance so employees who lose their jobs or are laid off can receive temporary unemployment benefits. While your state administers the benefits, you are responsible to file a weekly claim for the benefits.

How to Qualify for Unemployment

Every state sets different guidelines for unemployment eligibility. Typically, you may receive benefits if you are laid off seasonally, and these benefits will last up to 26 weeks or until you return to work. However, you may need to meet certain employment qualifications. For example, in some states you must work for your employer for a certain number of weeks or earn a set income per month before you can apply for unemployment. You also must receive a W-2 from your employer, which means independent contractors or freelancers will not qualify for unemployment benefits.

Check with your Human Resources department to ensure you qualify for unemployment benefits. In most cases, you’ll receive details about your eligibility and information on how to file for benefits before your layoff starts.

How to File for Unemployment

It may take a week or longer to begin receiving unemployment benefits, so file a claim for benefits as soon as possible. You can sign up online or over the phone, and you will need your:

  • Social Security and driver license number
  • Complete mailing address and daytime phone number
  • Names and addresses of all employers from the last 18 months
  • Information from your W-2 form

After you file the initial claim, you will file for benefits weekly either online or through the automated phone system. Be prepared to answer questions about how many days you were willing and able to work that week. To continue receiving benefits, you also may need to prove that you’re actively looking for work even if you expect to be rehired in the near future.

Amount of Benefits you will Receive

Your state’s unemployment program and your job history affect the amount of unemployment benefits you receive. Typically, you can expect to receive up to half of your regular wages. Weekly benefits are capped, however, so you might earn less than half if you are a high-earner.

Unemployment benefits provide financial income if you’re laid off for a season from your job. Discuss your specific benefits with your Human Resources department to ensure you understand the specific benefits you can receive.

HMO, PPO, AND POS — PROS AND CONS

By Employment Resources | No Comments

When choosing a Health insurance program, it’s all too easy to drown in an alphabet soup of acronyms — everything from ACOs (Accountable Care Organizations) to WHRN (Whole Health Resources Networks).

However, the three most common types of managed health care plans are Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs), Preferred Provider Plans (PPOs), and POS (Point of Service plans). Here’s an overview of how each type works, together with their advantages and disadvantages.

Health Maintenance Organizations.

An HMO offers a “provider network” of health services professionals (physicians, nurses, therapists, etc.) and facilities (hospitals, clinics, medical offices, and so forth). A primary care physician (PCP) will act as a “gatekeeper” who will evaluate your health and recommend referrals to specialists, as needed.

As a rule, premiums and co-pays are relatively low, saving you money. On the downside, HMOs offer limited, if any, flexibility for services outside the plan. If your current physician isn’t in the HMO, you’ll have to pay for his or her services, or select another PCP who does participate in the plan. Also, if you use a provider outside the network, you’ll have to pay out of pocket.

Preferred Provider Organizations. 

Like HMOs, PPOs operate through a network of health care providers and institutions, and set relatively low co-payments for medical treatment. However, unlike HMOs, they’ll pick up the tab for many (although not all) medical services outside the network. What’s more, you can see specialists who participate in the network without going through your primary care physician.

Of course, you’ll pay a relatively high premium for enjoying this added flexibility. Also, if you get treatment outside the PPO, you’ll have to pick up a deductible or the difference between the charges of the plan provider and those of the out-of -network specialist.

Point of Service Plans. 

This option combines elements of HMOs and PPOs. A POS plan focuses on a primary care physician participating in the plan who monitors your health care at the “point of service” and recommend referrals either inside or outside the network. In the former case, the PPO will file a claim with your Health insurance company, which will pick up the tab for a high percentage of the charges; in the latter, you’ll have to do the paperwork yourself and your reimbursement will be far lower. If you see a specialist without going through your PCP, the insurer will pay even less.

As a rule of thumb, a POS offer more flexibility than an HMO and less than a PPO.

The Bottom Line.

HMO, PPO, or POS — which will provide the best value for your health-care dollar? That depends on your needs and life situation. Our professionals stand ready to offer you their expert advice. Just give us a call.

Ways To Improve Focus In The Office When Spring Fever Strikes

By Your Employee Matters | No Comments

A rise in temperatures this month can signal spring fever in your office. Your human resources department staff can improve focus and keep everyone on task in several ways.

1. Provide New Challenges

Your employees may feel distracted in part because they’re bored, so provide challenges. Ask them to work in a different department for a day, take on a special project or work with a high school intern. The challenge can provide a welcome distraction and jumpstart focus and concentration.

2. Offer a Class

Give employees the opportunity to learn a new skill. You can poll your staff for suggestions or offer foreign language, management or coding classes. While learning something new, your employees will focus on something other than the nice weather.

3. Promote Exercise

Physical activity improves focus, an excellent reason to host a fitness class over lunch, offer discounts to the local gym or encourage employees to bike or walk to work. As your staff members add more exercise into their daily routines, they also focus better on their work-related tasks.

4. Encourage Breaks

Remind employees that breaks can improve their mental health, productivity and focus. Set a timer for hourly stretch breaks, and share the value of regular lunch breaks away from the desk.

5. Change the Scenery

Hang colorful artwork around the office or commission a floral mural in the break room. You can also allow employees to meet at a local coffee shop, play disc golf during lunch or hold walking meetings outdoors. Employees will appreciate the opportunity to enjoy the warm weather, and the change of scenery boosts creativity, productivity and motivation.

6. Stock Healthy Snacks and Beverages

Fill your break room with healthy food and beverage options, including fruit, veggies, whole grains and water. These snack options boost mood and creativity and improve your employees’ overall health.

7. Play a Game

Challenge employees to participate in a March Madness basketball bracket, host a chili cook-off or reward teams who reach productivity goals. Games keep employees entertained and as a bonus, you’ll see a stronger spirit of cooperation.

8. Bring the Outdoors Inside

Plants can purify the air and improve mood. Arrange plants around the office as you bring a bit of the outdoors inside your office.

9. Adjust Work Hours

If your employees can arrive early and leave work early, they get to enjoy the warm, sunny afternoon weather. Adjust work hours, if possible, and allow employees to indulge their spring fever while completing their work.

Spring fever might try to curtail productivity in your office, but you can improve focus with these steps. Everyone will be happier and work smarter thanks to your efforts.

Top Topics To Avoid Discussing At Work

By Your Employee Matters | No Comments

After spending 40 hours a week together at work, you and your coworkers may become close friends. Unfortunately, certain conversation topics can cause awkward situations and increase stress, decrease productivity, motivation and performance, and threaten your job. Protect your health and career when you avoid talking about these topics.

Politics

Whether you avidly follow or purposely avoid politics, political conversations should be off-limits at work. The subject ignites tempers and undermines team spirit.

You may announce that you vote. However, avoid candidating for a specific party, and change the subject if your coworkers introduce the topic.

Pay Rate and Benefits

Under federal law, you may openly discuss your pay rate, insurance coverage and other benefits with coworkers. These discussions may benefit others if they lead to equal pay for equal work, but they could also cause hard feelings and hinder cooperation.

Discuss your paycheck and benefits only if the conversation will benefit your team, and never brag about or belittle someone else’s paycheck. Always err on the side of respect.

Personal Relationship Problems

Maybe your spouse stopped sleeping with you or your child is bullied at school. Share these personal relationship problems at work, and you undermine your authority as a supervisor or manager. The information could also fuel the rumor mill or anchor a sexual harassment complaint.

Restrict personal conversations to neutral topics. Then discuss and resolve your personal relationship problems outside of work.

Health Concerns

You may decide to tell your coworkers about your struggle with chronic pain or depression, especially on challenging days. Consider how your health concern affects your reputation and even your ability to promote, though.

If you must share health information, don’t talk daily about your challenges or discuss every detail. Rely on your family and friends for support and focus on your job when you’re at work.

Career Aspirations

Career aspirations can motivate you to better yourself. Your coworkers may question your loyalty or resent you, however, if you share your goals with them.

Tell your boss privately that you want to move up the ladder. Then do your best work every day as you demonstrate that you’re a team player and committed to the company’s success.

Religion

Faith is a personal and sensitive subject. Even an innocent comment about church or a holiday can make your coworkers feel uncomfortable.

While you can mention your faith, avoid in-depth religious conversations. Take care to never belittle or disagree with someone else’s beliefs, and don’t try to convert anyone.

The conversations you have at work influence your job performance, reputation, success and health. Aim to promote respect, cooperation and peace as you talk to your coworkers.

How To Use Your Mental Health Insurance Benefits

By Your Employee Matters | No Comments

You’re familiar with the physical health benefits your insurance provides, but you may not be familiar with your mental health benefits. These benefits address numerous mental and behavioral health challenges you may face, and you can use them in several ways.

Therapy and Counseling

See a licensed therapist or counselor and discuss any work, family or personal stressors, past or present trauma, and other challenges you face. You can see a therapist for a specific issue for a limited number of sessions or maintain an ongoing relationship as part of your long-term self-care.

Group Support

Join a support group for a specific health or wellness condition. Group sessions can address grief, substance use, anger management, and a variety of other concerns.

Medication

If you need prescription medication for anxiety, depression or another condition, see your physician or psychiatrist. Your insurance should include prescription medication coverage.

Screenings

Receive an alcohol misuse or depression screening as you improve your overall health. The screening results can help you decide if you need additional treatment.

Alcohol Misuse or Substance Use

Get help for an alcohol misuse or substance use concern. With insurance, you can attend detox or rehab and individual or group therapy sessions and receive other beneficial support.

Inpatient Services

Sometimes, you need the intensive treatment an inpatient behavioral stay can provide. Use your insurance benefits to pay for your stay in an approved inpatient program.

Excluded Mental Health Diagnoses

Some health plans exclude certain physical, mental or behavioral health diagnoses. Review your policy so you understand any exclusions and the out-of-pocket expenses you’ll owe if you decide to pursue treatment.

Understand Parity Protection

You may hesitate to use your mental health benefits because you worry that it will cost more than regular health treatment. Typically, insurance policies provide parity protection for mental health benefits. It ensures you don’t pay more for mental health treatment than you pay for regular health treatment, so use the benefit if you need it.

Check your Policy for Coverage Details

Almost all insurance plans provide mental, behavioral and substance use health benefits. However, your specific coverage and benefit limits depend on your policy and even state laws. Check your policy carefully so you know details like:

  • Covered services
  • In-network providers
  • Counseling session annual or lifetime limits
  • Co-pays for services
  • Deductible
  • Pre-authorization requirements
  • How claims are paid

If you have questions about your coverage, read your policy. You can also talk to your human resources professional or contact the insurance company to clarify anything you don’t understand.

The mental health benefits included in your health insurance coverage can help you manage mental and behavioral challenges. Understand how to use your coverage as you get and stay healthy.

Risks of Corrosive Materials

By Construction Insurance Bulletin | No Comments

Corrosives are solid or liquid substances that exact extreme caution when handling. They are usually either an acid, such as nitric acid, sulfuric acid, chromic acid, hydrochloric acid, hydrofluoric acid, or acetic acid, or a base, such as ammonium hydroxide, sodium hydroxide, or potassium hydroxide. Anyone that has ever seen the effects that corrosives have on metal or other strong materials can easily imagine the damage that a corrosive would do to the delicate human skin.

Adding to the danger is the fact that corrosives act upon contact, meaning that damage begins the moment that the corrosive or its vapors come into contact with the eyes, mouth, skin, digestive tract, or respiratory tract.

Injuries from coming into contact with corrosive materials might be extensive and, in some cases, irreversible. Keep in mind that the stronger the concentrate of the corrosive material is, the more damage it has the potential of doing. Some of the most common injuries that result from unprotected contact with corrosives are burns to the eyes and skin. The end result might be blindness or severe scarring of the skin tissues.

When the vapors from corrosive materials are inhaled, they might cause burning to the respiratory tract, pulmonary edema (the buildup of fluid around the lungs), or even death. Although less common, if ingested, the corrosive might cause extensive burning or perforation in the mouth, esophagus, and stomach.

Aside from the danger of corrosives coming into direct contact with the body, some are combustible or flammable. These substances can very easily explode or catch on fire if not properly stored and handled. One more danger comes from some corrosives being incompatible with other chemicals. When incompatible chemicals are mixed or accidentally come into contact with one another, the result can be a dangerous, sometimes deadly, chemical reaction. Again, the dangers of corrosive materials demand that they be treated with care, respect, and caution.

Any worker that handles any corrosive material should always protect themselves: 

Make sure that corrosives are stored in a safe area. This not only means away from other incompatible substances, but, sometimes even away from other corrosives.

The storage area should be secured, cool, and dry.

If it’s necessary to transfer corrosive materials between containers, then make sure that the transfer is done with extreme caution and that the appropriate safety steps have been taken.

There should be appropriate ventilation anytime a corrosive material is accessed.

If it’s necessary to mix corrosive materials with water, then be attentive to avoid overfilling and spillage. It’s always best to add water in minute amounts.

Never reuse any container that previously contained a corrosive material.

Remember to follow the proper protocol when disposing of unused corrosive materials; these shouldn’t just be poured down a drain.

Remember to don appropriate personal protective equipment as per protocol. This might include chemical rubber gloves, apron, goggles, face mask, and/or respiratory equipment.

In the event an accident does occur, immediately seek first aid for the injured. The area should be closed off to prevent subsequent injuries and the appropriate chain of command should be notified. Remember, it’s too late to be cautious once an accident occurs. It only takes one mistake to produce a costly, painful, disfiguring, and potentially deadly injury.

Safety Committees: Why the CEO should be a member

By Construction Insurance Bulletin | No Comments

Safety reflects the culture of the business.  Top leadership needs to take charge of the culture, to define it.

The best safety committees are chaired by a specified point person who reports outside of the committee to the CEO.

Why this arrangement?  The CEO does not dictate safety measures.

Some safety rules and regulations are government mandated. Consider simple compliance to be a minimum.

Manufacturers offer safe operating techniques for machinery and other products.

The personnel who operate the machines, maintain the machines, work in the field at construction sites, deliver supplies and raw materials, or otherwise labor know their jobs and often have good ideas for efficiency and safety.

Supervisors observe which safety equipment or protocols are ignored or too cumbersome.

The committee hears all these sides and determines the best course of action to proceed safely.

The CEO is present for leadership in the safety culture, not process management.  Once the safety protocols have been discussed and fixes determined, the CEO can approve costs and procedural changes.

The CEO listens first, then leads the implementation.

How Safety Committees Fail

The leading causes include:

  • Never forming them
  • Not taken seriously, lack of top down leadership
  • Lack of swift implementation
  • Lack of participation at all levels of employee
  • Lack of management follow through

Obviously, the first four of the five main reasons attribute to poor leadership.  The CEO is vital in this role.  The CEO must communicate that his number one job is getting everyone home safely.

Management must follow through on protocols.  Random drug testing, reviewing motor vehicle operators’ driving records, premises inspections of safety equipment, every safety protocol must be visible and public to reinforce the importance of compliance.

Safety meetings and safety committees are two different animals.  Safety meetings, the lunch box variety, reinforces safety procedures already in place.  They can, however, be used for line employees to offer suggestions for specific problems.  The employee representatives to the committee can relay those messages.

Safety committees evaluate and reevaluate the culture of safety.

If the CEO hears new safety procedures, implements them, as a member of the committee, the CEO will know if these new protocols are working at the line level of the organization.  Excellent leadership monitors the managers to assure this end result.

Spring Maintenance Tips For Your Construction Vehicle

By Construction Insurance Bulletin | No Comments

Your construction business requires a reliable vehicle. This spring, perform several maintenance procedures on your truck. Routine maintenance equips your truck to operate properly all season and prolongs the life of your vehicle.

Inflate Tires

Your vehicle’s tires, including the spare, must be properly inflated and have adequate tread. Check for wear, buckles or bulges, too, since a compromised tire could easily pop as you drive over rough ground on the way to job sites.

Fill Fluids

Change the oil to ensure your vehicle operates at peak performance this year. Replace or refill the transmission, brake, power steering, and windshield washer fluids also, and purchase extra fluids in case you need to top them off during the year.

Tune the Engine

Inspect the engine, including the battery, powertrain control, and ignition. They must be in good working order so that your vehicle operates efficiently.

Replace Belts and Hoses

Your vehicle’s belts and hoses affect various engine parts that are essential for operation. Inspect the belts, hoses and clamps for wear, and replace them if necessary.

Boost the Brakes

Inspect the brake system and replace the linings, rotors or drums if they’re damaged or worn. Remember to also change the brake fluid.

Inspect the Suspension

Your vehicle’s shocks and struts improve your ride, so inspect the suspension. Replace noticeably worn parts.

Improve the Lights

Improve visibility when you buff scratches from the headlights and taillights. Replace any broken lights or fuses also.

Charge the Air Conditioner

Charge the A/C so your vehicle remains cool as you drive to and from job sites. If you notice leaks or damage, schedule a repair.

Replace Wiper Blades

Replace worn, cracked or broken wiper blades. They improve your visibility during all weather conditions.

Detail the Interior and Exterior

Wash the entire exterior of your vehicle, including the undercarriage, to remove winter ice and grime. You can also wax your truck to protect its finish, and touch up any scratches that could turn into rust or affect your brand image. Clean trash out of the interior also and wipe the surfaces as you create a tidy vehicle.

Stock Supplies

Check your tool box and first aid kit, and replace any broken or missing items. Additionally, stock invoices, mileage reports and business cards so you’re prepared to manage and share your business.

Purchase Adequate Insurance

Double check that your commercial auto insurance policy includes adequate coverage. It should include liability, medical, uninsured and underinsured, comprehensive, and collision coverage with adequate limits to protect your assets.

In addition to these spring maintenance tips, schedule regular maintenance throughout the summer season. Proper care protects your truck and your construction business all summer.

What To Do When A Client Doesn’t Pay An Invoice

By Construction Insurance Bulletin | No Comments

Unpaid invoices wreak havoc with your construction business. When a client doesn’t pay, you can take these steps.

Remain in Contact

If you don’t receive payment by the due date on the invoice, contact your client and ask if the work was done satisfactorily and when payment will be made. Sometimes, clients face emergencies or other challenges that prevent them from paying the full amount owed. In this case, arrange a payment plan or other alternative. However, if the client does not respond, contact them every day by phone, email or text until you receive payment.

Document your Case

Keep excellent records in case you need to contact collections or take the client to court. Your documentation should include your signed contract, expense receipts, invoices, and verbal and written communications with the client.

Hire a Collections Agency

Instead of calling the client every day, hire a collections agency to do this task for you. They typically charge a 30 percent fee to recover unpaid funds.

Send a Letter from your Lawyer

A simple letter from your lawyer with a threat to send the invoice to collections or take the client to court may prompt immediate payment.

Go to Court

You may be able to file a claim in small-claims court if your client owes between $2,000 and $7,500 and your state’s laws support this option. For higher amounts, consider further legal action. Remember, though, to weigh the legal fees against your unpaid invoice to ensure you don’t lose money going to court.

Remain Civil

Never complain about the client to others or on social media. Maintain a professional attitude as you protect your reputation and business.

Pursue Alternative Recovery Avenues

Even if the client doesn’t pay, you may be able to file an insurance claim to recover the unpaid invoice. Alternatively, ask your accountant if you can write off the bad debt on your next tax return.

Change Future Billing Practices

Use this hard lesson to change your future billing practices.

  1. Write an accurate proposal for each job. It outlines the exact work you will do, project timeline and payment expectations.
  2. Give the client time to examine the proposal and ask questions.
  3. Consider a staggered payment plan where you receive part of the payment upfront with the remainder due in installments.
  4. Require payment of each installment before you start the next part of the project.
  5. Sign a contract that clearly states the specific work you will do and payment due dates, late fees and the steps you will take to recover payment.

An unpaid invoice affects your construction business, so take these steps to get the payment you’re due.