Can Employers Make Vaccines Mandatory in a Pandemic and How Will HR Handle This?

vaccination

With a vaccine for COVID-19 in the works, many employers are starting to think about the vaccine policies their businesses may need to deploy.

HR leaders need to be able to ensure the safety of all employees and stay up to date on any changes during this global pandemic. Remote work has been a huge trend during these difficult times, but many are still working in person, or are eager to get back to work once the pandemic subsides. This means that when employees start getting back to work and a vaccine is available, employers need to start thinking about the next step.

This decision will not be easy for many employers thinking about whether or not it is even an option to make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory, and who will be willing to get the vaccine if offered. There are so many questions left in the air which is why having an HR company that has knowledge and experience managing HR needs at a global level is vital.

The Chief Executive Officer at Stipenda, an industry leader in international PEO that specializes in helping businesses expand globally, Solomon Williams, explains the benefits of having a strong HR leader when dealing with things such as a COVID-19 vaccine within the workplace.

“A strong human resources department needs to understand the legalities of requiring employees to get a vaccine. These rules and regulations will vary across countries, so global businesses should consider working with a PEO,” said Williams.

With different rules and regulations in different countries, it can be difficult for businesses to tackle issues like a vaccine on their own.

According to Williams:

  • The Vaccine will be mandatory to health workers and possibly retail workers who are working consistently with the public on a day to day basis
  • There will most likely be religious and medical exemptions to receiving the vaccine
  • There will be employees that decide to leave their place of work if the vaccine becomes mandatory

There are a lot of things to consider when thinking about the possibility of a COVID-19 vaccine and how employers are going to be able to keep their employees safe and healthy. A viable option could be having onsite vaccine administrations to make it easier for all employees, but on the other hand, the mandate of the vaccine could have an unpopular reaction. Adapting to new changes during this global pandemic has been difficult for many companies and with a possible vaccine in the works, it is time for employers to start thinking about how they are going to handle this next obstacle.

The Importance of Business Agility in the New Normal

new normal at work

By Steven Cox, Chief Evangelist at IRIS HR, a leading international HR consultancy.

Routine small talk was once filled with the weather, weekend errands, and other innocent subjects. Whereas it’s now about living in an age with the virus: Covid-19 has become a defining drama for the moment. In responding to the economic uncertainty, business leaders and HR professionals have to reinvent the workplace and the culture it upholds to thrive post-pandemic.

Reinventing the workplace is no small feat. It’s a likely project, especially for a returning workforce.  One that will involve many key people, policies, and patience in good measure. There is risk with this project, but what follows close behind is reward and opportunity. A new vision for a more empathetic, agile culture and organisational structure that is flexible will become a critical project for many professionals.

 

What is “business agility”?

When changing restrictions abound, businesses re-boarding a remote workforce will have to carefully, and thoughtfully, craft a new culture. Even the wider business model will have to become more agile, flexible, and capable of withstanding quick transitions between policies and safety protocols.

Businesses capable of responding to quick change, without too much operational upset, express a sense of agility. Business agility, as a popular term, describes savvy operations that express dexterity, wit, and adaptability in the face of challenge. In the current business climate, the transitions between new national policies fall swiftly with little room to dwell on strategy. Embracing business agility as a business strategy could help to futureproof your operation long into the years after the pandemic.

 

What defines an agile business?

The best way to envision agility as a business strategy to breakdown its traits into manageable tips and examples.

 

1.      Rapid Action Teams 

For flexible planning, and quick responses, create and inform key teams of staff that can problem-solve and respond to the challenges as they surface. As key policies change the working conditions of Britain, your rapid-response teams should be consulted. They can advise on quick, informative strategies that can steer some measure of operational success.

Even in the “new “ normal, the stability of policy and the workplace is still questionable. This means that changes could be afoot long into the foreseeable future; relying on your teams to navigate pains to your operation is a wise trick, especially if you encourage new value from your existing resources. 

Top tip: rapid response teams harness your team’s strengths as a critical tool for steering business decisions. Many businesses rely on the collective skills of their talent pool, so why not lean into their strengths in a moment of crisis? Building a culture that empowers staff input can hold untold rewards for employers navigating a crisis or operating in normal contexts.

 

2.      Pressure Tests

The new normal, a mysterious post-pandemic climate, will be full of lingering uncertainty and anxiety about returning to the workplace. Even more so, business’ and their teams are likely to be fearful of a slumped economy and what that spells for job security.

Reinforce your culture with policies, reassurances, and prepare for the worst with stress tests. If you have not hatched a recovery plan, begin with one that outlines a return to business as usual. Follow that action by stress testing your operation for future harm from sudden workplace closures and trade and travel restrictions.

Pressure testing is a way of gauging your operation limits. Understanding the measures required to slow economic harm to your operation is an important step in protecting the future value and stability of your business.

Top tip: structuring your organisation into tiers of understanding about its limits can help steer future strategy. This is a moment to build a culture of transparency, by inviting your business to self-reflect on its performance during the pandemic.  

 

3. Tiered Office Assessments (and remote handover)

Just as the UK government has structured its response to the virus around tiered phases, businesses can embrace nuance in how they plan their office layouts. If you embrace this kind of structural thinking, you can open your operation to creative problem-solving.  

During the pandemic, having key office policies containing safety protocol was a priority. Keep this active and structured into how your office could adapt to any future challenges to the workforce.

Top tip: One of the key takeaways from the pandemic was the importance of a quick handover to remote working. This means having a workforce quickly adaptable to remote working if the conditions worsen and this is the only workable strategy.

Business leaders and HR professionals alike need to steer away from traditional, static strategies regarding disaster recovery. Lack of planning can escalate the severity of an operation facing new challenges. This is especially important where underdeveloped contingency planning leaves a company more vulnerable than one with a backup strategy.

Business agility speaks to the next generation of leaders willing to anticipate and adapt to new challenges.

How to Pick the Best VoIP Service Provider

voip

Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, has quickly become the favored phone system for homes and businesses alike. VoIP offers advanced call management features to streamline flexibility, productivity, and communication, making it a practical choice over traditional landline systems. 

You can find many great VoIP service providers on the market today, so choosing the one that suits your budget and provides all of the necessary features may feel like a daunting task. Read ahead to learn our tips to help you choose the best VoIP service provider. 

 

1. Understand What VoIP Is

Transitioning from a traditional landline system to VoIP is a big step, whether you plan to use the system for personal use or for your business. Before you can choose the best VoIP provider, you need to understand what VoIP is and what functions and features it has to offer. 

Voice over Internet Protocol, sometimes called IP telephony, is a system of technologies that delivers voice communications and multimedia collaborations over the internet. 

In simpler terms, VoIP allows you and your family members or employees to make voice calls through the internet rather than a regular phone line. 

Along with simple voice calls, this system also includes advanced calling features such as conferencing, call queues, options to play music while on hold, and click-to-dial automation. In addition, VoIP allows you to integrate mobile apps and third-party systems, such as CRM databases, into your phone. 

VoIP systems convert your voice into a signal that your service provider transfers through the internet to your destination, be it a computer or telephone. This technology allows users to make calls through computers, VoIP phones, or adapted traditional phones. 

Because VoIP utilizes the internet to transfer signals, most service providers offer the capability for users to make calls from anywhere with an internet connection. As a result, this system has become a popular solution for companies that have transitioned to remote work, as employees can make their calls from home. 

VoIP is the phone system of the future, which is why thousands of users have made the switch from landlines to internet phone companies this year. 

 

2. Know the Different Types of VoIP Providers

VoIP providers are companies that deliver VoIP services to your home or businesses. Just like a traditional phone service provider, VoIP providers create the channel through which your communications will travel to reach their target destination.  

Dozens of VoIP providers are on the market, but not all companies offer the same level of adaptability and control. Before you choose a provider for your home or business, be sure to understand the different types of providers and what features they do and do not offer. 

 

VoIP-Only Providers

Some providers only offer base-level calling options that are similar to what you would see with a typical cell phone. 

If you’re looking to implement a VoIP for personal use or for a small business, you may want to choose a VoIP-only provider that offers basic calling, voice mail, and caller ID. These providers are the most affordable options. 

 

VoIP with Cloud-Based Phone Systems

Many VoIP providers utilize a cloud-based system that improves the base-level calling capabilities. These companies often include additional features like call management, auto attendants, virtual extensions, and answering rules. 

 

VoIP with Unified Communication Solutions

If you need a VoIP provider that goes the extra mile, you want to look for one that combines traditional VoIP with a unified communication solution.

These providers offer advanced collaboration features like online meetings and team messaging, allowing businesses to streamline all of their communications into one platform. They also include options to integrate third-party systems into your phone plan. 

Large companies will likely find this type of provider to be the most efficient option for their employees.  

 

3. Identify Your Wants and Needs in a VoIP Provider

Now that you’ve considered what type of VoIP provider will best suit your home or business, it’s time to identify all of the boxes that your provider needs to check. 

Some of these features are more pertinent to businesses than homes, but those who are adopting a VoIP for personal use should still understand what options each plan has to offer to make the most informed choice.  

 

Price Range

VoIP plans range in price–from less than $20 to over $50 per user per month. For most companies, the price correlates with the features you’ll receive. Basic plans start in a lower price range and increase in price once you begin adding features, improving its compatibility. 

If searching for providers in a specific price range feels overwhelming, you may want to identify the features your service provider needs to include. Once you’ve made a list of the necessities, you can narrow down your search to companies that meet those needs and then begin comparing prices. 

 

Mobile Apps

Some VoIP providers allow you to utilize calling and collaboration features through apps on your mobile device. Most providers offer compatibility with the Android and Apple app stores, but not all VoIP plans include advanced features that would allow you to utilize these apps. 

Consider what level of mobile compatibility your home or business will require before you settle on a VoIP provider and plan. 

 

Collaboration & Third-Party Integration

Many businesses require a phone system that allows collaboration between employees and the smooth incorporation of external programs. 

If this is the case for your business, you should look for a service provider that includes cloud-based systems or unified communication solutions as opposed to basic calling. Then, examine the collaboration features that each company offers. These features may include:

  • Video conferencing
  • Virtual calendars
  • Screen sharing
  • Conference calling

Some VoIP providers also offer third-party integration options. If your company utilizes a CRM program, for example, certain providers will allow you to smoothly connect this system to your VOIP to create outbound calls right from your computer. 

Even if your company does not currently utilize collaboration and third-party integration features, consider which of these improvements may benefit your company as you make the transition to a VoIP. 

 
Security

Though VoIP systems boast many benefits, utilizing an internet-based phone system creates the risk of your company suffering from a data breach. Choosing a company that offers top-level security is vital to the safety of your company and your customers’ information.  

When looking for a VoIP provider, make sure you understand the built-in security measures that come with each plan and company. 

Providers may include features that range from basic authentication and end-to-end encryption to multi-factor authentication. In general, companies that boast high-level encryption will provide the most reliable protection. 

Think about the vulnerability of your company’s information and then look for service providers that offer an adequate level of security. 

 

4. Shop Around & Read Reviews About VoIP Providers

Once you identify each of the features that your VoIP service provider needs to include, it’s time to begin the search for the provider that will meet all of your needs.

To see a list of great options, check out the Best VoIP Services to Boost Your Business. This comprehensive guide breaks down the pricing and pros and cons of a variety of companies so that you can easily compare one provider to another. 

The best way to understand how well each service provider functions throughout everyday use is to read reviews. You can find customer reviews on the service provider’s website or search for professional reviews on VoIP forums or blogs. 

Some customer reviews are more informative than others, and companies will sometimes create fictitious five-star reviews to rack up their overall ratings. To find the most reliable opinions of each company, filter the reviews page to show middle-of-the-range ratings, such as two, three, and four-star reviews. 

You should also find out what customer base each company currently services. If big brands utilize a particular provider, you can trust that company to provide an adequate level of reliability for your business as well. 

Gather all of the information you can, then spend some time weighing out the pros and cons of each VoIP service provider before you make your final decision. 

 

5. Make Your Choice

Now is the time to put all of your research into action and choose the company that will best suit your needs. Remember that no VoIP Service Provider is perfect. If you find one that checks off most of your boxes and falls into an affordable price range, it will likely service your home or business well. 

Many VoIP providers come with a warranty or money-back guarantee. Some even include a free trial period that allows you to test out all of the features before you commit. 

The best course of action is to choose a provider, try it out for a while, and then determine if you need to upgrade your plan or switch to a different company before making any firm decisions. 

 

In Summary

Knowing how to pick the best VoIP service provider may feel like an overwhelming task, but these tips allow you to break down the search process into small, manageable steps.

To make the most informed decision, you should understand the benefits of a VoIP, consider the features and functions you need, then compare all of your choices until you land on one that fits the bill. 

Once you make your choice, ask yourself: How can my family or business make the most of our new VoIP?

Tips for Turning Personal Wealth Into a Successful Business

business investment

There are plenty of aspiring business owners in the world. One of the main hurdles many aspiring business owners run into is the lack of capital. When you’re in a position where you’ve secured a certain amount of personal wealth, you’re definitely in a position to thrive with the launch and growth of a successful business. Before you get started, consider the following tips to see a good return on your investment.

 

1. Discover an Untapped Niche in the Marketplace

If you’re interested in starting a restaurant in your town, take a look at the landscape. If you’d like to open up a Greek restaurant and there’s already a Greek restaurant on every corner, you might want to consider a different cuisine style or pick a different location. The key is to tap into an untapped niche in the marketplace. This will help you to become the authority and stand out from the rest. If you’re committed to launching a Greek-influenced restaurant in a saturated area, you’ll have to make sure you rise to the challenge of creating the best experience for the best price.

 

2. Secure an Excellent Financial Advisor, Accountant, and Attorney

Whether you’re excellent with your finances or not, hire a financial advisor to assist in tasks such as monthly/annual budgeting, financial management, and profitability goals. For example, an aspiring restaurant owner in La Jolla can have a San Diego financial advisor go over their business plan. An accountant is a necessary member of the team because you’ll never want to get in trouble with the IRS. A good accountant can help you save as much money as possible as you pay taxes. Furthermore, if you ever experience a significant conflict within your company, a legal advisor or an attorney can navigate those challenges so that you don’t lose your business in the process of building it. You never want to get to a position where you’ve built up an empire not protected from a legal perspective.

 

3. Develop a Strong Business Plan

A business plan serves as the blueprint for your business. It will help you as you create a vision, marketing strategies, and numbers for profitability. Lots of people make personal five-year plans, ten-year plans, and so on. It’s wise to do the same concept with your business because it’ll help you get back on track when you feel yourself veering off course. When you’re in business, you’ll also learn as you go. As a result, your business plan might change a little bit. However, the blueprint helps know the foundational goals, concepts, best practices, and vision.

 

4. Spend Wisely

Don’t spend frivolous money on expenses such as logos, branding, and colors. Instead, focus on making sure your products or services are excellent, priced well, and available as soon as possible. Often, entrepreneurs get stuck on the aesthetics and miss the critical factors of the business. You can spend money on these items, but they’re not business priorities nor keys to its success.

 

5. Develop a Plan to Scale

When starting as an entrepreneur, you might be tempted to do it all on your own. However, you have to build systems and teams to scale your business in the long run. If you try to manage it all on your own, that is a recipe for burn-out.

It can be pretty risky to start a business. After all, most small businesses crumble within the first five years of the initial launch. However, when you think methodically, use the tips and develop the right products and services for the marketplace, you can turn personal wealth into a very successful small business.

5 Ways Small Businesses Can Better Protect Themselves

small business security

Owning your own small business can be a gratifying experience. However, the risks are high when running your own business. Unlike being employed by a major company, your future depends solely on your own decisions and effectiveness in executing those decisions. For this reason, not all small businesses can weather inevitable rocky times. Luckily, being an entrepreneur isn’t all a game of chance. There are proven ways to help your small business survive and thrive. 

 

Here are five ways small businesses can better protect themselves:

 

1. Let Professionals Handle the Taxes

There are few government agencies more powerful than the Internal Revenue Service. Unlike individual tax returns, filing tax returns for a business can quickly turn into a complicated and overwhelming affair. Business taxes filed incorrectly can have several negative consequences, such as overpaying in taxes, underpaying, penalties, or a detailed audit. Protect your business’s best interests by letting an experienced business tax accountant file and prepare your yearly taxes. Simply be sure to keep detailed financial records and let the professionals handle the rest.

 

2. Know Your Legal Rights

Another crippling event for many small businesses is legal disputes. Lawsuits and infractions can have substantial financial consequences for a small business if not handled properly. Besides, your legal concerns will vary dependent upon the type of business you own, as some enterprises present inherently more risks than others. Therefore, it is best to enlist a business attorney’s help even if you are not currently facing any legal concerns. For example, Cory Briggs is a San Diego attorney specializing in small business law. Attorneys like these can help clients navigate questions, disputes, contracts, and more.

 

3. Protect Your Information

A business’s most valuable information is often stored on a computer. For some small businesses, this could be financials, customer payment information, or confidential emails. A breach of this information could not only impact your business’ bottom line but your integrity to consumers as well. When utilizing a computer, always be sure to put security measures, anti-virus software, and backup hard drives in place. If a small business budget permits it, small business cybersecurity consultants can always advise on how to heighten your company’s information on the web.

 

4. Be Insured for the Worst Case Scenario

Sometimes, unfortunately, the unthinkable happens. Some “bad” things are simply out of your control as an entrepreneur, from natural disasters to damaging accidents. To help protect your small business during troubling times, be sure to have proper insurance coverage. The type and amount of coverage will vary from business to business. For example, a business with five employees who work with heavy equipment will need to be insured for employee accidents, property damage, equipment damage, etc. On the other hand, a small online business that sells hand soap would require much less insurance coverage. No matter your business, be sure to assess the risks involved with various insurance agents for the best protection.

 

5. Invest for the Good and the Bad Times

The heart of the success of a small business is cash flow. If a small business owner can master the art of balancing finances and cash flow, a company has a much greater chance of survival. Experienced business owners understand the importance of a “nest egg,” funds in savings for rainy days. No matter how early in your entrepreneurial journey you may be, it is always wise to invest and save as much as possible.

 

Be Prepared

Owning your own business can be risky. At the same time, being a business owner can bring immense success and joy. Help protect your small business with the helpful tips mentioned above to keep your business thriving for years to come.

The UK Work from Home Divide – How to Navigate Such a Situation

It’s safe to say that 2020 has been the year of change and adaptation – most especially so for the UK workforce. After all, seven months down the line after the first lockdown, workers are still being told to ‘work from home if they can’, meetings continue to be held over Zoom and alas, those conversations by the boiling kettle seem to be a distant memory. But how do employees actually feel about working in the age of the ‘new normal’?

According to a survey conducted by an affordable conference call software provider, WHYPAY?, over half of the UK workforce admit that their mental health is better when working from home. This striking result does show that the nation is very much divided when it comes to opinions on remote working, but what can employers do to navigate the ongoing work from home initiative? Have a read of these top tips. 

 

Harness the power of online communication tools  

Elliot Green, Chief Marketing Officer at WHYPAY? said: “What we’re seeing is a shift in mindset as many employees realise they can work just as well, if not more effectively, from home. With the right communication technology, remote staff can connect and collaborate very successfully.” 

Considering that face-to-face interaction in the office is simply not an option for many right now, it’s so important for colleagues to still maintain relationships with one another. That being said, there are many online communication tools out there to help you and your team do just this. 

As an employer or manager working from home, it is imperative that you make use of tools such as Google Meets or Slack to effectively manage your team. After all, things may get lost in translation in a general email exchange, so it’s best to be actively reaching out to one another in the best and most accessible way possible. 

However, when it comes to virtual exchanges with your co-workers, don’t just keep things strictly professional. Rather, check in with them or instigate a general conversation that you would have in the office. These actions could help to eliminate any reservations that your colleagues may have about communicating virtually. 

 

Consider the needs of each individual 

As the results of WHYPAY?’s survey have suggested, opinions on working from home are certainly not unanimous. Therefore, as an employer, it’s important to consider that different individuals on your team may have their own preferential ways of communicating. For instance, the idea of a video call may seem appealing to one person but not to the other. 

Nadia Finer, Founder of Shy and Mighty, commented: “Video calls can be harder to navigate in many ways than face-to-face interactions, because we are so focused on seeing our own face. When you talk to someone normally, you look at them, not at yourself!”

She added: “It can also feel rather overwhelming when everyone is talking at the same time. Instead of solely relying on Zoom, get back into the habit of speaking to people you care about on the phone. Voice only calls are in many ways more personal and intimate, and we are less likely to get distracted or feel self-conscious about the way we look.” 

It’s a challenging time for everyone, so being considerate to the needs of those around you is now more vital than ever. It’s also important to note that adapting your communication style as a manager to suit the preferences of each individual is a great way of building that additional rapport. 

 

Reflect on what’s going on  

A further interesting find from WHYPAY’s survey is that over half of employees stated that they get far more work done when working from home. With this in mind, perhaps reflect on the quality of work that’s being done by your remote working team. In general, have you noticed that your employees are simply being more productive working from home compared to the office? 

Similarly, the study reveals that 1 in 5 claim to be an “all-round happier person” since working from home. Given the perks of working from home, such as benefitting from extra sleep and not having to be packed like sardines with others on a daily commute, this statistic is not that surprising. So, in relation to your team, have you noticed a positive shift in everyone’s general mood since the office doors have closed? If this is the case, then it may be time to consider remote working as a viable option going forward. 

 

Ask what remote working has taught you and your employees

Finally, it’s so important for employees to consider what this culture of remote working has shed light on. Referring to the findings gathered by WHYPAY?’s study, almost half of the UK workforce agree that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed their views of their current job, and 40% actually believe their job could be done entirely from home. 

More strikingly, the survey highlights that half of workers would like their employer to offer at least some level of remote working going forward, and almost a quarter would choose to take a significant pay cut if it meant working remotely going forward.  

From an employer’s perspective, these results may be very eye-opening with regards to knowing how people on your team feel and being aware of what they actually want. It is therefore important to take on these perspectives on board in order to navigate the work from home initiative. Just take a look at how others have done it. 

Speaking about his company, Managing Director of Sleeping Giant Media Anthony Klokkou said:

“Remote working was on the cards pre-Covid, however, not to the extent we are now using it. We’re now implementing flexible working to address the changes in working expectations and to give our team the freedoms they deserve. We have seen that remote working can work well, for us at least, and have worked hard to keep communication high across the business, whilst supporting the cultural development that is happening.” 

Overall, these new changes do spark one question: will traditional office working become a thing of the past as we move forward? 

On this note, Dennis Relojo-Howell, founder of psychology website Psychreg, commented: 

“COVID-19 has changed the world. One of the biggest day-to-day changes is that thousands of businesses had to close their doors and learn how to work from home.

“But now we’ve experienced this way of life, we might not ever go back to the traditional office as we know it. Some data has uncovered that many people prefer working at home, indicating that the future may be remote. To better support individuals, we also have to take into account what WHYPAY statistics has revealed.”

Home Business Tips for Reducing Daily Distractions

distracted

Running a home business might be a dream come true. No more traffic on the highway, you can set your own hours, and having the ability to control your own wardrobe can tempt anyone to venture down this road. But one of the downsides of a home business is that distractions can derail your business day and make getting anything done more difficult.

Not to mention that some people in your life might think that because you’re home, you are available to chat and run errands on a whim. It’s essential to get a handle on distractions so you can reap the benefits from working at home without succumbing to the obvious pitfalls.

 

Talk to Your Family

If you’re just starting your home business, it’s essential to communicate your goals to your family. Ensure they understand that just because you’re home, that doesn’t mean you are always available. Set a work schedule and a workspace, if possible, and let your family know that it’s time for you to work when you’re in your work area.

Let them know under what circumstances they can interject into your workday and how. Are you reserving that right only for true emergencies? Do they need to knock on the door? Establishing the rules ahead of time will allow you to get everyone on the same page and address any problems before they occur.

 

Set Work Hours

Although having a home business means you can set your own schedule, you actually have to set one. It’s tempting to fit work in while you can, but the truth is that not doing so can be your downfall. You already know that time can get away from you, and before you know it, you’re at the end of the day without completing your work.

That’s a quick way to business failure.

To stop that from happening, set regular work hours and stick to them. You can change them every week or month if you want, but everyone needs to know when you’re working and when you’re not. 

 

Hire Outside Help

One huge distraction that probably takes away from your home business is the urge to work on chores during business hours. The laundry is piling up, the bathroom is a wreck, and Sally forgot her lunch at home — again. Of course, you could take care of most chores and happenings after you complete your work, but, for some, the temptation is too great.

If your household chores are beckoning, and you can’t simply ignore your impulse to clean and organize, it might be time to hire some help. Maybe you could hire a go-for to run errands or a housekeeper to do your laundry.

On the other hand, you could recruit your family members or make your chores less time-consuming when you get to them. For example, installing a water softener can go a long way in preventing mineral stains in the sink and allow for more time in between deep cleanings.

 

Plan for Distractions

No matter what you do, working from home will always come with a dose of distraction. Instead of fighting it, plan for it by expecting interruptions and scheduling in timed breaks. Sometimes just knowing that distractions happen will help you practice refocusing on your work once the distraction ends.

 

Stay Realistic in Your Expectations

Your home business and how you run it is an evolution, and you need to stay flexible. Figuring out what works will be a case of trial and error, so stay open to ideas until you find a method that works for you, your family, and your business.

Finding the Right Outside Professionals for Your Business

freelancer

There is a moment in almost every business when outside help is needed to get some specialist job done. For example, almost every business will grow to the point that it needs a professional accountant to take care of the books and tax preparation. Businesses might also need lawyers to deal with legal problems. No matter what outside help you need, you have to choose the right person, or you could be put in a worse position than when you started.

 

Freelancers

Freelancers are almost always going to be the most common outside professional help you can get. When it comes to hiring a great freelancer, you almost always get what you pay for. The majority of people will hire cheap freelancers, which is usually going to lead to a lot of problems. The freelancing world is organized such that the best freelancers are the most experienced and the busiest. Those freelancers are going to command the highest rates in the industry. However, for most industries, an expensive freelancer is going to be worth every penny.

 

Contractors and Subcontractors

You need to understand what you are doing when contracting out work to outside companies or people. You need to know the answers to questions like what is a contractor versus a subcontractor. When people talk about contractors, they are most likely talking about the people who you hire to manage the construction of a building. However, legally, a contractor is anyone who does work for you without being an employee. It is the formal legal definition for the term freelancer. You need to figure out which contractor has a track record of success based on a resume. It might seem easy, but it isn’t easy in a world where people like to exaggerate how good they are.

 

Builders

A contractor can usually hire professional builders. However, in certain cases, you might want to be your own contractor. It then gets to a situation where you don’t know anyone in the industry, but you are then tasked with hiring someone who will build something on time and under budget. The most important thing to know in this case is to figure out who has a reputation for honesty and dependability.

 

Consultants

Consultants are associated with big corporations having a professional to come and give a big speech to motivate workers. However, consultants can be a great benefit to your company, if you know who to choose. The biggest thing you need to know is that consultants should come in and teach practical things. Motivation will always go away, so you need to have someone help with practical things in your business.

 

Recruiters

Every business will have turnover. Professional recruiters are a great source of new hires, so you need to choose wisely. It might be tempting to hire new recruiters, but the most important thing is that the recruiters have a good understanding of your business model. For example, if you are going to hire recruiters to find software engineers, these recruiters need to understand computer programming and the software engineering process.

 

Marketers and Advertisers

Marketers are essential for getting the word out about your business. When it comes to marketing, you need forward-thinking people to understand where the industry is going and get ahead of the competition.

 

Sales Professionals

Finally, sales professionals will help you get more customers and grow your business faster. Depending on your skill level, you might be able to train your own salespeople rather than find professionals outside of your business. However, if you can find a great salesperson, you must hire and keep them happy.

4 Tips For Creating A Safer Workforce

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Creating a safe workplace is one of the most important tasks of a business owner. Every member of staff should feel safe and secure when they come to work and there are some simple, yet very effective ways to create a safe environment for your team members.

 

Invest in training

The first thing you should ensure you invest in is training. Regardless of what industry you work in, there will be health and safety hazards to consider. On a staff member’s first day they should be brought up to speed with the company’s health and safety protocol.

From this, they should also be trained on any equipment which requires it. If, for example, you work in a warehouse, team members should be approved and authorised to operate heavy machinery. Training can ensure jobs are carried out efficiently and to the highest safety standards. Training isn’t a box-ticking exercise, nor is it a one-time thing. Training your staff should be regular, as refresher courses can help prevent staff from becoming complacent.

 

Make sure the equipment is up to scratch

As well as being trained on how to use them properly, they should be up to a good standard. This means tyres are checked regularly for any vehicles, tools are repaired by professionals and they are inspected before use. These are basic practices which should be maintained to prevent accidents, injuries and fatalities.

 

Telematics

As well as having a safe workforce in the office or warehouse, you should also look at how safe the conditions are out on the road. If you operate vehicles and have drivers out delivering or attending jobs, then investing in fleet tracking and telematics is essential. Not only can you monitor driver behaviour, but it can also be a good safety net if one of your vehicles is involved in an accident and you need evidence for insurance purposes. Other benefits of telematics include:

  • Route optimisation: Allows you to find the most convenient route for a driver. If, for example, a new job comes available and five drivers are free and already on the road, route optimisation will allow you to re-route the driver closest to the new job. Saving money on fuel and improving customer service.
  • Real-time live tracking: Can help to identify when drivers are in traffic and will allow you to inform customers of delays – improving your customer service offering.
  • Can help you save fuel: Telematics can help you save fuel by identifying the most cost-effective route (the quickest route may not be the most economical).

 

Security cameras

Security cameras are an amazing safety feature in both vehicles and buildings. They can act as a deterrent and protect your premises from thieves targeting it, but that’s not the only benefit of a security camera. They can improve staff productivity and ensure they are doing their job correctly. It can also be a good safety measure to have in place if there are any issues among staff members.

 

Safety is paramount in any industry and there are some simple ways to ensure you are creating a safer workspace.

How far Back Does an Employee Background Check Look?

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In most cases, companies that initiate an employee background check will want it to go seven years back. However, reporting information up to a decade old is allowed in some states. In California, a credit reporting agency could go a decade back if a candidate would be offered $125,000.00 or more a year. If they were to be offered less than that, the agency couldn’t go more than seven years back.

There are ten states apart from California that limit conviction reporting to seven years from release from prison, the end of parole, or the date of the disposition. They are Colorado, Maryland, Kansas, Massachusetts, Nevada, Montana, New York, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and New Hampshire. Income exceptions apply in some cases.

 

Knowledge is Safety

Companies should be aware of how far back different types of background checks can go in order to make the best employment decisions. This will make sure candidates are qualified for the job, and that risk to clients, volunteers, and other employees is reduced.

It is important to understand that the state and even the county can impact the period of time checked in an applicant’s background. Compliance regulations in some cities and states can affect this period of time.

You also need to know what specific background checks entail. General pre-employment screenings are very different from criminal record checks or employee credit checks.

 

Pre-Employment Screenings

Employers typically use these when performing an assessment. They usually cover seven years of court and criminal records. Depending on what you’re looking for and on state compliance laws, they can go back further.

 

Bankruptcy Checks     

These can go as far as a decade back.

 

Criminal Felonies

Depending on the state where the applicant works or lives, one can report felonies for an indefinite period of time or restrict them to seven years or a decade.

 

Credit History

Employee credit checks generally go seven years back. Depending on specific state laws and expected salary, they might go a decade back. In addition, some state laws restrict how long you can report certain types of credit data.

 

Minor Infractions and Misdemeanors

Depending on the state where the applicant works or lives, you can report these indefinitely or for five years, seven years, or a decade.

Educational history, employment history, and professional license information is subject to verification over a candidate’s lifetime. Driving record checks can extend from three years to a decade back. Again, it depends on the state where someone works or lives.

 

Limitations and Regulations

When it comes to screening tools, HR departments have lots of options. However, this doesn’t exempt companies from obeying local laws, state laws, and federal compliance regulations when doing background checks to make hiring decisions.

It is challenging to stay current on all the details that may apply to your applicants’ jurisdiction, which can limit how far back you’re allowed to look into their background. For instance, some local and state “ban the box” and fair hiring laws restrict the extent of a criminal history check. Ban the box refers to removing the check box on applications that refers to the existence of a criminal record. A few states also impose limitations on how companies can use employment credit checks to make recruitment decisions.

 

FCRA Guidelines 

Specific regulations exist in terms of how far back a screening can go into an applicant or current employee’s history according to the FCRA. Background check services and CRAs are not allowed to report bankruptcies filed more than a decade from the report date, tax liens paid seven years from the report date, and arrest records, civil judgments, and civil suits that are older than seven years. In addition, they cannot report any adverse information that is more than seven years old with the exception of criminal convictions. Finally, they cannot include collections more than seven years old in any reports they make available to their clients.

Establishing Departments in Your Home Business

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If you have a home business, you probably set it up yourself, and you take care of everything from creation to sales to shipping. And while it can be difficult to hand the reins to someone else, the truth is you can’t do it all and expect to grow. Continuing to juggle all the tasks that go into running a successful business will not only burn you out, but it will deprive your business the opportunity to thrive.

 

Be Honest with Yourself

Take note of all the tasks you complete in a day with regard to your business. Are there any areas where you struggle? Maybe you don’t update your website as much as you should or have trouble keeping up with hashtags on Instagram. Are your tax receipts sitting in a shoebox so you can deal with them at year-end, or worse, absent altogether?

On the other hand, identify your business strengths. What are some of the things regarding the business that only you can do? For example, if you own a jewelry business, you are likely the only one who can create the jewelry because the product reflects your creative process.

If you don’t have to be the one to complete the task, there’s a possibility you could farm it out to a contractor or hire an employee.

 

Know When It’s Time

Obviously, if your business is brand new or if you haven’t turned a profit, you’ll continue to take care of business matters yourself. But once your business brings in an income and you feel like you’re treading water and not growing, it may be time to hire help.

Remember, you don’t need to establish different departments and delegate all at once. Start with your weak points and do a cost-analysis to see in what areas hiring an expert will benefit you the most.

 

Determine Your Wants and Needs

Once you identify your strong points, weak points, and the areas you want to outsource, it’s time to look for an expert. Establishing a department for a home business simply means that everything about that task is now the responsibility of the expert you either contract or employ. Your only remaining role there is for oversight and monitoring for effectiveness.

For example, if you hold inventory for a product you sell online and want an expert in logistics optimization to handle all your shipping needs, you only need to make sure the department is effective and running smoothly.

 

Contract or Employee

There are two ways to bring in paid assistance for your business. You can either employ someone or hire a contractor. If you hire someone as an employee, you retain control over how they handle their responsibilities. Not only that, but there are tax implications you’re responsible for paying to the government for that employee.

An independent contractor is someone you pay outside of your business to complete a job. You have no control over how they complete the task; they work independently of you. And you don’t pay taxes for a contractor like you would for an employee.

Before you decide what type of help you want, familiarize yourself with the differences between the two.

 

You Are Not an Island

Yes, you brought your business into this world, but you don’t have to run it alone for the rest of your days. For growth to happen in life, and in business, change has to occur. Deciding to piece out parts of your business into departments is a smart way to continue to build your creation into something bigger while keeping it manageable.

Understanding the Basics of Digital Product Development

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Whether tangible or intangible, all products are developed to provide value to both the creators and the users. The former typically generates revenue from the products while the latter uses it to solve specific problems.

Essentially, digital products are tools or services that users interact with through digital mediums, e.g., banking services delivered through banking apps. Unlike low-level cycles, most high-level workflows of developing digital products consist of the same elements. These elements are adjustable based on the complexity and requirements of a project. Here are some tenets of high-level product development cycles.

 

1. Ideation

Ideation is all about identifying a problem and developing a solution in the form of a digital product. Given that only 10% of ideas become successful digital products, you should use this phase to determine your idea’s prospects and avoid failure from the outset. This phase may include activities such as research and analysis, budgeting, value proposition, and strategy.

  • Research and Analysis
    This is among the most crucial stages for any product development cycle. It involves gathering and analyzing different data to understand the target audience, determine the competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, and evaluate product-market fit.

  • Budgeting
    This step involves defining the available financial resources and forecasting both short-term and long-term costs.

  • Value Proposition
    Value proposition identifies the benefits and drawbacks of your product from the end user’s perspective. This robust analytical approach helps check your digital product’s validity.

  • Strategy
    Among the greatest reasons why start-ups fail is because they base their strategies on inspiration. Winning strategies rest on product roadmaps with clear goals, value proposition, success metrics, implementation plans, and competitive analysis.

 

2. Design

After successful ideation, you can move on to designing and wireframing your product to visualize how it looks and feels.

  • Prototype
    Prototyping guides you on how to develop your digital product. Ideally, it should be your first attempt at introducing UX and UI visually. Although prototypes have basic designs and limited functionality, they are essential for convincing investors and getting critiques from early adopters.

  • Pilot Testing
    During pilot testing, your team gets to refine the product before alpha/beta deployment. Pilot testing provides an estimate of the product’s development from the end user’s perspective.

  • Alpha/Beta Release
    Alpha releases are the first working prototypes used for internal testing of design and functionality. Beta releases collect feedback on user experience and can be made available to the public.

 

3. Development

  • Agile Implementation
    Agile development accelerates the pace of product development and empowers teams to transform ideas into reality iteratively. This form of development favors an agile approach that facilitates product adjustment and evolution instead of waterfall projects.

    It also requires cross-functional teams to speed up processes and minimize handovers. For instance, an embedded software engineer will develop and optimize code for your target hardware platforms. In contrast, backend developers will develop the code your product needs to run on the cloud/server.

    As part of agile development, you will split your workflow into sprints, with functional software delivered after each sprint.

  • QA (Quality Assurance)
    QA involves performing testing activities to refine the quality of your digital product. Through testing activities, your team can identify and eliminate any bugs and defects.

 

4. Product Launch

Product launches are the culmination of the development process. Despite having already invested a lot of effort at this point, you may still encounter many more challenges. For starters, you will need a pre-launch strategy that may consist of teasers or landing pages, email marketing, social media campaigns, pre-release reviews, and miscellaneous promotion campaigns.

The actual market launch will not be simple as well. Your launch activities should revolve around appealing to the personas you identified in your market analysis.

 

5. Maintenance and Support

Despite being often overlooked, the post-launch maintenance and support phase of digital product development is crucial, particularly for product growth. It is the longest phase for successful digital products, with the potential to overshadow product creation and launch costs if left unchecked.

Do not limit your ideas to the build-and-launch phase. Instead, implement them post-launch to adapt your product to a dynamic environment and changing customer needs.