Consolidating Debt: Fight Your Way to Financial Freedom

Oct-DebtConsolidation-imageOne reality about adult life is the need to pay bills and calculate taxes. Much of our time goes into figuring out who gets how much and what our bank balance is at the end of the month. The stress of paying different people, different amounts at different times can present a challenge.

A gleam of hope in the confusion

Debt consolidation can be a great solution to our loan payment woes, by rolling several debts into one. Consolidation is beneficial if you owe payments to multiple high-interest credit card debts. One immediate benefit is a consistent interest rate, which can be a huge relief for families and business owners alike.

It only helps if you can do it right

While taking out a larger loan to pay off smaller ones, always check the following:

  • The origination fees and the processing fees.
  • Can you pay your creditors directly? Some lenders offer such support.
  • Can you get a lower interest rate if someone co-signs your loan?

Thinking outside the box: balance transfer credit cards

Some prefer going for a 0% interest credit card instead of consolidating their loans. This can be a risky move. Most credit card companies have a substantial transfer fee. The average term is 21 months, and there is also a limit to the amount you can transfer; usually $15,000. Credit card transfers are a potential solution for single men, women, working family members, and students. But if you own a small to medium sized business, the upper limit will be too low for consolidating even your smallest significant debts. Credit card transfers are not wise for larger companies.

Why is a personal loan better?

A personal loan offers a number of advantages over credit cards. Borrowing limits are much higher, and the qualifying credit scores are relaxed as well. A personal loan may even boost a credit score that is deteriorating due to multiple lapsed payments. (On the other hand, if you max out the credit on a 0% interest card, your credit score will suffer more, and you will end higher interest rates for future loans.)

Personal loans to pay off consolidation loans can be a smart way to manage your finances. If you have a decent credit score (600 and above), you may not have to provide collateral. Unsecured loans can be a great help when it comes to improving credit scores and securing the future of your finances.

Choosing an online lender

Online lenders have varying requirements and varying APRs. Usually, the ones with stringent credit score requirements have a lower APR, ranging close to 5%. But if you have a poor credit record, you could be required to pay a whopping 36% APR for a loan from the same company! The average rate hovers around 13% for online personal (consolidation) loans. Although, if you have a limited credit history, the company may charge you a higher APR for security reasons. There are many online loan calculators, which you can use to find out your approximate APR, and help you calculate your total debts, total payment at the end of the term, and your best consolidation possibilities.

Will the new loan help you repay your current loans?

Some loan companies will allow you to pay your creditors directly. However, this is only available for those who have excellent credit records. Some credit card debt consolidation companies will also offer credit counseling sessions. This will help you reorganize your payment structure and pay off your debts. Having proper debt counseling and management will help you move ahead in the right direction.

How much fee is your lender currently charging?

Almost all online consolidation loans have charge an origination fee, which can range between 1% and 6% of the total amount you are borrowing. While some lenders will deduct the origination fees up front, others will charge extra for the first few months to make up for it. Always check the details and calculate the net amount without the origination fees to cover all costs.

A personal consolidation loan only makes sense if you can manage an APR that is small enough to help you save money. Always get expert finance advice on loan consolidation and repayment before you apply for the loan. Moreover, always remember – there is nothing like an emergency fund in the hour of need.




What Every Business Needs to Know About Anti-Discriminatory Laws

Oct-Antidiscrimination-imageEvery business should have a basic knowledge about anti-discriminatory handicap and disability laws. At a very general level, the following definition can be proposed: discrimination is any violation of the principle of equality in relation to prohibited criteria. Older discrimination laws used to provide sanctioned regulations which did not sufficiently take into account the differences of the situations to which they applied and were unjust. The related discrimination laws are also classified by the impact of the disability on the amount of the applicant’s resources.

 

In case-law, the U.S. courts in the 1960s considered that the application of a uniform rule to different situations might violate the principle of equality and be discriminatory. The first category of disability concerns disabled persons able to engage in gainful employment. A classification in a category may not be final. Also, handicap and disability laws entitle a disabled person to obtain a disability card allowing him or her to benefit from certain advantages in the course of everyday life.

 

A disabled person must attach all the documents requested within a disability discrimination claim letter. A disability discrimination claim letter must also indicate the date from which the person concerned may no longer claim the daily disability benefits due to the stabilization of his state of health. The problems they designate may of course be much older, but they were usually either denied or addressed in some other way. This conception, moreover, is not unique to the US alone.

 

However, access to the disability discrimination court is only reserved for applicants who have a disability at the time of their application for a disability discrimination claim. The second category of disability includes disabled persons who are absolutely incapable of practicing any profession. The disabled person must also complete a form for the disability discrimination court in which he provides information about his tax situation.

 

Disabled persons are divided into categories to determine the amount of their payments. In the absence of a reply, the disability discrimination application must be considered as having been refused. Harassment is considered to be a form of discrimination when undesirable behavior related to a disability has the purpose or effect of infringing on a person’s dignity and creating a humiliating, intimidating, degrading, hostile or offensive environment.

 

In practice, a number of disabled workers who are potentially eligible for a disability discrimination claim are unable to obtain the necessary supporting documents for the administrative recognition of their claim in the course of their careers. If this is the case, the disabled worker is usually informed of this decision by registered mail. It is also possible to switch from one disability category to another according to the evolution of a disabled worker’s health. The disability discrimination court must also reply to a disability discrimination application request.

 

Indirect disability discrimination occurs when an apparently neutral provision, practice or criterion is likely to result in a particular disadvantage to persons with a particular disability. Depending on a disabled worker’s situation, they should consult a lawyer in order to estimate the amounts they can claim. In U.S. law, this adaptation of the law does not require different situations to be treated in different ways.

 

However, the plurality and complexity of the contemporary world has led the US courts to take notice of the multiplicity of concrete situations and to adapt, if necessary, the application of the law to realities. Indeed, US law accepts, when there are differences of appreciable or even objective situations, that the general rule should take them into account and is therefore applied differently depending on the situations in question. Therefore, there are different concepts of discrimination, and between law and the social sciences, a multiplicity of concepts of discrimination have been defined.

 

More concretely, in any situation of choice, decisions and practices will be fair when they are based only on objective criteria and which will appear to be legitimate in the situation in question: qualifications used to choose an employee, resources used to choose a tenant, etc. Therefore, decisions should not depend on the health of the applicant on the one hand and on certain administrative data on the other.

 

The law also provides various conditions for receiving a disability discrimination claim. In the absence of an initiative by the court, it is the responsibility of the disabled person to carry out the necessary formalities directly.




Thinking of Migrating to the Cloud? Here’s What You Need to Know

Oct-CloudComputing-imageOne of the most crucial decisions any business can make today is moving its operations to the cloud. Cloud computing is no longer a fad as most businesses considered it initially. As the cost of business operations continues rising, the need for more efficient processes has seen higher adoption of the cloud even among smaller enterprises. A report published on Forbes shows that hybrid cloud adoption grew 3 times more in 2016 from 19% to 57%. The same report shows that in 15 months through 2017 and beyond, 80% of all IT budgets will be committed to cloud solutions. Another report by IDC says cloud computing services are set to outgrow Software as a Service (SaaS) by 2019. Cloud growth is projected at 30.6% through to 2019, again highlighting the popularity of this technology. Today, 37% of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have integrated some form of cloud computing in their operations and these numbers are set to keep growing.

Is Cloud Migration the Best Move?

While these numbers clearly highlight the popularity of cloud technology in the modern business environment, it is crucial to consider how such a move will impact your business. Some of the reasons to opt for cloud computing include:

  1. Lower costs of operations – You will be able to avoid huge capital expenditure on hardware and upgrades. You can fully eliminate your own data center or reduce the physical infrastructure. You need fewer employees to man your IT infrastructure, again reducing the cost of doing business.
  2. Fresh software to gain a competitive edge – You will get the latest versions of the applications with ongoing upgrades bringing onboard new features and functionality. This leads to higher efficiency and productivity of your organizational processes.
  3. Scalability – This has to be one of the best things about cloud computing. Every business is built with an objective to grow over time and as such, you expect the platform hosting your IT infrastructure to grow with you. Cloud storage is scalable and you only pay for resources used.
  4. Enhanced security and compliance – One of the greatest risks any business faces today is data breach or data loss. Many businesses have been brought down due to issues arising in their physical databases. To avoid this, migrating to a safer cloud platform allows you to mitigate these risks.
  5. Flexibility – The cloud environment is flexible and your business will benefit from the best technologies in the industry.
  6. Eco-friendly – Cloud computing is eco-friendly and helps your organization cut its carbon footprint. Cloud hosting, for instance, reduces energy use as you don’t need space for your data servers and staff.
  7. Future-proofing – New technologies are emerging every day and at the same time, importance of data now rules all industries. By embracing the cloud, you are in a better position to adjust to emerging trends including wearable technology, mobile internet devices, voice search and more.
  8. Reliability – One of the biggest turnoffs for a customer today is unavailability of a website when they need it. This can lose you a customer forever and for this reason, migrating to the cloud is an ideal move. Most cloud services are able to maintain 99.99% up-time, which guarantees your systems will always be up and running. This builds brand trust and promotes brand loyalty.

What to Consider before Cloud Migration

There are many other reasons to migrate to the cloud but before making the move, there are some crucial considerations you need to make including:

  1. Assess your needs – Before making this move, assess your business objectives, goals and needs. It is important to know what you want to achieve and take time to evaluate cloud services to determine if they will help you achieve these goals.
  2. Consider cloud providers – Which cloud provider should you choose? Is it Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, or another? To make this choice, consider your business needs, cost-performance optimization and security.
  3. Select applications to move – It might not be possible to migrate everything to the cloud. In fact, some applications are better handled onsite. Some specialty software, for instance, might require additional licensing while some data is supposed to remain within the country.
  4. Existing access mechanisms – Will there be a change in access that current users are enjoying currently? Will there be a notable change in user experience? Such considerations will help you choose whether to go for a big-bang approach or a group/segment migration in phases. It is important to involve your database expert in all the planning and migration stages for the best outcomes.
  5. Security – It is true you are moving to the cloud to enhance security functions of your processes, but what will happen during the migration process? You might be required to cede some responsibilities to the cloud service provider in the process and it is up to you to evaluate how secure the data will be in the process.
  6. Choice of deployment model to be used – Your cloud service provider will either provide Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) or Platform as a Service (PaaS) as the deployment models. Each comes with its unique management features, control and flexibility.
  7. Consider expected organizational changes –There are organizational changes expected during migration to the cloud and you have to fully understand them. For instance, you need a review of security policies, recruitment of new skills, retraining your IT team and more importantly, active management of the cloud deployment.
  8. Integration – Don’t wait to discover application dependencies until it is too late. This leads to outages and limited functionality of systems, which can ruin the entire migration process. Make sure you understand any relationships between applications and plan for integration early.

 

It is important to appreciate that cloud migration is not a one-off process and as such, it requires preparations. It needs collaboration between all stakeholders to avoid hitches. More importantly, you need to allocate required resources and work with a qualified expert to get the job done. To get the best outcome for your cloud migration project, define the larger picture early, rely on a strong methodology and choose an experienced partner. Many experts recommend hybrid cloud transition strategy, but remember to always asses your needs first.




Understanding the Ketogenic Diet

Oct-KetoDiet-imageFor those who are trying to get healthy and perhaps lose a few pounds, the amount of contradictory information on the web and in books about how to “lose weight and feel great” can be overwhelming. In a country where over 600,000 people die of heart disease each year, however, a new approach to diet and how we relate to food/eating may be needed now more than ever. One philosophy that is beginning to gain traction throughout America and the rest of the world is the ketogenic diet—a low-carb approach to eating that sits in contrast to what most people grew up with and may come along with numerous health benefits.

What exactly is the ketogenic diet, and why is it worth considering? Here are a few things you need to know.

Ketosis and the Ketogenic Diet

The ketogenic diet gets its name from the desired effects of eating foods high in fats and extremely low in carbohydrates. For most people, glucose is the primary source of fuel for brain functionality. While highly effective, glucose also comes along with a number of unwanted side effects—especially when taken in excess. From mood swings to weight gain and blood sugar instability, the effects of a carbohydrate-based diet can be problematic, and sensitivity varies from individual to individual.

When carbohydrate-rich foods are cut out of the diet and replaced with healthy fats such as avocado and coconut oil, the liver begins to produce ketones to augment the lack of glucose in the body. This process, known as ketosis, is the primary reason why most people decide to “eat keto” in the first place.

The Benefits of “Eating Keto”

To enter and remain in a state of ketosis, the basic rule is to focus on your macros—that is, a daily diet consisting of 70% fat, 20% protein and 10% carbohydrates. Hitting this golden ratio can take practice and will generally mean avoiding starches, wheat, sugar, processed foods and refined fats/oils. Focus should be placed on healthy fats and proteins, with best results attained by following a ketogenic meal plan.

Why “eat keto?” Here are just a few potential benefits to consider:

  • Reduced Appetite
  • Enhanced Weight Loss
  • Lowered Levels of Triglycerides 
  • Increased LDL (“Good”) Cholesterol Levels
  • Regulated Blood Sugar Levels
  • Reduced Blood Pressure 
  • Enhanced Mental Clarity and Focus

While benefits of the ketogenic diet can take time to see and may even follow a period of feeling sluggish and run-down as your body transitions from being a glucose burner to being fat-adapted (referred to as the “keto flu”), weight loss and reduction in appetite in particular tend to occur extremely fast.

The Bottom Line

The ketogenic diet may not be for everyone. As with any other type of diet, sticking to the constraints can be difficult at times, and falling in and out of ketosis is generally ill-advised—retention is key to success. For those who are looking for a new approach to shedding weight and eating healthier, however, “eating keto” may be worth a shot.




Celebrate National Coffee Day

Sept-coffee-imageMore than half of American adults drink at least one cup of coffee each day. If you aren’t one of them, you may want to consider giving it a try. Although for years doctors warned people about coffee, those concerns were based on flawed, decades old research. Current studies have shown a broad range of health benefits associated with drinking coffee in moderation.

 

Whether you drink it hot or cold, at home or on the go, that cup of joe provides more benefits than you may realize. Unique elements in coffee have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, and the benefits may start as soon as you open the bag of fresh beans and first smell the aroma. And that’s reason to celebrate.

 

1. Improved Heart Health

Apart from a morning boost to get your day going, regular coffee drinkers have a lower risk of heart failure than those who don’t drink the java. Results show that two 8-oz. cups of coffee a day would be associated with an 11% drop in heart risk. Drinking less than that showed a lower risk reduction. But you must be moderate — over five cups and risk increases.

 

2. Coffee Drinkers Live Longer

Studies have been done in both the U.S. and in Europe, following the coffee-drinking habits of over 700,000 people, focused on African Americans, Japanese Americans, Latinos and whites. The risk of dying early was lower for coffee drinkers than non-coffee-drinkers. Good news whether you drink one cup or four cups a day across all populations, whether people drank caffeinated or decaf.

 

3. Live a Happier Life

While a fresh cup of java obviously makes a dedicated coffee drinker happy, there’s scientific research that backs up that feeling. Yes, the caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, but it also may act as a mild antidepressant by increasing production of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, including serotonin and dopamine. In fact, a study showed drinking several cups of coffee daily appears to reduce the risk of suicide in both men and women by about 50 percent.

 

 

Additional benefits include protecting against Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes and liver disease, including liver cancer. So, make sure to raise a glass — or a mug — to celebrate today’s holiday, and toast to coffee and good health.

 




Unseen Employee Disability Costs, Part 2

8-16-unseen-costs-imageIn last month’s blog post, I wrote about how the non-occupational disabilities covered under salary continuation or disability insurance plans are more common than the occupational disabilities covered under workers’ compensation. I suggested that your benefits team should be as focused on managing the costs of non-occ disabilities as your risk management team is on keeping WC costs in line.

That means looking not just at the direct costs of disability (how much you’re paying in wage replacement benefits, either directly or through premiums for an insured plan) but also those indirect costs that, like the invisible parts of an iceberg below the waterline, can sink your ship if you’re not steering carefully.

Opportunity Costs of Employee Absence

When your employees can’t work because an illness or injury, your business takes a hit in ways that don’t immediately show up on the financial statements: Products and services don’t get delivered and sales don’t get made. Temporary replacements have to be brought in, and they may not be as skilled as the absent workers, or they may cost more—or possibly even both! Maybe other employees will be asked to take on absentees’ duties in addition to their own, in which case they could wind up doing two jobs at sub-par productivity (not to mention increasing their risk of burnout).

The Integrated Benefits Institute estimates these opportunity costs of disability amount to an additional 38% of absent workers’ wages for the U.S. workforce as a whole. And IBI notes this percentage (the “absence multiplier”) will be higher for jobs where:

  • It’s not easy to find an equivalent substitute to replace an absent worker
  • Work is highly time sensitive
  • People work in tightly-connected teams

Ease of Substitution

In one of my previous jobs, I consulted with employee benefit plan sponsors on what was driving their short-term disability claims experience and what they could do about it. One of my clients was a retail chain that also had a significant pharmacy operation. While their STD incidence was higher for the retail operation, they were more concerned about their pharmacists’ claims experience. Why? Because at the time the demand for trained pharmacists was extremely high, while the supply was low. For this job, ease of substitution was very low.

Time-Sensitivity of Output

In that same job, I also helped out a colleague who was consulting with a mid-size regional airline. They were especially focused on pilots’ and flight attendants’ disability claims, even though other jobs such as baggage handlers or aircraft mechanics might have had higher incidence rates or longer average claim durations. Why? Because an aircraft couldn’t take off without the required number of pilots and crew members, and if the aircraft couldn’t take off the flight would have to be cancelled. For these jobs (pilots and flight attendants), time-sensitivity of output was very high.

Tightly-Connected Teams

Another client I worked with was an academic health system that had a keen interest in reducing incidence and duration of disabilities for its nurses, especially those in the emergency department, intensive care unit, and operating room. Why? Because they worked as part of a closely-knit team, and in their absence the effectiveness of their physician and surgeon co-workers could be seriously diminished. For this particular hospital, the specialty nursing jobs required higher than average teamwork.

Putting It All Together

So, are you ready to take a look at what non-occupational disabilities are costing you, both directly and indirectly? If you are, consider starting with IBI’s Absence Cost Estimator, a tool that models your overall absence costs (wage replacement plus lost productivity), lost workdays (in total and per full-time employee), and potential health-related absence reduction savings.

The ACE draws on IBI’s benchmarking database as well as research on the opportunity-cost factors we’ve looked at in this blog post. You need to be an IBI member to access it—but the good news is, if you’re an employer, membership is free (see here for details).

Next month, we’ll look at the question that most employers ask once they’ve taken a look at their cost of absence: “What can I do about it?”




Do You Really Need Eight Hours of Sleep?

Sept-8hrs-sleep-imageSleep is one of the most important factors that can play into one’s overall health and wellbeing. With more than 20% of Americans suffering from chronic sleep loss or other types of sleep disorders, however, sleep deprivation is a real problem that threatens to disrupt our lives. Weight gain, depression, headaches and more can manifest as a result of not getting enough sleep on a nightly basis, which is often defined as eight hours. But do you really need eight hours of sleep, or has this claim simply become overblown at this point?

A Full Night’s Rest, or Just Advertising?

Millions of Americans have been told for decades that they’re depriving themselves of sleep if they aren’t getting a full eight hours. In reality, though, research indicates that eight hours may not be the right amount for everyone. The claim was born in large part out of advertising campaigns promoting the sale of over-the-counter sleeping pills and other types of sleep medication.  Research supporting the need for eight hours of sleep each night doesn’t exist.

Most people sleep between six and a half and seven hours each night, even though many believe they should be getting at least eight hours of sleep. While a certain threshold for the right amount of sleep does exist, it differs for each individual person—eight hours is not a hard and fast rule.

Quality Over Quantity

For many years, the conversation around sleep has focused mainly on how much we actually need. As the eight hour myth continues to be questioned, it’s becoming more and more clear that the quality of our sleep matters more than the number of hours we get each night. There are several factors that can influence quality of sleep, and those who toss and turn for a full eight hours may end up getting less sleep than someone who sleeps soundly for five. There’s even research showing that too much sleep increases the risk of several significant health problems, including heart disease and diabetes.

So, how can you improve the quality of your sleep? Here are just a few things you can do starting right now:

  • Get Plenty of Exercise: Physical activity can have a profound impact on sleep quality, with as little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise each day being enough to make a difference. The more you can do to tire yourself out throughout the day, the better you’re likely to sleep.
  • Avoid Alcohol Before Bed: Alcohol may offer relaxing qualities when consumed in moderate amounts, but it actually disrupts the body’s ability to enter into REM sleep. If you have a big day coming up, avoiding alcohol is a good idea.
  • Wind Down Appropriately: Simply jumping into bed at the end of the night may not be enough to allow you to truly wind down. Turn off the blue screens, dim the lights and perhaps read or listen to music for the last hour of the night—and don’t lay in bed unless you’re actually trying to go to sleep.

 

Sleep clearly has a strong impact on quality of life, but it may not be the eight hour rule you’ve always heard about. Focus on improving the quality of your sleep, and it will become clear in time how much of it you actually need to feel your best before heading out the door each day.




Is Autumn Making You S.A.D.? Managing Seasonal Affective Disorder

Sept-S-A-D-image

For many, the first day of autumn kicks off a season of apple picking, foliage tours, and evenings by the fire pit. But for others, it signals the beginning of a months-long struggle with depression, brought about by a significant reduction in sunlight.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) is a form of depression triggered by seasonal change. For the majority of those impacted, depression begins to set in in late autumn, as the amount of sunlight each day is reduced, and continues through winter. Symptoms are similar to those of other types of depression, and include a change in appetite, weight gain, loss of energy, and irritability.

It’s estimated that 10-20% of people in the U.S. struggle with at least mild Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.), and as many as six percent of the population experiences significant winter depression. The shorter autumn days can disrupt your body’s Circadian rhythm, cause a drop in serotonin levels and an increase in melatonin levels, and cause a decrease in vitamin D. Taken together, these changes can lead to feelings of lethargy and depression.

SAD is significantly more common the farther north you go, as the days get even shorter compared to those to the south. For example, it affects only 1% of Florida residents, but 10% of Alaskans. The condition impacts four times more women than men, and generally becomes noticeable in our early 20s.

 

Prevention and Avoidance

There is no known prevention for S.A.D., but it’s believed that a family history and other depressive disorders increase the risk. Talking with your doctor before the darker seasons begin may be helpful, and many take advanced action to mitigate the impacts of winter depression.

 

Treatment

Treatments range from light therapy and anti-depression medications, to lifestyle changes, to alternative medicines.

  • Light Therapy is perhaps the most common and recognizable treatment option. Light therapy boxes vary is size, style, and intensity, but all create artificial light that simulates sunshine. The output dictates how long each light session should last–higher output, or Lux, requires shorter sessions. When effective, people generally starting feeling the impact within a few days.
  • Anti-depressant medication might be called for when symptoms are more severe. Bupropion, commonly used for other forms of depression, as well as a smoking cessation aid, is commonly prescribed for S.A.D. sufferers. It’s a slow-release medication and treatment is most effective when started before the onset of symptoms.
  • Environmental and lifestyle changes have also been shown to mitigate the impacts of winter depression. Opening curtains to allow more light in, getting outside to soak up whatever sunlight is available, and regular exercise have all been shown to improve peoples’ moods and boost energy levels. And a well-balanced, nutritious diet is known to help reduce symptoms of depression.
  • Suppliments, such as St. John’s wort and melatonin, have become more popular in recent years, as interest in natural remedies grows. There’s little scientific research on the effectiveness of supplimets on S.A.D, but many people report significant improvements in their symptoms. It’s important to consult with a physician, however, before starting a regimen; some supplements are known to interfere with other medications.

 

As we head into autumn and winter, now is the time to make a plan for getting through the darker days to come. There is no cure for S.A.D. or winter depression, but with the right tools and a well defined plan, these conditions can be managed. Talk with your physician, let as much light into your home as possible, and adopt healthy habits. You might even find that the coming months can be exciting and enjoyable!

 




Minimizing Call-outs and Sick Days

Sept-managing-sick-leaves-imagePeople get sick. And it can happen at the most inopportune times, often delaying projects and timelines to the point where catching-up can be a project in and of itself. While the average person that has been at their job between five and 10 years takes about eight sick days each year, it’s not always clear that an employee is truly ill when taking time away from the office.

The reality is some employees may be “playing the system.” And if these sick days are paid, they’re costing you money. Fortunately, there are a handful of things your managerial staff can do to help limit call-outs.

Promote a Healthy Office Environment

Some employers have strict policies around sick time, simply because they think it makes it less likely that employees will take advantage of it. It’s worth considering, however, that two-thirds of the total costs of worker illness is due to people going to work when they’re sick, which is why it’s important to promote a healthy office environment whenever possible. When an employee is sick, you don’t want them showing up to the office. Allow people the space they need, and take other measures to promote a healthy office environment, such as installing hand-sanitizing stations and allowing time for mid-day exercise.

Clarify Your Policies

The company that offers unlimited sick days and other perks that seem too good to be true may be attracting the wrong talent. Over time, it can backfire on any organization, especially as employees begin to take advantage of the fact that actual policies are missing entirely. When it comes to paid sick leave, the details should be spelled out and clarified as much as possible.

Offer Remote Work Opportunities

If you’re inflexible about having people come into the office to get work done, you’re going to have to expect sick days to happen. One way to curtail lost productivity, however, is to allow your employees the opportunity to work from home when not feeling well. Many people call out of work simply because they don’t feel well enough to leave the house and deal with the hustle and bustle. But if you can take commuting out of the equation by allowing them to work remotely, they may still be able to complete a good day’s work—even if they’re at home sitting on the couch.

Step In When Necessary

Over time, it will likely become clear which of your employees are taking advantage of sick leave and which are not. While talking to an employee about abusing sick days can be an uncomfortable conversation to have, it can also be an important step to take and ultimately less stressful than having to terminate their employment. After all, you value their work—you just want them to actually do it. Make this clear, and chances are you’ll witness a change in attitude.

Call-outs and sick days are to be expected, but if they’re derailing your business, they need to be addressed. By taking steps to minimize call-outs, you can manage a more tightly knit workforce without having to worry about hours of lost productivity.




Tips for Managing Fall Allergies

Sept-fall-allergies-imageWhen the summer heat begins to give way to lower temperatures and the days get shorter and shorter, the onset of fall tends to make itself known seemingly overnight. It can be an exciting time of year; finishing summer vacations, getting back to school, preparing for winter. But for many people, it also signals the start of an annual battle with allergies. If stepping out the door leads to itchy eyes, a scratchy throat and constant sneezing, you can take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone—hay fever affects more than 17 million adults and over 6 million children. And while allergies may seem harmless, they can be debilitating in some cases, even leading to potentially dangerous sinus infections that can keep people out of work for weeks at a time.

Fortunately, fall allergies can usually be managed with a little bit of effort, and if you’re suffering on a daily basis, it’s worth taking the extra steps to mitigate them.

 

1. Dehumidify Your Home

Turning the home into an allergen-free zone should be one of the first rules to follow for those who find themselves suffering from seasonal allergies. One way to kick-start the process is by purchasing a dehumidifier. Contrary to what many people believe, dehumidifiers are actually more effective than humidifiers when it comes to improving indoor air quality for those who are particularly sensitive to dust and mold. This is a quick, relatively low-cost way to help reduce the severity of seasonal allergies, and most units last for a long time, if properly maintained.

2. Shower Often

One of the easiest ways for pollen to travel is via your skin and clothing, especially if you find yourself going outdoors in a high pollen zone. To help reduce the amount of pollen entering the house, it may be beneficial to avoid wearing outer layers into the living area of your home and shower as soon as you’ve returned from outside. It can be a bit of an extra hassle, but keeping yourself clean can play a key role in helping to keep your home’s indoor air clean, too.

3. Change Your Central AC Filter Monthly

You have your air conditioner to thank for keeping you and your family cool and comfortable throughout the summer and fall, but what if it’s actually contributing to your seasonal allergies? Central AC units pull in air from outside the home prior to conditioning it, and when operating properly, the air is filtered of any contaminants that might be present. Your AC’s air filter can become clogged over time, however, eventually reaching the point where contaminants make their way into the home. Fortunately, you can help avoid this problem simply by changing out the filter on a monthly basis.

 

If seasonal allergies have got you down, it’s time to take action. Take the right steps, and you can kick your allergies to the curb this fall!