I hope that you find these articles of interest. If you have a topic for future discussion, please let me know. Please call anytime, we can answer questions or be of help with your business or personal insurance needs.
How to Reduce Your Employees' Stress During Holidays
The holiday season can bring a combination of fun and excitement as well as stress and anxiety for your staff.
While the majority of workers enjoy December as it brings more cheer to the office, as well as goodies from vendors and maybe even a company party, not everyone feels the same.
A recent study by staffing firm Accountemps found that while half of workers report being more cheerful at work this time of year, 35% say they feel more work-related pressure.
Top factors affecting employee stress:
Balancing work and holiday obligations (32%)
Taking time off and returning to heavier workloads (23%)
Having a smaller staff than usual because of time off (18%)
Buying gifts for co-workers and contacts (11%)
Attending holiday office parties (8%)
"Between professional responsibilities and personal commitments, it's all too easy for employees to become overwhelmed during the holiday season," Michael Steinitz, executive director of Accountemps, said in a press release. "Managers can support their teams by allowing more flexible schedules. Workers should take time off to enjoy the season with family and friends and avoid burnout that could carry over into the new year."
What you can do
Employees surveyed said the following work-related benefits would help reduce their holiday stress:
Higher year-end bonuses (37%)
More flexible work schedules during the holidays (32%)
More paid vacation during the holidays (17%)
There are other initiatives you can take to help your employees during the holidays.
Accountemps and the Society for Human Resources Management recommend:
Telling your workers to list priorities for the day before leaving work. Advise them to keep a separate list for off-the-job to-dos.
Telling your staff to ask for help if they have too much work. Their supervisor might consider solutions such as adjusting deadlines or delegating.
Asking employees what you can do to help reduce their stress. Ask if they would like to postpone the company party until January. If you are hosting a pot luck lunch, ask if people would rather have pizza brought in, so no one has to cook.
Perhaps you can give everyone one hour a week to go online and shop, so they don't feel like they have to sneak screen time to get a deal on gifts.
People are often extending themselves at this time of year, so make sure you are going out of your way to notice their good work and say thank you. Also, be aware of anyone that may need an extra word of encouragement or some additional support, like employees who have lost a loved one this year or those with little or no family in the area. Making sure they know you care can go a long way in retaining employees.
Encouraging time off. Urge people to take advantage of that with a vacation day or a half-day Friday to do their holiday shopping, decorate their house, get their baking done, or just relax and enjoy the season. They will likely come back in a better frame of mind and be more productive.
Providing extra shifts for people to earn holiday money.
Keeping it Safe, and Limiting Liability During Holidays
With year-end festivities about to begin, you should include safety into your holiday plans, be that if you are simply decorating the office or throwing a holiday/year-end party for your staff.
Since the holiday season or your party is only once a year, it's easy to overlook safety even though you already incorporate it into the other aspects of your operations.
While you obviously want your staff to relax and have fun at your holiday party, you also want to make sure they get home safely and that nobody gets hurt or sick at your party. This takes planning and consideration.
Some of your safety priorities should be
Safety on the premises of your party, and
Due to their infrequent nature, the liability risks of company-sponsored holiday events are often overlooked. To ensure the health and well-being of all who attend, it is important to be aware of any potential liability concerns that your company may face if the event doesn't go exactly as planned.
While you want your staff to enjoy themselves, safety should still be your top priority during the holidays.
Keep in mind that if someone trips and injures themselves on an extension cord for your holiday lighting or other holiday decorations, it would be considered work-related and could possibly be subject to workers compensation. The same may hold true for injuries sustained at work parties as well. Consider the following:
If you are holding a party at outside your office, you need to inspect the venue first to make sure it meets your safety standards. Some things to keep an eye out for include: exits emergency lighting, and flooring that might prevent slips and falls, particularly if there is a chance of bad weather.
Keep an eye on the weather forecast and if storms are looming on the date of your party. Consider the effects that weather may have on safe travel to and from the party. You may need to make special plans to keep sidewalks and parking lots clear if the event is outside of normal business hours.
If you are in an unfamiliar area, do you need security? It's something to consider.
Keep an eye on party-goers to ensure that no one wanders off or goes to his or her car alone after dark.
Prepare an emergency plan in case someone is injured or needs medical assistance. Know where the closest hospital is and if anyone knows how to use a defibrillator or can perform CPR.
Do you have employees with disabilities who have special needs? Wheelchair bound employees should be able to get in and out of any venue you choose.
Other liability issues
Other issues to consider:
Applying your workplace policies on behavior including those on violence, harassment, discrimination and the general code of conduct, even if you've chosen a venue other than your workplace. Prior to the event, let employees know the standards to which they will be held.
Making sure your staff knows that the event is optional and it won't reflect poorly on their performance evaluation, advancement potential or job security if they don't' attend. Emphasize this in all invitations and announcements should emphasize this point.
Making sure that the party is not tied to any specific religious tradition and is referred to as a "holiday party."
Monitoring employee's behavior to ensure that it conforms to company policies. Take prompt action if any activity or behavior exceeds acceptable bounds. For instance, if someone is getting too friendly, carrying a mistletoe and asking for kisses from others, you should pull the person assign and discreetly to manage the incident before it becomes a bigger issue.
Limiting alcohol consumption, which can help avoid impaired decision making and lowering inhibitions which can lead to poor behaviors.
Avoiding activities or items such as mistletoe, a game of Twister, or inappropriate music that could lead to physical contact, unwanted social pressure or inappropriate conversation.
Taking complaints that stem from the party seriously. As you would with any other incident, document, investigate and take appropriate action.
Some companies have recognized the liability exposure that alcohol represents and have chosen to hold holiday events free of beer, wine, or liquor. If it will be served, there are some important considerations that can help to limit potential problems:
Hold the event at an off-site location and hire professional bartenders who have their own insurance and are certified for alcohol service. Speak with the vendor to determine what protocols it uses to keep from serving minors and others who are visibly intoxicated.
Make sure an array of choices of non-alcoholic beverages.
Don't have an open bar. Instead hand out drink tickets to control consumption.
Stop serving alcohol at least an hour before the event ends.
Keep lots of starchy and high-protein snacks for the partyers to munch on to slow absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream.
Give a supervisor or manager the authority to cut off anyone who is intoxicated.
Provide alternative transportation that may include free cab rides.
A word about insurance
Make sure you that any vendors you use, carry insurance. Insist on seeing the certificates of insurance with sufficient coverage and liability limits for:
Entertainers should be required to produce
When reviewing rental contracts, be sure to note any hold harmless or indemnity agreements that could release the vendor from liability and instead hold your company responsible for losses from situations over which you have no control.
Also, talk to us to make sure that your own insurance policies cover any mishaps that may occur at your company event, discuss concerns with your agent at 314-351-HALO(4256).
New Gizmo Gives Thieves Entry to Keyless Vehicles
As carmakers modernize their vehicles by employing more and more technology, cars have been getting safer and more difficult to steal.
Besides self-driving technology, more cars are being outfitted with a keyless entry and ignition. But as these advances make our lives easier and our cars safer, criminals are adapting so they can continue stealing cars - and now they have a device that can even break into keyless vehicles.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau recently obtained a black-market device that's been catching on among criminals - an apparatus that can give them access to autos with keyless entry, and even start the car in those with a keyless ignition.
After security cameras obtained footage of thieves armed with the device breaking into and stealing vehicles, the NICB investigated and was able to secure one of the devices. It was able to buy a device with assistance from a third-party security expert from an overseas company.
The gizmo was originally developed to help carmakers test their vehicles' keyless entry and ignition systems.
The results of the bureau's tests are eye opening and should be a warning to anybody who has a vehicle outfitted with a keyless system of any type. It also reflects the ceaseless efforts by criminals to continue being able to ply their trade.
The device the NICB obtained is called a "Relay Attack" unit, which it tested on 35 makes and models of cars, SUVs, minivans and pickups.
• The Relay Attack opened 19 out of 35 vehicles (54%).
• The Relay Attack started 18 of the vehicles (51%).
• The Relay Attack was able to restart 12 of the 18 vehicles it started initially (66%).
The device the NICB used is just one of many apparatuses that thieves have at their disposal, and they vary in the types of cars they are able to open.
But with a hit rate of more than 50% from just one device, it's obvious the threat is very real.
"We've now seen for ourselves that these devices work," NICB president and CEO Joe Wehrle said in a press release. "Maybe they don't work on all makes and models, but certainly on enough that car thieves can target and steal them with relative ease."
While the new threat is worrying, you should always remember to lock your vehicle - and keep the remote fob with you if you have a keyless entry and ignition.
According to the NICB, there were 57,096 car thefts with keys left in the vehicle in 2015, which was a 22% increase over the previous year. Over the past three years, this kind of theft has grown by 31%.
How to Avoid Public Wi-Fi Security Risks
Every Wi-Fi connection is vulnerable to an unprecedented security flaw that allows hackers to snoop on Internet traffic and potentially access your personally identifiable information and passwords, researchers revealed recently.
The vulnerability is the first to be found in the modern encryption techniques that have been used to secure Wi-Fi networks for the last 14 years.
In theory, this kind of an attack - dubbed the Krack attack - allows a hacker within range of a Wi-Fi network to inject computer viruses into Internet networks, and read communications like passwords, credit card numbers and photos sent over the Internet.
But, if you use public Wi-Fi networks, there are steps you can take to safeguard yourself.
Hackers position themselves in the vicinity of the connection point and users - like in a coffee shop - and, taking advantage of this flaw, the attacker can inject the malicious code to access e-mails, searches and credit card information.
With this information, a hacker may be able to access some of the target's information easily.
Many hackers also use unsecured connections to send out malware. For those who allow file sharing, it is easy to be infected.
As public Wi-Fi becomes more common, expect to see hackers step up their game, too. Security issues increase, but this does not mean that people should not use any free connections. It is simply a reminder of the available safeguards and the importance of using them.
Always use a VPN - A virtual private network serves as a buffer between the Wi-Fi connection and the mobile device or computer. Any transmitted data is then encrypted and becomes too much work for the hacker to attempt to figure out. Use a trusted and reputable VPN provider. While some providers charge a fee of around $10 or more for monthly service, others are free.
Use SSL connections - Although most people are not as liable to use a VPN, they can easily add encryption to communications by enabling the "always use HTTPS" feature on a computer or mobile device. This ensures a secure connection to sites, and it is vital for any site where financial credentials are entered. You can check by looking for the little padlock in the top left of the screen by the address bar.
Turn off automatic Wi-Fi when it is not in use - When a phone or laptop is not connected to Wi-Fi, an automatic search will still transmit some data while looking for available networks. To stay safe, disable Wi-Fi after finishing.
Try not to connect to unsecured Wi-Fi networks - These are often seen in hotels, coffee shops and other public spaces. You can tell if a network is secure by the little padlock next to it when you're selecting the network.
Secure your home Wi-Fi -The best thing you can do is update your router and devices like smartphones and PCs. Check who makes your router and try their website to find out how to patch it. Updates may not yet be available.
To learn more, discuss concerns with an agent, today at 314-351-HALO(4256)