Business Insurance News You Can Use: Controlling Anger in the Workplace

Don’t Gamble by Underinsuring Your Business Property

This may not be on your radar, but underinsuring your property could result in serious problems for your business.

Insurance companies base premiums on an amount of insurance that is 80% to 100% of your property’s total value. This is referred to as “insurance to value,” and insurance underwriters are concerned that you may be underrating the value of your property to keep premiums low or are unaware that property improvements and the state of the real estate market have increased the value of your building. In these instances you may be underinsured.

Some people gamble they won’t suffer a large loss. Because most losses are partial, you would normally recover in full on most of your losses. However, if insurers set your rates assuming they are based on insurance to value, they might not collect sufficient premiums. So in the event of a large or total loss, you won’t have been adequately insured.

The “coinsurance condition” addresses this issue. You must agree to carry insurance at least equal to a specified percentage of your covered property’s value. The coinsurance percentage normally used is 80%, although percentages of 90% and 100% are sometimes available for a reduced premium.

The coinsurance condition penalizes you if you do not insure to at least an agreed-upon percentage of value. If you have a loss and are underinsured, insurers reduce payment on your losses based on the actual building’s insurance to value.

Don’t gamble. Discuss your current insurance to value with your insurance professional.

Embracing the Trend to On-Demand Offices

Members of today’s mobile workforce aren’t always in home offices. Instead they’re working in cafés, parks, hotel rooms or community workspaces.

For years, workers have held meetings and written reports from the local coffee spot. Now they are conducting business wherever, whenever – and many employers are embracing the trend.

Some are even formalizing the arrangement. Recognizing that workers are often more productive, creative and satisfied when given flexibility about when and where they work, and in light of the fact that up to 60% of workplace desks, cubicles and offices sit empty on any given day, companies are getting on board with the concept of on-demand offices.

An on-demand office is a workspace that may be located in a hotel, an underutilized urban building or some other location. Workers can book space for a specified period of time, much as they would rent a hotel room.

As a bonus, the trend has allowed employers to reconfigure, repurpose, reduce or even eliminate traditional office workspaces and breathed new life into some existing inner city real estate.

Drivers of the on-demand trend include the proliferation of a contingent workforce (contract workers, freelancers, consultants, etc.) as well as the cost benefits of a reduced office footprint. The trend is underpinned by technology that enables workers to be interconnected and on call almost anywhere.

It remains to be seen whether this trend will reshape the traditional brick-and-mortar workplace model. But for now, workers are leaving offices in droves and still getting the job done.

Work rage: Controlling Anger in the Workplace

Whatever happened to civility? Rude, inconsiderate behavior seems to be everywhere – on streets and highways, in stores and schools, and in workplaces.

In a survey on “desk rage,” 42% of those surveyed agreed that verbal abuse took place where they worked. Almost 30% admitted they had yelled at co-workers themselves.

This breach of workplace etiquette may show up as desk pounding, phone slamming, yelling, caustic remarks and outright bullying. It can manifest as discourteous emails, ostracism, sarcasm, passive-aggressive behavior or rumormongering. It may be triggered by the job, the system, a boss, a policy or almost anything else.

Whatever the catalyst or root cause, workplace anger is distracting, demotivating and destructive. It’s also contagious and can quickly poison an organization.

While stress is unavoidable in today’s business environment, where economic uncertainty, budget constraints, financial challenges and market instability rule, it’s at times like this that it’s more important than ever that you learn to handle workplace anger, before it spreads. You need a team that will pull together to ensure you’re supporting your team, not causing widespread anger in the organization.

When faced with an employee who is obviously in the grip of frustration, anxiety or anger, address it calmly. Watch the tone and volume of your voice and don’t allow your body language to be confrontational. Most important, be respectful and allow your employee to make his or her point without your interrupting or correcting.

Reasonable Accommodations: a Business Necessity

As our population ages and older workers begin to deal with health issues that may make them more prone to being hurt on the job, employers are finding themselves faced with an increased need to accommodate injured workers. It’s not a matter of doing the right thing, it’s the law. Not a choice but a business necessity.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to employers with more than 15 employees. It places a great deal of responsibility on the employer to accommodate applicants and workers with conditions that limit their ability to perform essential job functions unless doing so would create an “undue hardship” for the business entity. Generally, the larger an organization and the deeper its resources, the more difficult it is for a company to claim that a requested accommodation creates a hardship.

Just about any condition that substantially limits a life activity now protects an employee under the ADA. It affects hiring practices – the ADA now impacts employers in both their hiring and employment practices – but also defines how an organization manages its employees injured at work.

Sometimes employers refuse to accommodate an injured worker’s return to a modified position, demanding the worker wait until all their duties can be performed. This approach is no longer acceptable under the amended ADA and can generate intervention and fines by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency that oversees ADA violations. Employment actions taken by employees or the EEOC are expensive to defend and are not covered under an organization’s general liability coverage.

The EEOC is diligent in its pursuit of disabled workers rights. As recently as December 2012, the EEOC filed a lawsuit alleging a woman was wrongfully fired because she had a prosthetic leg. The case is currently in the courts.

It is now a business necessity to make reasonable accommodations, defined in the ADA as follows: “In general, an accommodation is any change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done that enables an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities.”

Here is a partial list of some accommodations you can make to ensure injured workers return to productivity and you do not violate the ADA.

  • Modifications to the work environment like purchasing ergonomic equipment or rearranging how and when the job is performed. For example, you may change work hours to allow an employee who is on medication to arrive later.
  • Providing access to your facility so that someone with a disability may apply for a position.
  • Providing the employee with readers or interpreters.
  • Job restructuring or reassignment.
  • Allowing an employee to work from home when feasible.

In March 2012, the federal government introduced updates to the ADA that included changes to further remove barriers and that may affect employers planning new construction in 2013 and on.

Note that this is a very basic discussion of the ADA and its updates. For specific advice, contact your employment lawyer or other ADA expert.