Sitting is the Newest Workplace Health Crisis
In the past decade, there’s been a huge focus on workplace health framed around ergonomics.
Today a number of studies highlight how detrimental it is for us to sit for a long period of time – something we all do. These studies suggest that our metabolism drops by 90% after four hours of sitting, causing an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
As the studies indicate, the body isn’t designed to be at rest for so long.
The search is on for a solution. Corporate response to these studies has been a greater interest in health-friendly office equipment, including standing and treadmill desks as well as recumbent bicycles.
Regular exercise is another option. But making the time is difficult, considering our work-centric modern lifestyle.
If you factor in 45-minute-to-two-hour commutes, eight hours working and family/leisure time, you don’t have much time left for physical activity. The upshot: Our sedentary lifestyle is hurting us.
Forethinking companies including Allstate Insurance, Apple, Google and Chevron, are investing in ergonomic solutions and have purchased desks that include treadmills.
For those companies that want healthier employees – but not the $4,000+ price tag of a treadmill desk – there are less expensive options, as an Internet search indicates.
You also can encourage physical activity by incentivizing the use of stairs or shifting office equipment around so employees have to walk to it.
Whatever your response to this health crisis, it is in your – and your employees’ – best interest. Deal with it now so you can avoid injuries and Workers’ Compensation claims later.
Five Steps You Can Take to Avoid Layoff Liability
While many are now talking about recovery, recession is still very much on people’s minds these days and some employers are planning to reduce their workforce. The last thing any business owner wants to do is to lay off employees, but you need to be prepared to deal with the negative reactions a layoff can engender both within your company and in the community.
As well as playing havoc with employee morale, there are other problems caused by layoffs: According to research by the private nonprofit mutual insurance company Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Corporation, workers’ compensation claims may increase by as much as 50% during layoffs.
If you must lay off employees, how can you avoid post-layoff claims and protect your experience modification factor? Here are five steps you can take to avoid potential workers’ compensation claims during times of layoffs or restructuring.
Ask your workers’ compensation and employment practices carriers to help you design and implement a layoff strategy to protect your organization. But don’t rely solely on your carriers. Consider hiring a consultant with expertise in this area. Even just a few workers’ compensation claims can devastate your company’s loss history.
Conduct exit interviews with each employee who will be laid off or terminated, and ask at least one company executive and a human resources consultant to attend the interview. This should be treated like a normal exit interview in which the employee is asked for input on items that will help ease the transition as well as for feedback on improving the corporate culture.
Use a checklist to ensure that you cover the same questions with all employees. If the employee raises concerns, be sure to answer his or her questions and write down comments made by the employee and the company representative. Document the interview; you may want to ask the employee to sign the checklist receipt so it can be included in his or her personnel file.
Think twice before you ask an employee to sign a waiver stating he or she is not injured at the time of layoff, as some experts recommend. Waivers rarely work as intended, and asking laid-off employees for waivers may damage your company’s goodwill in the community. Ask for advice from legal counsel before asking your workers to sign waivers.
If your plant is closing, it likely will generate publicity; be prepared for the media to closely scrutinize your handling of the situation. Keep the closure as transparent as possible, and hire a media consultant ahead of the announcement if you anticipate unwanted media attention.
Be prepared for some laid-off employees to file workers’ compensation claims after they are terminated. Ensure that your managers and your insurance carriers thoroughly investigate any incidents that occur.
If you must reduce the number of employees, it is critical that you empathize with the feelings and stress that accompany a layoff. Treat employees with the utmost respect, but also ensure that your organization is protected during the process.
Pricing: How Low Can You Go? And Should You?
True or false: Underpricing your product or service can hurt your bottom line and damage your brand. Answer: It depends.
Reducing the price customers pay for your goods may seem like a surefire way to achieve certain business goals – such as growing market share or achieving a “network effect” (when increased awareness boosts the value of your product).
But lowball pricing is generally not a sustainable strategy. Customers may think low prices signify poor quality, and once you cut prices it can be difficult to raise them.
So when setting prices for products or services, consider the following:
- Who are your target customers?
- How often is your product shopped?
- Who are your competitors? What are their pricing strategies?
- What external factors may impact demand for your goods?
- What actions will competitors take in response to external factors?
- How is your brand perceived in the market?
- What’s the relationship between price and the perception of quality in your sector?
Getting into a price war with competitors is risky, but there are some smart ways to reduce pricing: cut prices incrementally or bundle additional services into the price.
It can be difficult to recover from a pricing blunder, so it’s important to know your customers and the full cost of producing, marketing and selling your products.
Keep your eye on the prize – your revenue target. Cheap doesn’t always get you there.
Business Income Insurance Ensures Peace of Mind
Consider this scenario: The business next to yours catches fire, and it quickly spreads to your insured commercial building. The fire is extinguished, but your building is damaged and uninhabitable for several months. In addition, much of your merchandise is destroyed. How will you replace your earnings under these circumstances?
Business income insurance can help replace your income after a covered loss and can be purchased with your property coverage. When endorsed on your property policy, coverage is triggered by a covered event such as a fire. Most carriers do not cover events such as an emergency evacuation or civil disobedience, although this can be added by endorsement.
When triggered, business income coverage protects your lost earnings, defined as revenues minus ongoing expenses. This means you won’t be fully reimbursed for expenses such as utilities at your temporary location, because these are ongoing expenses in your permanent location. Pre-loss earnings are the basis for reimbursement under business income coverage.
There are several factors to consider when purchasing this coverage, including how long it would take for your business to become fully functional after a serious event and whether comparable space in your area is readily available. If you rent, consider whether your business is adequately protected – as it should be for you to obtain business income coverage.
It’s easy to add business income coverage to commercial property coverage, and you’ll get peace of mind knowing you’ll be protected if a covered loss leaves your building temporarily or permanently uninhabitable.
Home-Based Business Owners Face Unique Risks
More and more people are running businesses out of their homes. Here are some of the potential issues home-based business owners face both in the start-up phase and as the company grows.
Personal property coverage
Most homeowner’s policies limit coverage for personal property used in business. Why take chances? If they’re stolen or damaged, the cost of replacing your computers, printers, scanners and fax machines can add up. Coverage for business property on the premises is limited to a few thousand dollars, and off premises it’s more like $250.
Injuries on the premises
If your Aunt Edna falls at your house or your dog bites your child’s best friend, your homeowner’s policy is there for you. However, if a client is injured in your home while on business, your homeowner’s policy may not cover his or her injury.
If you use your vehicle for business, you face additional exposures. As your business grows, you may need a separate auto policy. In the meantime, covering your vehicle for infrequent business use may be as simple as notifying your auto carrier, who will charge a small additional premium to protect you when you drive on business.
And more …
These are just a few of the problems you can face when you have a home-based business. There are many more.
For example, if you offer professional services such as tax preparation, you probably need errors and omissions coverage.
If you groom pets, you may need risk coverage for a client’s animal who bites your neighbor. If you resell products online, you may need coverage for liability arising from the performance of these products.
Never assume your current homeowner’s policy will provide coverage for all the risks your business generates. If you have a home-based business or are considering starting one, discuss insurance options with your advisor.