Use caution when Decking the Halls!

Use caution when Decking the Halls!
Photo Credit: National Safety Council (nsc.org)

Every year without fail, insurance agents across the country handle thousands of claims involving home fires due to holiday decorations.  Sadly, most of these incidents could have been avoided saving the homeowners from heartache – and a lot of money.

Here are some great tips from the National Safety Council (Click HERE for the full brochure!)

TREES

Many artificial trees are fire resistant. Make sure when purchasing one, you look for a statement specifying this protection. Consider replacing your old tree if you aren’t certain it’s fire resistant

If you prefer a fresh tree, ensure it stays greener longer and is less of a fire hazard by keeping it watered.

To check for freshness, remember:

  • A fresh tree is green.
  • Fresh needles are hard to pull from branches.
  • When bent between your fingers, fresh needles do not break.
  • The trunk butt of a fresh tree is sticky with resin.
  • When the trunk of a tree is bounced on the ground, a shower of falling needles shows that tree is too dry.

LIGHTS

Regardless if you are using indoor or outdoor lights, make sure they have been tested for safety. Identify these by the label from an independent testing laboratory.

  • Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections.
  • Discard damaged sets or repair them before using.
  • Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house, walls or other firm support to protect from wind damage.
  • Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord.
  • Turn off all lights on trees and other decorations when you go to bed or leave the house. Lights could short and start a fire.
  • Never use electric lights on a metallic tree
  • Never use indoor lights for outdoor purposes

CANDLES

  • Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens.
  • Always use non-flammable holders.
  • Keep candles away from other decorations and wrapping paper.
  • Place candles where they cannot be knocked down or blown over.

TRIMMINGS

  • Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials.
  • Wear gloves while decorating with spun glass “angel hair” to avoid irritation to eyes and skin.
  • Choose tinsel or artificial icicles or plastic or nonleaded metals. Leaded materials are hazardous if ingested by children.
  • In homes with small children, take special care to:
    • Avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable.
    • Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children. Pieces could be swallowed or inhaled.
    • Avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food. A child could eat them!

LAST BUT NOT LEAST – UNPLUG! Please don’t leave your tree lights plugged in or any holiday decorations plugged in when you are sleeping or away from your home.  Shorts and accidents can happen and will cause a fire.  Even a well hydrated Christmas tree will go up in flames quickly.  Take a quick peek at this video.   Christmas Tree Fire

Have a happy and safe holiday season!

Rachel Winslow
Personal Lines Account Executive
rwinslow@srfm.com

Deck the Halls

Keeping Up With the Evolving Workplace

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????With the age of Millennials gaining a stronghold in the workforce comes the dawn of the modern workplace. Times are changing surrounding how we hire and train, what we do to retain employees, and the dynamics within the office environment itself. Employees are seeing companies through different lenses these days, and employers have to rethink their employee strategies in order to attract and retain the best new talent.

Change is good, and if you want to keep up it’s time to let go of the past, embrace the present, and see into the future. The business landscape is evolving, and we’re going to discuss some things you can do to make sure you’re positioned to grow with it.

The Office in 2016

Increased technology, a path for growth, and a fresh view from management of workplace dynamics are what employees are expecting in today’s modern office. Millennials are vetting employers more deeply than ever and making choices on where they want to work based on culture, values, perks, and growth opportunities. Millennials want more than just a paycheck, and to attract the best up and coming talent, employers have to offer more. Let’s talk about what that means.

Keeping Up With The Times

One of the top criteria that Millennials use for deciding whether or not to sign on with a company is the quality of the management. Quality of management comes in many forms and is relevant on multiple levels. Here’s what I mean:

Technology: Does it seem like technology developments are moving faster and faster with each passing year? It seems that way, because it is that way. A company that doesn’t embrace and leverage new technology sends a message to employees (and potential employees) that you’re ok remaining stagnant and not so interested in embracing growth and change. This is a red flag for discerning Millennials who are ever-so-searching for upward growth.

Flexibility: As the workplace changes, so do our workdays. The traditional 9 to 5 is a thing of the past in many business settings, and employers are embracing more unconventional methods like implementing 4 day work weeks and allowing more telecommuting. This tells prospective employees that management takes a smart approach to cutting costs and streamlining operations which also allows for a more balanced work-life dynamic for the employee. It’s a winner with Millennial for sure.

Wellness: Employees expect more from the workplace in terms of personal development. They ask the question: If I spend 8 to 10 to 12 hours a day at my job, what am I getting out of it besides a sense of achievement and a paycheck? Wellness programs are an essential part of any companies’ employee strategy. An investment in the health and wellbeing of employees not only improves the quality of life for workers, it’s proven to increase productivity and it lowers insurance rates for the business.

What can a company do to keep up with the times?

Don’t be Fred Flintstone: Nothing is more frustrating for employees than outdated technology that slows down their day. Provide the right tools for your people and it goes a long way in improving their happiness and increasing their productivity. Assess and upgrade equipment as needed like; Phones, Computers, and Printers and if they say “Made in Bedrock” on the bottom, get an upgrade.

Limber Up: Consider some alternatives to the 8 hour workday if they make sense for your business model. Will a four day week work fly? Can some of your people telecommute part of the time? If the answer is yes, test out some of these options, they could save you money and increase productivity.

Take Care of Your People: If you don’t have a dedicated Wellness Program, get one started. A comprehensive wellness program is an attractive benefit for prospective employees and it will pay you back in spades, by way of:

  • Lowered health care costs.
  • Reduced absenteeism.
  • Higher employee productivity.
  • Reduced workers’ compensation and disability-related costs.
  • Reduced occurrences of injuries.
  • Improved employee morale and loyalty.

Step up Your Game: If you have a wellness program in place, great, you’re on the right track. Consistent growth and improvement of your wellness offerings tells employees that they mean something to the company and are worth the investment. Think about expanding your program and even throwing in some lifestyle benefits in the office like; Yoga classes, fitness areas, and even allowing pets in the office.

Millennials love to see that a company is invested in their personal and professional growth; I think we all like to see that. So, especially in this age of the evolving workplace it’s important for employers to stay up with the times, embrace the changes, and provide a culture that’s attractive to up and coming talent.

At Sinclair we’re dedicated to Employee Wellness. We look at an organization from every angle and we will customize a wellness program focused on developing a healthier and happier workforce in your business. Get in touch with us today to see what we can do for you.

Matt Bauer
President
mbauer@srfm.com

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Millennials and Healthcare — What Are They Looking For?

MillenialsAs the fastest-growing generational group, millennials (people born between the mid-1980s and the turn of the century) are a vital part of a strong workforce. If you want to attract millennials to your business, it’s important to understand what they need and more importantly, what they want.

In addition to a good salary and a positive work environment, the benefit millennials are most interested in is healthcare. In fact, since the Affordable Care Act came into force, the number of uninsured millennials has fallen from 23% to just 11%. Insured millennials are better for your business too — Insured millennials are more likely to report being in good or excellent health (79%) than uninsured millennials (62%).

With health insurance being front and center, and increasing options for employment, how do you attract and retain the best young talent? An important part is providing the right health benefits. Let’s explore a few options.

The health services millennials are most interested in

It’s important to provide health insurance plans to cover the main concerns millennials have about their health, this includes:

  • Accident and emergency coverage — Catastrophe can strike at any time. Millennials are less concerned with insurance against long-term, chronic illnesses than they are against accidents and other critical emergencies. A health plan that has good coverage for emergency room visits and treating acute conditions fits in well with their needs.
  • Doctor visits — Reasonable copay amounts for doctor and specialist visits rank highly with millennials.
  • Immunizations and wellness — Staying healthy is near the top of the millennial’s agenda. This includes vaccination for flu and human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV). wellness programs also play a part in helping to keep people healthy and reduce stress.
  • Alcohol and depression screening and counselling — Depression, anxiety and other mental illness affects a disproportionate number of young people. Access to therapy, treatment, and counsellors is critically important.
  • Sexual and reproductive health — Contraception, birth control, and sexual health are vital to millennials. Pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding support, and infant care are also high on the agenda for millennials wanting to start families.

 Keeping health premium costs down for millennials

Another important consideration is the cost of premiums, and the trend here is clear — Millennials much prefer low-premium, high-deductible health plans. For many millennials, cost is the most important factor when it comes to health insurance. In fact, two thirds of them said a premium of more than $200 a month is unaffordable. Clearly, with a premium that low, high-deductible plans are really the only choice.

Another option is to give millennials various options in terms of their overall benefits package — Perhaps they can trade off some vacation days for a lower insurance premium?

Addressing other health concerns

It’s not just premiums and coverage that are important to millennials. Many are concerned that being ill or injured for an extended period of time would mean they would get fired. Make sure you have clear employment policies in place that address these concerns — What are implications for someone’s employment if they are unable to work for the medium or long-term?

Another benefit you can offer is making it easier for millennials to transfer off of their family health plan. Children can stay on their parent’s plan until they’re 26 years old, so providing a convenient and easy way to switch will definitely help.

Make it clear that the Affordable Care Act requires everyone to be insured by law. Being uninsured just isn’t an option unless they want to pay yearly fines when they report their taxes. Clearly explain the benefits of health insurance and make it easy for people to start paying their premiums and enjoying their coverage.

Jill Goulet
Risk Management Consultant
jgoulet@srfm.com

Sinclair 7-22-15-14

The Power of an Open Office Space: Good or Evil?

open office spaceForward thinking iconic Silicon Valley organizations like Google and Facebook started the wave that is known as the open office space. The open office space is an office layout that removes all of the physical barriers between employees-No walls, no cubicles, just desks and people.

Born from the spirit of collaboration (and a desire to maximize productivity per square foot) open office layouts have been adopted by businesses all over the country. But has it been an epic win or an epic fail?  It’s both. Let me explain.

If you type in a search engine query for “open office space”, it doesn’t look so good for the open floor plan. You’ll see results claiming that the open office space is oppressive an environment, a nightmare, and likens the trend to a viral outbreak decimating businesses all over the world (that’s taking it a little far, but that’s the gist of it).

Yet there are still some organizations that sing the praises of the open office space and talk about the tangible benefits they’ve seen in workforce and their profits as a result. It’s obviously a mixed bag and it’s tough to call this one, so let’s break it down.

Here are some pros and cons from both sides of the discussion.

Open Floor Plan Praise

  • It  fosters collaboration
  • Employees feel more comfortable in the space
  • By stripping down physical barriers, it promotes an openness in communication which sparks camaraderie and establishes a stronger sense of team
  • It allows management to have a more hands on “real world” view of the office dynamics
  • Increases productivity

Open Floor Plan Complaints

  • No privacy
  • Causes anxiety in employees due to the fact that everything an employee does is “under the microscope”
  • Hard to concentrate and focus
  • Employees can feel that the interaction with coworkers is “forced” and uncomfortable
  • It causes a divide between employees in the open space and managers in their offices
  • Decreases productivity

 There are valid arguments on both sides of the coin (and some conflicting ones). On one side, the big dot com organizations embrace the concept and are reporting an increase in morale and productivity with the open floor plan in place. In fact in 2015, Facebook moved to a new facility and created the largest open office floor plan in the world.

So, if it’s working for the big guys, Can it be that bad?

Will the Open Office Space work for my business?

From what Facebook says, employees can thrive in the environment and your business can reap the benefits of increased morale and productivity.

 However, employees are people, we’re all unique individuals and what works for one of us, may not work for another. Giving employees no choice but to be on display in front of all of their coworkers will ultimately present a problem for some individuals.

 Organizations like Facebook and Pixar attract employees with the personality for it. That is, professionals who apply for jobs at those organizations know going in that the open floor plan is part of the culture, and it’s something they’re content with. So if you’re a business looking to make a switch to an open office space, it’s not something employees signed up for, so it could meet with some resistance.

Balance is Key: The Hybrid Floor Plan

If you’re thinking about shifting to an open floor plan, consider a hybrid that combines elements of both traditional and open plans. This mix will encourage the collaboration, and create a level of comfort that an open office space is meant for, and at the same time will give the employees an option for more privacy. Sounds like it could be a winner.

Here are a couple simple things to try:

·         Create an open office space floor plan but include some privacy rooms where employees can break away and be on their own, make phone calls, and have some privacy.

·         If space is an issue, conversely you can keep the traditional floor plan in place and create some “open areas” in the office where employees can break out in small groups to collaborate.

The Verdict

The idea of the open office space is a good one, but taken to the extreme it can apparently be problematic and counter-productive. The goal is to create a comfortable space for employees – a “home away from home” helps employees to feel good about their day when they’re putting in long hours. You have to first know your employees and what makes them tick, then you can create an environment that strikes a balance and works for your unique team.

The professionals at Sinclair have a proven history of success in Human Resources. Our staff has the ability to become an integral part of your organization, understanding your products and services, your culture, and your processes. Feel free to get in touch with us anytime for a consultation.

Shannon Hudspeth
Human Resource Director
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