Are You Working Remotely or Remotely Working?

Remote work is getting a lot of attention right now. So is oat milk. But that doesn’t mean it’s for everybody. Every business is different, and so is every employee.

If you mention working remotely to a group of people, you’ll likely get two distinct reactions:

  • A dreamy look crossing the face of those imagining days of peaceful productivity with no commute, no interruptions, and total freedom over their schedules.
  • A visible shudder from those trying to picture getting any work done in a home office with no structure, no coworkers, and an endless swirl of constant distraction.

Some people love the freedom of managing their own time. Others crave routine, structure, and guidance. Some employees thrive in environments full of people and noise and chaos. Others crave chunks of uninterrupted quiet time and working independently.

The remote work trend

It’s no secret that today’s employees and job candidates are looking for flexibility and work-life balance. When employees say they value remote working options, they mean it. But they may not have actually done it. Which means they may not be prepared for the reality of it.

Here are some common things remote employees struggle with:

  • Isolation
  • Anonymity
  • Disengagement
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Lack of leadership/guidance/communication
  • No clear line between work and home
  • Distractions (too many or not enough)

Sometimes these challenges are temporary and disappear once a healthy and effective remote work routine is established.

Other times, these issues are more about the person than the structure.

If you’re the kind of person who hates leaving things unfinished and your office is right down the hall, this can quickly lead to overworking and burnout.

If you’re the kind of person who gets easily distracted and has a hard time reining yourself back in after an interruption, your home office could be a recipe for disaster.

Despite all the shiny promises and benefits of remote work, the truth is it isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. Remote employees may find themselves craving more quality face time or office time, and some businesses may be wondering if they should continue to offer telecommuting options or try to shove their remote work program back into the magic bottle it came out of.

In either scenario, there are some good lessons to be learned here.

Whether you’re a business owner trying to figure out how to offer remote options or an employee trying to work remotely, sometimes it just isn’t a good fit. Admitting this is the first step to finding a solution that is.

What works for you? 

Having a solid remote work policy can reduce business operation costs and open up a whole new candidate pool for employers. It can also be a big differentiator when it comes to employee recruitment and retention.

Employees say they want to work from home, but what they really want is the flexibility to balance the many demands of work, family, and life. Sometimes this means remote work, but it could also mean something else. A flexible schedule, paid time off, employer sponsored healthcare, or some other workplace benefit.

If remote isn’t working for you or your organization, don’t try to force that square peg into a round hole. Work on finding something that fits.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

How to Keep Your Workplace Safe

We know what you’re thinking: Did this guy fall or is he just breakdancing? When it comes to evaluating risk at work, things may not always be what they appear. Something you may think is perfectly safe could have hidden risks. And something that looks like a disaster could just be a talented employee who is really feeling the beat. 

How to stay on the safe side

When we think of workplace safety, images of heavy equipment and manual labor often jump to mind. But the truth is that on-the-job injuries can happen anytime, anywhere. Safety hazards are ever-present: at job sites, in vehicles, and yes, even in the fanciest of offices.

Everyone wants to work in a safe environment but minimizing workplace risk is an ongoing job. Here are two key ways to make sure you are creating a culture of safe working habits. 

1. Pay attention

Not all risks are blatantly obvious, and not every unsafe practice results in a spectacular accident.

Many workplace injuries happen slowly and over time. Repetitive motions can take even your best and most seasoned employees out of the game. Things like non-ergonomic workstations, heavy lifting, and frequently repeated movements can lead to repetitive stress injuries that leave people unable to do the jobs they’ve done for years.

Call in an ergonomics expert to evaluate how your team is working and stay up to date on best practices for jobs with repetitive motion. Educate yourself and your team about using proper techniques and how to spot warning signs that you aren’t. 

As you start looking for potential safety hazards, think about how well you can see. What’s your lighting situation like? Do you have shady areas, dark corners, and too many lights out? It’s hard to work safely when you’re in the dark. Make sure your work areas are well-lit so your employees have a clear view of their work and each other.

Are your employees coming to you with concerns? If so, take them seriously. Those who are working the same jobs day in and day out are well positioned to see hazards that others might miss. Brushing off concerns as merely complaints isn’t going to make your workplace any safer. It also won’t do anything to build employee trust, confidence, or loyalty.

On the other hand, workers who do the same jobs day in and day out may become immune to certain job hazards that really should be fixed. The carpet roll you have to step over every day. The wobbly storage shelf. The reflective vest that disappeared. That outlet that never does works quite right.

How many things has your team has simply been working around instead of fixing or replacing?

There are plenty of hard-working employees who don’t want to bring attention to these “little things” or to themselves. But all it takes is the right set of circumstances for a little thing to become a big thing. Make sure you’re doing safety walk-throughs and interviews on a regular basis to identify any potential unsafe practices.

2. Reward the right behaviors

Too often, employees are praised or rewarded for unsafe practices, such as:

  • Working at a fast pace
  • Taking on back-to-back shifts
  • Powering through adverse conditions
  • Showing up for work no matter what

This is short sighted thinking that can easily backfire. Employees should work at a safe pace, not a quick pace. They should also be well rested, healthy, and alert. Pushing your staff past their limits may seem like a great idea when you’re battling deadlines and bottom lines, but overworked and overtired employees are a recipe for mistakes and accidents. Not to mention expensive claims, fines, and employee turnover.

Trying to squeeze a little extra ROI out of your employees can cost you big time. Why not reward safe behaviors instead?

  • Catch someone being safe? Call them out as a shining example! (Gift card are also great)
  • Throw a party for X number of safe work days.
  • Reward those who find potential safety hazards or offer solutions for safer processes.
  • Incentivize people to attend safety meetings with prizes, food, or coffee cards.

Rewarding positive behaviors is much more effective and fun than punishing negative behaviors— or suffering the consequences.

Safe business = better business

Safety is about taking care of your people, but it’s also about taking care of your business.

Ask any company that has dealt with a workplace accident or injury claim and they will tell you it’s better to be safe than sorry. An unfortunate incident could cost you huge amounts of time and money. It could also cost you your reputation, your staff, and your livelihood.

Creating a culture of safety requires ongoing effort, investment, and commitment, but these things will all pay off big in the long run. Investing in a safe workplace is a great way to help protect your employees, your business, and your bottom line.

And today is a great day to start.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Gino Santa Maria 

Three Ways to Think About Workplace Safety

According to an analysis by Liberty Mutual, the two most expensive causes of workplace injury are overexertion and falls. These two things alone cost employers nearly 23 and a half BILLION dollars last year. But that’s not the only reason to think about raising your workplace safety game.

Workplace safety is a concern for many people on a variety of levels. Employees expect to be provided with a safe place to work. Customers expect to have a safe experience in the places they frequent. Banks and insurance companies want to work with companies that aren’t being unnecessarily risky. And business owners have a whole other set of worries:

  • What happens if an employee gets hurt?
  • Who will cover shifts if an injury causes someone to be out for an extended time?
  • How will an accident affect our operating costs? Healthcare? Business insurance?
  • What about expensive fines, penalties and litigation?
  • Are we even in compliance?
  • How can we protect our employees and ourselves?

These are all very valid questions and concerns. Let’s talk about how to keep your company and everyone in it as safe as possible.

1. Think big

Safety is about more than just checking the boxes required to comply with Federal and local regulations. If your company is doing the bare minimum to meet workplace safety requirements, you’re going to get the bare minimum when it comes to results.

If you really want to put safety to work for you and your business, you need to think bigger. Create a culture of workplaces safety. Don’t just make it a priority, commit to making it one of your core values. Weave it into your infrastructure, your operations, and your daily reality.

Here are a few quick ways to get started:

  • Make time for it. Move safety to the top of your to do list and keep it top of mind.
  • Include workplace safety as a critical part of all business decision-making processes.
  • Train staff and leadership thoroughly from a safety-first perspective.
  • Communicate about safety openly and often.
  • Put your money where your mouth is. Invest in a safer workplace.

There’s a big difference between talking about safety and actively working to create a safe environment. Employees can tell the difference between an employer who says they care about safety and one who truly does. Be on the right side of that equation.

2. Think small

While you’re building your strong foundation for safe practices, don’t be tempted to let the little things slide. When it comes to workplace safety, little things matter. Workplace safety often lies in the details, where little things can become big things in an instant.

A loose cord, a slippery floor, or a cracked pair of safety glasses may not seem like a big deal, but in the wrong set of circumstances, it could be.

If an employee comes to you with a safety concern, no matter how large or small, take it seriously. Better yet, be proactive about finding potential unsafe areas, equipment, and practices. Do a safety audit to determine what tools and processes need to be fixed, replaced, or thrown out entirely.

Not only will this keep your workplace safe and your business protected, it will show your employees that you care enough to invest in their wellbeing.

3. Think smart

Everyone wants to work in a safe environment. That’s a no-brainer. So how come so many businesses don’t do what it takes to actually get there?

Perhaps they think that fully committing to workplace safety sounds way too:

  • expensive
  • complicated
  • time consuming
  • unnecessary
  • paranoid

If you’ve run into some or all of these objections at your company, now is the time to refer back to the Liberty Mutual study, which found that disabling workplace injuries cost employers over $55 BILLION dollars last year. That’s right. Billion. With a B. Now which strategy sounds more expensive?

Focusing on workplace safety is smart business. It’s not just good for the health of your employees. It’s good for the health of your organization. And that’s good for everyone.

 

 Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

 Photo by Michael Simons 

Business Risk Comes in All Shapes and Sizes. What’s Yours?

Are you one of those people who has an “if only…” section of your closet? You know, a designated spot for those things you loved to wear back in the day and might like to wear again at some point— if only you could figure out how to make them fit?

The same concept is also at play when it comes to risk management. Many companies are hanging onto their “if only…” strategies when it comes to mitigating risk.    

One size does not fit all

As companies grow and change, so do the various risks they face. A small business just getting off the ground, with a couple of employees and no location to speak of will have very different concerns and exposures than a multi-national corporation with offices around the world.

Part of your job is assessing and managing your business risks not just once, but repeatedly as your organization continues to develop over time. You’ve got to be able to tell when the “if only…” risk management are no longer a good fit. This will allow you to embrace the “what fits your business today” strategies.

There are several types of business risk you’ll need to consider, identify, and manage.

Strategic Risk is associated with your business plan, model, direction, and environment. Even the most well-thought out strategies and plans don’t always work out as anticipated. Sometimes the market, the economy, or some other factor can cause your business model to become weak, unsustainable, or obsolete.

Operational Risk comes from the hidden dangers inherent in the day to day process of running your organization. These could be issues related to system failures or breakdowns in policy or processes. They could also be external events such as theft, fire, or natural disasters. Anything that interrupts your core operation is considered an operational risk.

Compliance Risk refers to your exposure to legal fines and penalties resulting from failure to comply with applicable laws and regulations that pertain to your industry, business, and operations. This encompasses a wide spectrum of issues, including misclassification of employees, safety and environmental violations, discrimination claims, privacy issues, wage and hour violations.

Human Risk is caused by the people who run your business. Humans are not always consistent or predictable. Employees can create risk for your business in a variety of ways: Errors and mistakes, poor management, unsafe practices, inadequate training, theft, fraud, harassment, etc. The more employees you have, the greater the risk. But even if you’re a sole proprietorship, you’re still only human. At some point, you could put your own company at risk.

Technology Risk is associated with the technological systems your business relies on. Power outages, software failures, security breaches, cyber-attacks, and other technology issues can cause anything from minor interruptions to major catastrophes. The same technologies that help you run your company more effectively and efficiently can also wreak havoc on your organization.

Financial Risk is anything that interferes with the ability of your business to maintain positive cash flow. Financial risks can be internal or external and include things like market fluctuations, interest/exchange rates, inaccurate projections, clients who default on payment or internal theft and embezzlement. It can also be as simple as poor budgeting, bad financial decision making, and mismanagement of debt.

Reputational risk has to do with how your business is perceived by potential customers and the public. Things that affect organizational reputation include lawsuits, product failures and recalls, political issues, customer incidents, negative reviews, and social media. Positive business reputations take time to build, but they can be lost in a second. If your company reputation takes a hit, it can result in a significant loss of customers, partnerships, sponsorships, and ad revenue. You may also find it difficult to maintain company morale and attract and retain talent.

Getting on the right side of your risk

Even if your business is still in its lean days, you’ll want to think about what factors could negatively affect your finances, operations, and overall success.

If you’ve already outgrown your startup phase, you’ve probably also outgrown your initial risk management assessment and plan. And maybe even your favorite t-shirt. Which means it’s time to take another look at how you’re running your operations and managing your risk.

Identifying and mitigating potential threats isn’t a one-time job. It’s an ongoing endeavor that’s critical to the health and survival of your organization.

Once you’re committed to evaluating your business risks on a consistent basis, you’ll be able to take your risk management plan from “if only…” to “Looking good!”

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by ninamalyna  

How to Create a Better Client Experience

Providing great client service is a claim that nearly every business makes. However, being able to provide that great service, versus just promising it, is dependent on a number of things being in place.

It begins with a definition of what great service means to your company, which depends on what you want your customers to experience every time they have an interaction with your organization, which depends on… well… let’s just take a closer look at how this works.

Defining the company

Purpose| Starting from the top, the purpose of your business must be clearly defined so everyone knows why he or she works so hard every day. What goals are their efforts intended to achieve?

If it’s just to put more money in the owner’s pocket, it’s not a very good motivator for treating clients well or understanding what to help them with beyond selling them a product or answering their basic questions.

If it’s to help clients solve their specific problems, that’s a different story. Knowing that your goal is to help clients achieve their goals allows your team to proactively make suggestions toward that end.

Values| Next, the organizational values must be clearly defined. Values are used to help shape and direct behaviors. When the values are known, everyone can use consistent ideas in treating clients and making decisions. Without defined values, everyone is left to use their own set of decision-making criteria, which might not produce the results your company wants or expects.

Culture| Everyone needs to clearly understand the cultural expectations of the company, and leadership needs to actively reinforce them. It’s important to promote and reward appropriate behaviors as well as reprimand ones that don’t reinforce the cultural expectations. Without this, the culture becomes a fractured grouping of behaviors and doesn’t promote consistency across the organization.

Some say you can’t define a culture, that it just develops naturally. To some degree, this is true. Culture is a naturally developing personality of any organization. That said, clear expectations should be firmly in place as guide rails for good, consistent decision-making and behaviors.

Customer Experience| After you have your company values and behaviors defined, describe what you want a client/customer to experience when they interact with your organization. In order to deliver great service, you and your team must know what your definition of “great” is.

Processes| Determine what processes and procedures must be in place to deliver on your company purpose and client experience. This means having the right people performing in roles that play to their strengths. They need to be given responsibility and authority to make decisions and deliver on good service.

Having defined your purpose, values, culture, and client experience, the team should be well equipped now to deliver consistent service that reflects the best intentions of your company.

Follow through on the details

Skill Gaps| Once you’ve determined what the roles are to effectively deliver on the service you’ve defined, there will be some training gaps to fill in. Maybe it’s technical skills, new content skills, proficiency of tools, or even good personal relations. Consistency in training will help reinforce those key, consistent behaviors needed to deliver on your promises.

Communication| Leadership must regularly communicate and reinforce the organizational purpose, values, and expected behaviors. Using multiple forms of communication is important, but even more so is demonstrating it through behaviors and actions.

And as you create these collective definitions, be sure to take an honest assessment of where your customer service is today. Is everyone in the business actively working to “Wow!” clients and make them exceptionally happy? Or is it a more reactionary culture that focuses more on answering client questions, meeting minimum expectations, or putting out fires?

Without clear company definitions and ongoing communication so everyone on staff knows and understands them, any claims of “great service” are sitting on uncertain ground.

Based on individual life experiences, everyone has his or her own ideas of what good, best, and exceptional look like. Don’t leave the success of your company up to chance by simply hoping your definitions match those of each of your staff members. The clearer you make it, the happier everyone will be.

Including your clients.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by sirinapa