Friday, June 27, 2014

Balancing Act: Three Ways to Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

A recent study released by showed that employees in the United States are having a really difficult time maintaining their work-life balance. This research revealed that 42% of employees feel like they are required to check with work while on vacation and about a fourth feel guilty about taking vacation in the first place. 

Unfortunately, The guilt that employees feel isn't restricted to vacation. The report also highlights the 45% of workers that feel obligated to respond to emails at home and that 47% still try to work when out sick. Technology has made it significantly easier to be available 24/7 and harder to leave your work in the office. Establishing these habits can take a serious toll on your work ethic, health, and relationships. Check out these ideas for maintaining a healthy work-life balance:

Schedule your downtime
Make it a point to schedule time to spend with your family and friends and to relax during your week. This gives your something to help you manage your time and give you something to look forward to. Try blocking off time to be "hands-off" with your loved ones or time on the golf course with a friend until it becomes a habit.

Pay attention to your health

Don't ignore your health! Make it a habit to be mindful of your physical, emotional, and mental health. Regular exercise, adequate sleep, and proper nutrition are essential to productivity and it can get very easy to slack off in these areas as you assume more responsibility in your career. Scheduling fun workout classes and preparing healthier meals ahead of time are some ways to actively

Say no!
Sometimes maintaining your work-life balance means saying no. While this seems easier said than done it is important to be able to clearly communicate your boundaries. If you are already have too much on your plate taking on another task can only decrease productivity. Don't feel the need to say yes even if you happen to have the time you should still evaluate if this task fits within your priorities.

How have you worked towards achieving a work-life balance? Comment below!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Breaking Down Barriers: Is an Open Office Space Better For Your Business?

Recently, there has been a huge debate about the open office work space and if there are any benefits to renovating your office to fit this format. For tech and creative companies, the campus-like atmosphere is often necessary for the collaborative efforts that occur. Accounting and finance firms benefit from the privacy that a cubicle provides when dealing with the exchange of certain types of information. Despite the fact that many companies report a noticeable and positive change in their employees; it might be worth considering the pros and cons before you go knocking down that wall between the sales floor and the break room.

Open spaces are designed with the intent of improving communication among employees and allowing for transparency with management. While they are often more cost effective they are also created under the assumption that everyone in the company will work best under these conditions. People who tend to work better with fewer distractions or aren't as outgoing might have difficulty being productive in this kind of environment. In theory, you could just pop in headphones and listen to your favorite music while you work, but this is a temporary fix for the larger issue of accommodating for everyone in the office. Open office plans also completely eliminate privacy in an office, making it difficult to share sensitive material and hold private conversations.There is also the issue of space for personal belongings which can be a serious problem if the space isn't designed with larger groups in mind.

Overall, it is important to think about what kind of environment you are trying to foster when considering the floor plan for your business. Companies that thrive on teamwork based projects need open spaces for everyone to have consistent communication. Other companies aren't necessarily tapping into their employees greatest strengths by creating a work area that is full of potential distractions. Companies have had to take this into consideration and modify their floor plans to include private work space that can be reserved for more private conversations or work that requires a little more focus. It is also important to remember that quality matters just as much as quantity. While there are several benefits to the open office floor plan there are also several serious setbacks. Developing a solid compromise between the two might be the best way to encourage productivity for your employees.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

New Launch: Google My Business

In a blog post last week, Google announced the launch of a new platform, Google My Business. It's primary function is to connect businesses with consumers, according to Google. While you've certainly heard of Google+, Google Places and Google Adwords, this new platform is a one-stop-shop for all things Google (well, almost).

Besides adding photos, videos and updating your business information, Google My Business offers a way for you keep up with your Google Reviews and has integration with Google Adwords Express. 

One of the most important features that we find most helpful is the custom insights tool. Through them, you can view:

  • Visibility: How many times your page and content has been viewed.
  • Engagement: How many times social actions were taken such as +1s, comments and shares.
  • Audience: Get information on new followers, where they are located and their gender.
Some reports can be filtered by lifetime view or segmented out by 7, 30 or 90 days for you to see how your pages are performing over time.

For those who manage most everything on the go, Google My Business has also developed an Android app and an iOS app will be launching soon. 

New businesses who are looking to their list their company with Google will be directed to Google My Business. Existing Google+ Business Pages and Google for Places users will be rolled over to the new platform as well. 

What do you think of Google My Business? Will you be using it?

Image courtesy of Google My Business.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Three Best Practices for Social Media

Social media is the most unique way for a business to engage with consumers to date. Recent statistics released by reveal that the world of social media is expanding faster than anyone could have predicted. It may seem impossible to get a firm grasp on social media when two new people join LinkedIn every second and Facebook boasts over 1.15 Billion users; but rest assured it's possible! OPEN Forum- an interactive blog sponsored by American Express - compiled a list of best practices to make the more of social media. BBB picked a few to highlight here:
  • Ask conversation-starter questions: It's no secret that people love to use open communication to share their thoughts and opinions online. Use this as an opportunity expand your consumer reach by posting industry related questions on Facebook and Twitter to drive consumers to your product or service.
  • Avoid syndicated messages: sharing the same message on every social media channel results in it losing it genuine intention. If you need to communicate the same point across several different channels, think about changing the language to make it relevant for the outlet. Try using a combination of hashtags and photos for Twitter and leave more descriptive language for Facebook and LinkedIn
  • Follow the one-in-seven-rule: This rule is formed behind the idea that only one of every social media posts will work to efficiently promote your business. Take advantage of this statistic by using the other six posts to share content that is related to your product or service. Try sharing relevant articles, blog posts, etc. to help keep your network engaged.
What are some of your best practices for social media? Comment below!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Up, Up, and Away: Five Business Travel Essentials

If you have ever traveled for work (or in general) you know that the slightest oversight can turn a pleasant change of scenery into a complete nightmare. After booking flights, navigating confusing airports, and keeping track of business expenses; it may feel like you need an entire entourage to help you keep it together. Don’t fret! BBB has compiled a list of five things that are absolutely essential for business travel:

1. The Efficient (yet stylish) Carry On Bag
If you are only travelling for a few days, don’t waste time waiting for luggage after you land. Pack your freshly laundered clothing into a compact carry on. Your carry on should be made of durable material and come with wheels and/or a comfy bag strap.

2. The Battery Pack
There’s nothing worse than thinking ahead to place all of your reservations and important reminders on your mobile phone; only to have it lose its juice halfway through the flight. Luckily, there are tons of options available to keep you afloat of everything you've got going on. Charging cases are great for giving your cell phone the extra boost it needs. Smaller packs have USB ports and are great if you need to charge multiple electronics at once.

3. Tracking Your Expenses
Keeping track of business expenses can be very difficult when you find yourself moving from airport to cab to hotel and back again. There are some really great mobile applications available for download on most mobile devices that help you organize everything with the click of a button.

4. Gadget Organizer
This one is a must for people who are always leaving their headphones behind on the cashier counter at the coffee shop. Gadget organizers come with tons of pockets and elastic holders to help you keep up with USB chargers, cables, tablets and more!

5. In-Flight Essentials
There is no doubt that a neck pillow and eye mask are necessary for long haul flights, but there are other factors to consider when traveling. The recycled cabin air can also often result in dry skin and chapped lips. Flight 001 suggests staying hydrated with a water bottle that comes with built in filter and Jay Rob of suggests using all-natural brands to help you look your best post-flight. Too many unexpected layovers and weather delays will condition you to pack an emergency snack. It is best to consider packing non-perishables like granola bars or dried fruit that are both filling and healthy.

What are your favorite business travel essentials? Comment below.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

4 Technology Trends that Your Business Should Not Ignore

In a world where technology is constantly evolving and reshaping the way we conduct business, it may be difficult to keep up with the changing times. To bridge that gap, the Huffington Post recently released a list of four key technology trends that aren't going away anytime soon. So let's dig in and see how these new ideas can benefit your small business.

1) The Cloud. This trend is becoming increasingly popular with businesses. The cloud enables you to store your information offsite. You have access to all the data from virtually anywhere in the world. The cloud may be a good alternative to hiring an IT team to handle your computer systems. With the cloud, you should also consider security. Many cloud services have security measures built in, so you can be sure your documents will remain safe.

2) Mobile Devices. More than one-fifth of worldwide payment transactions now occur on a mobile device, according to the Adyen Global Mobile Payments Index. If you don't have a mobile website, or yours isn't optimized to fit a smaller screen, you should consider making a change. You want your mobile website to be just as flexible and versatile as if someone were using a laptop or desktop to view it.

3) E-commerce. We’re nearing an era where every successful brand will make shopping from your smartphone as convenient (if not more) as going to an actual store. E-commerce retailers are constantly adding new features and applications to make the buying process easier and more streamlined for the user. Consider offering a loyalty program or having your website recognize previous shoppers. 

4) 3-D Printers. This is one of the newest trend on the list and they are becoming increasingly affordable. These printers will enable you to create more personalized products for your customers.

Are you using (or will you use) any of the above technologies?

Monday, June 2, 2014

Guest Blog: 7 Insurance Tips for Vermont Contractors

Insurance is important, especially when you run your own business. As a contractor in Vermont it is important to have the correct insurance to cover you for liability as well as any state and county requirements in your area to maintain proper licensing. With so many things to worry about, it's important to get everything right the first time. Arm yourself with these 7 tips to understand insurance and liability for contractors.

1. Verify Licenses. Make sure your current contractor licenses are up to date. Failure to maintain a valid license for your profession can result in fines, loss of business, and cancellation of insurance policies. In addition, make sure those you hire have valid licenses. Professional services like architects, engineers, and surveyors should have credentials on file with the Vermont Secretary of State.

2. Require it in Writing. Written contracts are immensely important when it comes to protecting you from legal hazards. Require contracts for all of your business, and hold onto these records for at least three years. Use an attorney to review contracts and warrants, don't just guess and hope things will work out okay. When hiring a subcontractor, you will want to make sure you are not held liable for any of their mistakes. Have your attorney create clauses that includes holding you harmless, indemnify, and limiting liability. If you yourself are the subcontractor, you will likewise want to have a contract defining what is your responsibility and what is that of the general contractor.

3. Prevent Job Losses While Working. The best insurance rates are always offered to those with great safety ratings. Take care to prevent accidents and equipment loss. Conduct safety inspections and educate your employees. Post written instructions and reminders, and always use the recommended safety equipment.

4. Follow OSHA Rule0s. In addition to basic safety steps, follow the rules laid out by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration. If you are in doubt about any rules or regulations, check online. Make sure to follow the OSHA best practices such as having MSDS sheets for all chemicals on hand. Failure to comply can result in fines, loss of business, and loss of insurance coverage also.

5. Limit Liability. Many different things can go wrong on a construction site. Limit your liability by blocking access to the general public and working to prevent loss. In addition, you will need construction liability insurance. These are policies specifically designed for a limited time during your build, and are available in different amounts based on type of accident and protection against natural disasters like fire and flooding.

6. Careful on the Road. Most contracting jobs will require some travel. Whether you are using a single truck, or a series of large construction vehicles it is important to have commercial auto insurance. Run background checks on your drivers. Perform regular vehicle maintenance. Also remember to slow down and be careful.

7. Purchase Extra Insurance. Every job is different, so it's important to recognize when risks are greater than usual. If a job involves excessive heights or specialty tools, you should check your policy to make sure these dangers are included. If they are not, purchase additional insurance specifically covering this liability. The same idea applies to working around artwork and antiques with a non-standard value.

The importance of insurance protection for your business is paramount. Learn more about commercial business insurance in the Vermont area online. 

Holden Financial Services, Inc. is a BBB Accredited Business located in Middlebury, VT and Rutland, VT. They have been Accredited since 2013.