One of the most ignored aspects of working at home is safety. Business offices go to all sorts of lengths to avoid any injury or harm to their workers (they don't want to get sued, after all). Meanwhile, you might not even know that it's possible to injure yourself with nothing more than office equipment. If you're going to avoid a lot of pain in your future, you need to read up on home office safety now.Your Chair.The chances are that you're going to be sitting on your chair for quite a long time each day. If you have a bad chair, or you haven't adjusted it properly, you could give yourself a back injury -- and they're painful, not to mention expensive to treat.When you're choosing your chair, make sure you sit on it for a while in the shop, giving yourself a chance to get used to the way it feels, and be prepared to walk away if it starts to get uncomfortable quickly. Don't pay a ridiculous amount, but don't get the cheapest and worst thing in the shop, either.Your Mouse and Keyboard.If you're using a computer mouse a lot for your work or doing a lot of typing, you can give yourself some pretty nasty injuries. This is because doing the same thing over and over again can give you a repetitive strain injury (RSI), such as carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis. This is one of the most common problems amongst office workers, home workers included.You might have an RSI if you notice pain, weakness and fatigue in your muscles. One of the most common symptoms is pain when you're lying in bed. People tend to think that they must just be sleeping in an awkward position, or that they need a better bed or pillow, not realising that their office equipment is to blame. If you think you might be an RSI sufferer, go and see your doctor. Massages tend to be the most effective treatment, when given by a trained therapist.To protect yourself against RSI, there are a number of things you can do. You should take regular breaks from using your computer, and stop immediately if you start to feel any kind of pain. You may also wish to invest in an ergonomic keyboard and mouse, which are laid out differently to normal keyboards and mice in an effort to make them more comfortable and less dangerous to use.Clean and Tidy.Silly as it might sound, the second most common problem amongst home office workers is that they make a mess. Your home office might become cluttered with wires, open drawers, and various objects all over the floor. It's quite possible to trip and fall over all of these things, and if you walk around enough in a confined space then eventually you will. Do as much as you can to keep your home office uncluttered: always close drawers, keep wires in one corner of the room and don't put anything on the floor.Strangers in Your Home.An aspect of safety that many people don't think of is the fact that you could be letting strangers into their home when you agree to meet clients there, and this can be risky for you and your family. You might be especially worried if there will be children at home with you while you're working.The simple answer, of course, is to always meet new customers in a public place, until you know and trust them. Coffee places are good for this. As a bonus, you'll inevitably look more professional if they don't realise that you're a home business, and having a coffee each gives you something to do during any lulls in conversation other than just sitting there and looking awkward.First Aid Kits.Finally, one last note if you're doing manual work: you really ought to have a first aid kit in your workshop, as well as one that you carry around with you. You really shouldn't be doing anything physical as a business unless you've taken a first aid course -- they're quick, easy and inexpensive, so there's no excuse. It could save your life someday, after all.
Copyright 2006 The National Learning InstituteWhen you left home for work this morning, did you feel ready to face the day knowing that you were going to have a number of successful negotiations? Chances are, the word "negotiation" never entered your head. Perhaps it should have!We often think of negotiation as a formal process conducted behind closed doors by high powered executives, politicians or world leaders. Yet everyday all of us negotiate. You may have to agree with colleagues on the content of a report or presentation; with a customer over a disputed invoice; with a supplier on the terms for goods or services; or with your partner on what to have for dinner tonight! All of these things are negotiations.Our problem is that we don't recognise them as negotiations, nor ourselves as negotiators. As a result, we enter these discussions less prepared than we could be. The result? Sometimes a less-than-successful outcome!To help make all our daily negotiations more successful (for both you and the other party), you need to:- State your case clearly and appropriately- Organise your facts- Control the timing and pace of your discussion- Properly assess both yours and the other parties needsHow do you carry out these four points successfully? First, you need an understanding of some of the key principles of successful negotiation. Try this quiz to test your knowledge of negotiating by answering "True/False" to each question.1. Should you ask for twice the amount you need?2. Is your aim to prevent the other party from saying "No"3. Will a small concession relieve the pressure?4. A "Win/Win" result is always possible.5. Is admitting to an error or omission a sign of weakness?The following answers will provide some useful tips for your negotiating situations.1. Should you ask for twice the amount you need? False. You will have to back down and will lose an important opportunity to influence the other party. Research clearly indicates that negotiators who make large concessions end up worse off. The secret of successful negotiating is to first identify your needs, then work out a range of options that will satisfy those needs. Start the negotiation by asking for the options that best meet your needs.2. Is your aim to prevent the other party from saying "No"? False. In fact getting a "No" from the other party can be very useful because it gives you the opportunity to ask "Can you give me your reasons?". This leads to uncovering the other party's real needs and some options that will satisfy them V options which you can probably supply.3. Will a small concession relieve the pressure? False: If you make a small concession, chances are you are negotiating over options rather than needs. Additionally, the other party may think you are weakening and put more pressure on. Far better to state or restate your needs and then explore as many options as possible to satisfy them. As part of this discussion, you may come back to the offer that was just rejected, or you may find some even better options. Either way you have gained a lot more information and not weakened your position.4. A "Win/Win" result is always possible. False: It's desirable, but not always possible. Sometimes, even the best of negotiators have to "agree to disagree". The way to improve your ratio of "Win/Wins" is to focus very clearly on your own real needs (not positions) and the needs of the other party. Searching for many different options to satisfy both party's needs generates more "Win/Win" situations.5. Is admitting to an error or omission a sign of weakness? False: Research shows that disclosing such information demonstrates honesty. In psychological terms, it breeds what is called "reciprocity" - if you do something for me, then I'll do something for you. People are far more likely to be honest with you when you are honest with them. Pulling the wool over someone's eyes may give you a short term result at the expense of a long term relationship.Four tips to help you negotiate successfully1. If you want a better deal, ask for one. You'll never know unless you ask! Remember, make sure it will satisfy your needs - do not get locked into bargaining over positions.2. Argue to learn, not to win. To meet your own needs you need to learn as much as possible about the other party and their needs. The more you learn, the better chance you have of getting a good deal.3. Make proposals regularly during the negotiation - proposals move the negotiation forward. Use proposals such as "If you will provide . . . . then I might consider . . . ." The other party's response to these proposals will give you a lot of information to work with.4. Ask for, and give as much information as possible. For example, questions such as "Can you explain your reasons for . . . . ?', "What are your priorities? and "What else is there that you think I should know?" are excellent ways of gathering the information you need.Successful negotiating!If you would like some more tips on negotiating, feel free to contact me via www.nationallearning.com.au
Its one of the largest costs in all different types of organizations, yet its also one of the most unknown costs. Its employee turnover.Companies routinely record and report costs such as wages and benefits, Workmans Compensation Insurance, utilities, materials, and space, yet most companies have no and report the cost of "employee turnover" . It can be much higher than you think.How Much is it Costing You?Several well-regarded studies have recently estimated the cost of losing an employee: SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, estimated that it costs $3,500.00 to replace one $8.00 per hour employee when all costs -- recruiting, interviewing, hiring, training, reduced productivity, et cetera, were considered. SHRMs estimate was the lowest of 17 nationally respected companies who calculate this cost! Other sources provide these estimates: It costs you 30-50% of the annual salary of entry-level employees, 150% of middle level employees, and up to 400% for specialized, high level employees! Do a quick calculation: Think of a job in your organization where there has been some turnover, perhaps supervisors. Estimate their annual average pay and the number of supervisors you lose annually. For example, if their average annual pay is $40,000, multiply this by .125% (or 125% of their annual pay, a reasonable cost estimate for supervisors). This means it costs $50,000 to replace just one supervisor. If this company loses ten supervisors a year, then 10 times $50,000 equals $500,000 in replacement costs for just supervisors. This is the bottom line cost. The top line cost? If the companys profit margin is 10%, then it costs $5,000,000 in revenues to replace these ten supervisors.Do These Numbers Seem Unbelievable?Heres an actual calculation from a well-regarded organization in my community. The HR Manager of this human services organization (housing for disabled persons, sheltered workshops, etc.), estimated that 30 entry level people leave his organization on average every quarter.This averages out to ten people per month. Lets be extra conservative and shave SHRMs estimate (see above) down to $3,000.00 to replace each employee.This amounts to $30,000 per month, or $1,000.00 in employee turnover costs every day of the month! Annually, this totals $360,000.00.Actual turnover costs are usually much higher than we think they are -- until we estimate them.You may be thinking, Some employee turnover is unavoidable, even desirable. Youre right. Some turnover is necessary, to replace marginal or poor employees with more productive ones and to bring in people with new ideas and expertise. However, high turnover costs are both avoidable and unnecessary.This is where companies need to focus their efforts. The goal is to retain valued performers while replacing poor ones.Most companies group both types of performers together when looking at turnover. By doing so, theyre missing the cost and significance of replacing the good performers.Why Dont More Companies See This as a Costly Problem?There are a variety of reasons this is not seen as a problem, all of which cost companies in expertise and dollars. How many of these occur in your organization?1. No process is in place to tabulate costs. One survey found that only 44% of its respondents had a process in place to estimate turnover costs; 43% of companies relied on intuition, and 13% had no process at all. (1)2. Costs are not reported to top management. Its a business axiom that one of the best ways to get top managements attention is to show them what something costs. However, most top management never gets to see turnover cost estimates because most companies dont measure them -- or if they do, they dont report them to top management.3. Its an inescapable cost of doing business. Except, its not! While some turnover is unavoidable and desirable, most turnover, especially among your better and top performers, is largely avoidable. Thinking that turnover is just a normal cost of doing business is the same quality of thinking which says that accidents are just an inescapable part of being in the construction business.4. Its an HR problem. While HR needs to be a key partner in reducing turnover cost, this is a strategic issue requiring top managements attention and actions, in addition to HRs efforts, to resolve it.5. Costs are underestimated, and so they register less concern. If costs are underestimated because the organization doesnt agree on or know what to measure, the statistics generated either register less concern than they should, or are disputed and held in disregard.What Costs Need to be Fully Estimated?A comprehensive program measures the following costs:Exit costsRecruitingInterviewingHiringOrientationTrainingCompensation & benefits while trainingLost productivityCustomer dissatisfactionReduced or lost businessAdministrative costsLost expertiseTemporary workersThere needs to be advance agreement among Human Resources, Finance, and Operations as to which cost measures will be considered valid. Then, it has to be measured and reported.6. Waiting until theres a crisis. I was amazed when the executive director of one organization told me she knew that one of her capable managers was unhappy, but decided it wasnt necessary to take action because she hadnt received a letter of resignation yet.Prevention is what works best. Begin to measure your turnover costs and, very importantly, look at who is leaving so youll know if youre retaining your best people.The time to do this is now. Waiting until theres a crisis to take action limits your options and success rate. It also often triggers the common response of offering more money to get someone to stay, instead of fixing the original problem.Why Do So Many Retention Efforts Fail?These are among the most common reasons company retention efforts fail, even when theyre implemented by capable people.1. No assessment, so ineffective solutions are chosen. In their hurry to correct a costly problem, companies often forgo conducting a relatively brief and cost-efficient assessment in order to correct the situation faster. However, implementing a solution without diagnosing who is leaving, and why theyre leaving often results in solutions that are incapable of solving the root causes behind turnover.Diagnosing the reasons behind turnover always pays for itself. Dont start without an assessment.2. Implementing too many solutions instead of the most effective solutions. Managers often brainstorm a number of plausible solutions, then implement many of them -- especially those favored by top management. However, what is most needed is to select and implement a limited number of solutions which will be most effective at solving the problem. Implementing too many solutions, even good ones, will diffuse your resources and weaken your efforts and success.3. No way of measuring success to know what works. How do you know which retention solutions youve implemented are working effectively and which arent, where you need to make refinements, and what strategies you need to drop if you dont have a way of measuring your results?How Do We Do a Better Job of Retaining Employees -- Especially Our Most Valuable Ones?First, rank your employees in three categories: best performers, middle performers, and lowest performers. Your objective is to retain your top performers; develop and retain your middle performers, turning them into near-top or top performers if possible; and potentially replace your lowest performers.Second, agree internally on the measures youll use to calculate turnover costs. Be certain youre taking all costs into consideration. Most organizations greatly underestimate them.Third, report turnover costs to top management on a monthly, quarterly, and annual basis.When turnover costs are unacceptably high, or higher than your industrys average, do an assessment. Find out who is leaving and why theyre leaving. Exit interviews can help you find out why.You need to know if it is your top, middle, or lowest performers who are leaving so you can gauge the expertise level leaving your organization. Youre obviously going to employ (and pay for) different strategies if your top performers are voluntarily leaving, compared to middle or lowest level performers.Develop solutions capable of solving the problems you uncover, and only implement a limited number of them.Measure the success of your retention efforts, and refine them.Two Very Key Strategies to Save a Large Amount of Time and Money.Very key strategy # 1: Dont wait until turnover costs become unacceptably high before you implement an ongoing retention program. Put a retention program in place before you have crisis situation. You not only must find out why employees leave your organization, you must also find out why others stay.Very key strategy # 2: Survey your top performers now in order to find out what keeps them there, why they might leave, what type of competitive offers they may find attractive, and what they need to be happier and more productive in their jobs. Youll do a better job of keeping them (along with their expertise and value). Youll also find out highly beneficial information about improvements your organization needs.This means driving improvements in your organization by what your best people tell you, instead of focusing on taking care of the ever-present complainers in every organization.Just How Valuable are Retention Efforts? One source estimated that a 10% reduction in employee turnover was worth more money than a 10% increase in productivity, or a 10% increase in sales!Retain and gain.
One of the underlying concepts of a team building activity is that it is designed to foster at team spirit among the participants, and help them focus on what they need to do in day to day work in order to function effectively as a team. So youve just taken your team out on a wild weekend of river rafting and wall climbing, and everyones returned to work energized and ready to tackle the latest project. How do you know if your "team building" event actually served its purpose?One important part of a team building weekend that is often overlooked is the evaluation process. Its not enough to plan a fun weekend and hope that throwing your project team into the mix will bond them into a working team. A successful corporate team building event must take into account the goals and needs of the individual company and department in order to bring the group together. Before choosing a team building idea, your event planning team (and of course youre using a team to plan the event, arent you?) should carefully evaluate each idea to see how it fits in with the companys goals.How do you ensure that your team building event will actually do its job? Here are some tips to help you plan a corporate team building activity that will help your team pull together.-Have a clear purpose for the team building activity.Sit down with the project team leaders and brainstorm. Ask them to define areas that need work and skills that need polishing. Once you have a clear idea of what needs to be accomplished, you can choose events that fit the bill.-Balance work time with fun team building events.Skip the overworked touchy-feely trust building events and choose events that are fun for all. Choose activities where working as a team pays off perhaps a scavenger hunt or a spy mission. There are dozens of corporate events activities that will challenge your group to become a team without boring them to tears.-Make time to network.Building teams starts with building relationships. Make sure that you dont pack so much activity into your "corporate events" time that your group has no time to kick back and relax. Schedule in some unstructured time when they can get to know each other outside work time.-Put together a follow-up action plan.Dont let the team spirit die when the corporate events weekend is over. Make an action plan that will be followed to put all the great ideas and plans into effect once you return to work.
Many centuries ago a wise philosopher Seneca said, someone takes away our precious time by force, others furtively steal our time, but the most annoying is when we waste our time ourselves. Specialists of time management agree with the ancient sage. Lack of time does not account for a great number of tasks we have to do. But it is rather a result of unpredictable and unjustified time losses. Today people take into account the recommendations of the experts and try to plan their day prioritizing the daily activities. However, even those who mastered the art of making rational and quite realistic plans are likely to complete only the half of the planned activities by the end of the day. If I had at least a couple of hours more . You may hear these words from the presidents of the global companies as well as from the secretaries, couriers and students.People dont realize that hours have been misspent. Perhaps in some cases it would be more rational for a student to buy essays from a reputable writing service than waste their time by arranging the capricious lines of their writing. Among the factors that steal our time during the working day we can point out the three major time thieves. They are uninvited guests, unexpected phone calls and you. Some irrelevant thoughts may intrude your consciousness just when you are reading your mail, analyzing news or preparing documentation. They grab your attention and you are no more concentrated on the work. For writers (or philosophers) such state is even favourable as it may help to find some original ideas and creative decisions for their love essay. But a businessman should avoid such deviation, as this stream of consciousness may distract him from solving the current issues. To reduce the time we spend on extraneous thoughts psychologists offer to follow two principles. The first of them may be called a method of unification. You should group the problems of the same type and solve them in a single time frame. That way you will do much more. Phased solving of the identical tasks eases the problem and saves up your time. The second principle suggests concentrating on the matter, not on the terms or means of dealing with it. In other words, devoting some time for necessary preparation helps to avoid unpredictable difficulties and stops.Still the most important thing for purposeful work is self discipline. Nothing controls your attention better than your own consciousness. Your precise determination to complete the task as soon as possible will manage to prevent from inopportune thoughts. Unexpected phone calls are another nuisance during your working day. Top leaders may entrust their secretaries with solving this problem. The rest have to look for options themselves. Ask your colleagues for a favour promising to help them in the same situation. Surely you will have to tear yourself from the work when the call is urgent. And you will deal with the rest of the calls when it is convenient for you. The other problem is uninvited guests. They are your colleagues, who drop in just for a quick word. In fact they start with discussing some really urgent professional issue, then coming down to gossiping about the secretarys new haircut and boss mood. You can get rid of these time thieves in different ways, but unfortunately they are not so delicate and tolerant. The most harmless method is to set the so called quiet hour, choosing the best time period for solving the piled up problems. A special notice on the door of your study may be a signal to those who want to disturb you. If you dont have a separate room, ask the office manager perform the functions of this notice. Very soon everyone will be acquainted with your working schedule and they will try to fix reception hours with you in advance. If you cant manage to reduce your time losses, try to keep a diary where you will make notes why and how much time has been wasted. These notes will help you to find the hole where all the precious minutes flow. Then you will just have to patch this hole up!