Workplace Safety: Online and Physical

Managing safety in the workplace — both in the office as well as online — is becoming a more complicated task by the day. Whether the concern is about hackers coming for your intellectual property, or process ownership during building maintenance, the security of your people is nothing to take for granted. Here are five things any company leader can do to make a greater effort in the name of safety.

Make Sure Everybody Understands What’Be Prepared’ Means

The impression that the world is unsafe and violent has only been amplified by popular media. We have, regrettably, let ourselves fall victim to a false narrative where our collective security is concerned. Nevertheless: it’s clear that when unfortunate events do occur in the world, they can happen just about anyplace.

What does “being prepared” look like for your workplace?If you ask different employees, will they tell you different things? Does everybody have a planned way out of the building or off your campus? It might sound too theoretical to justify spending time on it, but your company should have detailed contingency plans already drawn up for a variety of possible events — be it natural, as in extreme weather events, or something regrettably more man-made.

Perform Intermittent Online Security Audits

Since we’re talking about online and offline security, let’s talk about how business leaders can know, one way or another, whether their employees are practicing good security “hygiene” at work. There are two things you should be doing:

  1. Consider having an outside security company perform penetration testing for your company’s networks. They should be able to help you find any weak points that would-be criminals could exploit purposefully, or undisciplined employees could trigger accidentally.
  2. And when it comes to employees, have your IT team or that same third-party consultant perform or schedule fake phishing attempts for all of your company email addresses. Done correctly, the email will look like a plea for personal information, a reply, or for the user to click a link. Knowing how, and whether, your employees are interacting with emails like these, even fake ones,will tell you something about how at-risk your organization is.

Take Another Look at Your Building and the State of Its Maintenance

With the exception of companies that get started in attics,basements, and garages, most business visionaries take great pride in their immediate surroundings, including their business locations, their employees’accommodations and any environment in which a customer or client might find themselves.

We’re talking about two different things here. The first is curb appeal and “atmosphere.” Your workplace should present itself as a harmonious, well-considered space with tasteful and comfortable furnishings.Someplace employees can feel at home, in other words — since we know (workplaces with objectively pleasing aesthetics) tend to encourage creative free-thought,lower levels of aggression and heightened productivity overall.

But the second part of taking stock of your location and its amenities is a little more serious. It concerns the environment within your building, including its temperature during highs and lows and the quality of air your people are breathing all day. The phrase might sound alarmist, but”Sick Building Syndrome” is very real — and it generally results from poor air circulation in an environment already compromised by end-of-life HVAC systems, dirty duct work and noxious chemicals in furniture and building materials.

Implement BYOD Policies Responsibly

In another return to online safety, so-called “BYOD culture” is worth a look at as another potential threat vector in the well-being of your company and its employees. If the work you perform is conducive to it, you’ve likely already implemented, or plan to explore, BYOD policies. The benefits to company morale and productivity can be significant.When employees can do their work on familiar platforms and using hardware they’re comfortable with, it makes sense that they’d get more done.

The thing is, even if your workflows aren’t necessarily conducive to BYOD culture, your employees and guests might be bringing in smartwatches and other devices that aren’t as obvious. You might even have deployed these and other IoT devices yourself, as part of an internal wellness program. This itself can be a great influence on your organization’s collective health, and consequently your safety and productivity.

You’ve likely heard something about the several recent high-profile data breaches, including several, like Wanna Cry and Petya, which preyed specifically on unsecured and unsiloed IoT devices. Objects like these can be a boon in the workplace for many reasons, but the least you can do,safety-wise, is create a separate internal network for any connected devices you can’t vouch for 100 percent, including for employee BYOD programs as well as guests to your campus who might just want to use some free Wi-Fi.

Know Who’s Accountable and Have a Reporting Process in Place

This final point is a reminder about accountability in the workplace. We’re not talking about pointing fingers — we’re talking about”process ownership” and the idea that anything significant that requires doing deserves a specific appointed person to oversee it. If you do business in a climate where employee or customer safety depends on contacting snow removal companies quickly, you need a chain of command to get this and any other mission-critical safety or productivity concerns taken care of.

And that’s not all, either. When something unexpected happens, whether it’s an accident, damage to company property or infrastructure, bad-faith bookkeeping, or workplace harassment of some kind, your employees deserve some kind of accommodating, anonymizing reporting process for elevating their concerns to their managers or impartial third parties. They shouldn’t be left guessing who to talk to, or what to do if they’ve just been through something upsetting.

You’re going to find that your employees are only too happy to help you keep your company and its work areas safe and sound. But they need to know what’s expected of them and they need to know they have your ear when they have concerns of their own. As usual, it’s about communication.

Bio: Nathan Sykes is the editor of Finding an Outlet, a source for the latest in IT and business news and trends.

Will Your Finances Leave You Taxed?

Keeping on top of where your money is going can be a taxing issue for millions of Americans. That issue becomes even more problematic when one is running their own small business.

In running your small business, do you feel at times like the financial walls are closing in around you? If that is the case, now would be a good time to review how you’ve done financially this year, along with thinking about where you want 2017 to take you.

Also keep in mind that being savvy with your business finances doesn’t mean you are great with personal expenses and vice-versa. In order to be in a win-win situation, smart decisions must be made on both fronts. If you feel like you maybe have not been making the best financial decisions at times, has the time arrived to get help?

One professional you may need to call is a tax attorney.

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He or she could be the missing link in allowing you to prosper financially both at your business and at home. If that’s the situation, don’t wait to make that call when it is too late.

Get Financial Help Today, Not Tomorrow

So that you can go into 2017 feeling as good as possible about your work and home financial situations, review matters now. That means sooner rather than later, not whenever you feel like getting around to it.

For those individuals dealing with tax matters, opting for the help of a New York tax attorney for your financial needs (or one closer to home) can be the solution. They have the ability to get you focused not only on your tax issues now, but also how to better avoid such problems down the road.

In consulting with a tax attorney, the first and foremost item of business is being honest with them. Having a trusting relationship can go a long way in getting you the help you need. Be upfront with them, even in cases where you may have tried to work around the present tax codes. The last thing such an attorney wants is to put lots of work into your situation, only to discover you were not 100 percent transparent. 

Lessen Odds of an Audit Moving Forward

So that you can lessen the odds of the dreaded Internal Revenue Service (IRS) audit moving forward, remember a few tips:

  1. Organization – First and foremost, don’t be one of those people pushing the midnight deadline on April 15 to get their taxes done. The only good that typically comes from that is the local pharmacy or grocery store makes some money off of you for indigestion relief. Being the tax filing deadline for 2016 expenses is some six months away, now is the time to begin organizing your documents. Yes, you still need to wait for this year to finish itself out, but you should have your documents organized and ready to go by the beginning of February (2017) at the latest;
  2. Honesty – As mentioned earlier, a tax attorney can’t help you if you are not upfront with them. Give them an honest answer for any and every question they throw at you. While some people (including some small business owners) do get away with cheating from time to time, the odds are typically not in their favor;
  3. Educate – Finally, make sure you educate yourself when it comes to filing taxes and money in general. You may think you know all there is to know about the finances of life, but you probably do not. Whether it is the small business you run or your personal finances, don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Financial advisors, tax attorneys etc. can all prove quite beneficial to your financial education.

If you’ve had financial issues over time (be it personally and/or running a small business), what have you learned from such experiences to share with others?

About the Author: Dave Thomas covers business topics on the web.

Assess Your Work Order Process

assessmentTake a look at your current work order process. Are maintenance jobs being completed in a safe and timely manner? Do those who request jobs receive status updates and are they notified in a timely manner?

Asking these and other questions is essential for understanding your current work order process and for improving it.

Creating a streamlined work order process is important for several reasons.

A well-rounded process helps ensure that jobs are completed in a timely manner with fewer mistakes and with less frustration at each step.

Here are some tips for jump-starting the changes:

Complete a Work Order Audit

You can’t make the right work order process changes if you don’t first investigate what is and isn’t currently working well.

Begin the change process by auditing the current work order flow. An audit can be completed in several ways and the steps included with it will depend on your industry and other factors.

The most basic audit should include submitting a work order following the current process and tracking all steps included in that process.

You may also decide to send an audit questionnaire to all employees who are regularly involved with work orders. One-on-one interviews and focus groups could also provide valuable information.

Revamp the Request Form

If your audit shows that the current work order request form isn’t working well, take a closer look at the form and assess which changes are needed.

A well-rounded request form should include a description of the maintenance issue, work that’s needed, estimated time to complete the job, tools needed and employees involved.

Based on your industry and work flow, you may determine that other pertinent details are also needed.

After you’ve revamped the request form, determine whether a digital or paper form is the best match for your business.

Choosing between a paper or digital form will depend on whether the employees involved have regular access to a computer at work, your business’s filing system and more.

Implement a Ticket System

A common employee frustration regarding work order processes is that they aren’t kept in the loop on the status of requested maintenance jobs.

If this is a cited frustration among your workers, consider implementing a job ticket system. Ticket systems help show the flow of projects and allow employees who request work orders to see how many jobs are in front of theirs.

Adjust as Needed

After you’ve audited your work order process and implemented the necessary changes, continue to monitor the flow of jobs.

You should expect a few issues as employees become accustomed to the new process. But, if the issues continue for a month or more, return to the process and investigate what’s causing the problems. If needed, make additional changes to overcome the issues.

According to “Recreating your Work Order Process: 100+ Questions to Ask,” periodic reviews of your work order process are the best way to keep things running smoothly.

Updating your work order process can bring many benefits. These include keeping your workers safe, reducing frustrations regarding maintenance tasks and more.

Create a more streamlined process by auditing the current work order flow and by taking the necessary steps to improve it.

About the Author: Shayla Ebsen is a freelance writer and editor with more than 10 years of professional writing experience both in the corporate and freelance settings.