By Casey Kirkeby, RISQ Consulting Strategy Consultant
Humans are social creatures and even the most introverted need some type of social interaction from time to time. For example, I am an extroverted person that loves to go to networking events with large groups of people and support the business that is showcasing it’s location. Any given week I will be at a fundraiser, ribbon cutting or after hours and try to attend something at least twice a week. Now with COVID-19 taking over the world we have to practice this new thing called “Social Distancing” which means exactly what the name implies.
Today is my 8-year anniversary and my wife and I are celebrating it in the comfort of our own home. We plan an outdoor ski around lunchtime, romantic snack afterwards, and a nice dinner in the evening (If we can find any food to cook from the grocery store). Thank God the kids are at Grandma’s today so I can get some work done at home too! Now that I’ve rambled on about life at home, let’s talk about how to stay productive while working at home.
1. Talk to one friend each day
Sharing experiences always helps people understand their situation better because everyone thinks and acts differently. Especially right now, I think it is important because different perspectives helps with the notion of “being heard “no matter if it is electronically or through a text. We seek commonality while feeling connected and there is no better way than taking five minutes out of your day to say hi to someone.
2. Send someone you love a handwritten letter
I know this seems silly and it’s unknown what kind of value it would create but it may brighten someone’s day when they need it the most. Grab a few at the store, print some of your computer or order a bundle from your favorite art/crafts site. Then send out to a friend, family member or even a special client.
3. Foster connection with those you’re stuck at home with
Everyone has a routine and now if you work or a stay at home parent. We now are coinciding with both in one space so we need to be effective and efficient with how we spend our time together. When you take a break from a task, go forth and do something productive together like organizing a cluttered space or put together a board game to play when you are not busy to keep the creative juices flowing. Make the most of the opportunity to spend time at home with friends or love ones by engaging with them and you choose the activity.
4. Reach out to friends who have depression or anxiety
Everyone feels some type of depression from time to time and everyone deals with it in different ways. This may be particularity troublesome for people that are more extroverted. Some folks enjoy texting over calling so just send a quick “You don’t have to respond—I just want you to know that I’m thinking about you’ is a great message.” This will help that person who feels particularity alone when it comes to social isolation.
5. Have a family member read your child a bedtime book through FaceTime
This can be fun for all ages and keeps the social interactions u when you need it. Try to incorporate a grandparent or an uncle to keep it interesting for the child when they are reading the book or if they are being read to.
6. Have a virtual watch party with friends
Looking forward to hanging with your besties and gathering at the house to binge watch some shows? Now you can all jump on a video party through Netflix called Netflix party, which gives you the ability to everyone to stream the show at the same time and conduct a virtual group chat afterwards. Hey, if you do not like this try a virtual book club with your posse instead!
7. Stream a class
Bing your favorite social activity or hobby to life with others by participation or hosting a class dedicated to cooking, knitting etc. I recommend using Zoom because it has some key features that are free and especially during this time will offer more than 40 minutes of free streaming.
Don’t have a hobby you want to teach, try teaching a fitness or yoga class virtually and socialize with the conference at4ndees at the same time.
8. Participate in an online community
I think most people have something they participate in if they find it interesting when it comes to passions and interests online so here are a few options for you to participate in that may bring you that sense of community:
• Anchorage Zen Community www.anchoragezen.com
• Community Information – Alaska Department of Commerce www.commerce.alaska.gov
• Anchorage Chamber of Commerce https://www.anchoragechamber.org/
• Alaska Municipal League | Serving Alaska’s Communities www.akml.org
• The Alaska Community Foundation: Home www.alaskacf.org
9. Learn to love solitude
The world we see is like a cloud of smoke and to see through it, we have to stop and wait for the smoke to clear. This is something very challenging for some people (including myself) and now we are mostly at home or in a secured facility somewhere with our thoughts to ourselves. I always try to find the best in different situations so try to focus on time with yourself by doing meditating, putting together a puzzle or even going for a hike. We can take advantage of this solo time more than ever and really become one with ourselves without interruption.
By Casey Kirkeby, RISQ Consulting Strategy Consultant
When an employer hires their first employee, benefits are on their mind. There are so many employee benefits out there that it is quite overwhelming to talk about all of them in one blog. There is telecommuting (remote workers), Telemedicine, New Parent Leave, Lactation aid for new mothers, Loan repayment in exchange for employees not taking vested paid time off, and so much more. I want to talk about one in particular that has the added benefit of saving our younger generation helping post college students pay back the collapsing debt that ultimately holds them back.
College debt is a growing epidemic in our society and today it is actually hindering people from saving for retirement. According to a recent survey done by Society of Human Resource Management, more than $44.7 million borrowers owed more than $1.5 trillion in student loans. That exceeds the gross domestic product of all but a dozen countries around the globe and employers can help with a little education and providing a resource to help people pay the money back. I have student debt, my mom just paid off her debt about 10 years ago and she is 63 years old today. I know more than a handful of people who have more than $80,000.00 that they owe back to the government for schooling that they took over 8 years ago and will be paying on it for most of their life.
Now honestly this can be addressed at the most basic level by providing guidance and education when they first apply for financial assistance, but as an employer, you do not have control of this. You can provide direction by offering a tuition repayment benefit that not only helps employees pay student debt off sooner, but also helps manage their expense and forecast their financial needs.
Many companies choose to reimburse up to $5,250 per year, which is the ceiling that the federal government allows for tuition benefit expenditures to be exempt from withholding tax. Other employers are offering to make loan payments in exchange for employees not taking vested paid time off, such as vacation days. It can be as easy as facilitating payments through payroll deferral and offering to match up to 50% of their payment that will get them excited. You can also construct quick videos that contain onsite financial advice that provides an outline with a good approach for whittling down their repayment and financing.
Now these are just some examples of what the current workforce is doing to help keep our debt-challenged workers ahead of the game and over at RISQ we can help you design an Employee Benefits Program that works for you and more importantly, your workforce.
By Andrew Kupperman, RISQ Consulting Employer Services and Workforce Technology Consultant, SHRM-CP
I know we’re past Valentine’s Day, but have you ever heard someone say, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life”? If you have, I’m curious as to what your reaction was. Did you laugh in their face? Did you give them a look of confusion to signal you had no idea what they meant by that? Or did you suddenly realize every job you’ve ever worked, you’ve absolutely hated?
There are many aspects that go into liking a job; who you work with, the relationship with the person supervising you, the mission of the organization you’re working for, compensation and benefits. All of these are important factors that will ultimately help you decide if you want to continue working at a specific job. But, what about the work you’re actually doing? Where does that rank in terms of importance, and how do you figure out if what you’re doing is something you actually love to do?
From an employer aspect, it is important that the people who work for you have some semblance of liking what they do. In terms of why employees leave jobs, doing what you love, doesn’t rank as high as some of the other factors. However, try to imagine your workplace where everyone detests doing what they do? As an employer, do you think you would still enjoy leading this kind of team? Now I know what you may be thinking: the work we do at our organization isn’t exactly exciting, so how do we go about getting our employees jazzed about doing what they do on a daily basis?
This brings me to my first point – finding meaning in what you do. Here at RISQ Consulting, the majority of our business is related to Insurance, which is probably one of the most publicly disliked, non-alluring types of business you can think of. So how do we, as workers within the insurance industry, go about finding value doing the day-to-day work? One of the reasons why insurance is so widely loathed is because it’s very complicated. It’s a product you pay for, that you might not ever use, and when you do actually need to use it, you might need to jump through 1,000 fiery hoops in order for it to successfully meet your needs.
At RISQ, we strive to take the pain of insurance away from our clients, whenever they are interacting or using the insurance products we sell. And many of us can recall the specific moments where we’ve been able to help our clients in times of the most dire needs and situations. One thing we like to do is talk about these moments often, because they are the moments where we find the most meaning for our day-to-day efforts, and we don’t ever want to lose sight of that. I like to think of having that meaning or value in what you do as the base for being able to love what you do. But you need to talk about these experiences with others to help reinforce them.
But there are other things involved in being able to build that job that you love – mainly the actual tasks you do on a day-to-day basis. This isn’t always easy to determine. In my schooling days, I was brought up to become a well-rounded individual, and so was taught many different subjects in which I felt I needed to excel. Some of these subjects I didn’t like, others I did, and as I went through the different levels of school, I found that sometimes the subjects I liked changed in comparison to lower levels of education. Looking back on why this happened, I think at certain ages I got a certain kind of energy by doing different types or work or learning about certain subjects. I felt this energy when I was doing something and I had no real sense of time when I was doing that task. I also felt energized after completing that task as opposed to feeling drained. This energy ultimately factored into the subjects I liked, and exceled in at different points in my youth.
I’ve discovered the same thing happens at work. I get energy from doing certain tasks versus others that can drain me. Sometimes, it’s hard to recognize this because, going back to my youth, I was brought up to try to excel at everything. But I wonder sometimes if I was able to focus in on the things that give me the most energy, would I get closer to that magical place of loving what I do? I think with any job, there are always going to be some things that don’t give you this energy, and you ultimately don’t like doing. But just imagine, if you could work on increasing the number of tasks that do give you that energy, maybe, just maybe, you could start liking or even loving what you do.
So now that we have the foundation of finding meaning and value in what you do, and identifying more tasks that give you that sense of energy, it’s important to be able to express these things with your direct supervisor. Remember when I said there are always going to be things that don’t give you that sense of energy? Well, it’s likely that these tasks still need to be done. But because these tasks can drain you, it can lead to inefficiencies, errors, complacency, and general unproductiveness, which isn’t good for you or the organization you work for. So be open about this topic with yourself, as well as your supervisor. There are only positive things that can come out of being open about your strengths as a worker. A competent supervisor would recognize the benefit to you being more productive, happy, and in love with what you’re doing, and at the very least offer a compromise to get you doing more things that give you energy and make you more productive.
So I hope I’ve laid the groundwork for getting to love what you do – meaning in what you do, and finding those things that give you that special energy. Just remember the skills you’ll need to be successful are being open and honest with yourself first, and then being able to communicate these things with your supervisor and potentially other co-workers on your team.
By Alison Nelson, RISQ Consulting Sales and Marketing Coordinator
The average initial cost to hire and train a new employee is $4,129 (SHRM). So how do you reduce turnover and retain your employees? Well, one way is to offer competitive employee benefits.
A colleague recently sent me an interesting article that ranks the 15 most requested employee perks in order of popularity, ranging from family leave to pet-friendly workspaces. An employer could easily implement many of the listed popular benefits for a minimal cost. For example, one of the requested benefits is to have healthy snacks onsite, so signing your business up for a healthy food service is an easy way to keep employees happy.
Other frequently requested benefits from the list include the ability to work remotely, pet insurance, having a pet friendly workplace, and sabbatical leave. Having good employee benefits is vital for recruiting and maintaining employees, making it essential to stay aware of the constantly evolving top ranking benefits. Take a look at the article listed below and review the 15 most popular employee benefits, and then review your current offerings to help ensure that your business is staying competitive.