Pros and Cons of Telecommuting

Professional Telecommuting From Home In Casual Attire

Innovations in modern technology have allowed quality candidates to join organizations remotely, from any corner of the globe, and still feel connected to the business, their colleagues, and the company mission, vision, and values. In a rather quick amount of time, telecommuting and working remotely became the future of corporate America. But not all companies are on board.

 

Employers who found immediate benefits of telecommuting were those who experienced cost savings on parking and office space, relocation costs, and were able to retain their top talent who may have otherwise had to sever their employment due to other obligations or the need to work from a different location.

 

Telecommuting is shown to improve employee productivity, as it is “estimated that employers in the US lose $1.8 trillion a year in productivity” costs. Employees who work from home are subject to far fewer distractions that are commonplace in a traditional office. These employees are able to better structure their days for optimal productivity, all while promoting a healthy work/life balance.

 

Conversely, employers who are anti-remote work policies stand by their decision to opt-out of adding telecommuting policies. For example, employees who work from home have less one-on-one time with coworkers and managers, which can affect the employee’s ability to form a valuable synergy with the rest of the team and direct management.

 

Remote employees may require additional effort to ensure they feel like part of the team, including important projects or company-focused communications, and are not overlooked just because they are not physically in the office.

 

If your organization is looking to implement a telecommuting policy here are some items to consider.

 

Eligibility

Not all employees may be eligible for the telecommuting benefit. Candidates for telecommuting should not have a history of attendance issues or disciplinary action and should be considered dependable and have a comprehensive understanding of their role.

 

Job Duties

The employees eligible for or requesting a telecommuting position should be a top performer in their current role and in a solo capacity. It is also important that they are able to perform all aspects of their role from their remote location, as it is assumed the position requirements and responsibilities would not change.

 

Technology

Employees may be required to supplement some or all of the equipment needed in order to work remotely. If the organization is providing the equipment, it may become necessary to have the employee sign an acknowledgment verifying the equipment is the property of the organization and is only to be used to perform their required duties. In the event the employee leaves the organization, for any reason, all of the equipment should be returned in similar or better condition.

 

Telecommuting may not be the right addition for every company at this stage, however, it should be a regularly discussed topic. This trend is only becoming more popular, and there is no sign of slowing down when it comes to either hiring remote employees or having the company’s top performers request to move to a more flexible or remote location.

 

Regardless of whether your employees are in the office or working remotely, Vensure has the ability to implement industry-specific solutions to manage time and attendance. From robust scheduling and complex calculations to reporting and telepunch, we have the solution to fit your business needs. Contact Vensure to learn more about drag and drop scheduling, benefit accruals, or PTO and leave of absence request tracking.

 

 

 

Forbes: Benefits of Telecommuting for the Future of Work

 

 

Digital Time and Attendance

Digital time and attendance tracking are rapidly becoming a rapid need for businesses who are regularly clocking hours or asking employees to clock in and out. As your company continues to grow, managers will need the ability to submit expense reports on-the-go, enter expense details, or upload receipt images directly from a smart device.

 

Modern companies require a partner familiar with the industry and capable of providing the tools you need to operate more efficiently. As the nation’s fastest-growing partner in payroll, human resources, benefits, risk management, and workers’ compensation, Vensure is equipped to handle all of your HR services and back-office administration needs. Let us design a flexible and economical solution to meet your time and attendance needs. Learn more about Vensure today.

Improving Productivity with E-Learning

Productivity is a common issue among employees everywhere. From lack of direction and inadequate training to poor communication and inconsistent processes. Employee productivity is directly linked to the company’s environment. Managers who are aware of the productivity issue will, in many cases, attempt to rectify the issue(s) by stepping up their involvement in feedback and training. In these instances, distance learning or e-learning have become the more popular options for employee training.

 

Integrating e-learning into employee training can boost productivity in the following ways:

 

Flexibility
E-learning typically allows for flexible scheduling. This means employees are able to schedule training sessions based on their availability. Employees will no longer have to fret about when they can complete training before or after work, or missing work to complete training assignments. Training can be completed within a reasonable amount of time without adding stress to the employee.

 

Measurable Progress
E-learning makes it easier to track and report on employee participation, engagement, and this data can provide details as to the employees’ progress and performance. When it comes time for annual or regularly scheduled performance reviews, some of the information as to the employee’s progress and productivity can be pulled from this source.

 

Employers should also be able to track the return on investment (ROI) of the training when compared to employee performance. Managers should see a boost in productivity and in the area on which the employee(s) received training after the training period has ended. This data will help prove the ROI of the program.

 

Skills/Knowledge Gap
Much of what slows employees down is the skills or knowledge gap associated with their position. The gap is underlined when new technology or processes are introduced. Employees struggling to pick-up the new technology or implement the new process may show decreased productivity. Providing e-learning on the new technology or process will help employees feel confident in their new skills and allow them to refocus on their primary job duties.

 

 

Consider integrating e-learning into your business when it comes to improving employee productivity. The increased knowledge boost your employees’ confidence and reduce the amount of time and energy they spend struggling and stressing over new technologies or processes. Vensure recognizes the importance of employee well-being as a means of retaining top talent and increasing productivity. Connect with Vensure today to learn more about the valuable products and services we can offer to help your business stay productive.

 

 

Applying Meaningful Employee Performance Metrics

The field of human resource management has embraced the trend towards quantifying employee productivity and performance. Most commonly, this takes the form of measuring an employee’s work output over time, checking work quality or a mixture of both. This is essential for measuring employee performance. Any organization should be able to gauge employee performance as part of an ongoing assessment program. However, trying to quantify people is seldom straightforward. It is a mistake to treat people in the workplace the same as any other business resource. Individuals have different methods of working, and this makes a “one size fits all” approach to performance metrics impossible. It is important that the data gathered on employee performance is meaningful and useful as an analytical tool. There are some key points to note when developing a set of employee performance metrics.

Aligning Metrics with Organizational Goals

Rather than recording arbitrary data, the criteria used should reflect the organization’s goals. For example, if the goal is good customer service, this should be the criteria by which employees are measured. Call centers are often examples of the application of poor performance criteria. Staff is often measured on the volume of individual calls that they answer; however, this can encourage them to cut calls short to increase their personal volume. This can adversely affect the customer experience and reduce confidence in the business. It is far more useful to apply a range criterion, including call quality, to help maintain high service standards.

Employee Performance Metrics Are a “Soft” Analytical Tool

Leading from this, there are increasing examples where performance metrics are set as employee goals. Failure to achieve these targets may even result in disciplinary action. Performance metrics are seldom a hard indicator of employee performance; however, they can be used to gain an insight into areas of improvement for each employee. As well as aiding employee development, they can also help managers to understand where their employees’ talents lie.

Productivity and Quality Are Not Separate Concepts

Jobs are increasingly hard to measure. In many roles, there are often no clear indicators of what constitutes “performance.” While it is tempting to measure the amount of work completed by an employee in a given timescale, this might not give an accurate picture of an employee’s output. In jobs where accuracy is important, mistakes can reduce productivity by creating extra work. Those with a reduced output but a high level of quality may actually be the most productive employees. The ability to prioritize is also a valuable attribute that should be taken into consideration. An organized approach to work results in greater efficiency over time.

In Summary…

Maintaining flexibility with employee performance metrics is critical to maintaining employee motivation. The application of rigid productivity requirements risks invoking the observer’s paradox. If employees feel as if they are under scrutiny, they may forsake good working practices to meet these criteria. If the system appears punitive, this can also undermine motivation, leading to absenteeism and increased staff turnover.

A flexible metrics system that reflects company values provides a guide by which staff can develop their careers. It also makes allowances for individual approaches to work, allowing organizations to best harness their employees’ talents.

DOL Releases Overtime Exemption Rule

The Department of Labor (DOL) has released its final rule to update the regulations defining the exemption for administrative, executive, and professional employees (also referred to as the white collar exemptions). The finalized overtime exemption rule is expected to affect over 4 million salaried employees. Employers will be given six (6) months to make the necessary changes to ensure compliance with the new rule, which takes effect on December 1, 2016.

Salary Threshold

The final overtime exemption rule will increase the minimum salary requirement that has been in effect since 2004.

Standard Minimum Salary

The minimum salary threshold will increase by more than 100%, from $455 per week ($23,660 per annum) to $913 per week ($47,476 per annum). This revised amount represents the 40th percentile of weekly earnings for a full time, salaried employee in the census region with the lowest wages (currently the southern states).

Highly Compensated Employees (HCE)

The compensation threshold for HCE will increase from $100,000 per year to $134,000 per year. This new threshold represents the 90th percentile of full-time, salaried employees nationally.

 

Automatic Updates

The salary and HCE thresholds will be updated automatically every three (3) years, beginning January 1, 2020. Each update will be posted by the DOL 150 days before its effective date, starting August 1, 2019. These updates will maintain the 40th and 90th percentiles.

Duties Test

The DOL made no changes to the duties tests that qualify an employee for an overtime exemption. Employers can continue to apply the same federal laws that have been in effect since 2004. State laws, however, may require employers to perform a more thorough analysis. Employees who qualify as exempt under federal provisions may not necessarily meet the state requirements for exemption. Such employees could be owed overtime.

 

Bonus Pay

The Finalized Rule allows up to 10% of the salary requirement to be fulfilled by commissions incentive pay, or non-discretionary bonuses. These payments must be made at least once per quarter. Examples of non-discretionary payments, which are provided to employees as incentive to stay with the company or work more efficiently, include:

  • Retention bonuses
  • Production goal bonuses
  • Commissions based on a fixed formula

Discretionary pay, which does not count toward the employee’s salary, is made at the discretion of the employer and does not follow any predetermined standards. An example of a discretionary payment would be an unexpected bonus or a special reward for a specific act.

If an employee fails to earn sufficient non-discretionary pay during a calendar quarter, the employer may make “catch-up” payments to maintain the total compensation above the required threshold. However, if the employee compensation level was below the required threshold and the employer does not make the catch-up payment(s), the employee will be entitled to overtime pay for that quarter or 13-week period.

Want to hear or read more on this topic?

If you just can’t get enough on this topic and would like to learn more, we’ve found some websites that you might love!

DOL https://www.dol.gov/whd/overtime/final2016/

SmallBiz Brainiac https://www.smallbizbrainiac.com/33-new-salary-level-test-for-exempt-employees/

 

As always, if you have any further questions, we are happy to help. Feel free to contact your Client Relations Manager at any time.

Social Listening Tools Every Business Needs

Are you growing your business using social media? Are you looking for new opportunities to engage with potential customers? Utilizing social listening tools is crucial if you want to increase your lead generation opportunities. For companies busy building an online reputation on social media, it is crucial to use that social data to its full potential. Review the following four social listening tools to see which ones you can integrate into your business to increase your social media ROI.

Earshot

Earshot provides brands a social listening tool based upon geo-location data. Especially crucial for businesses wishing to grow their brand locally, Earshot integrates a number of variables including social proof, posting time, and keyword relevance. Earshot offers a mobile application as well as web-based tools. (earshotinc.com)

LoudPixel

LoudPixel offers a variety of social listening tools to business owners including data infographics, data analysis, custom reports, and social media opportunity management. LoudPixel connects business owners with industry-specific insights, program measurement tools, and social analytics for lead generation discovery. (loudpixel.com)

Sysomos

Sysomos’ software offers brands social listening resources that include online conversation tracking, influencer analysis, customer relationship tracking, and social network crawling. Sysomos users can manage multiple social media profiles from one central dashboard. Sysomos users even have access to tools like social sentiment analysis for increased opportunity discoverability. (sysomos.com)

IceRocket

IceRocket lets you listen across the Internet for conversations relevant to your brand. You can use IceRocket to search for keywords, locations, or even specific industries. IceRocket listens to traffic across numerous platforms including Facebook and Twitter. (icerocket.com)

If you want to grow your business, using social media is a great way to help you expand in a short amount of time. By being creative with your posts, selecting methods that set you apart from your competition and being consistent, it shouldn’t take long to start seeing results!

Six Ways Managers Can Improve Employee Productivity

One of a manager’s most important duties is getting the best possible performance out of employees. In today’s highly competitive business world, staying at a mediocre level of productivity isn’t acceptable — companies that want to get ahead need each worker to be maximally productive. Don’t accept anything other than your employee’s best. Try some of the following six tips for increasing employee productivity.

1. Motivate. No worker will fulfill their potential if they are not motivated. Unmotivated staff members will lack the energy, drive, and focus necessary for top-notch work. Address the potential problem by emphasizing the importance of the work your employees are doing. For each individual, explain why they are important to the team. Make each person understand that the group wouldn’t be able to function at its best without their efforts ­­– people are better motivated if they feel their work is valuable and their efforts appreciated.

2. Provide feedback. Employees will always be able to perform better if they know what they are doing right — or wrong. Otherwise, a worker may unknowingly continue in a practice which is harming their productivity, or may not pursue a strategy which is valuable. So, give detailed feedback to all of your employees — that way, good behaviors will be reinforced, and damaging ones discouraged. Remember, diligence alone isn’t enough for maximum productivity — employees also need to know how they should work.

3. Delegate. It’s likely that your best employees can handle more difficult tasks. Top workers also appreciate the challenge of being assigned new, unfamiliar assignments. If you have an employee who fits this description, delegate to them some of your duties. The team as a whole will be more productive if each person is doing work that stretches their abilities to the limit. Plus, you’ll be able to concentrate your efforts on other tasks on your desk.

4. Provide opportunities for further training. An employee may be failing to realize their potential not from lack of effort, but because they aren’t fully trained. For example, in industries affected by new technologies, some workers may not be up to speed on the latest tech. While taking time to gain new skills may cause a short-term drop in productivity, in the long run additional training will pay off. Encourage your workers to get on-the-job training — letting employees broaden their skill set will enhance productivity.

5. Encourage open management-employee communication. Sometimes a worker’s productivity can be held back by an issue they have with a coworker, a company rule, or management. However, many corporate employees loath to bring up touchy subjects with their bosses. They are afraid that complaints or criticisms will be met with disapproval. In your own career, adopt a more friendly management style: your subordinates should feel they are free to raise any issue or topic. This strategy of frank, open communication will help to eliminate potential barriers to productivity.

6. Set a good example. People will do a better job if the office culture encourages industriousness and high performance. Naturally, as the leader of the team, you play the biggest part in establishing office norms and expectations. Being a visible example of the values and habits you would like to see in your employees will help to reinforce positive behaviors. It may seem strange, but the best way to increase employee productivity might be focus on your own performance first.

Coaxing the best possible productivity from employees should always be at the top of a manager’s agenda. Business success can only be achieved by having teams performing at a high level, so don’t let your employees settle for mediocrity.

Withholding Pay as a Disciplinary Measure

Let’s say you have an employee who can’t seem to arrive at work in a timely manner. Despite numerous conferences with this employee about the importance of being prompt, his tardiness continues. You might be tempted to begin withholding pay as a disciplinary measure. The question is whether you, the employer, are permitted to do so. The answer is contingent upon whether the employee’s position is considered exempt or non-exempt.

Non-Exempt Employees
First, let’s look at non-exempt, the status reserved for hourly workers. The rules governing non-exempt employees are clear: an hour is paid for each hour that is worked. If your tardy employee is non-exempt, then you needn’t compensate him/her for any hours that were not on the clock. Legally, you can dock the pay commensurate with the amount of time the employee failed to complete the scheduled work hours.

Another approach may be to lower the employee’s hourly wage as a means of disciplinary action, even if only for a brief period (but never decreasing compensation below the established minimum wage). Just know that this option could backfire, causing employee dissatisfaction, which can be demonstrated by a drop in productivity or perhaps resulting in immediate resignation, potentially leaving you short-handed with staff.

Exempt Employees
Withholding pay as a disciplinary measure for exempt employees is a bit trickier. Exempt workers are not paid by the individual hour. They are typically paid for working per week, without regard to which hours were worked on which days.

An exempt employee may deem a late work arrival is offset by work completed “after hours” on weekends or evenings. That view is completely justifiable and customary for exempt employees. Docking the pay of an exempt employee risks opening the company up to a designation change on the position, converting an exempt position into one that is considered non-exempt. Changes in minimum wage and overtime pay for the position could follow. Withholding pay once from an exempt employee for arriving late or leaving early may not trigger a change, but repeated use of this tactic could very well endanger the exempt status of the position.

A weeklong suspension may get the point across to the exempt employee, and this would be permitted. However, you would be without that worker for an entire week, as he couldn’t work any hours in this approach.

Proceed With Caution
Familiarity with an employee’s exempt vs. non-exempt status and understanding the rules and regulations impacting each status is integral to wise decision making when it comes to determining how to proceed in such a situation. Exercise care in disciplinary tactics, particularly when a worker’s pay is on the line. Your goal is to guide your employee into a better work habit, not cultivate an atmosphere of negativity. Know what positively motivates your employee and focus on correcting the problem utilizing those measures.

Does The Overtime Exemption Apply To Inside Sales?

Most companies are aware of the “outside sales” exemption to the requirement to pay overtime, but they may not be aware that the Fair Labor Standards Act also provides an exemption to overtime for some “inside sales” employees. When an employee sells a big ticket item, the inside employee exemption is used, providing it meets the following three conditions.

  • The retail business or service employing the individual must be recognized as an establishment in which 75% or more of the annual dollar amount of sales are retail sales in the retail or service industry represented, and are not for resale.
  • The regular rate of employee pay must be greater than one and one-half times minimum wage for each hour the employee worked during a week when overtime hours are worked.
  • The total earnings of the employee must consist of more than 50% in commissions earned.All three conditions must be met for the exemption to apply, and if the employee worked over 40 hours, he or she must be paid overtime wages.

Regular Rate Calculations
Meeting the rate of one and one-half times the minimum wage is less restrictive for the employer than the normal overtime requirement. To determine if the criterion is met, divide the number of hours worked into the employee’s total earnings, which include commission, a draw on future commissions, and any supplemental payments to increase employee earnings to the required level.

Hotels, motels, and restaurants imposing mandatory charges on customers, which are paid to employees in part or in full, may count the payment as a commission. This allowance is made due to the direct relationship to the goods and services sold by the establishment and applies to a precise percentage of the consumer’s bill. The tips customers give employees are not to be considered commissions.

There is no requirement to calculate the regular rate every week when an employee’s earnings are consistently one and one-half times the minimum wage in a week when the employee worked over 40 hours. When there is uncertainty about an employee’s earnings in some weeks, it is necessary to calculate the regular rate. When there is a question pertaining to the hourly rate, the Wage and Hour Division will evaluate the facts and determine if the regular rate requirement is being met.

Representative Period
When measuring a representative period for commissions, the time used can be as short as a month and no longer than a year. The representative period of time must be defined in your records, and failure to designate the time period is a direct violation of the record-keeping requirement and can be grounds for the exemption being denied.

If there is reasonable expectation that there will be no difference in compensation when compared to other members of the sales group, a newly hired employee may be treated as meeting the exemption from the beginning of employment.

Commission Payments
If the employee is paid entirely by commission or the commission payments are always greater than salary or hourly wages, it is determined that more than half of the employee’s earnings come from commissions. When this is not the case, the commissions and other compensations during the representative period must be totaled separately. Commission totals must exceed other compensation totals in order to qualify for the exemption. If a department or store manager is paid commissions based on sales, the payments can count as commissions. Although other employees made the actual sales, manager functions contributed to the sales.

Conclusion
Now that you’ve learned how to determine an inside sales overtime exemption, you’ll be able to make more informed decisions moving forward. Casual Friday is a great way for everyone to enjoy the last day of the work week. Comfortable jeans and a nice shirt make finishing up the week’s work fun. Change the style occasionally and have a Hawaiian or beach themed Friday.

Seeing the “Light” in Light Duty

Lost time associated with workers’ compensation claims is costly to companies, and studies have shown that employers who actively use a light duty work policy benefit financially by lowering the cost of workers’ compensation claims.

  • The WI Department of Workforce Development states the benefits of a light duty programs include: “a lower rate of lost workday cases, a reduction in worker’s compensation claims incidence, and fewer lost workdays per 100 employees.”  (1) 
  • Light duty programs have actually shown to improve employee’s self-worth. The US Department of Labor has documented that “return-to-work strategies and programs have traditionally been used to reduce workers’ compensation costs; however, they can do much more – they can improve productivity and morale across an organization, they can save organizations time and money and they can protect companies from loss of talent.”  (2) 

At VenSure, we understand the value of the light duty program, and we offer our clients a great option if they cannot provide light duty for their employees.  We get many questions about VenSure’s light duty return to work program and Alternative Light Duty (ALD) program. Below are actual client questions, and answers from our in house expert, and Claims Supervisor, Gin Harper.

 

Can you explain what ‘light duty’ is?

Light duty is geared toward employees who have been injured in a work related accident and released to work by doctor under certain restrictions, however, are not able to return to their regular position.

 

What happens if a client company cannot provide light duty?

VenSure has an Alternative Light Duty (ALD) program that we offer to our clients. We work with an outside vendor that places claimants into a position that fits within the doctor’s restrictions when our clients cannot provide light duty. The ALD program works with local non-profits throughout the United States to place these claimants.

 

What if an employee says that they are unable to perform their light duty position?

If the employee fails to report on the scheduled start date or if they are unwilling to perform their light duty position, it will be considered a voluntary rejection of the light duty assignment and could jeopardize their workers’ compensation benefits as allowed by applicable workers’ compensation statutes.

 

What happens if an employee calls in saying they do not feel well and cannot work light duty?

If the employee calls off work because they are not feeling well, they will not be paid for the day.

 

What if an employee says they do not have a way to get to their light duty position?

We work closely with the light duty claimants.  If they do not have transportation or if they have a no driving restriction, we will work with the employer and/or our ALD contact to locate a position that is accessible through public transportation.

 

What incentives do client companies have to get employees to return to work?

An employee working in a light duty position helps them to heal, both mentally and physically. The Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Corporation states on their website, “Insurance industry statistics indicate about 15 percent of workers’ comp claims fall prey to “disability syndrome – the failure to return to gainful employment when it is medically feasible.”  (3)  So, we are always trying to get employees back to work as soon as possible.

 

Can a client company terminate an employee for poor work performance while on light duty?

Yes. However, we recommend that client companies do not terminate the employee when they have an open case. When they are released to full duty, they can then proceed as they see fit. If a client company terminates someone who has an open workers’ compensation claim, often times the employee will continue to say they are hurt because now they do not have a job to go back to and still would like to collect a pay check. We do not ever like to see a claimant terminated, if avoidable.

 

What if an employee gets hurt while they are working a light duty position?

If it is an aggravation to the same injury, it will be added into the same claim. If it is a new body part, it will be considered a new claim. It can potentially be a covered claim, as the light duty claimant is still considered an employee of the client while working light duty at the non-profit, thus covered through their workers’ compensation coverage.

 

Is there an additional cost associated with a client company’s employee working in the Alternative Light Duty program?

Light duty is part of the claims process. We require all clients to have 100% participation in the program. There is no additional cost to provide light duty on the client’s part.

 

The VenSure Client Service Agreement says to provide light duty when reasonably available, but with certain types of business it’s not reasonably available. What happens in this case?

Each claim is handled on a case by case basis. There is usually some type of light duty that an injured worker can perform: filing, typing, answering phones, some type of marketing or even standing outside and holding a sign for the client company for advertising.  If our clients need help trying to find a light duty position for the claimant, they can call us and we can brain storm to figure something out. Otherwise, the ALD program can be utilized.

 

What are some of the additional benefits of a light duty program?

The benefits of having a claimant work are:

  • You can get them back in the workforce quicker by making them feel like they are a part of society verses sitting at home doing nothing and receiving Total Temporary Disability (TTD) checks.
  • The statistics show employers who have used light duty programs have had success, “74 percent of employers who implemented accommodations rated them as either ‘very effective’ or ‘extremely effective.”   (4)

The importance of having a job, and being able to provide cannot be overstated.

 

Conclusion…

Implementing a light duty work policy has the ability to benefit all parties involved. The advantages of implementing some type of light duty program far outweigh any possible disadvantages.

For further information on light duty or our Alternative Light Duty program, please contact the Claims Department at  claims@vensure.com, or call

1-800-409-8958.

 

Sincerely,

 

Vensure Employer Services