Monthly Archives: October 2016

Tips To Cut Energy Use, Save Money For Your Business

For the penny-pinching entrepreneur, cutting down on overhead costs and long-term operational expenses can go a long way in maximizing profitability. This is especially helpful when launching a new startup business, as quick and significant income is often essential to the longevity of any business.

Here are some easy ways to save some green and also go green by helping the environment.
Tips to Reduce Energy Consumption (and Save Money)
Install Energy Efficient Lighting
Although today’s energy-efficient lighting options — which primarily consist of compact-fluorescent or light-emitting diode systems — have a higher price tag than traditional bulbs, studies have linked these appliances to tremendous cost savings in the long run. CFL bulbs cost $89.75 to run over the course of 50,000 hours, while traditional, incandescent bulbs cost $352.50 over that same time period.

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle
The three Rs are relevant now more than ever, and there are a number of ways to implement strategies aimed at reducing waste, reusing office supplies when applicable and recycling on a consistent basis. For starters, make sure to spread awareness about the three Rs among your peers and teammates, especially those who work in your company’s building.

You’ll also want to make sure recycling bins are accessible to your employees. By placing bins in strategic and highly visible locations, you’ll automatically attract the attention, interest and compliance of your employees. Furthermore, these receptacles will also serve as ever-present reminders of the three Rs, thereby promoting the ideas of sustainability and environmental protection even further.

Take Advantage of Power-Saving Technology
Power-saving technology, such as computers that automatically enter hibernation, monitors that turn themselves off and even lighting that dims or brightens according to the time of day, can result in greater energy efficiency and lower utility bills.

Although many computer users are under the impression that a personalized screensaver can reduce energy consumption, this simply isn’t true. These programs, which were created as a way of mitigating the risk of screen burn-in on older monitors, serve no real value other than workstation customization at this point.

Controllable Heating and Cooling
Heating and cooling costs can wreak havoc on an otherwise efficient and affordable business model. Programmable thermostats, which can adjust your office’s temperature based on the open hours of your company, are an ideal solution for keeping such costs in check.
However, simply lowering the temperature of your office by one degree than what you’re used to during the winter and raising it by one degree in the summer can go a long way in achieving the perfect balance between cost and comfort.

Alternative Energy in the Office
As interest in alternative forms of energy begins to increase across the globe, many entrepreneurs are starting to realize the value of solar, wind and even compressed air systems. The latter can actually reduce commercial utility bills by as much as 30 percent (PDF) in some cases, which can result in significant savings for some.

Green Architecture and Construction
Next-gen construction technology has recently paved the way for huge breakthroughs in green architecture and design. Those who are launching their business within an established structure might find their options limited in this regard, but those who are eyeing brand new construction can do themselves — and the environment — a huge favor by taking advantage of some of the latest industry trends.

Tap Into the Mobile or Remote Workforce
Given the average consumer’s reliance on mobile technology, some innovative entrepreneurs have begun offering their employees the opportunity to work from home, or wherever else they have a solid internet connection, as much as possible. Not only does this provide your workers with increased flexibility, freedom and comfort, but the lack of daily travel can also have a substantial impact on your community’s carbon footprint.
In many cases, the luxury of working from home simply isn’t feasible. However, this doesn’t mean you have to ignore mobile communications altogether. Utilizing the technology for meetings, interviews and companywide presentations can still work to counteract the growing problem of environmental pollution.

Clean the Office With Biodegradable Products
Biodegradable cleaning products have become quite commonplace among the tools of the average housekeeper or homeowner, but they can also be used around the office in order to reduce your business’s carbon footprint even further.

When sourcing such materials, be sure to look for products that are a part of the EPA’s Design for the Environment program. Easily identified by the label, these cleaning solutions have been highly scrutinized by the EPA for their ingredients, byproducts and any chemical interactions.

Pursue Tax Breaks, Credits and Incentives
Although some new entrepreneurs might not realize it, contributing to the long-term preservation of our environment can actually result in numerous tax breaks and credits on both state and federal levels. Most of these incentives fall within the Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2010 or the Energy Policy Act of 2005, but others rebates and benefits may be available depending on your exact case.

Bolstering Entrepreneurial Success While Safeguarding the Environment
Contributing to the long-term protection of our environment doesn’t have to be a costly endeavor. When done wisely and strategically, such acts can actually bolster the success of your company as well as your reputation as a wholesome, ethical and caring business leader. Moreover, it can save money that would be better served in other areas of your operation.

Overtime

Advancements in technology and connectivity have undeniably swept in a new golden era for remote working. Last year, 38 percent of Americans were permitted to work from home at least one day a week (PDF) — and almost half of all professionals considered leaving their jobs due to a lack of flexibility.

Yet while generous remote working opportunities may attract top talent and foster a positive office culture, some industries have started to experience an unexpected backlash from encouraging remote working.
The biggest issue has been the overtime expectations that appear to come hand-in-hand with flexible work options.
Because more and more companies have begun to offer remote working as an office perk, there’s been a recent spike in the number of professional positions that are overtime exempt. As a result, workers in America, Europe and Asia have all complained of the introduction of unrealistic overtime demands across a wide range of industries — leading to government intervention, legal battles and more.

Here in the U.S., the Department of Labor has been attempting to issue a new Overtime Rule designed to increase the minimum salary for overtime exempt employees from $23,660 to $47,892 per year in order to compensate for unlogged hours. That particular policy was scheduled to go into effect on December 1, 2016, but a federal judge issued an injunction blocking the policy in November amidst objections from business leaders.
The resuscitation of the rule seems unlikely under the administration of President-elect Donald Trump.
Across the Atlantic, another court battle in France saw workers earn the “right to disconnect” and refuse to check their work emails after business hours without the fear of being penalized by employers.

In December, Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare unveiled plans to establish a new office dedicated to addressing excessive labor after the suicide of an advertising employee whose death was directly linked to being overworked.
Bearing all this in mind, business owners would do well to take it upon themselves to tread carefully in terms of how best to approach the introduction of remote working opportunities.

It’s true that workers value flexibility. Studies indicate professionals are more content and more productive when they’re permitted the ability to work when and where they’d like. For many companies, that increase in morale and efficiency may be foolish to ignore.
Yet as flexible working patterns become more commonplace, it will fall on employers and their staff to strike a reasonable balance between flexibility and out-of-office and overtime expectations. Because if flexibility becomes an excuse for unreasonable demands on employees’ time, evidence suggests the results could be a talent exodus, legal action or worse.

How To Providing Your Employees with a Choice in Their Health Care

Choosing health coverage for your small business team doesn’t need to be complicated. Though selecting benefits isn’t normally considered to be a fun or easy process, there’s now an option that gives small businesses a better way to find plans that are both affordable and satisfactory for employees.

UnitedHealthcare has created a one-of-a-kind online shopping tool specifically for small businesses. The idea is to give small businesses the same abilities and advantages that large corporations get when choosing employee health coverage. The process is fairly straightforward and customizable for small businesses, so you can be sure to find the best possible plan options for your specific situation. Here’s a step-by-step guide for signing your small business team up for health coverage using UnitedHealthcare’s online shopping tool.

Compare Plans Online

With UnitedHealthcare, you don’t need to choose just one healthcare plan for your small business team. You can actually compare plans online and select two or more plans for your employees to choose from based on their own personal preferences. In some states, businesses can even give employees up to 27 different plan options.
UnitedHealthcare offers many different plan options that you can browse on the website. And you can even customize plans to better fit your business. If you need some guidance, the online shopping tool also offers features that you can use to see what similar companies offer their employees.

While you’re looking at plans, you can also see basic pricing information to help you stick to your budget. And when you input your basic business information, such as location and number of employees, you can get a general price quote for the plan or plans you’re considering. However, you won’t be able to see an actual final number until you add more specific employee information.

Add Employee Information

To get that final quote, you can input your employee data manually or even upload it from software programs like Quickbooks or Xero. You’ll need to add information like employee age, gender, zip code and any family members that might go on their plans. Or you can just quickly upload that data from programs you already use, or even an Excel spreadsheet.

Once all of your employee data is added, the online shopping tool will update your pricing information with real costs, instead of just a general quote. And from there, you can set a budget of what your business will actually cover for employees.
You can set a total budget of what you plan to pay each month and then divvy that up among your employees either by a specific dollar amount or an average percentage, depending on your state. So if you set a total monthly budget of $2,880 for your nine employees, you could cover about $320 per average employee each month. You can also make adjustments throughout the process to see how a smaller or larger monthly budget would impact the costs for both your business and your employees. Once you’re satisfied, you can confirm your plan choices and move on to the next step.

Create an Account

At this point, if you haven’t already signed up for an account, you’ll be asked to do so. This just requires you to set up a login and input some basic information. Doing this ensures that all of your preferences are saved and you can always come back to view your plan options and make any changes going forward.

Sign Up for a Plan

Once you’ve created an account and are satisfied with your plan choices and pricing, it’s time to complete the transaction. You can review all of your details to ensure that your choices are satisfactory for your business and employees. And then submit your business’s payment information to complete the purchase of coverage.

Give Your Employees Access

Then your plan options should be all set up for your team! So you can give your employees access to login under their own UnitedHealthcare accounts. From there, they can see all of the plan options that you selected and choose the one that best fits with their needs and budget. And they can complete their own purchase of healthcare coverage right on the online shopping tool as well.
Selecting healthcare coverage for your team may not be one of the most exciting aspects of running a small business. But choosing the right options can go a long way toward creating an environment where your team feels supported and fairly compensated for their contributions to your small business.

Also, an employee who knows their employer cares enough about the team to provide members with health insurance is usually more productive. Employees who receive benefits might work harder and be happier because they feel more secure at their jobs.
The UnitedHealthcare digital marketplace makes this process much less time consuming for small business owners who have so many other things to worry about on a daily basis. And using this option ensures that you can get the best coverage for your team and your budget at the same time.

The new program is so far only available in California, Arizona, Tennessee, Michigan, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Illinois and Florida. The company expects to add other states this year.