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Parental Leave and Small Business – How to Do What’s Best for Your Business AND Your Employees

Small business owners have come to realize that allowing employees to take parental leave is a good policy despite its costs.

It’s a great way to recruit and retain good employees, plus provides these benefits to you:

  • Employees are more likely to return to work after taking time off after having a baby
  • You have the opportunity to cross-train other employees to fill in for a person out on parental leave
  • You can train junior employees to take on new responsibilities
  • It’s an opportunity to take a fresh look at how you distribute responsibilities within your company
  • Generally, employee morale will be higher if you offer parental leave, a fact than can save you money by helping you to avoid frequent turnover

If your company has 50 or more employees, the Family and Medical Leave Act requires you to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave. Parental leave is optional for companies with fewer than 50 employees, at least from the viewpoint of federal law. However, your state might have parental leave laws that apply to you. These laws provide job protection for a specified number of weeks when parental leave is needed.

Parental leave is indeed popular – 80% of employees at small companies would take advantage of it, according to the Family and Work Institute. Of course, any paid portion of the leave will only serve to increase its popularity. An interesting statistic is that 91% of small businesses that provide paid parental leave report no noticeable effect on performance and profitability, according to ThinkGrowth.

It makes sense for your company to devise a parental leave policy that meets your needs and those of your employees. Your policy should be included in your employee handbook so that all the terms are understood by all.

The policy should spell out features like:

  • Scope: Under what circumstances can employees take parental leave – maternity, adoption, accepting a foster child, etc. – and whether it applies to both parents.
  • Benefit: How much leave time can employees take, and whether they will be expected to work from home.
  • Pay: How many leave days, if any, will be paid.
  • Notification: How far in advance must an employee request parental leave.

When an employee requests parental leave, a manager or the owner should review the employee’s duties and methods with other employees who will be filling in during the leave period. It’s important not to overload other employees, which might require the hiring of temporary workers. The review process should encourage brainstorming to see whether more efficient methods are available.

It’s a good idea to build relationships with freelancers or staffing firms so that a ready source of temporary labor is available during parental leaves. While employees appreciate the opportunity to take parental leave, they don’t want to be burned out by assuming the work of employees on leave in addition to their own workload.

Employee abuse appears to be rare. Employers should require some sort of documentation for non-obvious (i.e. other than maternity) situations. Employers can add flexibility to parental leave by allowing employees to use saved up vacation days and sick time to provide some paid time during the leave.

How a Business Owner Can Take a Vacation Like a True Boss

Many people aspire to be the boss so that they can control their own schedule and take off as much time as they want. However, the stark reality is that many owners don’t take vacations at all, year after year.

According to a recent survey, half of small business owners take an average of three days off per year, while 70% work on holidays, including Thanksgiving. The main excuse for lack of time off is that business owners don’t feel like their companies can survive or thrive without their presence and input.

However, not taking any time off leads to extreme stress, feeling burnt out, loss in productivity and a creativity block. In fact, lack of vacations can lead to depression, cognitive decline and even heart disease!

There are ways for all business owners to take a vacation with these tips:

Start Small

It’s probably not the best idea to take a two-week cruise where you will be fully inaccessible if you haven’t taken more than a day off in recent years. Instead, start small and train your staff and yourself to run the business without you little by little.

Start by giving yourself half-day Fridays when work permits, and leave after lunch to see how your staff does without you. If all goes well, take an entire day off, followed by a mini-vacation for just a few days.

Assess how your employees are able to handle responsibilities on their own, and how much they need to contact you to make decisions before taking a week off or more.

Designate a Leader

They say that when the cat’s away, the mice will play. This especially applies to the workplace, where employees feel they can give themselves luxuries they would never dream of when their boss is at the office.

This is why it’s vital to designate a leader in your absence who will be responsible for overseeing the workplace. Choosing a proven and trusted colleague will help you rest easier, and will let your employees know that work will resume as usual.

Limit Checking In

Although you may force yourself to get on a plane and jet to a new destination, you may not be as relaxed as you would expect when you return. That is because the majority of business owners can’t abstain from constantly checking in with their staff while on vacation.

It’s hard to lay on the beach or take an excursion when you’re constantly checking emails or  are on the phone. Plus, the more you make yourself available, the more your staff members will feel like they can reach out, even for non-vital matters.

Make it clear to your staff that you will only check in once every 24 hours, and that they can only defer to the leader if an emergency occurs and you need to be contacted sooner.

This will allow you to take true time off, while empowering your employees to make decisions without your input.

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4 Bad Habits That are Killing Your Productivity!

Do you often leave the office after a long day only to feel like you haven’t accomplished anything you set out to? If so, you are not alone. Although Americans are working longer hours than ever before, many companies are reporting lower productivity. To fight the workday slump, you must fix the following four bad habits that are killing your productivity:

Not Creating a Daily Agenda

The office is a fast-paced environment with many balls being juggled in the air at once. You can be prepared, and catch the most important balls that keep you on track, or you can be unprepared, and drop all the balls, causing you to fail to meet your priorities.

To maximize productivity, create and follow a daily agenda. Focus on the most pressing items to handle first—these can be projects with a short turnaround or matters for an important client.

List each task and write down the approximate amount of time to get it done. This will help you to move along and not get stuck on trivial details that will hinder your progress.

Personal Communication

Between our computers, tablets and smartphones, we are more accessible now than ever before. Stopping your work to check on an incoming text or browsing through social media to see what your friends did over the weekend is tempting, but it is a major productivity killer!

While it may be impossible to resist all forms of personal communication throughout the entire working day, limit it to your break times. Close all the windows to your personal email and social media accounts and silence your mobile until lunchtime, and just see how much more you’ll get done in the same amount of time!

Poor Diet

Mornings are a rush for everyone, as we try to do morning drop offs and handle the nightmarish commute, few of us feel that we have time to devote to a healthy breakfast. Most of us resort to a sugar-laden coffee and a bagel or doughnut to tide us over until lunch.

The problem is, many of us end up working through lunch, and get by on vending machine snacks to tide us over. What ends up happening is a sugar crash every few hours that leaves us tired, irritated and in a brain fog.

To promote energy and productivity, make healthy changes to your diet. Instant oatmeal takes less than a minute to make at home or in the office, and contains B-vitamins that metabolize energy. Or, grab a healthy juice full of vegetables, such as carrots and beets, that contain carbs easily digested for energy.

Sitting Too Long

Did you know that the very thing you think you must do in order to work is hurting your productivity? We are talking about sitting at your desk!

Research has found that sitting is not only bad for your posture and health, but it decreases energy levels. One source states that our bodies enter sleep mode when we sit, which leads to the following results: “your blood circulation slows and production of insulin, a hormone that helps turn food into energy, decreases.”

To fight these negative effects of sitting, you can take frequent standing and stretching breaks, switch over to a standing desk, or create a standing meeting policy at your workplace.

To make positive changes to your business, you may benefit from a small business loan (those standing desks are not cheap)! IOU Financial is committed to helping small and medium-sized companies thrive. Contact us today at www.ioufinancial.com to learn how you can qualify for a loan of up to $300,000 in one to two business days.

Is Offering Unlimited Paid Time Off Right for Your Company? A Top 5 Pro and Con Review

Offering employees perks is no new concept. Many companies offer great benefits, 401k options, and discounts on everyday purchases through employee rewards programs. For many companies offering perks to employees has been a major selling point when they aim to recruit some of the best talent. But what about offering employees the perk of unlimited paid time off? While this may sound crazy to some, many companies are starting to offer this amazing benefit. But at what cost? In this post we will review 5 Pros and Cons of offering employees unlimited paid time off

1. Pro: Morale Boost

Boosting and maintaining morale is one challenge that every employer faces. Offering an incentive of essentially “unlimited” vacation time at an employee’s disposal is a major draw of talent who may be swayed by other companies offering great benefits packages. Offering and supplying unlimited paid time off is an instant morale boost.

  • Con: Employees may take advantage. While employees would “assume” people would follow the norm of 2-3 weeks off a year, plus a given day here or there, they must be ready to have practices in place if an employee decides unlimited time off means “unlimited.”

2. Pro: No Rush to Take Unused Time

We have all been there. End of year or end of cycle where paid time off is available to be used and we are rushed to use that time before it gets cashed out or blocked by accrual caps. By offering unlimited paid time off, employees are less likely to bank and dump that time. They may spread the time out, take smaller chunks of time off, and use the time when things come up, rather than use it at the worst time or because they were forced to.  

  • Con: No rush to come back. One downside is that once the employee’s foot is out the door, they may be no rush to get that foot back inside. One major risk is some employees may take advantage of this policy or skip out of the office for larger chunks of time. Some employees may come and go so often that it starts to impact their work and those who rely on them.

3. Pro: Monitoring Gets Easier

Human Resources (HR) costs and managing of employee’s time off can be daunting, tricky, and costly all in itself. Watching employees’ time so they don’t abuse it comes at a price. With unlimited time, HR doesn’t have keep track of  how much personal time, sick time, accrued time, etc. so closely.  Some numbers suggest that an unlimited vacation time policy saved companies over 50 hours a year in administrative time.

  • Con: Implementation is tricky. For those employees who have been with a company before an unlimited time off policy goes into effect may be impacted by the banked hours they were able to keep. For many “old timers” who leave they may want to cash out their hours for cash. Those folks would need to be considered if “paid time off” became non-monetized in value.

4. Pro: Less Employee Overhead

Consider all the overhead of housing employees throughout the year and the cost associated with each employee being in the office each and every day. By offering unlimited paid time off, employees may become more efficient, happier, and do not waste as much time in the office because they are tied to a “schedule.” By allowing employees to go when they need, they reduce wasted time, energy, and overall overhead costs.

  • Con: Lack of face time. Employees that are out of the office tend to not be as visible. Therefore, offering unlimited paid time may be a dip in important face time with their colleagues and business partners. If companies rely on face time and presence, this option may put a damper on the party.

5. It Sounds & Looks Good

How good does “unlimited paid time off” sound? It sounds like a perk nobody could pass up, like  freedom for employees, and like it is almost too good to be true. Bragging about this option would make a company sound great to work for and seem very forward thinking.

  • Con: Performance can be bad. One downside with giving employees complete freedom is that for those that may take advantage, could leave a company in worse shape. Performance could go down, which may ultimately impact the overall strength of the company. Having one bad apple may ruin it for the whole barrel.

While there are many pros to offering unlimited paid time off for employees, companies must also think of the other side of the coin. By offering employees such an amazing perk, a company could be positioned to increase productivity, morale, and overall appearances. However that can also be the exact opposite if not implemented correctly. By understanding the above 5 pros and cons, companies can now consider if this is a right move to make at the current time.  By going in this direction, the innovative approach to employee benefits could also impact the company’s interests.

Hire AND Keep the Best Employees With a Healthy Work/Life Balance

Offer one thing… flexibility.

You’ve probably heard the phrase “work/life balance” a lot. When you think about work/life balance and your firm, are you providing an atmosphere where employees feel that this is a concern of yours?  Work/life balance is certainly a hot-button issue, and is very, very important to many people in the workforce and thus it should be important to you!

Here are two of the top reasons why providing a healthy work/life balance at your company is important:

When you provide employees with flexibility with their schedule, chances are likely they will be more productive during the hours they are working.  Number 1 – they will appreciate the opportunity where they can schedule their hours around what works well for them personally for both them and their family.  Number 2 – They won’t be distracted during work hours thinking about family matters that they feel like they should be attending to.

You will attract individuals to your firm that are concerned with having a good, healthy work/life balance. Let’s say there is a prospective employee that is interested in your company and another company named “Company Balance.” This candidate goes through the interview process with both companies. Both firms make an offer to the candidate. Your offer actually comes in a little bit higher, and all other benefits are equal, except for one thing.  Company Balance is committed to a healthy work/life balance and will allow that employee to work flexible hours, take an extended lunch and make up the hours another time if need be, and even offers a telecommuting option certain days during the week.  That candidate accepts the offer from Company Balance because that type of flexibility is invaluable.

Never underestimate the importance of a healthy work/life balance to both your current employees and prospective employees.  Give employees the option of flexibility and sit back and watch the positive results.

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