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How to Reward Employees Without Breaking the Bank

Us humans are driven by incentive, and modern leaders understand the importance of rewarding high-performing employees. While typical ways of doing so include bonuses and pay raises, oftentimes small business owners can’t afford to reward their employees monetarily. If you are in the start-up phase of growing your business, you don’t have to forego rewarding your staff members; instead you just need to get creative in rewarding them without breaking the bank.

4 Great Ways to Reward Your Employees Without Money

Simple Recognition

If you want to make your employees feel appreciated, oftentimes all it takes is to voice your  gratitude. If one of the members of your team just turned in a well-researched project, or another one handled a customer service issue in an appropriate manner, simply acknowledging their efforts and saying thank you can be enough of a reward for your employees.

If you want to take your appreciation a step further, you can send out a departmental or company-wide email recognizing the efforts of one of the staff members. Alternatively, you can set up an “Employee of the Month Program” where you choose one employee who has gone above and beyond that month.

Although none of these initiatives will cost your company one penny, they will make your employees feel noticed and appreciated for their efforts, and will encourage others to some friendly competition for recognition.

Time with the Boss

Most bosses are incredibly busy, and don’t have a lot of individual time to dedicate to each of their team members. However, it is extremely important to your employees to spend that time with you, which will help you create a meaningful relationship and a bond that will encourage them to be loyal to your organization.

One way to reward your employees is to dedicate some one-on-one time to a different high achiever on a weekly basis. You can take this person out to lunch; but if this is not within your budget, you can simply take a walk together or even meet in your office.

Dedicating this time to your employee will show them that you care about them, their thoughts and opinions and plans for the future. Make sure to spend that time focusing on the employee; however. This can be a time for mentoring or giving valuable advice that can help them grow in their positions.

Best Parking Spot

Parking is a hot commodity in many metropolitan areas, and many employees need to pay for their own spot, park far away or forgo driving to work altogether. As a reward for a top-performing employee, why not give them the best parking spot your company has? Even if you only have one dedicated spot that you use, that could be a great incentive for your employees that will not cost you a dime.

Ask Them

If you’re not sure what is the best way to reward your employee, why don’t you ask them about what they prefer? Some may choose a paid day off, while another one may want to reassign a project that they’re not interested in on another colleague. Within reason, letting your employees choose their own rewards will make them feel valued and important.

If your employees have truly gone above and beyond and have shown how much they are committed to the team, you may consider investing in giving them financial rewards. After all, that is a way to stay competitive within your industry and keep your employees loyal to your company.

IOU Financial is dedicated to helping you with this goal. Contact us today to find out about our quick and easy small business loans of up to $500,000.

 

Is There Truth to the Morning Routines of the Successful?

Most of us have a similar morning routine— we brush our teeth, have a cup of coffee, get dressed and head out to the office. Or do we? Is there something that the ultra-successful entrepreneurs do in the morning that is vastly different from the rest of us? Do successful people have a specific morning routine that has helped them realize their goals? Read on to find out if a “success morning routine” is valid or is just a hoax.

Earlier Wake Up Times

Benjamin Spall of New York Times interviewed 300 successful people over a span of 5 years to see what they do in the morning that sets them apart from everyone else. He was not able to find a “secret formula” that led to prosperity with absolute certainty, but did did discover certain practices that successful people tended to focus on in the mornings.

The author found that the majority of the people set their alarms every morning depending on where and when they have to be. A common practice for the rest of us is to wake up as late as possible to get to work on time, but the ultra-successful have a different understanding of when they need to start their day.

He found that the average wake up time for those that he interviewed was 6:27AM, but most of the people experimented with the time that would work best for them. Give yourself a month and try waking up an hour and a half, an hour and 30 minutes before your usual time to see if you can give yourself extra time in the morning to start your day better. Perhaps, if you’re not rushing and are more prepared for your day, you will also be more successful.

Start the Day Off with a Preferred Activity

Although you may not be a morning person and hate the rush at the start of the day, successful people reinvented their mornings to better suit their needs, according to Spall. They tend to give themselves enough time to start the day with an activity that they enjoy—this can involve meditation, exercise or simply quietly reading a book.

If you begin the day was something that you enjoy, you will likely be in a better mood and better prepared to tackle the challenges of the rest of the day as well.

Have a Family Breakfast

Forbes magazine reports that the ultra-successful make time to have daily breakfast together with their loved ones. Doing so helps them distress and start the day surrounded by people that they love.

Plus, sitting down for breakfast tends to lead to healthier diet choices rather than grabbing a muffin or a breakfast sandwich on the way to work. And, nobody needs to be told about the importance of a healthy breakfast at the beginning of the day.

Create a To-Do List

It may come as no surprise that successful people know how to set and achieve their goals. A common practice for them is to create a to-do list first thing in the morning when they get to the office. This helps them to prioritize the most important tasks, and dedicate enough time to them to make sure that they are completed by deadline.

Although there’s no blueprint for an AM routine which will help you get ahead, giving yourself more time in the morning to do something that you enjoy with others that you love and setting daily goals will definitely help you become happier and more productive, which is the ultimate definition of success.

Inspired to make more changes toward success? Check out our list of FREE resources. Smart Sheets are Excel based spreadsheets that allow simple data to transform for visualized business analysis. Use these along with our Business Guides to help you run your small business like a pro!

 

Why Companies Need Corporate Wellness Program Apps

Taking care of the wellbeing of your employees shows more than just your corporate culture, it’s also a signal that your company cares for its own future and prosperity. More and more companies include different wellness programs in order to enhance the health status of their workforce. These programs rely on various tools and activities that track and maintain the health status of the working people. Let’s take a more detailed look at all the benefits that wellness apps bring to companies.

Easier implementation of the wellness program

First and foremost, wellness apps facilitate the implementation of your wellness program. Conducting these types of programs is never easy, especially within companies that include a large number of workers or remote employees. Automation, provided by mobile and desktop apps, makes the implementation of the program much easier and brings in a few extra features that would otherwise be difficult to carry out.

Reduced Absenteeism

Absenteeism is a large issue for any company in the world. The productivity drops every time you have a person on sick leave, no matter how capable your team might be when it comes to covering for the absent co-worker. The best way to reduce the number of workers that turn in sick, is for a company todo whatever it takes to improve the well-being of its employees. Using wellness program apps within your company allows your employees to keep track of their health status, which further increases their chances of preventing any future health issues.

Keeping a high level of productivity

According to research, productivity depends, in a large measure, on the physical and mental status of your workforce. Wellness apps provide food recommendations, fitness instructions, track vital signs, all of which can reduce the chance of sickness. Workers that maintain their physical health status, feel better and more eager for work, which is essential for company productivity. Furthermore, as we already stated, even if the rest of your team is able to cover for their colleague, heavier workload and the need to perform faster leaves room for mistakes, which have to be fixed so more time gets wasted.

Apps allow wellness program improvement

Without comprehensive feedback, it’s difficult to improve a wellness program that your company implements. Apps, allow you to conduct surveys and get all sorts of analytics that could show which parts of your wellness program need improvement. It’s important for the success of your program to know which aspects don’t show desired results, which ones take too much time, and where you need to put in an extra effort to make the program work seamlessly.

Ability to create healthy dining options

There’s an old saying “we are what we eat”. Rather than suggesting that I’m a bowl of pasta, this piece of wisdom means that our mental and physical state depends on the food we place on our tables. Wellness apps allow you to create healthy dining menus and suggestions for various types of food. For instance, you can have your employees check in to see what gluten-free options they have, which vegan courses are available, or simply learn how to make a new tasty dish.

This way, your employees avoid the risk of heart diseases, cancer, digestive problems, and other health issues that both you and your workers want to avoid.

Conclusion

A company is doing well as long as the people that contribute to its success are doing well. Therefore, business owners should invest in the wellbeing of their workforce if they wish to maintain a high level of productivity. Moreover, the companies that show care for their employees build a positive image, which is important for business expansion and recruitment of talents. Wellness apps automate and simplify the implementation of your corporate wellness program, making it more efficient and reliable.

Guest Post: About the Author

Becky Holton is a journalist and a blogger at ProEssayWriting. She is interested in education technologies and is always ready to support informative speaking. Follow her on Twitter.

Looking to implement a wellness program in your corporate structure? IOU Financial can help with up to $300,000 in as little as 24 hours.

Five Tips to Be a Happier, More Balanced Business Owner

If you run a small business, you probably have become accustomed to working hard….really hard. Seven-days-a-week hard, with nary a day off. Admirable, but also dangerous, because you risk burnout, health problems, and grumbling employees. It’s up to you to create a healthier work-life balance, so here are five tips to get you started:

Shorten your workweek:

Nowadays, many business owners feel guilty if they work less than 10 hours a day, including weekends. This is sure to exhaust your mind and hamper your creativity. If you want to increase your productivity, shorten your workweek. Put in no more than 40 per week and try to not work on weekends. Remember, sitting at your desk for long hours doesn’t equate to productivity. Work the hours you actually need to and relax the rest of the time.

Use technology:

We live in the high-tech era, so let technology do some of the heavy lifting for you. Automate your workday with a suite of apps that collect, process and distribute information. AI apps can automatically generate your Twitter tweets, schedule your appointments and alert you to important news. Update your old apps – email campaigns are much more sophisticated than they were five years ago, so use a modern app to manage your email marketing.

Enter the cloud:

Are your data and apps still residing on a hard disk on your computer? That’s a shame, because migrating to the cloud opens up all sorts of possibilities that can make you more productive and save you time. Look at apps like accounting, CRM, design and development. They need to share data to operate most efficiently. By putting your databases on the cloud, you can take advantage of scalable software that is constantly updated and doesn’t take up valuable real estate on your computer.

Take a vacation:

If you feel you are indispensable all the time, you’ll never get any time off. You deserve a vacation, and two weeks of sun and fun will do wonders for helping you get through the remaining 50. Pick your least busy time of year, and either close up shop or assign tasks to employees you can trust. Maybe two weeks is out of reach right now, but try to get at least three or four days in a block, and build from there.

Stop fretting about money:

Many small businesses have variable cash flows that sometimes leaves them cash-starved. This constant worry will drain all the joy out of being a business owner. The solution is to create a relationship with a trustworthy business lender, like IOU Financial. You can borrow and pay back quickly on convenient terms, with never a pre-payment penalty. Daily or weekly payments mean no large monthly lump-sum repayments to worry about. And with loans up to $300,000, we can give you peace of mind for just about any circumstance.

You started your own business to make money, be your own boss and do things the way you want. But wasn’t the ultimate goal to achieve a happy life? Don’t wait until it’s too late – add some joy to your life right now. Adopt our five tips, plus ones you come across in other articles. If you work with a team, what better way to demonstrate the value you place on work-life balance than to practice it yourself? Protect yourself from burnout now, and you’re more likely to happily remain in business over the long run.

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.

Slow Summers? Contact IOU Financial for a loan to help smooth cashflow, get winter inventory ready, or up your marketing efforts. We can approve you for up to $300,000 in just 24-48 hours.

 

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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