Tag Archives: James Duval

7 Steps To Reducing Employee Sick Leave

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There’s really no way of completely avoiding germs – they’re everywhere, year-round. Alas, this means your employees are just as likely to fall ill in balmy summer months as they are in the bleak midwinter. Fortunately, conscientious employers out there can do their bit to help by implementing strategies to boost employee health and fitness, thereby heading off any pesky illnesses at the pass. Here’s what you as an employer should do to cut down on employee sickness…

Light & Green

As unlikely as it may sound, introducing more greenery around the workplace can have a positive effect on employee mood, productivity, and health. Sourcing office plants can be cheaply and easily done and will certainly brighten up the workplace – plus, studies have demonstrated that proximity to nature increases alertness and well-being. Likewise, exposure to natural sunlight has equally positive effects, so an office layout that allows for lots of natural light is beneficial, too.  It’s really the little things that make a difference.

Healthy Snacks

Office vending machines tend to offer easy access to fizzy drinks and sugar-laden sweets, the consumption of which results in sugar bursts that eventually leave employees tired and possibly moody. Try to offer healthy alternatives like fresh fruit, peanuts, and suchlike – whether in your company cafeteria or simply in the kitchen or break rooms.

Provide Health Incentives

If your employees bike to work, offer them incentives in the form of subsidies or through the provision of secure bike parking and other useful facilities. You could even take this a step further and encourage energy-saving practices like carpooling, using public transport, or walking to work.

Encourage Exercise

If your company doesn’t already have gym facilities, why not strike up a deal with nearby gyms and negotiate discounts for employees who choose to work out there? People are more likely to head to a gym that’s close by their work or home, since it makes travelling easier. A quick workout in the morning leaves employees energised and ready to tackle the tasks ahead, and even if they go after work an overall increase in health reduces the likelihood of falling ill.

Stay Clean

Encourage employees to wash their hands, dispose of used tissues, and be as hygienic as possible in using bathroom and kitchen facilities. In a place where many people spend all day indoors together, breathing the same air, drinking out of the same mugs and touching the same door handles, germs can spread super fast. The cost of employee sick leave is a major expense for businesses, so forking out for better cleaning services can save you money overall.

Options For Sick Leave

Ensure that in the event your employees do fall ill, they’re aware of what they’re entitled to in terms of sick pay and leave. This isn’t possible in all industries, but to prevent employees from coming into work even when they’re sick and could infect co-workers, you could come up with a system that, for example, allows employees to work from home for reduced pay while they’re still contagious but able to remain at least somewhat productive. That way, any urgent work can still get done on time without the expense of other employees’ health.

Step In

If an employee is stressed, struggling to stay on top of things, and constantly working long hours, it may be necessary to take him or her aside and talk through things. This is especially true when it comes to new hires or recent in-house promotions, who may be finding it difficult to adjust. If possible, help them come up with solutions to manage their work more effectively, remind them of the relevant people they can ask for help, and if they’ve been unfairly loaded down with work, try and redistribute assignments so that the work isn’t getting done at the detriment of one person’s health. It’s not always possible to keep an eye on these things, but generally taking the time to check up on employees can mean that stressful situations are easily and efficiently sorted out. Oh, and did I mention stress increases your chances of falling ill?

Got any other tips for reducing ill-health in the workplace? Share them in the comments!

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James Duval is the business and tech editor at GKBCInc.



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Ways to Show You Appreciate Your Customers

7650804342_9715bb425fYour business successes are the result of your own hard work, to be sure. But, you could not have built your business without the support of your customers.

Suppose you are already doing your part in your day-to-day business interactions with customers. You give them excellent service by proving that you are willing to make time for them. They feel important, knowing that you value their business. A customer who feels overlooked, rushed or senses that you would rather be doing something other than helping them is not likely to be among your loyal return customers. So, you treat all of your customers with respect, giving them the personal attention they need while they purchase your product or service.

However, your responsibility to your customers does not end with the completion of a business transaction. All individuals enjoy having their contributions acknowledged, and they will favor those who express awareness of their efforts. Recognizing how someone has supported your business and showing them that you appreciate them is crucial to your continued success. With the holidays fast approaching, your company has the opportunity to make a lasting, positive impression on your customers.

Here are a few simple ways to show your customers that you care about them:

  1. Give away materials with your company logo on them. Customers always love receiving free items. Order selections of small promotional materials such as pens, calendars and notepads. These materials are often inexpensive and will help to build your customers’ loyalty to you. You will also benefit from the added visibility to new potential customers.
  2. Send personalized holiday cards to your customers. Several companies offer attractive and professional designs that tell your customers you appreciate them. Sign the cards, or better yet, write a small note expressing your gratitude for their business. Customers will recognize the effort you put into mailing them the card, and they will be pleased that their loyalty is noticed and appreciated.

Do not limit your appreciations to the holidays. You may also want to send a card on other occasions to show your customers that they truly are important to you.

  1.  Offer special discounts to your customers. Sending a coupon or promotion along with a short note telling them you are grateful for their business is a great way to acknowledge your customers while simultaneously giving them an incentive to return.
  2.   Following up with your customers by sending them a personalized letter or e-mail after a transaction is complete is the best time to show your appreciation. Your customer will see no underlying motive for the letter other than you want to show your appreciation to them. A simple note or acknowledgement of their contribution to your business will certainly catch their attention and set you apart from other, more impersonal businesses.
  3. If you have the time or resources and it makes financial sense based on the dollar amount of products or services you offer, a brief “thank-you” phone call to your customers is very effective, especially directly following a transaction. The world of business has become very impersonal in many ways, so a human voice, even if heard merely in a voicemail or answering machine is very effective. In fact, some very successful companies hire customer service reps who have the single task of following up and thanking their customers. They also use this time to briefly survey each customer to find out how the company can improve.

Your customers are the lifeblood of your business. You must first earn their support by providing great initial service. But, do not make the mistake of passing by the chance to tell your customers that you appreciate them. Take the time to communicate with those who have supported you and reward their business with a personal note, phone call or gift. Your efforts to recognize them will be noticed, and they will be much more likely to return and recommend your business to others.

Mikkie Mills is a Chicago native and mother of two.  She occasionally blogs about DIY crafts and business. Show your customers you care through gifts by Vistaprint products.  Connect with her on Google + or on Twitter (@DollarHacks).



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6 Ways to Better Motivate Your Employees



As an employer it can sometimes feel like you are fighting an uphill battle to get your employees motivated. But employees are the driving force of any company, so you will not get much done with employees who do not pull their weight. Whether you find it a struggle to motivate your employees on a daily basis, or you are simply looking for ways to increase productivity, here are some suggestions that could help you out.

Reward Programs

Nothing motivates people like a reward. Whether it is something monetary, such as a bonus or raise, or something else, such as a paid vacation, a gift basket etc. if your employees know what they will receive as a result of their work, they are more likely to work harder. Additionally, it is always motivating to know that your hard work is appreciated and will be rewarded.

Friendly Competition

Workplace competitions can get everyone excited and motivated to do better work. The most important thing to remember however, is that it should not be a competition with high stakes and a professional reward (such as a promotion). You do not want to create tension in your workplace, and damaging the atmosphere of the workplace can cause damage to overall productivity.

Mission Statements and Goals

It helps employees to know what exactly they are working for. If your company does not have a mission statement or motto, create one. This will not only help people to understand the vision of your company, but it will also give them something to work towards. Once you have a broad vision in mind, create smaller, short term goals together with your employees that can help you to fulfill the mission.

Give Them Time Off

This goes along with rewards, in that it is a way to show employees that they are appreciated. But time off is unique in that it gives people time away from work to refresh and recharge their batteries. If they get the chance to do this, they will come back to work more motivated and enthusiastic.

Get-togethers outside of Work

Another good idea is to have events outside of work that will allow people to get to know each other outside of the office. Whether it is a paid-for dinner, party, or something else, it is also a good way to reward employees for productivity. Holding such events allows people to get to know each other better, creating an all around better work environment, which often increases productivity.

Get to Know Them On a Personal Level

It is incredibly hard to motivate people that you do not even know. Likewise, it is hard for employees to motivate themselves if they only see you as a distant boss. Get to know your employees and their personalities. Everyone is different, and they will be motivated in different ways, so get to know who they are and what makes them tick. It also helps if you can give them personal praise every once in awhile.

About the Author: Robert Cordray is a freelance writer and expert in business and finances. He has received many accolades for his work in teaching employee rewards programs.


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Attorney Offers Tips for Safeguarding Your Wealth in 2013

Litigation is America’s fastest growing business because plaintiffs have everything to gain and nothing but a few hours’ time to lose, says Hillel Presser, author of “Financial Self-Defense (Revised Edition),”
“Even if a case seems utterly ridiculous — like the man who struck and killed a teenager with his luxury car and then sued the boy’s family for damage to his bumper — defendants are encouraged to settle. It’s sometimes the only way to avoid potentially astronomical legal fees,” he says.
If you haven’t already taken steps to protect your assets, that’s one New Year’s resolution you’ll be glad you made and followed up on, Presser says. And while it helps to have the assistance of a lawyer who specializes in asset protection, there are many things you can do yourself.
“You shouldn’t have any non-exempt assets in your name,” Presser says. “The goal is to ‘own’ nothing but control everything.”
Presser suggests these resolutions for safeguarding your wealth in the event of a lawsuit:
• Inventory your wealth. Figure out how much assets you really have (most people have more than they think). Take stock of valuable domain names, telephone numbers, intellectual property, potential inheritances, and other liquid and non-liquid assets. That way you can then work on actions to cost effectively keep them safe.
• Set your goal. Setting your 2013 asset protection goal is your first step to becoming protected in the New Year! For instance, you could plan to execute an estate plan or set up a trust for your children in 2013. Decide what assets you want to protect in the New Year and a realistic timeline for implementation. Then — and most importantly — stick to your plan. Asset protection works only if you follow through.
• Protect your home. Find out how much of your home is protected by your state’s homestead laws and then encumber the remaining equity. Encumbering a home’s equity can be accomplished by recording a mortgage against it, re-financing a current mortgage or even taking out a lien of credit using your home as collateral! Another great strategy to protect your home is to transfer its title to a protective entity such as a limited liability company (LLC), trust, limited partnership, etc.
• Get everything out of your name. The worst thing you can do as far as exposure is titling all of your assets to your personal name. That doesn’t mean you have to lose control of them – the goal of asset protection is to “own nothing, but control everything.” In 2013, work on moving your assets out of your personal name and into the name of protective entities such as limited liability companies (LLC’s), trusts, limited partnerships, etc.
• Buy adequate insurance. Protect your loved ones. Make sure you have adequate insurance coverage in the event a job loss, natural disaster, or even a tragic loss of life. Those include — but are not limited to — your car, home, and other valuables.
About Hillel L. Presser, Esq., MBA
Hillel L. Presser’s law firm, The Presser Law Firm, P.A., represents individuals and businesses in establishing comprehensive asset protection plans. He is a graduate of Syracuse University’s School of Management and Nova Southeastern University’s law school, and serves on Nova’s President’s Advisory Council. He also serves on the boards of several non-profit organizations for his professional athlete clients. He is a former adjunct faculty member for law at Lynn University. Complimentary copies of his best-selling book, “Financial Self-Defense (Revised Edition)” are available through


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Standard Partitions or Glass Wall Panels in the Office?


There have been hundreds of studies done by psychologists and business strategists in order to find out how they can optimise office space/decor with productivity in the staff. A small but significant part of the atmosphere created in an office comes down to the partitions by which it is divided.

 Listed below are the advantages of using wooden boards and glass screens as office partitions with regards to working environment and employee productivity.


Standard Partitions  

  • There is a defined area in which staff can call their own.
  • If the material is made out of chip board or a thick cloth, staff can spruce up their work space by pinning personal items on there. This gives them an identity rather than just another username and login number.
  • You’re less exposed and, when you need to, can get your head down and finish by those important deadlines.
  • There are far less distractions around the staff that will sway them from their tasks.
  • There is also more privacy for those days when you just want to be left alone and not get involved in other activities around you.


Glass Panels

  • Firstly, glass panels give a more open-plan feel to the office, making staff feel less stuffy and enclosed.
  • They can lead to a brighter working area, ensuring any tired eyes early in the morning can properly wake up.
  • There can be a more social vibe to the office which can lead to better working relationships, although this comes with the caveat that staff may socialise too much!
  • There is a sense of belonging in that staff may feel more involved on tasks which they may not necessarily be assigned to, but are aware of its presence. Stops any feeling of isolation.
  • Finally, the glass wall panels look stylish. A vibrant, interesting and modern office helps to perk up the spirits of its staff, even if it’s just a little.

Research has suggested that office design greatly influences productivity. For example the colour scheme of an office can dictate the mood of staff i.e. reds make staff more tense and alert whereas blues make them feel calmer and more serene.

If there is less interaction between staff, through standard partitions dividing the office, then productivity will increase. However, motivation and job satisfaction tends to decrease which, in the long run, is bad for productivity.

 If there are glass partitions, coupled with a more open plan office design, then there will be more interaction between staff for problem solving and an emphasis on team work. Of course, this could lead to the staff having more social conversations rather than work problem solving.

If you work in an office with either of these partitions, feel free to comment below to share your thoughts on how productivity is affected by it!

James Duval is an IT Support Manager during the day and an Applied Workplace blogger in his spare time.



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How Writing a Book can Help Your Business and Other Vampires

SYEP-Logo-Banner-SiteSome of the most prolific books written today are paranormal romances. There are thousands of them, all trying to be the next Twilight. There are other vampires also, those that haunt the Internet and pop up regularly, like bar girls who steal or kidneys or how sending a chain letter to Bill Gates will make you rich. One of those vampires is the one about business ebooks. According to many experts, if you write an ebook for your business customers will beat a path to your door. Let’s hope that they are not there for your kidneys!

Nobody may to ready your business ebook. Have you ever read one? Did you download it before that long airplane ride to have something to read on the trip? There were 200,000 books published in 2011. According to Fast Company, the following were the best selling business books of 2012:

1. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain

2. How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen, James Allworth, and Karen Dillon

3. Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours, by Robert Pozen

4. The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail–but Some Don’t, by Nate Silver

5. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, by Brené Brown

6. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg

7. Renegades Write the Rules: How the Digital Royalty Use Social Media to Innovate, by Amy Jo Martin

8. Heart, Smarts, Guts, and Luck: What It Takes to Be an Entrepreneur and Build a Great Business, by Anthony K. Tjan, Richard J. Harrington, Tsun-Yan Hsieh

9. The Click Moment: Seizing Opportunity in an Unpredictable World, by Frans Johansson

10. Wait: The Art and Science of Delay, by Frank Partnoy

11. The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations, by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner

12. 11 Rules for Creating Value in the Social Era, by Nilofer Merchant

How many of these have you read? Do your customers read them? What products did you buy because you read one of these books?

Writing a book is about telling the world a story and why it is important. You write because you have a story to tell and because you love to write. You write to entertain your readers.

Your story about your business and what it took to start it and how you keep it going may become a bestseller. But, not if you write it, or have a cheap ghostwriter hack it out to help visitors to your website buy new lawn furniture. But, if the lawn furniture is haunted and the garden gnomes are wise gurus of life in the suburbs, then maybe people will read it.

The Staples Easy Button is a great marketing idea. The story about how it was created, and how American pop culture seized on it might very well make a great chapter in a business book about advertising. If you can write that story, then write it and promote that book on your web site.

Writing a bad, throw-away ebook to sell your business may do more harm than good. Vampires are like that. The writing quality, story quality, format quality, and grammar quality of the book reflect your business.

Write your business book because you have to write it and are willing to spend the months and months needed to write, edit, rewrite, package, and promote the book as something more than your business, not to just sell lawn furniture. The gnomes know when you are faking it. Just remember that.

About Mike Macartney

Mike Macartney is the publisher at Shoot Your Eye out Publishing. SYEO Publishing is a new book publishing company for writers who wish to publish their work today, in a very different publishing world than was the case even a few years ago. You can follow the world of books and publishing at SYEO on Facebook at:


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4 of the Best Ice-Breaking, Team Building and Problem Solving Activities


To some employees the words ‘team-building activities’ can bring on a sense of dread. When organised properly, with the good of the employees as a central focus, these days can be a great way to build a good team at work and get to know your peers in a different context.

Here I will suggest a few ideas that can make your team building day a beneficial one, not just one of the dozens they’ve attended before.

To keep your group engaged you need activities that really require thinking and active discussions between team members.

Ideally, for half a day, you’d have 2 ice-breakers, one team-building, and one problem solving activity. So here are the four best activities to provide you with an ideal agenda for a team building session.


  1. Two Truths and a Lie

This is a great ice-breaking exercise for groups who aren’t familiar with each other – so ideal for conferences.

Simply get each team member to write down two truths and a lie about themselves, and then share the 3 statements with each other. The aim of the game is to work out which statement is false, whilst learning a bit about everyone in the group – but only reveal the false statement once everyone has taken a guess!

2. The Classification Game

This is a great game to break the ice both in situations where participants know each other well, and where they don’t know each other at all.

Break the team down into small groups, and give them 10 minutes to find out all they can about each other. Then ask every group to come up with three “categories” that describe each person within the team – without being negative, discriminatory or prejudicial – for example, someone could be a “sci-fi fan”, a “toffee popcorn lover”, and a “Twitter addict”. This shows how every person has more to them than meets the eye, and gets everyone to open up.

Team Building

3. The Shipwrecked Game

This exercise gets down to the nitty gritty of team-building – it gets people to voice their opinions, argue their points and come to compromises.

Split your group up into teams of 4-10. Give the teams the scenario that they are about to be shipwrecked on a desert island, and can chose 10 items to take with them. Give them a time limit of 15 minutes, and let them debate!

Problem Solving

4. Toxic Waste Dump

This activity takes a little setting up, but is ideal for really getting people to work together to problem solve.

You will need a bucket filled with water or tennis balls (I would recommend only using water outside), a larger bucket, 8 x 2.5m lengths of cord, 1 x 4m length of rope and a bungee cord loop.

Place the bucket in the middle of the room, and map out a circle around it with the rope, and place the larger bucket about 3m away from the circle. The bucket with balls/water represents a container of “toxic waste” and the circle around it represents the “contamination zone”.

The aim of the game is for the team to move the toxic waste into the larger “toxic waste neutralising” bucket within 30 minutes – but only using the 8 cords and the bungee loop. If they enter the contamination zone they will suffer severe injury, and if they spill the contents of the bucket, or do not complete the task, the world will be destroyed!

These exercises are actually a really great way to get to know your team, build trust between you and establish a working bond. When organising one of these events, plan ahead.

Planning a team building session isn’t easy – you’ll need to make sure you’ve sorted your meeting room hire, and you’ll need around four main activities, and no one wants to be the person who suggests, for the hundredth time, to do the Trust Lean!

Any team building fails you would like to share?

James Duval is blogging genius with a flair for IT, business and education. He blogs for Keele Conference.


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