Senate Alters Unemployment Benefits Before Passing Stimulus Package

In an all-too-typical 11th-hour compromise Friday evening, Senate Democrats agreed to tweak the unemployment benefit provisions of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. The move came less than a day before the Senate – already divided evenly along party lines – passed the bill Saturday afternoon.

The compromise, introduced by Delaware Democratic Senator Tom Carper, alters the unemployment benefit provisions approved by the House in two ways:

  • Additional federal unemployment benefit payments will remain at $300 per week; and
  • The period of disbursing the enhanced unemployment benefits will be extended to September 6, 2021.

In addition, the revised bill would make as much as $10,200 of unemployment benefits exempt from tax for households whose incomes are less than $150,000. The House bill did not offer this incentive.

The House-approved bill, which passed less than a week ago, would have provided additional unemployment payments of $400 per week through the end of August, extending by 24 weeks the current period of benefits, which is scheduled to expire on March 14. Now, the weekly payout is $100 less and a week longer. For many Americans, however, $300 a week is too low to make ends meet, especially when compared to the $600 weekly payout approved last year under the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act.

Friday’s changes to the unemployment benefits provisions took a circuitous route late in the morning when the Senate was placed in a holding pattern for several hours after West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, a self-described conservative Democrat, expressed reservations about the changes to the House-approved bill. Manchin was in the middle of a tug-of-war between Republican and Democrat senators. Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman, encouraged by Friday’s rosier jobs report, proposed keeping the $300 weekly unemployment payments but shortening the period by 10 weeks to July 18. At one point, Republicans believe they had Manchin’s support for Portman’s proposal. However, the Senator from West Virginia ultimately threw his support behind the bill introduced by Senator Carper. That gave Senate Democrats the 50 votes they needed for the bill to be approved.

Extending the payment period just beyond August into early September will hopefully prevent millions of Americans losing the expanded unemployment benefits abruptly while the Senate is on summer recess. That’s what happened last summer when the $600 weekly additional payments stopped, causing millions of American to worry about where, and how, to make up for that supplemental income.

The goal now is to get the stimulus approved and signed by President Joe Biden before March 14, the date when current weekly unemployment benefits, which were approved under the second $900 billion stimulus package in December, will expire. The Senate bill – with the new terms – will return to the House for reconciliation. At this point, the House is expected to approve the Senate’s changes. Assuming that happens, President Biden will sign the bill, and millions of Americans should receive their unemployment compensation payments via direct deposit in mid-March. Those receiving paper checks will likely see their payments in April.

Source: kiplinger.com

Coronavirus Unemployment Benefits: How to Apply for Unemployment Benefits When Laid Off

While there are many reasons you might find yourself unemployed, the primary reason more individuals are out of work right now is due to COVID-19 layoffs. As COVID-19 has swept the nation, it has left many wondering what to do now. 

Whether you’ve been laid off because of coronavirus or other circumstances, your main focus should be applying for unemployment benefits and finding your footing in this time of uncertainty. To help you make this adjustment as smooth as possible, this post will cover the basic steps of what to do when you’re unemployed. 

Unemployment & Coronavirus

While it’s believed that the virus may still hit its peak, in mid-April, it seems that for now, many individuals are still facing the risk of being laid off. As of early April 2020, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis had forecasted that 47 million Americans could lose their jobs because of coronavirus. 

But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to panic. Of course, the thought of losing your job is scary and can have a serious impact on your lifestyle, but there are some resources in place that you can take advantage of. 

So, what can you do to protect your livelihood? Let’s dive into the basics of what you need to know about unemployment benefits, then we’ll walk you through what to do when you’re unemployed.

The Basics of Unemployment

Before you can take action, you need to understand the different aspects of unemployment and how they’ll apply to you: 

What Is Unemployment Insurance?

Unemployment insurance, commonly referred to as unemployment benefits or simply unemployment, is a program designed for individuals who have lost their jobs. This program provides payments to help sustain Americans who have lost their jobs. 

However, not everyone is entitled to unemployment insurance. For example, you typically cannot claim unemployment benefits if you quit your job. That said, there has been a significant expansion of unemployment benefits, including who can qualify and for how much, due to the coronavirus.

In late March, the government passed the CARES Act into law. As part of the 2 trillion dollars of economic relief provided by the CARES Act, there are three main additions that you need to know about: 

  • Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC): The federal government is granting an additional $600 per week for unemployment insurance recipients. This will run through July 31st, 2020. 
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA): Available to individuals who would not typically qualify for unemployment benefits but have lost their job directly due to COVID-19. 
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Assistance (PEUA): A 13-week continuation of your state unemployment benefits after the initial period.  

Am I Eligible for Unemployment Benefits? 

Before coronavirus-related layoffs began, there were quite a few restrictions as to who could qualify for unemployment and who could not. Fortunately, the CARES Act has expanded upon who can qualify for these benefits. You may qualify for unemployment if

  • You are unable to work because of coronavirus 
  • Your hours have been substantially reduced due to coronavirus 
  • You had to quit your job because of coronavirus 
  • You can’t work because you are a caregiver (for example, your children’s school closed down) 
  • Your job you were supposed to start fell through because of coronavirus 

Typically, you’re ineligible for unemployment benefits if you quit your job—unless it was for a reason that is deemed acceptable (such as leaving to care for an ill family member).  

With the expanded benefits, more types of workers, including self-employed individuals, independent contractors, and gig workers can also qualify. So, if your freelance work has come to a halt as clients reevaluate their budgets, you may not be out of luck after all.

How Much Will I Receive in Unemployment Benefits? 

The amount of money you are able to receive from unemployment primarily depends on your state’s pre-determined benefit amount and your previous income. These numbers are typically what is used to calculate a weekly unemployment payment. 

However, in addition to the amount you’d traditionally receive from the state, you’ll also be able to get the additional $600 per week in PUC.

How Long Do Unemployment Benefits Last?

Usually, state unemployment benefits are only available for up to 26 weeks, be sure to check your state’s rules. With the changes made in response to coronavirus, you can receive unemployment benefits for up to 39 weeks

What Happens to My Health Care?

If you’re laid off, you may lose your health insurance benefits that were available to you through your job. However, there are health insurance options available for those who have become unemployed. You may be able to keep your health insurance through COBRA.

Otherwise, see if you prefer to elect coverage through the HealthCare Marketplace. Losing a job is considered a qualifying life event, and thus you can enroll during a Special Enrollment Period. If you go this route, carefully review your plan so you know what the monthly premiums, deductibles, limits, co-payments are, and what exactly is covered.  

Visit HealthCare.gov to find out what your options are for health care. With the coronavirus still prominant in the U.S., it’s more important than ever to have a health care plan in place. 

Do I Have to Pay Taxes on Unemployment Benefits?

Yes, unemployment income is taxable. When you file for unemployment, you can elect how much you want to have withheld from your unemployment payments. Just like with your regular income, these withholdings will be used to pay for taxes. However, you may still owe when tax season rolls around. 

You’ll receive a special tax form (Form 1009-G), which will show how much tax you owe in unemployment taxes, if any.

Is There Other Assistance Available? 

In addition to the increase in unemployment benefits, the CARES Act also provided a one-time stimulus payment that will be provided to many taxpayers. If you make $75,000 or less and are a single filer, you can expect to receive $1,200. If you’re married, you can expect to receive $2,400 total as long as you earn a combined income of less than $150,000.

However, if you are over this income threshold, you may still receive a smaller stimulus payment. Parents will also receive an additional $500 per dependent child. 

In addition to this payment, there are other programs available to make unemployment more manageable including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). For more information on assistance programs you might be able to apply for, visit USA.gov.

Your local government may also be providing additional assistance for unemployed or low-income workers during this time.

11 Things to Do When You’re Unemployed

Now that you understand the foundational aspects of the current unemployment landscape, let’s put a plan into action so you can get all your affairs in order. Whether you’re trying to figure out what to do now that you’ve lost your job or are preemptively researching what to do if you get laid off, there are some important steps to take to keep your life on track. 

Here are our recommendations for what to do when you’re unemployed: 

  1. File for Unemployment Benefits 
  2. Find Out What You’ll Get from Your Employer
  3. Explore Healthcare Options 
  4. Contact Bill Providers
  5. Reassess Your Debt
  6. Fine-Tune Your Budget 
  7. Figure Out How Long You Can Get By For 
  8. Take On Side Work
  9. Plan Your Next Big Move
  10. Stay Active
  11. Give Yourself a Moment

1. File for Unemployment Benefits 

While this may seem like an obvious one, you’d be surprised by how many people don’t bother to file for unemployment with their state’s unemployment office when they are laid off. For the quickest processing, you should file for unemployment online. 

“Typically, anyone classified as a W2 employee [not an independent contractor] is eligible for unemployment benefits—unless they were fired due to gross misconduct, but it doesn’t hurt to file a claim anyway,” explains Dan Kellermeyer, president of New Heights Financial Planning. “Unemployment income won’t completely replace your wages, but your employer has paid for these benefits, so you might as well use them.”

The rules for claiming unemployment in the U.S. are essentially the same: you generally need to have earned a minimum amount in wages before filing an unemployment insurance claim through the state you live in, must be unemployed through no fault of your own, and are able to work and are actively seeking work. However, specific eligibility requirements and compensation amounts vary depending on the state you live in.

Because it can take a few weeks for your unemployment application to go through, you’ll want to file as soon as possible. You can start filing the day you get the pink slip. Just remember, filing can be frustrating but don’t lose hope. Stay steady while submitting your application to ensure you can get the help you need.    

2. Find Out What You’ll Get from Your Employer 

You’ll also want to have a sit-down with your boss or Human Resources department check to see what to expect in terms of a settlement, salary and any bonuses, plus vacation pay and extension of any other benefits, recommends James Q. Rice, CFA of JQR Capital.

“Usually these are paid in a lump sum,” says Rice, “and depending on whether they’re paid before the end of the calendar or next year, could have tax implications.” The money you’re getting from your employer will help tide you over until you land your next job, and should be factored in accordingly.

Knowing how much money you’ll have available to you will help you make the best choices when you’re trying to figure out what to do when you’re unemployed. 

3. Explore Healthcare Options 

If health insurance was offered by your employer, you have 60 days to decide whether to continue coverage through COBRA, which extends your current medical coverage for up to 18 months. Note that it could take up to a month for your paperwork to get processed, and typically costs a pretty penny. Or you can apply for different insurance coverage through HealthCare.gov.

Keep in mind that with COVID-19 still spreading, getting health insurance should be at the top of your list in case you need serious medical care. 

4. Contact Bill Providers

If you anticipate difficulty in paying off your bills and credit cards, contact your cable and internet providers, the gas company and auto insurer to let them know about your situation. There’s a chance they may be able to offer you a temporarily discounted rate or  offer you less-expensive options. For instance, I was able to get a promo rate for a year on my internet. And I opted for a cell phone bill with less data, at least until I got my bearings.

5. Reassess Your Debt 

Take a look at your debt load. Would refinancing make sense and save you money in the long run? If you’re saddled with student debt, the coronavirus CARES Act includes a reprieve until September 30, 2020. For borrowers with federal student loans, no interest will accrue. This will be automatically instituted, so borrowers don’t have to sign up. If you have private student loans, you might consider deferring or asking for a forbearance with your student loan servicer for the time being.

As for your credit cards, it’s super important that you at least pay the minimum amount due. Otherwise, your credit score will get dinged. If you think you’ll have trouble making payments on your credit cards, reach out to the issuer. Most credit card companies have what’s known as a Hardship Department, and they may be able to offer a hardship plan. For instance, they could lower your interest rate, offer a smaller minimum payment or lower your fees and penalties.

Note that the credit card issuer will look at every situation on a case-by-case basis. What they may extend to you may not be the same as the next person. Also, you typically need to be in good standing with the credit card company to be considered. Reaching out to the credit card company before things actually go south is a sign you care and you’re responsible, and they’re more likely to respond favorably to that.  

6. Fine-Tune Your Budget

Because of the change in your income, it is essential to reassess your budget after being laid off to see which areas you can cut back on. I remember carefully going over each of my expenses and trying to resort to living circa college survival days. I biked and took public transit as much as I could. For most of my meals, I cooked and only bought what was on sale, and committed to a no-spend challenge on non-essential items. Downloading a budgeting app like Mint can help you view all of your expenses, set your budget and keep your spending on track.   

Besides contacting all my service providers and utility companies to see if I could get a better deal, I also reviewed my insurance policies to make sure they were still relevant to my situation and needs. While I didn’t end up making any changes, you might find that because you’re not commuting to work, switching to, say, a pay-per-mile auto insurance plan might be a better fit for your current scenario.

7. Figure Out How Long You Can Get By For 

Between the settlement amount from your old employer, unemployment benefits, and the cash you have stashed in your emergency fund, figure out how many months you can reasonably get by without a steady paycheck. “Knowing this number will make you feel less stressed, and not knowing this feels like panic for some folks,” says Ian Bloom, a financial planner with Open World Financial Planning. “ ‘Oh no, I need a job now!’ is worse than ‘Oh…wow. Okay, well I’ve got four months to figure this out.’ “ 

8. Take on Side Work 

While you’re looking for your next job, take on side jobs to boost your cash flow. You never know, these “bridge gigs” could potentially land you your next opportunity. Because I had been moonlighting as a freelance writer while working full-time, I had secured enough work to pay for half of my expenses. And having that existing base allowed me to pursue more freelance opportunities, which gave me the confidence to foray into it full-time.

I also took on side jobs test proctoring and pet sitting. That was extra money that helped me get back on my feet and not feel so anxious while I tried to figure out what to do next. FYI: If you’re taking on side work, you’ll most likely have to report it to the unemployment office, which can affect how much you’ll receive in unemployment.

9. Plan Your Next Big Move 

Yes, it can be deflating to your ego when you’re unemployed. Yes, you may feel a mixture of sadness, anxiety, and stress. But it could also be an opportunity to figure out what you ultimately want to do career-wise and take steps to get there.  

While the clock may be ticking depending on what your financial situation is, knowing you have a few months to figure out your next move allows you the option to do a career pivot, get your learning on, or explore work opportunities you weren’t able to do at your previous job.

10. Stay Active 

When you become unemployed it can be tempting to become consumed by your favorite streaming service or scouring the internet for ways to fix your situation. However, one of the best things you can do for both your mood and physical health is to stay active. Right now there are many free resources you can take advantage of to help you stay mentally and physically healthy while staying inside. 

11. Give Yourself a Moment

Being laid off can be overwhelming, which is why it’s important to give yourself time to process and take a breather. Once you’ve tackled the essentials on our “what to do when you’re unemployed” list to ensure you’re on the right track, allow yourself some time to reflect and relax. Indulge yourself in activities you enjoy, catch up on some sleep, or try something new

Trying to figure out what to do when you’re laid off is stressful and time-consuming, allowing yourself this luxury will help you cope with the changes in your life and make your transition easier. 

While being unemployed has an emotional and financial strain, while it’s tempting to hit the “panic” button, take a breather and follow these steps for what to do when you get laid off instead. Doing all you can to help you stay on top of your money situation will help you feel like your back’s not against the wall. In turn, you can make the most of things, and potentially forge a new career path.

Sign up for Mint today

From budgets and bills to free credit score and more, you’ll
discover the effortless way to stay on top of it all.

Learn more about security

Mint Google Play Mint iOS App Store

Source: mint.intuit.com

Employee Offboarding Process – 15 Best Practices for a Positive Transition

A lot of employers put more focus on onboarding than offboarding. But creating a positive experience for departing employees can help to increase retention, keep morale high, and make for a smooth and straightforward transition.

As an employer, you may think you have nothing to offer an employee who has chosen to leave your company. You may even feel hurt or resentful. But it’s important that you put those feelings aside and focus on how to offboard your staff member without burning bridges and providing support and direction to all involved.

How to Positively Offboard an Employee

Here are some tips you can use to create an effective employee offboarding strategy as part of your company culture.

1. Consider Your Organization’s Reputation

Some employers are tempted to let personal feelings take over when an employee decides to leave, but turnover is inevitable in almost every company at one point or another.

Employees choose to leave for a variety of reasons, and it’s important that no matter why a team member decides to leave, you keep your personal opinions in check. Do this not only to encourage a positive offboarding experience for your exiting employee and the rest of your team but to build your company’s reputation as well.

Before applying for a job with your company, many potential employees will conduct a quick online search to see what shows up. If a negative Glassdoor review is front and center, and it details a poor offboarding experience, you’re likely to miss out on qualified, high-quality candidates.

Alternately, a former employee who has a large network or who is involved in different professional groups isn’t likely to speak highly of an employer who behaved carelessly during the offboarding process to other industry experts.

2. Meet With Your Exiting Employee

It may seem obvious, but you should meet with your departing employee after they give their notice. A friendly and informative meeting can help to set the tone for the rest of the offboarding process and let your colleague know where they stand.

Cover the following topics so that you’re both on the same page when it comes to offboarding expectations and responsibilities:

  • What you can do to help them
  • What they can do to help you
  • What you expect them to do before they leave
  • Whether they need to develop training material
  • Who will be handling their job duties

Remember to be kind, positive, and friendly during this meeting. The more support and guidance you offer, the more likely the employee is to help with training their replacement and wrapping up any final projects.

You can also use this as an opportunity to ask where they’re going, what their new position will be, and what made them decide to make a move. However, if you suspect that they’re leaving due to dissatisfaction or unhappiness, this is best left for the exit interview.

3. Meet With Your Team

When an employee quits, it affects your entire team. It can cause a lot of uncertainty and negatively impact morale and engagement. But one of the easiest ways to get ahead of any adverse effects is to communicate early and well with your entire team.

After you meet with the employee who is leaving and you’ve made a plan for handing off duties, you should plan for a group meeting with all of your staff members.

If you’d like, let your outgoing employee announce their departure at the beginning of the meeting and then go over any details that will affect the rest of the team, like your transition plan and whether you’ll be hiring a new employee to fill the open position or if you plan to fill the role from within your company.

This is also a good time to make a short, straightforward speech about your ex-employee by thanking them for their contributions and congratulating them on their new professional adventure. A supportive and encouraging message can go a long way, both for departing employees and your current staff.

Give everyone a chance to ask questions so that there’s no confusion surrounding any new roles or responsibilities within your team. Clear communication makes employees feel secure and eases changes in workflow and job duties.

4. Communicate About the Change in Staff

Once an employee leaves, you want to make sure that everyone knows they’re no longer with your company. This includes the rest of your staff as well as any clients, freelancers, partners, or business contacts outside of the company.

Send an email before your employee leaves notifying anyone relevant of their last day and who will be taking over their duties going forward. Make sure that the email is addressed to your entire staff, including department heads and junior employees. As much as possible, you want to ensure that no one is taken by surprise and that they know who to work with in the future.

Once your employee has left, set up email forwarding so that you can catch any important work-related emails that may be sent to their previous email address in error.

5. Keep Morale in Mind

The rest of the team’s morale can be affected when an employee leaves, especially if their coworker has a negative offboarding experience. Poor offboarding tactics — such as refusing to communicate, letting personal feelings get in the way, or failing to plan and organize a smooth transition — give the impression that you only value your team members as employees and not as people.

Alternatively, a positive offboarding plan can keep morale steady and show staff members that you genuinely care about them and that you take your role as a manager or business owner seriously.

Keep a pulse on morale to determine how your staff is being affected by your previous employee’s departure and address specific issues or problems by communicating openly and honestly with your employees.

If morale seems low and you aren’t sure what to do, try adding a few more ideas to your offboarding checklist to help with engagement and motivation.

6. Work With Your Human Resources Department

Your human resources (HR) department is an essential resource for both onboarding and offboarding.

For example, your HR professional can assist with:

  • Ending health benefits, share plans, and other financial paperwork
  • Ensuring a final paycheck is sent out
  • Retrieving company assets, such a security pass, key, credit card, or laptop
  • Removing access to company accounts and software once the employee has left
  • Conducting exit interviews
  • Creating a job description and recruiting for a replacement
  • Reviewing documents like a noncompete contract or nondisclosure agreement

HR can also provide guidance on how to keep communications positive and productive after an employee decides to move on.

7. Ask Your Departing Employee to Help With Recruitment

When an employee leaves, don’t only focus on transferring duties and redirecting workflow. Have your former employee help with finding their replacement. After all, who knows their job better than they do?

When appropriate, ask them to:

  • Write a job description to use in online job ads for new hires
  • Review resumes and cover letters from potential candidates
  • Sit in on interviews
  • Discuss whether any existing team members would be a fit
  • Meet with a recruiter or hiring manager to explain their role and responsibilities

Involving your former employee in the hiring process for their replacement helps you to find better, more suitable candidates who will have an accurate and realistic understanding of the open position.

8. Conduct an Exit Interview

Although exit interviews should always be optional, they’re an important part of any employee offboarding process. They are a great way to encourage honest feedback and learn where you can improve as a manager and as a company.

Think of an exit interview as an opportunity for you to learn about your employee’s entire experience with you — from onboarding and training to reviews, office politics, company culture, and everything in between.

Some exit interviews are conducted by managers and others by HR departments. It depends on how your company is structured. Regardless of the logistics, exit interviews should be reserved for the last day or two before you and your outgoing employee part ways. If done too early, the employee who is leaving may not feel comfortable being completely upfront about suggestions or complaints.

Although your exiting employee may not have anything bad to say, encourage them to share any tips or advice they have related to their position, the company, their team, or their manager. If they do share negative feedback, remember not to take it personally and to remain professional.

9. Offer to Be a Reference

Depending on your company policy about work references, you can offer to be a reference for your departing employee for future jobs. Knowing that they can rely on you to provide an honest, helpful, and professional reference is a great way to ensure that your employee leaves on a good note.

Most companies prefer that candidates use previous managers or employers as references, so by making the offer, you’re letting them know that you care about their professional future. Plus, it saves them from having to ask you, which can be difficult if they’re not sure where they stand after handing in their notice.

10. Get Your Exiting Employee’s Contact Information

Don’t forget to get your outgoing employee’s new contact information, like an email or mailing address in case you need to contact them with questions related to their previous role. For example, you may need to get in touch about their benefits or to ask about a company account or password. Although you can plan for a comprehensive hand-off, some details can get lost during knowledge transfer, so it’s important to know how to reach your previous hire for a quick question.

And, if they leave on good terms, you may also want to use it to send a friendly message or invite them to a workplace social event down the road.

11. Welcome a Return

Boomerang employees are workers who leave a company only to return later. These employees learned that the grass isn’t always greener and came back to work for you because they had a positive experience at your company. These employees can be a boon to you since they already know the ins and outs of your business, your customers, and the role they held at your company.

But you’ll only get boomerang employees if you facilitate and participate in a proper offboarding process and let outgoing employees know that they’re welcome to return in the future.

If you’re open to having ex-employees work for you again down the road, make sure to communicate that during your offboarding process so that they know it’s an option. If you don’t make it clear, they may assume that you’re not open to it.

12. Connect on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is an ideal way to follow your ex-employee’s professional progress and to get in touch about work-related questions, references, or job opportunities. If you aren’t already connected with your departing employee on LinkedIn, send them an invite. You can take things a step further by providing a written recommendation on the platform as well, which can give them a boost during job searches and round out their profile.

And, as a bonus for you, giving recommendations makes you look like a stellar boss to your ex-employee’s connections and network.

13. Plan an Event

Planning an event like a lunch or after-work cocktail can give current employees a chance to say goodbye to co-workers and end the offboarding process on a happy note. Offboarding can be hard for both your former employee and their team members, so offering everyone a chance to have a casual get-together to reminisce and wish each other well can be a welcome change from typical last-day scenarios.

Involve your team in planning the event, and try to choose a venue that your previous employee enjoys. If possible, have the company cover costs for a meal or appetizers to make it even more enjoyable for everyone.

14. Purchase a Gift

A personalized gift from the company is the perfect way to express appreciation and gratitude for your departing employee’s hard work over the years. Some gift ideas for ex-employees include:

  • A briefcase or professional bag
  • Gift cards to their favorite restaurants
  • A donation to a charity or nonprofit they care about
  • Gourmet coffee, tea, or chocolate
  • Personalized office supplies
  • A gift basket
  • A bottle of wine

You can also get a cake, a framed picture of the team, or anything else you think they might like. Talk to their work friends for ideas and choose a gift that’s both appropriate and fits your budget.

15. Send Around a Card

A card is a cost-effective and common way to bid farewell to an employee. Give the whole team a chance to write a personal message and sign their name by sending it around in advance. If you have a good relationship with your departing employee, you may even want to give them a card yourself, expressing how much you have valued them and enjoyed having them on your team.


Final Word

When you offboard employees with morale, engagement, and professionalism in mind, you reap the rewards of being a thoughtful and desirable employer. Your company’s reputation is a powerful tool in attracting and retaining quality hires, and how you treat previous employees can have a significant impact on how you’re viewed by potential candidates.

Keep your offboarding strategy professional, communicative, and positive to facilitate a smooth transition for everyone involved.

Source: moneycrashers.com

How to Create or Claim Your Small Business Listing on Manta

Manta.com is one of the most popular local business information websites in the United States. According to its own data, Manta draws about 11 million unique visitors per month and boasts more than 5 million small, mostly local businesses in its database — a significant fraction of all U.S.-based small businesses with physical storefronts.

Does this site’s popularity mean you, a small-business owner eager to reach more potential customers in your hometown (and perhaps beyond) should invest the time and effort necessary to create, optimize, and maintain a Manta listing?

Perhaps. It depends on what type of business you operate, how much effort you can devote to your listing, and whether business directory websites like Manta truly complement your marketing efforts — or whether you’d do just fine without them.

Pros & Cons of Creating a Listing on Manta.com

Does it make sense to create a small-business listing on Manta.com? This is the first question you need to ask before putting in the effort to create your Manta listing.

The truth is, Manta works better for certain types of businesses. Its most popular searches relate to customer-facing service businesses, such as retailers, restaurants, bars, entertainment venues, and others:

  • Automotive businesses
  • Hotels and travel services
  • Beauty shops and spas
  • Cleaning services
  • Plumbing, electrical, and other trade services
  • General contracting services
  • Health and medical

Like many other business information directory sites, Manta sorts listed companies geographically, down to the municipality or neighborhood level. This is vital for location-bound businesses, such as restaurants and brick-and-mortar retailers, that cater mostly or exclusively to local customers.

Manta is less useful, although not entirely useless, for companies that don’t rely on physical locations or local marketing to drive sales. E-commerce businesses that sell through platforms like Shopify or Etsy and rely more on word of mouth and social media marketing aren’t guaranteed to find Manta and its ilk valuable.

Pros of Listing Your Business on Manta

Why create a business profile on Manta? Advantages include the inherent legitimacy of a claimed business listing, SEO benefits, and the importance of sites like Manta in customers’ research process.

1. Claiming Your Listing Makes Your Business Seem More Legitimate

Manta’s “Claim This Listing” button makes clear which of its listings are “claimed” — acknowledged and maintained by the featured business — and which are not. The simple act of claiming your business therefore confers substantial legitimacy upon it, if only because doing so shows Manta-using consumers that you care enough about your establishment to take two minutes to make its listing your own. Rightly or wrongly, consumers might take an unclaimed listing as a sign that you aren’t really interested in attracting new customers.

I’m guilty of this myself. All else being equal, I try to avoid businesses with unclaimed online directory listings unless I know of them by other means — such as word of mouth — or they’re part of a recognizable business franchise that I trust.

2. Manta Listings Are Good for SEO

Popular search engines’ ranking algorithms have a “black box” quality to them — no one knows exactly how they work except the people responsible for them — and maybe not even they do. Still, conduct 10 Google searches for 10 of your favorite local businesses and you’re liable to deduce that business directory sites like Manta rank well in organic search results — the list of results you see below the paid search ads on search engines like Google or Bing.

Moreover, Manta’s featured product or service pages often rank separately from main directory pages. This means that your Manta listing could end up being responsible for several discrete search results, depending on how many featured products or service pages it appears on.

The bottom line is this: Unless your business’s name is easily confused with common or generic terms (“Quality Plumbing,” “Fast Oil Change,” “Tasty Sandwiches”), your Manta listing is likely to appear on Google’s or Bing’s first results page of a search engine. This is crucial because many consumers never venture past the first results page.

3. Consumers Rely Heavily on Directory Listings for Research

If you thought a PCMag study that found roughly 40% of online reviews to be fake would deter shoppers from relying on them, you’d be wrong. According to a 2017 ReportLinker survey, 60% of consumers give online reviews as much weight as recommendations from real-world acquaintances. Setting aside the question of whether this is a wise policy for consumers to abide, it’s a compelling case for taking the time to maintain listings on business directory sites with user-generated reviews, such as Manta.

Cons of Listing Your Business on Manta

Manta is a useful part of many a business’s online presence, but it’s not appropriate for every enterprise. Drawbacks include the time and resources involved in maintaining a profile and the fact that listings display potentially sensitive information — which may, in turn, invite abuse.

1. Maintaining Your Profile Takes Time and Effort

Although the initial step of claiming your Manta listing takes just a few minutes, keeping your listing optimized and up-to-date requires real, ongoing work. Uploading photos, analyzing user data, responding to reviews, changing listing information that’s no longer relevant — all these activities take time and effort.

If you have an online store, other business directory listings, and multiple social media accounts, staying on top of your digital presence could prove overwhelming. And, if you’re a cash-poor small business without the means to hire a part- or full-time marketing employee or social media manager, or even work with an outside PR or marketing firm, you’ll need to do this work yourself. If you can — otherwise, there’s no shame in waiting until your business has grown a bit to invest in a first-rate directory profile.

2. May Not Be a Great Resource for User Reviews

Although Manta never experienced the sorts of high-profile fake review scandals that bedeviled Yelp in the late 2000s and early 2010s, the platform is certainly mindful of the potential for inauthentic reviews to interfere with and dilute genuine user feedback. Indeed, Manta and reputable business directory sites like it take measures to combat fraudulent reviews that can at times be overzealous — filtering out real reviews that you might want your customers to see.

Separately but relatedly, many Manta business listings simply don’t have many user-generated reviews, making them less useful for consumer research. Many of my favorite businesses — enterprises I know to be legitimate — have zero Manta reviews, likely through no fault of their own. If you want to ensure that your customers see every review of your business, good or bad, you’re better off investing in a more “social” directory like Facebook or Yelp.

3. Directory Listings Contain Sensitive Information

Certain types of businesses, such as restaurants and brick-and-mortar retailers, have no choice but to reveal their business addresses, phone numbers, and other basic bits of important-if-sensitive information. Customer-facing businesses like these can’t survive in anonymity.

That said, other types of local businesses — including those that make house calls, like home service providers — might prefer to conceal their physical locations, and possibly contact information, from the public. For example, you might not want your clients to know that you work out of a home office or coworking hub rather than an office suite.

To be clear, if an unclaimed listing exists for your business, it may well list your true place of business, be it a residential address, coworking space, or virtual office. You’ll need to claim your listing to remove this information — but once that’s done, you can feel free to let it lapse.

4. Your Listing Could Attract Abuse

There’s a small but real possibility that your listing could become a forum for abusive or hateful reviews or feedback from misguided customers — and, potentially, members of the public with no connection to your business. Unlike some online retailers, business directory sites like Manta tend not to require would-be reviewers to verify that they’ve patronized a listed business in the past. This makes it easier than it should be for people with a political agenda or personal grievances to single out individual businesses for criticism.

When they occur, such campaigns typically revolve around controversial actions or stances taken by the targeted business’s owners or employees. For example, in early 2015, the owners of an Indiana pizzeria made headlines for publicly announcing that they’d follow their state’s recently passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was widely interpreted to condone discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The stance prompted a backlash that saw thousands of comments, some of which were obscene and threatening, posted to the restaurant’s website. Citing safety concerns, the shop closed shortly thereafter, according to the Indianapolis Star.

Reasonable people can disagree with the restaurant owners’ politics without condoning threats to their and their employees’ safety. And, even if you have no plans to publicly announce your business’s support for controversial legislation, your digital presence might nevertheless become a venue for customers to air their grievances. If you’d rather not deal with such backlash, perhaps it’s best to lay low.


How to Claim or Create Your Manta.com Listing

Follow these processes and tips to claim or create your Manta business listing.

Claiming an Existing Business Listing

Manta uses user-submitted and publicly available information to generate business listings, which legitimate owners can claim. Claiming your Manta profile allows you to do the following:

  • Update Your Listing Information. Claiming your listing unlocks the ability to edit your business name, contact information, business hours, brands carried, payment accepted, business categories (such as “doctors’ offices”), and other basic information. You can also add a brief, customized description of what your business does and provide links to your company website or social media pages.
  • Add Logos and Photos. You can upload your business’s logo or another representative photograph to appear at the top of your listing.
  • Highlight Products or Services. Basic Manta profiles allow for three highly detailed product or service pages, which are useful for describing core or high-value offerings to prospective customers. You can add photos, list prices or price ranges, and include a “Purchase Info” button, which prompts visitors to take a specific action like “call for a free quote.”

Manta has a good primer on claiming a legitimate business listing. To finalize your listing claim and any changes you’ve made, you’ll need to create a user account with your email address, Facebook account, or Google account. If you create a listing with an email address, you’ll need to input your full name, email, and a unique username and password. If desired, you can add a headshot. Your profile doesn’t contain a ton of personal information about you — it’s more about managing your own business listing, recommendations for other businesses, and account privacy.

Once your profile is created, you can find out whether your business is listed by searching Manta’s database for your exact business name and city. If a listing already exists, click the “Verify Now” button next to it to sync it with your personal profile. Unlike Yelp, Manta doesn’t require verification of ownership, but you can follow a similar process to earn a “Verified” badge, which Manta claims confers legitimacy. With your listing synced to your profile, you can begin editing and improving to your heart’s content.

Creating a New Listing

If your business isn’t yet listed, simply click the “Add Business” button that appears at the top of every Manta page. Doing so leads you to a form to list your company, where you’ll fill out some basic information about your business: exact company name, exact location, and contact details. This unlocks your listing and syncs it with your personal profile.


How to Optimize Your Manta Listing

Use these tips and resources to optimize your Manta listing once it’s claimed or created:

1. Create a Compelling “About Us” Section

A detailed About Us section is great for boosting your page’s visibility on search engine results pages. Use Google Keyword Planner or a similar tool to identify keywords that your business already ranks for, and then sprinkle them into your About Us copy.

Make sure your About Us is comprehensive, but not awash in detail — the goal is to create a high-level look at your business that shows why you’re different from the competition without overwhelming the reader with granularity.

2. Take Full Advantage of the Product and Service Showcases

Manta lets you highlight up to three products, services, or packages on separate pages within your listing, and there’s no reason not to take full advantage. Focus on popular, preferably high-margin products and services that somehow stand out from what the competition offers. Include images, pricing information, and keywords — check Google Keyword Planner.

3. List as Many Contacts and Links as Possible

In addition to your main business phone number and company website link, include as many relevant contact numbers and web property links as necessary to provide one-stop access to your entire business. If your business has multiple departments — such as a dining room, bakery, and catering service — provide names and direct lines for the manager of each. Likewise, link to each of your social media properties and your online store, if you have one.

4. Solicit and Curate Customer Recommendations

Manta doesn’t make customer feedback a core part of its appeal. Manta frowns upon customer feedback manipulation, so don’t offer special deals to customers who provide glowing recommendations. However, it does still allow customers to leave what are essentially reviews on companies’ directory listings, so you can certainly ask and encourage customers to leave feedback if they wish.

5. Use Educational and Social Resources

Manta publishes educational articles on how to get the most out of your Manta profile, as well as general tips on running and marketing your business. It also hosts discussion forums that allow you to connect with other Manta users, talk about your experience on the platform, and seek out advice from more experienced users.


Final Word

Manta isn’t the only free business listing site that small business owners like you should consider using. Dozens of other sites, including some you’ve probably heard of — Yelp, for example — can increase your company’s name recognition and promote its services to more potential customers than you’d reach via more expensive marketing channels.

Not all such sites are created equal, of course. Some are free or nearly so, while others require a one-time fee or monthly subscription. And many are ill-suited to certain types of businesses or have other drawbacks that might give you pause.

Instead of spending time and money chasing after every directory site that might possibly help your business, take some time to research the most popular options and develop a narrower, more manageable list that works within the constraints of your marketing plan and budget. Along the way, feel free to speak with peers and competitors about their own experiences on these platforms, assuming they’re willing to talk. With so much else on your plate, you certainly don’t need to make an investment that has little chance of paying off.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Contractors vs. Employees (Differences) – Who Should You Hire?

When a small-business owner decides they need more help, the next question is whether they should hire employees or freelancers. The decision can be difficult — especially if you’re working with a limited budget.

To help with your decision, we’ve outlined the legal differences between freelancers and employees, and some tips for deciding which type of help you need.

Freelancer vs. Employee: What’s the Difference?

There are significant legal differences between hiring an employee and bringing on a freelancer or independent contractor.

Employee Contractor
Taxes Employers are responsible for withholding income tax, Social Security, and Medicare from an employee’s wages. Freelancers are responsible for paying their own income and self-employment taxes.
Employment Laws Employees are covered by several federal and state employment laws, including minimum wage and overtime regulations. Although it isn’t true in all states, freelancers are typically not covered by most employment and labor laws.
Benefits Employers may be required to provide vacation, holiday, and sick pay to full-time employees. Employers are not responsible for providing paid vacation, holidays, or sick pay to freelancers and independent contractors.
Insurance Employers may be required to purchase workers’ compensation insurance and pay unemployment insurance taxes. Employers are not required to purchase workers’ compensation or pay unemployment taxes on freelancers.

Can I Classify My Employees as Independent Contractors?

Many small-business owners review the table above and assume hiring a freelancer is the way to go. After all, when you hire an independent contractor, you aren’t responsible for things like tax withholding, benefits, and insurance as you are when you hire an employee. However, the IRS has rules about whom you can treat as an independent contractor. You can face some pretty stiff penalties if you misclassify employees solely to avoid taxes.

According to the IRS, there are three factors involved in whether a business should classify a new hire as an employee or a freelancer.

  1. Behavioral Control. An employer has the right to direct and control work performed by an employee, such as dictating when or where an employee must work, or what tools or services they must use. However, a business owner cannot determine how an independent contractor works, only the desired results of the work.
  2. Financial Control. An employer has a right to direct and control the financial and business aspects of an employee’s job. For example, an employer can mandate an employee cannot have a second job or start a side business that competes with the employer’s business. Freelancers and independent contractors are generally free to work for other clients and seek out other business opportunities.
  3. Relationship. An employer-employee relationship typically continues indefinitely, while the relationship between a business and a contractor usually exists for a specific project or period. It’s good to have a written contract between the company and the contractor that states the worker is an independent contractor. But it’s not sufficient on its own to determine the worker’s status.

Should I Hire a Freelancer or an Employee?

Aside from the IRS rules, think about your business needs when deciding whether to hire an employee or freelancer. The questions below will help you work through the decision-making process.

1. Do You Need Long-Term Support or Help on a Short-Term Basis?

If the work to be done is just a short-term project, you may want to hire an independent contractor. For example, if you need help building a website, but you won’t have much work for a web developer once your site is up and running, that’s a good project for a contractor that you find from a platform like Fiverr.

On the other hand, if you need ongoing help fulfilling and shipping customer orders, you may be better off hiring an employee.

Pro tip: If you’re planning to hire full-time employees, start your search with ZipRecruiter. Their technology will scan thousands of resumes and find the perfect candidates instantly.

2. Is the Work Part of Your Core Product or Service?

If the work to be done supports your business but is not a part of your core product or service, you may be better off hiring a freelancer. For example, you might outsource monthly bookkeeping to an independent contractor. However, if you need someone to handle customer service for your products, you’re better off hiring an employee.

Highly skilled freelancers are often busy, and they might not have time to work on your project at the drop of a hat. So if you have a regular and consistent need for someone to do work on your timeline, an employee is the way to go.

3. Can You Afford an Employee?

It’s easy to predict and control the cost of hiring a contractor by negotiating a flat fee or hourly rate. Beyond that agreed-upon compensation, there are few if any additional costs.

Hiring an employee is often much more expensive. Salary is just one component of the cost of hiring. You also have to plan for taxes and other government-mandated expenses, buying supplies like desks and computers for them to use, employee benefits, and how you’re going to calculate their paycheck with all the withholding you have to do.

  • Payroll Taxes. After salary, payroll taxes are usually the highest cost of hiring an employee. They include the employer’s portion of Social Security and Medicare taxes and federal and state unemployment taxes. ADP maintains a database of applicable payroll taxes by state to give you an idea of what it costs to hire an employee in your location.
  • Benefits. Providing employee benefits like health insurance, disability and life insurance, and retirement plans can cost anywhere from 20% to 40% of an employee’s gross salary.
  • Workers’ Compensation. Most states require a business to purchase workers’ compensation insurance as soon as they hire an employee. The cost of obtaining workers’ compensation depends on your state and the type of work the employee performs.
  • Payroll Processing. When you pay a contractor, you cut them a check for the amount you owe. But paying an employee means calculating and withholding payroll taxes, sending those taxes to the state or federal agencies, and preparing quarterly payroll tax returns. Most businesses outsource this task to a third-party payroll provider like Quickbooks Payroll. The cost of outsourcing payroll depends on the level of service required and how many employees you have but typically costs at least $15 to $20 per month.
  • Tools and Equipment. Generally, contractors are responsible for providing their own computers and any necessary tools and equipment. But employers are responsible for providing necessary equipment and supplies for employees. Depending on the type of work you expect your employee to handle and where you want them to do it, you may have to provide office space, a desk and chair, a computer, a phone, and other equipment and supplies.

Final Word

Deciding between hiring freelancers or employees can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. If you need flexibility, low cost, and skills that fall outside of your typical scope, a freelancer is the way to go. If you need regular help, have more room in your budget, and want someone available on a regular basis, hiring a full-time employee is the best choice.

Have you hired a freelancer or employee in your business? How did you decide which one you needed?

Source: moneycrashers.com

Fannie Mae reports rising confidence in housing market

Following two months of steady declines, Fannie Mae’s Home Purchase Sentiment Index (HPSI), a composite index designed to track the housing market and consumer confidence to sell or buy a home, rose in January.

The HSPI rose 3.7 points last month to 77.7. Though it’s undoubtedly a positive sign, the HPSI has yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels and is still down 15.3 points year over year.

Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s chief economist, noted a slight chasm has formed in confidence among lower and higher- income groups based on recent stimulus and fiscal policies.

According to Duncan, this newfound optimism in lower-income borrowers and renters could indicate those who have been more negatively impacted by the pandemic may be starting to feel the economic recovery.

“Among homeowners in higher income groups, however, the other five components of the index remained relatively flat or slightly negative, suggesting to us that some consumers are waiting to gauge the effectiveness of any new fiscal policies and vaccination distribution programs on both housing and the larger economy,” Duncan said.


Making housing more affordable by bridging the affordable supply gap

In the last few years, the number of existing single-family homes for sale has decreased. But home prices have increased. To make homeownership a possibility for everyone, there needs to be a higher supply of affordable homes.

Presented by: Fannie Mae

Overall, January’s housing market confidence jump was largely driven by renewed optimism for prospective home sellers, after December’s increasing home prices and tight inventory left homeowners weary that 2020’s record sales may not roll in to the new year. However, the percentage of respondents who say it is a good time to sell a home increased from 50% to 57% in January, while those who believe it is a good time to buy remained unchanged at 52%.

Even though buying sentiment stood idle in the first month of 2021, mortgage applications jumped 8.15% from the week ending Jan. 29, breaking a two-week streak of decreases, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

And borrowers are still relatively unsure of how long elevated home prices will hold. The HPSI reported 41% of respondents expect home prices will go up in the next 12 months – unchanged from the month prior – while those who believe it will go down increased from 16% to 17%.

But even if those prices do rise, borrowers can still save on the record low rates the industry has become accustomed to. The percentage of respondents who say mortgage rates will go down in the next 12 months increased from 8% to 9%, while the percentage who expect mortgage rates to go up increased from 43% to 45%.

Though economists are fairly certain all signs indicate to rising mortgage rates, experts said it won’t be a sudden jerk reaction but rather a slow build that will force its way over 3% later in the year. Regardless, LO’s made insane money in 2020 thanks to record low rates, with the jury still out on whether they can swing it again in 2021 if refi’s begin to fall with rising rates.

But rising rates are a sign of a recovering economy, and though that recovery may look slow, the housing market is showing signs its already occurring.

The percentage of respondents who say they are not concerned about losing their job in the next 12 months remained unchanged at 75%, while those who are concerned fell from 25% to 24%. And the percentage of respondents who say their household income is significantly higher than it was 12 months ago increased from 20% to 21%, while the percentage who say theirs is significantly lower decreased from 18% to 14%.

January’s unemployment numbers weren’t overly impressive to economists, with the unemployment situation virtually unchanged for the month.

“The number of people on temporary layoff fell slightly in January, while the number of permanent job losers rose, a troubling sign. On the other hand, the number of people working part time but who would prefer full time employment also fell slightly, a positive indicator of labor demand,” Duncan said.

Source: housingwire.com

How to Set Up a Home Office on a Budget – Organization Ideas & Tips

You’ve done it: You’ve convinced your boss to let you work from home. Or perhaps you recently decided to go solo and launch your own home-based business. No matter who you’re working for or what you’re doing, you’re going to need a comfortable, well-equipped space to get your work done.

You don’t have to spend a fortune setting up your new home office. Nor do you necessarily require an entirely separate room in your house to do your work — though that’s a helpful way to avoid some of the unforeseen challenges of working from home. It makes sense to outfit your new workspace on a budget. After all, you might decide remote work isn’t for you and that you want to return to working from the comfort of your employer’s office.

Here’s how to plan, budget for, and save on everything you need for your home office, from electronics to furniture to supplies.

Make a List of What You Need

You can spend hours on Pinterest scrolling through beautiful, well-staged photos of people’s home offices. But your home office needs can be a lot different from what you see presented on social media.

Do you need a designer couch in your office space? Probably not unless you’re a therapist who’s going to see clients at home. Do you need fresh flowers brought in daily? Most likely not unless you’re an Instagram influencer.

Some essential things people need for their offices include:

  • A Work Surface. You’re going to need somewhere to do your work, such as a desk or table. How large a work surface depends in large part on how complicated your setup needs to be. I have a small desk in my home office, but the only thing I need to work is my laptop and a notepad with the week’s to-do list written on it. I have friends who need to use multiple large monitors, so their work surfaces are considerably larger than mine.
  • A Chair. Even if you decide to buy a standing desk, it’s nice to have a chair to sit on from time to time. Your chair doesn’t have to be fancy or full of the latest ergonomic bells and whistles. But it should be comfortable and the appropriate height for your workspace. Consider functionality over form when choosing your chair. A chair meant for a dining room might look nicer than an office chair, but you’ll wish you got the ugly ergonomic chair after sitting in it for a few hours.
  • Computer Equipment. You need a laptop or desktop computer for most remote jobs. How complicated you make your computer setup depends on your job. Some workers also need a printer, copier, or scanner (or a machine that does all three). Start with the most simple setup and upgrade as needed.
  • Specialized Equipment. Some job types require more specialized equipment, such as lighting for photographers, microscopes and beakers for scientists, and kitchen gear for personal chefs or cookbook authors.
  • Office Supplies. It’s easy to go overboard when it comes to office supplies, especially when setting up your home office for the first time. A less-is-more approach is usually best. That way, you don’t end up with a stack of sticky notes you never use or a lifetime supply of yellow highlighters. Be realistic when picking out what you need for supplies. If you don’t see yourself mailing documents often, you can probably wait to buy envelopes until you need to mail something. If your work is purely digital, you probably don’t need the 100-pack of pens or the stack of notepads.
  • A Secure Place for Documents and Files. Even if you mostly digitize your documents, you could have a few important work-related documents. Those documents need a place to live, and ideally, that place isn’t on the corner of your desk underneath your coffee mug. It’s a good move to invest in a locking file cabinet for sensitive files and documents. If you get a fireproof one, even better. Along with filing cabinets, consider some type of shelving or bookshelves to keep binders, books, and other things you might need organized and handy.
  • Internet and Phone. You’ll need a reliable high-speed Internet connection and perhaps a dedicated phone line for your home office. One option is to get a landline alternative, like Skype or Google Voice, to use for business phone calls. That way, your boss or clients don’t have to call your personal cellphone or home phone to reach you.
  • Office and Home Decor. As with office supplies, it’s easy to go overboard on decor. But you do want to make your home office look somewhat warm and inviting, as you’ll be there for several hours each day. Hang up a few attractive prints or put a few knick-knacks on your desk to make your office a place where you actually want to spend time.

You might find it easier to shop online, such on Amazon or Craigslist, for the things you need for your home office. To make sure you don’t get a desk, chair, or printer that’s way too big or just wrong for you, there are several things you should check before you buy furniture or equipment.

  • The Size. Will the desk, computer, or chair fit in the space you have for it? Will you be able to get bulky furniture in through your front door or a tight hallway? How much does it weigh, and can you lift it on your own?
  • The Quality. Look for online reviews to see what people have to say about it. Red flags include unresolved complaints of equipment that arrived broken, broke quickly, or weren’t as described when they arrived.
  • Speed of Shipment. More people than usual are shopping online amid the pandemic. That means shipping times are delayed at many stores. Double-check shipping times so you know when to expect delivery.
  • Return Policy. Some retailers have extended their return policies as a result of COVID-19. Confirm you can return whatever you buy if it doesn’t work for you and how long you have to make the return.

Choose a Space

Where in your home can you work? You need an area that can accommodate all your equipment while giving you enough space to think and work comfortably. If you have an extra bedroom, a den, or a finished basement you can commandeer for your workspace, that’s perfect. If not, it’s time to get creative.

To help you find the right location for your office:

  • Focus on Activity. How active is the area you’re considering using for your home office? If you plan to work from home while your kids are around, do they play in the room after school or in the morning? If you live with roommates, do they lounge or walk through the space regularly? The goal is to choose the area of your home that gets the least amount of foot traffic. A quiet corner in a kitchen or living room can be ideal if you don’t have an entirely separate room to use.
  • Mind the Light. Peace and quiet are essential, but so is having enough light in your home office. If you can, pick an area that gets natural light, such as a corner by a window.
  • Avoid Your Bedroom. If possible, avoid using your bedroom, especially if you have trouble sleeping. As the National Sleep Foundation points out, using electronic devices in your bedroom can keep you alert when you want to fall asleep. A 2015 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that using light-emitting devices before bed negatively affected sleep. You want to avoid light-emitting devices before bed as much as possible, and that’s challenging when your workspace is directly across from your bed.
  • Set Up a Room Divider. If you don’t have a separate room to use as your work area, a room divider can create a sense of separation. Especially if you have to work where you sleep, set up a screen or other type of room divider to set off your office space from the rest of the room. In a living room or den, you can place your desk on one side of a large bookcase and have the living area on the other.
  • Convert a Closet. Another option if space is a premium is to set up a desk or work surface in a small closet. If all you need to work at home is a laptop, even the tiniest of closets can provide enough room. When the workday is over, just shut your laptop and shut the closet door.

Create Your Budget

It can be easy to overspend when you’re setting up your home office, especially if you’re not sure what your numbers are or what you have to work with. Before you start shopping for furniture and supplies, take a look at your household budget to see if you have any money to spend on an office. You can also use the money you’ve saved in a household expenses account or in a savings account you’ve set up for planned purchases to pay for your new office setup.

If you’re no longer commuting to work, you can funnel the money that would usually go toward your transportation and meals out toward home office expenses.

Decide how much you can comfortably spend on your new office, whether it’s $100 or $1,000. Then, start to price out the cost of the things you need. Make a list of one-time expenses and recurring expenses.

After looking at your budget and comparing it to the cost of your needs, you might realize the numbers don’t line up. If the amount you can spend is lower than the cost of what you need, it helps to prioritize.

For example, if you need a desk, you can buy one at Ikea rather than West Elm. If you need a new laptop, you can choose a Chromebook instead of a MacBook Pro. Where you can realistically afford to cut depends on what you do for a living. If you’re a professional photographer, you probably need the MacBook, but if you’re a freelance writer, a Chromebook should be sufficient. If you sit at a desk all day, you can benefit from spending more on an ergonomic chair.

Another thing to consider is your Internet connection. If your job needs the Internet in any form, it pays to spend more in this category than elsewhere, upgrading to the fastest, most reliable connection you can afford. Shop around for the best prices from providers like AT&T or Xfinity.

It’s also advisable to get an unlimited mobile data plan from a carrier that lets you use your phone as a hotspot. That way, if your home Internet goes out, you can use your phone for emergency Internet access until your Internet service provider restores the connection.

How to Get What You Need for Less

After you’ve identified your big-spend categories, look for bargains for everything else. There are a few ways to outfit your home office space without breaking the bank:

  • Buy Used (or Free). A used desk or office chair can be just as sturdy as a new one. In some cases, older furniture is better quality than the stuff made today. You can find gently used furniture on websites like Amazon and eBay. You can also find some high-quality free furniture through your local Buy Nothing group on Facebook or inexpensive options from private sellers on apps like OfferUp. Just remember to practice social distancing when arranging for pickup or delivery.
  • Ask Around. Your friends or family can be a good source of cheap or free office furniture or equipment. Hit them up to see if they’ve got anything on your list they’re looking to part with, then arrange a way to get it to your house while keeping social distancing guidelines in mind.
  • Choose Energy-Efficient Products. Shop with energy efficiency in mind, both to save money on the purchase price and to save money over the life of the product. A smaller laptop uses less power and costs less than a heavy-duty desktop computer, for instance.
  • Ignore the Siren Call of Designer Office Supplies. An inexpensive Bic pen writes just as efficiently as a fancy-pants designer pen. A plain yellow pad of paper lets you take notes that are just as detailed as the ones on a cutesy printed notepad.
  • Wait for Sales. If you don’t need something for your office right away, wait for it to go on sale. Plus, it could turn out that you don’t need it at all.
  • Get Your Employer to Chip In. If you’re an employee working from home, ask what your company can contribute in terms of equipment and supplies. Often, you don’t need to pay for your own equipment, as your employer can give you a laptop or other equipment to use. If your company hasn’t said anything about equipment, it doesn’t hurt to ask what your boss wants you to do.
  • Negotiate Your Phone or Internet Service. You can sometimes get a deal on your phone or Internet connection, especially if you’re switching providers or are bundling two services into one. Even if you’ve been with your current provider for a while, call and ask about any current deals or offers they have available to you.
  • Repurpose When Possible. You might have older furniture hanging out in your attic or basement, just waiting to get a second lease on life. That small, old kitchen table might be the perfect size to turn into a desk in a small home office. With some DIY elbow grease and a coat of paint, your kids’ old bookcase can turn into office shelving.

Final Word

Whether you’re an entrepreneur or are preparing to telecommute for the first time, having a dedicated workspace at home makes a huge difference when it comes to your overall productivity. While you probably have to spend some money to create that space, you don’t have to go into debt or bust your budget to do it.

Making a budget and sticking to it can help you keep your spending in check as you create your home office. Focus on the things you need and the things that can help you do your job the best rather than on what’s going to make your office look Pinterest-ready.

Source: moneycrashers.com

How Unemployment Can Affect Your Plans To Buy a Home—Now and Later

The coronavirus pandemic has led to record-high unemployment rates not seen since the Great Depression. And this is particularly worrisome for would-be home buyers.

If you were among the 23.1 million Americans who were laid off or furloughed, you might be worried about your financial future. And if you were hoping to buy a house—either now or in the next few years—you might also wonder how your current jobless status might affect those plans.

While the situation might seem dire, unemployment does not mean that home-buying plans have to be put on hold for long. Here’s how to navigate a period of unemployment so that it doesn’t derail your hopes to buy a home.

Can you buy a home if you’re unemployed?

For starters: If you lose your job while in the midst of home shopping or after you’ve even made an offer, you might have to put the purchase on hold.

The reason: Given your reduced income, the odds of lenders loaning you money for a property purchase are slim, unless your spouse or partner has a sizable income that can carry the mortgage alone.

And even if you’re getting unemployment checks every week, that money is considered temporary income, so it can’t be used to qualify for a mortgage, says Jackie Boies, senior director of housing and bankruptcy services at Money Management International, a nonprofit providing financial education and counseling.

In short, “unemployment could have an effect on your ability to purchase a home in the short term,” Boies says.

But the good news is that once you find a new job, you can likely resume home shopping without trouble, Boies adds. “Unemployment shouldn’t have a long-term effect on being able to buy a home.”

How long after unemployment can you buy a home?

But even once you do find a new job, that doesn’t mean you can easily buy a house just yet. That’s because lenders like to see a steady history of employment before loaning someone money.

“Regular employment must be reestablished as stable, reliable, and dependable,” says Karma Herzfeld, mortgage loan originator at Motto Mortgage Alliance in Little Rock, AR.

So how long is enough? Lenders typically require borrowers to have six months of employment at their current job, and two years of continuous employment. Breaks in employment older than two years shouldn’t affect getting a mortgage.

How unemployment affects your credit score

While unemployment doesn’t jeopardize future home-buying hopes per se, financial experts warn that what can put those plans at risk is how you handle your finances while jobless. Unemployment, after all, can stress your budget in ways that can damage your credit history and credit score.

Lenders check your credit score to assess how well you’ve managed past debts. Scores between 650 and 700 range from fair to good; scores below 650 are considered subpar, which could limit which lenders are willing to loan you money for a house. (You can check your score for free on sites like Credit Karma.)

Credit scores can be damaged in a variety of ways during unemployment. For one, if you get behind on paying bills, this will put some blemishes on your credit history and drag your score down.

Unemployment can also lower your credit score by negatively affecting your debt-to-income ratio, a calculation used by mortgage lenders to compare how much you make against how much you owe.

If you’re unemployed, you may face a double whammy as your income is lower and you’re charging more to your credit cards, thus increasing your debt. Both moves can negatively affect your debt-to-income ratio, which may make lenders leery of loaning you money.

“Any factor that affects income or debt may affect the debt-to-income ratio,” Herzfeld explains.

In sum, hopeful home buyers should be careful not to take on too much debt, even while unemployed. You need to preserve cash as best you can.

“I recommend, if on unemployment, [you] cut back on all discretionary spending and make every effort to keep bills current so that the credit score may not get negatively impacted,” Herzfeld says.

Debt-to-income ratio will likely rebalance once you return to work, as long as you haven’t racked up too much debt during the period of unemployment, Boies says.

How to handle your finances while unemployed

“My recommendation is to always try as best as you can to pay at least the minimum required payment on all monthly debt obligations, otherwise credit may be negatively affected,” Herzfeld says.

Boies suggests reaching out to landlords, credit card companies, utilities, auto lenders, and others to find out what options you have, such as payment plans, deferments, or forbearance. You might also be able to reduce some bills, such as insurance, by reviewing your policy.

“Don’t think that if you can’t pay that bill, you just can’t do anything about it,” Boies says. “You need to reach out to see what options they have available to you.”

How to bounce back from unemployment

If your credit score is negatively affected while you’re unemployed, it’s not the end of the world—but it will take time to repair.

Six months to a year or more of positive credit rebuilding could get you on track to buy a home, Herzfeld says.

“The sooner past-due debts can be remedied, the sooner the score may begin to improve,” she says.

For more smart financial news and advice, head over to MarketWatch.

Source: realtor.com

20 Communication Tips for Teams Working Remotely

Should there be a difference between how you interact with your employees in-person versus how you interact with them digitally? Absolutely.

Virtual interactions lack some of our most subtle and important communication tools, like body language, tone of voice, and spatial awareness in relation to others — like whether a coworker is taking notes or scrolling through their phone. As a remote manager or business owner, it’s up to you to ensure that your employees communicate effectively and efficiently, all while feeling supported in their roles and like they’re part of your team.

Communication Tips for Remote Teams

Here are some tips you can use to improve and hone the communication techniques you use in your remote workplace.

1. Invest in Remote Communication Tools

In a remote team, you rely on software to replace in-person conversations and interactions. The better the software, the easier it will be for your team members to use and adapt to. Stick to popular and well-known tools that provide frequent updates, news, and tech support to you and your staff.

This will make it easier to navigate any issues or changes and onboard new hires because they’ll likely be familiar with the most popular communication tools.

Look into different platforms for different purposes like project management, video calls, and messaging to find the applications that make sense for your business and team.

Some of the most prevalent communications platforms for remote teams include:

Purchase enough subscriptions for your entire team and provide access and setup instructions for each new employee or any time you add or change a communication method.

2. Provide High-Quality Hardware

The hardware you provide to your remote workers is essential when it comes to good communication among your staff. Whether you ship hardware out to new hires or provide a spending allowance, you need to ensure that your remote team is equipped for effective communication.

You can facilitate and encourage smooth communication within your team by providing:

  • A laptop or desktop computer
  • A high-quality webcam and microphone
  • Headphones or earbuds
  • A mouse and keyboard

High-quality hardware can help to avoid technical difficulties, poor connections, and substandard video and audio feeds, all of which make virtual communication arduous and problematic.

By giving your team the tools they need to succeed, you benefit from better virtual communication experiences and less time lost due to failing hardware.

3. Clarify Expectations About Availability

With a remote workforce, it’s common to have staff members spread out across different states or even countries. And, as with many remote teams, they probably all choose their own hours while working in various time zones, meaning different remote employees are available at different times.

Although it may seem like a lot to juggle, it’s important for you to be aware of the different time zones that your employees are working in and to clarify your expectations about how they handle communications like emails, messages, and calls outside of their preferred work hours.

For instance, when you schedule a meeting at 4pm your time but it’s 7pm for one of your staff members, are they expected to attend even if they already worked a full day? What about when they receive a message or email outside of their own office hours, but within another staff member’s?

Be clear and upfront about how you expect your staff to work within different time zones so that they can adjust their schedules and hours to fit your business needs.

4. Use the Right Communication Method For the Job

A lot of remote workplaces get stuck using the same communication method for everything. Maybe you’re a video-centric office, or maybe you favor Slack. But it’s vital that you use the communication method that’s best suited for the task at hand.

Determine which communication methods you prefer to use for what tasks and use different tools to your advantage. For example, video conferences are great for brainstorming sessions while instant messaging channels can be used to share basic information or ask direct questions. You might send urgent questions or requests via text message but less timely messages that can wait until the next workday via email or Slack.

Take time to define what channels your team should use for what kinds of tasks and messages. This ensures everyone stays involved and active in work-related conversations while alleviating the need for employees to monitor email or Slack at all times of day and night to avoid missing something important. Plus, it helps to reduce burnout or boredom from using the same methods over and over, or from sitting through a video conference that should have been an email.

5. Schedule Consistent Check-Ins

One of the biggest challenges in managing a remote team is figuring out how to substitute face-to-face time with video chats and phone calls.

Schedule consistent, frequent check-ins with any of your staff members who are working from home. This could mean having a weekly one-on-one video conference or sending brief check-in messages on a daily basis depending on the employee and their role.

Have a few go-to questions to ask, like whether they need any help with their current tasks or what kind of progress has been made on a specific project, as well as how they’re doing.

Even if the conversation only lasts for five minutes, it still helps to create a connection between you and your remote workers and helps to avoid miscommunications and misunderstandings by giving everyone an opportunity to ask questions or request support.

6. Make Time for Fun

Working remotely means that you miss out on all of the in-person interactions that come with an office. This makes it harder for staff members to get to know each other and to participate in social events. But there are still many ways for you to encourage remote workers to have fun together, all while supporting team building and employee engagement.

Many remote teams get creative by doing social activities like:

  • Creating messaging channels for water cooler chats, recipe sharing, memes, jokes, and more
  • Hosting virtual contests and activities
  • Having video conference happy hours
  • Playing online games
  • Scheduling team lunches or coffee breaks
  • Hosting virtual celebrations for seasonal holidays

7. Be Aware of Your Virtual Body Language

Body language can tell you a lot about what someone means when you have an in-person conversation. From emphasizing a point to communicating enthusiasm or disagreement, a lot of these subtle queues are lost in video chats because a webcam is focused on your face and doesn’t always clearly show posture, gestures, or where your eyes are focused.

When video conferencing with staff, make eye contact, sit up straight, and use your words to back up your feelings and to explain what you’re doing.

For example, if you’re taking notes so that you can reference them later, let others know so that they understand why you aren’t looking into the camera. Or, if you really like an idea but aren’t sure whether your facial expressions are translating properly, make a point of vocalizing your interest in and support of the suggestion.

It can be hard to focus on one person in a video chat, especially when multiple employees are in attendance, so make sure to reinforce your body language with clear statements so that your staff members know where you stand.

8. Communicate Consciously

Because you can’t rely on body language or in-person interactions in a remote workplace, you need to be conscious of how you communicate with your employees when it comes to your tone, language, and response time to direct messages and emails.

For example, telling someone they’ve done well in written text isn’t always as straightforward as it may seem. The way that you type your message can affect how it’s interpreted. Consider how you read these variations:

  • Good work on the last report you handed in!
  • Good work on the last report you handed in
  • Good work on the last report you handed in 🙂
  • Good work on the last report you handed in…
  • hey, good wrk on your last reprot

As you can see, the punctuation and spelling you use can have a considerable effect on how an employee may read your message. Choose punctuation and wording thoughtfully and always proofread before you hit send.

Another pointer is to do your best to respond to messages in a timely manner. As a business owner or manager, you have a lot on your plate. But, depending on the platform, employees can see when you’ve received a message and when you’re online, so if they ask a question or send you something to review, do your best to at least acknowledge it instead of not responding at all.

If you don’t have time to answer the question right away, just say so. Knowing that you got the message and will get to it when you have time will allow the employee to move on to other tasks instead of waiting around for you to answer in the hopes that you’ll get back to them right away.

If you use emojis, gifs, or memes when communicating with staff, make sure they’re appropriate, relevant, and easy-to-understand. Not everyone will get references from your favorite TV show, so when in doubt, stick to a clear, straightforward message instead.

9. Understand Synchronous and Asynchronous Communication

You may not realize it, but you probably use both asynchronous and synchronous communication in your remote workplace all the time.

  • Synchronous communication is when you’re having a conversation in real-time, whether it’s on the phone, through a video meeting, or in person. Team members are expected to respond immediately and to actively participate in a discussion. Although synchronous communication can be scheduled or spontaneous, it’s most often used for meetings, brainstorming sessions, and training.
  • Asynchronous communication is when a conversation can take place over a period of time due to the method of communication that you use — think emails, direct messages, mailed letters, or comments and tags in project management tools or digital documents. Correspondence is not scheduled and doesn’t need to take place between two or more people at the same time.

The most successful remote workplaces find a healthy balance between synchronous and asynchronous communication. Be conscious of which method you use — and when — to help you handle various time zones, improve time management, and build out a strategy for your remote communication best practices.

10. Create Documentation for Communication Best Practices

When it comes to remote workplaces, the tools, expectations, and best practices vary from one company to another. Although the way your team communicates digitally may seem standard to you, newcomers may feel differently.

To set new staff up for success and to make sure that everyone is on the same page, create documentation for the communications channels and methods that you use, along with best practices and expectations at your workplace.

For example, when should staff members use Slack versus email, and how quickly do you expect them to respond? Should project-related questions be asked in a private message or group channel?

Go through how you use different communications methods and when you use them during your employee onboarding process to help new employees understand how to interact with your team, avoid accidental miscommunications, and streamline their workflow.

11. Communicate Clearly

Plain language is key when it comes to digital conversations. Because tone, body language, and environmental factors are all lost during virtual discussions, you need to rely on the language that you use to convey your messages to staff members in the right way.

Here are some tips you can use:

  • Don’t be vague. Give specific answers to questions and include dates, times, and other details when relevant.
  • Make sure you understand a question or request before you answer it by reading it over more than once.
  • Proofread your responses to make sure they’re correct and that they provide the necessary information.
  • If a conversation is too complicated to have over email or messaging, schedule a phone call or video chat.
  • Stay on topic until the question is answered and everyone is on the same page.
  • Give employees a chance to ask questions and offer them opportunities to do so.

In fact, it can help to overcommunicate certain details like your expectations, deadlines, feedback, and new procedures or best practices. This reduces the margin for error and makes important information hard to miss or ignore.

12. Encourage Discussions and Collaboration

Lots of great ideas and solutions to problems are products of impromptu conversations between staff members from different departments or backgrounds. Encourage staff to have discussions and collaborate with one another, even if they’re working on different projects. Not only will it build camaraderie among your employees, but it will also help to keep everyone engaged and aware of what’s happening within your company.

Although some of this may happen naturally, creating opportunities for staff to interact with each other professionally will allow discussions and collaboration to become part of your workplace culture. Try it out by setting up virtual meetings for project kickoffs, staff updates, or company feedback sessions.

13. Create a Virtual Company Culture

Your team may be remote, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have your own company culture. Workplace culture isn’t just about the gadgets and perks at the office, it’s about company values, communication techniques, and how flexible or restrictive you are.

For example, if you put a lot of emphasis on quality over quantity when it comes to deliverables, or you offer flexible hours and unlimited vacation time, that makes a significant impact on the talent that you attract and how your staff members work and behave while they’re on the clock.

Alternately, if you have strict deadlines in place for heavy workloads and expect remote workers to adhere to specific start and end times each day, you’ll present your company culture in a different light.

However you choose to build and foster company culture, do it deliberately and thoughtfully so that it accurately reflects and supports your workplace values, morals, and priorities.

14. Use Visual Communication

Visual communication tools like infographics, presentations, videos, slideshows, flowcharts, and graphs are excellent ways to illustrate new concepts, ideas, and project outcomes. They also give everyone a new way to digest information that’s otherwise presented in text or by spoken word, which can be a welcome change for telecommuting workers.

Visually pleasing designs can also make difficult content like human resource material or technical manuals easier to read and understand, so get your design team involved to make your written material easier to work through and absorb.

15. Trust Your Remote Team

As a remote manager or business owner, you don’t get to see who’s late coming to the office every day or who spends too much time making chitchat at the water cooler. But that’s just something you have to let go of if you plan to manage a team of virtual employees.

Micromanaging off-site staff by checking in too often or expecting them to be available to answer any and all workplace communications immediately will negatively impact both your company culture and turnover rate.

And although you can use time tracking apps and check messaging statistics to monitor when your employees are working, it’s better to focus on the quality of the work an employee brings to the table and whether they’re meeting your professional expectations. If your employees produce great work on time and within budget, you probably don’t need to worry about whether working from home is affecting their productivity.

If you do choose to use apps to monitor employees’ work hours or productivity, don’t go overboard. Use what you need to make sure that your business runs smoothly without making extra work for your employees or infringing on their privacy or peace of mind.

16. Avoid Unnecessary Meetings

As mentioned, remote teams are often working in different time zones and setting their own work hours, which can make it hard to get everyone together at once for a meeting. Too many meetings can cause disengagement, fatigue, and burnout among staff. That’s why it’s important to ensure that you’re meeting when it makes sense and using other communication methods when it doesn’t.

To avoid unnecessary meetings, try some of these tips:

  • Schedule meetings in advance and for a specific purpose
  • Only involve necessary staff members
  • Set time limits to keep meetings on track
  • Cap the number of meetings you have in one day
  • Make certain meetings optional
  • Find a balance between serious and casual meetings
  • Make time for one-on-ones
  • Use phone calls, direct messages, or emails as substitutes when possible

If you aren’t sure whether you’re having too many meetings or too few, start a discussion with your staff to see what they think. Find out which meetings are the most useful, which require some tweaks, and which you can do away with altogether.

17. Be Respectful of Different Workspaces

Some remote workers have dedicated home offices while others have to use a multifunctional area like a kitchen, living room, or bedroom. And multifunctional spaces can come with cameos from spouses, pets, children, or roommates during video calls. Although it’s reasonable to expect your employees to behave professionally while on camera, remember that many interruptions are unplanned and are par for the course when it comes to using your home as an office.

Be mindful that, as a remote employer, you experience your employee’s home life in a way that most in-office bosses don’t. Be respectful of their home and their space, and only bring up issues you see that affect productivity or professionalism as opposed to comments related to their personal decor or what their office area is like.

And, if you notice that certain aspects of your employee’s home office could use an upgrade like a new camera, microphone, or desk, consider providing a home office spending budget for them to use. Or give these items as gifts. Not only will it improve their work experience, but it will improve yours as well by upping your team’s video and audio quality for meetings and presentations.

18. Find Ways to Celebrate Successes and Milestones

As a remote employer, you might not be able take an employee out for a meal to celebrate a professional milestone like the end of a major project or a work anniversary, but there are still many ways to mark accomplishments. And making a point of observing achievements can go a long way in building and maintaining employee morale.

Here are a few ideas you can try:

  • Have a virtual lunch
  • Send cookie or cupcake deliveries to employees
  • Host a fun team meeting and offer prizes for games and contests
  • Send out digital gift cards
  • Mail a bottle of wine or spirits
  • Have a one-on-one with your employee and sincerely thank them for their contributions and hard work

19. Meet Face-to-Face

Meeting in-person isn’t always a possibility, but you should take advantage of it when it is. Some remote workplaces plan annual trips or retreats for staff members to attend, while others bring remote workers into the office for project onboarding, year-end meetings, or training.

When you can, and when it makes sense, get staff together to meet face-to-face. This can help to forge friendships and strengthen working relationships as well as give remote employees a chance to socialize and feel like they’re part of the bigger team.

20. Understand the Differences Between Remote Work Versus In-Office

If you’re an in-office manager who has both remote and in-house staff, make an effort to learn about how your remote team’s work experience differs from those who work in the office. From missing out on impromptu meetings and inside jokes to not being included in social events, remote staff can be left out of a lot of important interactions if you don’t make a point of including them.

Make time to talk to remote workers about what you can do to improve and support inclusion and communication, and do your best to accommodate the most relevant and helpful suggestions. Keep in-house staff informed of any changes in best practices or procedures to keep everyone on the same page and in the loop.

This will enable your staff to work better both individually and as a team.


Final Word

Being a manager to remote staff can take some getting used to. It’s not always easy to know how to adapt communication methods and best practices for a virtual workforce but focusing on how to be inclusive, conscious, and clear is a good place to start.

As you add to your communication toolset, ask for feedback from staff members to find out what’s working and what could use a tweak or two. This will help you to build an effective and efficient remote communication strategy while supporting your business and team.

Source: moneycrashers.com