Healthy Work From Home Habits to Incorporate

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Guest Post

We’re seeing a major trend in employees working from home in 2019. In fact, work from home is the new standard for 50% of the workforce.  While there are perks aplenty when you have a home office (sweatpants for the win), it’s easy to forget to take care of your health.  Below are some tips to make sure you take care of your mind and body while cranking out solid work.

Invest in good furniture

If you’re going to be working from home, it’s important to invest in good furniture to ensure you’re taking care of your body ergonomically speaking. You don’t want to be slouched over at your dining room table all day or sitting on your couch for 8+ hours. It’s important to read up on ergonomics and find the best furniture to support your work. This may be a chair with lumbar support, a wrist rest for typing, or even a footrest, it all depends on your comfort and job duties. Furniture that supports ergonomics can be pricey but this is an investment in your health, especially if you work at home every day.

Be aware of digital eye strain

Digital eye strain is the discomfort felt from extended use of digital devices. This includes your computer, television, smartphone, gaming device and tablets. You may feel the effects of digital eye strain after just two hours of device usage, maybe even less if you use multiple devices at once. Natural blue light isn’t harmful (it’s the light that makes the sky appear blue) but the artificial light from digital screens is emitted at a much higher frequency. Consider buying a new pair of eyeglasses to help avoid headaches, dry eyes, and blurred vision, which are common physical symptoms of digital eye strain.

Schedule your days

Scheduling your work day to the fullest extent possible can have many positive effects. Firstly, if you are able to schedule your day by the hour then you can be as productive within that hour as possible and avoid overworking yourself. It’s common for people who work from home to work from the moment they wake up until they go to sleep at night. This can cause the inability to be productive in your work and ultimately, burn out.

Second, it’s important to schedule a time to workout, have lunch, and take breaks. Seeing these breaks on your calendar will allow you to be more mindful about actually taking the time for yourself, not skipping over it. Take breaks to stretch, go for walks, or grab a coffee. Things you’d normally do with your coworkers to get time away from your desk are still important to do at home! If you need some inspiration, treat yourself to a new planner to help motivate you to plan ahead, take time for yourself, and be the most productive that you can be.

Working from home is an amazing perk that the Internet has brought us. However, it can be harder to pay attention to your workplace health when your workplace is your comfy home. These tips are an easy way to improve your overall wellbeing! Do you work from home? Share your tips to stay healthy throughout the day below!

Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc, or its affiliates.

3 Healthy Work from Home Habits to Incorporate
Article Name
3 Healthy Work from Home Habits to Incorporate
Description
As the trend of work from home employees continues, it’s important that we remember to take care of ourselves. From scheduling out our days to protecting our eyes, check out these three habits to incorporate when working from home.
Holli Beckman
Publisher Name
Apartminty
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Source: blog.apartminty.com

How to Get Free Tax Filing Through the Free File Alliance

Filing taxes in the United States could be free and simple for everyone — if only tax prep companies weren’t lobbying to keep it so complicated.

Reporter Jessica Huseman pointed out this frustrating truth in a 2017 story for ProPublica, which resurfaces and regains steam each year around tax time — this year with a bump from a replay of her appearance on WNYC’s “On the Media”.

“Think about all the things that the IRS already knows about you,” she told OTM.

From your bank and employer, the Internal Revenue Service already gets a lot of the information you painstakingly report on your tax return. We could, in theory, have a return-free system, where the IRS sends you that information and how much it believes you owe, and you don’t have to file anything unless you disagree with it.

But we like a challenge, don’t we?

Instead of this straightforward public service, we have the next best thing: A private system that helps the majority of Americans file a federal tax return for free.

Except most of us don’t use it… because we don’t know it exists.

The Free File Alliance MUST Let You File Taxes for Free

The Free File Alliance is a public-private partnership between a group of tax software companies and the IRS. Nine companies are part of this agreement as of January 2021, according to its recent press release.

The agreement says these companies have to provide the majority of Americans with a free way to prepare and file their taxes online. It also bars the IRS from providing its own free filing system — like that dreamy no-return scenario I mentioned above.

The problem, predictably, is that no one advertises the free services.

The government has no budget to market it, and the for-profit tax preparers have no incentive to let you know about their free options — and every incentive to funnel you toward a paid option.

The result is that most filers have no idea the option exists, and hardly anyone takes advantage of it.

(BTW, we are happy to tell you all about those free tax filing services.)

Last year, the Alliance touted “soaring” participation in a press release — a 28% “jump” from 2.3 million filers in 2019 to 2.9 million in 2020. Sounds great, except more than 130 million taxpayers qualified for free filing through the program. That’s a participation rate of less than 2%, exactly where it sat when Huseman called B.S. on the program three years earlier.

How to Get Free Tax Filing Through the Free File Alliance

This part is, in fact, easy. Once you know about it.

To qualify, you have to earn below a certain income limit, which changes each year.

For tax year 2020 (what you’ll file in 2021), anyone with an adjusted gross income below $72,000 qualifies for free filing through an IRS partner.

Choose a filing service through the IRS browsing tool. It’ll ask you some questions to help you determine which service is a good fit for your tax situation.

Before you choose a service, read through the requirements for free filing. Some of them cap incomes as low as $39,000, or tack on an age requirement or state limitations. A few, but not many, throw in free state filing so you can avoid that surprise charge at the end of the process.

Most importantly: Assume you can find a way to file for free. The agreement aims to make free filing available to 70% of Americans, so the odds are in your favor.

Tax companies will make plenty of offers that tempt you to upgrade to a paid option — or make you believe you have no choice. But you do. They’ve barred our government from offering us that choice, and in return, they’re required to provide it themselves.

We just have to make sure we can find it.

Dana Sitar (@danasitar) has been writing and editing since 2011, covering personal finance, careers and digital media. She was ticked off she didn’t know about the Free File Alliance and wants to make sure you don’t face the same fate.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

How to Make a Side Income Running a Vending Machine Business

As we continue to make our way through COVID-19, many people are still looking for ways to get items they need without physical contact with another person.

Vending machines serve that purpose — and make money for the machine’s owner.

Owning and operating vending machines is big business, providing passive income without any specialized skills. It’s also called automatic merchandising.

Basically, all you need to get started is some startup money to buy a machine, a good location and the right products.

The Vending Machine Business During COVID-19

Revenue for the vending machine industry was $24.2 billion in 2019, up 3% from the year before.

That data came from the Automatic Merchandiser’s Annual State of the Industry Survey — before the full impact of COVID-19 hit.

There were 2,175,756 vending machines in service in 2019 in a variety of locations including:

  • Manufacturing areas
  • Offices
  • Retail spaces
  • Hotels/motels
  • Schools
  • Hospitals and nursing homes
  • Universities/colleges
  • Correctional facilities
  • Military bases
  • Restaurants, bars and clubs

Cold beverages were the top-selling product category. A majority of vending machines involve food and beverage products including sodas, coffee, snacks and candy.

There are also machines for bulk vending like gumballs, stickers, toys, novelties and more. During COVID-19, machines popped up selling masks and hand sanitizer.

At places like airports, vending machines often sell tech accessories and travel essentials like neck pillows, blankets and eye masks. Laundry rooms in residential buildings often have machines with detergent and fabric softener.

With many offices, businesses and other public spaces closed or restricted due to the coronavirus pandemic, the vending industry is certainly taking a hit.

“We’re in a tough, tough industry right now with COVID-19. A lot of stores don’t want the machines there, they don’t want the kids congregating, they don’t want people touching them,” said Scott Ausmus, director of manufacturing for National Entertainment Network, Inc. and president of the National Bulk Vendors Association.

He grew up in the vending business. The machines he sells and operates are the novelty kind, offering things like stuffed animals, toys and gumballs. Many are in restaurants and entertainment venues like bowling centers.

Many factors make owning a vending machine an attractive business venture.

The startup costs are relatively low, sometimes around $2,000. The work is flexible and often doesn’t require much day-to-day involvement. The risk is comparatively low and there is growth potential.

“There’s a higher profit in the gumball then there is anything else,” Ausmus said. “The cost of goods is low on the gumballs and everybody likes gum, so everybody still purchases a gumball and so that is a winner for a lot of people.”

Starting a Vending Machine Business

While the startup costs are low and the income is often passive, owning vending machines is not without risk. You must be able to understand your own financial situation and how much you can afford to invest.

There is the cost of the machine, the cost of inventory, personnel to keep it stocked, maintenance and more.

The more perishable the product and the busier the area, the more of your time the machine will take.

“If (your machine location has) a big break room and a lot of employees, you would have to be there once a day to fill your machines up because that’s how busy they are,” Ausmus said. Other machines like toys and candy don’t require as much restocking.

One of the first steps in starting a vending machine business is finding your niche and deciding what to sell. That takes a bit of research and knowing who your customer is.

“You gotta buy the right product. If you buy the wrong product, it won’t move and you won’t make any money and you certainly don’t want to throw [product] away,” Ausmus said. “You’ve got to have the variety for people and find out which ones they want and that’s what you restock with, what sells.”

Vending machine businesses are scalable, meaning it’s possible to start small and expand. You don’t have to wait for payments because customers pay when they purchase an item.

Location, Location, Location

To put yourself in the best position to be profitable means finding the right location.

Places with lots of foot traffic are good. Before COVID-19, that meant schools and universities, malls, office parks, etc.

Think about where people need to wait. While waiting, they may get hungry or thirsty. Ausmus’ novelty machines need kids around.

“One of the hardest things to do is to locate a location,” he said.

Location can be about trial and error.

“It’s really not a bad risk to put it in a location and find out that it’s not making enough money. … You can remove it and move it to the next one until you find that right location,” Ausmus said.

When looking for locations, be prepared to approach the owner or landlord with a business plan for the machine.

Also be prepared to:

  • Pay a percentage of sales or other fee for having your machine in their location.
  • Pay for the electricity the machine uses.
  • Ensure the security of the machine. There is money inside a machine as well as inventory. Theft and vandalism are always possible.
  • Research state and local laws and regulations.
  • Pay sales tax on the revenue the machine generates.

Key Purchase: Your Vending Machine

Then you will need an actual vending machine. There are several types, and prices vary depending on what is in the machine, whether it needs refrigeration or heating, and the interactivity.

Buying directly from a manufacturer or supplier is one option, as is purchasing on a secondary market. Some companies also rent machines. Ausmus cautioned to make sure there are spare parts and support available for what you buy.

Machines range from about $1,500 for a used or refurbished machine to several thousands for a new, high-end machine with many technical features.

Some machines have:

  • Remote monitoring software: This helps keep track of how the machine is working and notifies the operator if something is wrong.
  • Low stock alerts: Notify the operator when items needs replacing.
  • Vending management systems (VMS): Tracks sales and other data to help owners make better business decisions.

Running a Vending Machine Business

While owning vending machines does not require any special skills, it is a business.

You will need inventory and someone to keep the machine stocked and maintained. This may require a van or truck.

Perishables need to be stocked more often than other items. Learning some basic maintenance skills could keep you from having to hire someone if there is a problem with the machine.

Different types of machines have different capabilities. Some take only cash while others will process credit or debit cards. Some models have touch screens or voice capabilities.

“Make sure that you have your phone number on the machine, and that the store location knows your phone number,” said Ausmus. “If somebody didn’t get what they wanted, make sure the store can give them a refund and you pay the refund back to that store. Then get out there as soon as you can to fix the machine so that you can continue to make money.”

Automatic merchandising isn’t for everyone, but owning and operating a vending machine can be a good business. Being able to retrieve the money you make and restock your machines easily is the key.

“Then you only work probably three days a month, basically on the whole gig,” said Ausmus. “Three four days a month can make somebody a good little extra income.”

Tiffani Sherman is a Florida-based freelance reporter with more than 25 years of experience writing about finance, health, travel and other topics.



Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Create a Productive Apartment Work-From-Home Space

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Working from home has become more prominent than ever, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. But, when you’re living in an apartment, it can sometimes be challenging to create a productive remote workspace. 

Thankfully, there are things you can do to maximize your space (no matter how small it may be), arrange it in a way that inspires creativity and productivity, and take care of yourself so you stay motivated. 

Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can make the most of your apartment while you’re working from home, so you can find a healthy work-life balance and stay focused on your job each day. 

Arranging Your Space

A productive apartment work-from-home space starts with actually creating a designated workspace. You don’t necessarily need to have a separate spare room to set up an office. As long as you have a specific location in mind that is dedicated to your work, you can get things done effectively. Some suggestions include: 

  • Fixing a folding shelf to a wall.
  • Using a large closet/wardrobe.
  • Utilizing a large hallway.
  • Pulling your sofa away from the wall in the living room and using it as a desk chair.

Having your own workspace can help you to stay focused and organized throughout the day. Remember, your environment can affect your mental health. It can either keep you motivated or bring you down. So, focus on things like using natural lighting, having live plants around to give you energy, and even controlling the temperature to keep things a bit cooler. 

If you know you will have to participate in Zoom meetings or similar video chats, make sure that your office looks as professional as possible. Because you’re at home, it’s okay to make things personal. But, whatever is in your background should still suggest that you’re working. A professional background for a video call can include things like plants, pictures, and artwork, but probably shouldn’t include your Star Wars actions figures. 

Keeping Your Health in Mind

In addition to having the right space set up, it’s crucial to take care of yourself in order to stay productive. When working from home, it’s easy to feel distracted and unmotivated. Taking care of yourself, physically and mentally, can have a huge impact on how well you do your job. 

One of the potential drawbacks of working from home is having a harder time with a work-life balance. You can combat this by having a routine each day. Start work at the same time and end it at the same time. Having a separate office space in your apartment will make it easier to “walk away” from work at the end of the day. 

It’s also important to take breaks, and you may need to encourage yourself to do so. Your apartment might be small, but don’t be afraid to splurge on a few “self-care” items including, perhaps, a sofa that you can put in or near your workspace for whenever you need to take a break. 

Your breaks should also consist of movement, as much as possible. Stand up and stretch every hour. Or, take longer breaks throughout the day that allow you to get outside and go for a walk. Studies have shown that simply being out in nature can improve your mood, which may help with productivity, and it will give you a chance to get some space after being in a small apartment all day. 

It’s possible to create a productive apartment work-from-home space and to stay motivated each day. With a few simple changes, some organizational skills, and maybe a professional purchase or two, you can turn almost any area of your apartment into an effective workspace. 

Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc, or its affiliates.

How to Create a Productive Apartment Work-From-Home Space
Article Name
How to Create a Productive Apartment Work-From-Home Space
Description
With a few simple changes, some organizational skills, and maybe a professional purchase or two, you can turn almost any area of your apartment into an effective workspace.
Publisher Name
Apartminty
Publisher Logo

Source: blog.apartminty.com

Will the WFH trend affect the housing market after COVID?

Now that several vaccines are being distributed and hospitalizations appear to be on the decline in many areas, we can start thinking about life after COVID-19. I am interested to see what habits and cultural shifts stay with us and which ones are cast aside as soon as we can safely do so.

My instincts tell me that, for the most part, whatever happens in a crisis stays in a crisis. This is to say, I don’t expect that we will continue to bake our own bread and make time for afternoon walks once all businesses and commerce are back to full steam. But will we go back to shaking hands in the workplace? It is part of our human wiring that old habits are hard to break and new habits are hard to grow. So what about the relatively recent cultural trend of working from home? 

Even before COVID-19, there was a rise in people working from home.

From early in the crisis, we had a we had a significant increase in working from home early in the crisis, as seen in this chart from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

It is a law of nature that parabolic moves like the number of folks working from home eventually moderate once the pressure that drove them diminishes. This is true in economics (like the parabolic rise in new home sales that are now moderating) and is true for cultural movements.

So will WFH be a cultural shift in society that sticks? The option of WFH is one that has great appeal for many people and offers some benefits to employers as well. For example, a company may shrink its corporate footprint and save on facility costs if its workforce is distributed rather than centralized. And the appeal of WFH will only increase when the additional burden of schooling from home is lifted off working families. 

And if WFH does stick, what will the consequences be for the housing market? For most of us, that decision is in our employer’s hands and not one we make for ourselves. But it is exciting to think about what the future may hold for our society if this trend that started during the COVID-19 crisis becomes a permanent feature.

One possible positive benefit would be an increase in inventory in urban areas. When workers are no longer obligated to live within driving distance to the office, homes in the centralized business area will become less attractive. A family that wants a bigger house or even a young couple who wants to start a family will no longer be geographically bound.

This doesn’t necessarily mean leaving the state — It may just mean going from expensive central cities to more affordable suburbs 20 to 40 miles away. But leaving a state like California to get a much bigger home and a less congested lifestyle for a much lower cost of living will have appeal for some.

Although inventory may increase in some areas, I do not expect WFH to result in forced selling. WFH does not force anyone to sell and move, but it is a variable that could create more inventory in certain areas if people do want to move. The WFH trend is more likely to increase inventory than if mortgage rates fell.

You may be familiar with the questionable mortgage rate lockdown thesis, which suggests that homeowners delay moving to preserve their low mortgage rate on their loan, and if interest rates fell, they would move. Therefore, according to this thesis, if interest rates fall, inventory will rise. This has never happened, and it won’t. Note that the last time rates moved lower, total inventory also went lower – because more folks wanted to get into the market. It all makes sense when you think about it! 

The WFH trend may allow some folks to move, but the fact is that people move every year, COVID or no COVID. People move to buy bigger homes, smaller homes, be near better schools, or get away from city life. But the trend before COVID was that Americans were staying in their homes longer. Homes have been growing in size for decades. If a family’s first home is large enough to accommodate a growing family, there is no need to move up. In an article I wrote earlier last year, I highlighted this reason as one factor that is keeping Americans in their homes longer.

American demographics are such that we have many people coming into the family formation/home-buying ages. The years 2020-2024 have the most significant number of people ages 27 to 33 years old ever. We had approximately 32,458,118  Americans in this group in the year 2020. 

People of this age typically have gone past the rent, date, and mate phases of their lives and are into the marriage, planning, kids, and home-buying phases. This demographic motherlode means we will have a healthy number of replacement buyers for 2020-2024. Even COVID-19 wasn’t big enough to destroy mother demographics.

With the trend of WFH in play, some people might consider moving who wouldn’t have if the COVID crisis didn’t happen. During 2017-2019, the cities with the most significant total population growth were Dallas, Phoenix, Houston, Atlanta, and Austin.

Looking out in the future, a young couple or a married couple looking to have a larger family might not need to worry about finding a new job to do so.  

From the Census Bureau:


Only time will tell if the work-from-home cultural phenomenon is just a trend or a persistent social movement. Curmudgeon that I am, my gut tells me WFH won’t be as big as some people will hope. Surveys show that workers typically feel that they have the resources needed to be productive working from home.

A study of nearly 3,000 employees in a global work from home survey last year showed that 78% of North American office workers say they have the resources they need to be successful. Additionally,  most managers “are just as satisfied” with the work performance (70% report the same or better results) of their WFH employees. The companies surveyed included heavy hitters like Adobe, Aetna, and Amazon

Some companies can function well with some of the workforce home-based. And for some people, it makes perfect sense to take advantage of the WFH trend. A young family that wants a more prominent home than they can afford in their current location can get a bigger home elsewhere and skip the commute to work. 

But the question remains: With over 6 million in total home sales, will the WFH trend be big enough to dent this number and create the much-needed inventory to cool down home prices in certain areas and drive home prices up in others?

My guess is no. We tend to go back to the norm, and while working from home sounds great on paper, I don’t think most of corporate America is ready to jump on board fully. I would love to be wrong here. However,  like many things that happen in a crisis, the excitement of a change loses its luster once the crisis is over and we drift back to “same as it ever was.”

Source: housingwire.com

It’s time to make work-from-home regulations permanent

To meet the overwhelming demand for loans, independent mortgage bankers have quickly adapted to social distancing and remote working via work-from-home models that were previously unimaginable. Through this rapid growth in use of online and digital correspondence, today’s IMBs continue to originate more than half of all new mortgages.

These rapid changes have not been without pause for concern with regard to regulatory requirements and legal statutes as well as enforcement. Many states and regulatory jurisdictions restrict, and in some cases unilaterally prohibit, mortgage workers from conducting their activities outside of the branch office. Fortunately, a patchwork of executive orders, temporary waivers, and do-not-enforce letters have enabled the workforce to continue operating safely from their homes, albeit temporarily. In turn, IMBs have acted responsibly, putting in place policies, processes and protocols to ensure robust managerial supervision over all remote employees and security over confidential and non-public information.

We believe that the move to a remote work model is a long-term, technology-driven transformation which was well underway prior to the pandemic and will continue long after the pandemic. The Community Home Lenders Association took the lead early on this issue, with a letter to the Conference of State Bank Supervisors. Work from home safeguards our workforce as well as our customers and ensures that mortgage credit continues to be available for the housing market. We urge state and federal regulators alike to address these temporary work-from-home flexibilities and to make them formal and permanent.

Our proposal makes the case for smart regulation. Smart regulation does not require that we choose between stronger or weaker sets of rules. Flexibility is appropriate and strengthens compliance. Allow mortgage employees to work from home without requiring their home to be licensed as a branch location. Allow them to work from home without imposing an arbitrary distance requirement to and from a licensed office. Consumers need to be protected as well. Require robust corporate policies and procedures to ensure sound managerial supervision of employees. Require that consumers’ data and private information is kept confidential and secure.

Mortgage servicing requirements by non-banks are another concern. Regulation can be effective without imposing unnecessary compliance burdens or costs on IMBs and ultimately on their customers. The CSBS is in the process of soliciting comments on a proposal to create financial and management requirements for non-bank servicers (often IMBs) in all 50 states. This is in response to the strong growth in servicing by nonbanks in the 12 years since the 2008 housing crisis. It makes sense for CSBS to ensure that the largest servicers are properly regulated. It is the handful of large servicers that have grown quickly that pose the great majority of financial and systemic servicing risk. It also makes sense to close servicing regulatory gaps for non-agency mortgage loans.

However, CHLA is requesting adjustments to this proposal to protect smaller nonbank servicers from new unnecessary burdens. These changes would support the CSBS’s overall goal of closing regulatory gaps in supervision of servicers without impeding the consumers’ access to credit. Smaller IMB lender/servicers primarily originate federal agency loans — GSE, FHA, VA and RHS loans — and are already subject to robust capital, liquidity and corporate management requirements by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae. The proposed requirements are largely duplicative of existing GSE and Ginnie Mae requirements. Therefore, in its comment letter to the CSBS, CHLA is asking that smaller servicers with de minimis levels of nonagency loans should be deemed in compliance with the new CSBS requirements if they are a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac servicer (or Ginnie Mae issuer) in good standing.

The letter also asks for state-by-state exemptions from the new requirements in states where a servicer has a de minimis number of loans serviced in that state. CHLA members are typical of smaller community-based lender/servicers; they originate and service loans primarily in one or only a few states, but also originate and service smaller levels of loans in a number of states in proximity to their main state(s) of operation. Without exemptions in states with de minimis servicing volumes, smaller servicers will simply abandon servicing in these states.

Without these changes, the risk is that many smaller servicers will simply exit the servicing business and the servicing industry will be more concentrated, meaning less competition and higher prices and less personalized service. The broader impact would be more concentration of nationwide mega-servicers, leading to more financial and systemic risk exposure.

The choice is not between either more or less regulation. It is how to achieve smart regulation. Smart regulation is the best way to protect consumers and reduce risk, without imposing unnecessary compliance burdens on small lenders and the consumers they serve.

Source: nationalmortgagenews.com