When Telecommuting is a Must: Work From Home Tips for Success

As the novel coronavirus grips the United States, virtually every business has had to make significant work from home accommodations for millions of employees across the country, with little or no time to plan. While mandatory telecommuting may not be ideal for many companies, there are a multitude of ways that businesses and their team members can make the best of an unforeseen remote working situation, and enjoy a few work from home perks along the way.

Create a Routine That Works for You

Whether you’re an early bird who enjoys watching the day wake up, or you’re a night owl who enjoys working well into the evening, creating a workday routine that works for you will ensure you get the job done while keeping your home life happy and your work-life balance in check.


Create Your Office Space

Especially if working from home became necessary because of COVID-19 work from home mandates, you may not be prepared – or have the room – to designate a formal office space. A small desk, a dining room table, or a kitchen nook – anywhere that you can make your own and keep consistent – will work well.

Finding a spot in a well-lit room, or a room with lots of natural light, will help to create a light, bright work area. Be sure you have the essentials: a comfortable chair, a strong internet connection, a mouse for your laptop (game changer!), and a printer stocked with paper and ink if printing documents is a regular part of your work day.

Make your ad-hoc office space your own! Add a small vase of fresh flowers, your favorite scented candle, a few favorite photos, or anything that sparks a bit of joy throughout your busy work day.

To present a more formal setting when video conferencing with external clients or customers, visibly displaying your name plate in your video chat window is an easy way to set a professional tone while you’re working from home.

When your work day is over, tuck all of your office ‘supplies’ away and out of sight till the next day.

Set Regular Work Hours

What’s most important when working from home is to achieve your responsibilities, which will help to keep your company running smoothly and working toward its objectives. It’s less about clocking in and out, and more about ensuring that you are able to commit to accomplishing quality work in a timely manner.

It is equally as important to completely log off at the end of your work day, resisting the urge to log back in after dinner, or on evenings or weekends. Just as you put in the time expected of you during the work day, keeping work and home life separate are key to your quality of life.

Be Comfortable

While some people feel best ‘dressed for success’ whether they commute to the office or are working from home, others prefer comfy tees and yoga pants during a busy at-home work day. Work however you’re most comfortable, the more comfortable you are, the more productive you’ll be!

Keep in mind, when video conferencing with other team members, clients, or customers, be sure that what you’ve chosen to wear for the day presents the same appearance as if you were working at the office, perhaps even adding your name tag to complete your look.

Set Rules with Others Sharing Your Space

If you’re not alone during the work hours you’ve set, and must share limited space with family members, roommates, or others, set rules that will respect your privacy while you’re ‘at the office’. One easy way to avoid shared quarters distractions is to put those noise canceling headphones or super-charged ear buds to good use!

Communicate with Colleagues

Many people enjoy the camaraderie of a bustling office. Not everyone prefers to work from home, and doing so may add an extra layer of stress or anxiety to the work day. Providing your virtual teams with as much valuable information as possible will lessen the worry caused by this unexpected disruption.

Additionally, make it a priority to check in often and ‘attend’ your regularly scheduled meetings. Technology offers many easy video conferencing ways to join meetings from virtually anywhere, and continuing meetings as planned will help to keep workflows moving along and keep everyone on the same page. There are many easy to use, free video chat platforms available via social media, including Skype and FaceTime.

Keep the Social in Social Distancing

While it may be easier to be productive without the chatter of coworkers buzzing in your ear, thoughtfully interacting with coworkers via phone calls, video conferencing, or online intranet chat platforms can alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation and keeps the sense of teamwork thriving when social distancing is a must.

Get Up! Move Around!

Once you’re settled in and working from home, it’s easy to see how much you’re used to getting up and walking around at work, whether it’s down the hall to the conference room or covering several floors throughout the day collaborating with colleagues. It’s essential to get up and move around no matter where your new ‘office’ happens to be.

Several short breaks – of even five or ten minutes at a time – are essential to clear your mind and reset your concentration. Play a few rounds of fetch with your dog, grab the day’s mail, or take a walk around the neighborhood, enjoying a few minutes of fresh air and nature as often as you can.

At a minimum, take a few minutes several times an hour to get up, stretch, close your eyes, and breathe deeply. Opening your windows for some fresh air is also a wonderful way to bring a bit of the outside in.

Take Advantage of Your Perks

While working from home offers its own set of challenges, including transitioning to a single-screen laptop, slower home internet connections, and a laggy virtual private network, there are many work from home perks to be enjoyed.

You’re not commuting! If your commute was only 30 minutes each way, you’ve just gained five extra hours per week, giving you plenty of bonus time to do the little things that inevitably pile up, or simply spend more time living your best life.

Consider the extra savings. Not only will you save the additional gasoline or mass transit costs when working from home, you can enjoy making workday meals and snacks from the comfort of your kitchen, which is a cost that adds up when eating out for lunch even a few days a week.

Speaking of saving money, be your own barista and set up a coffee shop in your kitchen. In just minutes, your favorite latte will be brewed and ready to enjoy!

Enjoy moments that you wouldn’t necessarily have at the office. Listen to your music or podcasts sans headphones, cuddle your kitty to relieve stress (or to remove her from your keyboard!), and enjoy a few minutes of extra sleep instead of sitting in morning traffic.

Stay Healthy!

During stressful times, and especially being so close to a kitchen and pantry full of tempting treats, it’s easy to go for the salty, sweet snacks too often! Instead, focus on healthful fruits, nuts, and nutritious lunches, and then reward yourself with your favorite treat as a bonus at the end of the day.

For Managers

As mangers that are faced with heading up an unplanned virtual workforce, effective communication and a positive tone from the top are key to encouraging productivity and reducing stress for remote workers.

Sharing the message that the company expects challenges and knows they will pass, and that you’re all in this together, will help calm anxieties and create a feeling of camaraderie among team members during times of uncertainty.

Be sure to stress the importance of work-life balance when your team members are working from home. If employees feel that they have to overcompensate because they do not commute to the office every day, they risk becoming worn out and resenting what could and should be a positive remote working situation.

Let Happy Hour Begin!

If happy hour is a trend you wish could continue amid coronavirus social distancing and self-quarantines, why not give a virtual happy hour a go? One of Bloomberg’s Hong Kong employees says that, after several weeks of working from home, a manager set up a video chat for 20 team members. With drinks in hand, conversations were enjoyed, including family updates, casual conversations, and even a pet or two made an appearance!

This recently unimaginable coronavirus outbreak has sparked a mandatory telecommuting trial run for thousands of businesses and employees across the country and around the world, creating a work from home labor force on a grand scale. While there are obvious work from home perks, including no commutes and a more relaxed remote working home office space, heightened anxieties and uncertainties about what the future holds abound.

Remembering that we’re all in this together will go a long way in keeping the circle of collaboration flowing and our successes rising, at work, at home, and everywhere in between.

Top 10 Employee Appreciation Day Gift Ideas

What is Employee Appreciation Day?

Employee Appreciation Day began as a day to show appreciation to employees everywhere and to strengthen relationships between employers and employees. The first Friday in March marks this unofficial annual holiday, celebrated this year on March 6.

Not only are recognition and appreciation key for motivating employees, showing your sincere, genuine appreciation for valued personnel goes a long way in maintaining employee job satisfaction. We’ve compiled our favorite 10 ways to show employees how much they’re appreciated. There’s something for everyone!

Put Pen to Paper! Write Employee Thank You Notes

Pen a genuine, sincere, handwritten thank you note for each of your employees expressing your thanks for their dedication and a job well done all year long! A personally penned thank you is more meaningful than a standard email destined for a future in cyberspace!

 

Personalize Gifts for Your Employees

Give personalized gifts to your employees they’re sure to appreciate. From engraved desk plates to personalized pens, tumblers, and more, they will enjoy putting your thoughtfully chosen gifts to good use!

Enjoy a Team Outing

Gather the team for some out-of-office fun. If your crew is competitive, think trivia, a darts competition, or mini golf. If they’re all about the circle of collaboration, give an escape room or an obstacle course a go!

Arrange a Volunteer Day

Giving back to your local community (or creating packages to be shared around the world) is a winner for volunteers and recipients alike. You will not only fulfill an essential need, your team will enjoy strengthening social bonds with one another along the way!

 

Plan an Extraordinary Treat

Whether it’s a special delivery of warm, freshly baked cookies from a local bake shop or hiring your team’s favorite food truck for a made-to-order lunch, your employees will appreciate you as much as you appreciate them!

Thank Your Staff by Bringing in Temporary Assistance

Share a few temporary workers between employees and departments for a few days or even a week. Catching up on the piles of busywork that have been pushed aside will have employees humming a happy tune all week long!

Enjoy the Local Lunch Scene

Explore your local cuisine by assigning each person on your team a restaurant to visit and write a review about afterward. And of course, have the company pick up the tab!

 

Elevate Your Employee Break Room and Coffee Stations

Offer complimentary fruit or snacks and upgrade your coffee post with ceramic mugs and spoons, a selection of hot teas, and a variety of creamers, syrups, and coffee toppings. Don’t forget to include weekly Friday treats to start the weekend on a sweet note!

Create an Employee Recognition Campaign

Design a platform where employees can enjoy cheers from their peers! Whether it’s an intranet platform where employees can give a personal shout out to a colleague for a job well done, or actual certificates that are awarded, meaningful gestures of recognition are sure to be appreciated.

Start a Holiday Weekend Early

Surprise employees the morning before a long weekend and call it a day a little early. Whether it’s just before lunch or a little later, this is one surprise everyone will love!

 

 

Make employee appreciation an everyday event!

Simple gestures like being polite, saying hello, or flashing a smile to whomever crosses your path are effortless ways to show employees individual respect and appreciation all year long!

Wood Name Tags – An Ecofriendly Choice for Your Business

From neighborhood businesses lining Main Streets in small town America to international corporations spanning the globe, companies are reshaping their images to be seen as sustainably focused and ecofriendly in the eyes of their valued customers. Known as green marketing, these efforts are made to earn the trust, respect, and business of increasingly environmentally savvy consumers.

Going green is arguably the best practice competitive businesses can implement today.

 

Show Sustainability Matters to your Business

There are countless ways for businesses to demonstrate their commitment to caring for the planet, beginning with that first face-to-face interaction with potential customers or clients. Employees who greet guests wearing wood name tags make an ecofriendly impression with every handshake.

Additionally, wood name tags offer an exceptionally professional look, are laser engraved from a variety of wood types, and can include images or logos to compliment just about any business.

 

 

Wooden name tags are especially nice for complimenting uniforms for outdoor and sporting goods stores, garden nurseries, parks, campgrounds, and other outdoor recreation areas, coffee shops, health food stores, and more!

Wood – A Natural Choice

A renewable natural resource, wood is plentiful, durable, eye-catching, and economical. Additionally, wood grows cleanly, gathering its energy naturally from the sun.

Wood is a sustainable, ecofriendly material that requires minimal processing and emits some of the lowest greenhouse gas emissions, air and water pollution rates for harvesting and milling. By choosing this renewable resource, harmful carbon is kept from the atmosphere, helping to lessen the effects of climate change.

 

 

In addition to wood being a naturally renewable resource, this ‘green’ choice is good business that also offers benefits to neighborhoods and communities across the country. The production of wood creates zero waste because it grows from, and returns to, nature. The entire tree can be used for economic and environmental purposes, including bark as mulch for landscaping.

 

Additional Benefits of Wearing Name Tags

In addition to displaying a professional appearance, name tags play a role in branding your business, encourage interaction between employees and customers, and provide an added level of security by identifying employees authorized to represent your business.

Whether you’re a local small business or an international corporation, name tags offer unique benefits from that initial greeting through completed transactions, and more. Designing thoughtful name tags for your business is a small investment in time and resources that has the potential to grow your relationships, and your bottom line, for years to come!

2020 Desk Makeover: Tips for Refreshing Your Work Space

Take on 2020 with new energy by giving your desk a makeover.

The hustle and bustle of vacation time often leaves employees feeling tired and disoriented. Getting back in gear requires a bit more than overcoming the Monday blues. However, returning to the office after holiday fun doesn’t have to be a drag. When you are trying to get momentum to really tackle the new year, start by adapting the space you work in. Put intentionality into refreshing the environment where you get things done.

Here are some cleansing tasks to revive your surroundings. As you organize the atmosphere around you, you can re-align yourself and find the motivation to take on the challenges that January brings.

Eliminate Visual Obstacles: It might sound abstract to try to identify what constitutes a desk obstacle, but this is part of the process. Begin by throwing out trash: napkins, old paperwork, and sticky notes you no longer need. Then find clutter, those items that are distracting and taking up valuable desk real estate. Keeping office supplies in a box in a drawer underneath your desk is often a much more efficient use of space.

Retire 2019’s Tchotchkes: Last year’s mementos may still have a place in your heart, but that doesn’t mean these should still be a part of your workspace. It’s also easy to max out on the number of pop figures that “decorate” your space. The new year is a good time to phase out desk accessories that have gathered dust. Do a little purging and throw some away. Take treasured items home to bring out another season, when they are ready for their revival.

Compulsory Calendar Purchase: Schedule your life effectively with a new calendar. Whether you’re into wall calendars, bullet journals, or weekly calendar tear off pads, make sure you have a current calendar to welcome the new year. Get inspired every new month as you see images of your favorite things, from puppies and miniature pink pigs, to nature scenes, beach escapes and motivational quotes.

Give Your Coffee a New Home: You know that lipstick stained mug that you got two birthdays ago? It’s time to take that home (or throw it out). Take your morning ritual of fresh hot coffee or tea to new heights by bringing in a different daily use mug. Feeling the texture of a different cup handle in your hand, you will start feel like a new 2020 you.

Mark of Ownership: Own the area in which you get things done by making sure your desk is marked with your name or initial. Get a personalized desk plate, painted sign or decorative letter with your first initial. Putting your one-of-a-kind signature out there shows that this is where you belong, what you are responsible for, and who you are. Adding your name to your space helps communicate to your coworkers that you take ownership for your role in the organization.

Invite in Good Vibes:  Feng shiu your belongings so you can navigate your space with ease. Part of the way to bring life in is by re-arranging how your desk is set up. Designating an area for your purse, phone and keys will give you room to breathe. Get a Zen garden or salt lamp to welcome soothing vibes all day long.

Cohabitate with Nature: Make a living thing a desk accessory by bringing a little plant to work with you. Find a vase or pot that has subtle colors and blends peacefully with your desk theme. From bamboo, ivy, spider plants and cacti, there are many types of greenery that can bring harmony to your desk.  If you haven’t already gotten on board with the succulent trend, now is certainly a good time to start.

Swip-Swap Your Pictures: Do you have old photos on your desk? Once the swip-swap is done, make your space not look so dated and representative of memories that have gone stale. While that picture of your dog is cute, your 8-year old canine is no longer a pup. That vacation to New York was 2 years ago. You’ve had another kid since that family picture was taken. Do you remember the names of those old golfing buddies? Take the time to print updated photos that represent where you are now in your life. For the classic photo that you still love, you can refresh the look by swapping out that old frame for a new one.

Introduce Order to Your Desktop: Over time the number of desktop icons on your screen can mount into a cluttered chaos of Apps, file names and unorganized folder frenzy. As part of your cleansing ritual, put your digital world in order too. Delete old documents, create folders for your main projects, and finish off this task by adding a new desktop background that matches the theme of your re-energized space.

Unleash Coworker Karma: Create harmony in your office by bringing joy into the lives of your coworkers. Celebrate the pod of people around you by sharing a positive message. You can contribute to your work culture by giving small holiday gifts to your deskmates. Consider bringing in donuts or baked goods. Get succulents for your neighbors. Make custom name tags with nicknames, motivational phrases, or company values for everyone on your team. Even a brand new ballpoint pen can be a simple way to boost the morale of your team.

Five Tips to Prepare for Small Business Saturday

What is Small Business Saturday?

Started as a way to bring attention (and shoppers!) to the thousands of small businesses across America during the holiday shopping season, Small Business Saturday is celebrated each year on the Saturday following Thanksgiving. This year, on November 30, 2019 (Small Business Saturday’s 10th anniversary!), small businesses everywhere will open their doors to shoppers looking for those extra special gifts this holiday season!

How Can I Prepare for Small Business Saturday?

Small Business Saturday is a wonderful opportunity to welcome new shoppers, inspire customer loyalty, and increase holiday sales! These are some of our favorite ways to create a winning Small Business Saturday strategy.

Host or Participate in a Small Business Saturday Event

Many local neighborhoods and small business organizations come together to plan creative Small Business Saturday events that add an extra bit of fun to this festive holiday shopping weekend. For example, Visit Jacksonville, the official travel website for this beach side city, offers a #SmallBizSat passport where shoppers earn stamps by visiting local small businesses that can be entered into a drawing for exciting holiday giveaways.

Include holiday treats for everyone! Offer hot chocolate and cookies to weary shoppers, and delight the little ones with surprise visits and photo opportunities – straight from the North Pole – from Santa Claus himself! Keep the festivities bustling by piping holiday music throughout the store or by featuring live performances by local Christmas carolers throughout the day or evening.

Advertise! Advertise! Advertise!

Advertising has never been easier – or more economical – with opportunities like the many social media platforms available to reach potential customers. Create festive posts and tweets to keep your followers informed about exclusive Small Business Saturday deals and events and how they can take part.

Like, love, and share other Small Business Saturday social media posts to spread the word to others. Be sure to include the holiday hash tags #SmallBusinessSaturday, #SmallBizSat, and #ShopSmall to connect with others in the small business community and beyond!

Emphasize Personal Interactions and Build Relationships

Small businesses have the valuable opportunity to offer personalized interaction with their customers, unlike large retail stores where finding employees is often challenging or via chatbot conversations when shopping online. Personal conversation is at the heart (and the start!) of creating meaningful, lasting relationships.

Welcome conversation by wearing an eye-catching name badge and greeting each guest that comes into your store. Rather than the usual ‘May I help you?’ offer a heartfelt ‘Season’s greetings!’ or ‘Welcome in!’ to start a festive conversation. Sincere, professional interaction with customers often leads to increased holiday sales and returning customers throughout the year.

Offer Valuable Sales and Deals

Valuable offers don’t have to mean deep discounts like the big box stores use to lure customers on Black Friday. Small businesses typically don’t have the sales volume to support such substantial markdowns, even for a short time. Small business patrons generally shop to support their local communities rather than dashing in just for that sought-after door buster.

Begin by aligning your holiday promotions with your store’s sales goals. Restaurateurs may consider offering special Small Business Saturday menus, including discounts on holiday-inspired meals. Retail shops could offer small denomination gift cards with purchases of a specific dollar amount that will inspire customers to return throughout the shopping season.

Show Your Appreciation

There are multitudes of ways to show your appreciation while building customer loyalty. Begin by offering a heartfelt thank you to every shopper who visits your store and send handwritten thank you notes to those customers who purchase from you all year.

Make shopping easier by extending your hours during the bustling holiday season, on the weekends or all week long. Set up a festive gift wrapping station and offer free gift wrapping for all in-store purchases. For an added bit of seasonal marketing, use gift wrap or seals printed with your shop’s name and logo, sure to signal to the gift recipient that something special is in store!

Show your support for local charities. In addition to promoting these charities from within your small business, make a donation in your customers’ honor as a special thank you for shopping with you.

Let Your Badge Network for You – Conference Tips

photo badge

When you are registering for a conference, trade show, or networking event, what type of information do you provide for the badge you will wear? Do you give just the basics of your name and company? Do you include your job role?

Pre-Conference Name Tag Checklist:
Badge Basics ✔
Social Profiles ✔
Twitter ✔
Relevant Work Experience ✔
LinkedIn ✔
Getting the Most Mileage from Name Tags ✔

Choosing what to share can be a crucial element in directing your career.  Each event you attend is an opportunity to represent not only the business you work for, but your personal brand. Use the real estate on your conference name tag intentionally, putting your best foot forward by including links to relevant social profiles and job experience.

The information you put on your professional name badge can help you can expand your networking circle and continue the dialogue that begins during conference downtime when everyone is scrolling through their phones.

Badge Basics

When you are inputting your personal data for your name tag, start by making sure that the basic information is free of errors.  A typo or misspelling can immediately change the tone of first impression conversations. You want to be able to introduce yourself with confidence, rather than an explanation about accidentally forgetting to capitalize your last name because you rushed through registration.

Check these personal data basics first:

  • Review spelling and capitalization
  • Make sure that job title and company information are up-to-date
  • Include a professional, recent photo
  • See if fonts are clear and easy to read. You may need to change size or fonts so that all information fits within the space allotted.

Social Profiles

For many jobs, including your social media handle can be a way of demonstrating your ability to develop brands, gain followers and have a voice in your industry. Use your best judgment to choose which platforms are appropriate for your personal brand.

Instagram can be an ideal place for sharing accomplishments related to the beauty or fashion industries. For many comics and influencers, it might be a priority to include your YouTube channel.

However, not every social media profile showcases your abilities well. For example, if you are attending a conference on laser safety technology, your Facebook profile is not likely the place where you display your knowledge of lasers.

The one exception that has relevance in most fields is a Twitter profile.  If you don’t have one currently, you can create one to use during conferences.

Twitter

Twitter is a great place to contact conference speakers and set up events. Start tweeting prior to the event to show your interest in specific conference topics. With a twitter handle, you can be tagged for important discussions, announcements and post-conference events

Make sure to follow the conference hashtags and participate in questions presented to audiences during sessions. Asking the right questions can often get you noticed. Tweetchats that happen during the conference weekend can also be a place to chime in about hot topics in your industry.

A Twitter handle allows conference goers to communicate immediately with direct messages. This allows recruiters to contact you and gives you access to speakers without having to wait in line or clog their inbox. You may also catch the eye of colleagues who were unable to attend the conference but are participating from their desktop.

You never know where the catalyst for your next project will begin. It could be a direct message from the keynote giving you feedback on your website. It could be a potential job opportunity that arises after you answer questions from a tweet chat and display a new perspective and creative solution to a common problem in your field.

Conference badge with profiles

Relevant Work Experience

In some cases it’s important to display your company name, but in other cases you may want to focus on professional accomplishments and areas of expertise.

For example, a website that has case studies on your products might be a good addition for marketers. If you are a teacher, a website with your CV could be helpful. Including a special certification or degree could be the eye-catching detail that takes a brief moment of networking small talk and opens the dialogue for a job interview.

You can also skip the step of emailing your resume by including a link to your LinkedIn profile.

LinkedIn

Sharing your LinkedIn profile allows you to introduce your own expertise and past experience. Recruiters can view your company’s LinkedIn page, which is especially helpful when you don’t work for a largely established company. A well-rounded profile will show your professional reputation and authority on a range of subject matters.

The simple link gives others a connection to your experience, references, the company you work for and your current network of professionals. You can even customize your Linkedin URL to make it more readable and easy to remember.

Getting the Most Mileage from Name Tags

Keep your conference badge on after attending sessions when heading to evening events. You may find opportunities to chat with other conference goers when exploring the city you are visiting, getting coffee near your hotel or grabbing dinner at a nearby restaurant.

Bring business cards with the same information and a similar design. Just like branding a business, you want to brand yourself and create familiarity by putting the same message on multiple formats.

The custom fields on name tags allow you to include information that helps you connect with recruiters and future business partners. By taking advantage of creating professional relationships with conference goers, you are investing in your future growth and perhaps even changing the direction of your career toward an exciting and uncharted path.

Work Friendly Last Minute Halloween Costumes

As October 31st draws near, many companies are decorating for fall and Halloween. For some businesses, fall festivities include a Halloween celebration and an in-office costume contestFiguring out just how to participate can be a tricky topic. It will take creativity and class to set the right tone with your costume.

Prep for Halloween with these office guidelines, useful celebration do’s and don’ts, and ideas for throwing together a last minute stunner.

Guidelines for Your Halloween Countdown

Do a little detective work before planning your ghoulish festivities. Find out what last year’s celebrations were like. Was it a subtle dessert with candy corn and rice crispy treats? Was it an all-out party with spider web décor and a cash prize for the best outfit? Ask seasoned employees what percentage of the office staff participated. You want to know if you’re going to stick out like a sore thumb if you do or don’t dress up. It helps to know how your company culture approaches holidays.

Take a look in your inbox and explore the office calendar. Do you see any emails or events set up related to Halloween? See if the company has communicated this year’s plan for employees. You may want to check with your direct supervisor to find out if your department has any specific guidelines set out.

The other item to dig for in your calendar is any upcoming presentations or major meetings that might be occurring on Halloween. You’ll want to consider how your appearance can vastly change how you convey yourself to coworkers, managers and clients. Attending a quarterly review in a poodle skirt and wig could make things a bit awkward. So remember to keep professionalism in mind even when it comes to the fun stuff.

Work Costume Do’s

  • Choose a costume that is comfortable and safe to work in
  • Label sweets and treats you bring in to share with helpful ingredient info about items such as gluten or peanuts
  • Find costumes and props that are easy to take on and off, such as fun ties, silly hats, Halloween name tags, and dramatic capes
  • Practice any face painting ahead of time to avoid allergic reactions
  • Think humor and not shock value when you pick a character to dress up as
  • Provide clear indicators of who you are dressing up as, like the name of your character, a Hogwarts school emblem, the Flo hairstyle, or Rosie the Riveter bandana
  • Enjoy the time to bond with coworkers and brighten up a work day

Work Costume Don’ts

  • Put on an outfit that is overly gory or scary
  • Wear items that are too revealing, suggestive, tight or ill-fitting that the clothes are inappropriate or too distracting
  • Bring in fake weapons or dress as violent characters
  • Wear costumes that are offensive toward race or religion
  • Respond to your coworker’s costumes with disrespectful remarks or harassment
  • Choose footwear, bulky costumes or large masks that may impede your ability to maneuver through the office, answer phones, sit at a desk or complete other work tasks

Simple Last Minute Ideas

If you are struggling to find a costume, remember you are in good company. Most people put off choosing an outfit until the last minute. Don’t have to have a Pinterest panic attack! Instead, consider some of these tried, true and somewhat new last-minute costume ideas.

  • The classic flapper with pearls, a mid-length dress and a headband
  • The secret superhero with a T-shirt peeking out from under your business suit
  • A cape or cut up sheet for vampires and ghosts
  • A cut-out hat with a color coordinated outfit to look like a banana, pineapple or grapes
  • A clever name tag with a character from of your favorite TV shows like “Friends”, “The Walking Dead”, or “Stranger Things”
  • A fedora, sunglasses, and suit to give a nod to those Blues Brothers
  • Easy add-ons like cat ears, antlers or even a unicorn headband
  • A little black dress and pearls for Breakfast at Tiffany’s vibes
  • An ensemble  group with your department as crayons or the Wizard of Oz cast
  • A red dress and playing card crown to be the Queen of Hearts
  • Pink jackets with everyone’s name for Grease’s Pink Ladies crew
  • A flannel shirt and jeans to make a cowboy, cowgirl or scarecrow look
  • A button-down shirt and hat with flowers for the beloved Mary Poppins

Pro tip: characters in professional clothing always make great choices.  Think of your favorite character from “The Office”.

When you choose your outfit, don’t feel pressured to have the most original idea at your workplace. Try to enjoy the playful spirit and bring just a bit of imagination into it. And if you are ever in doubt about whether your costume is appropriate, err on the conservative side of things. Finally, don’t forget to focus on your productivity in the midst of the festivities!

 

 

You may also like these blogs:

Tips for Halloween Safety

10 Halloween Costumes under $15

A Luxury Name Tag Handcrafted with Real Diamonds

Voting 101: Your Election Day Questions Answered

While the 2020 presidential election is still more than a year away, the primaries are in full swing! As voters study the candidates and prepare to cast votes for their favorite nominees, this is the perfect time to review voting do’s and don’ts, including US voting laws and the rules upheld at voting stations across the country.

What are the qualifications to vote in the US?

To legally vote in the United States, you must be:

  • A United States citizen
  • 18 years of age on or before election day
  • Registered to vote by your state’s voter registration deadline

You also must meet your state’s residency requirements. You can be homeless and still qualify to vote.

What can I wear to a polling station?

Proper attire is required at most polling places across the country, but defining what this means has come up for debate.

Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that a Minnesota law effectively banning all political apparel, including campaign buttons and name tags, from voting sites is too vague.  While the court did not specifically define what is or is not considered proper voting apparel, it concluded that Minnesota’s rule was not specific enough and too challenging to enforce.

 

 

 

Most states have laws that ban electioneering within a certain area of a polling station. These laws may include promoting your candidate or expressing your political views on clothing and accessories, like buttons and hats.

Rather than taking a chance that you may be turned away from the voting booths for wearing questionable clothing, it may be best to save your favorite political garb for that election night celebration.

Are cell phones allowed in polling stations?

Don’t snap that #IVoted selfie just yet!

Rules governing the use of smart phones, cameras, and other recording devices at voting stations are informal, at best. Varying from state to state and even precinct to precinct, state officials often are left to subjectively interpret outdated statues or to haphazardly enforce existing rules or adopted practices.

Often interpreted as a form of voter intimidation, it is best to tuck that recording device away while at the voting booth to avoid a frustrating confrontation with voting officials. In addition, many states have laws forbidding the sharing of your completed ballot with anyone, via photograph, through social media, or by any other means.

What is early voting?

Early voting allows registered voters to cast their votes prior to Election Day during a public election season in order to increase voter participation and decrease Election Day congestion at voting sites. Early voting rules differ from state to state, including some that require a reason for requesting an absentee ballot, while some states do not offer early voting at all.

What forms of ID are required to vote?

While voter ID laws vary by state, these laws have become a hotly contested, nationwide debate over the past several years. Advocates of voter ID laws argue that legally issued photo IDs are required to prevent voter fraud. Alternatively, opponents contend that these photo ID requirements disenfranchise minorities and others who are unable to acquire them.

All voting laws, however, require voters to provide at least one from of official identification before being allowed to register to vote, receive an election ballot, or to cast a vote in any US election.

If a voter’s identity cannot be immediately confirmed, he or she will receive a provisional ballot. This ballot will be counted after a voter’s identity is confirmed.

Is campaigning allowed at or near a polling station?

Generally speaking, electioneering, or campaigning for a specific candidate, political party, or political issue, is prohibited within a certain distance of every polling station. Review your state laws on electioneering boundaries for specific information.

What is absentee voting?

Absentee voting allows registered voters to request a mail-in ballot, rather than visiting a polling station, to cast a vote on Election Day. Each state has rules governing who is eligible to receive an absentee ballot.

How do I vote from abroad?

If you are a US citizen living overseas or are a member of the military or his or her family stationed outside your legal voting residence, and are a registered voter, you are eligible to vote by absentee ballot.

Each year, you must submit a completed Federal Postcard Application (FPCA) to election officials in the precinct where you are registered to vote AND request an absentee ballot. Remember to submit a new application every time your address, email, and/or name changes.

Once your local election officials have confirmed that you are eligible to vote, you will receive absentee ballots for each election held that calendar year electronically or by mail.

Voting With a Disability

There are numerous federal laws in place to protect the voting rights of Americans with disabilities, including the Americans with Disabilities Act. Every voter with a disability must have a wheelchair accessible voting booth furnished with voting equipment for those who are blind or visually impaired.

Further, some states allow people with disabilities to vote by mail or offer curbside voting, where an election official will bring everything needed to cast a ballot to that voter’s vehicle. Disabled voters also are allowed to get assistance from an election official familiar with using the handicap accessible voting machine or bring someone with them to help them vote.

 

Tips for Halloween Safety

Quick Halloween safety tips:
Know your city’s laws for trick-or-treat days, times and age limits.
For night time trick-or-treating wear reflective or glow-in-the-dark gear.
Make sure staff and applicable visitors to haunted houses & similar attractions wear name badges or ID cards.
Understand and adhere to costume restrictions at Halloween attractions.

Today’s Halloween activities often reach beyond exploring the neighborhood cul-de-sac two streets over. Many families now spend October 31st visiting other venues, such as local haunted houses, theme park events, carnivals, church festivals, zoos, and corn mazes.

For everyone figuring out how they will spend this year’s holiday, here are some tips to make your evening go as smoothly and safely as possible. Take some of that effort reserved for planning costumes and put it into paying attention to rules designed to keep little ones from harm.

Curfews & Laws

Certain cities and states have curfews, age limits, and other laws related to trick-or-treating. Whenever you take your children out trick-or-treating for the first time or you move to a new city, find out the expectations for that location.

There may be laws regarding the day and time of day you can trick-or-treat. Many neighborhoods, complexes and housing communities recommend time slots for residents. While some cities suggest alternative trick-or-treating days – depending on when the holiday falls—others can be much more stringent in enforcing a city ordinance. A few places, like Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, prohibit trick-or-treating on Sunday in favor of celebrating the day before.

Other city and state laws put an age cap on trick-or-treating. Cities such as Chesapeake, Virginia, Meridian, Mississippi, Bishopville, South Carolina, and Boonsboro, Maryland set the age limit to 12-years-old.

North Carolina and Virginia have laws prohibiting anyone over age 16 from wearing masks or hoods that conceal identity. These laws provide exceptions for traditional holiday costumes. However, for Halloween that exception would only apply to October 31st and not the weekend parties or other events that surround the actual holiday.

With precise laws like this, it helps to pay attention to the specifics.

Neighborhood Traffic Hazards

An estimated 41.1 million trick-or-treaters set out on a candy hunting adventure each year, according to the Census.gov’s 2017 data. This group consists of children ages 5 to 14-years-old. With everyone travelling door-to-door, the number of pedestrians out at night is as at an all-time high.

The National Safety Council reports that children are more than twice as likely to be hit by a car and killed on Halloween than any other day of the year.

To help prevent traffic-related injuries and accidents, choose costumes in bright colors that stand out. You can also add reflective tape to costumes and trick or treating bags. Adults may want to wear headlamps and carry flashlights, especially in areas with dim street lighting.

Skipping Door-to-Door Fun for Local Attractions

Attractions can be a great alternative for your Halloween festivities, as businesses must meet safety standards before opening to guests. You avoid pedestrian traffic risks, candy and goodies are regulated, and the rules for activities are posted and enforced.

Fire hazards in neighborhoods are also higher, as backyard décor doesn’t have to undergo the same level of testing as a theme park haunted house. Your local amusement park, zoo, or other organization hosting a Halloween event must obtain permits, and meet fire and building codes before opening doors.

Venues are required to have precautions in place, such as heat detectors, back-up lighting, sprinkler systems, fire-proof set materials, fire extinguishers, clear emergency exits and more. Places with mazes, mirrors and confusing paths should have directional signage to clarify exits in case of emergency.

Girl with name badge Avoiding Scary Situations

Read “scare guidelines” to make sure the intensity is appropriate to the age level that you will accompany. Not every child is prepared for all that goes with Halloween amusements. Children and adults may be sensitive to strobe lights, fog, and loud noises used to create a spooky environment.

Parents should stay close to children when navigating through large crowds. Getting overwhelmed, lost or injured can take a turn from playful fun and to terrifying, when children are not sure who to turn to.

It is helpful if parents can quickly identify employees in case of emergencies. Many attractions require employees to wear themed costumes, STAFF shirts, hanging name badges, or name tags. Event badges may include large print text and recognizable symbols to designate those who are medical or security personnel. Some venues require staff to wear photo IDs to help build trust between guests and employees.

 For younger children, make sure they have a parent and buddy with them at all time. Ensure that adults know which children are under their supervision. With large groups and entertainment all around, it can be easy to get distracted and rely on other childcare helpers without first communicating who is responsible for who.

Following Costume Guidelines When Attending Events

Before packing up the family van to set off for your event, review any costume rules. Major attractions can be strict about only letting in guests that follow these rules. Many theme parks provide the following types of guidelines:

  • No costumes that touch the ground. Avoid costumes that restrain movement. This helps prevent trip and fall incidents and accidents with interactive games.
  • No masks that completely cover the face. Make sure masks do not impair vision. Sometimes masks are not allowed for teens over a certain age.
  • For costumes that include wigs and more elaborate add-ons, make sure all materials are non-flammable.
  • Make sure children can easily contact parents. Have older kids carry a cell phone with them. For younger kids, attach a name tag to costumes with your name and phone number.
  • Make sure props are not harmful. Often objects that appear to be weapons are prohibited, however younger children may be allowed to bring play swords and knives that are short, soft and flexible.
  • Use non-toxic make-up and face paint. Test paint before to make sure allergic reactions do not occur.
  • Make sure costumes are not violent or offensive. Many venues reserve the right to limit entry for costumes that are not considered appropriate.

Once your children’s costumes are finalized and costume guidelines met, all you have to do is pick out which spooky celebration to attend. You may also want to make sure your child’s favorite costume still fits. It’s a sad day when the Spiderman jumpsuit is officially too small.

 

Resources:

https://www.nfpa.org/News-and-Research/Publications-and-media/NFPA-Journal/2014/May-June-2014/Features/The-Haunted-Castle-Revisited/Spooky-and-Safe

https://www.dummitfradin.com/halloween-masks-and-the-law/

https://codes.findlaw.com/al/title-13a-criminal-code/al-code-sect-13a-14-4.html

https://www.census.gov/newsroom/facts-for-features/2018/halloween.html

https://www.cdc.gov/family/halloween/index.htm

https://www.nsc.org/home-safety/tools-resources/seasonal-safety/autumn/halloween

 

Do’s and Don’ts of Conducting Job Interviews

When it comes to finding – and hiring – that perfect job candidate, the competition can be fierce. Since a significant part of the hiring decision comes from the face-to-face interview, doing a bit of homework and preparation beforehand is sure to help you, and your company, make your best first impression.

What is the Interviewer’s Role?

As one of the first people an interviewee will come into contact with when applying for a job with your company, you will most likely be representing and making the first impression for your company to your job candidate. This is a wonderful opportunity to create goodwill with your applicant, whether he or she is hired or not.

Make your interviewee as comfortable as possible, depending on your company’s culture. If your organization is formal and wears business attire, then pass that information along. If, on the other hand, your atmosphere is very relaxed and even you, as the interviewer, will be wearing jeans or other casual clothing, let your interviewee know so that he or she will fit in with your company culture and feel comfortable from the start. No matter the attire, always present yourself in a polished manner, including wearing a professional name tag. Your candidate will likely be nervous enough. Being able to glance at your name tag, or even a desk plate, and address you by name will take the pressure off trying to remember it throughout the interview and create a more relaxed, friendly environment.

Create a Relaxed and Welcoming Interview Setting

Conducting the interview at your place of business is a wise choice. When an interviewee comes to (and takes part in a tour of) your office, this provides the best opportunity to see how he or she reacts to your daily work environment. While it may seem like a more relaxing idea to have the interview at the local coffee shop or somewhere over lunch, these places tend to be full of noise and distractions that will hinder both you and your applicant from having the most productive conversation and from learning about one another.

Begin your interview with somewhat casual, yet specific questions. Opening the conversation with an open-ended statement like “Tell me about yourself” probably will not put your interviewee at ease. Rather, ask “Given what you know about our company, what personal qualities of yours would make you a good fit?”

What are Illegal Interview Questions?

As an interviewer, it is unlawful to ask any of the following questions –

  • Have you ever been arrested?
  • What is your religion? Where and/or when do you worship? Do you celebrate religious holidays?
  • Are you a citizen of the US? It seems that you have an accent, where are you from?
  • When were you born? What year did you graduate from high school or college? How old are you?
  • Do you have a disability that has the ability to affect your job performance? (This includes specific questions pertaining to former number of sick days, workers’ compensation claims, mental health diagnoses, or other pre-existing health conditions, including that of family history)
  • Do you use drugs, alcohol, or smoke?
  • Do you belong to a union or do you have an interest in joining one?
  • Are you willing to take a polygraph test? (You cannot be denied employment, disciplined, or fired for refusing to take a polygraph test)
  • Are you pregnant or do you plan to become pregnant, foster, or adopt a child?
  • What does your husband or wife do? Or do you have a spouse or significant other?

Note – When considering an applicant for a position, if your organization’s primary purpose is religious-based, you are legally permitted to favor hiring individuals who practice that same religion.

What are Legal Interview Questions?

  • Have you ever been convicted of a felony or crime other than a traffic violation?
  • Do your religious practices prohibit you from working on weekends (ask only if weekend work is required of the position)
  • Are you legally authorized to work in the US?
  • Do you speak any other languages (ask only if relevant to the position)
  • Are you able to put in the long hours and significant amount of travel this job requires?
  • Are you willing and able to relocate, if the opportunity arises?

What is a Bona Fide Occupational Qualification as Related to a Job or a Career?

A Bona Fide Occupational Qualification (BFOQ) is a specific qualification that will allow a potential employer to make an employment decision based on protected classes of citizens ONLY if it is determined to be necessary to operate a specific business successfully. For example, commercial airline pilots MUST retire at age 65 since studies have shown that older pilots’ production declines and, therefore, becomes a greater public risk.

Key Points to Keep in Mind During the Interview and Beyond

Keep in mind the position you are interviewing to fill. While skills and education certainly are important, many job specifics can be learned through on the job training, apprenticeships, and job shadowing. Things that are more difficult to teach are fitting in with the culture, departmental employees, and generally with the company as a whole.

Refrain from asking hypothetical questions. Most often for an interviewee who may not have an immediate answer, this is cause for a moment of panic and he or she may make up an answer. Rather, ask specific questions that relate to real situations that he or she has most likely encountered in the workplace, for example, “Tell me about a time when you had to resolve a conflict between two employees and how that worked out.”

For more information about federal laws regarding prohibited or illegal employment policies and practices, please visit the US Equal Employment Opportunities Commission.