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4 weeks ago · by · 0 comments

Working from home? Some cyber-security considerations.

With the current COVID-19 pandemic, more people are opting to away from crowds and social situations – and may work from home.

While and employer’s cybersecurity insurance can reduce liability, it makes sense to also implement several security measures in the telecommuting (work-from-home) policy to protect the company.

Use Secure Wi-Fi Networks

Sure, your employees could connect to their neighbor’s wireless network or use public Wi-Fi at a coffee shop. These unsecured networks can open the door for cybersecurity breaches, though. Instruct employees to only connect to secure Wi-Fi networks or provide a safe and secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) for use as they work.

Maintain Security Settings

To protect work-issued devices and confidential data, you may set security settings on the devices you give telecommuters. Remind employees that they should not use a proxy or other method to get around those security settings. Doing so will compromise their device and the company’s data.

Encrypt Everything

From apps to data, everything employees access from their work-issued device should be protected by encryption. This security measure makes it harder for thieves and hackers to steal or access information.

Limit Access

Employees should only have access to essential data and files, not the company’s entire virtual filing cabinet. This limited access protects information and improves security

Strengthen Passwords

To get into the device and access various files, employees should use secure passwords. The ideal password contains letters, numbers and symbols, is not easy to guess and is unique to each site. Change passwords at least once a month, too. For additional safety, utilize a two-step authentication process, PIN or token system when logging it.

Prohibit Device Lending

It’s common for telecommuters to let a co-worker or family member use their laptop or phone for a few minutes to check email, play a game or make a call. Discourage this practice since the other person could download questionable content, drop or damage the device, access confidential files, or otherwise compromises the device or security.

Protect Devices from Theft

Leaving a laptop, tablet or phone unattended gives thieves an invitation to steal the device. Remind employees to keep their devices with them at all times and not leave their work devices unattended or in an unlocked vehicle. Likewise, they should take care to secure USB drives and other accessories from theft. You can add tracking capabilities to devices for additional security.

Log Out

After every work session, employees should log out of the websites they accessed, their Wi-Fi network and their device. This log out procedure protects company data.

Telecommuting is a privilege that benefits your employees and company. Use these security measures to protect everyone.

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1 month ago · by · 0 comments

Ways To Improve Focus In The Office When Spring Fever (and March Madness) Strikes

A rise in temperatures this month can signal spring fever in your office. Your human resources department staff can improve focus and keep everyone on task in several ways.

1. Provide New Challenges

Your employees may feel distracted in part because they’re bored, so provide challenges. Ask them to work in a different department for a day, take on a special project or work with a high school intern. The challenge can provide a welcome distraction and jump-start focus and concentration.

2. Offer a Class

Give employees the opportunity to learn a new skill. You can poll your staff for suggestions or offer foreign language, management or coding classes. While learning something new, your employees will focus on something other than the nice weather.

3. Promote Exercise

Physical activity improves focus, an excellent reason to host a fitness class over lunch, offer discounts to the local gym or encourage employees to bike or walk to work. As your staff members add more exercise into their daily routines, they also focus better on their work-related tasks.

4. Encourage Breaks

Remind employees that breaks can improve their mental health, productivity and focus. Set a timer for hourly stretch breaks, and share the value of regular lunch breaks away from the desk.

5. Change the Scenery

Hang colorful artwork around the office or commission a floral mural in the break room. You can also allow employees to meet at a local coffee shop, play disc golf during lunch or hold walking meetings outdoors. Employees will appreciate the opportunity to enjoy the warm weather, and the change of scenery boosts creativity, productivity and motivation.

6. Stock Healthy Snacks and Beverages

Fill your break room with healthy food and beverage options, including fruit, veggies, whole grains and water. These snack options boost mood and creativity and improve your employees’ overall health.

7. Play a Game

Challenge employees to participate in a March Madness basketball bracket, host a chili cook-off or reward teams who reach productivity goals. Games keep employees entertained and as a bonus, you’ll see a stronger spirit of cooperation.

8. Bring the Outdoors Inside

Plants can purify the air and improve mood. Arrange plants around the office as you bring a bit of the outdoors inside your office.

9. Adjust Work Hours

If your employees can arrive early and leave work early, they get to enjoy the warm, sunny afternoon weather. Adjust work hours, if possible, and allow employees to indulge their spring fever while completing their work.

Spring fever might try to curtail productivity in your office, but you can improve focus with these steps. Everyone will be happier and work smarter thanks to your efforts.

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2 months ago · by · 0 comments

Build Better Relationships With Co-Workers

Closer relationships among co-workers boost collaboration, teamwork, morale, productivity, job satisfaction, and wellness. As you observe Relationship Wellness Month in February, encourage better work relationships with these suggestions.

Do a Good Job

Employees who consistently do a poor job force their co-workers to do more work. Resentment grows, and your company may miss deadlines and lose customers.

Give employees a clear job description and set expectations for performance. Then celebrate employees who do a good job and meet their goals.

Accept Differences

While it’s tempting for employees with similar interests to congregate together and avoid others who are different, greater acceptance improves relationships and personal well-being.

For this reason, provide opportunities for diverse employees to work together and find common ground. Plan team-building activities, too, as you celebrate and accept differences.

Share Less Personal Information

Your employees are human and will bring personal problems to work. However, distracted employees can make mistakes or cause accidents. Sharing too much information also causes discomfort and conflict between co-workers.

Remind employees to be professional at work. Also, promote the mental health benefits of your employer-sponsored health insurance or provide counseling services for employees.

Avoid Gossip

Juicy tidbits of information about co-workers may seem entertaining, but gossip breaks down morale and can cause projects to suffer. It also reduces trust and respect.

Spread awareness about the dangers of gossip. You can also remind employees to change the subject or walk away from such conversations.

Manage Conflict

Disagreements and conflicts are normal, but these situations create tension and inhibit collaboration.

Create a straightforward conflict resolution process, and maintain an open door policy. With these conflict resolution strategies, co-workers address issues, resolve challenges and restore relationships.

Assist Others

Meeting a deadline or managing a big project can strain busy employees and increase stress.

Promote helpfulness and collaboration as you ease strain, stress and pressure. Everyone on the team can and should work together to get the job done right and on time.

Stay Positive

Sometimes, bad things happen. Employees may make mistakes, struggle to adapt to change or feel unappreciated. Negative and bad moods are contagious, though, and affect everyone.

Instead of allowing negativity, implement a complaint procedure. Then lead by example as you promote positivity.

Plan Fun

In the midst of busy workdays, your employees may not have time to socialize and truly get to know their co-workers.

Schedule an outing, activity or another fun event at least once a month. Give employees time to unwind, relax and get to know each other better.

To observe Relationship Wellness Month, look for ways to improve rapport at work. These tips help you build better relationships among co-workers and increase employee and company success.

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3 months ago · by · 0 comments

Start Your Insurance Renewal Process Early This Year (Insurance Secret Inside)

Businesses are shrinking or expanding constantly.  Start your renewal process today by comparing your policy estimated payrolls with the summary W-2 sheet produced by your accounting department (must be completed by February 1).

Review the 1099s and check these recipients against your files to assure certificate compliance and proper risk transfer techniques.

After reassessing your payroll exposures for the coming year, estimate your current premium.  Talk to your agent about optional markets at that premium level, insurance companies have different appetites for different size risks.  Find several appropriate insurers.

Many insurers now demand loss control inspections prior to commitment to offering any quote.  Get your reports in order.  Make sure loss control measures are in place and working.  Order loss runs from your current carrier to have on hand.

Most important: leave enough lead time for the inspections to occur.  At least ninety days, so new insurers can inspect your operations.

The insurance markets retool every few years and create new identities, new brands within the industry.  Currently, insurance companies are deciding what size accounts they will seek, single lines like workers’ compensation or general liability, or supporting lines requirements: like workers’ compensation, general liability or automobile liability.  Ask your agent what the current view is among their companies.

The key to having choices is starting early now.  Don’t leave yourself at the mercy of the renewal carrier.

While your reassessing your policies, rethink your program as well.  Your program consists of the risk management decisions that have subtle but important impacts on your insurance costs.  For example: what is your best expiration date?  In the construction industry, January first or April first are popular choices in a well-managed risk management program.

One secret within the insurance industry: rates tend to change on calendar quarters.  If rates are increasing on April first, you can always renew on March thirty-first if you have enough lead time.  But you need to know in advance and have friendly underwriters, and proactive agents.

Calendar quarters allow for government filings to be used as a basis for the insurance auditors, and audits go smoother.  Corporate financial years can be good, especially if they fall on calendar quarters.  Decide your best expiration date (and you want all liability lines to share that date)and begin 120 days in advance gathering quote information and loss data.  Shop early.

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6 months ago · by · 0 comments

Business Owners – protect your business with a Buy-Sell Agreement

You and your business partner or partners have a clear and common vision of how to run your business, where it’s going, and how it’s going to get there. As a team, you’ve worked together each and every day to share the daily demands and shape the success of your business. That said, have you thought about what would become of the business and all your hard work if you or one of your partners became ill, was injured, or died?

A business doesn’t have to become disabled or die just because one of the owners retires, dies, or becomes too sick or disabled to work. Whether the transition of business management or ownership needs to take place after death or during life, it can be orderly accomplished through appropriate business succession planning.

A buy-sell agreement is a tool commonly used in business succession planning. This planning feature, when correctly funded and designed, can orderly establish the value at which the business will be taken over and who will be doing the taking over. The owner can have a peace of mind from knowing that the business has a predetermined basis for which it can be sold in a ready market, thereby giving the owner a source of funds when they need it, such as when they are ready to retire. If the owner was to die prior to the above predetermined basis occurring, then the buy-sell can be used to meet the survivor’s needs or pay hefty estate taxes.

Although there are several ways that a buy-sell agreement can be established, an entity purchase agreement and cross purchase are the two most often used:

Cross Purchase

Due to favorable tax results, this is a highly used approach by many small businesses. It’s generally used by businesses that only have a small number of owners. The cross purchase is typically funded with a life and/or disability insurance policy that each of the owners must maintain on their co-owners. The death benefits from the life insurance policy aren’t subject to taxation since the owners, not the business, actually own the individual life insurance policies. Each of the business owners are legally obligated to purchase the ownership interest of the other co-owner(s) upon death.

The deceased owner’s estate sells the owner’s interest to the surviving owners in exchange for the proceeds from the life insurance policy. The surviving owners will get a step-up in the business’s tax basis. Alternatively, the insurance cash value can also be used if one of the co-owners was to need to fund a buyout during their lifetime. One point to remember regarding a cross purchase is that administration is smoothest when there are only a limited number of owners and will become increasingly difficult to administer as the number of owners increase.

Entity Purchase Agreement

This type of buy-sell agreement works somewhat like the cross purchase, but it’s the business, not the owners, that will maintain an insurance policy on each owner and agree to purchase any deceased owner’s interest in the business. As such, the taxation is different.

The death benefits under both an entity purchase and cross purchase agreement, whether being paid to the business or an individual, are exempt from federal income taxation. However, unlike with the cross purchase, there are certain situations that a C corporation can be subject to the corporate alternative minimum tax under an entity purchase. There’s also not a step-up in basis under the entity purchase plan.

Hopefully this brief overview of the entity purchase and cross purchase types of buy-sell agreements has spurred you to think about how vitally important business succession planning is to your business. Of course, this short article couldn’t possibly cover all the factors to consider when developing a business succession plan. As you begin the preparations for you business succession plan with your attorney, accountant, and insurance agent, they should be able to answer any additional questions or concerns you might have.

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6 months ago · by · 0 comments

Risks for employees that work remotely

Modern technology has made it easier than ever for employees to work from home and still remain connected to their place of employment. Using remote employment has actually become a popular trend over the last ten years, especially since selling to the global market has become such an important factor in a business being competitive. Many businesses have found that they can minimize their expenses and attract international customers with more attractive prices if they decrease their overhead by allowing workers to remotely commute.

Despite the many benefits of using remote employees, there are downsides. Many employers considering this trend wonder how they can ensure workplace safety when the employee’s physical workplace is their own home. Another consideration is the degree of employer liability in remote employment.

Fortunately, OSHA has addressed some of the safety issues surrounding remote employment. According to OSHA guidelines, employers are required to maintain a safe workplace, even for employees working from their own home. OSHA will not require an employer to inspect a remote employee’s home worksite, nor inspect it themselves.

However, OSHA may inspect the worksite of an employee that’s performing an at-home job on behalf of their employer if it possibly involves health or safety hazards and there’s a complaint. A record of all occupational illnesses and injuries must be kept on all at-home workers if an employer is subject to OSHA record keeping requirements. Keeping in mind that OSHA compliance measures shouldn’t involve controlling the home worksite of employees, employers might need to take some additional practical measures to ensure OSHA compliance.

As far as safety compliance goes, the absence of immediate supervision for remote workers is one of the main problems employers face. Experienced, highly-trained, long-term employers are generally the worst offenders when it comes to taking safety risks. This group of employees often become complacent due to the fact they’re so accustomed and comfortable with their job, feel they’re familiar with the job’s hazards, and might have escaped disciplinary action when ignoring safety procedures or taking shortcuts in the past.

One of the best ways that employers can counteract the above dangerous attitude toward safety is by using a holistic approach to safety. Employers should focus and place great importance on each individual employee actively participating in the safety process and taking responsibility for their own safety. Whether at home, on the road, or at a remote jobsite, remote employees need to be ready, willing, and able to take the appropriate actions to protect themselves in any given situation.

Employers will need employee support to make any approach to safety successful, which means that employers must have total employee involvement in the safety process. Involve your remote employees in the process of determining what’s needed to prevent injury to themselves and others during remote location work. Most employers find that the experience and firsthand knowledge of their employees is actually very advantageous in creating safe remote worksites.

Remember, employees that understand the value of safety are more likely to be motivated and willing participants. They’re also more apt to embrace safety behaviors for the longevity of their employment. Employers can reinforce their employee’s positive attitude about safety by having electronic or person-to-person safety counseling in place and ensuring safety managers are encouraging safety participation.

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Scurich Insurance Services
Phone: (831) 661-5697
Fax: (831) 661-5741

Physical:
783 Rio Del Mar Blvd., Suite7,
Aptos, Ca 95003-4700

Mailing:
PO Box 1170
Watsonville, CA 95077-1170

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(831) 661-5697

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