Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Presenteeism in the Work Place

Guest Blog by Lucy Burton-Browne

We`ve all experienced those days when for various personal reasons, we really don`t want to be at work. Those are the days when we put ourselves on automatic pilot and try to get through the day as best we can. Although this is normal for everyone, there are some people who are so overwhelmed by personal problems or financial issues that their work performance suffers. It`s not always easy to leave our personal problems at home when we get to the office, but for employees who are chronically distressed by these issues, it`s virtually impossible.
If you`re an employer and you`ve noticed that your employees tend to be more distracted by problems at home, you`re not alone. This condition, which is called presenteeism, has become something of an epidemic in the workplace since the onset of the economic recession. Money problems at home lead to other personal problems as well and due to the current economic climate, some employees are finding it harder and harder to leave their troubles at home.
If you`re an employer, here are some of the signs that an employee is under personal stress:
  • Verbal reactions that are inconsistent or unusual for that person.
  • Changes in personality, such as being quieter and more subdued or acting more aggressively.
  • Emotionalism during the workday, such as overreacting, laughing too much, crying or looking sad.
For supervisors and managers, the most important thing is to provide a comfortable environment for employees and one in which they feel they`ll be supported. Otherwise, employees who are in a vulnerable, highly emotional state may feel oppressed and even threatened by the atmosphere at work and this will add greatly to their stress level.
By creating a positive work environment, employers can motivate and inspire their staff members with confidence. Here are a few things that employers can do to create a better, more comfortable workplace:
  1. Motivate employees with incentives. Whether it`s a coupon for a free dinner, a basket of goodies from the gourmet grocery store or a cash bonus, employees need to be rewarded for excellent work. You`ll find that it`s well worth the investment to offer an incentive reward to your staff members every week or two.
  2. Talk to your employees. If you notice that any of them seem to exhibit some of the signs of presenteeism, have a private talk with them. Without prying into their personal lives, let them know that, while it`s obvious that something is wrong, you`re not threatening to fire them; you just want to see if there`s anything you can do to help. A little compassion can go a long way with an emotionally distraught employee.
  3. Delegate within your work staff. Make sure that the brunt of the work isn`t falling on one person. If it seems that there are a few people who are carrying everyone else, step in and divide the workload more evenly. Otherwise, your best employees may break down under the stress and strain.
Whether you`re considering  saving money or looking at your post-employment financial options, it`s important for everyone to take care of their finances while they`re still working. Offering consultations and seminars on budgeting, saving money and investing is one way to show your employees that you`re concerned about their financial worries. By presenting your staff members with financial counseling, you`re offering a valuable support system that in turn, will result in increased productivity during working hours.

Guest Blogger Lucy Burton-Browne does Online Marketing for

Friday, January 25, 2013

Managing the Calendar, Appointments and Tasks

Managing the Calendar, Appointments and Tasks is a useful demonstration of a tool that keeps track of appointments, goals, and tasks viewable together.  Right now my tasks and calendar are separate. Natalie, I know you went back to this method after trying Google Calendar.  I agree that paper is much more useful for goal setting and prioritizing.  I wonder how I could merge the two in some electronic form?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Know Your Commute Cost

Taking control of your finances is all about knowledge of where you money goes.  One of the large expenses most of us have is commuting to and from work.  I now work from home, but still have the expense of taking my son to school and school related events.  How can I control my expenses if I don’t even know how much it costs? 

Fortunately, the Sacramento region has several associations and resources to help us calculate our commute cost, as well as options to reduce our auto expenses.  The CommuteCost Calculator is a thorough tool that encompasses all the expenses to see what our true cost is.   I found out it costs me $7.36 each round trip to my son’s school.    $37 a week – ouch!  That’s with a four year old paid for SUV and decent insurance rates.

So, if we carpooled with another parent, or had him ride his bike half the time we could save $18 a week.  That could amount to over $600 a year savings with a few changes.  That means I wouldn’t have to drive him to school every day, which frees me up.  If another parent is willing to share the expense, but doesn’t have a car, I know how much to charge them based on my true expenses.  Lots more parents are willing to pay for “gas” if you’ll ask them.  Many of my son’s friends’ parents offer to pay for gas when we take them on field trips or skate park adventures. 

See what knowledge can do for you?  It can give you more control over how you choose to spend your money.  You do have more choices than you think.  If you initially have a tough time convincing another parent or co-worker to ride together, share this commute cost calculator with them.  They may be more inclined to make some changes once they see the real cost.  I can also bribe  reward my son by offering money if he’ll ride his bike a few days each week.

Figure out how much your commute cost is.  How can you take control of one of your largest expenses? Share your ideas.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

First Step to Control – Review your Bills

A strong first step for you to take to control your finances is to review all of your bills.  Gather a month’s worth of paper or online statements.  Get settled in a comfy chair with a shredder highlighter and your stack of papers (or computer with electronic statements). 
Here are some things to look for:

1.   Look at whose name(s) are on the account – is there an ex who shouldn’t be?

2.   Is the address right so you don’t miss any statements?

3.   What kind of fees did they charge you: over limit, late payment, payment processing

4.   Does the balance appear to be correct

a.   What is the minimum payment?  How much will it take to pay off in three years? They are required to provide that information on your statement.  Pay Off Loan Calculator

b.   What is the due date? 

c.   Review the interest rate(s) for the balance(s)

5.   Review all transactions every month

a.   You typically have 60 days to dispute an error with the card issuer and have the charge removed

b.   Credit card fraud sometimes starts with a very small charge to see if the card number is valid – catch it quickly and report

6.   Ensure your most recent payment recorded correctly

7.   Review the special messages section to see if they are increasing any interest rates, or making other changes to your account

The point of this review is to help you control your finances, and not every action step requires throwing money at it to make it go away.  One of the big things this review does is ensure you are not a victim of credit fraud, a lingering ex using your card, or a processing error by the credit card company.  Prevention and early resolution of errors will save you from the larger crisis that looms around the corner.

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Look at Reality in the New Year

According to a Financial Resolutions study, 52% of Americans have “save more money” as their top financial resolution.  26% of us are in worse financial shape that we were at the beginning of 2012.  Now is the time to look at reality, and assess your situation.  Write down all of your outstanding bills, and also write down all of your sources of income.  This is your starting point for the year. 

Lots of us look to January as a fresh start to work on some of our goals.  While I may be able to lose a little weight, I’m probably not going to look like Jennifer Aniston.  It’s the same with our relationship with money.  What worries are keeping you up at night right now?  The Fiscal Cliff, credit card interest payments, the next rent payment, grocery money? 

Let’s first sort our concerns by:

·         WHAT CAN I CONTROL: I can control my discretionary spending (like groceries), and talk to the banks about lowering my credit card interest rate.  I can control my frustration level when I feel like every dollar I make goes right back out to the banks.

·         WHAT CAN I MANAGE: I can manage my anxiety by accepting that I don’t have a rich uncle leaving me piles of money to solve all my problems.  I can manage my bills easier by paying them online.

·         WHAT CAN I TRACK:  I can write down my income and expenses for the month to see where I stand.  I can review the taxes taken out of my paycheck – the only change, hopefully, is a 2% increase in Social Security withholding, according to the changes voted on this week. I can track my bank balance so I don’t get overdraft fees.

The bottom line is go ahead – write it down.  Look at your money situation.  Really understand your income and expenses.  Figure out what you can control, manage, and track.  Now set some goals that you can accomplish this month.  Now.  That’s the first step to taking control of your money.  Control is definitely your style – keep it going.