Knocking down the office walls

“So you want to start a business. How do you start? What do you need? Well, first of all, you need a building.” – Michael Scott, Branch Manager of Dunder Mifflin, NBC’s “The Office”

No you don’t. Seth Godin, entrepreneur and author of “Seth’s Blog,” recently wrote “Goodbye to the office,” a post that argues that the traditional ways of running a business are obsolete. You don’t need a building to be a successful company and you don’t need to “go to work” to get work done. If you need to collaborate, collaborate – pick up the phone or meet up with someone. If you worry about productivity, set goals and requirements. Many employees are looking for flexible schedules (especially in the summer) so this could be an option at your disposal that could help improve productivity, morale, and improve employee retention. To read the post, click here.

If you’re interested in finding out more about managing telecommuters, read “Managing telecommuters – Out of Sight But Not Out of Control” by Click here for the article.

Does full-time telecommuting sound too scary? Consider moving to a four-day work week and having the fifth day be a work-from-home day. The energy costs of not being open just one day a week can save you serious cash – just look at the State of Utah that made the switch and saved $1.8 million. For more information, check out this fascinating article from Scientific American called “Should Thursday Be the New Friday?” Click here for the article.


The latest interpretation of “changing clothes”

The Department of Labor has been all over the place in its interpretation of what is compensable time when it comes to changing clothes at work. The Clinton Administration said one thing, the Bush Administration said another, and now the latest ruling is in. So here’s what you need to know:

Generally, time spent changing clothes at work is not compensable. However, the latest take on things says personal protective equipment (PPE) does not count as clothes. So if you require employees to wear certain safety equipment, you must compensate them for time spent donning and doffing the gear. Additionally, if the changing of clothes (even those that are something less than PPE) is a principal activity that starts and ends the workday, it is another sign you must compensate for this time.

The article “FLSA Fashion: DOL Administrator’s Interpretation of ‘Changing Clothes’” by our partners at Dickinson Mackaman explains this in greater detail and illustrates with examples. Click here for the article.

How to protect your grandfathered status under health care reform

Many employers are hoping their “grandfathered” health plan will exempt them from certain costs. And they’re right. Grandfathered plans (any plan existing on March 23, 2010) are exempt from the requirement to provide preventative care services without cost-sharing, limits on deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses. But it’s easy to lose your grandfathered status – so how do you keep it?

Our partners at Bass Berry & Sims have written “Protecting Your Plan’s Grandfathered Status Under Health Reform” and it clearly lays out:

  • What not to do
  • What to do
  • What is allowed

If you’re looking to maintain your grandfathered status, don’t miss this article. Click here to read it.

Prepare for a flood of 1099 paperwork

The new healthcare bill is a staggering 2,409 pages. It’s like Dickens’s “Great Expectations” on steroids. And buried deep in that mess of paper is a mandate that’s going to make sure you’re enjoying your fair share of paperwork. In 2012, all companies will have to issue 1099 tax forms to any individual or corporation from which they buy more than $600 in goods and services in a tax year.

This means you’re not just sending a 1099 to your independent contractor in the suburbs. If you spend $600 at Staples or at the Mac Store, you’re going to have to mail them a tax form each year to document purchases. And you’re also going to have to figure out how to gather names and taxpayer ID numbers for every payee and vendor you do business with.

On the bright side, these regulations won’t be going into effect until 2012 and final regulations by the IRS have not been issued. We’ll keep an eye out for more information on this topic. In the mean time, read “ Health care law’s massive, hidden tax change” by CNN-Money by clicking here.

Instant messaging – friend or foe?

Instant messaging isn’t just for kids anymore. Many businesses are using it because unlike e-mail, it allows you to have a more back-and-forth discussion. This is especially convenient for large offices. But it can also be a big distraction. How do you ensure people are on-task and not chatting the day away? Do you have an experience you could share with us about instant messaging and how it has impacted your workplace? Or even why you’re not using it?

To share your experience, simply post a response below!  No sign up is required and it’s completely anonymous!

Great leaders start with a belief

What made Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. special? Or why were the Wright Brothers first to fly and not someone else? Why will we buy any product Apple throws our way? What makes them stand out from the rest?

I recently watched “How great leaders inspire action” by Simon Sinek, an 18-minute video from In the speech, Sinek outlines what he believes is the common thread between all great leaders, whether they be individuals or companies. It’s not that they were rich, or well connected, or found themselves in a favorable market. It’s one thing that fueled them all: a belief. They knew why they were doing what they were doing.

In the video, Sinek points out the application to hiring, managing, innovating and marketing. It’s a simple idea and one that could change your future. Don’t miss out! Watch the video by clicking here.

Sex appeal and office politics

In the past few weeks, I’ve read too many articles on the female banker who brought suit against Citibank, alleging she was fired for being too attractive. Citibank claims she was fired for poor performance, but she says  her curvaceous body was the problem. I’m not sure we’ll ever know the real story, but this can serve as a reminder that we should keep appearances out of our decision-making process and enforce dress codes consistently.

Our partners at Dickinson Mackaman have explored this topic, and expanded it to include what is perhaps a more common complaint – employees who believe they are missing out on opportunities because they are not attractive enough.  Find out more by reading “Too Hot vs. Not” by Ann Holden Kendall and Ted Craig. Click here for the article.