Your Disaster Plan: Continual

Nov 17

MP900414115 - SmallYou want your disaster plan, also known as a “business continuity” plan, to be complete, accurate, functional, up to date, and able to meet your recovery objectives. To ensure that you meet these goals, there’s no better way than a “live test.”

You can create buy-in among managers and staff by providing a test scenario that’s specific, realistic, detailed, and comprehensive.

Consider this real-world example: A television communication company in Miami was completing its disaster plan when it learned that a powerful hurricane was headed straight toward Southeastern Florida. Fortunately, because the business had several days’ warning, it was able to implement the plan rapidly and communicate it to employees. Although the company was prepared for the worst, the storm struck to the south and west, near Key West.

Although there was no significant damage in the Miami area, the exercise tested important components of the plan, such as the ability of the business to:

  • protect equipment and strengthen the building in a timely and orderly manner
  • activate and maintain an alternate transmission site
  • test backup electrical generation and other equipment under adverse weather conditions
  • communicate emergency technical instructions to affiliate stations throughout the Spanish and Portuguese speaking world
  • sponsor a shelter for emergency storm personnel
  • release and recall staff in an orderly basis

A post-disaster meeting led to a number of refinements in the plan. Most important, the exercise confirmed the ability of the company to maintain important business activities at a pre-established acceptable level, with minimal impact to its customers and revenue stream.

If you’d like advice on testing your company’s business continuity plan before disaster strikes, just give us a call.


Top High-Tech Car Safety Features

Nov 10


MP900438798 - smallEverybody has felt that unpleasant surprise when a car comes zooming into view after being hidden in a blind spot. Older motorists are no different, and they see warning systems against this hazard as the top safety feature in newer cars, according to a new report by the MIT AgeLab and The Hartford Insurance Company. After surveying hundreds of drivers over age 50 who get behind the wheel at least three times a week, the study found that these “mature motorists” felt more confident with cars which have at least one of 10 advanced safety technologies.

Here are the top 10 safety features for older motorists (in order):

  1. Blind-spot warnings alert drivers when another vehicle is approaching unseen and also help with parking.
  2. Crash mitigation systems detect imminent collisions and can help reduce passenger injuries.
  3. Emergency response systems alert paramedics or other emergency personnel if there’s an accident.
  4. Drowsy driver alerts warn motorists when they nod off or otherwise become inattentive.
  5. Reverse monitoring systems help drivers (especially those with reduced flexibility) judge distances and back up safely by warning of objects behind the vehicle.
  6. Vehicle stability control reduces crashes by helping steer a car if it veers offline or has trouble navigating a curve.
  7. Lane departure warning alerts motorists when they drift from a lane.
  8. “Smart” headlights illuminate the road more effectively by responding to the direction the driver is steering and the vehicle’s speed.
  9. Voice-activated command systems allow motorists to use a car’s features without losing focus on the highway.
  10. Automated parking assist calculates the angles and steers the car into the space, reducing driver stress and increasing the number of potential parking spots.

How many of these safety features does your newer car have?



Home Security Systems: Myths And Reality

Nov 02
thief-1562699_1920Don’t let negative rumors about home security systems keep you from adding this valuable protection for you and your family. Before you buy a system, consider these myths and realities:
Myth: No one will break into my home.
Reality: Burglars can target any home anywhere, and they’re seeking unprotected targets like yours. In 2011, the FBI reported more than 1.5 million residential burglaries, an average of more than one a minute.

Myth. Security systems cost too much.

Reality: According to the FBI, burglaries cost victims an average of $2,185 in 2011. A security system that costs $50 a month (a mid-range figure for most systems) can provide more than three and a half years of protection for the money and valuables you might lose in a home burglary, not to mention helping ensure your peace of mind.

Myth: My pet will set off false alarms

Reality: Many home security systems are pet friendly, designed to distinguish between pets and intruder.

Myth: Having a security system won’t lower my insurance rate

Reality: Because insurance companies can save a ton of money when policyholders use quality alarm systems (which reduce the chances of burglary claims significantly) they offer these customers a sizeable discount on homeowners coverage. You can use these savings to offset the cost of your system.

Myth: Because I have insurance, I don’t need a security system

Reality: Insurance can’t bring back irreplaceable items, such as family heirlooms or other valuables, which a home security system can help protect. What’s more, many people don’t want to deal with filing a claim and receiving an insurance settlement.

For more information on the benefits that alarm systems can provide, feel free to get in touch with us at any time.



Wrap Up Policies; The CCIP Solution

Oct 26


Wrap-up or “Wrap” Construction insurance can be a highly effective tool on large or complex building projects to reduce premiums, minimize cross-litigation, and speed the claims process by providing General Liability, Workers Comp, and possibly other coverages for the general contractor and most – if not all –subcontractors under a single package policy. There are two basic types of Wrap coverage: owner-controlled insurance programs (OCIPs) and contractor-controlled insurance programs (CCIPs).

Although each type has its advocates, more and more project owners prefer have the general contractor sponsor the program because they:

  • often use the same subcontractors, who are familiar with the safety requirements of the program – an essential element in a successful OCIP; Shouldn’t this read CCIP?
  • usually have more control than owners over safety programs and are more experienced in the administration of OCIPs: payroll reporting, claims management, working with the insurance company, and so forth
  • have a financial incentive to minimize accidents and injuries on the project (because insurers usually require the general contractor to pay a six-figure deductible, andin many cases, to prefund these potential losses)
  • often have more financial resources than the project owner to provide letters of credit, collateral, or sureties the insurance company requires for projected and developed claims under the program.

However, in some cases, an OCIP can be a better solution than a CCIP. For instance, many owners might be ready to assume the risks of a Wrap-up – and to share the savings with the general contractor for a job completed safely. Picking the best approach for each project should be a win-win for all parties involved. Our Construction insurance specialists would be happy to offer you their input.



Disaster Planning: Ride Out The Storm

Oct 19


The American Management Association recently reported that only half of the corporations it surveyed had a disaster plan. What’s more, many respondents felt that the time spent preparing a plan was too costly or that they had just never thought about it.

As insurance professionals, we find such news disappointing. After all, a disaster management plan should be a top priority for every company.

The safety of your employees and the future of your business depend on drafting a disaster management plan now. From the loss of key personnel to physical property damage, everything that can go wrong in a serious situation might very well do so. Are you prepared?

Your plan should also include comprehensive insurance coverage. For example,

Once a disaster happens, if you don’t carry a business income policy with, “Extra Expense,” coverage, you will lose money. Maybe even enough to put your business under for good. This coverage kicks in to help you replace lost revenue and expenses to get up and running fast.

For more information on adding Business Income insurance with Extra Expense coverage to your protection package, call our service team today.



PPE: Mistakes Workers Make

Oct 12


If your employees slip up in using personal protective equipment, the results can be dangerous, if not deadly.

Among many health and safety professionals, PPE comes in last place—behind engineering controls and work practice or administrative controls – because it only addresses hazards indirectly and has the most potential failure points.

One of these potential points involves interaction between the worker and equipment, when employees make critical mistakes in the care, use, and replacement of PPE.

  • Mistake No. 1: Improper care. For example, a worker takes her foam earplugs out to consult with another worker about a problem, and then rolls the earplugs again with dirty hands before reinserting them. At the end of the day, she leaves the earplugs inside her hard hat and re-uses them the next workday.
  • Mistake No. 2: Misuse. A worker wearing a fall protection harness leaves the harness loose, but pulls the lanyard tight. Another worker who uses a respirator at work decides to grow a beard.
  • Mistake Number 3: Failure to replace PPE as needed. Let’s say that a supervisor whose workers are supposed to use a new pair of chemical protective gloves each day, decides he will save his department money by telling workers to use each pair of gloves for a week before replacing them. After all, they still look fine after a week. Equipment should be changed 1)after each shift, it it’s disposable (gloves protective clothing, etc.).  2) whenever it shows signs of wear and tear or damage.  3)on schedule, if it’s reusable and must be replaced before exceeding its useful life.  and 4) after a save, for single-use PPE, such as hardhats, fall protection harnesses and lanyards.

A word to the wise …



Driving us to distraction: the top 5 time-sucks in the office

Oct 05

The genius that happens every day in the offices of the world requires a certain amount of focus. Unfortunately, most offices are awash with both physical and mental distractions that pull our attention away from the task at hand. To help you identify common pitfalls, we’ve zeroed in on the top five productivity killers in the modern age. Better still, we gathered expert advice on ways to block out the noise and get to work.

1. Social media
Rieva Lesonsky, CEO of GrowBiz Media & com, admits her primary distraction is self-inflicted. “Social media can take me off task, especially Twitter. (I’m addicted.)”

RELATED: The science of cuteness: how looking at baby animals increases productivity

It happens to the best of us. You’re at a lull in your work, and you get that nagging sensation that something amazing might be happening on Facebook. Why not take a quick peek, just to make sure the world’s not passing you by? These brief breaks may seem harmless enough, but making compulsive social media checks during the day can add up to hours a week of lost time.

Instead of checking Facebook or Twitter throughout the day, try scheduling your social media time after lunch and limit it to 15 minutes. Having a special time slot for checking out the latest hijinks of Grumpy Cat will leave the rest of your day free for more productive endeavors. And if you really can’t help trying to scratch that itch, consider blocking your most visited social websites with your browser’s security settings.

2. A crazy commute
If you live or work in a large city, the morning commute can be an exercise in extreme frustration. What should be a 15-minute drive can turn into an hour or more of unproductive stress during rush hour.

Fortunately, thanks to cloud computing, working remotely is easier than ever. With web-based software and collaboration tools, office workers can get everything done even when they’re miles away from home base. More and more, corporate leaders are warming up to the idea of telecommuting as remote employees report higher productivity and morale. Even if you can’t work remotely all the time, you may be able to slightly shift your work schedule so you’re not traveling at rush hour, or just handle the first hour of your workday from home before you hop in the car.

3. Loud-mouthed colleagues
Who can’t relate to this scenario: you’re just settling in for some hard-core focus time to bang out a monthly report when the guy in the next cubicle starts in on a high-volume recap of last night’s episode of Game of Thrones—and you haven’t seen it yet (spoiler alert!). Working in an office can be great for collaboration and easy communication, but not so great when you’re doing focused solo work. Diplomatic requests for quiet might buy you a few minutes of peace, but let’s be realistic: some people do not possess an inside voice. Treat yourself to a pair of noise-canceling headphones and crank your favorite background tunes or soothing sounds from a white-noise website like Noisli.

4. The unfocused workday
You may have a truckload of work, but without a clear plan of attack, you may leave the office that night wondering what you got done and why you spent time on the wrong tasks. Ramon Ray of Smart Hustle Magazine zeroes in on the root of the problem. “Lack of clear understanding and planning. When I’m clear and highly organized, things flow!”

Jeff Marcoux, CMO lead for Worldwide Enterprise Marketing at Microsoft, agrees. “Randomization is the killer of productivity.” To get his house in order, he spends the first 10 minutes of his day making an explicit to-do list, following guidelines set out in this Harvard Business Review article. If you have trouble organizing your tasks, check out a mobile productivity tool like ToDoist or LeanKit.

5. Email
It’s impossible to avoid in the modern workplace, but email is as much a hindrance as it is a help. Andy Karuza, owner ofBrandBuddee, notes, “being ‘too connected’ can be a major productivity killer. This is because task switching wastes lots of time from having to reset your train of thought and pick up where you left off on the previous task.”

Answer emails and social media messages together at the top of the hour. Knock them all out at once and then wrap yourself up again in that Excel spreadsheet you were working on.

Your email inbox forces you to switch focus from your task at hand, wasting precious minutes of your targeted energy. Karuza suggests taking a structured approach. “Answer emails and social media messages together at the top of the hour. Knock them all out at once and then wrap yourself up again in that Excel spreadsheet you were working on.”

You may also be doing work that is better done by a machine. Try to automate some basic email tasks to help you prioritize your inbox so those sprints of replying to email are as efficient as possible.

Whether you’re working from home or at the office, there’s always something there to distract you. Identifying your own biggest distractions is the first step to eliminating them. How do you conquer your workday productivity killers? Share your secrets onFacebook or Twitter.


A cure for technological distractions in five minutes a day with mindfulness and meditation

Sep 28

While the distractions of social media and always-on devices pile up, it’s becoming increasingly important for people to unplug and refocus. Workplaces can be circuses of nonstop meetings, endless barrages of email and social networking, and people walking around with their faces stuck in devices.

RELATED: Mindfulness in the workplace: how two minutes a day can reduce stress and improve focus

And the solution to technology overload may be mindfulness.

Many organizations are finding that mindfulness works: it decreases stress, increases productivity, and helps people form better personal connections. Companies such as Google, Procter & Gamble, Aetna, General Mills, and Target all have meditation rooms. The Seattle Seahawks have a meditation coach, as do other sports teams and entertainment figures, including 50 Cent and Katy Perry. Even the US military is teaching mindfulness techniques to members of the armed services.

If you don’t have a mindfulness coach or advocate at your company, you can still practice in the comfort of your office, home, or cubicle. It’s easy, and you can see benefits by spending only five minutes a day. Here’s how.

Mindfulness is like a workout for your brain.

Wait. It’s easy?

It is! All it takes is 5 to 10 minutes a day. Find a place in your home (or office) where you can sit comfortably and undisturbed. Leave your phone in another room on silent mode. You don’t need to cross your legs or put your hands in funny shapes. You also don’t need to say, “Ommmm.” All you have to do is sit there and concentrate on your breathing. When your mind wanders, go back to thinking about your breathing. Repeat until 5 or 10 minutes pass. That’s it.

Why can’t I have my phone?

Silly person, your phone is a distraction. It may ring or ding or vibrate, which will take you out of the moment and make you want to answer it, look at it, or silence it. You’re trying to eliminate distractions like that.

Over the years, we’ve become so addicted to taking in information, it’s become our primary mode of operation. It started with television, which people still sit in front of and do nothing except absorb whatever’s being shown on the screen. Now in recent years we’ve done the same with computers and phones. We move from one screen to another and one piece of information to another with no time to think, synthesize, or be creative.

Eventually you may want to create a space in your home with a “no technology” rule, like your bedroom, so you don’t have the temptation of picking up your phone in the middle of the night or looking at it first thing in the morning. That way you can be more aware of what you’re doing without having your attention stolen by the latest email message.

You mentioned some benefits?

Yes, many benefits. Focusing on the benefits is probably the best way to get you to set aside some mindfulness time. Here are a few backed up by data and research:

Increased ability to focus.
Physically shrinks the stress centers of your brain.
Increased ability to know what is happening in your head without acting on it.
Better self-awareness.
Increased sense of compassion.

Another benefit that can’t be undervalued is creativity. To be creative, you need space and time. You need to be able to be alone with your thoughts. That’s impossible when you’re surrounded by distractions that prevent you from concentrating on anything for a long period of time. Filmmaker David Lynch famously explored this idea in his book Catching the Big Fish.

In a lot of ways, mindfulness is like a workout for your brain. We already know it’s important to work out our bodies to stay healthy, so it makes sense to dedicate some time to working out our minds. You may find you’re happier, more creative, and better able to concentrate on whatever you’re doing.


The Modern Office: How Place and Space Affect Productivity

Sep 21

If you’ve worked in an office, you know there are often many obstacles to productivity. Whether it’s too many interruptions, a loud coworker, or just poor communication – there are things, specific to the work environment, that detract from your ability to work. Over the years, office spaces have evolved to suit modern working styles, but there are still inefficiencies that need to be ironed out. Here’s a look at where we’ve been, where we’re going, and how these changes will impact workplace productivity.


Ever work in a traditional office? One with doors and walls or a cubicle farm with rows and rows of semi-partitioned spaces? Does the thought of working in one make you anxious and trigger feelings of isolation and confinement. If so, you’re not alone.

In 1993 Dr. Francis Duffy and Jack Tanis wrote: “We are in danger of continuing to build offices that are more suitable for the first decades of this century than for the next.” According to Duffy and Tanis, traditional office spaces are “more capable of suffocating initiative than of stimulating invention,” and they worked toward building new physical spaces that gave employees “the maximum freedom to use all their talents.”


Around that time open-plan offices, in which people work in large, open spaces with few physical barriers, were rising in popularity. The idea was that this would increase collaboration, creativity, and productivity. Open layouts are meant to encourage a sense of group togetherness and make employees feel like part of a more relaxed, creative enterprise.

Physical barriers have been closely linked to psychological privacy, and a sense of privacy boosts job performance.

As Maria Konnikova wrote in The New Yorker on open offices, “Psychologically, the repercussions of open offices are relatively straightforward. Physical barriers have been closely linked to psychological privacy, and a sense of privacy boosts job performance.” So while the open layout is beneficial for working together, it diminishes the quality of individual work.Today, it’s estimated that 70 percent of all offices are open-plan. In some ways, it’s improved collaboration and communication in the workplace. At the same time, it’s done little to enhance creativity and, in many instances, has negatively impacted productivity. In one study, people reported not having enough privacy and being distracted by too much noise.


Most offices won’t revert back to traditional office spaces. Open-office layouts allow more people to work per square inch, reducing the amount of total office space needed. So how can you blend traditional and open-office floor plans to get a modern workspace appropriate for how people work today?

The key is to create an office space without barriers that can also be private. Given the increase in mobile devices used in the office, it’s important to have a flexible work environment where people can move around and work in different places. One way is having private breakout rooms where a person or a small group of people can work together. Other solutions include alcove sofas and workbays to break up an open space and provide workers with more private options.

The challenge for tomorrow will be designing a space that creates a feeling of psychological privacy but is also flexible enough that people can easily move around and collaborate. With technology enabling a more grab and go work style, we need workspaces to reflect that increased flexibility. How has the way you work changed and how has your workplace evolved (or not evolved) in response?


Mind Over Matter: the Zen Approach to Innovation and Productivity

Sep 14

Mindfulness practice has permeated many aspects of Western culture – from stress-reduction therapy to everyday business practices. Mindfulness is an approach to increasing awareness of oneself and one’s surroundings. Mindfulness practice began with Buddhist meditation but is being adapted to fit the more clinical and secular needs of Western treatment centers and workplaces. Here’s how mindfulness is being implemented today and how it could make your workday a little brighter.

Achieving effortless attention

The cornerstone of mindfulness is nonjudgmental observation. It entails perceiving the context of a situation without attaching any emotions to the events unfolding. Much like Zen, which emphasizes the value of meditation and intuition, mindfulness is about eliminating the clutter, finding balance, and getting to the core of what you’re presented with.

Jeremy Hunter, assistant professor at the Peter F. Drucker School of Management, told The Wall Street Journal, “Mindfulness should be at the center of business schools’ teaching … because it is about improving the quality of attention, and in the modern workplace, attention is the key to productivity.” The belief is that attentiveness can be strengthened through mindfulness and meditation practice.

Being in touch with spontaneity

Journalist Warren Berger, who’s written extensively on the subject and talked with various Silicon Valley executives, writes: “Zen practitioners are taught to remain attentive and ‘mindful,’ even during life’s mundane moments—an approach that also helps design researchers and ethnographers gather observations and insights on everyday behavior and needs.” The result is small but pivotal insights that move the individual (or the company) forward.

According to Randy Komisar, a Zen practitioner who’s also a partner with the Silicon Valley venture capitalist firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers, Zen practice “is about stripping away one’s biases, prejudices, blindness. It is about realizing the essence of things.” The belief is that through meditation and mindfulness, people open themselves up to having those a-ha! moments that spark innovation.

Honoring the practice

While Zen meditation and mindfulness can certainly boost mental health, creativity, and productivity, it’s important to remember that’s not the sole purpose of these practices. This dilemma is perfectly captured in The Economist’s Schumpeter column:

“The biggest problem with mindfulness is that it is becoming part of the self-help movement—and hence part of the disease that it is supposed to cure. Gurus talk about ‘the competitive advantage of meditation.’ Pupils come to see it as a way to get ahead in life. And the point of the whole exercise is lost.”

Mindfulness won’t help you crush your competition—but it can help you and your colleagues bring greater clarity to the workday by raising awareness of yourself and your surroundings. To get started, check out this feature piece on mindfulness and business. Begin to integrate elements of these practices into your day whenever possible. Remember, it’s not how much you do; it’s how consistently you do it.