Look for the Helpers

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me,

‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” ~Fred Rogers

 

It has been a tumultuous start to fall in America. Whether you are a diehard law-nerd following the confirmation hearings of the proposed Supreme Court Justice like a hawk, or a passive spectator watching everyone in your social media feeds argue over the impact of the hearings, you have likely witnessed a lot of heated debates about the selection process for the vacancy on the court.  Sadly, it’s often debilitating to be a law-nerd, because as constitutional scholars we are all too aware that the selection process is left up to our elected representatives.  In times like this I try to remember my childhood.  My parents did not appreciate the act of commiseration.  Action, they explained, empowers you.  Complaining does not.  In times like this it is easy to feel like a lost voice among a sea of screaming people.  It is even easier still to be complacent, to forget to be grateful for what we have, and to forget that we too have the power to become helpers.

The holidays are just around the corner, and with them come another season of giving.  If you are a frequent holiday volunteer who doesn’t spend much time in the community the rest of the year perhaps its time to take some of the passion you have felt toward the current political climate and turn it into action.  Below are some traditional and not so traditional ways to give back.

If none of those ideas spark your interest you may try something closer to home.  Many local schools look for volunteers in the classroom to listen to children read or help with other activities.  If political discourse is more up your alley consider volunteering with the local chapter of your political party, or volunteering to assist ensure voters are registered or can get to the poles on time.  Looking for something even more informal?  Try committing yourself to a few random acts of kindness per month (or week, or day).

I appreciate that Mr. Rogers’ mother taught him that helpers would always be near, as a child that must have been a great comfort for him, but it is also important to remember that if we want our children to see a community of helpers we must be helpful. It doesn’t matter if your version of help is raking the leaves for your elderly neighbor, or building houses for the less fortunate, or being an ear for a victim in a time of crisis.  What matters is that you do what you can to give back.  What matters is that our children see us acting as often as they see us arguing or complaining.  What matters is that we give them helpers to look for.

  • Volunteer CNY (A United Way Initiative) – The United Way’s Volunteer CNY offers a myriad of volunteer opportunities and is currently seeking assistance for: weekend meal prep; the Syracuse Film Festival; the care package project; and more! http://www.volunteercny.org/
  • Habitat for Humanity – In addition to help building houses (near and far) Habitat for Humanity seeks volunteers to work in their “Re-Store” and the local office. https://www.syracusehabitat.org/
  • Vera House – Vera House seeks volunteers to assist domestic violence victims with a variety of services from crisis hotlines to family court assistance. http://www.verahouse.org/volunteer
  • Salvation Army – If you are into something more traditional consider volunteering for the Salvation Army, of course you could ring the bell and collect donations for the holidays, but the Salvation Army offers volunteer opportunities year-round. https://syracuseny.salvationarmy.org/SyracuseNY/Volunteer
  • Rosamond Gifford Zoo – Working with animals doesn’t have to mean a trip to the animal shelter. Consider volunteering at the zoo for a unique experience that is sure to warm your heart. http://www.rosamondgiffordzoo.org/volunteer

 

Picture: http://www.clipartpanda.com/categories/thank-you-volunteer-clip-art

 

 

Sexual Harassment: Part Three. State Releases Model Policy

New York State has, at long last, released its final model sexual harassment policy and training materials. Back in April, Governor Cuomo signed into law a bill requiring all state employers to adopt what might be the most stringent mandatory anti-sexual harassment policies in the country and to provide sexual harassment prevention training to all of their employees on an annual basis.

The state first released a sample model policy and training on August 23rd for public comment and review. Then, on October 1st, the state finally released the official versions of the training materials and the model policy. These materials are only a sample, so employers are free to substitute their own materials so long as they meet or exceed the minimum requirements for the new policies. Those minimum requirements are also available on the DOL’s website. However, the state Department of Labor (DOL) has said that adopting the model policy will be sufficient to satisfy employers’ obligations under the new law.

One question that will arise when designing a prevention training, or even when implementing the DOL model training materials, is what the training should actually look and sound like. The DOL model training is available in one of two formats: a PDF document in the form of a script – apparently designed to be read by a presenter to a group of employees, or a power point presentation. It is important to remember that the training must be “interactive” to meet the minimum specifications of the law. Merely providing employees the power point presentation or the script is clearly insufficient.

The DOL has specified four ways in which employers can, relatively simply, make their training regimens comply with the interactive requirement:

  • having the training be presented in person and the presenter either asks questions of the employees or leaves time throughout the presentation for employees to ask questions;
  • for online versions of the training, enabling employees to have the option of asking questions and receiving an immediate response;
  • for online versions, forcing employees to periodically answer questions accurately to proceed with the training; or
  • at the conclusion of the materials requiring employees to submit a “feedback survey” discussing what they learned.

The DOL did not specify what a feedback survey might look like.

The date for complying with the new requirements for adopting a sexual harassment prevention policy is still October 9th, just eight days after the model policy was officially released. However, the state made two significant changes regarding the timeline for having all employees undergo the anti-sexual harassment training. The date for existing employees to undergo training has been shifted back from January 1 to October 9, 2019 and the 30-day deadline for new employees to undergo training has been scrapped in favor a requirement that they undergo training “as quickly as possible”. Presumably, these shifts were made in order to give businesses more flexibility in adopting a training program that works for their particular organization.

It will be important for employers to keep a close eye on the development of these rules for a couple reasons. Firstly, because any issues involving sexual misconduct are subject to a high degree of politicization and this certainly does not appear to be waning any time soon. Secondly, because New York’s new law is something of an aberration among the states; how it will play out in practice cannot be easily determined by looking at the experience of prior adopters. Thirdly, and most starkly, because the Governor said on a phone call with reporters this week that the state hadn’t “even concluded the regs on the law that we passed.” Indicating that further guidance from Albany about the requirements might be on the horizon.

https://www.ny.gov/combating-sexual-harassment-workplace/employers

 

Picture: www.deadline.com

 

 

 

Back to School and Moving Forward

“Car Drop Off Line? No. Parking Lot? Yes!”

 

Yet another summer has come to a screeching halt before any of us were really ready for it to go.  It’s still been nearly 90 degrees out, sun blazing.  But it’s September, and those glossy floors that the custodians so carefully cleaned and waxed are now home to lost class schedules, those little scraps of paper left from tearing a sheet from a notebook, and the footprints of the hundreds of students and staff who have returned, filling schools with the everyday noise, chaos and life that is back to school season. If you have kids in school, you are in one of two camps:  you either are sad that you’re apart during school hours after a summer together, or you are relieved for the restored routine, happy that school is back in session.  The start of school is definitely a beginning and an ending all at the same time.

Since we’re talking about things that divide the parents of schoolchildren, let’s talk about the dreaded school drop off line.  If your kids ride the bus, complain all you want about having to rush to get to the stop on time, but consider yourself lucky that you are not part of the daily drama of the drop off line. If your kids don’t ride the bus, you are either part of Club Tuck and Roll, or you need to use the parking lot.  There are no other options.

Don’t even think about getting in the drop off line if your student is still finishing up her Latin homework in the car, or needs your help retrieving his cello from the back of your SUV. No. The car line is not for you. That is why there are parking lots. The parking lot is where you go when your child (or you!) is in need of a bit of extra time before exiting your vehicle and skipping joyfully toward the school doorway.  I am the parent of middle schoolers, I know there is no joyful skipping (but that there is plenty of Latin homework). If you want those extra minutes together for a heartfelt goodbye and a pep talk for the day ahead, nobody is going to give you a single bit of shade about that so long as you are doing so in the parking lot and not the drop off line.

Those of us who are part of Club Tuck and Roll know that the very essence of the drop off line is that it is a continuous stream of stops and starts but that it is meant to keep moving forward.  Pull ahead, don’t just park in the spot that is nearest to the door.  You need to pull up to let the other cars behind you file into place and not back up onto the street. Cars pull up, kids – having already gathered their things and said their goodbyes – hop out, cars pull away so the next batch repeats the routine.  Over and over, until every car in the drop off line has deposited its precious cargo at the curb.

When someone who belongs in the parking lot decides to enter the drop off line, that breaks the zen of the drop off line (note:  if you have ever been in the drop off line, you know there is no zen there). There is a wrench thrown in the works, the machinery of the drop off line comes to a (muttering, sometimes honking) frustrating halt. The parents in the cars behind you, Parking Lot Parent in the Drop Off Line, are not thinking pleasant thoughts about you. You are the substance of countless internet memes and funny Facebook videos that make the Club Tuck and Roll Team nod in knowing solidarity. Don’t be that person.

In all seriousness, there is a real safety issue that arises when the drop off line doesn’t continue its smooth orderly progression. Traffic gets backed up, snaking through lots and onto the street. There are plenty of pedestrians around school grounds, and it’s important to keep things safe. Let’s all do our part to help keep things moving and most of all – keep things safe.  Here’s to a fantastic school year for all the kids, teachers and staff. We’d honk and wave, but we’ve got to keep moving.

 

Picture: Beattie Elementary School

 

Jennifer Granzow

Ms. Granzow holds a JD from the Syracuse University College of Law. Her practice is concentrated in the areas of business and corporate law, real estate, economic development, and government relations, with an emphasis on grants and public funding.

More Posts - Website

Sexual Harassment: Part Two. New Rules Explained

 

 

In the last post I explained that New York had passed some pretty significant rules aimed at curbing the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace. The paragraphs that follow give a summary of five of the most significant changes included in the reform package and hopefully provide some guidance for employers looking to stay in compliance with these important rules.

Expanded Liability

In the past, employers were only responsible for claims of sexual harassment from people directly in their employ. This is no longer the case. In order to expand protections to a larger segment of the working population, and in recognition of the way that work has shifted in this 21st century economy, this reform allows employers to be held accountable for the sexual harassment of independent contractors, subcontractors, vendors, and generally anyone performing services on the employer’s behalf. If a contractor or another covered individual is harassed, the employer can be held liable if they or their agents, knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to take appropriate corrective action. This reform went into effect the day the budget was signed on April 12, 2018.

Confidentiality Agreements

Prominent news pundit Bill O’Reilly famously paid a woman $34 million dollars to settle a sexual harassment claim and, more expensively, to keep quiet about it. Often a sexual harasser, or their employer, will attempt to limit the negative publicity or personal embarrassment associated with a sexual harassment settlement by including a non-disclosure or “confidentiality” agreement. This reform limits these agreements to instances when it is in “the plaintiff’s preference.” Policy makers argue that these agreements allow for too many repeat offenders and conceal the full extent of this problem from the public. The “plaintiff’s preference” exception presents a difficult question for litigants and judges to parse. Certainly Mr. O’Reilly’s victim’s preference must have been to keep quiet in exchange for a hefty payment. Couldn’t the same be said for all plaintiffs who voluntarily enter into these agreements? The answer is yet unclear. The statute does provide the guidance that this exception will only be allowed when the court determines that the plaintiff’s choice “is not a result of intimidation, coercion, retaliation, or threats” and that it will not result in an adverse “potential impact on the public.” Plaintiffs are afforded a seven-day window after signing any such agreement to revoke their acceptance. This part of the reform applies to all settlements entered into after July 11, 2018.

Mandatory Arbitration

One controversial aspect of the reforms is the prohibition on enforcement of mandatory arbitration provisions. Arbitration clauses are generally favored by policy makers on account of their effect on judicial efficiency. Employers also like them because they are often more cost effective and they avoid some of the publicity associated with litigation. However, the Legislature felt it was more important to ensure that victims could have their day in court, so the reform says that mandatory arbitration clauses will not be enforced after July 11, 2018, even if the agreement was entered into prior to that date. Employers should revisit any agreements in which these clauses were included to reassess the level of risk they are exposed to. This reform will probably be challenged on the grounds that it is preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act. Because federal laws reign supreme in our system of federalism, this could lead to this reform being declared unenforceable, meaning that employers’ arbitration clause are still binding. But this has not happened yet – as of today, this reform is still the law in the state of New York.

Sexual Harassment Policies & Employee Training

Employers are now obligated to adopt a written sexual harassment prevention policy to be distributed to all employees. The policy must:

  • prohibit sexual harassment and provide examples of prohibited conduct;
  • include information about federal and state sexual harassment laws and mention that there may be applicable local laws;
  • include a standard complaint form;
  • include a procedure for the timely and confidential investigation of complaints including due process for all parties;
  • inform employees of their rights to redress and available forums for adjudicating claims administratively and judicially, it is prudent, but not necessarily sufficient, to mention that employees can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and/or the New York Division of Human Rights (“DHR”);
  • state sexual harassment is misconduct and that sanctions will be enforced against individuals engaging in sexual harassment and supervisors and/or management who allow such behavior to continue; and
  • state retaliation against individuals who complain of sexual harassment or who testify or assist in any proceedings is unlawful.

Employers are also required to provide all employees with sexual harassment prevention training on an annual basis. The training must include:

  • an explanation of sexual harassment;
  • examples of sexual harassment;
  • information concerning the federal and state laws concerning sexual harassment and remedies available to victims; and
  • information concerning employees’ rights of redress and forums for complaints.

The training is required to be interactive, but the statute does not specify in what way it needs to be interactive. Employers should scrupulously document the dates employees went through this training. These portions of the reform go into effect October 9, 2018. Before employers run out and hire an HR consultant to design them a training regimen, they should know that the law mandates the DHR produce a model prevention policy and training program, the adoption of which will be sufficient for compliance with the new rules. The DHS has yet to produce these materials, but they are also required to comply by October 9, 2018.

Conclusion

If employers don’t comply with these reforms they can face serious penalties. In addition to the obvious liability concerns, state contracts will not be awarded, and may even be revoked, from entities that fail to comply. There are numerous other specific requirements for public authorities, municipalities, and government agencies that are not discussed in this post, which come with their own sets of consequences. These reforms are necessary to address a serious issue in our society and although the compliance may seem like a headache at first glance, with diligence and a little guidance, these requirements can be a very manageable part of employers’ operations.

 

Picture: www.chem.com

 

Sexual Harassment: Part One. New Rules for New York State

Sexual harassment in the workplace is not a new phenomenon. It has risen to the forefront of public consciousness many times. At least since the infamous Clearance Thomas Supreme Court confirmation hearings in 1992, the general public has been well aware of the problem. Recent revelations about Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein along with a cavalcade of high-profile allegations of workplace sexual misconduct which has resulted in the ouster of famous actors, top news broadcasters, wealthy executives, a federal Appellate Judge, and even a sitting United States senator, have generated renewed interest in concrete solutions to the problem. After all, the most troubling aspect of all this unfortunate news is that there are countless instances of workplace sexual harassment being perpetrated by less noteworthy offenders that go unreported and unpunished every day in workplaces across the country.

Not content with hand-wringing, the New York State Legislature included sweeping new sexual harassment prevention reforms into the State’s Budget, which were signed into law by the Governor on April 12, 2018. These laws and regulations affect all entities throughout the state, no matter the size, , so long as they employ at least one individual aside from the owner, excluding New York City, which is implementing its own unique slate of reforms. It is crucial that all New York employers familiarize themselves with these new rules and adjust their policies and practices accordingly.

Global Definition

The reforms adopt a standard definition of sexual harassment:

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature if such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of employment, or submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting an individual’s employment, or such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment, even if the complaining individual is not the intended target of sexual harassment.

Employers should use this definition in all company documents and training materials.

Major Policy Updates

The reforms are highlighted by five major changes that effect all employers:

1) expansion of liability for harassment that takes place on employers’ watch;

2) prohibition of confidentiality agreements in settlements of sexual harassment claims;

3) no more forced arbitration of sexual harassment claims;

4) mandatory adoption of written sexual harassment prevention policy; and

5) mandatory sexual harassment training for all employees.

These new policies all come with their own nuances and unique implementation features. Grappling with the details of each policy is important to ensure every employer is in compliance.  Next week, I will elaborate on what exactly each of these changes mean for employers and what some appropriate steps would be for them to make sure they do not run afoul of the new laws.

 

Picture: deadline.com

The Land of Opportunity:

Independence Day, when we get together to commemorate the Declaration of Independence and to celebrate all things American. Our country has really come a long way since rebellious colonists threw off the shackles of monarchical rule in the 18th century. From a humble agrarian nation, it has grown to be the dominant military and economic superpower on the globe. Its cultural, political, and commercial influence is felt in every nation on earth.

Over the course of its rise to prominence, America has been known for, perhaps more than any of its many idiosyncrasies, its willingness to welcome foreign immigrants. The seeds of this ethos were firmly sown by the first Independence Day in 1776. Many of the first European settlers of North America came to escape poverty, religious persecution, and even political violence. These settlers brought with them a real sense of empathy for the plight of outsiders.

Thus, immigration became a defining feature of the American experience throughout its history. Immigrant labor was responsible for many of the great American achievements of the 19th century. Chinese immigrants laid the first intercontinental railroad, German and Italian natives built the longest suspension bridge in the world connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn for the first time, and the Irish dug the longest canal in the world in upstate New York enabling commerce between New York City and the Great Lakes.

Immigrants founded some of the greatest American companies: U.S. Steel, Levi-Straus, AT&T, DuPont, Proctor &Gamble, Yahoo!, Google . . .  These firms created technologies that transformed standards of living the world-over and provided millions of good jobs to American workers. The success of immigrants in America was so profound as to provide an impetus for the moniker ‘the Land of Opportunity’.

Successive waves of immigrants have come and assimilated into American society. Each one bringing with it new ideas, philosophies, religions, inventions, and traditions. All of these have shaped the nation into the one we know and celebrate today.

Of course, this is not to say that Americans have always and everywhere welcomed immigrants with open arms. Racism, xenophobia, protectionism, and plain old-fashioned intolerance have reared their ugly head in America, as they have everywhere in the world where people from different places, who speak different languages, or practice different faiths try to live and work together. But Americans have traditionally managed to move beyond our differences.

In many ways the success of the American experiment can be attributed to our willingness to welcome immigrants into our midst and to incorporate their perspectives into our national identity. Independence Day is a chance for us to reflect on what we love about America. Surely, our ability to incorporate individuals from all over the world into our society is one of our best features. Indeed, today America is home to 50 million immigrants, more than the next four nations combined. This Independence Day, reflect on how your ancestors came to live in ‘the Land of Opportunity’ and on how we can keep the opportunities abundant for all who seek them.

 

Picture: www.shopbackdrop.com

MOVE. OVER.

 

Janis Joplin famously sang “Please don’t do it to me…won’t you move over?”, and in New York and many other states, her plea to move over has been codified into law.  Formally titled the Ambrose-Searles Move Over Act, Section 1144-a of New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law is commonly called the Move Over Law.  Named after two law enforcement officers who lost their lives after being struck by cars during traffic stops, the law is intended to make roadways safer for those who work on and near New York roadways.

The law originally went into effect January 1, 2011 but was revised in 2016 to include additional classes of roadside workers.  When they come upon red, or any combination of red, white and blue flashing lights signifying the presence of emergency vehicles like those driven by law enforcement officers, fire fighters and ambulance personnel, or tow/auto maintenance vehicles, highway maintenance vehicles, as well as garbage and recycling trucks, whether those emergency vehicles are parked or moving, drivers must do two things:

  1. First, they must slow down to a safe speed for the situation, and
  2. Second, they must move over to the furthest lane from the emergency vehicle provided that the lane change is safe.

Drivers should always be alert when operating a motor vehicle and should be on the lookout not only for the flashing lights, but for signs, workers wearing safety vests or shirts, and other indications that a potentially hazardous situation exists.  A violation of the Move Over Law can result in three points on your license, plus a hefty fine and mandatory NYS surcharge.  You may also be ticketed with other violations, like speeding and unsafe lane change, which range from 3 – 11 points plus fines and surcharges depending on the charge – this is on top of the Move Over Law points, fine and surcharge. More importantly, though, your failure to obey the Move Over Law could result in death or serious injury to a roadside worker, someone receiving emergency assistance, or others – including you.

It’s just not worth it.

We have two seasons here in Central New York, winter and construction.  Now that summer is officially here, crews are hard at work on roadsides everywhere you go.  Please exercise caution when you are driving and make sure that everyone makes it home safely.

 

Picture: Wonderopolis.org

Jennifer Granzow

Ms. Granzow holds a JD from the Syracuse University College of Law. Her practice is concentrated in the areas of business and corporate law, real estate, economic development, and government relations, with an emphasis on grants and public funding.

More Posts - Website

More Than Pomp and Circumstance

Pomp

For many the month of May means graduation season. Whether eagerly awaiting a graduation ceremony, or fondly remembering a ceremony from days gone by, the images of long robes, and graduation marches are sure to fill your mind.  From the classic “Pomp and Circumstance” to graduation regalia (or as my children like to call them wizard’s robes) the roots of American graduation ceremonies are steeped in European traditions but adapted to fit the unique nature of American universities.   Below is a fun historical prospective detailing how some of these traditions came about.

Pomp and Circumstance

If you’ve been to an American graduation ceremony, or seen one on TV or in the movies, chances are you watched students march in to “Pomp and Circumstance.” How did the song become a staple in American graduation ceremonies?  “Pomp and Circumstance” was composed by Edward Elgar in 1901.  In 1902 the song was used during the coronation of Brittan’s Edward VII.  Four years later, Elgar was awarded an honorary doctorate from Yale University, and the song was played as he left the stage.  Over the next couple of years many Ivy League Universities used the song during their ceremonies forming the long-standing tradition.  Over the years the tradition evolved, and the song is now used as a processional rather than a recessional during graduation ceremonies.  Although Elgar likely did not mean to write an iconic piece linked to matriculation ceremonies he probably knew it was perfect for the occasion since he described the song as “a tune that comes once in a lifetime.”

Regalia

Graduation regalia is easy to spot, but the site of a robed student often raises the question why all the pomp and circumstance? The tradition of wearing robes for graduation also comes from Europe.  Unlike “Pomp and Circumstance,” however, it was a tradition borne out of necessity.  Members of the clergy in Europe first sported the robes to keep warm in poorly heated brick buildings in the 12th and 13th centuries.  The use of robes evolved over the years to eventually be associated strictly with academia.  Once used as an academic uniform, robes today are used exclusively for graduation ceremonies.  In 1894 the American Intercollegiate Commission met at Columbia University to standardize graduation regalia for American universities.  Today graduation regalia is unique to each university, but the American Counsel on Education continues to release recommendations.

Graduation regalia is also unique to the degree being honored. Traditionally, students being honored for receiving their bachelor’s degrees wear closed gowns with pointed sleeves; those receiving master’s degrees sport robes with oblong sleeves which may be worn closed or open; doctoral students wear closed robes with bell sleeves often characterized by velvet bands on the front and sleeves.  The iconic mortarboard can be seen on bachelor’s degree candidates, and is also used in high school graduation ceremonies.  Whereas, master and doctoral candidates wear a four, six, or eight sided tam.

Black is the recommended color for graduation robes, but many institutions prefer robes in school colors. The color of the trimmings of doctors’ gowns, edging of hoods, and tassels of caps are often associated with the discipline of the degree.  For example, purple is associated with the study of law, and green with the study of medicine.

Regardless of the regalia worn or the songs played the symbol is the same. The traditions of graduation ceremonies signify to the world the academic achievements that bring together a group of people who may otherwise be very diverse. Take the time to congratulate a graduate this spring, they’ve earned it.

 

Picture:  https://funnytimes.com/20120516/

 

 

Walk-it-off.

Walking

The banal perils of our sedentary work habits and lifestyles are well documented. Muscular diseases such as carpal tunnel syndrome linked to keyboard usage skyrocketed beginning in the 1980s. Back and neck problems associated with sitting have also been on the rise. Workers who spend all day at a desk or in the car have been show by medical studies to be at higher risk for heart disease, obesity, certain types of cancers, diabetes, even depression. Sitting has been called, perhaps hyperbolically, “the new smoking”, by Dr. James Levine, director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative.

Sitting for an extended period is also negatively impacting our work performance. The British Medical Journal has concluded that prolonged time spent off our feet contributes to fatigue. This can be detrimental to productivity for workers in the knowledge economy and downright dangerous for those of us who drive or operate machinery. In a national survey conducted by the National Safety Council, among 2000 working adults, 76% of respondents reported feeling tired at work, 44% had trouble focusing, and 16% admitted to falling asleep unintentionally while driving!

There are countless remedies to the issues of workplace fatigue and health problems associated with prolonged seat exposure. Potential fixes to these common problems range from limiting screen time, changing our diets, transitioning to a standing desk, coordinating sleep schedules to more closely reflect our circadian rhythms, something called a Pomodoro Timer? Unfortunately, most of us just crack our knuckles and reach for that second cup of coffee when we feel stiff or lethargic.

But, there is one very simple way to combat these potential perils without making any sacrifices, spending any money, or going on some weird energy diet: walking.

A short walk gives the brain a chance to rest. As we think about the scenery or our destination our brains get a chance to decompress. We get a break from whatever task we were working on. Breaking up thinking about a topic can often lead to a fresh perspective on an issue. One we could miss if we refuse to come up for air. Research conducted at the University of Illinois has shown that even light aerobic exercise increases the number of blood vessels servicing the brain. This increase contributes to the speed of brain activity and facilitates problem solving. Walking has been shown to improve mood. It can give us a restored sense of balance when we are feeling frustrated or angry. Albert Einstein famously made a ritual of taking a brief walk around the neighborhood every afternoon. He reported having many of his ideas on these strolls.

In addition to the psychological benefits of walking, there are numerous physiological benefits. Walking increases heart rate, improves circulation, it facilitates deeper breathing, and stimulates muscle activity. Even a brief walk can positively impact cardiovascular health, balance, bone strength, and muscle health. Walking outside gives our body a chance to capture much needed vitamin D from sunlight (well, at least a few months a year in upstate NY). Being away from our work station also gives our eyes a chance to readjust, reducing strain that comes from reading small print or looking at screens. All this can be accomplished with a five or ten-minute walk down the block, or even around the office.

Sitting down all day reading off a screen and making repetitive hand motions is not great for our bodies or our minds. And remedies such as drinking caffeine, eating sugary snacks, or browsing social media can actually be making the problem worse. Taking a short break to get up and walk around for a few minutes provides numerous benefits both for our physical well-being and for our ability to do our jobs well.

 

Picture: www.pinterest.com

 

 

 

Email Etiquette

Email-Etiquette-Tips-from-the-Pros-Ftrd32

The average U.S. employee spends approximately one-quarter of their week sending or reading emails. As the recent corruption trials in New York City gain traction we are once again reminded that emails are forever.  For example, emails have been entered into evidence during the corruption trial of Joseph Percoco (and others) not just between Percoco and his co-defendants, but also between support staff at the governor’s office commenting on Percoco’s attitude and behavior. In one instance a state worker forwarded an angry email from Percoco to a colleague stating: “We aren’t f-in mindreaders.” Another employee reacted in an email, “WTF?” These emails are now part of the record of the trial. (http://www.syracuse.com/state/index.ssf/2018/01/corruption_trial_top_cuomo_aid_says_no_raise_for_syracuse_developers_son_another.html).

Whether it is an inter-office email or an email chain regarding a serious business matter a good rule of thumb is to never send anything in an email that you would not want to see as an exhibit in court. Here are some other email etiquette tips.

Setting Up the Email

  • Do not use your professional email account to send personal emails.
  • Add the recipient last to ensure your email is fully proofed and complete before sending.
  • Keep the subject line short, to the point, and current with the content of the email (change the subject if necessary in a long email chain or begin a new email).
  • Structure – each email should include a greeting, the body of the email, and a signoff or salutation.
  • Include a signature line, and privacy warning notice.

The Body of the Email

  • Avoid the use of profanity.
  • Try to keep your emails brief and on subject.
  • Avoid jokes, sarcasm, and other colloquy’s that must be read in context to be understood. Do not criticize or mock people in emails
  • Select professional font; the text should be black; keep the font size between 10 and 12 point.
  • Proofread! (And then proofread again, and finally proofread a third time.)

General Tips

  • Respond to your emails within twenty-four hours. Even if it is just to let the recipient know when to expect a more detailed response.
  • Avoid sending emails at odd hours. Instead, use the delayed send feature in Outlook to ensure your email is sent at the start of the next business day.
  • Avoid sending unnecessary emails. Every email represents an interruption to the recipient’s already busy workday, use that interruption wisely and for a purpose.
  • For important information stick with formal correspondence by mail.

 

Picture: fitsmallbusiness.com