WageWatch Ibrief Blog

Login

Archive for November, 2016

Mindfulness: Embraced by Businesses

In a world where multitasking and information overload are the norm, an old idea, Mindfulness, is becoming increasingly appealing to organizations who are effectively applying it to their businesses.  Mindfulness is training the mind to focus. Our ability to concentrate is seriously compromised the more we multitask. And technology, though useful to us in so many ways has actually impeded our ability to concentrate or to be mindful of what matters moment by moment. If you would like to investigate further for your organization or for yourself, Psychology Today has an overview of the practice

(http://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/mindfulness) on their website.

 

Many Fortune 500 and other organizations are embracing and promoting mindfulness for their workforce.  Business schools are beginning to teach mindfulness and it is included in many MBA programs. In the workplace, mindfulness is a skill that aids concentration, clarity and equanimity.  Present moment awareness keeps your mind from dwelling on the past or obsessing on the future.  Becoming more aware of what is going on around you allows us to be fully focused on the task at hand and more likely to spot opportunities. Mindfulness also makes us more conscious of what is going on within us, helping to identify and remove subconscious thinking that can be obstacles to success. Mindfulness also enhances creativity, innovation, and improves the brain’s ability to process information.  So it is not surprising that more and more corporations are embracing mindfulness as a business practice.

 

To be mindful is to be awake, to be conscious, to be aware and to appreciate the impact of one’s actions. Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly witnessing one’s thoughts and feelings without judgment.  Mindfulness is a 2,500 year old tradition of Eastern Cultures that now is considered a science of the mind.  Many consider mindfulness to have its origins Buddhism; however, it can be traced back more than 2,500 years ago, when Hindus practiced a range of meditations, which included mindfulness.

 

It may be time to consider mindfulness, as a business skill.  Extensive research has been done over the last 15 years that show mindfulness is linked to psychological and physical, health. It decreases blood pressure, regulates the heart, increases the immune function, and enhances memory.  It essentially, rewires our brain.  The idea that increasing mindfulness may lead to better decision-making deserves attention.

At WageWatch our compensation consultants are focused on your organization’s compensation needs and ready to help you ensure that your compensation programs are supporting your company’s business strategy and objectives. WageWatch also offers accurate, up-to-date benefit surveys, salary surveys and pay practices data that will allow you to stay current with the times. This information is highly beneficial in creating the best salary and benefits packages that meet or rival the industry standards. For more information on our services, including consulting, salary survey data, benefit survey data and market compensation reports, please call WageWatch at 888-330-9243 or contact us online .

MINIMUM WAGE UPDATE JANUARY 2017

Voters in four states Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington approved ballot measures that will raise their state minimum wage by between 43% and 60% over the next few years.  Arizona, Colorado, and Maine will incrementally increase their minimum wages to $12 an hour by 2020. Washington’s will be increased incrementally to $13.50 an hour by 2020.

State increases that are effective January 2017 include Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Vermont.  New York’s minimum wage will increase again December 31, 2016.  Maryland, Minnesota and Washington DC have minimum wage changes mid- year 2017.

New York is the second state to pass a new law to raise the minimum wage in New York City to $15 per hour by the end of 2018. Washington D.C. followed suit, enacting a law to raise the minimum wage in the District to $15 per hour by July 1, 2020.  California will increase their minimum wage to $15 per hour by Jan. 1, 2022, for employers with 26 or more employees. For employers with 25 or fewer employees the minimum wage will reach $15 per hour by Jan. 1, 2023. Increases may be paused by the governor if certain economic or budgetary conditions exist. Beginning the first Jan. 1 after the minimum wage reaches $15 per hour for smaller employers, the minimum wage is indexed annually for inflation.

Fourteen states began 2016 with higher minimum wages. Of those, 12 states increased their rates through legislation passed in the 2014 or 2015 sessions, while two states automatically increased their rates based on the cost of living.

Of the 11 states that currently tie increases to the cost of living, eight did not increase their minimum wage rates for 2016.

State and City minimum wage increases continue to make front page news. An unprecedented number of cities and counties have moved to adopt higher local minimum wages. In addition, cities are proposing substantially higher wage levels than in past years.  Cities with minimum wage ordinances include San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle (SEA-TAC), Montgomery County and Prince Georges County MD, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and others have already approved increases. Many other cities have ordinances that become effective in 2017 and beyond.

Follow this link to the WageWatch MinimumWage Chart with details of federal, state and local minimum wage and pending increases:

https://wagewatch.com/resources/Minimum_Wage_Chart_Jan_2017.xlsx

At WageWatch our compensation consultants are focused on your organization’s compensation needs and ready to help you ensure that your compensation programs are supporting your company’s business strategy and objectives. WageWatch also offers accurate, up-to-date benefit surveys, salary surveys and pay practices data that will allow you to stay current with the times. This information is highly beneficial in creating the best salary and benefits packages that meet or rival the industry standards. For more information on our services, including consulting, salary survey data, benefit survey data and market compensation reports, please call WageWatch at 888-330-9243 or contact us online.

Posted in Uncategorized on November 15th, 2016 · Comments Off on MINIMUM WAGE UPDATE JANUARY 2017

HOW ABOUT A SIX HOUR WORKDAY?

Can a move to a six hour workday increase productivity and the happiness quotient of employees and their families and at the same time increase productivity and company profits?   In the U.S., more than 60 years after workers, through their unions, began organizing for an eight-hour day in the 1860s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938 for all workers to see limits on working hours — initially 44 hours a week, then phased to 42 and eventually 40 by 1940.

Today some businesses in Sweden are trying out a six hour workday hoping to get more done in a shorter amount of time and ensure people have the energy to enjoy their private lives.   This change is purely experimental and a voluntary one that has not been mandated by law nor implemented nationwide.

A Toyota vehicle service center in Sweden’s second largest city Gothenburg, moved to shorter days thirteen years ago. The service center reported a happier staff, a lower turnover rate, and an increase in profits during that time.  The new system keeps the garages open longer and generates new business.  Employees are doing the same amount in the six hour workday, often more than they did in the eight hour day.  The service center reports that employees have more stamina to do this heavy work, and they have seen greater profits and customers because cars are getting fixed faster.

The most high-profile case in recent months is the publicly funded Svartedalens nursing home in west Sweden which started a trial of a six-hour day in February 2015 to continue until the end of 2016 when they will determine whether the cost of hiring new staff members to cover the hours lost is worth the improvements to patient care and boosting of employees’ morale.   The nursing home has 80 nurses working six hour shifts maintaining their eight-hour salaries while 80 staffers at another nursing home work their standard hours.  At half way through 2016, the nursing home trying the six hour workday has half the average sick leave, the nurses are happier and the care is better.   The study however, equates productivity with quality of care, which doesn’t necessarily translate to white-collar work.

Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska University Hospital’s orthopedics unit switched 89 nurses and doctors to a six hour day last year, hiring 15 staffers to ensure the hospital work got done. The test was expensive, costing the hospital $123,000 a month, but no one has called in sick since it began and the nurses and doctors have been found to be more efficient.

A number of startup companies have announced that they are also testing the concept. These include Background AB, a creative communication agency in Falun, Dalarna and Filimundus, an app developer based in Stockholm.   Linus Feldt, Filimundus CEO believes that staying focused on a specific work task for eight hours is a huge challenge.  During an eight or more hour workday, employees take frequent breaks and look for distractions and diversions such as social media to make the work day more endurable.  With the six hour work day, staff members at Filimundus are not allowed on social media, meetings are kept to a minimum, and the company does it’s best to eliminate other unproductive distractions.

Most of the companies who have made the shift to the six hour workday have reported a positive impact, from increased efficiency to better communication and fewer staff sick days.  A 2014 Stanford University research paper found a “non-linear” relationship between hours worked and productivity as well as too much work can actually impinge productivity.  According to a study by the Families and Work Institute, overworked employees make more mistakes.  Research has shown that condensing work into more efficient hours is very unlikely to hurt productivity.  There is no need to lower pay and in fact companies are likely to save money through less sick and personal leave, less stress leading to better health, and lower turnover costs.

Opponents to the 6 hour workday feel that if Sweden were to adopt this standard, the economy would suffer from reduced competitiveness and strained finances.  The six-hour day has not being embraced by larger Swedish companies and other towns in Sweden that previously tested shorter workdays ultimately abandoned them.  In the northern city of Kiruna, officials scrapped a six-hour day for 250 municipal employees after 16 years, citing high expenses and resentment among workers who were not part of the program.

The 6 hour work day would be less accepted in the U.S. because the eight+ hour workday ethic is so deeply embedded in our culture.  According to Gallup’s 2014 poll, full-time employees in the U.S. work an average of 47 hours per week.  It will be interesting to watch how the six hour workday plays out in Sweden.  However, even with encouraging results, it’s unlikely that the U.S. will shift to shorter days any time soon.  The rest of the world (outside of Europe) a 40 hour work week would be very nice improvement as well.

At WageWatch our compensation consultants are focused on your organization’s compensation needs and ready to help you ensure that your compensation programs are supporting your company’s business strategy and objectives. WageWatch also offers accurate, up-to-date benefit surveys, salary surveys and pay practices data that will allow you to stay current with the times. This information is highly beneficial in creating the best salary and benefits packages that meet or rival the industry standards. For more information on our services, including consulting, salary survey data, benefit survey data and market compensation reports, please call WageWatch at 888-330-9243 or contact us online.

Posted in Uncategorized on November 9th, 2016 · Comments Off on HOW ABOUT A SIX HOUR WORKDAY?

Independent Contractor or Employee?

If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s a duck.  In other words, if you are treating the ‘independent contractor’ like an employee by doing things such as providing work materials and office space, designating working hours, providing training and direction regarding how and when to perform the work, then the ‘independent contractor’ is most likely an employee.  Independent contractor is defined by the Fair Labor Standards Act, IRS regulations, and the decisions of some courts.  Many states also have specific independent contractor regulations.  The IRS and many states have adopted common law principles to define an independent contractor. These rules focus primarily on the level of control an employer has over a service or product. For independent contractors, the company can direct or control only the result of the work done, and not the means and methods in getting to the result.

The rules are not always clear-cut to determine the correct status, but generally characteristics of an Independent Contractor include:

  • The work assignment is temporary and typically for a specific project; and
  • The work assignment is not an integral part of the business and is not something typically done by employees.

The Independent Contractor will:

  • Supply his or her own equipment, materials and tools;
  • Pay for their own expenses;
  • Control the hours worked;
  • Determine how and when to perform the work;
  • Retain a degree of control and independence;
  • Operate under a business name and has his/her own employees; and
  • Advertise his/her business’ services and has more than one client.

Some courts and federal agencies use an “economic realities test” which looks at the dependence of the worker on the business.  If a large portion of a worker’s salary is from one specific company, this may qualify them as an employee. Other factors considered are level of skill, integral nature of the work, intent of the parties and payment of social security taxes and benefits.

Misclassification of an individual as an independent contractor may have a number of costly legal consequences such as reimbursement of all wages including overtime, taxes and penalties for federal and state income taxes, social security, Medicare and unemployment, providing employee benefits and workers compensation for any injuries.

There is no set number of factors that makes the worker an employee or an independent contractor.  Also, factors which are relevant in one situation may not be relevant in another.  The best approach is to look at the entire relationship, consider the degree or extent of the right to direct and control the work, and be sure to document all factors used in your determination process.

At WageWatch our compensation consultants are focused on your organization’s compensation needs and ready to help you ensure that your compensation programs are supporting your company’s business strategy and objectives. WageWatch also offers accurate, up-to-date benefit surveys, salary surveys and pay practices data that will allow you to stay current with the times. This information is highly beneficial in creating the best salary and benefits packages that meet or rival the industry standards. For more information on our services, including consulting, salary survey data, benefit survey data and market compensation reports, please call WageWatch at 888-330-9243 or contact us online.