Why Taking Vacations is Essential for Productivity

Are you in the habit of making sure your staff is regularly taking their earned vacation time before it disappears at the end of the year? Because chances are — according to a recent survey conducted by Glassdoor — they’re not. The average U.S. employee eligible for paid time off only takes about half their earned time each year. Not only that, but when they are on vacation, 66 percent say they continue to work while away from the office.

On the one hand, that kind of dedication to one’s job is pretty impressive and good to have on your side. But on the flip side, foregoing much-needed vacation time can have a negative impact, not just on your staff’s personal health, but on their ability to adequately fulfill their job responsibilities. This is why some companies have actually begun to institute mandatory vacation policies; some even take it one step further and forbid those employees from checking in or exchanging emails during a time they should be relaxing and unplugging.

This is a topic that strikes us, in particular, because the technology we provide helps to streamline your business’s workflow processes — from device and vehicle tracking to Advanced Wireless Forms to timekeeping, and beyond — and, in doing so, can return significant savings and profit. But it all starts with the people you’ve entrusted to keep your business running, so you want to make sure they are on top of their game.

A study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies took a look at the effects of extended vacations on people, monitoring their health and wellness throughout the time spent away from their responsibilities. In addition to vacations in general having a positive impact, the longevity of those benefits was prolonged for those who fully immersed themselves in vacation experiences while away from work.

Workers that are too tired and/or stressed can easily find themselves falling into unintentionally sloppy habits. According to Advantage Behavioral Health, vacations actually “shrink stress and anxiety.” Not to mention, some extra time in the sun promotes physical wellbeing, in the form of vitamin D which they say can help to prevent various forms of cancer.

There are also some cardiovascular benefits to regularly taking a break from the hustle and bustle. A Framingham Heart Study reported that men who let several years lapse without taking any vacations are 30 percent more likely to experience heart attacks than those who take at least one week each year. And women who only vacation once every six years are eight times more likely to experience the same, or develop coronary heart disease, than women who take at least two a year.

Happy, healthy employees are the key to keeping your business running like a well-oiled machine. So do encourage your staff to take that time off. And then maximize their efficiency on the job with our suite of tools. Your fully energized team will not only be in tip-top shape, but will have the resources at their fingertips to optimize their time.

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Tampa Hosts NHL’s 2018 All-Star Weekend

The National Hockey League’s All-Star Weekend was held in Tampa, Florida this past weekend, allowing some of the league’s brightest stars to display their skills on a global showcase. The itinerary of the much-anticipated weekend included fan events outside the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Amalie Arena on Friday night, a skills competition that individual players participated in on Saturday, and a tournament-style set of three games between each division’s All-Star athletes on Sunday.

At Saturday’s 2018 GEICO NHL All-Star Skills Competition, six different showcases were featured this year, according to NHL.com. Some of these included a fastest skater competition, a passing challenge, a save contest between goalies, and a variety of shooting exercises for players to compete in that measured everything from precision to sheer slap-shot power. Among some of the standouts in the shooting competitions were the Washington Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin, who had a slap-shot that came in at a blistering 101.3 miles per hour, and the Vancouver Canucks’ Brock Boeser, who hit all five of his accuracy targets with wrist shots in just 11.136 seconds.

Logging the speeds of All-Star-caliber skills like Ovechkin’s and Boeser’s requires some of the most precise tracking technology available, as the deltas in prowess between hockey’s best players are often times in mere decimal points. However, just like in these competitions, a mandate of precision can be instrumental in the business world. Companies with mobile assets can miss out on optimizing productivity and increasing their overall efficiency if the right tools aren’t being accessed.

At Actsoft, we take pride in engineering accurate technology that businesses can use to reap huge savings of both time and money. Using our GPS Tracking solutions, companies with vehicle fleets or workers in the field can become empowered with better understandings of what work statuses are, how corporate vehicles are being used, and exactly where employees are at any given time.

Geo-fencing is one of our solutions’ flagship features that showcases our affinity for precision. Using this unique tool, customized shapes can be drawn on a live view map in order to designate specific work zones. After creating the boundaries for a job site, the system can then easily be set up to instantly notify supervisors back in a business’ home office of any activities regarding entrances and exits by company assets.

Precise tracking technology is what makes the fun of NHL’s All-Star challenges possible year in and year out, due to its ability to designate winners by fractions of a second. Similarly, companies with mobile assets can always rely on Actsoft’s tracking solutions for unparalleled accuracy, better efficiency, and MVP-worthy savings.


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Open-Concept Offices: Yay or Nay?

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the open concept has infiltrated homes everywhere and they aren’t likely going away anytime soon. Walls are coming down to make way for expansive, less-restrictive mega-rooms, where each dedicated area seamlessly flows into the next. And it’s not just in the home. Thanks largely to the surge of startup companies (many out in Silicon Valley, where real estate is a prime, budgets are budding, and new business ventures are a dime a dozen), the movement has made its way into the office.

Like any situation, there are pros and cons when it comes to open-concept offices, so if it’s an idea you’ve been toying with for your own company, take a moment to consider these before jumping on the bandwagon and make sure it’s really for you before committing.

Con: Lack of Privacy
Cubicles may not provide the utmost amount of privacy, but those three medium-height walls tend to give employees a sense of having their own space apart from everyone else. Take away those walls and some people will no doubt start to feel claustrophobic … in a different sense; there’s a certain amount of anxiety that can arise when a person feels they don’t have a place to (for lack of a better word) escape to.

Pro: Lack of Privacy
On the flip side, when everyone is in a shared work space, you’re less likely to find people who are slacking off. (Or, more accurately, if there are people not pulling their weight, it’s much more apparent.) It’s a lot harder to spend time on the phone, text friends, or surf the web when what you’re doing is on display for all your colleagues to see. In a sense, everyone in this type of environment keeps each other accountable; effectively, your staff polices themselves.

Pro: Increased Collaboration
Proponents of open offices will defend this notion until they are blue in the face. While in-office friendships may not be what they used to be, the lack of physical barriers can also lead to a breakdown of communication barriers and encourage your staff to engage with each other (on a business level) more frequently than when closed off for most of the day.

Con: Too Many Distractions
Increased collaboration may be great from a brainstorming perspective, but that increased chatter (though work-related), with no place to retreat from it, could also prove to be counterproductive for those who at least need the option of relative quiet for at least part of the day, so in this respect, that bullpen design works against productivity.

Pro: It’s Cost Effective
If the bottom line is your primary concern, this may be the way to go. The fact is, with the open concept, you can fit a lot more people into a much smaller area, which translates to less rent paid. Plus, you don’t have the added expense of purchasing cubicles.

There are some pretty convincing points to be considered from both sides. Whether it ultimately works in favor of your company, by increasing efficiency and trimming the fat on that budget spend of yours (two things we’re extremely passionate about over here), really comes down to whether you think it would be a fit for you, given this information.

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Benefits and Reasons for Travel

Whether scaling the frosty peaks of Aspen, Colorado or becoming immersed in the bustling metropolitan life of Shanghai, China, travel at its most basic form is something that can be immensely beneficial to an individual’s well-being.

People’s motives for traveling vary. Some do it to relax or to learn about new things in the form of taking a vacation, while others may need to take trips at certain times for work-related reasons or to see family. Either way, getting tastes of new scenery and being exposed to new cultures by changing your geography can improve aspects of work life and personal life alike. Perhaps the largest benefit of traveling is that it can make you better-rounded as an individual, which can positively reflect workplace diversity and impact the many different relationships you might share with others on a daily basis.

In a business sense, employees and CEOs alike may need to travel for work in vocational fields such as finance or sales, and even different forms of entrepreneurial work may warrant excursions for networking events or other reasons. However, for entrepreneurs, owners of companies, and managers, traveling while still having to manage business back home can be difficult to do if the right resources aren’t being used. Thankfully, Actsoft’s mobile resource management solutions are readily available to help travelers maintain control of their companies while they are away from the office.

Actsoft’s solutions can transition some aspects of your business such as report running to an automated, preset schedule. This makes managing your company an easier task to accomplish. Implementation of scheduled reports ensures that valuable data is automatically sent to the right people in your organization on a daily or a weekly basis, and it can save you time and revenue, especially while traveling.

If the roles are reversed and some of your employees are away on a business trip while you remain back at the office, the wireless forms feature can prove to be incredibly useful. Wireless forms can be used to construct travel expense reports for business trips, giving your employees away from the office the power to document their company-funded spending after every single purchase in real time. The form builder’s Camera feature allows employees to take pictures of receipts, rather than forcing them to manually fill out and calculate each individual purchase onto a handwritten form. This also can keep a clean backup record of all business-paid receipts if some become displaced during the entirety of the employees’ trip.

Traveling can help an individual expand their social, cultural, and geographic horizons, no matter their purpose for doing so. However, for those who travel predominantly for work-related reasons, Actsoft’s wireless forms and scheduled reports technology can combine to make managing business while away from the office as streamlined as possible.


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5 Tips for Improving Staff Retention

As a business owner, one of the most important contributing factors to maintaining a successful company is employing a hard-working, competent team of people; one where each person fulfills a role in keeping everything running the way it should be, with as few hiccups as possible. While new faces added to an already established team can be a great way to invigorate staffers with a fresh new perspective and take on how to approach the company’s needs, it’s important that brand-new faces don’t necessarily become de rigueur for your team.

What I mean by that is: If you’re constantly bringing on new people, and it’s less because of the business needs of a growing company and more because the same positions are continually reopening for one reason or another, then that constant onboarding of newbies is not actually a positive. Not only does it reflect negatively from a morale perspective, but it’s also costing you a heck of a lot of money.

According to a study from the Center for American Progress, replacing a midlevel position ($30,000–50,000 annually) will rack you up a “bill” of about 20 percent of that salary. Lower-level positions weren’t that far off, at 16 percent.

Sure, these types of expenses due to staff changes are inevitable throughout the lifespan of any business, but there are a few steps you can take to increase worker longevity within your company, lessening the likeliness that you’re maintaining a rotating door through which employees come and go in short cycles.

1. Refine your onboarding process. A study released by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 50 percent of all hourly new hires left their positions with the first 120 days. The first few days on the job are crucial for any new employees’ impressions of you as an employer. While it’s not necessary to coddle anyone, make sure they’re properly integrated as they transition into their role with the company and not left feeling abandoned from the start. A good first impression goes a long way.

2. Make sure new hires are a fit … culturally. Someone may be perfectly good on paper and yes, experience and background are huge components when making hiring decisions, but it’s important to factor in the culture of your workplace. Make the company’s culture apparent during the recruitment process; if it doesn’t jibe well with the person, it will reflect in their work.

3. Implement quarterly reviews. Annual reviews are fine and well, but when you implement a series of smaller quarterly reviews, there are no surprises when it comes time for the big one at the end of the year. These allow you to express your feedback on each employee’s performance at regular intervals, plus it gives them more opportunities to formally discuss any issues they may have.

4. Compensate generously. A person who is otherwise happy in their current position may opt to leave for one simple reason: more money. According to Forbes, the average person enjoys a 10–20 percent raise just for leaving. Keeping your crew competitively compensated can help deter them from the nuisance of switching companies.

5. Offer benefits not found elsewhere. Find something you can offer your employees that helps set you apart from other employers. Perhaps it’s flexible work hours, or the ability to telecommute once a week. Or maybe providing free lunches is the way to go. You could even close up shop every now and then for a company-wide excursion. Perhaps offer rewards in the form of bonus time off for exceptional work. A little goes a long way here, and employees that feel appreciated tend to stick around longer.

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Why Customer Experience Rocks!


Having a quality customer experience team is one of the most essential factors to the success of any modern company. No matter what type of product or service your team sells, maintaining easy accessibility to your customer base and providing quality assistance to it is one of the best ways to retain business and also expand to new prospects.

Offering helpful, readily-available aid to customers who currently use your business’ product or service is a great way to ensure that they stay with your business, rather than turning to one of your competitors. After all, if a customer doesn’t know how to use your product or service, they likely won’t continue paying for it for very long. In fact, according to Gartner Surveys, 89% of companies now expect to differentiate themselves from their competitors primarily using customer experience. This figure is up nearly 53% from 2012, confirming that many modern businesses are becoming increasingly reliant on enhancing the customer’s experience to drive their respective revenue flows.

Another valuable aspect of establishing a reputable customer experience department is that it can provide an outlet to facilitate noteworthy feedback on behalf of your current customer base. Listening to customer suggestions and adjusting your services accordingly via updates or other methods of improvement can make for products that are even more finely tuned to the desires of your clients, which is never a bad thing for business. In turn, both your business and your loyal customers will reap rewards.

Now that some of the benefits of providing a quality customer experience have been briefly outlined, it’s also important to note that person-to-person communication is key in the customer experience department of any profitable corporation. Customers feel less like a number and more like a human when they are easily able to express their thoughts to a live representative who is extensively trained on the company’s products. In this way, your advisors can empathize with the people making up your customer base, something that is crucial to fostering trustworthy relationships and more efficient problem solving.

“Having ‘trusted advisors’ instead of ‘service agents’ is a big key to delivering exceptional Customer Experiences,” says David Knight, Actsoft’s Vice President of Customer Experience. “Once you have trusted advisors, their primary mission should be to practice “value-nurturing” during every customer interaction. This will increase product usage and grow customer lifetime value.”

Actsoft’s Customer Experience department prides itself on delivering exceptional customer experiences. Knight’s team delivers trustworthy information to customers in the most personable and informative fashions possible. Actsoft stays one-step ahead in the Customer Experience space because they leverage product knowledge, insight about the customer’s workflows and customer experience best practices to ensure that every customer receives friendly, personalized, and high quality services.

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Team Building in the Workforce

While much of the country finds itself on ice, eager to begin thawing out from winter’s chilly embrace (even down south where Actsoft’s home office is), in the wake of a storm appropriately called a “bomb cyclone,” it may seem strange that I’m over here thinking about the idea of summer outings. (Or maybe not. It’s cold and I crave warmth.) As I sit at my desk, a scarf wrapped around my neck, I can’t help but think ahead to warmer temperatures and being outdoors. And, being in the office, my train of thought then drifted toward summer outings.

As it is, we already spend a significant chunk of our waking hours surrounded by our colleagues — do the math and it works out to about 37 percent, assuming a 40-hour workweek with 8 hours of sleep each night. So you’d have to be crazy to suggest everyone get together after hours just to hang out and maybe play some games, right?

But think about it: the fact that they spend so much time with each other at work is actually reason enough to spend time with those same people outside. In a more relaxed setting, away from phone calls, pressing deadlines, and meeting invites, your staff stands a good chance of bonding with each other. Not only is it a good way for everyone to recharge, but this type of camaraderie helps get those creative juices flowing and can lead to some worthwhile brainstorming sessions, both during and after the outing.

Here at Actsoft, we specialize in ways to help companies increase their workers’ efficiency while on the job through our robust suite of tools. But it’s also important to remember that there are some things — like a well-executed company outing — that can help to reinvigorate your team’s passion and drive and, in turn, positively impact their job performances.

In order for these types of excursions to really benefit your company, should you be pushing the traditional team-building activities, or opt for something new and out of the box? (Hint: If you’re trying to encourage brainstorming, and creative thinking, go for something they haven’t seen before, or wouldn’t expect.)

Brian Scudamore, CEO of O2E Brands, wrote, “The most successful, memorable team-building events are ones that don’t feel like a day in the office. … Working toward a common goal allows bonding to happen more organically and far more effectively.” In other words, ditch the college orientation–esque icebreaker games or the trust falls. Nobody enjoys those and they ultimately accomplish nothing.

Escape the Room has become an increasingly popular option for companies. Small groups are ostensibly locked inside a room and given an hour to solve a number of puzzles that ultimately reward them with the key that lets them out. It has nothing to do with work, but it requires teamwork, and people generally enjoy it. And don’t think your excursion even have to be that involved. The sky’s the limit when it comes to activities. You could go all out and challenge staffers to conquer their fears (Zip lining, anyone?), or just book an afternoon cruise. What is most important is that you solidify that bond between your company’s colleagues, which then positively impacts your business needs and goals.

At the end of the day, what’s important is that you find something interesting that your staff enjoys; one that isn’t met with antipathy and that doesn’t feel like a task in itself.

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NFL’s Rams and Chargers Relocations Call for a Large Construction Project

The Los Angeles Rams were one of the hottest teams heading into the NFL playoffs this year. Sporting an 11-5 record, the team relied on a high-octane offense that featured all-star running back Todd Gurley, second-year quarterback Jared Goff, and veteran wide receiver Sammy Watkins. However, these Rams have only been in California since 2016 due to a recent franchise relocation from St. Louis, Missouri, and because of this, the team currently plays its home games in Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum at the University of Southern California.

A college stadium obviously isn’t ideal for a professional football team like the Rams to play at in a long-term sense, especially given the fact that the once-San Diego Chargers also recently moved to Los Angeles in an effort to expand the NFL’s market presence. As a result, construction on a singular, shared new arena for both respective organizations is currently underway in Inglewood, California, and it’s certainly no small endeavor. According to the L.A. Times, the building project for Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park is worth 2.6 billion dollars, which will make it one of the most expensive NFL stadiums ever constructed. The L.A. Times also makes mention of the project encompassing much more than just the arena, as a whole host of different residential areas, hotel, retail, and office spaces are also planned for development. The stadium itself is expected to be completed in 2020, and both the Rams and Chargers are no doubt excited to get settled in to their new gridiron palace in just two more years.

With building projects as massive and as expensive as this, accountability for workers and effective cost management wherever possible can be integral to a successful job done. For construction-related businesses, Actsoft’s products can aid greatly in ensuring the exact locations of a construction company’s most valued equipment is always known through GPS monitoring and geofencing technology. A staple piece of heavy construction machinery such as a bulldozer is easily able to reach tens of thousands of dollars in price per unit alone, making theft prevention crucial. Using geofences, supervisors are given the unique capability to draw borders on city maps and power to set parameters for where their vehicular equipment is and isn’t allowed to be at certain times. This can put more control and stability in the hands of the company’s leadership, especially when it comes to asset protection. Building companies that construct in large cities in particular can use geofencing because of its precision in sprawling metropolitan areas, and the technology also has many applications for arena-style build projects such as the aforementioned Los Angeles Stadium.

In short, Actsoft seeks to provide the construction industry with all the tools it needs to empower its corporations with efficiency and safety alike. The partnerships that Actsoft has forged with reputable companies in the business work together to create a better world for future generations to enjoy.

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Grappling with Conflict in the Workplace

There’s always talk of leadership in the workplace as if it’s this mystical cure all that magically unifies your workforce. The truth is leadership requires a very specific skill, conflict resolution to be precise. Your effectiveness as a leader directly relates to your ability to identify, address, and resolve conflicts between the groups following your direction.

If you make it a point to avoid conflict, leadership isn’t for you. Now, I’m not saying seek it out, but the best leaders understand that discord is bound to occur, so they remain steadfast with their direction and guidance to see their teams through the inevitable rough patches.

It takes more than an ability to recognize conflict; the strongest workplace leaders understand the nature of disagreements. They need to know what causes conflict when it’s on the horizon, and the quickest, most effective way to resolve it. As a leader, it’s supremely important to be proactive, rather than reactive.

The leaders who specialize in crisis management routinely implement a line of thought that finds its birthplace in sports (even if they never knew it had a name).

The concept is called KYP (Know Your Personnel), and it’s one of the most important practices a leader can employ, regardless of their industry.

KYP is all about understanding the tendencies of your team, so you can better predict the way they will respond to certain stimuli.

As you look to implement this approach, keep the following in mind:

  • Your team is not a single unit; it is the sum of several unique pieces (each individual teammate).
  • There is no “one size fits all” method to leadership.
  • What works for one employee might not work for another. People have different motivations, they respond to pressure and stress differently.

So what does KYP have to do with conflict resolution? Everything. Arguments in the workplace stem from miscommunication in one form or another. Remember, your business is the culmination of multiple parts attempting to work in concert. Priorities and objectives are drastically different, depending on the person you ask and the department they work in.

As a leader, it’s your responsibility to understand what’s important to your employees both professionally and personally. This is where KYP comes in. If you understand what drives the members of your team and conversely what causes individuals to shut down, you can learn which strings to pull for optimum performance.

In the workplace, conflicts tend to linger if not addressed immediately. If emotions turn sour and resolutions aren’t reached they can drastically derail your team’s ability to work together.

Conflict resolution isn’t an abstract concept. Developing a solid resolution plan can definitely help your team members feel like even when tempers flare, the structure remains for them to fall back on.

Here are a few guidelines leaders can implement to help deal with conflict when it does rear its ugly head at work:

  • Define Acceptable Behavior- Creating a framework for decision-making will help avoid conflicts. Clearly define job descriptions. When people know what their responsibilities are, expectations become more realistic.
  • Address Conflicts Directly- Make note of potential conflict sources and proactively intervene in a balanced and consistent manner. Do not let negative feelings stemming from disagreements fester. As a leader, you’re responsible for people management (and sometimes that means ego massaging).
  • Remember the Big Picture- How important is the current conflict to your overall business objective? Not every disagreement requires an executive mandate. You need to trust your team to handle the small stuff. Keep aware of the squabbles, but give them the freedom to sort things out until they escalate.

Conflicts happen, arguments arise, and tempers will flare at work. That being said, every clash can be viewed as a learning experience. The best leaders, act swiftly, hear their teams out, know their personnel, and act as beacons of clarity when things get murky during discrepancies.

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Mental Wellness in the Workplace

It’s a pretty safe bet to say that we spend a lot of time at work. Many professionals spend 40 hours a week working (some much more than that). Regardless of the amount of time you spend on the clock, stress and mental strain can be expected on the job. If that stress goes unchecked for too long, it can create serious problems for employees and organizations alike.

Deteriorating mental health isn’t a closed off issue unique to one person at a time; it affects everyone. It influences the way we work in teams, our consistency, and even our professionalism as we attempt to process the world around us. Negative mental health issues can create disastrous results for employees and the companies they work with.

In 2016, a Work and Wellbeing survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) reported that less than half of the 1501 workers surveyed felt their organization supported employee well-being and one in three reported chronic stress on the job.

Discussing matters involving what’s going on in your head is tough, it’s personal and it can be awkward. Many of your co-workers might not share the same worldviews, or deal with the same stressors you routinely encounter, so it’s no wonder why these issues are taboo in the workplace.

Some people are making strides to shed light on mental health issues on the job such as stress, depression, and feelings of isolation to help show that we all deal with them in one form or another. Madalyn Parker (a web developer from Olark Live Chat) sent shockwaves around every corner of the internet when her request for a day off for mental health went viral.

One of Madalyn’s teammates adds, “It is incredibly hard to be honest about mental health in the typical workplace. In situations like this, it is so easy to tell your teammates you are ‘not feeling well.’ Even in the safest environment, it is still uncommon to be direct about mental health issues.”

Progress aside, discussing mental health at work remains a precarious road to travel. Many employees don’t want to discuss their issues with their co-workers or their supervisors because they don’t want it used against them later. No one wants to risk damaging a relationship or compromise their standing with future employers because they are perceived a certain way due to the stigma associated with mental illness. So, people stay silent.

The thing is, even though these issues are hard to diagram at times, they have very real implications for businesses. Mental health conditions and the effects of them cost employers more than $100 billion and a staggering 217 million lost workdays every year according to findings by Harvard University Medical School.

The issues are real, whether employees are talking about them or not.

The brain is just like any other part of the body. When it deals with trauma, it, like any other muscle we have needs time to recover. Without the proper treatment, more problems will arise, sooner or later.

When it comes to stress in the workplace, it’s critically important that employees have the proper amount of time to decompress. Whether examining the duration of breaks or lunches, or running reports on an employee’s hourly work week, Actsoft provides Timekeeping functionalities that make it possible to ensure your employees don’t spend more time working than they should. Everyone needs time away from the job to get their thoughts in order and to clear their heads. With Actsoft software, you can be sure your workforce is taking the time needed to help reduce stress and keep people level headed.

Just to be clear, breaks and lunches aren’t the solutions to mental health issues. Not by a longshot. However, ensuring employees feel like it’s ok to step away from the job is a major step in the right direction. Professionals (regardless of title) need to know and understand that the job is important, but so is their mental well-being. It’s beneficial to take some time to compose yourself, and it should be encouraged to foster a healthy, productive and efficient workforce.

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