02.01
2019

How to Prevent the Flu at Work

As you probably know, we’re right in the heart of flu season. Though it may seem like we’re a little late to the game here, with sub-Arctic temperatures making their way into the country and a polar vortex to reckon with, we thought it a good opportunity to review some of the best practices for fending off illnesses in the workplace.

When your workforce is largely mobile, there can be even more to worry about, as far as tracking germs and bacteria into the office. They may be interacting more with the general public, increasing their exposure to bugs that spread like wildfire, particularly when brought back to the confines of an office.

That being said, even though there’s a good chance you’re already doing these, if any aren’t already a part of your regimen — you know who you are — let this serve as a strongly encouraged reminder to do your part, since illnesses can bring productivity to a screeching halt.

Wash your hands.
You know the drill. If you use the bathroom, please wash your hands. (While you’re at it, it’s really a good idea to just go ahead and make this one a priority year round.) It doesn’t take long and every doorknob, conference room table, company vehicle, punch clock, and colleague/customer hand will be better off as a result.

Watch what you touch.
It’s basically second nature, and you’re probably doing it without realizing, but this time of year, do your best to avoid touching your face, particularly your nose, mouth, and eyes. Consider these ports of entry into your body. Excessive touching essentially lays out a red carpet for germs and welcomes them in with fanfare.

Guard those sneezes.
If you feel a sneeze (or a cough, for that matter) coming on, turn your head away from anyone nearby and unleash into the relative safety of your elbow pit. If one sneaks up on you and your hands become a human sneeze guard, you know the drill: Wash your hands.

Clean up after yourself.
Have you been making a habit of cleaning up your desk on a regular basis? We’re not talking decluttering here. (Though that’s another excellent habit to increase productivity.) At least once a week, it’s a good idea to pick up some antibacterial cleaner and give your desk, keyboard, lamp, etc., a good wipe down.

Go home.
Coming down with an illness? Talk to your team leader (from a safe distance), pack up, and go home to get some rest. If you wake up sick, call to let your superior know, and then stay home. Keep your germs and/or viruses out of the office, away from customers, and just focus on feeling better.

Reach out to your doctor.
If your symptoms are beyond that of a common cold, persistent with no sign of slowing down, or you just need reassurance, it’s time to make a call to your doctor. That’s what they’re there for. Better to have official word from an expert so you can get yourself back on track as soon as possible.

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01.23
2019

Practical Ways to Keep Track of Your Employees’ Hours

Managing a large or small business can be hard and sometimes stressful. There are many factors for management to prepare for on a daily basis. For many businesses, managing and keeping track of employees’ hours can be tedious and irritating for the person that’s working alone in the back office. But if timekeeping is left untouched or unnoticed, businesses can collectively lose millions or even billions a year to the Department of Labor (DOL).

Not having a realistic approach to timekeeping may result in overpaying employees for hours that were not worked. Paychex.com reports that for many businesses, the idea of lost time refers to employee vacations and sick days. But what managers and business owners often fail to consider is that it’s also possible to lose time in much smaller increments that can add up significantly throughout the year. Employees can “steal” time in a variety of ways and for a plethora of reasons. They might ask another employee to “buddy punch” their time card; they may take a few extra minutes for breaks or lunches. It’s estimated that up to 10 minutes per day is lost due to tardiness, early departures, and long breaks or lunches.

Although timekeeping can be a hard job, there are ways to make this task simple. Developing a feasible method for timekeeping can keep employers on their toes. The most reliable method to track hours worked is to have a time-clock system. Depending on the industry, it may not be the easiest solution to tackle; plus, it is not legally required that you have a system in place.

However, implementing an easy-to-use payroll software is the best combination of efficiency and cost for businesses. The benefits of using a single-use tool are that it works better with existing business software, and it saves both time and money.

Timekeeping with Actsoft allows workers to increase daily productivity by reducing the amount of data entry needed for daily tasks. And it validates time by having field workers clock in and out for shifts, breaks, and lunches directly from their mobile devices. All time punches are time-, date-, and GPS location–stamped, and all information is transmitted to the back office almost instantly. Managers also have easy access to employees’ timesheets to review, approve, or correct content on the timesheets at any time.

If you’re working in the construction industry, for example, we can help you eliminate wasted time and trips to the office to submit timesheets. And with the supervisor time entry feature, crew leaders can capture time of their teams on their mobile device to input manually. And you can get instant updates on worker availability, job assignments, and dispatching activity.

Not having the proper timekeeping software could potentially cost you more than a few thousand dollars is mispaid wages. There isn’t any company that wants to waste precious money on something that can be prevented. But we can help safeguard your company’s assets and worth by having efficient timekeeping.

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01.18
2019

5 Tips for Improving Employee Safety

When it comes to safety in the workplace, following a set of guidelines can be a surefire way to make sure your team is staying as safe as possible. Here, we list out a set of five top-level rules that will help keep your whole crew focused on doing their jobs properly.

Never take shortcuts.
In the race to get to the finish line, it may seem like the perfect solution is to skip a step here and there, if it gets you to the end faster, right? But there’s a problem when you take that approach: You may be able to push something off your plate a little faster and bask in the glory of some kudos at your impressive turnaround time, but at what cost? What impact might those skipped steps, small as they may seem, have on the project down the road? If we’re talking the construction world, even the slightest misstep can be a catalyst for a series of detrimental repercussions. Work quickly and efficiently, but be thorough.

Get enough sleep.
Not to sound like an overprotective parent, but: Are you staying up too late at night and heading to work on a half-empty tank? It’s not just that getting the proper amount of sleep is better for your overall health, but when you aren’t fully rested, you can’t think at full capacity, your reaction time slows down, and you become forgetful. All of these can easily lead to dangerous work situations, particularly out in the field. Moral of the story? There’s a simple solution: Get to bed at a decent hour.

Clean up after yourself.
We’re not talking about the clutter on your desk, here. (Though, as we’ve discussed previously, there are plenty of benefits there.) But when you’re dealing with industrial equipment, tools, or even just warehouse stock, it’s hazardous to yourself and others when things aren’t put where they should be. The last thing anyone wants is an injury because a machine wasn’t properly tended to, or boxes of inventory were haphazardly stacked in a rush.

Follow the rules.
This seems a bit obvious, but it warrants revisiting. If you’re working on a construction site and hardhats are required, wear them. If you’re constantly on the road, obey all the signs and signals. (Yes, even when the light’s yellow but you just know there’s plenty of time to make it through … Don’t.) There’s a reason these rules are in place, and it’s potentially costly and dangerous water to tread when you decide it’s okay to take them lightly.

Ask questions.
Drop all misconceptions about how it appears when you ask “too many” questions. Of course, when you work in a specific industry, there’s a certain level of knowledge you are expected to have. But if questions arise, and you’re truly confused about the proper course of actions for a task, go ahead and ask for clarification. It’s better to double check and do it the right way than to wing it and face possible issues that could have been avoided.

Just by following a few simple rules, you’ll find that not only will production run a lot smoother, regardless of your industry, but you’ll be faced with far fewer accidents in the workplace. The environment you provide for your staff will be significantly safer and, as a direct result, morale will be elevated.

Have any questions on how Actsoft can help you?

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12.14
2018

Tips: Drive Safer This Winter

They say the only guarantees in life are death and taxes. But for drivers, there’s another guarantee they’re always faced with: less-than-desirable conditions on the road due to inclement weather. This is especially true during the colder winter months, when a nefarious storm can wreak havoc on a run-of-the-mill drive, transforming it into a course straight out of Mario Kart. (Blue shells not included.)

Driving in the winter months — a time when road conditions can morph from normal to slick with ice in a matter of minutes — can be especially problematic for companies with a mobile workforce. Added precautions need to be taken (e.g. reducing speeds, warming up vehicles, etc.), all of which can impact daily operations. Here are some of our suggestions to help keep your drivers safe on the road while keeping your business running as smooth as possible.

Clean off your vehicle.
This one may seem obvious, but as anyone who has driven after a snowfall can attest, the practice is not universal. Don’t just clear enough so you can see out the front and rear windows. Take care of the roof, the hood, all of the windows, and even the bumper. Unexpected snow and/or ice whipping off vehicles and onto others is a hazardous, easily preventable catalyst for accidents.

Check that battery.
Believe it or not, plummeting temperatures can directly impact the health of your vehicle’s battery. This can be especially detrimental to electric or hybrid vehicles, reducing the distance you can travel on a single charge. Before the extreme weather hits, have your battery inspected and make sure it’s up to snuff. (And if you’re driving a hybrid, always have ample gasoline in your tank, just in case.)

Fill up your reservoir.
We’re talking about the windshield-wiper fluid, of course. This stuff goes fast in the winter months, so make sure you always have plenty on hand; choose a quality winter blend that will help aid in de-icing your windshield. And, while you’re at it, check those wiper blades to make sure they’re up to par for the double (or triple) duty they’ll be pulling.

Increase your distance. 
In prime conditions, you should generally be shooting for a vehicle following distance of about four seconds. But when roads are covered with slick snow or that dreaded black ice, it’s best to increase that to roughly ten seconds. This way, you’ll have more than double the reaction time in the wake of any mishaps.

Keep moving. 
While attempting to strong-arm your way up a slick hill by speeding can just result in spinning wheels that take you nowhere, coming to a complete stop can also leave you stranded or (worse) sliding back down from where you came. However, do be sure to slow down as you reach the peak of the hill so your descent on the other side can be slow and steady.

Keep your tracking devices working properly.
Just like in cases of extreme heat, arctic temperatures can have adverse effects on your smart device. When your tracking device of choice is a phone, this can usually be avoided by making sure your crew keeps their devices with them when they depart their vehicles. But if you prefer, say, a securely mounted tablet, consider investing in something like the GPSLockbox Atmos cradle. This innovative mount was designed to restore tablets to functioning temperatures, whether by warming them up or cooling them down.

Driving in the winter months can be a little more daunting than normal, but it certainly doesn’t mean that mobile businesses need to come screeching to a halt. Just be sure you and your crew adhere to these extra precautions and it’ll be business as usual. For even more winter driving tips, head on over to AAA.

Have any questions on how Actsoft can help you?

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12.12
2018

Excellence is a Habit

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” — Will Durant

Every business is conceived with the goal of success in mind. Each enterprising entrepreneur sets out to realize their dream to the best of their ability. While some of them manage to achieve success, others flounder and never reach the heights they imagined initially.

What separates one from the other? What decides the business that prospers and the business that does not?

The simple answer is “habit.”

The idea of repeating actions until they become instinct is a timeless concept. From the moment we begin to learn, humans start practicing activities until they are second nature and intuitive. Walking and speaking are two we typically learn in infancy that, as we mature, are performed without a second thought. Attaining success in your business functions in a similar capacity; through rote application of seven key processes, you can elevate your business to the pinnacle of its excellence.

Thorough Planning
The first action you must take in order for your business to achieve excellence is to plan. Planning thoroughly allows your activity to develop more efficiently while avoiding the pitfalls experienced by entrepreneurs without a plan. “The 7Ps” summarizes this sentiment as follows: Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance. Asking yourself questions through the lens of the customer can assist in the planning phase. Questions like, “What is it that makes my product or service superior to that of my competitors?” and, “What does my customer consider valuable?” Asking these questions will help you focus your complete plan toward appealing to your target demographic and understand what resources you will need to reach your maximum potential.

Organization
Once the plan is concrete, the next step is to organize your resources. Proper allocation of your assets allows you to fill out the plan you laid out for your business, fleshing out the structure in order to appear closer to your desired end result. Bringing these together before making your first step toward implementing your plan is akin to bringing your forces together before launching a military campaign. In the military, there is a saying: “Amateurs talk strategy, but professionals talk logistics.” You must iron out the costs, labor, and other details before launching your takeover of the market.

Resources
The third habit to develop is selecting the right people. Like the Justice League and the Avengers, the people that make up your team determine whether your business remains mundane or becomes super. According to Brian Tracy, chairman and CEO of Brian Tracy International, “Fully 95 percent of your success as an entrepreneur or executive will be determined by the quality of the people you recruit to work with you or to work on your team.” Time and attention given to the makeup of your team reward you with a suitable return on investment down the road.

Delegation
When beginning your business, you may often find yourself doing everything yourself. However, as your business grows and you bring on quality team members, you must develop the ability to delegate. The inability to effectively do this can stagnate the growth of your business, burn out overworked employees, and cause the business to be crushed under its own, dead weight.

Inspection
Upon delegating a task, you must build the practice of monitoring the performance of the task. Make it a habit to check in on assigned tasks to ensure that they are still on schedule. Establishing a system by which employees can report when they have reached certain benchmarks is fundamental to the success of your business.

Measure Completion
In order to generate the greatest results, a sixth habit of establishing measurable standards must be put in place. Reachable checkpoints and deadlines are required in order to ensure that your business plan is still on track. If a task is delegated to an employee, they must know exactly when it is expected of them to complete the task and what quality of work is viewed as complete.

Inform
The final habit that must be developed is the habit of regularly and accurately reporting results. Relay results to any and every person who has a stake in your company, whether they’re investors, your staff, etc. The transparency given to them will serve to bolster their faith in your company as time marches forward. Being “in the know” is a crucial aspect of any employee’s tenure with a company, aiding in boosting their morale and, ultimately, strengthening your business.

These seven habits, if employed, will help guide your business down the road to success. It is only through rote and repetition that you can drill these habits into the very DNA of your company, transforming it into an entity that can reach the upper echelons of excellence.

Have any questions on how Actsoft can help you?

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12.05
2018

Martial Arts and Management

The martial arts of East Asia have long fascinated people in the West. The proliferation of martial arts through the film industry only served to boost the aforementioned fascination: Images of ninjas; Shaolin monks; and the late, great Bruce Lee performing gravity-defying kicks have captured the hearts of audiences for decades. These techniques, however, were not acquired overnight and only through the basic foundations of control, training, self-discipline, and continuous learning were they mastered. These fundamentals not only lend themselves to mastering forms of combat, but also to mastering management processes and dominating your market.

Control
Martial arts differentiates itself from the casual street fighting with its emphasis on control. This is what defines it as an art form; reckless punches and kicks are replaced with precise forms. Three core aspects compose the foundation of a martial art’s control:

  • Concerted actions
  • Think before acting
  • Environmental awareness

Applying these core aspects to your business can generate positive results. Making controlled decisions in the business world is the only method by which you can effectively allocate resources and personnel. A wild decision is a gamble and, while gambling is both exhilarating and can carry the potential for a high reward, the result of a bad gamble could be fatal to your business. Taking time to contemplate your decisions before acting on them reinforces the aspect of making controlled movements. Patience can go a long way in the business world, especially when you have yet to become aware of your environment. Understanding how your environment is set up and how it changes is a crucial key to victory. The market your business occupies is your environment and, in order to dominate, you must know how it moves in the present and how it could potentially move in the future.

Training and Self-Discipline
Like any other art form, martial arts require practice and conditioning. The mastery of the various katas, or forms, necessitates repetition until the movements are intuitive. Forms are learned slowly and in small segments, which are then strung together until the practitioner appears to be performing a long dance.

  • Smaller goals lead to bigger targets
  • Repetition leads to perfection

Your business must function in the same way in order to establish and maintain a presence in your market. Whatever your product may be, you must set small benchmarks for your team to reach. For instance, the first benchmark could be closing five sales. Once those sales are closed, you can add on five more for the second benchmark or even increase it to ten more. If you only close two of those sales, you must analyze what differed between the two sales and the three that did not close. Repeat the process until you reach your benchmark and then press forward. Domination of your market is not an overnight process. Like learning and mastering the steps of a kata, it requires time and dedication to perfect your form until that which was once difficult becomes easy.

Continuous Learning
When studying martial arts, practitioners operate under the guidance of senior students or a master. Under their tutelage, the practitioner learns their forms, step-by-step, until they reach the level of mastery. While they may have “mastered” their specific form of combat, there still exists myriad other forms they can explore in order to become a “complete fighter.”

  • Utilize your resources
  • Remain open to learning

When managing your business, you may believe you do not have anyone to offer guidance through the process. Sitting at the head of a company can feel like being lost in the wilderness without any direction. However, there exists guidance from other entrepreneurs within your field in the form of books, seminars, and more. Utilizing these resources provides a compass to help circumvent the common obstacles of management.

Upon reaching success, you may feel that you mastered your craft; you are the quintessential businessperson, a sage of the sales world who can learn nothing else. It is when that thought occurs that your business begins its demise. There is always room for improvement within some aspect of your company. There are always new processes and new technologies that you can implement into your operating processes. Lastly, there is always a bigger market to expand into with new challenges and new benchmarks to reach.

Seemingly unrelated, the world of business management and the realm of martial arts have greater similarities when given a deeper examination. The application of controlled, precise actions at the most opportune time is the vehicle to success in both fields. Trial-and-error and the constant tweaking of processes run through the veins of both disciplines, while the ability to constantly learn and improve create the room for expansion in both fields. Never be rigid to the point that you cannot adapt. In the words of the late Bruce Lee: “… be formless … shapeless … like water …now, water can flow or creep or drip or crash! Be water, my friend.”

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11.21
2018

Don’t Let the Weather Freeze Your Pockets

As the temperature drops, everyone’s bills begin to rise. Of course, energy bills go up as many try to avoid the frosty outdoors. But have you noticed an uptick in how much you spend on fuel for your vehicle in winter?

The freezing weather (20 degrees F) can drop a car’s gas mileage by about 12 percent when compared to normal performance at 77 degrees, according to a study done by FuelEconomy. For shorter trips, it can drop as much as 22 percent.

How does the weather affect fuel consumption?
There are multiple reasons fuel economy is reduced in frigid conditions. One reason is that the friction from the icy conditions can make it more difficult for a vehicle’s engine to perform. It’s also more difficult on engines if you work in an area that requires your vehicle to plow through the fluffy white stuff.

Much like how we desperately wait for a vehicle’s heating unit to warm up in the cold, the engine itself requires a warm-up to get to a point where it’s at peak performance. That takes time — and fuel — for the car to get to that point.

But hybrids will be okay, right?
Actually, the same study done by FuelEconomy showed hybrids can have their fuel economy reduced by as much as 34 percent when the weather is below freezing, compared to the vehicle’s normal performance. The main reason hybrids do worse is the computer that monitors fuel economy can see a drop off in performance due to freezing temperatures. Hybrids also suffer from the issues a conventional vehicle faces in the frigid conditions. Basically, the same system that helps your fuel consumption in a hybrid may be its downfall in the cold.

The human factor
There are driving habits that can burn up fuel as well. Turning on a vehicle and waiting half an hour for it to heat up, of course, will burn up fuel. Idling has been proven to have a mileage of zero miles to the gallon.

However, there are some other factors we might not even consider. The more trips a vehicle has to make in a day will take its toll during the winter. Each time a car is shut off and subsequently turned back on it requires energy to do so and that, of course, is gasoline.

Solutions
So what can be done to avoid frequent trips to the pump while the weather outside is frightful?

Plan trips to avoid unnecessary stops. The more you fire up the engine (especially if the engine sits for a while and gets cold), the more precious energy it takes to get the vehicle going. Try to get everything done in one go, if possible, and try to reduce the total distance traveled per trip.

Check the tires. The weather can have a strain on the air in a vehicle’s tires because cold, dense air causes the tire pressure to drop below an efficient level.

Don’t let the pedal hit the metal. The more accelerating drivers do the quicker fuel is burned up. Each time the engine revs up it’s like tossing a few nickels of gas money out the driver-side window.

At Actsoft, we unfortunately can’t control the weather, but we can help you be efficient despite the conditions. We can help monitor driver habits and make sure drivers aren’t needlessly accelerating or breaking hard on the snowy streets. We can make sure the money Jack Frost is trying to take from you stays in your pocket rather than being lost to the icy roads.

Have any questions on how Actsoft can help you through the cold season?

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11.07
2018

Where’s Waldo? Four Reasons Why Tracking Time Is Important

Most of us are familiar with the children’s book series “Where’s Waldo?” wherein the object of the game is to find the titular character hidden among a vibrant backdrop. Now, assuming Waldo is a working member of society, his penchant for getting lost begs the question, “How does that affect his employer?” If Waldo is on the clock every time he gets lost, it goes without question that he is hurting his employer’s bottom line. What are some reasons Waldo’s employer should actively track his time?

Understanding Employee Utilization and Capacity
While Waldo remains lost while clocked in at work, he is accomplishing none of his workload for that day. Without accomplishing any jobs, Waldo’s maximum capacity for work remains unable to be determined. The absence of these measurements creates difficulty for Waldo’s employers as they try to measure where their company is and if there is room for growth.

Accurately Forecasting and Benchmarking
Companies need to be able to estimate how long it will take an employee to complete a single job. With Waldo always missing on the clock, his employer cannot determine how much time he needs to complete a task. Without this estimate, Waldo’s employer is unable to establish an accurate forecast or estimate that ensures they are achieving the maximum profitability for the job.

Can I Hire?
Waldo’s shenanigans prevent his employer from knowing whether they can hire additional employees or not. If Waldo accomplishes one job during his eight-hour workday and then gets lost on the clock, his employer will maintain that he can only get one work order done a day. This may not allow the level of productivity necessary for his employer to bring on a new hire.

Reviewing Performance
With the data from Waldo’s cost as an employee, his employer can conduct an objective performance review. Without sufficient data, Waldo’s employer cannot properly navigate the waters concerning Waldo’s performance, unable to decide whether to terminate Waldo or hire an additional employee to mitigate the workload.

While Waldo’s disregard for following cardinal directions can indeed hamper a business, there exist solutions to this problem. Actsoft provides a platform that ensures Waldo’s time is effectively utilized in completing the tasks he is assigned. Timekeeping becomes simple for Waldo as it becomes available while he is operating remotely, clearing up confusion on whether or not he is at a job site while he is on the clock. Combined with a location stamp taken at the time of each time punch, Waldo’s employers are granted incredible visibility of their employee. The question, “Where’s Waldo?” is given an answer when using our solution and it is, “He’s at work.”

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