As the effects of COVID-19 become our new reality, businesses that haven’t traditionally embraced remote employees, may find it difficult to keep their operations moving. To make the transition less overwhelming, we assembled a handy checklist of actions to consider while adjusting to the new workplace reality.
- Access your staff members and/or roles that are able to work remotely, those that can’t work remotely, and those where remote work may be possible with some modifications.
- Conduct an employee survey to determine the availability of computers that can be used for working remotely, as well as availability to high-speed internet access.
- Create company guidelines covering remote employees, including inappropriate use of company assets and security guidelines.
- Develop and conduct work-at-home- training for using remote access, remote tools, and best practices.
- Develop a communications plan to involve remote employees in the daily activities of the organization.
- Create and implement a company security policy that applies to remote employees, including actions such as locking computers when not in use.
- Implement two-factor authentication for highly-sensitive portals.
- If needed, confirm all remote employees have access to and can use a business-grade VPN, and that you have enough licenses for all employees working remotely.
- Institute a transparency policy with your staff and communicate frequently.
- Check-in on your staff, daily if possible, to confirm they are comfortable with working from home. Find and address any problems they may be experiencing.
- Make certain each staff member has reliable voice communications, even if this results in adding a business-quality voice over IP service.
- Don’t attempt to micro-manage your staff. Remember their working conditions at home won’t be ideal, and they will need to work out their own work patterns and schedules.
- Create a phone number and email address where staff members can communicate their concerns about the firm, working at home, or even the status of COVID-19.
- Ensure that you have ample bandwidth coming into your company to handle all of the new remote traffic.
- Make sure you have backups of your services so your staff is able to keep working in the event extra traffic causes your primary service to go down.
You may need to adjust or expand this list to match the specific needs of your firm and the conditions affecting your organization. Use this list to get you started and to help guide you through the process.
At the beginning of every year, millions of taxpayers begin an annual ritual of financial reporting that we all know as filing income taxes. For most taxpayers, this annual activity is the only time they have looked at their financial picture since last year because of the anxiety and stress that filing causes. I thought about the angst around filings and considered three questions:
- How many people understand taxes?
- If people knew more about taxes would that alleviate some of the stress?
- The answer to "How can I avoid paying taxes?"
A Brief History of Taxes in the US
The 16th amendment of the United States Consitution established the right for Congress to levy taxes on US citizens. In 1913 the amendment was ratified and The Revenue Act of 1913 was passed to create a tax rate of 3% of the amount over $3,000. When the act was passed less than 5% of the population were subject to the tax.
Over the past 100 years, the tax code has exploded along with the rates and number of citizens who pay. As of this writing, the top rate is 37% and over 50% of the population pays income tax.
How Tax Laws are Created?
Tax laws start by being passed in the House of Representatives. Upon passing, the bill is sent to the Senate so changes can be negotiated with the house. When both sides agree, the bill is voted on in the Senate and upon passing the bill will be sent to the President for signature.
Role of the IRS
The Internal Revenue Service is an agency of the Treasury Department. The IRS Commissioner reports to the Treasury Secretary, who is appointed by the President. Many consider the IRS villains and blame them for all tax woes, but the agency exists because of laws passed by Congress and signed by the President.
The function of the IRS is to interpret and enforces tax laws. They take the statutory laws and create the forms and rules necessary to administrate the law.
How taxes are calculated?
Your personal taxes are calculated by taking your total income which consists of:
- Investment income
- Business income
- Social Security
Your total income is then reduced by adjustments like student loan interest, IRA contributions resulting in adjusted gross income.
The adjusted gross income is reduced by your deductions, you can take the standard deduction or itemize if the total exceeds the standard amount. The result is taxable income; which is multiplied by the applicable tax rate less any applicable tax credits to determine your tax liability.
The tax liability is subtracted from amounts paid in during the year from withholding and estimated payments. The result is either a refund or a balance due.
"How can I lower my taxes!"
The comment that I hear at least once a week, after telling someone I am a CPA. EVERYBODY wants to pay less and receive a huge refund and are willing to do anything to receive "their money back. I have witnessed taxpayers attempt to deduct everything from pet expenses to the renovation of their primary residence to increase their refunds.
When I first began practicing, I really believed there was a magic bullet to make a lot of money and pay little in taxes. I eventually learned that periodic tax planning is the best way to reduce your tax liability and possibly increase a refund.
The Fool-Proof Way!
Tax planning is truly the best way to reduce your tax burden in the long run, but some people don't want to pay the fees associated with planning. Those prospects of mine usually get what I call the fool-proof way of tax planning:
Don't make ANY money and I guarantee you won't pay any taxes.
The following post was authored by
Over the years, I’ve gathered enough evidence to support the case that bad leadership may hurt you, the employee, in several ways, including:
- Impacting your mental and physical well-being for the worst
- Seriously diminishing your work productivity
- Potentially damaging your and your company’s reputation
- Hurting your career path and the trajectory of your professional goals
Clearly understanding the characteristics of a person exhibiting bad leadership is important. Here are seven to raise your awareness.
1. They ditch face-to-face communication.
In the digital age where communication apps like Slack, email, and texting are utilized for work productivity, bad leaders hide behind their tech and solely manage through digital interactions rather than the preferred human interaction to problem-solve issues that digital mediums of communication can’t effectively resolve. A problem that could have taken two minutes to fix in person now takes two hours or two days as workers try to interpret their managers’ words over a screen.
2. They display charisma (which later backfires).
Some of the most successful leaders in the world are known for their charisma. But charisma clouds people’s evaluations of how leaders actually perform, says Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, author of Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? (And How to Fix It). The professor of business psychology at University College London and Columbia University points out that charisma, when combined with narcissism and psychopathy, is a lethal combination. Furthermore, research has shown when followers have more information on a leader, the importance of charisma declines.
3. They can’t clearly communicate.
Employees have no idea what is really going on and no one knows the real truth of the current situation or what the future holds. This causes confusion, fear, and anxiety in the minds of workers.
4. They are control freaks.
A person with bad leadership micromanages to the last detail. The situation is overbearing and stifling because he or she wants control over decisions. He or she distrusts the team and doesn’t delegate; there’s no room for group discussion or input because the leadership style is autocratic. In turn, creativity or learning something new is absent under this dictatorship. The motto is: Just take your marching orders and report back.
5. They are never wrong.
Ever work with a manager who’s always right and you’re always wrong? A person with bad leadership skills has a hard time taking blame or ownership for things and will never admit to having made a mistake. He’s more concerned with preserving his reputation and saving face.
6. They are secretive.
Does your boss give you all the information you need? In the literature, this is one of the most predictive traits of people with bad leadership. It is reflective of someone who hoards or withholds information and employees often end up lost and confused.
7. They only look after themselves.
Bad leaders aren’t concerned with driving the company mission or aligning team goals to organizational objectives. It’s about their individual performance and getting that annual bonus. Bad leaders displaying this attitude are playing for the name on the back of the jersey and are only concerned about their accomplishments and how they look to their superiors.
I have two Dropbox accounts. One is associated with my current email and the other with an old one (from a job I had years ago). Apparently that old address is tied to my paid Dropbox account, but I can’t get it to sync with my phone, nor can I log into dropbox.com with it … because since I can no longer access that email address, I can’t do a password reset.
This is the kind of task that drains me. I’ve scoured the Dropbox support site; I’ve emailed them and gotten a rather long and seemingly convoluted response about how to fix this.
This is also a good example of the kind of thing I would absolutely, positively love to hand off to a virtual assistant
Almost every entrepreneur or businessperson I know has considered hiring a virtual assistant (aka VA). But a lot of us haven’t quite taken the plunge, for reasons either financial or because we’re not quite sure exactly what we’d have that person do.
But according to Ardenia Gould, business expert on working remotely, if you’re even considering doing it, you should. “I took the plunge early last year,” said Gould, “and it was the scariest but best business decision I ever made.”
Here are 7 signs you need a virtual assistant:
1. Your business is holding you hostage
You’re vacation-deprived. You need more time off but you’re reluctant to take it. As an entrepreneur, you love the idea of setting your own hours and calling the shots. But if you can never find the time to step away from your business, it’s time to call in reinforcements.
2. Your business needs skills you don’t have
“I needed serious help with business taxes, securing business loans, and taking on a major renovation project so I could host retreats,” said Gould. “I’m not a tax expert, I knew NOTHING about business loans, and I’m certainly not a general contractor.”
The solution? She hired a virtual assistant who had a background in real estate, underwriting, project management and bookkeeping–and she’s never looked back.
3. You wish there were two of you
I run a podcast called Dear Men, on sex, dating, and relationships. I love interviewing guests, but I don’t love sourcing guests, (researching people who would be a good fit), and I hate dealing with scheduling. This means I put that stuff off, which in turn means my editorial calendar is often running behind.
When growing your business (or trying to), it often seems like there aren’t enough hours in the day. This is a good sign that it’s time to get a VA.
4. You spend more time on administrative tasks than the core business itself
It’s hard to add value to the bottom line when huge chunks of your day are spent invoicing, billing, e-mailing, booking, etc. Admin tasks are necessary, but often distract you from adding your highest value by doing what you do best.
Plus, they tend to drain your energy (like me with Dropbox). So not only are you getting less done, but you actually feel worse than when you started.
5. Your business is a hot mess
You’re finding yourself missing deadlines or meetings (or things on your calendar go MIA). You’re not hitting your goals–or maybe you didn’t even have time to set goals because you’ve been so busy putting out fires. There’s no room to be strategic when you’re in a constant state of overwhelm.
6. You’re ready to scale
When it’s time to scale, you typically need three things: systems, cash and people. When it comes to people, you should start with the most critical role that will help you scale. For example, if you’re launching a membership site, you may need a part-time VA to handle sales and conversion. Or you may need someone to handle member support and customer service for new members. Determine your most essential role(s) and start there.
7. You’re big on vision but short on execution
You’re a visionary. You’ve got a ton of great ideas. You’re going to revolutionize the game. But first, you’ve gotta get it done.If you’re great at big-picture thinking but get bogged down in the details (or avoid them altogether), a VA will help you thrive.
When you’re ready to hire, here are a few smart ways to find the right virtual assistant:
Referral from someone you know and trust (that’s how Gould found hers). Just post to LinkedIn and/or Facebook that you’re looking for a good VA and follow the leads
Niche placement agencies like HireMyMom.com, which staffs experienced, highly-qualified work-from-home moms
Freelancer platform Upwork. Conveniently, Upwork itself tracks your VA’s hours, screenshots what your VA is doing, and manages the payment processing, which can streamline things
If you don’t want to spend the time to hire your own VA, you can use Leverage, a company specializing in hiring virtual assistants. This can be pricier but easier
According to Gould, hiring her virtual business manager was a life-changing decision. “My sanity–my mental, physical and emotional well being have drastically improved since I lightened my load. I can take real vacations, knowing things are actually being handled in my absence.”
She has also managed to put more money in her pocket, since her VA has tightened up her invoicing so she gets paid sooner (no more chasing down clients for payment). And she estimates that her VA has saved her tens of thousands on taxes, subscription services, canceled flights, late fees and by negotiating excellent rates with vendors on her behalf.
You don’t have to do it all yourself. There are financial, emotional, and spiritual benefits to getting a little help.
A couple of years ago, I was a guest blogger on hiscox.com and wrote this article. The subject matter is still relevant – check it out.