Monthly Archives: September 2017

3 Essential Tips To Help Your Business Implement A Successful Work-At-Home Policy

Young woman with notebookIt may sound surprising, but about 57% of organizations view employee retention as a problem. That’s an underlying reason why more and more employers are developing flexibility when it comes to accommodating their employees’ work styles. For many, this means having the ability to work flexible hours and/or telecommute.

If you’re one of the forward thinking employers that give their employees the opportunity to work remotely, it’s important to develop a strategy and routine. Here are some creative techniques for allowing your employees to work from home effectively.

Create A Clear Work-From-Home Policy:

If your business wants to implement a telecommuting policy, transparency and consistency are essential. You need to let your employees know exactly what is expected of them and keep it consistent for each and every employee. It’s also a good idea to have your telecommuting employees sign a written policy that clearly states the company’s guidelines. The more straightforward you can be about communicating expectations, the more success you’ll have in implementing the policy.

Clarify And Streamline Immediate Communication:

No, this doesn’t mean that your employees always need to be on call. Rather, it ensures that company-wide updates are communicated in the most timely and efficient manner possible.

Lisa Lovallo, Southern Arizona market vice president for Cox Communications, writes in Inside Tucson Business, “Keep remote workers engaged and informed. At Cox, we reserve desks called ‘touch down stations’ for telecommuters to work in the office on a weekly/monthly basis, ensuring they stay involved and immersed in our corporate culture.” As far as daily updates, Lovallo suggests, “Regular video chats or status calls will help keep team members on task while setting goals and deadlines with colleagues.”

Consider A Practice Run:

Nearly six out of ten employers identify cost savings as a significant benefit to telecommuting. Still, telecommuting just isn’t right for every employee. Before starting a new employee on the work-from-home policy, think about letting them do a trial run for a few weeks or even months. This extra time can be crucial to work out any issues and help the employee get a head start in determining how they work best.

Ultimately, taking these tips into consideration can help serve as the groundwork for implementing a successful and purposeful telecommuting policy.

Researchers Desperately Trying To Reduce Data Center Energy Consumption

Server room in data center. Telecommunication equipment

About 54% of energy consumption in commercial buildings is used to power HVAC and water heating systems. In particularly hot and cold regions, that number can be even higher.

However, in recent years an entirely new industry has emerged as one of the greatest energy consumers in the country, and once again excessive HVAC usage is to blame. We’re talking about data centers, which require constant cooling to avoid servers and computer systems from overheating and bursting into flame.

The data centers that power companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon consume vast amounts of energy. And according to the U.S. Department of Energy, these data centers (giant warehouses packed with computer servers), accounted for roughly 2% of the total U.S. energy use in 2014. That’s equal to 6.4 million U.S. homes. And as internet and data use rises, demand for these centers will grow further and further, making that energy consumption increase further.

Just keeping the facility cold requires roughly 40% of the energy that data centers consume. As a result, many researchers are looking into new strategies to reduce the cooling costs at these massive server farms.

Some of the tactics that are being considered include water cooling, which Google is looking to pursue by pumping seawater into data centers to regulate the temperature of computers and servers. Microsoft is taking it a step further and looking into building its data centers underwater. Less extreme strategies that researchers are looking into include making the data centers more energy efficient.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer scientist Arvind Mithal is working with his colleagues to find changes to data centers that will reduce power consumption as a whole. They’re doing this by looking at the “caches” that data centers use to store results.

“My guess is that these caches take about 10% of the energy resources of data centers,” Arvind said.

The researchers that are looking into reducing energy costs are considering many options, though it is unlikely that they will find a single one that answers all their needs.

“I don’t see any as a silver bullet, but when you accumulate them all over five or 10 years, their results look amazing,” Arvind said.

Coal Industry vs. Environmentalists: The Battle Continues

The coal industry has always been a large producer of jobs in the United States. According to the 2015 U.S. Annual Coal Report published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, surface coal mining operations provide between 26,000 and 37,000 jobs in the United States.

Although coal jobs have certainly helped the U.S. economy over the last few decades, not everyone is excited about its future.

Coal is a very useful resource, but the environmental impacts it has on the U.S. and the entire world pose a serious threat that many are concerned about.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, burning coal impacts the world’s air, water, and land. Typical coal plants burn approximately 1.4 million tons of coal each year, causing serious harm to the environment. As of just a few years ago in 2012, there were 572 operational 500-megawatt coal plants in the United States alone.

When coal is burned, it causes smog, acid rain, soot, toxic air emissions (nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, mercury, and more), and increased global warming.

Whether or not the coal industry comes back strong or continues to decline, the U.S. will certainly have to fight pollutants elsewhere. The discarding of plastic bags, for example, makes up more than 10% of all washed-up debris that ends up polluting the U.S. coastline. But coal is going to be at the center of the pollution battle for the foreseeable future.

Though President Donald Trump campaigned in favor of supporting the coal mining industry, environmentalist groups recently earned a major victory in the fight against this administration.

ABC News reports that a court casted doubt in mid September on an argument that blocking federal coal leasing won’t affect climate change because the coal could be minded elsewhere.

Environmental groups have spent years fighting for a block to federal coal leases on climate-change grounds but have not enjoyed much success at all. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, however, is now requiring the Bureau of Land Management to provide more data to support its claims that coal makes no net contribution to climate change after it’s burned.

“This is a major win for climate progress, or our public lands, and for our clean energy future,” said Jeremy Nichols with WildEarth Guardians. “This is big. And we’re certainly going to be wielding this and using it to confront other mining approvals both in the Powder River Basin and beyond.”

The coal industry, environmentalists, and even the current administration will have to wait and see what exactly is to come of these new arguments and legislation.

SEC Suffers Breach, Hackers Potentially Obtain Corporate Information

blue digital binary data on computer screen

No matter how information is stored, it’s important that it is stored securely. Many individuals still rely on paper for their important information, despite the fact that identity theft is more common with paper documents. However, that is not to say that digital storage is 100% secure, either.

This can be seen with the recent scandal involving Equifax in which personal details concerning up to 143 million people were stolen. But corporations are not the only ones that have issues with digital security. Just recently the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) had a breach of its own.

According to the article on Cnet.com, SEC Chairman John Clayton released a statement about the organization’s cybersecurity. What is interesting about this statement is that it says SEC was hacked. Only the hack occurred in 2016.

“In certain cases, threat actors have managed to access or misuse our systems,” Clayton writes. “In August 2017, the Commission learned that an incident previously detected in 2016 may have provided the basis for illicit gain through trading.”

According to the statement, hackers exploited a vulnerability in the “EDGAR” system that SEC uses. This system is a vast archive of financial records for companies in the U.S. stock exchange. Hackers that know what to look for could use this information to gain an advantage in the stock market.

“We believe the intrusion did not result in unauthorized access to personally identifiable information, jeopardize the operations of the Commission, or result in a systemic risk,” Clayton said.

The Chairman also went on to state that the breaches and vulnerabilities had been patched once noticed. They are currently looking into exactly how the breach occurred, and Clayton discloses that there are some possible ways. Missing laptops containing nonpublic information, as well as instances of nonpublic information being transmitted via email accounts. This accounts would have been personal, non-secured, email accounts.

Currently, 95% of corporate information exists on paper. This is decreasing daily. Both the Equifax and the SEC incidents prove that strong security is needed when it comes to valuable information. Firewalls and routine updates and monitoring of security systems are a must in a world that is going increasingly digital.

Seniors Projected To Dictate Future Of Housing Market, Not Millennials

elderly

New projections from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies suggest the housing market won’t be dictated by millennials, but seniors. Over the course of the next 20 years, Americans over the age of 80 will double in population size from 6 million to a historically high 12 million.

Up to 83% of potential home buyers are looking to buy a single-family home. But by 2035, Curbed suggests one out of every three of those potential home buyers will be over the age of 65. This could mean a shift in modern housing design.

One particular shift in design is shown in the new community space of Morningside Retirement and Health Services. The community space is for the older residents of the Morningside Gardens apartments and was designed by Wagner Interior Design and Consulting and Hollwich Kushner Architects.

For the interior of the home, there are typically three different types of lighting: accent lighting, task lighting, and ambient lighting. The Morningside community center uses ambient lighting to brighten the room’s interior substantially. It also uses floor-to-ceiling wood paneling and brightly colored curtains to create an airy and friendly aesthetic, not unlike the common room of a college dorm.

However, what separates the community center from a usual common room is that it’s designed for the older adult. The floors are made with cushioned, non-slip rubber and the walls are saddled with a sleek, wraparound handrail.

Matthias Hollwich, the architect of the million-dollar project, says the design of the community center caters to the real challenges for aging communities: social engagement and connection.

“This Morningside Heights project shows how the future of aging-in-place should really happen: more social and more integrated,” Hollwich said.

Just last year, Hollwich wrote a book titled New Aging regarding how Americans can plan to take care of senior citizens as they increase in population and how we can design better housing.

“Half of nursing home residents are there because of social deficits and the loss of their social net,” said Hollwich. “Not because of health issues; we need to find ways to help them connect.”

The new design and architecture for the elderly require a shift in how we support seniors, both in terms of service and financial aid. However, it’s also necessary to include adaptive and thoughtful design into the new architecture.

Jennifer Molinsky, a senior research assistant at Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, reports that one of the key challenges of assisting the elderly is helping them continue to live in their own houses. Once a senior leaves their home, they lose their sense of community. And because humans are social creatures that separation from the community can result in future health difficulties.

Fortunately, many institutions across the U.S. have already begun making changes to their new senior living spaces. An ordinance was recently signed in Pima County, Arizona mandating each new home design must have a zero-step entrance.

Housing Opportunities and Maintenance for the Elderly (H.O.M.E.), a Chicago nonprofit organization, has also been developed to help seniors who live independently connect easily with repairmen and working professionals to help fix problems around the house.
For instance, a house’s gutters should be cleaned twice a year. Yet a senior wouldn’t be able to reach the gutters without professional help.

“We’re all aware of the almost institutional look of hospital-like retirement homes that house our grandparents … when we were young,” says architect McCall Wood. “The industry is interested in new ideas, and the field is ripe for us.”

3 Basic Ways To Boost Employee Engagement And Productivity

analytics-2697949_960_720It’s no secret that keeping employees engaged and focused at work can be difficult, especially when they’re consistently presented with barriers and obstacles to overcome in their career. Each and every industry has its fair share of challenges when it comes to building team-oriented work relationships, and the very best thing any employer can do for their employees — and therefore, their company — is help to foster long-lasting job satisfaction and productivity. Of course, that’s easier said than done.

Here are a few tips from experts for keeping your employees motivated, regardless of their industry, salary, or job title.

Focus On The Right Team Building Exercises

Team building exercises can help an employee feel a connection to their employer and realize that they are helping the company succeed. A Gallup study revealed that engaged employees could boost a company’s productivity and performance by as much as 200% over a similar corporation with disengaged employees. Use this information to your advantage by choosing team building activities that stray from the norm and require quick thinking. The Image Shoppe compiled a handy list of trending team building exercises to keep in mind.

Take Every Chance To Express Appreciation

It may sound tacky, but employees of all job statuses respond well to positive feedback and appreciation, especially when it’s consistent and genuine. Don’t sugar coat anything, of course, but there’s almost always something positive that can be said about an employee’s performance. Apple’s retail store chief, Angela Ahrendts, says it’s much simpler than most employers realize.

“You don’t overthink it, right? Do unto others. I mean, you connect with them and you care and you — and you do what you say you’re going to do. I mean, it’s not rocket science,” she told CBS News in an interview about employee motivation.

Everybody knows that information technology is a wide and varied field, encompassing hundreds of different types of jobs dealing with different sectors of the industry. If Ahrendts can manage to keep Apple’s team of highly skilled IT employees motivated with this simple tactic, any employer can follow suit.

Meet Employees Halfway

Finally, it’s important that employees see their employees as leaders instead of just supervisors, bosses, and higher-ups. Employers should always do their best to make accommodations to make their employees comfortable. The specifics range from industry to industry, but they often include aspects that can essentially make or break employee engagement. For example, taking preferred working hours into consideration when creating schedules, taking care of equipment and technical malfunctions that inhibit productivity on a timely basis, and encouraging an atmosphere that fosters professional development are just a few great ways to boost engagement while making employees feel like their voices are heard and valued.

Ultimately, keeping these employee engagement tips in mind can help any business maintain a highly productive and successful environment.

Petland Puppies Source Of Bacterial Infection Of 39 People, CDC Says

puppy-1207816_960_720

With cold and flu season on its way, many Americans have been preparing for the annoying symptoms of watery eyes, stuffy noses, and sore throats that can last up to 14 days. However, the last thing 39 people expected to come down with this year was a bacterial infection from puppies.

Yes, you have to be afraid of puppies now, too.

According to the CDC, a group of puppies sold through Petland, a national pet store chain, has been found as the source for an outbreak of Campylobacter. The bacteria has since infected 39 people in Florida, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

The highest number of those infected with the illness was found in Ohio and the second highest in Florida. The most recent report of the illness was made on September 1. The CDC reports that 72% of those who have been infected are female and the median age of the 39 infected persons is 22 years.

Symptoms of the gastrointestinal illness include fever, cramping, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. Symptoms appear within two to five days of infection and the illness can last up to seven days. While no deaths have been reported, the illness can be especially dangerous for those who are pregnant or who have a weakened immune system.

The outbreak began with contact with the puppies’ feces since the illness doesn’t typically spread from human contact. The CDC warns that Campylobacter can spread from any puppy or dog’s feces regardless of where the dog has come from.

Those who come into contact with dogs and their feces are recommended to wash their hands thoroughly. Should your dog show any kind of illness, it’s essential that you relay the information to your veterinarian as soon as possible.

“Petland reinforced proper hand sanitization before and after playing with any of our puppies with the many sanitation stations in each store,” Petland said in a statement, “and has strict kennel sanitation procedures and protocols put in place by consulting veterinarians.”

The CDC found no abnormalities in Petland’s sanitation, protocols, or procedures. The 39 affected by the illness included 12 Petland employees across four states. Nine of those who have been infected with the illness have been hospitalized.

Erectile Dysfunction Could Be an Early Sign of Parkinson’s Disease

Erectile dysfunction is a serious medical condition that affects millions of men across the United States. According to a Cleveland Clinic study, roughly 40% of all men over the age of 40 years old are actually affected by erectile dysfunction.

“Stress is a major cause of ED, especially in young adults,” said Dr. Anshuman Agarwal. “In many cases, they aren’t able to perform due to unrealistic expectations. Even lifestyle issues like smoking, excessive drinking and drug abuse can cause ED.”

Unfortunately, ED isn’t always just erectile dysfunction.

According to Men’s Health, men with ED could also be experiencing early signs of Parkinson’s disease.

A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Neurology revealed that ED can also serve as a harbinger for Parkinson’s disease, which is a progressive brain condition that causes motor issues, tremors, impaired coordination, and impaired balance.

The seven-year study looked at over 3,000 men who had just been diagnosed with ED and over 12,000 healthy men for a control group. They discovered that the men with ED were 52% more likely to develop Parkinson’s over the seven years than those without erectile issues.

Vice reports that meditation could actually combat ED and, subsequently, Parkinson’s.

“Psychosexual ED is a major issue, especially with young men,” said Barry McGuire, of the Irish Society of Urology in Dublin. “And when other causes are ruled out, it is the way to treat them. Of course, there are organic reasons for ED such as arterial disease, trauma, surgery, congenital issues, sickle cell disease, complications of black market ED drugs, etc.”

It’s important to realize, however, that men can and should still live a healthy lifestyle no matter what. Being lazy can lead to stress and even more medical issues.

“Sedentary lifestyle can be very harmful in such cases,” added Dr. Agarwal. “So I advise men to stay fit, stay active and have a healthy lifestyle. It will help avoid many issues.”

It’s recommended to speak with a medical professional in the event of any serious medical issues or problems with ED.

McCarran Airport Getting New Automated Security System

Airport Travel with Luggage and Airplane

Airport security can slow things down immensely. Long lines of people are a common sight at airports, with a lot of check points and security guards. That’s something one airport wishes to change.

McCarran International Airport is automating its security in an attempt to have travelers moving through the airport faster. The Las Vegas airport is one of the busiest in the U.S., and needs to have a system that can account for it, officials say.

The automated security system came online at the beginning of September, and it’s aimed at processing passengers 20% to 30% faster than the traditional method. They currently only have three of their security lanes equipped in such a way but want to add the new system all throughout the airport.

“It is a phenomenal improvement and something that we hope will work and be expanded to serve other customers in other areas of the airport in the near future,” airport spokesman Chris Jones said.

The new automated security units include features such as:

  • Stainless steel counters designed to allow multiple passengers to place their items in bins
  • Bins that are 25% larger than bins at other screening areas
  • Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags on each bin to ensure property security
  • Cameras that take photos of each bin for reference of passenger belongings

Each new screening area has three windows that allow passengers to place their belongings into bins for scanning. The goal was to let experienced passengers move through the process quickly, without having to wait for inexperienced ones.

The system allows TSA security guards (who will still be employed despite automation) to isolate bags with a separate belt when they pass through. All they have to do is push a button and move the item along.

“It’s an automation occurrence, which means we have 100 percent clarity that we have the right bag,” Steve Karoly, the TSA’s acting assistant administrator for the Office of Requirements and Capabilities Analysis, told the Las Vegas Sun.

The new technology is a great step forward for the U.S. airport which, like most airports, had been relying on personal rather than technology up to this point. An automated system can help save money in the long run, as the average salary for a security guard is $30,000 a year, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. And while guards will still be needed, it does mean they can be a little less in demand or overworked.

“This is great. It’s new to us, but it’s not leading-edge technology because it’s been in Europe for the last five years,” Karoly said. “But we are looking at a system-wide perspective of aviation security.”

Researchers Find New Way to Combat Peri-Implantitis

Though educational and technological advancements have lead to significant improvements within the dental industry, there is still more work that needs to be done. Currently, there are 3 million people in the U.S. with dental implants and that number is growing by 500,000 a year. Implant failures have resulted in even more dental issues for many patients, and industry professionals and researchers are constantly searching for ways to reduce these failures.

According to Science Daily, despite the majority of dental implants being successful, between 5% and 10% of all implants fail over time. There are various reasons for this failure, including mechanical issues, poor bone connection and implantation, and a few other factors that lead to oral rejection of the implant. The main reason for implant failure, however, is a destructive and inflammatory process that impacts the dental issues called peri-implantitis.

The American Academy of Periodontologystates that peri-implantitis can be found in individuals who smoke, are diabetic, or those with a history of gum diseases and poor immune systems, but anyone who gets a dental implant could still be at risk.

Researchers and scientists from the School of Engineering at the University of Plymouth and the School of Biological Sciences, Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry have developed and begun studying the effectiveness of a new dental implantation procedure in hopes of reducing the risk or peri-implantitis and other dental failures.

“In this cross-faculty study we have identified the means to protect dental implants against the most common cause of their failure,” said Professor Christopher Tredwin, Head of Plymouth University Peninsula School of Dentistry. “The potential of our work for increased patient comfort and satisfaction, and reduced costs, is great and we look forward to translating our findings into clinical practice.”

The research team created this new approach using various nanocoating combinations featuring silver, hydroxyapatite, and titanium oxide. Their findings, published in the journal Nanotoxicology, reduced the formation of bacterial biofilm (prerequisite for peri-implantitis) on the surface of dental implants by 97.5%.

“The significance of our new study is that we have successfully applied a dual-layered silver-hydroxyapatite nanocoating to titanium alloy medical implants which helps to overcome these risks,” added Dr. Alexandros Besinis, Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering at the School of Engineering, University of Plymouth and leader of the research team.