Gunning Daily News

Employee Happiness Linked to Workplace Productivity and Performance

May 18, 2011 9:49 am

RISMEDIA, May 18, 2011-Paul David Walker, a successful business advisor to CEOs, founder of Genius Stone Partners-a company that partners with the C-suite to build business performance-and author of "Unleashing Genius: Leading Yourself, Teams and Corporations," has defined the seven steps anyone can take to be happier and more productive, something that a 20-year Gallup poll recently indicated has a powerful effect on companies' bottom-line.

The poll indicated that happier employees are significantly more engaged and productive. Walker has known this and helped companies generate billions of dollars with more engaged employees. Now, Gallup has proven this to be the case. Leaders would be well advised to share Walker's valuable insights with employees to build personal accountability for happiness and well-being on a daily basis, rather than depending on good managers to help them, as Gallup suggests.

"Earlier studies have discovered that happiness and well-being are natural states of mind," says Walker. "All types of suffering are simply conditioned responses to our thoughts. Thoughts that we repeat to ourselves detract us from insight and our natural feelings of joy, love and gratitude."

When people repeat negative thoughts like "I'm not good enough," or "This person is an idiot," it contributes to poor moods and a cycle of negativity, according to Walker. Focus on such thoughts also keeps people from fully engaging in their lives. Instead, Walker encourages people to think of themselves as athletes in "the zone." The best athletes are able to perform at often miraculous levels because they're completely engaged in the present and don't waste energy on either distracting negative or delusional positive thinking.

When he leads executive teams at mid-sized and Fortune 500 companies, Walker shares seven important steps to cultivating greater happiness and well-being in themselves and their teams:

1. Thought is, at best, an approximation of reality. Until one knows this at a deep level, it is hard to find any true happiness. Believing one's thoughts to be real is like eating the menu instead of the food: both are real, but there is no comparing the two experiences.

2. Take your thoughts lightly. Thought is both the greatest gift and the greatest curse to humanity. While thought has allowed humans to create great works of art and science, it has also defined and imprisoned those who allow it to define them. Those who learn to treat their thoughts lightly experience greater levels of well-being and engagement in life.

3. Pain is telling you to stop something. Pain is a warning sign that something is harmful, like the burn of a flame. Psychological pain has the same purpose, warning people that their thoughts are compromising their health. Practice interrupting thoughts to bring attention back to the present.

4. Let go of your thoughts. Patterns can be difficult to break, but it's possible with practice. Notice both your negative and positive thought patterns and let them go. Effective action starts with reality, not an approximation of reality.

5. Understand your road map into wellbeing and happiness. Keeping a "Peak Life Experience" journal helps people to re-experience and learn their way back into their highest states of mind.

6. Be here now. Learning to be present makes it more likely for people to experience life instead of experiencing their thoughts about life. Thoughts about the past and the future are only approximations of reality. Living in the present is the secret.

7. There is no substitute for practice. Letting go of thoughts in the moment takes practice. Meditate, jog, walk or dance-anything to interrupt thought with some kind of practice. Holding onto positive or negative thoughts destroys happiness and wellbeing.

Sharing these tools with a company can be the first step in addressing the wellbeing issue that affects employee productivity. Practicing them on an individual basis can help company executives lead the way for a healthier, happier workplace -- and a healthier bottom line.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Top Trend in Kitchen Remodeling Uncovered

May 18, 2011 9:49 am

RISMEDIA, May 18, 2011- For years, we've heard that if you want to sell your home, start by remodeling your kitchen. Why? Because it has the highest return on investment. But in today's age, when most homeowners are choosing to stay put longer rather than sell, how does that impact kitchen home improvement projects? And how do these projects change, depending on influences like families with young children, generational wants, sustainable trends and the like? Moen , a leading faucet brand in North America, takes a look at today's American kitchen-no longer a place to simply cook and eat, it's now the "real" living room-a place for living, working and entertaining.

"Given the current economic challenges, it's no surprise that consumers are saving rather than spending. And when they do spend, they're doing so from cash on hand; rather than credit," says Jack Suvak, senior director of research and insights, Moen. "This change in spending behavior has had a dramatic impact on remodeling projects. Most homeowners are choosing to perform 'room lifts'-small updates to personalize a room-rather than undertake major remodels."

Suvak continues, "Plus, homeowners are choosing to personalize renovations to fit their needs, rather than update a room for the next family that will be living in the house. In the kitchen, this might include everything from creating solutions that better integrate the management of electronic devices, to creating 'kid level' storage areas, to adding safety features for aging boomers."

Kitchen Influences: Children, Generations and More

The kitchen has evolved from a closed-off satellite to the most open, doted-upon room in the house. How are homeowners creating live-in value in this hub of activity?

Families with Children

Moen's research found that families with children living in the home are even more engaged in their kitchens than their counterparts without kids; and are more likely to view the kitchen as a place where activities or conversations frequently happen. With regard specifically to kitchen remodeling, respondents with children are significantly more likely than those without children to have remodeled or made improvements to their kitchen in the past year, used a kitchen designer or architect, or spent more on kitchen improvements. And families with children living in the home are far more likely to say they would spend more money on their kitchen remodel if they had it to do over.

When Moen queried designers about the challenges of creating live-in value for families with children, there are clear differences for families with kids of different ages. As children grow older, the kitchen evolves from a potentially dangerous place to a space for sharing food preparation and cooking experiences. Designers stated the number one concern when remodeling kitchens for families with children in each of three age groups are:

1. Younger than five years old: Safety

2. Age five to 12 years old: Places for kids to play or work

3. Age 13 or older: Ability to have two or more cooks in the kitchen at one time

Utilizing this research, sample ideas to perform "room lifts" for families with children include: creating a "kid zone" (away from the stove) to enable room for child-friendly cooking, putting in a desk-like environment for computer work or homework, or adding an island with a faucet and sink, to allow for two prep areas.

Generational Differences

While families with children have very specific desires in terms of creating a kitchen with live-in value, so do the different generations.

By far, Millenials (age 18-34) have the highest demands in what they would want in a dream kitchen. The majority of their "wish list" items include those with technological advances, such as:

A microwave that allows for swiping a package bar code, enabling the microwave to cook to exact directions

A TV screen built into a kitchen wall or appliance

Technology that would allow putting a dish in the oven, programming it to refrigerate and then turning the heat on from a phone or computer

Boomers (age 45-64) also had specific "wish list" items, mostly around entertaining large groups. Examples include:

A cook-top with special-purpose features (built-in grill or wok, rotisserie attachment)

Commercial or professional-grade appliances

Built-in coffee pot connected directly to plumbing

An oven that dramatically reduces cooking times without microwaves

Green in Certain Categories

Contrary to what many might believe, designers say their clients are more concerned about the project costs than being green. The costs of environmentally friendly products and materials are still seen as higher than non-green products; and these higher costs discourage consumers who are already reluctant to spend more on their kitchen remodels.

That being said, there are certain categories that homeowners who are creating live-in value want to be sustainable, more than others:

Energy-efficient appliances are almost standard in product selection

Cabinetry, countertops and flooring that use sustainable or natural materials such as bamboo, cork and stone are being requested more frequently

More consumers are asking about energy-efficient lighting, as well as water-saving faucets and showering for their homes

More consumers are showing concern about air quality by requesting non-toxic, low-VOC finishes

"As the demand for water-saving functionality increases, Moen continues to introduce options to help homeowners achieve stylish looks with faucets and showerheads that feature flow optimization, without sacrificing performance," adds Suvak.

Move Over, Dining Room

Since 2004, Moen has observed that homeowners were not using their dining rooms as often, and the kitchen/family room was taking on a more significant role in the home habitat. That observation has not changed over the last decade, and even this simple thought has an impact on how remodeling projects create live-in value:

Laptops are now a kitchen utility; because homeowners don't want to be isolated in the home office or den-meaning designers must now allocate an area for laptop and mobile device recharging

Second sinks are becoming more prevalent on center islands, so the cook can interact with the family while prepping or cleaning up from a meal

The lack of good space and industrial design leads to using the sink, and area around the sink, as storage

"While REALTORS still keep tabs on the sorts of upgrades that will improve a home's resale value, we believe that consumers will continue to remodel with the idea of improving their quality of life while they 'stay put,' for quite some time," explains Suvak. "In other words, homeowners aren't making huge investments on their homes with an eye toward making more money-rather, they're remodeling to create 'live-in value.'"

For more information about kitchen trends, visit www.moen.com.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


4 Ways to Ease Spring Cleaning Headaches

May 18, 2011 9:49 am

By Barbara Pronin, RISMedia Columnist

RISMEDIA, May 18, 2011-Nobody knows for sure why the coming of spring puts us in house-cleaning mode. But whether it's because we think new beginnings should be clean, or simply because our mothers always did it, most of approach the spring season with good intentions-at least, about sprucing up the place where we live.

It doesn't have to be an onerous chore, say the efficiency experts at Woman'sDay.com, who advise beginning your spring cleaning chores with the job you hate most. "Make the most of your resolve and energy to clean out the fireplace, scrub the toilets, or whatever it is you really hate doing," the website recommends.

Having done that, they add, pat yourself on the back and proceed while you still feel proud of yourself. More tips for easing the pain of spring cleaning:

Attack one room at a time Nothing can kill your resolve faster than taking on too much in a day or a weekend. Reserve one day a week for the next few weeks to clean one room at a time.

Start in the kitchen with the fridge Discover what's lurking at the back of each shelf and throw out anything spoiled, out of date or simply suspect. Then wipe down each shelf and compartment with anti-bacterial spray. That may put you in the mood to check what's in your cupboards. Next, attack the oven, the counters and the floor, and wind up feeling tired but smug.

Clear out family room clutter The living or family room tend to attract a wealth of assorted "stuff." Get rid of outdated magazines, put away those stacks of CDs, games and videos. Once the clutter is gone, you may be amazed at how much more space you have, and ready to dust, polish and vacuum-and check the drapes or blinds to see if they need professional cleaning.

Try the four box solution At this point, set up four boxes in the garage labeled, Trash, Give Away/Sell, Storage and Put Away. As you go through each room, toss the clutter into appropriate boxes. When the house is clean, you will know what to do with the contents of each box!

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Word of the Day

May 17, 2011 10:19 am

Trustee. One who as agent for others handles money or holds title to their land.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Question of the Day

May 17, 2011 10:19 am

Q: Are seller-paid points deductible?

A: For the buyer, yes, but not the seller-even though the seller pays them. Since January 1, 1991, homebuyers have been able to deduct points paid by the seller whereas, previously, they could only deduct the actual points they paid on the home loans themselves.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Five Benefits of the New Health Care Law

May 17, 2011 10:19 am

RISMEDIA, May 17, 2011-Today, you can take advantage of five major benefits of the new health care law, and several other important provisions will go into effect by 2015.

To help you better understand the Affordable Care Act, which became law in 2010, the federal government created Healthcare.gov, a web portal that explains what's changing and when.

One person who knows the details of the new law is Mayra Alvarez, Director of Public Health Policy in the Office of Health Reform at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In her position, Alvarez is tasked with implementing certain provisions of the law.

She recently spoke to USA.gov and shared the five most essential benefits that you can take advantage of today.

1. Coverage for Children with Pre-Existing Conditions

Previously: Health plans could limit or deny health coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, such as asthma or diabetes.

Now: The new healthcare law requires health plans to offer coverage to children regardless of whether their health issue was discovered or treated before getting the policy. "For the moment this only applies to children, but by the year 2014 you will not be able to discriminate against anybody who buys coverage based on a pre-existing condition," says Alvarez.

2. Elimination of Annual Limits on Benefits

Previously: Health plans could establish a limit on annual or lifetime benefits, which meant that many people with chronic health problems could end up with limited or no benefits.

Now: Health plans can no longer put limits on the amount of care someone needs.

3. Young Adults Can Remain In Their Parents Health Plan

Previously: Health plans could exclude young adults from their parent's health insurance when the individual reached a certain age or became a full-time student.

Now: Young adults can remain in their parent's health plan until they turn 26. "For young people, it's important that they have health insurance so that they can focus on their career and not worry about where they are going to get coverage," says Alvarez.

4. Preventive Care and Services

Previously: Some health plans were allowed to charge beneficiaries for the costs of certain preventive care measures.

Now: Some health plans are now required to provide different types of preventive care services without co-pays, coinsurance or deductibles. Some of these services include mammograms, colonoscopies, vaccinations and prenatal care. "Because of the cost, people would often use preventive care services at half of the recommended rate," says Alvarez.

5. New Medicare Benefits

Previously: Beneficiaries of Medicare drug plans that reached the gap in coverage called the "Donut Hole" had to pay for the cost of the prescriptions they needed.

Now: People with high prescription drug costs that reach the "Donut Hole" receive a 50 percent discount on brand-name medications covered by their plan. \"It's a big step towards closing the 'Donut Hole' within the next 10 years," says Alvarez.

For more information about other benefits of the law you can visit Healthcare.gov.

USA.gov and GobiernoUSA.gov are the U.S. Government's official web portals in English and Spanish, and part of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA).

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Now Hiring: America's Family Businesses

May 17, 2011 10:19 am

RISMEDIA, May 17, 2011-For the first time since November 2008, the U.S. has seen two consecutive months where the number of job openings has been at or above 3 million. Even in light of a slight uptick in the April unemployment rate, these are promising statistics. And according to a new survey completed by Family Enterprise USA (FEUSA), family business owners are a major contributor to this positive news.

As part of its Annual Family Business Survey, FEUSA asked family business owners in the U.S. about their likelihood of hiring and retaining employees in the next 12 months. 52 percent of respondents plan to add additional employees, and 42 percent intend to keep their current staff numbers despite an overall sluggish recovery. These are encouraging statistics, and support FEUSA's assertion that family businesses are the backbone of our economy.

These figures lend even more credibility to the research which shows that family businesses are less likely to lay off employees. "Overall, business-owning families are more concerned about long-term sustainability than short-term gains," says Ann Kinkade, President of FEUSA. "This type of thinking is part of the reason why family businesses will likely lead our nation's economic recovery.

"Unfortunately, this information has yet to infiltrate the halls of Congress," Kinkade claims. "FEUSA was formed because family-owned businesses have been misrepresented, misunderstood and overlooked by many of our nation's key decision-makers. Policies are in place that clearly create different standards for doing business based on the fact that the owners, and in some cases their employees, are related to one another."

For example, the new small business tax credit for the payment of employee health insurance premiums and the new $1,000 hiring credit both specifically carve out the inclusion of employees related to the owner(s). "Policies that purposely exclude family in business should have no place in our already complex system of business laws and regulations," states Kinkade.

"We need to incentivize the continuation of our family-owned businesses, not put policies in place that could contribute to their demise," concludes Ann. "We can only imagine a world where family businesses are allowed to operate up to their full potential. We hope that through FEUSA's efforts, we'll be able to get closer to that vision by positively impacting the current decision-making process that leads to a business-owning family being held to a different standard."

Family Enterprise USA is a nonprofit membership organization whose overall efforts include: defining the family business sector, emphasizing its impact on the national economy, highlighting its commitment to local communities, drawing attention to the extremely rewarding and compassionate philanthropic efforts, and most importantly underscoring the threats the sector faces and the need for America to help foster the continued success of America's largest employer.

For more information, visit www.familyenterpriseusa.org.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Spring Has Arrived: Is Your Home Prepared?

May 17, 2011 10:19 am

RISMEDIA, May 17, 2011-Spring has finally arrived and with the warmer temperatures comes heavy rains, which can wreak havoc on a home through backed up sewers, drains and sump pump overflows. Many homeowners don't realize until it's too late that their insurance policy doesn't cover water damage resulting from backups, unless specifically purchased. Now is the time to make sure your home is prepared for a rainy season. Fremont Insurance (OTC BB: FMMH), a Michigan-based property and casualty insurance carrier, offers a few tips to help homeowners assess and minimize the risks to their home.

"Most homeowner policies contain exclusions for water damage to dwellings and personal property as a result of backup of sewers or drains," revealed Kurt Dettmer, Vice President of Marketing for Fremont Insurance. "It's important to examine your policy and understand what protection you have, but you should also be proactive and take steps to prevent any damage from occurring whenever possible."

As we enter into the spring melting and rainy periods, special consideration and maintenance of systems should be undertaken to avoid potential water hazards. Sump pump systems should be checked for age and working condition, including ensuring that sump back-up systems are installed and maintained. The most effective sump back-up systems are gravity-driven because they are not dependant on an electrical power source in the event of an outage. Vulnerable or perishable personal property susceptible to water damage should be elevated off surfaces such as basement floors and crawl space foundations to limit damage exposure. Regular cleaning and maintenance of gutters and downspouts as well as sub-surface drainage lines will help avoid ground over-saturation near foundations.

Exclusions in insurance for water damage were created in the 1950s in response to extensive basement flooding following heavy rains. They continue to be utilized today because many municipalities maintain antiquated sewage systems which fail to meet capacity requirements. Fremont Insurance Company offers a homeowners endorsement that covers loss to both dwelling and personal property as a result of water back up through sewers or drains or from an overflow within a sump pump, well or similar system designed to remove subsurface water that drains from the dwelling's foundation areas. Check to see if your insurance company makes a similar endorsement.

Many endorsements, however, do not cover "flooding," which usually refers to water damage from natural sources or bodies of water rather than from manmade sources such as plumbing systems. In fact, virtually every homeowner's policy excludes flood coverage. However, flood coverage is available through the government's National Flood Insurance Program and can be obtained through most agents. We recommend that you consult with your agent to thoroughly assess your needs, evaluate all of your policy coverages, conditions and exclusions and answer your questions.

For more information visit www.frmic.com.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Seven Little Tips That Can Help Save Big on Gas

May 17, 2011 10:19 am

By Barbara Pronin, RISMedia Columnist

RISMEDIA, May 17, 2011-With the price of gasoline still soaring in many areas, concerned drivers have already cut down on mileage by eliminating unnecessary trips. But did you know that carrying around a trunk full of heavy sports equipment can significantly affect your mileage?

From the U.S. Department of Energy, here are seven more tips on fuel economy that could help you keep some gas dollars in your pocket:

Lighten up Aggressive driving, including rapid braking and rapid acceleration, could cost you up to 33 percent in fuel economy. A lighter foot on the pedal will help.

Drive the speed limit While each car reaches its optimal fuel economy at a different speed, gas mileage can decrease rapidly at speeds over 60 mph. It is safe to assume that each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an extra $0.24 per gallon for gas.

Avoid excessive idling Idling is a gas waster. If you're waiting at a railroad crossing for any length of time, turn off the engine.

Use cruise control Using cruise control on the highway helps maintain a constant speed, which in most cases will up your mileage.

Keep tires properly inflated You can improve gas mileage by 3.3 percent or more by keeping tires inflated to the recommended pressure.

Keep your engine tuned Repairing a car that is noticeably out of tune, or has failed an emissions test, can save you up to 4 percent in gas mileage.

Plan ahead Keep a list of the regular trips and errands that must be made each week. Plan to combine as many as you can, and when an unexpected errand turns up, consult your list to see how you can best fit it into your driving plan.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


Word of the Day

May 16, 2011 9:51 am

Trust deed. A document used in place of a mortgage in certain states; a third-party trustee, not the lender, holds the title to the property until the loan is paid out or defaulted. Also called a deed of trust.

Copyright 2008 RISMedia, Inc., All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.