Making a Safe Return to the Office Post-Pandemic

For millions of professionals around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we experience work. Many non-essential employees began working remotely for the first time ever, and on top of that, working parents had to (somehow) get things done with kids at home doing virtual learning.

Now, with vaccines available to every American 12 years old and up, many businesses are starting to reopen their offices and invite employees back to their desks. Some are giving employees a choice between coming in or remaining remote, some are creating hybrid schedules allowing employees to come in just a few days a week, and some are asking their teams to return to the office for a full 40-hour workweek. There are even some companies that have chosen to close their offices for good, and will be keeping their workforces entirely virtual. 

No matter the scenario, there are still many things for both employers and employees to consider.

An anxious return to office life

Some people can’t wait to get back to a traditional office environment, and the mere thought of returning to conference rooms and watercooler chats is thrilling. But for some, the thought of returning to work — especially with COVID-19 still not completely under control — is stressful, and for some, even scary.

Cleveland Clinic psychologist Susan Albers, PsyD, shares that many people are experiencing what she calls “reentry anxiety” — a form of anxiety that spurs from apprehension about returning to work after socially distancing at home for an extended period. According to Dr. Albers, there are two forms of reentry anxiety.

“The first form concerns safety. People are anxious that when they leave their house, they may unknowingly contract COVID-19 or possibly spread it. The second type is around social interactions. Over the past year, we have been social distancing and lost practice of how to meet with people in person, look them in the eyes, and engage in everyday chitchat.”

Experiencing a bit of trepidation in this situation is normal, but for some people, the fear can be paralyzing, making the return to work that much more difficult.

Keeping yourself and your colleagues safe

As of July 2021, not quite half of all Americans are fully vaccinated. So the CDC recommends that businesses continue to follow certain guidelines that limit the spread of COVID-19 and help keep workers and the public safe. 

See the latest CDC recommendations here >

As new data is being evaluated and recommendations change regularly, it’s important for business leaders to communicate clearly and consistently with their employees on what to expect with their return to the office. 

“With your work environment, be sure to spell out what your expectations are and ask for your employer’s COVID-19 safety policy. Be sure to thoroughly read the policy. Your employer must follow the established safety protocols. If they don’t, you can point to the document and say, ‘Here it specifies that cleaning will take place,’ and ask any question you may have. Keep in mind that you don’t want to be combative when you have this conversation. Just make it clear that safety on the job is very important to you. Your safety is key and you don’t have to apologize for that,” says Dr. Albers.

What to expect with a hybrid work model

Employers and researchers alike have found over the last year that employees are just as (or more) productive when working from home. Because of that, many companies are transitioning to hybrid work models, in which employees can split their time between the office and home.

In a recent study, McKinsey & Company found that 9 out of 10 business executives expect to continue a hybrid model for roles within the company that aren’t essential to work on-site — with those employees working on-site 21-80% of the time, or one to four days per week. Yet, 68% of the companies surveyed do not have a detailed plan or vision in place for hybrid work.

So while it seems like hybrid work could become the new norm, there is still work to be done to implement it properly. Mark Mortensen, Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior, writes in the Harvard Business Review that there are three things to consider when it comes to hybrid work:

 

  • Productivity. The ability to collaborate effectively when some (or all) employees are working remotely can vary by team, company, and industry. It’s important for leaders to determine their optimal mix of work arrangements that allows the organization and its employees to thrive.

 

  • Staffing. The pandemic has changed people’s expectations of how they should be allowed to work. Companies that don’t offer employees some level of flexibility may find they have a harder time retaining and recruiting top talent.

 

  • Culture. Company values, beliefs, and norms have historically been experienced firsthand, in person. As companies add more hybrid or fully remote positions, it will be critical to find ways to translate these cultural beliefs and experiences to the virtual world.

Adjusting to the new normal

We’re all adjusting to life after lockdown, and while many things will likely go back to the way they were, some things — like how we work — could see long-lasting change. The shift to more remote work opportunities, for example, can make jobs more accessible for people with disabilities, as well as the primary caregivers (most often women) of children or aging parents. This is good for businesses too, as they can recruit great talent from anywhere in the world.

If you’re returning to partial or full-time work in person and are having a hard time adjusting, be sure to prioritize not only your physical health but your mental health too. It’s important to keep your body and mind healthy as you deal with these changes.  

“This year has been traumatic for everyone. It’s no surprise that returning to work may trigger preexisting conditions such as depression, anxiety, or PTSD. If you’re struggling, be sure to reach out to a mental health professional,” recommends Dr. Albers.

5 Great Business Podcasts for Your Summer Vacation

Summer is here and after a long (looong) year, many of us are ready to get out and take a roadtrip, visit family, or plan a vacation that involves relaxing near some body of water. But while you’re driving, flying, or lounging by the pool, there’s nothing better than throwing on a great podcast to pass the time. 

So we decided to compile a list of shows perfect for those who want to continue learning and growing professionally, while still enjoying some summer R&R. Here’s a quick list of five popular options for your listening pleasure.

#1 WorkLife with Adam Grant

This TED original podcast is hosted by organizational psychologist Adam Grant, who explores the science of making work “not suck.” Each week, Adam sits down to interview an industry expert, health professional, or celebrity about their experiences at work. Adam brings his own expertise and observations to the conversations and reveals deep insights in a friendly, accessible way. His list of past guests includes Daily Show host Trevor Noah, billionaire Richard Branson, Handmaid’s Tale author Margaret Atwood, and even the talented team at Pixar. 

#2 Brown Ambition

For over five years running, the popular Brown Ambition podcast has been helping listeners unapologetically build wealth by saving, investing, and making smarter career choices. Co-hosted by personal finance expert and journalist Mandi Woodruff and Tiffany “The Budgetnista” Aliche, a financial educator and author of the bestselling book, Get Good With Money, this insightful and relatable show addresses everything from diversity and inclusion issues to wealth-building to getting a promotion at work.

#3 Business Edge

This list wouldn’t be complete without what we consider the best business podcast out there — Alpha Kappa Psi’s own Business Edge podcast! Co-hosted by the brilliant duo of Desiree Williams and Chrissy Vasquez, this show is dedicated to young professionals everywhere who are seeking career development and advice. In each episode, Desiree and Chrissy interview a new guest who shares their own personal and professional experiences and stories. Check it out and join us every other Tuesday on this professional development journey. 

 

#4 HBR: Women at Work

Hosted by Amy Bernstein, editor of the Harvard Business Review, along with Amy Gallo, author of HBR’s Guide to Dealing with Conflict, and Emily Caulfield, a senior designer at Harvard Business Review, the Women at Work podcast is true to its name and focuses on the issues women face in the workplace. From dealing with difficult (interrupting) male colleagues to more serious topics like narrowing the wage gap and gender discrimination, the ladies discuss it all. They interview experts on gender, share their own experiences and personal stories, and provide practical career advice for women. Guys should listen in as well, to better understand the issues women face, and for tips on being an advocate and ally in your own workplace.

#5 Side Hustle School

Looking to start a side hustle? Then this is the perfect daily podcast for you. The show is geared toward anyone who works a regular job but also wants to start earning some additional income on the side. In each episode, you’ll hear a different story from someone who has started their own side hustle. They’ll share what went well, the challenges they had to overcome, and where they’re at now in their career. The show is written and hosted by bestselling author Chris Guillebeau, and each episode is just 10 minutes long, making it easy to get a daily dose of hustlin’ inspiration, or, to binge multiple episodes while you’re laying at the beach this summer.

 

What great business podcasts do you recommend? Share with the community and tag us on LinkedIn!

Protecting Your Intellectual Property

Just like you protect your physical property — locking your car doors, keeping a close eye on your wallet or purse, or maybe even installing a home alarm system — any intellectual property that belongs to you needs to be protected as well.

Intellectual property (IP) is any product of your human “intellect” that the law protects from unauthorized use by others. It could be an invention, a song, a book, a brand or slogan, a formula, or an algorithm. It’s essentially any original piece of work or idea that you create, and therefore, should be protected from others who may try to copy it or profit off of it in some way, without giving you proper credit or compensation. 

4 types of intellectual property rights

Depending on the type of IP you have, there are different categories of protection rights. The most common categories are trademarks, copyrights, patents, and trade secrets.

Copyrights

A copyright protects original works like books, articles, paintings, photographs, illustrations, musical compositions, computer programs, and movies. The creator of the work has immediate copyright as soon as they write, draw, film, compose, or design it. You can register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office and your registered copyright will typically last for your entire lifetime plus 70 years. And like any physical property you own, your copyrights are transferred to the heirs of your estate after you die. Even when you’re no longer around physically, your IP lives on (and can continue to make money) — Michael Jackson made $48 million last year and Dr. Seuss raked in $33 million.

Companies or organizations can also be copyright owners. Copyright law allows ownership through “works made for hire,” which means if you create something as an employee or contractor, the copyright will, in most cases, belong to the company that employed you.

Trademarks

A trademark protects a person or company’s brand name and/or logo. Companies take the protection of their trademarks very seriously, as the brand is often a company’s most valuable asset. Google’s trademark is the most valuable in the world, worth an estimated $44 billion, which is more than a quarter of the company’s overall value.

You can search for registered trademarks and file for your own with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). A trademark examiner will review your application to make sure no one else has already registered something like it, then it will be published in a public register to allow anyone to object. If it’s approved, the trademark will remain in effect for 10 years and need to be renewed every decade thereafter.

Patents

Patents protect new ideas, processes, and inventions. After a patent application is filed with the USPTO, an examiner reviews and makes sure the invention is not already patented by someone else.

If a patent is granted, it’s valid for 20 years from the application’s filing or 17 years from when the patent was issued (whichever is longer). One thing to note is that not just any random thing can be patented — patent law specifies that something must be “useful” and operate to perform its intended purpose (in other words, it needs to actually work) to be granted a patent. Also, if you invent something on behalf of your company, your employer is generally entitled to that IP — unless there’s a contract that states otherwise. 

Trade secrets

A trade secret is specific, private information that gives you an economic edge over your competitors and has value to others who cannot legitimately obtain it. It’s also subject to “reasonable efforts to maintain its secrecy” according to the USPTO. A couple of well-known examples of trade secrets are the recipe to Coca-Cola and KFC’s secret blend of 11 herbs and spices.

The Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 (DTSA) established a private civil cause of action for the misappropriation of a trade secret. This provides a reliable, uniform way to protect trade secrets. (So Colonel Sanders can rest easy!)

Protect yourself and your business

Intellectual property laws were created to obtain, protect, and enforce your IP rights. They protect you and/or your company from others who may try to steal your IP for their own financial gain. In doing so, they also protect the very foundations of innovation and creativity. 

As Washington D.C. intellectual property lawyer Kevin Bell says, “IP laws encourage more people to come up with new ideas, inventions, works of art, literature, and music, which fosters to create new things and improve old things.”

If you have an idea or piece of work you want to protect, or if you’re considering starting a business that will have intellectual property, there are many things to consider. 

You might consider establishing your business legally, in order to better protect your assets. A Limited Liability Company (LLC), for example, combines the best parts of corporations, sole proprietorships, and partnerships into one business entity and will offer certain liability and personal asset protection. This helps protect you against lawsuits or creditors that may try and go after your personal assets. With an established LLC, creditors can only collect against your business assets, which can be handy if something like a lawsuit involving valuable intellectual property comes into play.

It’s helpful to consult an attorney when trying to best understand your options for protecting your IP. You can even search for attorneys and law firms in your area who specialize in intellectual property law, via the LegalMatch database.

 

*Disclaimer: This article is for general informational purposes only and not intended to provide specific advice or legal recommendations. It is only intended to provide general education about intellectual property protections. Any ideas or strategies discussed should not be undertaken by any individual without consultation with a qualified legal professional.

Call for Nominations: Regional Director – Western Great Plains

Alpha Kappa Psi is seeking nominations for a volunteer to fill the position of Western Great Plains Regional Director. Due to unforeseen circumstances Ryan Miller, West Virginia State’12, has resigned as regional director.
The regional director is charged with working closely with the chapter educational resource coordinator, regional volunteers, and the vice president to ensure a quality student experience. Through the support of effective chapter operations and the learning and development initiatives of the fraternity, the regional director has a lasting impact on the professional and personal growth of Alpha Kappa Psi students and volunteers. A list of chapters in each region can be found here on akpsi.org.
Specific duties include, but are not limited to:
  • Supporting the chapters in the region, including ensuring deadlines are met, and policies are followed;
  • Setting goals for the region which align with and support the Fraternity strategic plan and goals;
  • Evaluating the chapter success plans to ensure chapter sustainability and individual member growth;
  • Recruiting, training and maintaining a Regional Management Team, including chapter advisors, regional managers, and section directors; and,
  • Maintaining communication with the Professional staff, Management Team, and the Western Great Plains region.
Nomination and Application Process:
  • Parties interested in the position must be nominated by a student or alumni chapter, the Fraternity President, or the CEO.
  • A nomination from a student or alumni chapter must be accompanied by the signatures of eight (8) members in good standing, excluding a member of the Fraternity Board of Directors. Eligible candidates must be an alumnus member in good standing.
  • Nominations and all necessary signatures must be submitted, via email to Jason@akpsi.org
  • Those interested in the position must also submit an application via the MyAKPsi Community. Once logged in, navigate to Volunteer Central and click the Vacancy name to submit an application.
  • As a part of the application and review process, you’ll be asked to complete the Volunteer Orientation course (approximately 30 minutes).
Upon nomination, qualified candidates will participate in an interview process with the fraternity Management Team. Upon the recommendation of the vice president, the fraternity president and/or CEO will nominate a candidate to the Fraternity Board of Directors for appointment. The appointed regional director will take office effective immediately.

How to Raise Funds When Starting a Business

Entrepreneurship is an essential driver of our economy and impacts nearly every area of our lives. Think about the various products and services you use every day. Ever stop and wonder about their origin? Some visionary from the past invented that toothbrush you used this morning and that electric coffee maker that dripped out your cup of joe. Our country was founded by entrepreneurs — Ben Franklin invented everything from bifocals to the flexible urinary catheter. He’s even credited with establishing America’s first free library.

Maybe you have a business idea you’ve been ruminating on, or maybe the idea of entrepreneurship just feels like a great path for you. There are so many opportunities out there and different avenues for getting your business off the ground. 

Tracy York, co-founder and vice president of customer success for HG Insights, recently joined the AKPsi Business Edge Podcast to share his experiences as someone who has successfully founded multiple companies — one which went on to acquisition in 2010. “For those thinking about starting a company, there’s opportunity out there. All kinds of firms looking to build teams, to fund companies… it’s a pretty amazing environment in the ecosystem,” he said.

Securing seed money

Regardless of the size or scale of the business you hope to build, you’ll need some level of financial investment to get started. The first step is to calculate your costs and funding needs. The plan and vision you have for your business will shape what that need looks like. No financial option is one-size-fits-all, so once you figure out how much initial money you’ll need, you can start evaluating the various options for acquiring that funding.

Bootstrapping

If you already have a few bucks in the bank (or know someone who does), self-funding or “bootstrapping” might be a good option for getting your business off the ground. Self-funding can come from dipping into your savings, investment from family and friends, or even tapping into current investments like your 401k.

The benefit of self-funding is that you get to retain total control of your business. On the flip side, you also take on all the risk. It’s important not to bite off more than you can chew financially, so talk to a financial advisor about your best options.

Crowdfunding

If you’re on social media, you’ve no doubt seen crowdfunding campaigns for just about every product and idea imaginable. Platforms like Kickstarter and CircleUp have made crowdfunding a popular avenue for raising small amounts of money from a large number of people (the “crowd”). It’s low risk for entrepreneurs to raise money this way since the people who contribute aren’t considered investors and don’t get a financial stake in the business.

Crowdfunders usually contribute because they’re passionate about your idea and want you to see it through. They’re essentially giving your project money upfront in order to be a future customer or be involved in some way. Even though you won’t technically owe your crowdfunders anything financially (whether the business takes off or not), you can still offer extra incentives or perks to those who choose to invest. 

Small business grants & loans

Another way to retain control of your business aside from bootstrapping is with a grant or small business loan. With most lenders, you’ll need a business plan, expense sheet, and financial projections for the next five years in order to secure a loan (and just having those items doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to get it). 

If you have any trouble getting a loan (e.g., the bank thinks your business idea is too risky) you can look into SBA-guaranteed loans. With an SBA-guaranteed loan, if for some reason the borrower (you) can’t repay the loan, the lender can still recover 50 to 85 percent of the outstanding loan balance from the SBA (Small Business Administration). This reduces the lender’s risk, making them more likely to approve the loan. But as the borrower, you’re still on the hook to pay that money back.

Depending on what your business idea is, you might also qualify for a federal grant. Government agencies often give out grants to small business owners and entrepreneurs. Grants.gov has a database of grants administered by various federal agencies, from the Department of Agriculture to the Department of Justice.

Venture capital

Whether you’re just starting out with an idea and a dream, or you’ve already gotten your seed money and are a few years into your business, venture capital firms can provide you with funding to grow your business. 

Venture capital is funding that’s provided by investment banks or well-off investors (aka rich people) to startups and small businesses that these investors believe have the potential to grow and give them a big return on their money. Venture capital investments are typically offered in exchange for ownership and an active role in the company.

The biggest question many entrepreneurs have is where to find venture capital funds and how to get these investors to share the wealth. One way the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recommends connecting with VCs is through a referral from a financial professional, like a lawyer or CPA. Networking is also important — try to make genuine connections with venture capitalists in your extended network and always be ready to pitch if you find yourself in the room with one.

What VCs care about most is getting a good return on their investment, so do some financial projections and know your balance sheets. The better you can sell the potential of your business, the more likely you are to secure funding. 

On the podcast, Tracy York described what it felt like when pitching his business: “It’s very nervewracking to be in that first pitch meeting and trying to do what’s going to bring the company the funding to keep going, but you learn from those experiences… you’re not going to nail every pitch. It can take months, and rejections, and not getting meetings. But if the idea is there, you’re going to find the right market and understand what didn’t go right before, what may need to change, and what’s that right story to put out there.”

Find a mentor 

Launching a startup is a ton of work and completely new territory for most people. Finding a mentor who has done it before is a great way to get advice that can help you navigate these uncharted waters. You can get introduced to potential mentors by way of family and friends, or through your professional networks like AKPsi. You can also check out The SBA’s Office of Small Business Development Center in your state. They can help you get hooked up with potential mentors, other resources, and even help you apply for federal grants. 

 

*Disclaimer: This article is for general informational purposes only and not intended to provide specific financial advice or business strategy recommendations to any individual. It is only intended to provide education about general information and available resources. Any ideas or strategies discussed should not be undertaken by any individual without consultation with a qualified financial professional.