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eMagazine Cover – June 2015

June 5th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Misc

June 2015

Standing and Treadmill Desks

June 3rd, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Live Well, Work Well

WebStanding and treadmill desks have been a rising trend in business settings across the country. Although experts agree that sitting for extended periods of time throughout the day has detrimental health effects, there is little agreement on the exact result that standing or treadmill desks will have on employees.
The impact of implementing standing or treadmill desks will likely be determined by a variety of factors unique to your workplace and employees. Here are some factors to keep in mind while considering the use of these desks at your organization.

Advantages of Standing and Treadmill Desks

Standing and treadmill desks may provide several benefits for your employees and company.

Health. Health care experts agree that maintaining a sedentary or still position for extended periods of time can lead to health risks later in life, including heart disease and diabetes. Standing desks encourage employees to move around the workplace more frequently. A recent study from the University of Minnesota found that employees using standing desks reduced their time sitting or standing by about 38 minutes each day.

Even standing in a sedentary position can have some health benefits over sitting. While standing the heart works harder and causes the body to burn more calories. Treadmill desks replace standing and sitting with walking, a low intensity activity, and as a result the body burns even more calories.

All of these potential benefits could help reduce health insurance claims at your company and keep your employees at work, reducing costs that would otherwise have been spent addressing health concerns.

Productivity. Depending on the task that an individual employee is assigned to, standing or walking can help increase productivity. Research shows that employees who stand while composing emails or answering phone calls were able to focus more on their work. Standing or walking can add a sense of urgency to an activity and discourage your employees from ineffectively multitasking or becoming distracted.

Culture. Since standing and treadmill desks are becoming a trend, offering them to your employees can make your organization a more desirable place to work. Prospective employees may be drawn to a company that offers the option of sitting or walking in an effort to improve their health. Notable companies such as Google, Twitter, AOL and Facebook all offer their employees the opportunity to use a standing desk.

Potential Disadvantages of Standing and Treadmill Desks

Though stand and treadmill desks can have health benefits, there are potential disadvantages to keep in mind.

Health. Although researchers agree that sitting for extended periods of time throughout the day can lead to significant health risks, they are divided as to whether standing can help prevent these risks.

Some occupational health specialists are concerned that the rising trend of standing desks may give employees who use them the impression that standing in one place is an acceptable replacement for sitting in one place. They argue that the calorie burn difference between sitting and standing is relatively insignificant and will not have a noticeable impact on the long-term health of employees.

Other health experts are concerned about the detrimental effects of standing for long periods of time that are not a concern with sitting. Studies have shown that excess periods of standing puts more strain on veins, backs and joints, especially in individuals who are overweight.

Productivity. Research shows that walking or standing may increase productivity during some tasks, but it may be a hindrance when added dexterity or creativity is required. For example, it may be difficult to write a long email or article while walking on a treadmill, and the additional sense of urgency caused by standing may distract an employee working in a creative field, such as design.

Assigning different types of desks based on the type of work being performed also brings up various additional issues, such as the cost of an adjustable standing desk or the logistics of fitting various types of desks into the same office space.

Cost. Offering employees the option of using alternative desks can represent a significant financial expenditure. Treadmill desks and high-end standing desks can cost thousands of dollars, and units that are simply placed on top of an existing desk can still cost hundreds of dollars. Existing desk can be customized with inexpensive materials, but these desks would not be as structurally sound and may pose a potential risk to the employees using them.

Are Standing or Treadmill Desks Right for Your Company?

Establishing the effectiveness of standing or treadmill desks for your organization, or even individual employees, is a difficult task. If you are interested in standing or treadmill desks, consider purchasing a single unit as a trial for either one eager employee or several employees to share. This can help establish the advantages or disadvantages of these desks at your organization without committing to large expenses.

Also keep in mind that certain types of desks may be more appropriate for a given employee or position.

Various other employee wellness programs can be used to complement or replace standing and treadmill desks. Employees should always be encouraged to engage in low intensity activities, such as walking, to avoid the potential health risks associated with over-standing and over-sitting. Although standing and treadmill desks may or may not have a place at your business, employees should always be encouraged to maintain their health whenever possible.

Source: hminsuresyou.com

USDA’s Food App

June 3rd, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Live Well, Work Well

foodkeeper-listIf you’re like most people, you’ve bought groceries only to have to toss the spoiled remainder before you or your family had a chance to eat it. Throwing out spoiled or expired food is frustrating and wasteful, but tracking when each food goes bad can be difficult. Well, now there’s an app for that!

Recently released for Apple and Android devices, the FoodKeeper app includes information on more than 400 items, and the app gives you the ability to access cooking and storage tips, receive food expiration notifications and submit questions to the “Ask Karen” feature, which provides information on a variety of issues including preventing foodborne illness and safely preparing meat and poultry products.

The FoodKeeper app was released in early April 2015 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as part of the larger U.S. Food Waste Challenge, which began in 2013 in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

View more Live Well, Work Well tips here.

Congratulations Class of 2015

June 3rd, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Family Health & Safety

Now It’s Time to Graduate to Your Own Insurance!

shutterstock_18085369It’s a rite of passage for college students to don cap and gown and march across the stage for graduation ceremonies- in fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) almost 1.85 million students will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in 2015. As those 1.85 million make the transition from undergraduates to careers, pursuit of advanced degrees or back into mom and dad’s basement, it’s critical that they understand how walking across the stage may have changed their insurance needs.

While every individual has unique needs, here are a few insurance coverage options that all college grads should consider and evaluate their need for:

Auto insurance

A shiny new car, whether owned or leased, holds appeal for newly employed college grads. Auto insurance helps cope with the expenses of accidents, vandalism or theft. A lender or leasing company that finances the vehicle will require auto insurance. Car accidents can create large liabilities for a driver, so the liability portion of auto coverage helps protect the bank account. Plus, auto insurance covers many legal expenses if a driver is sued. If a graduate who already owns a car is moving, where they keep and register the car, especially from one state to another, can impact coverage. It’s important to let your Trusted Choice® independent insurance agent know about these moves to make sure your current coverage will apply or if you need a new policy.

Homeowners or renters insurance

College grads starting out may not own a home yet, but may rent an apartment or a house. To make sure your possessions are protected renters insurance offers comprehensive coverage whether at home or traveling. Liability insurance included in renters and homeowners coverage also helps protect against the risk of being sued. There usually are limitations on renters coverage within a group house—a typical post-graduate arrangement—so it is important to understand the details of a policy.

Umbrella policy

An umbrella policy can provide another level of protection. For example, if you’re renting an apartment and accidentally start a cooking fire that burns down the building and destroys the personal property of other residents, the coverage limit on your renters policy may not be enough to cover the damage, so having an umbrella policy could provide you with additional coverage.

Health insurance

Under the new federal health care law, children can remain on their parent’s health insurance coverage until age 26. With unemployment and under-employment high among those in their early twenties, this can provide many recent grads with health insurance until they can get it through their employer or an individual policy. Individual policies can be pricey and differ significantly in coverage, so talk with a Trusted Choice insurance professional about what makes the most sense for your situation.

Life insurance

New grads may find a job with an employer that offers group term life insurance coverage. However, those with children may find it worthwhile to buy additional term life insurance or permanent life insurance, which builds cash value over time.

Disability insurance

This is a vital but often-overlooked insurance coverage. It provides income when a person is injured or disabled, whether on the job or off. A Trusted Choice insurance professional can calculate the right amount of coverage to help a person live while recovering.

As a new college grad you may want to lean financially on parents’ insurance coverage as long as possible. While that may make sense depending on your circumstances, it’s not always viable. For instance, auto insurance companies will require an owner or lessee of a car to carry their own coverage. Parents of new graduates should also take this time to review their insurance portfolios, as there may be opportunities to reduce their premiums if a child moves into their own place, or gets their own car.

Source: trustedchoice.com

June 2015 Events

June 3rd, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Spotlight on the Community

shutterstock_105341273The Washington, DC area and its surrounding communities in Maryland and Virginia host lots of annual festivals and special events. All dates, prices, and activities mentioned are subject to change, so please check the official website or call to confirm information.

Free Summer Concerts
Find concert schedules for free family entertainment throughout the month in various destinations around Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia.

Free Outdoor Movies
Outdoor movies are getting very popular and there are a variety of venues to choose from throughout the summer. See the schedules here.

Green Festival
June 5-7, 2015. Washington Convention Center. Washington DC. The event focuses on sustainability education and green products and services including authors, leaders and educators, hands-on DIY workshops, green films, kids’ activities, live music and more.

Northern Virginia Tour de Cure Bicycling Event
June 7, 2015. Reston, VA. Help raise funds and awareness about diabetes by participating in this annual event. All experience levels welcome.

Washington Nationals Baseball
The Major League Baseball’s National League East plays 81 home games each season at Nationals Park. Enjoy a fun-filled day cheering on DC’s baseball team.

Summer Theater in Washington DC
With dozens of performances around the region, here is the schedule of the top shows for the 2015 season.

The Source Theater Festival
June 5-28, 2015. Source Theatre, 1835 14th Street, NW Washington, DC.

See new works in theater, dance, music, visual art, film, puppetry, spoken word, poetry and hip-hop. Performances include three full-length plays, 18 10-minute plays and three Artistic Blind Dates.

Celebrate Fairfax! Festival
June 5-7, 2015. Northern Virginia’s largest annual community-wide celebration features live music, children’s activities, a community market place, a laser show and fireworks.

Imagination Bethesda
June 6, 2015, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Bethesda, MD.  A children’s street festival featuring costume characters, face painters, dance troupes, theatre performances and a variety of hands-on arts activities.

Discover Strathmore
June 7, 2015. North Bethesda, MD. The annual open house features free music and dance performances, workshops, artistic presentations, food demonstrations, and more.

Taste of Wheaton
June 7, 2015. Wheaton, MD. Enjoy a variety of food samples from local restaurants, live music and kids activities.

Annapolis Arts, Crafts & Wine Festival
June 6-7, 2015. The two-day celebration of the arts in Annapolis, Maryland features the juried works of more than 150 fine artists and craftsmen, wine tastings, food, live entertainment and activities for the entire family.

Dupont-Kalorama Museum Walk
June 6-7, 2015. Visit museums near Dupont Circle featuring free admission and special activities for all ages.

DC Jazz Festival
June 10-16, 2015. Enjoy more than 100 jazz performances at concert venues and clubs throughout Washington, DC.

Tall Ship Tours in Alexandria
June 10-12, 2015. Alexandria, VA. French tall ship Hermione will dock in Old Town as part of a commemoration of Marquis de Lafayette’s historic voyage to America in 1780. Alexandria will host free tours, lectures, a historic ball, and special French inspired menus at the local restaurants. Related events will be held from May 31-June 14, 2015.

Capital Pride
June 13-14, 2015. A street festival and parade celebrate pride in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender communities in Washington, DC.

Millennial Week
June 13-20, 2015. The event kicks off in Washington DC to provide a social and cultural  platform for millennials – those born between 1977 and 2001. The week will focus on issues that are important to this generation, ranging from politics to entrepreneurship.

USAF Cycling Classic
June 13-14, 2015. Cycling event in Crystal City, VA to help members of the United States military who have sustained Traumatic Brain Injuries.

Celebrate Gaithersburg
June 14, 2015, noon-5 p.m. Bring the whole family to the annual Gaithersburg street festival, with live music, food, arts & crafts, amusements and more.

Washington Soap Box Derby
2015 Date to Be Announced.  Watch racers ages 8-17 compete in an All American Soap Box Derby on Capitol Hill.

Flag Day in Washington DC
June 14, 2015.   Washington DC celebrates Flag Day with a variety of patriotic festivals and exhibits.

AFI DOCS Film Festival
June 17-21, 2015. Film festival, sponsored by the American Film Institute, showing free films, and special programs at several locations in the Washington DC area.

Taste of Reston
June 19-20, 2015. Reston Town Center. Enjoy a variety of food from the region’s finest eateries, live music, activities and games. Admission and parking are free. Tastings start at $1.

Northern Virginia Summer Brewfest
June 20-21, 2015. Bull Run Regional Park, Centreville, VA. Enjoy a beer festival with food, live entertainment and children’s activities.

Father’s Day
June 21, 2015. Looking for a special way to spend Father’s Day this year? Here are some ideas of ways to spend some family time with Dad on Father’s Day in Washington, DC, Maryland and Northern Virginia.

Manassas Wine and Jazz Festival
June 21, 2015.  Enjoy an afternoon of wine and live jazz in Old Town Manassas, Virginia.

UniverSoul Circus
June 24-July 19, 2015. National Harbor, MD. Enjoy a big top showcase bursting with action-packed performances, colorful lights, pulsating music and international soul.

National Capital Barbecue Battle
June 27-28, 2015. If you love barbecue you’ll love the food samples, cooking demonstrations, interactive displays and children’s activities at this sizzling summer festival on Pennsylvania Avenue, NW between 9th & 14th Sts.

Alexandria Food and Wine Festival
June 27, 2015. The street festival showcases local food and wine and includes live entertainment, craft vendors and children activities.

Wolf Trap’s Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods
Tuesdays through Saturdays, June-August 2015. Family friendly performances in music, dance, storytelling, puppetry, and theater. (recommended for children ages 5-12)

Smithsonian Folklife Festival
June 24- 28 and July 1-5, 2015. Celebrate cultural traditions from around the world. The Festival includes daily and evening music and dance performances, crafts and cooking demonstrations, storytelling and discussions of cultural issues. This is one of Washington, DC’s most popular summer events.

World Police & Fire Games (Fairfax, Virginia)
June 26 – July 5, 2015. The multi-sport, multi-venue comes to the Washington DC area, bringing together more than 12,000 athletes from police, fire and other public safety agencies from all 50 states and more than 70 countries.  Events will be held at 53 venues including George Mason University, Reston Town Center, the National Mall and more.

Worlds Childrens Festival
June 30-July 4, 2015. National Mall, Washington DC. The celebration of children’s creativity and imagination brings together hundreds of young artists and performers from around the world.

Source: dc.about.com

Saving Energy During Summer

June 3rd, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Personal Tips, Trips & Traps

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To help you save money by saving energy, #AskEnergySaver was launched — an online series that gives you access to some of the Energy Department’s home energy efficiency experts. Experts from the Department and our National Labs will be answering your energy-saving questions and sharing their advice on ways to improve your home’s comfort.

Summer brings warmer weather, backyard BBQs and trips to the beach. But with it also comes higher electricity bills as we try to keep cool and comfortable in the sultry heat. That’s why this month, we asked you to share your questions about saving energy during summer.

To answer them, we reached out to Sarah Widder, a research engineer at the Energy Department’s Pacific Northwest National Lab who focuses on improving the energy efficiency of our nation’s buildings. Widder also contributes to research at the PNNL’s Lab Homes — a project designed to evaluate how new building technologies work and calculate their energy savings for the typical American family.

What is the single biggest thing a typical homeowner can do to lower their energy bills without sacrificing too much comfort?
— from Ken via email

Sarah Widder: The single biggest thing a typical homeowner can do to lower energy bills depends on the characteristics of the home and the occupants, the home’s climate and the homeowner’s budget. Where you live and how you live will impact what consumes the most energy in your home and where the biggest opportunities for savings are.

However in most homes, your heating, ventilation and/or air-conditioning equipment (HVAC) are likely to consume the most energy — accounting for 48 percent of the average home’s energy use — and homeowners should focus on measures that reduce the home’s heating and cooling loads to get the most bang for your buck in terms of energy investments.

The lowest cost way to reduce heating and cooling costs is to install a programmable thermostat and set it to adjust the thermostat setting higher in the summer and lower in the winter when the home is unoccupied. If you are willing to make a modest investment in your home’s energy performance, air sealing and insulating your home and ducts (if outside the conditioned space) can reduce space heating loads by up to 10 percent on average. In addition to saving energy, air sealing and insulating your home can make your home more comfortable by reducing drafts and allowing for more consistent room-to-room temperature distributions.

For more energy-saving tips, check out the updated Energy Saver Guide.

When leaving the house on vacation, should we turn down the thermostat and how low? Is there some (shorter) length of time out of the house for which it is not worth turning down the thermostat?
— from Forbes via email

SW: There are a lot of misconceptions regarding how thermostats work and, thus, how to properly employ them to save energy in your house.

So let’s start with the basics: what is a programmable thermostat? A programmable thermostat is a control switch that turns your HVAC system on or off to reach a desired interior temperature. In most cases, the thermostat does not affect the volume of air (or in some cases, water) being used to heat or cool your house, or the temperature of the air.

Adjusting the thermostat when you leave on vacation — or anytime you are not at home — will save energy for all heating and cooling systems, regardless of the length of time you will be away. A programmable thermostat is designed to save energy by decreasing the temperature differential between the outside and the inside. When the thermostat is set back, your HVAC system will turn off while your house “coasts” to the set back temperature and then will maintain that lower temperature (or higher temperature in the summer).

Setting back your thermostat set point decreases the amount of energy your house uses because it decreases the rate of heat loss or gain. That means the closer your setback temperature is to the outdoor temperature, the more energy you will save. Although, it is important to keep in mind that the farther you allow your house to drift from your desired house temperature, the longer it will take for your house to recover from the set back and return to a comfortable temperature.

When setting back your thermostat on a daily basis, a setback of 7-10 degrees F for eight hours a day can save as much as 10 percent on annual heating and cooling energy use. When leaving on vacation — usually more than three days — set your thermostat to 50-55 degrees F in the winter to prevent against freezing pipes and to 85-90 degrees F (or even turn it off) in the summer. If you live in a hot climate, it is best not to set your thermostat higher than 85 to 90 degrees F to protect any temperature sensitive building components or appliances, like your refrigerator.

There are a few exceptions to the above guidance. First, do not use a daily thermostat setback with a heat pump in heating mode, unless your thermostat is specially designed for use with heat pumps. Also in the summer, employing daily setbacks can increase peak loads for utilities and related carbon emissions — leading to higher energy costs and a larger environmental impact. In the summer on a daily basis, it is most beneficial to just set the thermostat back a few degrees or set it at a constant temperature as high as you are comfortable with.

For more ways to save energy at home check out Energy Saver.

Source: energy.gov

Identity Thieves

June 3rd, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Personal Tips, Trips & Traps

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5 Things Identity Thieves Don’t Want You to Know

Identity thieves don’t want you to read this article.

They’ve made an entire industry out of living off of other people’s good names. And when you know their typical tricks, stealing your identity is much harder.

Unfortunately, not enough people know what puts their identities at risk for theft. And that has helped keep identity theft the No. 1 consumer complaint to the Federal Trade Commission for 15 years running. Do you like the idea of thieves using your name to make money and cause you financial headaches? Of course not. So take a minute to make sure you’re aware of five foolish behaviors that identity thieves love and how to fix them.

1. You unwittingly hand-deliver valuable personal information
To identity thieves, your trashcan and recycling bin are seen as an “in box.” They appreciate when you toss out anything with personally identifying information—especially credit card offers, bank statements, insurance-related materials, and medical statements or records.

The fix:

  • Purchase a quality crosscut shredder and give identity thieves an impossible puzzle to solve.
  • Shred everything with your name and any other important information on it before throwing it out (thieves will move on to easier targets).

2. You leave virtual doors open
There are entire organizations dedicated to computer hacking and scams. So if you’re using a simple password or not employing the right security measures on your computers, smartphones and tablet devices, your information is at a much greater risk. It’s like leaving a door open with money sitting on a table just inside.

The fix:

  • Be sure to use security software that includes a firewall, antivirus and spyware programs, and regularly update them.
  • Set your devices to automatically install security updates from manufacturers.
  • Use strong passwords that contain a mix of eight or more numbers, symbols and upper and lowercase letters. Don’t use anything obvious, such as your child’s or pet’s name. Also be sure to change passwords often, and use unique passwords for important sites.

3. You provide ready access to IDs and documents
Your house and office have a treasure trove of documents with identifying information and important IDs, including passports, Social Security cards, birth certificates, and much more. If they’re not locked up, anyone with access to your house could take a quick smartphone picture or even grab them.

The fix:

  • Put important IDs and files into secure drawers, closets or safes.
  • Keep them locked away when you’re not using them.

4. You’ve never visited annualcreditreport.com
Your credit reports include any credit- or loan-related accounts that are opened in your name. Even if you don’t need to apply for credit or a home or car loan, it’s important to ensure that your credit is clean and your score is as high as possible for when you do need it.

The fix:

  • Regularly review your credit reports from all three credit reporting agencies—TransUnion, Experian and Equifax—and immediately report any suspicious accounts or activity.
  • Go to annualcreditreport.com for one free government-mandated report from each agency once a year.

5. You don’t guard your Social Security number
A Social Security number (SSN) is like a key to a lock. Once an identity thief has it, along with a few other personal details, s/he can probably establish credit or potentially gain access to your existing accounts. That’s why you want to limit how and where you share your SSN.

The fix:

  • Don’t carry your Social Security card or number in your wallet or purse.
  • Never give your SSN to someone you don’t trust.
  • Only provide your SSN when it’s required.
  • Avoid using your SSN as an identifier (if a company or medical provider wants to do this, ask them not to).

By taking these steps, you can rest more easily knowing you’re not an easy target for identity theft.

If you suspect you’re a victim of identity theft or wish to proactively manage your identity, check with your insurance company, financial institution, or employee benefits provider. Many companies offer LifeStages® Identity Management Services from IDT911 for low or no cost. To learn more, visit IDT911’s Knowledge Center or call 1-888-682-5911.

Source: idt911.com