To reduce carpal tunnel syndrome, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is proposing ergonomics regulation that would require improved computer keyboards, desks, manufacturing equipment and other workplace furnishings and machines. OSHA pegs the cost of the improvements at $4.2 billion a year, but says the savings would be more than $9 billion in reduced medical bills, workers compensation claims and lost productivity from injuries caused by repetitive motion and by strenuous or awkward tasks. The average carpal-tunnel injury costs 25 sick days versus only 17 for a bone fracture.
TOP EMPLOYEE PERKS
Year in, year out, here are the most common worker perks, some of them costing business owners little or nothing:
• 82 percent have a casual dress policy
• 61 percent have flexible hours
• 49 percent provide personal development training
• 40 percent provide employee discounts
• 36 percent offer free food and beverages.
While not downplaying pay, two of three employees said non-financial benefits are important to attract and retain employees.
Some firms are overhauling their benefits mix to appeal to older employees who they are courting because of the current labor shortage. They offer customized and reduced work schedules and pension plans adjusted to encourage the slower, phased-in retiring of longtime workers.
RETAILERS CREATE SHOPPING SYNERGY
Progressive retailers are moving shoppers away from the either/or of buying in a store or buying online, or from a catalog. Now there's a spurt of shopping synergy as bricks, clicks and catalogs are united in merchandising programs by many retail leaders. The goal is not to simply shift sales but to create shopping synergy as a rising tide that lifts all boats.
Williams-Sonoma Inc. recently linked its store gift-registry to its Web site so brides can see who has bought what in real time.
Nordstrom reports spikes in sales at stores and on the Web whenever catalogs are mailed.
Direct marketer Spiegel says 60 percent of its Web shoppers this year were new to the company and three-fourths of them placed their second order using the Spiegel's catalog. Those who shop both online and through the catalog spend three times more than other customers, Spiegel's adds.
RECORD YEAR FORECAST FOR HOME REMODELING
The sun is shining on those in the home remodeling business and allied industries in this first year of the new millennium. An eight percent rise is forecast for home remodeling with many home owners borrowing against rising home equity to renovate kitchens and master bedrooms or add bigger baths and other luxury items. Aging homes should keep the industry humming for the next 10 years because half of all homes are now more than 30 years old.
DOGGIE IN THE WINDOW ATTRACTS CUSTOMERS
Most big chains alienate dog lovers by prohibiting pets on the premises. But drop into Maxwell's Hallmark Shop in Phoenix, AZ, and you will be greeted by Maxwell wearing a tie and wagging his tale. Maxwell is an eight-year-old cocker spaniel credited by owner Chitti Kang with drawing customers from as far as 30 miles away.
At Surrender, a Chicago, IL, gift shop, two Portuguese water dogs draw in passersby. The owner is thinking of taking a partial tax deduction for the dogs' grooming expenses.
TEMPORARY TEMPS OR PERMATEMPS?
The growing use of long-term temporary employees is under fire from critics charging the practice is a new form of discrimination. The seasonal temp is one thing, but several firms are being sued for denying benefits to long-term employees on the grounds that they are temps, or permatemps.
The U.S. House of Representatives is considering a bill that would extend federal health and safety laws to temps and prevent discrimination in their pay rates or benefits. An estimated 2.8 million workers are employed as temps, which is only about one percent of total employment.