Returning to Work From Remote

Returning to Work From Remote

Shifting to a remote workforce is no longer a prediction for the future — it’s our reality. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench in millions of lives all over the world and put the American workforce’s evolution in overdrive. As states entered emergency shutdowns and social distancing, nearly 7 in 10 employees started clocking in from home. While some companies made the change permanent, others were just waiting for the all-clear to have employees fill their offices again. 

As of October 2020, 40 states have officially reopened or are in the process of reopening, with only 10 states and Puerto Rico reversing back into lockdowns. Reopened states means reopened businesses and, in turn, employees returning to work. Despite state officials giving the green light, do employees feel safe reclaiming their spot in the office or would they prefer to work remotely indefinitely?

A Return to Normal, Safely

A recent study by Office Depot shows the workforce may be farther along in the return to “normal” than some think, and employees are surprisingly happy about it. The study found that 67.4% of employees had already returned to work, and 56.2% of those who hadn’t were looking forward to doing so. On the other hand, only 26% of employers intended to keep their employees working from home indefinitely, despite major companies like Microsoft, Indeed, Google, American Express, and Airbnb making the shift.

Tech-driven companies may have an easier time making the permanent shift to remote work, but allowing employees to work from home is only one way employers can protect their staff. For businesses that simply can’t make the transition to full remote work, it is the employers responsibility to make the workplace a safe space to return to

Having hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes at the ready is sure to help workplace hygiene, but most employers took safety a step further. A whopping 83% of employers hired outside resources to conduct on-site assessments and benchmarking to ensure the workplace was safe for reentry. Once they determined the workplace was safe for business to resume, over 46% of employers purchased PPE for their employees and 27.5% did so for themselves, too. On average, employers spent nearly $650 on PPE to prepare for employees’ return.

Employers didn’t stop there, though. Following in the footsteps of 33 states and the District of Columbia, 63.5% of employers created mask mandates, requiring employees to wear masks at all times, except when eating or drinking. Over half of employers only required employees to wear masks when interacting with clients, while others only required masks to be worn during meetings or around clients and customers.

The CDC offers employers recommendations on how to keep themselves and their employees safe in the workplace, and social distancing and masks certainly top the list. But smaller changes, like encouraging hand washing and disinfecting the most trafficked surfaces can also do wonders to keep the workspace low risk. According to Office Depot’s study, the most common steps employers took to safen up the workplace were adding hand-sanitizing stations, frequently disinfecting workspaces, physically distancing employees, allowing flexible work schedules, and carrying out a workplace risk assessment.

While these precautions should be applied throughout the office for ultimate protection, there are certain work spaces that managers feel are more risky than others. Meeting and conference rooms top the list, followed by common areas, bathrooms, and break areas. Of course, the best way to mediate the risk is to limit the number of employees allowed in these areas at once, and increase the frequency of sanitation.

Split Sentiments

Employers taking extra precaution in making the workplace a safe place to return to certainly helps employers feel more ready to return, but what exactly do employees miss about the workplace the most? The survey found over 55% of employees were looking forward to seeing their co-workers again, while 42.5% missed their personal workspace and 37.3 craved the work-life balance that can be hard to obtain when working from home

Nevertheless, over half of employees said they’d still prefer to work remotely, and would be willing to sacrifice vacation days to do so. Studies show working remotely has plenty of pros and cons, but according to nearly 60% of employers and over 62% of employees, the main benefit of remote work is the flexible hours it comes with. On the flip side, remote work limits face-to-face time and team connection  — downsides of which have been painfully felt by millions during the pandemic.

Should You Stay or Should You Go

Whether your company has already brought employees back into the office or has transitioned to a remote working style, it’s imperative that employees tune in to their working needs and find ways to meet them. Some employees thrive in their home office, while others feel their productivity and work-life balance suffer. If your company is trying to find the perfect balance with a hybrid workforce, considering alternatives to traditional office spaces may be the answer. Allow employees who prefer to work from the comfort of their own home to do so, while providing others with an office space designed for their success. 

At Nexus Workspaces, we created office spaces to do just that — help businesses and professionals accomplish their goals. From startups and small businesses to large, growing corporations, our workspaces and extensive services are designed with you and your business in mind, so you can focus on what matters most: doing what you love, successfully. To learn more, visit us online or at one of our properties today.

The Office Layout Best Fit For Your Business

The Office Layout Best Fit For Your Business

Everyone likes to boast about open office spaces as if they’re the best thing since sliced bread. A collaborative environment where walls barely exist, lounge areas are in every corner, and snacks and ideas can be easily shared with coworkers around you. But what most won’t tell you is that open office spaces are riddled with distractions, often doing the opposite of what they are intended: dragging productivity down. Open office spaces may not be right for every employer or employee, but are there positive aspects to the layout at all?

Of course. Here, we’ll take a deep dive into the pros and cons of the open office layout and identify which types of businesses can benefit from it most. Open office layouts one-size-fits-all. Doing the research and picking the right layout can mean the difference between stagnation and success.

Open Office Spaces

In the aftermath of the 2008 recession, the modern open office plan originally designed by 20th century architect Frank Lloyd Wright became the answer to the economic and population strains of the workforce. Tearing down walls meant more employees could fit into the same sized space without increasing operational costs. But the open office layout Wright created is far different than the one touted by offices around the globe. Rather than incorporating a focus on natural light and plenty of space between employees, modern open office layouts tend to cram employees into a small space, placing them side-by-side for “enhanced collaboration and productivity.” There may be positive aspects of this office layout, but the numerous cons prove the idealized version of open office spaces is far from reality.

The Positive Side of Open Office Layouts

Team-Centered Collaboration

Proponents of open office layouts often cite increased collaboration as a major selling factor, but this positive only applies if the layout is done correctly. Sitting employees next to each other randomly seems like it would foster communication and collaboration that otherwise wouldn’t happen, when in reality it could do more harm than good. If situated away from the coworkers they typically collaborate with, employees are more likely to turn to email or instant message to contact them. Instead, separate employees based off of teams or groups that already collaborate daily. When members of teams are in close proximity to each other, they’ll opt to communicate in real-time more often than turning to sending an email or instant message.

Cost Effective

Breaking down walls and replacing standing desks with one long table is a no-brainer if you’re concerned about costs. One study found that purchasing 50 cubicles cost around $60,000, while 50 individual standing desks would only set your business back $24,000. While standing desks may seem like a great alternative monetarily, think about it in terms of square footage: research shows the popularity of open office plans dropped the square footage per employee by one-third in the past seven years. Turning that into costs, adopting an open office plan would save large corporations like JP Morgan Chase & Co. and Bank of America around a billion dollars per year. Of course, cost is just one part of the equation. Consider the cons of this office plan before making the jump just to save a bit of change.

Increased Flexibility

Unlike traditional office spaces, open office layouts are designed to be flexible. If an influx of new workers comes onboard, you can easily tack on more chairs to the end of a table or slide a desk anywhere there’s room. Or, if your employees feel the current layout of desks and chairs is hindering their productivity, changing it up is quick and painless. There are no walls to break down or large cubicles to rearrange; change is always welcome, so your space can grow along with your business.

Negativity Out in the Open

Decreased Communication

Despite open office layouts being marketed as the best design for communication and collaboration, studies have found the layout to be anything but. A 2018 study found that in every case analyzed, face-to-face communication dropped by 70% in open office spaces, while electronic communication increased. Rather than being encouraged to talk to nearby coworkers, employees tended to socially withdraw out of fear of being too loud or disrupting others.

Distractions

Along the same lines, distractions in open office spaces are impossible to avoid. While most employees have been shown to shut down socially, open office layouts mean no barriers, so every conversation — on the phone or in-person — can create noise that walls would have prevented. Even if employees are cognizant of others and take conversations in private areas, employees sitting in close proximity to one another may find themselves getting annoyed by small ticks or habits of others. Pen-clicking, foot tapping, and even loud chewing can all distract employees from their work.

Decreased Productivity & Lowered Employee Morale

Between decreased communication, a plethora of distractions, and lack of privacy, productivity is bound to suffer. The open office layout may have been designed with an increase in productivity in mind, but studies show that 1 in 3 employees feel distractions and noise inevitable in open work spaces negatively impacts their productivity. One in six employees also say the added distractions and noise hinder their creativity.

Taking decreased productivity into account is vital for businesses to accurately assess whether open office plans are worth the investment, but employers also need to consider employee morale. One in eight employees working in open office spaces said they’ve considered leaving their job simply because of the layout and feel resentment toward executives with private offices.

Not Worth the Risk

Open office plans look great on paper: Put all of your employees in the same room to eliminate hierarchy and facilitate collaboration while saving a significant amount of money in operational costs. In reality, open office spaces do little as promised. Instead of increasing communication, open office plans hinder productivity and can cost your business something more valuable than money: your employees. Unless you’re a freelancer looking for shared working spaces to interact with like-minded professionals, open floor plans may not be the right choice for your business.

At Nexus Workspaces, we’ve moved away from the traditional office and created a unique alternative designed for professionals to succeed. From executive-style offices to shared workspaces, our office spaces and expansive services fit the needs of any business — small startups, medium-sized firms, and large corporations alike. Visit us online or at one of our Florida locations to see how a new layout and new environment can boost your productivity, connectedness, and networking.

South Florida 2020 Moving Trends

South Florida Tops 2020 Moving Trends, For More Than Just Climate

For as long as the northeast has experienced bitterly cold winters, Florida’s year-round warm sand beaches have been the destination of choice — even if it’s just for six months each year. But as the country enters the fifth month of pandemic-level chaos, migration trends and population shifts from states in the North and Northeast to states in the South have been exacerbated. Economic depression, restrictions to social activities, and a shift to remote work are leading people to look for cheap places to live with plenty to do outside and the flexibility to work from anywhere. It’s no surprise their sights shifted to the Sunshine State.

Dating back to 1990, Florida was the top third state with the largest increase in population size. Over the next 28 years, Florida grew from a daily growth of 556 people in 1990 to the state with the highest net migration between 2017 and 2018. By 2019, the state had resumed the number 2 spot on the list of fastest-growing states, with 950 people moving to the state daily. Despite South Florida’s reputation as a cultural melting pot, attracting people from all over the country, the influx of population stems from New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts more than any other state, likely due to a mixture of climate and tax requirements.

While Florida has seen a consistent influx of new residents, with a 35-year average of 777 daily population growth, the timing and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic have only increased the current. In March and April of 2020, the country rushed into efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. Travel was halted, businesses shut their doors, and millions of people were furloughed or laid off. Economic stress became the new pandemic, and it all hit when Americans were already preparing for financial strain: tax season. In an effort to find shelter from COVID-19, the impending doom of winter stuck indoors, and high tax rates, Americans began fleeing their homes and more than ever before.

Warm Weather Brings Northerners

Every year, as Northern states and Canada experience brutal winters, Florida’s coastlines become packed with snowbirds looking to escape the cold. But with COVID-19 travel restrictions in place, the snowbird season of 2020 seemed to be put on pause. However, as Florida enters phase 3 of reopening and colder weather begins to seep into the North, snowbirds are becoming stayers. With no definite end in sight and the beginning of flu season upon us, residents of Northern states are preparing for another round of quarantine, hoping to spend it in a state with nicer weather this time around. Since the beginning of the pandemic, home sales in some parts of Florida have more than doubled, with 45% of migrants making a move to South Florida particularly.

Tax Incentives Worth Moving For

Residents living in states in the North and Northeast have more than snow to worry about; they also happen to get hit the hardest by taxes: New York has by far the highest tax burden by state, followed by North Dakota, Hawaii, and Vermont. Maine, New Jersey, and Connecticut join the top 10 states with the highest tax burdens, while Florida comes in as the state with the third-lowest tax burden across the country. With no state income or estate tax and homestead exemptions of up to $50,000, as well as a cap of 3% per year on home assessments, Florida’s warmth isn’t the only attractive climate. While these tax incentives are here year-round, they are particularly appealing this year as Americans face the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

Moving to a New Way of Working

The climate and tax incentives of Florida are so attractive, in fact, that they have fueled 2020 moving trends in addition to decreasing number of cases. While there is no telling how the population increase will impact COVID-19 cases, deaths, or the fluctuating restrictions that come with the pandemic, migrants may bring some positivity with them. The increase in population, coupled with Florida’s reopening, may bring the unemployment rate back down to pre-pandemic levels. Plus, the uptick of employees working remotely means a boom is coming for shared, flexible, and modern workspaces

As millions of Americans ventured into remote work and social distancing rules simultaneously, the isolating and lackluster aspects of working from home revealed themselves. But the pandemic proved to companies that they can save money by transitioning their workforce to full-time remote work, leaving it up to employees to fill in the social gaps. Flexible modern workspaces offer the perfect balance: remote work with an office’s structure and (familiar or unfamiliar) faces abound. When it’s safe to do so, modern workspaces in South Florida, like the new Nexus location in Coral Gables, are likely to see a significant increase in occupancy. This will shift the workforce as a whole and give the South Florida economy a much-needed boost.

Keeping the Top Spot

Whether it comes in the next few months or well into 2021, life will eventually return to normal. COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of Americans’ lives, including migration trends between states. While most would expect the pandemic to shut down moves and keep people sheltered in place, loosened restrictions, tax burdens, and an uncertain winter has brought Northern residents down to bask in the South Florida sun. Freedom from state income and estate tax, plenty of outdoor pandemic-approved activities to enjoy, and a promising economic and workforce outlook mean these migration trends are not restricted to a COVID-19-stricken 2020. Florida has been the top destination for movers, and it shows no signs of slowing down.

At Nexus Workspaces, we’re working hard to keep up with the constantly changing workplace environment and workforce trends. As thousands of people move to Florida each day and millions of Americans are returning to work, we’re continue to expand across the state to ensure everyone has a productive and safe place to work. Our unique alternative office spaces are designed with businesses in mind, to help boost productivity, interconnectedness, and networking. Visit us online or at one of our locations to see how we can help you and your business succeed.

Office Desk with Supplies

Returning to Work? Here are the Best Ways to Sanitize Your Workstation

It may seem like a lifetime away, but just seven months ago, most of us were notified by HR to pack up our things and work from home. The notice was abrupt, serious, and completely unclear of when we would return to the normalcy of office life. If we ever do.

The COVID-19 pandemic sent the entire world into a whirlwind. In some parts of the world, people were confined to their homes for extended periods, with only emergencies being a valid reason to leave. Closer to home, businesses shut down, offices closed their doors, and restaurants and grocery stores essentially became drive-thrus. But gone are the days of destitute shelves, free from a single bottle of hand sanitizer and roll of toilet paper. While some states continue to keep places of entertainment closed, or are transitioning back to tighter restrictions, offices in every state across the country are back in business.

Returning to work may be a step back to normalcy, but it isn’t a full green light to forgo all COVID-19 precautions and tackle your workday pre-pandemic style. In fact, returning to the workplace may mean you need to take moreprecautions than you did at home. In the comfort of your own home, your biggest worry may be the mess your kids (or significant other) make and cleaning it up before hopping on a Zoom call. But back in the office, the desk you’ve been missing for months is ridden with germs. According to a 2018 study, the average office desk is home to 400 times more bacteria than a toilet seat. COVID-19 aside, dirty office spaces are a significant health hazard — one that is easily amended and prevented.

To help you prepare to return to the workplace safely, we’ll outline the top five ways to keep your office space sanitary and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Keep the tips handy, because even after the pandemic-panic subsides, keeping your workspace clean and tidy can help to make sure you don’t have to dig into those sick days.

  1. Keep Hand Sanitizer Handy

Since the start of the pandemic, health professionals worldwide have pressed one thing: basic hygiene. Washing your hands for the proper 20 seconds can prevent hundreds of germs from entering your system, and does wonders for avoiding deadly viruses like COVID-19. But for those without a sink nearby or the time (and patience) to visit the bathroom after touching every surface, hand sanitizer is an adequate alternative.

Now that shelves are restocked with hand sanitizer, grab a few bottles of varying volumes to keep on you and at your desk at all times. Keep a small, portable hand sanitizer in your pocket, in your purse or briefcase, or even on your keys. When you have it easily accessible, you won’t have to wait until you return to your desk or make a stop in the restroom to clean your hands after you’ve walked through a few doors or shook someone’s hand in the hall. And whenever you start to think sanitizing your hands after touching every surface is overkill, remember that a single doorknob has the power to spread viruses through half an office building in just a few hours.

Having a small, portable bottle in your bag is one thing, but be sure also to stock your desktop with a larger one. Even if you have a private office all to yourself, the mouse, keyboard, desk chair, and even tape dispenser you use can carry thousands of germs that can easily make you sick. Every so often, make sure to take a break to sanitize your hands — especially if you have a bad habit of touching your face. 

  1. Stock Up On Clorox Wipes

Sanitizing your hands every hour on the hour can quickly get irritating — both for your psyche and your skin. To remedy the issue, keep a pack of Clorox wipes nearby, and make sure to wipe down your office space each morning upon arrival, during any breaks, and before you leave for the night. If you’re the only one in your office, consistently wiping down surfaces can prevent the buildup of bacteria and dust. But if you have frequent office visitors or share spaces with a coworker, Clorox wipes can rid surfaces of any germs expelled during breathing, talking, and, of course, touching. Just because you can’t see the germs on your desk doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

Considering they are invisible, it can be challenging to know if you’ve covered every surface. Create a cleaning routine in which you wipe down your desk and accessories in order. If you have numerous accessories on your desktop, start by gathering them on the side and wipe down your desk. Then, pick up each accessory and wipe it down thoroughly; that means every side, including the bottom. As you move through each accessory, place them back in their original, now sanitized, location. Once you’ve replaced your last piece, wipe down the surface on which you gathered them, and rest assured you’ve done a thorough job.

  1. Take Meetings Virtually

COVID-19 has transformed the working world and catapulted us into a realm where everything can be done virtually. Remote work has increased drastically, with numerous companies making the switch permanent. Working from home may come with benefits, but ever since face-to-face interactions have been labeled as dangerous, the value has only been magnified. However, until we are clear to resume life as usual (or the “new normal”), employers and employees should heed health professionals’ warnings and do as many tasks as possible in a social-distanced fashion.

As you re-enter the office space, don’t forget the convenience and safety virtual meetings bring. Your coworker may be down the hall, but the risk of exposure to COVID-19 and other illnesses increases with proximity. Instead of calling group meetings in the conference room, send out a virtual invite, and take the meeting from the safety and comfort of your own office. And in the event an in-person meeting is mandatory, be sure to wear your mask (covering your mouth and your nose) and stay as far apart as possible.

  1. Clean Consistently Throughout the Day

Washing your hands once a day doesn’t do anything to prevent the spread of germs, and neither does cleaning your desk once and calling it a day. Be sure to use the Clorox wipes you have at your desk numerous times a day. If possible, remember to wipe down all of the surfaces you come into contact with right when you get to the office in the morning. And on your lunch break, save time to wipe down the surfaces again before you start eating. After you’re done, only clean up any messes you’ve made. Then, before you head home for the day, give your desk and all other surfaces around your office space another wipe down. Staying on top of cleanliness gives germs less time to multiple, spread onto other surfaces, or enter your system.

  1. Minimize Employee Foot Traffic

Whether you were the social butterfly around the office before the pandemic, or have also wanted an excuse to put up a “DO NOT ENTER” sign, now is the time to limit the number of people coming in your office space. Once you’ve returned to work, don’t be afraid to put a sign on your door, asking coworkers to contact you virtually before entering. Chances are, the question (or gossip) they came to talk to you about can be discussed over email or instant messaging platform. And in the event it’s a more serious matter that requires a face-to-face chat, they can virtually schedule a good time to meet before just barging in. 

Instructing employees to reach out virtually eliminates unnecessary exposure and provides an opportunity to set precautions before sitting down in the same room. When an employee or employer requests an in-person meeting, instruct everyone you’re meeting with to wear a mask at all times when in your office and have hand sanitizer ready for them upon entrance. Depending on your line of work, it may not be possible to forgo all interactions entirely, but minimizing foot traffic is a step in the right direction.

Creating a Workspace Conducive to Safety and Success

They say a clear space creates a clear mind, and when it comes to your office space, they’re not wrong. In the midst of a pandemic, keeping your workspace clear and clean is more than just staying organized. It’s about wiping down surfaces, disinfecting the things you touch the most, and being mindful of others around you. Keep hand sanitizer near you at all times, and limit the number of close interactions with others. When in-person meetings are necessary, wear a mask, disinfect your hands, and kindly ask others to do the same. Additionally, if you have symptoms of COVID-19, the flu, or even the common cold, stay home to reduce the chances of spreading germs to friends and colleagues. Staying on top of cleanliness will not only rid your mind of COVID-19 worries but can also boost your productivity. 

At Nexus Workspaces, we’re all about increased productivity, interconnectedness, and networking — and doing it all safely. Our alternative office spaces are located across Florida for optimal access and designed with you in mind. Whether your business is just getting started or is years in the making, our office spaces and accommodations can help you reach your goals. Visit us online or at one of our locations to see how we make a difference in the way people work.

The Stats on Co-working Spaces Are Even Better Than What They Seem Like

Image credit: Luis Alvarez | Getty Images
This article was originally published by Entrepreneur on June 12, 2018

Co-working is often considered a millennial venture — strictly for those who are young, starting out and crave the unstructured work environment. 

While co-working may have begun in this demographic, this is less and less true as co-working becomes increasingly popular. All kinds of workers are realizing they can have a flexible and diverse working environment without sacrificing the professionalism of the office.

As someone who has been in the game for a while now — we opened our first co-working space in 2010 — I have seen the change firsthand. 

Each year, we survey our members to find out how we’re doing — and how they’re doing. This year’s survey came back with a clear message about the health of the co-working community. In short, co-working spaces are proving to be economic engines that produce prosperity for owners, employees and service providers alike. Below are some recent findings that shatter the perceptions of co-working spaces.  

Not just for solo artists. 

More and more, co-working is becoming group-oriented. It is a common misperception that co-working spaces are filled with solo entrepreneurs desperate for some social interaction. Our most recent member survey demonstrated that this is definitely not the case. Of those surveyed:

  • Only 50 percent self-identified as individual workers (consultants, freelancers, or telecommuters)
  • 40 percent categorized themselves as employees (people who work for an employer at a coworking space)
  • 10 percent classified themselves as employers (business owners or business unit managers who had employees) 

Co-workers are thriving and hiring.

Another co-working myth is that co-working members are small operations who intend to stay that way. Reality? Co-working spaces act as accelerators for business growth. The constant interaction with outside companies allows for natural networking opportunities, helping businesses find new clients, customers, talent and collaboration opportunities that fast-track growth. Out of our survey respondents, roughly 3/4 of employers and 1/3 of individuals expect to add new employees in 2018. 

  • 40 percent expect to hire 1 to 2 people
  • 27 percent expect to hire 3 to 5 people
  • 10 percent expect to hire 6 or more people 

Co-working members are big spenders.

Co-working members contribute significantly to their local and regional economies by spending on business services internally with other members and with local restaurants and other businesses. At Fueled Collective specifically, nearly 40 percent of employer members reported spending money (cash or barter) in 2017 with other Fueled Collective members for services, with a median transaction amount of $5,000 to $9,999. Employers spent more money with companies outside of Fueled Collective, with a median spend of $50,000 to $99,999. More than 1/3 spent more than $100,000. Individual members also have an economic impact. More than 1/4 (29 percent) of them reported spending money (cash or barter) in 2017 with other Fueled Collective members for services, with a median transaction amount of $1,000 to $4,999.

Age of business.

As mentioned before, co-working is not just for the fresh-faced startup, as is a common perception. Members often include a considerable portion of experienced business owners. From our survey, among employer respondents:

  • 38 percent reported being in business for 3 to 5 years
  • Nearly 1/4 of employer respondents and 28 percent of individual respondents reported being in business for more than 10 years
  • Only 12 percent of employer and individual respondents report being in business for 1 year or less 

Enterprise is making a showing in co-working.

Larger corporations are increasingly making use of co-working. Gone are the days of co-working spaces filled with companies you have never heard of. Corporations have been finding value in co-working spaces for different reasons, including improving recruitment efforts, lowering real estate costs, gaining flexibility and boosting employee satisfaction.

West Boca Chamber Interviews The Nexus Workspaces

Fernanda Roso, Assistant Vice President of The Nexus Portfolio. The Nexus Workspaces is a member of the West Boca Chamber of Commerce and is partnering with the chamber to host meetings and lunch-and-learns.

Small Businesses Have a New Tax Break, but There Are Many ‘Ifs’

This article was originally published by the New York Times

Photo by Delcan & Company + Saad Moosajee

Small businesses may be able to receive a big tax break this year, thanks to the new rules. They also may face a big headache: figuring out whether the tax break applies to them.

The problem is that a centerpiece of the legislation is a write-off for “qualified business income,” but it’s unclear whether certain activities count. That is sowing confusion as the April deadline for filing the first returns under the law approaches.

“Parts of the law were not well thought out,” said Lisa Goldman, a partner in the international tax practice of the accountancy Berdon L.L.P. Congress was in a rush to enact the law before the end of 2017 and was more concerned, she said, with big businesses than small: “I’m not surprised it’s convoluted.”

While the Internal Revenue Service issued additional clarifications in January, much of the uncertainty continues, often focused on a 20 percent deduction for qualified business income.

It is available for many sole proprietorships, partnerships and pass-through entities, such as S corporations. Most small businesses are formed under one of these structures, and most are eligible for the deduction. But not all of them are.

First, the relatively simple part: Businesses generally can receive the full deduction if their owners are married and file jointly and their taxable income does not exceed $315,000, or half that amount for single filers. More than 90 percent of pass-through entities qualify for the deduction, said Mark Jaeger, director for tax development at TaxAct, a provider of tax filing software.

“If you’re a typical business owner, your net profit on Schedule C is going to be qualified business income,” he said. Schedule C of Form 1040 is where individuals report business income.

“Don’t even worry about it if your income is under those amounts,” Mr. Jaeger said. And a partial deduction is available on incomes up to $415,000 for people who file jointly, or $207,500 for single filers.

But it’s not just qualified business income that’s used to figure eligibility for the deduction; it’s also total taxable income. So if you make $250,000 in your business and your spouse makes $200,000 in a salaried job, the total income on your return is $450,000. In that case, you could lose the qualified business income deduction.

Not necessarily, though.

If you pay wages to employees, including yourself, you could be eligible to take a qualified business income deduction equal to 50 percent of those wages, even if your income exceeds the threshold. In any case, the deduction cannot be more than 20 percent of qualified business income.

If your head isn’t spinning yet, there is more: An alternative calculation allows real estate firms to claim a qualified business income deduction of 25 percent of wages and 2.5 percent of the amount invested in property. But that’s only available if the I.R.S. deems the enterprise an eligible business. The agency last month ruled that renting out property is a business for which the deduction applies, and is not just a passive investment, under certain circumstances. Separate books and bank accounts must be kept and 250 hours a year must be devoted to active management, the agency said.

There’s still more fine print. The deduction is out of bounds to anyone who has income above the threshold and runs what the law calls a “specified service trade or business.” That’s one whose main asset is the owners’ reputation and skill.

The law lists several examples, including health, law, financial services, entertainment and consulting. Those businesses don’t qualify for the deduction. But for some reason, architecture and engineering do.

In the batch of rules released last month, the I.R.S. acknowledged that some activities can go either way, such as the operation of a pharmacy. The question for pharmacies is whether owners are regarded as dispensing health care. The I.R.S. said it depended on the circumstances.

Ian Shane, a partner at the law firm Michelman & Robinson, said: “As these final regulations are put into effect by tax practitioners, I am confident that there will still be a substantial number of gray areas where it comes down to anybody’s guess as to whether the activity or type of business will qualify for the deduction in the eyes of the I.R.S.”

Mr. Shane highlighted some “interesting anomalies.” One is whether a business engages in consulting, which disqualifies it for the deduction. Providing training courses or related services qualifies for the deduction, but providing advice and counsel — which can be part of training — constitutes consulting, in the agency’s view. What a business puts on its invoices and how it has represented itself over the years will go a long way to determining how it’s regarded, he said.

For an entrepreneur like Paige Cornetet, the distinction might amount to considerable money. Her business, Millennial Guru, which she started a year and a half ago in Grand Rapids, Mich., provides workshops and one-on-one training to help companies manage younger employees better. She runs Millennial Guru as a sole proprietor.

Ms. Cornetet’s adviser, Greg Rosica, a partner in Ernst & Young’s private client services practice, said Millennial Guru is clearly an education business, adding that he is not worried that the I.R.S. will view it as a consultancy. In other words, he says, the business should be eligible for the deduction.

Ms. Cornetet said the various breaks in the tax bill have saved her enough to pay for a full-time assistant, allowing her “to have fewer things on my plate, focus on what I’m good at and stay in my lane.”

Mr. Shane encourages entrepreneurs to use a tax professional to help accomplish those same objectives and to navigate the law generally.

“There are so many questions you don’t know how to answer, especially about what’s a qualified trade or business,” he said. “Go to an accountant. You don’t want something disallowed because you didn’t do one little thing.”

75 Items You May Be Able to Deduct from Your Taxes

This article was originally published by Entrepenuer

Benjamin Franklin said it best when he coined the phrase, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” 

Many business owners take years to understand that taxes are one of their biggest costs, and it really doesn’t take a lot of effort to make sure you aren’t missing something on your taxes.

Before setting forth my list of the top 75 deductions/strategies, allow me to make an important point: You are the captain of your own ship. You don’t have to be an accountant to manage your accountant. Make sure you have a regular conversation with your tax preparer and discuss these items.

Your accountant should be suggesting these to you … and they should be trying to find ways to write-off expenses — not just telling you no and talking down to you. Use this list as a discussion point and make sure you have the right person helping you with your taxes.

Consider this list of 75 possible tax deductions for business owners. It’s just a start and not every one of these items is always a viable deduction, but certainly worth a discussion.

75 possible tax deductions (plus two bonus deductions)

  1. Accounting fees
  2. Advertising
  3. Amortization
  4. Auto Expenses – Article and Video
  5. Banking fees
  6. Board Meetings – Article and Video
  7. Building repairs and maintenance
  8. Business Travel – Article and Video
  9. Business association membership dues
  10. Charitable deductions made for a business purpose
  11. Children on Payroll – Article and Video
  12. Cleaning/janitorial services
  13. Cameras
  14. Collection Expenses
  15. Commissions to affiliates
  16. Computers and tech supplies
  17. Consulting fees
  18. Continuing education for yourself to maintain licensing and improve skills
  19. Conventions and trade shows
  20. Costs of goods sold
  21. Credit card convenience fees
  22. Depreciation
  23. Dining and Office food – Article and Video
  24. Drones
  25. Education and training for employees
  26. Equipment
  27. Exhibits for publicity
  28. Franchise fees 
  29. Freight or shipping costs
  30. Furniture or fixtures
  31. Gifts for customers ($25 deduction limit for each)
  32. Group insurance (if qualifying)
  33. Health insurance – Video
  34. Equipment repairs
  35. Health Reimbursement Arrangement – Article and Video
  36. Health Savings Account – Article and Video
  37. Home office – Article and Video
  38. Interest
  39. Internet hosting and services
  40. Investment advice and fees
  41. Legal fees
  42. Leased Vehicle or equipment
  43. License fees
  44. Losses due to theft
  45. Materials
  46. Maintenance and janitorial
  47. Mortgage interest on business property
  48. Moving
  49. Newspapers and magazines
  50. Office supplies and expenses
  51. Outside services
  52. Payroll taxes for employees, including Social Security, Medicare taxes and unemployment taxes
  53. Parking and tolls
  54. Pass-Through 199A Deduction
  55. Pension plans
  56. Postage
  57. Prizes for contests
  58. Real estate-related expenses
  59. Rebates on sales
  60. Rent
  61. Research and development
  62. Rental Property – Article and Video
  63. Retirement plans – Article and Video
  64. Royalties
  65. Safe-deposit box
  66. Safe
  67. Spouse on Payroll – Article
  68. Social media advertising
  69. Software and online services
  70. Storage rental
  71. Subcontractors
  72. Taxes (Personal and Real Property)
  73. Telephone
  74. Utilities
  75. Video equipment for business YouTube channel
  76. Website design
  77. Workers’ compensation insurance

Surprisingly, there isn’t some master list included in the Internal Revenue Code or provided by the Internal Revenue Service. There is simply the tax principle, set forth in Code Section 62, which states a valid write-off is any expense incurred in the production of income. Each deduction then has its own rules.

A good CPA should be teaching their clients to think above the line — that is, your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) line. Your AGI is the number in the bottom right-hand corner on the front page of your tax return. Any tax return. And what I mean by thinking above this line is constantly trying to think of any and all personal expenses that may have a business purpose. With a small-business venture in your life and on your tax return, you may be able to convert some personal expenses to business expenses, as long as you have the proper business purpose for that expense.

Seasoned business owners become proficient over the years at keeping good records and realizing when expenses have a legitimate business purpose. For some, this thought process becomes so ingrained that it becomes almost impossible to buy something without first considering a tax purpose for that item or service.

In sum, try to track every single expense related to your business and comb over them with your CPA at the end of the year to ensure you only take legitimate deductions. Good record keeping and thoughtful consideration will minimize your risk of an audit if the IRS ever comes knocking.

25 Funding Opportunities For Women Entrepreneurs In Q1 2019

This article was originally published on Her Agenda

Calling all women business owners and creators! This article is for you. When the new year started, you set your business intentions. You made a plan. You promised yourself this year would bring new levels of success. This article is to help you keep that promise. It is filled to the brim with grants, programs, competitions, and more to jumpstart your year in Q1.

Before we jump into the opportunities for you, let’s set the tone with a mantra to refocus your mind from the obstacles and self-doubt to all the achieving you’re going to do this year.

I will not be afraid of any challenge placed in front of me because fear holds me back and winning takes courage. 

Now let’s start applying! Here’s our round up of the top funding opportunities and more for women entrepreneurs:

February

1. MVMT50, NEW VOICES FUND Apply by February 15

Originally when MVMT50 announced their pitch competition the mission was to award a Black female entrepreneur with $10,000. Since then Shea Moisture and New Voices Fund joined forces with MVMT50 to increase the grand prize to $100,000! Applicants have until February 15 to apply for the competition which will take place on March 9 at University of Texas at Austin. Click the link to learn more.

2. FedEx Small Business Grant Contest Apply by February 19

For the 7th annual grant contest, FedEx will be doubling their prize money for 10 finalists. This means the grand total for all ten grants is $220,000. Click the link to learn more.

3. 2019 Student Entrepreneur Program Apply by February 22

WBENC is proud to invest in the next generation of Women’s Business Enterprises. Since the program began in 2008, nearly 200 students from over 80 colleges have been helped. Participants receive a tailored entrepreneurial curriculum, entrance in a pitch competition awarding $20,000 in seed capital, and experiential learning through off-site visits to WBEs, corporate campuses, and accelerators. Click the link to learn more.

4. PitchIt @LendIt USA 2019Apply by February 25

If you’re a founder of a fintech company, this Pitch competition is for you. The event is sponsored by none other than 500 Startups, the world leader in investing in and mentoring early-stage fintech startups. Check out the link to see if you qualify and apply if you do.

5. Flash Pitch NYC Apply by February 27

This monthly event series gathers entrepreneurs, investors, and mentors in a room to watch startups pitch their companies. So far two principals and one venture capitalists are confirmed investors for the late February event. Click the link to learn more.

6. Caffeine-Induced Pitch Competition Apply by February 27

If you’re looking for a pitch competition in Florida, this event takes place in Melbourne, FL. Fun fact: Melbourne is part of Florida’s Space Coast, an area that offers more engineering talent per capita than any other in the United States. Enter for a chance to win cash and other prizes, network, practice your pitch, and get some insightful feedback. Click the link to learn more.

7. Amber Grant Apply by February 28

The Amber Grant is on a mission to help women bring their entrepreneurial dreams to life. Each month candidates are eligible to win a $1,000 grant. Then at the end of the year all 12 winners are eligible to win a grant of $10,000. The deadline for February is approaching, but if you need more time there’s always next month. Click the link to learn more.

8. 2019 Global Startup Competition: Applications opened February 1

St Louis, this lucrative grant is for you! According to their website, “Arch Grants is looking for innovative technologies, products, or services, wrapped within scalable for-profit business models with the potential to make national or international impact.” The winner will be awarded a $50,000 equity-free cash grant, amongst many other expensive resources. Click the link for more details.

March

9. Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Program Apply by March 12

Need $5,000? The Tory Burch Fellows Program is one of the most sought after opportunities for women. Fellows receive four days of guidance and networking in the Tory Burch offices, a one-year fellowship, a $5,000 grant, and for a select few fellows the opportunity to pitch their business to industry influencers. Click the link to learn more.

10. The Farm Accelerator Application– Apply by March 4- May 23

Atlanta’s startup community is constantly growing and Comcast NBCUniversal figured out a way to support new businesses and technologies with The Farm, an innovation hub in Atlanta. The Farm, which runs twice a year for 12 weeks, offers a $20,000 startup accelerator to each team, premium startup incubator office space, a cutting-edge hardware prototyping lab, coworking facilities, a customized curriculum, company-building guidance, mentorship, and a network of startup community supporters. Whew, that’s a lot! Click the link to learn more.

11. Brainhit2019 Startup Innovation Competition Apply by March 1

BrainHIT is scouring the globe, literally, for the best brain health innovations and technology. All early startups are encouraged to apply and present their ideas to judges, clinicians, peers, and industry leaders. Click the link to learn more.

12. MassChallenge Boston Apply by March 13

MassChallenge Boston has become one of Massachusetts’ premiere programs for new innovators. The program awards up to $1.5 million in cash prizes and $50,000 in scholarships, a coworking space, access to expert mentors, top corporate innovation teams, a tailored curriculum, world-class resources, and more – all at zero cost and for zero equity. Click the link for more information.

13. Montclair State University 2019 Pitch Contest Apply by March 26

The New Jersey pitch competition awards $50,000 to the first prize winner, $20,000 to the second prize winner, and $10,000 to the third prize winner. Click the link to learn more.

14.Pitch Pitch Women Entrepreneurs with SMPLCT Lab Apply by March 27

If you’re a female entrepreneur in NYC who wants to crowdfund your project you should definitely check out the upcoming Pitch Pitch competition. The event will be hosted by The Farm, a coworking space in SOHO. Click the link to find out how you can attend.

Courses

15. Curls presents Black Girls Making Million’s Academy course

Last month Her Agenda spoke with Mahisha Dellinger, Curls CEO and star of OWN’s Minding Your Business, who shared her mission to create more generational wealth in the black community by sharing the knowledge she’s gained as a successful business owner with other black women. The immersive course that encourages you to work and play hard costs $1,200, which includes your airfare, hotel accommodations, food, excursions, activities, and more.

16.Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women 

The free 2-week, online course is designed to provide women business owners around the world with a business and management education, networking opportunities and access to capital. Once completed, those who earn high scores on the exam are invited to take the Full 10-week course in which women will develop their Business Growth Plan. Click the link to learn more.

17. Bank of America Institute for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Cornell

The certificate program which was developed by Cornell faculty and experts is also 100 percent online. Those interested are asked to fill out the Request Information page to be informed when Spring 2019 sections are opened. Seats are first come, first serve. Click the link to learn more.

Opportunities to keep an eye on  

18. ERA’s Summer 2019 NYC Accelerator program Apply by April 1

ERA invests $100K in seed funding with potential follow-on funding and gives entrepreneurs access to NYC’s largest mentor network of 400+ industry leaders and the strongest alumni network of 180 companies. The program begins on June 17, 2019.

19. URBAN-X Spring 2019 Apply by April 1

Does your startup reimagine city life? The Urban-X venture accelerator program in Brooklyn partners with MINI and Urban US to explore the boundaries of design. “MINI experts guide founders in design, manufacturing, engineering, marketing, community building and branding. Urban Us connects startups with the leading community of founders, investors, companies and city officials. Together, we’ve invested in many of the leading startups working on city solutions.” On average, teams raise over $100,000. Not bad right? Click the link to learn more.

20.Women’s Founders Network Fast pitch Apply by April 1- June 1

Women entrepreneurs across all industries are welcomed to apply. It’s a lengthy process (winners don’t pitch until October) but it’s worth it. The grand prize is $45,00 and professional services. Click the link to learn more.

21. Eileen Fisher Grants: Returning Spring 2019

In the past, Eileen Fisher Grants awarded 10 women a year with grants up to $100,000. Additionally, in order to qualify your business must be majority woman-owned and promote social and environmental change. Eileen Fisher has not released information about the 2019 grants yet but wrote this statement on their website:

“In Spring 2019, we expect to launch new and/or updated grant programs. While we cannot guarantee that the funding criteria will be similar to past programs, we encourage you to return to our Grants page at that time to see if your organization might be a fit for our 2019 opportunities.”

Click the link to learn more.

22. InnovateHer Challenge powered by the SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership: Returning Spring 2019

This grant provides federal grant money to women entrepreneurs whose business aimed to improve the lives of women. First place was awarded with $40,000, second place received $20,000 and third place received $10,000. Details for the 2019 grants have not been released but in an interview with Maverick Monday they issued a statement saying:

“Currently, we are planning an even better and more exciting InnovateHER for 2019! Please be sure to follow us [the SBA] on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn so you don’t miss any updates.”

23. Girlboss Foundation– Grants awarded biannually

It’s only fitting that a company called Girlboss live by their name and empower some fans to become bosses of their own. Women creators receive a $15,000 grant each to improve their businesses and since launching in 2014 the Girlboss Foundation has issued over $130,000 in grants. The application is currently open.

Check out the August 2018 grant recipient  Black Girl Magik, an online platform and collective that speaks to women of the African Diaspora. Click the link to learn more.

24. KIVA Microloans [If you’re in NYC visit this page.] Elsewhere, sign up here

KIVA provides microloans with 0% interest up to the amount of $10K for entrepreneurs. You crowdfund through your network and depending on your city, their partners will match the amount you raise, helping you to reach your goal faster.

Support your girls

25. EnrichHER

EnrichHER created an exciting community for people to support and invest in women-owned businesses and women creators. In addition, when they’re not helping you invest in the next generation of women leaders, the EnrichHerSpark Community is helping you hone your own skillset so you can be empowered as well. It’s just an overall dope concept that you should know about, so check it out. Click the link to learn more.

10 Fast Facts To Consider In Your Content Marketing Plans

Article was originally published by Forbes

Content marketers understand how long-form content, SEO, social media and video help raise brand awareness and build a loyal audience, but others in our orbit  sometimes need convincing. That’s when having the right data comes in handy. Recent research shows why today’s brands continue to prioritize content in their marketing mix. When making your business case, keep these industry stats and insights in mind.

Content Strategy & Platform Trends

1) Sponsored articles that include brand mentions sparingly get better reader engagement than those with frequent brand mentions. (Pressboard Brand Publishers Study 2018)

2) 90% of the most successful content marketers prioritize educating their audience over promoting their company’s sales message, compared with 56% of those who describe their content marketing efforts as unsuccessful. (B2B Content Marketing 2019)

3) 61% of marketers surveyed publish content several times per week; 89% of those respondents reported content marketing produced higher quality leads than other forms of marketing. (ContentWriters)

4) 82% of CMOs expect to increase their digital budgets by about 50% in 2019. (Nielsen 2018 CMO Report)

5) Over the past two years, direct mobile traffic to publishers’ websites has grown by 30%, surpassing referral traffic from Facebook. (Chartbeat/ MediaPost)

6)  In a survey of 500 digital marketers, 88% said their marketing strategy includes blogging, and most posts they publish have at least one visual. (Venngage)

Consumer Habits

The most successful content marketers recognize content marketing as an opportunity to build trust. Once your brand becomes a source of useful, reliable information, you won’t have to chase customers—they’ll come to you.

7) 82% of consumers have made a purchase based on a company’s online content marketing. (Clutch Survey)

8) 96% of the top-performing B2B content marketers say their audience views their brand as a credible and trusted source. (B2B Content Marketing 2019 by Content Marketing Institute)

9) 71% of consumers say they would be willing to spend more money to support products and services from a brand they trust. (Readers’ Digest Most Trusted Brand Survey 2018)

10) 38% of buyers visit at least four sites to research prior to making a first-time B2B purchase. (e-tailing group’s B2B Buyer Behavior)

Each piece of content your brand publishes is an opportunity to leave readers with a positive impression. Creating content that’s thoughtful and informative gives visitors a reason to engage and the motivation to continue exploring what your brand has to offer. Ultimately, this builds the foundation of trust needed to turn prospects into customers.