Avoid Health Emergencies Today, Before They Arrive

Annemarie Marek needed health insurance. But the cost of coverage was enough to make her sick.

aheAs a nonsmoker in good health–and with no history of claims–Marek pays about $230 per month for medical coverage, on top of an annual $2,500 deductible. The package includes a 5 percent discount on prescriptions, but Marek has seen the deductible cost jump 20 percent annually since she first purchased the plan in 1992. Although her Dallas-based marketing communications firm, Marek & Co., foots the cost of her health coverage, Marek quips, “Remember, I’m a sole proprietor.”

So costly is health insurance for independent professionals and home-based business owners, like Marek, that many have opted to go without coverage. According to the National Federation of Independent Businesses (www. nfibonline.com), approximately 56 percent of its 600,000 members are uninsured. And 11 percent work from home, notes the NFIB’s national director …

Open Source Moves Mountains

The Python language (www. python.org/) may be less well-known, but is widely appreciated by Web cognoscenti. And Sendmail (www.sendmail.org/), the most popular E-mail server program, also belongs to this select band, as does BIND, the main domain name system server software (see www.isc.org/bind.html).

The previous cultural divide between the free software community and business users was bridged in the most dramatic way by Netscape’s announcement in January that it would not only be giving away its forthcoming Communicator product, but making the source code available. That is, anyone would be able to take the program, modify it and then use it for any purpose.

In fact this free availability of the source code – rather than the zero price-tag – is the key defining characteristic of all the free products mentioned above. It is what makes such software so powerful.

When Settling Isn’t Bad…

tewrdJUDGING BY THE NUMBER OF TELEwork-related disputes making their way into the legal system, even companies with large-scale, successful work-at-home programs aren’t immune to serious problems.

Classic “he said/she said” exchanges are typically at the root of such full-blown legal conflicts between workers and managers; these usually result from improperly trained managers and poor communication on both sides.

What can you do to avoid trouble before it starts? If your company is new to telework arrangements, develop a specific legal telework policy you can turn to if things get out of hand. And if you’ve already drafted a legal policy, be sure to review it periodically and make tweaks and updates based on feedback from employees and your human resources and legal departments.

Take the case of former Aetna Life & Casualty employee Virginia Daley, who sued the company claiming she was fired because she …

Keep Yourself Protected When Telecommuting

kypwtYOU’VE SAT AT THE SAME DESK FOR five years. You’ve worked at the same PC day in and day out for the last three. Even the filing cabinet and phone are familiar fixtures in your home office. The trouble is, they’re not yours–the company paid for them when you started teleworking.

“When I left my last job, I was very concerned about making sure I wasn’t blamed for not bringing everything back,” says Salt Lake City-based consultant Amy Neuberger. “I made a detailed list with the secretary and had her mark off everything that I returned. I didn’t want there to be any misunderstanding. I even returned leftover paper clips!”

While few companies insist on getting back unused boxes of staples, desks and computers are another matter. And considering the sizable investment that such equipment represents, you’d expect employers to carefully manage their telework inventory. …