Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Memorial Day – Remembering our Fallen Heroes,
President Obama Calls for Permanent Tax Credits for Hiring Veterans,
Congratulations to This Month's Winner,
Easy Ways to Limit Stress,
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Memorial Day – Remembering our Fallen Heroes
While you are enjoying those cookouts, trips to the beach, and relaxing with your family and friends, take the time to remember the history and significance of Memorial Day, observed May 27.
Formerly known as Decoration Day, the holiday originated after the Civil War to commemorate fallen Union soldiers. By the early 20th century, Memorial Day was extended to honor and remember all Americans who have died in all wars. Today, Memorial Day is a day for remembering those American men and women who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.
The first known observance of Memorial Day was in Charleston, SC on May 1, 1865. During the war, at least 257 Union soldiers were held as prisoners of war at the Charleston Race Course, where they died and were buried in unmarked graves. Freed slaves knew of the Union deceased, and together with teachers and missionaries, organized a May Day ceremony to honor those Union soldiers. It came to be called First Decoration Day, with nearly ten thousand people participating in the event.
The holiday did not garner much attention until General John A. Logan, commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, the organization for Northern Civil War Veterans, issued a proclamation that Decoration Day should be observed nationwide. It was observed nationally for the first time on May 30, 1868, with Michigan the first state to declare Decoration Day a national holiday, with every state following suit.
The preferred name Memorial Day did not become more common until after World War II, and was not declared the official name by law until 1967. Today, many people observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries and memorials. Another tradition is to fly the US flag at half-staff from dawn until noon, local time. A national moment of remembrance also takes place at 3pm local time. American flags are placed on grave sites by national cemeteries, and many towns and cities hold parades across the country, featuring a predominately military theme.
Take a moment this Memorial Day weekend holiday to commemorate those who valiantly and selflessly fought and died for this country.
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President Obama Calls for Permanent Tax Credits for Hiring Veterans
Under President Obama, there has been wide-ranging legislation and programs designed to train, educate, license, and employ veterans, including Joining Forces, the Veteran Gold Card, Veterans Job Bank, Veteran Skills to Job Act, and Veteran’s Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP). In this ongoing effort to quell veteran unemployment, the Obama Administration has also incentivized employers for hiring veterans through two tax credits, Returning Heroes and Wounded Warriors tax credits.
Set to expire December 31, 2013, the Returning Heroes Tax credit provides incentives of up to $5,600 for hiring unemployed veterans, and the Wounded Warriors Tax Credit doubles the existing Work Opportunity Tax Credit for long-term unemployed veterans with service-connected disabilities, to up to $9,600. Signed into law in November 2011, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 extended the credits through this year.
On April 5, President Obama addressed their expiration by including a permanent provision for them in his FY2014 Budget. Information released by The White House Blog by Denis McDonough, Chief of Staff to President Obama, and Gene Sperling, Director of the National Economic Council and Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, indicates that there has been a near doubling of the number of veterans hired through tax credits in 2012 when compared to the previous year. McDonough and Sperling call these tax credits “a critical tool to spur more robust hiring of some of our nation’s most skilled workers.”
The last few years have brought about many initiatives aimed at facilitating veterans’ transition to the civilian workplace, and a permanent tax credit for hiring veterans would be yet another in a long list of reasons why companies should seek out veterans for their open positions. From the technical, leadership, and operational skills inherent in veterans, to the non-tangible skills like integrity, teamwork, and efficiency, companies who hire veterans are not just availing themselves of a tax credit, but adding a valued employee to their team.
To learn more about these tax credits, click here.
Congratulations to This Month's Winner
Easy Ways to Limit Stress
It seems that in today’s workplace stress seems almost inevitable. And it’s killing us – according to the American Psychological Association, stress can result in headaches, muscle tension, muscle pain, chest pain, fatigue, upset stomach, insomnia, anxiety, restlessness, lack of motivation, lack of focus, irritability, depression, eating problems, addiction…the list goes on.
Even with the health risks, workplace stress is on the rise. According to their third annual Work Stress Survey by Harris Interactive, 83% of workers stated that they feel stressed out by their jobs, which is up 10 percent from last year. Most cited low pay as the main reason for their stress (14 percent), up from 11 percent the previous year.
The survey revealed that women were more likely to cite lower pay as the main cause of their stress, with 18 percent of women citing their small paycheck, while only 10 percent of men identified lower pay as their main stress factor – for men, unreasonable workloads (14 percent) and annoying co-workers (12 percent) were the cause of stress.
Along with these findings, in his book, Is Work Killing You? A Doctor’s Prescription for Treating Workplace Stress, Canadian physician and stress management specialist David Posen cites that the main causes for stress in the workplace can be linked to our society’s need for a 24/7 work environment (think: checking work email on your off-hours), an increased workload, and fears of layoffs and downsizing.
However, there are ways to combat stress, even in today’s overly connected, cutthroat society. Follow even just some of these six steps and find yourself significantly relaxed, calm, and most importantly, stress free.
- Create an Oasis. In today’s business world, the presence of social connectivity creates a pressure to work, or at least be available, around the clock, creating oceans of stress. An easy way to combat this is to shut down your computer and cell phone an hour before you sleep and an hour after you wake. In fact, studies have shown that the artificial light from cell phones and other electronic devices are the main factor of sleepless nights, according to a poll from The National Sleep Foundation. While this may prove difficult for those in the habit of checking e-mail, texts, etc. late at night, your body will get much needed sleep, resulting in a more productive work day and less stress in the morning.
- Find the “Sweet Spots.” While creating a to-do list may seem like a good idea to beat stress, an overly long list can actually backfire, making you feel like you can never get all the tasks completed. Instead, categorize each task by difficulty and then by potential impact. Once your list is categorized, you’ll probably find there are a few “easy” tasks that will have a big impact. Tackle those projects first, thereby taking the pressure off. For a bigger stress relief, ignore those tasks that are hard and have less of an impact.
- Renegotiate Your Workload. High and unreasonable expectations of what you can accomplish are a big source of stress, whether it be from yourself, your co-workers, or your supervisor. The cure? A reality check. Get serious about how much time you have to spend versus the amount of work that needs to be done and based on that, be realistic about what is actually going to get done.
- Turn Off the News. The media makes money by generating strong emotions in its audience. It’s no surprise that those emotions are almost always negative: anger, fear, anxiety, dread, and frustration. While this is not necessarily work stress, it still adds unnecessary stress in your life. Listening to the news to unwind is counter effective. Whenever a news story starts to affect you negatively, do yourself a favor and change the channel.
- Disconnect from the Uncontrollable. There are events that you cannot control – the economy, traffic, other people’s emotions, etc. Worrying about things that you can’t control will not make a difference in the long run, and will only create extra stress that you don’t need, not to mention the amount of wasted energy you spend thinking about it. Focus on things you can change and don’t sweat the other stuff.
- Avoid Stressed People. Your body is programmed to mirror the physiology of the people around you, even when you don’t realize it. Just like you can catch a cold, stress is also infectious, too. While it may not be possible for you to avoid stressed people all the time, try to limit the time you spend around those people, at least until your stress is in control. What can happen is the same infectious quality – your calmness will have a positive impact on those stressed out individuals, creating a more peaceful work place.
The important thing to remember is stress does not have to control your life, and can be managed. Nip those stressful urges before they begin and you’ll find your workplace transform into a calming environment.
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