COVID-19 Recovery: Re-imagining workplaces and workplace strategy

In a recent GCP webinar, experts from Vocon explored re-imagining the workplace for health, safety and productivity in the "new normal."

As Ohio returns to work, businesses are grappling with social distancing and sanitization and keeping workers safe and healthy.

What does that mean for workplaces, both in the immediate aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis and in the future? How do you rethink workplace strategy? Watch the webinar for answers to these questions and more! 

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  • Next up: Reopening Strategies from Northeast Ohio's Top Hospitals
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  • Reopening Strategies from Northeast Ohio's Top Hospitals

    Explore reopening strategies that will ensure the health and safety of your employees, customers, and their families.

    In a recent webinar, we were joined by experts from Northeast Ohio’s leading medical institutions who discussed testing, safety for employees, and epidemiology. They discussed how health systems are working together to provide services and support to the business community.

    Watch the webinar below:


    LEGAL DISCLAIMER: This presentation was intended for informational and educational purposes only. This information should not be used as a replacement for medical or legal advice. Schools and employers are solely responsible for complying with all applicable legal requirements and making decisions regarding their operations, students, and employees based on their individual circumstances. Although this content was reviewed and approved by healthcare professionals, UH, Cleveland Clinic and MetroHealth do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any of this information or that it represents the most up-to-date information and UH, Cleveland Clinic and MetroHealth are not responsible for any errors or omissions or actions taken in reliance or from use of such information.

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  • Next up: Rise of the Bots: What You Need to Know
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  • Rise of the Bots: What You Need to Know

    Last month COSE delved into the ins and outs of chatbots and how to best go about using them to grow your business. Check out the highlights and scroll to the bottom to view the full presentation.

    Ryan Gialames, director of product design at Robots & Pencils, joined a COSE WebEd Series webinar and provided a thorough discussion of chatbots, including a step-by-step process for getting your business started using this newer tool.

    What is it and why should you use it?

    So what is a chatbot? A chatbot is a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users, primarily over the internet. Chatbots are often powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning. Because of the popularity of messaging platforms, like Facebook Messenger, chatbots are becoming even more effective and accessible. Adoption of chatbots is rising and, according to Gialames, billions is predicted in annual saving thanks to the creation of chatbots.

    The average employee spends 1.8 hours per day searching for information. Bots can help solve that problem by making the information more readily available for your employees.

    Examples of bots

    Gialames gave several examples of industries that are using bots. While most industries are implementing bots within the area of customer support, many are thinking outside the box and using bots in more creative ways.

    Bot example no. 1: Retail. A bot can be used in the retail industry to provide a consumer with a virtual stylist, which is something the company Levi’s has implemented recently. This is a great way for a user to find out about products and for companies to find out about their customers. The carousel feature with revolving images makes it easy for consumers to find what they’re looking for and have it all at their fingertips.

    Bot example no. 2: Travel. R&P Airlines is using chatbots to help their consumers easily find flights and book on the spot. Hotels are using bots to help fill guests’ needs, such as asking housekeeping for extra towels or the concierge for advice.

    Bot example no. 3: Banking. Varo is a non-brick-and-mortar bank that targets millennials by featuring bots that live inside their app. These bots help consumers manage spending habits and set goals, and provide the opportunity for the company to help engineer its customers’ behaviors.

    Bot example no. 4: Education. Schools can use bots to welcome each and every student, and can feature animated gifs or videos to engage students. Bots can be implemented to reach out to students and nudge them along in the necessary processes, navigate financial aid and more.

    Bot example no. 5: Customer service. According to Gialames, 67% of consumers worldwide have used a bot for support. The options in this capacity are endless and can range from answering quick questions to more complex information sharing and troubleshooting. Instead of having customer service agents constantly answer the same question over and over again, bots can be used to make time with customers more valuable and pass off questions to the appropriate support person when necessary.

    Gialames presented the following 10 principles of chatbots that should be present in order to make your bot appear friendlier and personable, and less, well, robotic. According to Gialames, a personal chatbot should always be:

    Polite – if it doesn’t know the answer, the bot should be apologetic and should never make the consumer feel dumb;

    Intuitive – conversations shouldn’t feel confusing and messaging should always be structured;

    Empowering – give the user the ability to communicate preferences and choices whenever possible.

    Flatter the user by saying things like “that’s a great choice,” etc;

    On my team – chatbot should convey how they are in alliance with the consumer’s goals;

    Reflective – the chatbot should reflect on the consumer’s current state, emphasizing how their feelings are understood and matched;

    Cultivating curiosity – the bot should be interested in the consumer, and should have a way of bribing the consumer to move forward in the process or with the company;

    Humorous – chatbots should be playful and pleasant, conveying a personal voice. If the bot has to place the consumer “on hold” while searching for information, program the bot to make a joke while waiting;

    Actionable – a chatbot should make it obvious what job it’s designed to handle; and

    Trustworthy – when the chatbot reliably delivers what a consumer wants, not only does the consumer’s trust in the chatbot grow but in the company itself.

    Getting started

    So, what’s the best way to go about getting started in implementing chatbots? Gialames suggests starting off with an experiment. Limit the scope of your experiment so that it’s not overwhelming, but make sure that it’s still meaningful. If you do want to dive right in and create an actual bot with real outcomes, start off by using just a couple of features relative to your consumers before moving forward with an implementation of a more extensive bot.

    He suggests implementing the following chatbot rollout schedule.

    Rollout phase 1: Launch and learn. In this stage a company should define use cases and campaigns, as well as design and create the context and tone of the bot. Where you would normally think about what your company looks like (logos, colors, etc), in this case you’ll be considering what your company sounds like. What kind of voice will your bot give to your company?  

    Rollout phase 2: Add scale. Here is where a company should conduct an analysis of opportunities based on the initial release of the bot and modify conversations based on these learnings. You can then incorporate additional data and content based on user feedback and new content sources.

    Rollout phase 3: Extend. So you have your base chatbot, now it’s time to extend the functionality to additional platforms. Here you’ll design and build additional interactions and content based on available platform capabilities, and most likely integrate other systems.

    While early chatbot experiences didn’t necessarily match up to the hype—most likely due to a poor understanding of their capabilities and improper usage—the slope is rising. Better use is evolving and industries are harnessing the power of chatbots. Tools are getting better and finding their way into the right hands with companies coming up with creative ways to use them. If you believe the return on investment for a chatbot could be in your favor, become an early adopter and begin incorporating bots into your experiences today.

    The full recap of this webinar can be viewed below. Also, be sure to head over to COSE’s Events Page to discover other upcoming events that can help your business grow.

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  • Next up: Rising Energy Costs Are Why You Need an Energy Partner in 2017
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  • Rising Energy Costs Are Why You Need an Energy Partner in 2017

    Energy prices are currently at or near all-time lows. That’s really good news for your business, right? Sure, assuming these prices stay low. But there are signs that are pointing to an increase in energy prices during 2017, which means you’re going to need to put an added emphasis on managing energy costs—which is likely one of the biggest expenses your business faces—during the new year.

    Energy prices are currently at or near all-time lows. That’s really good news for your business, right?

    Sure, assuming these prices stay low. But there are signs that are pointing to an increase in energy prices during 2017, which means you’re going to need to put an added emphasis on managing energy costs—which is likely one of the biggest expenses your business faces—during the new year.

    Most energy models are predicting higher prices in 2017, in part because of expected colder weather during this winter. The remaining winter weather will directly affect the demand for natural gas and the amount of gas in storage, which has a profound effect on the current pricing and to a lesser extent future pricing. Other factors, including power plants that could potentially be sold or retired could play a role as well in lifting energy prices during 2017. Electricity pricing closely follows natural gas trends as well. These increases might be partially offset somewhat by increased supply.

    So, right now you’re probably thinking, “OK. What does this mean for me?” Well, it means you need to take control of your energy strategy now while prices remain at or near record lows. How do you do that? For starters, here are some questions you should be asking yourself when you think about energy in 2017:

    • What do you want included (or excluded) in your next energy contract?
    • What regulatory rules are in place? How do they impact your business?
    • What’s the overall long-term strategy you have for your business? Are you planning to grow?
    • Have you planned any energy efficiency updates for your business?

    That’s a lot to consider. How confident are you that you’ll be able to answer all of these questions? If you’re struggling to come up with answers for the above, don’t feel like you need to go it alone. You should consider partnering with COSE’s Energy Team and our experienced partners who can help you develop a unique energy strategy that helps you keep energy costs in check and that fits your individual business model and the strategic plan you already have in place to grow your business.

    But don’t take our word for it. Learn how Cindy Barber of the Beachland Ballroom and Tavern was able to cut a chunk out of her natural gas pricing by partnering with COSE and our energy partners.

    COSE members have access to several programs designed to ensure you’re maximizing your energy. Contact us at 216-592-2205 or to learn more.

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  • Next up: Safety Moment: Back to School with OSHA - Recordable Injuries and Top Ten Walking Working Surfaces
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  • Safety Moment: Back to School with OSHA - Recordable Injuries and Top Ten Walking Working Surfaces

    Every September the kids go to school and begin to learn new things. This year employers are back to school with OSHA. Two new regulations are new this year for employers.

    First, was the improved tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses – which emphasized the employee's right to report injuries and illnesses free from retaliation (29 CFR 1904.35). The new reporting requirements will be phased in over two years: OSHA proposed extending the compliance date for electronically submitting injury and illness reports from July 1 to December 1. Required employers can submit injury and illness data using an electronic reporting system. The anti-retaliation provisions become effective August 10, 2016, but OSHA delayed their enforcement Dec. 1, 2016. Establishments with 250 or more employees in industries covered by the recordkeeping regulation must submit information from their 2016 Form 300A by December 1, 2017. These same employers will be required to submit information from all 2017 forms (300A, 300, and 301) by July 1, 2018. Beginning in 2019 and every year thereafter, the information must be submitted by March 2.

    Establishments with 20-249 employees in certain high-risk industries must submit information from their 2016 Form 300A by December 1, 2017, and their 2017 Form 300A by July 1, 2018. Beginning in 2019 and every year thereafter, the information must be submitted by March 2. They have also posted frequently asked questions on the rule.

    The second major rule OSHA issued a final rule on Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Fall Protection Systems that was effective Jan. 17, 2017. The final rule includes revised and new information that addresses everything from fixed ladders and fall protection systems to training and design requirements. The final rule updates and revises the outdated general industry Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Protective Equipment (Fall Protection Systems) standards on slip, trip, and fall hazards, which are a leading cause of worker deaths and lost-workday injuries (29 CFR part 1910, subparts D and I). OSHA adopted the existing standards in 1971 and has not updated them since. The final rule also adds new requirements on personal fall protection systems (29 CFR part 1910, subpart I). OSHA estimates the final rule will prevent 29 worker deaths and 5,842 lost-workday injuries each year. Additionally, because the final rule harmonizes general industry requirements with OSHA's existing construction industry standard and many ANSI standards, the new rule will make compliance both easier and less costly. OSHA estimates the annual monetized benefits of the lives saved and injuries prevented will be $614.5 million (with net benefits of $309.5 million (benefits minus costs)).

    Here are 10 specific items that changed in the standard.

    1) Training required for exposed workers or equipment users by May 2017. This includes general for exposure, roof, equipment, and key individuals (authorized, competent, and qualified persons).

    2) Equipment requirements included changes to the test weights of snap hooks and carabineers, and requirements for self-retractable lanyards, including deceleration distances.

    3) Changed safe distance to roof edges as well as defining temporary and infrequent tasks on roofs.

    4) Modified ladders and stairs requirements starting in 2018 and required safety systems on all ladders by 2036. This includes requirements for spiral stairs and ships ladders.

    5) Guardrails are now aligned with construction industry and codified 19 inch opening requirements.

    6) Requires written certification of the workplace assessment to determine if hazards are present.

    7) Rope descent systems must comply with 1910.27(b)(1)(i).

    8) Documentation requirements include assessments, training, anchors, and walking working surface load rating.

    9) Updated definitions of competent and qualified person in subpart D and I.

    10) Important compliance dates for employee training May 17, 2017, certification of anchorages on Nov. 20, 2017, existing fixed ladders need cage well, ladder safety system or PFAs Nov. 19, 2018, new ladders with ladder safety system by Nov. 19, 2018, and all fixed ladders must be equipped with a ladder safety system or PFAS by Nov. 18, 2016.

    Employers should ensure compliance, safety, and risk management in all tasks. OSHA aligned fall protection requirements for general industry with those for construction, easing compliance for employers who perform both types of activities. For example, the final rule replaces the outdated general industry scaffold standards with a requirement that employers comply with OSHA's construction scaffold standards. OSHA has created a frequently asked questions guide for the standard.

    On September 13, 2017, Don Elswick, CSP, CET, CHMM with ELSMART Associates will be discussing both of these changes during the Northeast Ohio Safety Council meeting. If you have any specific questions you want addressed at the meeting contact Don Elswick at Looking forward to seeing you on September 13, 2017 at this important information session.

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  • Next up: Webinar: Security Tips for Small Businesses
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  • Webinar: Security Tips for Small Businesses

    Data security is a big buzzword today. How secure is your network? Get the knowledge you need to keep the bad guys at bay.

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