Determined to make good on his promise to electrify downtown Manhattan, Thomas Edison sought to draw attention to his incandescent light bulb during the 1880 Christmas season. The Wizard of Menlo Park, who was known for his PR savvy, laid eight miles of underground wire to power strings of lights around the outside of his New Jersey laboratory. Train commuters traveling between New York and Philadelphia were so amazed by the glowing fields that one reporter labeled Edison “the Enchanter” and described the spectacle as “a fairy-land of lights.”


Move over, Clark Griswold. The Gay family strung 601,736 lights around their LaGrangeville, New York home last year to reclaim the Guinness World Record for the most lights on a residential property. Set to more than 200 songs, the installation also took the 2014 crown with help from RITZ Crackers, who contributed a 200,000-light display.


Carson Williams spent nearly two months programming 25,000 lights to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “Wizards in Winter,” which he transmitted through a FM channel. TheMason, Ohio, display became one of YouTube’s early viral videos in 2005 and has more than 11 million views today. “It just shocked everybody that it took on a life of its own,” TSO creator Paul O’Neill told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “When you go to Disney World or MGM, all the lights are all going off to Trans-Siberian Orchestra music.”

Click here for the rest of the 15  fun facts about Christmas lights from Mental Floss online

TIP TUESDAY: Office Gift-Giving Dos & Don’ts

By Erika Napoletano at Staples online

giftsUse these quick tips to help you and others in the office find the perfect gift for one another, whether co-workers’ Secret Santa or a group gift for the boss.

Do Work Within Your Office Gift Policy

Know the rules before you shop and share them with others in your department or team to make sure everyone’s on the same page. If you’re unsure of the rules, a quick trip to human resources can help clarify anything that’s unclear.

Do Make Gifts for Groups of People Shareable or of the Same Value

If you’re asked to buy a gift for a group, you can’t go wrong with a gourmet food basket or tower that everyone can enjoy. If you decide to distribute gifts to individuals in a team, be sure that they’re of equal value, such as an assortment of gift cards of the same denomination.

Do Make Gifts Personal

When shopping for a gift for a specific team member or friend, get them something that matches their personality. Fresh stationery and tech gadgets appeal to a wide range of personalities.

If you’re tasked with purchasing gifts for employees you’re not familiar with, ask around and see what co-workers might recommend for a recipient you don’t know as well.

Do Make Your Gifts Functional

Gifts that the recipient can use regularly always go over big. Shopping for a road warrior? Try a travel accessory. Know a co-worker who’s environmentally conscious? Consider a customized, reusable tote or water bottle. Think about what a particular person on your list might use every day, and start your shopping there.

Don’t Forget About Dietary Restrictions

If you’re considering food gifts or baking at home, don’t forget that there might be people in your office with dietary restrictions. Consider picking up a vegetarian option to go with your homemade, meat-filled dish, or even a gluten-free dessert to complement your homemade delicacy.

Don’t Overspend

It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of the perfect gift and get tempted to go over your budget, but sticking to a budget lets valuable team members know that they’re all valued equally.

Don’t Bow Out of the Gift Exchange

Gifts might not be your thing, but they can be someone else’s. An office-wide gift exchange, like a secret Santa or white elephant exchange, is about an entire team having fun. Encourage others to participate by reminding them it’s about the team getting together and having fun.

Don’t Be Tempted to Be Inappropriate

It’s still an office, and the office gift exchange isn’t the place to focus on that private joke you share with a trusted co-worker. Avoid the temptation to go the gag-gift route and focus on sincerity.

Don’t Forget to be Sensitive About the Feelings of People Not on Your List

While you might only be close enough with a few co-workers to exchange a gift with them, don’t forget the feelings of people who may be hurt they weren’t included on your list. When your list is short, consider giving gifts away from the office, such as at lunch or happy hour, to keep all spirits riding high.

Don’t Forget That Your Boss Is Your Boss

If you’re considering buying a gift for your boss, keep all the dos above in mind along with a special don’t: Don’t go overboard on your boss’s gift. The holiday gift exchange isn’t the place to jockey for a promotion or apologize for a missed deadline back in February. You can do something meaningful and special, but keep it on par with your other holiday gift budgets.

With these holiday tips, your office holiday gift-giving efforts are bound to be appreciated, and the experience will be a much smoother experience. With Christmas in less than two weeks, give yourself the time you need to select right gifts and avoid last-minute gifts that are more about the gift and less about the thought.

WORKFACT WEDNESDAY: Facts About Holiday Hours & Time Off

With the holiday season upon us, you, as an employer, may have questions about providing time off for certain holidays, how to handle pay for company recognized holidays, and how best to manage time off requests and scheduling issues. To help clarify these issues, we’ve addressed several myths concerning company holidays.

Myth: Employers are required to observe certain holidays.

Fact: You may be surprised to learn that, under federal law, employers in the private sector can choose whether or not to observe Santa beachholidays such as New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Note that some states require certain types of businesses to be closed on legal holidays and certain employees to be able to take off on certain holidays (e.g., veterans on Veteran’s Day). Check your state law to ensure compliance.

Myth: Employers cannot require employees to work on a holiday.

Fact: Under federal law, an employer generally may require employees to work on a holiday. Employers should remember, however, that they may need to consider providing reasonable accommodations for employees’ religious beliefs and practices. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, employers with 15 or more employees are generally required to provide reasonable accommodations for employees’ sincerely held religious beliefs and practices, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship. This may include providing unpaid time off. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Compliance Manual has a number of best practices for providing religious accommodations, such as encouraging and facilitating voluntary shift swaps and permitting flexible scheduling.

Myth: Employers must pay non-exempt employees for time off on company holidays.

Fact: Employers generally are not required to pay non-exempt employees when they do not work on a holiday, unless the employer has a policy or practice stating otherwise. However, most employers do offer paid holidays to full-time, non-exempt employees.

Myth: Employers can make deductions from exempt employees’ salaries when the company is closed on a holiday.

Fact: But for a few very limited exceptions, exempt employees must receive their full salary for any workweek in which they perform any work. This means that if the company is closed on a holiday and the employee works any part of the workweek, he or she must still receive their full salary, regardless of whether the employer offers paid holidays.

Myth: Non-exempt employees who work from home on a company recognized holiday without prior authorization are not entitled to pay.

Fact: Employers must pay employees for all hours worked, regardless of whether the time was authorized in advance. The employer, however, may consistently apply their disciplinary action policy to employees who work without prior authorization, but in no case may the employer withhold pay.

Myth: All non-exempt employees must receive “premium pay” when they work on a holiday.

Fact: Under federal law, private sector employers are not generally required to provide premium pay for work performed on holidays (other than the overtime premium required for work in excess of 40 hours in a workweek). While the majority of states do not require premium pay for work on a holiday either, there are exceptions for certain employers in states such as Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Be sure to check your state law to ensure compliance. Even if not required, some employers voluntarily provide premium pay for working on a holiday as an incentive to employees, typically either 1.5 times or 2 times an employee’s normal pay rate.

Myth: Paid holidays must be included when determining whether overtime is due.

Fact: Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), non-exempt employees are entitled to overtime for “hours worked” in excess of 40 in a workweek. Paid time off, including time off for holidays, is not considered “hours worked” under the FLSA. For example, consider the situation where an employee works 30 hours during the workweek of Christmas, receives December 24 and December 25 off as paid holidays, and is paid for 46 hours. Under federal law, the employee would not be entitled to overtime pay because his or her actual hours worked is 30. Some employers, however, choose to voluntarily count paid holiday time off as hours worked.

Myth: If a company holiday falls on an employee’s regular day off, an employer must offer the employee another day off.

Fact: If a holiday falls on an employee’s day off, employers are not required to offer another day off, but some employers do so voluntarily. For instance, consider when an employee regularly has Wednesday off and your company offers Christmas (which falls on a Wednesday this year) as a paid holiday. You may choose to provide the employee with another paid day off (e.g., the day after Christmas) since the employee’s schedule would have had him or her off for Christmas anyway.

Myth: Employers cannot require non-exempt employees to work the day before and after a company holiday to be paid for the holiday.

Fact: Under federal law, employers are generally permitted to require non-exempt employees to work the day before and after a company holiday in order to receive pay for the holiday time off. Typically, employers do not apply this policy to employees who scheduled the time off in advance. Note: This practice may not be applied to exempt employees.

TIP TUESDAY: Survey Says Corporate Culture is Key to Attracting and Retaining Top Tech Talent

 According to the Harris Allied Tech Hiring and Retention Survey for 2017, half of all executives report that finding and hiring top tech talent is their biggest worry – even more than keeping the team they have in place and more than staying competitive with regard to salary and bonuses.

Being able to attract new employees with an amazing corporate culture or a company’s unique industry position ranked as the next most important strategies. Cited most often as contributing to an exceptional corporate culture are:

  • An environment that is creative, inspiring, and fun (63.4%);
  • Being industry-leading and innovative (54.8%); and
  • Having the chance to work on interesting projects (51.6%).

Corporate culture also plays a critical role in employee attrition. Nearly 26% of survey respondents said that people left their company for more exciting opportunities and the chance to work with new technology; another 16.7% said they thought it was because their corporate culture was very challenging. Competitive compensation and benefits packages always play a role, too, with another 19.2% citing that as a reason people had left the firm.

So what do executives feel they should be doing, or doing better, to attract and retain top tech talent? Of the 120 executives that were surveyed, the answers were fairly evenly split among improving professional development opportunities, increasing employee compensation, improving corporate culture and employee morale, and improving benefits, vacation, and paid time off (PTO) time.

Among the other key findings of the Harris Allied Tech Hiring and Retention Survey are:

  • Social media plays an important role in a company’s recruitment strategy, said 86.7% of those surveyed.
  • Offering both competitive compensation packages and outstanding benefits packages were cited most often as important (ranging from slightly to extremely) as a recruitment strategy. Offering employees the opportunity to telecommute came in as a close second.
  • Nearly one-third of respondents said their hiring plan for 2017 would grow by 10% to 15%. But another 27.5% said their plan was still being worked on as of the end of Q4. Another 18.3% plan to hiring aggressively, citing 15% growth or more in their hiring plan for 2017.
  • User experience design and web development projects were cited most often as driving corporate hiring needs in 2017.

WEDNESDAY WORKFACT: Sexual Harassment at Work

{from the HR Daily Advisor at BLR}

Sexual harassment has been making front page headlines recently, taking place from the New York City board room to the Hollywood movie set. What should you know about sexual harassment to protect you and your employees at your place of business?

According to the EEOC, sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination the violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including federal, state, and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and labor organizations.

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature all constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly effects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates am intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

Sexual Harassment Facts:

83% of sexual harassment charges in 2016 were filed by females.

12,860 charges alleging sexual harassment were filed with the EEOC in 2016, up 2% from 2015.

The #metoo campaign hashtag has been used more than 200,000 times across social media to identify victime of sexual harassment.

The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.

The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a co-worker, or a non-employee (i.e., a vendor or customer of the employer).

The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the abusive conduct.

Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury or to discharge of the victim.