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Your Guide to a Safe Home Office

The arrival of the coronavirus pandemic forced millions of people suddenly to join the work-from-home ranks. And it’s likely that many will continue to do so even after the danger passes. Setting up a safe home office is a top priority for home-based workers, whether they work for themselves or someone else. 

At Lake Region Insurance Agency, we know that safety comes partly from your insurance coverage. So we help our customers find the policies they need to protect them at home and elsewhere. Get in touch today for a free insurance review to see how we can assist you.

Safety Considerations in a Home Office

Most people are aware of the health and safety guidelines present in traditional workplace environments. If you work in an office or other business setting, you probably took part in some sort of safety training at one time.  

In your own home, however, it can be easy to take your eye off the ball. The familiar space can allow you to become more comfortable and relaxed, creating a perfect opportunity for an accident. Trips and falls that result in injury are far more common than people often think.

Trips and falls at home are surprisingly common.

Additionally, your employer can have legal repercussions if you are injured, even if the accident takes place in your home. According to OSHA, your employer has a responsibility to ensure your safety by helping you comply with accepted standards. They clarify that this responsibility applies to a workplace “in a designated area in an employee’s home.” 

Ensuring that you are working in a safe home office is not only a benefit for you. It can also be essential for your employer. And if you are self-employed, safety measures are still necessary.

How Can I Set Up a Safe Home Office?

When you prepare your office space, look at your area from the perspective of an employer rather than a homeowner. There are a few crucial areas to consider as you work to ensure a safe home office.

The Environment and Ergonomics

Your workspace needs to be appropriate for your role and the tasks you have to accomplish. If you need to handle any machinery, make sure you have enough room to do so safely. The space should have ample light, be well-ventilated, and provide enough room for you to move around safely.

If you spend hours working at a computer, then a safe home office should include an ergonomic chair and desk. If at all possible, invest in a desk that can raise and lower, as needed. Feet should be flat on the floor when you are sitting, and your arms should be at about a 90-degree angle when typing.

A safe home office includes having an ergonomic chair, desk, and keyboard.

There should also be adequate lighting at your desk so that you can see the screen without needing to squint or strain. Take plenty of breaks from your desk to stretch and move your body. Ideally, you will give yourself a few moments away from the computer about every 30 minutes.

Tripping Hazards

Slips, trips, and falls are surprisingly common causes of injuries suffered in the workplace. This fact holds true even in a home office situation. In fact, your home’s stairs may be one of the biggest hazards to your safety. 

Make sure the floor around your workspace is completely clear and accessible without cords or cables that could cause a fall. Invest in enough storage for products and paperwork so that you do not have things in your way as you walk through your space.

Fire Hazards

A house fire is a significant concern for any homeowner. Fire safety must be a factor when making your plan for a home office. Be sure to include all of these safety tips in your workspace:

  • Keep walkways in your office clear to ensure a quick evacuation.
  • Have a working fire extinguisher in your office. Additional extinguishers should be in the garage and near the kitchen. Learn how to use one.
  • Check that there is a working smoke detector in your office and test it regularly.
  • Know and practice an evacuation plan. This step is critical if your office is not on the ground floor. 
  • Do not smoke or light candles in your home office.

A safe home office should have a functioning fire extinguisher.

Security

Whether you own your own business or work from home for someone else, maintaining a safe home office also includes data security. You must follow best practices for data protection, confidentiality, and customer privacy. It is crucial to have a secure place to store any files and ensure this is only accessible by those with permission.

Your computer will also need protection to maintain the integrity of sensitive data or information. Multi-step authentication and anti-virus software are two vital pieces of home office data safety. 

If you are working for yourself, cyber liability insurance is another critical component to consider. And when working as a remote employee, you still need to adhere to your employer’s requirements and training. Be sure to talk with them about the measures you need to take when working from a home office.

Electrical Hazards

Overloaded electrical circuits can be a major fire risk and could cause an outage that damages your computer or files. Avoid the temptation to use multiple extension cords that could overload your system. If you need to install additional outlets, hire a licensed professional to do the work safely.

A surge protector is essential for protecting your computer equipment. Fuse breakers should have clear labels and be easily accessible. Ensure that you do not have any frayed wires in use and always address electrical concerns right away.

How Can We Help?

The Lake Region independent agents are the friendly experts for your Minnesota insurance needs. We are here to help you find everything you need to protect your home, autos, health, and business. 

With three offices throughout Greater Minnesota, Lake Region Insurance Agency is able to help no matter where you are. Get in touch with the team today for a free insurance review, and make sure that you have sufficient coverage.

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8 Ways to Protect Yourself Online

Our society certainly revolves around the internet today. Everything from social media to eCommerce to conducting business online is part of our everyday world now. It’s more important than ever to protect yourself online and keep your data secure. 

Just as the world has evolved into the virtual space, so has insurance. At Lake Region Insurance Agency, we work tirelessly to protect your information. And we offer cyber liability insurance for added security for those who need it.

Connect with one of our independent agents today to see how we can serve you and your insurance needs.

Protect Yourself Online in Every Way Possible

Viruses, malware, and hackers lurk everywhere. So it is wise to make use of the most thorough and reputable protection you can. In addition to paid security options, there are plenty of things you can do that don’t cost a dime. Here are eight ways to protect yourself online without spending extra money. 

1. Make It a Family Affair

Learning how to stay safe online requires education. As children are getting online younger and younger, it’s crucial that you teach them how to stay safe. Some of the essential rules for them to learn include:

  • Never tell their passwords to anyone but you. And make sure you know or have all of their passwords.
  • Never tell anyone online their name or location. 
  • Never send photos of themselves to anyone online. 

Keep children safe online by teaching them basic privacy rules.

Scammers, hackers, and other unsavory predators are extremely good at convincing children to break the rules. Try to keep your child within your sight when they are online.

Your children may not be the only ones vulnerable in this digital era. Your parents or grandparents are also likely targets for scammers. Be sure to help them learn how to stay safe online, as well.

2. Manage Your Passwords Carefully

Password management helps protect you and your assets by working to keep the bad guys at bay. Set a reminder on your phone or in your calendar to change your passwords every few months. At the very least, do this for your banking and credit card sites.

There is a surprising amount of easily-accessible data about you online. And hackers and bots will use that data when trying to guess your passwords. In general, create passwords that meet the following requirements:

  • Minimum of eight characters
  • A mixture of letters, numbers, and symbols
  • A combination of lowercase and uppercase letters
  • No version of your name – This includes first, middle, and last names. 
  • No pet names
  • No portion of your user name
  • No birth dates, anniversaries, or phone numbers
  • No social security numbers
  • Unique passwords for each site

If you struggle to create strong passwords, there are password generators available to help. And to keep them all secure, you can consider using a password manager, as well.

3. You’ve Got Mail

Protect yourself online by paying attention to signs of email scams.

Be cautious of emails you receive from an unknown source. Don’t click on links and never reply with personal information or bank account numbers.

Unfortunately, you must be wary of emails that appear to come from legitimate companies, too, such as Amazon or Apple. Many scams trick people into thinking the email is from a real account. And many of these attempts are very convincing.

No business or bank will ever ask you to send information like your SSN or credit card numbers to them by email. Always log into your accounts to handle any business with those institutions.

4. Be a Cautious Social Butterfly

Social media has become ever-present in our society. Millions of people use it to connect with others and to run their businesses.

But you must keep in mind that nothing you share on social media is truly private. No matter how many security measures are set up, that information is out of your hands once you share it. So be cautious about anything you post publicly.

5. Be Careful with Public Wi-Fi 

Avoid using any computer except your own or your company’s. Public devices do not have the same level of protection in place and carry greater risk. Remember to log out of every online account and web browser you use while on any computer but your own.

Similarly, be cautious when using shared, public Wi-Fi, such as at a coffee shop. Avoid accessing sensitive accounts when you are not on your home internet.

Be cautious when working on a public Wi-Fi.

Consider setting up two-step authentication for any account that offers it. Although it makes logging in a slightly longer process, it does give you extra protection. This option can help you protect yourself online no matter where you are.

6. Back It Up

Data breaches happen regularly. In 2019, there were more than 2000 events that exposed millions of people’s information.

Backing up your information to at least one secure location will allow you to retrieve your data. For some people, using an external hard drive might be enough. But most people also use a cloud storage system, such as Google. Many data storage providers have redundant security measures to keep your back-up safe.

7. Don’t Ignore the Operating System Updates

Your operating system often offers updates that may seem time-consuming. And you may not even notice any difference after an update. While this may feel like a waste of time, updating your operating system regularly is vital to your data security.

Updates frequently include measures to boost the capability of your malware and firewall. These systems need to remain up-to-date to protect your data from viruses and other attacks.

8. Pay Attention to Your Business Security

Cyber liability insurance helps you protect your business.

If you own a business, cybersecurity takes on a new level of necessity. Because you are working with other people’s data, you carry additional liability for its safety. Make sure you do everything possible to protect your clients’ and customers’ information.

Talk with your agent about purchasing cyber liability insurance to add more protection to your business. 

Protect Everything Possible

The extra steps you take in our digital world to protect yourself online can spare you heartache and financial catastrophe. Purchasing sufficient insurance coverage is another way to make sure you, your family, and your business have the protection you need. 

Contact Lake Region Insurance Agency at any of our three Greater Minnesota offices for a free review. Our independent agents are here to serve you in Cokato, New London, and Willmar, MN.

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Do I Need Home-Based Business Insurance?

Times have changed, and our world is shifting to a more digital approach to business. Many people are now teleworking from home or running their own business. For the latter situation, it’s essential to consider home-based business insurance.

Make sure you have the protection you and your business deserve. Check in with the experts at Lake Region Insurance Agency for a complimentary policy review and quote. We are here to serve our Greater Minnesota neighbors.

What Counts as a Home-Based Business?

What do Purex, Apple Computer, Hallmark, and Baskin-Robbins have in common? They all began in someone’s home, basement, or garage. So if you have a home-based business, you are in good company. 

And you aren’t alone, since roughly two-thirds of all companies begin in a house somewhere.

Running a home business has tax, liability, and insurance implications, so it’s critical to know if you fall into this category. Some examples of home-based businesses include:

  • Daycare
  • Pet Sitting
  • Dog Grooming
  • Hairdresser
  • Freelance Writer
  • Tutor
  • Professional Consultant
  • Web Designer
  • Online Clothing Boutique

As more and more owners shift to the virtual business model, the list of work-from-home companies continues to grow. If you fall into the category of a home-based business, you need to investigate your insurance requirements.

Daycare is a home-based business

Isn’t My Homeowners Policy Good Enough?

Many people who run a business from their house mistakenly assume that their homeowners insurance provides sufficient coverage. Unfortunately, this is rarely true.

For businesses with minimal equipment and no client foot traffic, a homeowners plan might be enough. But this is a rare situation and still warrants a chat with your agent to clarify your coverage.

If you regularly receive clients in your home or store inventory on-site, you likely need home-based business insurance. Your standard homeowners plan probably doesn’t adequately protect your business.

Be sure to talk with your independent agent to determine what supplemental or separate protection you need to protect your hard work. From property to liability insurance, you need to make sure you have sufficient coverage.

When you rent rather than own your home, you also need to verify your coverage. Just like a homeowners policy, a renters policy will not fully protect your home-based business.

Limitations of Homeowners Insurance Coverage

Most homeowners insurance policies have limits and exclusions that could leave you and your business unprotected. Typically, homeowners and renters insurance policies lack the following:

  • Protection for business documents and records
  • Sufficient coverage for loss of files and data
  • Liability coverage if an employee or client sustains an injury in your home
  • Adequate replacement protection for business equipment
  • Coverage for lost revenue if something prevents you from running your business from your house

There are many common scenarios when a business owner may run into one of these limitations. 

For example, let’s say that you are the victim of a home robbery, and they steal your business laptop, desktop, and monitor. Most homeowners policies will limit this business coverage to $2500. Anything beyond that will have no protection without a home-based business insurance policy.

Or imagine that a client is at your house for a meeting, and they trip and fall, breaking their arm. If this were a neighbor visiting for fun, your homeowners policy would kick in. But because this is a business relationship, you are out of luck.

Business liability insurance

You’ve worked too hard to leave your business unprotected. Make sure you get a sufficient policy in place.

You probably need a business insurance policy if:

  • You conduct business in your house, including receiving clients.
  • You have employees.
  • You store inventory in your house.
  • You have business-related equipment, such as computers or cell phones.
  • Your company owns one or more vehicles.
  • You store sensitive data.
  • You rely on your business income to pay your bills.

What Should a Home-Based Business Insurance Policy Cover?

When speaking with your independent insurance agent, you should discuss coverage for all of the following needs.

Business Property

As mentioned, most renters and homeowners plans have strict limits on what they will replace from a home-based business. Typically, business equipment far surpasses that amount. 

Additionally, a homeowners policy only covers equipment if it’s in the home. If your business laptop is lost, stolen, or damaged while you’re working in a coffee shop, you won’t have coverage. 

Company Vehicle

Do you use your vehicle for business activities? Your car insurance policy may not cover you if something happens while you’re conducting business. Business auto insurance is a crucial component of your coverage.

Liability

General liability coverage protects you if a client or employee gets hurt in your home office or on your property. It can also cover an employee who sustains an injury off-site while conducting company business.

Product liability is necessary if you sell physical products. This plan protects you if an item doesn’t work correctly or harms a person or their property.

Professional liability insurance offers protection for service-based businesses. This coverage can kick in if someone claims damages stemming from your services or advice.

Since legal and medical bills can escalate quickly, adequate liability coverage is crucial for your business.

Cyber Liability

Cyber liability coverage

Cyber liability insurance is critical for most businesses today. Unless you operate solely with paper and pencil, you should consider this type of policy. It protects you against losses stemming from hackers and data breaches.

Any business that relies on electronic storage or transmission of client and company information should have this coverage in place. 

Consider an Endorsement

In some situations, you may not require a stand-alone home-based business insurance policy. Talk with your agent to see if an endorsement makes more sense for your needs.

For example, for a small additional fee, you may be able to raise your homeowners policy limits for business coverage. Typically, an endorsement is only available to businesses that have few or no on-site visitors. 

Get the Perfect Policy 

Do you have any questions about your homeowners insurance policy and how you can protect your home-based business? The independent agents at Lake Region Insurance Agency are here to help.

With offices in Cokato, New London, and Willmar, MN, we can meet your personal and professional insurance needs. Reach out today to get started.

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What is Cyber Liability Insurance and Why Do I Need It?

Business owners, we can guess that you practically have your “life” on your laptop. It’s certainly the way of modern business. Cyber liability insurance is your protection in a digitally vulnerable culture.

Customer data and sensitive information are just a few of the items most owners store online as part of their operations. Hackers want to access your systems and your company information for many kinds of exploitation.

When you purchase a cyber liability business policy from Lake Region Insurance Agency, you help protect everything you’ve worked tirelessly to build. Your operations, livelihood, and customers depend on safe and secure online systems. 

And if an issue arises for your business, your neighbors at Lake Region help you get back on your (cyber) feet with quick claims processing and payouts. Reach out today for a complimentary quote and insurance review.

Who Needs Cyber Liability Coverage?

There are more and more cyber data breaches each year, and hackers continually up their game and hone their skills. Malware and ransomware are getting more sophisticated. With each passing week, it’s more likely you or your business could be the target of cybercrime. 

You should consider getting cyber liability insurance if your business:

  • Emails Clients, Vendors, or Employees
  • Takes Payments Online
  • Advertises Online
  • Stores Customer, Vendor, and Client Data Electronically
  • Sends and Receives Documents Online
  • Maintains Social Media Business Pages 

These are just a few of the business scenarios where cyber liability insurance makes sense. The bottom line is that almost every business now has a virtual, online component to it. This fact makes just about every company vulnerable to cybersecurity concerns.

Policy coverage

Not only is your company data at risk online, but so are your operations and revenue streams if you lose control over your information. It’s crucial to ensure your policy covers lost income in addition to data recovery and system repair. Talk with your independent agent about including the following components in your policy coverage.

First-Party Damages

  • Electronic Data Damage or Loss: You could get hit by a hacker, a virus, or a denial-of-service attack. You want a policy that can cover costs associated with data recovery and system repair. Do you store data for someone else? Would you need to hire an expert to help you recover what you lost? You can include this kind of coverage in your cyber liability policy.
  • Ransom Attacks: Increasingly, there are situations where a hacker gains control of your data. Then they send a ransom note demanding payment from you to obtain data access. Or they threaten to launch a virus or further exploit confidential customer data. Your policy can protect you in this event, as well. Cyber liability insurance pays the ransom demand as well as other expenses you may incur in the demand response.
  • Income Loss and Extra Expenses: If your business operations cease or slow down while navigating a cyber attack, your policy should cover any lost income. Further, if you incur extra expenses while getting your business back up and running, your insurance should cover those, too.
  • Crisis Management: Hackers don’t just steal your data. They also damage your reputation. Your business success depends on your “know, like, and trust” factor. You may need to spend time and money rebuilding trust with your clients, customers, and industry. Your policy should cover expenses related to managing your reputation after a data breach.
  • Notification Costs: After a data breach, you have a legal obligation to notify anyone impacted by the crime. Reaching out to each of your clients, vendors, and employees can be costly and time-consuming. An effective liability policy will cover these cyber-repair costs. 

Third-party damages

  • Regulatory Proceedings: Depending on the situation, your company may incur a fine or penalty for non-compliance with data breach regulations. A cyber liability policy can defray the costs of legal representation during your response to the proceedings.
  • Network Privacy Liability: Your policy should protect you in the event of a negligence claim around your data privacy policies and procedures. For example, an employee could open a virus-containing email that compromises your system. Or you could fall victim to a denial-of-service attack. A sufficient business policy covers you if you are found negligent in your protection of customer and vendor data.
  • Electronic Media Liability: This coverage kicks in when there is a lawsuit for slander, libel, defamation, copyright infringement, or privacy invasion. This legal trouble often happens after the publication of data on social media or other internet platforms after a cyber attack.

Take Time to Understand Your Policy

Each cyber liability insurance policy is unique. Work with your agent to carefully examine your coverage requirements and craft the plan that best fits your business operations. For example, a medical office may need more extensive data privacy negligence coverage than a clothing boutique. 

Gone are the days when cybercrime seemed to impact only giant corporations or those in the financial field. Any company that utilizes an online platform to receive, send, or store customer data is at risk. 

Feel Secure Online with Lake Region Insurance Agency

At Lake Region, our customers are also our neighbors. We understand how hard you’ve worked to launch and build your business. 

And we know how essential a solid reputation is for small businesses across Greater Minnesota. We’ll help you guard your good standing in the event you are the target of cybercriminals.

For over 50 years, we’ve built our agency on the trust of our neighbors in Cokato, New London, and Wilmar, MN. Our knowledgeable staff will help you select the policies that meet your budget and needs. 

As independent agents, the Lake Region team can search for precisely what you need among hundreds of policy options. Sufficient coverage provides the peace of mind you need, whether you are online or running a brick-and-mortar.

Contact one of our independent agents today for a free insurance review and quote. We won’t stop until you and your business have excellent protection in the event of cybercrime. We hope the worst never happens, but with our coverage and customer service, you’ll be prepared if it does.