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DIY Projects for New Home Owners

Joseph Coupal - Monday, June 22, 2020

As a new homeowner, you've got lots to do like fixing it up and making the place your own. Whether you have an hour or all weekend, you can start and finish at least one of these easy home improvement projects without hiring a contractor and taking out renovation loans:

Set Up a Home Recycling Center

Recycling at home can be as easy as organizing recyclable materials in their own containers. Set up bins to collect plastic, glass, steel cans, aluminum and paper/cardboard. Place labels on buckets, boxes or crates. These make excellent containers and are easy to carry when they get full.

Build a Compost Bin

Using a compost bin gets rid of kitchen waste and turns it into a usable fertilizer that is beneficial for gardens, flower beds and house plants. A recycled washing machine tub makes an excellent composter. With the hole at the top just the right size for stirring, the holes along the sides are good for airflow.

Upgrade to Save

Making your home more energy efficient doesn't have to be time consuming or expensive. If your current appliances aren't due for replacement, make the switch with something more simple. Swap out old blinds for energy-efficient roman shades or change light bulbs to CFLs. Compact fluorescent lamps use 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs, according to

General Home Repairs

Fixing leaky faucets, broken fixtures or squeaky doors is part of owning a home. Unscrew the faucet ring and place teflon tape on the threads. This will allow for a tighter seal and prevent leaks and drips. Oiling a squeaky door hinge or tightening a faucet valve are small things that can be repaired without the aid of a hired hand. WD-40 has become known as a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to home fix ups. It can remove crayon marks from walls and eliminate squeaks and noises from almost any type of fixture or hinge. 


Things to Do in Boston In "The New Normal"

Joseph Coupal - Monday, June 15, 2020
Lallis & Higgins Insurance, Quincy, Weymouth, MA

As Massachusetts reopens under a 4-Phase plan, activities & experiences around Boston are slowly returning under what is being dubbed the “new normal.” Everyday things to do that were once taken for granted—e.g. kayaking, patio dining, farmers markets—are now Boston’s biggest attractions. For a list of what can open in Massachusetts and when, see this link. In the meantime, here are 10 mostly-outdoor activities you can do in Boston right now…

1) Dine outside

After almost three months under a stay-at-home advisory, Massachusetts restaurants can offer sit-down service again (outdoors only for now). See this link for a running list of rooftops & patios that are NOW OPEN in the Boston area. Boston's first beer garden under the new normal, Harpoon, is now open in the Seaport. And parts of Hanover Street in the North End are being turned into a "cafe zone" for al fresco dining. In Waltham, Moody Street is closed to all vehicular traffic as restaurants begin to serve their customers with outdoor dining.

2) Hit up a farmers market

Farmers markets are back for 2020 -- here is a running list on what's open and where. This year, open-air markets are reopening with new guidelines in place to protect shoppers & vendors from the spread of COVID-19. Booths will be more spaced out, hand sanitizing stations will be available, social distancing will be enforced, and masks will be required.

3) Go to a local beach

You don’t have to venture too far outside of Boston to have a beach day. After all, Boston is a port city. Here are 7 beaches within a 10-mile radius of Downtown Boston:

  • M & L Street Beaches (2.6 miles from DWTN Boston)
  • Pleasure Bay Beach (2.9 miles from DWTN Boston)
  • Carson Beach (3.3 miles from DWTN Boston)
  • Constitution Beach (5.7 miles from DWTN Boston)
  • Wollaston Beach (7.9 miles from DWTN Boston)
  • Revere Beach (8.5 miles from DWTN Boston) *
  • Yirrell Beach (9.6 miles from DWTN Boston)

4) Go shopping

Under phase 2 of Massachusetts' reopening plan, retail stores are now allowed to operate at 25% capacity. Read Boston Magazine's recent shopping experience to know what to expect.

5) Catch a movie at a drive-in theater

With restrictions lifted on drive-in movie theaters, The Mendon Twin Drive-In and Showcase Pop-Up Drive-In at Patriot Place are now open. Marshfield Fair drive-in will be hosting a weekend drive-in movie theater beginning with Father’s Day weekend. BYOM (bring your own mask) in case you have to open your window or exit your vehicle for restroom breaks. Also, Saugus' famous Kowloon restaurant is rumored to be converting their parking into a drive-in movie theater soon.

6) Go kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding on the Charles River

Kayaking on the Charles is least at Community Boating Inc. on the Esplanade. Masks must be worn at the dock at all times. 2-hour kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals must be booked in advance. All kayaks, paddles, and life jackets are sanitized between customers.

7) Go for a bike ride, walk, or run

Now is as good of a time than ever to explore Boston’s epic Emerald Necklace -- a 1,100-acre chain of parks linked by parkways and waterways connecting Boston Common, Public Garden, Commonwealth Avenue Mall, The Fens, Forsyth Park, The Riverway, Olmsted Park, Jamaica Pond, Jamaicaway, Arborway, Arnold Arboretum, and Franklin Park. Fun fact: The linear system of parks was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed Central Park in NYC.

Beyond that, the Boston area is home to literally hundreds of beautiful parks where you can go for a walk, run, or bike ride. Pictured above is North Bank Bridge, which connects Cambridge’s North Point Park with Paul Revere Park in nearby Charlestown.

8) Picnic in the park and/or check out some street art

Parks are open per Massachusetts' reopening plan. Support local restaurants by ordering takeout and enjoying it at a neighborhood park. Just stay six feet apart from other parties that are not within your household.

While you're out, take in some of Boston's best works of public art -- see WBUR's "The 50 Best Works Of Public Art In Greater Boston, Ranked" article from 2016 to get started.

Stay safe & stay healthy.


How to Prepare Your Office for Reopening

Joseph Coupal - Monday, June 08, 2020
Lallis and Higgins - Quincy, Weymouth, MA

As the country begins to recover from the coronavirus pandemic and employees start heading back into an office setting, employers need to have plans in place to ensure their employees can return safely. While the crisis has made some companies adopt more robust work-from-home policies, such as the big tech giants, office spaces are rapidly evolving for the post-coronavirus era.

In fact, as companies adapt to the new normal, the modern workplace environment may see some permanent changes. As your business plans to reopen the office, these creative office space and furniture ideas will help keep your workers safe.

Rearrange existing office furniture

Right now, the top priority for businesses is to return their employees to the office as quickly and safely as possible. In this first wave of reopening (up to 50% of employees in an office at one time), companies should focus on retrofitting the workplace to align with current health guidelines.

The most immediate way to do this is to rearrange existing office furniture to ensure they comply with social distancing protocols. If possible, employees’ desks should be spaced six feet apart from each other, while other furniture can be rearranged or even removed to add more space. Social distancing can be enforced further with visual design cues to enforce the six-feet rule, as commercial real estate company Cushman & Wakefield has implemented. One-way traffic may also be enforced to keep employees from making unnecessary contact. Surfaces should also be cleaned more frequently, especially within common areas or with shared items.

Install temporary plexiglass barriers

Many businesses, such as restaurants, gas stations and grocery stores, have already installed temporary plexiglass shields and barriers to stem the spread of the coronavirus. These same barriers can be used in an office environment in areas with high foot traffic and in-person interactions. Temporary plexiglass shields can be placed in conference rooms, on employee desks or in hallways to separate people and maintain social distancing guidelines.

Repurpose communal spaces

For many businesses, large, communal spaces are going unused to comply with social distancing guidelines. These spaces include larger conference rooms, cafeterias and employee lounges. Rather than avoiding these rooms altogether, businesses can repurpose the rooms as temporary workspaces so employees can spread out.

Furthermore, if your company has space outside, you can move employees outdoors with weather permitting.

Open windows instead of turning on the air conditioner

Opening windows is the optimal way to climate-control the office while preventing the spread of coronavirus. Central air conditioners and heaters recirculate the air, which can transmit viral particles from one space to another. In contrast, opening the windows in your office will allow air to flow freely, preventing the virus from circulating through communal spaces.

While not possible for every office building, if you can, open windows around your office to climate control. If your office building does not allow you to open windows, avoid standing near the A/C exhaust, where particles are often trapped.

Purchase additional hand sanitizers

Hand washing is a simple yet effective way to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. As people return to the office, employers should consider purchasing hand sanitizer stations that are placed around common areas, such as break rooms, reception areas, entrances, conference rooms and restrooms to promote good hygiene.

If your office already has hand sanitizing stations in common areas, consider adding personal stations to employee desks. Alternatively, you can supply each worker with their own personal sanitizer each week, along with guidelines for office hand hygiene.

Enforce office capacity policies

Of course, creating distance between employees becomes easier when fewer people are in the building. Many companies are implementing a phased approach to returning people back to the office, such as staggering schedules and encouraging a mixture of remote and on-site work. Communal activities, such as buffet breakfasts and office-wide meetings, should be put on hold or modified to comply with safety regulations.

Install plastic partitions

Although temporary plastic barriers are popping up all over the countries, permanent plexiglass partitions may become the new office norm. Translucent partitions can be a useful tool to keep employees safe, while still being able to communicate freely and maintain some level of connection. This is especially useful in areas where social distancing is not feasible. Plexiglass or glass partitions may be placed in hallways or even inside elevators to minimize the risk of spreading contaminated particles. If you decide to install permanent partitions in your office, look for partitions that are made of antimicrobial materials, which self-sterilize upon contact.

While cubicles seem to be returning to popularity because of COVID-19, architects, building owners, and entrepreneurs may remove one wall in conference rooms to help promote a healthy workplace.

Reconsider cubicles

Over the past couple of decades, cubicles fell out of favor in the modern workplace and were, in many companies, replaced with open-office designs. However, the coronavirus pandemic has made people value private, personal spaces.

To help foster the feeling of an open office workplace while providing a private space for individual employees, plexiglass cubicles may replace the open office concept. While temporary plexiglass partitions are being installed all over the country, the coronavirus may be the reason why cubicles return to the office.

Turn conference rooms into ‘officles’

While cubicles seem to be returning to popularity because of COVID-19, architects, building owners, and entrepreneurs may remove one wall in conference rooms to help promote a healthy workplace. These spaces are known as “officles” because they are a cross between an office and a cubicle. Because these newly renovated spaces only have three walls, air can flow freely throughout the space and potentially prevent germs from gathering in one location.

Create conference spaces rather than rooms

While officles are one way to use transition conference spaces to the new norm, open corners of an office space can be used as a permanent, or makeshift, replacement of a closed conference room. Similar to officles, corner conference rooms promote airflow and can allow employees to spread out from one another.

Rethink the reception area

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, most open offices offered a reception area where customers, clients or other visitors were typically greeted by an employee, then encouraged to sit or grab a cup of coffee while they waited. While this approach certainly made customers feel more comfortable and welcome, reception areas post-COVID could see a major overhaul in the next few months.

Some companies are reimagining the reception area as a decontamination lounge. New procedures, such as taking temperatures at the door, placing hand washing stations in waiting rooms, or even instructing people to take off their shoes, may become commonplace. Meanwhile, amenities that pose a higher risk of spreading germs like self-serve coffee will likely go by the wayside to reduce the risk of transmission. In its place, you may see a sink or hand-washing station that you must use before entering the office.

Update air filtration and ventilation

Coronavirus is thought to spread primarily through droplets spread when we talk, cough and breathe. While many of these droplets fall to the ground and dissipate quickly, smaller particles may linger in the air. Improving air filtration and ventilation is one way to mitigate against these tiny, potentially viral particles.

Many large businesses are poised to upgrade their HVAC systems in the near future to improve airflow and filter out contaminants.

If you don’t have the budget to replace your HVAC, portable air purifiers can be placed around the office for a fraction of the cost. This is especially useful if office windows can’t be opened to air out the space.


4 Steps to Safely Reopening Your Business

Joseph Coupal - Monday, June 01, 2020
Lallis and Higgins - Quincy, Weymouth, MA

As Massachusetts begins to lift stay-at-home orders, here's what your business needs to know about safely resuming operations.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many states have relaxed their stay-at-home orders and begun to reopen non-essential businesses. For business owners, this means navigating a new world of social distancing, face coverings and decreased in-store capacity as consumers slowly start to resume their "normal" lives.

For many businesses, the key to getting back to business will be prioritizing the health and safety of both employees and customers in a clear, demonstrable way. You and your staff will need to strictly adhere to and enforce any new health guidelines put in place by your state and/or municipality, and effectively communicate those protocols to your patrons.

If your business is preparing to reopen its doors, here's what you need to know about safely resuming operations while building trust and confidence among your customer base.

Prepare your workplace for the transition

Social distancing guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) require at least six feet of space between individuals whenever possible. This may mean installing physical barriers in your store or office, changing your layout to create more space between workstations, closing communal spaces and staggering shifts and breaks to minimize any unnecessary interactions.

Create an employee wellness plan to monitor health

Local, state and federal guidelines for specific industries are changing daily as COVID-19 evolves.

Public health organizations have recommended businesses that are able to operate remotely (fully or partially) continue to do so to mitigate the spread of the virus. In fact, many large corporations have extended their work-from-home orders to October 2020 for all employees whose jobs can be done remotely. However, if your employees will soon be reconvening in the workplace, include the following items in your wellness plan:

  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) or face coverings for employees. Proper PPE has been an important part of protecting essential healthcare workers and limiting the spread of the virus throughout the pandemic. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does require certain industries to use standardized PPE like N95 masks, but if yours is not one of them, you may wish to provide cloth face coverings, masks and/or gloves for your employees to wear in the workplace.
  • Temperature checks to enter a workplace. According to Stone, temperature checks are already a requirement for some essential workers and are expected to be a requirement for reopening many types of businesses. If you decide or are required to implement temperature checks, Stone says to designate one person as the recorder, such as a manager.
  • Daily wellness checks. Self-reported "symptom surveys" that are completed by employees before entering the workplace are likely here to stay, too, said Stone.
  • Employer-led COVID testing for workers. Stone believes the onus may soon be on employers to have a record of employee COVID-19 status or vaccination. As scientific and medical research on COVID immunity evolves, this may become part of the employer testing process as well.

Implement safety measures for handling physical items

Non-essential retail stores are opening up across the country, even if some states only allow for curbside pickup for now. Retailers should take a cue from the restaurant industry, which implemented certain health and safety protocols for customer pickup orders at the start of the pandemic. This is not only a good, practical public health strategy, but it may help customers feel more confident about shopping with you.

Most businesses aren't expecting things to go 'back to normal' right away and realize it will take time for public fear to fade.

Here are a few things you can do to minimize person-to-person contact if your business sells physical items to customers:

  • Limit payment options to cashless methods. Cash touches lots of hands and requires close contact, so you may wish to require cashless payment options like online payments or credit/debit card only. Stoga reminded retailers that this option does have equity issues, as some consumers may not have access to credit or debit cards.
  • Set up a 'pickup rack' at the store entrance. Clients can stay in their cars and receive a text when their items are ready to go and placed on the rack.
  • Place safety seals on bags. Just as restaurants did, consider using bags with safety seals when packaging your customers' orders. Stoga noted that this tends to allay the fears of anxious patrons.

Communicate your plans clearly to employees and customers

Once you have your health and safety plans in place for your reopening, you need a clear communication strategy to ensure your staff and customers understand their role in mitigating COVID-related risks.

Communication is critical. With so much uncertainty in the news and employees asking questions, we have been communicating even more. Holding short huddles everyday with our teams to share anything new has really helped.

When you tell your customers about your reopening plans, be ready with a unified message across all your channels, and reiterate that message in-store and through regular transactional touchpoints. Most importantly, be prepared to provide updates, take feedback to heart and adapt your operations accordingly.

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