Discover Is Offering Employees a Free College Education. Here Are the Rules

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Walmart should be pretty flattered right now.

Why? Because Discover, the financial-services company, just announced a similar plan to the retail giant’s for sending employees to college (minus the whole $1 a day thing) — right down to two of the schools involved.

The gist of the new benefit is pretty much the same: Discover will now give all U.S.-based employees the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree for free.

The Discover College Commitment  

The new benefit, called the Discover College Commitment, will be available to all U.S.-based full-time or flex part-time employees who want to receive their first bachelor’s degree. According to the company, nearly 90% of its employees who do not have a postsecondary degree work in the customer care centers, which are all U.S.-based.

After any grants have been applied, the company will cover any remaining tuition, fees, books and supplies. Tuition will be paid directly to the employee’s school of choice, while spending on qualified books, supplies and fees will be reimbursed.

Eligible employees can enroll in online degree programs at three universities — Wilmington University in Delaware, Brandman University in California or the University of Florida — and can choose from one of a few select degree paths.

Through Brandman University and the University of Florida, employees can earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration, while employees who choose Wilmington University can earn a bachelor’s degree in organizational management, business management, software design and development or computer and network security.

The new program is in partnership with Guild Education, which will provide academic counseling to employees to help them find the right program for their educational and personal development.

There is no tenure period involved (meaning qualifying employees can take advantage of the Discover College Commitment as soon as they choose). However, employees must be in active status and in good standing within the company. They also must meet certain expectations within their role and maintain at least a 2.0 grade-point average or higher.

Employees should note one important thing, though: If a Discover employee is terminated, all tuition, fees and reimbursements that the employee received within the 24 months prior must be paid back.

Education Assistance Through Discover

Before offering fully paid bachelor’s degree programs through the College Commitment program, Discover already had a few education assistance opportunities in place for employees.

The In-Network Degree Assistance program provides employees with as much as 90% of the tuition costs, or up to $5,250 for an associate’s or bachelor’s degree or $10,000 for a graduate degree annually, for accredited, in-network colleges that are outside of the College Commitment program.

The company’s Out-of-Network Degree Assistance program will cover up to $2,500 for an associate’s, $5,250 for a bachelor’s or $10,000 for graduate degree annually at an accredited university outside the Guild Education university network.

The company also offers employees a leadership-education program, an on-site MBA program and an internal professional-development program — so while the College Commitment Program may be new, the company’s assistance for employees advancing their education and careers is not.

“Investing in our employees and their futures will not only make us a stronger company, but have a lasting positive impact on those who might otherwise never get the chance to attend college,” said Jon Kaplan, vice president of training and development at Discover, in a news release.

Grace Schweizer is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

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Getting Older Doesn’t Have to Mean Feeling Old. Here’s How to Stay Vibrant

As much as I’d like to say otherwise, we all get older whether we want to or not.

The good news is, reaching middle age can be liberating and fun.

Sure, we have to think more carefully about things like retirement and long-term investments. But middle age also means we may have a bit more disposable income to spend on things like sports cars or travel adventures.

The key to getting the most out of middle age and beyond, however, is staying healthy enough to enjoy it.

Most of us know to get regular checkups at the doctor and a smattering of yearly medical tests. But learning the nuances of taking care of ourselves as we age is a little more difficult because there’s a lot more to remember.

Fortunately, the New York Times put together a list of just about everything people 30 years and older should keep in mind to stay healthy and active well into their senior years.

The Well Midlife Tuneup offers tips on everything from nutrition and exercise to the importance of staying connected with friends and family as we age.

The list also addresses health issues that we assume are a normal part of aging but that could actually be mitigated or avoided altogether by actively managing our health and fitness.

For example, our hearing naturally decreases as we get older, but a midlife hearing test could catch noise-induced hearing loss before it becomes irreversible.

The tuneup tip sheet also reminds us that Medicare doesn’t cover dental procedures, so being mindful of our dental health can save us money on expensive corrective procedures down the road.

For more midlife health and wellness tips, be sure to check out the entire list on the New York Times website.

I recommend bookmarking it for reference and printing out a copy to keep on hand at home.

Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She enjoys telling readers about affordable ways to stay healthy, so look her up on Twitter (@lisah) if you’ve got a tip to share.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

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Is Working from Home Right for You? These Do’s and Don’ts Are Here to Help

I work a traditional 8-to-5 office job, and it is taxing in many ways. I have to get up early, make myself presentable and start my commute early enough to reach the office on time. What starts as an eight- or nine-hour workday easily morphs into 10 or 11 hours once I take preparation and commute times into account.

The average commute for an American worker is up to 26.4 minutes according to 2015 U.S. Census data — and that time increases if you live in a metro area. It’s no wonder more employees are asking to work remotely, either on a full-time basis or as needed. Working from home, or WFH, offers numerous benefits to employees — but, as it turns out, offering WFH options also benefits the employer.

Employer Benefits

Global Workplace Analytics evaluated thousands of studies focused on companies who offered work-from-home flexibility. While they found too many to list in this article, the main benefits included an increase in productivity among employees, fewer people calling in sick (and therefore less lost time) and a reduction in burnt-out employees.

Steve Pritchard, HR manager at Cuuver, brings up some additional benefits for employers. “Giving employees the opportunity to work from home if they wish is great for helping to retain staff, especially those who have quite a long commute to work,” he explains. “You can list it on your job advertisements as one of your company benefits, which will help to attract a high caliber of applicants.”

Another perk for employers concerns sick-day usage. “If a member of staff doesn’t feel up to coming into the office but they can get work done from home, this means you aren’t a man down – this makes for a massive perk for both the business and the employee,” says Pritchard.

As far as managing remote employees, Pritchard thinks it’s doable. “Naturally, it can be harder to manage remote workers, so the best way to do this is to implement a progression tool,” he says. “Whether it’s a Google Calendar or specialist software like Zoho or Trello, remote workers can feed into the system what work they are doing, how long it is going to take them and when it will be completed by. Phone calls also help everyone to stay connected when working from home.”

Employee Benefits

The benefits of working from home for employees are probably pretty obvious. You save time (and money) on your commute, you don’t have to adhere to a dress code (though some clothes are preferable) and you can hang out with your dog (or cat, no judgement here).

But there are hidden benefits to working from home that you might not have considered.

As The Muse points out, working from home doesn’t mean you’re stuck in your office all the time. It’s actually a great and flexible way to still get work done when you’re traveling. You can also take your laptop outside and get some work done when the weather is nice, instead of being stuck inside a stuffy office.

I spoke with Dahna Heineman, senior security program manager at DXC Technologies, to learn more about the benefits of working from home for employees. Heineman has been working from home full time for five years and loves the benefits it provides her.

Heineman has no commute and spends less than ever on things like makeup, hair products and dry cleaning. She’s also found that working from home has allowed her to become more attuned to changes in tone of voice.

Heineman also appreciates the ability to work uninterrupted from home. “No one randomly pops up at your desk to interrupt your train of thought while you are working on a security product workflow for multiple services and regions,” she says. “No office noise around or people chatting in the background make it easier to concentrate.”

Drawbacks

Of course, just because working from home can be beneficial for workers and their employers doesn’t mean everyone can (or should) do it. While Heineman generally likes working from home, she acknowledges that there is also a downside.

No commute might sound heavenly to many workers, but it could actually be detrimental. “You have zero time from when you stop working to decompress,” explains Heineman. Rather, you go straight from work life to family life without stopping to take a break.

And while working from home gives you the peace to concentrate on the task at hand, it can also be lonely. “No one ever pops up to give you a break, a laugh or interact with you,” says Heineman. If you’re a social person this can be extremely demoralizing.

Working from home could also mean you take fewer breaks throughout the day. For lunch, Heineman says, “You tend to grab your food, eat it alone and not take a full hour as your break.” Additionally, you could end up “schedul[ing] back to back calls and never even stand[ing] up for six hours.”

This can lead to issues with your health — both mental and physical.

Do’s and Don’ts

If you’re lucky enough to have an employer that supports working from home, you need to be aware of some do’s and don’ts to make sure you don’t take advantage of the policy and potentially ruin it for your co-workers.

Do get ready for work in the morning.

Diane Gottsman writes in an article for HuffPost that getting dressed, brushing your hair and washing your face can help you get in the right mindset for the workday. It might be tempting to work in your pajamas, but putting on pants and a shirt will tell your brain that it’s time to work rather than lounge.

Do make sure you are available during regular business hours.

“Your availability to colleagues should be no different when working remotely than it would be if you were in the office,” Barry Chignell writes in an article for CIPHR.

Don’t skip your lunch break.

“You have the luxury of being more flexible with your day,” writes Gottsman, “but sticking to a routine, which includes planning for healthy meals, will enable you to work more resourcefully than wandering around the house for a cup of noodle soup or a few handfuls of chips.” You’ll enjoy the mental break and will return to work ready to conquer your busy afternoon.

Do create a home office.

“Preferably, you need natural light and a door, so that you can separate your work from your home life when the workday is done,” writes Bill Murphy Jr. in an article for Inc. It might be tempting to work from your couch, but having a designated office space in your home will help you focus on the task at hand.

Don’t get distracted.

Sure, it’s easy enough to do a few chores throughout the day when you’re working from home, but make sure you’re still putting in your hours. “Whether you work in a brick-and-mortar building, local coffee shop or your personal domain, it’s up to you to control your personal disturbances,” explains Gottsman.

That means turning off the TV, staying off social media and scheduling breaks if necessary to take care of things around the house.

Working from home isn’t for everyone, but if you have the right mindset it can be a very rewarding experience. Whether your employer allows the occasional remote day or lets you telecommute full time, make sure you stay productive and switched on when working away from the office.

Catherine Hiles works from home very occasionally in her day job, and as a freelance writer. She prefers the social aspect of an office environment, but appreciates flexibility when she needs to focus on important tasks.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

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