Are your employees scared to take time off?

Your employees might be feeling pressured and overworked. Avoid low productivity in your workplace with these tips on vacation impact.


They might be getting paid time off, but close to half of American workers aren’t taking it—or aren’t taking as much of it as they’re entitled to. And that’s making for a workforce that’s not only overworked and under stress, but actually being pressured to forego time that they’re entitled to.

So says “The PTO Pressure Report” from Kimble Applications, which finds that not only have 47 percent of employees not taken as much PTO as they’re entitled to, 21 percent admit to having left more than five vacation days unused. According to survey respondents, workload-related stress is the top reason so many are failing to use all the PTO they’re entitled to: 27 percent say they just have too many projects or deadlines to take time off, and 13 percent dread the heaps they’ll find on their desks when they get back.

Their bosses aren’t helping, either, with 19 percent of respondents saying that they’ve felt pressured by employers or managers to abstain from vacation. Not only that, more than a quarter are actually nervous or even anxious at the thought of submitting a time-off request; 19 percent worry about being away from work, while 7 percent fear that their requests will be denied.

But businesses could actually be shooting themselves in the foot by keeping such a tight rein on employees. Says the report, “These managers likely don’t realize that this is having a direct, negative impact on the business, as past research indicates that employees who take most or all of their vacation time each year perform better and are more productive than those who do not.”

Even if they get to go on vacation, it’s not doing a lot of them much good. They’re too wired into the job, with 48 percent saying they proactively check in on vacation. A surprising 19 percent do so every day, with another 29 percent doing so periodically. And the boss isn’t making it easy to be on vacation once they get to go; 29 percent of workers say they’re expected to be available for emergencies, and another nine percent say they’re expected to check in frequently. Can’t exactly unwind too well with that hanging over their heads, which means they get back to work stressed out from making sure they satisfy vacation’s employment obligations.

They think they’ll get ahead that way, though—at least 14 percent believe that if they leave that vacation time on the table, they’re more likely to succeed and move up in the ranks. And 19 percent say that’s more important to them than the vacation time they’re abandoning—they’d give up their vacation time for a whole year if it meant they’d nail a promotion.

Younger employees are more willing to work instead of take time off than their elders ; 25 percent of those aged 25–34 feel this way compared to only 17 percent of those aged 55–64.

What businesses may not realize is how important PTO is for the company’s bottom line. Mark Robinson, co-founder of Kimble Applications disagrees. “I am an advocate of giving people a reasonable vacation entitlement and then encouraging them to take it,” he says in the report. ”My experience is that businesses work best if there is clarity about this and people feel confident about planning their vacation well in advance. That is better for the individuals and it allows the business to forecast and budget better too.”

Robinson adds, “American businesses sometimes offer unlimited time off—but they know that in most cases that ends up with people taking less time off. Also, in businesses where people don’t feel confident enough about taking vacations to plan them well in advance, there can be an issue at the end of the year when they suddenly all disappear at once. Successful, sustainable organizations learn to plan their business around PTO time.”

SOURCE:

Satter M. (22 May 2018). “Are your employees scared to take time off?” [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitspro.com/2018/05/22/are-your-employees-scared-to-take-time-off/


LIMRA aims to shape benefits data exchange standard

How will LIMRA shape the benefits data exchange standard? Find out in this article from Benefits Pro.

LIMRA wants to help develop electronic data transmission standards for the employee benefits market.

The life and health market research group, has formed an alliance with the Object Management Group (OMG), a nonprofit technology standards group based in Needham, Massachusetts.

LIMRA has been working on the benefits market data standards issue for more than a year.

To help benefits market players develop standards, OMG has set up a Workplace Benefits Domain Task Force. The chairs of the new task force are Edie Bice of Unum; InAh Chambers of LIMRA; and Aaron Roby of Texas Life.

The task force organizers hope to develop data exchange standards for non-medical, non-retirement benefits.
The standards could apply both to group benefits and to individual benefits products sold at the worksite.

Organizers say the new task force will be open to benefits brokers, independent benefit plan administrators, benefits administration technology vendors, and insurers that offer non-medical, non-retirement employee benefits products.

The task force will start its first face-to-face meeting June 18, in Boston.

Source:
Bell A. (4 May 2018). "LIMRA aims to shape benefits data exchange standard" [web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://bit.ly/2wfIZey


These 3 industries are leading the way in HDHP adoption

Interested in knowing which industries are leadig the way in HDHP adoption? Check out this blog article.

Employers in the education, health care, manufacturing and retail sectors are using a variety of tactics to drive selection of HDHPs, with varying levels of adoption from employees, so says the report, based on anonymous employee benefit election data on the Benefitfocus Platform from more than 540 large employers in those sectors.

In the education sector, HDHPs are becoming less the exception, more the rule.

“Back in 2016, traditional health plans like PPOs and HMOs represented an overwhelming majority of health plan offerings and elections among employers in the education industry,” the authors write. “But just two short years later, things look completely different. In an industry known historically for its generous health insurance benefits, the HDHP has made remarkable gains in popularity.”

The share of employers in the education sector offering at least one HDHP has more than doubled since 2016, from 23 to 50 percent, according to the report. Employers have done a lot to make HDHPs attractive — they now pay 87 percent of the total HDHP premium and have doubled their contribution to employees’ HSAs since 2016. Their efforts have worked — 34 percent of employees selected an HDHP when given the choice for 2018, up from 20 percent two years ago.

In the health care sector, employers are encouraging consumer-driven plans with moderate success, according to the report.

“Over the past two years, employers in the health care industry have taken steps to shift more health insurance costs onto employees, while providing ways to help them manage the additional burden,” the authors write. “But there remains a long runway of opportunity for these organizations to boost adoption of the consumer-driven health care model.”

The number of employers offering HDHPs has nearly doubled in two years, with 73 percent offering at least one in 2018, up from 41 percent in 2016. However, despite there efforts, only 27 percent of employees selected an HDHP for 2018. Health care employers are likely trying to raise the adoption rate by transferring more PPO plan costs onto workers — the average employee premium contribution for a single-coverage PPO is up 24 percent from 2016.

In the manufacturing sector, despite boom in HDHP offerings among those employers, more of their workers are still opting for PPOs. “Manufacturing employers have displayed a particularly strong and growing enthusiasm for HDHPs in recent years,” the authors write. “But cost-sharing dynamics appear to be driving employees away from these plans and back into traditional health plans. Meanwhile, voluntary benefits maintain above-average popularity among both employers and employees.” The majority (88 percent) of employers in manufacturing now offer an HDHP, up from 54 percent in 2016. However, the percentage of employees electing an HDHP continues to decrease, while PPO participation grew from 36 percent in 2016, to 57 percent for 2018.

The report also found that voluntary benefits have become increasingly prevalent among manufacturers, with nearly 60 percent of employers offering at least one for 2018, up from 34 percent in 2016.

In the retail sector, employees shoulder more health plan costs, while more employers offer voluntary benefits to supplement coverage, according to the report.

“As employers in the retail industry look to keep benefit costs under control, health care is getting more expensive for their employees,” the authors write. “And while voluntary benefits offer additional financial protection for the majority of these workers, there remains a long runway of opportunity for health spending accounts to help them manage their out-of-pocket liabilities.”

Retail employers offering at least one HDHP increased from 55 percent in 2016 to 76 percent. Nearly half (40 percent) of their employees elected HDHPs, but premiums for these plans are rising, with the average annual employee contribution for a single-coverage HDHP up nearly 20 percent since 2016.

Despite HDHP prevalence, retail employers contributed 40 percent less to HSAs than the average for all employers, and employees contributed 20 percent less than peers in other industries. To supplement coverage, 56 percent of employers offered at least one voluntary benefit, up from 43 percent in 2016.

“Everywhere you turn there’s a story about rising health care costs,” says Ray August. “What employers in every industry have in common is the struggle to economically provide the best plans and care for their employees.”

Source:
Kuehner-Hebert K. (7 May 2018). "These 3 industries are leading the way in HDHP adoption" [web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://bit.ly/2FUf4Ii


Student loan benefits more popular with workers than employers

"While a student loan benefit is the most-requested financial benefit, it’s only third on the priority list for HR professionals." Find out more in this article.

If you ask them, 78 percent of employees laboring under a load of student debt will tell you that they want their bosses to provide a student loan benefit that will help them dig out.

Bosses, not so much. While a student loan benefit is the most-requested financial benefit, according to an HRDive report, it’s only third on the priority list for HR professionals.

Related: The problem with student-loan repayment benefits

It’s not just younger workers who want it, either. The 78 percent of employees who wish their jobs came with a student loan benefit includes 65 percent of workers over age 55 who have problems with current or future loan debt.

The report points to a CommonBond study that finds student loan benefits not only help to keep employees on the payroll and even better their job performance, but they also help in recruiting new talent. The study finds that 75 percent of all workers have paid for their own education via student loans, and 21 percent plan to take out student loans for a child or another family member in the next five years.

Oh, and another disconnect between boss and worker: while 75 percent of HR executives think their benefits offerings are innovative, only 50 percent of workers agree.

Money, of course, is a big worry for workers—and it’s not all about salary, with 44 million Americans weighed down by some $1.4 trillion in student debt. Worrying about lingering student loans also cuts productivity at work, in addition to subjecting workers to increasing stress, so it’s really an employer’s problem too.
Not only do students owe an average of more than $25,000 by graduation, figures from The Student Loan Report indicate that the loan default rate and delinquency rates are more than 10 percent and 5 percent, respectively—not exactly conducive to either peace of mind or high productivity at work. So employers are increasingly getting involved, considering tuition payment programs for employees who want to pursue a degree or add new skills.

And that can help both groups as employers become increasingly desperate for a more skilled employee base. It also helps employers as employee stress falls, potentially cutting health care costs as well and making workers more productive.

Source:
Satter M. (7 May 2018). "Student loan benefits more popular with workers than employers" [web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://bit.ly/2wi9yA0


March 2018 Compliance Recap

From UBA Benefits, here is your March 2018 Compliance Recap - everything you need to know that's been happening in the employee benefits world.

March was a quiet month in the employee benefits world.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released a bulletin that lowered the family contribution limit for health savings account (HSA) contributions. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) updated its model Premium Assistance Under Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program notice (CHIP notice).

The IRS issued its updated Employer’s Tax Guide to Fringe Benefits, issued transition relief regarding HSA eligibility of individuals with health insurance that provides benefits for male sterilization or male contraceptives without a deductible, and issued its updated Guide on Health Savings Accounts and Other Tax-Favored Health Plans.

UBA Updates

UBA released two new advisors:

UBA updated existing guidance: 2018 Annual Benefit Plan Card

IRS Releases Adjusted Annual Inflation Factor

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released its Internal Revenue Bulletin No. 2018-10 that adjusted the annual inflation factor from the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to a new factor called a chained CPI. This is retroactively effective to January 1, 2018.

As a result of the change, the family contribution limit for Health Savings Account contributions is lowered to $6,850 from $6,900. Individuals with family coverage who planned to contribute to the full family amount should decrease their contributions going forward.

Review our updated 2018 Annual Benefit Plan Card and read more.


DOL Updates Employer CHIP Notice

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) updated its model Premium Assistance Under Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program notice (CHIP notice).

Employers that provide health insurance coverage in states with premium assistance through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) must provide their employees with the CHIP notice before the start of each plan year. The CHIP notice provides information to employees on how to apply for premium assistance, including how to contact their state Medicaid or CHIP office. The DOL usually updates its model CHIP notice biannually.

IRS Issues Updated Employer’s Tax Guide to Fringe Benefits

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued its 2018 Publication 15-B which contains information for employers on the employment tax treatment of fringe benefits. The guide is updated to reflect, among other items:

  • The suspension of qualified bicycle commuting reimbursements from an employee’s income for any tax year beginning after December 31, 2017, and before January 1, 2026.
  • The suspension of the exclusion for qualified moving expense reimbursements from an employee’s income for tax years beginning after December 1, 2017, and before January 1, 2026. However, the exclusion remains available for a U.S. Armed Forces member on active duty who moves because of a permanent change of station.
  • Limits on the deduction by employers for certain fringe benefits, such as meals and transportation commuting benefits.
  • The definition of items that aren’t tangible personal property for purposes of employee achievement awards.

The guide lists fringe benefits’ tax treatment in its Table 2-1 “Special Rules for Various Types of Fringe Benefits.”

IRS Issues Transition Relief Notice for Plans with Male Sterilization or Contraceptive Benefit

Recently, some states adopted laws that require certain health insurance policies to provide benefits for male sterilization and male contraceptives without cost-sharing.

However, under health saving account (HSA) eligibility requirements, a high deductible health plan (HDHP) generally may not provide benefits for any year until the minimum deductible for that year is satisfied. Although an HDHP may provide preventive care without a deductible or with a deductible that is below the minimum annual amount required by HSA eligibility requirements, male sterilization and male contraceptives are not considered preventive care under the Social Security Act or any Treasury Department guidance.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released its Notice 2018-12 (Notice) to clarify that if a health plan provides benefits for male sterilization or male contraceptives before satisfying the minimum deductible for an HDHP, then the plan is not an HDHP, regardless of whether state law requires coverage of such benefits. Further, an individual who is not covered by an HDHP with respect to a month is not an HSA-eligible individual and may not deduct contributions to an HSA for that month. Similarly, HSA contributions made by an employer on behalf of the individual are not excludible from income and wages.

To allow states time to change their laws so their residents will be able to purchase health insurance coverage that qualifies as an HDHP, the Notice provides transition relief for periods before 2020 to individuals who are, have been, or become participants in or beneficiaries of a health insurance policy that provides benefits for male sterilization or male contraceptives without a deductible or with a deductible below the minimum deductible for an HDHP.

During the transition relief period, an individual with this type of health insurance policy will not be treated as HSA-ineligible, merely because the policy fails to qualify as an HDHP.

IRS Issues Updated Guide on Health Savings Accounts and Other Tax-Favored Health Plans

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) updated its Publication 969 for taxpayers to use in preparing their 2017 returns. The publication explains health savings accounts (HSAs), medical savings accounts (Archer MSAs and Medicare Advantage MSAs), health flexible spending arrangements (FSAs), and health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs).

Question of the Month

  1. How does a person who is 65 years old or older maintain HSA eligibility and continue working? Also, when the person plans to retire, what should the person do about HSA contributions to avoid IRS penalties?
  2. To maintain HSA eligibility, an individual who is working and age 65 or older must:
  • Not apply for or waive Medicare Part A, and
  • Not apply for Medicare Part B, and
  • Waive or delay Social Security benefits.

For example, if a person delays Social Security benefits and delays Medicare Part A and B, retires at the end of April at the age of 65 or older, and applies for Social Security benefits and Medicare on May 1, 2018, then the general rule is that the person’s Social Security entitlement and Medicare Part A coverage will be retroactive for six months, meaning that the benefits would be retroactively effective as of November 2017.

IRS regulations state that a person can’t contribute to an HSA when the person has Medicare, so a person would need to stop contributing six months in advance of applying for Social Security benefits and Medicare. If a person contributes to an HSA after Medicare coverage begins, then the person may be subject to IRS penalties.

4/3/2018


10 perks that help attract and retain workers

Job seekers and employees today have more control over their careers than ever before. Leaving current positions for better opportunities, and being more selective when applying for a new job, are now commonplace.

With the war for talent in full effect, companies of all sizes have had to take a close look at their compensation and employee benefits to ensure that they meet, or preferably exceed, expectations.

While keeping up with the latest employee benefits trends is one great way to maximize benefit plans, employers should also explore additional employee and workplace perks to help with recruiting, retention and engagement.

1. Free snacks and coffee

coffee and donuts(Photos: Shutterstock)

 

An often-overlooked way to enhance the workplace is to provide employees with complimentary snacks and coffee. Not only does this help employees save a few dollars each day, but office snacks have shown to increase workplace production. And offering employees healthy alternatives can get people more energized and involved with a company’s overall wellness program.

2. Flexible work schedules

One of the biggest trends in the business world has been a shift away from the traditional 9 to 5 work day. While some positions require such a schedule, more and more companies are enabling employees to have more flexibility with their working hours. As a matter of fact, many businesses are including flexible working schedules in their job descriptions and on career sites to help attract younger job seekers. As work-life balance continues to become more important to employees, flexible working schedules can be valuable perk for employers to offer.

3. Working from home

While telecommuting is becoming more common, not all employees can exclusively work-from-home. However, enabling employees to work at home on occasion can be a great perk for keeping employees happy and engaged. Providing employees with the tools and resources necessary to work from home when needed can greatly assist with lowering turnover, and can also help reduce stress and improve the employee experience.

4. Employee assistance programs

A greater focus on employee wellness – both physical AND mental – is occurring in companies big and small. One way to help with this initiative is to have an employee assistance program (EAP). These programs provide counseling to employees for both professional and personal issues, and can include consultations with licensed clinicians for financial and legal services, grief counseling, and day-to-day support for full-time employees and anyone in their household.

5. Company events

You have probably seen or heard of Fortune-500 companies throwing elaborate and expensive events for their workforce. While small employers can’t do something to this level, having company-sponsored events throughout the year is a great way to boost employee morale and build a culture. These events also present an opportunity to boost employer branding and recruitment marketing efforts. Things like company picnics, holiday parties, and even individual team outings (such as a bowling night) help to boost company morale.

6. Employee referral programs

Hiring the best talent is a mission all companies have in common. But with recruiting more challenging than ever, it can be difficult to accomplish this goal. However, establishing an employee referral program (especially one that provides a cash or bonus reward) is a fantastic way to get your entire company involved with recruiting. These programs also help employees feel more invested in their organizations, especially if they can bring friends or professional colleagues to their organization.

7. Lunch and learns

Learning and development is important to employees. While investing in large-scale programs and bringing in industry experts on a routine basis may not be possible, each company has their own subject-matter-experts who can provide learning opportunities to their co-workers. A monthly lunch and learn session can be a great way to inform the entire company on new initiatives and projects, as well as boost employee engagement throughout the company.

8. Employee discounts

Another great additional perk that employees will enjoy are discounts on certain items or events. Discounts on items like clothing brands, tech, Broadway shows, sporting events, and many others can help employees save money while enjoying things that they enjoy. These types of perks are becoming increasingly popular, even for smaller employers and can be a great tool in recruiting. Not to mention the role they play with employee happiness, engagements, and ultimately retention.

9. Summer hours

We discussed earlier about the value of flexible work schedules. A fantastic addition to an already popular perk, giving employees summer working hours are a great way to boost happiness and morale. For example, many companies let employees leave the office early on Fridays to get a head start on their weekend plans. With work-life balance becoming more important, this simple perk can be a great for current and future employees alike!

10. Employee rewards and recognition

Boosting employee engagement and the overall employee experience are critical objectives for all companies today. An excellent way to help with these goals are to recognize and reward employees throughout the year. Whether it’s completing a difficult or important project, reaching certain milestones with the organization (such as years of service), or completing outside education, these can all be extremely valuable for the individual and the company. Additionally, providing rewards along with recognition can go a long way to building engaged culture and a great employer brand.

Source: Altiero M. (3 April 2018). "10 perks that help attract and retain workers" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from Benefits Pro.


Millennials, tech industry driving adoption of paid leave programs

More employers are voluntarily offering paid leave benefits to win over millennial workers in an increasingly competitive marketplace, but costs related to workforce management and thin profit margins in many industries have hampered widespread voluntary adoption, according to The Paid Leave Project’s report, “Emerging business trends in paid family medical leave.”

The project, an initiative managed by “action tank” Panorama, interviewed representatives from 470 large U.S. employers across 23 industries to find top reasons for voluntarily offering paid leave programs – as well as main barriers to offering such benefits.

The leading factor that prompts most companies to voluntarily offer the benefit is employee demand, particularly from millennial workers who hear about other companies’ paid leave policies from the media as well as from their friends and family members who receive such benefits. More than 40 percent of companies that already have paid leave cited this as a driver.

Some employers say they want to be considered a “best employer” within their industry. Says a representative from a manufacturing company: “A company can choose to be in the middle of the pack, but we don’t see that as a competitive advantage. We want to be leaders.”

Employers in specialized industries or geographies with a tight labor market say a compelling benefits package, including paid leave, is key to attracting and retaining top talent. “The war for talent is pretty bad,” says a representative from an aerospace company. “We are taking a deeper dive at looking to expand (our) total rewards.”

The tech industry is leading the way, with employers like Netflix and Spotify, respectively offering 52 weeks and 26 weeks of parental leave. Part of this is because other industries are increasingly needing tech talent as the “digital revolution” is now transforming their own sector, including transportation, retail, telecommunications, healthcare, and manufacturing. Some companies in these industries are directly reaching out to technology companies to benchmark against their benefits.

The main challenge to offering paid leave is cost, including paying for a resource to temporarily fill a role while also funding the employee’s leave,

“Employers from retail, manufacturing, transportation and others with a high concentration of hourly workers indicated that coverage is particularly challenging for their sectors,” the authors write. “Given the nature of production and frontline roles, it can be logistically complex for such workers to cover their coworkers’ duties in addition to their own.”

Those industries with low profit margins, such as retail and transportation, find it particularly difficult consider offering paid leave because it just isn’t financially viable, they contend.

Says a representative from a nationwide retailer: “How can I offer paid leave when I can’t even offer comprehensive healthcare, including dental insurance?”

However, a handful of employers in these industries who have embraced paid leave are seeing positive results, including outdoor clothing and gear retailer Patagonia, according to the report.Over the last five years, 100 percent of the women who have had children while working at Patagonia have returned to work. This has led to a balanced workforce and about 50 percent representation of women in all management levels.

For those who offer paid leave, many are also implementing “wrap-around” supports to complement the benefits, such as flexible work schedules to ramp on and off when employees return from leave, providing private locations for mothers to breastfeed, and employee resource groups for new parents. More and more employers are also expanding paid leave for those are providing caregiver services to elderly or disabled family members.

Organizations such as DMEC, the Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI), and providers such as LeaveLogic offer valuable research, tools, and resources for employers as they roll out or expand benefits, according to the report. Moreover, The Paid Leave Project, in collaboration with the Boston Consulting Group, created a comprehensive paid leave Playbook for employers, which includes cost calculator and industry benchmarking data; paid leave policy template; tips for employers in states with new paid leave laws were recently added; and paid Leave best practices and case studies of companies that offer the benefit.

The latest report builds on earlier work by The Paid Leave Project and the Boston Consulting Group, which in 2017 released “Why Paid Family Leave Is Good Business,” a summary report from initial research into the paid leave practices of more than 250 U.S. companies.

In 2018, The Paid Leave Project will focus its research on industry-specific dynamics, the challenges for companies in states with current or pending legislation, and how employers are tracking paid leave data, results, and return on investment.

Read the article.

Kuehner-Hebert K. (2 March 2018). "Millennials, tech industry driving adoption of paid leave programs" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitspro.com/2018/03/02/millennials-tech-industry-driving-adoption-of-paid/


Is Ergonomics A "Must-Have" For Your Workplace Wellness Plan?

 

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Workplace wellness in most organizations centres around health promotion activity or policy development to support healthy behaviour and improve health outcomes in the workplace. A "workplace wellness" Google search reveals a range of programs focused on fitness, weight management, smoking cessation, stress management, work-life balance and occasionally flexible work scheduling. These are legitimately important aspects targeted at improving specific health outcomes.

It is important to realize that the average office worker spends over 65 per cent of their time at work in a sedentary seated position. No doubt you have seen the media campaigns touting the health concerns related to sedentary behaviour, some going as far as labelling sitting as the new smoking. Prolonged sitting has been associated with cardiovascular problems, increases in musculoskeletal discomfort, and decreases in concentration and productivity. Improper sitting and work station setup has been associated with an increase in musculoskeletal pain and injury (MSI) in the neck, shoulders, arms, wrists, legs and lower back. MSI are associated with the wear and tear on the muscles, tissues, ligaments and joints of the body.

It is for these reasons that office ergonomics should be on the workplace wellness program menu. Ergonomics is the science of matching the work to the worker. In an office environment, a major focus would be insuring that employee workstations fit the worker – not the employee made to fit the workstation. To design a healthy employee work station properly requires an understanding of the limitations of the human body, especially in terms of muscle and soft tissue fatigue. Again, a Google search on "office ergonomics" leads you to resources on the proper configuration of computer workstations to promote a neutral sitting posture aimed at reducing muscle and soft tissue pain.

This is a great place to start, but does not replace the knowledge of an experienced ergonomist to ensure that individual limitations and pre-existing health conditions are accommodated for properly. Here are some examples of the most common office ergonomic challenges I encounter when consulting with organizations. The first is the desk. The working height of a standard desk is 30 inches, for which we expect it be comfortable for both the 5-foot-2-inch and a 6-foot-2-inch employee. But the reality is that this standard desk height is appropriate for the 6-foot-2-inch employee. The average female is 5-foot-4-inches, which would suggest that the standard 30-inch working height is too high for the majority of female workers in the office. When the working height is too high, the employee will adopt a posture where the wrists are extended when keyboarding, the neck is extended, shoulders are hunched and back is flexed forward off the chair.

—theglobeandmail.com


Could These 3 Reasons Be Behind Your Failing Employee Engagement?

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Encouraging employee engagement with health benefits

In a competitive economy, a robust package of employee health benefits is one of the key elements that employers need to attract and to retain a skilled, experienced workforce. In fact, according to statistics gathered by Collective Health and Harris Poll, 78% of adults in the U.S. say healthcare benefits strongly factor into their decision on where to accept a job. However, once employees have these benefits, most do not take full advantage of the complete range of services and support available. Only 25% of employees questioned in one survey said they have used all the preventive care benefits offered by their employer.

Another survey, conducted by the American Psychological Association, found that only 33% of employees report participating in employer-provided health promotion programs. The failure to engage with and use the benefits available can have an especially significant impact when employees or their family members face serious or complex medical issues, such as a cancer diagnosis or recommendation for surgery. When employees don’t use the full spectrum of benefits available to them, such as second opinions and case management, the risk of poorer health outcomes and higher employer and employee healthcare costs increases, with more than $210 billion a year spent on inappropriate and unnecessary treatment according to an Institute of Medicine report. Several factors contribute to employees’ failure to use all the health benefits available to them:

Problems with the benefits selection process: Although the choice of benefits can have wide ranging effects on both physical and financial health, 77% of employees spend 60 minutes or less choosing benefits, while 46% spend 30 minutes or less on this important decision, according to an Aflac poll. Another survey noted the high stress levels associated with making benefit decisions, finding that 49% of employees say making benefits decisions is always stressful.

Not understanding the options: A survey by the International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans found that approximately 80% of organizations reported that employees do not have a high level of understanding of their benefits. This lack of understanding comes at a financial cost. According to 42% of employees in the Aflac survey, the estimated cost of errors employees make understanding and choosing benefits can cost them up to $750 per year.

Complexity of benefits: When faced with multiple benefit providers and contact points, employees often do not know where to find the information they need to understand the benefits available to them and how to access them. As a result, employees fail to access the information, resources and support that can help them make informed medical decisions. This can have a negative impact on health outcomes and healthcare costs.

—benefitnews.com


Competing for talent in a Gen Z world

As 2018 progresses, HR managers are well advised to start stepping out of their comfort zones. Because Generation Z is beginning to surge into the workplace, forcing the reinvention of everything from benefits to recruiting. Your relevance in the war for talentmay hang in the balance.

You’ve been hearing for some time now about the challenge of engaging a multi-generational workforce. But it’s time to think beyond the Millennials, and take a good look at the Gen Zs (born after 1995). They have a whole new set of expectations and values that are forcing employers to re-evaluate how they recruit, retain and, especially, engage their people. Start working on your battle plan in 2018 (and beyond) to avoid losing the talent battles.

They have decided views on how they expect to be treated and managed and how they respond if they don’t think their employer is measuring up. It’s a function of their upbringing in a hyper-connected world. According to Pew Research, only 14 percent of U.S. adults had Internet access in 1995, but that exploded to 87 percent by 2014. Small wonder that for the Zs, it’s the always-on and available tech-enabled connections to networks of people and information that rule. It’s how Zs learn and solve problems and it influences their expectations.

Here’s what it all means for your workplace and how you will need to compete for talent moving forward.

 

Legacy benefits and old attitudes need replacing now

The Zs aren’t merely connected. They share aggressively. Studies show that if their experiences – with a brand or a product or an employer – are negative, this generation will happily tell everybody about it online, including on Glass Door, a fast growing site that reviews millions of employers. That makes it important to foster a positive culture and work environment, and provide the types of benefits that will attract the Zs, keep them happy and ideally inspire them to spread the word.

To that end, take a long, hard look at your employee benefits: Too many employers still offer legacy employee packages that have changed little in the last two decades. Will they be good enough to woo the Zs and keep them satisfied? In fact, the Zs are motivated by the total deal, not just financial compensation. They want unique benefits that are personalized for them right down to the individual level.

Think about the 22-year-old who’s working in an urban setting, maybe with a pet at home, doesn’t have a lot of time to shop and is saddled with student loans. What are the priorities? A plan offering vision, life or disability insurance? Or a benefits package that provides a personal concierge and maybe dog walker, student loan repayment and an identity theft program, too? Best-of-class employers will offer up a robust mix of traditional and non-traditional benefits that cater to the individual employee’s lifestyle needs.

 

VR and gamification: Critical tools in winning Gen Z talent

Even as the Zs mature, there’s a trend toward a blending of personal and work lives as outside influences bleed into the workplace. When it comes to virtual reality, this generation of digital natives is enthusiastic over its potential use in the workplace.

There’s been a 250 percent jump in VR companies since 2012 and the technology’s significance is for more than just promoting productivity by connecting people in different locations for virtual meetings. It’s also a good recruiting tool, a way of letting prospective hires “experience” your environment so they are better able to tell before they take a job if it’s right for them.

Gamification is another Z activity that’s bleeding into business and affecting recruitment and hiring. Picture Silicon Valley’s “code-offs,” where prospective developers compete during a set time period to find the best solution to a specific design challenge. The winner gets the job. It certainly makes resume screening seem obsolete by comparison.

This incoming generation has a lot to offer employers who value the kind of fresh perspective it represents. The next big challenge will be reflecting that appreciation in creative approaches to winning and keeping their hearts and minds.

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Source:
Barone M. (1 March 2018). "Competing for talent in a Gen Z world" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitspro.com/2018/03/01/surge-of-gen-z-workers-changing-how-employers-comp/