What's a simple addition to your day to decrease stress & improve well-being?

In recent studies, gratitude has been shown to reduce stress and improve well-being. Studies showed that on days when people felt more grateful, their well-being was higher. Continue reading to learn more.


Previous research on the positive effects of gratitude has shown that gratitude appears to reduce stress and foster well-being (e.g. Wood et al., 2010). A recent prospective study in which people were instructed to list things they were grateful for on a daily basis supports this notion (Krejtz et al., 2016). However, little if any, research has looked at whether spontaneous (non-directed) changes in gratitude track with well-being and stress response. Rather than being a stable personality characteristic (a “trait”), gratitude may be more of a “state,” varying over the course of time—or perhaps a combination of both. Do daily fluctuations in gratitude correlate with well-being and indicators of happiness, stress, and depression? Furthermore, does gratitude serve as a buffer for stress and negativity, helping to offset toxic effects on more challenging days?

In order to look more closely at how natural day-to-day levels of gratitude may interact with various indicators of well-being and stress, researchers Nezlek, Krejtz, Rusanowska and Holas (2018) followed 131 participants for two weeks, using daily self-assessments to investigate correlations among gratitude and factors related to well-being and stress. Daily measures included gratitude, positive and negative emotional states, self-esteem, depressogenic adjustment (optimism about oneself and life), worry, and rating of important events of the day on how stressful and how positive they were. Participants reported on 10 possible categories for events: family, interpersonal, partner, work, finances, official, health, hobby, values, and other/everyday events.

As in previous studies looking at intentionally cultivated gratitude, researchers found that on every measure, gratitude was significantly correlated with well-being. On days when people felt more grateful, well-being was reported as being higher. Likewise, on higher stress days, participants reported lower well-being, and on lower stress days, participants reported greater well-being.

Using gratitude to buffer stress responses.

Importantly, they found that gratitude did in fact appear to act as a buffer for stress. On days with fewer positive events, gratitude and well-being were more strongly related, suggesting that gratitude may serve to bolster resilience, amplifying lower positive emotions on difficult days or perhaps even providing, essentially, internal positive events to compensate for a lack of external positive events. This is especially noteworthy because people often have difficulty tapping into gratitude when difficulties arise, focusing on negatives with bitterness or pessimism.

Gratitude therefore appears to provision us internally with a positive response when external events fail to do so. For people who are able to muster up gratitude when the going gets rough, not only as a generally characteristic but also as a just-in-time response to stress and negative events, gratitude can be a “bridge over troubled water” that helps to keep us from getting pulled down into a negative spiral of maladaptive coping. People who use gratitude in this way must be able to do so, rather than undermining resilient responses.

Gratitude, compassion and resilience.

In keeping with research showing that resilience is related to cognitive flexibility, active coping, optimism, and related beliefs, the current research suggests that a subset of people use gratitude automatically, generating a state of mind which buffers negative events and stressful responses to sustain greater overall well-being. Religious belief, which often emphasizes gratitude, is also associated with greater levels of resilience. In addition, recent research by Abbondandolo and Sigal (2018) also found a positive relationship between self-compassion and active coping, suggesting that there are common pathways governing gratitude, self-compassion, and resilience.

Additional research is required to further understand the causal relationships between gratitude, resilience, well-being, and related factors in order to spell out what innate factors help make us stronger, as well as what interventions can bolster overall well-being. Understanding whether those who naturally utilize gratitude to buffer stress and sustain well-being tend to do this consciously or not, how they had learned to do so during the course of development, and whether there are intrinsic factors that predispose one to feel grateful would help us learn how to teach the effective use of gratitude—especially for those who have difficulty seeing for what, if anything, there is to be grateful.

SOURCE: Smith, K. (26 March 2018) "What's a simple addition to your day to decrease stress & improve well-being?" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from: https://www.provanthealth.com/industry-trends/2018/3/26/whats-a-simple-addition-to-your-day-to-decrease-stress-improve-well-being

Original source: Psychology Today | Grant Hilary Brenner M.D. | How Does Spontaneous Gratitude Increase Daily Well-Being?


Civic time off: The benefit getting employees to the polls

Some companies are now offering civic time off, the employee benefit meant to help increase voter engagement during the midterm elections. Read this blog post to learn more.


Voter engagement for midterm engagement historically has been poor. Some companies are offering new benefits to change that — even offering the day off to encourage employees to vote.

American employers that provide paid time off stands at about 44%, a record high, according to the latest research from the Society for Human Resource Management survey. The human resource organization estimates 29% of these companies offer employers more than an hour or two of voting time.

Despite such accommodations, about 60% of Americans didn’t vote in the last midterm election, according to research by Vote.org, a voters’ advocacy organization. The biggest obstacle to voting was scheduling conflicts; 35% of people said they couldn’t vote because of work and school.

“There’s no federal protection for voting leave for employees, which means it’s up to the states to set their own policies. Policies are inconsistent, but some states have no laws at all,” says Colette Kessler, director of partnerships at Vote.org. “This puts employers in a powerful position to enable employees to get to vote.”

But as more Americans prepare to head to the polls for key elections in 46 states, employers including Patagonia, Zenefits and Honest Tea, are opting to give employees paid time off to make their voice heard.

Outdoor retailer Patagonia, for instance, is closing its stores as well as its headquarters and distribution and customer-service center to give employees paid time off to vote. “No American should have to choose between a paycheck and fulfilling his or her duty as a citizen,” Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario wrote in a company blog post.

Meanwhile, human resource software company Zenefits implemented a new program in which employees can take time off to vote the same way they would for a doctor’s appointment. Voting won’t cut into their sick days, vacation time or paid time off. Instead, voting gets its own designation — civic time off, or CTO. That free time can be used for voting, volunteering for a candidate, attending a school board meeting or canvassing.

“Civic time off is a new concept for the industry, and we’re excited to be among the first to offer such a benefit,” says Beth Steinberg, chief people officer at Zenefits, in a letter on the company blog. “At Zenefits, it’s been a priority to help build our team’s skill set not only as it pertains to professional career growth, but also to encourage their development outside of the workplace as engaged and empowered citizens.”

Vote.org consults with companies interested in implementing a CTO program. Based on individual business models and company culture, the organization will suggest either full days off, half days or flexible scheduling.

“One benefit we’re really excited about is offering employees a half day. It gives employees the ability to get to their polling places and do their morning routine — like getting the kids to school and running errands,” Kessler says. “And later they can convene with colleagues and celebrate Election Day. We’re seeing HR teams create afternoon lunch parties to celebrate.”

Kessler says some companies are hesitant to provide time off for voting because they’re worried about losing productivity. However, most of the companies she’s worked with have been enthusiastic about providing their workforce with time off to vote.

“We don’t see any drawbacks to offering our employees flexibility on Election Day,” says Seth Goldman, co-founder and CEO emeritus of beverage company Honest Tea, which allows its 50 employees to take a few hours of paid time off go to the polls on Election Day, at their convenience. “It’s a right we all should be proud to recognize and support however we can.”

SOURCE: Webster, K. (5 November 2018) "Civic time off: The benefit getting employees to the polls" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from: https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/civic-time-off-the-benefit-getting-employees-to-the-polls?feed=00000152-a2fb-d118-ab57-b3ff6e310000


Compliance Recap - October 2018

October was a busy month in the employee benefits world.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released final forms and instructions for 2018 ACA reporting. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released inflation-adjusted civil monetary penalty amounts. The Treasury, the Department of Labor (DOL), and HHS released a proposed rule on health reimbursement arrangements. The IRS released a proposed rule regarding penalties for failure to file correct information returns or furnish correct payee statements.

Congress and the President enacted a law to prohibit pharmacy gag clauses. The IRS released an information letter regarding dependent care assistance plan funds’ forfeiture. The IRS provided tax relief to victims of Hurricane Michael in Florida. The DOL released FAQs for plan participants affected by Hurricanes Florence and Michael. HHS released a proposed rule to require drug pricing transparency. The DOL and HHS released their regulatory agendas.

UBA Updates

UBA released three new advisors:

UBA updated or revised existing guidance:

IRS Releases Final Forms and Instructions for 2018 ACA Reporting

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released instructions for both the Forms 1094-B and 1095-B and the Forms 1094-C and 1095-C and Forms 1094-B, 1095-B, 1094-C, and 1095-C. There are no substantive changes in the forms or instructions between 2017 and 2018, beyond the further removal of now-expired forms of transition relief. There is a minor formatting change to Forms 1095-B and 1095-C for 2018. There are dividers for the entry of an individual’s first name, middle name, and last name.

Reporting will be due early in 2019, based on coverage in 2018. For calendar year 2018, Forms 1094-C, 1095-C, 1094-B, and 1095-B must be filed by February 28, 2019, or April 1, 2019, if filing electronically. Statements to employees must be furnished by January 31, 2019.

All reporting will be for the 2018 calendar year, even for non-calendar year plans.

Read more about the final forms and instructions.

HHS Releases Inflation-Adjusted Federal Civil Penalty Amounts

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued its Annual Civil Monetary Penalties Inflation Adjustment. Here are some of the adjustments:

  • Medicare Secondary Payer:
    • For failure to provide information identifying situations where the group health plan is primary, the maximum penalty increases from $1,157 to $1,181 per failure.
    • For an employer who offers incentives to a Medicare-eligible individual to not enroll in employer sponsored group health that would otherwise be primary, the maximum penalty increases from $9,054 to $9,239.
    • For willful or repeated failure to provide requested information regarding group health plan coverage, the maximum penalty increases from $1,474 to $1,504.
  • Summary of Benefits and Coverage: For failure to provide, the maximum penalty increases from $1,105 to $1,128 per failure.
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA):
Tier Penalty
1. Did Not Know:

Covered entity or business associate did not know (and by exercising reasonable diligence would not have known) that it violated the provision of the Administrative Simplification regulations.

$114 to $57,051 for each violation, up to a maximum of $1,711,533 for identical provisions during a calendar year.
2. Reasonable Cause:

The violation was due to reasonable cause and not to willful neglect.

$1,141 to $57,051 for each violation, up to a maximum of $1,711,533 for identical provisions during a calendar year.
3. Willful Neglect – Corrected:

The violation was due to willful neglect, but the violation is corrected during the 30-day period beginning on the first date the liable person knew (or by exercising reasonable diligence would have known) of the failure to comply.

$11,410 to $57,051 for each violation, up to a maximum of $1,711,533 for identical provisions during a calendar year.
4. Willful Neglect – Not Corrected:

The violation was due to willful neglect and the violation is not corrected as described in Tier 3.

$57,051 minimum for each violation, up to a maximum of $1,711,533 for identical provisions during a calendar year.

The adjustments are effective for penalties assessed on or after October 11, 2018, for violations occurring after November 2, 2015.

Treasury, DOL, and HHS Releases Proposed Rule on Health Reimbursement Arrangements

The Department of the Treasury (Treasury), Department of Labor (DOL), and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) (collectively, the Departments) released their proposed rule regarding health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) and other account-based group health plans. The DOL also issued a news release and fact sheet on the proposed rule.

The proposed rule’s goal is to expand the flexibility and use of HRAs to provide individuals with additional options to obtain quality, affordable healthcare. According to the Departments, these changes will facilitate a more efficient healthcare system by increasing employees’ consumer choice and promoting healthcare market competition by adding employer options.

To do so, the proposed rules would expand the use of HRAs by:

  • Removing the current prohibition against integrating an HRA with individual health insurance coverage (individual coverage)
  • Expanding the definition of limited excepted benefits to recognize certain HRAs as limited excepted benefits if certain conditions are met (excepted benefit HRA)
  • Providing premium tax credit (PTC) eligibility rules for people who are offered an HRA integrated with individual coverage
  • Assuring HRA and Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangement (QSEHRA) plan sponsors that reimbursement of individual coverage by the HRA or QSEHRA does not become part of an ERISA plan when certain conditions are met
  • Changing individual market special enrollment periods for individuals who gain access to HRAs integrated with individual coverage or who are provided QSEHRAs

Public comments are due by December 28, 2018. If the proposed rule is finalized, it will be effective for plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2020.

Read more about the proposed rule.

IRS Releases Proposed Rule Regarding Penalties for Failure to File Correct Information Returns or Furnish Correct Payee Statements

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released its proposed rule relating to penalties for failure to file correct information returns or furnish correct payee statements. The proposed rule contains safe harbor exceptions that apply in circumstances when an information return or payee statement is otherwise correct, is timely filed or furnished, and includes a de minimis dollar amount error.

A dollar amount error is a de minimis error if the difference between any single amount in error and the correct amount is not more than $100, or, if the difference relates to an amount of tax withheld, it is not more than $25.

Generally, when the safe harbor exception applies to an information return or payee statement and the return or statement is otherwise correctly and timely filed or furnished, no correction is required and, for purposes of Sections 6721 or 6722, the document is treated as having been filed or furnished with all of the correct required information.

The proposed safe harbor exception would apply to information reported on the Forms 1094/1095, Form W-2, and Form 1099-R.

Public comments are due by December 17, 2018.

Congress and the President Enact Law Prohibiting Pharmacy Gag Clauses

Congress and the President enacted the Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act (Act) that prohibits any restriction on a pharmacy’s ability to inform customers about certain prescription drug costs.

The Act prohibits a group health plan (or a health insurance issuer offering group or individual health insurance coverage, or a pharmacy benefits management service working with a health plan or health insurance issuer) from taking the following actions against a pharmacy that dispenses a prescription drug to an enrollee in the plan or coverage:

  • restricting, directly or indirectly, the pharmacy from informing an enrollee of any difference between the enrollee’s out-of-pocket prescription drug cost under the plan or coverage and the amount that the enrollee would pay for the prescription drug without using any health plan or insurance coverage, or
  • penalizing the pharmacy for informing an enrollee of any difference between the enrollee’s out-of-pocket prescription drug cost under the plan or coverage and the amount that the enrollee would pay for the prescription drug without using any health plan or insurance coverage.

IRS Releases Information Letter Regarding DCAP Fund Forfeiture

The Internal Revenue Service released Information Letter 2018-0027 (Letter) to confirm that a participant’s dependent care assistance plan (DCAP) funds can be forfeited if a participant does not timely submit documentation of dependent care expenses. The Letter explains that, although the Treasury’s regulations do not specify a length of time for submitting expenses, the cafeteria plan document should specify the deadline for submitting expenses.

The Letter also explains that the plan administrator should apply the deadline to all participants on a uniform and consistent basis. A cafeteria plan must operate according to its written plan or the employees’ elections between taxable and nontaxable benefits are includible in the employees’ income.

Tax Relief for Victims of Hurricane Michael in Florida

Victims of Hurricane Michael that took place beginning on October 7, 2018, in Florida may qualify for tax relief from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The President declared that a major disaster exists in Florida. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s major declaration permits the IRS to postpone deadlines for taxpayers who have a business in certain counties within the disaster area.

The IRS automatically identifies taxpayers located in the covered disaster area and applies automatic filing and payment relief. But affected taxpayers who reside or have a business located outside the covered disaster area must call the IRS disaster hotline at 866-562-5227 to request this tax relief.

Last month, the IRS extended deadlines for victims of Hurricane Florence in certain counties of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.

DOL Releases FAQs for Plan Participants Affected by Hurricanes Florence and Michael

The Department of Labor (DOL) released its FAQs for Participants and Beneficiaries Following Hurricanes Florence and Michael to answer health benefit and retirement benefit questions. The FAQs cover topics including:

  • Whether an employee will still be covered by an employer-sponsored group health plan if the worksite closed
  • Potential options such as special enrollment rights, COBRA continuation coverage, individual health coverage, and health coverage through a government program in the event that an employee loses health coverage

HHS Releases Proposed Rule to Require Drug Pricing Transparency

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released its proposed rule that would require direct-to-consumer television advertisements of prescription drugs and biological products to include the Wholesale Acquisition Cost (WAC or list price) of that prescription drug or biological product.

The proposed rule would require the following written statement to appear at the end of an advertisement, against a contrasting background, for sufficient duration, and in font that allows the statement to be easily read:

‘‘The list price for a [30-day supply of] [typical course of treatment with] [name of prescription drug or biological product] is [insert list price]. If you have health insurance that covers drugs, your cost may be different.’’

The advertising requirement would only apply to prescription drugs and biological products that cost $35 or more per month and for which reimbursement is available, directly or indirectly, by Medicare or Medicaid.

To enforce the advertising requirement, the proposed rule would require HHS to maintain a public list that identifies prescription drugs and biological products that are advertised in violation with the rule. HHS would post this list on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) website at least annually.

Public comments are due by December 17, 2018.

DOL and HHS Release Their Regulatory Agendas

The Department of Labor (DOL) released its regulatory agenda and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released its regulatory agenda. Each agenda provides a list of regulations that the agency is currently working on, including rulemaking stage, to help employers anticipate potential change in certain areas of employee benefits.

Question of the Month

Q: What is the status of the Form 5500 proposed rule, that if adopted as a final rule, would generally apply for plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2019?

A: Although the Department of Labor (DOL), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) proposed Form 5500 filing changes in 2016, the agencies have not released any final rules regarding Form 5500 filing.

At the American Bar Association’s ERISA Basics National Institute in October 2018, a DOL representative unofficially said that, due to President Trump’s Executive Order, the DOL has some other higher priority items that the DOL needs to address before it can address the Form 5500 proposed regulations. The DOL representative also unofficially said that it’s likely that new proposed Form 5500 regulations would be issued to allow for another round of public comment. However, the DOL representative didn’t have a timeline on when the additional proposed regulations might be released.

**This information is general and is provided for educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide legal advice. You should not act on this information without consulting legal counsel or other knowledgeable advisors.


Helping employers start the conversation around suicide prevention

How can employers start the conversation around suicide prevention? The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2016 suicide was the tenth-leading cause of death in the U.S. Read on to learn more.


Suicide was the tenth-leading cause of death in the United States in 2016, claiming the lives of nearly 45,000 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Given recent media coverage of the high-profile suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, employers should be more aware of how these events have a heightened impact on people’s mental health and well-being in the workplace.

Research has shown that the likelihood of suicide in vulnerable individuals increases immediately after publicity of these types of events. This phenomenon is known as suicide contagion or the increase in suicidal behavior following media exposure. While suicide prevention is not an easy conversation to have with clients, it’s an important one. Now is the perfect time to start the conversation with your clients on how they can play a crucial role in creating awareness and supporting employees who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts.

Here’s how benefit advisers and employers can navigate the conversation:

Discuss warning signs

Sharing information about common warning signs of symptomatic behavior can give your clients a greater understanding of how they can help employees get the support they need. Often, typical warning signs can be seen in declining work performance, poor hygiene, sudden weight changes, mood swings and depression.

While discussing these common symptoms, help break down the misconception that behavioral health also can be a sign of suicidal behavior. Explain that more than half of people who die of suicide did not have a known mental health condition. Often, individuals considering suicide cite other issues, including fear that they are a burden to others, stress about finances or struggles to afford or secure a place to live. Discuss these instances with your client so they are aware of other factors that could be contributing to their employee’s situation.

Discussing these symptoms can help ensure your clients have a better understanding of how to play a role in supporting and assisting at-risk employees.

Remove the stigma of behavioral health issues

While it’s true that not all suicides are related to a behavioral health condition, the stigma surrounding these conditions still exists and can prevent many individuals from approaching their employer or seeking assistance. By talking with your clients about this stigma, you can help remove the labels and negative connotations surrounding mental health conditions in the workplace.

Share with your clients the ways in which they can develop proactive open lines of communication around behavioral health conditions. For example, explain how they can reach out to employees to build awareness of the services they offer to those struggling. By incorporating educational campaigns that promote awareness of resources, your clients can help ensure employees get the assistance they need. In doing so, your clients can foster a workplace culture of acceptance and support.

Promote available resources

As you create awareness among your clients about the role they can play in removing the stigma, it’s also important their at-risk employees are aware of the resources available to them. Regardless of what their employees may be struggling with, suicidal thoughts or another behavioral health condition, it’s important for your clients to promote resources available through their employee benefits plan. For example, you can highlight how EAPs typically provide numerous free counseling sessions.

Clients also can work with their disability carrier to address employees’ behavioral health issues. Most disability carriers can assist with integrating existing benefit offerings with other resources to help ensure clients are providing their employees with robust treatment options. Additionally, disability carriers can recommend creative solutions and accommodations to meet employees’ unique conditions and support them staying at work or returning to work sooner.

The heightened attention around suicide prevention presents you with the opportunity to discuss the importance of suicide awareness in the workplace. In doing so, your clients can better support those who may be at risk and play a crucial role in creating an inclusive and supportive environment for their workforce.

SOURCE: Jolivet, D. (24 September 2018) "Helping employers start the conversation around suicide prevention" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from: https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/helping-clients-start-the-conversation-about-suicide?feed=00000152-18a4-d58e-ad5a-99fc032b0000


How AI can predict the employees who are about to quit

How can artificial intelligence (AI) predict which employees are going to quit? Employers are now utilizing AI to help predict how likely it is that an employee will stay with their company. Read on to learn more.


Tim Reilly had a problem: Employees at Benchmark's senior living facilities kept quitting.

Reilly, vice president of human resources at Benchmark, a Massachusetts-based assisted living facility provider with employees throughout the Northeast, was consistently frustrated with the number of employees that were leaving their jobs. Staff turnover was climbing toward 50%, and after many approaches to improve retention, Benchmark turned to Arena, a platform that uses artificial intelligence to predict how likely it is that an employee will stay in their job.

“Our new vision is about human connection,” he says. “With a turnover rate that’s double digits, how do you really transform lives or have that major impact and human connection with people who are changing rapidly?”

Since Benchmark started using Arena, staff turnover has fallen 10%, compared to the same time last year. During the hiring process, Arena looks at third-party data, like labor market statistics, combined with applicants' resume information and an employee assessment that will give them a better sense of how long a candidate is likely to stay in a role.

“The core problem we’re solving is that individuals aren’t always great at hiring,” says Michael Rosenbaum, chairman of Arena. “Job applicants don’t always know where they’re likely to be happiest. By using the predictive power of data, we’re essentially helping to answer that question.”

Arena isn’t interested in how an employee responds to assessment questions, he says. They’re much more interested in how employees approach the questions.

“What you’re really doing is your collecting some information about how people react to stress,” Rosenbaum adds.

For example, if an employee is applying for a housekeeping role, Arena may give them a timed advanced math question to complete — something they may never use in their actual job. Arena then studies how the candidate responds to the question — analyzing key strokes and tracking how the individual tackles the challenge. The software can then get a better sense of how an applicant responds under pressure.

Overtime, Arena’s algorithm learns from the data it collects. The system tracks how long a specific employee stays at the company and can then better predict, moving forward, whether other employees with similar characteristics will stay.

“Overtime they are able to sort of refine that prediction about those that are most likely to stay, or be retained with our organization,” Reilly says. “They may also make a prediction on someone who might not last very long.”

Reilly says he’s been encouraging hiring managers at the facilities to use the data given to them by Arena to take a closer look at the candidates the platform rates as highly likely to stay in their roles. Although it’s ultimately up to the hiring manager who they select.

“Focus your time on the [candidates] that are more likely to stay with us longer,” Reilly says.

For now, Arena exclusively works with healthcare companies. The platform is currently being used by companies like Sunrise Senior Living and the Mount Sinai Health System in New York. Moving forward, Rosenbaum says, they’re hoping to get into other industries, although he would not specify which.

Rosenbaum says Arena is not only focused on improving the quality of life for employees, but also for the patients and seniors that use the facilities. The happiness of patients, he says, is closely tied to those that are caring for them.

“Is someone who is in a senior living community happy? Do they have a positive experience? It is very closely related to who’s caring for them, who’s supporting them,” he says.

SOURCE: Hroncich, C. (15 November 2018) "How AI can predict the employees who are about to quit" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from: https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/how-ai-can-predict-the-employees-who-are-about-to-quit?brief=00000152-1443-d1cc-a5fa-7cfba3c60000


DISCOVER THE WELLNESS TRENDS FOR 2019

What is your favorite color? Color therapy is one of the top wellness trends for 2019. Continue reading this blog post for more 2019 wellness trends.


It’s that time of year again when we cast our minds forward and bring you our predictions for the wellness trends that are set to relax, improve and make us feel better about ourselves in 2019. And let’s be honest it feels as if there’s a new trend every week at the moment, so we’ve sifted through the trend trough to tell you ALL about the ones you absolutely need to know about!

Reconnecting With Nature

As a predecessor to the digital detox trend of last year (although heaven knows we still haven’t mastered that one yet!) 2019 is all about shifting our backsides off of the sofa and actually *gasp* leaving our homes to reconnect with nature. The focus is very much on disconnecting i.e. leaving your phones and even your fitness trackers (sorry you’ll have to manage without the steps for this one) in order to reconnect. You see exercising outside is all well and good, but it starts to become detrimental when we begin putting too much pressure on ourselves to hit the next PB or when we become obsessed with comparing ourselves against our friends on the Fitbit leaderboard.

Hey, I’m all for healthy competition and that heady endorphin rush when you smash out an all-time best, but to truly enjoy the benefits of what nature can do for our health we need to unplug and pay attention to what is out there – without the distractions!

From moonlit yoga on the beach to forest bathing in the sensual shadiness of the beautiful English woodland, learning to embrace your inner mother nature is all about fine-tuning the senses. It’s essentially another branch of mindfulness that allows us to break free from the stressful trappings of the modern world and find inner peace and gratitude for the world around us.

Soothing Sounds

You must have that one song that makes you feel amazing? That song that no matter how down in the dumps you are, when you hear those first notes you’re up dancing and feeling as if nothing can stop you. Music’s funny like that isn’t it? It evokes all kinds of emotions in us – from positive uplifting vibes, sorrow and sadness, motivation and drive, right through to silliness and freedom of expression – music has a power over us like no other.

And the sound, of any description, is no different. Think about when you visit a spa, often there will be sounds of the rainforest, birds chattering in trees or that peaceful drift you off to sleep music, floating over the space, creating a calm and serene ambiance and helping you to relax and switch off.

Sound therapy works through the healing power of sound vibration and frequencies. All of us have our own natural frequencies and when we are exposed to the external frequencies of singing bowls, gongs, tuning forks, drums etc. and allow them to wash over us and resonate with us, natural healing of both the body and mind can begin to occur. For example, Tibetan singing bowls can help people to experience a deep sense of relaxation, which can relieve pain, help lower blood pressure, reduce stress, improve circulation and blood flow, balance the Chakras, create focus and emotional clarity and leave people feeling at peace and happy with themselves.

Everyone has the ability to connect with the healing power of sound and most important of all it gives us that chance to focus on just one of our senses, which in a world where our senses are continually blasted with information overload, this is one of life’s most simple of luxuries. Sound classes are becoming increasingly popular for this very reason and many also incorporate the practices of yoga and meditation within them to further aid the wellness experience.

Color Therapy

Do you have a favorite color? There’s a good reason why you are drawn to one color over another and it’s all to do with energy and the way it makes you feel.

Color is energy that is transmitted on different wavelengths and frequencies to create different colored light. There are seven shades of visible light, the rainbow colors, then there is white which contains all of the 7 shades, black which absorbs light and therefore appears void of color, and then there are literally millions of invisible colors that our eyes cannot see. Color therapy, or Chromotherapy to give it its official name, is all about using color to enhance our health and wellness in certain ways. Each color has its own vibrational frequency that relates to different physical symptoms and emotions.

BLUE – This is a calming color that is used to ease symptoms of pain, anxiety, depression and can even aid sleep. Yes I know we’re told the blue light emitted from our screens is bad for us, but that’s a synthetic digital light, so I’m afraid scrolling through Instagram in bed won’t have the same effect! Research has also shown that blue light can help lessen inflammation, lower fevers, reduce high blood pressure and relieve migraines, due to it’s cooling almost anesthetic style energy.

RED – The fiery, powerful color that denotes passion and confidence. It’s bold and powerful and will give you balls when you need it most. And as such, it is thought that being exposed to red light will increase your pulse, raise your blood pressure and increase your breathing rate. Doesn’t necessarily sound too good, right? But red is the color to energize, to motivate and to put yourself out there and show people you mean business. Infrared therapy is also used to activate collagen cells, stimulate the skin to help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and can speed up the healing process.

YELLOW – This bright cheerful color does as you would expect; it uplifts, invokes optimism and a real sense of self love in a person.

GREEN – The color of nature, green is associated with harmony and it provides a neutral, positive and calming effect.

ORANGE – This color can raise energy levels and help improve mood, I mean who can’t but raise a smile when you see something bright orange!?!

PURPLE – The mean and moody one, the color of royalty, richness and luxury. Purple is the color for tranquility and works well in a detox sense, stripping the body and mind of impurities and can help patients deal with that sense of mind over matter when dealing with chronic pain.

And then there’s Colorstrology – a bit like astrology, but this is the idea that each birth month has its own color, which is a reflection of your personality. To find out yours go to the Pantone website and pop in your birth date.

2019 sure is set to be a colorful one that’s for sure!

Sleep Hygiene

We all need sleep to survive, it’s a chance for our body and mind to rest, recharge, repair and grow. However, there aren’t many of us that are a) getting enough sleep and b) getting good quality sleep. 2018 saw the rise in good sleeping practices, with power naps and sleep yoga hitting the wellness scene. But 2019 is set to move on from this by teaching us the ways in which we can employ these good habits at home. And it’s much more about quality rather than quantity. Because yes we should be aiming for around about 7 hours of shut-eye a night, but surely 4 hours of quality sleep is way more beneficial than 8 hours of disrupted sleep?

Sleep hygiene is about being ‘clean’ with your sleep, which means setting good practices and routines such as the following:

  • Avoiding caffeine late at night.
  • Switching off screens and other devices at least an hour before going to bed – and ideally, you don’t even want them in your bedroom.
  • Get the temperature just right- not too hot and not too cold.
  • Ensure the room is dark – blackout blinds are your new best friend.
  • Keep noise to a minimum, or if that’s impossible due to noisy neighbors or yapping dogs then try listening to white noise which will drown out the other sounds and has a calming, sleep-inducing effect.
  • Comfort is key to ensure you have a good mattress, a duvet tog that you’re happy with and good supportive pillows.

You may well think that you can catch up on any missed sleep during the week at the weekend, but irregular sleep is far more damaging. Instead aim to finish work by a set time and give yourself a deadline to be in bed, even if you’re up there and reading for half an hour beforehand, that will help you relax and unwind from the day.

And if you’re someone who struggles to switch off and get to sleep try having a warm bath, drinking a hot milky drink, meditating, or practicing some deep breathing exercises before settling down for the night. These are all things that help induce sleepiness and should see you dozing off in no time.

Ultimately if you eat well, exercise regularly and keep those stress levels down then your sleep hygiene should be pretty damn clean. If you don’t… then perhaps that’s something you could work on in 2019!

Less Is More

Minimalism, the KonMari method, decluttering… call it what you like, but essentially all you need to know is that a clear space equals a clear mind.

Go on, try it.

Choose just one cupboard in one room of your house, drag everything out and then set to work sorting out what you do and don’t need. It’ll be tough, especially when you start finding long lost treasures or useful kitchen gadgets you’d forgotten about, or that top you wore back in 1992 that made you look like a bohemian princess, but you need to set yourself limits. Marie Kondo, the queen of clutter-free living, theorizes that we should only hang onto possessions that ‘spark joy’, those that don’t only serve to hold us back and bring negativity into our lives. And it’s certainly a good place to start. Can you honestly say that vegetable peeler shaped like a pencil sharpener brings you joy? Or does it annoy you because every time you go to open the drawer it catches and makes the drawer jam? And that book you’ve clung onto from your days at uni, the one riddled with post-it notes and pencil scrawled study notes… does it bring you joy? You can’t ever read it properly again, it’s probably out of date and so therefore no longer suitable as a study guide for anyone else and all it’s really doing is taking up space and gathering dust on your bookshelf.

The thought of getting rid of your belongings is a scary one. Objects become security blankets, but they are restrictive and oppressive and are preventing you from living your best life. Existing in a tidy and clear space, whether it’s within the work or home environment, can help reduce stress levels, conserve mental energy, give us clarity, make us more productive and most importantly of all can make us feel in control. And when you’re in control you can achieve anything!

Clean Air

As much as we’re all for clean air outside, is it actually doing us any good if our home or work environment is riddled with all kinds of chemicals – yes I’m deffo thinking of those plug-in air fresheners!!

Whether you fill your rooms with plants (they’re amazing at purifying the air and look pretty spesh too!), pay more attention to the ingredients used in your cleaning sprays etc. or even download an app that can tell you how pure the air is – yes really! –  2019 is 100% about living clean. We’ve done the clean eating thing, started to adopt the clean sleeping thing, so it was only a question of time before clean breathing became a thing.

Sales of air purifying plants have more or less tripled over the past year as people strive for that natural air in their homes. If you listened to your Biology teacher at school, you’ll know that plants are capable of turning carbon dioxide into vital oxygen, but they are also great at absorbing unwanted nasties such as formaldehyde, benzene, ammonia, acetone etc. which are found in so many of the items we have in our homes and workspaces.

Crystal Clear Water

Crystals were everywhere in 2018, helping us with their energizing vibes and well they just look so pretty don’t they!?! And don’t worry, they’re not going anywhere, they’re just infiltrating other areas of our lives, namely… our water bottles. Yep, that’s right, you’ve seen the fruit, veg and herb infuser water bottles, now it’s time for the crystal infused ones!

Not only does it take a good Instagram picture (these are beautiful things peeps!) but the crystal gets to work its magic by pouring out all of its positive energy into the water you’ll be sipping on. Crystal gurus have been doing this for donkey’s years, but for us newbies, crystal-infused water is big news. It’s basically creating an essence and so it is up to you which crystal to insert in your water bottle for any given day.

One thing you must, must, MUST make sure of is that any crystal you use is safe to be put in water. Certain stones may dissolve, whilst others may contain lead or corrosive chemicals. A quick Google search is all that should be needed to confirm whether a crystal is safe in water or not and it’s worth keeping a list of the ones you can and cannot use and storing them in different places so you don’t get confused.

It certainly takes drinking crystal clear water to a whole different level, doesn’t it!?!

SOURCE: Stafferton, B. (11 July 2018) "DISCOVER THE WELLNESS TRENDS FOR 2019" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://artofhealthyliving.com/discover-wellness-trends-2019/


IRS bumps up 401(k) contribution limit for 2019

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently increased the annual contribution cap for participants of 401(k) and other retirement plans. Read this blog post to learn what the new contribution caps are.


Participants in 401(k) and other defined contribution retirement accounts will see their annual contribution cap raised from $18,500 to $19,000 in 2019, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

The catch-up contribution limit on defined contribution plans remains unchanged at $6,000.

Savers with IRAs will see the annual contribution cap raised from $5,500 to $6,000 — the first time the cap on IRA deferrals has been raised since 2013. The annual catch-up contribution for savers age 50 and over will remain at $1,000.

Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) increases will also be applied to the deduction phase-out scale for IRA owners who are also covered by a workplace retirement plan:

  • for single filers the scale will be $64,000 to $74,000, up $1,000
  • for joint filers where the spouse contributing to an IRA is also covered by a workplace plan, the phase-out slot increase to $103,000 to $123,000
  • for an IRA contributor whose spouse is covered by a plan, the income phase-out is $193,000 to $2003,000

Single contributors to Roth IRAs will see the income phase-out range increase to $122,000 to $137,000, up $2,000 from last year. For married couples filing jointly the range will increase to $193,000 to $203,000, up $4,000 from last year.

More low and moderate-income families may be able to claim the Saver’s Credit on their tax returns for contributions to retirement savings plans. The threshold increases $1,000 for married couples, to $64,000; $48,000 for head of households, up $750; and $32,000 for singles and single filers, up $500 from last year.

The deferred compensation limit in defined contribution plans for pre-tax and after-tax dollars will increase $1,000, to $56,000. And the maximum defined benefit annual pension will increase $5,000, to $225,000.

SOURCE: Thornton, N. (1 November 2018) "IRS bumps up 401(k) contribution limit for 2019" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitspro.com/2018/11/01/irs-bumps-401k-contribution-limit-for-2019/


Healthcare waste is costing billions — and employers aren’t doing anything about it

According to a recent survey, 60 percent of employers don't take steps to manage their healthcare plan's wasteful spending. Read on to learn more.


Providing the workforce with healthcare coverage is expensive, but a new survey of 126 employers suggests a large chunk of that cost is being wasted by the healthcare industry on treatments patients don’t need.

The healthcare industry wastes $750 billion per year on unnecessary tests and treatments, according to a survey from the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions and Benfield, a market research, strategy and communications consulting firm.  Some 60% of employers don’t take steps to manage their healthcare plan’s wasteful spending, despite the fact that the same percentage of employers view it as a problem, the survey says.

“While waste has long been identified as a key concern and cost contributor, employers are operating blind and need to look at a more disciplined approach to address top drivers that influence waste,” says Michael Thompson, National Alliance president and CEO.

Employers are under the impression that prescription drugs are the culprit behind the spending waste, and they are, just not as much as other services. Around 54% of health spending waste is caused by unnecessary medical imaging tests, such as MRIs and X-rays, the survey says. Specialty drugs, unnecessary lab tests and specialists referrals are also major money pits.

However, the survey data isn’t suggesting these procedures and treatments shouldn’t be covered by employer health plans. The tests and treatments are potentially life-saving, they’re just used more than they should be. Sometimes previous test results can help with a current diagnosis, but medical staff don’t always check patient files before ordering new tests.

Most employers don’t monitor unnecessary healthcare spending. The 34% of employers who do rely entirely on their healthcare vendors to do it for them, trusting that it’s being taken care of.

“The idea of reducing waste in the healthcare system can be overwhelming,” says Laura Rudder Huff, senior consultant for Benfield. “While employers ask themselves: ‘Where to start?’ this is an issue where even small steps matter. Employers can begin by collecting data to identify where the inefficiencies are in their workforce and community and use assets such as vendors and organizations like coalitions to realize market improvements.”

The survey also recommends employers enlist the services of Choosing Wisely, an organization that counsels patients and employers on healthcare plans and medical treatments.

SOURCE: Webster, K. (7 November 2018) "Healthcare waste is costing billions — and employers aren’t doing anything about it" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/healthcare-waste-is-costing-billions-and-employers-arent-doing-anything-about-it


5 critical elements to consider when choosing an HSA administrator

Eighty-three percent of today’s workforce stated that health insurance was very or extremely important in deciding whether to change jobs or not, according to an Employee Benefit Research Institute survey. Continue reading to learn more.


If anyone needed any reminding, health insurance is still an urgent matter to today’s employees. According to Employee Benefit Research Institute’s 2017 Health and Workplace Benefits Survey, 83% of the workforce said that health insurance was very or extremely important in deciding whether to stay in or change jobs. Yet research has uncovered that employees tend to delay or disengage from retirement and healthcare decisions, which they view as difficult and complex.

Fortunately, with consumer-driven healthcare plans and health savings accounts on the rise, benefits managers have a real opportunity to turn this frustrating situation into a positive one for their workforce. A critical step in doing so is choosing the right health savings administrator.

Employers should consider the following five elements when choosing a health savings administrator, or for evaluating the one with which you’re currently working.

1. Minimize risk by ensuring business alignment. Look for a health savings administrator that aligns with your company’s mission and business goals. Lack of business alignment can create real risks to your organization and employees and can damage your company brand and employee experience. For example, if your account administrator nickels-and-dimes you and your employees with added fees, you’ll experience higher costs and reduced employee satisfaction.

2. Service, support are key to employee satisfaction. It’s a fact: Employees will have HSA-related questions — probably a lot of them. Their questions may range from pharmacy networks and claims to the details of IRS rules. That’s why account management and customer service support from your health savings administrator are vital. Having first-class customer service means that employees will be better educated on their savings accounts, which can result in HSA adoption and use to their fullest potential.

3. Education, communication drive adoption. Educating employees about health savings accounts using various methods is critical, especially in the first year of adoption. This ensures your employees understand the true benefits and how to maximize their account. As CDHPs require more “skin in the game,” consumers show a higher likelihood to investigate costs, look for care alternatives, use virtual care options, and negotiate payments with providers. These are all positive outcomes of HSA adoption, and an HSA administrator oftentimes can offer shopping, price and quality transparency tools to enable your employees to make these healthcare decisions.

4. Understand the HSA admin’s technology. Because most spending and savings account transactions are conducted electronically, it’s critical that your administrator’s technology platform be configured to deliver a positive user experience that aligns with your expectations. It should allow for flexibility to add or adjust offerings and enable personalization and differentiation appropriate for your brand.

Be aware that some vendors have separate technology platforms, each running separate products (i.e., HSAs versus FSAs) and only integrate through simple programming interfaces. Because the accounts are not truly integrated, consumers may need to play a bigger role in choosing which accounts their dollars come from and how they’re paid, leading to consumer frustration and an increase in customer service call volume. With a fully integrated platform, claims flow seamlessly between accounts over multiple plan years, products and payment rules.

5. Evaluate your financial investment. Transparent pricing and fees from your health savings administrator is important. Administrators can provide value in a variety of ways including tiered product offerings, no traditional banking fees or hidden costs, and dedicated customer service. It’s important to know what these costs are up front.

Evaluate your financial investment by knowing whether or not your health savings administrator charges for program upgrades, multiple debit cards, unique data integration requirements, ad-hoc reports and more. These fees can add up and result in a final investment for which your company didn’t plan. And, it’s best to know in advance if your account holders will be charged any additional fees. Not communicating these potential fees at adoption can lead to dissatisfaction, which can then hurt your employee satisfaction ratings and complete adoption of the savings account products.

Choosing a health savings administer is a critical decision that affects not only employee satisfaction but the entire company. With eight in 10 employees ranking their benefits satisfaction as extremely or very important in terms of job satisfaction, according to EBRI, taking the time to fully vet your health savings administrator will pay dividends.

SOURCE: Santino, S. (5 November 2018) "5 critical elements to consider when choosing an HSA administrator" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/what-to-consider-when-choosing-an-hsa-administrator


9 Simple Ways to Deal With Stress at Work

Are your employees stressed? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 29 to 40 percent of Americans are extremely stressed at work. Continue reading to learn more.


According to research, the percentage of Americans who are stressed at work is high, and it’s only getting higher. According to the CDC’s National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, studies have found the number of Americans who are “extremely stressed at work” range between 29 percent to 40 percent.

Unfortunately, work stress has significant health consequences that range from the relatively benign—more colds and flus—to the more serious, like heart disease and metabolic syndrome. But, because stress at work is so common, finding a low-stress job may be difficult or impossible for many people. A more realistic choice would be to simply adopt more effective strategies to reduce stress at work. Here are some stress management techniques to try.

Start Your Day Off Right

After scrambling to get the kids fed and off to school, dodging traffic and combating road rage, and gulping down coffee in lieu of something healthy, many people come in already stressed, and more reactive to stress at work. In fact, you may be surprised by how much more reactive to stress you are when you have a stressful morning. If you start off the day with good nutrition, proper planning, and a positive attitude, you may find the stress of the workplace rolling off your back more easily.

Be Clear on Requirements

A factor that contributes to job burnout is unclear requirements. If you don’t know exactly what’s expected of you, or if the requirements keep changing with little notice, you may find yourself much more stressed than necessary. If you find yourself falling into the trap of never knowing if what you’re doing is enough, it may help to have a talk with your supervisor and go over expectations, and strategies for meeting them. This can relieve stress for both of you!

Stay Away From Conflict

Because interpersonal conflict takes a toll on your physical and emotional health, and because conflict among co-workers is so difficult to escape, it’s a good idea to avoid conflict at work as much as possible. That means don’t gossip, don’t share too many of your personal opinions about religion and politics, and try to steer clear of colorful office humor. Try to avoid those people at work who don’t work well with others. If conflict finds you anyway, learn how to deal with it appropriately.

Stay Organized

Even if you’re a naturally disorganized person, planning ahead to stay organized can greatly decrease stress at work. Being organized with your time means less rushing in the morning to avoid being late and rushing to get out at the end of the day. Keeping yourself organized means avoiding the negative effects of clutter, and being more efficient with your work.

Be Comfortable

Another surprising stressor at work is physical discomfort. You may not notice the stress you experience when you’re in an uncomfortable chair for a few minutes. But if you practically live in that chair when you’re at work, you can have a sore back and be more reactive to stress because of it. Even small things like office noise can be distracting and cause low-grade frustration. Do what you can to ensure that you’re working from a quiet, comfortable and soothing workspace.

Forget Multitasking

Multitasking was once heralded as a fantastic way to maximize one’s time and get more done in a day. Then people started realizing that when they had a phone in their ear and were making calculations at the same time, their speed and accuracy (not to mention sanity) suffered. There is a certain kind of frazzled feeling that comes from splitting one’s focus that doesn’t work well for most people. Rather than multitasking, try a new strategy known as chunking.

Walk at Lunch

Many people are feeling ill effects from leading a sedentary lifestyle. One way you can combat that, and manage stress at work at the same time, is to get some exercise during your lunch break and perhaps take short exercise breaks throughout the day. This can help you blow off steam, lift your mood, and get into better shape.

Keep Perfectionism In Check

Being a high achiever can help you feel good about yourself and excel at work. Being a perfectionist, on the other hand, can drive you and the people around you a little nuts. Especially in busy, fast-paced jobs, you may not be able to do everything perfectly. But striving to just do your best and then congratulating yourself on the effort is a good strategy. Your results will actually be better and you’ll be much less stressed at work.

Listen to Music on the Drive Home

Listening to music brings many benefits and can offer an effective way to relieve stress after work. Combating the stress of a long day at work with your favorite music on the drive home can make you less stressed when you get home, and more prepared to interact with the people in your life.

SOURCE: Scott, E. (12 November 2018) "9 Simple Ways to Deal With Stress at Work" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-deal-with-stress-at-work-3145273