Trending: Virtual Healthcare Gains Broader Acceptance

Original post benefitsnews.com

The Cadillac tax may have been postponed until 2020 but that doesn’t mean employers have put healthcare cost containment measures on the backburner. In fact, new research shows 90% of employers are planning myriad measures to control rising healthcare costs.

The 2016 Medical Plan Trends and Observations Report, released today by DirectPath and CEB, highlights top trends in employers’ 2016 healthcare strategies. Overwhelmingly, employers are continuing to shift a larger share of healthcare costs to employees, often through high-deductible health plans, according to the report.

The use of telemedicine, meanwhile, continues to grow, with almost two-thirds of organizations offering or planning to offer such a service by 2018 – a 50% increase from the previous year.

“Employees often say that they go to the emergency room because it’s hard to get a doctor’s appointment. With telemedicine, you’ve got 24/7 access and you don’t necessarily need an appointment,” notes Kim Buckey, vice president of compliance communications at DirectPath. “That’s certainly a huge driver of avoiding those visits to the emergency room or even the urgent care clinic because telemedicine is typically less expensive than an urgent care visit, as well.”

Buckey says it “makes sense” for employers to investigate telemedicine – the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients via phone calls, email and/or video chat – because employees are increasingly accepting of virtual access to just about everything.

“How many employees now are just grabbing their phones, iPads, or computers when they need information? That’s something that people are comfortable with using and they don’t have to leave their house to get quality care,” she says.

Spousal and tobacco surcharges are also expected to grow, according to the CEB data. Twelve percent of employers surveyed already have spousal surcharges in place, while 29% expect to introduce them in the next three years. Twenty-one percent of employers already have tobacco surcharges in place, while 26% expect to implement them in the next three years.

“I think we’re going to see more and more of those, particularly as employers focus more on wellness initiatives,” says Buckey, adding that a robust communications plan is needed before implementing tobacco or spousal surcharges.

“People don’t understand basic concepts like deductibles, co-pays, co-insurance, let alone how to make a decision about what plan to choose, or frankly, what’s the best way of receiving care,” she says. “As more and more of these provisions are added to plans, they have the potential of being even more confusing and off-putting to employees, so having a robust communications plan in place that addresses all of these issues [is important]. … There certainly will be cases where these surcharges aren’t going to apply to a large percentage of the population. You just want to make sure that the folks who are affected, understand how they’re affected and why.”


Technology: Top Talent Prefers Being Recruited Via Their Mobile Device

Original post ubabenefits.com

If you haven’t noticed, newspapers are shrinking in size. Fewer people, especially the younger demographic of 18- to 40-year-olds, read them and this especially applies to when they’re searching for jobs. Employers who continue to use only the older methods of recruitment — classified ads and job boards — may not attract the most coveted applicants due to them not seeing the posting, or worse, feeling that the company looking to fill the position is old-fashioned and not technologically up to date.

According to an article on the website of Society For Human Resource Management titled, “The Most Sought-After Talent Prefer Mobile Recruitment,” almost 70% of applicants labeled as “high-potentials” were attracted more to companies with mobile recruiting options versus just over 50% of other applicants. Another comparison of high-potentials shows that about 75% use mobile devices when searching for jobs while only 40% of other potential employees do.

Because most people tend to do everything on their tablets or smartphones, it makes sense that searching for a job would just be another addition to that list. The article bears that out, noting that convenience is one of the primary reasons that high-potentials do this. Besides convenience, another benefit noted is that information can be obtained quickly via mobile device and high-potentials can respond faster to job postings.

The article states that everyone, at some point, will use a mobile device when job hunting, but those who are high-potentials take it to the next level. Everything from researching companies, receiving job alerts, filling out job applications, and even taking assessments was more likely to be done by a high-potential candidate on a mobile device. Furthermore, high-potentials were nearly two times as likely to prefer text messages and communication through social media (e.g., LinkedIn).

So, what’s the message to employers? If you want to attract top talent, then you must utilize mobile recruiting. Employers can build such a program by integrating all their job search functions, such as listings, applications, assessment tests, etc. on a mobile platform. They also need to make it simple and streamlined. As the article states, you don’t want a candidate who’s a high-potential to skip through your job recruiting process due to frustration.


Technology: Protect More Than Just Your Employee's Health

Original post ubabenefits.com

As competition heats up in the job market, companies are always searching for that one great perk that might sway a potential candidate to choose them over anyone else. Whether it’s health insurance, retirement, paid time off, or even wellness, there’s something that’s more in demand today than there was yesterday. Companies now have a new benefit they can more easily provide to their employees — identity theft protection.

According to an article on the website of Employee Benefit News titled, “Regulatory Clarity Makes ID Protection A More Attractive Employee Benefit,” identity theft is not only the fastest growing crime in America, but also the fastest growing consumer complaint. The article states that more than 13 million Americans have their identity stolen every year. That equates to one person every three seconds.
Offering this type of theft protection to employees was only given a passing glance by companies a few years ago and was unheard of more than a decade ago. Yet today, employees are signing up for this protection themselves and looking to employers to add it as one of their benefits.

Fortunately, the IRS tried to clear up any confusion regarding how employees would be taxed for this perk if offered by their employer. By doing so, it paved the way for companies to reconsider this benefit. Before the end of 2015, the IRS said it would allow preferential tax treatment for employer-provided identity theft benefits regardless of whether there was an actual breach in data. Previously, this was only available if there was a data breach and then only if an individual’s personal information might have been affected.

According to the article, it’s anticipated that identity theft protection will be one of the fastest growing voluntary benefits. In addition, identity theft is, regrettably, most likely here to stay so it behooves companies to get ahead of the curve and offer it to their employees before a competitor does. Besides the benefit to employees of protection in the event of identity theft and assistance in restoring their identity, it also benefits employers. This is because an employee will be able to concentrate more on his or her job instead of worrying how they’re going to fix the problem or even take time off from work.

The good news for both employer and employee is that if identity theft protection is offered, it should not increase their federal tax liability. State and local taxes may still apply and there are other exclusions such as if cash is received in lieu of protection. Because of all the various implications all parties should consult with a tax professional before implementing these benefits.

The urgent need for companies to attract talent and retain potential retirees

Source: Zurich

The race for talent drives competitors into a frenzy. Established players are forced to offer new perks, hire earlier, and watch constantly for poachers as newer destinations elbow their way toward accomplished graduates.

This fight isn’t just happening in the tech scene, at hip ad agencies, or in fashion and entertainment. The battle is also taking place between banks and private-equity firms and it could easily translate to healthcare, consulting, or manufacturing. The talent crunch animates countless industries.

 

Companies can’t just slide higher compensation numbers across the table to attract them. When one of the largest automotive corporations needed more electronics specialists to work on its electric vehicle, it used current employees’ unique accounts of their job’s personal and professional rewards to attract workers via social media and recruitment networks.

And of course, there is Silicon Valley. Young people are still flocking to tech, often at the expense of Wall Street. Its entrepreneurialism, relevance, pace, and community encapsulate targeted job traits, and rankings bear this out.

The tech talent phenomenon also gets at a key dynamic of the overall workforce- age. There is natural tension between accomplished veterans and flashy potential. One might assume it’s the threat of the latter displacing the former, but the old guard isn’t giving way anytime soon.

Older workers are healthier and more capable than ever in their later years-they’re not all simply delaying retirement for financial, post-recession reasons. Their experience has taught them work habits and productivity tricks, and developed facilities with flexible and remote work advancements, which younger workers are still getting acquainted with. And the company’s culture will be better off imbued with the elders’ loyalty.

Baby boomers’ abilities to adapt in an ever-changing workplace are keeping them significantly more engaged and productive than elder workforces of previous generations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting a rise in labor force participation for people over the age of 55 over the next decade, most dramatically for workers 75 years and older, with a predicted increase of 38%.

It will be important for companies to develop intellectual capital transition strategies that focus on leveraging the knowledge of older workers in the training and mentoring of their younger staff.

The two sides must thrive together in successful organizations. And some trends suggest that generational wars aren’t inevitable. Young employees value strong mentors, according to a UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School report. Following the path of one notable company featured in the study, organizations can establish groups that work to create relationships between employees at all levels of experience and expertise.

Alongside the rest of the world, age tensions in the US are moderate. Only a quarter of Americans think that their aging country is a major problem, according to a Pew Research Center survey. Other countries are less confident that they will be taken care of well in their later years. While the graying shift in the US is steeper than the global average, some powerful nations must address the change more urgently.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The value of long-time workers may be most stark in specialized industries like defense, where the usual limits on recruiting are exacerbated by factors like budget cuts and employee screening. All companies must work with core employees on retirement planning to avoid sudden, gaping vacancies and lost chances to transfer knowledge. The result should be a workplace that is attractive to all age groups, opening larger pools of talent to recruit from than the competition.


Just Say 'No' to Co-Workers' Halloween Candy

Originally posted on  October 14, 2014 by Josh Cable on ehstoday.com.

Workplace leftovers might seem like one of the perks of the job. But when co-workers try to pawn off their Halloween candy on the rest of the department, it’s more of a trick than a treat.

Those seemingly generous and thoughtful co-workers often are just trying to keep temptation out of their homes.

“Not only does candy play tricks on your waistline, but it also turns productive workers into zombies,” says Emily Tuerk, M.D., adult internal medicine physician at the Loyola University Health System and assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

“A sugar high leads to a few minutes of initial alertness and provides a short burst of energy. But beware of the scary sugar crash. When the sugar high wears off, you’ll feel tired, fatigued and hungry.”

Tuerk offers a few tips to help you and others on your team avoid being haunted by leftover candy:

  • Make a pact with your co-workers to not bring in leftover candy.
  • Eat breakfast, so you don’t come to work hungry.
  • Bring in alternative healthy snacks, such as low-fat yogurt, small low-fat cheese sticks, carrot sticks or cucumber slices. Vegetables are a great healthy snack. You can’t overdose on vegetables.
  • Be festive without being unhealthy. Blackberries and cantaloupe are a fun way to celebrate with traditional orange and black fare without packing on the holiday pounds. Bring this to the office instead of candy as a creative and candy-free way to participate in the holiday fun.
  • If you must bring in candy, put it in an out-of-the-way location. Don’t put it in people’s faces so they mindlessly eat it. An Eastern Illinois University study found that office workers ate an average of nine Hershey’s Kisses per week when the candy was conveniently placed on top of the desk, but only six Kisses when placed in a desk drawer and three Kisses when placed 2 feet from the desk.

And if you decide to surrender to temptation and have a treat, limit yourself to a small, bite-size piece, Tuerk adds. Moderation is key.


6 ways to overcome distractions

Originally posted by Erin Bramblett, HR specialist with Insperity, an HR outsourcing firm on http://ebn.benefitnews.com.

If anyone knows a thing or two about multitasking, it’s benefit managers. From understanding the compliance complexities of the Affordable Care Act to navigating the nuances of ERISA, benefit managers are experts at juggling several priorities. Yet multitasking and having to deal with constant interruptions can negatively affect work quality, according to a recent study from the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.

1. Prioritize.

“Prioritize what you need to get done as an employee and do those things early in the day,” says Bramblett. “Focus on what needs to get done, whether it’s three things or five things, and focus on those until they’re done.”

2. Create a to-do list.

“Write that bulleted list, include scheduled breaks and cross them off as you complete them. That will help you stay focused,” advises Bramblett. “And taking a mental break in between tasks will help employees shift gears a little more easily.”

3. Don’t check social media during the day.

A five-minute break to update your status can easily turn into a 30-minute waste of time, says Bramblett, who advises keeping social media pages closed during the work day. But if you absolutely can’t go all day without seeing what those crazy cats on Instagram are up to, then schedule it as part of your break on your to-do list.

4. Learn the power of ‘no.’

“It’s hard to not say ‘yes’ to every assignment that comes your way,” says Bramblett. “But you’ve got to make sure you’re keeping your to-do list at a realistic level.” She advises communicating with your team, your boss or your clients to make sure your daily priorities are correct and that you’re finding out which things are most important for you to get done each day.

5. Don’t think you’re capable of multitasking.

“It is scientifically proven that individuals work better when they are single-tasking,” says Bramblett, citing an American Psychological Association study that showed multitasking undermines efficiency by as much as 40%.

6. Create a workplace that doesn’t expect multitasking.

“If employees feel like they have to multitask because their boss keeps coming at them with multiple projects and asking for updates on 15 different things in a day, that would certainly be something that would create that environment so you want to ensure you create that work-life balance,” advises Bramblett.


Handling "Bye" With "BYOD"

Originally posted by United Benefits Advisors, LLC (UBA)

BYOD stands for bring-your-own-device and it’s a concept that’s gaining in popularity among most major companies, especially those that allow telecommuting. Most employer policies on BYOD cover productivity and ensuring the employees are using the right laptops, tablets, smart phones and relevant software to perform necessary tasks.

Understandably, these same employees will use their devices for personal use as well as business use. By doing this, the employee opens up the possibility that corporate data may be inadvertently shared, or worse — hacked. By having a solid BYOD policy in place, employers can better protect themselves not only while an employee is with the company, but also once an employee leaves the company.

According to an article on Workforce.com, many companies have not thoroughly determined how to recapture company information once an employee walks out the door for good. If the technology isn’t already in place, then the risk of the data being unrecoverable is fairly high. Even worse is if a former employee still has access to the company’s intranet and abuses that access. Employers need to have policies and technology in place with BYOD employees and then regular audits to ensure that these policies are being enforced in order to keep data and network access secure.

Access to sensitive data can be restricted in many ways depending on the level of security a company wants, but one thing that should definitely be considered is technology that can remotely “wipe” this data instantly in real time. This technology could even be set up so that it’s triggered automatically if a device is lost or stolen. However, while wiping can delete company data, it can also delete personal data. Legally and politically this is a delicate situation and the BYOD policy should explicitly state how that will happen. One way to keep company and personal data separate is by use of partitioned sections. That way, only data within that area is deleted.

There is definitely a balance between what data an employee can have on his or her device and what is considered off limits. A good BYOD policy that is strictly enforced will go a long way in ensuring that sensitive and valuable company information is kept as secure and protected as possible.


Do You Have an Employee Wellness Plan?

Originally posted May 19, 2014 by Bridget Miller on http://hrdailyadvisor.blr.com.

Employee wellness plans have been gaining popularity in recent years, and with good reason: they can benefit both employees and employers.
 An employee wellness program is simply a program that intends to promote the health and well-being of employees. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, but the key is that the program has a goal of improving employee health.

The benefits for employees are fairly obvious:

  • The potential for improved health
  • Support in the form of encouragement, goals, or even team activities
  • A focus on healthier choices
  • Maybe a reduction in cost

But the benefits for employers are sometimes overlooked. This is unfortunate because employers actually stand to benefit a great deal as well. Here are just a few examples:

  • Improved employee health can mean fewer absences for illness and higher employee productivity levels.
  • Investing in employees can improve employee morale. Over time, this can even reduce turnover.
  • Healthier employees often cost less to insure over time.

These benefits are there regardless of company size or industry. Every organization can benefit.

Starting an Employee Wellness Program

Starting an employee wellness program can be quite simple. (Of course, it can be quite involved too, depending on how far the employer wants to go with the program.) Here are some examples of easy ways to get started focusing on employee health:

  • Provide health screenings. Examples include blood pressure or Body Mass Index (BMI) screenings.
  • Provide food fact sheets. Simply having access to more information can allow employees to make healthier choices.
  • Start employee fitness groups. Examples include walking groups or even sport team creation to compete in local leagues.
  • Conduct individual health-risk assessments (i.e., questionnaires that help assess overall health and risk factors at an individual level). These are usually administered by a third party and come with personalized reports on health risk factors.
  • Give away health-related promotional items. Examples include pedometers or water bottles.
  • Remove on-site food that does not promote good health; replace it with healthier options. This can be implemented in many areas, such as vending machines, cafeterias, catering for meetings, break room options, etc.
  • Provide information on the health benefits of quitting smoking.
  • Distribute other wellness-oriented communications, such as health-related newsletters.
  • Conduct training sessions on health or wellness-related topics.
  • Allow longer lunch breaks to give time for exercise.
  • Provide discounts on health insurance or otherwise reduce the cost.

Of course, employee wellness programs can also be implemented on a much broader scale, too. Here are some more in-depth examples:

  • Adding an on-site fitness center or partnering with a nearby fitness center to offer free employee memberships; and
  • Sponsoring employee contests. (Be sure to follow the latest guidelines under the Affordable Care Act when it comes to participation and rewards.)

Be aware that there are some rules governing wellness programs, particularly when a bonus or discount is based on an actual change in health status (e.g., lower blood pressure or cholesterol) as opposed to simply participating in an activity (e.g., a health screening).

No matter what type of employee wellness programs you implement, be sure to have a plan to communicate the program details to employees. Getting employees excited and involved is the first step to gaining the benefits. Focus on the benefits for the employees in all communications and make it easy to participate, even offering incentives where appropriate.


Employers more flexible on telecommuting

Originally posted April 30, 2014 by Dan Cook on www.benefitspro.com

Are company executives all taking yoga? How else to explain the increased flexibility showing up in the workplace?

A study from the Society for Human Resource Management and Families and Work Institute — the 2014 National Study of Employers — indicates that corporate policies about how, when and where people work is loosening up in a number of ways.

The massive study contains considerable detail on trends in the workplace, comparing what’s happening today to what was going on in 2008. And, in just the space of six years, significant policy changes were identified.

For instance, telecommuting is becoming commonplace at two-thirds of workplaces. Earlier studies have demonstrated that telecommuting doesn’t diminish one’s productivity, and may even enhance it. Further, the courts are starting to endorse it as a reasonable accommodation for certain workers.

The SHRM/FWI data reveals that, while 50 percent of respondents in 2008 said they permitted at least some employees to occasionally work some paid hours remotely, in 2014, 67 percent offer the option to at least some workers occasionally.

In 2008, 23 percent of respondents said they offered telecommuting as a regular option; by this year, that percent had climbed to 38 percent.

Other signs of increased flexibility showed up in these comparisons of 2008 responses to 2014 input:

  • Workers have control over breaks (from 84 percent to 92 percent);
  • workers have control over overtime hours (from 27 percent to 45 percent);
  • workers can take time off during the workday when important needs arise (from 73 percent to 82 percent);
  • workers have control of starting and quitting times on daily basis: 38 percent vs. 41 percent.

In some areas, the study showed, employers have reduced flexibility. For instance:

  • sharing jobs fell from 29 percent in 2008 to 18 percent;
  • working part-year on an annual basis  dropped from 27 percent to 18 percent;
  • sabbaticals as a flex option fell from 38 percent to 28 percent;

career breaks for personal or family responsibilities dipped from 64 percent to 52 percent.