7 ways employers can support employee caregivers

Research from Harvard Business School revealed that 73 percent of employees in the United States act as caregivers for a child, parent or friend. Read this blog post from Employee Benefit News for seven ways employers can support employee caregivers.


The number of caregiving adults in the U.S. has reached a tipping point.

As the baby boomer generation gets older, an increasing number of people in the workforce are taking on the role of unpaid caregiver for a family member or friend. Many also are in the midst of raising their own children, which means they’re pulled in many different directions, trying to keep up with work commitments and family responsibilities. In fact, according to researchers at Harvard Business School, 73% of employees in the U.S. are caring for a child, parent or friend.

What do all these statistics point to? They mean that employers have an opportunity to play a role in helping employees balance these often competing priorities.

The Harvard study highlights the impact of employee caregiving responsibilities on the workplace. While only 24% of employers surveyed believed employee caregiving influenced their employees’ performance at work, 80% of the employees who were surveyed admitted that caregiving had an effect on their productivity at work and interfered with their ability to do their best work.

The survey also found that caregiving can affect employee retention, with 32% of the employees surveyed saying they had left a job because of their caregiving responsibilities. In addition, employees who are caregivers are more likely to miss work, arrive late or leave early, which affects not only productivity, but also the employees’ ability to progress in their careers.

Employers can take a proactive role in supporting employees who are caregivers. That support, in turn, can have a positive effect on productivity, morale and employee retention. Here are seven strategies employers should consider.

Create an organization-wide understanding of the challenges caregivers face.

Employees who aren’t sure that their managers and leaders would understand the juggling they’re doing and the stresses they face are more likely to not only have problems at work, but — because they face high stress levels trying to get everything done at home and work — they also are at higher risk for a number of health problems such as depression and heart disease. By creating a culture that allows employees to openly express their challenges and ask for support, employers can not only keep employees healthy and productive, they also can reduce secondary costs associated with decreased productivity and chronic health problems.

Know what challenges employees face.

Regular employee surveys can help employers assess employees’ needs in terms of caregiving and tailor the benefits the organization offers to help meet those needs.

Communicate the benefits that are available.

In many cases, employers already offer programs and benefits that can help employees who are caregivers such as an employee assistance program and referral services for finding caregivers who can help when the employee isn’t able to. However, many employees aren’t aware these programs are available, so it’s important to continuously share information about them in company newsletters, emails and at meetings.

Consider flex time and remote work options.

Depending on the employees’ work responsibilities, employers can offer flexible work arrangements that allow employees to work different hours or to telecommute for a certain number of days per week.

Change the approach to paid time off.

Rather than dividing paid time off into vacation days, sick days and personal days, consider grouping all time off into one category. That allows employees to take time off for caregiving as needed. A growing number of companies, including Adobe, Deloitte, Bristol-Meyers Squibb and Coca-Cola, are also offering paid family leave benefits so that employees can take time off to provide care.

Connect employees with resources.

Beyond an EAP and referral services, employers can offer programs that connect caregivers with resources for both their caregiving role and for the self-care they need to remain healthy and able to handle both job and caregiving roles better. Those resources can include:

Beyond an EAP and referral services, employers can offer programs that connect caregivers with resources for both their caregiving role and for the self-care they need to remain healthy and able to handle both job and caregiving roles better. Those resources can include:

  • Advisory services that help employees connect with healthcare providers for their parents, children and themselves
  • Nurse managers, case managers and geriatric care managers who can help employees who are managing the care of a family member who’s living with a serious health condition or disability
  • Advocates who can help employees who are dealing with complex insurance claims for the person they care for, planning for long-term care, or managing the legal and financial complexities that can arise when a parent or spouse dies

Internal caregiver resources groups that bring together employees who are dealing with the issues surrounding caregiving so that they can share ideas and experiences

Measure how well your support is working.

The first step to supporting caregivers in the workforce is to implement policies, programs and benefits that offer them the tools they need to balance work and caregiving. An equally important second step is to regularly review what is offered, how much the offerings are used, and by which employees. Ask employees for feedback on how effectively what the organization provides is in helping them with issues they face as working caregivers and solicit ideas for new approaches and tools they’d like to have.

SOURCE: Varn, M. (25 March 2019) "7 ways employers can support employee caregivers" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/list/7-ways-employers-can-support-employee-caregivers


Digital health revolution: What we’ve learned so far

The effectiveness of digital health devices is being called into question by recent studies. Digital health devices provide personalized feedback to users, helping improve their health. Read this blog post to learn more.


The promise of the digital health revolution is tantalizing: a multitude of connected devices providing personalized feedback to help people improve their health. Yet, some recent studies have called into question the effectiveness of these resources.

While still evolving, many compelling use-cases are starting to emerge for digital health, including a set of best practices that can help guide the maturation of this emerging field. In the near future, many people may gain access to individual health records, a modern medical record that curates information from multiple sources, including electronic health records, pharmacies and medical claims, to help support physicians in care delivery through data sharing and evidence-based guidelines.

As these advances become a reality, here are several digital health strategies employers, employees and healthcare innovators should consider.

Micro-behavior change.

Part of the power of digital health is the ability to provide people with actionable information about their health status and behavior patterns. As part of that, some of the most successful digital health programs are demonstrating an ability to encourage daily “micro-behavior change” that, over time, may contribute to improved health outcomes and lower costs. For instance, wearable device walking programs can remind people to move consistently throughout the day, while offering objective metrics showcasing actual activity patterns and, ideally, reinforcing positive habits to support sustained change. Technology that encourages seemingly small healthy habits — each day — can eventually translate to meaningful improvements.

Clinical interventions.

Big data is a buzz word often associated with digital health, but the use of analytics and technology is only meaningful as part of a holistic approach to care. Through programs that incorporate clinical intervention and support by care providers, the true value of digital health can be unlocked to help make meaningful differences in people’s well-being. For instance, new programs are featuring connected asthma inhalers that use wirelessly enabled sensors to track adherence rates, including frequency and dosage, and relay that information to healthcare professionals. Armed with this tangible data, care providers can counsel patients more effectively on following recommended treatments. Rather than simply giving consumers the latest technologies and sending them along, these innovations can be most effective when integrated with a holistic care plan.

Real-time information.

One key advantage of digital resources, such as apps or websites, is the ability to provide real-time information, both to consumers and healthcare professionals. This can help improve how physicians treat people, enabling for more customized recommendations based on personal health histories and a patient’s specific health plan. For instance, new apps are enabling physicians to know which medications are covered by a person’s health plan and recommend lower-cost alternatives (if available) before the patient actually leaves the office. The ability to access real-time information — and act on it — can be crucial in the effort to use technology to empower healthcare providers and patients.

Financial incentives.

Nearly everyone wants to be healthy, but sometimes people need a nudge to take that first step toward wellness. To help drive that engagement, the use of financial incentives is becoming more widespread by employers and health plans, with targeted and structured rewards proving most effective. From using mobile apps and comparison shopping for healthcare services to encouraging expectant women to use a website to follow recommended prenatal and post-partum appointments, financial incentives can range from nominal amounts (such as gift cards) to hundreds of dollars per year. Coupling digital health resources with financial rewards can be an important step in getting — and keeping — people engaged.

The digital health market will continue to grow, with some studies estimating that the industry will exceed $379 billion by 2024. To make the most of these resources, healthcare innovators will be well served to take note of these initial concepts.

SOURCE: Madsen, R. (14 March 2019) "Digital health revolution: What we’ve learned so far" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/digital-health-revolution-what-weve-learned-so-far?brief=00000152-14a5-d1cc-a5fa-7cff48fe0001


Dispelling the stigma around mental health disorders in the workplace

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America stated that nearly six in 10 U.S. workers reported that anxiety impacts their performance in the workplace. Read this blog post to learn more about the stigma associated with mental health disorders in the workplace.


It’s no secret that poor mental health impacts employee performance. Anxiety disorders, for example, affect 40 million adults in the U.S. each year, and nearly six in 10 American workers report that anxiety impacts their workplace performance, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

But because of the stigma often associated with mental health disorders, employees might not be using the benefits and programs clients have in place to help address the problem. That’s why just having programs in place isn’t enough, experts say. Instead, employers need to help remove the stigma of mental health conditions by creating a culture of inclusiveness in the workplace and forming employee resource groups.

Employers including Johnson & Johnson, Trulia and Verizon Media are doing just that, company executives said during a webinar last week hosted by the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions.

When Margaux Joffe, associate director of accessibility and inclusion at Verizon Media, started working on a proposal to form a mental health-focused employee resource group (ERG), dispelling stigma and empowering workers was one of her first priorities.

“We wanted to create a paradigm shift,” she said, speaking as part of the webinar. “Growing up, you’re taught to think you’re ‘normal or not normal;’ you’re mentally ill or you’re not. We started with the idea there is no such thing as a ‘normal brain’ as we’re increasingly understanding neurodiversity in the human race.”

A lot of people with mental health issues don’t necessarily identify with the word disability, added Meredith Arthur, content marketing manager at Trulia.

“We struggled around removing the word disability because there was a desire to face the stigma and take it on,” she said of Trulia’s ERG. “Ultimately, we wanted to reach as many people as we could. We wanted to be sharper in our focus on mental health.”

Trulia expanded its ERG statement of purpose from just focusing on mental health education and awareness to advocating for the needs of different abilities.

Joffe said putting in place an ERG for mental health at Verizon was done with the support of senior leadership. “We’ve been lucky to get a lot of support from the company for ERG,” she said. “A common challenge that exists across the board is lack of organization readiness.”

Readiness is a huge component of success in mental health programs, added Kelly Greenwood, founder and CEO of Mind Share, a nonprofit organization addressing the culture of workplace mental health.

“It is so important to achieve true culture change,” she said. “Oftentimes we work with leadership first and do workshops for executive teams before rolling them out to the company to really get that buy-in and understanding from the top down to build a transparent culture.”

At Johnson & Johnson, it took the company about nine months to get its ERG program up and running. “There was a lot of conversation internally if it should be its own ERG for mental health or integrated into another employee resource group,” said Geralyn Giorgio, talent acquisition change management communications and training lead at the pharmaceutical and consumer packaged goods manufacturing company.

At that time, she said, the company had an ERG called the alliance for disability leadership. The decision was made to put mental health under that ERG umbrella. “Since than happened, there were a lot of [employees] not seeing themselves in this ERG. We felt strongly we had to rebrand the ERG, and we went live last year, using the name alliance for diverse abilities to make it more inclusive,” she said.

This year, Giorgio said, the company will work to empower managers to handle mental health conversations.

“If you have a manager open to the conversation, [employees] have a different experience than someone whose manager is ill-informed,” she said. “That’s something we need to focus on this year — helping our managers feel more comfortable with having the conversation.”

SOURCE: Otto, N. (12 March 2019) "Dispelling the stigma around mental health disorders in the workplace" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/dispelling-workplace-mental-health-stigma?brief=00000152-146e-d1cc-a5fa-7cff8fee0000


3 ways anxiety can hold back your employees’ careers

Nearly six in 10 American workers report anxiety impacts their workplace performance, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Read this blog post to learn more about workplace anxiety.


Employers want their employees to grow and succeed at their jobs. Unfortunately, there are a variety of external and psychological obstacles that can stand in the way of employees reaching their full potential. While most workers would like nothing better than to perform well on the job, anxiety can prevent them from doing so.

Anxiety disorders are extremely common: They affect 40 million adults in the U.S. each year, and nearly six in 10 American workers report anxiety impacts their workplace performance, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. A study in the academic journal Anxiety found the economic effects of this mental health condition are huge — costing employers almost $35 billion from lost or reduced productivity in the workplace, the study says. The good news is 80% of employees treated for mental health problems report improvements in their job satisfaction and productivity.

For employers to mitigate the impact anxiety has on their employees, it’s important to understand the form it takes in the workplace. Anxiety often takes shape in various thinking traps that can sabotage an employee’s growth. Three of the most common traps are social comparisons, personalization and overmagnification.

To explore how these thinking traps manifest in the workplace, let’s consider a scenario in which an employee sees a co-worker gets a promotion instead of them.

The social comparison trap. The research is clear that comparing yourself to others is bad for your mental health. However, that doesn’t stop people — especially those with anxiety — from doing just that. A co-worker’s promotion can lead an employee to leap to the conclusion they must be inferior to their colleague. In reality, there’s no way employees can fairly compare themselves to a co-worker. Their experiences, personalities and skills are different. Employees able to avoid that comparison trap might, instead, keep the focus on themselves, evaluating the growth they’ve achieved over the past year and determining how they can continue to improve in the year ahead.

The personalization trap. It’s hard for some employees to recognize not everything is about them. The co-worker who earned the promotion may have gotten the job because they were simply a better fit; that doesn’t diminish the talents and abilities of those who weren’t chosen for the position. Rather than assume the worst of themselves, employees could look at the situation more objectively and recognize that their co-worker may not be better than them, just different.

The overmagnification trap. Blowing things out of proportion is another thinking pattern with a destructive effect. Being passed over for a promotion can expand to a sense of being permanently, hopelessly, bad at one’s job. Instead of being able to parse out the specific reasons why the promotion didn’t go their way, employees who overmagnify convince themselves that they are not only unqualified for the promotion, but they’ll never get a promotion and their career is doomed — so why even try? To keep those overblown feelings at bay, a better approach is to stay focused on the specific and transient nature of what has just happened. Being passed over hurts now, but it won’t hurt forever. Not getting this particular job says nothing about the person’s ability to get other jobs. It may mean that they are missing certain skills or experience, but it doesn’t mean they will always lack them.

Workplace culture and practices can either exacerbate or diminish the self-sabotaging thinking traps that go hand in hand with anxiety. Some effective strategies that can help foster a positive work environment for all employees, but especially those who tend toward anxiety, include:

Create a collaborative workplace. Workplace collaboration helps employees feel valued for their contributions and allows them to see how their skills are important to achieving success for their team or company. It also provides the opportunity to learn from other employees and appreciate what they bring to the table, rather than viewing them as their competition.

Promote transparency. Employees who are kept in the loop, who understand their role, the criteria for what promotions are based on, and understand what they can do to get to the next level are more trusting of their leaders. Be particularly sensitive to what employees may be experiencing during annual performance reviews and make sure to overcommunicate during those times.

Offer tools and services. Providing programs and services to help reduce stress and anxiety can be beneficial for all employees. These can include subsidizing gym memberships, offering yoga classes, encouraging “mind vacation” breaks throughout the day, providing online programs that guide employees through mindful meditations or other well-being exercises.

Model self-care. Employees are more likely to engage in self-care at work if they see their supervisors practicing it, not just encouraging it. If a meditation class is offered in the workplace, employees are more likely to take part if their managers are taking time out of their day to participate as well. Similarly, organization-wide activities, such as a mid-day walk, allow employees to see management promote the message that self-care is a workplace priority.

Given the high number of working Americans with anxiety conditions, easing their anxieties and helping them avoid those thinking traps is good for business. It will improve employees’ overall well-being, workplace satisfaction and professional growth.

SOURCE: Parks, A. (5 March 2019) "3 ways anxiety can hold back your employees’ careers" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/3-ways-anxiety-can-hold-back-your-employees-careers


Tackling Workplace Bullying

According to recent research, about 75 percent of U.S. employees have been impacted by workplace bullying. Continue reading this blog post from UBA to learn how employers can tackle workplace bullying.


A recent study reports more than half of employees in global businesses witnessed or experienced workplace bullying. While that’s alarming, research focused on the U.S. says closer to 75 percent of employees have been impacted by workplace bullying.

What are some of those impacts? Individuals experiencing bullying report increased stress, depression, lower self-esteem and disengagement. A company culture that allows workplace bullying to go unchecked is a culture that will struggle with overall retention, productivity and worker satisfaction. While the social-emotional and productivity impacts are not to be ignored, studies cited in Safety and Health Magazine also show an increased risk of cardiovascular disease at rates rivaling diabetes and drinking as risk factors.

Given these impacts, it’s not surprising workplace bullying is getting significant attention from both researchers and the popular press. While it would be easy to assume, then, that solutions are being proactively developed, that’s not always the case. Several factors impact HR and other company leadership’s ability to aggressively tackle this hot topic.

One challenge is that workplace bullying can be seen as harmless, unintentional, or a matter of subjective interpretation. To counter that, the Workplace Bullying Institute says to look for deliberate behavior or language that is repeated, harmful, intimidating, insulting, humiliating or sabotages the target according to an article in Entrepreneur. When looking, it’s also important to look up and down the corporate ladder. This kind of workplace problem can come from a coworker or a misuse of power by a manager or leader.

According to an article in The HR Director, while more than 9 in 10 businesses want to make feeling safe a hallmark of employee wellbeing, only 1 in 10 is doing something about it. One reason so few are taking action is due to a disconnect about who should take the lead. Senior management skews toward expecting HR to take the lead, but most employees think management should be leading. A first critical step, then, is determining if employee psychological safety is a priority and then empowering a department or team to do something.

Once your team is ready, here are five steps to take.

Establish policies against bullying and to address allegations if you don’t already have them. If you do have policies, take meaningful time to assess and improve them. Consider your social media policies as well. Not all workplace bullying happens at a physical place of work. Much happens online.

Educate employees on new or existing policies. Employees who know there are clear systems in place are more satisfied and more likely to get help. Consider onboarding education for new employees and how you can let them know you’re a company with a plan in place. Formal training that addresses bullying and how to intercede as a bystander can put everyone on the same team.

Empower employees to report bullying. Many people who experience workplace bullying are unsure if they should report it, worried they’ll get in trouble if they do report it, and aren’t comfortable reporting it because they’re being bullied by a supervisor or manager.

Explore how your workplace works for gig economy freelancers and contractors. It’s important to decide how your HR department will acknowledge and deal with their bullying concerns. Are they less likely to report something you should know about because they have less job security or don’t feel protected by policies?

Exemplify the type of behavior you wish to see, says Forbes. Workplace civility and culture start at the top, and managers set expectations. Take claims seriously, behave in respectful, authentic ways, and you’re on your way to a better experience for your employees.

Read more:

Workplace bullying is not going away

Here Is Why We Need To Talk About Bullying In The Work Place

Five Ways To Shut Down Workplace Bullying

Study shows workplace bullying rivals diabetes, drinking as heart disease risk factor

Effectively Addressing A Workplace Bully

SOURCE: Olson, B. (19 February 2019) "Tackling Workplace Bullying" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://blog.ubabenefits.com/tackling-workplace-bullying


Treat Your Weekend Like A Vacation

On-going research shows that how you feel at work on Monday may reveal a lot about how you approached the previous weekend. Read on to learn how your approach to the weekend can improve your mood at work on Monday.


Take a moment to recall how you felt at work on a recent Monday. Were you happy and satisfied? Or stressed and worried?

Your answer may reveal a lot about the way you approached the prior weekend. According to our research in progress, making one small mindset change — treating your weekend like a vacation — can increase your happiness. And unlike taking a more traditional vacation, this emotional boost doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming.

My colleagues Colin West, Sanford DeVoe, and I came to these conclusions over the course of several studies. First, we looked at the effects of actual vacations on hundreds of thousands of Americans by analyzing the subscription-only 2014–2016 data from the Gallup U.S. Daily Poll. We found that individuals who prioritize vacation are significantly happier: They exhibit more positive emotion, less negative emotion, and are more satisfied in life.

The problem is that Americans are really bad at taking vacations. Compared to workers in the European UnionAmericans spend more hours in the office each week and take less time off. Part of the reason is that the U.S. is the only industrialized nation without legally mandated vacation — one out of four employed Americans receive no paid vacation days at all. But Americans don’t even use the few vacation days they are allotted: More than 50% of Americans leave their paid vacation days unused each year.

This got us thinking. While most working Americans take little time off for vacation, the majority get (and take) two days off from work every week: the weekend. We wanted to see if there’s a way to help people leverage the time they already take off from work to enjoy the potential happiness they would get from a vacation.

To do this, we ran an experiment among more than 400 working Americans over the span of a regular weekend in May 2017. The intervention was simple: On the Friday leading into the weekend, we randomly instructed half of the participants to treat the weekend like a vacation. The other half, serving as a control condition, were instructed to treat the weekend like a regular weekend. That was it. How they interpreted the instructions was entirely up to them. Everyone was left to do whatever they wanted during those next two days.

When participants were back at work on Monday, we followed up with a survey measuring their current happiness (that is, their positive emotion, negative emotion, and satisfaction). The results showed that those who had treated their weekend like a vacation were significantly happier than those who had treated it like a regular weekend. This effect held when we controlled for the amount of money they reported to have spent. Thus, without taking any extra time off from work and without needing to spend any additional money, the simple nudge to treat their time off like a vacation increased their happiness when they were back at work on Monday.

These results seemed too good to be true, so we ran the study again with more than 500 different people on another regular weekend in January 2018. This time, we also measured how happy people were during the weekend, how they spent their time, and the extent to which they were mentally present. The experimental treatment was exactly the same: At random, half were instructed to treat their weekend like a vacation, and the other half were instructed to treat it like a regular weekend. Yet again, the vacationers were statistically happier at work on Monday. They were happier throughout the weekend as well.

How did treating the weekend like a vacation boost happiness? Yes, the “vacationers” behaved somewhat differently: doing less housework and work for their jobs, staying in bed a little longer with their partner, and eating a bit more. These differences in activities, however, weren’t responsible for their increased happiness. Instead, treating the time like a vacation seems to have shifted people’s mindset. Specifically, the vacationers were more mindful of and attentive to the present moment throughout their weekend’s activities.

For example, two women — one in the control group and one instructed to treat her weekend like a vacation — reported making breakfast on Saturday morning. The first woman reported doing so with enjoyment: “Made biscuits and gravy for breakfast. It’s my favorite!” The second woman took her enjoyment one step further: “I woke everyone up with pancakes this morning. It’s something I like to do when we are on vacation. I found myself enjoying the morning more than usual, maybe it’s because I focused on staying in the moment.” The difference between the women’s experience is subtle, but crucial. Even though their activities and behaviors were largely the same, it was the second woman’s attention to the present moment — her mindset — that produced the subsequent effect on happiness during the rest of the weekend and the following Monday.

Why does this mindset shift have such a powerful effect? Research shows that slowing down and paying more attention to your surroundings, the activity at hand, and the people who are involved allows you to enjoy the activity more. Without ruminating on the past or getting distracted by anxieties or fantasies about the future, increasing your attention to the present moment makes you more sensitive to the pleasures that are already in the environment. It helps you savor experiences and life a bit more.

Even if you can’t take the entire weekend “off” because of a looming work deadline or household obligations, it is still possible to gain the benefits of a vacation mindset. You can carve out a piece of the weekend (or perhaps even the workweek) to fully enjoy and be in the present, as you would on vacation. Or you can apply a vacation mindset to whatever task is at hand. Slow down, notice, and make it more fun; turn on some upbeat music in the car while running errands, or make yourself a margarita for folding laundry.

One word of caution: Given that the vacation mindset and resulting happiness stems from mentally breaking from routine and the day-to-day grind, this intervention cannot itself become a routine. Treating every single weekend or evening off from work like a vacation might cause a reduction in its cognitive and emotional impact. We recommend saving the mental vacations for when you really need the break.

When used judiciously, however, this simple reframing allows you to enjoy some of the happiness from a vacation without taking additional time off. Our experiments suggest that your mindset is more important than the activities you take part in, or the amount of money you spend, when you’re not at work. So between weekend errands, soccer practices, and birthday parties, try to notice and appreciate the time you do have. Treating this time like a vacation can provide a needed break from the typical grind, allowing you to appropriately savor moments spent at the soccer field or gathered around the dinner table with family and friends. And when you do head back to work, you’re more likely to feel refreshed and ready to tackle your week.

SOURCE: Mogilner Holmes, C. (31 January 2019) "Treat Your Weekend Like A Vacation" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2019/01/treat-your-weekend-like-a-vacation


With the Advent of Remote Work, Is the ‘Sick Day’ Becoming Passé?

Do your remote workers take sick days when needed? With many employees working from home full time, the idea of a sick day could become out of date. Continue reading this post from SHRM to learn more.


Your advertising manager works from home full time. She has a nasty cold. But hey—she only needs to walk a few steps from her bedroom to her desk, can nap when she needs to and won't infect her colleagues. So she doesn't really need to take a sick day, right?

Well, she probably should, but as remote work continues to rise, workplace experts find that those who do their jobs from home are inclined to stay on the clock while soldiering through colds, the flu and other maladies—in part because they don't want to appear to be taking advantage of their work-from-home benefit.

"Remote workers find it hard to integrate work with the rest of their life because it is so easy to overwork and even plow through your work while you are sick," said Jeanne Meister, founding partner of Future Workplace, a New York City-based HR executive network and research firm. "If you are only traveling from your bedroom to your home office, remote workers may rationalize, 'What harm can be done if I work while I am sick? At least I'm not contagious.' "

In addition, the advent of remote working has introduced another trend: managers suggesting that onsite employees work from home when they're sick.

"It's no secret that many [workplaces] have cultures that encourage the 'always-on' mentality," said Erica Denner, head of people and culture at YouEarnedIt/HighGround, an Austin, Texas-based company that focuses on employee recognition, rewards and performance management. "In my experience, I've found that because of this, employees at these organizations can find it difficult to ask for time off when they're sick and are often encouraged to work from home instead."

Circumstances Matter

Thanks to technology that facilitates remote work, there are instances when working during what otherwise would have been a sick day may actually be a win for the employee and employer.

"There are all kinds of reasons to take sick days," said Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute and a senior research advisor for the Society for Human Resource Management. "If employees have a condition that affects their ability to be mobile, like a broken bone or torn tendon, they might have to take a sick day if they work in a traditional workplace because travel to work would be difficult, but they could easily work at home. I can think of other such illnesses, such as having something contagious and not wanting to infect others but feeling good enough to work or being postoperative and being able to work in short spurts. Working at home could be ideal for that."

Consider U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who recovered from cancer surgery at home but nonetheless heard arguments in a case before the court. A court spokesperson said Ginsburg would participate "on the basis of briefs, filings and transcripts," CNBC reported.

But if working while ill prevents an employee from fully resting and recuperating, this will likely hinder performance—and even future productivity and morale.

"If an employee is really sick, he or she might power through and get a few things done but might not do them well," Galinsky said.

Working through your cold, sore throat or flu not only can lead to a decline in physical well-being but "also can present mental health challenges," Meister said.

Contractors, or so-called gig workers, in particular, may be wary of taking sick time. Lacking job security, they may fear that doing so would make them appear dispensable to their employers.

What Employers Can Do

To discourage employees from avoiding sick days because they're working remotely:

Communicate to employees that you expect them to take time off when they're sick. Or, encourage them to be open about how much work, if any, they feel they can accomplish. "If you can't produce high-quality work, even from the comfort of your own home, when you're under the weather, relay that message to your manager," Denner said. "If they value your contributions and are a good supervisor, they will understand and step in to help until you're feeling better."

At YouEarnedIt/HighGround, workers are asked to make it clear when they are out sick and unavailable. This includes setting up not only the typical out-of-office notification by e-mail but also notifications across productivity platforms the company uses, such as Slack. "It's remarkable how effective turning on the 'out sick' emoji in Slack is in terms of alerting colleagues you need time to recover," Denner said. "When employees are out on a longer-term medical leave, we actually remove their technology access so they can't check e-mails or Slack. This way, the employee doesn't feel guilty or obligated to respond to messages."

Talk about the importance of taking sick days for one's physical and mental well-being. Bring up the topic during all-hands meetings with onsite as well as remote workers. In benefits materials and handouts, address the importance of taking sick days.

Ensure that managers and executives take sick days themselves. When a boss shows up at a meeting sniffling and coughing, she sends the clear message that work is too important to be interrupted by illness. And that only leaves her subordinates feeling guilty if they take sick days.

"We've found that [modeling sick-day behavior] actually goes a long way in not just encouraging our employees to do the same, but also in further solidifying a culture of trust and respect," Denner said.

Encourage remote workers to take time for themselves even when they're healthy—such as taking a midday break—and reinforce how this is important for their well-being and productivity.

SOURCE: Wilkie, D. (6 February 2019) "With the Advent of Remote Work, Is the ‘Sick Day’ Becoming Passé?" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/remote-workers-and-sick-days-.aspx


It might be time for a financial wellness checkup

Are your employees stressed about personal finances when they’re at work? Studies show that forty-six percent of employees spend two to three hours per week at work dealing with personal finances. Continue reading to learn more.


We’ve all seen the infamous statistics — 56% of American workers struggle financially, 75% live paycheck to paycheck. A majority of Americans can’t come up with $1,000 for an emergency.

It is quite obvious that financial worries have a massive impact on happiness and stress levels, but what business owners, executives and human resource professionals understand is that this lack of financial wellness in the U.S. has a devastating effect on worker productivity, and therefore, employers’ bottom lines.

Employees who spend time during their day worried about bills and loans are less focused on getting their work done. In fact, a staggering 46% of employees spend, on average, two to three hours per week dealing with personal finance issues during work hours. So what can employers offer their workers to help them become more financially sound?

There are a number of ways to help employees improve their financial well-being – including utilizing the help of a financial wellness benefit platform – but at the very least, there are three major benefits that every business should employ if they want a stress-free and productive workforce.

Savings, investment and retirement solutions. Offering employees the ability to automatically allocate their paychecks into savings, investment and retirement accounts will help them more effectively meet their financial goals without worrying about moving money around. These types of programs should allow employees to make temporary or permanent changes at any time to reflect any immediate changes that may occur in their life.

Credit solutions and loan consolidation. Having a reliable source of credit is extremely important, but access to it can also be dangerous for big spenders. Employers should guide workers towards making informed financial decisions and teach them how to use credit wisely. Employers need to be able to refer employees to affordable and trusted sources for things like credit cards, short-term loan options and mortgages, so employees don’t have to spend time doing the research for themselves (or worse, potentially becoming victims of fraud). Companies should also offer resources that teach employees how to organize their finances to pay their debt off on time without accumulating unnecessary interest or fees.

Insurance (not just health). While many large companies offer the traditional health, dental, vision, disability and life insurance, employers should also be offering resources that give easy access to vehicle, home, renters, boat, pet and other common insurance products. Some insurance carriers even offer volume discounts, so if a large percentage of employees in an organization utilize pet insurance, everyone can save some money.

While it is important for employers to offer these benefits, it is also important to follow up with employees and make sure they are utilizing all of the benefits they have access to. Sometimes people can have too much pride or can be afraid to ask for financial help. The use of these programs should be talked about, encouraged and even rewarded.

Justifying the investment in these benefits is simple. Employers want to increase productivity, and employees want to be more financially sound. The workplace is evolving and so is the workforce, so while you look to add benefits like 401(k), work from home, summer Fridays, gym memberships and free lunch, don’t forget about the financial wellness of the people you employ. Maybe next year, you will see that your workers are focused less on their college loans and are able to put more effort into growing your business.

SOURCE: Kilby, D. (2 January 2019) "It might be time for a financial wellness checkup" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/it-might-be-time-for-a-financial-wellness-checkup?feed=00000152-a2fb-d118-ab57-b3ff6e310000


Want to fight employee burnout? Focus on well-being

Do your employees feel good and like they're living with a sense of purpose while at work? Employees with higher well-being tend to feel more committed to their organization and tend to be more productive. Read this blog post to learn more.


Well-being can be described as feeling good and living with a sense of purpose. When employees have higher well-being, they’re more likely to be productive, energized and engaged in their work, as well as feel more committed to their organization. It’s what all leaders want for their employees. But can there be such a thing as too engaged? Can a super high level of engagement actually leave employees susceptible to burnout?

New research shows that burnout is real — and it can happen to anyone. But the saddest part is that the people it affects the most are people that care the most. In other words, your most dedicated people. It happens when highly engaged employees have increasingly low well-being due to overwhelming job pressures, work overload and a lack of manager or organizational support. Prolonged exposure to chronic emotional and interpersonal stressors on the job can lead to exhaustion, cynicism and inefficacy — even for people who are all in at work. Ultimately, these top-performing, highly-engaged employees will leave — or worse, the burnout will spread to other employees causing a toxic fire across your company. The good news is that burnout is totally preventable. You just have to know where to start.

Employee burnout is actually more a problem with the company than with the person. Both the root causes and the best solutions start at the organizational level. This doesn’t mean we should stop building emotional skills like mindfulness, resilience and fitness. But it does mean that in order to solve for burnout at your company — or at least extinguish the flames — the organization is driving the bus.

Here are four ways employers can take action by focusing on well-being to extinguish employee burnout.

1. Help employees connect to their purpose. Today, more employees are looking for real meaning and purpose in their work. Whether it’s a connection to a greater mission or following personal passions, purpose-driven employees give more and feel more fulfilled in doing so. In addition to feeling an emotional connection to their work, a sense of purpose also connects them to the company and ultimately affects their well-being and engagement. In fact, according to a study by Deloitte, 73% of employees who say they work at a “purpose-driven” company are engaged, compared to just 23% who say they don’t.

Helping employees connect to their purpose is key for burnout prevention. Focus on effective communication that linearly connects each employee’s work to the company’s mission. Set clear goals to continue to support employees in not only finding their purpose but staying connected to their purpose.

2. Foster a well-being mindset. We’re all wired differently — and that’s even more apparent when it comes to the workplace. How people think about stressful situations has an impact on their ability to handle and recover from them. For example, an employee who fears conflict versus an employee who takes it head on are going to have different reactions and recovery times.

As a leader or manager, when you know how people think about stress, you can help them cope with it and prevent burnout. Avoid organizational consequences such as absenteeism or turnover by communicating and encouraging positivity, self-care and weaving well-being into daily tasks.

3. Promote social support and connectedness. At the core, people want to rely on people. Support from an employee’s peers can mean everything. In fact, social support impacts stress, health, well-being and engagement — and ultimately, people feel better and have higher well-being when they feel connected to others. It’s more than a like on a community feed or high-five in the hallway — putting social connections at the forefront of your people strategy or employee engagement program can make a real impact.

Social connections like a company community feed, women in the workplace group or lunch buddies paired up across different departments helps employees get the support they need and guards against burnout.

4. Invest in tools to combat burnout. People who push themselves without taking breaks have a greater chance of being unproductive and burning out. Recovery time from workplace stress is key. Whether physically or mentally, everyone needs a break to recover — it’s natural to need to recharge and refresh. Even small recovery times or breaks can help people deal with the symptoms of burnout. And there are great new tools to make it easy to schedule and take a vacation and “hit refresh” with the full support of your company.

Make well-being a priority to reduce stress by investing in technology that can help you spot burnout, adjust workloads and have awareness of your employees’ stress levels. Take the Limeade burnout risk indicator for example. It allows leaders to see the risk levels for specific groups, and automatically target science-based activities to improve well-being and avoid cynicism (and worse).

When it comes to burnout in the workplace — you can tackle the symptoms to prevent top performers from burning out. Don’t make the mistake of misinterpreting burnout as disengagement. It’s time to take responsibility for burnout and take action at every level.

SOURCE: Albrecht, H. (31 December 2018) "Want to fight employee burnout? Focus on well-being" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/want-to-fight-employee-burnout-focus-on-wellbeing?feed=00000152-a2fb-d118-ab57-b3ff6e310000


Viewpoint: Why Respect, Dignity and Kindness Are Foundational Workplace Principles

Have you taken steps to establish a hostility-free workplace? Businesses who start focusing on the state of their workplace will better position themselves for the future. Continue reading to learn more.


SHRM has partnered with Security Management magazine to bring you relevant articles on key HR topics and strategies. 

This is the #MeToo era. The great wave of public accusations involving inappropriate conduct such as sexual harassment between managers, employees and co-workers has washed over U.S. workplaces, unsettling everything in its wake.

But sexual harassment is not the only conduct that can help turn a working environment hostile. Given this, employers who take action now to help establish and solidify a welcoming and hostility-free work environment will be better positioned for the future. Such actions can come in many forms, ranging from zero-tolerance anti-harassment policies and violence prevention training to diversity task forces and team-building exercises.

While they vary, these actions all benefit from a proactive approach. Opposing views and opinions are inevitable among a diverse workforce, but leaders of organizations should not wait until disruptive incidents break out before focusing on the state of the workplace environment. Instead, they can start immediately.

Respect and Dignity

Human resources is a team sport. No one HR manager, no matter how talented or knowledgeable, can completely shoulder the burden of protecting his or her firm from employee issues and litigation. A cohesive HR team, on the other hand, is positioned to tackle anything thrown its way. But when one gear gets out of whack, the whole team is affected and compromised.

Take, for example, how an entire company can be impacted by one disruptive manager. Sam's team was led by a small group of managers who worked well together; they collaborated to achieve goals and boost one another to success. However, a new manager, Chris, was brought on.

Chris had a markedly different type of attitude and leadership style. Chris was demanding and sometimes even yelled at employees in public. He occasionally disparaged another manager's directions to team members and would even threaten a firing in an attempt to improve performance.

A few months after this leadership transition, some employees began to leave Sam's team by choice. But those are not the only changes triggered by the new manager. Some of Sam's team members absorbed the negative qualities Chris exhibited, including degrading public chastisements, gossiping and expressing increased agitation in the office. Chris' overwhelming negativity threw a wrench into a once strong team and threatened to break it down into an unproductive group of individuals.

Before Chris took over, Sam's team members respected one another and successfully accomplished goals. Chris' harsh leadership eroded the members' respect and kindness, causing productivity to decrease and spirits to drop.

How can HR help make sure this type of situation is addressed and avoided? When building a team, it is important to establish respect, dignity and kindness as foundational principles. This will very likely increase productivity and reduce the risk of violent workplace behaviors. When employees feel respected and treated with dignity, they are more likely to treat co-workers and customers the same way. This creates a positive culture within the organization.

To facilitate this, HR should go beyond simply asking employees to be civil and respect one another. They should also explain how to do so, and demonstrate what civility means to the organization by providing examples of positive interactions.

Support the Company's Culture

During my time as a line manager, there were key opportunities for me to support the company culture. All managers can take advantage of the same opportunities, if their organizations are willing to provide them.

For example, orientation sessions are an opportunity for HR leaders to introduce themselves, their department and the values of the organization to those who are being onboarded. Time can be devoted to explaining appropriate workplace behavior through the use of scenario-based situations.

In addition, department team meetings offer opportunities for HR professionals to join in to discuss relevant issues and provide training through small group discussion or case study review. Team members can assess a situation and provide feedback on how it should have been appropriately handled. Using both positive and negative behaviors as examples will help employees understand the difference.

Open houses are another possible venue for educating discussions. HR may arrange with company leaders to have a time where employees stop by, ask questions and participate in discussions that help them understand their role as part of the larger effort to maintain a healthy, inclusive workplace.

Finally, it is important to remember that HR staff should help line managers serve as role models of appropriate behavior. If they are behaving badly by being rude, disrespectful or uncivil, how can HR expect them to help the organization promote a culture that values everyone?

In the end, HR cannot assume that people managers understand what is and is not appropriate. Setting expectations from the start, and clearly demonstrating how to positively act and show respect to co-workers is an effective way for HR to set the right tone—and a more active and effective approach than simply hoping for the best. This will have a ripple effect throughout the workforce, and it will help prevent future breaches of conduct from triggering a domino effect of disrespect, such as the one caused by Chris' behavior.

This article is adapted from Security Management magazine with permission from ASIS © 2018. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: Solon, R. (28 November 2018) "Viewpoint: Why Respect, Dignity and Kindness Are Foundational Workplace Principles" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/employee-relations/Pages/Viewpoint-Why-Respect-Dignity-and-Kindness-Are-Foundational-Workplace-Principles.aspx