Is your health starting to suffer from sitting down at work all day? Take a look at this interesting piece from Employee Benefits Advisor about the effects that sitting down all day can have on your health by Betsy Banker.
In the continuing conversation about employee health, there’s a workplace component that isn’t getting the attention it should— and it’s something that workers do the majority of every workday.
Sitting has become the most common posture in today’s workplace, and computer workers spend more than 12 hours doing it each day. Science tells us that the consequences are great, but our shared cultural bias toward sitting has stifled change. Many employees and company leaders struggle to balance well-being and doing their work. And it’s time for employers to do something about it.
Rather than accept the consequences that come as a result of the sedentary jobs employees (hopefully) love, it’s time to elevate the office experience to one that embraces movement as a natural part of the culture. Such a program will address multiple priorities at once: satisfaction, engagement, health and productivity. Organizations of every size and structure should embrace a “Movement Mindset” and say goodbye to stale, sedentary work environments.
There are many benefits to incorporating the Movement Mindset:
· Encourages face time. As millennials and Generation Z take over the office, attracting and retaining top talent is a key initiative for companies. Especially in light of the Society for Human Resource Management findings that 45% of employees are likely to look for jobs outside their current organization within the next year. Research has shown that Gen Z and millennials crave in-person collaboration, and users of movement-friendly workstations (particularly those ages 20 to 30) report being more likely to engage in face time with coworkers than those using traditional sit-only workstations.
Standing meetings tend to stay on task and move more quickly. Their informal nature means they can also be impromptu. Face time has the added benefit of building culture and social relationships, increasing brainstorming and collaboration, and creating a more inclusive work environment.
· Keeps you focused. For those who sit behind a desk day in and day out — which, according to our research, about 68% of workers do — it can be a feat to remain focused and productive. More than half of those employees admit to taking two to five breaks a day, and another 25% take more than six breaks per day to relieve the discomfort and restlessness caused by prolonged sitting. It may not seem like much, but considering that studies have shown it can take a worker up to 20 minutes to re-focus once interrupted, this could significantly impact the productivity of today’s office workers.
It’s time to connect the dots between extended sitting, the ability to remain focused and the corresponding effect these things have on the overall health of an organization. Standing up increases blood flow and heart rate, burns more calories and improves insulin effectiveness. Individuals who use sit-stand workstations report improved mood states and reduced stress. Offering options for employees to alternate between sitting and standing during the day could be the key to effectively addressing restlessness while improving focus and productivity.
· Addresses sitting disease. The average worker spends more than 12 hours in a given day sitting down. In the last few years, the health implications surrounding a sedentary lifestyle are starting to come to light (like the increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and early mortality). It’s a vicious cycle where work is negatively affecting health, and poor health is negatively impacting engagement and productivity. Not to mention, the benefits span long and short term, with impacts on employee absenteeism and presenteeism, as well as health and healthcare costs. Offering sit-stand options to incorporate movement back into a worker’s daily regimen is a great way to offset those implications, while showing employees that their health, comfort and satisfaction are important to the company. Plus, a recent study found that if a person stood for just an extra three hours a day, they could burn up to 30,000 calories over the course of a year — that’s the same as running 10 marathons or burning off eight pounds of fat.
Our sit-biased lifestyles are beginning to be seen as an epidemic; it’s the new smoking, and office workers who spend their days behind a desk are at great risk. Providing a sit-stand workstation is more than just a wellness initiative. It offers significant opportunities for companies to retain and attract talent, improve a company’s bottom line, and offer employees a workspace that gives them the ability to move in a way that can actually improve productivity.
Embracing the Movement Mindset can turn the tables on the trends, going beyond satisfaction to create a cycle where work can positively impact health and good health can improve engagement and productivity.
See the original article Here.
Banker B. (2017 March 27). Why sitting is the new office health epidemic [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/why-sitting-is-the-new-office-health-epidemic?feed=00000152-1387-d1cc-a5fa-7fffaf8f0000
Check out the top trends that employees are looking for in an employer wellness programs by Page Elliott.
With open enrollment in the rearview mirror, many benefits professionals have been able to see which new wellness benefits have been a hit and which have been a miss. Increasingly, employees expect the benefits on offer to go beyond physical health and exercise and extend into a broader concept of wellness.
Meeting this appetite can benefit employers significantly — research has shown happier employees are considerably more productive.
The industry has answered the call in recent years and employers and brokers are bringing more and more benefits to the table that offer employees tools to better navigate their lives domestically, at work and in general.
Here are the top seven benefits to consider for upcoming enrollment periods that help look after employees personal well-being beyond the purely physical.
There are a multitude of reasons why employees often require costly legal representation: divorce, financial woes, neighborly disputes, property transactions, estate planning, etc. For most employees the costs and time required to attend to these issues are financially and emotionally draining.
The added stress created can cause a substantial loss in productivity in the workplace. As such, legal protection benefits are increasingly seen as an important step to keep a company’s workforce well and thriving.
According to a 2016 survey by Willis Towers Watson, 59 percent of employers now offer legal plans as a voluntary benefit.
According to a study by Northwestern Mutual, some 58 percent of Americans believe their financial planning needs improvement and money remains the leading cause of stress in America today.
Offering financial coaching can be a bedrock voluntary benefit for employers given that it is central to protecting employees from falling into the kind of dire straits where other benefits like legal protection need to be used.
Financial coaching can help employees with everything from building a monthly budget that gets them back in the black, to planning their college fund or retirement saving more carefully. Financial coaching as an employee benefit can help employees thrive instead of just survive.
Identity theft is fast becoming the third certainty in life — according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, nearly 18 million people fell victim to identity theft in 2014 (that’s seven percent of U.S. adults in just one year).
Identity theft leads to financial and healthcare fraud that can be a crippling mess for victims to unravel and take many years (and many work hours!). The emotional effects of identity theft are well documented and easy to understand: anger, frustration and feelings of violation and vulnerability and the corresponding impact on wellness are clear.
Identity theft remediation and monitoring services can provide employees with critical resources to handle the frustrating complexities of rectifying fraud conducted using their own identities.
While a healthy chunk of all our paychecks goes towards paying for our health care insurance and services — a fiendishly complex and constantly evolving ecosystem — many Americans don’t understand the most basic terms.
Health advocacy has been a growing voluntary benefit over the last few years because it can help employees navigate a complex and exhausting system, offering both administrative and even clinical support. Health advocacy can reduce employee anxiety, improve overall wellness through better heath decisions and also help consumers get a better financial deal from their health care choices.
Research indicates that meditation has substantial benefits in terms of encouraging better attention, memory and emotional intelligence (and who couldn’t use some more of each on a daily basis?)
Mindfulness has been a top topic for HR pros for a long time, and many have made big strides in incorporating this concept into corporate culture. This has included encouraging employees to try extra-curricular relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation.
Some companies have gone as far as offering apps like Headspace to employees as a voluntary benefit at low or no cost.
The prevailing wisdom relating to employees’ personal problems has always been stay well out of it. However, more and more companies are seeing the upside of providing assistance to employees without getting directly involved in their personal lives.
One increasingly popular method for helping people manage the conflicts that exist in their lives outside of the office is to offer relationship counseling. While this remains a rarity on most voluntary benefits portals, expect to see this popping up more and more in subsequent open enrollment periods.
According to a survey by Care.com, over 70 percent of employees say the cost of childcare impacts their career decisions. Not wildly surprising given that nearly a third of families pay in excess of $20,000 per annum for child care — a figure that represents a shockingly high portion of the average U.S. household income of around $52,000.
Related: Are you ready for the millennial baby boom?
Offering dependent care deduction has been a popular benefit for a number of years and more and more parents are taking this up as part of their flex spending arrangements. Assistance can go beyond the tax break though and a growing number of companies are offering services that can make managing child care vastly easier, including child care resource and referral services that can help with back-up arrangements when daycare centers are closed.
Elliott P. (2017 March 21). 7 wellness benefits to maintain employees’ zen[Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/03/21/7-wellness-benefits-to-maintain-employees-zen?kw=7+wellness+benefits+to+maintain+employees%27+zen&et=editorial&bu=BenefitsPRO&cn=20170326&src=EMC-Email_editorial&pt=Benefits+Weekend+PRO&page_all=1
Did you know that there is a direct corelation between financial and physical health? This article from Benefits Pro is a great read explaining the link between an employee’s financial and physical health by Caroline Marwitz
LAS VEGAS — Are poor physical health and poor financial health connected? The benefits industry is making the link, if you consider how many deals between health-related benefits companies and retirement providers have occurred lately.
Obviously, the poor, at least in America, have a more fragile state of health than the more affluent. And as we age, the potential for unplanned health events to hurt us financially increases — and that’s important for retirement advisors and plan sponsors to remember. But what about your typical employees who are neither poor nor elderly?
A study in the journal Psychological Science looked at worker attitudes and actions to find out whether poor physical health and poor financial health might be linked, and how.
The researchers studied employees who were given an employer-sponsored health exam and were told they needed to change certain behaviors to improve their health. Which employees made the changes and who blew them off?
The researchers accounted for external factors such as different levels of income and physical health, and differences in demographics. Yet the results were still startling:
“Employees who saved for the future by contributing to a 401(k) showed improvements in their abnormal blood-test results and health behaviors approximately 27% more often than noncontributors did,” the researchers concluded in Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Retirement Planning Predicts Employee Health Improvements.
The employees who made the behavior changes to better their physical health were also the ones who were taking action to better their financial health.
Employee attitudes about the future and how much control they have over it affect whether they take care of their physical health and their financial health. That sense of control, or conversely, that feeling of no control, and thus, no investment in long-term results, is one reason why some employees might not participate in retirement plans, and, maybe, wellness and well-being programs.
What if, along with the retirement health-care cost calculators many retirement plan providers offer, there was a fatalism calculator too? That way you could see right away each person’s sense of control or feelings of inevitability about their future and help them more efficiently.
Because if someone is more fatalistic, telling them about their 401(k) match or pension options isn’t going to make them enroll in a retirement plan. Scaring them with statistics about the high costs of health care in retirement isn’t going to do the trick either. Instead, consider the following points for such employees:
Look behind employee behavior for the unexamined biases and long-held assumptions that are causing it. If they can see that it’s not who they are that determines their future but what they do, it’s a start.
Marwitz C. (2017 March 19). Employee financial health connects to physical health [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/03/19/employee-financial-health-connects-to-physical-hea?ref=hp-top-stories
Are your employees being properly educated on the benefits on their financial well-being? If not take a look at this article from Benefits Pro about the value of educating your employees in financial wellness by Jack Craver
Money Management International, a nonprofit credit counseling organization, is touting the results of a recent survey it conducted as evidence that employers can significantly reduce stress among their employees by offering them financial counseling resources.
MMI announced recently 86 percent of the 150 employees it provided financial counseling to at an Oregon-based nonprofit health agency say they have less stress related to money as a result of the counseling.
In addition, most of the employees at Samaritan Health Services say the counseling led to them achieving certain financial goals, such as reducing debt (60 percent), setting aside more money for retirement (38 percent), boosting their credit score (30 percent) or buying a home (8 percent).
“At MMI, we know that financial coaching, counseling, and education work, but seeing the incredible, positive impact this program has made on the financial outlook of these clients is simply amazing,” says Julie Griffith, Mapping Your Future account manager, in a statement accompanying the study’s release.
Other research has shown employers are increasingly viewing financial counseling as a key component of wellness initiatives due to the significant psychological and emotional toll money-related anxiety takes on employees.
In addition to causing depression, sleep deprivation and all sorts of health problems that reduce an employee’s productivity, financial stress often distracts employees from their work. A survey last year showed that 37 percent of U.S. employees report spending time on the job thinking about or dealing with personal finances.
The awakening to the importance of financial wellness coincides with a number of studies which shed light on young Americans’ lack of savings. One study found a solid majority of Americans have less than $500 in savings. Another found that the U.S. personal savings rate was just 5.7 percent, roughly half of what it was 50 years ago.
Craver J. (2017 March 08). The benefits of financial wellness counseling [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/03/08/the-benefits-of-financial-wellness-counseling
Has your employee benefits program grown old and stale? Take a look at the great article from Employee Benefits Advisors about the benefits of upgrading your employee benefits to match your employees needs by Chris Bruce
Historically, employee benefits have been viewed as a routine piece of the HR process. However, the mentality of employees today has shifted, especially among the growing population of millennial employees. Today’s workforce expects more from their employers than the traditional healthcare and retirement options, in terms of both specific benefit offerings and communications about those offerings.
For companies, it’s critical they address the evolving needs of their workforce. With unemployment rates plunging to their lowest levels since before the financial crisis, the search for talent is heating up, and organizations need to work harder than ever to retain top talent in a competitive job market. To do this, I see three steps that organizations need to take when rethinking their benefits strategy and engaging with employees: embrace a proactive rather than reactive benefits strategy, think digital when it comes to employee communications and consider the next generation of employee benefits as a way to differentiate from the competition.
1. Reconsider your benefits evaluation process
The benefits process at most companies is reactive — executives and HR only look to evaluate current offerings when insurance contracts expire or a problem emerges. When the evaluation does happen, the two factors that often concern employers the most are product and price. Employers often gravitate toward well-known insurers that offer the schemes that appear familiar. However, this can often lead companies to choose providers who fall short on innovation and overall customer experience for employees.
This approach needs to be flipped on its head. Companies should be proactive in determining which benefit schemes best meet the needs of their workforce. The first step is going straight to the source: talk to employees. Employers can’t know what benefits would be most appealing to their employee base unless they ask. By turning the evaluation process to employees first, companies can better tailor new benefits to meet the needs of their workers, and also identify existing benefits that might be outdated or irrelevant, therefore saving resources on wasted offerings.
Data and analytics also are playing an increasing role across the HR function, and benefits is no exception. By leveraging technology solutions that allow HR to track benefits usage and engagement, teams can better determine what is resonating with employees and where benefits can be cut back or where they should be ramped up.
2. Put down the brochure and think digital engagement
Employee education is another area of benefits that can often perplex companies. According to a recent survey from Aflac, half of employees only spend 30 minutes or less making benefit selections during the open enrollment period each year. This means employers have a short window of time to educate employees and make sure they are armed with the right information to feel confident in their benefits selection.
To do this effectively, HR needs to move past flat communication like brochures, handouts and lengthy employee packets and look for ways to meet employees where they live — online. By testing out innovations that create a rich experience, while still being simple and intuitive, employers can grab the attention of their workforce and make sure key information is communicated. For example, exploring opportunities to create cross-device experiences for employees so they can interact on-the-go, including augmented reality applications or digital interactive magazines. Additionally, for large corporations, hosting a virtual benefits fair can provide a forum for employees to ask questions in a dynamic setting.
3. Embrace the next-generation of benefits
As organizations become more savvy and nimble, personalization will have a huge impact in encouraging employee engagement and driving satisfaction among today’s increasingly diverse workforce. We have already started to see some companies embrace this new approach to benefits, adding out-of-the-box items to normal offerings — from debt consolidation services and wearable health tracking technology to genome testing and wedding concierge services.
The fact is, the days of “status-quo” benefits are gone, and employees today want benefit options that match their current life circumstances. To best engage employees, organizations need to be proactive in evaluating benefits regularly and using analytics to track usage, identify opportunities to implement digital communication elements and look for ways to introduce new benefits to meet the needs of their employee base. By following these steps, organizations can gain a competitive edge when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent.
Bruce C. (2017 March 10). Why employers should rethink their benefits strategies [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/3-steps-employers-can-take-to-rethink-benefits-strategy?feed=00000152-1377-d1cc-a5fa-7fff0c920000
Does the repeal of the ACA have you worried? Checkout this great article about some of the changes that will come with the repeal of the ACA by Jared Bilski.
A draft of the Republicans’ Affordable Care Act (ACA) replacement bill that was leaked to the public is likely to look a lot different when it’s finalized. Still, it gives employers a good indication of how Republicans will start to deliver on their promises to “repeal and replace” Obamacare.
It should come as no surprise to employers that the GOP replacement bill, which was obtained by POLITICO, would scrap a cornerstone of the ACA — the individual mandate — as well as income-based subsidies and all of the laws current taxes (at least one replacement tax is included in the legislation).
According to the discussion draft of the replacement bill, it would offer tax credits for purchasing insurance; however, those credits would be based on age instead of income.
For example, a person under the age of 30 would receive a credit of $2,000. A person over the age of 60, on the other hand, would receive double that amount.
Some of the other highlights of the leaked legislation include:
Obamacare’s essential health benefits mandates require health plans to cover 10 categories of healthcare services, which include:
Under the bill, individual states would make the decisions about what types of services plans must cover — beginning in 2020.
The Medicaid expansion under Obamacare that has covered millions of people will be phased out by 2020 under the GOP bill. The replacement proposal: States would receive a set dollar amount for each person.
There would also be variations in the funding amounts based on an individual’s health status. In other words, more money would be allocated for disabled individuals, which is a huge departure from the open-ended entitlement of the current Medicaid program.
One of the most popular elements of the ACA would apparently remain untouched under the GOP bill: the Obamacare provision that prohibits health plans from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions.
However, the legislation does take aim at older individuals. The GOP would allow insurers to charge older people up to five times more for healthcare than younger individuals. The current ACA limits that difference to three times as much.
The bill does aim to remedy this discrepancy by providing bigger tax credits for older people.
There is a slew of taxes built into the ACA — the manufacturer tax, and taxes on medical devices, health plans and even tanning beds — and the Republican bill would repeal those taxes.
But those taxes help cover the cost of the ACA. So to make up for the shortfall that would result in killing those taxes, the GOP is floating the idea of changing the tax treatment of employer-based health insurance. As employers are well aware, employer-sponsored health plan premiums currently aren’t taxed. Under the GOP proposal, this would be changed for some premiums over a certain threshold — although the specifics of such a change remain murky.
Such a move would surely be met by fierce opposition from the business community. In fact, major employer groups are already preparing to fight such a proposition.
Bilski J. (2017 March 01). ACA replacement proposal leaked: some of the finer points for HR [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.hrmorning.com/aca-replacement-proposal-leaked-some-of-the-finer-points-for-hr/
Are you looking for a new solution for cutting your healthcare cost? Take a look at the great article from Employee Benefits Advisor about what other employers are doing to cut their cost healthcare cost by Phil Albinus.
As employers await a new health plan to replace the Affordable Care Act and consensus grows that high deductible health plans (HDHPs) are not the perfect vehicle for cutting healthcare costs, employers are incorporating innovative strategies to achieve greater savings.
Employers are offering HSAs, wellness incentives and price transparency tools at higher rates in an effort to cut the costs of their employee health plans. And when savings appear to plateau, they are implementing innovative reward plans to those who adopt these benefits, according to the 2017 Medical Plan Trends and Observation Report conducted by employee-engagement firm DirectPath and research firm CEB. They examined 975 employee benefit plans to analyze how they functioned in terms of plan design, cost savings measures and options for care.
The report found that 67% of firms offer HSAs while only 15% offer employee-funded Health Reimbursement Arrangements. As “use of high deductible plans seem to have (at least temporarily) plateaued under the current uncertainty around the future of the ACA, employer contributions to HSAs increased almost 10%,” according to the report.
Wellness programs continue to gain traction. Fifty-eight percent of 2017 plans offer some type of wellness incentive, which is up from 50% in 2016. When it comes to price transparency tools, 51% of employers offer them to help employees choose the best service, and 18% plan to add similar tools in the next three years. When these tools are used, price comparison requests saw an average employee savings of $173 per procedure and average employer savings of $409 per procedure, according to CEB research.
“What was interesting was the level of creativity within these incentives and surcharges. There were paycheck credits, gift cards, points that could be redeemed for rewards,” says Kim Buckey, vice president of client services at DirectPath. “One employer reduced the co-pays for office visits to $20 if you participated in the wellness program. We are seeing a level of creativity that we haven’t seen before.”
Surcharges on tobacco use has gone down while surcharges for non-employees such as spouses has risen. “While the percentage of organizations with spousal surcharges remained static (26% in 2017, as compared to 27% in 2016), average surcharge amounts increased dramatically to $152 per month, a more than 40% increase from 2016,” according to the report.
Tobacco surcharges going down “is reflective of employers putting incentives in, so they are taking a carrot approach instead of the stick,” says Buckey.
Telemedicine adoption appears to be mired in confusion among employees. More than 55% of employees with access to these programs were not aware of their availability, and almost 60% of employees who have telemedicine programs don’t feel they are easy to access, according to a separate CEB survey.
Employers seem to be introducing transparency and wellness programs because the savings from HDHPs appear to have plateaued, says Buckey. She also noted recent research that HSAs only deliver initial savings at the expense of the employee’s health.
“With high deductible plans and HSAs, there has been a lot of noise how they aren’t the silver bullet in controlling costs. Some researchers find that it has a three-year effect on costs because employees delay getting care and by the time they get it, it’s now an acute or chronic condition instead of something that could have been headed off early,” she says.
“And there is a tremendous lack of understanding on how these plans work for lower income employees, [it’s] hard to set aside money for those plans,” she says.
Educating employees to be smarter healthcare consumers is key. “What is becoming really obvious is that there is room to play in all these areas of cost shifting and high deductible plans and wellness but we can no longer put them in place and hope for the best,” she says. We have to focus on educating employees and their families,” she says. “If we are expecting them to act like consumers, we have to arm them with the tools. Most people don’t know where to start.”
She adds, “we know how to shop for a TV or car insurance but 99% of people don’t know where to start to figure out where to shop for prescription drugs or for the hospital where to have your knee surgery. Or if you get different prices from different hospitals, how do you even make the choice?”
When asked if the results of this year’s report surprised her – Buckey has worked on the past five – she said yes and no.
Given that the data is based on information from last summer for plans that would be in effect by 2017, she concedes that given the current political climate “a lot is up in the air.” Most employers were hesitant to make substantive changes to their plans due to the election, she says. We may see the same thing this year as changes are made to the ACA and the Cadillac Tax, she adds.
“What I was interested in were the incremental changes and some of the creativity being applied to longstanding issues of getting costs under control,” she says.
Albinus P. (2017 March 05). Employers embrace new strategies to cut healthcare costs [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/employers-embrace-new-strategies-to-cut-healthcare-costs?brief=00000152-1443-d1cc-a5fa-7cfba3c60000
Did you know that a lot of your employees may be unaware of the health care options your company offers? Take a peek at this great article from HR Morning on how to improve your employees knowledge of their healthcare options by Jared Bilski
As an increasing number of employees are being asked to make smarter healthcare spending decisions, communication is more important than ever. Unfortunately, it looks like many firms have a lot of room for improvement.
That’s one of the alarming takeaways from healthcare administrator Alegeus’ recent “State of Denial” study.
A number of the stats from the study point to a major employee healthcare problem that’s only getting worse. That problem: While employees’ health options are becoming increasingly complex, most workers don’t have the knowledge and/or accountability to make wise decisions involving those options.
Here are some of the most alarming stats from the study:
The study also highlighted some of the contradictions between what employees said they wanted or needed, and how they acted.
For example, although 70% of employees said they’d like to take a more active role in their healthcare decisions, just 50% intend to conduct more due diligence when purchasing healthcare in 2017.
One of the most effective ways to improve employees’ benefits understanding is through one-on-one communications.
To help ensure this is effective, here are three things HR pros should keep in mind, according to Winston Benefits, a voluntary benefits plan provider:
When you’re doing a large-scale benefits presentation, you generally just hand out the materials, and employees look through and use those materials as they see fit.
But with individual sessions, benefits pros have to be prepared to explain those materials in any way an employee requests.
Example: Walking a worker through a tool or calculator in a step-by-step manner.
In many cases, benefits brokers are willing to go on site for one-on-one sessions, and companies should take advantage whenever possible.
Employees will be comfortable knowing there’s an in-house HR or benefits pro at the broker, and a broker’s expertise can really improve workers’ overall understanding.
The point of these meetings is to give employees all the time they need to understand their options and make informed decisions.
Rushing workers through these meetings will ensure the one-on-one education falls flat.
Bilski J. (2017 February 17). Employees desperately need more information on health plans, study says [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.hrmorning.com/employees-desperately-need-more-information-on-health-plans-study-says/
Take a peek at this interesting article from Benefits Pro, about the man tools and services employers are starting to offer to pre-retirees by Marlene Y. Satter,
As their employee base ages closer to retirement, employers are adding tools to help those older employees better prepare for the big day.
That’s according to Aon Hewitt’s “2017 Hot Topics in Retirement and Financial Wellbeing” survey, which found that employers are taking action to improve employee benefits and help workers plan for a secure financial footing, not just now but when they retire.
Not only are employers focusing on enhancing both accumulation and decumulation phases for defined contribution plan participants, they’re taking a range of steps to do so—from improved education to encouraging higher savings rates.
Just 15 percent of respondents are comfortable with the average savings rate in their plan; among the rest, 62 percent are very likely to act on increasing that savings level during 2017, whether by increasing defaults, changing contribution escalation provisions, or sending targeted communications to participants.
And only 10 percent of employers are satisfied with employees’ knowledge about how much constitutes an adequate amount of retirement savings, and nearly all dissatisfied employers (87 percent) are likely to take some action this year to help workers plan to reach retirement goals.
In addition, more employers are providing options for participants to convert their balances into retirement income. Currently just over half of employers (51 percent) allow individuals to receive automatic payments from the plan over an extended period of time.
They’re also derisking through various means, whether by adopting asset portfolios that match the characteristics of the plan’s liabilities (currently 40 percent of employers use this strategy, but the prevalence is expected to grow to more than 50 percent by year end), considering the purchase of annuities for at least some participants (28 percent are considering this action) or planning to offer a lump-sum window to terminated vested participants (32 percent are in this camp).
Why are employers suddenly so interested in how well employees are financially prepared for retirement?
According to Rob Austin, director of retirement research at Aon Hewitt, not only do employees not really understand how to convert a lump sum retirement plan balance into retirement income that they can live on, and employers are also worried that employees will mishandle that lump sum when the time comes and end up broke.
So some employers are tackling the issue by folding in more information about 401(k) plans with the annual enrollment process, in an effort to get employees to think more holistically about their benefits packages.
They’re also encouraging them to consider increasing contributions to their retirement plan while they’re already enmeshed in other enrollments.
Satter M. (2017 February 13). Employers adding financial well-being tools for preretirees [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/02/13/employers-adding-financial-well-being-tools-for-pr?ref=hp-top-stories
Great article from Employee Benefits News about the importance of employee wellness by Brian M. Kalish,
There is no question that a healthier workforce is a more productive and more engaged workforce. With employers consistently looking to improve effectiveness of wellness programs, advisers agree that making the programs more personal provides a solid road toward increased engagement.
When a wellness program is personal, it is relevant. Employees will see something they are interested in and engage, says Erin Milliken, wellness consultant with EPIC Brokers in Houston.
The benefits of personalized wellness are abundant. Aetna recently ran a pilot program through its innovation lab, in cooperation with personalized health management startup Newtopia, which used a combination of behavioral science and limited genetic testing to build a highly personalized disease prevention and weight management program for Aetna employees at high risk for metabolic syndrome.
Through personalized information, nearly three-quarters of the more than 400 people in the program reported significant weight loss, with an average weight loss of 10 pounds. Additionally, Aetna employees in the programs improved in several of the risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome, including waist size, triglycerides and good cholesterol (HDL) levels.
As a cost savings, average healthcare costs were reduced $122 per program participant per month, according to Aetna.
Making information personal is important because clients and their employees are oversaturated with points of contacts, adds Archana Kansagra, director of health and wellness product and strategy at Aetna in Boston.
Kansagra, who previously worked as a consultant to large employers, says employers are focusing on making access to wellness programs easy for their employees. “It is such a transformational time,” she says. “These [wellness] programs are trying to get pointed to understand the member, what their needs are and how to best communicate with them … with information that is timely and relevant.”
Wellness is becoming personalized through technology, such as through smartwatches and different devices that employees keep with them 24 hours a day, Milliken says.
“Technology will really take wellness and the health management space to another level,” she adds. “We haven’t quite gotten there, but technology will cause this industry to boom and get … employees to engage.”
Working with clients
Although there is little question personalized health programs increase employee wellness and therefore productivity and engagement, it is a fine line for advisers to bring it up with their clients.
Milliken says advisers should be proactive about the conversation because most employers do not know what to do when it comes to wellness. “It is our job to engage them and engage their population,” she says.
But responses remain a mixed bag. “Some employers will come to me or come to my team and say, ‘We want wellness because our claims experience is outrageous,’” she explains. “But some clients don’t know anything about wellness and we [as advisers] have to … build the case.”
It is easier for brokers working with employers who already understand wellness. “For those employer groups who aren’t quite persuaded into believing wellness can work for them, that is a tougher conversation,” Milliken says. “But we can get there and once they understand how wellness can improve their business” they are onboard.
Kalish B. (2017 January 31). Why wellness needs to be personal [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitnews.com/news/why-wellness-needs-to-be-personal?feed=00000152-18a4-d58e-ad5a-99fc032b0000