Disconnect between employers, employees over wellness, health plan satisfaction

Check out this great article from Employee Benefits Adviser about the disconnect between employees and employers about their company's wellness programs by Cort Olsen

More than 1,500 employer decision-makers surveyed about the future of healthcare say wellness programs within companies continue to show positive growth among employers and employees alike. However, the study by Transamerica Center for Health Studies also found a strong disconnect in communication between employers and employees regarding healthcare and benefit satisfaction and the commitment from employers to maintain a healthy workspace.

At least 28% of employers have implemented a wellness program for their employees in the past 12 months — a steady increase from 23% in 2014 and 25% in 2015. About four in five companies report their wellness programs have positively impacted workers’ health and productivity, and about seven in 10 have seen a positive impact on company healthcare costs.

More than half of the employers surveyed (55%) say they offer wellness programs to their staff, yet some employees seemed to be unaware that their company offers these programs. Of the 55% of employers who say they offer a wellness program, only 36% of employees with employer coverage say they work for an employer who offers a wellness program.

Employer versus employee perspective
This miscommunication may also contribute to the level of commitment employees think their employer has in maintaining a wellness program within the workplace. While 80% of employers say leadership is committed to improving the health of their employees, only one-third of employees say they agree with that statement.

When it comes to overall healthcare satisfaction there is a similar disconnect, with 94% of employers saying employees are satisfied with the health insurance plan their company offers, while only 79% of employees say they are satisfied with their health plan.

In addition, 90% of employers say employees are satisfied with the healthcare benefits other than health insurance, but only 79% of employees say they are satisfied.

However, while employers and employees may not share the same amount of satisfaction in their healthcare offerings, many companies are making the effort to reduce the cost of their healthcare for their staff.

At least 41% of companies have taken measures to reduce costs, while 71% of companies have taken positive measures in the last 12 months. The percentage of midsize businesses reporting to provide insurance for part-time employees has increased significantly since July 2013 from 13% to 21%.

Still, lack of communication continues over cost concerns as well. While about four in five employers feel their company is concerned about the affordability of health insurance and healthcare expenses, just over half of employees feel the same — even after employers said cost concerns would not be felt by employees.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Olsen C. (2017 January 05). Disconnect between employers, employees over wellness, health plan satisfaction[Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/disconnect-between-employers-employees-over-wellness-health-plan-satisfaction?brief=00000152-1443-d1cc-a5fa-7cfba3c60000


Compliance Bulletin: OSHA Clarifies Ongoing Recordkeeping Obligations

On Dec. 19, 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a final rule amending its recordkeeping regulations. The amendments were adopted to clarify that an employer’s duty to create and maintain work-related injury or illness records is an ongoing obligation. The final rule becomes effective on Jan. 18, 2017.

The clarification explains that an employer remains under an obligation to record a qualifying injury or illness throughout the fiveyear record storage period, even if the incident was not originally recorded during the first six months after its occurrence. The final rule does not create any additional or new recordkeeping obligations for employers.

ACTION STEPS

  • Employers should review their workplace injury and illness recordkeeping procedures and ensure that they allow for accurate and timely compliance with recordkeeping requirements.
  • Employers should audit their injury and illness records to make sure all qualifying incidents are recorded during the five-year record storage period.

Recordkeeping Requirements

OSHA requires employers to create and maintain records about workplace injuries and illnesses that meet one or more recording criteria. Specifically, employers must:

Create and update a log of work-related injuries and illnesses (OSHA 300 Form);

Create and maintain injury and illness incident reports (OSHA 301 Form); and

Create and display an annual summary of workplace incidents (OSHA 300A Form) between Feb. 1 and April 30 of each year.

Employers must keep these records for at least five years. The five-year retention period begins on Jan. 1 of the year following the year covered by the records. For example, the five-year retention period for incident reports created on Jan. 23, 2015, June 15, 2015, and Nov. 4, 2015, begins on Jan. 1, 2016.

Penalties for Noncompliance

OSHA has the authority to issue citations and assess fines against employers that violate recordkeeping laws. However, in general, the OSH Act does not allow for a citation to be issued more than six months after the occurrence of a violation.

OSHA is of the opinion that a violation exists until it is corrected. Therefore, the six-month period to issue citations and assess penalties begins on the date of the last instance of the violation. For example, if a violation that started on Feb. 1 was corrected on May 15, the six-month period would begin on May 15, and OSHA would have until Nov. 15 to issue a citation.

OSHA also asserts that uncorrected violations are considered ongoing violations, and that each day of noncompliance is subject to a separate penalty.

The Final Rule

According to OSHA, adopting the final rule and amending its recordkeeping regulations was necessary because the previous regulations did not allow OSHA to enforce an employer’s incident recording obligation as an ongoing requirement. In fact, a federal circuit court has held that the former regulations did not authorize OSHA to “cite the employer for a record-making violation more than six months after the recording failure.” The court also noted that there is a discrepancy between the OSH Act and the regulations, and that while the OSH Act allows for continuing violations of recordkeeping requirements, the specific language in the regulations does not implement this statutory authority and does not create continuing recordkeeping obligations.

The federal court interpretation of previous regulations meant that employers were no longer responsible for recording or storing workplace incidents if OSHA failed to detect and penalize employers for omitted recordable incidents within the six-month period. For this reason, OSHA issued its proposed amendments on July 29, 2015.

Impact on Employers The final rule and amended regulations do not create additional or new recordkeeping regulations, and employers will not be required to record incidents that they were not previously required to record.

This clarification simply makes it possible for OSHA to penalize employers for a recordkeeping violation within six months of the last date of noncompliance, not the first date when a violation occurs. OSHA believes that the clarification will encourage employers to comply with record-making and recordkeeping obligations even when these records are not produced within the first six months of when a recordable incident takes place. In other words, the clarification discourages employers from ignoring record-making and recordkeeping obligations solely because six months have transpired since the occurrence of a recordable incident.

This also means that OSHA now has a window of up to 66 months (five years and six months) after the occurrence of a recordable incident to enforce record-making and recordkeeping requirements.

Finally, the amended regulations emphasize an employer’s ongoing duty to create and maintain records and increasingly justify OSHA’s ability to assess penalties against a violating employer for each day of noncompliance, until the maximum penalty amount is reached or the employer corrects the violation

See the original article Here.


IRS Memo on Fixed Indemnity Health Plan Benefits Tax Treatment

Stay up-to-date with the most recent compliance alerts from our partners at United Benefits Advisors (UBA).

On January 20, 2017, the IRS released a Memorandum on the tax treatment of benefits paid by fixed indemnity health plans that addresses two questions:

  1. Are payments to an employee under an employer-provided fixed indemnity health plan excludible from the employee’s income under Internal Revenue Code §105?
  2. Are payments to an employee under an employer-provided fixed indemnity health plan excludible from the employee’s income under Internal Revenue Code §105 if the payments are made by salary reduction through a §125 cafeteria plan?

The IRS concluded that an employer may not exclude payments under an employer-provided fixed indemnity health plan from an employee’s gross income if the coverage’s value was excluded from the employee’s gross income and wages. Further, an employer may not exclude payments under an employer-provided fixed indemnity health plan if the plan’s premiums were made by salary reduction through a §125 cafeteria plan.

Background
A fixed indemnity health plan pays a specific amount of cash for certain health-related events (for example, $40 per office visit or $100 per hospital day). The amount paid is neither related to the medical expense incurred, nor coordinated with other health coverage. Further, a fixed indemnity health plan is considered an “excepted benefit.”
Under HIPAA, fixed dollar indemnity policies are excepted benefits if they are offered as “independent, non-coordinated benefits.” Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), excepted benefits are not subject to the ACA’s health insurance requirements or prohibitions (for example, annual and lifetime dollar limits, out-of-pocket limits, requiring individual and small-group policies to cover ten essential health benefits, etc.) This means that excepted benefit policies can exclude preexisting conditions, can have dollar limits, and do not legally have to guarantee renewal when the coverage is cancelled.

Further, under the ACA, excepted benefits are not minimum essential coverage so a large employer cannot comply with its employer shared responsibility obligations by offering only fixed indemnity coverage to its full-time employees.

Some examples of fixed indemnity health plans are AFLAC or similar coverage, or cancer insurance policies.

Analysis
Generally, the Internal Revenue Code imposes taxes on wages paid with respect to employment. For federal income tax withholding, the Internal Revenue Code generally requires every employer who pays wages to deduct and withhold taxes on those wages.

In the context of an employer-provided fixed indemnity health plan, when the employer’s payment for coverage by the fixed indemnity plan is excluded from the employee’s gross income, then the payments by the plan are not excluded from the employee’s gross income.

In contrast, when the premiums are paid with after-tax dollars, the payments by the plan are excluded from the employee’s gross income.

Download the release here.


OSHA CORNERSTONES Winter 2017

OSHA Publishes New Rule Regarding Slip, Trip and Fall Protection

OSHA recently published a final rule to update the standards regarding walking-working surfaces, as well as personal protective equipment (PPE) meant to protect employees from slip, trip and fall hazards. According to the agency, the final rule is meant to increase consistency between the general and construction industries’ fall protection standards, and will allow employers to choose the system that works best for their workplaces.

The final rule applies to all general industry workplaces and covers all walking-working surfaces—any horizontal or vertical surface on or through which an employee walks, works or gains access to a workplace location. The new standards for these surfaces address the following topics:

  •  Surface conditions and housekeeping
  •  Application of loads
  •  Access to and egress
  •  Inspection, maintenance and repair

Additionally, the final rule also indicates that employers must ensure that employees have fall and falling object protection in certain areas and during certain operations or activities.

Employers will be required to train employees about the requirements of the new rule. And, while the training employers provide to their employees is not required to be site specific, it does need to address the hazards to which employees may be exposed at their workplace.

The final rule becomes effective on Jan. 17, 2017, although OSHA will allow additional time for employers to comply with some standards. For more information on the final rule, including a full compliance schedule, call us at 920-921-5921, and ask to see our compliance bulletin, “OSHA Final Rule on Slips, Trips and Fall Protection.”

Large Number of Trench Collapse Fatalities in 2016 May Shift OSHA’s Focus

Since OSHA published safety standards regarding trenching and excavation safety in 1989, fatalities involving trench collapses have fallen dramatically. However, OSHA has reported that 24 employees died as a result of trench collapses since the beginning 2016—more than double the number that occurred in 2015.

Although OSHA is aware of the alarming number of fatalities, the agency still has not determined how safety issues involving trench collapses will be addressed. However, OSHA believes that simply making its staff aware of the problem isn’t enough.

In Tennessee, an employee died after a trench collapsed—the first such incident to occur in the state in more than five years. As a result, OSHA’s state agency in Tennessee now considers excavation hazards an “imminent danger” and has pulled a state inspector off of a general scheduled inspection to investigate trench exposures. However, it’s unknown if OSHA will extend these practices into other states.

Although OSHA’s trench and excavation standards are meant to protect employees, it’s important for employers to take a proactive role by training employees on how to recognize trench hazards. Additionally, it’s likely that OSHA will focus on compliance with trench safety standards as a way to reduce the number of fatalities in 2017.

Two Major OSHA Rules to Consider in Early 2017

OSHA frequently introduces or revises safety rules to remain up to date with new technologies and workplace procedures. In early 2017, two new major rules regarding injury and illness reporting will be in effect that all employers and establishments should be aware of.

OSHA’s electronic reporting rule will require some establishments to electronically submit data from their work-related injury records to OSHA. This rule becomes effective on Jan. 1, 2017. Under the new rule, establishments with 250 or more employees must electronically submit data from their OSHA 300, 300A and 301 forms. OSHA will then remove any personally identifiable information (PII) and post the establishment-specific data on its website.

In response to the electronic reporting rule, OSHA released an anti-retaliation rule that went into effect on Dec. 1, 2016. This rule includes two major requirements for employers:

  • Employers must inform their employees that they have a right to report work-related injuries and illnesses without any form of retaliation.
  • Employer must ensure that “reasonable” procedures are in place for employees to report work-related injuries and illnesses.

Because these two new rules may dramatically change how establishments and employees report injuries and illnesses, it’s important for employers to understand their reporting responsibilities. For more information, contact us today and ask for our two compliance bulletins, “OSHA Issues Final Rule on Electronic Reporting” and “OSHA’s Antiretaliation Rules to Take Effect Dec. 1, 2016.”

See the original article Here.


Stepping away from traditional workplace wellness programs

Interesting article from Employee Benefits Advisors about workplace wellness programs by Brendan Weafer

Many of today’s business owners are throwing a lot of money into workplace wellness programs because they understand the financial value of healthy employees. They aren’t, however, putting the same amount of thought into what type of wellness programs employees might actually use.

Employers have seen reports like the 2014 study by Virginia Tech College of Engineering that showed unhealthy workers are less productive, most likely to get injured, and need longer rest breaks than employees with a well-rounded lifestyle. They realize that unfit employees also have a higher turnover rate, which results in additional onboarding and training costs for employers. But simply offering a company wellness program doesn’t guarantee a reduction in employee healthcare costs, especially if the programs aren’t teaching healthy lifestyle training.

Many of the workplace wellness programs being offered today still rely on traditional ideas that have proven ineffective. Many programs are metrics-focused, recommending tasks like walking 10,000 steps a day or offer small — often taxable — incentives in an attempt to motivate participants to lose weight in a short amount of time. This kind of goal-oriented program does not actually teach the day-to-day wellness choices that are fundamental to building a healthy lifestyle. A number of programs incorporate wearable technology that measures walking, but walking is only one component of health, just as broccoli is a single component of a well-rounded diet. If you were only eating broccoli, that wouldn’t be a healthy lifestyle.

Moving and breathing

Workplace culture holds the key to fixing the national health crisis, and there are better ways for employers to ensure that an employee wellness program will actually work and provide employees with lasting change.

Since you can’t meditate to a smaller waistline or diet to a better night’s sleep, here are three things that employers should make sure to incorporate into the company wellness programs — things that can actually help employees learn and maintain a healthier lifestyle:

· Improve mobility with movement that can be done right at their desk, or on the fly.

· Increase strength with a bodyweight exercise program that starts small and builds throughout the year.

· Improve their diet with nutritional guidelines and tips including recipes, best times of day to eat, and how to optimize food choices — even for the holidays.

It is commonly misunderstood how small choices made on a daily basis can undermine wellness efforts. By providing achievable daily challenges to reinforce healthy choices, workplace wellness programs that take the holistic approach in teaching healthy lifestyle habits will see better results. Small changes, practiced routinely over time, become the tools of a sustainable healthy lifestyle that produces significant long-term results.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Weafer B. (2016 December 14). Stepping away from traditional workplace wellness programs [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/stepping-away-from-traditional-workplace-wellness-programs?feed=00000152-1387-d1cc-a5fa-7fffaf8f0000


Don’t expect tech to solve benefits communications problems

Great article from Benefits Pro about using technology to communicate with your employees by Marlene Satter

Although technology has spawned multiple methods of communication with employees on benefits, that doesn’t mean they’re solving all the problems in conveying information back and forth between employer and employee.

In fact, generational and demographic differences, varying levels of comfort with a range of communication methods and the complexity of information all mean that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution in workplace benefits communication.

A study from West’s Health Advocate Solutions finds employees’ expectations cover a wide range in benefits, health and wellness program communication. As a result, human resources and benefits managers have to dig more deeply in finding ways to convey information to employees.

One finding which may surprise them is employees prefer live-person conversations, although some do prefer the option to use digital communication channels in certain benefits scenarios. And 41 percent of employees say their top complaint about employers’ benefits programs is that communication is too infrequent.

Employee benefits in 2017 will feel the effects of political change as well as cultural change. Here are some trends...

The top choice of employees for communicating about health care cost and administrative information is directly by phone (73 percent) with a live person; second choice was a website or online portal (69 percent), while an in-person conversation was the choice of 56 percent.

For information about physical wellness benefits, 71 percent opt for the website/online portal, while 62 percent want to talk to someone on the phone and 56 percent wanted an in-person conversation. Interestingly, 62 percent of men and 44 percent of women prefer in-person conversations.

For personal/emotional wellness issues, 71 percent want that chat with a person on the phone, 65 percent want an in-person conversation and just 60 percent want to interact with a website/online portal.

When it comes to managing a chronic condition, 66 percent prefer to talk to someone on the phone, 63 percent would prefer the website/online portal option and 61 percent want an in-person conversation. Sixty-seven percent of men, compared with 53 percent of women, prefer in-person conversations, while 35 percent of women, compared with 18 percent of men, prefer mobile apps.

And there are generational differences, too, with millennials wanting in-person interactions more than either Gen X or boomer colleagues. But they all want multiple options, and the ability to choose the one they prefer, rather than simply being restricted to a single method.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Satter M. (2016 December 14). Don't expect tech to solve benefits communications problems [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2016/12/14/dont-expect-tech-to-solve-benefits-communications


Financial wellness: Here’s what employees want, need in 2017

Great article from our partner, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) by

Recent research into individuals’ financial resolutions for 2017 can tell you whether your financial wellness initiatives are giving employees what they want. It can also tell you whether to expect employees to increase their retirement contributions next year. 

Personal finance company LendEDU recently asked 1,001 Americans about their financial goals for 2017, as well as what their biggest concerns are. The results were published in LendEDU’s “Financial Resolution Survey & Report 2017,” which can help employers determine if their financial programs are on point.

Here are some of the more interesting Q&A’s from the research:

What’s your most important financial resolution in 2017?

  • Save more money — 52.85% of respondents selected this
  • Pay off debt — 35.56%
  • Spend less money — 11.59%

Takeaway for employers: Improving savings should be front and center in any financial wellness strategy.

What’s your top financial resolution?

  • Make and stick to a budget — 21.38%
  • Save for a large purchase like a down payment, household upgrade, or car, etc. — 19.28%
  • Pay down credit card debt — 18.88%
  • Place money aside for an emergency — 16.58%
  • Save for retirement — 13.69%
  • Pay down student loan debt — 7.29%
  • Save for college — 2.90%

Takeaway for employers: Employees need the most help creating a budget they can stick to.

What’s your top financial concern?

  • Unexpected expenses — 53.25%
  • Healthcare costs — 23.98%
  • Higher interest rates — 9.69%
  • The labor market — 7.79%
  • Stock market fluctuations — 5.29%

Takeaway for employers: Helping employees manage healthcare costs can be a key add-on to any financial education program.

Do you think you’re better off financially in 2017 than in 2016?

  • Yes — 78.32%
  • No — 21.68%

Takeaway for employers: Employees’ financial state of mind is on the upswing, which is good. But it could make increasing participation in wellness initiatives more challenging.

Do you make financial resolutions with your spouse or significant other?

  • Yes — 84.83%
  • No — 15.17%

Takeaway for employers: When it comes to finances, very few people go it alone, so invite spouses to be a part of your wellness offerings.

What would make you stick to a financial resolution?

  • Having a reward for reaching the goal — 37.56%
  • Segmenting a longer term goal into smaller bit sized pieces — 20.08%
  • Technology that helps you save money or monitor goals in real-time — 19.38%
  • The encouragement of family and friends — 13.99%
  • Having a consequence for not reaching the goal — 8.99%

Takeaway for employers: Incremental rewards and incentives, can help drive participation and success in 2017 financial wellness initiatives.

Do you think you’ll increase your retirement savings contributions this year?

  • Yes — 63.24%
  • No — 36.76%

Takeaway for employers: This could be a good year to really push employees to bump up retirement plan contributions.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Author (Date). Title [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.hrmorning.com/financial-wellness-heres-what-employees-want-need-in-2017/


Safety Focused Newsletter-December 2016

Staying Active at Work

Staying active can increase productivity and reduce stress. However, as the weather begins to cool, it can become more and more difficult to get up and move around—especially if you’re stuck in an office all day. Luckily, there are a number of exercises and activities you can do at work to ensure that you stay fit and healthy during the winter months, including the following: During Breaks  Stand up and stretch during your breaks to help reduce muscle fatigue and to help get your blood flowing.  Incorporate a short power walk into snack and coffee breaks.  Walk to your co-workers and have

Luckily, there are a number of exercises and activities you can do at work to ensure that you stay fit and healthy during the winter months, including the following: During Breaks  Stand up and stretch during your breaks to help reduce muscle fatigue and to help get your blood flowing.  Incorporate a short power walk into snack and coffee breaks.  Walk to your co-workers and have

During Breaks

  • Stand up and stretch during your breaks to help reduce muscle fatigue and to help get your blood flowing.
  • Incorporate a short power walk into snack and coffee breaks.
  • Walk to your co-workers and have face-to-face conversations with them in lieu of utilizing emails or phone calls. Not only does this get you up and away from your desk, but it can help you build relationships with your peers.

During Your Lunch Hour

  • Take the stairs to and from the cafeteria, if applicable. In general, lunch is a great time to get in some extra activities.
  • Sign up for a fitness class that you can participate in during your short lunch breaks. Just be sure to speak with a manager first to ensure that it’s OK.

Before and After Work

  • Consider walking to work on days where it’s not too cold and the walkways are free of ice.
  • Park your car far away from the main entrance of your work. This will force you to get in some extra steps before and after the workday.

Whatever methods you choose to utilize, staying active is important for your personal health. Even 10 minutes of activity a day has its benefits.

However, prior to exercising, it’s a good idea to speak to your doctor to ensure that you are healthy enough for vigorous exercise. Your doctor will also be able to provide you with additional tips on staying active.

For more workplace wellness tips, contact Hierl Insurance Inc. today.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a recurring depression that affects individuals during the cold winter months and then recedes during the spring and summer.

It is estimated that 5 percent of Americans suffer from SAD, with nearly 75 percent of those affected being women. SAD is most common for those in their 20s, 30s and 40s, although it can also occur in children, adolescents and the elderly.

SAD can have a serious impact on your desire to work and your overall well-being. Symptoms of SAD can vary depending on the severity of the condition, but generally include the following:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Low energy and fatigue
  • Decreased interest in daily activities, especially social activities
  • Moodiness and irritability
  • Increased appetite with weight gain
  • Cravings for carbohydrates
  •  Increased desire to sleep, with more daytime sleepiness

If you believe that you or a co-worker are suffering from SAD, it’s important to keep in mind the following coping strategies:

  1. Expose yourself to more light. Increasing the amount of natural light in your home and at work can have a positive impact on your mood.
  2. Get active. Whenever possible, go outside and get some exercise. This can help reduce stress and anxiety.
  3.  Reduce stress. Managing stress and finding time to relax can help limit the effects of SAD.

If you believe you may be suffering from SAD, it’s important to speak to a health care professional. He or she may recommend medication and other SAD-management approaches. Additionally, you should speak with your employer to ensure that they are aware of your condition and can work with you to find ways to assist.

 


Striving for a Culture Change in Your Wellness Program (Part 1)

Great article from our partner, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) by Heather Mills

Many of us have seen or heard about the various wellness programs referred to as “participation–based” programs. These participation-only programs continue to be the starting point for many organizations when they enter the world of workplace wellness. Participatory programs typically include a few individual and team-based activities, offer a level of electronic or onsite seminar education, and offer employees biometric screening and personal health risk assessments. Organizations may even award prizes, hold drawings, or offer giveaways.
These programs are typically created with the goals of promoting and encouraging healthier lifestyles for their employees and their families, reducing healthcare costs of the organization, or simply because ownership feels it is the right thing to do.Fast forward a few years, and the same program is being offered. In most cases, employees have received some education and had fun, but the organization has yet to meet its original goals or experience a real culture change. Employees still seem to be leading unhealthy lifestyles, productivity and morale seem lower than ever, and healthcare claims continue to skyrocket. So why do you even have this wellness program?In my eight years working as Wellness Program Manager for a mid-sized benefits consulting firm, I have been a part of and have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of the programs. I have learned from mistakes made early on, and I value sharing those experiences with those I have the opportunity to consult with. I share firsthand examples from my own company’s program, as well as the experiences of my clients and other business partners. A program set up successfully – with the right support, tools, partners, and initial incentives – will absolutely reap the reward, and your organization should recognize a true cultural change.These are the key factors that I believe contribute most to the success of a wellness program.1. Secure senior management commitment and participation.

It is easy for business owners to say they want a wellness program, but it is a different story when they actually embrace the concept, support the process, and engage in the program themselves. Owners of organizations have come to me for help in implementing a wellness program. They assign one person to be in charge of the program, typically someone whose time is already limited, and for one reason or another the program stalls. If the top leadership of the organization is not supportive or engaged, it could take anywhere from six months to five years trying to get a sustainable wellness program off the ground. The program may not even take off at all.

I have seen these programs fizzle for many reasons, including a shift in business objectives, lack of established goals, or lack of participation or role-modeling from management or ownership. It can be recognized early whether a program is going to succeed by the support it has from its leaders. Think of a successful program much like the game “follow the leader.” Good leaders and owners should not only sponsor the program, but should also be actively engaged and supporting it, leading by example. When employees see owners and employers participating and supporting the program, they too will “follow the leader.” Once you have backing from the people who invoke change within your organization, laying the groundwork for the program will become a smoother process.

2.  Survey the organization and gather aggregate data to establish need and risk areas.

Once you have built the foundation, it is a good time to collect and gather data to determine need and evaluate aggregate risks in the organization. Of those organizations that created the participatory programs we discussed earlier, how many of them do you think actually asked their employees first what they wanted or needed in order to change unhealthy behaviors or lead a healthy lifestyle? What lifestyle-related claims is the organization experiencing that might be able to be controlled with interventions? What health risks exist within the organization? Organizations typically roll out the program before they gather the data, and then look back and wonder why their participation in their program was so low. Logically, it is because the employees didn’t want or need it or see the value.

When working with a benefits consulting firm, organizations ask for employees to be surveyed annually on their likes and dislikes in medical and dental coverage. It only makes sense that employees also be surveyed about their needs in a wellness program. The employee wellness survey may include questions about areas where they may want help, programs they would be willing to participate in, what would motivate them to engage in the program, and whether or not they are even looking to make any changes. Do not worry or be discouraged, as there is always five to ten percent of a population that is resistant to anything and will never participate regardless of what you provide.

Additional data is then obtained by analyzing your organization’s aggregate claims, if data is available. Along with claims data, organizations may also compile aggregate data through health screenings, biometrics, health and fitness diagnostics and assessments, blood work, and more.

3.  Utilize existing tools and resources, establish partnerships and seek guidance.

Many organizations may not be aware of the variety of wellness program tools and resources available to them. First, look to your benefits insurance consultant. Qualified, reputable benefit consulting firms now have credentialed wellness program managers or coordinators on staff to work alongside you and your team. Consultants can help navigate what is available to you from your insurance carrier or third party administrator and are likely tapped into local and national resources, wellness vendors, and other workplace wellness tools. One of the best parts of my role as a Wellness Program Manager is to share my passion for wellness with our clients and help them design a sustainable program. If you have a benefits consultant that is not providing this level of support or staff, it is worth inquiring.

Establish a partnership with a wellness vendor. This is one resource that is often overlooked because organizations try to do it themselves. Sustainable programs have vendors that can design programs based on need and risk, manage day-to-day program tasks, provide ongoing reporting, and recommend best practices for goal achievement.

Over the last few years, hundreds of new wellness vendors have entered the marketplace. I have worked with great vendors and vendors that I will not work with again. Employers should not settle for a “cookie cutter” program. Look for a partner that shares a similar view on wellness, one who will customize a program to satisfy your organization’s objectives. Ensure that you partner with a vendor that offers actual guidance and management of your program. CAUTION: Many vendors promote account management as a top service they provide, but few deliver. A great way to find the right vendor is through the partnerships your employee benefits consultant has established or from other business referrals and testimonials. When I place a client with a vendor, the most important thing I look for is the type of service my client will receive. Accept nothing but high quality and service.

Subscribe to the UBA blog for part 2 in this series, which will cover the final steps to successfully set up a program with the right support, tools, partners, and initial incentives.

For additional trends among wellness programs, download In UBA’s new whitepaper: “Wellness Programs — Good for You & Good for Your Organization”.

To understand legal requirements for wellness programs, request UBA’s ACA Advisor, “Understanding Wellness Programs and Their Legal Requirements,” which reviews the five most critical questions that wellness program sponsors should ask and work through to determine the obligations of their wellness program under the ACA, HIPAA, ADA, GINA, and ERISA, as well as considerations for wellness programs that involve tobacco use in any way. With over 20 pages of comprehensive guidance, examples and frequently asked questions, this is an invaluable employer resource.

For the latest statistics from the UBA survey examining wellness program design among 19,557 health plans and 11,524 employers, pre-order UBA’s 2016 Health Plan Survey Executive Summary which will be available to the public in late September.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Mills, H. (2016 September 9). Striving for a culture change in your wellness program. [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/striving-for-a-culture-change-in-your-wellness-program-part-1


Wellness Programs Benefit Employers, Employees

Original post benefitspro.com

Offering employee wellness programs isn’t just an exercise in altruism for employers. It pays off where most companies would value it most: the bottom line.

According to Forbes, companies are jumping on the wellness program bandwagon right and left, to varying degrees. In fact, Society for Human Resource Management statistics indicate that in 2015, 80 percent of employers offered preventive wellness resources and educational information, with 70 percent providing full strategic wellness programs.

But while companies are happy that such programs pay off in healthier employees — 59 percent of employers offering such programs believe they’ve resulted in improved worker health — those programs also pay off in ways that have more to do with the balance sheet than the scales.

The cost of wellness programs is nothing to be sneezed at, but on the other hand, employees involved in them often shift their diets to healthier foods, quit smoking, have a better mental outlook on life, and watch the pounds come off through diet and exercise. That means they’re less likely to have to take so much advantage of company-provided health plans, if they’re reducing or eliminating some of the risk factors that could send them to the doctor more often.

Healthy employees might exercise more and weigh less, but they’re also more engaged, and thus more productive. Better health can also keep them on the job longer, with better results and better job satisfaction. They’re less stressed, miss fewer days at work and don’t look for a new job as often; all those things add up to an 8 percent improvement in productivity.

All of that can translate, for most programs, to dollars and cents: a return on investment of approximately 3:1. It can, however, go as high as 6:1, thanks to reduced health care costs that result when workers are eating better, exercising more, and forestalling some of the conditions that can result in mega health care bills — and equally mega premiums.