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


It’s a job applicant’s market: What it means for employee benefits

Studies show that up to 60 percent of people recognize employee benefits as a major deciding factor when considered a job offer. Read this blog post to find out what today's hiring landscape means for employee benefits.


When it comes to employee benefits, stock options and paid holidays may no longer be enough to attract top talent — especially in today’s competitive hiring landscape.

With job openings on the rise, it has become more difficult for companies to compete for the most talented, highly sought-after candidates. The strong labor market also means more Americans are willing to quit their current job in favor of something better — in fact, this past year, employees voluntarily left jobs at the highest rate since 2001.

Comprehensive employee benefits packages have never been more important for employers looking to hire the best and brightest. Studies have shown as many as 60% of people cite benefits as a major deciding factor when considering whether to accept a job offer. The question is: What kinds of benefits are employees looking for most?

Of course, there are some benefits that have become commonplace among employers, including health and dental insurance, retirement plans and paid time off. However, these incentives may just be table stakes in the hiring game these days — for example, nearly half of privately owned firms in the United States offer health insurance, and 79% of Americans work for an employer sponsoring a 401(k)-style retirement plan.

Although many employees have come to expect benefits like health insurance and retirement plans, employers don’t need to go above and beyond as many larger companies, like Google, do — offering free meals and on-site haircuts. Flashy perks may seem appealing on the surface, but in reality, employees are seeking benefits that support them through — and help alleviate the stress that can come with — life’s major moments.

This kind of support can come in a number of forms. For example, many companies have seen their employees push for more comprehensive parental leave benefits, giving new parents time they need to refresh and bond with their child. While many countries around the world offer more than a year of paid parental leave, the U.S. doesn’t guarantee paid time off for new parents, and the national average for parents taking time off after having a child is only 10 weeks.

Employees may want to feel empowered to further their education or professional development, helping to bolster their confidence in their career. Starbucks is a proponent of this. To help employees take their education to the next level, the company offers full tuition reimbursement for online degrees through Arizona State University.

These benefits are great, but don’t cover all aspects of life where employees need support. For example, if an employee finds themselves in a situation where they need to care for an elderly parent, family leave may not be enough — especially as they find themselves navigating complicated Medicare/Medicaid documents and nursing home or hospice payments. Particularly in situations that pack on a lot of additional stress, companies can provide comprehensive financial wellness plans as a way to give their workforce peace of mind.

Financial wellness plans are an emerging area of employee benefits and provide assistance with everything from estate planning, to advice from certified personal accountants, to identity theft protection. There’s a clear demand for these services, too. PWC’s 2018 financial wellness survey found that over 50% of employees are stressed about their finances and want help.

Financial wellness plans don’t just offer practical benefits, but emotional benefits as well. Most people don’t realize how many instances in life, big or small, require some form of financial guidance, and without any professional support, these matters can be intensely stressful. Whether an employee is creating a prenuptial agreement, taking out a mortgage when buying their first house, or trying to navigate student loans when sending their child to college, knowing their company provides support and counsel for these situations alleviates the associated pressure. Employees want to know their employers can help them tackle anything life throws at them.

Ultimately, employees have come to expect benefits and perks providing coverage for all stages of life — whether they’re planning to have a child, want to take time to get their degree or are beginning to think about estate planning on top of traditional retirement planning. To attract and retain the best talent in 2019, employers should think first and foremost about how they can support their workforce in achieving financial wellness.

SOURCE: Freedman, D. (22 January 2019) "It’s a job applicant’s market: What it means for employee benefits" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/its-a-job-applicants-market-what-it-means-for-employee-benefits


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


4 Ways to Help Employees Keep Their Resolution

Have you kept your New Year’s resolutions so far this year? Continue reading for four ways HR departments can help employees keep their resolutions this year.


As we ring in 2019, there are plenty of resolutions being made and likely already broken. Inc. Magazine’s list of the ten most common resolutions doesn't contain too many surprises. Prioritizing health and fitness through diet and exercise, spending quality time with friends and family, and other self-improvement plans are on many people’s minds. Endless how-to articles and listicles are published this time of year to motivate and inspire individuals to stick with their resolutions.

In a recent articleUSA Today discusses several resolutions employees can make to have their best year ever at work. But more than a best year at work, HR teams can support both personal and professional resolutions. An HR department ready to support those employees may just see happier, more productive and more engaged employees.

Here are some common resolutions and some proactive ideas for HR departments to consider.

1. Support Employee’s Healthy Eating

Many of your employees are looking to eat healthier in the new year. Employee Benefit News suggests a few key changes, rather than aggressive wellness pushes, can help employees make better food choices. Putting healthier options in vending machines or making healthy snacks a free break room benefit makes eating better an easier choice. Plan a tasting or activity around healthy and delicious food options to model better habits. Do keep in mind that dietary restrictions and preferences means a one-size-fits-all employees approach is likely to backfire!

2. Empower Employee Networking

If your team members want to get out and meet people in related fields as a resolution, champion that cause. Encourage connection because, as an article in Mint highlights, beyond benefitting the employee, it can have incredible benefits for your company, too. Candidates referred by a current employee are eight times more likely to get hired. Employees are one of the best ways for potential hires to learn about a company and openings. Encourage networking within your company, too. At the office, encourage cross-pollination by creating opportunities for employees to interact and learn from one another across departments or business units.

3. Invest in Employee’s Skills

Learn a new skill, a resolution on many minds, may include tackling a craft or an instrument at home. It could also mean learning a new skill at work. One HR professional recommends via Fast Company that employees commit to improving a work skill in the New Year. Investing in your employees through offering trainings, sponsoring professional development, or reimbursing coursework or certifications means a more skilled, more engaged, and even more loyal workforce. If budget is a concern, consider championing a mentor match, inviting employees to share expertise through lunch and learns, or create other opportunities for informal skill sharing through inter-office networking opportunities mentioned earlier.

4. Support Employee Financial Goals

Saving more is a common resolution, and one that’s commonly failed. While retirement may be top of mind when it comes to savings, Workforce recommends considering other financial safety nets like a rainy day fund since 8 out of 10 Americans live paycheck to paycheck and would not be able to afford a $400 emergency. USA Today encourages employees to make a point of brushing up on financial benefits like commuter assistance, 401(k) company match. HR can make all this even easier by helping employees brush up on what’s available or show how to set up direct deposits to make saving easier. Consider having a workshop or office hours for employees who want to ensure their financial resolution success this year.

Read more:

10 Top New Year's Resolutions for Success and Happiness in 2019

4 Ways to Help Employees Make Better Choices About What They Eat

9 New Year’s Resolutions You Should Consider Setting for Your Career in 2019

9 Ways to Be a Better Employee in 2019

Networking Basics You Should Not Ignore

12 Expert Tips to Make 2019 Your Most Productive Year Yet

Help Workers Save for Rainy Days, Not Just Golden Years

SOURCE: Olson, B. (23 January 2019) "4 Ways to Help Employees Keep Their Resolution" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://blog.ubabenefits.com/4-ways-to-help-employees-keep-their-resolution


Recruiting in the Tight(est) of Labor Markets

How are is your HR department recruiting top talent in a tight labor market? Recruiters are left searching for ways to recruit top talent in a seemingly shrinking talent pool. Continue reading to learn more.


The Job Market in 2019 is drastically different than the one we all became accustomed to for so many years. The unemployment rate is two percent for college graduates, and an even tighter market in the growth areas of Digital Strategy and Data.  The result is more and more companies going after a seemingly shrinking talent pool of available candidates. What is a Recruiter to do?

Develop a Relationship

Enter into the mindset that everyone is a (passive) candidate, not just anyone that responds to your job post on Indeed or Linkedin. I find that the right passive candidate is very responsive to the inquiry along the lines of “you have an exceptional background, would you have 10/15 minutes for an informational call so we could learn more about you and tell you our story?” This accomplishes two things: the potential candidate’s defenses come down so they can’t say they are not in the market, and it develops a consultative relationship between organization and candidate. Now you can start to develop a robust candidate bench!

Tell Your Story

Today’s Candidate, especially those in the millennial generation, aren’t motivated solely by salary, but by the type of work they are doing. Is it innovative, is the workplace diverse (and is that reflected in the organization’s leadership), what is the organization’s standing in their industry and what is their social impact in the community? How is the organization viewed on Glassdoor and other workplace review websites? Develop a strategic plan bringing out the value of your organization, with an emphasis on your employees, and have a vision for your future. It’s mandatory in 2019 that a corporation has to be storytellers, using Video and Social Media, and that story has to be a compelling message to bring in the right candidates. Today’s workplace culture is not a “Grind it out” until retirement, it’s one focused on doing great work and being personally fulfilled.

Employee Growth

Identify multiple successful employee ambassadors throughout your organization that a candidate can speak with before going forward. Think of these conversations as positive interactions of transparency, more fact-finding for both parties and less “selling” the organization, the most sought after candidate pool is also the most sales-resistant. These ambassadors can also help report back to hiring managers their own honest feedback of the candidate and how they would fit into your unique culture. Finally, have clear examples of employee growth throughout the organization, and not always through title. It could be a successful cross-departmental project that an employee led, or skills acquired that made them the SME in the organization. Genuine accomplishment and fulfillment will always resonate more than financial metrics to your key candidate. EQ should be just as valued as IQ in finding the right hire!


What to expect when your employee is expecting

Did you know: Four out of five employees return to work after being on maternity leave. Read this blog post for what to expect when your employee is expecting.


Only four out of five employees return to work after maternity leave. The way their boss treats them has a major influence on that decision.

Women make up nearly half of the American workforce, and 85% of them will become mothers by age 45, according to a study by Pew Research. The same study estimates it costs organizations around $47 billion to replace employees who quit their jobs after maternity leave. Yet, employees going on maternity leave are often pushed aside.

“Women often face having their hours cut, harassment and losing out on promotions for becoming pregnant,” says Robyn Stein DeLuca, a postpartum consultant and professor at Stony Brook University. “It’s important for managers to know pregnant women are just as capable as they were before.”

Pregnancy discrimination can result in costly lawsuits and hurt a company’s reputation. For instance, pharmaceutical company Novartis in 2010 was ordered to pay $175 million to plaintiffs after a boss told female employees they should consider having an abortion if they wanted to advance within the company, DeLuca explains. And last year, thousands of Google employees staged walkouts to protest the company’s treatment of women.

“The walkouts knocked Google off their pedestal as a great place for everyone to work,” DeLuca says. “Thanks to the #MeToo movement, businesses are being held accountable for the way they treat pregnant employees.”

DeLuca spent the last 15 years of her career studying how new mothers cope after returning to work. She applies that knowledge to her consulting business, where she advises employers and working mothers on balancing personal and professional responsibilities.

During her research, DeLuca discovered women were more likely to return to work if they had supportive managers who made reasonable accommodations for their condition. The reverse was also true; employees who didn’t receive support and accommodation were most likely to quit their jobs.

“When you give talented women the opportunity, they’ll succeed,” DeLuca says.

During a webinar for the New York City chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management, DeLuca discussed strategies for managing pregnant employees in the office and during maternity leave. Making reasonable accommodations for them is just as important as good communication, she says. The first thing employers can do is refrain from negatively commenting on the pregnancy.

“When she decides to go public with the news, stay neutral or give a positive response to the announcement. Don’t say it’s the worst possible time for her to go on leave, even if it is,” DeLuca says. “She shouldn’t be made to feel bad about this exciting time.”

The next step should be collaboration, DeLuca says. Once the employee has made her announcement, managers should meet with her to discuss when she’s planning to go on maternity leave, and how best to divvy up her responsibilities after the baby is born. It’s also a good idea for HR to have the phone number of the employee’s OBGYN in case she goes into labor at the office, DeLuca says.

“Women worry about leaving the team in the lurch, but making plans that spell out the details of her leave can reduce anxiety, bring order and set clear expectations,” DeLuca says.

DeLuca suggests asking the employee to make a list of her duties and projects so she and her manager can discuss how best to cover the work. This can help quell any job security anxieties by reaffirming she’s a valuable part of the team.

“It gives her the opportunity to shine and show what she’s accomplished,” DeLuca says.

Coworkers might resent being asked to do extra work for someone on maternity leave. The best way to prevent these feelings is to frame the work as an opportunity for professional growth, DeLuca says. Do this by praising employees for taking on extra work, and for the new skills they’re learning, she says.

Providing these employees with flexible hours so they can address personal needs — like furthering their education or caring for a loved one — is another way to reward them for stepping in for a coworker on maternity leave.

“It helps them feel like they’re not being taken for granted,” DeLuca says.

Most pregnant women plan on working right up until the baby is born, DeLuca says. And despite stereotypes about “mommy brain” — the idea that pregnancy decreases cognitive function — DeLuca asserts that pregnant women are mentally healthy and fully capable of performing their job duties.

“TV portrays pregnant women as flighty and crazy. But pregnancy is actually a good time for mental health,” DeLuca says. “Pregnant women are less likely to suffer from depression, to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital or attempt suicide.”

However, managers should understand that pregnant employees have physical limitations. Depending on their role at the organization, pregnant women may require more breaks and lighter duty.

“She shouldn’t be on her feet all day or lifting heavy objects,” DeLuca says. “The baby is literally sitting on her bladder, so she’s going to make frequent trips to the bathroom.”

Women can be self-conscious about their changing bodies during pregnancy, which can be exacerbated by inappropriate comments and gestures from managers and peers, DeLuca said. HR can help educate the workforce about this issue during harassment training.

“Don’t touch the belly. Don’t say she’s beautiful, looks like a big round ball, or like your wife did at that stage. It’s not conducive to a comfortable working environment,” DeLuca says. “Instead, you can ask how she’s feeling.”

While making plans for an employee’s maternity leave, managers should talk to the employee about how they’d like to get back to work. Some companies allow women to ease their way back into work by letting them work short days toward the end of their maternity leave.

DeLuca recommends deciding beforehand how often, or if, a manager should contact an employee during maternity leave. If the employee would rather not be contacted, set a date for a return-to-work meeting, she says.

“It gives you the chance to fill her in on projects and new clients so she can hit the ground running when she returns to work,” DeLuca says.

SOURCE: Webster, K. (28 January 2019) "What to expect when your employee is expecting" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/what-to-expect-when-your-employee-is-expecting?brief=00000152-1443-d1cc-a5fa-7cfba3c60000


4 ways to help employees make better choices about what they eat

How often are there doughnuts, chips, soda, etc. in the break room? According to the RAND Corporation, 60 percent of Americans suffer from at least one chronic condition. Continue reading to learn more.


Doughnuts in the conference room. Soda and chips from the vending machine. Cookies in the office kitchen. A recent CDC study of employees across the U.S. found that the foods people get at work tend to contain high amounts of salt, sugar and empty calories.

When people are busy and on-the-go — a common reality for full-time employees who spend more than a third of their day at work — it’s all too easy to fall into poor eating habits. And poor eating habits contribute to poor health. According to a RAND Corporation Study, 60% of American adults suffer from at least one chronic condition (like diabetes or high blood pressure) and 42% have more than one. These conditions are costly, and not just for individuals themselves. The CDC estimates that productivity losses related to health issues cost U.S. employers $1,685 per employee per year, or $225.8 billion annually.

For employers that care about wellness, improving food and beverage offerings represents an untapped opportunity: Better nutrition at work can not only have a powerful impact on employee health but also contribute to a happier, more focused and productive workforce. Making large-scale changes across an organization is not always easy, however, especially when it comes to ingrained habits and preferences. What can today’s employers do to incentivize their employees to make healthier choices?

1. Make healthy food and beverages a benefit.

According to Deloitte’s 2018 survey on Global Human Capital Trends, 63% of employees surveyed cited healthy snacks as something they value highly when it comes to wellness. People want to eat healthier, which is great, but when they are busy, they’ll pick up what’s easy and available. And in too many of today’s offices, that means vending machines and office kitchens stocked with ultra-processed foods high in sugar and salt. Not only are these items unhealthy, they can also lead to sluggishness and lethargy as blood sugar levels spike and then crash.

It’s pretty simple: When more nutritious offerings are readily available — and especially if they are free or subsidized — people are more likely to try them. Companies that offer high-quality food and beverages as a benefit will reap rewards not just in terms of a healthier and more productive workforce, but also in attracting and retaining people, like millennials, who value wellness and appreciate the fact that their employer is investing in their health and happiness.

2. Get personal.

Different people have different drivers and different needs. This is why a one-size-fits-all approach to changing habits rarely works. Before making big decisions about your company’s food and beverage services, ask questions: Are some people on special diets or do they keep unusual schedules? What do people like and dislike about current available options? What kinds of foods and drinks do they wish were offered, but aren’t?

With a better understanding of habits, preferences and what drives people to the kitchen or break room in the first place (boredom? low energy? social time?), employers can begin to build a food and beverage profile that’s tailored to their workforce’s individual needs and thus more likely to be embraced.

3. Consider the “psychology” of snacking.

People don’t always make rational decisions — even more so when they are tired, stressed or “hangry.” But when corporations make the healthy choice the easy (and delicious!) choice, it helps. Everything from where snacks and drinks are positioned — are the more nutritious options at eye level? — to the design of kitchen and break room spaces can make a difference in promoting better eating habits.

For example, kitchen spaces that are attractive, comfortable and inviting encourage people to take a little more time and put more thought into selecting their snacks, and can also serve as a welcome place for people to connect with each other and de-stress. Taste is another important consideration. People sometimes assume that healthy food won’t taste as good as the bad stuff, but this is often just a misconception. Special tastings or fun office activities like offering a “snack of the week” can get people to try more nutritious options and see for themselves that they can be just as — if not more — delicious than what they were eating before.

4. Nudge, don’t push.

Don’t expect people to move from potato chips to veggie and quinoa salad overnight. Organizations that start with a few key changes — replacing sugary sodas with flavored water, for example, or swapping out highly-processed snacks and foods with similar, but more nutritious options — will face less initial resistance, and can then build up their healthy offerings over time. Every workplace has their guilty pleasures, whether it’s a specific brand of soda or a favorite candy. Rather than turning people off by taking their “comfort snacks” away, sometimes the best approach is to simply add healthier alternatives and then wait for people discover on their own that these can be equally fulfilling and delicious, and most importantly, make them feel better too.

Workplace wellness initiatives continue to grow in popularity, but there are still questions about whether these programs are as effective as they could be. While health screenings, smoking cessation programs and gym memberships are a good start, corporations shouldn’t overlook a key driver of good health — what their people eat and drink. Providing easy access to a great diet at work is a smart strategy for improving wellness, and one that employees will come to appreciate as a valuable benefit. Plus, healthy, enthusiastic and energized people makes for a much happier and more productive workplace — a win-win for employees and employers alike.

SOURCE: Heinrich, M. (3 January 2019) "4 ways to help employees make better choices about what they eat" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/list/4-ways-to-help-employees-make-better-choices-about-what-they-eat?brief=00000152-14a7-d1cc-a5fa-7cffccf00000


New analytics tool helps employers dig deep into turnover trends

Wondering what might be causing issues with your hiring and talent retention? A new analytics tool aims to help employers troubleshoot employee turnover. Read on to learn more.


One HR software provider is aiming to help employers better understand why workers fly the coop.

Namely has added a machine learning and data analytics product to its suite of offerings for HR departments, the company said Wednesday. Its tool, dubbed Benchmarking Package, allows HR teams at midsize employers to take a deeper dive into what might be causing issues with a company’s hiring and talent retention.

The machine learning technology distills company turnover data and compares it to information from similar employers in the system, says Eric Knudsen, manager of people analytics at Namely. The comparison data is taken from the more than 1,000 employers and 175,000 employees using Namely’s platform.

“Midsize companies who have historically lacked the skills to uncover these insights are getting a new view on the workplace that they’re building,” he says.

The turnover data is anonymous.

Reviewing termination data can give employers insight into the types of employees who are leaving and potentially lead to broader insights on workplace diversity. It also can help employers better understand how they stack up against the competition and whether the company has a healthy turnover rate, Namely says.

Lorna Hagen, chief people officer at Namely, says information like this can help employers get a sense of issues that may arise in the future.

“If I’m seeing pockets of people come from a certain area of work background with higher levels of attrition, what does that mean to my recruiting strategy; what does that mean to my product strategy? It impacts how you think about your company’s future,” she says.

HR departments are placing a higher value on data analytics, and HCM software developers are taking note. For example, Paychex recently added a data analytics feature to Paychex Flex, its HCM and payroll administration platform. The feature also provides users with data on hiring and turnover trends, and companies can anonymously compare data with similar employers.

During beta testing of Namely’s benchmarking product, Knudsen says the company was able to identify certain trends by looking at employer data. In particular, he says, Namely found a notable uptick in job abandonment, or ghosting. The rates of abandonment were higher for companies in the retail and real estate industries, he says, and lower for those in the non-profit sector. The company also found that managers with eight or more direct reports had higher rates of turnover.

Hagen says that employers who look at granular data are better able to understand why workers are leaving, which can help them take steps to reduce turnover immediately.

“It’s a much more interesting conversation, quantifying what is happening with your people,” she says. “The rolling 12 month turnover rate is an interesting metric but it’s not actionable. The ability to look by level or by department — those are ways to start thinking about action.”

Namely says the benchmarking package is available to all current clients, including identity access management provider OneLogin, retailer Life is Good, financial services company The Motley Fool and recruiter software company JazzHR. The price of the product varies based on company size, but typically varies per employee per month.

SOURCE: Hroncich, C. (16 January 2019) "New analytics tool helps employers dig deep into turnover trends" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/new-analytics-tool-helps-employers-dig-deep-into-turnover-trends?feed=00000152-a2fb-d118-ab57-b3ff6e310000


HRL - Man - Working - Laptop

5 ways employers can boost employee engagement

With unemployment at its lowest since 1969, HR managers are left with a lack of qualified candidates to fill their open positions. According to Work Institute, employers could prevent 77 percent of turnover by improving the employee experience. Read on to learn more.


With it being a new year, employers are in a unique position. Unemployment is at its lowest rate since 1969, leaving HR managers with a dearth of qualified candidates to fill open positions.

But filling current openings isn’t the only challenge HR teams face: An estimated 42 million employees will leave their jobs in 2018 in search of workplaces that better meet their needs and expectations. Turnover that significant leaves employers with only one option — focus on improving the employee experience to increase employee retention and satisfaction.

The good news is that employers could prevent 77% of that turnover, according to a study from Work Institute.

Beyond competitive pay and benefits, how do employers create an exceptional experience for their employees? By offering engaging programs, resource groups and events that enhance employee connections and develop a more thriving workplace culture.

We predict that successful companies will use a combination of the following five trends to increase employee satisfaction and improve retention in 2019.

1. Make employee experience technology easy to use

Adding workplace programs, groups and events won’t improve employee satisfaction if those offerings are difficult to access. In fact, a frustrating user experience may have the opposite effect on employees. At best, they’ll ignore the offerings.

In addition, a poor user experience also can negatively color an employee’s opinion of the organization as a whole, making them more likely to leave.

Consumer-grade interfaces on user-friendly platforms are critical for encouraging employees to participate in workplace groups and programs. When companies invest in employee groups and programs, they expect to see ROI in the form of increased engagement and satisfaction. The key to success is making participation easy.

2. Keep employee experience programs consistent across the organization

In today’s dispersed workforce, many organizations have multiple locations and remote employees. When implementing workplace programs, HR teams need to ensure that their offerings resonate with all employees across every location. Otherwise, they run the risk of isolating employees who work from home or at satellite campuses.

For example, wellness programs help improve employee health, satisfaction and engagement. But a lunchtime yoga series offered at company headquarters may make work-from-home employees feel left out.

3. Give employees more control over benefit spending

One way to boost engagement across the entire organization is to supplement in-house programs with reimbursement programs. These programs allow employees to choose how to spend a certain allowance (determined by the organization and HR) on activities to improve their own well-being, such as fitness classes or continuing education.

Giving employees this autonomy not only increases the likelihood that they’ll participate, but it also makes it easy for HR teams to distribute benefits fairly across the entire organization.

4. Streamline data to accurately track employee engagement

Already-overworked HR teams bear the burden of proving that workplace programs are improving employee engagement. Instead of trying to pull together engagement reports and employee feedback from multiple places, use a centralized platform to manage workplace programs and keep all data in one easy-to-access place.

Having participation metrics readily available makes it easy for HR teams to see which programs are working and which aren’t resonating with employees. They’re also able to deliver that information to the C-suite and make the case for additional funding where needed.

5. Devote more funding to employee resource groups

Employee resource groups (ERGs) are proven to have a positive effect on employee satisfaction, workplace morale and company diversity. They increase employee retention and improve the company’s bottom line.

Making ERGs a priority when allocating funds for the year will pay off, but only if they’re handled the right way. Using an automated platform to manage ERGs, promote events, track participation and encourage feedback saves HR teams both time and resources, giving them the opportunity to devote more time to improving the employee experience.

SOURCE: Shubat, A. (2 January 2019) "5 ways employers can boost employee engagement" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/list/ways-employers-can-boost-employee-engagement-in-2019?feed=00000152-a2fb-d118-ab57-b3ff6e310000

E-Verify Is Down. What Do Employers Do Now?

What do employers do now that  E-Verify, the federal government's electronic employment verification system, is down? The system compares employee information with the DHS and Social Security Administration (SSA) records to confirm employment eligibility. Read on to learn more.


What are employers supposed to do now that E-Verify—the federal government's electronic employment verification system—has expired?

Funding and congressional authorization for the program ran out Dec. 22, 2018, as the government went into a partial shutdown after Congress and the White House could not agree on how to fund some agencies, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which administers the system, for fiscal year 2019.

E-Verify compares information from an employee's Form I-9 to DHS and Social Security Administration (SSA) records to confirm employment eligibility. Employers enrolled in the program are required to use the system to run checks on new workers within three days of hiring them.

During the government shutdown, employers will not be able to enroll in E-Verify, initiate queries, access cases or resolve tentative non-confirmations (TNCs) with affected workers.

All employers remain subject to Form I-9 obligations, however. "Remember that the government shutdown has nothing to do with an employer's responsibilities to complete the Form I-9 [in a timely manner]," said Dawn Lurie, senior counsel in the Washington, D.C., office of Seyfarth Shaw. "Specifically, employees are required to complete Section 1 of the I-9 on or before the first day of employment, and employers must complete Section 2 of the I-9 no later than the third business day after an employee begins work for pay."

No Cause for Alarm

Lurie advised employers not to panic while E-Verify is down. "Employers will not be penalized as a result of the E-Verify operations shutdown," she said. "Employers will not be penalized for any delays in creating E-Verify cases. However, employers are reminded that they must continue to complete I-9s in compliance with the law, and when E-Verify becomes available, create cases in the system."

To minimize the burden on both employers and employees, DHS announced that:

  • The three-day rule for creating E-Verify cases is suspended for cases affected by the unavailability of the service. "Normally, the employer enters information from the I-9 into E-Verify within three days of hire, but that won't be possible while the system is unavailable," said Montserrat Miller, a partner in the Atlanta office of Arnall Golden Gregory. "DHS will provide a window of time to submit those held cases once service resumes."
  • The time period during which employees may resolve TNCs will be extended. The number of days E-Verify is unavailable will not count toward the days the employee has to begin the process of resolving a TNC. "Employers can't take any adverse action against a worker with a pending TNC regardless, shutdown or not," Miller said. Currently, an employee who chooses to contest a TNC must visit an SSA field office or call DHS within eight federal government working days to begin resolving it. This period will have to be extended because of the shutdown, she added.
  • Additional guidance regarding the three-day rule and time period to resolve TNC deadlines will be provided once operations resume.

Amy Peck, an immigration attorney with Jackson Lewis in Omaha, Neb., advised employers to keep track of all new hires with completed I-9s for whom there are no E-Verify queries due to the shutdown. She also recommended attaching a memo in a master E-Verify file tracking the days that the program was unavailable. "I've seen the discrepancy come up years later during an audit," she said.

"Once the system is back up, work with counsel on how much time employees have to resolve their TNCs," Peck said. "Someone receiving a TNC the day before the shutdown is a different case than somebody who had 10 days to resolve their TNC when the shutdown occurred. Those circumstances should be considered on a case-by-case basis."

Federal contractors with a federal acquisition regulation E-Verify clause should contact their government contracting officers to extend deadlines. "Federal contractors have a particular concern because nobody is supposed to be working who has not been verified through the system," Peck said. "People can be hired, but whether they are allowed to work on the contract before being run through E-Verify is a critical consideration that should be discussed with counsel."

Prepare for the Resumption of Service

Miller said employers should monitor the shutdown. "When it is over, log in to the system and see what instructions there are for creating and submitting queries," she advised. "There is an obligation to create those queries if you are enrolled in the program, even if enrolled voluntarily."

The backlog created as a result of the shutdown might have a significant impact on employers that process many E-Verify cases and specifically on the HR staff and other team members in charge of the process.

"Not all employers will be able to push all their cases through at once when the shutdown ends," Miller said. "If everyone did that, the system would crash. DHS will provide instructions on how to submit queries. Employers will be asked why the query is being submitted after the required three days. In the past, 'Government Shutdown' was one of the options in the drop-down menu."

Peck reminded employers that the loss of E-Verify does not mean there is a prohibition against hiring. "Companies should continue to hire as they need," she said.

SOURCE: Maurer, R. (3 January 2019) "E-Verify Is Down. What Do Employers Do Now?" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/Pages/EVerify-Outage-What-Do-Employers-HR-Do.aspx