It’s peak flu season. Here’s what employers should do now

Even though many businesses offer paid sick leave as a benefit to their employees, there is no federal paid sick leave law. Read this blog post to learn what proactive steps employers can take to keep the workplace healthy.


The U.S. is in the height of flu season, which means employers are likely to see an influx of employees coughing, sneezing and spreading germs in the office. Aside from passing a box of tissues, employers may be wondering what they are legally permitted to do when their workers get sick.

One benefit that is becoming increasingly relevant is paid sick leave. Several cities and states — including Arizona, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Chicago and others — have paid sick leave laws on the books. But while many companies offer paid sick leave as a benefit, there is no federal paid sick leave law. Paid sick leave laws may remove some incentive for sick workers to report to work, making the illness less likely to spread to the rest of the workforce.

But paid sick leave laws do place limitations on employers. For example, companies cannot make taking a paid sick leave day contingent upon the employee finding someone to cover their shift. Depending on the law, employees don’t always need to give notice of their absence before their shift begins, which could make scheduling difficult. Some laws limit an employer’s ability to ask for a doctor’s note.

Employers do, however, have some latitude when it comes to requiring employees to stay home from work or sending them home if they show signs of illness. Employers just need to be careful not to cross any lines set by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act or a state fair employment statute. This means steering clear of conducting medical examinations or making a disability-related inquiry.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, employers should avoid taking an employee’s temperature. This is considered a medical examination by an employer, which is generally prohibited except in limited circumstances.

They should also avoid asking employees to disclose whether they have a medical condition that could make them especially vulnerable to complications from influenza or other common illnesses. Doing so would likely violate the ADA or state laws, even if the employer is asking with the best of intentions. Employers also cannot require workers to get a flu shot, according to the EEOC.

Employees could have a disability that prevents them from taking the influenza vaccine, which could compel them to disclose an underlying medical condition to their employer to avoid taking the shot. Additionally, some employees may observe religious practices that would prevent them from taking the flu vaccines. Thus, requiring an employee to take a vaccine could lead to a violation of Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 in addition to the ADA.

Beyond these limitations, employers can take these proactive steps to keep the workplace healthy.

Ask employees if they are symptomatic. In determining who should go home or not report to work, employers may ask workers if they are experiencing flu-like symptoms. This would not rise to the level of a medical exam or a disability-related inquiry, according to the EEOC.

Advise workers to go home. Employers can order an employee to go home if they are showing signs of the flu. The EEOC says that advising such workers to go home is not a disability-related action if the illness is like seasonal influenza.

Encourage workers to telecommute as an infection-control strategy. But keep in mind that the company could be establishing a precedent for telecommuting as a reasonable accommodation in other circumstances, such as for an employee recovering from major surgery who cannot come to the workplace.

Encourage flu shots. Employers may encourage — but not require — employees to get flu shots. For example, a company can invite a healthcare professional to the workplace to administer flu shots at a discounted rate or free.

Employers may require its employees to adopt certain infection-control strategies, such as regular hand washing, coughing and sneezing etiquette, proper tissue usage and disposal, and even wearing a mask.

The ADA, Title VII, state fair employment laws and paid sick leave statutes are also incredibly nuanced. Moreover, it’s important to balance the mandates of OSHA, which require employers to maintain a safe working environment. Before taking any significant actions, employers should consult with an employment attorney or HR professional for guidance.

SOURCE: Starkman, J.; Dominguez, R. (4 December 2018) "It’s peak flu season. Here’s what employers should do now" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/its-peak-flu-season-heres-what-employers-should-do-now?brief=00000152-14a5-d1cc-a5fa-7cff48fe0001


Peer Support Strengthens Mental Health Offerings

Peer-support programs serve as an outreach for employees who are struggling with mental and emotional health problems. Read on to learn more about peer-support groups.


In workplace peer-support programs, employees are encouraged to talk to their co-workers before personal issues cascade out of control.

In peer support, employees who have experienced mental and emotional health challenges and learned to manage them help co-workers who are facing similar issues. It isn't meant to replace professional therapy but instead serves as an outreach to those who are struggling. Peers let their co-workers know they're not alone in dealing with mental and emotional health problems and encourage them to take advantage of counseling through an employee assistance program (EAP). Peers also provide ongoing support as employees work to resolve addiction, depression and other issues.

That's good for employees and good for the company, said Mike Weiner, EAP director for global consultancy EY, where peer counseling has proved successful. "It means people are more comfortable getting the care they perhaps had been uncomfortable reaching out for previously."

Two years ago, when the company introduced the peer-support program, it hoped for "a boost in people calling the employee assistance program to get support, and that's exactly what has happened," Weiner said.

EY is not alone. Other companies are creating peer-support systems for their workers.

"We have increased our EAP utilization and have decreased our sick leave, both short and long-term, related to mental health cases," said Lyne Wilson, assistant vice president for talent management at Nav Canada, a not-for-profit corporation that runs Canada's civil air navigation system. "There are employees who are at work today who [otherwise] would have gone out on sick leave, and we were able to prevent that."

Another Source of Support

Stéphane Grenier had served in the Canadian army for 29 years and was dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression when a colleague's offer to talk opened the floodgates of inspiration. Grenier is the founder of Ottawa, Ontario-based consultancy Mental Health Innovations (MHI) and a past member of the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

Peer support at the worksite can help with issues that are no less debilitating just because they're common. "When you are getting a divorce, you are struggling emotionally. That is a mental health challenge," Grenier said.

As helpful as peer support can be, however, it should be considered part of an overall mental health benefits package that includes clinical expertise, he pointed out.

In the past two decades, large employers in the United States and Canada have "availed themselves of good employee assistance programs," Grenier said. Peer support "fast-tracks employees into the hands of care providers when they need it to ensure they get the best support available."

The problem is, he added, "people do not recover in their clinicians' office." In addition to health care and counseling with a professional therapist, "the third leg is to actually support people through the recovery process."

Nav Canada, an MHI client, launched a peer-support program called Light the Way in 2012. EY began its program, originally called r u ok?, in 2016. Other organizations contemplating peer support might look to these employers and their programs for best practices.

A Wider Scope

About a year ago, EY expanded its peer-support program beyond addiction and clinically designated mental illness (such as depression and anxiety) to cover emotional challenges, and it rebranded the program as We Care, Weiner said.

"We saw the rebranding as an opportunity to broaden the scope, and so we talk about issues like sleep, relationships and challenges that come up in the workplace," Weiner said the effort led to a 45 percent increase in calls to the EAP.

"That's a good thing," he said. "It doesn't mean there are more issues; it means people are more comfortable getting care."

Employers can customize the peer-support approach to fit their culture. In Nav Canada's case, trained employees who have gone through similar challenges provide support either in person or through a variety of communication technologies, Wilson said. The Nav Canada intranet includes contact and biographical information on each of the company's peer supporters.

"The description of their experience is written in their own words―whether they went through a marriage breakdown, child custody issues or whatever they dealt with," Wilson noted. "They struggled through that period of time, but they made it through and things are better for them."

Someone going through something similar can text or e-mail a supporter or, if they are in the same building, "just talk over coffee, and the peer supporter may just listen or may refer them to the EAP or a clinical professional, depending on the situation," Wilson explained.

At EY, employees companywide are trained to recognize when a colleague might be dealing with an emotional or mental health issue, and they are encouraged to act, such as by telling the colleague how the EAP can help, Weiner said.

He recognized that some might regard such action as "intrusive" and emphasized that peer supporters are instructed to be respectful.

Nav Canada convenes its 50 peer-support volunteers, divided into seven regions nationwide, at its Cornwall, Ontario, training center for a couple days every year to teach effective ways to reach out to colleagues and what is and isn't appropriate.

Worth the Cost

Annual costs for a company of 2,000 to contract with MHI to launch a peer-support program amounts to "a middle manager's salary," Grenier said.

Calculating whether a peer-support program is worth the cost is not an easy dollars-and-cents equation, however.

"I know [return on investment] comes up," Weiner said. "What's most important to me is that people are using the services. If people are getting help through the employee assistance program, that means they are getting help proactively before there is a very serious issue."

"You don't know what you're preventing," Wilson said. "It is an investment in creating a healthy [and] an engaged workforce."

"Anyone can implement this kind of program," Weiner added. "This is all on a voluntary basis; employees do this because they want to. The size of the program may be smaller at a smaller company, but anyone can do it."

SOURCE: Goth, G. (29 November 2018) "Peer Support Strengthens Mental Health Offerings" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/peer-support-strengthens-mental-health-offerings.aspx/


4 trends in employee wellness programs for 2019

According to a white paper by MediKeeper, employee wellness programs will be impacted by intelligent personalization, social recognition, virtual wellness and smarter analytics. Continue reading to learn more.


Employee wellness programs will likely be transformed in the coming year by intelligent personalization, social recognition, virtual wellness and smarter analytics, according to MediKeeper’s white paper, “Four Emerging Employee Wellness Trends for 2019.”

“Embracing change and knowing what organizations need to keep driving wellness offerings forward in the next few years will help them lay the groundwork for building stronger employee wellness programs and increasing employee engagement,” says MediKeeper’s CEO David Ashworth. “With health care costs on the rise, companies that pay attention to these key trends will have the greatest success investing in their employees’ overall well-being.”

Intelligent Personalization

Intelligent personalization allows companies to make more informed decisions based on understanding risks and their causes and identifying what is driving present and future cost, according to the white paper.

“Every person is different, so it only makes sense that everyone’s wellness portal experience should also be different — this includes personalization, targeted messages and offerings.,” the authors write. “Adding business intelligence/data mining capabilities delivers the ability to take data captured within the portal, manipulate it, segment it and merge with other sets of data to perform complex associations all within each population groups’ administration portal will be the key to truly managing the population’s health.”

Social Recognition

In the coming year, workplace wellness programs will also implement a multitude of ways to include social recognition that fosters a team-oriented atmosphere intended to encourage people to perform to the best of their abilities, according to the white paper.

“Through social recognition, which can include posting, sharing, commenting and other virtual interactions, employees can help motivate each other to reach their goals,” the authors write. “These interactions foster both a competitive and team-oriented atmosphere that encourages people to perform to the best of their abilities.”

In addition to support from coworkers, managers can also promote their employees’ achievements by offering praise in an online public forum or even further boost morale by handing out incentive points that can be redeemed for tangible rewards.

Virtual Wellness Programming

In 2019, the importance of offering virtual wellness programming will grow as more employees work remotely or set flexible hours, according to the white paper.

“Since employees may work variable hours or work in several locations around the world, it simply doesn’t make sense to solely rely on lunchtime health seminars that may not be accessible to much of the workforce,” the authors write. “Instead of providing physical classes, consider hosting virtual programs that can be viewed at any time or any place. By making your wellness program available online, you’re able to reach a broader audience and make more of an impact within the entire working population.”

Smarter Analytics

Smarter analytics will also be at the forefront in 2019, according to the white paper.

“Now you can generate reports targeted specifically to the information that you are seeking, as well as layering various reports including biometrics, incentives, health risk assessments and challenges, to see what is working and what is not,” the authors write. “You can use these results to inform and better customize the intelligent personalization side of your wellness program. You’ll also be able to send messages from the reports, making them actionable instead of just informative.”

As employers continue to evaluate the effectiveness of their wellness programs, they should keep these four emerging trends in mind in order to ensure that their business is providing all the tools necessary to keep their employees both happy and healthy, according to the white paper.

“Remember that just because you’ve seen success in the past, you can’t just sit back and relax now,” the authors write. “Continual advances in wellness technology mean that you need to stay on top of the trends and adjust frequently in order to remain relevant in an increasingly competitive workplace environment.”

SOURCE: Kuehner-Hebert, K. (28 November 2018) "4 trends in employee wellness programs for 2019" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitspro.com/2018/11/28/4-trends-in-employee-wellness-programs-for-2019/


Are Your Workers Sleeping on the Job?

Roughly three-quarters of American adults surveyed reported feeling tired at work often, according to a recent survey by Accountemps. Read on to learn more.


The occasional Monday-morning yawn is a common sight at most offices—but, according to new research, a staggering number of employees report being tired at work. Even if workers aren’t actually sleeping on the job, consistent tiredness could spell big trouble for productivity and retention.

Staffing firm Accountemps surveyed 2,800 American adults working in office environments, finding that nearly three-quarters report being tired at work often (specifically, 31 percent said very often, and 43 perfect reported feeling tired somewhat often). Twenty-four percent said it’s not very often that they’re yawning on the job, while just 2 percent said they never feel tired at work.

The report also ranked the top 15 “sleepiest” cities based on survey responses, with Nashville, Tenn. claiming the No. 1 spot, followed by a three-way tie between Denver, Indianapolis and Austin, Texas.

Michael Steinitz, executive director of Accountemps, noted that on-the-job errors would naturally follow if you have a workforce of tired employees. And, he says,  “Consider the underlying causes of why employees are sleepy: If it’s because they’re stretched too thin, retention issues could soon follow.”

Those ideas are bolstered by research from Hult International Business School, which found that the 1,000 workers in its study average about 6.5 hours of sleep per night, lower than the seven to eight hours recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Even a half-hour less than the optimal sleep time, researchers found, led to poorer workplace performance. Tired workers reported a lack of focus, needing more time to complete tasks, struggling with creativity, lacking motivation to learn and challenges to multitasking. Many of those side effects of being tired at work, the researchers wrote, are often mistakenly attributed to poor training or work culture when, in reality, they may stem from sleeplessness.

Lack of sleep has a well-documented impact on physical health, and Hult also noted its effects on mental wellness. A vast majority of respondents (84 percent) said they feel irritable at work when they’re tired, and more than half reported feelings of frustration and stress—all of which, researchers noted, can impact teamwork and collaboration.

Accountemps suggested a number of ways employees can guard against being tired at work: physical exercise, being more communicative with managers and leaving work at the office, such as by not bringing a phone or laptop to bed to decrease the chances of letting work communications keep them up at night. On the employer side, the firm recommended managers set reasonable office hours, increase face-to-face meetings with subordinates to see where support is needed and encourage workers to unplug when they leave the office.

SOURCE: Colletta, J. (26 October 2018) "Are Your Workers Sleeping on the Job?" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://hrexecutive.com/are-your-workers-sleeping-on-the-job/


Changing the conversation on mental health

Are you looking to change the conversation on mental health? Bell is creating a set of guidelines employers can use to encourage conversations around mental health, helping change the landscape for mental health in Canada. Continue reading to learn more.


NEW ORLEANS — With no existing standard for how to deal with mental health issues from a workplace perspective, one Canadian employer aimed to tackle the stigma around discussing mental illness, using steps that U.S. employers can follow.

Bell, the telecom giant headquartered in Montreal, has helped change the landscape for mental health in Canada by creating a set of guidelines employers can use as they put in place policies that encourage conversations around mental health.

“When we first went on our journey to establish workplace best practices, we couldn’t find any established guidelines,” Monika Mielnik, senior consultant, human resources, workplace health at Bell, said last week at the Benefits Forum & Expo, hosted by Employee Benefit News and Employee Benefit Adviser.

So the company helped fund the National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety to provide a voluntary set of guidelines, tools and resources employers can use.

There are 13 psychological factors within the guide, ranging from workload management and organizational culture to engagement, recognition and reward, which Mielnik says is “low-hanging fruit” for employers looking for a place to start.

Mielnik offers five steps for employers looking to build a successful program that promotes psychological health in the workplace: Commitment and awareness, support services, mental health training, return to work and accommodation processes, and the ability to measure progress.

Before starting out, Mielnik added, “it’s important to engage individuals across the organization to establish successful mental health initiatives.” Getting executive support and sponsorship, a dedicated mental health leader, and cross-functional involvement are also key.

And while commitment is important, awareness is equally necessary, she added. Bell has three annual campaigns with events aimed at engaging and educating employees across the country to address stigma and create a supportive and inclusive environment: Bell Let’s Talk (January), Mental Health Week (May) and Mental Illness Awareness Week (October).

“Understanding there is stigma and taboo around mental health, we want to make sure our employees are educated and aware of the impact it can have on them, their spouses, and others,” she said.

Bell partnered with digital wellness platform LifeSpeak in 2013 to provide employees with around-the-clock access to tools and assistance programs. In addition, Bell created a dedicated intranet page to provide weekly articles and an on-demand video library.

Bell employees access LifeSpeak 97% of the calendar days, said panelist Danny Weill, VP of partnerships at LifeSpeak. “This has become part of their culture. I like how Bell walks the walk. They do all this amazing stuff in the community, and then they do this stuff in the workplace, which is ultimately good,” he said.

In addition to access, mental health training is a huge part of the culture at Bell.

All employees are required to complete the building blocks to positive mental health training – which includes six interactive modules to help improve and maintain their own mental health.

Further, workplace mental health leadership is mandatory for all leaders within the organization. “This training equips leaders with a better understanding of mental health and [helps them to] be better equipped to have a conversation with employees,” she said. “That has been very key for us.” More than 10,000 leaders have been trained to date.

Part of leadership training includes return-to-work processes, as well as accommodation programs, she noted.

Measuring progress within the organization is an important final component of her five-step plan.

“When we took on this cause in 2010, we did it to make a lasting and significant impact,” she said. Dollars and percentages linked to such things as long- and short-term disability rates, utilization of benefits, etc., can all be measured for success, she added.

Bell noted a positive impact over a two- to three-year period, including a 20% reduction in mental health-related short-term disability and a 50% reduction in relapse and reoccurrence rates.

“One key area, and something we did early, is to take a pulse and baseline check with what’s occurring right,” she said. “Look at your short-term claims or any metric results you have that can speak to the mental health area in your workplace.”

There is a misconception that you have to start big and re-create the wheel when it comes to mental health programs, Mielnik said. “Look at metrics and programs in place and either build off or enhance those programs, but that baseline will be a good place to start.”

SOURCE: Otto, N. (3 October 2018) "Changing the conversation on mental health" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from: https://www.benefitnews.com/news/changing-the-conversation-on-mental-health?feed=00000152-18a4-d58e-ad5a-99fc032b0000


Coping with stress: Workplace tips

Identifying your stress triggers is just one way you can cope with workplace stress. The workplace is a common source of stress for employees. Continue reading for tips on how to cope with stress.


The workplace is a likely source of stress, but you're not powerless to the effects of stress at work. Effectively coping with job stress can benefit both your professional and personal life. Here's help taking charge.

Identify your stress triggers

Your personality, experiences and other unique characteristics all influence the way you respond to and cope with stress. Situations and events that are distressing for your colleagues might not bother you in the least. Or you might be particularly sensitive to certain stressors that don't seem to bother other people.

To begin coping with stress at work, identify your stress triggers.

For a week or two, record the situations, events and people who cause you to have a negative physical, mental or emotional response. Include a brief description of each situation, answering questions such as:

  • Where were you?
  • Who was involved?
  • What was your reaction?
  • How did you feel?

Then evaluate your stress inventory. You might find obvious causes of stress, such as the threat of losing your job or obstacles with a particular project. You might also notice subtle but persistent causes of stress, such as a long commute or an uncomfortable workspace.

Tackle your stress triggers

Once you've identified your stress triggers, consider each situation or event and look for ways to resolve it.

Suppose, for instance, that you're behind at work because you leave early to pick up your son from school. You might check with other parents or neighbors about an after-school carpool. Or you might begin work earlier, shorten your lunch hour or take work home to catch up in the evening.

Often, the best way to cope with stress is to find a way to change the circumstances that are causing it.

Sharpen your time management skills

In addition to addressing specific stress triggers, it's often helpful to improve time management skills — especially if you tend to feel overwhelmed or under pressure at work. For example:

  • Set realistic goals. Work with colleagues and leaders to set realistic expectations and deadlines. Set regular progress reviews and adjust your goals as needed.
  • Make a priority list. Prepare a list of tasks and rank them in order of priority. Throughout the day, scan your master list and work on tasks in priority order.
  • Protect your time. For an especially important or difficult project, block time to work on it without interruption. Also, break large projects into smaller steps.

Keep perspective

When your job is stressful, it can feel as if it's taking over your life. To maintain perspective:

  • Get other points of view. Talk with trusted colleagues or friends about the issues you're facing at work. They might be able to provide insights or offer suggestions for coping. Sometimes simply talking about a stressor can be a relief.
  • Take a break. Make the most of workday breaks. Even a few minutes of personal time during a busy workday can be refreshing. Similarly, take time off when you can, whether it's a two-week vacation or an occasional long weekend. Also try to take breaks from thinking about work, such as not checking your email at home in the evening or choosing times to turn off your cell phone at home.
  • Have an outlet. To prevent burnout, set aside time for activities you enjoy — such as reading, socializing or pursuing a hobby.
  • Take care of yourself. Be vigilant about taking care of your health. Include physical activity in your daily routine, get plenty of sleep and eat a healthy diet.

Know when to seek help

If none of these steps relieves your feelings of job stress or burnout, consult a mental health provider — either on your own or through an employee assistance program offered by your employer. Through counseling, you can learn effective ways to handle job stress.

SOURCE: The Mayo Clinic Staff (16 May 2016) "Coping with stress: Workplace tips" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/coping-with-stress/art-20048369


What's a simple addition to your day to decrease stress & improve well-being?

In recent studies, gratitude has been shown to reduce stress and improve well-being. Studies showed that on days when people felt more grateful, their well-being was higher. Continue reading to learn more.


Previous research on the positive effects of gratitude has shown that gratitude appears to reduce stress and foster well-being (e.g. Wood et al., 2010). A recent prospective study in which people were instructed to list things they were grateful for on a daily basis supports this notion (Krejtz et al., 2016). However, little if any, research has looked at whether spontaneous (non-directed) changes in gratitude track with well-being and stress response. Rather than being a stable personality characteristic (a “trait”), gratitude may be more of a “state,” varying over the course of time—or perhaps a combination of both. Do daily fluctuations in gratitude correlate with well-being and indicators of happiness, stress, and depression? Furthermore, does gratitude serve as a buffer for stress and negativity, helping to offset toxic effects on more challenging days?

In order to look more closely at how natural day-to-day levels of gratitude may interact with various indicators of well-being and stress, researchers Nezlek, Krejtz, Rusanowska and Holas (2018) followed 131 participants for two weeks, using daily self-assessments to investigate correlations among gratitude and factors related to well-being and stress. Daily measures included gratitude, positive and negative emotional states, self-esteem, depressogenic adjustment (optimism about oneself and life), worry, and rating of important events of the day on how stressful and how positive they were. Participants reported on 10 possible categories for events: family, interpersonal, partner, work, finances, official, health, hobby, values, and other/everyday events.

As in previous studies looking at intentionally cultivated gratitude, researchers found that on every measure, gratitude was significantly correlated with well-being. On days when people felt more grateful, well-being was reported as being higher. Likewise, on higher stress days, participants reported lower well-being, and on lower stress days, participants reported greater well-being.

Using gratitude to buffer stress responses.

Importantly, they found that gratitude did in fact appear to act as a buffer for stress. On days with fewer positive events, gratitude and well-being were more strongly related, suggesting that gratitude may serve to bolster resilience, amplifying lower positive emotions on difficult days or perhaps even providing, essentially, internal positive events to compensate for a lack of external positive events. This is especially noteworthy because people often have difficulty tapping into gratitude when difficulties arise, focusing on negatives with bitterness or pessimism.

Gratitude therefore appears to provision us internally with a positive response when external events fail to do so. For people who are able to muster up gratitude when the going gets rough, not only as a generally characteristic but also as a just-in-time response to stress and negative events, gratitude can be a “bridge over troubled water” that helps to keep us from getting pulled down into a negative spiral of maladaptive coping. People who use gratitude in this way must be able to do so, rather than undermining resilient responses.

Gratitude, compassion and resilience.

In keeping with research showing that resilience is related to cognitive flexibility, active coping, optimism, and related beliefs, the current research suggests that a subset of people use gratitude automatically, generating a state of mind which buffers negative events and stressful responses to sustain greater overall well-being. Religious belief, which often emphasizes gratitude, is also associated with greater levels of resilience. In addition, recent research by Abbondandolo and Sigal (2018) also found a positive relationship between self-compassion and active coping, suggesting that there are common pathways governing gratitude, self-compassion, and resilience.

Additional research is required to further understand the causal relationships between gratitude, resilience, well-being, and related factors in order to spell out what innate factors help make us stronger, as well as what interventions can bolster overall well-being. Understanding whether those who naturally utilize gratitude to buffer stress and sustain well-being tend to do this consciously or not, how they had learned to do so during the course of development, and whether there are intrinsic factors that predispose one to feel grateful would help us learn how to teach the effective use of gratitude—especially for those who have difficulty seeing for what, if anything, there is to be grateful.

SOURCE: Smith, K. (26 March 2018) "What's a simple addition to your day to decrease stress & improve well-being?" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from: https://www.provanthealth.com/industry-trends/2018/3/26/whats-a-simple-addition-to-your-day-to-decrease-stress-improve-well-being

Original source: Psychology Today | Grant Hilary Brenner M.D. | How Does Spontaneous Gratitude Increase Daily Well-Being?


Helping employers start the conversation around suicide prevention

How can employers start the conversation around suicide prevention? The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2016 suicide was the tenth-leading cause of death in the U.S. Read on to learn more.


Suicide was the tenth-leading cause of death in the United States in 2016, claiming the lives of nearly 45,000 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Given recent media coverage of the high-profile suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, employers should be more aware of how these events have a heightened impact on people’s mental health and well-being in the workplace.

Research has shown that the likelihood of suicide in vulnerable individuals increases immediately after publicity of these types of events. This phenomenon is known as suicide contagion or the increase in suicidal behavior following media exposure. While suicide prevention is not an easy conversation to have with clients, it’s an important one. Now is the perfect time to start the conversation with your clients on how they can play a crucial role in creating awareness and supporting employees who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts.

Here’s how benefit advisers and employers can navigate the conversation:

Discuss warning signs

Sharing information about common warning signs of symptomatic behavior can give your clients a greater understanding of how they can help employees get the support they need. Often, typical warning signs can be seen in declining work performance, poor hygiene, sudden weight changes, mood swings and depression.

While discussing these common symptoms, help break down the misconception that behavioral health also can be a sign of suicidal behavior. Explain that more than half of people who die of suicide did not have a known mental health condition. Often, individuals considering suicide cite other issues, including fear that they are a burden to others, stress about finances or struggles to afford or secure a place to live. Discuss these instances with your client so they are aware of other factors that could be contributing to their employee’s situation.

Discussing these symptoms can help ensure your clients have a better understanding of how to play a role in supporting and assisting at-risk employees.

Remove the stigma of behavioral health issues

While it’s true that not all suicides are related to a behavioral health condition, the stigma surrounding these conditions still exists and can prevent many individuals from approaching their employer or seeking assistance. By talking with your clients about this stigma, you can help remove the labels and negative connotations surrounding mental health conditions in the workplace.

Share with your clients the ways in which they can develop proactive open lines of communication around behavioral health conditions. For example, explain how they can reach out to employees to build awareness of the services they offer to those struggling. By incorporating educational campaigns that promote awareness of resources, your clients can help ensure employees get the assistance they need. In doing so, your clients can foster a workplace culture of acceptance and support.

Promote available resources

As you create awareness among your clients about the role they can play in removing the stigma, it’s also important their at-risk employees are aware of the resources available to them. Regardless of what their employees may be struggling with, suicidal thoughts or another behavioral health condition, it’s important for your clients to promote resources available through their employee benefits plan. For example, you can highlight how EAPs typically provide numerous free counseling sessions.

Clients also can work with their disability carrier to address employees’ behavioral health issues. Most disability carriers can assist with integrating existing benefit offerings with other resources to help ensure clients are providing their employees with robust treatment options. Additionally, disability carriers can recommend creative solutions and accommodations to meet employees’ unique conditions and support them staying at work or returning to work sooner.

The heightened attention around suicide prevention presents you with the opportunity to discuss the importance of suicide awareness in the workplace. In doing so, your clients can better support those who may be at risk and play a crucial role in creating an inclusive and supportive environment for their workforce.

SOURCE: Jolivet, D. (24 September 2018) "Helping employers start the conversation around suicide prevention" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from: https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/helping-clients-start-the-conversation-about-suicide?feed=00000152-18a4-d58e-ad5a-99fc032b0000


DISCOVER THE WELLNESS TRENDS FOR 2019

What is your favorite color? Color therapy is one of the top wellness trends for 2019. Continue reading this blog post for more 2019 wellness trends.


It’s that time of year again when we cast our minds forward and bring you our predictions for the wellness trends that are set to relax, improve and make us feel better about ourselves in 2019. And let’s be honest it feels as if there’s a new trend every week at the moment, so we’ve sifted through the trend trough to tell you ALL about the ones you absolutely need to know about!

Reconnecting With Nature

As a predecessor to the digital detox trend of last year (although heaven knows we still haven’t mastered that one yet!) 2019 is all about shifting our backsides off of the sofa and actually *gasp* leaving our homes to reconnect with nature. The focus is very much on disconnecting i.e. leaving your phones and even your fitness trackers (sorry you’ll have to manage without the steps for this one) in order to reconnect. You see exercising outside is all well and good, but it starts to become detrimental when we begin putting too much pressure on ourselves to hit the next PB or when we become obsessed with comparing ourselves against our friends on the Fitbit leaderboard.

Hey, I’m all for healthy competition and that heady endorphin rush when you smash out an all-time best, but to truly enjoy the benefits of what nature can do for our health we need to unplug and pay attention to what is out there – without the distractions!

From moonlit yoga on the beach to forest bathing in the sensual shadiness of the beautiful English woodland, learning to embrace your inner mother nature is all about fine-tuning the senses. It’s essentially another branch of mindfulness that allows us to break free from the stressful trappings of the modern world and find inner peace and gratitude for the world around us.

Soothing Sounds

You must have that one song that makes you feel amazing? That song that no matter how down in the dumps you are, when you hear those first notes you’re up dancing and feeling as if nothing can stop you. Music’s funny like that isn’t it? It evokes all kinds of emotions in us – from positive uplifting vibes, sorrow and sadness, motivation and drive, right through to silliness and freedom of expression – music has a power over us like no other.

And the sound, of any description, is no different. Think about when you visit a spa, often there will be sounds of the rainforest, birds chattering in trees or that peaceful drift you off to sleep music, floating over the space, creating a calm and serene ambiance and helping you to relax and switch off.

Sound therapy works through the healing power of sound vibration and frequencies. All of us have our own natural frequencies and when we are exposed to the external frequencies of singing bowls, gongs, tuning forks, drums etc. and allow them to wash over us and resonate with us, natural healing of both the body and mind can begin to occur. For example, Tibetan singing bowls can help people to experience a deep sense of relaxation, which can relieve pain, help lower blood pressure, reduce stress, improve circulation and blood flow, balance the Chakras, create focus and emotional clarity and leave people feeling at peace and happy with themselves.

Everyone has the ability to connect with the healing power of sound and most important of all it gives us that chance to focus on just one of our senses, which in a world where our senses are continually blasted with information overload, this is one of life’s most simple of luxuries. Sound classes are becoming increasingly popular for this very reason and many also incorporate the practices of yoga and meditation within them to further aid the wellness experience.

Color Therapy

Do you have a favorite color? There’s a good reason why you are drawn to one color over another and it’s all to do with energy and the way it makes you feel.

Color is energy that is transmitted on different wavelengths and frequencies to create different colored light. There are seven shades of visible light, the rainbow colors, then there is white which contains all of the 7 shades, black which absorbs light and therefore appears void of color, and then there are literally millions of invisible colors that our eyes cannot see. Color therapy, or Chromotherapy to give it its official name, is all about using color to enhance our health and wellness in certain ways. Each color has its own vibrational frequency that relates to different physical symptoms and emotions.

BLUE – This is a calming color that is used to ease symptoms of pain, anxiety, depression and can even aid sleep. Yes I know we’re told the blue light emitted from our screens is bad for us, but that’s a synthetic digital light, so I’m afraid scrolling through Instagram in bed won’t have the same effect! Research has also shown that blue light can help lessen inflammation, lower fevers, reduce high blood pressure and relieve migraines, due to it’s cooling almost anesthetic style energy.

RED – The fiery, powerful color that denotes passion and confidence. It’s bold and powerful and will give you balls when you need it most. And as such, it is thought that being exposed to red light will increase your pulse, raise your blood pressure and increase your breathing rate. Doesn’t necessarily sound too good, right? But red is the color to energize, to motivate and to put yourself out there and show people you mean business. Infrared therapy is also used to activate collagen cells, stimulate the skin to help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and can speed up the healing process.

YELLOW – This bright cheerful color does as you would expect; it uplifts, invokes optimism and a real sense of self love in a person.

GREEN – The color of nature, green is associated with harmony and it provides a neutral, positive and calming effect.

ORANGE – This color can raise energy levels and help improve mood, I mean who can’t but raise a smile when you see something bright orange!?!

PURPLE – The mean and moody one, the color of royalty, richness and luxury. Purple is the color for tranquility and works well in a detox sense, stripping the body and mind of impurities and can help patients deal with that sense of mind over matter when dealing with chronic pain.

And then there’s Colorstrology – a bit like astrology, but this is the idea that each birth month has its own color, which is a reflection of your personality. To find out yours go to the Pantone website and pop in your birth date.

2019 sure is set to be a colorful one that’s for sure!

Sleep Hygiene

We all need sleep to survive, it’s a chance for our body and mind to rest, recharge, repair and grow. However, there aren’t many of us that are a) getting enough sleep and b) getting good quality sleep. 2018 saw the rise in good sleeping practices, with power naps and sleep yoga hitting the wellness scene. But 2019 is set to move on from this by teaching us the ways in which we can employ these good habits at home. And it’s much more about quality rather than quantity. Because yes we should be aiming for around about 7 hours of shut-eye a night, but surely 4 hours of quality sleep is way more beneficial than 8 hours of disrupted sleep?

Sleep hygiene is about being ‘clean’ with your sleep, which means setting good practices and routines such as the following:

  • Avoiding caffeine late at night.
  • Switching off screens and other devices at least an hour before going to bed – and ideally, you don’t even want them in your bedroom.
  • Get the temperature just right- not too hot and not too cold.
  • Ensure the room is dark – blackout blinds are your new best friend.
  • Keep noise to a minimum, or if that’s impossible due to noisy neighbors or yapping dogs then try listening to white noise which will drown out the other sounds and has a calming, sleep-inducing effect.
  • Comfort is key to ensure you have a good mattress, a duvet tog that you’re happy with and good supportive pillows.

You may well think that you can catch up on any missed sleep during the week at the weekend, but irregular sleep is far more damaging. Instead aim to finish work by a set time and give yourself a deadline to be in bed, even if you’re up there and reading for half an hour beforehand, that will help you relax and unwind from the day.

And if you’re someone who struggles to switch off and get to sleep try having a warm bath, drinking a hot milky drink, meditating, or practicing some deep breathing exercises before settling down for the night. These are all things that help induce sleepiness and should see you dozing off in no time.

Ultimately if you eat well, exercise regularly and keep those stress levels down then your sleep hygiene should be pretty damn clean. If you don’t… then perhaps that’s something you could work on in 2019!

Less Is More

Minimalism, the KonMari method, decluttering… call it what you like, but essentially all you need to know is that a clear space equals a clear mind.

Go on, try it.

Choose just one cupboard in one room of your house, drag everything out and then set to work sorting out what you do and don’t need. It’ll be tough, especially when you start finding long lost treasures or useful kitchen gadgets you’d forgotten about, or that top you wore back in 1992 that made you look like a bohemian princess, but you need to set yourself limits. Marie Kondo, the queen of clutter-free living, theorizes that we should only hang onto possessions that ‘spark joy’, those that don’t only serve to hold us back and bring negativity into our lives. And it’s certainly a good place to start. Can you honestly say that vegetable peeler shaped like a pencil sharpener brings you joy? Or does it annoy you because every time you go to open the drawer it catches and makes the drawer jam? And that book you’ve clung onto from your days at uni, the one riddled with post-it notes and pencil scrawled study notes… does it bring you joy? You can’t ever read it properly again, it’s probably out of date and so therefore no longer suitable as a study guide for anyone else and all it’s really doing is taking up space and gathering dust on your bookshelf.

The thought of getting rid of your belongings is a scary one. Objects become security blankets, but they are restrictive and oppressive and are preventing you from living your best life. Existing in a tidy and clear space, whether it’s within the work or home environment, can help reduce stress levels, conserve mental energy, give us clarity, make us more productive and most importantly of all can make us feel in control. And when you’re in control you can achieve anything!

Clean Air

As much as we’re all for clean air outside, is it actually doing us any good if our home or work environment is riddled with all kinds of chemicals – yes I’m deffo thinking of those plug-in air fresheners!!

Whether you fill your rooms with plants (they’re amazing at purifying the air and look pretty spesh too!), pay more attention to the ingredients used in your cleaning sprays etc. or even download an app that can tell you how pure the air is – yes really! –  2019 is 100% about living clean. We’ve done the clean eating thing, started to adopt the clean sleeping thing, so it was only a question of time before clean breathing became a thing.

Sales of air purifying plants have more or less tripled over the past year as people strive for that natural air in their homes. If you listened to your Biology teacher at school, you’ll know that plants are capable of turning carbon dioxide into vital oxygen, but they are also great at absorbing unwanted nasties such as formaldehyde, benzene, ammonia, acetone etc. which are found in so many of the items we have in our homes and workspaces.

Crystal Clear Water

Crystals were everywhere in 2018, helping us with their energizing vibes and well they just look so pretty don’t they!?! And don’t worry, they’re not going anywhere, they’re just infiltrating other areas of our lives, namely… our water bottles. Yep, that’s right, you’ve seen the fruit, veg and herb infuser water bottles, now it’s time for the crystal infused ones!

Not only does it take a good Instagram picture (these are beautiful things peeps!) but the crystal gets to work its magic by pouring out all of its positive energy into the water you’ll be sipping on. Crystal gurus have been doing this for donkey’s years, but for us newbies, crystal-infused water is big news. It’s basically creating an essence and so it is up to you which crystal to insert in your water bottle for any given day.

One thing you must, must, MUST make sure of is that any crystal you use is safe to be put in water. Certain stones may dissolve, whilst others may contain lead or corrosive chemicals. A quick Google search is all that should be needed to confirm whether a crystal is safe in water or not and it’s worth keeping a list of the ones you can and cannot use and storing them in different places so you don’t get confused.

It certainly takes drinking crystal clear water to a whole different level, doesn’t it!?!

SOURCE: Stafferton, B. (11 July 2018) "DISCOVER THE WELLNESS TRENDS FOR 2019" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://artofhealthyliving.com/discover-wellness-trends-2019/


Healthcare waste is costing billions — and employers aren’t doing anything about it

According to a recent survey, 60 percent of employers don't take steps to manage their healthcare plan's wasteful spending. Read on to learn more.


Providing the workforce with healthcare coverage is expensive, but a new survey of 126 employers suggests a large chunk of that cost is being wasted by the healthcare industry on treatments patients don’t need.

The healthcare industry wastes $750 billion per year on unnecessary tests and treatments, according to a survey from the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions and Benfield, a market research, strategy and communications consulting firm.  Some 60% of employers don’t take steps to manage their healthcare plan’s wasteful spending, despite the fact that the same percentage of employers view it as a problem, the survey says.

“While waste has long been identified as a key concern and cost contributor, employers are operating blind and need to look at a more disciplined approach to address top drivers that influence waste,” says Michael Thompson, National Alliance president and CEO.

Employers are under the impression that prescription drugs are the culprit behind the spending waste, and they are, just not as much as other services. Around 54% of health spending waste is caused by unnecessary medical imaging tests, such as MRIs and X-rays, the survey says. Specialty drugs, unnecessary lab tests and specialists referrals are also major money pits.

However, the survey data isn’t suggesting these procedures and treatments shouldn’t be covered by employer health plans. The tests and treatments are potentially life-saving, they’re just used more than they should be. Sometimes previous test results can help with a current diagnosis, but medical staff don’t always check patient files before ordering new tests.

Most employers don’t monitor unnecessary healthcare spending. The 34% of employers who do rely entirely on their healthcare vendors to do it for them, trusting that it’s being taken care of.

“The idea of reducing waste in the healthcare system can be overwhelming,” says Laura Rudder Huff, senior consultant for Benfield. “While employers ask themselves: ‘Where to start?’ this is an issue where even small steps matter. Employers can begin by collecting data to identify where the inefficiencies are in their workforce and community and use assets such as vendors and organizations like coalitions to realize market improvements.”

The survey also recommends employers enlist the services of Choosing Wisely, an organization that counsels patients and employers on healthcare plans and medical treatments.

SOURCE: Webster, K. (7 November 2018) "Healthcare waste is costing billions — and employers aren’t doing anything about it" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/healthcare-waste-is-costing-billions-and-employers-arent-doing-anything-about-it