DOL, HHS, and Treasury Release Final FAQs on Mental Health / Substance Use Disorder Parity

The DOL, HHS and Treasury have released final FAQs regarding mental health and substance use disorder parity implementation and the 21st Century Cures Act Part 39. Read this blog post from UBA to learn more about these FAQs.


The U.S. Departments of Labor (DOL), Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Treasury (collectively, the “Departments”) released final FAQs About Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity Implementation and the 21st Century Cures Act Part 39. The Departments respond to FAQs as part of implementing the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA), as amended by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the 21st Century Cures Act (Cures Act). The FAQs contain a model disclosure form that employees can use to request information from their group health plan or individual market plan regarding treatment limitations that may affect access to mental health or substance use disorder (MH/SUD) benefits.

The DOL also released an enforcement fact sheet summarizing the DOL’s closed investigations and public inquiries regarding mental health and substance use disorder during the 2018 fiscal year.

SOURCE: Hsu, K. (14 November 2019) "DOL, HHS, and Treasury Release Final FAQs on Mental Health / Substance Use Disorder Parity" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://blog.ubabenefits.com/dol-hhs-and-treasury-release-final-faqs-on-mental-health-/-substance-use-disorder-parity


4 Steps to a Pet-Friendly Workplace

According to research from the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, employees who bring their dogs to work experience lower stress levels. Read this blog post from UBA for four steps to creating a pet-friendly workplace.


If your team is waving goodbye to doggy day-care and the days of leaving furry friends at home, congratulations! The trend of bringing dogs to work started soon after what is widely considered the most influential research on dog-friendly offices, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Among the many benefits, research uncovered that employees who brought their dogs to work experienced lower stress levels, as well as facilitated conversation and better socializing during their 9-to-5 schedules. Dogs are a great conversation starter, acting as somewhat of a “social lubricant” that allows natural discussion to flow between colleagues who otherwise wouldn’t interact. Dogs can also help enhance trust and collaboration between coworkers, according to a study from Central Michigan University.

Allowing four-legged friends into your office might have unintended positive consequences for employers as well as employees. Science shows us that dog lovers experience higher levels of oxytocin, the “feel-good” hormone, and that even spending brief periods of time with dogs can increase a sense of well-being for the owners and their pet-loving coworkers. These feel-good hormones can lead to higher levels of neurological productivity, meaning better work for less time spent.

If you haven’t already adopted a dog-friendly office policy, try these steps below and get smiling! Watch your recruiting, retention, and overall office mood skyrocket.

Steps to becoming a dog-friendly office:

  1. Make sure your building approves. Some office buildings have restrictions that prevent pets from visiting if they aren’t a registered emotional support animal. Building management should be able to answer this question for you, as well as help with any red tape or paperwork for getting a pet-friendly workplace approved.
  2. Take a quick survey of the team. It’s important to make sure everyone on your team is comfortable with dogs in the office. Sending out a quick survey via Google Forms or SurveyMonkey can help you gauge whether there are allergies, fears, or just general apprehensions about pets in the office.
  3. Make sure the guidelines are clear. To ease any stress, make sure the expectation is clear that, in order to bring a furry friend, they must be friendly (to other dogs and humans) and have all their vaccinations. To ensure that all dogs are suited for the work environment, you can get your dog certified with the AKC Canine Good Citizen CertificationIt’s not a bad idea to additionally request dog owners to bring their own baby gate or crate, so that their dog can be contained in one area if needed.
  4. Start small. If you aren’t ready to adopt a dogs-anytime policy, try rolling out just one day a week, maybe on Fridays. If things are going well, you can expand to a greater amount of time and less restrictions.

SOURCE: Olson, B. (24 October 2019) "4 Steps to a Pet-Friendly Workplace" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://blog.ubabenefits.com/4-steps-to-a-pet-friendly-workplace


Strategies to promote emotional well-being in the workplace

Fifty-eight percent of employers are offering wellness programs, according to data from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, one in five adults experiences some form of mental illness during the year. Read this blog post to learn more about how to promote emotional well-being at work.


Employers are taking a greater interest in their employees’ well-being by promoting emotional wellness at work.

Wellness programs are offered by 58% of employers, according to data from the Society for Human Resource Management. There are mutual benefits to be reaped by the employer and employees when an organization looks to support its workers’ emotional wellness.

About 90% of employees perform better when they address mental health, but only 41% feel comfortable bringing it up during a check-in, according to data from 15Five, a software company that specializes in gathering employee feedback.

One in five American adults experience some form of mental illness in any given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health. Additionally, one in every 25 adults is living with a serious mental health condition such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or long-term recurrent major depression.

Employees are demanding better mental health benefits from their employers and some of them are listening. In September, coffee giant Starbucks announced that it is taking steps to improve its employees’ mental health with a new long-term initiative that includes an enhanced employee assistance program and mental health training for store managers.

See Also: 5 reasons employers should offer student loan repayment benefits

Only 25% of U.S.-based managers, across a variety of industries, have been trained to refer employees to mental health resources, according to SHRM. Employers including PNC and Ocean Spray are also investing in benefits to address mental health.

By investing in emotional and mental wellness benefits, employers are creating a human-centric workforce that drives retention, productivity and engagement, says Heidi Collins, vice president of people operations at 15Five. A key part in achieving this to create a culture that normalizes conversations about mental health.

Collins spoke with Employee Benefit News about how organizations can provide management with stronger training and more open check-ins that enable them to build trusting relationships with their employees to promote productivity.

How is 15Five creating a culture that is more understanding of employees’ mental health needs?

In so many different practices with our employees, both in our manager and direct report programs, but also as a company as a whole. We are normalizing emotions and emotional wellness in the workplace. What it all has, to begin with, is the strategy behind it and your company’s values. It can’t just be a program that HR is sponsoring and promoting but that’s not really attached to the overall company values.

How can an employer create a more mental-health and wellness-focused workplace?

We do automated weekly check-ins between managers and their direct reports. We have a recognition feature called High5, so that people throughout the organization can highlight their peers, express gratitude and also highlight someone for how they may have impacted their day or a project that went really well. There’s a recognition feature, there’s a review feature, there’s a weekly check-in feature. In the weekly check in we have a poll rating and every week we ask our employees: on a scale of one to five, how did you feel at work this week? So we build into our product the practice of managers checking in with their employees about their feelings and about their emotional and mental well-being. We attempt to create enough psychological safety, trust and openness to vulnerability that employees feel comfortable that if they are having a two out of five weeks, it can be okay to share that with a manager and be able to back it up with the reason why. So for example, an employee might say: This week was a two out of five for me because three projects blew up in our faces and at home my kid is sick and I didn’t get any sleep. The employee can just lay it all out there.

How can employers and employees become more comfortable normalizing the conversation around mental health?

It has to be very intentional, deliberate and explicit. It’s the kind of stuff employers may talk about or advertise or promote on their employer branding website...it should be very clear that promoting emotional well-being and mental wellness is part of the employer’s culture and something they value. The executive team and all of the leadership needs to be totally brought into that and that’s challenging because there are many people out there in the world who aren’t comfortable yet with talking about or bringing up those kinds of things at work. That’s the big challenge we’re facing right now, yet so many employees are coming to expect [support for mental health issues].

Is there a generational disconnect when it comes to promoting emotional wellness in the workplace?

I would say that those of us who don’t have our heads stuck in the sand, we get it. We realize that there’s a reason this mindset of addressing employees’ mental health is so popular. It’s because it’s way more effective. This is how we want to work. I’m generation X and I have a lot of friends who work in big corporate environments who still think you leave your emotions at the door. But I would say those of us who want to have a more progressive approach are so on board with it. HR professionals and potential employees who follow those old school ways, they won’t even get hired at a company like ours and I bet a lot of our customer’s companies. That’s because we know that doesn’t work anymore.

See Also: What is Perfectionism, and Is It Affecting Your Work Life?

What specifically has 15Five done to promote this initiative among its employees?

It all starts from our hiring process and what we communicate about our values and what it’s like to work at 15Five. Not only are we assessing candidates on their skills, but we’re also assessing them on their willingness to go to that very vulnerable place in their day to day with their manager or direct report. We have question in our interviews that ask “would you be comfortable talking about emotions at work?” and “if you were a two out of five on the emotion poll for the week, would you be able to share that with your manager and how would you go about doing that?” We will ask questions to make sure candidates we are bringing in are okay with this way of doing things. If somebody is going into a manager position internally, we have just implemented a manager assessment interview to make sure this person really has the skills to be a 15Five manager. A manager in our eyes is not just a taskmaster or somebody who approves your time off. They need to be employees’ coach, cheerleader and champion and they need to be comfortable supporting employees when things aren’t going well. It’s almost like having the skill set of a therapist.

SOURCE: Shiavo, A. (23 October 2019) "Strategies to promote emotional well-being in the workplace" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/strategies-to-promote-emotional-well-being-in-the-workplace


What is Emotional Agility, and How Can You Manage Your Emotions in the Workplace?

What is emotional agility? Emotional agility is defined as one's ability to deal with stressors and discomfort at work and in life. Read this blog post to learn more about being emotionally agile and how to manage your emotions in the workplace.


It’s a buzzword we hear all the time: emotional agility. So you may be asking, what exactly IS emotional agility? It’s defined as one’s ability to deal with stressors and discomfort in work and life. People are preprogrammed to deal with situations in certain ways, but these types of reactions don’t always allow room for emotional growth.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space,” explains Dr. Susan David, an award-winning Harvard Medical School psychologist. “This space is born out of emotional agility. In that space is our power to choose. And it’s in that choice that lies our growth and freedom.”

When people are emotionally agile, that space gives them the opportunity to deal with difficult and stressful situations and become resilient. Dr. David elaborates: “Emotional agility is being sensitive to the context and responding to the world right now—and that allows us to move into a space where we are managing our lives more in accord with our values.”

Stop Managing Emotions at Work, and Start Experiencing Them

“Firstly, it’s normal, healthy and good to experience the full range of emotions,” Dr. David continued. It’s unrealistic to try to focus on being happy and positive all the time. This hyper-focus lessens one’s adaptability and agility.

The workplace demands a lot of employees. No matter how stressful or taxing, employees are expected to hide their emotions at work and only portray positive emotions. However, research shows that experiencing difficult emotions helps people successfully navigate complex situations at work and at home.

Dr. David believes all emotions are necessary for employees to succeed in their careers: “There is no collaboration … without potential conflict. There is no innovation … without the potential of failure. And if there’s no openness to the emotions, the disappointment and the loss that comes with failure, well then you’re not going to get real innovation.”

Becoming Emotionally Agile

Even with the best intentions, things don’t always pan out like we plan. Unexpected or non-ideal outcomes in the workplace can elicit rigid or preprogrammed reactions to emotions, like ignoring them, bottling them up, placing blame, or replaying situations over and over in one’s head.

“Rigidity in the face of complexity is toxic,” Dr. David said. In order to become emotionally agile, people need to acknowledge and understand their emotional responses but not take them as fact. For example, if a person is feeling a stress response, it doesn’t mean everything about their life has to be stressful. By understanding these emotions, one can learn from them and ultimately move forward.

Dr. David elaborates: “The radical acceptance of our emotions — even the difficult ones, even the messy ones — is the cornerstone to resilience, to effectiveness, to success, to relationships, and to truly thriving.”

Bonus: Tips & Tricks to Cope With Stressful Workdays

  1. Compartmentalization (when negative emotions from home affect your work). Try your best to leave personal matters and issues at home. When you commute to work, use that time to tell your mind to let go. You can also compartmentalize work-related stressors so that your emotions at work don’t spill over into your personal life too.
  2. Deep breathing & relaxation techniques. This will help with emotions like anxiety, worry, frustration, and anger. Take deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling slowly until you calm down. Slowly count to 10. You can take a walk to cool down and listen to some relaxing music. Talk to someone who can help you calm down.
  3. The 10-second rule. This is especially helpful if you are feeling angry, frustrated or even irate. If you feel your temper rising, try and count to 10 to recompose yourself. If possible, excuse yourself from the situation to get some distance, but remember to reassure the other party that you will return to deal with the matter.

Sources:

SOURCE: Olson, B. (5 November 2019) "What is Emotional Agility, and How Can You Manage Your Emotions in the Workplace?" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://blog.ubabenefits.com/what-is-emotional-agility


Ensuring the Mental Well-Being of Employees

"Mental health problems have an impact on employees and businesses directly through increased absenteeism, negative impact on productivity and profits, as well as an increase in costs to deal with the issues," explained Tonya Bahr, one of our expert Benefits Advisors. Additionally, they impact employee morale adversely.

This results in increased sick absences, high staff turnover and unsatisfactory performance within the business, not to mention the heightened possibility for injury. Stress from the modern work environment typically derives from excessive pressures or other types of demands placed upon employees. There is a clear distinction between pressure, which is a common motivation factor, and stress, which can occur when the pressure becomes excessive.

Certain employees are at a higher risk of suffering from mental health problems than their co-workers. Nonetheless, higher stress levels correlate with a higher risk for mental health issues. Therefore, it is important as an employer or hiring manager to read the signs of potential mental health issues in employees before it is too late.

1. Relationship Problems with Superiors

The most common origin for office stress is dealing with a difficult boss, as certain individuals may fear the hierarchical nature of the organization. Yet, this is the simplest of issues to resolve, as the key to overcoming mental illness lies in the effectiveness of communication. For example, striking up a sincere, relaxed conversation could potentially soften hard feelings. Sometimes, the boss may set unrealistic targets, where an honest discussion can help adjust deadlines.

2. Relationship Problems with Co-Workers

Another reason for an increase in mental illness in the workplace could be difficult co-workers. This is especially true in work environments that surround a culture of competitiveness. This makes for a more difficult work environment, increasing stress. However, employers can make time for conflict resolution by employing a tactic of mutual conversation, concluded by an agreement.

3. Work/Family Conflict

Today, families struggle coping with an increasingly complex world, and that family stress is often carried on an employee’s shoulders when they enter their workplace. Fortunately, you can help employees balance work and life by providing different avenues for seeking mental health care, as well as providing educational resources to your staff. In fact, many employers allow a ‘flex-time’ benefit to help employees work the hours they will be most-focused, relieving anxiety and stress over missing, for example, their child’s baseball game.

Why Hierl?

At Hierl Insurance, we love what we do, and this includes a partnership with you in mind. We understand the demands of each client are unique, so we craft your options to fit your business perfectly, creating a different story for each client. We believe it is OK to like your experts. We stand by waiting to greet you with a warm welcome to devise a blueprint to turn your company’s dreams into reality.

To speak with Tonya, contact her today at (920) 921-5921 or by email at tbahr@hierl.com


Employers can help employees catch some Z's with new wellness benefit

According to a study in the Journal of Sleep Research, about 45 percent of the world's population has chronic sleep issues. Employers are starting to offer employee benefits that are focused on a long-ignored but crucial aspect of employee health - sleep. Read this blog post to learn more about this new wellness benefit.


Employers are taking a greater interest in employees’ emotional and physical well-being by offering specialized programs focused on mental health, weight loss, financial health, and now one long-ignored yet crucial aspect of health — sleep.

Beddr, a sleep health technology company, has launched a comprehensive, personalized solution to identify and treat the root causes of chronic sleep issues, though a voluntary benefits platform. The program leverages clinical data captured from Beddr’s app that uses an optical sensor and accelerometer to measure blood oxygen levels, stopped breathing events, heart rate, sleep position and time in bed.

About 45% of the world’s population has chronic sleep issues, according to a study in the Journal of Sleep Research. Poor sleep costs U.S. employers an estimated $411 billion each year, according to a report from Rand.

Employees using the Beddr benefit will have access to an expert-led sleep coaching program and a nationwide network of sleep physicians to provide targeted treatment options to help employees improve their sleep health. The program has the potential to save an employer up to $5,700 per employee, per year in productivity improvements, lower healthcare costs and decrease accident rates, Beddr says.

“Sleep is the foundation to every employee’s mental and physical health. High quality sleep has been shown to both reduce healthcare costs as well as improve productivity, but most employers haven’t found a comprehensive program that addresses the primary root causes of sleep issues and that benefits their entire workforce,” says Michael Kisch, CEO of Beddr. “We have seen a dramatic increase among our users relative to the overall population in their understanding of their sleep health and how their choices impact their overall sleep quality.”

Beddr partners with benefits teams to design a customized program specific to each employer and their employees. The company developed a screening process that makes it easy for an employer to engage their employee base, while providing Beddr the ability to identify employees who are a good match for the program.

In some cases, the company heavily subsidizes the cost of the benefit to employees, while in others it is the full responsibility of the employee. In the latter instance, the company negotiates a discount that is passed on to all participating employees. That discounted price is less than what an employee would pay to purchase the program directly from Beddr.

“Beddr was founded on the belief that the most important thing a person can do to improve their physical and mental health is to get consistent, high-quality sleep,” Kisch says. “We see employers as natural partners in fulfilling this mission because the goals of a company and its management are highly aligned with the goals of our program — to improve the health and productivity of employees. ”

SOURCE: Shiavo, A. (23 October 2019) "Employers can help employees catch some Z's with new wellness benefit" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/beddr-app-helps-employees-get-more-sleep


What is Perfectionism, and Is It Affecting Your Work Life?

You might be surprised to learn that perfectionism has a dark side. Often perfectionism is associated with high performance and higher success rates but it can be difficult to work diligently with high standards. Read this blog post to learn how perfectionism may be affecting your work life.


If you feel that perfectionism is associated with high performance and higher success rates, you might be surprised to learn that it has a dark side as well. It might seem that trying to work diligently with extremely high standards is good for productivity and success, but that’s not always the case.

What is perfectionism?

Perfectionists hold themselves to incredibly high, often unattainable standards and engage in harsh self-criticism when they fall short. Research from psychologists Paul Hewitt and Gordon Flett found younger generations — specifically Gen Z and millennials — are showing higher tendencies of perfectionism than previous generations. Not only that, those tendencies are increasing, or becoming more prevalent, as time goes on.

The dark side? Constantly striving for the unattainable can have devastating effects on the psyche. “Perfectionism is a virtue to be extolled definitely,” said Prem Fry, a psychology professor at Trinity Western University in Canada. “But beyond a certain threshold, it backfires and becomes an impediment,” she said.

The link between perfectionism and mental health

Perfectionism in the workplace is problematic for many reasons. Those who lean toward perfectionism exhibit harsh self-criticism when they don’t receive the highest scores or forms of approval. This can create high levels of stress and psychological turmoil that negatively affects their health and wellbeing.

The World Economic Forum reports there is “substantial evidence indicating that perfectionism is associated with (among other things) depression, anorexia nervosa, suicide ideation, and early death.” Considering how stressed out today’s workers are already, it’s easy to understand how any increase in pressure or stress could lead to poor mental health down the road.

Tips to ease stress and combat the negative effects of perfectionism

Learning to recognize the sources of pressure to be perfect, both real and perceived, is an excellent first step. Here are a few initiatives you can work to implement in your office to help everyone, not just the perfectionists, have a happier, healthier work life.

Healthy culture. Helping build a workplace wellbeing program is an excellent place to start, as it supports all aspects of employee health. It can help cultivate a healthy workplace culture, one where you and your coworkers feel happy, valued, included, accepted, appreciated, respected and supported.

Health coaching. Asking your employer to bring on a workplace health coach can be an incredible resource for you and your coworkers. Through a person-first, wholistic approach, coaches address the full spectrum of your health, including mental wellbeing. Connecting with a person, even if it’s just a short call, can kickstart your path to better health and wellbeing.

Peer relationships. Fostering positive social interactions and re-affirming team-building exercises between you and your co-workers leads to a more productive, happier work environment for everyone.

Sources:

The Cut. Study on perfectionism and millennials. https://www.thecut.com/2018/01/new-study-on-perfectionism-and-millennials.html
(Accessed 10/10/19)

American Psychological Association. Perfectionism increasing over time.
https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/bul-bul0000138.pdf (Accessed 10/10/19)

Virgin Pulse blog. Is perfectionism negatively impacting your organization? https://www.virginpulse.com/blog/ (Accessed 10/10/19)

SOURCE: Olson, B. (17 October 2019) "What is Perfectionism, and Is It Affecting Your Work Life?" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://blog.ubabenefits.com/what-is-perfectionism-and-is-it-affecting-your-work-life


Why 24/7 Work Culture is Causing Workers to Burn Out

Burnout was recently classified by the World Health Organization as an "occupational phenomenon" that is characterized by chronic work stress. Workplace cultures that encourage employees to be available 24/7 may be causing burnout, according to Dr. Michael Klein. Read the following blog post to learn more.


Workplace culture that encourages employees to be available 24/7 may be causing burnout and other mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

That’s according to business psychologist and workplace adviser Dr. Michael Klein, who says companies that encourage employees to work anytime and anywhere is making it more likely that burnout will occur.

“The problem now is when you have the ability to work from wherever you want,” he says. “It’s so important for general wellness to make time to exercise, time for family and to not check work email.”

In May, the World Health Organization classified burnout as an “occupational phenomenon” that is characterized by chronic work stress that is not successfully managed. Research shows that continued stress at work can lead to more serious mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.

As a result, Klein predicts the next few years will see an increased need for on-site mental healthcare which could be offered through employee assistance programs. Offering EAPs, flexible work options and family-friendly benefits like onsite childcare are just some of the ways employers can reduce stress for workers.

And HR may need to take the lead. Misty Guinn, director of benefits and wellness at Benefitfocus, says finding HR professionals that can handle difficult conversations around mental health may be key to addressing the problem. But many are not comfortable enough to have those kinds of conversations.

“Most have yet to achieve that level of comfort with conversations around mental health,” she says, noting that younger generations are often more comfortable talking about mental health issues. “We’ve got to enable people, especially within HR, benefits and management to have those conversations and be comfortable with them.”

Guinn also says that EAPs alone may not be enough to address mental health issues for workers because these programs are often scarcely utilized. Subsidizing mental health co-pays, work-life balance and PTO policies are benefit options employers to create a meaningful difference for workers mental health, she adds.

“Too often employers make the mistake of believing that offering an employee assistance program sufficiently checks off the mental health box in a complete benefits package,” she says. “In reality, these programs generally have low utilization because employees don’t have confidence in how confidential they are.”

Klein and Guinn agree that employers should consider more ways to support the total well-being of employees. Companies who prioritize their people will do better in the long term, Guinn adds.

“Employers need to take purposeful actions within their policies and programs to reinforce their support of total well-being for employees and their families,” she says.

SOURCE: Hroncich, Caroline. (June 10th, 2019) "Why 24/7 Work Culture is Causing Workers to Burn Out" (Web Blog Post) https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/24-7-work-culture-is-causing-workers-to-burn-out


The case for expanding wellness beyond the physical

New data from Optum and the National Business Group on Health is revealing how wellness programs affect job performance. Will addressing mental health, financial wellness and substance abuse in the workplace help employees feel fulfilled both personally and professionally? Read this blog post from Employee Benefits Advisor to learn more about expanding wellness programs.


Client's wellness programs that only focus on physical fitness may need to rethink their approach.

By expanding wellness offerings to include programs that support workers’ mental and financial wellness, employer clients can increase the overall wellbeing of their workforce. Newly released data from Optum and the National Business Group on Health shows that employees who are offered programs that address most or all of the five aspects of wellbeing — physical, mental, financial, social and community — are significantly more likely to say their job performance is excellent, have a positive impression of their employer, and recommend their company as a place to work.

Over the last decade, workplace wellness initiatives have evolved beyond health risk assessments, physical fitness and nutrition programs. Many programs now include resources to address mental health, financial wellness and substance abuse.

“[Employers] must commit to looking beyond clinical health outcomes,” says Chuck Gillespie, CEO of the National Wellness Institute, speaking at a webcast from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. “You want employees to be fulfilled both personally and professionally.”

Even though some clients address financial, social and community health, most still focus on physical and mental health.

However, there are benefit trends that address wellness beyond physical fitness. The emergence of financial wellness benefits — such as early pay access, student loan assistance and retirement saving plans — may help employees feel less stressed and more financially secure, which has shown to improve overall health.

But having a good wellness program in place isn’t enough — employers also have to make sure that the offerings are inclusive and personalized, and that the programs have successful participation and engagement rates.

“These programs need to be adapted to who you are,” Gillespie says. “Customization has to be a key factor of what you’re looking at, because everybody is not going to fit inside your box.”

Effective wellness programs use both health and wellness data points and best practices, while keeping an eye on developing trends. Multi-dimensional wellness — looking at aspects such as social and community — can help companies understand the needs of their employees better.

“Employers need to better recognize personal choices, and if the employees are in an environment where they are functioning optimally,” Gillespie says. “Smokers hang out with smokers; the cultural foods that you eat with family may not be nutritious; is there social isolation; do you contribute to your community. [Most benefits] are work-oriented, but for most people, their life is their home life. It’s important to look at the degrees of which you feel positive and enthusiastic about your work and life.”

SOURCE: Nedlund, E. (15 August, 2019) "The case for expanding wellness beyond the physical" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/the-case-for-expanding-wellness-beyond-the-physical


Employer-sponsored savings programs could be the future of financial wellness

Do you have money set aside for emergencies or unexpected expenses? Forty-three percent of hourly workers report having less than $400 in savings set aside for emergencies. For these workers, an accident or unexpected expense can be financially devastating. Read this blog post to learn more.


For 43% of hourly workers who report having less than $400 in savings set aside for emergencies, an accident or unexpected expense can be financially devastating.

But employer-sponsored savings programs could be a viable solution. Low- and middle-income employees who are more financially secure have been shown to be less stressed and more productive when they have an employer-sponsored savings program, which may lead to lower healthcare costs, better customer service and stronger attendance, a new survey from nonprofit organization Commonwealth finds.

The national survey of 1,309 employees earning less than $60,000 a year found that employers offering workers savings interventions at the time of raise, can positively impact their employees’ personal finances. Three-quarters of hourly employees surveyed believe that if their employer offered savings options at the time of a raise, they would be less stressed and more confident about their finances.

“There's a lot of talk about financial stress, but when you're really living paycheck-to-paycheck, that stress is about being able to pay your bills on time,” says Commonwealth’s executive director Timothy Flacke. “It's about cash flow, and that's a particularly acute form of anxiety.”

The report analyzes the potential effects of savings programs including split direct-deposit paychecks, low-interest loans and savings accounts — and compares how those programs alleviate employees’ financial stress. Workers surveyed believe if their employer-provided savings tools they would be happier and more productive. Moreover, the survey found individuals with more in savings were less likely to have financial worries than those with little savings.

One of the companies partnered with Commonwealth to link raises with savings is Minnesota-based education company New Horizon Academy. In the beginning of the year, the company piloted a new savings program that gives its employees the option to have the raise diverted through the payroll system to a savings account each pay period, instead of having it go into their normal checking account.

“Through this, our employees are beginning to build up some financial reserves in case of an emergency, or life circumstances that requires them to dip into a savings account,” says Chad Dunkley, CEO of New Horizon Academy. Although it’s too early to state results from the pilot program, the company hopes it will have a positive long-term impact on the financial health of its employees, Dunkley says.

“This is just one of those additional ways [to] stabilize our employees, so they can come into the classroom without the financial stress that certain situations cause when you're not prepared for an emergency, whether it's new tires on your car or health issues,” he says.

SOURCE: Nedlund, E. (19 August 2019) "Employer-sponsored savings programs could be the future of financial wellness" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/reduce-stress-increase-productivity-with-financial-wellness