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Workplace Coronavirus Preparation: Telecommuting Policies & Best Practices

Jeff Griffin

"It has a 9/11-like feel." That's how the CEO of Southwest Airlines last night described the impact of coronavirus on its business. While this might not be a surprising assessment from a global carrier like United Airlines, it's somewhat shocking to hear from Southwest, since it doesn't even serve Asian and European markets.

So what's going on here? Is this coronavirus (Covid-19) really something to fear here in the United States, or is this mass hysteria nothing more than a media-driven panic, as Dr. Drew suggested as recently as this morning on Fox News?

So much distrust of the mainstream media and our government institutions has been sewn into the fabric of our country these past few years that it's admittedly very hard to tell. At this point, it probably doesn't really matter if it's real or not. The perception is that it's real, and as we've been taught for decades now, perception is reality.

In fact, just moments ago, while writing this blog post, the first U.S. college announced it was closing down for the semester, moving 50,000 students to online learning. And as I was adding this to my post, I received an alert that the Mayor of Austin just cancelled the South by Southwest music festival and conference.

I don't know about you, but this feels pretty real to me.

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Topics: wellness, Preventative Care, workplace wellness, Telecommuting

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Coronavirus (Covid-19); Its Impact on Employers, Employees and The Workplace

Jeff Griffin

It's not a matter of if, but when. That's what Federal authorities finally said yesterday regarding the likelihood of the coronavirus spreading across the United States.

Infectious disease experts are now calling on businesses, schools, and communities to brace themselves for what they see as the inevitable outbreak of the coronavirus across the country.

"The disruption to everyday life might be severe," said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Strategies to contain the virus on our shores, now officially named Covid-19, have thus far been based on isolating those who have contracted the virus, as well as quarantining those who may have been exposed to those individuals.

Authorities now admit that as the virus becomes more widespread, containment strategies will likely expand to the closing of schools, the canceling of mass gatherings, and the implementation of widespread telework for employees.

With financial markets across the world tanking and President Trump now scheduled to address the nation tonight, it now appears as if the threat of a global pandemic can no longer be ignored nor minimized by those who have thus far claimed that talk of a pandemic was nothing more than fear-mongering by the media.

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Topics: wellness, Preventative Care, workplace wellness, Telecommuting

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Best Practices For Maintaining Legally Compliant Workplace Wellness Programs

Dr. Christine Maxwell

There are several comprehensive federal statutes that impact workplace wellness programs. While employers who invest in wellness initiatives almost always do so with the best of intentions, violations of these regulations can be costly.

Today we'll focus on three key federal laws which employers should keep in mind when building out a wellness plan. They are as follows;

1. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) includes nondiscrimination rules that apply to wellness plans being offered in connection with group health plans. Under HIPAA, workplace wellness programs are divided into two categories: participatory wellness programs and health-contingent wellness programs.  

Here are the main differences between these two types of programs;

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Compliance, wellness, employee wellness, wellness program

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Keeping New Year's Resolutions - Here's How Employers Can Help

Dr. Christine Maxwell

The new year is often a time for people to pause and reflect on the past year and consider things they’d like to change. This leads to new year’s resolutions, which frequently include health-related outcomes. Soon after, however, resolve to keep these resolutions starts to get a bit shaky.

Some of the most common new year’s resolutions including losing weight, eating better, exercising more, and engaging in more self-care. Anyone who belongs to a fitness club knows that January is the busiest month of the year, but the crowds start to thin out around mid-February, if not sooner. By that point, most people have given up on their new year’s resolutions and the steady gym members get their favorite machines back.

The bad news is the failure to implement the healthy lifestyle changes your employees were working on might have adverse effects on their mindsets. By the end of February, if they’ve abandoned their new year’s resolutions, they’re back to their old habits, picking up fast food at lunch, downing cans of soda, and probably feeling bad about themselves.

The good news is that you can help them turn things around. Maybe they need a little extra encouragement and support to follow through with their new year’s resolutions, both of which you can provide to them with a bit of effort.  

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Topics: Employee Benefits, wellness, workplace wellness, cost management, Culture

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Keeping Your Wellness Program Compliant

Dr. Christine Maxwell

You don’t have to be a health insurance expert to know that healthcare coverage makes up a significant portion of businesses’ operating costs. Looking ahead to next year, Willis Tower Watson predicts the average annual per-employee cost for health insurance will increase 5.3% to $12,850 (up from $12,200 in 2017).

Understandably, employers are always looking for ways to get a firmer handle on rising healthcare costs and often turn to wellness programs as a possible solution.   

Three Important Federal Laws That Affect Wellness Plans

Before you launch a wellness program, it’s important to do your homework. Mistakes can be costly for both your employees and your bottom line. One area you should pay particularly close attention to is the intersection of wellness plans and federal law.

There are several comprehensive federal statutes that impact workplace wellness plans, so before you put your plan in place, make sure you consult with a legal expert who can help you stay on the right side of the law.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Compliance, wellness, employee wellness, wellness program

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Four Ways Employers Can Reduce Smoking Rates Among Their Workforce

David Rook

Smoking has been in steady decline in the United States for decades, with Gallup reporting that smoking rates among adults have dropped from 45 percent in 1953 to 16 percent in 2018.

Nevertheless, according to the CDC,  almost 38 million adults in the country still smoke cigarettes regularly (defined as “every day” or “some days”). This doesn’t even take into account anyone who enjoys pipe tobacco, cigars or other cigarette alternatives.

The malignant effects of these habits are well documented. In addition to the personal health issues individuals suffer, smoking also impacts non-smokers, both in terms of health risks and more expensive healthcare.

The following is an exploration into just how much smoking costs businesses each year and what measures employers can take to reduce smoking rates among their employees.

The Added Cost of Employing Smokers

CDC research places the increased cost of employing a smoking adult at nearly $6,000 per smoking employee, per year. Much of this figure comes from lost productivity and increased healthcare costs, but it also takes into account other less obvious expenses.

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Topics: Cost Containment, wellness, Behavioral Psychology, Smoking

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It's Already February; Here's How You Can Help Employees Keep Their New Year's Resolutions

Dr. Christine Maxwell

The new year is often a time for people to pause and reflect on the past year and consider things they’d like to change. This leads to new year’s resolutions, which frequently include health-related outcomes. Right about now, however, resolve to keep these resolutions starts to get a bit shaky.

Some of the most common new year’s resolutions are losing weight, eating better, exercising more, and engaging in more self-care. Anyone who belongs to a fitness club knows that January is the busiest month of the year, but the crowds start to thin out around mid-February, if not sooner. By that point, most people have given up on their new year’s resolutions and the steady gym members get their favorite machines back.

The bad news is the failure to implement the healthy lifestyle changes your employees were working on might have adverse effects on their mindsets. By the end of February, if they’ve abandoned their new year’s resolutions, they’re back to their old habits, picking up fast food at lunch, downing cans of soda, and probably feeling bad about themselves.

The good news is that you can help them turn things around. Maybe they need a little extra encouragement and support to follow through with their new year’s resolutions, both of which you can provide to them with a bit of effort.  

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Topics: Employee Benefits, wellness, workplace wellness, cost management, Culture

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The Difference Between Health and Wellness in the Workplace

Dr. Christine Maxwell

The terms health and wellness are commonly thrown together, thanks in large part to the prevalence of wellness programs promoting better health in the workplace.

It’s easy to see how the two terms could be interchangeable, but the difference between health and wellness is important.

Wellness programs largely focus on the idea of preventative care, which is primarily designed to save policyholders (and employers) money in the long run. Although many employers can unfortunately sink a ton of time and money into wellness programs without any strategy whatsoever.

The general idea is that if people are getting regular checkups, adhering to their prescribed medication regimen, and getting recommended vaccines, health problems can either be completely prevented, or at least managed before they become extraordinarily expensive.

Although it’s fair to say that one of the goals of wellness programs is to make people healthier, there is a difference between health and wellness. So let’s dive into this difference and why it matters.

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Topics: wellness, Employee Communications, employee health, workplace wellness, wellness program

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What Cheating on Workplace Wellness Contests Says About the Cheater

David Rook

Wellness programs have been around for decades, and their benefits are well-documented. Research shows they are responsible for a 28 percent reduction in sick days, a 26 percent reduction in health costs, and a 30 percent decrease in workers' compensation and disability management claims. If designed well (e.g. based on population health analytics, etc.), companies can potentially save $5.93 for every dollar invested.

Wellness initiatives and contests have been taken to a new level in recent years, with the emergence of wearable fitness trackers. On the surface, it seems that these trackers would eliminate any tendency to exaggerate activity performance, compared to using manual logs. However, where there's a will, there's a way. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) recently reported on wellness cheaters. What does cheating on workplace wellness contests say about the cheater?

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Topics: Company Culture, Employee Engagement, wellness

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Getting a Good Night's Sleep is All the Rage

David Rook

Companies are always looking to improve the quality of life of their employees by using a variety of incentives. To this end, employers are increasingly open to making a number of quality of life allowances, from dogs in the workplace to catering healthier lunchtime meals.

This isn't solely done for the purpose of improving morale and well-being. Employers have noted a strong correlation between employee health and their productivity at work. But can employers start encouraging healthy employee habits outside of their 9-5 purview?

One area of focus for company wellness has been the sleep habits of their employees and how subtle tweaks can have a profound impact on employee productivity.

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Topics: Company Culture, wellness

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