5 ways employers can boost employee engagement

Are you looking for ways to boost employee engagement this year? According to Work Institute, employers could prevent 77 percent of turnover by improving the employee experience. Read this blog post to learn more.


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

But filling current openings isn’t the only challenge HR teams face: An estimated 42 million employees will leave their jobs in 2019 in search of workplaces that better meet their needs and expectations. Turnover that significant leaves employers with only one option — focus on improving the employee experience to increase employee retention and satisfaction.

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

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

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

1. Make employee experience technology easy to use

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

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

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

2. Keep employee experience programs consistent across the organization

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

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

3. Give employees more control over benefit spending

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

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

4. Streamline data to accurately track employee engagement

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

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

5. Devote more funding to employee resource groups

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

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

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

Want to fight employee burnout? Focus on well-being

Employees with higher well-being are more likely to be productive, energized and engaged in their work. Read this blog post to learn how you can fight employee burnout by focusing on well-being.


Well-being can be described as feeling good and living with a sense of purpose. When employees have higher well-being, they’re more likely to be productive, energized and engaged in their work, as well as feel more committed to their organization. It’s what all leaders want for their employees. But can there be such a thing as too engaged? Can a super high level of engagement actually leave employees susceptible to burnout?

New research shows that burnout is real — and it can happen to anyone. But the saddest part is that the people it affects the most are people that care the most. In other words, your most dedicated people. It happens when highly engaged employees have increasingly low well-being due to overwhelming job pressures, work overload and a lack of manager or organizational support. Prolonged exposure to chronic emotional and interpersonal stressors on the job can lead to exhaustion, cynicism and inefficacy — even for people who are all in at work. Ultimately, these top-performing, highly-engaged employees will leave — or worse, the burnout will spread to other employees causing a toxic fire across your company. The good news is that burnout is totally preventable. You just have to know where to start.

Employee burnout is actually more a problem with the company than with the person. Both the root causes and the best solutions start at the organizational level. This doesn’t mean we should stop building emotional skills like mindfulness, resilience and fitness. But it does mean that in order to solve for burnout at your company — or at least extinguish the flames — the organization is driving the bus.

Here are four ways employers can take action by focusing on well-being to extinguish employee burnout.

1. Help employees connect to their purpose. Today, more employees are looking for real meaning and purpose in their work. Whether it’s a connection to a greater mission or following personal passions, purpose-driven employees give more and feel more fulfilled in doing so. In addition to feeling an emotional connection to their work, a sense of purpose also connects them to the company and ultimately affects their well-being and engagement. In fact, according to a study by Deloitte, 73% of employees who say they work at a “purpose-driven” company are engaged, compared to just 23% who say they don’t.

Helping employees connect to their purpose is key for burnout prevention. Focus on effective communication that linearly connects each employee’s work to the company’s mission. Set clear goals to continue to support employees in not only finding their purpose but staying connected to their purpose.

2. Foster a well-being mindset. We’re all wired differently — and that’s even more apparent when it comes to the workplace. How people think about stressful situations has an impact on their ability to handle and recover from them. For example, an employee who fears conflict versus an employee who takes it head on are going to have different reactions and recovery times.

As a leader or manager, when you know how people think about stress, you can help them cope with it and prevent burnout. Avoid organizational consequences such as absenteeism or turnover by communicating and encouraging positivity, self-care and weaving well-being into daily tasks.

3. Promote social support and connectedness. At the core, people want to rely on people. Support from an employee’s peers can mean everything. In fact, social support impacts stress, health, well-being and engagement — and ultimately, people feel better and have higher well-being when they feel connected to others. It’s more than a like on a community feed or high-five in the hallway — putting social connections at the forefront of your people strategy or employee engagement program can make a real impact.

Social connections like a company community feed, women in the workplace group or lunch buddies paired up across different departments helps employees get the support they need and guards against burnout.

4. Invest in tools to combat burnout. People who push themselves without taking breaks have a greater chance of being unproductive and burning out. Recovery time from workplace stress is key. Whether physically or mentally, everyone needs a break to recover — it’s natural to need to recharge and refresh. Even small recovery times or breaks can help people deal with the symptoms of burnout. And there are great new tools to make it easy to schedule and take a vacation and “hit refresh” with the full support of your company.

Make well-being a priority to reduce stress by investing in technology that can help you spot burnout, adjust workloads and have awareness of your employees’ stress levels. Take the Limeade burnout risk indicator for example. It allows leaders to see the risk levels for specific groups, and automatically target science-based activities to improve well-being and avoid cynicism (and worse).

When it comes to burnout in the workplace — you can tackle the symptoms to prevent top performers from burning out. Don’t make the mistake of misinterpreting burnout as disengagement. It’s time to take responsibility for burnout and take action at every level.

SOURCE: Albrecht, H. (31 December 2018) "Want to fight employee burnout? Focus on well-being" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/want-to-fight-employee-burnout-focus-on-wellbeing?feed=00000152-a2fb-d118-ab57-b3ff6e310000


It might be time for a financial wellness checkup

Forty-six percent of employees spend two to three hours per week at work dealing with personal finances. Read this blog post to learn what employers can do if they want a stress-free and productive workforce.


We’ve all seen the infamous statistics — 56% of American workers struggle financially, 75% live paycheck to paycheck. A majority of Americans can’t come up with $1,000 for an emergency.

It is quite obvious that financial worries have a massive impact on happiness and stress levels, but what business owners, executives and human resource professionals understand is that this lack of financial wellness in the U.S. has a devastating effect on worker productivity, and therefore, employers’ bottom lines.

Employees who spend time during their day worried about bills and loans are less focused on getting their work done. In fact, a staggering 46% of employees spend, on average, two to three hours per week dealing with personal finance issues during work hours. So what can employers offer their workers to help them become more financially sound?

There are a number of ways to help employees improve their financial well-being – including utilizing the help of a financial wellness benefit platform – but at the very least, there are three major benefits that every business should employ if they want a stress-free and productive workforce.

Savings, investment and retirement solutions. Offering employees the ability to automatically allocate their paychecks into savings, investment and retirement accounts will help them more effectively meet their financial goals without worrying about moving money around. These types of programs should allow employees to make temporary or permanent changes at any time to reflect any immediate changes that may occur in their life.

Credit solutions and loan consolidation. Having a reliable source of credit is extremely important, but access to it can also be dangerous for big spenders. Employers should guide workers towards making informed financial decisions and teach them how to use credit wisely. Employers need to be able to refer employees to affordable and trusted sources for things like credit cards, short-term loan options and mortgages, so employees don’t have to spend time doing the research for themselves (or worse, potentially becoming victims of fraud). Companies should also offer resources that teach employees how to organize their finances to pay their debt off on time without accumulating unnecessary interest or fees.

Insurance (not just health). While many large companies offer the traditional health, dental, vision, disability and life insurance, employers should also be offering resources that give easy access to vehicle, home, renters, boat, pet and other common insurance products. Some insurance carriers even offer volume discounts, so if a large percentage of employees in an organization utilize pet insurance, everyone can save some money.

While it is important for employers to offer these benefits, it is also important to follow up with employees and make sure they are utilizing all of the benefits they have access to. Sometimes people can have too much pride or can be afraid to ask for financial help. The use of these programs should be talked about, encouraged and even rewarded.

Justifying the investment in these benefits is simple. Employers want to increase productivity, and employees want to be more financially sound. The workplace is evolving and so is the workforce, so while you look to add benefits like 401(k), work from home, summer Fridays, gym memberships and free lunch, don’t forget about the financial wellness of the people you employ. Maybe next year, you will see that your workers are focused less on their college loans and are able to put more effort into growing your business.

SOURCE: Kilby, D. (2 January 2019) "It might be time for a financial wellness checkup" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/it-might-be-time-for-a-financial-wellness-checkup?feed=00000152-a2fb-d118-ab57-b3ff6e310000


The do’s and don’ts of ADA accommodations: 3 new rulings

More than 25,000 ADA charges were filed by the EEOC in the past year, despite employers best compliance efforts. Continue reading this blog post to learn more.


Employers are facing more disability discrimination lawsuits than ever – despite their best compliance efforts. 
In the past year alone, over 25,000 ADA charges were filed by the EEOC.

The right way to accommodate

One area that’s often a point of contention? The accommodation process. Workers and employers can have a very different idea of how a disability should be accommodated.

And while each disability needs to be evaluated on a case by case basis, several recent court rulings shed further light on employers’ ADA accommodation responsibilities.

1. In Brumley v. United Parcel Service, a court ruled that ADA accommodations don’t necessarily have to be given to employees immediately.

Melissa Brumley delivered packages for UPS when she hurt her back lifting a heavy box from her truck.

She took leave to heal, and her doctor said when she returned to work she could no longer lift packages or drive. Since these were two essential functions of her job, Brumley’s manager put her on leave while waiting on more information from her doctor.

After beginning the interactive process and considering a reassignment, Brumley’s doctor cleared her to go back to her old job, and UPS ended the process.

But Brumley sued the company for failing to accommodate her during those weeks she was on leave, which resulted in loss of pay.

A district court ruled in favor of UPS, and on appeal, the 6th Circuit agreed. It said just because the company didn’t accommodate the employee immediately didn’t mean it violated the ADA.

UPS began the interactive process and only stopped once Brumley was cleared to go back to her old job without an accommodation.

The key things the company did? Beginning the process and requesting additional info from Brumley’s doctor – this showed the court a good faith effort to comply with the ADA.

2. In Sharbono v. Northern States Power, a court ruled a company that failed to find an accommodation didn’t fail to fulfill its ADA duties.

After a foot injury, James Sharbono wasn’t able to wear the steel-toed boots required by his company’s safety procedures.

HR worked with Sharbono and suggested several accommodations, such as altering his boots and getting a custom pair made, but none worked out. Sharbono was forced to retire, and he sued for ADA violation.

But the 8th Circuit ruled the company acted in good faith. It worked with Sharbono and suggested several accommodations. It was only after exhausting all options that Sharbono was forced to retire. The court said the company fulfilled its ADA responsibilities, despite finding no accommodation for Sharbono.

3. In Stokes v. Nielsen, a court decided companies can be required to make accommodations that cover more than just essential job functions.

Jacqueline Stokes had impaired vision and received multiple accommodations that allowed her to do her job. Stokes then requested special meeting handouts, printed in large letters, that she could read beforehand.

Despite many promises from HR, Stokes never received her requested handouts. She sued, claiming to be denied a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.

While the company argued it gave Stokes everything she needed to do her job, therefore fulfilling its ADA responsibilities, the Fifth Circuit disagreed.

“Our circuit has explicitly rejected the requirement that requested modifications must be necessary to perform essential job functions to constitute a reasonable accommodation,” it said. And Stokes’ request was deemed reasonable.

This case shows if an employee makes a reasonable request for their job, it’s easier to just grant it.

SOURCE: Mucha, R. (4 January 2019) "The do’s and don’ts of ADA accommodations: 3 new rulings" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://www.hrmorning.com/the-dos-and-donts-of-ada-accommodations-3-new-rulings/


It might be time for a financial wellness checkup

On average, 46 percent of workers spend two to three hours during the work week dealing with personal finance issues. Continue reading this blog post to learn how employers can help employees improve their financial wellness.


We’ve all seen the infamous statistics — 56% of American workers struggle financially, 75% live paycheck to paycheck. A majority of Americans can’t come up with $1,000 for an emergency.

It is quite obvious that financial worries have a massive impact on happiness and stress levels, but what business owners, executives and human resource professionals understand is that this lack of financial wellness in the U.S. has a devastating effect on worker productivity, and therefore, employers’ bottom lines.

Employees who spend time during their day worried about bills and loans are less focused on getting their work done. In fact, a staggering 46% of employees spend, on average, two to three hours per week dealing with personal finance issues during work hours. So what can employers offer their workers to help them become more financially sound?

There are a number of ways to help employees improve their financial well-being – including utilizing the help of a financial wellness benefit platform – but at the very least, there are three major benefits that every business should employ if they want a stress-free and productive workforce.

Savings, investment and retirement solutions. Offering employees the ability to automatically allocate their paychecks into savings, investment and retirement accounts will help them more effectively meet their financial goals without worrying about moving money around. These types of programs should allow employees to make temporary or permanent changes at any time to reflect any immediate changes that may occur in their life.

Credit solutions and loan consolidation. Having a reliable source of credit is extremely important, but access to it can also be dangerous for big spenders. Employers should guide workers towards making informed financial decisions and teach them how to use credit wisely. Employers need to be able to refer employees to affordable and trusted sources for things like credit cards, short-term loan options and mortgages, so employees don’t have to spend time doing the research for themselves (or worse, potentially becoming victims of fraud). Companies should also offer resources that teach employees how to organize their finances to pay their debt off on time without accumulating unnecessary interest or fees.

Insurance (not just health). While many large companies offer the traditional health, dental, vision, disability and life insurance, employers should also be offering resources that give easy access to vehicle, home, renters, boat, pet and other common insurance products. Some insurance carriers even offer volume discounts, so if a large percentage of employees in an organization utilize pet insurance, everyone can save some money.

While it is important for employers to offer these benefits, it is also important to follow up with employees and make sure they are utilizing all of the benefits they have access to. Sometimes people can have too much pride or can be afraid to ask for financial help. The use of these programs should be talked about, encouraged and even rewarded.

Justifying the investment in these benefits is simple. Employers want to increase productivity, and employees want to be more financially sound. The workplace is evolving and so is the workforce, so while you look to add benefits like 401(k), work from home, summer Fridays, gym memberships and free lunch, don’t forget about the financial wellness of the people you employ. Maybe next year, you will see that your workers are focused less on their college loans and are able to put more effort into growing your business.

SOURCE: Kilby, D. (14 December 2018) "It might be time for a financial wellness checkup" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/it-might-be-time-for-a-financial-wellness-checkup


How to retain good employees? Make them feel valued.

Training industry reports that U.S. companies spend $161 billion on training development every year. Read this blog post to learn how you can make employees feel valued.


Trucking as an industry is not known as being woman-friendly, but Volvo Truck wants to change this and recently completed a landmark Women in Leadership experience for selected women employees.

For Volvo, retaining female employees is a strategic objective and demonstrating the potential for women to advance and move into leadership roles is key to keeping women in the company. The six-month Women in Leadership program demonstrated that the company valued the participants, just by inviting them to the program.

“Being nominated was like winning something,” said Volvo employee Tyletha Hubbard. “It felt good to know that I was considered a key talent in the organization.”

All people like to be recognized as valuable to their organizations. This principle holds for men, women, ethnic minorities and people of different generations who appreciate employer-provided training and development. What better way to show an employee that they are needed and that they have a place to grow and move up?

Training and development is big business. Training Industry reports that US companies spend $161 billion on it annually. But it’s also a cost-effective benefit to provide your employees. Classroom programs can reach dozens at a time for a flat fee. And then you can add back the valued gained from having a more effective workforce.

Training can address the hard skills of the job or the soft skills of interpersonal relations and emotional intelligence.

In the benefits industry, you’re constantly explaining complicated products that are often fraught with emotion and stress, e.g. health insurance. Presenting benefits plans to clients in a competitive bid is a high-wire act for most salespeople. So, training that focuses on presentation skills, public speaking and body language can give your firm a competitive edge, while building a more confident workforce.

When starting up a training initiative, presentation skills are a great “101” course to include. Most people don’t get it in school and most people need a lot of help with it. Not only does learning about presentation skills and interpersonal communication help people sell better, but it also helps them “read” other people better and interact more effectively with coworkers.

Presentation skills training is a cornerstone for further development. People who have better interpersonal communications tend to do better in higher level training and, generally, better outcomes in all of their work experiences.

Team building, decision making and leadership development are learning experiences that can also “show the love” from the organization to the employee, while also improving the performance of the firm. The term “learning organization” has become a positive goal for many companies, as a means of becoming more effective through better employee engagement and opening new opportunities within the company.

At Volvo, there is a practice of allowing employees to move laterally from department to department in order to learn new skills and keep work interesting. Its Women in Leadership program encouraged staff to think and talk about what job they might want to try doing next. The policy invites workers to be open about their goals and understand that there’s always a place for them. Contrast this with feeling like you’re in a dead-end job.

And this is where HR and training can team up.

A recent study by Right Management revealed that, when asked,  68 percent of employees say they really want to talk about their careers with company management. There’s even an HR term for it: career conversations. But these conversations are not happening very much.

According to the Right Management white paper, “Only 16 percent of employees indicate that they have ongoing career conversations with their managers and about their career.”

It turns out most people get their career conversations from managers, colleagues and family. When a promising young manager starts wondering about where her career is going, she might seek out advice from her workmates of parents, but not human resources.

Why not integrate career conversations with training? It’s a golden opportunity for your human resources team. Most training engagements include personality assessments and feedback that help participants better understand themselves and others. Also, training often concludes with some sort of “what’s next” discussion or action plan about how to use what’s been learned.

A career conversation that follows such focused introspection will be better informed and will benefit from the afterglow of learning.

It’s well documented that financial compensation isn’t always the main factor that keeps people from leaving a company. Andrew Chamberlain, an economist with Glassdoor recently wrote about this in Harvard Business Review.

“One of the most striking results we’ve found is that, across all income levels, the top predictor of workplace satisfaction is not pay: It is the culture and values of the organization, followed closely by the quality of senior leadership and the career opportunities at the company,” writes Chamberlain. “Among the six workplace factors we examined, compensation and benefits were consistently rated among the least important factors of workplace happiness.”

Not feeling valued by management can become an incentive to exit even if it means taking less money in the next job.

Training, development, continual learning experiences and career conversations are proven cost-effective ways to show employees that they are unique individuals who are needed by the organization.

SOURCE: Warrick, D. (29 November 2018) "How to retain good employees? Make them feel valued." (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitspro.com/2018/11/29/how-to-retain-good-employees-make-them-feel-valued/


11 top workplace stressors

According to a recent survey by CareerCast, deadlines are the top workplace stressor for employees. Read this blog post for more of the top workplace stressors.


With workplace stress leading to lower productivity and increased turnover, an important tool in an employer’s pocket is a working knowledge of what workplace stressors exist and how to help workers manage them. A new survey from CareerCast, a job search portal, finds these following 11 factors represent the most common stressors in any given profession.

The CareerCast Job Stress survey had 1,071 respondents who selected the most stressful part of their job from one of the 11 stress factors used to compile CareerCast’s most and least stressful jobs report.

11. Environmental conditions

2% of respondents say this is a leading contributor to workplace stress.

10. Travel

3% of respondents say this is a leading contributor to workplace stress.

9. Meeting the public

4% of respondents say this is a leading contributor to workplace stress.

8. Hazards encountered

5% of respondents say this is a leading contributor to workplace stress.

7. Life at risk

7% of respondents say this is a leading contributor to workplace stress.

6. Growth potential

7% of respondents say this is a leading contributor to workplace stress.

5. Working in the public eye

8% of respondents say this is a leading contributor to workplace stress.

4. Physical Demands

8% of respondents say this is a leading contributor to workplace stress.

3. Competitiveness

10% of respondents say this is a leading contributor to workplace stress.

2. Life of another at risk

17% of respondents say this is a leading contributor to workplace stress.

1. Deadlines

30% of respondents say this is a leading contributor to workplace stress.

For the full CareerCast report, click here.

SOURCE: Otto, N. (5 May 2017) "11 top workplace stressors" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/slideshow/11-top-workplace-stressors?tag=00000151-16d0-def7-a1db-97f03af00000


Peer Support Strengthens Mental Health Offerings

Are you considering providing workplace peer-support programs to your employees? Peer-support programs serve as an outreach for employees who are struggling with mental and emotional health problems. Read on to learn more.


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/


How to make on-demand fitness work for wellness

Does your business offer on-demand, virtual fitness to their employees? This new technology is making it easier for people to engage in physical activity. Continue reading to learn more.


The way we work out is changing. Technology makes it possible to watch movies, order meals, even rent bikes on our own terms, and people increasingly expect their fitness options to be just as easy. Enter on-demand, virtual fitness.

The demand for virtual fitness is booming. In the United States alone, the virtual fitness market is expected to reach $2.6 billion by 2022. Whether people are too intimidated to go to the gym, have difficulty finding time in their schedules to attend a class, or have difficulty finding classes that fit their needs — virtual fitness makes it easy for them to engage over time.

As a result, more employers are realizing the value of investing in employee health and the benefits of keeping employees physically active. Lack of physical activity contributes to numerous health risks, which can lead to increased healthcare costs and lost productivity. Physical activity has also been found to have a positive impact on mental health and well-being. For example, it’s been estimated that employees who are in poor health are twice as likely as their healthier coworkers to be disengaged from work.

On-demand, virtual fitness is an option that can be more affordable than establishing an on-site gym, and with 35% of employees working remotely, on-demand fitness allows employers to offer the workouts to more employees.

As would-be fitness fanatics increasingly turn to apps to help tone their abs, what should employers know to ensure success? Here are a few strategies.

1. Make it personal. It’s a simple concept: People will be more likely to exercise if they find a workout that appeals to them. The best on-demand options offer classes for a wide range of interests — from cycling to yoga to kickboxing, to mom-and-baby fitness or simple stretching.

2. Make it flexible. People come in all shapes, sizes, and fitness levels. Make sure classes work even if your employees aren’t super fit. Even better, look for something that offers users a natural progression from wherever they start to higher levels of fitness.

3. Make it accessible. The whole point of virtual fitness is that people can take part anytime and anywhere. Look for programming that makes classes available online from a desktop or laptop computer and on both Android and iOS-based smartphones or tablets. This allows employers to make fitness available during lunchtime in the break room, while also giving employees access to short exercises they can do during a break at their desks or even on the road.

4. Make it trackable. Virtual fitness programming can be integrated into your benefits portal to allow for tracking of wellness incentive points. This encourages employees to track their progress and to create a virtual community that encourages the success of all its members.

Today’s workforce is tech-savvy, and that dynamic is only going to become more prevalent. Using mobile devices or apps to give employees what they need to balance life and work will continue to be a smart move for employers.

SOURCE: Von Bank, J. (30 November 2018)  "How to make on-demand fitness work for wellness" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/tips-to-make-on-demand-fitness-work-for-your-wellness-program?brief=00000152-146e-d1cc-a5fa-7cff8fee0000


How To Stay Sane During The Holidays

Do the holidays cause your stress levels to rise? The holiday season can be the most stressful time of the year for many people. Read on for tips on remaining balanced, healthy and happy during the holidays.


The holiday season can often be the most stressful time of the year. It's often when we gather with our family, sit through a performance review with our boss, and plan for the new year. One cannot help but feel a mix of joy and anxiety as they approach this time. If you're feeling the pressure of the next few weeks, you're not alone!

As fitness and wellness expert Carrie Dorr says, "When it comes to being healthy, few of us realize that mental well-being is key to holistic health and remaining balanced in busy times. Our social calendars can take a toll on our mental and physical health." As the founder of Life Smart, Carrie is a go-to online wellness guide dedicated to providing women with the tools they need to enhance their holistic health through fitness, nutrition, and mental care.

She shares her best tips for remaining balanced, healthy and happy during the holidays:

Fitness

Even a 5 or 10-minute workout can significantly improve your overall well-being both physically and mentally. As Carrie explains, "Exercise makes your body stronger and also stimulates the production of endorphins which combat stress."

If your schedule doesn't allow for workout classes or gym sessions, at the very least, make time to breathe and stretch—every day. "Breathing relaxes our nervous system and helps to lower both heart rate and blood pressure. Flexibility and range of motion are key to posture, dexterity, and vitality!" Carrie says. She recommends doing both together daily.

Last but not least, don't forget to put together a workout playlist. Music is a powerful motivator and can have an amazing impact on your exercise. From Carrie's experience, matching the song to the pace of your workout helps optimize it. Higher beats per minute (BPMs) for faster exercise like cardio and lower BPMs for slower exercise like strength training and yoga. Check out Carrie's playlist for this month here.

Nutrition

Snack well and often to keep your metabolism humming and to avoid binging. Keeping nutrient-dense snacks on-hand, such as nuts, is a good way to build the habit. Be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Keep a bottle on your desk for a visual reminder.

"With cold and flu season, increased travel and exposure around more people over the holidays," Carrie says, "it’s important to eat foods that help boost your immune system so you can prepare for the cold and flu season ahead." Some examples include fruits and vegetables (they pack a serious antioxidant and fuel your body with the essential vitamins and minerals), bone broth (an amazing tonic that helps repair the gut lining and reduce inflammation) and meals seasoned with ginger, turmeric, onions or garlic (they are well-known fighters of infection, bugs and bacteria).

Another key aspect of your nutrition is your sugar intake. As refined sugar tends to alter your immune system for hours after consumption, it makes you more vulnerable to germs. Replace high-sugar treats such as soda, candy bars and cupcakes with slices of apples, pear or a cup of blueberries. If you're really craving one of those sweets, Carrie recommends trying out healthy cookie recipes here.

Mental health

Anticipating losing sleep? Do not let that happen! It's essential for your body to repair itself and while most of us love to do it, there are times when insomnia will creep in. To reduce the anxiety and pressure around sleep, Carrie finds it helpful to maintain an evening practice that sets the stage for a relaxing night. Write down five wins (big or small) of the day before bed in a journal. What's a better way to enhance your mood?

Surprisingly, another way to feel good about yourself is to put your time and energy in service to others. Do something kind for another person without expectations. "Kindness can shift you out of your own singular perspective, where it’s easy to be consumed by personal obligations and problems, into a place where you remember that we are all in this together!" Carrie Says. There are so many simple ways to do this on an ongoing basis and even more opportunities around the holidays. Among other things, you can adopt a family for gift-giving, help feed the homeless in your community or visit the elderly at a local senior center and sing with them.

Most importantly, during the holidays, be sure to have FUN! If you are feeling overwhelmed by the season, shift your focus to the memories that await you. Plan out some seasonal things to do: go see a local play, bake cookies, play holiday songs on the piano, or be goofy with friends in public and laugh. A little laughter goes a long way.

SOURCE: Joseph, S. (2 December 2018) "How To Stay Sane During The Holidays" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/shelcyvjoseph/2018/12/02/how-to-stay-sane-during-the-holidays/#596473932750