Top 10 health conditions costing employers the most

Conditions that impact plan costs can be problematic. Here is a look into the top 10 health conditions hitting the hardest on employers wallets.


As healthcare costs continue to rise, more employers are looking at ways to target those costs. One step they are taking is looking at what health conditions are hitting their pocketbooks the hardest.

“About half of employers use disease management programs to help manage the costs of these very expensive chronic conditions,” says Julie Stich, associate vice president of content at the International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans. “In addition, about three in five employers use health screenings and health risk assessments to help employees identify and monitor these conditions so that they can be managed more effectively. Early identification helps the employer and the employee.”

What conditions are costly for employers to cover? In IFEPB’s Workplace Wellness Trends 2017 Survey, more than 500 employers were asked to select the top three conditions impacting plan costs. The following 10 topped the list.

10. High-risk pregnancy

Although high-risk pregnancies have seen a dip of 1% since 2015, they still bottom out the list in 2017; 5.6% of employers report these costs are a leading cost concern for health plans.

9. Smoking

Smoking has remained a consistent concern of employers over the last several years; 8.6% of employers report smoking has significant impact on health plans.

8. High cholesterol

While high cholesterol still has a major impact on health costs- 11.6% say it's a top cause of raising healthcare costs- that number is significantly lower from where it was in 2015 (19.3%).

7. Depression/ mental illness

For 13.9% of employers, mental health has a big influence on healthcare costs. This is down from 22.8% in 2015.

6. Hypertension/ high blood pressure

This is the first condition in IFEBP's report to have dropped a ranking in the last two years. In 2015, hypertension/ high blood pressure ranked 5th with 28.9% of employers reporting it is a high cost condition. In 2017, the condition dropped to 6th with 27.6% of employers noting high costs associated with the disease.

5. Heart disease

This year's study found that 28.4% of employers reported high costs associated with heart disease. In 2015, heart disease was the second highest cost driver with 37.1% of employers citing high costs from the disease.

4. Arthritis/back/musculoskeletal

Nearly three in 10 employers (28.9%) say these conditions are drivers of their health plan costs, compared to 34.5% in 2015.

3. Obesity

Obesity is still a top concern for employers, but slightly less so than it was two years ago. In 2017, 29% of employers found obesity to be a burden on health plans. In 2015, 32.45 cited obesity as a major cost driver.

2. Cancer (all kinds)

Cancer has become more expensive for employers. Now, 35.4% of employers report cancer increasing the costs of health plans, compared to 32% in 2015.

1. Diabetes

The king of raising health costs, diabetes has topped the list both in 2015 and 2017. In the most recent report, 44.3% of employers say diabetes is among the conditions impacting plan costs.

SOURCE:
Otto. N (18 June 2018) "Top 10 health conditions costing employers the most" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/slideshow/top-10-health-conditions-costing-employers-the-most


7 wellness program ideas you may want to steal

Need more energy and excitement in your office? Keep your employees healthy and motivated with these fun wellness program ideas.


Building your own workplace wellness program takes work–and time–but it’s worth it.

“It’s an investment we need to make,” Jennifer Bartlett, HR director at Griffin Communication, told a group of benefits managers during a session at the Human Resource Executive Health and Benefits Leadership Conference. “We want [employees] to be healthy and happy, and if they’re healthy and happy they’ll be more productive.”

Bartlett shared her experiences building, and (continually) tweaking, a wellness program at her company–a multimedia company running TV outlets across Oklahoma –over the last seven years. “If there was a contest or challenge we’ve done it,” she said, noting there have been some failed ventures.

“We got into wellness because we wanted to reduce health costs, but that’s not why we do it today,” she said. “We do it today because employees like it and it increases morale and engagement.”

Though Griffin Communication's wellness program is extensive and covers more than this list, here are some components of it that's working out well that your company might want to steal:

  1. Fitbit challenge.Yes, fit bits can make a difference, Bartlett said. The way she implemented a program was to have a handful of goals and different levels as not everyone is at the same pace-some might walk 20,000 steps in a day, while someone else might strive for 5,000. There are also competition and rewards attached. At Griffin Communications, the company purchased a number of Fitbits, then sold them to its employees for half the cost.
  2. Race entry.Griffin tries to get its employees moving by being supportive of their fitness goals. If an employee wants to participate in a race-whether walking or running a 5k or even a marathon, it will reimburse them up to $50 one time.
  3. Wellness pantry.This idea, Bartlett said, was "more popular than I ever could have imagined." Bartlett stocks up the fridge and pantry in the company's kitchen with healthy food options. Employees then pay whole sale the price of the food, so it's a cheap option for them to instead of hitting the vending machine. "Employees can pay 25 cents for a bottled water or $1.50 for a soda from the machine."
  4. Gym membership."We don't have an onsite workout facility, but we offer 50 percent reimbursement of (employees') gym membership cost up to a max of 200 per year," she said. The company also reimburses employees for fitness classes, such as yoga.
  5. Biggest Loser contest.Though this contest isn't always popular among companies, a Biggest Loser-type competition- in which employees compete to lose the most weight-worked out well at Griffin. Plus, Bartlett said, "this doesn't cost us anything because the employee buys in $10 to do it." She also insisted the company is sensitive to employees. For example, they only share percentages of weight loss instead of sharing how much each worker weights.
  6. "Project Zero" contest.This is a program pretty much everyone can use: Its aim is to avoid gaining the dreaded holiday wights. The contest runs from early to mid- November through the first of the year. "Participants will weigh in the first and last day of the contest," Bartlett said. "The goal is to not gain weight during the holidays-we're not trying to get people to lose weight but we're just to not get them to not eat that third piece of pie."
  7. Corporate challenges.Nothing both builds camaraderie and encourages fitness like a team sports or company field day. Bartlett said that employees have basically taken this idea and run with it themselves- coming up with fun ideas throughout the year.

SOURCE:
Mayer K (14 June 2018) "7 wellness program ideas you may want to steal" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://www.benefitspro.com/2015/10/10/7-wellness-program-ideas-you-may-want-to-steal/


Lack Of Insurance Exposes Blind Spots In Vision Care

Vision problems are typically not life threatening but can impact the success of your everyday life. Vision care is a significant benefit that could change the lives of many families.


Every day, a school bus drops off as many as 45 children at a community eye clinic on Chicago’s South Side. Many of them are referred to the clinic after failing vision screenings at their public schools.

Clinicians and students from the Illinois College of Optometry give the children comprehensive eye exams, which feature refraction tests to determine a correct prescription for eyeglasses and dilation of their pupils to examine their eyes, including the optic nerve and retina.

No family pays out-of-pocket for the exam. The program bills insurance if the children have coverage, but about a third are uninsured. Operated in partnership with Chicago public schools, the program annually serves up to 7,000 children from birth through high school.

“Many of the kids we’re serving fall through the cracks,” said Dr. Sandra Block, a professor of optometry at the Illinois College of Optometry and medical director of the school-based vision clinics program. Many are low-income Hispanic and African-American children whose parents may not speak English or are immigrants who are not in the country legally.

Falling through the cracks is not an uncommon problem when it comes to vision care. According to a 2016 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, as many as 16 million people in the United States have undiagnosed or uncorrected “refractive” errors that could be fixed with eyeglasses, contact lenses or surgery. And while insurance coverage for eye exams and corrective lenses clearly has improved, significant gaps remain.

The national academies’ report noted that impaired vision affects how people experience their world, including normal communication and social activities, independence and mobility. Not seeing clearly can hamper children’s academic achievement, social development and long-term health.

But when people must choose, vision care may lose out to more pressing medical concerns, said Block, who was on the committee that developed the report.

“Vision issues are not life-threatening,” she said. “People get through their day knowing they can’t see as well as they’d like.”

Insurance can make regular eye exams, glasses and treatment for medical problems such as cataracts more accessible and affordable. But comprehensive vision coverage is often achieved only through a patchwork of plans.

The Medicare program that provides coverage for millions of Americans age 65 and older doesn’t include routine eye exams, refraction testing or eyeglasses. Some tests are covered if you’re at high risk for a condition such as glaucoma, for example. And if you develop a vision-related medical condition such as cataracts, the program will cover your medical care.

But if you’re just a normal 70-year-old and you want to get your eyes examined, the program won’t cover it, said Dr. David Glasser, an ophthalmologist in Columbia, Md., who is a clinical spokesman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. If you make an appointment because you’re experiencing troubling symptoms and get measured for eyeglasses while there, you’ll likely be charged anywhere from about $30 to $75, Glasser said.

There are a few exceptions. Medicare will pay for one pair of glasses or contact lenses following cataract surgery, for example. Some Medicare Advantage plans offer vision care.

Many commercial health insurance plans also exclude routine vision care from their coverage. Employers may offer workers a separate vision plan to fill in the gaps.

VSP Vision Care provides vision care plans to 60,000 employers and other clients, said Kate Renwick-Espinosa, the organization’s president. A typical plan provides coverage for a comprehensive eye exam once a year and an allowance toward standard eyeglasses or contact lenses, sometimes with a copayment. Also, individuals seeking plans make up a growing part of their business, she said.

Vision coverage for kids improved under the Affordable Care Act. The law requires most plans sold on the individual and small-group market to offer vision benefits for children younger than 19. That generally means that those plans cover a comprehensive eye exam, including refraction, every year, as well as a pair of glasses or contact lenses.

But since pediatric eye exams aren’t considered preventive care that must be covered without charging people anything out-of-pocket under the ACA, they’re subject to copays and the deductible.

Medicaid programs for low-income people also typically cover vision benefits for children and sometimes for adults as well, said Dr. Christopher Quinn, president of the American Optometric Association, a professional group.

But coverage alone isn’t enough. To bring down the number of people with undiagnosed or uncorrected vision, education is key to helping people understand the importance of eye health in maintaining good vision. Just as important, it can also reduce the impact of chronic conditions such as diabetes, the national academies’ report found.

“All health care providers need to at least ask vision questions when providing primary care,” said Block.

SOURCE:
Andrews M (13 JUNE 2018). "Lack Of Insurance Exposes Blind Spots In Vision Care" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://khn.org/news/lack-of-insurance-exposes-blind-spots-in-vision-care/


Viewpoint: Coaching Your Employees to Finish Strong as They Near Retirement

10,000 people a day are retiring. Help your employees transition into retirement with these important strategies. ​


Baby Boomers are beginning to retire in large numbers. AARP says 10,000 people a day are retiring from work. Most companies have no formal program to aid these employees in this transition. Although we often have extensive onboarding programs, little to nothing is done when an employee is ending his or her career, except a goodbye party.

For many people, upcoming retirement means coasting until the day they are done. Dave was a senior-level manager who announced his retirement one year in advance. The problem was that Dave then became "retired on the job." He stopped innovating. He stopped moving new ideas forward. He avoided conflict by ignoring problems. He no longer aggressively led his team.

Dave had been very successful in his career but he ended poorly, so that was how everyone remembered him. His team suffered poor morale because its members felt they were stuck until Dave left his position. That is a problem for the whole company.

Help retiring employees to end strong at your company. Instead of letting employees coast and drain the company coffers, HR can support retiring workers as they end their careers in the best way possible, fully contributing up until the last day.

Some key strategies include:

  • Creating a planning-to-retire educational program.HR should develop a workshop to show employees how to plan out their future, paying special consideration to how they will handle all the free time they will have once they leave the company. The course can cover financial planning, too. The employee will be grateful for this assistance.
  • Coaching the employee's manager.Managers of departing employees need instruction on how to support someone leaving the group. The formal coaching should offer proven strategies to keep the employee engaged until his or her last day. The supervisor should encourage the employee to complete as many key projects as possible and accept the responsibility to not let the employee become retired on the job.
  • Documenting their knowledge.As many Baby Boomers walk out the door, their depth of experience and insight depart with them. Companies should have these employees document their knowledge by creating a training manual or by adding pages to the organization's intranet so other employees can learn from these folks.
  • Training a new employee.Ideally, the organization should promote or hire a replacement and have the departing employee train the new person. Having a two- to three-week training period helps the new employee get up to speed and be more productive, more quickly. 
  • Offering a "bridge job."Finding talented workers to replace departing Baby Boomers will become harder to do in our tight labor market. Developing a transitional or bridge job where the employee remains at work on a part-time basis may allow the company to avoid the quest for talent that is often not available. Baby Boomers want more flexibility and fewer work hours at the end of their career. In fact, 72 percent say they plan to work in their retirement. Annette was an IT specialist who wanted to leave the energy utility she worked for. The HR department was under the gun to deliver a new human resource information system and asked her to continue working three days a week with the ability to take more unpaid vacations. This new bridge job kept her in her role for 18 months until the big project was completed.

Final days may be a bittersweet time for employees to say goodbye to their co-workers, friends and the company itself. Having a supportive send-off is a great policy to ensure that everyone leaves on a positive note and will speak highly of your organization after the departure.

 

SOURCE:
Ryan R (4 June 2018) "Viewpoint: Coaching Your Employees to Finish Strong as They Near Retirement" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/benefits/Pages/Viewpoint-Coaching-Your-Employees-on-Finishing-Strong-As-They-Retire-.aspx?_ga=2.37756515.1310386699.1527610160-238825258.1527610159


Five Practical Ways to Support Mental Well-being at Work

Mental well-being impacts engagement, absenteeism and productivity. Discover how help make the workplace atmosphere and environment more pleasant with these tricks.


The American Institute of Stress reports that stress is the nation’s top health problem. This makes sense, as mental capacity is highly valued in the workplace but can also be highly vulnerable. Today’s workplace, with technology, fast-paced growth and decreased resources, can contribute to increased stress.

Companies should value the mental health of their employees as a top asset and fiercely protect it. Mental well-being impacts engagement, presenteeism, absenteeism and productivity — all of which impact businesses bottom lines. More importantly, supporting and protecting the mental health of your employees is the right thing to do.

Here are five best practices to support mental health in the workplace.

  1. Normalize the conversation.

Top-down support of mental health is crucial in creating an open dialogue, as is an open-door policy. Senior leaders should participate in the conversation about mental wellbeing to show buy in. Normalizing the occurrence of a grief reaction or stress disorder can insure that your employees seek help when it happens to them.

Establishing mental health champions within your organization is another way to encourage a healthy dialogue. People with mental health conditions who want to help others are great candidates for this role.

Use awareness days that focus on stress and mental health as external nudges to educate staff about these important issues. Importantly, remind staff that a diversity of perspectives, including those with lived mental health experiences, are valued and encouraged in inclusive environments.

  1. Implement strong policies and procedures.

Disclosure can help an employee seek the appropriate resources and care before conditions worsen, so having proper policies and procedures in place are important in removing barriers to disclose.

This includes protection against discrimination, which is usually a top concern for employees, as well as providing appropriate workplace accommodations. Ensure managers are aware of key resources, like employee assistance programs, and maintain confidentiality when an employee discloses information.

Beyond this, educate employees on policies, procedures and proper protocols to increase employee awareness. Here’s a tip: Repeat key messages and tailor your communications to better reach your staff.

  1. Prevention is better than cure.

It’s essential to remember that anyone is susceptible to stress and a resulting decline in their mental health, whether a preexisting condition exists or not. Big life events like having a baby or losing a loved one and every day struggles like money worries, relationship issues or work-related stress can cause or aggravate mental health conditions to the point of interfering with work. 

Mental wellness sessions or work/life balance programs can help. Bring in an expert and talk to your staff about how to safeguard their own mental health, build resilience and recognize signs of distress in others.

  1. Tailor your benefits package to support mental wellbeing.

Choose a major medical plan that gives employees access to quality mental health specialists in network, as these costs can add up significantly. Helping employees have access to and triage the right specialist support is crucial in managing conditions.

EAPs can act as a first line of defense for a wide range of problems – from money and relationship worries to support for working caregivers. They provide both practical and emotional support for employees through confidential counseling and can help prevent issues from escalating and impacting productivity. These programs are often offered as part of a major medical or disability plan, so your company may already have access to them.

Money worries can also take an emotional toll on wellbeing. In fact, financial concerns were the leading cause of stress across all generations in a recent consumer study conducted by my company, Unum.

Help your employees establish a strong financial foundation by offering financially-focused benefits, like life and disability insurance, retirement savings options and supplemental health benefits that can close the rising financial gap in medical plans.

If your budget doesn’t cover these benefits, consider offering them on a voluntary basis. Access to financial protection benefits are more affordable when offered through the workplace, even if the employee picks up the cost.

Flexible hours or remote working options can also help employees schedule their work days when they’re feeling most productive. This can help reduce presenteeism for mental ill-health, and it also signals to employees that you’re supportive of a healthy work/life balance.

  1. Encourage self-care.

Self-care plays a critical role in overall wellbeing. Encourage employees to do small tasks that’ll help them build resilience over time.

The basics like getting plenty of sleep, eating healthy, drinking water, and exercising are foundational in overall wellbeing.

Beyond these staples, developing appropriate time management and work/life balance skills are also important. Delegating and collaborating are also key to ensure healthy work behaviors which also decrease stress.

While technology and our always-on culture make it hard to disconnect, encourage employees to set device off-times so they can fully recharge before the next day. And most important, model this behavior to your staff and limit after hours work and emails.

Having a holistic mental well-being strategy that includes prevention, intervention and protection is essential for unlocking a workforce’s true potential.

 

SOURCE:
Jackson M (4 June 2018) "Five Practical Ways to Support Mental Well-being at Work" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from http://www.workforce.com/2018/05/18/five-practical-ways-support-mental-well-work/


Paid Family Leave claims processing tips

New York is setting a trend with new Paid Family Leave policy. New law could trigger states to follow their lead in the near future.


While most of us realize that change is a part of life, few of us can afford to sacrifice our paycheck when it happens.

To help ensure that New Yorkers do not find themselves in this situation, the state signed into law the nation’s strongest and most comprehensive Paid Family Leave (PFL) policy. Effective Jan. 1, 2018, the law provides residents with job-protected, paid leave to bond with a newborn, care for a loved one with a serious illness, or tend to family matters when a loved one is called to active military service.

The new law encompasses numerous leave types, eligibilities and durations, so processing a PFL claim can be confusing. To unmuddy the waters, let’s dive into the who, when, how and what regarding PFL.

Who is eligible?

Added to a company’s Disability Benefits Law (DBL) policy as a rider, Paid Family Leave was created for private-sector organizations with at least one employee who works in New York State at least 30 days of the year. Public companies may opt to provide coverage as well, but it is not required.

To be eligible for PFL, applicants must be employed by a covered employer at the time they apply.

  • Employees with a regular work schedule of 20 or more hours per week are eligible after 26 consecutive weeks of employment. This includes sick or vacation time, but may not count other covered leaves.
  • Employees with a regular work schedule of fewer than 20 hours per week are eligible after 175 days worked, which do not need to be consecutive.

How it works

In 2018, both full- and part-time employees are eligible to take up to eight weeks of PFL and receive 50% of their average weekly wage (AWW). The weekly earnings under PFL are currently capped at $652.96, which is 50% of the New York State Average Weekly Wage (NYSAWW) of $1,305.92. (For details, visit www.ny.gov.)

New Yorkers stand to benefit even more in the years to come, as the state plans to increase PFL incrementally, reaching 12 weeks by 2021.

PFL benefits are funded through a small weekly payroll deduction. The deduction is a percentage of an employee’s weekly wage — up to the aforementioned cap.

To provide some perspective, the current payroll contribution is 0.126% of a New Yorker’s gross weekly earnings, capped at a total annual contribution of $85.56. For example, an employee earning $1,200 a week in 2018 would pay $1.51 per week. To calculate an employee’s weekly deduction, simply enter the required information at www.ny.gov/paid-family-leave-calculator.

A healthy dose of security

Not only will eligible applicants receive a portion of their wages while on leave, qualifying employees can rely on continued health insurance coverage while taking PFL. Employers are required by law to continue the existing health insurance benefits. If employees contribute to the cost of their health insurance, they are also required to continue paying their portion while on leave.

It is important to note that Paid Family Leave does notreplace disability benefits coverage. Disability benefits are meant to cover off-the-job personal illness or injury. PFL is designed to provide paid time off to care for family that need assistance.

In fact, some employees may be eligible for both PFL bonding and disability benefits for maternity at the same time, although they may not be taken simultaneously, according to the New York State Workers Compensation Board.

Leave categories

PFL is flexible and may occur in a variety of ways. The applicant has options when deciding how much time to take at any given time. While the law states that a 30 day leave notice is required, there are considerations for times when life surprises us.

There are four main PFL categories:

  • Continuous leave: The employee takes the entire 8 weeks of PFL without interruption.
  • Intermittent leave:The employee takes leave in increments as short as one day at a time.
  • Foreseeable event:The leave begins following a planned event such as a birth, adoption, surgery or military ceremony.
  • Non-foreseeable event:The leave is in response to an accident or an unexpected surgery.

PFL-worthy events

As mentioned earlier, an employee can request PFL for one of three reasons. The State of New York classifies these leaves as Bonding, Family Care and Military Exigency. Each type has its own eligibility terms and required documentation. If your company or agency does not have the required forms on hand, they are available at www.ny.gov. Employees requesting PFL are required to do so at least 30 days in advance, when possible, starting with Form PFL-1.

Bonding Leave A parent may take PFL during the first 12 months following the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child. To start the application process, an employee will need to obtain the “Bond with a Newborn, Newly Adopted or Fostered Child” forms package.

From there, the employee would complete a “Request for Family Leave” (Form PFL-1) and submit it to his or her employer, who will complete the employer section and then return it to the employee. A PFL-1 is required for all three types of leave. Also required is the “Bonding Certification” (Form PFL-2). The employee must complete and submit both forms, along with any supporting documentation (e.g., birth certificate, adoption certificate, etc.), to the employer’s insurance carrier.

Family Care Leave New Yorkers have the right to take time off to care for a loved one with a serious health condition. This individual could be a spouse or domestic partner, child or stepchild, as well as a parent, stepparent, parent-in-law, grandparent or grandchild.

After obtaining a “Care for a Family Member with Serious Health Condition” forms package, the employee must submit a completed PFL-1 to their employer, who will complete it and return it to the employee. Additionally, the employee’s family member (the care recipient), or their authorized representative, is required to complete a “Release of Personal Health Information Under the Paid Family Leave Law” (Form PFL-3). Upon completing the release, the individual will submit it to his or her health care provider.

The second form the employee is required to complete is the “Health Care Provider Certification” (Form PFL-4). Upon completion, this form will go to the employee’s health care provider for review, then to the care recipient and ultimately back to the employee. The employee must submit the PFL-4, along with his or her completed PFL-1, and PFL-3, to his or her employer’s insurance carrier.

Military Exigency Leave — If an employee’s spouse, domestic partner, child or parent is deployed abroad or has been notified of an impending deployment, the employee can take PFL to assist or support the military member and his or her family. Examples include making financial and/or legal arrangements on the military member’s behalf, attending military-related ceremonies for the deployed individual and tending to urgent childcare needs created by the family member’s deployment.

To begin the process, the employee must obtain the “Assist Families in Connection with a Military Deployment” forms package. Next, the employee will need to complete a PFL-1 and submit the form to his or her employer. The employee must then complete the “Military Qualifying Event” (Form PFL-5), attaching any supporting documentation (e.g., covered active duty orders, letter from the military unit confirming deployment, etc.). The employee will then submit his or her employer-approved PFL-1 and completed PFL-5 to the employer’s insurance carrier.

Employer obligations

For employers, when it comes to PFL claims, compliance is key. Here are a few important obligations:

  • New York employers are required to complete and return a submitted PFL-1 within three business days of receiving it.
  • If an employer provides health care, the employer must maintain coverage while the employee is out on leave.
  • As mentioned earlier, employers must provide the same or a similar job upon the employee’s return from leave.

While honoring these obligations are the law, doing so can be challenging for business owners, especially in the case of an intermittent leave. This new coverage will ramp up over the next four years, rates and benefit details are subject to changes by the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS).

It is critical to stay in-the-know about this new and developing coverage. Employers can look to their local insurance professionals for help navigating the ins and outs of this groundbreaking law, starting with filling out an employee census to determine their related premiums.

SOURCE:
Maas J (31 May 2018). "Paid Family Leave claims processing tips" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://www.propertycasualty360.com/2018/05/25/paid-family-leave-claims-processing-tips/


How to get the most out of a day off

Time off is necessary but planning an extended vacation may be stressful. These pointers will help show you how micro-vacations can positively benefit your lifestyle.


The idea of “vacation” often conjures up thoughts of trips to faraway lands. While it’s true that big trips can be fun and even refreshing, they can also take a lot of time, energy, and money. A lot of people feel exhausted just thinking about planning a vacation—not just navigating personal commitments and school breaks, but deciding how to delegate major projects or put work on hold, just so they can have a stress-free holiday. Because of this, some might put off their time away, figuring they’ll get to it when their schedule isn’t so demanding, only to discover at the end of the year that they haven’t used up their paid time off.

In my experience as a time management coach and as a business owner, I’ve found that vacations don’t have to be big to be significant to your health and happiness. In fact, I’ve been experimenting with the idea of taking “micro-vacations” on a frequent basis, usually every other week. These small bits of time off can increase my sense of happiness and the feeling of having “room to breathe.”

From my point of view, micro-vacations are times off that require you to use a day or less of vacation time. Because of their shorter duration, they typically require less effort to plan. And micro-vacations usually don’t require you to coordinate others taking care of your work while you’re gone. Because of these benefits, micro-vacations can happen more frequently throughout the year, which allows you to recharge before you’re feeling burnt out.

If you’re feeling like you need a break from the day-to-day but can’t find the time for an extended vacation, here are four ways to add micro-vacations to your life.

Weekend trips.Instead of limiting vacations to week-long adventures, consider a two- to three-day trip to someplace local. I’m blessed to live in Michigan, and one of my favorite weekend trips is to drive to Lake Michigan for some time in a little rented cottage on the shore or to drive up north to a state park. Especially if you live in an urban area, traveling even a few hours can make you feel like you’re in a different world.

To make the trip as refreshing as possible, consider taking time off on Friday so you can wrap up packing, get to your destination, and do a few things before calling it a night. That still leaves you with two days to explore the area. If you get home by dinnertime on Sunday, you can unpack and get the house in order before your workweek starts again.

There may be a few more e-mails than normal to process on Monday, but other than that, your micro-vacation shouldn’t create any big work pileups.

Margin for personal to-do items.Sometimes getting the smallest things done can make you feel fantastic. Consider taking an afternoon—or even a full day—to take an unrushed approach to all of the nonwork tasks that you really want to do but struggle to find time to do. For example, think of those appointments like getting your hair cut, nails done, oil changed, or doctor visits. You know that you should get these taken care of but finding the time is difficult with your normal schedule.

Or perhaps you want to take the time to do items that you never seem to get to, like picking out patio furniture, unpacking the remaining boxes in the guest room, or setting up your retirement account. You technically could get these kinds of items done on a weeknight or over the weekend. But if you’re consistently finding that you’re not and you have the vacation time, use it to lift some of the weight from the nagging undone items list.

Shorter days for socialization.As individuals get older and particularly after they get married, there tends to be a reduction in how much time they spend with friends. One way to find time for friends without feeling like you’re sacrificing your family time is to take an hour or two off in a day to meet a friend for lunch or to get together with friends before heading home. If you’re allowed to split up your vacation time in these small increments, a single vacation day could easily give you four opportunities to connect with friends who you otherwise might not see at all.

If you struggle to have an uninterrupted conversation with your spouse because your kids are always around, a similar strategy can be helpful. Find days when one or both of you can take a little time off to be together. An extra hour or two will barely make a difference at work but could make a massive impact on the quality of your relationship.

Remote days for decompression. Many offices offer remote working options for some or all of the week. If that’s offered and working remotely is conducive to your work style and your tasks, take advantage of that option.

Working remotely is not technically a micro-vacation, but it can often feel like one. (Please still do your work—I don’t want to get in trouble here!) If you have a commute of an hour or more each way, not having to commute can add back in two or more hours to your life that can be used for those personal tasks or social times mentioned above.

Also, for individuals who work in offices that are loud, lack windows, or where drive-by meetings are common, working remotely can feel like a welcome respite. Plus, you’re likely to get more done. A picturesque location can also give you a new sense of calm as you approach stressful projects. I find that if I’m working in a beautiful setting, like by a lake, it almost feels as good as a vacation. My surroundings have a massive impact on how I feel.

Instead of seeing “vacation” as a large event once or twice a year, consider integrating in micro-vacations into your life on a regular basis. By giving yourself permission to take time for yourself, you can increase your sense of ease with your time.

SOURCE:
Saunders E (28 May 2018). [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://hbr.org/2018/05/how-to-get-the-most-out-of-a-day-off


Are your employees scared to take time off?

Your employees might be feeling pressured and overworked. Avoid low productivity in your workplace with these tips on vacation impact.


They might be getting paid time off, but close to half of American workers aren’t taking it—or aren’t taking as much of it as they’re entitled to. And that’s making for a workforce that’s not only overworked and under stress, but actually being pressured to forego time that they’re entitled to.

So says “The PTO Pressure Report” from Kimble Applications, which finds that not only have 47 percent of employees not taken as much PTO as they’re entitled to, 21 percent admit to having left more than five vacation days unused. According to survey respondents, workload-related stress is the top reason so many are failing to use all the PTO they’re entitled to: 27 percent say they just have too many projects or deadlines to take time off, and 13 percent dread the heaps they’ll find on their desks when they get back.

Their bosses aren’t helping, either, with 19 percent of respondents saying that they’ve felt pressured by employers or managers to abstain from vacation. Not only that, more than a quarter are actually nervous or even anxious at the thought of submitting a time-off request; 19 percent worry about being away from work, while 7 percent fear that their requests will be denied.

But businesses could actually be shooting themselves in the foot by keeping such a tight rein on employees. Says the report, “These managers likely don’t realize that this is having a direct, negative impact on the business, as past research indicates that employees who take most or all of their vacation time each year perform better and are more productive than those who do not.”

Even if they get to go on vacation, it’s not doing a lot of them much good. They’re too wired into the job, with 48 percent saying they proactively check in on vacation. A surprising 19 percent do so every day, with another 29 percent doing so periodically. And the boss isn’t making it easy to be on vacation once they get to go; 29 percent of workers say they’re expected to be available for emergencies, and another nine percent say they’re expected to check in frequently. Can’t exactly unwind too well with that hanging over their heads, which means they get back to work stressed out from making sure they satisfy vacation’s employment obligations.

They think they’ll get ahead that way, though—at least 14 percent believe that if they leave that vacation time on the table, they’re more likely to succeed and move up in the ranks. And 19 percent say that’s more important to them than the vacation time they’re abandoning—they’d give up their vacation time for a whole year if it meant they’d nail a promotion.

Younger employees are more willing to work instead of take time off than their elders ; 25 percent of those aged 25–34 feel this way compared to only 17 percent of those aged 55–64.

What businesses may not realize is how important PTO is for the company’s bottom line. Mark Robinson, co-founder of Kimble Applications disagrees. “I am an advocate of giving people a reasonable vacation entitlement and then encouraging them to take it,” he says in the report. ”My experience is that businesses work best if there is clarity about this and people feel confident about planning their vacation well in advance. That is better for the individuals and it allows the business to forecast and budget better too.”

Robinson adds, “American businesses sometimes offer unlimited time off—but they know that in most cases that ends up with people taking less time off. Also, in businesses where people don’t feel confident enough about taking vacations to plan them well in advance, there can be an issue at the end of the year when they suddenly all disappear at once. Successful, sustainable organizations learn to plan their business around PTO time.”

SOURCE:

Satter M. (22 May 2018). “Are your employees scared to take time off?” [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitspro.com/2018/05/22/are-your-employees-scared-to-take-time-off/


Spot the differences between productivity and busyness

Productivity and busyness are often used interchangeably. This is a mistake. When you think about it, you can be busy and still get nothing really done.

Productivity is efficiently using time to change something, whether it be improving a project or taking care of an errand. Efficiency is the key word here, as no one would consider, say, spending an entire day writing a letter efficient.

Busyness is being occupied with a particular activity to the point where it becomes a priority. Spending an entire day writing a letter is busyness, but it wouldn’t be considered productive. Yet, we can say “It was a busy day” and it could be, mistakenly, interpreted as productivity.

The difference matters because productivity requires strategy: What works best, what is most important now, what matters over other tasks and other standards. Busyness prioritizes going forward, whether or not it is the best thing to do right now.

Being productive rather than busy requires stopping, strategizing and consideration before taking action. To be truly productive, you must not be afraid of pausing – and pausing feels like the opposite of being busy. You must let go of the need to feel busy.

One other simple tell: Productivity tends to give energy, while busyness tends to take it away. Getting things accomplished creates momentum as well as confidence, while doing busy work often makes inertia and frustration since it usually doesn’t lead to progress.

Read the article.

Source:
Brown D. (21 February 2018). "Spot the differences between productivity and busyness" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address http://workwell.unum.com/2018/02/spot-the-differences-between-productivity-and-busyness/


3 simple ways to get motivated

Getting and staying motivated can be tough, whether you are coming back from vacation, dealing with something you’d rather avoid or getting focused on a Monday. Not every day will be super productive, and there is no sense in punishing yourself because of it, but there are three great ways to get back on track.

One way is to take the simplest task and make it even simpler. For example, if you have to write an email, then focus on doing the first sentence. Make writing the first sentence your goal. It may feel ridiculously easy, which is the point: Once you write that first sentence, then you will likely have the confidence to begin on the second sentence, and so on.

Another approach is to think about being in bed, tonight, right before you go to sleep. What did you accomplish today? Did you feel good about what got done? What do you wish you had gotten done so you wouldn’t be worried about doing it tomorrow? Now you can stop imagining: It’s wonderful that you still have the day ahead of you and you can get things done now.

Lastly, work on your next task for only five minutes. It will be a focused five minutes, which means no multitasking. Set an alarm as necessary. Chances are that the five minutes will go by quickly and, if you like, you can set the alarm for another five minutes.

Our motivation is usually hampered by either inertia, like when we have taken a break, or by timidity, like when we are intimidated by a major goal. By using these three methods, you can move towards success and focus on the next small step towards your big successful goal.

Read the article.

Source:
Brown D. (21 February 2018). "3 simple ways to get motivated" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address http://workwell.unum.com/2018/02/3-simple-ways-to-get-motivated/