6 ways technology changed the workplace in 2020

Without technology, working remotely during a global pandemic wouldn’t have been possible. But it also helped employers overcome unforeseen obstacles created by this new reality.

To help maintain social distancing, 42% of the U.S. workforce has been working from home, according to a study conducted by the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. While working remotely has helped quell the spread of COVID, it’s caused new challenges for the workforce: balancing work while caring for children or the elderly, deteriorating mental health, lack of opportunities to network — the list goes on.

Despite the promising news of vaccines pointing to changes in 2021, remote work is here to stay. Employers including Dropbox and Wikimedia Foundation have all announced options for employees to work from home permanently, and Wells Fargo and Apple have extended remote work until the summer.

 Professional training and coaching:

BetterUp, a mobile-based professional coaching platform, is teaming up with NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration, in its first partnership with government agencies to provide their employees with personalized professional coaching.

In the coming months, the FAA and NASA will roll out BetterUp’s professional coaching to supervisors and executives. At the individual level, employees will gain unlimited access to one-on-one professional coaching, accessible via any computer or smartphone. Employees will have access to a digital library that includes thousands of resources designed to reinforce coaching session topics.

“Our evidence-based coaching approach has been linked to significant behavioral gains in areas such as resilience, strategic planning, stress reduction, and the ability to lead teams,” says Alexi Robichaux, CEO and co-founder of BetterUp. “Our goal with NASA and the FAA is to serve as a tool that will enable employees to better thrive as individuals and inspire others as leaders.”

 Telehealth:

Catapult Health launches new virtual program to improve access to preventive care
As the pandemic has triggered delays in both preventive and elective care, employers are turning to telehealth services to keep their workforce healthy and happy, and prevent the development of chronic disease.

Catapult Health, a provider of onsite and virtual preventive healthcare, has launched a new program called VirtualCheckup, through which employers can offer preventive care to their employees and family members anytime and anywhere.

“Over the past months, people are kicking the can on their chronic conditions,” says David Michel, CEO of Catapult Health. “Individuals that we're seeing now have not been to their doctors in several months. They've been scared to go. So we’re able to reach people where they are in this critical time and offer a solution that's very thorough and very simple for them to do.”

 Recruiting:

Gamifying training, onboarding can help boost engagement for Gen Z
As young workers get more technologically advanced and the workforce continues to embrace remote work, training and onboarding processes are vital for getting employees up to speed. But 38% of HR professionals say that remote onboarding is harder than in-person onboarding, and only 9% say that it is easier, according to a recent survey by the HR Certification Institute and MindEdge Learning.

With remote work here to stay for the foreseeable future, tech will play an increasingly large role, says Matt Fairhurst, CEO of Skedulo, a software and workforce management company.

“It’s about how to come up with and quickly implement really interesting technologies that help encourage the connectedness and engagement of employees,” Fairhurst says. “Not as a method of discipline, but simply as a way to lean into the expectations that remote workforces have — which is an incredible desire for engagement and connectivity across the organization.”

 Virtual mental health care:

With stress, anxiety and burnout on the rise, employers are seeking new ways to support workers struggling with poor mental health during the coronavirus pandemic.

Lyra Health, a mental benefits provider, is adding the Calm app to their benefit offerings to help manage the added stress. Over 1.5 million employees will have access to the popular resiliency training app, as the new partnership expands mental health support to employees who may be resistant to more traditional modes of therapy.

“The urgency has never been greater than it is now to provide holistic mental health services,” says Joe Grasso, clinical director of partnerships at Lyra Health. “It's a way to support people who maybe aren't ready to engage in therapy but want to dip their toe into some kind of wellness support.”

 Workplace safety:

New tool tracks COVID-19 geographical risk to pinpoint when employees can return to work
As new COVID-19 hotspots continue to pop up across the country, employers may be hesitant or unsure of how to proceed with potential reopening plans.

Health Advocate, a provider of health advocacy, navigation, well-being and integrated benefits programs, has launched a return-to-work solution called Return Navigator to help employers understand the critical components of how and when to return.

“For organizations planning the transition back to the workplace, safety and health are top priorities. However, it is challenging to determine the right timing and approach to have employees return,” says Arthur Leibowitz, chief medical officer and founder at Health Advocate. “By combining these valuable tools, employers can make more informed decisions about developing and implementing their return-to-work strategy.”

SOURCE: Webster, K. (23 December 2020) "6 ways technology changed the workplace in 2020" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/list/6-ways-technology-changed-the-workplace-in-2020


HR checklist: 5 things to-do before the new year

2020 has been… a year. But before HR professionals look hopefully to the future, they need to tie up loose ends to ensure their workforce starts the new year off on the right foot.

“This has been a strange year, and a stressful one for both employees and their companies,” says Tauhidah Shakir, vice president of human resources and chief diversity officer at Paylocity, an Illinois-based HR software company. “Anything you can do to get ahead of things to wrap up this year is going to help alleviate that stress and get everyone off to a good start.”

The pandemic has caused a lot of stress in the workplace. In November alone, 42% of Americans reported experiencing cases of anxiety or depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As an HR manager, Shakir believes that staying organized, and helping employees through end of year changes will help alleviate stress for everyone. To help other employers cope with these unprecedented times, she created an end of the year to-do list to help other HR professionals stay on track.

 Note last payroll date

“Keep an eye on the payroll process, and be sure to note the first day of the New Year falls on a Friday so it doesn’t take you by surprise,” Shakir says. “You have to make sure people are getting their sick and bonus time. Have it all plotted out so you’re not rushing at the last minute.”

 Open enrollment

“This isn’t like any other open enrollment; HR needs to over communicate what benefits they’re offering, and which ones are going to help their employees the most,” she says. “We don’t know how much things are going to change in the New Year; make sure employees are prepared by making them aware of any mental health, financial wellness and other benefits that can help.”

 Go paperless

“Since many of us are not all working in the same space right now, this is the perfect time to switch the workforce over to a completely paperless documentation process,” Shakir says. “Email employees their end of year documents; it’s going to be a lot less stressful than them waiting for it to come through the mail.”

 Employee feedback

“This year presented a lot of challenges for everyone, and you’re going to want to take any lessons learned into the New Year,” she says. “You’re looking for lessons learned, ways to improve to make benefits more accessible to employees. There’s always room for improvement, so be sure to be open to what employees are telling you.”

 Be flexible

“A lot of employees are fatigued about working from home and feeling like they have no control right now,” Shakir says. “Remember employees have a lot on their plate right now, especially with the winter holidays going on, so be kind and flexible about when they work so they can juggle all their responsibilities.”

SOURCE: Webster, K. (16 December 2020) "HR checklist: 5 things to-do before the new year" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/list/hr-checklist-5-things-to-do-before-the-new-year


5 tips for a work-from-home holiday

Unfortunately, this holiday season will not offer a respite from the pandemic. Vaccination and a return to normalcy are on the horizon, but they won’t arrive before the end of the year. In fact, the cold temperatures and increase in travel during the holidays are forcing experts to urge caution and predict the worst. Under these circumstances, holiday work gatherings are foolish and even keeping the office open feels unwise. That doesn’t mean, though, you have to shut down the holiday spirit.

You already have the tech in place for a remote holiday experience. You’ve gotten used to Zoom, even if you’re not in love with it. When you know how to lead in a work-from-home environment, emceeing a party is no biggie. Is it as fun as a party in the flesh? Probably not, but it can still be fun all the same. Here are a few tips to ensure you do just that.

Prioritize safety

This tip is a no-brainer if there ever was one. The advice from experts is clear: You should not host an in-person gathering for your holiday party. It’s just that simple. As Thanksgiving showed, some people simply cannot resist getting together with their families during this time of year. While you won’t be able to enforce prudence in your team member’s personal lives, you can surely do so when it comes to company parties. No matter how much you love your annual gathering, no matter how much you’ve been looking forward to it, you just can’t have it as you normally would.

Keep mandatory events brief

At this point, we all know how real Zoom fatigue is. It’s one thing when we have to stay in meetings all day for work purposes. However, making people wait on-screen for hours during optional activities is akin to cruel and unusual punishment. To avoid this fate, front-load important games, events, and announcements on the party schedule. Over time, the party should get more formless, allowing people an easy escape if they don’t want to hang out for too long. In other words, don’t make it like a wedding where everyone needs to wait four hours between the ceremony and the food.

Prioritize interactivity

There are a whole host of ways to bring partygoers together across physical space. From games that work well over Zoom to sending cocktail kits to your team, there’s a method of group interaction that will delight your team members. I would recommend not doing anything that’s too onerous on the team members themselves. For example, it’s better for you to send gifts to the team than to try to organize a virtual Yankee Swap. The latter may be a good idea in theory, but it will run into snags if everyone fails to mail their gifts on time. You’ll find more success if you handle that stuff yourself. Also, don’t forget to tell team members to expect a piece of mail, lest they open it before the party and ruin the surprise.

Consider alternative ways to say thanks

One upshot of not having an in-person party is that you’ll save a ton of money. Consider doing something with this to benefit your team and community. Maybe you want to make a charitable donation on behalf of your firm. Perhaps you’d like to offer some precious extra time off to the folks who’ve given their all during an incredibly difficult year. Whatever route you choose, these gestures will surely make a real difference in people’s lives.

Keep the spirit alive

The holidays, we’re often told, are defined by the spirit of generosity and warmth more than by any event or gift. This year will put that maxim to the test unlike any other. Sure, things look a little differently this year, but we can all adapt, overcome, and still partake in the most wonderful time of year.

SOURCE: Vetter, A. (16 December 2020) "5 tips for a work-from-home holiday" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/list/5-tips-for-a-work-from-home-holiday


4 benefits of positive recognition to boost employee engagement

As both employers and employees are facing difficult times both in their work-life and home life due to the circumstances that the coronavirus pandemic has brought into the world, it's important that the negativity does not take place of the positivity needed. Positivity is powerful and can play a critical role in the workplace. Read this blog post for four benefits of positive recognition.


With all that’s happening, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the negativity in the world. Our emotional state is important at work. Positive emotions transform our minds and increase our ability to bounce back from hard times.

The power of positivity should not be overlooked, and recognition plays a critical role in generating these emotions in a modern workplace. Open acknowledgement and expressed appreciation for employees’ contributions can go a long way.

Improve employee retention
The first benefit of positive employee recognition is improving employee retention. In fact, according to industry analyst Josh Bersin, companies that build a recognition-rich culture actually have a 31% lower voluntary turnover rate.

Gallup research on recognition also shows that employees who don’t feel recognized at work are twice as likely to quit within a year. In today’s current environment where many organizations are driving more productivity with fewer employees, leaders need to ensure that they’re not forgetting to focus on employee retention. You’d be hard-pressed to find an organization that isn’t concerned about retaining top talent right now; top performers will find new opportunities even when they’re hesitant to move.

Creating a workplace where people want to stay isn’t just beneficial for employees; it’s also good for the bottom line. Turnover cost can be difficult to compute, but I challenge you to consider the costs of recruiting, onboarding, training, and the lost institutional knowledge that comes with poor retention.

Increase employee engagement
The second benefit that is particularly important right now is increased employee engagement. Our own research showed that 84% of highly engaged employees were recognized the last time they went above and beyond at work compared with only 25% of actively disengaged employees. We also found that while 71% of highly engaged organizations recognize employees for a job well done, only 41% of less-engaged organizations did so.

Positive recognition is powerful and has a clear tie to engagement. Yet, many organizations still do not adequately measure engagement. When was the last time you measured engagement with your own team? How much opportunity is there to improve through recognition?

Boost employee morale
The third benefit of positive recognition is boosted morale. I already mentioned the transformative effect of positivity, but the simple act of thanking people can make a tremendous difference. When employees were asked about their experience at work,70% said that motivation and morale would improve “massively”with managers saying thank you more.

How did you feel last time you were recognized?

Positivity has an important impact on employees, but it also pays literal dividends to companies that have figured out how to encourage it. Research from author Shawn Achor shows that happiness raises sales by 37% and productivity by 31%. Consider ways you can encourage your team to recognize each other more often.

Leverage peer recognition
It turns out that peer recognition massively outperforms top-down recognition. Peer recognition occurs when individuals give and receive recognition from their peers, managers, and direct reports.

Being recognized by colleagues is incredibly powerful for employees, especially when it’s done publicly. Peer recognition is 36% more likely to have a positive impact on financial results than manager-only recognition, according to SHRM. Managers can’t see every positive action that occurs, so think about how to encourage everyone to participate in recognition of great work across the entire organization.

SOURCE: Crawford-Marks, R. (14 September 2020) "4 benefits of positive recognition to boost employee engagement" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/list/4-benefits-of-positive-recognition-to-boost-employee-engagement


Three Communication Tips to Raise Productivity

Communication is often the key to success especially within the workplace and during team projects. If communication expectations are laid out and shown to employees, the chance of higher productivity is more common. Read this blog post for helpful tips.


If you're looking for ways to bump productivity, rescue slumping performers or improve teamwork, start with your expectations. These subtle—but very powerful—elements of your leadership toolkit can produce lasting results.

Raising your expectations doesn't require you to adopt a perpetual cheery optimism, but it does require you to make a brutally realistic assessment of current conditions. If productivity is low, cycle time is horrible and/or quality is poor, you need to acknowledge the facts—or you'll never be able to improve performance. And part of that brutal assessment requires looking in the mirror. Perhaps, without realizing it, your underlying beliefs are contributing to the performance situations you see around you.

Three components make up the messages you send: the words you use, the way you say them and your nonverbal cues.

Words

Here are some examples of how to frame your expectations for performance improvement in three different situations.

  • If productivity is down, you might say: "Well, as we look at productivity, we can see that it's 2 percent below where it was last year. I know we can get back to where we were—and eventually beyond—because we have the horsepower right in this room to do it." In selecting these words, you've acknowledged where performance is and expressed confidence about improvement.
  • If you're making progress in an area—but more progress is required—the message might be: "While we're making progress on quality, it's still not where it needs to be. I know we can get to where we need to be by continuing our Six Sigma efforts. Let's look and see where we need to put our resources next."
  • If performance is good and you want to boost it more, the message should be: "Cycle time is good, never been better. Let's look at how to cut it even further. I know we can do it if we work together to figure out how."

In each example, your words describe the present situation in simple and direct terms and also express confidence in moving to further improvement.

Verbal Intonations

The tone of your voice is the second element of your message. Everyone has experienced situations where the words sent one message and the tone of voice sent another. When there's a conflict, most people believe what is conveyed by the tone of your voice. So, make sure that your tone matches the positive message of your words. Not only should you avoid the obvious mismatch, but also the unintentional mismatch—those occasional situations where your words say one thing and your tone of voice says another.

Nonverbal Cues

The bulk of the meaning lies here. You can say the words, and your tone of voice can match the words. But if you're looking around, tapping your fingers, shaking your head "no" or doing any one of the hundreds of other seemingly little things that say, "I don't believe in you," you're not going to get the performance you want. Here are five categories to check yourself against:

1. Body position. If your arms are crossed, your legs are crossed away from the person you're communicating with or you're giving the "cold shoulder," then you're sending negative messages. On the other hand, if your body position is open—you're facing the person rather than looking away—you communicate honesty, warmth and openness. If your posture is erect rather than slumping, you communicate positive beliefs. And if you're leaning slightly forward, you demonstrate interest in the other individual.

2. Hand gestures. Avoid tapping your fingers ("I'm impatient"), hiding your mouth ("I'm hiding something"), wagging your finger (the equivalent of poking someone with your finger) and closed or clenched hands ("I'm upset"). These gestures all conflict with an "I believe in you" message. Instead, use open hands with palms up ("I'm being honest with nothing to hide") or touching your hands to your chest ("I believe in what I'm saying"). Both of these emphasize a positive message.

3. Head. If your head is shaking back and forth or tilted off to one side, you're sending a message of disbelief. On the other hand, if your head is facing directly toward someone and you're nodding up and down, you're delivering a nonverbal message of belief and confidence.

4. Facial expressions. Smile, and keep your mouth relaxed. Show alertness in your face and act like you're ready to listen. Do these regularly and you'll have created an open communication pattern with someone who will believe in your sincerity. On the other hand, if you're tight-lipped, are clenching your jaw muscles and have only a grim smile, no smile at all or a frown, you'll send a message that says: "No way can you possibly succeed at this project."

5. Eyes. Maintaining good eye contact is one of the most important nonverbal signals you can send. It conveys the message, "I'm interested in you and when I say I believe in you, I really do." Making sure that your eyes are open wide is also helpful. Squinting can deter the recipient. Worse yet is looking around, paying attention to other things and not paying attention to the person or topic at hand.

Communicate high expectations well enough and you may even have to step aside to avoid getting run over by a team of committed players whose performance is accelerating.

SOURCE: Connellan, T. (29 September 2020) "Three Communication Tips to Raise Productivity" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/people-managers/pages/three-communication-tips-to-raise-productivity.aspx


5 ways HR can help millennials be smarter than their parents about retirement

Getting younger employees to save for retirement is right up there with getting a finicky child to eat their vegetables. Sure, it's good for them, but it's not always what they want.

Participation rates and average deferral rates in voluntary enrollment plans for workers younger than 35 are well below those of other age groups, indicating that HR teams may need to take extra steps to reach this segment of their employee base, according to data from Vanguard, a leading 401(k) provider.

HR professionals are uniquely positioned to best assist younger workers. The best tack for HR experts to take with millennials in regard to retirement saving is to point out some of the mistakes their parents' generation has made in that area.

Help employees understand the destination
When it comes to saving for retirement, a lot of older workers are clearly lost. Younger workers have an opportunity to do a better job of staying on track.

Vanguard’s data show the average 401(k) participant within 10 years of retirement age (i.e., between ages 55 and 64) has a plan balance of just $69,097.

That may not provide much help over a retirement of 10 or 20 years.

Caution young staff members that one reason older workers are so badly behind in retirement saving is that they haven't checked first to see where they're going.

A MoneyRates retirement plan survey finds that 71% of workers within 20 years of retirement age still have not done a calculation of how well their savings will hold up over their retirement years.

Encourage your workforce to determine what enough savings is. Inform your staff that it only takes a few minutes to use a retirement calculator to see how much to put aside to meet savings goals. That way, your employees will know where their retirement plan is heading.

Educate employees on how to get debt under control
Saving for retirement is undermined when employees are also building up debt at the same time.

Stress that debt costs more than retirement investments are likely to earn, a dollar in debt can more than counteract the benefit of a dollar in savings.

According to the Federal Reserve's Survey of Consumer Finances, the typical household still has $69,000 in debt by the time the head of that household is within 10 years of retirement.

Notice that this figure almost exactly matches the previously-mentioned amount that the average 401(k) participant in that age group has. In other words, debt can effectively wipe out a person's 401(k) savings.

So, your team’s first step toward educating workers about building a more secure retirement should be to do something many in their parents' generation failed to do: get debt under control.

Teach employees how to spread savings to make the burden lighter
Retirement saving is a big job, but younger workers have something very important on their side: time. Emphasize that spreading retirement savings out over 25 to 40 years makes the job much easier.

It gets tougher if young workers do what many of their parents' generation have done--wait and then try to catch up in the last ten years or so until retirement.

The golden rule: Don't leave free money on the table
When employers provide a 401(k) match, all staff should understand there's a direct financial incentive to start saving now. Every time employees put money into their 401(k) plan, the employer kicks in some on their behalf.

If employees don't contribute money into the plan, they don't get this money from the employer. There's no going back in future years and reclaiming that extra money the employer would have put in on the worker’s behalf.

The only way not to miss out on this free money is to contribute each and every year— and to contribute enough to get the maximum employer match available.

Show employees the benefits of saving
A dollar saved today can equal $10 at retirement age.

Saving money is hard work, but HR professionals can show their employees that it gets easier when they let their investments do the work for them.

The investment returns earned become much more powerful when compounded over a long period of time. Compounding means earning a return not just on the original money invested, but also on the returns earned in other years.

Younger workers must recognize that a dollar invested today could be worth much more than a dollar invested toward the end of their career.

There are many people of older generations who would be a lot better off today if they absorbed each of these five lessons when they were younger.

SOURCE: Barrington, R. (14 October 2020) "5 ways HR can help millennials be smarter than their parents about retirement" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/ways-hr-can-help-millennials-be-smarter-than-their-parents-about-retirement


Employees work an extra 26 hours a month when remote

 


Only months ago, a growing number of businesses were experimenting with or adopting a four-day workweek, but remote work policies imposed by the coronavirus pandemic have pivoted this trend in the opposite direction.

Full-time employees are working an extra 26 hours a month when remote, adding nearly an extra day of work to the week, according to a new report from Owl Labs, a video conferencing technology company.

The increase in work hours may be due to employees needing more time to adapt to new changes businesses have made in response to the pandemic, says Frank Weishaupt, CEO of Owl Labs. Having the workplace always available — as employees work right in their house — is also blurring the lines between work and home, possibly adding to their hours worked.

Employees may also be filling in the time they spent commuting with more time at work. The report found employees were spending an average of 40 minutes daily on their commute.

“Everybody's situation is different, but I was commuting roughly two to three hours per day, which is 10-15 extra hours per week,” Weishaupt says. “Now I have a lot more flexibility in terms of when my workday starts and ends, and I don't have to give that time to the commute — but can actually give it to work.”

But along with increased work hours are increased levels of stress. Almost 1 in 2 employees are worried that staying remote could negatively affect their career, according to the findings. During the coronavirus pandemic, 91% percent of employees say they’ve experienced moderate to extreme stress while working from home, according to a survey by Ginger, a mental health benefits platform.

Despite these challenges, the flexibility of working remotely has helped many employees achieve better work-life balance. Overall, the report found that workers were benefiting from the perks of remote work, and named avoiding their commutes and having more time with their families as top reasons to continue working remotely.

“When you look at the overwhelming data, it shows that employees are much happier, which is a bigger indication of what this change has meant for people,” Weishaupt says. “Yes, people are working significantly more, but they're not having to sacrifice their personal lives to work. People are happier and feel just as productive, if not more [when working remotely].”

SOURCE: Nedlund, E. (21 October 2020) "Employees work an extra 26 hours a month when remote" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/employees-work-an-extra-26-hours-a-month-when-remote


A step-by-step guide to helping your employees combat financial stress

Finances are often one of those lingering thoughts that can be detrimental to an employee's productivity, during these times of the coronavirus pandemic, those thoughts may not just be lingering anymore. Read this blog post to learn more.


With the virus dominating everyone’s thinking and many employers concentrating on keeping their businesses afloat, it may be hard to focus on your employees’ financial future. Even before COVID-19, employers saw the link between financial stress and decreased workforce productivity. With COVID-19 creating business pressures, it’s imperative that your workforce meet the needs of your customers, and they can’t do that effectively if they are worried about their own or their family’s finances.

Millions of Americans are struggling due to the economic backslide stemming from the pandemic. The first months of the COVID-19 pandemic largely wiped out three years of financial gains in the United States, with more than half of Americans reporting their financial health has been compromised, according to Prudential’s 2020 Financial Wellness Census. While some are focused on making it day-to-day, the economy has also shaken others who considered their finances stable for the future. Although your employees still have a job, you must not lose sight of the fact that their spouse or partner may have lost their job or been furloughed, reducing their incomes by half, which can set any family back.

No matter how bleak things may look right now, you can still help your employees plot a path back to being financially well. Here are four steps to help restore your employees’ financial confidence.

1. Help them build a strong foundation

Employees must take stock of the money that is still coming in and create a budget. Many employers offer budgeting tools as part of their financial wellness program, so consider ramping up your email communications to remind employees of these tools, which can help them categorize expenses as essential or discretionary. If you offer any form of debt management support you can remind them to take advantage of that too. You may also want to provide them with education on how to create a will, something many people overlook. Finally, encourage employees to designate beneficiaries on insurance and financial accounts.

2. Use open enrollment season to protect them against income and expense shocks

Open enrollment season, which is underway for many companies right now, is the perfect time to reinforce non-health workplace benefits, like life insurance, long-term disability insurance, hospital indemnity insurance, critical illness insurance and accident insurance. Emphasize your paid family leave policy too, if you have one. This is especially timely right now for workers who are without childcare options, but must return to the office after months of remote working.

3. Assist them in planning for their future and retirement

Some employers who have implemented financial wellness programs have partnered with providers to create financial wellness assessments so they can understand how their employees are faring. If you have this tool and notice that your employees have the basics down, they should be comfortable expanding their financial safety net. Consider encouraging them to increase their retirement contributions and use email campaigns to empower them to take advantage of the company match, if you offer one. If your employees have access to Health Savings Accounts, Flexible Spending accounts and Dependent Care Accounts to help manage healthcare and childcare expenses, be sure to emphasize their importance in your open enrollment email communication campaigns and virtual open enrollment education sessions.

4. Educate your employees on how to secure their financial future

Once employees have rebuilt their financial base, it’s time to help them strengthen the protections they’ve created. Consider hosting virtual webinars to educate them on how to protect themselves from market volatility by maximizing the options in their retirement savings plans. Common options include target date funds or other asset allocation tools as well as in-plan retirement income options and other retirement draw-down strategies. If your financial wellness program includes financial advising or counselling, encourage them to leverage an advisor or financial planner to minimize their non-mortgage debts and calibrate their life insurance coverage to create lifetime income for their surviving dependents.

SOURCE: Schmitt, S. (02 November 2020) " A step-by-step guide to helping your employees combat financial stress" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/list/a-step-by-step-guide-to-helping-your-employees-combat-financial-stress


4 key reasons employers must offer financial security benefits

During the continuous trials of the coronavirus pandemic, it's important for employers to contribute to their employee's financial wellness. Read this blog post to learn more.


A financial security benefit that helps employees pay for and manage their out of pocket healthcare expenses allows an employer to keep healthcare costs down, while providing a much-needed benefit to their employees, one that pays dividends for years to come.

With the uncertainty of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it is more vital than ever that employers contribute to employees’ overall financial wellness.

There are four key reasons why employers need to provide a financial security benefit to their employees.

First, restore the "benefit" in your health benefit offerings. The standard employer-sponsored health plan comes with nearly an $8,000 out-of-pocket expense.

Considering that the vast majority of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck and 40% struggle to cover a $400 emergency expense, it’s no wonder why so many individuals consider themselves functionally uninsured despite being covered by an employer’s health plan. When an employer’s price tag to purchase that insurance for a family now exceeds $20,000 a year, it is painful for employers to witness their employee benefit suddenly become an employee liability.

Providing employees with guaranteed access to credit for medical expenses on consumer-friendly terms that they may not have access to on their own is of tremendous benefit. A benefit like this gives employees something their health plan alone can’t – financial security.

Second, remove the barriers to care. More than ever, employees with high deductible health plans are skipping care, which has costly consequences. Employees who skip care stay sick for a longer period of time and as a result, employers lose worker productivity. When outcomes erode and care is delayed, employers will see an increase in health plan expenses. By providing a financial security benefit from the start, employees can seek care with confidence, and prevent this unhealthy ripple effect from happening.

Third, increase participation in Health Savings Accounts. HSAs are great additions to an employer’s benefit line-up. In some cases, they are also the only plan design that an employer can afford to offer. Employees who are presented the choice of an HSA often bemoan that while the program should work well for them, and that the price-tag for the premium is right, the specter of a one-time deductible exposure makes them hesitant to enroll.

While lower premiums paired with some employer HSA contributions can often cover that exposure, employees worry about the timing of these expenses, particularly if they arrive early in the plan year. Providing an affordable way for employees to pay for their healthcare expenses whenever they are incurred, removes a major barrier to HSA plan election. Further, adding a financial security benefit is much more cost effective for the employer than front-loading the HSA with hard dollars at the beginning of the plan year.

Finally, they are great recruitment and retention tools. According to a recent Gallup poll, the availability and affordability of healthcare tops the list of concerns in America. As employers grapple with objectives, such as attracting, and retaining talent and balancing costs, a financial security benefit not only addresses a major employee concern, but also can help organizations differentiate themselves from their competitors.

With COVID-19 changing the landscape of healthcare and open enrollment around the corner, employers need to rethink their benefit strategy while keeping costs down. Attracting and retaining employees remains a high priority for employers and providing a financial security benefit will not only attract top talent but will also save on an employer’s overall bottom line.

SOURCE: Chambers, O'Meara A. (03 November 2020) "4 key reasons employers must offer financial security benefits" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/4-key-reasons-employers-must-offer-financial-security-benefits


Employees are stressed caring for aging parents. How can employers help?

As many employees are caring for parents and close relatives, a balancing act on both physical and mental well being has impacted their work productivity. Read this blog post to learn more.


A growing number of employees are caring for aging parents, parents-in-law and relatives while working full time. One report puts the number of employees caring for aging family members at one in six, while other sources put the number even higher — 73% of employees caring for older family members, with 80% of those employees reporting that they struggle to balance their work and caregiving responsibilities.

This balancing act not only has an impact on employees’ physical and mental wellbeing, it also has a significant impact on their employers. But researchers at Harvard Business School found that many employers are not aware of the extent to which caregiving responsibilities are affecting employee performance, productivity and costs.

Support strategies for employee caregivers

Employers can offer several resources and benefits to help reduce the stress and physical and mental health impact on employees who are caring for aging family members. These strategies can also decrease the negative effect that caregiving can have on productivity and costs.

  • Flexible schedules and remote work options: Offering flexible schedules and the option to work from home can help employees fit caregiving responsibilities, like taking family members to doctor’s appointments, preparing meals and helping with other activities of daily living into their day with less stress and less missed work time.
  • Eldercare information and referral resources: These services can help employees find eldercare in their community, connect with other caregivers for support and advice, and learn about financial, health, legal and housing issues they may face as they provide care for aging family members and plan for the future.
  • Self-care resources for caregivers: The stress of caregiving can increase the risk of health problems including heart disease, diabetes, migraine headache, gastrointestinal problems, substance misuse, anxiety and depression. Employers can help employees better manage stress by offering access to free stress management resources including exercise and meditation classes, caregiver support groups and referrals to online and in-person mental health providers.
  • Medical second opinions: Managing the healthcare for an aging family member living with complex or serious medical problems such as dementia, cancer and heart failure can be especially difficult, stressful and time-consuming for employees. Access to second opinions can help employees make informed choices about their family member’s care and provide peace of mind about their decisions.
  • Specialist guidance and support: Employers can offer access to navigators and advisors who can help employees ensure that their aging family members’ healthcare is coordinated to lower the risk of medical errors, inappropriate care and missed follow-up care. These services can also ensure that their medical records are reviewed and consolidated, which is especially important when people see several physicians. Navigation and advisory services can help employees research medical treatments for their family member, find and connect with experienced specialists and build a plan to address the potential progression of their family member’s health issues. Advisors can also help with appointment scheduling, insurance issues and problems with medical bills, all of which can be exceptionally time-consuming and frustrating tasks.
  • Expand telehealth access: By expanding employees’ telehealth benefits to include aging parents and parents-in-law, employers can make it easier for employees to be involved in their family member’s care, even if they don’t live nearby. Telehealth can also make getting care easier for family members because they don’t need to arrange transportation to appointments.
  • Subsidize back-up care: Consider providing employees with subsidies to help pay for in-home back-up care for aging family members. With this safety net in place, employers can decrease the number of hours employees are absent from work due to caregiving responsibilities.

SOURCE: Varn, M. (28 October 2020) "Employees are stressed caring for aging parents. How can employers help?" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/employees-are-stressed-caring-for-aging-parents-how-can-employers-help