doctor and patient

Pandemic Causing Many to Lose Employer-Sponsored Health Coverage

Many small businesses have suffered due to the implications that the coronavirus pandemic has placed on them. Many of those struggles are rooted in financial instability during this time which has caused many to stop paying health insurance premiums. Read this blog post to learn more.


The COVID-19 pandemic forced many small businesses to stop paying health insurance premiums to insurers, leaving their employees without group health care coverage. Even more workers could find themselves without health insurance if businesses can't afford to renew their group plans for 2021, when premiums are expected to trend slightly higher.

If the coronavirus spikes again across the U.S. and a "second wave" further restricts business operations, more employees could find themselves uninsured.

We've rounded up articles from trusted news sources on the loss of employer-sponsored health insurance and what might be coming.

Employers No Longer Able to Afford Coverage

Health insurance coverage is a major expense for employers, especially for small businesses. As they struggle with the economic fallout of the pandemic, many may face end-of-year renewal deadlines that are harder to afford.

Thousands of small businesses that had always expressed difficulty in providing employee health insurance under the Affordable Care Act are now in far worse trouble because of the pandemic.

While estimates vary, a recent Urban Institute analysis of census data says at least 3 million Americans have already lost job-based coverage, and a separate analysis from Avalere Health predicts some 12 million will lose it by the end of this year. Both studies highlight the disproportionate effect on Black and Hispanic workers.

"The odds are we are on track to have the largest coverage losses in our history," said Stan Dorn, the director of the National Center for Coverage Innovation at Families USA, a Washington, D.C., consumer group.
(New York Times)

Race-Based Disparities in Coverage Loss

Overall, 8 percent of Americans reported in September that they had lost their health insurance specifically due to the pandemic, according to a series of surveys conducted by data research firm Civis Analytics and global communications firm Finn Partners. That figure was higher among Black Americans, with 10.4 percent reporting they had lost their health insurance because of the pandemic. In contrast, 6.8 percent of white Americans said in September they had lost their health insurance because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Overall, among Black Americans, 26 percent were uninsured in September, up from 17 percent in February. Among white Americans, 12 percent were uninsured in September, up from 11 percent in February.
(ValuePenguin)

Small Businesses Under Pressure

Small businesses, defined as those employing fewer than 500 workers, are under extreme pressure to cut costs. But in spite of across-the-board cost-cutting, a survey of small U.S. businesses in late June found only 5 percent had resorted to cutting health insurance benefits for their employees.

However, nearly one-third of survey respondents indicated they were not sure they could keep up with premium payments beyond Aug. 15.

To examine whether federal financial assistance enabled businesses to maintain health insurance coverage, researchers compared health care offer rates to employees by businesses reporting they had been approved for federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds with rates for those not approved, as of June 15. The firms that received PPP funds were much less likely to drop coverage than firms that did not.

The PPP stopped accepting loan application requests in early August.
(NEJM Catalyst)

Indiana's Experience

In April, Indiana saw about 560,000 residents losing employment, according to Mark Fairchild, director of public policy at the nonprofit Covering Kids & Families of Indiana. At the start of September, the number had fallen below 400,000 and is trending downward.

"We've recovered dramatically, but that still is going to leave over 10 percent of Hoosiers without a job," Fairchild said. "And related to that, of course, the insurance that goes with that impacts not just them, but their family members, too."

Counting the spouses and children who may have been covered by family plans, he estimates that upwards of a million Indiana residents may have lost employer-sponsored health coverage during the pandemic.

The loss of health insurance doesn't fall equally on everyone, as some sectors of the economy, like hospitality and service jobs, have been hit harder than others.
(Side Effects/WFYI Indianapolis Public Media)

DOL Temporarily Extends COBRA Sign-Up Deadlines

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) temporarily extended the period in which eligible employees can elect COBRA health insurance continuation coverage and the deadline for them to begin making COBRA premium payments.

The final rule extended most COBRA deadlines to beyond the "outbreak period," defined as from March 1, 2020, to 60 days after the end of the declared COVID-19 national emergency, or another date if provided in future guidance.

"Any COBRA premiums due during the outbreak period will not be considered delinquent if the COBRA premiums are paid within 30 days following the end of the outbreak period," said Paul Yenerall, a Pittsburgh-based attorney with Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott.

Employers may require individuals to pay for COBRA continuation coverage. The premium that is charged cannot exceed the full cost of the coverage, plus a 2 percent administration charge. That cost is not affordable for many newly unemployed workers.

During the pandemic, however, some employers are choosing to pay for a former employee's COBRA coverage if the person has been laid off, or to do so for current employees who lost group health plan coverage when they were furloughed or had their hours reduced.
(SHRM Online)

SOURCE: Miller, S. (01 October 2020) "Pandemic Causing Many to Lose Employer-Sponsored Health Coverage" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/pandemic-causing-many-to-lose-employer-sponsored-health-coverage.aspx


3 Ways to Motivate Your Team Through an Extended Crisis

Another month of working remotely has passed, and many employers are beginning to flag a lack of motivation, performance, and well-being coming from team members. It's important for managers to re-energize their teams and to identify the struggles which are holding them back. Read this blog post to learn more.


As we flip our calendars to yet another month of our large-scale Covid-19 remote-work experiment, it's no wonder that motivation, performance and well-being are flagging for many. Months in, managers need new tools to reenergize their teams, to accurately identify and diagnose recurring struggles and to empathetically help employees address their problems.

A large part of a leader's responsibility is to provide structure, guidance and regulation; yet many workplace studies point to the fact that the most important gauge for a healthy work environment isn't a strong external framework, but whether individuals can foster internal motivation.

Using a well-established theory of motivation called self-determination theory, or SDT, we have identified three main psychological needs that leaders can meet to help their employees stay engaged, confident and motivated.

1. Relatedness

This means that your employees feel cared for and that you've fostered a sense of belonging. Make time to listen to your employees' perspectives and make them know that they are heard and valued. A few simple practices may help:

  • Acknowledge and validate your employees' emotions as well as their reactions. ("I know it can be tough to stay focused right now, but we'll figure it out together!")
  • Don't let people get lost in the crowd: Reduce team size and acknowledge each member's work and achievements to the extent possible.
  • When problems arise, make sure to get full feedback from those involved. This helps you identify the biggest issues and obstacles, while strengthening connection and encouraging communication.
  • Emphasize that people's contributions are unique and necessary; do not let good work go unacknowledged.
  • Communicate that you care about employees' well-being, not just their productivity.

2. Competence

This refers to when a person feels effective and experiences growth. Research shows that holding employees accountable for achievable goals can improve performance, and motivational science also suggests that trust begets trust. Try these approaches to help ignite your team's internal motivation:

  • Involve your employees in decisions where their input could be valuable. Asking for suggestions to optimize an ongoing process, for example, can help maximize a sense of empowerment, progress and ownership.
  • To demonstrate their mastery of a particular task or skill, ask an employee to explain to their colleagues what they're working on or why they chose a particular strategy.
  • Set up check-ins to regularly discuss progress on individual goals and create strategies to meet them.

3. Autonomy

Effective leaders foster internal motivation by empowering employees' sense that they are the authors of their actions and have the power to make choices that are aligned with their own values, goals and interests, as well as their team's. Leaders should encourage autonomy and be genuinely caring while also recognizing that each employee carries responsibilities for achieving team objectives. To help foster a sense of autonomy we recommend that leaders:

  • Encourage self-initiation and participation. Perhaps ask, "What part of this project can you see yourself leading?"
  • Avoid controlling language ("Get this to me by tomorrow!") and minimize coercive controls like unrealistic deadlines and constant monitoring of your employees. Instead, find ways to motivate them through encouragement and positive feedback, such as, "I know it's a tight deadline, but having your skills on this team will be so helpful to our client."
  • Be transparent by providing the rationale behind demands. People are more willing to put in their full effort when they understand why a given task is important.

A person's work environment plays a big role in whether these three channels surge or jam, so it's no surprise that motivation is especially at risk in these pandemic times. No matter what the circumstances are, we are most energized and committed when we are internally motivated by our own values, sense of enjoyment and growth — in short, internal motivation inspires us to be our best selves. By meeting the three psychological needs, leaders help employees be engaged and feel valued at work (relatedness), feel motivated by growth (competence), and feel empowered and confident in their skills (autonomy). Employees who feel unappreciated or coerced will, at best, often half-heartedly comply with a boss's orders without whole-heartedly committing to excellence. At worst, they will lose all sense of motivation and fail to meet goals and deadlines.

SOURCE: Bradford, A.; Ryan, R. (02 October 2020) "3 Ways to Motivate Your Team Through an Extended Crisis" (Web Blog Post). Received from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/3-ways-to-motivate-your-team-through-an-extended-crisis.aspx


U.S. Adds 661,000 Jobs; Unemployment Rate Drops

According to recent studies, the job-loss numbers that businesses saw at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic has begun to shrink. The unemployment rate fell from 8.4 percent to 7.9 percent in August. Read this blog post to learn more.


U.S. payrolls increased by 661,000 in September, according to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)—falling below what economists expected. The report is more evidence that the pace of hiring has slowed, as more layoffs loom.

The unemployment rate fell to 7.9 percent from 8.4 percent in August. Economists had been expecting an employment gain of 800,000 and the unemployment rate to fall to 8.2 percent.

The economy has now recovered 11.4 million of the 22 million jobs lost in March in April at the beginning of the pandemic, but job growth is stalling—September was the first month since April that net hiring was below 1 million.

This slowdown is occurring as large corporate layoffs not reflected in the report are imminent: Walt Disney Co. announced 28,000 permanent layoffs and U.S. airlines are proceeding with tens of thousands of job cuts.

"The economy may have added jobs, but at a pace way too slow considering how many jobs were lost earlier this year," said Nick Bunker, an economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab. "The unemployment rate may have dropped, but the share of people with a job only moved up slightly. This report is an illusion of progress at a time when we needed accelerating gains in the labor market. We are not where we need to be, nor are we moving fast enough in the right direction as we head into fall."

The BLS report is the last one before the presidential election on Nov. 3.

"The report shows we are still clearly in the snap-back phase of the recovery, as jobs that were switched off because of COVID are blinking back online," said Andrew Challenger, senior vice president of global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, based in Chicago. "While we're seeing jobs come back, there is concurrent destruction occurring in the labor market as companies right-size their organizations to meet the decidedly lower demand they expect to face over the next two or three years," he said.

Employers continue to bring back workers—about half of the workers furloughed or laid off at the onset of the pandemic have now been rehired—but the pace of recovery is slowing while there is still a long way to go, said Julia Pollak, a labor economist at ZipRecruiter, an online employment marketplace in Santa Monica, Calif. "Even after the recent gains, we still have nearly 11 million fewer jobs than before the pandemic," she said. "By comparison, we lost 8.7 million jobs in the Great Recession."

Becky Frankiewicz, president of ManpowerGroup North America, said that the BLS report shows steady improvement, especially hiring in leisure and hospitality and operations and logistics.

Job gains were broad-based, with most sectors of the economy adding to payrolls in September, said Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor.

Employment in leisure and hospitality increased by 318,000, with almost two-thirds of the gain occurring in restaurants and bars. Despite job growth totaling 3.8 million over the last five months, employment in this sector is still down by millions since the onset of the coronavirus.

Retailers added 142,000 jobs, with most of those coming in clothing stores.

"The recovery is primarily being driven by continued rehiring in the hardest-hit industries including leisure and hospitality, retail and health care," Chamberlain said.

"Many service-sector industries are continuing to recover briskly as many states and cities eased coronavirus restrictions and increased capacity limits on restaurants, gyms and stores," Pollak said. "As restrictions are lifted in the largest cities, we can expect to see a rapid bounce back."

She added that some industries haven't yet begun to recover. "The education sector is still shedding jobs, as are the performing arts and spectator sports, hospitals, coal mines, facilities support services and travel agencies."

Professional and business services contributed 89,000 jobs and the transportation and warehousing sector was up 74,000 jobs. Manufacturing grew by 66,000, financial activities added 37,000 and construction employment grew by 26,000 jobs last month, mostly in residential building. By comparison, nonresidential building gained 5,300 jobs and infrastructure work lost 3,400 positions.

Public-sector employment declined by 216,000 jobs in September, mainly due to state and local public schools failing to reopen due to the national health crisis. "Another deeply concerning thing is that we are down 1.2 million state and local government jobs over the last seven months, more than two-thirds of them in education," said Heidi Shierholz, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. This will only get worse without aid from Congress, she added.

A decrease of 34,000 jobs in the federal government was driven by a decline in the number of temporary Census 2020 workers. "Nearly a quarter of a million jobs are temporary jobs related to the decennial census that will disappear in the next few months," Shierholz said.

Unemployment Concerning

The official unemployment rate is now in line with previous recessions.

Chamberlain pointed out that the number of workers on temporary layoff declined sharply from 6.2 million in August to 4.6 million in September, "a reminder that the nation's impressive job growth in September is still largely driven by rehiring of furloughed workers as a patchwork of state and local government health restrictions are gradually lifted throughout the country."

But the number of workers whose layoffs became permanent rose in September, a sign that joblessness will become longer lasting. "There was a surge of 351,000 workers who have been permanently laid off," Shierholz said. "This does not bode well at all for the pace of the recovery."

Shierholz argued that the unemployment picture is much worse than the headline number of 12.6 million workers officially counted as unemployed. She said that there were an additional 800,000 workers temporarily unemployed but misclassified as employed and another 5 million workers out of work as a result of the virus but being counted as having dropped out of the labor force because they weren't actively seeking work.

"If all these workers were taken into account, the unemployment rate would have been 12.5 percent in September," she said. "There are also 9 million workers who are employed but have seen a drop in hours and pay as a result of the virus."

Another concern is that the decline in the unemployment rate came along with a 0.3 percentage point drop in the labor force participation rate to 61.4 percent. That's nearly 700,000 people.

"The decline in the unemployment rate in September was mostly for bad reasons—people dropping out of the labor force, not people getting jobs," Shierholz said.

The prime-age employment rate also decreased and long-term unemployment (unemployment lasting more than six months) increased by 781,000 to 2.4 million workers.

However, a measure that counts discouraged workers and those working part-time for economic reasons also declined, falling from 14.2 percent to 12.8 percent.

The unemployment rate fell for all demographic groups. The rate declined for Asian workers from 10.7 percent to 8.9 percent; for Black workers from 13 percent to 12.1; for Hispanic workers from 10.5 percent to 10.3 percent; and for white workers from 7.3 percent to 7.0 percent.

"One surprising thing about the job loss of March and April is that it was fairly racially equitable—the black and white unemployment rates both rose by about 11 percentage points," Shierholz said. "But the period since then has been a totally different story. Since the peak, the white unemployment rate has come down more than 50 percent faster than the Black unemployment rate."

Pollak said that women also continue to bear the brunt of the economic pain. "This is the first recession where the percentage decline in service-sector employment has exceeded that in the goods-producing sector," she said. "The industry distribution of job losses has been unfavorable to women, who are heavily concentrated in face-to-face services. School closures have also had a larger effect on female labor force participation. Since February, the labor force participation rate for men aged 25 to 54 has fallen by 1.6 percentage points, while that for women in the same age group has fallen by 2.8 percentage points.

The unemployment rate for men fell from 8.0 percent in August to 7.4 percent in September. The rate for women dropped from 8.4 percent to 7.7 percent during that time.

Declining female workforce participation is an area to watch and take action to address, Frankiewicz said. "We're advising clients to focus on offering flexible work options, autonomy for people to choose schedules that work best, and to think about the skills that are needed vs. desired for new roles."

SOURCE: Maurer, R. (02 October 2020) "U.S. Adds 661,000 Jobs; Unemployment Rate Drops" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/bls-hr-jobs-unemployment-october-2020-covid19-coronavirus.aspx


personalized-health-plans-aided-by-technology

Too much screen time from remote work? These tips can combat uncomfortable eye strain

Sitting behind a desk can cause more than just neck and shoulder pain, it can also cause many eye problems and not just headaches and hazy eyes. Read this blog post for helpful tips.


With much of the workforce working from home, employees are spending more time than ever on digital devices — and it’s been a real headache.

Too much screen time causes eye strain, which often leads to headaches, dry and irritated eyes, and neck and shoulder pain, according to a study by the Vision Council. Light emitted from digital devices can also suppress melatonin levels, preventing a good night’s sleep. To combat the uncomfortable side effects of screen time, optometrists and online retailers are marketing blue light filtering glasses, which claim to reduce or eliminate eye strain by blocking the light that causes it. But do they really work?

“Some people say it’s a hoax, some say it helps — but in my experience, about eight or nine out of 10 patients say they really notice a difference after using blue light lenses,” says Dr. Alina Reznik, an optometrist with the mobile optometrist company, 20/20 Onsite. “I do love these lenses — I’ve seen people feel more comfortable and get better sleep throughout the night.”

Eyes are also exposed to blue light from the sun, but staring at screens for long periods of time is what causes eye fatigue, Reznik says. Blue light filtering glasses and contact lenses are designed to prevent blue light from entering the eye and causing symptoms.

“When blue light enters the eye, it scatters and our eye perceives it as glare and has to work overtime to keep our vision clear and focused,” says Jen Wademan, an optometrist with VSP — the largest vision insurance provider in the U.S. “It’s like a muscle — if you engage that muscle, it fatigues.”

The optometrists say blue light exposure also causes people to stop blinking while using digital devices. Wearing blue light lenses can help prevent that, they say.

“You don’t think about it when it’s happening, but when we’re on our computer or phone, we don’t blink as much,” Wademan says. “Blinking lubricates our eyes, so when we don’t do it as much, our eyes get dry and irritated.”

Wademan and Reznik recommend that employees talk to their optometrist about different options for combatting eye fatigue — even those who don’t need corrective lenses to improve their eyesight. Reznik says employees can find high-quality lenses online, but employees need to do a lot of research to verify their legitimacy.

“When people say blue light lenses don’t work, it’s often because they’re not wearing them long enough, or because they’re using low-quality lenses that aren’t actually blocking the blue light,” Reznik says.

People with 20-20 vision can still use vision benefits to purchase lenses to combat eye fatigue, Reznik and Wademan say.

“There’s so many blue light filters on the market online, but your best option is to have an eye exam to talk about your concerns,” Wademan says. “[Optometrists are] held to higher standards, so you can validate that the lenses are high quality.”

Wademan pointed out that people with perfect eyesight should still visit an eye doctor regularly.

“What we do is more than just vision, we look to make sure your eyes are running efficiently and properly,” Wademan says. “We’re also able to monitor chronic conditions like glaucoma and diabetes through eye exams to address them quickly.”

Reznik and Wademan say blue light exposure is not the only vision concern employees should address during the pandemic. The amount of time people spend looking at their screens without breaks, and the distance between themselves and the monitor, have an impact on vision health too.

“You can actually make yourself near-sighted by not taking breaks to look out the window into the distance,” Reznik says. “Our eyes are like muscles, and muscles need to be engaged in order to work properly.”

In addition to wearing blue light lenses, Reznik and Wademan say employees should practice the 20-20-20 rule: look away from your screen every 20 minutes at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. Computer screens should also be placed at arms’ length to reduce eye strain. But, most importantly, they said employees and their children should have regular appointments with their eye doctor.

“So much of what kids learn is through their eyes, so it’s really important to make sure they’re running efficiently,” Wademan says. “We can’t do much without our eyes, so if you have vision benefits, you should definitely use them.”

SOURCE: Webster, K. (24 September 2020) "Too much screen time from remote work? These tips can combat uncomfortable eye strain" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/tips-for-combatting-eye-strain-from-too-much-screen-time


Bad managers are costing employers their workforce

Although poor management can create a difficult work environment, there ways that organizations can create a more effective manager as well as a more engaged and productive workforce. Read this blog post to learn more.


Most employees have had an encounter with someone they would describe as a “bad boss,” a manager who makes things more difficult through bullying and incompetence. These ineffective leaders can cause employees significant stress on top of the pressures they are already facing.

At some point in their careers one in two employees has left a job to get away from a toxic manager, according to a Gallup study. Poor managers aren’t just an issue for employees; a bad boss can have a powerful impact on company cost. Indeed, companies lose about $7.29 per day for each poorly communicating manager in their organization, according to Vital Learning, a management and leadership training program provider.

“Managers have a profound impact on the well-being of employees,” says Laura Hamill, chief people officer at Limeade, an employee engagement company. “That just makes sense — how could you feel good and have a sense of purpose if your manager works against you? We know that our feelings about work can play a huge role in our overall quality of life — it can be a main source of stress or something that brings purpose to our lives.”

A good manager can be identified by three qualities, says Alexander Alonso, chief knowledge officer at the Society for Human Resource Management. First, they are someone who is in constant contact with employees, providing engaging, open and transparent communication. Second, a good manager is focused on performance management, meaning that supervisors need to prioritize evaluating each employee's personal growth, and their role within the team, so there is consistent productivity.

“The third thing is not making a mess and not falling into a hornet's nest of a mess associated with people management,” Alonso says. “There are some basic things that are just absolutely critical. Don't be the person who tells an inappropriate joke or who tells somebody that you don't like them.”

A team leader with all of these qualities can have a significantly positive impact on employee mental health and well-being.

A good manager can empower, challenge, educate, enable employees to feel part of a team, and find opportunities for professional and personal development, says Patricia Elias the chief legal and people officer at ServiceSource, an outsourced go-to-market services provider that delivers digital sales, customer success and renewal solutions to B2B enterprises.

“Of course, a bad manager does the opposite — at best, creating a disengaged team, and at worst, destroying confidence and potential,” Elias says.

While a poor manager can create a difficult work environment for employees, there are steps organizations can take to create a more effective manager and a more engaged and productive workforce.

There are five skills employees say people managers could improve to create a more positive work environment, according to the SHRM survey: communicating effectively (41%), developing and training the team (38%), managing time and delegating (37%), cultivating a positive and inclusive team culture (35%) and managing team performance (35%).

“There is no relationship in the workplace more powerful than the one between people managers and employees," says SHRM CEO Johnny C. Taylor. "As working Americans challenge organizations to manage and lead differently, those that don't will find themselves left behind. By skilling up managers, HR can spend more time strategizing, cultivating culture and delivering bottom line results.”

Bad managers tend not to recognize that quality in themselves and employees typically don’t report these incompetencies to upper management out of fear of retaliation or of losing their jobs. So it is up to HR to identify and fix these issues.

“Where HR really comes in is their one-on-one interactions with the managers,” Alonso says. “Bad managers tend not to be self reflective, and one of the things that stands out is, they will not hear the things that they say. And HR plays an important role in sort of parroting back what it is that they need to do.”

Another tactic HR can utilize to deal with this issue is interviewing the staff beyond the onboarding and exiting processes, Alonso says.

About 84% of American workers say poorly trained people managers create a lot of unnecessary work and stress, according to the SHRM survey. A further 57% of American workers say managers in their workplace could benefit from training on how to be a better people manager. Half of those surveyed feel their own performance would improve if their direct supervisor received additional training in people management.

“Unfortunately, many of us have had bad managers and have learned how we don’t want to manage others — so we’ve rejected those approaches and embraced a more human management style,” Limeade’s Hamill says. “But it’s hard to be effective without also having positive manager role models and the psychological safety in our organizations to stand up to traditional command-and-control models.”

SOURCE: Schiavo, A. (20 August 2020) "Bad managers are costing employers their workforce" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/bad-managers-are-costing-employers-their-workforce


Personalization helps meet the needs of multiple generations in the workplace

In many workplace organizations, there has been an increase in age demographics. As many generations are beginning to work together, it's necessary for organizations to cater to all generations while catering to their different needs, wants, and styles. Read this blog post to learn more.


Changing demographics are creating more age diversity in the workplace, and this 5-generation age range means employers are increasingly faced with catering to different priorities and communication styles with benefits.

When it comes to health and wellbeing, employees between the ages of 55 and 64 prioritize benefits related to physical health, while younger employees care more about social and mental health, according to a study from Optum.

“The one-size-fits-all approach to communication, benefits and services needs to evolve,” says Seth Serxner, chief health officer at Optum. “The challenges a 35-year-old woman with young kids has is very different from a boomer or an empty nester who are dealing with other issues, so the life circumstances are very different.”

Instead, employers should look towards implementing a personalized communication strategy, or even hyper-personalization of benefits related to life cycles, Serxner says.

“If you think about saving in a health savings account, for example, we like to really target these different groups,” he says. “Once we do that, we see a tremendous increase in contributions and the overall savings averages.”

Wil Lewis, a diversity and inclusion executive and head of global disability strategy at Bank of America, says that since the company functions in several different countries, it emphasizes diversity of experience, culture and generations.

“One of the things that we've done as an organization is focused on how to integrate the wisdom that comes from past experiences and be sure that we leverage some of their ideas and make decisions for the future,” Lewis says.

Bank of America is one of over 1,000 employers who have signed the AARP Employer Pledge Program, a nationwide group of employers that stand with AARP in affirming the value of experienced workers and are committed to developing diverse organizations. They have pledged to promote equal opportunity for all workers, regardless of age.

Bank of America also has an intergenerational employee network, with chapters across the U.S. and other countries. The network has, among other things, created mentoring programs where employees in different generations can come together and learn from each other in person or virtually.

“It's actually one of our fastest growing employee networks inside the company,” Lewis says. “We’re really trying to drive connectivity and opportunity for them to learn from one another.”

The company aims to have a broad and comprehensive benefit range that touches on all individual generations, says Ebony Thomas, a global human resources executive at Bank of America.

“We are really thinking about where employees are in their life cycle, and tailoring services, learning, training or benefits to that life cycle,” she says. “It's really thinking ‘are we inclusive of everyone in the organization, in different stages and points in their lives?’ and how a benefit impacts them.”

The Optum data also discovered differences in financial service needs among generations. Younger generations are more concerned about debt, student tuition and how to start saving, whereas older generations may be more interested in things like buying a house, family health or retirement, says Optum’s Serxner.

Technology is another area of great discrepancy among the workplace age gap. Serxner says understanding how millennials or younger generations think about text messaging versus older generations can help employers rethink how they’re utilizing technology and what impact it has.

“There can be mental and behavioral impacts from using technology,” he says. “Employees can start to feel isolated, lonely or left out, based on the way an organization might cater to only one group, or might have a bias toward one kind of technology, whereas some people really feel it's critical to be face-to-face or on the phone.”

It’s critical employers learn and understand the makeup of their workforce, and tailor their communication strategy to their needs, Serxner says. Employers can drive up engagement and participation in their benefit offerings.

“I work with one digital company communications company that’s more than 70% millennial, and all of their outreach, benefits and promotions are phone based,” Serxner says. “I have other older energy and utility companies where they still do big pool meetings, and hand out brochures and packages, where they have individuals explaining the benefits. So the employers tend to have a sense of who their populations are, and tailor their approaches accordingly.”

SOURCE: Nedlund, E. (08 May 2020) "Personalization helps meet the needs of multiple generations in the workplace" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/personalization-helps-meet-the-needs-of-multiple-generations-in-the-workplace


Employees say ‘feeling stressed’ is top reason for lying about sick days

Many employees use their sick days for their physical and mental health when they feel as if they won't be at their peak to perform their job. With that being said, employees may also use sick days when they feel stressed. Read this blog post to learn more.


A third of employees have lied to their employer about their reasons for taking a sick day, with the most common reason being stress, according to a new report by international health benefits provider Aetna International.

As the world’s attention turns to the mental health impact of COVID-19, these confessions suggest that the stigma remains in workplaces.

“If employees have physical or mental health problems, then they're not going to be at their peak to be able to do their job,” says Dr. Hemal Desai, global medical director at Aetna International. “When people lie to take a day off, it really hides the problem, and when they are at work, presenteeism is a really big issue.”

The Employee Perceptions of Mental and Physical Health in the Workplace report explores the views of employees in regards to taking sick days, discussing health issues at work and the impact a mental health diagnosis can play in reducing their experiences of stigma.

Out of the employees surveyed in the U.K., the U.S., Singapore and the United Arab Emirates, those in the U.S. are the most likely to lie to their employer about their reason for taking a sick day. While “wanting a day off” was the second most frequently cited reason for lying, the most common reasons overall related to mental and emotional health, ranging from feeling stressed or down to not thinking their boss would understand.

In the U.S., about 40% of people reported a mental health diagnosis, but less than half of adults receive treatment, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The fear of stigma around these mental health challenges is an issue employees must address, Dr. Desai says.

“Employees don't feel that taking sick leave for mental health problems is something that will either be accepted or considered as good practice by their employers,” Dr. Desai says. “It’s important employers address this hidden problem, because it will ultimately drive better productivity and wellbeing of their workforce.”

Creating a culture of acceptance, especially from a company’s leadership team, is a first step employers can take to easing the stigma of speaking up.

“Employers can do a lot to try and foster more transparency and reduce stigma. Making that parity between mental and physical health will create much more transparency and build trust within an organization, especially if there’s an open culture, particularly by senior leaders, where you can talk about mental health issues,” he says.

Employers also need to ensure employees are aware of and are using mental health resources and benefits, Dr. Desai says. A large majority of companies offer mental health benefits through an EAP, but utilization rates for these services are typically below 10%, according to SHRM. Boosting usage is key to supporting employee wellbeing.

“Employers need to be working with health and benefits providers, because the providers will have a lot of support tools that can help employees,” he says. “Making sure that that support is there from the employers is really key, so that you can drive a really happy and healthy workforce that can be productive, which is particularly important during this COVID-19 situation.”

SOURCE: Nedlund, E. (11 June 2020) "Employees say ‘feeling stressed’ is top reason for lying about sick days" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/employees-say-feeling-stressed-is-top-reason-for-lying-about-sick-days


Supplemental Benefits With Russ Goldner

August 3, 2020

Dear Valued Client,

I hope this letter finds you well.  It has been a very interesting year to say the least.  Times are ever evolving, but our goal at Saxon remains unchanged to ensure you have the best benefit experience possible.  In working with over 600 groups, we find this comes in many forms and fashions.

The one aspect of benefits that Saxon has provided through direct to carrier relationships is the supplemental benefit arena.  Supplemental benefits are plans many folks use to help offset the cost of a major medical procedure or the recent rise of deductibles.  In response to the more frequent request for these plans, I am excited to announce Saxon has decided to step into this arena to assist our clients directly.

Russ Goldner has joined Saxon as our Director of Supplemental Benefits.  With 15 years of experience in this discipline, Russ can assist in developing a supplemental benefits program that fits the needs of your company and, most importantly, the needs of your employees.

Supplemental benefits are an excellent means of complimenting your major benefit lines because they further enhance a benefit lineup assisting in both recruiting and retention.  These lines are voluntary, allowing your employees to opt for coverage that is best for them and their families, especially in filling potential gaps in their deductible funding or costs of living while recovering from a medical malady.

Russ will be following up with you to further discuss the advantages of providing supplemental benefits to your employees.  If you want to reach out to Russ prior to, he can be reached via email at rgoldner@gosaxon.com or via phone at (513) 317-8412.

Respectfully,

Jamie Charlton


Strategies for making mental healthcare core to your organization

Mental health in the workplace has been a topic of discussion for a continuous-time, but due to the coronavirus and many rules and regulations beginning to rise, there has been a rise in mental health numbers these past few months. Read this blog post to learn more.


American workers’ mental health improved last month after hitting a three-year low, but overall remains poor, as people struggle with the physical, psychological and financial stressors of the pandemic.

According to HR technology company Morneau Shepell’s May Mental Health Index, which surveyed 5,000 U.S. employees, the overall mental health score for May was -6, up slightly from April’s score of -8, the lowest in the last three years. However, with negative scores indicating worse mental health, the results show that American sentiment remains low.

The rise in May is likely due to state decisions to begin a phased reopening of non-essential retail businesses and restaurants, as well as employers allowing workers to return to the physical workplace, says Paula Allen, the senior vice president of research, analytics and innovation at Morneau Shepell.

“People are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” she says. “But this is for sure not going to be linear. The possibility of a second wave of COVID is quite high.”

The coronavirus and its economic impact is not the only uncertainty that employees are facing. Protests demanding racial equality and justice for the victims of police brutality have erupted across the nation in response to the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Thirty-percent of Americans experienced symptoms of anxiety last week, according to data from the CDC.

“It’s kind of like having the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression, and the Civil Rights Movement all at the same time,” Allen says. “It would be unusual if that doesn’t impact people’s mental health and well-being because you really are taking away a sense of predictability, a sense of certainty, a sense of safety, with all of these things happening at the same time.”

The coronavirus crisis has brought to light the necessity of promoting better mental health in the workplace. Seventy-eight percent of companies offer an EAP with mental health resources, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. Ninety-three percent of companies have encouraged employees to take advantage of EAP resources like telehealth and virtual mental health programs in response to the pandemic, a recent Business Group on Health survey found. Morneau Shepell recommends that employers make mental health more visible in the organization and continue to provide support for employees.

“It works very well when an organization doesn’t look at mental health as a separate program or a separate project that they have a coordinator working on. It’s really built into their business culture as something that they see as valuable and they look for opportunities in every single way to help their employees,” Allen says.

With organizations feeling the effects of the economic downturn, 34% of companies in North America are considering or have implemented pay cuts, according to research from Korn Ferry.

The Morneau Shepell research shows, however, that this can actually be more detrimental to morale: Employees whose salaries were cut had lower mental health scores on the Mental Health Index than those who lost their jobs.

Those who experience a salary cut are put in “a position of limbo” as opposed to having “a clean break” from an employer, Allen says. While an organization may look at reducing an employee’s salary as a lesser evil when compared to terminating them outright, this can cause more anxiety than actually letting the employee go.

“The main thing is we’ve put people in a position of uncertainty, and that increases anxiety, ” she says. “It’s an important thing for organizations to pay attention to because often they will feel that it is a benevolent thing not to terminate someone but to keep them in a way that they can afford, which is to reduce salary. But the other side of the coin is recognizing that this does have a very real impact on people, and anything that those organizations can do to continue to make those people feel connected, to continue to make them feel valued and recognized, make sure that there’s outreach to them by managers, anything to balance the situation is what we would recommend.”

To improve mental health in the workplace, leaders should talk about the importance of good mental health and make employees aware of support services offered, such as an employee assistance program, Allen says.

“Make mental health a very visible thing in the organization. Communication from senior leadership that speaks about the importance of mental health, that the organization cares about the employees’ mental health, and makes sure that people are aware of services that the organization might sponsor,” she says. “That strong voice is important to build awareness and to reduce stigma.”

Organizations must also train their managers on how to handle mental health issues in the workplace. Sometimes managers will notice a change in an employee’s behavior and be at a loss as to how to deal with it, Allen says.

“They might ignore it, they might let it get worse, they might try to step in and become a counselor when they’re not a counselor,” she says. “But if a manager handles that situation well, often it’s a good trigger point for the employee to get the kind of help that they need.”

SOURCE: Del Rowe, S. (12 June 2020) "Strategies for making mental healthcare core to your organization" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/strategies-for-making-mental-healthcare-core-to-your-organization


How to Maintain a Professional Presence on the Phone


If you are job hunting, start thinking about how you will handle employers' responses to your resume. While some recruiters will e-mail you, others may call. All too often, this happens when you're sitting down to dinner, the dogs are yapping, the kids are yelling or you're settling into a favorite Netflix binge. Don't get caught off guard. There's an easy way to know that a call is of a professional nature before you pick up the phone.

Protect Your Image

You can manage calls that come at awkward times by adding a phone number to your smartphone or landline. Many cell and landline companies offer multiple lines on a phone, each with a distinctive ringtone. With a second line, you can have a dedicated and confidential number with a voice mail message tailored to the professional image you wish to present to the world, and you can use this number exclusively for your job search and career management activities. If this line rings at an inconvenient time, you'll know to get yourself into a space where you can switch to your "professional voice" and talk without distraction, or to return the call in a few minutes when the mayhem at home is under control. Use this number on your resume, in your LinkedIn profile and for all other business communications: This can enhance your professional image, and it also acts as a buffer between your professional and personal life.

 Put Your Extra Line to Work

Unemployment due to the pandemic has hit 30 million workers, or about one-quarter of the U.S. labor force. Record unemployment means that getting back into the workforce will require upgrading your job search and sharpening your interview skills.

In such a disrupted world, it would also be a good idea to think about a side gig that might leverage some of your professional skills. An additional revenue stream never hurts, particularly in times like these, and a side gig could even lead to full-time employment. Plus, every nickel you bring in can help ease the financial strain.

Just as it can help with your job search, your extra phone line can help you field and make calls related to your side gig. When that distinctive ringtone sounds, you'll know the call is about money, whether it's for a new job or a potential customer. Either way, you're alerted that the call requires you to answer in your professional voice.

It can take time for that side gig to start making you real money. Not all ideas take off like a rocket, but you'll learn more from your mistakes than your successes. Meanwhile, your efforts may bring in a little extra cash and keep your spirirts up.

If you've always had a dream for a side gig and you've been laid off, now is a great time to put your dream into action. If you need some inspiration, check out these ideas:

Make sure to set up a differentiated LinkedIn profile for your new business to act as a website for your side gig. Think of it as a resume written around your business's goals. With a phone number and a starter website, you have the two foundational basics for a 21st century global business.

SOURCE: Yate, M. (10 August 2020) "How to Maintain a Professional Presence on the Phone" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/organizational-and-employee-development/career-advice/pages/how-to-maintain-a-professional-presence-on-the-phone.aspx