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What employers are missing in their workforce data

If employers don't analyze their data thoroughly, they may be missing valuable information that could save their establishment of many costs. Read this blog post to learn more.

Employers are missing out on valuable healthcare information and cost-saving opportunities if they don’t analyze their data thoroughly, panelists at the annual Disability Management Employer Coalition digital conference said.

According to professionals from an insurance company in Portland, Ore., many employers have access to three types of data: healthcare, absence and productivity. HR departments are typically tasked with collecting and analyzing this data, but rarely do they use all three together. But maximizing these findings can help employers better inform their benefit decisions, the panelists said.

“Most employers want to know how much they’re spending on healthcare, but they can learn so much more than that,” said Case Escher, managing partner of the insurance company in Portland, “Very few [employers] use it to explore how health of the workforce is affecting productivity.”

“By comparing health data and absence, you can see if a health condition is causing an employee to miss more work than usual,” said Brycie Repphun, account executive at the insurance company in Portland. “You can use this information to help better inform that person about the services available to them to help them be successful at work.”

Employers can also use their productivity data to help determine if individual employees, or an entire team, are struggling, Escher said. Since productivity is measured differently at every company, and in various positions, employers have to exercise their own judgement about how to interpret it, he said.

“Obviously, if it’s a sales position, and one of your top performers is out because of medical issues, or another personal reason, the productivity of that team is going to suffer,” Escher said. “And if that person is going to be out for a while, the data will likely show that the rest of the team is getting burned out faster to compensate for being understaffed.”

Since the majority of the nonessential workforce is working from home due to the pandemic, Repphun recommends that employers start looking at their data to see how employees are coping.

“Health conditions can definitely impact work performance, but we’re finding that this is happening because of the current work from home situation,” Repphun said. “People aren’t working in ideal conditions, and many have children learning at home as well.”

Escher said self-funded employers are better positioned to make use of their workforce data because they don’t have to go through multiple third-party providers to access all of it. But other employers can still benefit from the information if they’re willing to put in the time and effort to retrieve the reports. While employers can certainly survey their workforce to gauge how working remotely is affecting their productivity, Escher and Repphun said they can get a clear answer by looking at all three data points.

“There’s an indisputable link between health and productivity,” Escher said. “As an employer, you can take this information and use it to make smart decisions to help your employees continue to be successful.”

SOURCE: Webster, K. (31 August 2020) "What employers are missing in their workforce data" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/what-employers-are-missing-in-their-workforce-data

Study Reveals Importance of Personal Interactions in Return-to-Work

Originally posted March 03, 2014 by Kristy Tugman on http://www.voluntary.com

Most HR managers are aware of the impact that disability absences have on an organization’s bottom line. But what they may not realize is that the costs associated with these absences are also having an effect on the global economy, as businesses everywhere struggle with getting disability-related costs under control. In fact, one study showed that disability costs were 8 to 15% of payroll in 2002. Seven years later, a similar study found that statistic to hold true, while also suggesting that disability costs would rise by 37% in the future due to the aging population.

Other studies confirm that disability costs are indeed a concern for countries around the world: the U.K., Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Australia and Canada all report escalating disability payments. In Norway, for example, disability payments are about 2.4% of the country’s gross domestic product. And Canada reports that close to 10% of its working population is receiving disability benefits.

Unfortunately there’s no magic bullet for solving the challenge of disability absences, as employers have come to realize. But with so little research supporting effective techniques for return to work, most employers would agree that it’s time for researchers to explore the possible factors − particularly behavior-based techniques that have shown promise − involved in helping employees get back to work successfully.

A recent qualitative study of employees in a cross-section of industries, including manufacturing, television production, financial services and the legal profession, explored patterns and trends of those who went out on disability and their return to work experience. The findings were particularly instructive for employers seeking answers for how to motivate employees on disability to make the transition back to work.

Positive and negative consequences

The study identified several key themes of note, starting with the consequences of not returning to work. The researcher concluded that participants in the study experienced a range of consequences that evolved throughout their experience of being out of work. These included negative consequences, such as financial impact (not having enough money to pay the bills), a loss of personal identity (defining one’s self in terms of job duties) and a loss of control (over one’s destiny). Yet consequences could also be positive, with some participants expressing relief that they didn’t initially have to resume their job duties.

It also became clear that personal interactions were very important as motivators, and were linked to both positive and negative consequences. Not surprisingly, the most significant interactions for employees were those with their co-workers and managers. Employees who experienced negative interactions with their manager had a decreased sense of connection with their employer – and were less motivated to return to work. In addition, participants indicated that when their manager reached out to express concern about their disability, it helped to strengthen their sense of loyalty to the company. However, if a manager reached out only to inquire about when they planned to return to work, it put undue pressure on the employees and created anxiety.

Interactions with co-workers were even more significant for employees. Employees noted that positive interactions with their fellow workers made them feel as if they “owed” it to their peers to return to work. But when co-workers failed to reach out to those who were out on disability, employees said they felt a strong sense of disappointment and isolation.

Although it may seem counter-intuitive, the study revealed that negative consequences related to a loss of identity and control were factors that led to return to work in many cases. Employees expressed a direct connection between their identity, self-worth and work. Some participants said they were motivated to return to work because they feared “losing themselves” if they did not.

Likewise, when employees gave control to their physician about their return to work, they were not as likely to return. Initially, most of the participants did release control to their doctor, but as they began to recover from their disability, they slowly took control back through small steps toward independence and each made the decision to get back on the job as they felt more in control.

The findings from the study have clear implications for employers. For example, although co-workers play an important role in helping employees with disabilities feel connected to the company, they are often unsure about how to appropriately stay in touch. Some said they didn’t want to bother the employee or intrude on what they were going through. One simple way to reach out is to send a card from the team, letting the employee know he or she is being thought of. In addition, managers can contact the employee to ask about their well-being, rather than requesting a return-to-work date.

Employers also need to realize that what type of consequences the employee is experiencing can be useful in helping overcome the barriers to return to work. The study showed that what an employee was thinking and feeling played a significant role in influencing the level of recovery. For instance, when employees started to believe they were in control, they felt a sense of empowerment. When they began to take responsibility for their productivity, they saw it as a positive sign that they could adapt and ultimately recover and return to work.

If rehabilitation practitioners and employers can understand the consequences an employee is experiencing, they can both interact and intervene more effectively with their employees who are out on disability to produce a successful return to productivity – an outcome that is beneficial to all.



6 wellness tips for flu prevention

Originally posted on benefitnews.com

The flu costs businesses approximately $10.4 billion in direct costs for hospitalizations and out-patient visits for adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition to encouraging workers to get immunized, employers can further minimize employee sick days and slow the spread of illness by communicating best practices in wellness and nutrition. Share these six preventive tips from Dr. Bruce Underwood, a certified nutrition and preventive care specialist with Healthy Futures, Inc., to keep workers and their families healthy this season.

1. Sufficient sleep

No matter whether an individual decides to get immunized for influenza, primary prevention should be their priority for avoiding illness. Dr. Underwood explains that a good basis for our immune system is to get a good night’s sleep, generally between six to eight hours every night.

2. Regular exercise

The surgeon general recommends all adults walk at least 10,000 steps or about 4 miles every day. If we over-exercise, then our immune system is weakened for a few days, explains Underwood. However, if we don't exercise at all our immune system is also weak.

3. Vital nutrition

As the following three slides prove, we need vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and fatty acids for our bodies to work well. Overall, Underwood recommends eating a wide variety of foods in amounts that allow you to maintain an ideal body weight.

4. Vitamin C

One of the most important vitamins for immune health is vitamin C. The upper safe limit for Vitamin C is 2,000 mg for adults, according to the National Institute of Health. Underwood and other experts recommend 1,000 mg of the vitamin as a good daily dose. Dietary sources of the vitamin come mainly from fruits and vegetables, but can also be found in certain cuts of meat, especially liver. Studies have shown that our bodies expend Vitamin C to mitigate toxins such as cigarette smoke and pollution. The antioxidant has also helps relieve the physical and psychological effects of stress on people.

5. Zinc

The mineral Zinc is also necessary in stressful situations. By ingesting 10 to 40 milligrams of Zinc each day, individuals can also help build up their immune system. Underwood advises people to keep their daily dosage under 100 mg per day, however, as too much of the metal might cause fever, coughing, stomach pain, fatigue, and many other problems. Meats, seafood, dairy products, nuts, legumes, and whole grains offer relatively high levels of zinc.


Healthy employees create competitive advantage

Originally posted September 24, 2013 by Emily Holbrook on http://www.lifehealthpro.com

It may come as no surprise to many that healthier employees are more productive employees, creating a competitive advantage for their employer. That's according to a recent study by Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI), a workforce health and productivity research and measurement organization.

The company studied 1,268 employees at 53 organizations and found that employees that work at companies with a strong commitment to a healthy workforce "spend more time working, work more carefully and concentrate better than employees at other organizations," according to the report.

“If a workplace sets a high priority on the health of employees — who, in turn, are healthier and have better job performance — then it can reasonably be said that an employer’s culture gives it a competitive advantage. Workplace culture reflects the priorities of company leadership and is an area where employers have some leverage to improve business performance,” stated IBI research director Kimberly Jinnett, PhD, the main author of the report.

The study also found:

  • Not careful at work: Workers in an organization with a weak health culture reported not being careful at work “all” or “most of the time” more than three times more frequently than those who work in organizations with a strong health culture.
  • Not working as often: 44 percent more employees who work in an organization with a weak health culture reported not working as often as they should have “all” or “most of the time” as compared with employees in organizations with a strong health culture.
  • Not concentrating: 31 percent more employees who work in companies with a weak health culture reported they did not concentrate “all” or “most of the time,” compared with employees in organizations with a strong health culture.
  • Getting less work done: There was no difference in the responses from those in a strong versus a weak health culture with regard to getting less work done — but employee health is a differentiating factor. Emotional distress and overall health strongly influence how much an employee accomplishes, and employees in organizations with a weak health culture have worse outcomes on both measures.

IBI President Dr. Thomas Parry said "as more employers recognize that health influences productivity, as well as health care costs, health outcomes such as absence, disability and presenteeism are being brought into the larger discussion of the business cost of poor health."

Of course, this is not the first time that research has shown the connection between poor employer health culture and employee ailments (and therefore, productivity) and it won't be the last. According to IBI, employers that wish to increase their focus on health-related job performance and its impact on the bottom line "should broaden their view from the individual health of employees to additional organizational factors, including health culture and employee well-being."

Companies are, albeit slowly, starting to see the link between employee well-being and productivity.

PPACA expected to aggravate job absences

Originally posted August 23, 2013 by Dan Cook on http://www.benefitspro.com

Under pressure to meet the basic requirements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, employers may be overlooking the law’s implications for employees’ attendance at work.

This observation comes from a survey of employers and insurance providers sponsored by the Disability Management Employer Coalition and Pacific Resources.

The researchers polled 169 benefits policy decision-makers in large organizations and 118 senior professionals in the insurance industry involved with absence management and disability issues. It asked a series of questions designed to measure their employers’ preparedness for the act’s full implementation, including whether they had thoughtfully considered how the reforms might change employee attendance at work and issues around worker disability.

Most have not, the researchers concluded. “While organizations may be prepared for the changes to health care and health insurance, most were not thinking about the impact of PPACA on disability and absence management,” the study said.

Another major finding: both employers and insurers surveyed anticipate “increased incidence and duration of long-term absences.”

Both employers and insurers tended to believe that employee absences will be more frequent and longer. The reason? With more Americans enjoying the benefits of health coverage, there will be longer waiting periods for access to care providers. This will be exacerbated, the report said, by the dwindling numbers of primary care physicians entering the profession.

“Most respondents believe access to routine care will change – 42 percent believe that the ability of employees to see a physician for routine care in a timely manner will get worse, while only 21 percent believe it will improve,” the study reported.

But when it came to questions about the act’s influence on disability issues, there was less clarity among respondents.

“There is more uncertainty about how PPACA will impact the number of disability claims, although those who feel knowledgeable enough to predict what will happen are more likely to believe the number of claims will rise due to employees no longer fearing a loss of health care coverage from a long-term absence,” the study said.

Overall, insurers took a more pessimistic view of the ways in which Obamacare might influence attendance and disability.

“Carriers are more likely than employers to think that PPACA will have an impact on absence and disability,” the study said.  “A third of employers and a majority of carriers believe PPACA will increase the incidence and duration of absences and disability. However, many have not yet considered this aspect of the law, as a quarter are not sure what will happen to absence and disability outcomes.”

2013 Flu Season Hitting Workers Hard

Source: http://ohsonline.com

Data from the BLS Current Population Survey indicate absences were higher in January 2013 than in any month since February 2008.

More than 4 million American workers were working part time in January 2013 or were out because of their own illness, injury, or medical appointment, and this number was the highest for any month since February 2008, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Feb. 19. The chart accompanying the brief report showed how the numbers tend to spike during peak flu season each year.

The data come from the BLS Current Population Survey. It showed 2,853,000 people were out part time because of their own illness, injury, or medical appointment, while 1,202,000 did not work at all during the survey reference week because of illness or injury.

"The number of workers with an absence because of their own illness, injury, or medical appointment shows a regular spike during the months of December through March. Although not all absent workers who supplied this reason were sick with a cold or the flu, it is likely that the increase in absences during the winter months is related to the seasonal illnesses that are typical during this time of year," BLS noted. Its report is an update of "Illness-related work absences during flu season" by Terence M. McMenamin in Issues in Labor Statistics, originally published in July 2010.

Workers are classified as at work part time if they worked fewer than 35 hours during the survey reference week.


Extended absences put small, mid-size companies at risk

Source: http://eba.benefitnews.com
By Tristan Lejeune

Disability insurance experts with the Guardian Life Insurance Company are in the final stages of developing an index for measuring and predicting the success of companies’ absence management programs in conjunction with their short-term and long-term disability. Guardian’s Andrew Hutchison, assistant vice president of group life and disability products, and Judy Buczek, manager of group disability products, are taking the opportunity to encourage small and mid-size employers who haven’t yet implemented absence management to do so.

“Absence management is not new, but it’s really kind of a large-case concept," Buczek says. "Larger employers understand the importance of managing absenteeism, but it’s just as important for mid-size and smaller employers. And actually, they’re usually the folks who don’t have access to the type of tools they need to manage a program. ... We're trying to help employers recognize the need for absence management programs, and also to help bring some of those programs downstream to the smaller employers."

Hutchison recommends that every company explore their absence management options, especially those without enough human resources personnel to dedicate exclusively to the cause. “To outsource” a coordinated, umbrella approach to reining in absenteeism and long-term disability, he says, may seem like a big expense, but it “really becomes a cost-saving measure, and it takes away a lot of the worry.” Small companies, he says, are particularly vulnerable to extended absences.

“These days, everyone is asked to do two jobs,” Hutchison says. “So having a person out, really, really has an impact on the organization today. Getting people back to work sooner … really does impact the bottom line.”

To that end, Buczek says, Guardian is planning a spring release for its Absence Management Activity Index Report and Tool.

“It’s an employer tool that they can use to find out the effectiveness of what they have in place,” she says. “We’ve done some research on our existing plan holders, both large and small, and we’ve looked at what type of programs they have in place, from wellness to a seamless FMLA program to an STD/LTD program and we said, ‘OK, what programs work the best and what are most effective at managing absences?’ It’s geared toward making sure that the appropriate tools are put in place.”