Sleep Deprivation Has Same Impact as Binge Drinking

Although drink driving is socially unacceptable sleep deprivation is so extreme in the UK that one million people are doing the equivalent of getting behind the wheel intoxicated every day, without alcohol passing their lips, having a profound impact on their employer and workplace.

The data, from Vielife's online health & wellbeing assessment, also shows that one in three (approximately 100 million European working adults) suffer from 'poor sleep'. These people are living in danger of a semi-conscious existence equal to repeatedly driving their car well over the alcohol limit.

Women are more at risk than men - 35% have poor sleep compared to 31% of men. Depression has a profound correlation with poor sleep.

The survey found people working a five day week generally have better sleep than people working more or less than five days.

Being 'sleep drunk' is caused by the tiredness felt after prolonged waking hours which has the equivalent effect as a raised blood alcohol level above the legal limit to drive.

Tony Massey, Vielife's chief medical officer, said: "Being 'sleep drunk' is a common issue that causes personal and work life issues and a healthy lifestyle is at the heart of solving it."

The data is based on 'sleep scores' recorded by users of Vielife's online health & wellbeing platform. A sleep score indicates the overall quality and satisfaction of a person's sleep as part of a wider 'wellbeing score' used to help people identify and work to improve their health issues.

This research was based on 38,784 assessments of people employed in the UK taken between 2009 and 2011.

By David Woods

Not as Simple as Paying or Playing

By Jenny Ivy

With roughly half of employers saying they'll definitely be offering health coverage even after insurance exchanges begin, speculating with certainty (a bit of an oxymoron) that it's only a matter of time before companies drop health coverage is a futile argument.

Likewise, it's fair to say that there are several legitimate reasons for companies (particularly the bigger ones) to keep offering coverage, but we're only assuming the status quo won't change dramatically once health reform is in full effect. All you have to do is look at the numbers that are already dropping, and dropping hard. [See: Reform driving up health plan costs]

Studies, including the one released last week by Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health, show there is a commitment among employers to do what they can to keep offering coverage in the near-term. Beyond 10 years, however, is when things get debatable. According to their employer survey, only 3 percent of employers are somewhat to very likely to discontinue health care plans for active employees in 2014 or 2015 without providing a financial subsidy. By the same measure, 45 percent of employers are somewhat to very likely to offer coverage to only a portion of their work force and direct the others to the exchanges.

While most employers will remain focused on sponsoring the design and delivery of their health care programs through 2015 (77 percent), they are much less confident that health care benefits will be offered at their organization over the longer term. Less than one in four (23 percent) companies are very confident they'll continue to offer health care benefits 10 years from now, down from a peak of 73 percent in 2007.

Unless there's a revolutionary way of delivering health insurance, employers will be circulating through all the options to combat high health care costs. The Towers Watson/NBGH survey shows health care costs per employee are expected to rise 5.9 percent this year, as compared to 5.4 percent in 2011. Health care costs per employee averaged $10,982 last year, and is expected to rise to $11,664 in 2012. Employees’ share of costs increased 9.3 percent during this period, to $2,764. This amount represents a 40 percent increase in costs from just five years ago, as compared to a 34 percent increase for employers over the same time period.

“As employers try to maintain the balance between containing costs and offering competitive total rewards packages, they are realizing that their future health care benefit choices are not quite as simple as ‘paying or playing,’” says Ron Fontanetta, senior health care consulting leader at Towers Watson. “In fact, there is a wide spectrum of design choices that will allow employers to develop a health care strategy that matches their unique objectives and workforce demographics.”

Besides actually cultivating healthier employees, the survey shows there are several emerging tactics they plan to use to control their costs:

  • Spousal and dependent coverage surcharges: Roughly half of the companies (47 percent) increased employee contributions in tiers with dependent coverage, and about a quarter (24 percent) are using spousal surcharges, with another 13% planning to do so next year.
  • Growth in Account-Based Health Plans (ABHPs): Nearly one in six companies (59 percent) are offering an ABHP today, and another 11 percent plan to do so by 2013. ABHP enrollment has nearly doubled in the last two years, from 15 percent in 2010 to 27 percent in 2012.
  • Changing pharmacy landscape: Six in 10 companies have added or expanded step therapy or prior authorization programs, and 21 percent reduced pharmacy copays last year for those using a generic with a chronic condition (with another 16 percent planning to add this feature in 2013).
  • Vendor management and transparency: Three in 10 companies (30 percent) have consolidated their health plan vendors in the past two years, and 11 percent plan to do so next year.

Survey: New wellness programs on the rise, existing ones to expand

By Marli D. Riggs | April 4, 2012

More plan sponsors continue to start wellness programs, while the majority of organizations with programs currently in place are looking to expand and invest, according to the 2011 Willis Health and Productivity Survey by Willis North America's Human Capital Practice.

According to the survey, 60% of respondents indicate they have some type of wellness program, an increase of 13% from 2010. Additionally, 58% indicate they plan to expand their wellness initiatives with added programs or resources.

“Wellness programs continue to evolve and it is encouraging to see more organizations initiate programs despite economic pressures and continuing challenges in accurately measuring outcomes and results,” says Jennifer Price, senior health outcomes consultant at Willis Human Capital Practice.

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • The most common types of wellness programs being offered by respondents include: physical activity programs (53%), tobacco cessation programs (49%) and weight management programs (45%).
  • Although 29% of survey respondents consider themselves to be a global organization, only 15% indicate they have implemented a wellness program for their global employees.
  • Forty-three percent of plan sponsors say the leading barrier to measuring success was difficulty in determining the influence of wellness compared with other factors impacting health care costs.

This year’s survey included a subset of questions that also asked employers about work/life balance programs. Findings reveal that 51% of respondents reported promoting work/life balance programs within their worksite wellness program. After employee assistance programs, flexible start/end times are the most common offering of work/life balance program options, say 81% of respondents. The survey finds helping employees achieve work/life balance is reported to be a significant concern by 18% of respondents, and somewhat of a concern by 54%.

“It is exciting to see more employers offering work/life balance programs as a part of their broader wellness efforts. Employers seem to realize that employees need resources to find the proper balance between the demands of work and personal life,” adds Price.

The survey represents the findings received from 1,598 plan sponsors. Forty-four percent of respondents had 1,000 or more employees.

Employers Get Creative with Tight Budgets....

Voluntary benefits are on the rise, but why is that the trend we are seeing?  The economy is in recovery, but it is and will continue to be a slow climb up a very tall mountain.  Company belts have not loosened and with the overall impact of healthcare reform still uncertain, it still may be quite some time before they let those belts out a notch or two.

According to HR Daily Report, this is why more employers are looking at Voluntary Benefits as a lower-cost incentive to attract new and retain existing talent.  Employers are taking to offering employees everything from auto and home insurance to legal plans or even pet insurance.  All of these being growing trends in employers looking to stay competitive.  That's the assertion at a recent presentation at the 2011 Health Care Benefits NY conference.  Outlined in the course of that presentation was a list of the most popular group voluntary benefits, now and in the future.

Most popular now included:

  • life insurance
  • disability (long and short-term plans), and
  • vision plans
Projected to be the most popular in the future:
  • long-term care
  • legal plans, and
  • auto and home insurance
There is one secret to success however, according to experts on the subject.  The success of your voluntary benefits program has absolutely nothing to do with WHAT you are offering, but rather HOW you are offering it!  The biggest tip to success is to be sure that your company sets up a payroll deduction for employees to participate.  This accomplishes two goals.  One, it helps employees sock away the money to cover the costs of premiums, etc, and two, it further reinforces with employees that your company endorses that specific benefits plan.
So the question still hangs as to why these types of benefits are the growing trend, especially when employees are paying for these benefits themselves?  For one, organizations can get group rates, allowing employees the chance to obtain these benefits less expensive than if they went and shopped for rates on their own.  Disability and life insurance are benefits companies may be offering already.  However, companies are now taking a closer look at enriching these benefit packages.  "Not only does offering voluntary benefits cost employers virtually nothing and help level the benefits playing field with much larger companies, it also affords employees access to various types of insurance coverage, typically with looser underwriting requirements and at group rates that are lower than is they went out and got the coverage on their own," explains
So how much savings potential for employees are we really talking about and how?
  • Because it provides protection against lost income, disability insurance (short and long-term) is perhaps the most popular voluntary benefit today.
  • The financial security afforded by life insurance makes it an especially popular voluntary benefit in uncertain economic times.  While term life is still most prevalent, a "fight to qualify" among employers and employees is making permanent life insurance more popular.
  • Voluntary dental insurance holds great appeal to both employees and employers because you can design plans so that it is not very expensive.
  • Relatively new among voluntary benefits, supplemental limited-benefit plans that provide a set dollar amount per day for hospital stays are gaining popularity, as are gap insurance policies that pay a certain amount up to a deductible.
  • More targeted in their coverage, but also appealing, especially to small businesses with high-deductible plans, are supplemental accident insurance and critical illness insurance.
Bottom line is that voluntary benefits can help keep your employees happy with little to no effect on your budget.  That is the type of Win-Win scenario that most companies in today's economy jump on.  If your organization already includes these types of benefits, be sure that they are being highlighted as part of your recruitment strategy.  Just because the employee ultimately covers the costs, doesn't mean that the accessibility of the benefits isn't very valuable.  Voluntary or now, you should utilize any perks or benefits your organization provides to set you apart from the competition!