What Employees Want: Well-Being Programs

What Employees Want: Well-Being Programs

Workplace wellness programs have increased in the past several years to promote healthy diets and lifestyle, exercise and other behaviors such as quitting smoking.  As of 2020, most employers had wellness programs of some kind, including 53% of small firms (those with 3-200 employees) and 81% of large companies.  Since employees spend most of their waking hours on the job, wellness programs seem to be a natural fit to try to promote healthy changes in behavior.  But, in 2022, employees want more; many workers are looking for employers who show authentic concern for their well-being.

Well-being is about how our lives are going.  It’s not only about health and happiness but also about living life to its fullest potential.  In fact, data shows that employees of all generations rank “the organization cares about the employees’ well-being” in their top three criteria.

Financial stress soared during the pandemic but so did regular stress, too.  Mental health struggles such as anxiety, depression, and substance abuse are also climbing.  These are expensive issues to ignore both in terms of the human suffering but also the company’s bottom line: Depression alone costs an estimated $210.5 billion per year.  These costs are due to absenteeism (missed work days) and presenteeism (reduced productivity at work) as well as direct medical costs (outpatient and inpatient medical services and pharmacy costs).

Employers must recognize the interrelationship between the physical, financial, work and well-being components of employees’ lives.  For example, employees who need help with their financial well-being are significantly less likely to be physically healthy and more likely to report feeling stressed or anxious which can impact productivity and job performance.  Vice President for Communications at Fidelity Investments in Boston, Mike Shamrell,  recognizes the need for all dimensions of wellness.  “It’s tough to be well in one area when you’re unwell in another,” he said.

Well-being is often associated with gym memberships and green smoothies but it is much more than that; it is a result of many different aspects of one’s life.  Here are 5 common dimensions of well-being that can be addressed through a workplace wellness program:

  • Emotional/Mental Health – Understanding your feelings and coping with stress.
  • Physical Health – Discovering how self-care can improve your life and productivity.
  • Financial Health – Successfully managing your money.
  • Social Connectedness – Creating and being a part of a support network.
  • Occupational Well-Being– Feeling appreciated at work and satisfied in your contributions.

Great employees want great employers.  Companies that want creative, high-performing teams must be willing to support workers both in and out of the office.  Well-being has a major influence on an employee’s performance and satisfaction; employees who feel valued and appreciated are more invested in their company in return.

What You Need to Know About Healthcare Benefits in 2022

What You Need to Know About Healthcare Benefits in 2022

While the new year feels like a fresh start for most workers, it’s also expected to come with a spike in health insurance premiums. Premiums and deductibles have been steadily increasing for years. The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) found that premiums for a family rose 4% in 2021, according to a survey focused on employer-sponsored benefits.

The average family pays $22,221 in premiums, according to KFF. Workers contributed $5,969 toward their coverage, while employers paid the rest. In fact, since 2011 the average family premiums have increased 47%, which KFF found was more than wages (31%) and inflation (19%).

Not only is this a financial hardship for American families, but it’s also draining companies that are struggling to maintain employee coverage. To complicate the matter, several federal programs providing support for healthcare are due to expire in 2022.

What to Expect in Healthcare Coverage

Rising healthcare premiums are only part of the problem. Deductibles are also skyrocketing. This is the amount workers have to pay before insurance kicks in and could make a huge financial difference for families dealing with a serious health issue.

The average single deductible has doubled in the last decade to $1,669. For the more affordable healthcare plans, deductibles can be as high as $8,000. Overall, 85% of the 155 Americans with employer-sponsored coverage have a deductible.

Another survey conducted by the Business Group on Health anticipates healthcare costs increasing by as much as 6% in 2022. Analysts pointed out that 2021 rates actually flattened out slightly because many Americans avoided treatments during the pandemic. That’s expected to end in 2022, which will drive up prices. Of all employers surveyed by BGOH, 94% expected higher medical costs because of delays in treatment.

Expiring Federal Support Programs

Federal legislation is also expiring in January 2022. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was one of the first bills signed in 2020 to help workers. It gave money to businesses, enhanced unemployment programs, and funded hospitals.

One provision known as “safe harbor” allowed high-deductible health plans to cover telehealth and remote care services at little to no cost. The CARES act expired on December 31 and will now impact who is eligible for telehealth services.

Another rule under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) in 2021 allowed for mid-year election changes for Dependent Care Reimbursement Accounts (DCRA). This allowed workers to elect higher limits to help pay for childcare pre-tax. The ARPA also expires on December 31. If the new higher exclusion limit is not extended into 2022, families will have to contend with the previous $5,000 limit.

Around 30 million Americans get their health coverage from the Marketplace, which was established by the Affordable Care Act. With more enrollees and more available plans in 2022, experts anticipate a change in premium subsidies that could increase the total price people have to pay.

Navigating the Future

Regardless of what employers decide to do, HR departments need to be proactive in guiding employees through the process. Healthcare decisions are complex and no company wants disgruntled workers as a result of cutting or switching plans without notice. Clear communication and assistance are necessary to ensure a smooth transition that is beneficial for everyone.

Companies and HR departments should also keep in mind that the benefits they ultimately choose will define future recruiting. Healthcare benefits are a top decision-making factor for most prospects.

By Mckenzie Cassidy

Originally posted on HR Exchange Network

Healthy Eating Tips

Healthy Eating Tips

It can sometimes feel as if we’re bombarded with information about the latest eating trend or buzzworthy ingredient. But good nutrition is really about having a well-rounded diet, and it’s easier to do than you may think. In fact, living a nutritious lifestyle can be easy and fun.

Nutrition is about more than vitamins—it also includes fiber and healthy fats. Now is a perfect time to learn simple ways to help your whole family eat healthier.

Need tips specifically for young children? Learn how to introduce kids to healthy foods.

Add healthy fats.

Not all fats are bad. Foods with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are important for your brain and heart. Limit foods with trans fats, which increase the risk for heart disease. Good sources of healthy fats include olive oil, nuts, seeds, certain types of fish, and avocados.

Try this:

  • Top lean meats with sliced avocado, or try some avocado in your morning smoothie.
  • Sprinkle nuts or seeds (like slivered almonds or pumpkin seeds) on soups or salads.
  • Add a fish with healthy fats, like salmon or tuna, into your meals twice a week.
  • Swap processed oils (like canola or soybean oil) for oils that are cold-pressed, like extra-virgin olive oil and sesame oil.

Cut the sodium.

Good nutrition is about balance, and that means not getting too much of certain ingredients, such as sodium (salt). Sodium increases blood pressure, which raises the risk for heart disease and stroke. About 90% of Americans 2 years old or older consume too much sodium. For most people ages 14 years and older, sodium should not exceed 2,300 mg per day.

Try this:

  • Avoid processed and prepackaged food, which can be full of hidden sodium. Many common foods, including breads, pizza, and deli meats, can be sources of hidden sodium.
  • At the grocery store, look for products that say “low sodium.”
  • At restaurants, ask for sauces and dressings on the side. Get more tips for lowering sodium while eating out.
  • Instead of using salt, add delicious flavor to your meals with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, a dash of no-salt spice blends, or fresh herbs.

Bump up your fiber.

Fiber in your diet not only keeps you regular, it also helps you feel fuller longer. Fiber also helps control blood sugar and lowers cholesterol levels.3,4 Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (beans and peas) are good sources of fiber.

Try this:

  • Slice up raw veggies and keep them in to-go baggies to use as quick snacks.
  • Start your day off with a high-fiber breakfast like whole grain oatmeal sprinkled with pecans or macadamia nuts.
  • Steam veggies rather than boiling them. When buying frozen veggies, look for ones that have been “flash frozen.”
  • Add half a cup of beans or peas to your salad to add fiber, texture, and flavor.

Aim for a variety of colors on your plate.

Foods like dark, leafy greens, oranges, and tomatoes—even fresh herbs—are loaded with vitamins, fiber, and minerals.

Try this:

  • Sprinkle fresh herbs over a salad or whole wheat pasta.
  • Make a red sauce using canned tomatoes (look for “low sodium” or “no salt added”), fresh herbs, and spices.
  • Add diced veggies like peppers, broccoli, or onions to stews and omelets to give them a boost of color and nutrients.

Are you eating healthy to help you get to a healthy weight? Learn more about balanced eating.

Originally posted on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

How to Make (and Keep!) a New Year’s Resolution

How to Make (and Keep!) a New Year’s Resolution

Ever wonder why the resolutions you make in January don’t stick around after March? You aren’t alone! Studies show that only 8% of people keep their New Year’s resolutions. Why? And how do people achieve their goals set at New Year’s? We’ve broken it down for you so you can identify your goal-breaker as well as give you some tips on how to make those resolutions stick.

There are three main reasons that New Year’s resolutions fail. The first goal-breaker is taking on too much (too big of a goal) and expecting it to happen too fast. Researchers have found that it takes 66 days to break a habit. That’s much higher than the previously published 21 days. It conversely means that it also takes 66 days to form a new habit. So, battle your goal-breaker by setting smaller, achievable goals to focus your energies on rather than spreading yourself too thin on lofty goals.

The second reason you fail to keep your resolution is you don’t have anyone supporting you. This could be because you simply didn’t tell anyone that you have new life goals. It could also be due to fear of accountability. You need some life-cheerleaders that root you on to victory. These cheerleaders also call you out when you are riding off the tracks. Their support isn’t tied to your achievement of your goals but instead their support is firmly tied to you and they want to see you succeed.

The last goal-breaker setting a goal that is too vague.  You can’t get to your destination if you don’t know where you are going.   A goal like “I want to try harder at work” or “I want to save more money this year” is too general a notion that does not give you something specific to work towards or a well-defined path to follow.  And if you can’t provide specific benchmarks, you can’t measure your progress.

Now, let’s steer this ship back on course with some tips on KEEPING your New Year’s resolutions.

Plan Ahead

To ensure success, plan ahead so you can have the resources available when you need them.  Then, you won’t have excuses for why you can’t follow through.  Here are a few things you can do to prepare:

  • Read up on it – Get books on the subject. Whether it’s taking up running or becoming a vegetarian, there are books to help you prepare for it.
  • Plan for success – Get everything you need so things will go smoothly. If you are taking up running, make sure you have the clothes, shoes, and playlists so that you are ready to get started.
Reward Yourself Along the Way

Small rewards are great encouragement to keep you going during the hardest first days.  After that, you can try to reward yourself once a week with a lunch with a friend, a nap, or whatever makes you tick.  Later, you can change the rewards to monthly and even pick an anniversary reward!

Write Your Goals Down on Paper

Writing establishes intention but action needs to be taken to achieve your resolution.  Have a written account of your goals is a constant reminder to take action.  Mark Murphy says Writing things down doesn’t just help you remember, it makes your mind more efficient by helping you focus on the truly important stuff. And your goals absolutely should qualify as truly important stuff.” 

Start When You’re Ready

When you launch your resolution on January 1st, you are making a change based on a calendar date.  What are the chances that you’re going to be ready for a life change at exactly the same time the calendar rolls over to a new year?  There’s no need to launch your resolution on January 1st or even in January.  Start working on your goal when you’re ready.  That’s not to say that you need to wait until you feel fully confident before starting (that may never happen).  Delaying your goal a few weeks or a few months is better than abandoning it altogether.

Identify Your Purpose

Knowing your “WHAT” (goal) is important but knowing your “WHY” can be just as important when it comes to following through on your intentions. Why do you want to lose weight in 2022? When you put the why to the what, you are truly focused on what matters. “I want to lose weight so that I can play with my children without getting tired and show them that hard work is worth it.”  Now, THAT’S a great goal.

Identifying goal-breakers and goal-makers are equally important pieces to achieving what you set out to accomplish, especially with regards to New Year’s resolutions. Commit to making this year the year that your resolution is going to stick!

Healthy Teeth, Healthy Mouth, Healthy You!

Healthy Teeth, Healthy Mouth, Healthy You!

Did you know that problems in your mouth can affect the rest of your body? Or that your dental health offers clues about your overall health?  Poor dental health contributes to major systemic health problems. Conversely, good dental hygiene can help improve your overall health.  As a bonus, maintaining good oral health can even REDUCE your healthcare costs!

Researchers have shown us that there is a close-knit relationship between oral health and overall wellness. With over 700 types of bacteria in your mouth, it’s no surprise that when even one of those types of bacteria enter your bloodstream that a problem can arise in your body. Oral bacteria can contribute to:

  1. Endocarditis—The infection of the inner lining of the heart can be caused by bacteria that started in your mouth.
  2. Cardiovascular Disease—Heart disease, as well as clogged arteries and even stroke, can be traced back to oral bacteria.
  3. Low birth weight—Poor oral health has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight of newborns.

Over $45 billion is lost in productivity in the United States each year because of untreated oral health problems.  These oral diseases can result in the need for costly emergency room visits, hospital stays, and medications, not to mention loss of work time. The pain and discomfort from infected teeth and gums can lead to poor productivity in the workplace, and even loss of income. Children with poor oral health are more prone to illness and may require a parent to stay home from work to care for them and take them to costly dental appointments.  In fact, over 34 million school hours are lost each year because of emergency dental care.

So, how do you prevent this nightmare of pain, disease, and increased healthcare costs? It’s simple! By following through with your routine yearly dental check-ups and daily preventative care, you will give your body a big boost in its general health. Check out these tips for a healthy mouth:

  • Maintain a regular brushing/flossing routine—Brush and floss teeth twice daily to remove food and plaque from your teeth, and in between your teeth where bacteria thrive.
  • Use the right toothbrush—When your bristles are mashed and bent, you aren’t using the best instrument for cleaning your teeth. Make sure to buy a new toothbrush every three months. If you have braces, get a toothbrush that can easily clean around the brackets on your teeth.
  • Visit your dentist—Visit your dentist for a check-up every 6 months. He/she will be able to look into that window to your body and keep your mouth clear of bacteria. Your dentist will also be able to alert you to problems they see as a possible warning sign to other health issues, like diabetes, that have a major impact on your overall health and healthcare costs.
  • Eat a healthy diet—Staying away from sugary foods and drinks will prevent cavities and tooth decay from the acids produced when bacteria in your mouth comes in contact with sugar. Starches have a similar effect. Eating healthy will reduce your out of pocket costs of fillings, having decayed teeth pulled, and will keep you from the increased health costs of diabetes, obesity-related diseases, and other chronic conditions.
  • Drink more water—Water is the best beverage for your overall health—including oral health. Drinking water after every meal can help wash out some of the negative effects of sticky and acidic foods and beverages in between brushes.

A healthy oral hygiene routine will do wonders for your teeth, mouth, and smile from a dental perspective.  Oral health is also a key indicator of overall health and well-being.  That should keep the rest of your body smiling as well!

Exploring Heart Health

Exploring Heart Health

Heartbreaks are painful, but did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, with more than 655,000 people dying from the condition each year. This equates to one in four deaths attributed to this awful disease. The most common form of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD), which is what can cause heart attacks.

CAD is caused when a substance called plaque builds up in a person’s arteries. As the buildup grows, the opening of the arteries gradually closes until blood flow is blocked and the patient experiences a heart attack. While these statistics are sobering, there are several ways we can prevent heart disease. Knowing the “why” about this disease can aid in prevention. First, let’s learn about the big three risk factors of heart disease:

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure (HBP) is the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. This is what your nurse checks when she puts the blood pressure cuff on your arm and pumps air into it at your check-up. She is listening for the pressure when your heart beats and the pressure for when your heart is at rest between beats. High blood pressure usually has no signs or symptoms so it is very important to keep your annual physical appointments with your doctor and to follow her recommendations if she diagnoses you with HBP.

High Cholesterol

High cholesterol is when you develop fatty deposits in your blood vessels. These deposits can lead to narrow vessels and increase your chance of a heart attack. It is determined through blood tests. While high cholesterol can be inherited, it can also be prevented through medication, diet and exercise.


Smokers are four times more likely to develop heart disease than non-smokers. The nicotine in smoke reduces your blood flow, raises your blood pressure, and speeds up your heart. Quitting smoking will not reverse the damage done to your heart, but it greatly reduces the damage going forward to your heart and arteries.

In addition to the three key risk factors, it’s important to explore what we can do to prevent it. Prevention behaviors can take you from the danger zone of heart disease and put you on the path to a healthy heart.

Heart Disease Prevention

Healthy Diet

According to the Mayo Clinic, simple tips to prevent heart disease by diet include tips like these:  controlling portion size, eating more vegetables and fruits, selecting whole grains, limiting unhealthy fats, choosing low-fat protein, reducing sodium intake, and limiting treats.

Healthy Weight

Being overweight increases your risk for heart disease. One measure used to determine if your weight is in a healthy range is body mass index (BMI). If you know your weight and height, you can calculate your BMI at CDC’s Assessing Your Weight website. When in doubt, consult a physician who can help in calculating whether your health is at risk due to weight.

Physical Activity

Among the many benefits to getting enough physical activity can, it can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your blood pressure, cholesterol, and sugar levels. From walking, to swimming, to cycling, adding even moderate activity to your routine can have a great impact on your heart health. Just remember, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before starting any new exercise regimen.

Quit Smoking

Smoking cigarettes greatly increases your risk for heart disease. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease. Your doctor can suggest ways to help you quit, and you can find many other helpful resources, including creating a tailored plan to help you quit at SmokeFree.gov.

Limit Alcohol

There’s a good reason your doctor asks about routine alcohol consumption at each check-up. Drinking too much alcohol can drastically raise blood pressure and binge drinking can increase heart rate. For heart health, the medical guidelines state that men should have no more than two drinks per day, and women only one. Talk to your doctor if you aren’t sure whether or not you should drink alcohol or how much you should drink for optimal heart health.

Check out these great resources to better educate yourself and others on heart health:

Understand Your Risks to Prevent a Heart Attack

Heart Health Information

Strategies to Prevent Heart Disease

Heart Health Tips