In a 2011 SHRM Employee Benefits Survey, nearly ¾ of HR professionals in the U.S. confirm the negative impact on benefits due to the economy. For instance:
- 3/4 of HR professionals report decline in healthcare benefits (a 5% increase from 2010)
- 25% fewer employers are offering housing/relocation to employees
HR practitioners also have reported a trend of employers have to take on greater responsibility in covering part or all of their healthcare insurance, retirement savings, and other benefits that previously were offered competitively by employers.
“We have seen so many cuts to HR benefit budgets over the last three years,” Mark Schmit, director of research at SHRM, said. “Organizations have had to be creative to find ways to compensate for the loss of benefits with hard cuts in order to stay competitive in the recruitment and retention of top talent.”
The addition of workplace flexibility programs has been one of the primary tactics organizations are using to offset the benefit losses.
Read the Workforce Magazine article
Image: jannoon028 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Originally formed by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen from Minnesota, the new congressional caucus seeks to investigate and share ways that companies can support the health and wellness of their employees.
The Minnesota politicians said they will chair the Congressional Wellness Caucus with Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.). Klobuchar is a Democrat and Paulsen a Republican.
“By supporting proactive and preventative care, we can help curb health care costs and improve the lives of employees,” Paulsen said.
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, employers with workplace wellness programs have a 25% reduction or more in sick leave, health plan costs, workers compensation, and disability costs.
From the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal, earlier this year, each formed caucuses to help the medical device industry, which has a large presence in Minnesota, repeal a $20 billion tax that goes into effect in 2013 to help pay for President Obama’s health care reform.
Read the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal article
Image: Surachai / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Has it become part of office culture for employees to eat lunch at their desks where you work?
This month, a new campaign called “Take Back Your Lunch” was initiated by The Energy Project, encouraging employers to minimize worker burnout in their organizations.
Many employees who tend to work at their desks at lunchtime would argue that doing so increases their productivity and shows a high level of commitment to their employers.
However, what is concerning for HR and management professionals is that this work culture could be damaging other areas:
- Lessening their interests in the work they do (and the effort they put into it)
- Shortening job retention with your organization due to burnout
- Increasing the frequency of bad moods and conflict in the workplace
- Creating lower energy, leading to overall poor employee wellness
“We want you to do anything that helps you relax or recharge — walk, take a yoga class, have a picnic lunch in the park,” says Emily Pines, the Take Back Your Lunch co-founder. “The main thing is you walk away, get out of the office, disengage from work.”
Read the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette news article
Image: m_bartosch / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
In a nationwide survey, 86% of employers communicated their intentions to focus on more employee wellness and health promotion programs over the next three years. At the Harvard School of Public Health, for instance, their analysis showed that absenteeism costs fell by $2.73 for every dollar spent on employee wellness programs.
Most employers focus on the basics like quit-smoking, weight loss, or lowered blood pressure programs. And according to the Harvard Pilgrim VP of Medical Management, the goal to reduce employee medical and pharmacy bills is only a mere 25% of a company’s total health costs.
Harvard Pilgrim is one innovative organization that offers activities with the goal of reducing worker stress in order to tackle the other piece of the pie when it comes to overall health costs. Some of these perks include meditation classes, sleep seminars, an organic gardening club, and much more.
“The other 75% are the costs from ailing workers’ absenteeism or subpar performance while at work, which is often linked to stress,” she said. “It’s the back pain, the fatigue, the headaches that are the cost drivers.”
Read the Boston Globe article
Image: Carlos Porto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
HR is all about tapping the potential of every unique employee. It goes without saying – from health insurance to wellness initiatives that come standard in several organizations – that you and your employer care about the employee’s health, and his or her ability to perform in their roles.
An increasing number of employees are already being offered perks like wellness consultants, in-office health screenings, fitness programs, quit-smoking incentive programs, and more.
According to the corporate benefits group Workplace Options, 70% of Fortune 200 companies offer fitness programs in an active strategy in preventative healthcare and a morale booster for workers. Dr. James Levine from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota states that ¾ of U.S. adults get little to no physical activity daily, because of the sedentary nature of working in an office.
Some interesting ways in which companies are embracing creative ways to get employees moving:
- On-site yoga and health club reimbursements (Rally Software, Boulder, CO)
- Employee team sports like soccer during lunch breaks (Electronic Arts, Vista, CA)
- Flex-time policy encouraging them to go running, biking, and surfing in middle of the workday (Patagonia, Ventura, CA)
- Company gym and free workshops on physical and mental health (GlaxoSmithKline, nationwide)
- Corporate policy for three 5-min stretch breaks every day (L.L. Bean, nationwide)
Read the LA Times article
Image: photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Wellness programs are a great way to boost employee morale and promote the whole work and life balance at an organization. But could financial incentives for a wellness program be a negative issue for employees with disabilities?
According to a recent court ruling in Broward County, Florida: It is not a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for an employer to require employees to participate in a wellness plan, or face a $20 surcharge on insurance premiums.
As stated by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, “The wellness program is not a subterfuge; it was not designed to evade the purpose of the ADA. Rather, it is a valid term of a benefits plan that falls within the ambit of the ADA’s safe harbor provision.”
Related to this case on wellness program incentives in the past, the EEOC has loosely suggested that any wellness program that is mandatory or involves a penalty violates the Act.
While no guidelines have been issued at this point, employers and HR should be cautious and check with a legal expert about this wellness incentive.
Read the Tech Republic article
Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
As the economy is in a state of recovery, there are a number of HR issues that will require some reexamination in the near future. Just a year or two ago, employers were stretching their dollar until they could unfreeze hiring and start thinking about expansion once again.
Now, recruiting new talent is a trend that is on the rise, and companies are tapping into human resource power to do business better. According to an expert consultant at Cowden Associates, “employers can’t just go back to business as usual when it comes to their total compensation strategy.”
One Foot Forward
Getting back to a renewed business model will likely be a slow process, but as organizations start planning for the future, it is important to consider the compensation issues to aid their strategy:
- What areas are driving profitability, and how can you improve staffing in those areas?
- How do you plan to readdress cost-of living pay increases down the road?
- What is your current merit system, and how can you incentivize hard work?
- With regard to your retention strategy, what old programs can you bring back?
- What new wellness and benefits initiatives will you plan to invest in the next year?
Read the Employee Benefits News article
Image: jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net