Archive for September, 2012

Employees May Need a 7th Inning Stretch

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

The post below is a guest blog from Elizabeth Johnson who serves as Health Management Coordinator for CAI’s employee benefits partner, HCW Employee Benefit Services.

Stretching is a vital and important part of beginning any fitness routine, but did you know that it is absolutely essential to a productive and healthy work environment as well? It increases flexibility, improves mental alertness, and reduces anxiety, stress and fatigue, making your employees healthier and more productive all around.

Employees who work behind a desk all day are susceptible to developing musculoskeletal disorders that commonly arise from having poor or inappropriate seating, spending too much time in one position and engaging in repetitive actions, such as typing. Encouraging employees to take short breaks every hour or two to stand up, walk around and stretch will improve their focus and long-term well-being.

Regular stretching can:

  • Reduce muscle tension
  • Improve circulation
  • Improve mental alertness
  • Decrease risk of injury
  • Tune the mind into the body

Many stretches can easily be accomplished at the desk, but some should not be attempted without warming up. A brief walk around the office stretches and warms the legs and body at the same time, which helps to ease into a few stretching routines for key parts of the body.

Working a desk job and sitting in front of the computer can cause damage to the neck, wrist and back. These areas of the body need special attention. Below are some stretches that will help prevent injury and soreness.

 Neck: Stretching the neck is very important for employees who spend hours working in front of computers. Stretching the neck is simple and can be accomplished anywhere. Looking straight forward, employees should slowly tilt their ear toward their shoulder, paying close attention not to raise the shoulder, but to focus on the stretch in the side of the neck. Hold the position for 15-20 seconds, then slowly tilt the head to the other side. It is also beneficial to look left and right, practice chin tucks (tucking the chin to the chest) and look up towards the ceiling. This stretch should be done two or three times throughout the workday.

 Wrists: Desk employees who type frequently are highly at risk of carpal tunnel syndrome, and while experts still argue if it is caused by repetitive strain, employees should exercise caution and stretch their wrists. Extend one hand out in front as if making the hand motion for “stop” and use the other hand to gently pull the fingers back towards the body. Then, letting the fingers of the same hand point toward the ground, use the other hand to pull back towards the body once again. Repeat with the opposite hand. Additionally, moving the hands slowly in a circular motion, in alternating directions, is a great stretch for the wrists. As much as employees type throughout the day, they should stretch their wrists about once every hour.

 Back: The most common and consistent complaint for office workers is back pain. The best remedy for it is to consistently practice good posture. To combat the common habit of slouching in front of a computer screen, interlock the fingers and stretch the arms upward. Slowly lean the body to one side and then the other, like a slow pendulum. To invigorate the lower back after long periods of sitting, stand and place the palms of the hands on the lower back with fingers pointing downward. Then, push forward with the palms and lean back gently until a stretch is felt. Employees should perform this stretch about four to five times a day.

Does your company have a system in place to suggest stretching to its employees? If not, get a couple of co-workers together to stretch at the same time to keep up with a healthy work environment. Or even suggest having a professional come in for an hour to set best practices for stretching at the workplace. Whatever you do, fit in some kind of stretch regime to keep your mind, body in balance for a productive workplace. Our Health Management team at HCW has several tools to help our clients develop and implement wellness strategies such as this to create a healthier workforce. Contact us to help you through that 7th inning stretch!

Photo credit: iStock

Keep Workforce Productivity High with 5 Simple Practices

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

People complain that there are not enough hours in their day to complete a laundry list of tasks. Instead of complaining, however, people can make small changes in their workday to have a more productive day, month, year, etc.  Try the five tips below to improve on the job performance:

Don’t Focus on Emails

Answering emails can be a big productivity drainer. Not all of your emails need to be answered immediately. Rather than replying to emails throughout the day, set a specific time during your work hours to answer your mail. Of course you can take time throughout the day to answer emails on time-sensitive matters or from important people, such as your CEO or best client.

The Most Important Is First

If you slept well and had something to eat for breakfast, your productivity level at the beginning of your day should be high. Take on your most time-consuming or labor-intensive project while your energy and concentration are through the roof. Save small tasks for the end of the day when your performance starts to wane.

Use Breaks Effectively

All employees should utilize breaks throughout the day to avoid burn out. Because peak work performance generally takes place at the start of the day, try to save chats with coworkers or updates on your social media sites for late afternoon. Go on a short walk or read a news article mid-morning for a less distracting break near the beginning of your day.

Prioritize the List

To-do lists are great tools to help keep your day organized. But piling too many tasks on your list can affect your productivity negatively. Prevent daunting to-do lists by only selecting items you plan to get done that day. Number each item on the list to prioritize items you’ll do first. Go a step further by allotting a specific amount of time for each task. Complete this process for each day of your week.

Make Good Health Choices

Your energy level each day contributes to how productive you are during your work week. Several factors affect your energy level and good health is the best way to positively shape it. Make sure to get an adequate amount of sleep each night to restore your body for its next day of work. Avoid constantly eating fast food or drinking sugary drinks that deprive you of the energy you need. Exercise multiple times per week to help keep your physical and mental health strong.

For more helpful tips on improving the productivity and overall work performance of your staff, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Victor1558

12 Activities to Keep Your Workforce Engaged through Fall

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Saturday is the first day of fall, and with the new season comes cooler weather, different foliage and a workforce that just wrapped up its summer. Keep your team members’ engagement high by incorporating fall fun into your workplace. There are many activities you can try at the office. Some are great for team building and others will show your employees that you appreciate their hard work.

Try these employee engagement activities with an autumn twist at your organization:

  1. Have team members bring in fall inspired dishes, such as apple pie or pumpkin soup, for a fall themed office party
  2. Stock the break room with warm apple cider or pumpkin flavored coffee for a morning treat
  3. Allow your staff members to leave work early to pick up their children from school once the academic year starts
  4. Organize an office activity day at a nearby park and play football with your workers and their families
      • Make participation optional
  5. Help employees stay fit during the season by planning a group hike at a local nature trail
      • Make participation optional
  6. Purchase group tickets to a local football game or other fall activity for you staff members to enjoy
  7. Treat your staff to a fall family day and schedule family-friendly activities like jumping in leaves or a cake walk
  8. Plan an office outing to a local apple orchard or pumpkin patch to bond while walking and picking autumn goods together
  9. Host a family hayride at a local park or farm
      • Include hay bale contests or a mini petting zoo
  10. Encourage fitness by arranging after work pick-up soccer games
      •  Make participation optional
  11. Throw a Halloween party and create a costume contest and a pumpkin decorating and carving contest
  12. Buy a turkey and hold an office potluck lunch for Thanksgiving
      • Ask your employees to each bring a dish

For more employee engagement tools and strategies, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Michael Whyte

The Best Metric for HR Effectiveness: Revenue per Employee

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

I recently did a quick Google search on the number of different HR metrics out there to “help” HR professionals better measure their effectiveness, their return on human capital, etc. I found 441 on one list. Holy cow! No wonder many HR Pros struggle with metrics…

The problem with many HR metrics is they are just that, HR metrics (versus business metrics). We struggle to explain their relevance and bottom line impact to our C-Suite executives. If you could only pick one metric, or perhaps more appropriately only had time to measure one metric, I would submit that Revenue per Employee (RPE) would be it. It’s been around forever and is well understood in B-schools. Just take the revenue produced by your company or business unit and divide it by your total number of Full Time Equivalent (FTE) employees.

Many HR activities impact both sides of the equation and it’s our job as HR Pro’s to show our executive teams how. Employee Performance, Innovation, Sales, Culture, Employee Engagement, headcount, turnover, recruiting effectiveness, supervisory skills, training programs, etc. They all impact RPE.

How to use it… Just compare your number over time – is the number going up or down. Go online and find out what your industry averages look like. How do you stack up? You can also use RPE to help justify your next HR initiative. RPE thinking can help you determine if your department is focused on the right priorities. Try it out!

I’d love to hear from companies using RPE in their HR strategic planning. Please share!!

Photo Source: Victor1558

14 Ways to Help Your Employees Improve Their Health and Work Performance

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Employers, you can help your employees be more productive and engaged workers. Including activities and programs that improve the mental and physical health of your staff members will help them enhance their work performance. Your employees will experience many benefits by maintaining good health. Stress is reduced, focusing is easier, fatigue is minimized and job satisfaction is increased when workers adopt a more healthy way of life.

There are several ways you can help your employees shape up. Helping them switch some of their routines could also help you reduce the cost of your company health care plan. However, for maximum impact make sure the focus of your health initiative is helping your employees get healthier rather than helping your organization save money.

Below are 14 ways to help your employees improve their physical and mental health:

  • Provide them with a stipend that they can use for fitness activities, such as gym memberships or yoga classes
  • Replace high calorie snacks and sugary drinks at your office with more nutritious options
  • Encourage your employees to take short breaks between long periods of work to help them regain focus and avoid burn out
  • Create a quiet space with comfortable chairs for employees to take their breaks
  • Make walking maps of the company neighborhood available for employees to use before work, during lunch or at the end of the day
  • Offer a free, healthy lunch option to employees once a month
  • Plan onsite group fitness activities during lunch or after work hours, and allow your staff members to choose if they’d like to participate
  • Personalize items for your employees that will motivate them to pursue fitness activities
      • For example, you can order water bottles and pedometers personalized with the company logo or names of staff members to encourage weekly walking
  • Have a massage therapist come onsite to provide employees with inexpensive massages
      • Massages can be paid for by your company or by your employees
  • Provide information on achieving a healthier lifestyle in your company newsletter and on bulletin boards
  • Plan a company picnic that includes fitness activities, such as softball or tug of war
      • Invite employees’ families to participate as well
  • Tell your employees to take and enjoy their lunch breaks—preferably out of their office or workspace
  • Keep plenty of water in different workspaces for your employees to maintain  hydration and  concentration throughout the day
  • Work with your benefits provider to offer onsite flu shots for your employees and their families

Please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746 if you are interested in receiving more strategies to improve workplace performance.

Photo Source: Port of San Diego

Use Stay Interviews to Keep Employee Retention Rates High

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Are you dealing with high turnover in one of your departments? Or with the economy slowly recovering, are you worried that your top talent might move on? What information did you find out in the last exit interview you gave? I bet you learned something that you could have prevented if you took the opportunity to ask the employee before he left.

Instead of waiting until your key staff members exit, find out what would make them stay loyal to your organization. Increase employee engagement, job satisfaction and retention rates by implementing regular stay interviews. Done correctly, stay interviews reveal the factors that could lead your top talent toward your competitors. They’ll also help you prevent an unhappy employee from becoming disgruntled or worse—an ex-employee.

 Questions to Consider Asking Employees During Stay Interviews:

  • Are we helping you develop your skills? If yes, how?
  • What would make you consider leaving your current position?
  • Would you like to change anything about your team or department? Why?
  • What could we change to make your job more exciting, challenging or rewarding?

Remember Three Things When Conducting Stay Interviews

1.       Be Consistent

Holding monthly or quarterly stay interviews with your employees will help you track how they are feeling within their positions. Use this opportunity to learn more about them, including aspects of their job that they enjoy and places where they’d like to see improvement from management. Make sure you check in with them about their long-term company goals as well.

2.       Be Open

Just like an exit interview, a stay interview may not yield positive statements about your company. Unlike exit interviews, however, you have the opportunity to change negative company sentiments into positive ones. So be open, and allow your employees to tell you how they are or aren’t enjoying their work life.

3.       Follow up

Following up on items discussed during stay interviews is important. Although you can’t solve all the ills of your employees, talking through problems and making a good effort to solve some of them will help your staffers perceive your company in a more favorable light. Give them timely feedback and always uphold your commitments to them when possible.

For more information on conducting stay interviews at your workplace, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Victor1558

7 Takeaways from CAI’s 2012 Compensation and Benefits Conference

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

CAI hosted its annual Compensation and Benefits Conference on Tuesday, Aug. 28 and Wednesday, Aug. 29 at the McKimmon Center in Raleigh. More than 200 HR professionals and company leaders participated in the event that focused on trends and best practices in total rewards.

The conference featured presentations from a variety of professionals responsible for advising companies on their compensation and benefits strategy. Some notable presentations included CAI’s Director of HR Services, Molly Hegeman, detailing marketplace trends for salaries and benefits in North Carolina, and Peter Marathas, Partner in the Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Group, who imparted the audience with tips to handle the recent changes in health care.

Other topics covered at the conference included flexible scheduling, health care management, mistakes related to wage and hour law, and multi-generational retirement planning. Below are some key takeaways from last week’s conference:

  1. Marketplace trends show an increase in consumer-driven health plan options (CDHP), well-being programs, and companies giving employees financial education and advice. These trends show a decrease in 401K matching, salary budget, promotions, teleworking and recognition programs.
  2. Employee time off costs are virtually equal to health care costs, and time off is one of the highest valued benefits to employees, second only to pay.
  3. Top 5 Wage-Hour mistakes include considering salaried employees exempt, averaging work hours, errors in recording work schedule, believing child labor laws aren’t applicable to your own child, and thinking any person may be an independent contractor.
  4. Chronic diseases make up 75 percent of national medical costs, and 80 percent of chronic conditions are modifiable or preventable. National data supports that effective wellness programs improved employee health and impact overall healthcare costs.
  5. A survey from AonHewitt revealed that health benefits satisfaction is declining, more than half of employees do not know how their pay is determined, most employees don’t understand the value of their pension plans, and 80 percent of respondents fear that they will not have enough money in retirement.
  6. According to CAI’s 2012 Wage & Salary Survey, NC companies project to increase employee salaries by 2.9 to 3.6 percent for 2012. Percentage of companies giving performance-based merit increases is 81.2 percent and those giving general increases in 36.2 percent.
  7. Companies that don’t manage total rewards effectively are missing valuable input from their employees, leading to lower engagement and higher turnover; missing opportunities to manage total rewards as a portfolio, which may lead to higher costs and lower effectiveness; and introducing unnecessary risk into their total rewards approach.

CAI holds four conferences each year. The Triad Employment Law Update is CAI’s next conference and will take place at the Koury Center in Greensboro on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012. For more information related to CAI’s conferences, please check out CAI’s conference page.

Long Term Care Insurance – A Changing Landscape

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

The post below is a guest blog from CAI’s employee benefits partner, HCW Employee Benefit Services.

For people who are unable to fully perform activities of daily living due to chronic or disabling conditions, long term care provides the range of care and support services needed over an extended period of time.

One way to protect an individual’s ability to pay for these services is through the purchase of a long term care (LTC) insurance policy.  These policies, which have historically been purchased individually or provided through an employer, can help offset the expenses associated with nursing home care, home healthcare, personal and adult daycare.

The projected need for long term care is staggering.  In 1994, 7.3 million Americans needed LTC at an average cost of nearly $43,800 per year.  In 2000, the numbers increased to 9 million Americans with need at a cost of $55,750 per year. By 2030, estimates show that more than 23 million Americans will need long term care at a cost of nearly $300,000 per year!

The recent healthcare reform legislation attempted to address this escalating need through a provision called the Community Living Assistance Services and Support Act (CLASS).  After performing a deeper actuarial review of the numbers, the United States government pulled the plug on the CLASS Act due to an unsustainable funding model.

Unrelated to the reform attempts to address LTC, there is a lot of turmoil in the private LTC insurance marketplace today.  Due to a low return on investment caused by low interest rates and the unknown future cost of medical care for those with LTC plans, many insurance carriers have recently left the marketplace:

  • Unum and John Hancock have exited the group market
  • Guardian and MetLife have left the LTC market completely
  • Prudential exited the individual market

This financial uncertainty and lack of providers has left many employers unsure about whether they want to offer group LTC insurance at all. At a minimum, they are wondering if they should wait until they improve their comfort level with the product and the market turmoil subsides.

HCW Viewpoint

From an individual’s point of view, there is little doubt a great need for long term care insurance still exists.  In fact, about 70 percent of individuals will need some type of long term care assistance after turning age 65. However, only 10 percent of seniors have LTC policies, and only 15 percent of all employers currently offer a long term care insurance plan.

But, just because there is an “individual” need for long term care insurance, that doesn’t mean that employers should jump into the waters headfirst and integrate LTC coverage into their benefit offering.  As with other benefits provided, it’s important to determine what you are trying to accomplish by offering group LTC coverage and how this fits into your overall benefit strategy.

Some helpful questions to ask may include:

  • Are your employees asking your organization to provide LTC coverage?
  • Are your competitors offering coverage?
  • If you elect to provide LTC insurance, how will you position it to increase its perceived value with employees?
  • Can you determine the right product and coverage mix of group and individual LTC coverage to sustain the associated costs over the long haul?

The unknown financial risk in this market, coupled with low returns on investment, have led insurance carriers to modify their plan designs away from generous, unlimited-benefit duration plans to plans with maximum-year payouts.  Additionally, insurance carriers are moving to simplified underwriting (where several medical questions are asked) in order to better manage their risk.  These trends lead to a more conservative approach and should help stabilize the LTC market.

Also, with a timely purchase of LTC insurance, individuals may find the right combination of coverage and premium with the right carrier.  It is important to understand how LTC insurance fits into their overall retirement planning.  This is true whether employees are seeking an individual policy or supplementing an employer-sponsored base plan with additional coverage.

Even as several carriers are no longer offering LTC coverage, there are a few carriers that have been more optimistic in their approach.    If interest rates rise and the economy rises with them, we may see more competition with more carriers willing to enter (or re-enter) the LTC marketplace.  It’s key to seek advice specific to your organization’s goals to ensure that you have the most up-to-date information in the ever-changing landscape of LTC insurance.

Photo Source: Muffett