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R&R Insurance Blog

5 Ways to Support Your Employee's Mental Health

Posted by Taylor Hahn

Mental Health

Sunday, October 10th was World Mental Health Day. The COVID-19 pandemic has really highlighted the need for understanding mental health in the workplace. Therefore, now more than ever, employees are seeking mental health resources and understanding from their employer.

As an employer, there are ways you can begin to support employee mental health:

  • Promote Mental Health Awareness in the Office: open dialogues and reach out to managers or co-workers if they’re struggling. Don’t make these important conversations taboo.
  • Offer Flexible Scheduling: without work-life balance, it can greatly affect employees’ mental health
  • Address Workplace Stress: it won’t be possible to eliminate it all, but work with employees to manage stress effectively.
  • Evaluate Benefit Offerings: ensure mental health services are being met with various vendors and coverage.
  • Train Managers: work to eliminate the stigma around mental health and train managers to recognize the signs of mental illness, stress, fatigue, bullying.
Lastly, the mobile app, Headspace offers a checklist to continue the improvement around how leaders can create a supportive workplace, how to support your team’s wellbeing and how to stay centered and strong for yourself. Check out pages 12-13 for that important checklist.

Let’s continue the dialogue around mental health and show employees they matter and end the stigma!

Topics: Wellness

Wellness Mental Health Resources - Train Your Brain Into Positive Self-Talk

Posted by Taylor Hahn

mindfull image

COVID-19 has changed the world in many ways.  When it comes to mental health in the United States, the CDC reports 31% of adults have had symptoms of anxiety or depression over the past year.

  • 13% reported having started or increased substance use
  • 26% reported stress-related symptoms
  • 11% reported having serious thoughts of suicide in the past 30 days
These numbers are nearly double the rates we would have expected before the pandemic.

Closer to home, according to the American Heart Association, 23% of Milwaukee County adults report having a mental health condition. During this time, it is crucial we take care of our entire well-being but especially mental health.

One thing you can control and take action on, to improve your mental health, is positive self-talk. Dr. Alan Chu, from the University of Wisconsin Green Bay, has three steps to train the brain into positive self-talk: recognize, re-frame and refocus.

  1. Recognize the negative self-talk occurring in your mind
  2. Re-frame those emotions
  3. Refocus to control your own outcome.
There are also apps such as Headspace and Calm that can help with guided meditation and deep breathing techniques. Even 5 minutes a day will make a tremendous difference but remember the key is practice.

 For more in depth mental health information see resources below:

Topics: Wellness

COVID-19 Vaccine Surcharges, Mandates and Incentives: What Employers Should Know

Posted by Taylor Hahn

vaccine card

In a tight labor market, the inability to find talent could sink a company faster than having workers fall ill due to COVID-19. Yet, employee wellness is still of critical concern to employers. How can organizations protect workers while still respecting employees’ rights to make their own health choices? For many, the answer has been to encourage—rather than to mandate—vaccines through various methods.

What Are Companies Doing?

Getting employees vaccinated is a top priority for many organizations. In fact, it’s so important that companies are charging un-vaccinated employees fees in some cases and firing them in others.

However, any vaccine-related workplace policy comes with inherent legal risks. Employers considering any vaccine policy—whether it’s related to incentives, penalties or mandates—should first consult with legal counsel.

For more information on vaccine surcharges, mandates and incentives, read more here.

Topics: Wellness

Exercise and Health Care Costs

Posted by Taylor Hahn

Yoga Mat Computer

A new study regarding exercise and Medicare claims found that those individuals who are exercising before middle age save anywhere from $824 to $1,874 annually on health care after retirement. With people living longer in our society, think of the effects that could save an individual long term!

It’s no secret that physical activity lowers risk for serious chronic conditions, but despite knowing the significant benefits only half of Americans are exercising. Currently, chronic diseases are causing $0.75 of every $1 to be spent on healthcare. This could be avoided or reversed by being active, not smoking, not drinking, getting quality sleep, eating properly, etc.

Another past study shows that physically active older people spend less on health care than those retired due to needing fewer doctor’s visits and medication. While individuals who reported exercising moderately throughout their adult lives saved about 16% on healthcare costs compared to those who are sedentary, and those individuals in their 20’s that significantly focused on daily exercise saved an average of $1,874 on health care after age 65.

There is much more data in this article; however, we cannot deny the data concludes being active while young might have significant impacts on health care costs later. But remember, it is never too late to start!

Topics: Wellness

The Truth About Chronic Conditions

Posted by Taylor Hahn

chronic condition

Despite the vast distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, a challenge is still occurring within our healthcare system. Individuals with preventable chronic health conditions continue to be a growing concern.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 60% of adults have one chronic condition and 40% of adults have two or more chronic diseases.

What’s interesting is majority of these chronic diseases can be avoided or reversed through things like adjusting lifestyle factors such as quitting smoking, getting your an annual exam, physical activity, proper nutrition, etc.

As we know, the effects of COVID-19 caused individuals to cancel non-emergency care services for months. This has caused signs of chronic disease to advance due to a lack of addressment in an earlier time frame. In fact, the CDC reported, 32% of adults, since last June, have reported that they avoided medical care due to COVID-19 and an additional 12% delayed going to urgent care.

To help combat this, providers have made the switch to integrating remote tools like telehealth, monitoring, and phone apps to help manage chronic diseases from home. Nevertheless, more developments are occurring to meet the needs of the individuals who are suffering. Specifically, the chronic conditions to watch out for are from individuals engaging in behaviors like overeating, being sedentary, drug or alcohol use, and smoking. Stress and anxiety levels can also play into an increase of symptoms.

With the surge finally beginning to subside, healthcare professionals highly recommend individuals get back to their scheduled visits. Especially since some conditions like diabetes and hypertension require continuous care and should not be delayed or symptoms will get progressively worse.

For more information about the chronic disease wave looming post-pandemic, please view this post.

Topics: Wellness

May is National Stroke Month

Posted by Taylor Hahn

Stroke-Awareness-Month

May is National Stroke Awareness Month. According to the American Stroke Association, stroke is the number two cause of death worldwide and the leading cause of disability. That means one in six of us will experience a stroke in our lifetime.

In addition, approximately 80% of strokes are preventable. By controlling high blood pressure, not smoking, controlling blood sugar, implementing a healthy nutritional lifestyle, being physically active and reducing obesity are all some of the lifestyle recommendations one can implement to prevent a stroke. If you are curious about your risk factors for a stroke, feel free to take a minute to complete this quiz.

In terms of gender, strokes are more prevalent in women, so please consider viewing this infographic for risk factors and statistics to consider. In addition, an important concept to remember is F.A.S.T.

It’s good to be familiar with the following as they are the symptoms that indicate a Stroke:

  • Face drooping
  • Arm weakness
  • Speech difficulty
  • Time to call 911

If you see someone with any of the indicators above or you yourself are experiencing these, it’s time to call 911. This is an important step that can make a tremendous difference in terms of recovery.

For many more resources and quizzes relating to strokes, please visit the American Stroke Association.

Additional Resource: Heart at Work, AHA

Topics: Wellness

Employees Wellness Trends for 2021

Posted by Taylor Hahn

2021 trendsIt is hard to believe we are already four months into the New Year! Employers are still adapting and elevating their wellness programs for the remainder of the year.

So, what are the employee wellness trends to still consider for 2021?

We know that COVID turned everyone’s world upside down and an emphasis is now being placed on holistic wellbeing and mental health. The Business Group on Health reported from their 2021 large employer plan design survey that:

45% of employees consider health care strategy to be a critical component in overall workplace strategy which was at 36% in 2019.”

Therefore, a greater focus on holistic wellbeing is needed instead of only focusing on physical activity. This, in turn, creates the need for programs to be more than just a step challenge, walking club, etc. They must incorporate the eight dimensions of wellness to round out a holistic wellbeing strategy for employees.

Companies that are switching to this mentality are focused on employee satisfaction and retention. In addition, by expanding mental health resources, it will help employee’s account for suffering that has occurred from the pandemic. The Standard says, “80% of employees report feeling highly distressed due to the pandemic.” Moreover, there is also an increase in employee assistance programs (EAP’s).

Those who do not have an EAP are researching one and those that have an EAP in place are updating the number of free sessions employees have to utilize. Employers are wanting to provide access online for convenience, as well as recognizing mental health issues are occurring and conducting anti-stigma campaigns around it.

Lastly, expanding financial wellness resources is among another trend for 2021. MetLife says, “81% of employees report feeling major financial stress since COVID.” The value to recognize here is that it’s not only your soon-to-be retirees who can benefit from financial wellness but all of your employees.

Overall, if you are still wondering how to enhance your wellness program for 2021, start with considering one of the three-wellness trends employees are searching for and interested about.

Topics: Employee Benefits, Wellness

National Nutrition Month - the Value of Food Labels

Posted by Taylor Hahn

food labels

March is National Nutrition Month; the purpose of this theme is to help the public remember the importance of good nutrition and a healthy eating plan. Understanding food labels is the key to leading a healthy lifestyle. It is good to keep the following aspects in mind when shopping and consuming to have the most beneficial impact on your lifestyle:

  • Food labels provide key information such as serving size, calories, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, protein, carbohydrates, and vitamin content.
  • Food labels also contain the list of essential ingredients that may be crucial to utilize if you follow a diet or have food restrictions.
  • They can help you cut back on a certain component such as knowing the acceptable amount of sodium or sugar to not exceed for a day.
  • They can also help keep you safe with the storage and cooking instructions they provide and detect ingredients that could cause a harmful reaction.
  • Food labels can also aid in helping support local food producers based on the food’s origin.

For more information about serving size, calories, percent daily values, and nutrients as well as how to get the most out of your food labels, click here. Feel free to share this infographic with anyone else who would value the information.

Topics: Wellness

American Heart Health Month | February

Posted by Taylor Hahn

heart monthFebruary is recognized as American Heart Health Month. Your heart is one of the hardest-working muscles in your body and all of that work can take a toll. Not treating your body right can escalate your risk for serious health issues, like heart disease.

Heart Disease is one of the leading killers in the United States for both men and women, accounting for 1 in 4 deaths annually. That is about 647,000 deaths a year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Key ways you can help prevent heart disease:

  • Eat foods that are low saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium
  • Get at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. Click here for three suggested workouts to improve heart health
  • Keep an eye on your cholesterol
  • Reduce your stress levels
  • Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption

While in many cases heart disease can be prevented, there are certain uncontrollable factors that increase your risk, including age, as well as sex and family history. For more in-depth information on heart disease and prevention, read more here, and always consult with your doctor.

To learn more about how you can help spread awareness within your community, click here.

Top three ingredients for a Healthy Heart:

  1. Olive oil - “4 or more tablespoons per day can lower your risk of heart disease”. Always make sure your extra virgin olive oil is labeled (EVOOs) and check out your local farmer’s market for the best bargain.
  2. Whole grains - Always check for the whole grain stamp of approval. There are specific guidelines for a product to produce that label. Whole grains include items such as quinoa, oats, barley, ect. Try replacing one of your refried grains, such as white rice, with a whole grain.
  3. Seasonings - Stop using excess salt, pre-packaged seasoning, and pre-packaged dressing. Instead, consider other options such as dry mustard, hot peppers, or citrus juice.

For a more in depth look on how to help keep your heart healthy, read here.

 

Source: https://engagementsource.go365.com/en/health-and-wellness-library/nutrition-and-weight-management/three-best-ingredients-for-a-healthy-heart

 

Topics: Wellness

What You Need to Know About the EEOC’s Latest Proposed Wellness Rules

Posted by Taylor Hahn

EE wellbeing

On January 7, 2021, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released two long-awaited proposed rules on wellness programs under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Non- Discrimination Act (GINA). These Notices of Proposed Rulemakings (NPRM) have been cleared by the Office of Management and Budget and sent to the Federal Register for publication and public comment.

Back in October of 2016, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) sued the EEOC on the grounds that the EEOC’s wellness rules incentive at the time of 30% was too high a penalty for nonparticipating workers – and therefore could not be considered as “voluntary”. In December of 2018, a federal judge ruled that the EEOC failed to justify its 30% cap on cost incentives for participating in a wellness program and as a result, effective January 1, 2019, vacated the incentive limit. Employers have been waiting ever since for further guidance as to permissible incentive limits.

The EEOC’s Latest Proposed Wellness Rules

What Has Been Proposed?

The proposed ADA wellness rule imposes a “de minimis” incentive limit for most wellness programs that include disability-related inquiries (e.g. a health risk questionnaire) and/or medical examinations (e.g. a biometric screening).
  • An employer may not offer more than a “de minimis” incentive (such as a water bottle or gift card of modest value) in exchange for an employee participating in the wellness program.
  • There is an exception if the program is a “health-contingent wellness program”(subject to HIPAA’s rules and incentive limits).
    • Example: If the wellness incentive is conditioned on biometric screening results meeting health-contingent outcomes (such as having cholesterol or BMI within a certain range or improving a certain percentage compared to the prior year’s screening), then it must still comply with the ADA as a medical exam but can offer more than a “de minimis” incentive due (subject to HIPAA’s rules and incentive limits).

While health contingent programs have fallen out of popularity throughout the years, these proposed rules, if approved, suggest that wellness vendors would need to make changes to guarantee EEOC compliance to their wellness programming.

The proposed GINA wellness rule likewise “would limit wellness programs to offer a “de minimis” incentive to all family members, not just spouses, in exchange for family members providing information about their manifestation of diseases or disorders.

The proposed rule also continues to prohibit any incentive tied to employees answering questions about their own genetic information. However, there is a small exception allowing a “de minimis” incentive in exchange for family members (including spouses) responding to inquiries about their own manifestation of diseases or disorders.

What is de minimis?

The proposed rules are significantly different from the previous rules regarding wellness incentive limits. The guidance provides that a “de minimis” limit permits only nominal incentives such as a water bottle or a gift card of modest value. The proposed rules also state that a $50/month medical premium surcharge, reimbursement of annual gym membership fees, or free airline tickets would not be considered “de minimis.” Hopefully, further clarification on what will meet the definition of “de minimis” for these purposes will be provided in the final rule.

What’s Next?

These Notices of Proposed Rulemakings (NPRM) have been cleared by the Office of Management and Budget and sent to the Federal Register for publication and public comment. It is important to note that these NPRMs have not been finalized and may not be relied upon.

Comments on the NPRMs are due 60 days after they are published in the Federal Register – which as of the date of this article has not yet occurred. Once the NPRMs have been published on the Federal Register, employers having concerns about how these rules may impact their wellness programs are encouraged to take advantage of the 60-day public comment period. Members of the public will be able to submit electronic comments about the proposed rules at www.regulations.gov in the rulemaking dockets RIN 3046-AB10 and RIN 3046-AB11.

With a new Presidential Administration upon us, it is unclear what impact that may have on these proposed rules. Currently, Republican appointees hold a 3-2 edge at the EEOC until at least July 2022. There is some speculation that the new Administration may put these new rules on hold until post July 2022 or that they may change certain aspects of the final rule when issued, depending on the comments the EEOC receives. At this point, we do not know what impact this may have on moving this forward.

R&R will continue to monitor regulatory guidance and offer meaningful, practical, timely information to you. We welcome the opportunity to eventually discuss what type of wellness program and incentives will best promote good health for your employees and comply with ADA and GINA requirements once finalized.

Resources:
EEOC Proposed Rule for ADA - Proposed Rule - Amendments to Regulations Under the Americans With Disabilities Act | U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (eeoc.gov)

EEOC Proposed Rule for GINA - Proposed Rule - Amendments to Regulations Under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 | U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (eeoc.gov)

Topics: Wellness