Disability Insurance Can Be An Important Part of a Pregnancy—But It’s Much More

Pregnant woman holding a baby

Disability insurance — also known as income protection coverage — is one of the most important and overlooked pillars of financial planning.

Think about it. The average person is so dependent on their ability to earn a living, they couldn’t continue their lifestyle if they missed even a single paycheck.

The Federal Reserve asked adults in 2016 how they would pay for a hypothetical emergency expense that would cost $400. This amount is approximately the cost of an unexpected car repair, appliance replacement, or medical bill. Forty-four percent of people said this kind of bill would be hard to handle, and that they either could not pay the expense or would borrow or sell something to do so.

When people buy insurance, most choose some form of health, life, car, and homeowners’ or renters’ insurance. All of these purchases have one common denominator; the premiums are paid with your income. When you think about it, it seems foolish to forget to insure the one thing that lets you pay for everything else — your paycheck.

The connection between pregnancy and short-term disability

There are many types of accidents and illnesses that prevent people from working for a period of time: back pain, depression, heart disease, cancer, auto accidents, and so on. Yet many people don’t think of having a baby when they think of “disability.” Yet pregnancy is the most common cause of short-term disability claims.

Women are typically paid eight to 10 weeks of disability benefits when they take time off to have their child (two weeks before their due date and six weeks afterward). The duration can vary based on cesarean-section deliveries or other conditions that may require the claimant to limit work activities or work exposure.

One of the major differences between pregnancy and other types of disability claims is predictability. The timing of pregnancy for many can be the result of planning. For a healthy woman, purchasing coverage through their workplace in anticipation of a planned pregnancy can be a fairly easy transaction. The key is that you buy coverage before you become pregnant. This way there is little risk of underwriting issues or denial of your claim due to a pre-existing condition limitation.

Pregnancy and long-term disability insurance

Most long-term disability insurance offered through your workplace will also pay benefits for pregnancy-related complications if you can’t work for more than 90 days.

If you purchase individual disability coverage through a broker or agent, most insurance carriers will cover complications of pregnancy if your policy has a waiting period of longer than 90 days. (The waiting period — also called the elimination period — is how long you have to wait to receive benefits after you become disabled from work.)

The advantages of continuous coverage

Some consumers will purchase disability insurance in anticipation of a pregnancy and cancel the coverage after delivery. It’s also not uncommon to see ex-participants re-apply while planning a subsequent pregnancy. While this purchasing pattern is not illegal or unethical, it’s a risky approach to insuring your income, and it’s certainly not a pattern that disability insurance coverage was designed to endure.

So, what is a win/win for the carrier and policyholder? Maintaining continuous coverage.

It’s important to remember that disability insurance is designed to protect you against the unexpected loss of your work capabilities due to an accident or illness. While pregnancy is a common reason to file a claim, you always have additional risk for many unexpected events.

It’s also important to remember that voluntary coverage that you buy at work is often subject to underwriting guidelines. Your ability to obtain coverage could change at any time if you have an accident or develop a newly-diagnosed health condition. Trying to time when you have disability coverage is similar to trying to time when you invest in the stock market, and could easily leave you uncovered at an inopportune time.

None of us are immune to accidents or illnesses. They can strike at any time. It’s important to make sure that you’re covered. And once you’re covered, it’s important that you stay covered, regardless of the original reason you applied for your disability insurance. Get it, keep it, and rest easy knowing that you planned ahead.

Why Disability Insurance Should Be Part of Your Paid Leave Strategy

Benefits are becoming a key differentiator in the job market. A 2017 report by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports that nearly one third of organizations increased their benefit offerings over the past 12 months. The leading reason? To remain competitive in the talent marketplace.

Amid all the benefits being offered today, from pet insurance to unlimited time off, disability insurance remains one of the most critical forms of protection that employers can offer. Disability insurance protects someone’s ability to earn an income should illness or injury arise. At a time when emergency savings are shrinking and medical costs are rising, that safety net is becoming vital to an employee’s financial wellness.

Here are five reasons to consider offering this benefit to your workforce:

It’s the foundation of your employees’ financial security.

Without income protection the effects of not having an income become very real, very fast. An employee may not be able to pay their mortgage, their phone bill or contribute to their health insurance or retirement plans should a pregnancy, illness, or injury take them out of work for a few weeks or more.

Without it, the effects can be devastating.

By offering disability insurance, employers can avoid having the heartbreaking conversation about what to do after paid leave or sick leave ends (if it is even available). A 2017 CareerBuilder survey showed that nearly eight out of ten Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Data from the Federal Reserve in 2016 showed that nearly half of consumers said they couldn’t pay an unexpected $400 bill without having to take out a loan or sell something. 

It retains talent.

Not only does short- and long-term disability insurance help people feel more secure in their jobs, your employees are also more likely to return to work if they have this coverage. SHRM estimates that replacing an employee can cost 60 percent of their annual salary — so retention has a major impact on the bottom line.

It’s affordable.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the average cost of providing both long-term and short-term disability coverage in 2016 was approximately 10 cents per hours worked, or $205 per year. In contrast, the average employer contribution to health insurance averaged $2.86 per hour worked, or $5,725 per year. 

It’s a family-friendly benefit.

Short-term plans typically cover two weeks before and six weeks after a routine pregnancy. Unless you’re one of the few employers who offer paid family leave, disability insurance is a critical financial benefit for women in the workforce. 

To learn more about how disability insurance works, visit www.RealityCheckup.org

Genetic Testing at Work

DNA strandsDo the rewards of genetic testing of employees outweigh the possible risks it presents to their financial stability?

This article by Carol Harnett, president of The Council for Disability Awareness, was recently published in Human Resource Executive.

I became intrigued with genetics in sixth grade. I still recall being fascinated when Mrs. D’Amato described Gregor Mendel’s work with pea plants that allowed him to unravel the fundamental laws of inheritance. Her introduction of the Punnett square, with its dominant and recessive alleles, and monohybrid and dihybrid crosses had me running home to decipher the keys to my ancestry with my parents.

Over time, I discovered that the MC1R gene was responsible for my red hair and freckles, and those traits, in combination with my blue eyes, placed me in the rarest of the ginger categories: a tribe that makes up less than 2 percent of the world’s population.

Genetics continued to grab my interest over the years, but that curiosity started to package itself with concern as more became known about human DNA. The first big pause I took to contemplate the impact of genetic information came when 23andme—one of the first direct-to-consumer genetic-testing companies—invited me to participate in a beta test.

It was 2008 and I was about to attend my first TED conference. The company invited the 1,000 participants to learn about their genetic profiles. I let the 23andme package sit on my desk for about a week. My internal debate revolved around whether I wanted to know if I had a genetic susceptibility for which there was currently no treatment. I finally caved in to my scientific interest, spit in the tube, sealed the envelope and overnighted my DNA to the company.

The results were anti-climactic. It turns out I have a remarkably solid set of inherited “wellness” characteristics. Or, at least I think I do.

The other traits the initial report listed (and still lists over the 10 years of updates) were laughingly off, including that I most likely don’t have freckles or red hair. And this gives me some pause as to whether my reported wellness variables are, indeed, correct.

I began to consider writing a column about genetic testing when someone passed me a copy of a survey of 14 disability carriers regarding whether they would pay the claims of women who underwent procedures associated with testing positive for inherited mutations of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. (Approximately 72 percent of women who inherit a BRCA1 mutation and about 69 percent of women who inherit a BRCA2 mutation will develop breast cancer by the age of 80, while about 44 percent of women who inherit a BRCA1 mutation and approximately 17 percent of women who inherit a BRCA2 mutation will develop ovarian cancer by the age of 80.) Experts often recommend that women who carry these mutations consider both preventive bilateral mastectomies and removal of their ovaries and fallopian tubes by their mid-30s to early 40s.

There was wide disparity in the carriers’ responses to how they would process claims. Some considered bilateral mastectomies associated with a positive genetic test to be related to a pre-existing condition and, therefore, not payable. Others believed that preventive mastectomies related to a mutation of BRCA12 were elective procedures. As a result, the disability claim was not compensable under the elective-procedure provision. Still others would deny disability associated with subsequent breast-reconstruction surgeries under the elective-surgery and/or cosmetic-surgery provisions.

The range of answers and the logic applied by some providers regarding BRCA12 mutation carriers were shocking to me. But, there was a moment of hope when I reviewed a similar question asked about disability claims related to organ donation.

When I first joined the disability-insurance industry in the late 1990s, an organ donor’s disability claim was denied under the elective-procedure provision. Almost 20 years later, all but one carrier stated they would approve an organ donor’s claim—and the one carrier that wouldn’t pay the claim indicated it often made an administrative decision to approve the claim despite the contract.

As genetic testing becomes more common, I believe the carriers will rethink their positions (at least as it relates to women who learn they have genetic mutations after they enroll in disability coverage), or employers self-insured for short- and long-term disability will instruct the carriers or third-party administrators to pay these disability claims.

But here’s the catch that is up for debate: If people find out they carry a genetic mutation before they sign up for life, disability or long-term-care insurance, are they subject to denial of coverage due to a pre-existing condition, even though the genetic mutation may never “express itself?” The answer may be a qualified yes, depending upon the carrier and/or the state in which the person lives.

The Genetic Information and Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 prohibits employers and health-insurance companies from discriminating against people due to genetic information. However, when the act was passed, life, disability and long-term-care insurance were consciously omitted. This omission allows life and disability insurers to legally discriminate against people with genetic conditions or risk factors that predispose them to diseases—which brings me back to direct-to-consumer genetic testing.

There is a new trend among D2C companies such as Color Genomics, which wants employers and HR leaders to offer genetic testing to employees as an employee benefit. And while I, like many with my background, see the power of genetics as it relates to precision (or personalized) medicine, I’m incredibly concerned about how employers could inadvertently destabilize their employees’ financial wellness.

If employees do not currently carry individual life, disability or long-term-care insurance prior to participating in genetic testing, and they find out they possess a genetic abnormality, they may never be able to enroll in this coverage in the future. Even if you provide employer-paid life and disability coverage to your workers, if they leave your employment, they may not take their life insurance with them—and their disability coverage is not portable…

To read the rest of this post, please click here. 

3 Ways Meditators Benefit the Workplace

Woman meditating at workHow many people are meditating or practicing mindfulness in your organization? A 2017 study published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) journal Preventing Chronic Disease, suggests it may be more than you realize.

According to the study authors, approximately one in seven workers in the U.S. workforce “report engagement in some form of mindfulness-based activity”. The authors go on to argue that “these individuals can bring awareness of the benefit of such practices into the workplace.”

There has been a rush of scientific studies over the past three decades that measure the beneficial effects of meditation on human health (and while many report positive findings, the consensus isn’t out; some reports suggest that the science isn’t to be believed just yet). While the scientists debate the issue, business leaders are advocating for meditation. David Allan, editorial director of CNN Health and Wellness, went as far as arguing that workspaces are the perfect places to meditate within, and should offer rooms for meditation. 

Here are three key ways that meditators benefit the entire working ecosystem according to recent data:

  1. Stress Reduction

Mental health disorders, including depression and anxiety, are the fourth most common cause of both short- and long-term disability claims, according to 2016 data from the Integrated Benefits Institute. A 2017 study published in the journal Psychiatry Research offers compelling data that mindfulness meditation can help with the symptoms of depression and anxiety and enhance resilience to stress. Stress and employee burnout are major issues in HR management, so having employees actively offset their stress with a regular practice brings tremendous benefit to their health as well as benefiting those around them. 

  1. Increased Focus

Distraction has become a major obstacle. According to the 2018 Workplace Distraction Report by online learning marketplace Udemy, a staggering 36 percent of millennials/Gen Zers say they spend two or more hours per work day looking at their phones for personal activities. That same report says 66 percent of workers have never talked to a manager about their struggles with workplace distraction. Meditation is the art of learning to concentrate — on the breath, a mantra, or physical sensations depending on the type of meditation. This ability to focus on one thing leads to increased productivity.

  1. Strengthened Empathy

Meditation practices drawn from Mahayana Buddhist schools in particular, where the focus is on compassion, progressively build and develop one’s empathy and awareness of others. Not only does this positive frame of mind make people feel better and happier, it also makes them think more creatively. Many business leaders have connected empathy with innovation. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella recently gave a talk at Wharton where he argued that empathy is a key source of business innovation. It has also long been argued that Steve Jobs’ ability to empathize with the needs of consumers led to such innovations as the iPod and iTunes.

As you review your wellness program, consider mental health as much as physical health. Investigate bringing in speakers, establishing silent rooms for people to meditate or recharge within, and encourage the meditators in your ranks to share their experiences. When The Atlantic asked David Gelles, a New York Times writer and author of Mindful Work, about whether mindfulness is just another fad, Gelles had an interesting response.

I don’t think it’s a fad that employees and employers are realizing that we have to take better care of our own minds and our own bodies and that, by doing so, we can actually create better companies and better outcomes,” he said. “I think that that is a hopefully lasting shift in the way that many of the largest companies are thinking about how they have to do business.”

What To Do When an Employee is Diagnosed With Cancer

Two business people meeting.The first week of April is National Young Adult Cancer Awareness Week. This is a good time to review your company’s policies toward accommodating both young and older employees alike who are being treated for cancer.

There is a high probability that someone in your organization will receive a cancer diagnosis this year. According to data from the National Cancer Institute, almost 40 percent of men and women will manage living with cancer at some point during their lifetime. Other studies show that some forms, such as colorectal cancer, are increasing for millennials and Gen Xers.

It’s critical that businesses develop a clear approach for these employees that balances workplace accommodation and business continuity with empathy.

Here are five key steps to keep in mind:

Explain the Benefits They’ll Receive

Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be stressful. If an employee you manage discusses their situation with you, guide them to HR first. They’ll need to know the benefits they can access such as health insurance, disability insurance, and flexible work options — as well as the steps they’ll need to take.

If you offer disability insurance, you will be providing a tremendous service to your employees by helping them receive a paycheck if they need to take time off work. The Health and Productivity Benchmarking survey for 2016 from the Integrated Benefits Institute shows that cancer is the second most common cause of long-term disability claims and the fifth most common cause of short-term disability claims.

There are also protections for workers that your business needs to honor. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for workers who have disabilities such as cancer and are able to work.

An employee may also qualify for family and medical leave protection under federal, state, county and/or city statutes, which can offer eligible workers up to three months of job-protected, unpaid leave per year. (The employee can request this leave on full-time, part-time, or intermittent basis.) And some employers go a step further and provide paid leave to employees for their own serious medical conditions.

Let the Employee Lead the Conversation About Disclosure

Employees will vary greatly in how — and whether — they want to share their diagnosis with you or their coworkers. (Workers are only required to give detail to the designated person in your company — or a third-party administrator — about why they need workplace accommodations.) Some people will appreciate having everyone know, while others will prefer to keep things confidential. This is a personal issue; it’s also a legal one. Employers need to protect medical privacy as outlined in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

The manager should check what the employee would prefer, and help to facilitate the conversation. If they send out a memo on behalf of the employee, let them approve it first. If the employee prefers to not mention the diagnosis, have clear procedures in place so that everyone can be on the same page.

Ask Them What Support They’ll Need

An incisive article by executive coach Anne Sugar in Harvard Business Review encourages managers to take the lead in forming a work plan for the employee. Managers can do this themselves or identify a small team to work with the employee on the plan, so the workload is evenly distributed.

Cancer treatment often includes visits to treatment facilities and health care providers, so you will need to accommodate their time away from the workplace as well as time the worker might request to recover from procedures. Be realistic about this work plan. The HBR article points out that Anne Sugar expected to be out of work for six to eight weeks, but ended up being out for 12 weeks. She recommends creating a “Plan B,” so in the event that a more long-term recovery is needed, action steps are clear.

Establish a Point Person for Communication

If the employee takes time off on a full-time, part-time, or intermittent basis, identify who will be their main “point person.” This individual will funnel requests and communications, and ensure that your company is not taxing your employee with too much information. Bear in mind, however, that if an employee takes time under their FML leave, the employer should not check in on them regularly with the exception of letting the worker know when their leave will end.

Be Empathetic

Finally, in all of these encounters, lead with empathy and clarity. Garth Callaghan, an IT recruiter for a division of ManpowerGroup who went through various diagnoses within his job told the Society for Human Resource Management, “Don’t forget that this person is scared for their life. Be empathetic. Use words that show that you’re on the same side as the employee.”

By following these steps and planning a comprehensive action plan, your preparation will directly benefit the employee. It will also create a culture that is compassionate and well-informed.

Why a Multigenerational Workforce is Good for Business

Meeting with workers at a deskFor the first time, there are now five generations in the American workforce. There is the Silent Generation (aged 73-90), the Baby Boomers (aged 54-72), Generation X (aged 38-53), Millennials (aged 22-37), and the under-20 year olds who are still being named (although some are calling them Generation Z). This mix of ages is bringing a set of new challenges and benefits to HR teams. 

It’s a trend that is only going to become more pronounced. A new report by the U.S. Census Bureau in March 2018 revealed that according to the latest population projections, adults aged 65 and older will outnumber children for the first time in history in the U.S. by 2035. Meanwhile, people are staying in their jobs for longer. A 2016 Pew Research Center analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, showed that in May 2016, 18.8 percent of Americans aged 65 or older — approximately nine million people — were employed in full- or part-time work. This is double the number of people working at this age in 2010.

While experts warn against stereotyping people according to their generation, a healthy mix of ages has a beneficial impact on the overall strength of a business. 

Here are three benefits of a workforce that is age-diverse:

Cross-Generational Mentoring

Jacquelyn B. James, a psychologist and co-director of the Center on Aging and Work at Boston College told The New York Times that: “The context of aging and work is changing.” She says it’s not just about lifespans lengthening and people working longer — but also education. “This is one of the most educated generations in history,” she said. “A lot of the jobs people are continuing in are fields in which you use the mind, not the body.”

Tap into this wisdom by setting up opportunities for cross-generational conversations. Mentoring is a vital business practice that builds trust, engagement, morale, and increases job satisfaction. It also allows younger team-members to ask questions that they may hesitate to ask peers of their own age.


Employees who have been with an organization for many years carry tremendous value in terms of their institutional knowledge. They have lived experience that should be harnessed and shared with others. Make sure they are being given the chance to pass on these insights. Otherwise, there is a very real risk of their leaving the organization without passing on invaluable knowledge. 

Diversity and Inclusion

In the 2017 Global Human Capital Trends survey by Deloitte, 69 percent of executives rated diversity and inclusion as an important issue — 59 percent more than in 2014. Workplaces are gradually becoming more diverse in terms of disability, race, gender, sexual orientation, and religion. But how much are CEOs focusing on age as an element of diversity?

A CEO survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2015 showed that only eight percent of CEOs included age as a factor in their diversity and inclusion strategy. Ageism meanwhile is one of the most common forms of discrimination in the workplace. Offset these risks by building an inclusive and intelligent culture that draws on the strengths of different generations. 

Our aging population isn’t going away. Building age-friendly workplaces will only become more important as we move ahead. Businesses should react by identifying the strengths and meeting the needs of their workers along the entire life cycle. This might include offering a wide range of voluntary benefits in addition to core benefits, so that people can choose the plan that most suits their particular point in life. You might need to rethink many elements of your culture, such as how you train staff and how you approach remote and flexible work options. 

By building a workplace culture that meets the needs of individuals through all phases in life, you’ll be that much more resilient over the long-term. 

Is Loneliness a Health Risk In the Workplace?

Young woman looking out of window.Of all the health risks that HR teams are watching these days, how many are analyzing the rising levels of loneliness in the workplace? We live in the most technologically connected age in human history — with open plan offices and devices that allow us to communicate with each other in manifold ways in an instant. Yet loneliness is on the rise.

An Emerging Epidemic of Loneliness

In September 2017, Vice Admiral Vivek H. Murthy wrote a riveting cover story for Harvard Business Review titled “Work and the Loneliness Epidemic.” Murthy, who served as the 19th Surgeon General of the United States from 2014 to 2017, argues that loneliness is one of the most pressing health risks of our time. “During my years caring for patients, the most common pathology I saw was not heart disease or diabetes,” he writes. “It was loneliness.”

He cites conditions such as the gig economy, the rise of telecommuting, social media, and the fact that communities are becoming increasingly geographically displaced, contributing to loneliness levels doubling since the 1980s. This is having a very real impact on people’s health. One study showed that people with stronger social relationships had a 50 percent increased likelihood of a long life than those with weaker social bonds: the researchers concluded that a lack of social relationships has a greater impact on shortening life spans than obesity and a lack of physical exercise.

Workplaces Can Pioneer Solutions

Murthy argues that institutions that can play an essential role in weaving back together the threads of our communities and sense of connection. It’s not just an initiative that is good for people; it’s good for business and the bottom line. “Companies in particular have the power to drive change at a societal level not only by strengthening connections among employees, partners, and clients,” he argues. “But also by serving as an innovation hub that can inspire other organizations to address loneliness.”   

An engaged and strongly connected team boosts productivity. Research in 2011 by California State University and the Wharton School of Business found that a person who feels lonely at work will not just suffer themselves, but their loneliness will negatively impact the  effectiveness of the wider ecosystem. 

When surveying 672 employees and 114 supervisors across 143 work team units, the researchers found that “an employee’s work loneliness triggers emotional withdrawal from their organization, as reflected their increased surface acting and reduced affective commitment. The results also show that co-workers can recognize this loneliness and see it hindering team member effectiveness.”

Their conclusion is that management “should not treat work loneliness as a private problem that needs to be individually resolved by employees who experience this emotion; but rather should consider it as an organizational problem that needs to be addressed both for the employees’ sake and that of the organization.” 

How to Address Loneliness in the Workplace

There are many ways you can start to build more social connection into the workplace. Here are a few:

  • Build Trust: Make sure that your leadership team is modeling the kind of relationship-building that you want to see happen throughout the organization. As Murphy writes in HBR, “Having senior members of an organization invest in building strong connections with other team members can set a powerful example, especially when leaders are willing to demonstrate that vulnerability can be a source of strength, not weakness.”
  • Encourage Diverse Friendships Across Departments: The British job site Totaljobs did research into “work spouses”, a phenomenon where two people will form very close relationships with each other at work. While these friendships are very healthy, there is one drawback: 23 percent of people said they would consider quitting if their “spouse” left. Companies can offset the isolation people may feel if their work buddy leaves, by helping people build bonds across departments. Building more friendships into the fabric of the organization will make it more resilient. It’ll also make it more innovative. O.C. Tanner showed that 72 percent of great work projects involved people talking to people outside their inner circle.
  • Encourage Conversations: With all the efficiencies of modern life, many of us have lost touch with the simple art of having a conversation. Weave genuine conversations back into the workplace by setting up regular lunches or social gatherings where people can connect in an intentional way. Even things like adding five minutes of personal talk into the start of a conference call can make an enormous difference for remote workers. These small touches go a long way in making someone feel included and part of the team — and that feeling of inclusion is good for everyone. 

How Financial Wellness Reduces Workplace Stress

Teams talking at work.How much time do people spend worrying about money at work? And how it this impacting their ability to do their job? If you look at the data emerging from recent studies, you’ll see that finances have become a leading cause of stress in the workplace.

PricewaterhouseCooper’s 2017 Employee Financial Wellness Survey found that roughly half of more than 1,600 full-time employed adults in the U.S. felt stressed dealing with their personal finances. An additional 46 percent reported that financial challenges caused them the most stress at work — that’s more than the stress caused by their job, health concerns, and relationships.

When you dig deeper into the PCW data, it becomes clear how much this stress is impacting productivity and engagement. A whopping 48 percent of respondents said that finances have been a distraction at work, while 50 percent said they spend three hours or more at work each week thinking about or trying to deal with their finances. A 2017 story in TIME outlines a similar trend. It cites a Bank of America survey in which 67 percent of respondents claim that financial stress has overtaken their ability to focus and be productive at work.

Financial Wellness as a Solution

One of the best things employers can do in a culture where financial stressors are on the rise, is build programs that help employees manage their finances and address these concerns in-house. As we’ve reported in previous blogs, conditions have been gathering over several decades and today we’re seeing a highly challenging environment for modern workers. Yet there is a chance here to innovate and pave the way in becoming a company that truly cares. 

This could take a number of forms:

  • Competitive benefits: It is an enormous relief for workers to receive benefits with their jobs, such as health insurance and short and long-term disability insurance so that if they become ill, or suffer from an injury, their income can be protected while they recover. 
  • Financial reviews: Offer guidance to employees and help them navigate their unique paths towards savings and planning for the future with annual financial reviews.
  • Financial literacy training: Build a learning culture within your company. Bring in guest speakers, or offer regular talks where subject matter experts can share their knowledge of financial literacy. Rather than having folks worrying about it on the job, set up a time and place for them to learn and build their confidence. 
  • Technology: Combine in-person connections with apps and tools that help people navigate resources via their phones and other devices. Offer information that is accessible, relevant, and personalized.

This is how visionary companies are helping their teams flourish on the job. A survey by Aon Hewitt surveyed nearly 250 employers in the U.S. and found that 93 percent were planning on focusing on the financial wellbeing of their employees, extending beyond retirement. Forty six percent were very likely, and 47 percent were somewhat likely to add new plan features, mobile apps or online tools to assist their employees with financial concepts and planning. 

If you empower your employees with the tools to counteract this major cause of stress in life, the benefits are far-reaching. You’ll be able to take away a significant portion of worry from their days — and help them to develop their true potential on the job. 

Why Silent Spaces Are Needed in the Workplace

Quiet spaces in the workplaceThe modern workspace is open, collaborative, and egalitarian. It’s also been shrinking in size. According to a 2013 CoreNet Global Survey, the average amount of office space per worker reduced from 225 square feet in 2010 to 150 square feet in 2013.

That reduction in the personal space of employees has coincided with the rise of messaging devices, from Slack to email and social media — and an overall increase in the number of times we’re being interrupted at work. Research at the University of California, Irvine, found that the average worker is interrupted or switches tasks once every three minutes and five seconds. This is having a major impact on productivity — and causing increasing levels of worker burnout and stress.

The Need for Sound Privacy

Research indicates that all this busyness and noise is taking a toll. Humans need periods of silence to focus on tasks and concentrate. A report by the University of Sydney shows that nearly 50 percent of people with a completely open office floor plan — and nearly 60 percent of people in cubicles with low walls — are dissatisfied with their sound privacy. The research also shows that people in open working spaces are 15 percent less productive, have trouble concentrating, and are twice as likely to get sick.

One leader from Microsoft has spoken out about the need for private spaces where his team can work on more focused tasks. “It was important to be able to hunker down and focus behind closed doors, but be in close proximity to each other so we could collaborate,” Pankaj Arora told the BBC. “We never see the doors as barriers to communication, just as barriers to noise.”

Science, meanwhile, is proving just how much our brains need a pause from all this incessant noise: periods of silence reduce stress hormones, help the brain to absorb information, and even help the brain develop new cells. Here are three ways you can help your employees find silent spaces at work:

Offer Silence Pods

If your office space is open and collaborative, aim to include silent spaces that people can use if they need quiet time. In addition to rooms for calls and larger meetings, make sure you also build areas where workers can head to for focused, uninterrupted work. The U.S. Workplace Survey 2016 by global design firm Gensler, found that innovative companies are five times more likely to have workplaces that prioritize both individual and group workspace. They cite noise management as a key differentiator for innovative companies.

Allow Remote Work 

The 2016 Gensler report also found that people in the most innovative companies spend more time working away from the office, averaging 74 percent of an average week in the office compared to 86 percent for respondents with the lowest innovation scores. Working from home offers an opportunity for people to focus exclusively on a project.

Schedule in Silence 

In smaller companies, it’s even possible to schedule in silence. The co-founder and CEO of Milanote, a tool that helps creative people organize projects, wrote a blog about the company’s “Quiet Time”, where they dedicate mornings to silent work, devoid of emails, Slack messages and conversations. In the afternoons, interruptions can flow. The CEO claims it made the company 23 percent more productive.

It’s worth noting that as you ramp up opportunities for silence spaces at work, you don’t want to overdo this. While silence is a helpful tool, an environment that is too quiet can be highly unnerving for people. Rather, aim to provide a mixture of spaces and options so that if employees need to shift into a space of concentration, they have that option. This will have a very real impact on the state of mind of your team and their ability to do great work.

Avoiding Information Overload in the Workplace

Hands holding devicesSimply hearing the words “information overload” can be enough to cause anxiety in people today. As a culture, we’re faced with never-ending email chains, bottomless to-do lists, and a 24-hour news cycle that never seems to quit.

While information overload is largely attributed to the devices contained within our pockets, workplaces can threaten to add an excess of information to their employees on a daily basis. So, what exactly can HR professionals do to curtail information overload for employees?

Here are a few key things to consider:

Discourage Multitasking

Anyone who proudly claims that they’re good at multitasking is either a member of the two percent who actually can multitask correctly, or—more likely—fooling themselves. For the vast majority of people in today’s world, the brain can only handle focusing on one thing at a time. Yet, many HR professionals encourage multitasking as a way for employees to increase their productivity. In most cases, this will only lead to added stress and information overload.

Use Technology to Your Benefit

Technology has had a profound impact on how much information people are faced with each day, but it can also be harnessed and used to prevent information overload in the workplace. One way to do this is by implementing a content management system (CMS) or other software which can be utilized as a “mission command” by everyone in the organization. Tasks can be created, tracked, and delegated on the fly in real-time. This not only helps to prevent siloing and keeps people on task, it also ensures that no one is faced with information they don’t personally need to deal with.

Perform Monthly Reviews

The best technology must be matched with in-person meetings to help employees feel focused. Monthly status meetings are an excellent way to help focus goals. Perform an end-of-month overview with your employees to discuss what has been achieved, what is left to deal with, and clarify action steps. This process will look different depending upon the size and scope of your industry.

Information overload can easily overwhelm even the best of employees. While you can’t control what happens outside of work, you can prevent overload from happening at work. By starting to take steps such as these, you’ll be doing a huge service to your company, yourself, and your staff.