How Taking Time Off is Good for Employee Engagement


It’s officially summer!  As vacation season kicks off, it is a good time for HR teams to encourage the value of taking a break.  As we all know, vacations are important for emotional and physical health of employees.  In fact, studies show that they build a far more engaged, happy, and productive workforce.

Unlike other developed countries, the United States has no mandated number of days off for employees. A quarter of Americans have no paid vacations at all. This has an impact on wellness. 

A 2017 CareerBuilder survey revealed that 61 percent of workers self-identified as burned out in their current job. Of those workers, 31 percent reported high or extremely high levels of stress at work. A third of all workers said they had no plans to take a vacation that year.

Why People Don’t Take Time Off

A survey from Project Time Off in 2017 reveals a key reason why people are avoiding vacations: they think it makes them look like a less committed worker. Thirty eight percent of employees wanted their boss to see them as  as “a work martyr”. Yet, according to the report those four-in-ten employees do not understand work martyrdom does not necessarily advance their careers.  In fact, it may be hurting them.

“These self-proclaimed work martyrs are less likely (79 to 84 percent) to report receiving a raise or bonus in the last three years than those who do not subscribe to the work martyr myth. When it comes to promotions, they are no more likely to have received a promotion in the last year than the average worker (28 percent). This shows that the work martyr attitude is not helping anyone get ahead.”

Melinda Gates addressed this topic in her first LinkedIn post after Microsite acquired the platform in 2017 — pointing out how this workaholic culture can be particularly damaging for women. “The American workweek has soared from less than 40 hours to nearly 50 in the time since that issue of Fortune was published,” she wrote. “Technology has made it harder to pull away from our jobs, and easier to wonder whether a night off or a long weekend is damaging our careers.

Benefits of Summer Vacation

New data from a O.C. Tanner survey shows a clear correlation between those who take regular vacations and their overall emotional health and happiness on the job.

Sixty six percent of respondents said they take vacations at least one week or longer during the summer months. Nearly the same percentage (67 percent) said it is somewhat or extremely important for them to do so. This is what they then found in the regular vacationers:

  • Dedication to the Job: 70 percent of respondents say they are highly motivated to contribute to the success of the organization, as opposed to only 55 percent of respondents who do not regularly take a week-long summer vacation.
  • A Sense of Belonging: 63 percent of respondents say they feel a sense of belonging at the company where they currently work, as opposed to only 43 percent of respondents who do not regularly take a week-long summer vacation.
  • Loyalty: 65 percent of respondents say they have a strong desire to be working for their organization one year from now, as opposed to 51 percent of respondents who do not regularly take a week-long summer vacation.
  • Viewed as a Good Employer: 65 percent of respondents say their organization has a reputation for being a good employer whose people do great work, as opposed to just 46 percent of respondents who do not regularly take a week-long summer vacation.

In another example discussed in Harvard Business Review, one company implemented a mandatory week off once every seven weeks for all staff. The result? “Creativity went up 33 percent, happiness levels rose 25 percent, and productivity increased 13 percent.” The company concluded that once every seven weeks was perhaps excessive, but nonetheless the sheer productivity and creativity that came from having a rested and recharged workforce benefited the entire organization.

So the next time you hear a manager complain about a worker requesting a vacation, show them the data. And if you haven’t already, now is the time to be instituting a positive and proactive vacation policy.




Podcast: Living and Working With Endometriosis



Introduction

Carol Harnett [00:00:00] Hi everyone, this is Carol Harnett. I’m the president of The Council for Disability Awareness. Welcome to our show: the Financial Health and Income Network.  I am very excited to launch what we hope will be a continuing series with people who are working and living with chronic conditions, illnesses and diseases.  I am so pleased to say that our first topic will be on endometriosis.

 


You can hear the full podcast or if you’d rather read than listen, we captured the transcript from the conversation below.


 

Carol Harnett [00:00:32] I’ve worked in and around healthcare my whole life, and worked around the data in healthcare my entire career, and I have never thought about endometriosis as a separate category.  What brought it to my attention is my guest, Tawnia Jacobson. She is a nurse who has a master’s degree in Science with a concentration in Biology, and is also a Certified Nurse Anesthetist.

I often put firewalls between the different parts of my life. This is one of those times when I let the different parts of my life blend together. Tawnia is also my CycleBar instructor, and that is how I came to know her. She did something that I think has a high degree of impact for everyone around health and particularly for women with endometriosis.

During the month of March, which is an awareness month for endometriosis, she shared publicly through her Instagram account, her experience with endometriosis along with a lot of very important facts. The one that captured me the most is that 1 in 10 women in the United States have endometriosis, which is the same as the diabetes rate in the United States.

When we think about the amount of time and energy that we put around diabetes, which we should, we don’t put any time and energy around addressing endometriosis. So, Tawnia, thank you so much for being willing to join us today and talk with us and educate us on this topic.  

Tawnia Jacobson [00:02:05.40] Absolutely Carol. Thank you so much for having me.  This is an extremely important topic for everybody, but obviously near and dear to my heart with personal experience.

Carol Harnett [0:02:18.42]: For that reason, I want to turn a lot of the show over to you. I would love you to start, if you don’t mind, first with grounding people with a definition of what endometriosis is, and then your story as it relates to that.

Defining Endometriosis

Tawnia Jacobson [02:37.08]: Endometriosis, by definition, is a systemic disease that occurs when tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus is found elsewhere in the body, mostly in the pelvis or the pelvic cavity. But it can also appear on the bladder,  the bowel, the lungs (into the diaphragm) , and even the brain, in worst-case scenarios.

It causes pain, organ dysfunction, and infertility. The cause of endometriosis is unknown, but there are many theories surrounding it.  Genetics, stem cells, blood and lymph system distribution are all possibilities. Inflammation is a key factor, and they believe that maybe some environmental toxins may be linked to it.  Again, no definitive cause, and the diagnosis unfortunately takes a very long time. As Carol mentioned, the prevalence is extremely high, it’s 1 in 10 women. So if you yourself don’t have it, absolutely somebody you know has it or may not even know that they have it, but are experiencing signs and symptoms of having endometriosis.

A Challenging Diagnosis

Tawnia Jacobson [0:04:00.16]: A lot of people ask why it takes so long to diagnose and it’s mainly because most obstetrics and gynecology doctors themselves don’t even know that much about it. The average patient will see eight to ten doctors before they receive an actual diagnosis. After years and years of pain and suffering, many patients are told that it’s “in their head”, that it’s just “IBS” — irritable bowel syndrome — because so many of us have so many bowel symptoms that go along with this.

When it’s confused to be a GI issue, you might be sent away from your GYN (gynecologist), to a gastroenterologist and go through every process and procedure known to man for that, and really that’s not the initial cause. With a lot of confusion and pain, it becomes a mental battle and game for many patients and it’s very frustrating.

I can now back up and talk about my story.

Tawnia Jacobson | Symptoms: Pain, Heavy Menstrual Bleeding, Fatigue, Migraines

Tawnia Jacobson [0:05:05.25]: I would say that this whole thing probably started for me when I started menstruating at the age of 16. With heavy, heavy bleeding, I missed many days of high school. I was fatigued. I would get headaches. My mother actually had a history of very heavy periods as well, and had a hysterectomy at the age of 30 because of heavy bleeding. She couldn’t handle it anymore. At the time, whether they knew or not that she had endometriosis has really been left to be discovered, but it doesn’t matter. They performed a hysterectomy to treat her pain and bleeding, and that’s all I know. My mom kind of just said, “Yeah, I had really bad periods, too,” and we went about business and life. When I moved to college, the pain was worse. I would be knocked out for at least a week at a time in addition to the week of premenstrual symptoms.

One Solution | Birth Control

Tawnia Jacobson [0:06.10.01]: I finally started seeing a GYN (gynecologist) early in college who suggested birth control. She diagnosed me with menstrual migraines. She thought if we could even out my hormone swings it would prevent my migraines. Then, obviously, if I wasn’t bleeding, I wouldn’t have as much pain or symptoms of cramping and bleeding.

I went on birth control early on, probably by the time I was 19, and stayed on birth control for about 7 years. I came off birth control at about 2008; (we can talk a little bit more about how birth control can suppress endometriosis symptoms later).

Without being able to remember too much, in general, I just always felt crappy around my period. I was exhausted. There were probably days — many days — when I called out of work. But the bleeding was so intense that I would have to take extra clothes with me everywhere I went because I would easily bleed through what I had on.

Again, I was just always told it was normal. Even my GYN was like, “Yeah”, some people just get this. This is normal.” She offered me narcotics to deal with the pain. I never took them as I am not the type of person who would even take Ibuprofen regularly. So I spent a lot of time in bed, a lot of time sleeping with heating pads, and just dealing with it.  This continued for years and years.

Next Step | Trying to Conceive

Tawnia Jacobson [0:07.45.76]: I think the next step in my journey came when my husband and I decided to start trying for a family. Probably around 2014, we became more active in trying. And even though I had been off of birth control since 2008, we were obviously not preventing pregnancy, but it hadn’t happened. But 2014 is when we started to try a little bit more actively.

I was feeling a lot more left lower quadrant pain, and I think once you become hyper-focused on your schedule and looking at a calendar all the time,  you start to become very in-tune with your body. I was just noticing so many things. So I sat down and talked to my GYN about it. She said, “Let’s start by getting some labs and do an ultrasound, so that we can  rule out cysts.”

At the time I didn’t have any signs or symptoms of ovarian cysts other than just pain which seemed to be focused in my left lower quadrant.  Labs came back and showed that I had a low AMH, which is an Anti-Müllerian hormone. This test is fairly new. They’ve been using it maybe 10 to 12 years. So again, six years ago or five years ago, or however long it was I got this information, my GYN  didn’t feel that comfortable with dealing with it. She said, “With this information, it means you have a low ovarian reserve, and I’m not really sure how to treat you moving forward. I need to send you to a fertility specialist.”

This was obviously devastating news, and not what you want to hear when you’re just starting your journey.  But I thought, “Great! This is a specialist, somebody who is going to listen a little bit more to my symptoms and put a little more thought into my cycle and what has been going on for years.”

A Specialist, and Diagnostic Laparoscopy

Tawnia Jacobson [0:09.36.93]: We went on that journey, and have been on that journey for the past four years. It has been equal parts devastating and frustrating, but it was during that time that we all, as a team, made the decision that I probably most likely had endometriosis. The only problem was, the only way to diagnose endometriosis is via invasive surgical procedure. You have to have a diagnostic laparoscopy in order to obtain a sample of tissue to send to pathology for diagnosis. It was years of frustration and a lot of changes to my cycles, (very short cycles). Another thing to add is that after we were told we wouldn’t conceive naturally, I did conceive naturally.  Unfortunately I sustained a miscarriage at about 10 to 11 weeks. It was at that point that my cycles seemed to be even more sporadic and painful. It was then that I finally said, “Okay, I have to do something, so let’s have surgery.”

In 2017 I had my first surgery by a fertility specialist who claimed that he could fix my endometriosis and get me pregnant. I trusted him and I went through surgery. Within three months, my symptoms were worse than they had been before. I was in a very ugly place mentally and emotionally, and I was begging for a birth control again because I said, “I can’t continue feeling like this. I’m not myself. It hurts every day.”  It went from being painful a week to two weeks out of the month to three to four weeks out of the month. There were very few good days. I was keeping a calendar. I was keeping food diaries. It was consuming my life and it was miserable. So I begged and pleaded for birth control, and he talked me out of it because he said, “You are looking to start a family” and I said, “I understand that but this isn’t working.” So instead he put me on Clomid.

I took a course of Clomid hoping to get pregnant, but instead I ended up getting a grapefruit-sized cyst.  Luckily it did not require surgical resection, but I endured many, many days of pain until it rectified itself. After that, I foolishly put myself on a course of DHEA hoping that would improve my egg supply for getting pregnant once again; not realizing that those are the worst things you can do for endometriosis.

Breakthrough

Tawnia Jacobson [0:12.20.51]: By the fall of 2017,  I was just in a really bad place.  It was not good for my relationships. It was not good for my marriage. I knew that I needed to do something. I just didn’t know what I needed to do.

As fate would have it, one of my neighbors and I were talking one day. We had just built a house in a new development and she was a new neighbor. We were talking about infertility. She mentioned that she had endometriosis as well, and she led me down the path of Nancy’s Nook, which is an endometriosis education forum on Facebook that literally changed my life.

I went on there and I read for a couple of hours every day. I learned more than I ever learned about endometriosis in my entire life in about four hours, and it changed my life. It was Nancy’s Nook who educated me, who ultimately led me to my surgeon, who performed excision surgery, which is the gold standard for treatment right now. I had surgery last March and have felt like a new person ever since then.

Carol Harnett [0:13:34.05]: Wow, as I was listening, you probably heard me gasping because it’s incredible to listen to your experience in one fell swoop. I can’t imagine what that was like to live through.

Tawnia Jacobson [0:13.49.22]: I try to keep it as condensed possible, but it was many, many years of suffering, and many years going in the wrong direction.

I mentioned keeping food diaries.  I changed my diet so many times. I had tried gluten-free and dairy-free. It was around that time that I actually got pregnant. Part of me was like “Wow, is that what it takes?” Then I eventually went vegan; I had cut out all meat. If you read a little bit more about endometriosis, you realize that they encourage an anti-inflammatory diet. A lot of that means getting rid of red meat. My husband and I tried vegan for a while, and none of this was helping any of my symptoms. It was basically just torturing me more mentally because it was all-consuming.

Finally, The Right Surgeon, The Right Procedure

Tawnia Jacobson [0:14.32.20]: I talked about meeting the surgeon who basically changed my life. It was the excision surgery that changed my life. It was the appropriate treatment. My first surgery was ablation, which means they burn the tissue.  They don’t actually get rid of it, they just burn it, and hope to prevent it from growing back. The tissue, I guess it could be described as an iceberg. The tissue that you see is visible endometriosis, but lives much deeper than that. The part of the iceberg that you don’t see below the surface is actually the problem. You burn what you see, but you leave behind what you don’t see, and it will continue to grow. Since you’re in there basically irritating it, making it more angry, the endometriosis becomes worse. That’s why when I had my first surgery, within three to four months, I was feeling worse than I did before. We made it angry. Until I went to the correct surgeon and had the proper procedure done, my symptoms weren’t going to get any better.

Since having surgery, (a four-hour procedure), I was diagnosed with moderate endometriosis.
I did not have it on my diaphragm, Thank God, but  it was covering much of my pelvic orifice. It was growing on both ovaries and wrapped around ligaments. I had right leg pain that nobody ever paid any attention to but me. I would live from day-to-day, working out regularly, and then I would have to take one to two weeks off of my workouts at a time because my right leg was bothering me so much.

When I found the surgeon who ended up helping me, he didn’t even bat an eye.  As soon as I said “right leg pain down my back,” he was like, “Oh, yeah, your ligaments are involved.” And sure enough, when he went in there, the endometriosis was wrapped around my uterosacral ligaments. He had to dig down in there and clean that all out and I haven’t had any leg pain since surgery.

Carol Harnett [0:16:34.62]: You’re generous to share this. I know that when we look at data for why people go out of work and we look at their health data (we call it disability data), but it’s not the disability people think about. When we say disability data, we are almost always talking about illness or injuries that people have that prevent them from working — usually on a temporary basis.

Ablations and hysterectomies are procedures we’re seeing both in endometriosis and in perimenopausal women who are having difficulty with heavy bleeding. It’s interesting, too, because these procedures aren’t always successful in the perimenopausal population.  I did more background reading so I could ask you intelligent questions. I read about excision surgery and was disappointed to find that there’s a limited number of surgeons in the U.S. who have the expertise to do this surgery.

Tawnia Jacobson [0:17.29.92]: About 150, I think, worldwide.

Carol Harnett [0:17:33.91]: Yes, I think there’s about 100 in the U.S. When you think about it, I assume they’re clustered in bigger geographic areas. I think about women who this might be a good solution for — at least a strategy to manage it — those who may have to travel to see somebody who’s able to do this procedure. This is concerning because that may exclude women of certain means to be able to do that.  That always concerns me.

I actually didn’t ask you about this earlier when we started this show, or even when we’ve talked about this a little bit, but I think you referenced in one of your social media posts that there are some insurance limitations for some of the procedures. Did I remember that correctly?

Insurance Coverage and Financial Implications

Tawnia Jacobson [0:18.26.65]: Yeah, I’m going to be very careful with how I speak to this because I am not a professional in the industry. I can only speak to my personal experience, and I actually have a girlfriend who’s really going through a very frustrating situation herself with insurance regarding this.  I can say from my experience, yes, my surgeon was out of state. He was technically out-of-network, which is true for many women who are searching to find an endometriosis expert to treat them because they are very few and far between. Many of them are grouped together, like you said. We’re fortunate in New England to have in New York, Massachusetts and Maine certified surgeons who are experts in excision surgery but, unfortunately, your insurance does restrict you being able to go out of state. Lucky for me, my insurance at the time had an out-of-network option. The hospital, the lab and the anesthesia services were partly covered by my insurance. Now the surgeon himself is paid out of pocket simply because he doesn’t get reimbursed for the procedure.

This is where I’m going to be very careful with how I speak.  How I understand it is that there are basically no CPT codes for the excision surgery itself. They will lump it into the same category as ablation. My surgery was four hours long. My bowel was not involved, but many women do have bowel involvement which can sometimes involve a colorectal surgeon as well. So, if you’re in there 4 to 8 hours (sometimes 10 hours if you’re having diaphragm involvement as well) and you’re only getting reimbursed for an ablation procedure, which can be done in about an hour, you’re losing a lot of money.  That is a lot of time, energy and expense being put out there that you’re not getting reimbursed for. I believe that’s why many of these surgeons require out-of-pocket pay.

Carol Harnett [0:20:39.22]: You have to save!

Tawnia Jacobson [0:20.41.84]: Yeah exactly. My surgeon offered a payment plan. You spoke about people traveling; he gets patients from all over the world.  He had patients flying from India the week that I met him. He’s been doing this for 30 plus years so he is seeing people worldwide. It’s unfortunate because not everybody has the means to be able to do this.  When I was going through the process of finding a surgeon and scheduling surgery, I had befriended somebody through social media who lives in California. She was suffering so much and could not find a surgeon out there who was local and in-network for her insurance. She was fighting the good fight. She was appealing every time I turned around and she was just hoping and praying that she’d be able to find some loophole to be able to allow her to have excision surgery. I can proudly say today that she finally did get surgery! She had excision surgery in December, but I was at the point where I was like,  “Oh my God, I need to start saving money and fly her out here to see my surgeon,” because after I had surgery, I felt so much better. I want every person who is experiencing this pain to be able to find somebody who can help them because they deserve it.

Back to the insurance question -, my girlfriend is experiencing a very similar situation. She has had three ablation surgeries locally, at one of our local hospitals, and it’s not working for her. She needs excision and her insurance has denied her request, twice, to go see my surgeon in She’s still fighting, still trying to figure that out.

A Word About PPO Plans | More Options

Carol Harnett [0:22:19.74]: I’ll just add a quick point. I’ve been in and around insurance for the last ten plus years of my life, in addition to what I do at The Council for Disability Awareness., When you’re going through the open enrollment process, if your employer offers health insurance, (employers of a certain size are all required to offer health insurance) or have to go into the individual market yourself, it’s really important to make sure you’re in a preferred provider (PPO) plan.  At least when you go out of network, it’s pricey (you have a much more significant copay until you reach your out-of-pocket maximum), but at least it gives you options.

This advice applies not just for this situation, but for all situations, particularly if you want to go to what we would call a “center of excellence.” I would consider 100 surgeons in the country to be 100 separate centers of excellence for how to treat this condition — endometriosis — by excision.

This is not a push for you to buy more health insurance than you need.  A PPO health plan costs more money, but when you or one of your loved ones is impacted, you will be ever so thankful that you had options.

Carol Harnett [0:23:25.28]: I am looking at the clock and we have about 6 minutes and there are two questions I want to ask. You referenced a couple of times that when you were in high school you missed school and missed work.  Something that The Council for Disability Awareness focuses on is how illnesses, injuries and diseases can impact people’s ability to work.

The most recent research article I could find was published in 2017. The researchers studied the impact of endometriosis on work and life and said that on average (and the range is enormous), women lose about 5.3 hours per week to endometriosis. Whether that’s being absent or unable to do something, or not being able to do it in the way they normally could.

Can you talk a little bit more about how endometriosis impacted your ability to work for certain, but also your ability to do things in your own life?  I have met you as a very active person, so could you share with people what that is like.

Living and Working with Endometriosis

Tawnia Jacobson [0:24.51.98]: There were days missed from work, days where I had been up all night writhing in pain, or had a wicked headache and just felt terrible the next day and knew that I couldn’t function to my full capacity. That being said, fortunately for me, the worst of my symptoms developed about nine months before I had excision surgery and coincided with me  taking a new position at my job. It was a leadership role. It was administrative. I was putting so much time and energy into my new role, that it was depleting me to the point where between that and my symptoms, I couldn’t function in life outside of work.

I think the new job gave me the drive to get up every single day. Even though I was miserable mentally and physically, I had a purpose. I got up and would work four days a week, but I would then come home and be useless. I would be on the couch with a heat pack taking more ibuprofen than I had ever taken in my life.  Luckily, I had a husband who could pick up the pieces, but it wasn’t good for our relationship, and it was taking a toll on us. I just can’t help but think of women who are supporting themselves as single mothers, or women who are single and alone, and don’t have somebody to help them emotionally or physically.

I couldn’t cook, I couldn’t clean, and I didn’t do my own laundry. I was really kind of  useless outside of work. I had the ability to get there and do that, but that was kind of my purpose in life. I’ve often thought about if I hadn’t taken that new job, where would I be because I think I would have given up. I think I wouldn’t have wanted to get up anymore every single day. It’s funny how timing works out like that.  Prior to that position, I definitely missed a ton of work.

I definitely would call out. I said it used to be a week at a time,  and I would feel crummy, but then it became three weeks out of the month.  It was affecting me so much so that actually my words to my husband were: “I either have to find a surgeon who can help me or who believed my pain and my symptoms, or I have to be admitted to a mental institution, because something’s not right with me. I’m in a very dark place and I’m not myself.”  Those words really sent the message home, and he was like, “We have to do something.”

Fortunately for me, my something was Facebook and educating myself. I said it to you before and I have said it to other people, “It’s embarrassing. I’m a healthcare professional. I’ve studied science my entire life.” I didn’t know what endometriosis meant. I thought it just meant bad periods, painful bleeding, painful sex.  It was an excuse to me. Unfortunately, that’s what many people think and that’s the kind of the stigma you had mentioned. It’s a woman’s disease and women don’t normally talk about their reproductive systems. People don’t usually want to hear about women’s reproductive systems, and that’s unfortunate, because if we can tie this back to the beginning and talk about the prevalence being the same as diabetes. Diabetes isn’t always pretty either, and it affects every organ system in the body — just like endometriosis can affect almost every organ system in the body. Everyone’s symptoms might present a little bit differently, but they can involve major organ systems.

Carol Harnett [0:28:18.58]: I appreciate you sharing all that, particularly your comments about your mental health, because when I looked at this 2018 research study, they looked at lists of symptoms. The more symptoms you have, the more likely you are to be out of work for a period of time.  The number two symptom (pain being number one) was mental health, because people were feeling unaddressed and confused.

I am so grateful you’re talking about mental health because, by coincidence, we are live recording this on May 1st, which is the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Month, in addition to Disability Insurance Awareness Month, and I’ve committed to talking a lot about mental health.

We have 60 seconds left to our time together, so I’m going to ask for a 30 second headline. Looking back on what you know now, what’s the number one piece of advice you would give to people?

Tawnia’s Best Advice | Educate Yourself

Tawnia Jacobson [0:29.15.14]: Educate yourself. Don’t trust that the doctors know exactly what they’re talking about. I don’t say that negatively, because I work with physicians every single day, but they’re not all experts in what you’re experiencing. Be your own advocate; do your own research, and find the specialist in the area that you need.

For me, it was endometriosis; Nancy’s Nook saved my life. I wish I would have found that resource earlier. If people are struggling, go look at the documentary on endowhat.com. It is life-changing.  

Carol Harnett [0:29:48.41]: Thank you so much, Tawnia, for being our guest. In my opinion, this  is the best show we’ve ever done.

For everyone who has been listening, we hope this show has helped you.

I want to say thank you to all of our listeners. Have a great day, and there’ll be a transcript that accompanies this show so it is easier for  you to get all of the information that we referenced. We will make sure there’s links for all of it.

Thank you again, Tawnia.  

Tawnia Jacobson [0:30.11.97]: Thank you for having me –  such a great topic.




Trends in Disability Insurance Claims Management

Originally posted by Ian Bridman at The Claim Lab April 30, 2019

Last month we started a series of newsletters (February) to introduce the concept of data enrichment of claims information and we discussed how this will help us to understand what’s really preventing return to work for complex claims.

Maybe for those short term disability plans of 3 to 6 months, the duration is driven by diagnosis. In the healthcare industry, recovery is measured over a 6 month period. So by its very nature a claim that has gone on longer than 6 months has complications…

We have been told for many years in the claims world that we should not over medicalize claims, yet when claim managers get stuck, they order an IME!

We know that the likelihood is that there is something else going on: work issues, poor motivation, anxiety, depression, domestic issues, medication dependence, etc. on top of the primary diagnosis.

These are the psychosocial factors, that after the first few months of a claim, should really be driving our claim management process.

An experienced claim manager could, probably after 7 mins on the phone, start to dig into some of these issues, BUT we don’t have many experienced claim managers any more, and if we do, their case loads are too high, and new claim managers are lacking the required skills.

Just imagine for a moment, that we had developed a way of understanding these psychosocial influencers without the need for an experienced claim manager!

Click here to read the full post at The Claim Lab


The Claim Lab is an organization that has been conceived to help Disability and Worker’s Compensation Insurance companies improve claims outcomes using innovative techniques.  Learn more at www.claimlab.org.




Celebrating the Modern Dad: Transitions and Wellbeing for Today’s Family



The presence of a loving father greatly increases a child’s chances of success, confidence, resilience, physical and mental well-being.

Family Dynamics of the Past

Not too long ago, society deemed dads incapable of caring for their children.  At least that’s what the television ads would portray. Picture this: a bumbling dad burning dinner and twisting the baby’s diaper in a knot, only to be saved by dear old mom.  At the time, fathers were simply the breadwinners, and had no business in the kitchen or caring for the children.

But that was then.  

The historically significant shifts in technology, alongside the evolution of gender roles, over the past 70 years, both at home and in the workplace, have changed that.  Now, dads are just as likely as moms to say that parenting is important to their identity.  According to Pew Research, it is now less common for dads to be the sole breadwinner of the family.  In 1970, 47 percent of families were supported by the working dad alone. Today, that number has dropped to 27 percent.  Most two-parent families with kids have both parents working in some capacity.  Along the way, society has done away with stereotypes about what fathers do. 

If there is a strong evidence to prove the importance that fathers be around and be involved, then they now have a stronger argument to be home.” 
– Paul Raeburn.

The Modern Dad: Fathers as Caregivers

The modern-day father comes in various forms. Today’s father is no longer always the traditional married breadwinner and disciplinarian in the family. He can be single or married; externally employed or stay-at-home; gay or straight; an adoptive or step-parent; and a more than capable caregiver. More fathers are actually making the conscious choice to stay home to raise their children.  According to Pew Center, in 2016, 24% of stay-at-home dads reported that this was the main reason they were at home, up from just 4% in 1989.

As more and more dad’s take on the caregiver role, new studies are being conducted on the science of fatherhood that investigates the role of fathers in their children’s and families’ lives.  According to author, Paul Raeburn,  “Fathers who play with their kids have children who have fewer behavioral problems in their school years, adjust better to their transition to school from toddlerhood, and have less likelihood to be involved in delinquency or criminal behaviors as teenagers and even more as adults. This has a lifelong effect on children and it’s really only in the last few years that this has begun to be recognized.”  

The NEW American Family and the Need for Comparable Paid Family Leave Laws, Disability Insurance

As dad’s role in the family dynamic becomes more equalized with that of what the stay at home mom’s role used to be, the need for paid leave programs for all workers has come into the public and political conversation. Today, only a few states have laws requiring paid leave for various circumstances. And while many companies have their own, more generous policies, the benefit is not as widespread as you might imagine: The National Partnership for Women and Families, a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy group, estimates that only 17 percent of workers in the United States have access to paid family leave through their employers.

To help working mothers, paid parental leave – for moms and dads — may be the next frontier. Employers and governments are now talking a lot more about giving fathers a break so they can be the dads they want to be – and so the daily work-parenting load will be more equally distributed. In fact, the Trump administration has reportedly drafted a budget that would require states to offer six weeks of paid parental leave. So far, there are no signs of any progress on the plan, mostly because there are no specifics about how to implement it yet, but the fact that such a priority is even on the budget at a time of massive spending cuts is good news. 

Whether or not your state or company offers ample paid leave, disability insurance (or, as we like to call it, “income insurance”) is another benefit more employers are considering as additions to their benefits packages, and one more families should consider during their company’s open enrollment. Although fewer than 40 percent have access to personal medical leave through short-term disability insurance that is provided by their employer, most workplaces offer you the option of purchasing more. It’s a decision that can save a family’s finances should the unexpected happen.

Proactive Steps Dad Can Take for Longterm Health and Wellbeing

Outside of benefits and income protection, and as primary caregivers, it is important for men, like their female counterparts, to take a proactive approach to healthcare, something most men historically do not do. According to a recent article by the Wall Street Journal, men are notoriously bad patients. Compared with women, they avoid going to the doctor, skip more recommended screenings and practice riskier behavior. They also die about five years sooner, live with more years of bad health and have higher suicide rates. Now, with the growing recognition that treating preventable causes of death and disability could close the medical gender gap, the health-care industry is mounting a new push to get men the care they need.  

The first step is prevention. As we know heart disease the number one cause of illness and death for the American man.  Families can help the dads in their lives think about their own health and lifestyle choices and ensure they are taking the right steps to look after themselves.  The Centers for Disease Control, offers families a simple guide to help the men in their life get and stay on track with their health.  Here are some tips: 

  1. Gather for the Family Meal.
    While you are at it, have dad eat his fruits and vegetables every day.

  2. Get active!
    This Father’s Day, find fun ways to exercise together. Regular physical activity has many benefits. It can help dad control his weight, reduce his risk of heart disease and some cancers, and can improve overall mental health and mood.
  3. Don’t Forget to Breathe.
    Help the men in your life recognize and reduce stress.
  4. Schedule the Check Up.
    Men can prepare for doctor’s visits. Certain diseases and conditions may not have symptoms, so checkups help identify issues early or before they can become a problem.
  5. Know the Signs of a Heart Attack:
    • Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back
    • Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint
    • Chest pain or discomfort
    • Pain or discomfort in arms or shoulder
    • Shortness of breath
  1. Know the Signs of Depression: They include persistent sadness, grumpiness, feelings of hopelessness, tiredness and decreased energy, and thoughts of suicide.

A father’s influence has changed over the years. For example, today there are more stay-at-home dads by choice and those that are able to take paid leave for a new baby.  This has created a cultural shift placing a father at the core of caregiving. As a result, it is having long term positive effects. As the number of dads who are in the caregiver role increases, it is ever more important they take advantage of employer paid leave benefits, and at the same time, take proactive steps to maintain optimal health… not just for their own good, but the good of their families (and society in general).  

Happy Father’s Day!




How to Create a Culture of Learning at Your Workplace

How to Create a Culture of Learning at Your Workplace

More than ever, today’s employees crave professional growth. In fact, the members of the graduating class of 2019 rank it as a top priority in deciding whether they will accept a job. Creating a culture of learning can help keep employees satisfied even once they’re hired. An O.C. Tanner Report revealed that when millennials jump ship, it’s most often because they feel underutilized and stagnant at work. While professional development is of great benefit to your employees, it might be the perk that offers you the biggest bang for your buck. This is because it also benefits your organization through the new skills team members acquire. The great news is that it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

Below we provide some tips to help you add low-cost but effective training to your benefits menu:

  • Help Create Individual Plans
    The best way to show employees that their professional growth is important to your company is to talk to them about what they need or want. Someone aiming to do more client-focused work might need pointers on how to lead effective sales presentations. An accounting professional might want to learn more about new technological advances that can streamline their workflow. Finding out what’s important to each of your team members and communicating ways to access that training ensures that the subsequent professional development you offer aligns with their needs and interests.
  • Look Into Online Training
    Taking a class is great, but taking one online on your employee’s own time can be even more appealing (and more realistic) for many. There are a number of free or cost-effective courses available through services like Lynda/LinkedIn Learning and Udemy, as well as “massive open online courses” (MOOCs), that you can encourage employees to check out. To expand the knowledge to the entire team, implement a “lunch and learn” where attendees share with others.
  • Pay for Membership in Professional Associations
    Check out this link of professional associations to find something that will apply to your business. Whether it’s a national agency or local group, there are often a wide variety of development opportunities available with membership fees. There are networking events, speaker forums, and conferences. As a member, your employees get special access to proprietary events and educational materials.
  • Offer Cross-Training
    Don’t let your employees become bored on the job. Find out what skills they might want to hone and search for opportunities to let them practice them. Whether it’s on a company-wide task force or by doing an inter-departmental rotation, it will keep your employees engaged with a new challenge. Ultimately, it allows your company to operate more smoothly as your team better understands various roles.
  • Try a Reverse Mentoring Program
    Most companies are familiar with traditional mentoring programs. Arranging a “reverse” mentoring program creates a new and useful spin on the relationship between a new or younger hire with one that is seasoned. The win-win really happens! Newer employees will increase their institutional knowledge and proficiencies. Older generations can keep their skills current in a rapidly changing work world, as “digital natives” help them navigate project management software or various apps that can streamline their workflow.

  • Promote Individual Learning
    Every employee should value keeping their skills and industry knowledge relevant. In fact, you could encourage or incentivize team members to choose pertinent podcast series or books. You could then have them share what they’ve learned with the team. To underscore your support of these activities, consider offering a few hours a month that employees can devote to professional development on company time.

  • Follow Through
    Finally, ensure that employees are making the most of any learning opportunities by following up to find out what they learned that can be valuable for others. For example, a conference they might attend could be beneficial to another employee the following year. Perhaps they found an online training course that was especially helpful. Finding out what individual employees learned from various opportunities allows you to build a library of resources that can benefit future employees, not just the current ones.


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Your Guide to a Successful Yard Sale



Your Guide to a Successful Yard Sale: 
Clean Your House and Make Some Cash

There’s truly no better example of the adage “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure” than a yard sale. And if you’ve been dying to Marie Kondo your house, this is the ideal time to host a yard sale and make a little money for your summer fun. Here’s your complete guide to getting the most bang for your buck.

Before the Sale

  • Team up
    A sale that includes other families or neighbors is bound to draw more traffic so ask around to find others who want to participate in a multi-family sale.

  • Advertise: The old-fashioned strategy of putting signs around the neighborhood is one of the best ways to seek traffic, but you also should spread the word on social media channels like your town’s Facebook or Nextdoor page.

  • Assess Value: Make no mistake: Yard “salers” are looking for bargains and aren’t going to value your collectibles or designers goods as high as you think they should. So before you put something special out, search around on sites like Poshmark for clothes and shoes, or Glyde for tech gadgets. Use these resources to see if you might garner more money in a specialized forum. However, don’t neglect to account for the added hassle of listing, corresponding with the buyer and shipping the item.

  • Organize: The best way to ensure you don’t go crazy getting your sale ready is to group things by type and then give a blanket price. So, for example, you might list books at a quarter apiece or children’s’ clothes at $1 an item. If some items are of obvious better quality, you can consider a tiered approach with different color stickers. This complex system is not recommended if your ultimate goal is to simply to get rid of stuff.

  • Display Your Items (Attractively): It’s all about organization and space management. If clothes are in a heap or books are piled up, a shopper may not be interested. In fact, a messy display could deter someone from even stopping his car. If you do make the effort to create a nice display, expect things will get out of order over time. 

    You can stay organized by supervising the merchandise throughout the sale. In fact, a good idea at the start line up some display structures.  You can borrow boxes or bins, or hanging racks for clothes, and create ample table space to spread items out. This will make your “store” pleasing for the buyer, and easier for them to check out your goods.  

Day of the Sale

  • Be Ready: Yard “salers” are typically early birds so even if you say your sale starts at 8, they might start arriving at 7:30. You can be gracious and allow them to start viewing your items. However, it is perfectly fine to request they wait until you are ready. It can be challenging to avoid long conversations that could distract you from getting your items ready…try to stay focused and alert, sometimes theft can happen when you are distracted.

  • Be Careful: Plan to keep your attention up all day. Professional thieves can easily team up to distract and take items of value. Your best bet is to have multiple family members or friends help out. One can oversee sale items and organize the merchandise display. Another friend could answer questions and manage the money. And with safety always a priority, don’t let anyone into your house to use your restroom.
     
  • Have an Extension Cord Handy: If you have small appliances like blenders or fans, guests will want to see if they work but you don’t want them traipsing into your house to try it out.
     
  • Prepare to Bargain: People are always going to ask for a little less, and you might be willing to accept those offers if your goal is just to get everything out of the house. Your best strategy is to make a concession when people are buying multiple items. This helps to clear out the merch more quickly, rather than just making less.

  • Offer Bags or Boxes: You want them to take more goods off your hands. Providing a tote or box makes it easy for them to pack up their treasures.

  • Have Change Ready: You’re going to want to have lots of $1 bills at the beginning so you can easily make change if they pay for a $4 item with a $5 bill. Of course, you can make your transactions simpler by pricing things in easy increments. However, you don’t want to overcharge where it’s not warranted.

After the Sale

  • Do Not Bring Leftovers Back In: If all your items don’t sell, you might be tempted to bring it back in…and almost inevitably it will then find a home. Don’t be tempted! Put the items in your car immediately and take them to a donation site so that they can become someone else’s treasure—and you can take the tax write-off.

  • Treat Yourself: Yard sales can be exhausting so use some of that hard-earned money and treat yourself to take out or prepared meal! You deserve it!

 


 




Seven Ways Employers Can Create Flexible Work Options

Competition for Talent Informs Trend in Flexibility as Benefit Option

HR departments know all too well the fierce competition for top talent being waged today. And as you develop appealing compensation offers and benefits packages, there is one peak benefit that employees are clamoring for—and that’s flexibility. If you are still clinging to a fixed work schedule, you may soon be left behind; in fact one survey finds this is the top work benefit employers are expecting to add in 2019, and many workers won’t hesitate to move to another company with a more attractive benefit offering.

However, even if you want to add flexibility, there is the issue that not every workplace seems cut out for it. After all, you still have clients to deal with, and work that must be completed. The good news is that it’s possible to offer flexibility without throwing schedules out the window. Here are seven ways that you could consider adding a modicum of flexibility to almost any workplace.

  1. Determine the Hours that People MUST Be There, and Work Around That
    Maybe you are in the Eastern time zone and primarily deal with West coast clients that could necessitate a longer day. Consider letting your staff come in a bit later on at least some mornings.  Another option would be to rotate the team member who stays late to cover the West coast hours. The goal? To be available to successfully manage client issues without requiring the entire team to work all the hours.
  2. Identify Work That Can Be Done from Home
    Even in a call center where employees are literally working the phones, see if there is some element of their work that they could do on their own time or at the location of choice, such as typing up reports or doing other paperwork. Employees who feel that you are keeping these types of opportunities in mind will be grateful when they are presented, even if they understand that the majority of their work must be completed on site.
  3. Let Employees Take Care of Personal Needs
    Don’t make employees feel they have to hide the fact that they’re making a doctor’s appointment or shopping for a birthday present online during a lull. Just remember chances are they are answering work-related emails on their own time, too. The lines of work and leisure time continue to blend, and your team needs to know that you understand and respect that reality.
  4. Allow Employees to Trade Shifts With Each Other
    If you work in an industry like retail or food service where employees work varying schedules, don’t make it onerous for them to trade shifts. Find an app that lets them do it themselves or create another system that allows them to trade or give away shifts. While you’re at it, talk to your employees about how they feel about the shifts they have. If you always give a Friday night shift to the same person, make sure that they are ok with it or set up a rotation. While seniority should count for something, you still want to make sure that all your employees believe the system is fair.
  5. Ask Employees What They Need
    Often employees will be reluctant to speak up because they don’t want to seem as though they are complaining. Yet there might be some aspect of their hours that are challenging and could easily be changed. For example, a team meeting first thing in the morning can be hard for a parent. If it’s all the same to you, you could move the meeting to 10 a.m., or let them dial in from home. If it would accomplish the same goal, you could also cancel the meeting altogether and have people share their updates via email or a project management software.

    You might also find that a devoted employee would work an extra hour or two after he has put his kids to bed if it allows him to leave early to see a soccer game or oversee homework time. Someone else who is a caregiver might happily cover early shifts that no one else wants in exchange for one afternoon a week off. The key is to ask your team what they need or want; let them know that you can’t always accommodate them, but you’re willing to try.

  6. Set Up Processes to Track Remote Work
    Even if your staff is trustworthy, it can be a big leap to just let employees work from home on the honor system. It’s perfectly reasonable to set up expectations that a telecommuter has to be available at a certain time, or that employees must log into the work system so that you can track their hours. Keeping the controls a little tighter when you start offers the chance to eventually loosen them if things go well. Remember, it feels much more punitive to go the other way so err on the side of caution as you explore these new freedoms.

  7. Focus on Output Rather Than “Face Time”
    The key to making it all work: Does it really matter where your team is doing their work as long as they are doing it? In some types of organizations, of course it does. But in others, the focus could shift from when and where the goals were accomplished to just the fact that they were.

 


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For Employers, Vendors are Key to Strategic Absence Management

By Marjory Robertson, AVP & Senior Counsel and Abigail O’Connell, Senior Counsel, Sun Life Financial

When employees need to step away from work — whether to welcome a new child, care for a family member, or another life event — protecting their jobs and benefits, understanding their rights, knowing whether their employers will pay part or all of their absences, and meeting paperwork deadlines and other obligations is often overwhelming. If they work for an employer without a consolidated absence approach, they also will be required to contact separate entities for different benefits and entitlements. Workers may be calling their HR team to file their Family & Medical Leave Act requests, and contacting their insurance carriers to file claims for short-term disability benefits.  There is a lot to manage when it comes to employee leave, and it can be a heavy burden on employers.

Employee Absences Can Be Overwhelming for Employers

Legal requirements regarding leaves of absence (paid and unpaid) and workplace accommodations are changing at breathtaking speed. Employers’ human resources staff do not have the time, personnel, or expertise to ensure they are complying with the various requirements of the FMLA, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the increasing variety of federal, state, and local paid and unpaid leave laws.

Further, the consequences of noncompliance for employers are very serious, ranging from government investigations by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Department of Labor to individual lawsuits by employees.

More employers are choosing to outsource their leave management to their disability provider. In fact, according to a 2017 leave management survey by the Disability Management Employers Coalition, 88 percent of employers who outsource their leave management do so with their disability insurers. They have expert legal and compliance personnel and systems who help employers ensure compliance with this myriad of changing leave and accommodation laws. Moreover, insurance companies want to partner with employers to evaluate and handle complex leave and accommodation issues and challenges. Their knowledge, skills, systems, and staff help employees receive the benefits they need quickly, and prevent FMLA and ADA abuse, including the challenging management of intermittent FMLA leave.

Vendors Can Ease the Burden of Employee Absence

To streamline the employee and employer experience, many companies select one vendor to administer paid and unpaid leave, absence, and disability benefits. A consolidated approach enables both employees and HR managers to contact one entity for information about their rights and obligations concerning multiple benefits and entitlements, like short-term disability, FMLA, and ADA/ADAAA accommodations.

In many situations, both the FMLA and the employer’s STD policy may cover an employee’s absence, enabling the disability carrier to make determinations based on a single employee claim form. Employers and managers receive consolidated reporting showing the status, dates, and timelines for employee absence to support workforce planning.

Vendor Expertise Can Help Target Plans to Boost Engagement

With one vendor, employers can incorporate and administer company paid (and unpaid) leave plans and programs alongside absence management programs and disability insurance. For example, the vendor may highlight an aspect of the employer’s employee assistance program based upon the employee’s particular absence reason, or remind the employee of a duty to report to his or her supervisor based on the employer’s usual and customary call-out requirements. More and more employers are offering paid paternal and/or family leaves. Insurers can administer these leaves along with the unpaid statutory leaves and also ensure that employer-sponsored paid leaves are coordinated with the increasing number of state paid family and medical leave laws.

Program Efficiency, a Great Benefit of Outsourcing

Through their disability insurance provider, the employer may gain efficiency by setting up a single-file feed and vendor agreement. The employer’s staff may also become more efficient by outsourcing absence administration. Additionally, using an outside administrator limits risk of exposure to employee personal health information; employees will appreciate not having to provide sensitive medical information to their manager or HR. The provider can become a trusted partner to provide collaborative and consultative guidance on a range of complex compliance and administrative issues.

Some Highlights:

  • Disability insurance carriers have decades of experience in managing absences, accommodations, and claims related to an employee’s own medical conditions, and for other leave reasons authorized by law or by an employer-sponsored leave plan.
  • Insurance carriers hire expert claims, vocational, and legal staff who can properly evaluate eligibility for leave and benefits, and administer the claims and accommodations in a seamless and integrated manner that best serves employers and employees alike.
  • Disability carriers offer client-friendly services, including timely processing of claims for leave and/or disability, integrated management of leave and disability claims, detailed reporting on leave and disability incidence rate, and timely and helpful communications with both the employer and affected employees.
  • Insurers have made – and will continue to make – substantial investments in legally-compliant claims and leave technology to meet evolving needs. They also maintain strict data privacy and cyber security standards.

Engage your disability provider for help with your absence and leave management policies. From providing support tools to navigating the nuances of leave protocols and maintaining compliance, your insurer can support you and your employees throughout their leave duration.

For more on paid leave and your paid leave strategy, tune into the CDA podcast, with Carol Harnett, Abigail O’Connell and Marjory Robertson.




How to Reduce Employee Financial Stress for a Healthier Workforce… and Bottom Line

 

This content was provided by the Council for Disability Awareness Member Lincoln Financial Group®

 

Employee financial wellness is a hot topic today, and for good reason. A recent survey shows that employees spend five to 13 hours per month worrying about their personal finances while at work.  Without the necessary support, employees are more stressed, and thus more distracted. For employers, this translates into a nearly $250 billion loss in healthcare, productivity, and lost wages every year.1

Some studies show that financial stress, especially in the workplace, is at its highest level in five years.2 And, while every employee’s situation is different, many face the same financial stresses – the most common monetary challenges facing employees typically include:

  • Heavy debt
  • Vanishing pensions
  • Retirement savings
  • High student loan debt
  • Increasing healthcare premiums
  • Out-of-pocket health expenses such as deductibles, copays, and coinsurance

How Employers Can Help Employees Reduce Financial Stress

With employees spending the majority of their day at their designated places of work, employers have an opportunity to incentivize change and offer solutions to this population.  Employers can help employees better manage their concerns with a mix of financial wellness programs and quality voluntary benefits.  Click here for tips to help employees learn about how to build financial literacy.

Financial Wellness Programs

Employee financial wellness programs can help employees find balance and control over their finances, now and throughout their lifetime. Gaining in popularity, these programs have become a key workplace trend in 2017.3 because they can meet the needs of employees by educating them on how to manage and overcome personal finance issues. Some of the more popular financial wellness programs include:

  • Debt management and reduction
  • Budgeting tools and resources
  • Investing and financial market basics
  • Asset management and saving for home purchase, college, retirement, and other goals.

Employers can approach financial wellness by engaging employees throughout their lives, with a focus on guiding employees towards action. One important objective is to help employees reach their goals for every stage of their financial lives, whether it’s saving for a house, a car, college, or retirement. The key takeaway for these types of programs is to select the right financial wellness program that addresses the specific needs of employees in your business and offer them the resources they find valuable.

Organizations have every reason to want their employees to be financially sound. An effectively designed employee financial wellness program can help employers:

  • Bolster productivity, because employees aren’t distracted by financial worries.
  • Drive more predictable workforce flow throughout the organization.
  • Result in improved physical health (people with high levels of financial stress are more prone to sickness).
  • Increase employee engagement and retention.
  • Create more affordable retirement opportunities for all employees and enable career advancement opportunities for younger employees.

Having a clear understanding of the business benefits of financial wellness, integrated within the overall wellness and HR talent/acquisition strategy ensures corporate commitment and is key to a successful financial wellness program.

Voluntary Benefits

As an employer, you understand how employee well-being impacts the workplace on many levels,  and will want to ensure it is not affected by financial stress. Not every employee understands the many benefit options that are available to them. Therefore, it is worth investigating ways to help them really understand the benefits your company can offer to ensure they are equipped with the financial knowledge they need.

A thoughtful mix of voluntary benefits can help employees better manage unexpected medical costs associated with a critical illness or accident. That is to say, voluntary benefits plans are easy to implement and cost-effective for employers as the employee typically selects the plan, and pays the premium. Three of the most popular voluntary benefit product offerings are:

  • Accident
    Provides a lump-sum for a wide range of covered accidental injuries from simple fractures to third-degree burns
  • Critical Illness
    Provides a lump-sum benefit if an employee is diagnosed with a covered critical illness
  • Hospital Indemnity
    Provides a lump-sum when a covered illness or injury results in hospitalization


Voluntary benefits offer key advantages:

  • Most policies are portable
  • No copays, deductible, or coinsurance
  • Benefits paid directly to the employee
  • Employer group rates are generally lower than an employee can purchase separately.

Employers can provide employees with special financing vehicles that may have tax advantages, including: health flexible spending accounts (FSAs) using pre-tax dollars to pay eligible healthcare expenses, dependent care FSAs for eligible dependent care services, and a health savings account to help employees pay expenses in a high-deductible health plan.  Your voluntary benefit options send the message to your employees that you’re listening to their concerns and priorities. Get it right, and your benefits dollars will be well spent and will pay off in terms of employee satisfaction and retention. In fact, Sixty-two percent of Millennial and 50 percent of Gen X employees say that their loyalty to their company is influenced by how much the company cares about their financial well-being.2 Employers that implement an employee financial wellness strategy and clearly communicate available benefits resources can make a positive impact in the workplace: for employees, and for the company… a win/win.


Sources

[1] Mercer Survey. “Inside Employees’ Minds – Financial Wellness, Volume 2.” 2017. Retrieved from https://www.mercer.com/newsroom/financial-stress-could-cost-us-employers-up-to-250-billion-in-lost-wages-annually-finds-new-mercer-survey.html

[2] PwC. Employee Financial Wellness Survey. 2017. Retrieved from https://www.pwc.com/us/en/ private-company-services/publications/financial- well-being-retirement-survey.html

[3] S Miller. Is 2017 the Year of Employee Financial Wellness Programs? Society for Human Resource Management. Jan. 17, 2017. Retrieved from:
https:// www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/financial-wellness-trend.aspx

 




The Value of Disability Insurance as Income Security


By Gene Lanzoni, Marketing, Thought Leadership, Customer Insights 
The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America


The ability to earn an income is essential to modern living, yet more Americans often prioritize protecting their home, car, health, and teeth over helping protect their income with insurance. When a life event that causes a disability occurs, even in the short-term, it can disrupt an employee’s financial security, especially if they are unprepared for a work absence.  In fact, according to the American Council on Life Insurers, over 50 million Americans are without disability insurance.  Here’s why it matters:

Even a short unemployed break can cause financial instability. Given that more than half of working Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck, most cannot go without one for a single pay period, let alone three or more months. Let’s put this in perspective – working adults have about $5,000 in emergency savings, which disappears quickly considering the U.S. median monthly cost for housing, food, and transportation is roughly $3,000.[1] Those who’ve had a disability leave report emergency savings of just $2,500.[2]

We recently released our latest set of findings from Guardian’s 6th Annual Workplace Benefits Study for a financial wellness report titled Income Protection: The Role of Disability Insurance in Financial Wellness,” which finds only 54% of working Americans have disability insurance. The report validates that there are still a lot of misconceptions around the value of disability insurance. For example, many adults believe the product is for people who suffer from disabilities that are catastrophic or that it’s for disabilities which happen at work and covered by workers compensation. This is where education plays a critical role in helping employees understand that disability insurance serves as income replacement should you be out of work for an extended period of time.

While a competitive salary is important, especially in today’s low unemployment job market,  candidates will also be pushing for the best options in benefits. For employers, including disability insurance as part of your overall employee benefits offering can demonstrate that you care about your workforce’s financial security and wellness. Disability insurance has benefits everyone, regardless of age, gender or profession, should consider:

  • Income Protection
    While living paycheck-to-paycheck, workers don’t save for emergencies, such as an unexpected, unpaid leave of absence or disability. Emergency savings go fast when they have to cover pay regular monthly expenses on top of medical bills. Guardians’ study found 49% of those surveyed that did not have disability insurance withdrew from savings, investments or retirement plans to pay for their injury. Disability insurance provides an extra layer of income protection, which can make it easier to take care of financial responsibilities and not have to leverage other financial sources

  • Understanding Disability Insurance

    Guardian found only one in 25 consumers exhibit a high level of disability insurance knowledge. Today’s disability insurance programs now offer a variety of features to help employees navigate and understand their benefits. Some of those features include online enrollment payroll deduction and no medical exam to enroll. Even if certain employers can’t offer employer-sponsored disability insurance, they can provide access via an employee-funded disability insurance product. That shows flexibility and commitment to employees’ long-term financial health and well-being.
     

  • Improved Worker Satisfaction

    Guardian’s study indicates offering disability insurance can enhance overall work satisfaction (71% vs. 54%), as employees feel their company truly cares about them. Companies that offer return-to-work programs see an extra boost in satisfaction, as 70% feel their employer cares for them after completing a program.

  • Integrated Absence Management

    Absences can be hard on both an employee and an employer. Integrating an absence management program with disability insurance can help employers navigate the ever-changing paid leave laws that vary by state. Consultants and benefits carriers can work together to deliver a holistic, integrated plan that will keep employers covered and deliver a seamless employee experience.  With all these benefits available, employers and employees should re-evaluate the way they think about disability insurance plans. Signing up for disability insurance is really a way for individuals to help protect their incomes.

Disability insurance offers protection and satisfaction to both employers and employees, making it one of the most valuable products in a benefits portfolio. Nobody can predict the future, but it’s always wise to prepare for the unexpected. For more details on the financial wellness paper,click here.


The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, New York, NY. Unless otherwise noted, the source of all information is Guardian’s 6th Annual Workplace Benefits Study, report titled: “Income Protection: The Role of Disability Insurance in Financial Wellness (2019).

2019-79673 (5/21)

[1] 20 Something Finance, (2019) “The Shocking Percentage of Americans that Live Paycheck-to-Paycheck.”

[2] Guardian’s 6th Annual Workplace Benefits Study, Financial Wellness Series, Part 2,“Income Protection: The Role of Disability Insurance in Financial Wellness,” (2019) p. 10.