Does Your Employee Have One Foot Out the Door? How to Identify and Keep Employees on the Brink

Unbeknownst to you, your employees may have made “getting a new job” as one of their new year’s resolutions. And that can spell trouble, considering that job postings skyrocket in January. Here are the signs to watch for in employees that could signal they are looking around—and changes you can make to help keep them happy where they are.

Signs of a disengaged employee

  1. Attendance issues

Noticing lots of sick days or someone regularly leaving early? That could be a sign that they are not only mentally checked out, but physically too. They could be using up accrued paid time off or they could be tied up with their job search and interviews. Of course, if they are allotted time off, you can’t question them, but this type of pattern should put you on alert.

  1. Less participation in company functions (both work and fun)

We get it, not everyone relishes hanging out with their coworkers, but what you want to look for is an abrupt change. Was a certain employee usually joining in group functions, like volunteer days or potluck lunches, and you’ve noticed them tapering off? Or, did they used to participate enthusiastically in staff meetings and now you get one word answers, or nothing? A distinct change in their participation could indicate they are cutting ties, so to speak.

  1. Reluctance to commit to long-term projects

Their lack of fire and enthusiasm might be the first thing you notice, but they also might be reticent to take on work that would ordinarily interest them. Someone who’s not planning to be around much longer won’t be invested in the team’s future, and that can translate into not diving into new projects. Or they might actually be being a team player in another way by avoiding letting their group down by taking too much ownership in something that they know they won’t be finishing.

How to stop the exit

If you’ve noticed these signs, you’re probably wondering what you can do to kept this employee around. (Or on the flip side, you might be hoping to hasten their exit if you feel that they have become toxic—but we won’t tackle that one; after all, HR professionals are the first to know what they can and can’t legally do in that type of situations.)

But there are strategies to consider that can help retain an employee with a wandering eye, or, even better, try to keep your employees from looking around in the first place.

If you have an employee who’s wondering if the grass is greener somewhere else, now is the time to reinforce that your workplace is so great there’s no way it possibly could be.

Some of the top benefits that employees want from their workplace are:

  • Opportunity for advancement
  • A feeling of purpose, as in, a sense of the mission
  • Adequate training and professional development
  • A manager who believes in them and makes them feel appreciated
  • Open communication at all levels of the organization
  • A feeling that their voice is being heard
  • Camaraderie with the team

If you do sense that a valuable employee might be readying their resume, a good place to start is by talking to their manager—who might be the person who tipped you off in the first place—and gathering background on behaviors that seem out of the norm.

Then, without accusing, call a meeting with the employee in question to talk about how they are feeling about the workplace, and if they have any concerns. (And, while it’s on your mind, as you look ahead to 2020, note that regular check-ins with employees on their overall feeling about the company can help you keep a pulse on employee sentiment and help you meet their professional goals, thus making it less likely someone will blindside you by leaving!).

You don’t want them to feel threatened, but you want them to know that you care and want to help improve their experience if you can. After all, it’s much more fruitful for both sides to hold a “We’d love you to keep you happy” meeting rather than an exit interview as they head out the door.

Sometimes, of course, it’s impossible to keep employees content, as some aspects might be out of your control. But be sure to look for patterns in employee exits to see if you can stem the tide by proactively addressing common problems:

  • Is there a certain manager who seems to be driving people away? They might need leadership training.
  • Are employees consistently leaving for more money or better perks? Your compensation and benefits program might need an overhaul, if possible.
  • Do employees want to work remotely? Look into ways you can provide even a modicum of flexibility.

By addressing potential workplace issues, you’re more liable to retain valued employees for the long haul—a win-win for all.

Reduce the Risk – National Cancer Prevention Month

National Cancer Prevention MonthI grew up moving around quite a bit, so I never really got to know my extended family. I saw grandparents on holidays, and a couple aunts and uncles once in a great while. But other than my parents and sister, most of my relatives were strangers to me.


Years ago, I dragged myself to a family reunion and saw an older cousin, Barbara, who I never knew very well, but always kind of admired. She was cool and a little edgy. I figured her super short haircut was just a new style she was trying out, so I made sure to compliment her on it. After several seconds of awkward silence, she laughed and said “thanks, it’s finally growing back in.” I’d forgotten she had been fighting cancer and lost her hair during chemotherapy treatments. She died a couple years later, but I like to remember her trying to find humor in a desperate situation.


Her father, my uncle, had been a heavy smoker and passed away from lung cancer several years earlier. Her doctors believed exposure to his second-hand smoke caused Barbara’s cancer.


We know now that both of their battles could have probably been prevented. Researchers have proven time and time again that any use of tobacco is dangerous, not just to the user, but often to those around them. And it’s not just lung cancer. Smokers are also at high risk of developing cancers of the mouth, throat, kidney, stomach, colon, and more.


Tobacco use in the US has declined sharply over the past 50 years, from 42% of adults in 1965, to less than 14% today. But that still leaves about 34 million Americans putting themselves, and those around them, in danger.


February is National Cancer Prevention Month, a perfect time to highlight avoidable risks.


Not all diseases can be prevented, but many of the most common cancers are a result of our own behaviors. Everyone knows that cigarettes and other tobaccos are dangerous. Smoking is an obvious issue. So don’t do it! Here are other ways you can avoid the Big C.


Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen! Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S., and also the most preventable. It’s estimated that as many as one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Sunscreen with a SPF of at least 30, protective clothing, and shade are the easiest and most effective forms of protection. And everyone should stay out of tanning beds.


Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity and lack of physical activity have been linked to several forms of cancer, including breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and possibly even pancreatic, just to name a few. Just 30 minutes of physical activity each day can make a huge difference in your overall health. In addition to reducing your cancer risk, you’ll also have better energy, reduced stress, and a stronger immune system!


Eat well. Diets that include lots of fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains have been shown to reduce cancer risks. Limiting red meat and processed foods, as well as alcohol consumption, have also been shown to reduce the risk of liver, colorectal, and other cancers.


Get vaccinated. About a third of liver cancers and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma are linked to Hepatitis B and C. A vaccine for Hepatitis B is widely available and highly recommended. (Hepatitis C is generally curable with treatment.) And the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine is known to greatly reduce risks of cervical and several other cancers. Despite well publicized concern over this vaccine in recent years, there is no evidence to suggest a risk of serious side effects.


We can’t, yet, prevent all diseases. But 30-50% of all cancers are preventable. Simple steps and avoidable behaviors are the most effective ways to lower your risk.

Help Your Employees Understand Disability Insurance with these Five Questions

Employers are offering more and more voluntary benefits—and workers want these benefits. A recent study showed that nearly one third of eligible employees were signing up for voluntary offerings (that’s a higher participation rate than in earlier years).

Amy Hollis is the national leader of voluntary benefits for HR consultancy Willis Towers Watson. She recently spoke to Workforce about their recent survey. It shows that 70 percent of employers claim voluntary benefits will be an important part of their value proposition in coming years. “Companies are using voluntary benefits to enrich their offerings without additional cost,” she said.

While there is a win-win element to this—it’s a good economic choice for both employers and employees—the story finishes with a stark warning. Rob Shestack, chairman and CEO of the Voluntary Benefits Association in Philadelphia says that HR teams need to be ready to educate. “The most frustrating thing is when HR makes the effort to provide these programs then does passive enrollment,” he says. “It’s like saying you don’t care if people use them or not.”

When it comes to disability insurance, education is that much more important. James Reid of CDA member company MetLife argues something similar in a story in Benefit News: “While employees have a general idea of the benefits they use most often (medical, dental or vision), they don’t always grasp the value or need for some of the other benefits which may be available to them (disability or accident insurance, for example).”

Disability insurance is one of the most critical forms of coverage for working Americans—and one of most overlooked. Part of the problem is that people simply don’t understand how relevant it is for modern life.

Here are five questions you can ask as a framework for understanding what disability insurance is:

  1. What does disability mean in this context?

Many people hear the word disability and assume it only means catastrophic health issues. In fact, disability can refer to a broken leg from a skiing accident, a pulled back while cleaning out your garage, a cancer diagnosis, or a pregnancy that can put an employee out of work for days, weeks, or months at a time.

Share the five most common reasons that keep people out of work for long periods: Pain in the back and neck, cancer, complications from pregnancy, and mental health issues all rank before accidental injuries, which many assume is the leading cause of disability. You can also share infographics.

  1. What are the statistical chances of becoming disabled?

Eighty percent of us live with optimism bias. That’s to say we don’t have a realistic understanding of the risk of becoming ill or injured. This is particularly at work with the younger generations who have grown up with some of the most supportive parents in modern history.

These are the numbers: According to the Social Security Administration, more than one in four of today’s 20-year-olds will be out of work for a year or more for a variety of reasons before they reach normal retirement age. This includes common health conditions such as knee, shoulder, or back injuries, cancer, heart problems, or depression.

Add to that the fact that nearly six percent of workers every year will experience a short-term disability due to illness, injury, or pregnancy. Three quarters of these claims last up to two and a half months, and the rest can last for up to six months or a year.

  1. How would you pay your bills?

Ask rhetorical questions as you educate: Will an employee be able to pay their mortgage, 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 days, weeks, or more? This is about laying the foundations for their long-term financial stability.

Data from the Federal Reserve shows that 40 percent of Americans do not have enough savings to pay for an unexpected $400 bill. Disability insurance pays a portion of someone’s salary when they need to miss work due to an illness, injury, or having a baby. For those who are single, disability insurance is the second most important insurance they can carry after health insurance. And if employees have a family that depends upon them, this insurance gives them an income stream if they need to leave work.

  1. What does Workers’ Comp and SSDI cover?

Employees need a realistic understanding of the various safety nets that are in place should they become ill or injured—so they can make an informed decision:

  • Workers’ Compensation: Workers’ Comp only applies to accidents done on the worksite. Disabling illnesses or injuries are much more likely to be non-occupational in origin, which would rule out that coverage.
  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): The Social Security Administration provides Social Security disability benefits for eligible individuals who have a disability that lasts for one year or longer. Many applicants are denied due to a lack of work history, lack of medical evidence, the temporary nature of their condition, or the fact that people may still be able to work outside of their profession. There are three important things to bear in mind: 1) workers who become disabled off-the-job won’t always qualify for SSDI, 2) they can face average wait times of 600 days for a hearing (that’s nearly two years), and 3) if they do eventually get benefits, the monthly amount (averaging around $1,200, based on the most recent data) probably isn’t enough to help them keep up with their ongoing expenses.
  1. If you want to start a family—what is your financial plan for maternity leave?

If your company doesn’t offer paid maternity leave, this is an important point to raise with women in the workforce. Disability insurance is a critical benefit for many new mothers in the U.S. Indeed, pregnancy is the most common cause of short-term disability (STD) claims. Plans typically cover two weeks before and six weeks after a routine pregnancy.

Here’s an important note: One of the major differences between pregnancy and other types of disability claims is predictability. 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 they buy coverage before they become pregnant. This way there is little risk of underwriting issues or denial of their claim due to a pre-existing condition limitation. (Read more on this here.)

By asking these questions, you can broaden the minds of your employees and give them the larger context of how disability insurance works in real life. That way, it isn’t just vague words on a list in a company intranet.

To learn more about disability insurance, or to offer your colleagues further reading, guide them to our new consumer microsite: 


Beat the Sunday Scaries

The “Sunday Scaries” Are Real, But You Can Help Your Employees Avoid Them

We all know that Friday feeling, but unfortunately, it’s followed all-too-soon by its evil twin, the Sunday Scaries. Not familiar with that term? Sunday Scaries is that general anxiety that the weekend is over—and you’re about to start another week.

The truth is you’ve probably experienced it—and chances are good your team has, too. In fact, one survey found that nearly 40% of respondents admitted having the Sunday Scaries. The good news is that you can help your team get rid of them—once and for all.

1. Implement “Meeting-Free Mondays.”

One of the reasons employees might feel anxious on Sunday is because they have to jump in with both feet on Monday, after a couple of relaxing days off. That means that on Sunday they start thinking ahead to all they have to accomplish—and panic. We all know that meetings can be a very large time consumer (some might say “time waster”), precluding people from doing actual work. If it’s feasible in your office, consider keeping Mondays an off-limits meeting day so that your team knows they have the whole day to get actual work accomplished and start the week on a productive high note.

2. Ban weekend email.

Well, you might not want to outright ban it but at the least, encourage managers not to send emails over the weekend. Many employees feel obligated to answer, but that can leave them feeling resentful and drained—the opposite of the recharge/refresh that a weekend should accomplish. Turns out, finds one study, that just expecting that you have to check work email after hours can harm your employees’ well-being—and that of their families. Disconnecting can have real benefits in our “always on” workplace, so encourage managers to think twice before hitting send. If you can, try to implement a policy whereby employees aren’t required to answer email outside of the normal workday. Remind your managers about the “boy who cried wolf.” If they act as if everything is an emergency that needs to be dealt with immediately, employees may decide that nothing is. PS: We’re coming for you, too, Slack.

3. Survey the team about their impression of the workplace.

One reason that people might experience the Sunday Scaries is that they’re just not happy with their workplace. And in today’s tight labor market, that can spell trouble if you sense they have one foot out the door. Everyone wants to have their opinion heeded so start implementing surveys to identify what about the job might be bumming (or burning) your people out. Is it the workload? Their environment? The culture? See what changes might make your employees happier—and therefore more content coming to work.

4. Surprise your team with something fun on Monday.

The end of the week is usually when we tend to relax and unwind, maybe have a team happy hour or group lunch. But why should Fridays have all the fun? Switch it up and make Monday the day that you bring treats in to the break room or have a potluck lunch. WeWork has even been known for its “Thank God It’s Monday” ethos.

5. Help build a team vibe.

One of the reasons we love the weekends is we get to spend time with our friends. We’re not suggesting that you should try to turn the whole office into instant BFFs, but encouraging friendships at work can go a long way in people feel more positive about their job. A Gallup poll found that women who had a best friend at work were more than twice as likely to be engaged in their job—and engaged employees are happy employees. So encourage team members to linger over a cup of coffee, take a longer lunch break and sit near whoever they’d like—as long as they are getting their work done of course. To help forge those relationships, think back to your elementary school days and the “Star of the Week” where someone shared photos and fun facts about themselves. Or, incorporate team-building activities into your culture…and while we’re thinking about it, why not do them on a Monday?

6. Start a new Friday ritual.

Encourage all your teams to spend 10 minutes before they leave Friday planning the upcoming week. Sometimes we feel more anxious when we don’t know what’s coming up, or we worry that we’ve forgotten something. By winding down the week doing some planning for the next week, your employees won’t have to dread Monday, because they’ll already know “they got this.”

7. Remind them you’re there to promote their health and well-being.

One of the best parts of being in HR is helping provide peace of mind to your team by looking out for their financial and physical wellness. Take the time to periodically review your special benefits offerings that are designed to help alleviate your employees’ stress—no matter what their situation.


Caring for Seniors with Mobility Problems

By Holly Clark of FirstCare

Aging is an inevitable part of life that will affect us all. It’s considered a blessing to attain a ripe old age, but it it often comes with certain challenging health conditions, many of which greatly impact quality of life and reduce longevity. Difficulties in walking, in particular, impact many seniors, often due to weakened muscles and joints. Those who develop conditions that hamper their mobility require extra attention and care to help them avoid issues related to slip and fall accidents that may cause severe injuries.

Below are a few tips that can help caregivers support seniors with mobility issues.


Clear the clutter!

Household items that go almost unnoticed to those without limitations, become hazards and have the potential to cause serious slip and fall accidents. Extension cords, plant stands, even rugs can be removed to allow for easier passage. Seniors who use mobility devices also need to have a well-organized living space free of obstacles that may hamper their ability to move safely. Make home life easier by scheduling regular cleaning sessions and discarding unnecessary accessories, furniture, and electrical cords. Creating more open space will significantly increase their ease of movement.


Make it easier to get to their stuff

Make life easier for them by arranging and placing everyday items in strategic, easy-to-reach locations. There are several innovations that help to strategically position racks and shelves, allowing easier access for seniors or anyone with mobility limitations. Low shelving and pull-down closet rods, for example, are available to retrofit any closet. And replacing kitchen cabinets with drawers and pull-out shelves will make it easy to retrieve needed items without having to reach to the back of a low, dark cabinet.


Prevent further loss of mobility

Encouraging seniors to stay active is a great way to avoid further muscle deterioration that may hamper their ability to walk. Contact a professional therapist or doctor to help develop safe, simple exercises that you can help them perform. Brief walking exercises can work wonders and help regain and maintain some lost mobility. Concern around potential falls are often a barrier to exercise, but studies indicate that not exercising leads to heightened feelings of vulnerability and increased risks of functional decline.


Encourage personal interests

Another effective way to help seniors with mobility issues is by encouraging and supporting their hobbies and interests. No matter how small the activity is, participation helps stimulate the brain and stave off feelings of depression, which is known to contribute to declines in physical health. Spending time in nature has also been proven to increase energy and reduce pain, so regular visits to a park should be part of the caregiver’s schedule.

Ensure you address the factors that contribute to immobility by taking preventative measures. Encourage seniors to engage in activities that can improve their mental and physical well-being. Those who have pre-existing mobility issues should consider the use of assistive mobility devices that will go along way to help them enjoy life.


Perhaps the most important thing you can do as a caregiver is simply being there. Companionship and social interaction are known for helping seniors, and their caregivers, maintain both mental and physical health.

Kicking Celiac’s Arse – The Battle for a Normal Blood Test

It took four years to get my son’s blood test to come back “normal.” Four. Long. Years! The little monster was diagnosed with celiac disease at 18 months. He’d started feeling bad and losing weight, so the doctor ordered a blood test. The indicators for celiac came back so high, the doctor thought it might be a false positive and ordered an endoscopy. Sure enough, they found several aggravated ulcers in his small intestines.


And so began our battle!

We immediately cleared the pantry of anything with gluten, which resulted in nearly empty shelves. We replaced our cutting boards, pots and pans, and even the toaster. We checked all of our soaps, shampoos, detergents, and lotions, and tossed any that were questionable. We were on the right track. Although it can take months for the body to fully heal from the kind of damage my son had sustained, noticeable improvements came quickly. He got his appetite back, regained the weight he had lost, and was no longer in constant discomfort.

Next, we met with our daycare provider. They were incredibly supportive and agreed to do a deep clean and put systems in place to reduce the risk of exposure. Our little guy ate at his own spot for snacks and lunch, the teachers and kids washed their hands often, we even replaced the facility’s play-dough with a gluten-free homemade version.

Then we began regular check-ins with the gastroenterologist and nutritionist, and the little punk endured blood tests, like a champ, every few months.


It’s all about the tTGs

Things improved, but we couldn’t get the tTG level where they needed to be. And even though Anthony wasn’t in constant pain anymore, he did have regular stomach aches and frequent episodes of discomfort and lethargy.

The doctors explained that tTG (Tissue Transglutaminase) antibodies in those with celiac disease become elevated when exposed to gluten, as the immune system mistakes the protein for an invader. This results in damage to the villi in the small intestines, causing pain and making it difficult for the body to absorb nutrients. If not addressed, it can lead to whole host of serious health concerns. When we started, his tTG levels were over 100. Our goal was four or lower.


Fast forward a couple of years

We were gluten-free at home and our daycare provider was doing their best. But the blood tests were showing only marginal improvement. We got the tTG levels down to the high 30s, but nowhere near the target number. So we redoubled our efforts. We avoided almost all processed foods and eliminated dairy from his diet. We had discovered some limited research indicated that, in some cases, a celiac’s body could have a similar reaction to the casein protein in dairy as it does to gluten. So we figured it was worth a shot.

Items labelled gluten-free could no longer be trusted; they had to be certified. We read every label to make sure we weren’t buying anything from facilities that also handled wheat. We called manufacturers and joined online communities to discuss safe products.

These changes were probably healthier for our whole family, but they certainly made meal times challenging. There was no more eating out and no relying on pre-made packaged foods at home. All meals had to be made from safe, whole ingredients. We couldn’t enjoy a Friday night pizza after a long week, or throw a package of chicken fingers in the oven. No quick yogurt or pop-tarts for breakfast. And no good bread; the homemade, gluten-free stuff just isn’t the same. I would still enjoy a beer (yep, it has gluten) from time to time, but that was just a little treat for daddy.

We thought we had it licked. But even with all these changes, blood test after blood test came back with elevated tTG levels.


About the boy

Here’s the deal with my kid: he’s a bit behind most of his peers. We adopted him as a baby, after he had spent his first few months with a homeless birth mother and no stability. It’s not unusual for kids who start life this way to have a few minor delays. And since his birthday is late in the summer, we considered postponing kindergarten by a year. But his daycare was the one aspect of his life that we couldn’t fully control. We trusted they were doing everything reasonable to keep him healthy, but we also knew it’s hard to keep an environment like that free of contamination. So we made the decision.

He’s halfway through kindergarten now. He enjoys his new friends, loves his music class, and still thinks the bus is super cool. But he has his struggles and is working hard to catch up with his classmates. We often wondered if we should have waited the extra year.


Finally, we start winning

His doctor called last week to share the results of his latest blood test. Two minutes into the conversation, I had to close my office door so none of my colleagues would see me fighting back tears (I have a tough guy image to maintain, after all). We had gotten so used to bad news, that I just expected more of the same. But for first time ever, his blood work is normal…and his tTG level is 3.2. Halle-freaking-lujah!

He may struggle with academics for a few years. Or maybe he’ll repeat kindergarten. But who cares? He’s healthy and happy, and we now know we made the right choice.

7 Health Benefits Of Dogs (And One Health Risk)

There are so many health benefits that come alongside having a dog as a companion. Whether it’s the popular Poodle, or the less well known Silver Labrador, all dogs provide benefits such as encouraging more exercise and therefore having better heart health. They can even help people with mental health problems, and bring many benefits to children, what’s not to love? Here are seven health benefits of having a furry four-legged friend in your home.

Benefit 1: Dogs Keep You Active

The minimum recommended exercise per week for us humans is 150 minutes, which is the same as just over 20 minutes per day. Having a dog will force you to get out and have that exercise as there is another life depending on you. If someone is disabled to the extent that they aren’t able to exercise, it will be even important for their wellbeing to get out of the house and socialize and not feel isolated.

Benefit 2: Dogs Increase Your Heart Health

So it follows that with this extra exercise that you’ll get while out walking you dog, that your heart health will improve. Research conducted by St Anne’s University Hospital Brno, found that owning a dog can help to maintain cardiovascular health and improve owner’s blood pressure. Another study carried out by Sweden’s Uppsala University found that there was a 33% reduced risk of death from a heart attack if the patient owned a dog.

Benefit 3: Dogs Improve Mental Health

There are many studies which have been carried out into the effects that dogs have on mental health. A study carried out by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute found that 74% of pet owners said that having a pet helped to improve their mental health. Having a dog can reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation, and promote physical and mental wellbeing.

Benefit 4: Having a Dog is linked to having a Longer Life

As you would expect, from being more active and having a better heart health, those who own dogs often live longer lives. In fact a study which had more than 3.4 million participants, found a link between dog ownership and lifespan. People who lived alone, but with a dog had a 33% reduced risk of death than those people who simply lived alone.

Benefit 5: Dogs Reduce Stress Levels

Many people don’t need to be told the studies and figures behind how their dog makes them feel. Sitting down and simply stroking your dog can calm you down and reduce stress levels. A study carried out by Washington State University confirmed what most pet owners already know, that having hands-on interaction with a cat or dog for just ten minutes found that cortisol (a stress hormone) levels were reduced after this interaction.

Benefit 6: Dogs make us laugh

Dogs are always getting into mischief and making their owners laugh, which is excellent because laughter is one of the most powerful medicines. Laughing has many short term and long term benefits. Laughter stimulates the heart, lungs and muscles and helps to relieve the stress response. In the long run, laughing can also help to improve the immune system and relieve pain!

Benefit 7: Dogs Reduce Childhood Asthma

Having a dog in the household alongside children can reduce their risk of asthma, found a Swedish study. The study found that children who grow up with a dog, has a 15% less chance of developing asthma than those who don’t have a dog.

Lastly… One Health Risk

While there are so many benefits that come alongside keeping a dog, there are also a few risks to bear in mind. One of these risks is that there is an increased risk of being exposed to salmonella in a household where a dog lives. Dry dog food can carry salmonella, so it’s really important to wash hands thoroughly after feeding your dog, and keeping any surfaces clean which dog food has been in contact with.

Back to Work: Beating the January Slump

It’s a new year, a new beginning. We’re feeling refreshed after a season of holiday cheer and celebrating with family and friends. Maybe some of us ate and drank a little too much. And maybe we spent our entire year-end bonus on presents that the kids are already tired of playing with. But we all feel rested and recharged after some much needed time off, and we’re anxious to get back to work. Right?

That may be true for a few, but returning to the work after the joys of Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza, Festivus, and New Year’s Eve can be a real let down for many.


Holiday Stress and Anxiety

A recent survey conducted by Appreciation at Work found that a growing number of employees consider the holiday season more trouble than it’s worth. They cite increased traffic, expense, pressure to complete end-of-year work tasks, and holiday work events among the top reasons to dread the most wonderful time of the year.

Another survey, conducted by the American Psychological Association, found that 56% of respondents felt an increase in work-related stress during the holidays. Those surveyed blamed low salaries and lack of advancement opportunities as factors most likely to contribute to increasing stress levels.

However, despite the anxiety that many experience during the holiday season, the majority of employees do look forward to time away from work at the end of the year.


Facing the New Year

Returning to work after time off, whatever the season, is always tough. Days spent celebrating with friends and family are suddenly replaced with days of email, ringing phones, and an impossibly long to-do list. But time off during the holiday season seems to compound the problems. We enjoy being with loved ones, but the hustle and bustle of the season doesn’t leave much time to relax and recharge. Exercise often goes out the window. We eat too much, drink too much, and sleep too little. Instead of returning to work refreshed, we’re often more tired than before we left.

And all the excitement of the holidays is gone, leaving us with nothing but January and the dark, cold winter ahead.


But You Can Help Your Employees Get Back Into the Routine

Want to help your employees beat the post holiday blues?

  • Allow your employees time to ease back into the routine. Hold off on big meetings or project kick-offs for the first few days of the new year, and give them time to catch up on emails, phone calls, and leftover loose ends.
  • Provide something fun for employees to look forward to, like a team breakfast or lunch.
  • Encourage new habits for the new year, such as regular stretching.
  • Set new goals with your staff. Help them focus on opportunities in the year ahead, rather than just working to clear their email inboxes.


Now might be a good time to think about preparing for the next holiday season. Here’s a tip: Employers who don’t force holiday cheer and who give their staff the time needed to both complete work requirements and enjoy time away are typically rewarded with a happier, less stressed, more appreciative team.

Get A Charge Out of Getting Around: The Benefits and Fun of Electric Bikes

They certainly aren’t the bicycles your parents had hanging from the ceiling of your childhood home garage. Electric bikes are changing the way people get around town by eliminating some of the common hurdles associated with commuting by bike while adding health, efficiency, convenience, and fun to the journey. If you’re looking for ways to keep the fitness levels steady and the joints limber, e-bikes are worth checking out as an alternative to conventional transportation.


What’s an Electric Bike?

“Electric-assist bicycles (e-bikes) can be defined as bicycles that “are similar in geometry to human-powered bicycles but have a small electric motor that provides pedal assistance and allows riders to accelerate, climb hills, and overcome wind resistance more easily than manually powered bikes.” (1) In some cases, that assistance can help riders achieve speeds of 25 to 30 mph, which can drastically reduce travel times. E-bikes house a battery within the frame that generally offers a range between 20 to 35 miles, and for a majority of commuters, that’s more than enough juice for a couple of there-and-back trips before a recharge.


Keep the Car at Home

An oft-cited concern of many would-be bikers is the fear of arriving at work or wherever they’re headed sweaty and disheveled. Of course, bringing a change of clothes and other preparations could be made to mitigate this, but not all workplaces offer changing rooms or showers, and restaurants or clubs where you might be meeting friends or going on a date most certainly do not. Another concern arises around feeling tired or fatigued once a destination is reached. Electric bikes require less effort to ride, thus keeping excessive perspiration or exertion at bay.


Navigating dense urban traffic is an easily understood and legitimate barrier for many. However, the efficiency and range of e-bikes encourage the exploration of lightly used routes on side streets or cycling infrastructure like paved paths. Who knows? Riders may discover hidden gems along the way like a new-to-them cafe or theatre, and if they stop to check them out, they’ll find that parking is a breeze!


Pedal Your Way to a Spring in Your Step

As sales of e-bikes surge, more studies are revealing the health benefits that former non-cyclists are enjoying. In the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, one review of the use of e-bikes showed that “E-cycling can contribute to meeting physical activity recommendations and increasing physical fitness. As such, e-bikes offer a potential alternative to conventional cycling.” (2)


The same study went on to list more specific improvements in health and reduced risks for illnesses. “Engagement in active travel, specifically commuting, has been shown to be predictive of a lower body mass index (BMI) and reduced risk of a diabetes diagnosis. A recent prospective study reported that active commuting, involving cycling, was associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality and cancer incidence and mortality. In addition, commuting by bicycle or on foot was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease incidence and mortality. The greatest gains in health outcomes from active commuting are reported in the least active individuals.”


The authors of the study also concluded, “Electrically assisted bicycles (e-bikes) have been highlighted as an alternative method of active travel that could overcome some of the commonly reported barriers to cycle commuting. “


From the Floor of the Bike Shop

Wheel and Sprocket is a Southern Wisconsin brand and retailer, renowned for their advocacy and efforts to help all comers enjoy cycling, and they’ve embraced the e-bike movement.


Marketing Manager Kathy Devries shared that in the e-bike segment, the company saw a 225% growth in sales from 2017 to 2018, and this year’s growth continued at 50%. “Within one season, we had customers asking what e-bikes were, to coming in and asking if we had them.” She continues, “Our buyers are reporting that they’re riding more miles for longer periods, and as they spend more time on the streets of their communities, they’re also becoming stronger advocates for improved infrastructure.”


The majority of their e-bike customers are Boomers looking for healthier alternatives to driving, and they also have disposable incomes to give these bikes a try. There have been numerous stories too about customers who were unable to bike in the past but are now able to ride. “We’ve had a customer with Parkinson’s and another with MS that can now get out and enjoy riding with their loved ones. It’s been great to see.”


Looking for a Ride?

With increased popularity comes more options offered, and there’s seemingly no end in sight from major to more specialty brands. Companies like TREK present a variety of models for any cycling discipline, and cargo bikes like SURLY’S Big Easy can take the place of a second family car.


Are e-bikes a viable source of transportation for you? They’re finding their way into shops across the country. Call around to your local retailer and take one for a spin. You might find it’ll give your trips to-and-fro a nice little boost!

















Information for this article was generously provided by People for Bikes. You can find out more about this organization here.


  1. Health benefits of electrically assisted cycling: a systematic review. Int J Behav Nutr
  2. Physical activity of electric bicycle users compared to conventional bicycle users and non-cyclists: Insights based on health and transport data from an online survey in seven European cities – com

How HR Can Make the Most of “Dead Week”

Is your office quiet that last week between Christmas and New Year’s? Chances are good it is; one survey found that 1/3 of U.S. workers planned to take the entire week as vacation, with nearly 70% expecting to take at least part of it.


But while the rest of your office might be relaxing by a fire or sliding across an ice rink, the HR department is usually still hard at work, wrapping up year-end needs. And in a counterintuitive fashion, that might mean that it’s even harder to focus on what you need to do. Here are some tips for identifying the important tasks to take on and advice for staying focused while others are out to help you prepare for a smooth start to the New Year.


Identify What Needs to Be Done

That quiet week can be a gift in itself, provided you use it responsibly. If you anticipate it will be hard to dive right in when you come back to the office, do your planning before you leave your desk for the Dec. 24 festivities by taking 10 minutes to create a list of the tasks you hope to accomplish before everyone else heads back to the office on Jan. 2 (or 6!). Here are some thought starters:

  1. Wrap up year-end reviews. Many offices have turned to more frequent feedback in lieu of annual reviews, but if your office still conducts them, you might be dealing with an onslaught of paperwork. Now is the time to sift through the reports thoughtfully, making notes on items where you might need to follow up, and highlighting areas where training and professional development might be in order as you notice patterns among the reviews.
  2. Write thank you notes. Definitely acknowledge the secret Santa present, as well as the elves who put together the holiday party, if appropriate. But the end of the year is also a great time to consider all the employees who help make your job easier—or who challenge you to improve. Think of your team members and department heads, but also acknowledge the other people who maybe don’t get thanked as often—from the administrative professionals who ensure your communications go out in a timely fashion to the new employees who helped you rethink your interviewing or onboarding processes.
  3. Clean out your desk and files. Out with the old and in with the new! It’s easy to make a New Year’s resolution to stop hoarding papers or emails, but much harder to put it into practice—particularly when you hit the ground running Jan. 6, already feeling behind. The week between Christmas and New Year’s is the ideal time to get a jump start on the task; your future self will thank you when you put in one to two hours a day tackling this chore that always gets put on the back burner.
  4. Set goals. Everyone is in a reflective mood, and, as mentioned above, it’s easy to get a little too ambitious with your goal setting in late December. So consider staggering your goals—instead of picking four behaviors at once, choose one per quarter. Feeling successful at one thing will make it more likely you’ll tackle something else, and it’s much easier to manage one new habit or goal than try to foster four at once.


Stay on Task When You’re the Only One in the Office

With a calendar largely devoid of calls, meetings and deadlines, it might be hard to know how to allocate your time—and that makes it surprisingly easy to squander. Here are some ways to help stay on task.

  1. Take your to-do list and make it into a schedule. One long to-do list is easy to ignore until the last day when you realize you haven’t done all the tasks you’d hoped to. Avoid that by consulting your list and estimating how much time you believe each task will take—be realistic, too. Then divide them up over the days you have. Most work is best accomplished in chunks, so instead of trying to power through 20 thank you notes in one day, allocate four to each day. Do the same with other large tasks so that your time in the office have a predictable flow where you are knocking out small goals each day.
  2. Set a timer. Once you’ve divided tasks among the days, make yourself sick to a schedule. It’s all too easy to be lured into living vicariously through other people’s holidays on social media, or watching YouTube videos. Once you have picked a task…say, deleting old emails…set a timer for 30 minutes and commit to not being sidetracked until the time is up.
  3. Find an accountability partner. “Misery” loves company, they say, and even though being in the office catching up on work hardly qualifies as “misery,” you know what we mean. The good news is that when fewer people are in the office, it offers a chance to get to know someone with whom your path might not typically cross. Seek out another hard-working coworker and touch base to see if they want to goal set together; for example, vow to knock out x number of tasks or spend x number of minutes on a larger project. Then meet for coffee or lunch to celebrate your success.
  4. Take some time for you. Yes, you’re setting a good example by being in the office and yes, you’re feeling accomplished through taking care of tasks you’ve been putting off. The only way to celebrate a win like that? With a little reward. Take satisfaction in how much you got done—and then take an hour or so to do something just for you.