February 8, 2022
While the new year feels like a fresh start for most workers, it’s also expected to come with a spike in health insurance premiums. Premiums and deductibles have been steadily increasing for years. The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) found that premiums for a family rose 4% in 2021, according to a survey focused on employer-sponsored benefits.
The average family pays $22,221 in premiums, according to KFF. Workers contributed $5,969 toward their coverage, while employers paid the rest. In fact, since 2011 the average family premiums have increased 47%, which KFF found was more than wages (31%) and inflation (19%).
Not only is this a financial hardship for American families, but it’s also draining companies that are struggling to maintain employee coverage. To complicate the matter, several federal programs providing support for healthcare are due to expire in 2022.
What to Expect in Healthcare Coverage
Rising healthcare premiums are only part of the problem. Deductibles are also skyrocketing. This is the amount workers have to pay before insurance kicks in and could make a huge financial difference for families dealing with a serious health issue.
The average single deductible has doubled in the last decade to $1,669. For the more affordable healthcare plans, deductibles can be as high as $8,000. Overall, 85% of the 155 Americans with employer-sponsored coverage have a deductible.
Another survey conducted by the Business Group on Health anticipates healthcare costs increasing by as much as 6% in 2022. Analysts pointed out that 2021 rates actually flattened out slightly because many Americans avoided treatments during the pandemic. That’s expected to end in 2022, which will drive up prices. Of all employers surveyed by BGOH, 94% expected higher medical costs because of delays in treatment.
Expiring Federal Support Programs
Federal legislation is also expiring in January 2022. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was one of the first bills signed in 2020 to help workers. It gave money to businesses, enhanced unemployment programs, and funded hospitals.
One provision known as “safe harbor” allowed high-deductible health plans to cover telehealth and remote care services at little to no cost. The CARES act expired on December 31 and will now impact who is eligible for telehealth services.
Another rule under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) in 2021 allowed for mid-year election changes for Dependent Care Reimbursement Accounts (DCRA). This allowed workers to elect higher limits to help pay for childcare pre-tax. The ARPA also expires on December 31. If the new higher exclusion limit is not extended into 2022, families will have to contend with the previous $5,000 limit.
Around 30 million Americans get their health coverage from the Marketplace, which was established by the Affordable Care Act. With more enrollees and more available plans in 2022, experts anticipate a change in premium subsidies that could increase the total price people have to pay.
Navigating the Future
Regardless of what employers decide to do, HR departments need to be proactive in guiding employees through the process. Healthcare decisions are complex and no company wants disgruntled workers as a result of cutting or switching plans without notice. Clear communication and assistance are necessary to ensure a smooth transition that is beneficial for everyone.
Companies and HR departments should also keep in mind that the benefits they ultimately choose will define future recruiting. Healthcare benefits are a top decision-making factor for most prospects.
By Mckenzie Cassidy
Originally posted on HR Exchange Network
January 31, 2022
Since the start of the pandemic, the gig economy has become more ubiquitous. Human Resources leaders need to understand the new kind of worker attracted to the world of gigs, and learn how to make that kind of non-traditional worker fit into their teams.
Some mistakenly believe that the gig economy, also known as the shared economy, only refers to on-demand jobs like driving for Uber or Lyft or making Amazon deliveries. However, it is also applicable to white-collar jobs. It’s becoming a solution for employees, who need more flexibility, and employers, who need talent during a historic labor shortage. The HR Exchange Network’s State of HR Report revealed that HR leaders hold flexible work culture as a top priority, second only to employee engagement and experience. Buying into gig work might be a way to address both those priorities.
What Is the Gig Economy?
“The gig economy is a free market system in which temporary, flexible jobs are commonplace and companies bring on independent contractors and freelancers instead of full-time employees, and in many cases, for short-term engagements,” according to Embroker.
A look at the numbers demonstrates how important it is for HR leaders to pay attention and get up to speed on how this new kind of work arrangement could influence their business. By 2023, the global gig economy is expected to be a $455 billion industry, according to Harvard Business Review. Two million new workers joined the U.S. freelance workforce in 2020. In fact, one in three working Americans rely on freelancing for all or part of their income. Gallup estimates roughly 57 million Americans are gig workers, according to Forbes.
“The rapidly accelerating growth of the gig economy represents one of the most significant and all-encompassing challenges faced by Human Resources professionals,” according to SHRM. “The fundamental question is whether Human Resources can demonstrate the agility to lead the change in culture, programs, processes, and policies originally designed for work completed by full-time employees to a new era when more of the work is being completed by a talent portfolio increasingly represented by contingent workers (also referred to as gigsters, free agents, temporary help, agency workers, on-call workers, contract workers, independent contractors, or freelancers).”
Pros of the Gig Economy
A full-time employee requires a salary and benefits. You have to make hefty investments in training and career progression. Hiring an on-demand worker eliminates the need for all that. You pay them per project or on an hourly basis for as long as you need them. They usually can work remotely or only need to come into an office or place of business on a limited basis.
Specific Skills or Talents
Sometimes, you need an expert in an area for one or two projects and not on a regular basis. Being able to hire contract workers as you need them means you can look for exactly what you need at that moment. You don’t necessarily have to worry about well-rounded skills like you might with a full-time hire.
Freelancers and on-demand hires offer flexibility. Even if you’re renewing a contract with one of them on a regular basis, you only have to pay them for the work they actually do. You can turn to them when the work demands more help or when their particular service will enhance outcomes.
Cons of the Gig Economy
Carousel of Workers
Team dynamics can be hard to pin down when you are always working with different people. Even if you consistently work with the same freelancers, they are not bound by the same participation expectations as full-time workers. This can make it even more challenging to define a culture or help teams better collaborate.
Different Kind of Relationships
There’s more of a hierarchy when you are working with full-time employees. Managers and supervisors oversee their work and usually provide some sort of performance measurements to track their progress. With freelancers, you are their client. They are still working for you, but it changes the dynamic of the relationship.
This becomes most complicated with contingent workers, who work consistently for a company but without job security or traditional benefits. They do this for a number of reasons, including having more freedom over their schedules, being able to work for others, and being their own boss. As a result, the contract dictates their work more than the manager does. However, the manager or company could end up being a dissatisfied customer, and contingent workers can be let go at any time and you don’t have to prove they deserved to be fired.
Lack of Routine
If you’re working with a blended team – full-time employees and freelancers or contingent workers – you might have a hard time creating a solid schedule or routine for the group. Potentially you could still get the job done, but full-time employees might feel inconvenienced or maybe even a bit resentful. They have to be in one place for a certain amount of time, whereas their freelance counterparts are free to work on their own clock.
Obviously, there are pros and cons to the gig economy. But HR leaders can’t afford to ignore the fact that there is a societal shift toward this kind of workplace, where people have more freedom over their schedules, the kind of work they do, and even the relationship they have with employers. There’s still so much we have to figure out when it comes to the gig economy.
“Online gig work has grown increasingly common in recent years – and yet there’s still limited understanding of how to effectively support these non-traditional workers,” according to Harvard Business Review. “While gig workers can benefit from greater flexibility and autonomy than traditional employees, they also face unique challenges: less job security, fewer resources for career development, and often, a strong sense of alienation and difficulty finding meaning in their work.”
In fact, many reports have suggested that HR leaders in the future will provide access to resources regarding benefits like medical insurance instead of paying for it as they would for a full-time employee. Companies may begin to support co-working spaces to prevent isolation of their contingent or freelance workers. The point is that change is afoot, and HR leaders are paving the way for this new work paradigm.
By Francesca Di Meglio
Originally posted on HR Exchange Network
January 24, 2022
It can sometimes feel as if we’re bombarded with information about the latest eating trend or buzzworthy ingredient. But good nutrition is really about having a well-rounded diet, and it’s easier to do than you may think. In fact, living a nutritious lifestyle can be easy and fun.
Nutrition is about more than vitamins—it also includes fiber and healthy fats. Now is a perfect time to learn simple ways to help your whole family eat healthier.
Need tips specifically for young children? Learn how to introduce kids to healthy foods.
Add healthy fats.
Not all fats are bad. Foods with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are important for your brain and heart. Limit foods with trans fats, which increase the risk for heart disease. Good sources of healthy fats include olive oil, nuts, seeds, certain types of fish, and avocados.
- Top lean meats with sliced avocado, or try some avocado in your morning smoothie.
- Sprinkle nuts or seeds (like slivered almonds or pumpkin seeds) on soups or salads.
- Add a fish with healthy fats, like salmon or tuna, into your meals twice a week.
- Swap processed oils (like canola or soybean oil) for oils that are cold-pressed, like extra-virgin olive oil and sesame oil.
Cut the sodium.
Good nutrition is about balance, and that means not getting too much of certain ingredients, such as sodium (salt). Sodium increases blood pressure, which raises the risk for heart disease and stroke. About 90% of Americans 2 years old or older consume too much sodium. For most people ages 14 years and older, sodium should not exceed 2,300 mg per day.
- Avoid processed and prepackaged food, which can be full of hidden sodium. Many common foods, including breads, pizza, and deli meats, can be sources of hidden sodium.
- At the grocery store, look for products that say “low sodium.”
- At restaurants, ask for sauces and dressings on the side. Get more tips for lowering sodium while eating out.
- Instead of using salt, add delicious flavor to your meals with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, a dash of no-salt spice blends, or fresh herbs.
Bump up your fiber.
Fiber in your diet not only keeps you regular, it also helps you feel fuller longer. Fiber also helps control blood sugar and lowers cholesterol levels.3,4 Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (beans and peas) are good sources of fiber.
- Slice up raw veggies and keep them in to-go baggies to use as quick snacks.
- Start your day off with a high-fiber breakfast like whole grain oatmeal sprinkled with pecans or macadamia nuts.
- Steam veggies rather than boiling them. When buying frozen veggies, look for ones that have been “flash frozen.”
- Add half a cup of beans or peas to your salad to add fiber, texture, and flavor.
Aim for a variety of colors on your plate.
Foods like dark, leafy greens, oranges, and tomatoes—even fresh herbs—are loaded with vitamins, fiber, and minerals.
- Sprinkle fresh herbs over a salad or whole wheat pasta.
- Make a red sauce using canned tomatoes (look for “low sodium” or “no salt added”), fresh herbs, and spices.
- Add diced veggies like peppers, broccoli, or onions to stews and omelets to give them a boost of color and nutrients.
Are you eating healthy to help you get to a healthy weight? Learn more about balanced eating.
Originally posted on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
January 18, 2022
Did you know that problems in your mouth can affect the rest of your body? Or that your dental health offers clues about your overall health? Poor dental health contributes to major systemic health problems. Conversely, good dental hygiene can help improve your overall health. As a bonus, maintaining good oral health can even REDUCE your healthcare costs!
Researchers have shown us that there is a close-knit relationship between oral health and overall wellness. With over 700 types of bacteria in your mouth, it’s no surprise that when even one of those types of bacteria enter your bloodstream that a problem can arise in your body. Oral bacteria can contribute to:
- Endocarditis—The infection of the inner lining of the heart can be caused by bacteria that started in your mouth.
- Cardiovascular Disease—Heart disease, as well as clogged arteries and even stroke, can be traced back to oral bacteria.
- Low birth weight—Poor oral health has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight of newborns.
Over $45 billion is lost in productivity in the United States each year because of untreated oral health problems. These oral diseases can result in the need for costly emergency room visits, hospital stays, and medications, not to mention loss of work time. The pain and discomfort from infected teeth and gums can lead to poor productivity in the workplace, and even loss of income. Children with poor oral health are more prone to illness and may require a parent to stay home from work to care for them and take them to costly dental appointments. In fact, over 34 million school hours are lost each year because of emergency dental care.
So, how do you prevent this nightmare of pain, disease, and increased healthcare costs? It’s simple! By following through with your routine yearly dental check-ups and daily preventative care, you will give your body a big boost in its general health. Check out these tips for a healthy mouth:
- Maintain a regular brushing/flossing routine—Brush and floss teeth twice daily to remove food and plaque from your teeth, and in between your teeth where bacteria thrive.
- Use the right toothbrush—When your bristles are mashed and bent, you aren’t using the best instrument for cleaning your teeth. Make sure to buy a new toothbrush every three months. If you have braces, get a toothbrush that can easily clean around the brackets on your teeth.
- Visit your dentist—Visit your dentist for a check-up every 6 months. He/she will be able to look into that window to your body and keep your mouth clear of bacteria. Your dentist will also be able to alert you to problems they see as a possible warning sign to other health issues, like diabetes, that have a major impact on your overall health and healthcare costs.
- Eat a healthy diet—Staying away from sugary foods and drinks will prevent cavities and tooth decay from the acids produced when bacteria in your mouth comes in contact with sugar. Starches have a similar effect. Eating healthy will reduce your out of pocket costs of fillings, having decayed teeth pulled, and will keep you from the increased health costs of diabetes, obesity-related diseases, and other chronic conditions.
- Drink more water—Water is the best beverage for your overall health—including oral health. Drinking water after every meal can help wash out some of the negative effects of sticky and acidic foods and beverages in between brushes.
A healthy oral hygiene routine will do wonders for your teeth, mouth, and smile from a dental perspective. Oral health is also a key indicator of overall health and well-being. That should keep the rest of your body smiling as well!
January 10, 2022
Ever wonder why the resolutions you make in January don’t stick around after March? You aren’t alone! Studies show that only 8% of people keep their New Year’s resolutions. Why? And how do people achieve their goals set at New Year’s? We’ve broken it down for you so you can identify your goal-breaker as well as give you some tips on how to make those resolutions stick.
There are three main reasons that New Year’s resolutions fail. The first goal-breaker is taking on too much (too big of a goal) and expecting it to happen too fast. Researchers have found that it takes 66 days to break a habit. That’s much higher than the previously published 21 days. It conversely means that it also takes 66 days to form a new habit. So, battle your goal-breaker by setting smaller, achievable goals to focus your energies on rather than spreading yourself too thin on lofty goals.
The second reason you fail to keep your resolution is you don’t have anyone supporting you. This could be because you simply didn’t tell anyone that you have new life goals. It could also be due to fear of accountability. You need some life-cheerleaders that root you on to victory. These cheerleaders also call you out when you are riding off the tracks. Their support isn’t tied to your achievement of your goals but instead their support is firmly tied to you and they want to see you succeed.
The last goal-breaker setting a goal that is too vague. You can’t get to your destination if you don’t know where you are going. A goal like “I want to try harder at work” or “I want to save more money this year” is too general a notion that does not give you something specific to work towards or a well-defined path to follow. And if you can’t provide specific benchmarks, you can’t measure your progress.
Now, let’s steer this ship back on course with some tips on KEEPING your New Year’s resolutions.
To ensure success, plan ahead so you can have the resources available when you need them. Then, you won’t have excuses for why you can’t follow through. Here are a few things you can do to prepare:
- Read up on it – Get books on the subject. Whether it’s taking up running or becoming a vegetarian, there are books to help you prepare for it.
- Plan for success – Get everything you need so things will go smoothly. If you are taking up running, make sure you have the clothes, shoes, and playlists so that you are ready to get started.
Reward Yourself Along the Way
Small rewards are great encouragement to keep you going during the hardest first days. After that, you can try to reward yourself once a week with a lunch with a friend, a nap, or whatever makes you tick. Later, you can change the rewards to monthly and even pick an anniversary reward!
Write Your Goals Down on Paper
Writing establishes intention but action needs to be taken to achieve your resolution. Have a written account of your goals is a constant reminder to take action. Mark Murphy says “Writing things down doesn’t just help you remember, it makes your mind more efficient by helping you focus on the truly important stuff. And your goals absolutely should qualify as truly important stuff.”
Start When You’re Ready
When you launch your resolution on January 1st, you are making a change based on a calendar date. What are the chances that you’re going to be ready for a life change at exactly the same time the calendar rolls over to a new year? There’s no need to launch your resolution on January 1st or even in January. Start working on your goal when you’re ready. That’s not to say that you need to wait until you feel fully confident before starting (that may never happen). Delaying your goal a few weeks or a few months is better than abandoning it altogether.
Identify Your Purpose
Knowing your “WHAT” (goal) is important but knowing your “WHY” can be just as important when it comes to following through on your intentions. Why do you want to lose weight in 2022? When you put the why to the what, you are truly focused on what matters. “I want to lose weight so that I can play with my children without getting tired and show them that hard work is worth it.” Now, THAT’S a great goal.
Identifying goal-breakers and goal-makers are equally important pieces to achieving what you set out to accomplish, especially with regards to New Year’s resolutions. Commit to making this year the year that your resolution is going to stick!
January 5, 2022
Human Resources leaders are always being asked to look into a crystal ball and predict the future. You probably don’t have any super powers. But your Spidey sense might be telling you that a few trends that are surfacing are likely to stick around through the new year, 2022.
The coronavirus pandemic has changed your work and life. Slowly, things are improving and you’re getting your organization (not to mention yourself) used to the new normal. While you’re settling in (and still having an occasional panic attack, no judgment), you might want to pay special attention to what’s coming next.
Transformation of Human Resources
There’s no doubt that the biggest story of 2021, the Great Resignation, will spill over into 2022. When the pandemic began in 2020, HR leaders suddenly had a seat at the table. You were charged with being the light as people navigated safety protocol and transitioned to remote teams in the darkness. Your stature only continued to grow.
Then, people started quitting jobs in droves. In 2021, you figured out why this was happening. People were tired of low wages, lack of child care and healthcare, and an overall malaise about the kind of work they were doing. Some renamed the era the Great Reshuffling because people were seeking a better fit in their work and more work-life balance. In 2022, you will be determining the best ways to recruit and retain top talent. These strategies won’t be as basic they once were. It will definitely be a case of out with the old and in with the new.
In the wake of the pandemic, employees learned how to be ultra-productive at home. They used the extra time that remote work afforded (without a commute) to enjoy their families, pursue their hobbies, and get in a little me time. People don’t want to give that up. Employees have the leverage now, and they are asking for more flexibility in their schedules. While that’s already happening, some are talking about taking flexibility even further.
All this prompted discussions about the four-day workweek, a concept that has come up before. The debate will continue on into 2022, and some companies may adapt to this schedule to woo recruits and retain employees during what continues to be an historic labor shortage.
Mental Health and Wellness
The pandemic revealed that mental health and wellness is important to everyone. No one is immune to stress, especially during uncertain times. Businesses are recognizing this fact and providing employees with tools for relieving stress, addressing mental illnesses, and preventing burnout. Some companies are offering more flexibility, but they also provide programs. Maybe the employer offers a yoga class or meditation time. Some provide mental health days as part of paid time off (PTO). Employers are going to get more creative and pay more attention to the mental health of their employees moving forward. This will only become a bigger part of HR leadership’s responsibilities.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)
At the height of the pandemic, the world watched the Black Lives Matter protests unfold before their eyes. Many demanded that businesses take a stand and show their support for the movement. By putting the spotlight on injustices related to policing, people began recognizing the lack of representation in leadership and management and even at junior levels.
While diversity had been on the minds of HR leaders for some time already, DEI strategies have risen in terms of priority. In 2022, you can expect DEI to remain at the forefront of recruiting and retention strategies.
The Possibility of More Variants
The Omicron variant swept the nation during the holiday season, and it upended plans for a return to the office for many employers. While some traditionalists are holding out for in-office-only workers and some occupations require going to a physical location to get the job done, the reality is that most companies will have to keep some level of remote work as an option because of the various COVID variants that might surface. Until the pandemic turns into an endemic, some companies will be remote only. Others will remain hybrid workplaces.
Coming up with sufficient strategies on how to collaborate, forge bonds, conduct performance measures, and attain desired results is a must. Of course, there are dreaded conversations to be had about masking up and getting vaccinated. Take a holistic approach, make sure the strategy matches your values, and consider the risks associated with whatever decisions you make.
For the first time in history, four generations (Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Gen Z) are in the workforce at the same time. The differences among the generations – from pop culture references to tech savvy – pop up at the water cooler on a daily basis. The reality is that Millennials and Gen Z hold most of the power. The Boomers are retiring and Gen Xers are the smallest group and often get ignored or forgotten.
In any case, many HR experts focused on the generational differences that influence the success of organizations. The pandemic really brought out some of the profound disagreements, like whether to permit working from home in any city you choose or pushing or a return to the office. Gen Z reportedly delegates to their older superiors, while Millennials take a more middle-of-the-road and even practical approach as they gain esteem and rise to power. These generational gaps will continue into 2022, and you might notice more differences. Certainly, HR leaders are going to be working hard to unite all these groups. After all, DEI efforts should include age variations, too.
By Francesca Di Meglio
Originally posted on HR Exchange Network