• Exploring Mental Health Benefits

    May 10, 2021

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    The overall well-being of an employee has never been more of a priority for employers as it is right now. From health care to vision care to mental health care, the entirety of the employee’s health is important to the health of the organization.

    Importance of Mental Health Benefits

    Mental health and the cost of not treating its issues has far-reaching effects from the individual to the global world.

    • If left untreated, an employee’s poor mental health could lead to work related accidents, absenteeism, poor workplace productivity, and even workplace violence.
    • Mental health costs make up about 8% of the US’s total healthcare spending.
    • The National Institute on Mental Health estimates that major mental illness costs the US at least $193 billion per year in lost earnings.
    • Globally, depression and anxiety issues cost about $1 trillion a year.

    Types of Mental Health Benefits

    Mental health benefits can look different for each organization. Universally, businesses offer some sort of Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to its members. EAPs include services that are typically delivered online or by telephone. Services may include alcohol and substance abuse counseling, legal aid, and health and wellness counseling. These services are offered to the employee free of charge and are done anonymously.

    As an extension of basic health care benefits, mental health benefits can also include one-on-one counseling with a licensed counselor for a certain number of sessions.  Mental health benefits may also incorporate wellness programs like relaxation and meditation classes, sleep techniques, and stress management lessons. Check your health insurance benefits package details as you may find mental health insurance coverage included under the behavioral health section.

    During open enrollment, when employers present the employees with the upcoming year’s health insurance plans, the employee should also ask about mental healthcare options. Just as you assess the different healthcare plans and what fits best for you and your family, you can also assess the costs and coverage of mental health plans. Also, find out if your company offers a Flexible Spending Account as you can use that pre-tax money to pay for out-of-pocket mental health service costs.

    Now, more than ever, people are more aware of the benefits to good mental health and how it affects their overall health and work performance.  Utilize the company sponsored EAP offerings and investigate the details of your health insurance plan to find out what mental health services are covered. Your overall health and well-being are important and so are you!

  • The Fundamentals of Performance Management

    May 5, 2021

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    The right performance management process for your organization depends in large part on what you want to accomplish with it and what you’re willing to invest in it. Here are some principles to keep in mind when deciding on your policy and performing assessments:

    • Performance reviews are often stressful and difficult because the employees don’t know how they’ll be evaluated and they’re worried they’ll be surprised with a bad review. But reviews, however often they’re done, shouldn’t be a surprise. If you give employees regular feedback on their performance and address poor performance when it happens, then the review becomes more of a reminder and summary of what employees are doing well and where they have opportunities to improve.
    • Setting clear performance expectations and holding employees accountable to them improves efficiency and productivity. It also improves morale. Conversations with an underperforming employee may be challenging, but allowing poor performance to continue unabated can cause widespread frustration and resentment from coworkers whose work is affected by it. Ignoring poor performance only compounds the problem.
    • Employees are more likely to take ownership over their performance goals if they have a role in defining those goals.
    • Connecting performance measures to company objectives and values can increase employees’ sense of purpose and engagement by drawing a direct correlation between their individual work and performance and your collective success as a company.
    • It’s helpful to structure performance evaluation meetings and conversations around the specific expectations set in the job description to ensure that the discussion is directly applicable to that employee’s particular job duties.
    • Documenting performance evaluations can help you justify pay increases, decreases, or other employment decisions like termination that could be challenged as discriminatory. It’s safest to terminate an employee when you have documentation that justifies the legitimate business reasons for the termination.

    By Kyle Cupp

    Originally posted on ThinkHR

  • When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated

    April 28, 2021


    COVID-19 vaccines are effective at protecting you from getting sick. Based on what we know about COVID-19 vaccines, people who have been fully vaccinated can start to do some things that they had stopped doing because of the pandemic.

    We’re still learning how vaccines will affect the spread of COVID-19. After you’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you should keep taking precautions—like wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces—in public places until we know more.

    These recommendations can help you make decisions about daily activities after you are fully vaccinated. They are not intended for healthcare settings.

    What You Can Start to Do

    If you’ve been fully vaccinated:

    • You can gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart.
    • You can gather indoors with unvaccinated people of any age from one other household (for example, visiting with relatives who all live together) without masks or staying 6 feet apart, unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
    • If you travel in the United States, you do not need to get tested before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel.
    • You need to pay close attention to the situation at your international destination before traveling outside the United States.
      • You do NOT need to get tested before leaving the United States unless your destination requires it.
      • You still need to show a negative test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before boarding a flight to the United States.
      • You should still get tested 3-5 days after international travel.
      • You do NOT need to self-quarantine after arriving in the United States.
    • If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms.
      • However, if you live in a group setting (like a correctional or detention facility or group home) and are around someone who has COVID-19, you should still stay away from others for 14 days and get tested, even if you don’t have symptoms.

    What You Should Keep Doing

    For now, if you’ve been fully vaccinated:

    • You should still take steps to protect yourself and others in many situations, like wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces. Take these precautions whenever you are:
    • You should still avoid medium or large-sized gatherings.
    • If you travel, you should still take steps to protect yourself and others. You will still be required to wear a mask on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States, and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations. Fully vaccinated international travelers arriving in the United States are still required to get tested within 3 days of their flight (or show documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 3 months) and should still get tested 3-5 days after their trip.
    • You should still watch out for symptoms of COVID-19, especially if you’ve been around someone who is sick. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should get tested and stay home and away from others.
    • You will still need to follow guidance at your workplace.

    What We Know and What We’re Still Learning

    • We know that COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing COVID-19 disease, especially severe illness and death.
      • We’re still learning how effective the vaccines are against variants of the virus that causes COVID-19. Early data show the vaccines may work against some variants but could be less effective against others.
    • We know that other prevention steps help stop the spread of COVID-19, and that these steps are still important, even as vaccines are being distributed.
      • We’re still learning how well COVID-19 vaccines keep people from spreading the disease.
      • Early data show that the vaccines may help keep people from spreading COVID-19, but we are learning more as more people get vaccinated.
    • We’re still learning how long COVID-19 vaccines can protect people.
    • As we know more, CDC will continue to update our recommendations for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

    Until we know more about those questions, everyone—even people who’ve had their vaccines—should continue taking steps to protect themselves and others when recommended.

    Originally posted on

  • Exploring Vision Insurance

    April 19, 2021

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    According to WebMD, the eyes are the most highly developed sensory organs in your body. They report that more of your brain is dedicated to the sense of sight than to all of the other senses combined. So, it makes sense that you would do all that you can to protect and care for these important organs. Vision insurance can be a great asset as you work keep your eyes healthy.

    What is vision insurance?

    Vision insurance is an insurance product used to reduce the costs of eye-related care, eye products, and eye surgeries. Group vision plans are typically purchased through employers, associations, or government programs like Medicare or Medicaid.  Sometimes, vision plans are part of a value-added benefit that is linked to the subscriber’s health insurance. Plan subscribers usually receive free eye care, like annual eye exams, and a fixed discount on eye wear in exchange for a monthly premium. This type of coverage is recommended for people who need vision correction devices, who have a family history of eye issues, or for those who have a higher risk of eye disease, like diabetics.

    What is a vision discount program?

    Different from vision insurance, a vision discount program gives users discounts on eye exam services and products. The monthly premium is lower for discount programs but does not generally include free annual eye exams like vision insurance does. When the user buys into the discount program, they become a member of a large group for whom the program administrators have negotiated lower costs. Discount programs are most useful for those without pre-existing eye conditions.

    What are the benefits of having vision coverage?

    As mentioned before, your eyes are the most complex sensory organ in your body. Because of this, they are important to keep healthy and in good working condition. Vision coverage allows the user to have annual eye exams. At these exams, the optometrist determines if you need corrective lenses to improve your eyesight by means of glasses or contact lenses. The doctor will also check for eye diseases. Exams can even detect hidden medical conditions like brain tumors, rheumatoid arthritis, high blood pressure, or thyroid disease. If a medical condition is detected, the optometrist will refer the patient to a medical doctor for further tests and treatment.

    Vision insurance and discount programs play a huge part in keeping your eyes healthy. Through regular eye exams, not only are your eyes evaluated, but the health of the rest of your body is, too. By scheduling eye exams, you are also able to obtain corrective eye wear that allow you to see clearer and without eye strain. Healthy vision is a benefit you don’t want to lose!

  • Benefits of Remote Onboarding

    April 14, 2021

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    Remote Onboarding Success Plan

    Remote workplaces have become very commonplace in our world today. In fact, a PwC survey of 669 CEOs, 78% agree that remote work is here for the long-term. As a result, remote onboarding has become part of the normal Human Resources operation in companies. Let’s dive into what remote onboarding looks like and some benefits and challenges of this new way of welcoming employees to the team.

    What is onboarding?

    Onboarding is the process of welcoming new employees to the company and introducing them to the company culture of their new employer. Onboarding is different from training in that training focuses on the policies and procedures of the job while onboarding is more focused on integrating the new hire to the team and helping them develop relationships within the workplace.  Remote onboarding has the same focus but everything is done online through Zoom or other virtual meeting platforms. Onboarding is also not a one-time event. It’s a process that takes multiple days and an ongoing commitment to truly acclimate the new employee to the department.

    Challenges of remote onboarding

    Connecting virtually with others can have its challenges. Coordinating the entire team’s schedule to welcome new hires as they arrive on the team can be hard. This same challenge happens as the team attempts to continue to build camaraderie with some in-person team members and other remote team members. As many of us have come to understand, working remotely can be very isolating. Throw in joining a new team, and your new hire can feel extremely unengaged. Another challenge is technology set up in a remote environment. When onboarding in person, the IT department can physically be there to issue company technology. Remote onboarding relies on the new employee setting up their own technology or walking through set-up with an IT representative online.

    Tips for remote onboarding success

    Despite the challenges, remote onboarding can be a successful experience. Here are some tips to overcome some of these obstacles and make your new hire feel engaged and part of the team by the end of their remote onboarding process.

    1. Set up a kick-off video call with your entire team to welcome the new member. By having a video call, you make it easier for names and faces to connect. Video welcome calls also allow the new hire to see the enthusiasm in the faces of their new team and begin to build an emotional connection.
    2. Provide an organizational chart so that the remote employee understands the reporting lines in the company. Additionally, consider including pictures of those included on the chart so they can put faces to names. Another great way to go to the next level to connect with the new hire would be to pre-record quick welcome videos by the high-level execs and send them via email.
    3. Introduce the new employee to the company via email or social media. Do a simple “Getting to Know You” interview with them so you can share some interesting facts about this new team member.
    4. Regularly check-in via quick chat messages or video call with your remote new hire to find out if they have any questions or concerns in their first week(s). By having scheduled times where you connect with your new employee, they will have less of a chance to feel alone and will begin to learn your management style.

    According to ServiceNow, “enthusiasm for a job peaks at the start of the job and wanes by 22% shortly thereafter.” Now is the time to capture your new hire’s enthusiasm and encourage its growth. While remote onboarding can be a challenge, it is possible to overcome the obstacles it presents with some careful planning and dedication to its success.

  • The Power of Praise

    April 5, 2021

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    Think for a minute about all you have done today. Now, from that list of tasks, how many would you say you have done well? Again, from the list of tasks you feel you’ve done a good job on, how many were you praised for by your manager or even a co-worker? We all crave approval and praise from others in our life. The workplace is no exception. Praise motivates us to do well and to improve. Praise is necessary and praise is powerful. Follow these easy steps to build an effective habit of praise in your organization.

    The WHY of Praise

    Before we can get into the HOW of praise, let’s touch on the WHY. According to, “Recognition for good work releases dopamine in the brain, which creates feelings of pride and pleasure.” People want to feel like others see them and appreciate them. The praise-giver also receives benefits from this exchange. By giving praise, you get the same sense of satisfaction as you get when making a charitable gift or helping others. An environment of praise-giving is one where individuals work, not just to complete a task and be done, but they work to do a good job and to please their manager with hard work that is done well. Also, in terms of employee engagement, a manager who regularly praises their team, is one who is

    The HOW of Praise

    Giving praise is easy and, if you follow these simple tips, it is also an effective tool to motivate and encourage those in your workplace.

    Make it QUICK

    When you notice something that should be recognized with praise, do it immediately. The more time that passes between the event and the recognition, the less powerful the praise becomes. Make it a habit that when you see good work or good behavior, you stop what you are doing and give praise.

    Make it SPECIFIC

    Now that you have recognized the behavior or project that deserves praise, you’ll want to make the praise specific. Offering a vague compliment like, “You did good” doesn’t truly speak to the specific action that is praise-worthy. Instead, make your words of affirmation ones that point to a specific instance like, “The logo you created for the Milestone marketing project was clean and really inventive.”

    Make it GENUINE

    You may be tempted to adopt this new praise policy and start doling out compliments left and right like a praise shotgun, but, don’t. Disingenuous praise is almost as bad, if not worse, than no praise at all. You can tell if someone is making a forced comment or one that has no thought behind it. Instead, make sure the praise is given with a genuine heart and tone.

    Create a CULTURE of praise

    As you fine tune the act of giving praise in your workplace, your final task is to create a culture of praise-giving. When you build this culture, and everyone is actively involved in recognizing their peers, you will find the morale and engagement in your office is lifted higher. Increased morale and engagement also increase productivity, lowers absenteeism, and lowers turnover.

    Praise is incredibly powerful. Praise has the power to motivate, encourage, and build. By following the simple tips outlined here, you can unleash the power of praise in your organization and in your life and reap the benefits to both the giver and receiver.

  • Back to Basics 3 Simple Tips for Building Healthy Kids

    March 31, 2021

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    Do these promises sound familiar?

    “When I have kids, I’ll never let them eat XYZ.”

    “My kids will always eat whatever I put in front of them.”

    “Our family will never eat out all the time.”

    We’ve all said them at some point in our lives and, whether we’ve started a family or are still in the process of building one, we’ve probably all broken those same promises! We read the books. We talk to other parents. We watch all the educational programs. And, the truth we universally learn is that raising healthy kids is hard work! Between getting them to eat healthy foods and encouraging them to get enough exercise, it’s a full-time job.  So, what can we do to make it simpler? Let’s get back to basics and look at 3 tips that can get our kids on track to healthy living.


    Perhaps the easiest way to help kids make better food choices is to control what food is stocked in your home. If your pantry is full of sugary (albeit delicious) foods, then guess what the little humans in your home are going to eat when they are hungry (or bored)? Sugar is addictive and so the habit of reaching for food filled with this ingredient a by-product of this addiction. Remove the sugar-filled food and like Ole Mother Hubbard, when they go to fetch a sugar snack, they’ll find the cupboard is bare. Replace the sugar-filled food with granola bars, low-fat chips, easily-accessible cut-up fruits and veggies, yogurt, etc. and they’ll learn to grab these healthier options when they are hungry!


    The folks under your roof tend to watch what you do. They watch what you eat and why you eat it. Be a role model for your people and make smart food choices regarding the type of food you put on your plate and how much of it you consume. If you are always eating high-fat, high-calorie, fast food then guess what they assume is the right things to eat? Did you know those eyes are also watching WHY you eat? If you use food to help you de-stress or when you are sad, they will follow your example. Do you assign your feelings of happiness to food? You will have kids who will think food makes them happy. Make sure that how you behave around food points those who are closely watching you towards healthy actions.


    Make kids a part of the decision-making process for meals during the week. Children will be more likely to eat the food you place in front of them if they get to help plan out some of the meals. Make a “Family Favorites” list that everyone gets to contribute a couple ideas towards whether it’s favorite breakfasts, dinners, or even snacks. Next, ask the idea-generator to assist in making that food choice for the family. Having a hand in creating the meal gets you buy-in from your assistant. Finally, get everyone up and moving whether it’s to visit a new park after school, take an after-dinner walk, or go exploring on some local trails over the weekend. Move together and you’ll make memories as you do it!

    You can start building healthy kids by following these 3 simple tips. By stocking your home with healthy food choices, being a food-behavior model, and involving your family in planning, making, and moving, you will find yourself on the path to success!


    Here are some useful links to help you take the first steps towards raising healthy kids.

    Healthy Breakfasts

    Healthy Lunches

    MyPlate Kids

  • Exploring Year-Round Benefits Engagement

    March 22, 2021

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    Just as with any good, healthy relationship, communication with employees is key. Only communicating with employees regarding their benefits package during open enrollment will most definitely result in them not taking full advantage of all it has to offer. In an effort to assist employees in understanding and maximizing their benefits, companies should use a year-round benefits engagement strategy.  Let’s explore some simple ways to set up your annual communication plan.


    As you begin crafting your engagement plan, think of the overall goal you want to accomplish. Perhaps you simply want your employees to be better educated on their plan offerings. Maybe you’d like to reduce the number of questions that employees ask during open enrollment meetings. Or, maybe you want your employees to utilize a certain plan benefit that has been historically underused resulting in higher costs to the employee or the company. Whatever the case, first set your goal for the communication plan.


    Now that you have an end-goal in mind, start thinking of how frequently you want to communicate.  Schedule your communication moments to post consistently. Maybe you start a “Benefits Minute” that hits the first Monday of the month. Or, start a “Benefits Blog” that posts every other Friday. Whatever the case, make the communication happen on a schedule so that employees know when to expect it and know what it’s called.


    Wordy emails, drawn-out meetings, and forever long phone messages will quickly get ignored and deleted. Instead, follow this simple formula when crafting your communication:

    1. Here’s what you need to know about your benefits.

    Give a quick overview of the benefit you are focusing on for this particular communication.

    1. Here’s why it’s important that you know this.

    In a few short sentences, explain how this benefit benefits the employee whether it be a cost savings, time savings, or simply a great help to them.

          3.  Here’s what you need to do to find out more.

    Provide a way to find out more information on this benefit by giving a link, an email address, or a phone number.


    Communication isn’t one-size-fits-all. People learn in different ways—some may be visual learners while others may be oral learners. Make sure you mix up the way you communicate to cover both types. Also, change up the method of communication. Try emails, explainer videos, printed flyers, and quick, stand-up meetings. By using a variety of methods, you are able to engage a broader audience since your company is comprised of a range of ages, genders, learners, and tech users.

    Engaging in a regular, year-round communication strategy for explaining employee benefits will support both the company as well as the employee. Set your strategy in motion by following the simple tips shared here. And, when you do this, you will see that your employees will reap the benefits of a healthy understanding of their benefit plan.

  • How to Help Employees Communicate More Effectively

    March 15, 2021

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    In an ideal world, communication would be easy. We’d immediately know exactly what to say or write. Emails, Slack messages, and reply threads would practically write themselves. And there’d be no confusion about what anyone meant, ever.

    Of course, communication never works that way. We stare at the computer screen trying to decide how to begin an email. We misspeak or garble our words. We don’t always convey exactly what we intend. We misunderstand, overlook, or forget information we’ve been given. We also sometimes read emotions into words that weren’t what the writer was feeling. Or we pack our speech with such an emotional punch that it distracts from the point we’re trying to make.

    Written communication often exacerbates these issues, a fact that has many leaders worried since more people are working remotely and relying on the written word to do their jobs. It’s no secret that we spend far too much time on email and other communication tools.

    Fortunately, you don’t necessarily need to hire a writing coach to teach your employees better writing skills—although this can in some cases be a good idea. You can significantly improve communication in your organization by asking your employees to consider the following practices in their written communications:

    Break up long sentences and paragraphs. A big unbroken block of text is likely to befuddle your reader before they even get to the first word. Long sentences and paragraphs also make comprehension and retention of information much more difficult. Note the differences in these two communications:

    Sample 1: I support the goals outlined in the proposal you sent to me yesterday, especially the need to better define appropriate metrics around the solicitation of customer satisfaction scores, and I want to thank you for the thought you gave to proposing workable solutions, but I’m not sure if all of the proposed solutions will work at this time. Let’s discuss it all at our next check-in.

    Sample 2: Thank you for sending the proposal yesterday. I appreciate the thought you put into it. I agree with you about the goals, especially what you wrote about customer satisfaction scores. The solutions you proposed, however, may be a challenge to implement right away. Let’s discuss the proposal at our next check-in.

    These samples provide the same information, but the second is easier to follow and digest.

    Use clear, concrete terms. Vague words, convoluted ideas, and broad generalizations make for easy miscommunication. Your reader will be more likely to understand your meaning if your language is specific. Remember too that just because something is clear to you doesn’t necessarily mean it will be clear to your reader. Compare these two statements:

    Sample 1: Would you be able to review the thing I sent you earlier?

    Sample 2: Here’s the letter for Anil I told you about this morning. Would you be able to proofread it for typos by the end of the day?

    The first sample is likely to cause confusion and frustration if the recipient has recently received a lot of “things” from the writer or other people. In contrast, the second sample makes the context and the requested task clear to the reader.

    Provide context and direction when adding someone to a conversation. Most of us have had the experience of receiving a forwarded email that we’re not immediately sure what to do with. Should we keep it as a reference? Read through the thread? Respond in some way? We haven’t been told. Don’t do this. You should clue the reader in to what the conversation entails and what they need to know and do in response. Compare:

    Sample 1: Please see below. What do you think?

    Sample 2: Please read through the conversation below and note the product request from Oliver. Is that something you can add to your work this week?

    The first sample is likely to prompt the recipient to weigh in on the wrong subject or ask the writer for clarification before responding, wasting valuable time either way. The second sample gives clear instruction, saving time.

    Avoid unnecessary details. While some context is useful, too much can overwhelm the reader and add to the time it takes for the communication to be written, read, and acted on.

    Sample 1: I ran into Lindsay in the lunchroom and asked her about the Paterson deal. She asked me to follow up with her after her lunch break, which I did, and she gave me permission to start on the outline. She seemed a little aggravated that I interrupted her lunch. Anyway, I need to respond to a few emails before I get started on it, but I will get to it after and have it to you and her by close of business today.

    Sample 2: I got the go ahead from Lindsay on the Paterson deal. I’m working on the outline and will email it to you and her by close of business today.

    The first sample likely has too much information. The writer may have felt like including the extra details because they felt bad about asking Lindsay to work on her lunch break, but unless there’s a good reason for the recipient to know those details, they’re best left out.

    Save difficult or emotionally intense conversations for calls, video conferences, or in-person meetings. These conversations usually require more finesse than written text can provide. If you anticipate a strong emotional response to what you have to say, or if you believe the person with whom you’ll be communicating may read strong emotions into what you have to say, don’t write to them. Talk it through instead. Let them hear your voice and listen carefully to theirs.

    By Kyle Cupp

    Originally posted on

  • There’s a mandate – wait, there’s a mandate? I thought the federal…, this is for the state | by Jordan Shields, Partner

    March 12, 2021

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    Despite the actions taken by the Trump administration to override the Affordable Care Act requirements of having citizens have and show medical coverage, the state of California passed its own mandate.  The penalties are not particularly onerous but are larger than what the ACA had.



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