Health Insurance Wish List

I’ve seen health insurance from all sides now: as an employee and as a self-insured sole proprietor; fully insured, underinsured and briefly uninsured. Believe me, uninsured is not something I wanted. At the time, a quarter of my income or more went out to health insurance even though I was healthy by any definition.

Our health system is evolving and maybe someday no one will need to be uninsured or underinsured again. In the meantime, if I could wave a magic wand and have anything I wanted in my health insurance, I would have:

  • More preventative care
  • Dental and vision coverage
  • Mental health coverage
  • Visiting nurse visits for children, those with handicaps or older people who have trouble getting to the doctor’s office

Yes, they’re expensive programs but that’s my wish list. What’s on your wish list? Share your ideas here or on LinkedIn at Let’s Talk Health Care.

Disclosure: I’ve partnered with Harvard Pilgrim on this sponsored post. However, the thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. You can find more ways to be well at HarvardPilgrim.org/CountUsIn and Let’s Talk Health Care.

 

The Right to Say “No” in Your Career

We are gradually emerging from a period of high unemployment and back into a season of turmoil, where neither employers nor employees expect to stay in one job for their entire life. In fact, some hiring managers view one-job candidates with skepticism, believing they lack flexibility and are too wedded to a single culture and practice.

And all that urging to push the envelope, develop one’s brand, move with the times, exceed expectations creates stress. Have we lost the right to say NO?

No, we do not want that promotion into a job that requires more of our time and energy. No, we do not want to take on yet another special project that interferes with our main tasks. No, we do not want to shift into another department where we lack expertise. No, we are not interested in more education, another company “initiative” that goes nowhere or becoming either a mentor or mentee.

The downside for companies who insist on a YES is an employee who is not only working below (or against) potential but is very likely to quit to escape an unwelcome situation; and replacing employees is costly. Yet, the situation might work for both parties with the proper support and training–with steps similar to those we suggested in a previous post.

Has NO become an impossible word in your work life?

What do you recommend to address or avoid the resulting stress?

Tell your story here or on LinkedIn at Let’s Talk Health Care.

Disclosure: I’ve partnered with Harvard Pilgrim on this sponsored post. However, the thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. You can find more ways to be well at HarvardPilgrim.org/CountUsIn and Let’s Talk Health Care.

Reducing Workplace Stress: Practical Steps Employers Can Take

When people discuss workplace stress, they often focus on bad managers (a leading reason for quitting a job), harassing environments and uncertainty about their future. Employers may throw up their hands in defeat: managers are harder to find than staff, they can’t be everywhere to stop harassment and the economy is out of their control. What to do?

First, take a look at your training. Have you trained your managers in leadership skills or trained staff in the skills they need for their current job or to move on to more responsible positions? Training builds confidence and efficiency. An internal mentorship program may help if professional training is impossible.

Second, review your employee handbook. Is it clear in defining responsibilities and in the procedures for complaining about abuse or harassment? Are you applying policies uniformly? Inconsistent policies are not only stressful for staff, they are stressful for managers who have to improvise in every situation and then deal with the resulting frustration.

Third, consider opening up about the company’s financial status, plans, failures and successes. I’ve worked in companies where the C-level leadership made an art out of deluging employees with empty words rather than share one iota of real information. Other executives are so silent about their efforts on behalf of employees and the company that they might as well do nothing; their staff has no opportunity to share in successes or contribute to improvements. Employees who work in the dark are working under stress.

The cost of stress in turnover, not to mention its effect on health, is huge. In the effort to reduce stress, the three practical steps above are a good start.

I’d like to hear your advice for reducing stress. Leave your comments here or on LinkedIn at Let’s Talk Health Care.

Disclosure: I’ve partnered with Harvard Pilgrim on this sponsored post. However, the thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. You can find more ways to be well at HarvardPilgrim.org/CountUsIn and Let’s Talk Health Care.

 

How Women’s Health Differs from Men’s Health in the Workplace

We all know that on average women live longer than men. We all know that women and men have different incidences of certain diseases or conditions–for example, men are more likely to be color blind. But when we think of health differences that uniquely affect women in the workplace, most of us would automatically mention “pregnancy” and quit.

However, according to various studies from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Society for Women’s Health Research and other organizations, women are also more prone to many other conditions at work, including repetitive strain disorders (such as carpel tunnel syndrome), respiratory diseases, anxiety and stress. Part of the difference reflects the fact that many more women than men hold insecure part-time, temporary or contingent jobs. Fear over losing their jobs may make women less willing to speak up about conditions leading to workplace injuries, diseases or stress.

In addition, male bosses may be less responsive to the complaints of female workers simply because the male bosses aren’t as affected by those conditions.

Have you noticed a difference at work in the health concerns of men and women? Should companies be addressing this difference? Let us know what you think at Let’s Talk Health Care.

Disclosure: I’ve partnered with Harvard Pilgrim on this sponsored post. However, the thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. You can find more ways to be well at HarvardPilgrim.org/CountUsIn and Let’s Talk Health Care.

Keeping Morale Up during Down Times

The effect of a layoff on the surviving company’s staff can hobble a company for months: low morale, loss of trust and higher stress as fewer people handle more work, not to mention the loss of intellectual property and years of experience.

One of the few low points in my own corporate career occurred after a layoff when a manager assured those of us who remained that we were “the best of the best.” I suppose he intended to compliment us, but his comment felt like a slur against our friends and coworkers who had just lost their jobs.

Employees who are adjusting to a layoff may need time to mourn the loss of colleagues; training to take on different tasks; a re-evaluation of goals, expectations and timelines; and one-on-one time to honestly talk through the effects of the change.

What policies does your company follow to ease the effects of a layoff? Leave your comments here or join the discussion on LinkedIn at Let’s Talk Health Care.

Disclosure: I’ve partnered with Harvard Pilgrim on this sponsored post. However, the thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. You can find more ways to be well at HarvardPilgrim.org/CountUsIn and Let’s Talk Health Care

 

Workplace Incentives for a Healthier Life?

As a recent discussion on LinkedIn showed, there’s a strong resistance to employers involving themselves in the health of their employees by providing negative incentives, such as charging more for insurance if the employee is engaging in unhealthy behaviors. But positive incentives do receive support. Which of the following incentives would you accept or consider at your workplace?

  • Computer programs that prompt employees to get up a stretch
  • Onsite gym
  • Healthy choices in vending machines or lunch areas
  • A regular exercise break
  • Information, such as health tips in the company newsletter
  • Competitions that focus on health issues (for example, rewards for walking a given distance each week)
  • A company athletic team

Do you have other suggestions? Let us know what you think at Let’s Talk Health Care.

Disclosure: I’ve partnered with Harvard Pilgrim on this sponsored post. However, the thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. You can find more ways to be well at HarvardPilgrim.org/CountUsIn and Let’s Talk Health Care.

Your Exercise Buddy, the Computer

I have a program on my computer that prompts me at intervals to stand up, stretch, move my limbs and re-focus my eyes. It’s a wonderful program for promoting health, it only takes a few moments to set up and use–and I constantly ignore it. I’ve diagnosed the problem as inertia: a body working at a computer tends to remain at work.

That being said, similar programs to promote employee exercise are easy to install, a pleasure to use and reasonably priced (search for “computer programs for exercising at workstations” or a similar phrase).

Then there are the Wii™ type games simulating tennis, bowling, baseball, dancing and other physical activities. In addition, weight loss and personal training gurus have generated online self-help software faster than Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons once created DVDs. An outsider might think that the age of computers brought in a world-wide evolution toward healthier, more active lifestyles. Ah, well.

But what is your experience? Does computer software have a role in your workplace and your life to increase your physical activity and health? Leave your comments here or join the discussion on LinkedIn at Let’s Talk Health Care.

Disclosure: I’ve partnered with Harvard Pilgrim on this sponsored post. However, the thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. You can find more ways to be well at HarvardPilgrim.org/CountUsIn and Let’s Talk Health Care.

 

Wellness at Work: Keeping Healthy Employees Healthy and Sick Employees Away

Now that I am a sole proprietor of a business, if I fall ill at work, I don’t drag down anyone else’s health. But back when I was working for corporations, I often came to the office coughing, sneezing and needing a nap during the day to keep functioning.

I came to work because deadlines didn’t change to accommodate illness; and sick days were valuable and hoarded. I needed them, not only to care for myself, but to care for my family during bouts of chicken pox, flu and those horrible colds that circulate from one family member to the next. So instead, I contributed to the circulation of germs at work, from one employee to the next.

Sick employees mean less productivity and, yes, missed deadlines; every company has an interest in the wellness of its employees.

But what can and should companies do to stop sick employees from infecting healthy employees? Please join the discussion on LinkedIn.

Disclosure: I’ve partnered with Harvard Pilgrim on this sponsored post. However, the thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. You can find more ways to be well at HarvardPilgrim.org/CountUsIn and Let’s Talk Health Care.

Making the Workplace Healthier: What Is on Your Wish Llist?

When you consider that I’m barely over five feet tall, you’ll understand why, on my wish list for a healthier workplace, ergonomics ranks pretty high. Standard office desks are too tall; I have to raise my chair to properly fit the desk and then put a boxlid under my feet to prevent them from dangling. With unlimited resources and control over a work environment, I would allow employees to design their own work spaces, whether that involved a standing desk, a yoga ball for a chair or a designer boxlid underfoot.

When I was a young mother, onsite child care would have beaten out ergonomics. The search for affordable, dependable and happy child care consumed energy and time. Even after my child reached school age, I needed to arrange for before school or after school babysitters. Onsite child care would have eased a lot of stress and distraction.

What would be on your wish list if you had unlimited resources to make your workplace healthier? Check out the discussion on LinkedIn.

Disclosure: I’ve partnered with Harvard Pilgrim on this sponsored post. However, the thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. You can find more ways to be well at HarvardPilgrim.org/CountUsIn and Let’s Talk Health Care.

 

 

Employee Assistance Programs in the Workplace: Do They Help?

Long ago, I asked the advice of an Employee Assistance Program in dealing with odd behavior shown by one of my subordinates. EAP suggested a course of action–which immediately plunged me into hot water. My manager was annoyed that the EAP solution didn’t involve him. I was caught in the middle between an employee’s need for privacy and a manager’s need to be prepared.

That was my only experience with EAP but it reinforced a theme that often comes up when professionals discuss Employee Assistance Programs: the EAP isn’t understood, it isn’t trusted and, because of its limited view into office life, it may become yet another cause of stress rather than a solution.

Is that your experience? If so, is there anything you can recommend to make the EAP concept work?

Disclosure: I’ve partnered with Harvard Pilgrim on this sponsored post. However, the thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. You can find more ways to be well at HarvardPilgrim.org/CountUsIn and Let’s Talk Health Care