As employers prepare post-COVID-19 workplaces, supporting employees’ mental health can be as critical as creating a safe physical environment. Safety measures, such as sanitizing protocols and respiratory hygiene, are vital considerations for physical wellness. Taking a broader view of employee health that also includes emotional and social wellness can help employees manage uncertainty, engage in the workplace and adjust to a “new normal.”
Focusing on mental health is especially important during the readjustment phase. Employees may bring new stressors after weeks of sheltering in place that employers need to consider – from fear of infection at work to personal issues, such as child care concerns or substance abuse. Some may have delayed medical care, while others may be feeling financial stress or mourning lost loved ones. Others may be feeling the toll on their mental health in the form of anxiety, sleeplessness or depression.
Emotional and Social Reintegration in the Age of COVID-19
“These uncertain times are stressful, and we know that stress can lead to poor performance and poor health,” said Dr. Marcos Iglesias, Medical Director at Travelers. “Now is the time to start conversations about the future and drafting a road map that works for your organization.”
As COVID-19 restrictions are gradually lifted, recognizing employees’ emotional and social health can help them reintegrate into the workforce and allow employers to offer additional resources when needed. Here are some strategies to help support mental health as employees return to work:
1. Practice Clear and Frequent Communication
Communicating with employees about plans to reopen can help keep them engaged and provide a sense of normalcy. Employees will want to hear about their company’s response plans, from social distancing to wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as details about workforce and financial stability.
“It is important for employees to know what to expect as they return to the workplace,” Dr. Iglesias said. “That can help remove some of the uncertainty and reassure employees that you have their best interest in mind.”
When you share public health and safety information with employees, it should come from credible sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), state health departments, and reputable medical organizations and journals.
2. Train Supervisors to Recognize At-Risk Employees
While many employees will be fine once they return to work, there may be some who have a harder time reentering the workplace and readjusting. Supervisors and managers can play a critical role in communicating with employees, providing stability and recognizing signs of distress. A recent study shows that 57% of workers are comfortable with their manager asking them about their mental health and 41% want their manager to proactively ask them.
It’s crucial that supervisors and managers are trained in how to recognize employees who may be in distress and to know when and how to intervene. A simple, “Are you okay?” may open the door to better communication and provide an opportunity to gauge an employee’s mental health risk.
Supervisors can also create a welcoming environment for employees who may be returning in a modified duty role or who may have recovered from COVID-19 and may fear being stigmatized. Setting expectations and having clear communication can help these employees readjust to the workplace.
3. Evaluate Flexible Work Arrangements
Employers may want to consider flexible work arrangements, such as adjusted schedules and remote working when possible. These may be necessary during reintegration to reduce stress for those dealing with personal and family issues, such as school closures or caring for loved ones. Companies may also need to reconsider their policies for paid time off, sick leave, leaves of absence, disability and bereavement, based on unique situations that their employees face. Continuing the open communication once employees return can help address challenges and identify solutions.
4. Consider Workplace Accommodations
Returning to work may create anxiety for some due to social proximity, especially when using shared workstations, shared dining space and food prep areas. Employees may ask for accommodations, such as separate work areas, physical barriers, face masks, PPE, cleaning equipment and working from home. This may be especially important for certain employees, such as those with chronic medical conditions and those over age 60.
5. Provide Access to Mental Health Resources
Employers must have available mental health resources for employees in need. This may take the form of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or a referral to external organizations that can provide crisis intervention, counseling or other assistance. Easy access to and promotion of a company’s EAP can help provide many helpful resources – not just mental health – to employees in need.
The COVID-19 pandemic has activated a surge in the use of telehealth, including remote and virtual interactions between individuals and healthcare providers. Access to telehealth can be an important part of an effective strategy for facilitating care to employees post COVID-19, and may offer an efficient alternative to in-person rehabilitation, addiction and mental health appointments. Resilience training may also help employees feel more empowered as they return to work.
There may be cases when urgent intervention is needed: suicide risk and threats of violence. Employees need to know how to identify this risk and what to do in these crisis situations, and providing them with a plan is imperative.
Every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hundreds of people in the U.S. die from carbon-monoxide (CO) poisoning—and the invisible, odorless gas sickens thousands more.
The numbers seem even more tragic when you consider that most of these deaths and illnesses are preventable. Here are tips from the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to help protect yourself and your loved ones at home and work.
In general, the same precautions for homes apply here, but there are a few additional considerations for the workplace, particularly one where gas-powered machinery is used:
Whether you’re at home or work, always be on the lookout for symptoms of CO exposure: They include dizziness, drowsiness, headaches and nausea. If you suspect an issue, leave the area as soon as possible and call 911—because when it comes to CO, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Disability insurance is not always top of mind for people — many of us likely think that it's only needed in the event of a serious accident or diagnosis. In truth, Disability Insurance is important for everyone.
According to the U.S. Social Security Administration, 1 in 4 of today’s 20-year-olds will become disabled during their working years. In addition, Guardian’s Workplace Benefits Study also reveals that 55 percent of employees found the financial impact of their disability incident to be major or devastating. Despite these statistics, only 54 percent of working Americans have disability—down from 65 percent in 2017.
The Theodore & Associates team wants to showcase the value of disability insurance for both employees and employers thinking about offering this key benefit.
1) Disability insurance can increase employees' financial security
Research shows that 66 percent of employees whose disability happened more than six years ago feel that they still have not completely recovered financially. However, more than half of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, which means they are unprepared to go without a single paycheck should they be out on disability. Disability insurance can help alleviate some of the financial strain caused by unexpected disabilities.
2) Disability insurance can be customized to your specific company's size, needs, and financial portfolio.
Employer-sponsored programs have features such as online enrollment, seamless payroll deduction and no medical exam requirement to enroll. This makes disability insurance efficient and attractive to employees.
But if your company cannot provide an employer-sponsored benefit, you may be able to provide access via an employee-funded disability insurance product. This helps shift the cost to the employees, yet helps demonstrate an employer’s commitment to enhancing their employees’ financial security. It’s a win-win.
3) Disability insurance can help integrate absence management
One critical component of an effective disability management program can be the integration of absence management capabilities. As more states pass paid leave laws, more companies need help navigating the complexities of absence management. Managing absences is a demanding job for even the most sophisticated HR teams. More worrisome is that if employers mismanage absences, they leave themselves open to costly lawsuits, fines, misuse of leaves and other issues. A well put together disability insurance plan can help deliver a holistic, integrated plan that includes both disability and absence management for their clients.
4) Disability insurance can boost employee satisfaction and retention
Research validates that utilizing disability insurance can sway employee perceptions of employers and enhance overall employee satisfaction (71 percent versus 54 percent). Employees with disability insurance—especially if they had it at the time of their incident—are more satisfied with their employee benefits and much more likely to feel that their company cares about them.
Additionally, a positive experience with a return to work (RtW) program can go even further to bolster an employee’s perception of its employer. For example, 70 percent said they feel their company cares for them after completing a RtW program. This is notable and something to consider when speaking with carriers about a RtW program, how it’s implemented, and its success rate. There’s a lot of value for both the employer and employee in helping employees return to work through an effective RtW program.
These are just some of the many benefits of one of the most misunderstood employee benefits available. For business owners and employees alike, there are misconceptions about not just the necessity but also the cost of disability insurance.
If you're considering offering a disability insurance benefit but have questions, or if you want to make sure your plan is still right for you, the Theodore & Associates team can help. Together, we'll explore a plan that works for your business and financial goals. Contact us today to start the conversation.
Did you know that hundreds of thousands of people in the United States commute to work by bicycle, according to the U.S. Census Bureau? That’s a lot of cars off the road each day, a lot of gasoline saved and a ton of calories burned.
Maybe you’re a bicycle commuter already — or maybe you want to give it a try. These tips from the League of American Bicyclists and other organizations will help you prepare for the challenges you’ll face on your way to work. (We’ve included a few tips for drivers, too.)
Bonus tips for drivers: Stay on the lookout for cyclists. When you see them, be patient — they have a right to the road, too. If you park on the street, check behind you before opening doors. And, always remember that your significant size and speed advantage can be deadly in an accident.
Cars and bicycles can, in fact, peacefully coexist on the roads. All it takes is a little preparation and a lot of awareness, along with some understanding thrown in for good measure.
If you’re biking to work, we may be able to help you get a special discount on your car insurance for driving your vehicle less. Call today for details!
Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.
There are lots of things no one wants to talk about – disability insurance is one of them. But the longer you ignore it, the less protected you are against long term financial risks due to unexpected illnesses and injuries.
Read on for guidance and answers to common questions about disability insurance. This information can help you get started and make the best decision based on your specific needs.
1. If you have people who depend on your income – or if you depend on your income – you need disability insurance. You might be surprised to learn that social security disability benefits are not available if you are expected to be out of work for less than a year. One year without income could deplete your savings and have a significant impact on your finances.
2. Disability insurance replaces a portion of your income when you can’t work. If you were unable to work due to illness or injury, disability insurance can help to pay your most essential expenses, including food, utilities, school tuition, home and car payments.
3. Most long-term absences are due to illnesses, not accidents. While many people think that disabilities are typically caused by accidents, the majority of long-term absences are actually due to illness.
4. You need it even if you’re young and healthy. Almost 1 in 4 of today’s 20 year-olds will become disabled before reaching age 67. What’s more, it’s easier and less expensive to get disability insurance when you’re young and healthy.
5. The risk of a disability during your working years may be greater than you think. The risk of suffering a disabling illness or injury may be more likely than you realize. In fact, at least one in four of today’s 20-year-olds can expect to be out of work for at least a year because of a disabling before they reach retirement age. Disability insurance helps you maintain a steady stream of income when you can’t work due to illness or injury.
6. A good rule of thumb is to protect 60-80% of your after-tax income. You will need to meet your essential living expenses if you should become disabled. 72% of consumer expenditures cover essential needs like housing, food, transportation, health care and education. This easy-to-use Disability Needs Calculator can help determine what amount of disability insurance is most appropriate for your situation.
7. Some disability insurance is better than no disability insurance. When budgets are especially tight, it still makes sense to buy enough disability insurance to cover rent or mortgage payments and keep your family in their home should you become disabled. Disability insurance is more affordable than you may think. For example, a healthy 35 year-old male may obtain a $1,000 monthly benefit for an initial premium of approximately $25 per month.
8. Make sure you know how much disability insurance you get at work. Check to see if disability coverage is made available to you through your employee benefits package. You might want to look carefully at coverage, however, since group benefits alone may not be enough due to potential benefit limitations and types of income covered.
9. There is no substitute for good advice. Seek advice on how much insurance is right for your needs. Talk to a trained financial professional or perform research online. Whichever approach works best for you, taking action to protect you and your family with disability insurance is an important part of a strong financial plan.
10. The financial strength and reputation of the company you buy from matters. When you purchase disability insurance, the company you buy from is making a long-term commitment to you. If you become disabled, there is a chance you will receive benefits for an extended period of time, so it makes sense to buy from a company with experience, financial strength and a solid reputation.
Call us today to talk about getting you a Disability Insurance quote!