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March 30, 2010

April Health & Wellness Observances and Events

April is a busy month for health & wellness observances. We've gathered a few links and resources to help with your wellness communication programs.

Alcohol Awareness Month
Cancer Control Month
Autism Awareness Month
Child Abuse Prevention Month
Donate Life Month
Irritable Bowel Syndrome Awareness Month
Minority Health Month
Sexual Assault Awarenss Month
Sexually Transmitted Infections Month
Stress Awareness Month

Specific dates
April 2 - National Walk to Work Day
April 7 - World Health Day
April 15 - Tax Day
April 16 - often observed in the U.S. as "National Stress Day"
April 20 - SAAM Day (formerly A Day to End Sexual Violence)
April 21 - Administrative Professionals Day
April 22 - Earth Day

March 25, 2010

News briefs: health care reform, lessons from Hollywood, interns, & more

Health care reform
At the Washington Post, Ezra Klein explains how the exchanges work. Also see How big is the bill, really?

For employers, Anne Freedman of Human Resource Executive suggests that uncertainty reigns. While most changes for employers won't be in effect until 2014 to 2018, she outlines some changes that go into effect this year.

The New York Times Prescription blog answers reader questions on the Health Care overhaul

At Kaiser Health News, Phil Galewitz offers a Consumers Guide to Health Reform. Kate Steadman and Julie Appleby talk about the immediate effects of the Health Reform Bill.

The Washington Post offers a cost calculator to help consumers learn the impact on their situation: What does the health care bill mean to me?

Specifics about the legislation - from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's page

U.S.A. Today looks at how health care overhaul affects taxpayers.

Kaiser Family Foundation has excellent information on health reform and its implications.

Other news of note
What you can learn from the movies - At Harvard Business Review Blogs, Rebecca Keegan looks at Avatar director James Cameron's business leadership style: " ...Cameron rarely fires people. "Firing is too merciful," he says. Instead he tests their endurance for long hours, hard tasks, and harsh criticism. Survivors tend to surprise themselves by turning in the best work of their careers, and signing on for Cameron's next project."

Campus violence - Assessing the campus threat - a risk management counselor says that workplace violence threat assessment teams are in place at most universities since the 2008 Virginia Tech shootings - but the challenge is in how to get people to report potential threats safely and legally.

Post recession landscape? How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America - the introduction to The Atlantic's article by Don Peck says that while the recession may be winding down, an era of high joblessness is probably just beginning, and it will likely change the life course and character of a generation of young adults and the character of our society for years to come.

Compensation costs - Employer costs for employee compensation - December 2009 (PDF) - Private industry employers spent an average of $27.42 per hour worked for total employee compensation in December 2009, according to a report issued last week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Wages and salaries accounted for 70.8 of these costs, while benefits accounted for 29.2%. Of the benefits, 8.2% were for the cost of legally mandated benefits.

Planning for summer interns? HR Morning offers a set of 6 ironclad rules from the DOL about interns - noting that a violation of these rules could result in fines or legal fees.

Bad employees of the month - We've heard some creative excuses for why an employee needs to miss work, but one put forth by an officer at the Pasco County Sheriff's Office takes the prize. We should say former officer.

March 21, 2010

How to stifle creativity in 14 steps or fewer

Youngme Moon, the Donald K. David Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, offers her take on common organizational innovation and creativity inhibitors in this short presentation, The Anti-Creativity Checklist. In the comment section of her posting, readers offer their own lists.

My Anti-Creativity Checklist from Youngme Moon on Vimeo.

March 17, 2010

Work-Life Balance and Flex Work

The line between employees' work lives and personal lives is shifting. A growing number of U.S. workplaces are adapting to the needs and wants of a changing workforce. This week, NPR looks at these trends in an excellent series on flex-work and work-life balance. The broadcast of each segment lasts just under 8 minutes; print articles are also available. Each segment has also elicited an interesting range of comments from listeners, which are worth exploring.

Part 1: When Employers Make Room For Work-Life Balance - with enhanced technology and changing employee attitudes, rigid work schedules make less and less sense. Experts say that the traditional 9 to 5 40-hour work week was designed for an era when one parent worked, and Moms stayed home with children, but in most families today, both parents work. Combine this with a young, mobile, "untethered" workforce and other changing work factors. Increasingly, employers are offering a range of flex work options to meet these changing needs.

Part 2: The End of 9 To 5: When Work Is Anytime - a case study of the Hennepin County offices that are experimenting with a results-only work environment, or ROWE, which gives everyone in a company the freedom to do their job when and where they want, as long as the work gets done. Is it working? Productivity has jumped. In one example, a 2.5 week processing backlog was reduced to under 5 days. Hennepin County is not alone: It's estimated that about 3% of all workplaces are now practicing ROWE, the ultimate in flexible schedules. There is a sidebar adjunct to the article that lists the ROWE Basics.

Part 3: How To Make Shift Work Family Friendly - National Institutes of Health staff members are studying and working with low wage employers to help them understand that more flexibility for their employee is in their best interest - particularly in terms of health and wellness. They conducted research with employees at Best Buy headquarters, which had implemented an aggressive flexible work program, and also at grocery stores, hotels and nursing homes. Employees with the most rigid managers "had about a two-fold risk of having two or more cardiovascular risk factors and slept about 30 minutes less per night than people whose managers were more open and creative."

Related resources
Can Working Moms Have it All? Ha!
Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE)
Workplace flexibility programs on the rise

March 13, 2010

Wellness: March is save your vision month

In the course of the work day today, about 2,000 workers will suffer a work-related eye injury which requires medical treatment. According the the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 36,000 eye injuries require time away from work each year. More accidents happen on Wednesday than any other day of the week. Chemical burns are the top injury, followed by cuts, lacerations and punctures. And with nearly half of all Americans using a computer or smart phone each day, eye strain is a growing complaint.

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), most eye injuries are preventable. In a press release marking March as Save Your Vision Month, they offer tips for preventing eye injuries at work. They also suggest preventative steps, such as visits for a complete eye exam every two years. Most health insurance plans include periodic eye exams and some employers also offer supplementary vision benefits. Eye safety and eye health are an important part of a comprehensive wellness program, but studies show that vision benefits are often underutilized and employees show a lack of understanding about the importance of preventative care. That's too bad, because eye exams can often be an early warning system for detecting diabetes, hypertension, and cholesterol.

Tips to ease eye strain
Included in their release, AOA offers the following tips to protect your eyes and reduce eye strain when using a computer:

  • Give It A Rest: Remember the 20-20-20 rule. At least every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look at something 20 feet away. The Eye-Q® survey found that the majority of Americans don't follow this rule; more than half (59 percent) take breaks every hour, or less frequently.
  • Size Up: Smaller screens on hand-held devices usually favor tiny type that challenges your vision. Instead of bringing the screen closer to the eyes, increase the font size so the device can be used at a distance that is more comfortable for your eyes.
  • Sharpen Up: Better resolution offers greater clarity and usually more comfort. Adjust the brightness of the screen to a comfortable intensity, neither too bright nor too dim.
  • Reduce Glare: Hand-held devices present challenges in various lighting conditions. When possible, try to make sure lighting is not directly behind the head or in front. The AOA recommends users try to reduce glare, which may ease reading and can make a bigger difference than increasing the font.
  • Look Down: It's easier on the eyes to focus on reading material that is below eye level, therefore, the AOA recommends a computer monitor or hand-held device be positioned slightly below eye level.

Additional resources for eye health and safety
One of the best sites we've found for eye safety is an extensive list of Eye Safety and Health links and resources compiled by Oklahoma State University's Environmental Health & Safety department. These include work-related topics about eye protection and eye safety, as well as resources for general eye health.

Eye strain
22 ways to reduce eye strain at your computer
Computer eye strain - 10 steps for relief
How to relieve computer eye strain

Other occupational eye safety resources
Eye safety - from NIOSH
Workplace Eye Safety - from Prevent Blindness
Ten Ways to Prevent Eye Injuries at Work - from Prevent Blindness
Eye Safety Tool Box - from NIOSH
Eye and Face Protection e-Tool - from OSHA

March 8, 2010

Alabama and Indiana lawmakers OK "guns at work"

Employers in Alabama and Indiana take note: if you have policies that forbid weapons on company property, including parking lots, you will need to be amending your handbooks. Legislatures in those states have recently restricted employer private property rights by passing laws that allow employees to keep guns in locked cars in company parking lots.

In Alabama, at the urging of the NRA, the senate voted 26 to 2 to allow guns in cars at work. The Business Council of Alabama and other employer groups opposed the law.

The news article reporting this story notes that the vote came two weeks after a professor Amy Bishop was charged with fatally shooting three colleagues at the University of Alabama. The bill exempts electric utilities at the request of Alabama Power Co., as well as universities and other public employers. The fact that Bishop had a gun despite policies against guns shows that prohibitions are not necessarily effective.

Last week, Indiana legislators passed a similar measure allowing guns in work parking lots:

"As a lobbyist from the National Rifle Association watched from the gallery Thursday, the House voted 75-20 in favor of the bill. A few hours later, the Senate voted for it 41-9.

They couldn't have timed it any worse. The next day, an angry worker at the Department of Workforce Development in Portage walked out to his car, grabbed a 12-gauge shotgun, and fired into his office. No one was hurt."

The incident that the article describes -- an employee who retrieved a gun from his car and opened fire after a job review -- is an example of a scenario that many employers have said they fear:
On Friday, 16 employees were in the office in a strip mall located in the downtown area, police said. The suspect had been called into a manager's office for a job review, became upset, left the building and took a 12-gauge semiautomatic shotgun from his vehicle and returned to the building, Portage police Sgt. Keith Hughes said.
In Indiana, there are exemptions to the law: "Employers will still be able to ban guns from parking lots at schools, child-care facilities, domestic-violence shelters, jails, private residences, chemical facilities subject to federal anti-terrorism standards, nuclear facilities, investor-owned utilities' generation and transmission facilities, and in personal vehicles used to transport people with developmental disabilities."

It's also worth noting that most state and federal chambers where such decisions are made are exempt from the so-called "guns at work" laws.

Texas vetoed similar legislation
Last June, the state legislature in Texas voted against a similar "guns at work" law. In addition, in the face of strong student and administration protests against such a measure, the Texas legislature rejected a "guns on campus" bill. Since the Virginia Tech campus massacre, similar bills have surfaced in various states around the country, but to our knowledge, all have been defeated. Utah is currently the only state that allows concealed weapon permit holders to carry guns on university and colleges campuses. (See more about Guns on campus)

State gun laws
We can't vouch for how current or accurate any of these sources are, but here are some resources for researching your state gun laws.
State gun laws - the Brady Campaign
Stare Gun Laws - the NRA
State handgun laws

Prior posts on guns at work
Coming soon to a neighborhood near you: guns in your company parking lot
Florida law: It's now OK to keep guns in your car on work property
Should employers have the right to ban guns at work?

March 5, 2010

News briefs: EEOC suits, parity, quizzes, fun at work, and more

High-dollar EEOC suits - and a new trend
Wal-Mart - $11.7 million in sex discrimination suit - "According to EEOC’s lawsuit, Wal-Mart’s London, Ky., distribution center denied jobs to female applicants from 1998 to February 2005. During that time period, EEOC contends, Wal-Mart regularly hired male entry-level applicants for warehouse positions, but excluded female applicants who were equally or better qualified. The EEOC alleged that Wal-Mart regularly used gender stereotypes in filling entry-level order filler positions. Hiring officials told applicants that order filling positions were not suitable for women, and that they hired mainly 18- to 25-year-old males for order filling positions, EEOC said."

Sears Roebuck & Co. - $6.2 million under ADA - the award will be distributed to 235 former employees who were denied reasonable accommodations when they tried to return to work after workers' compensation-related absences.

Male-Male Sexual Harassment Claims on the Rise - EEOC reports that charges by men have doubled since 1992, accounting for 16% of the 12,696 sexual harassment charges filed in the 2009 fiscal year. Cheesecake Factory learned the hard way with a $1.9 million settlement on a case of this nature in 2008.

Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act - confused about the changes in regulations and your obligations? Listen to Employee Benefit Advisor's 19 minute podcast by benefits attorney Cheryl Risley Hughes: Mental health parity rules: Heavy lifting ahead.

Quiz corner

  • Having trouble communicating with your younger workers? Take the Pew Research Center's how millennial are you? quiz. Compare your answers to nationwide respondents, and see how you stack up against others your age.
  • Now that you know your standing with the millennial crowd, how do you fare with the over 40 set? Take HRHero's short age discrimination quiz to see how well you handle some potentially litigious situations.
A culture of excellence - How do you create a culture of excellence at your workplace? Jason Daley of Entrepreneur looks at the issue, and finds that the common denominator for success is that the person at the very top has to be the motivator-in-chief. His article offers tips and advice from PKM, Atlanta's top accounting firm, which boasts a 98% positive rating from employees, 11% turnover rate and awards for being one of America's psychologically healthiest workplaces. He also cites examples of 10 small to medium-sized companies that are getting it right.

Sign of the times - Even Spider-Man joins the ranks of the unemployed. Maybe somebody out there has an opening for someone with a skill-set like his? He seems pretty talented.

Having fun - Cathy Leibow of Employee Benefit News says that instilling a sense of fun in the workplace builds loyalty and boosts output. She offers some concrete ideas for "fun at work" events. And related to fun, employment law attorney Mark Toth suggests that one of the best ways to avoid needless law disputes it so stay in touch with what your employees are thinking, feeling, and doing. He offers a fun list of potential March Employee Celebrations. (Did you know there was an international Mirth Month?) And if fun is on your agenda, you will want to periodically check in with funsmith Bernie Dekoven's Deep Fun blog for new ideas. On the other hand, some would suggest that the way to happiness is to work like a dog.

Handy privacy tools - This Guide to Facebook security & privacy settings was developed by The Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center to help parents minimize their kids' problems with Facebook - particularly cyberbullying. Even if you aren't a parent, it's good to be aware of some of the pros and cons of the privacy settings. Security experts at Sophos offer a more in-depth guide and recommendations for privacy settings.

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