By Joshua Weinstein, President of the Employee Benefits & Employer Services Division
My daughter was married in the fall of 2019, and my gift to the newlywed couple was a family trip to Europe in 2020. COVID-19 hit, so the trip is on pause. So, I decided to dip into the trip savings fund and start a new hobby. I landed on personal electric vehicles (PEVs), and most specifically, an electric unicycle (EUC). EUCs are what they sound like, a battery-powered, motorized monowheel.
Wikipedia defines EUCs as: a self-balancing personal transporter with a single wheel. The rider controls the speed by leaning forwards or backwards, and steers by twisting the unit using their feet. The self-balancing mechanism uses gyroscopes and accelerometers in a similar way to that used by the Segway PT.
There’s a learning curve involved, but with the proper safety precautions, and lots of practice, riding an EUC can become an obsessive and fun hobby. They’re even a method of commutation to and from the office, the store, and more. The only thing is… I haven’t started riding yet. My “wheel” is on order, so I’ll owe you all an update in a few weeks.
EUCs are gaining in popularity throughout the world as a low-cost, fun, and zero-emission way of getting around. Enhancements in battery, mechanical, and computer technology allow these wheels to have ranges of 30+ miles on a charge, Bluetooth connectivity to a mobile phone (to adjust settings and preferences), lighting, speakers, and even suspension on the latest models. Top speeds on higher-end units top 40 miles per hour, although I’m preferring a slower pace. Many experts ride off-road, travel up and down stairs, and jump various obstacles and street curbs.
As I await my new EUC, I’ve been researching and ordering the appropriate safety equipment, and I’ll be donned up like a motocross rider before long.
Watch an expert ride off-road:
By Alesha Combs, Account Manager
How do you handle distracting colleagues? You know the ones I’m talking about. They ask you a million questions, half of which they already know the answers to, or could figure out on their own. They’re loud, even when you’re in the middle of a scheduled call or Zoom meeting. They tend to procrastinate and aren’t the most productive members of your team, unless someone is really pushing them to achieve. Some of them even struggle with their own personal hygiene! I’m talking about these new COVID-19 colleagues…your children.
During this pandemic, many of us are making the shift to work from home. While that shift may be wonderful in terms of cutting out commute time and minimizing morning preparations, it does mean for many parents, that their children are their new coworkers. Yes, you love them, but they’re distracting! It’s a full time job to make sure they’re getting their schoolwork and chores done, making good choices, and meeting their goals.
Making sure these small humans are staying emotionally healthy during a very uncertain time, and adjusting to the new normal that’s restricting access to their school, friends, and social activities, is another level of mental distraction. “It takes a village to raise a child”, but right now, you have to manage the overall wellness of your child, without a whole lot of help. How are you managing it? If the answer is less than perfect, then congratulations, you are human.
Kids are used to a highly structured school environment. When parents try to replicate that, what the child may interpret, is their parent telling them what to do… All. Day. Long. This can make kids irritable to even the smallest prompt or redirection. Some common signs that a child is experiencing stress include mood swings, sleep disturbance, over reacting to small problems, bedwetting, nightmares, bullying, defying authority, and lying. Is this ringing any bells? How do you utilize this new opportunity to teach your kids responsibility, self-awareness, and how to be a self-starter, without overwhelming them, and still having enough time to get your work done?
A child geared scheduling device and app called “Goally” could help you accomplish these objectives, while helping your child accomplish theirs. Goally is an electronic scheduling device for children. It is about the size of a chunky cellphone and acts as an interactive planner/scheduler, as well as a goal-tracking device.
Parents create and load their child’s schedule, and Goally prompts the child with each step or task throughout the day. Goally prompts the child with one task or item at a time, with a title, or picture icon for non-readers, and a visual timer. If the child becomes distracted and does not check mark the task in the allowed time, the device audibly prompts them with a pleasant sounding whistle. TIP: I do recommend creating the schedule with the child, not for them, so they maintain a sense of ownership.
Goally also helps your child set and accomplish their goals, by giving a set number of points for each completed task. You and your child work out a system, so they can redeem those points for rewards that you’ve both agreed upon. This teaches children to work towards their short and long-term goals without parents having to “keep score”.
Goally can be used for anything from a morning routine of brushing teeth and getting dressed, to homework, chores, and walking the dog. This tool offers children more independence and stress reduction, by encouraging them to be in control. It also means you don’t have to use your “mom voice”, which is a win for everyone!
I was originally told about Goally by my sister, a Registered Nurse and foster parent. She started using Goally for her 9-year-old daughter, and told me that her daughter “instantly went from daily tantrums and needing 3-5 prompts to get any single task done, to completing entire sets of tasks without any assistance from me. I had extra time to get my own work done.”
Goally is a dedicated device, meaning it only runs the Goally program. This is another positive aspect, as it prevents kids from using the device for games or movies. It costs $299 to purchase, in addition to a $9.99 monthly service fee. The monthly fee includes access to dedicated behavioral specialists, who you can access via phone, text, or email. Goally does offer a 30-day trial and is running quite a few promotional specials in response to COVID-19. It is also eligible for full coverage via a Medicaid waiver.
It may be worth noting that Goally was created as a tool for “neurodiverse” children, however that term encompasses all children. The need that Goally meets is not specific to only children with special needs. I would recommend Goally for children between the cognitive ages of Kindergarten through 5th grade.
We as adult professionals have had years of experience in self-regulation, setting and reaching goals, working well with others, and not leaving our shoes in the middle of the floor. Children are still practicing these skills. Goally helps parents reinforce their child’s positive behaviors and actions, setting them up for future success, while also empowering the child. This checks the box on our parenting goals as well. Check out Goally at: https://goally.co/
By Shayla Dablemont, RISQ Consulting Individual and Family Benefits Consultant
Planning a wedding is stressful enough by itself. Now let’s throw a pandemic into the mix! Most couples put a lot of thought into the specific day they choose to tie the knot. We wanted ours to be as close to our anniversary as possible while still being on a weekend, so that our family and friends can attend.
The average time of engagement for couples is 13 months before getting married and we gave ourselves about six. I was so excited to start planning that I jumped right in. This involved ordering everything possible with our magical date on it. Then BAM covid-19 hits.
Every possible scenario has ran through my head. I thought of postponing the wedding but what would I do with all of the awesome stuff I bought with “July 18, 2020” etched into it. We could cut the guest list down and make it more intimate. I have 200 people RSVP’d. How in the world do I choose?! Let’s get married in HAZMAT suits! Where do I get 200 hazmat suits?
I decided to be selfish…isn’t that allowed for my wedding? I called all of my vendors to get their input. Everyone said pretty much the same thing. “We will help you pick a new date and be there for you if you have to postpone, but if you don’t your wedding day will go off without a hitch.” Positive vibes!
With mandates and recommendations changing so rapidly, I watched and waited it out. I made no decision with the biggest wish being that by the time we get to July 18th we will be back to normal. May 18th rolls around. Two months to go and the Governor announces that Alaska is ready to move into a combined phase 3 and 4. I could have done a cartwheel! Not so fast! The mayor announces much stricter guidelines for opening Anchorage.
I contact my out of state guests and let them know they have to test negative 72 hours before flying here. It’s okay, it’s just another obstacle, we got this! The town is mostly open and I am still waiting and watching in anticipation as the number steadily rise every day. I am not postponing! Everything is going to go as according to planned. It HAS to!
I have kept all of my appointments. It is time to get my trial run to figure out how I will wear my hair on the big day. My hair stylist asks many questions about family and friends, where they are coming from and where they have been. I think she is just making small talk. Then she breaks the news. “Sorry, I am just not comfortable doing your hair on site. You will have to come to the salon.” Now that is a major blow. I really wanted to get ready on site, so that my photographer can get the classic “getting ready photos.” I also did not want to be in any kind of a time crunch, so I had to cancel with my hair stylist.
Again another obstacle. I am working extra hard to stay positive and just see each obstacle that comes as a bump in the road. My day will go off without a hitch and I WILL get hitched!
By Tiffany Stock, Vice President of Marketing & Client Relations
Here at RISQ, we strive to be thought-leaders and pride ourselves on being innovative, flexible and nimble. A big focus of our culture is on innovation and breaking down the silos on what we do and how we do it. This is one of the very cool things about being on the RISQ team but it definitely presents its own set of unique challenges.
In some professional development that I’m currently engaged in, I came across this article by Gary P. Pisano, published in the Harvard Business Review called The Hard Truth About Innovative Cultures. Gary expands on the 5 key tensions that need to be created and managed in order to achieve and sustain an innovative culture.
- Tolerance for Failure but No Tolerance for Incompetence
- Willingness to Experiment but Highly Disciplined
- Psychologically Safe but Brutally Candid
- Collaboration but with Individual Accountability
- Flat but Strong Leadership
How does your organization stack up when it comes to fostering an innovative culture? I encourage you to check out the article to learn more.
By Angela Baker, Account Specialist
Refinishing a piece of furniture is a great way to save money while updating a piece you love. It’s really popular right now to paint classic pieces every color from black to white and everything in between. The popularity and ease of using chalk paint or milk paint makes it stylish and fairly simple.
BUT — what do you do with a piece that has a damaged finish, that can’t be covered with paint? Or if you want to restore the natural wood beauty of a piece? Then, you put on your gloves and get to work refinishing.
I am loving the look of raw wood lately. It is classic and goes with everything. I see more and more of it popping up in catalogs, decorating magazines, and Pinterest. Taking a few bits and pieces that inspire me from retail style and putting my own stamp on them is what takes the “manufactured perfection” out of the equation.
After being inspired by a raw wood table I saw recently I decided I wanted to strip a marketplace find and make it beautiful again. It is much easier to paint, but to get the look I am after furniture stripping is required.
I now know why I haven’t done this in the past, it’s one messy job.
- Wood Stain and Finish Stripper (I used Citristrip which has no harsh chemical smell at all)
- Rubber gloves – thick ones or double up thin pairs.
- Scouring pad or steel wool
- Old paintbrush
- Old toothbrush
- Several old rags
- Mineral Spirits
- Drop cloth or plastic sheeting
I took the cabinet out to my garage, placed it on a plastic sheeting and went to work. First applying a thick layer of Citristrip with an old paintbrush and then allowing it to set overnight. The next day what a goopy sad looking sight, I could tell the stripper had made some action happen. I rolled up my sleeves and started scrubbing with my steel wool dipped in the mineral spirits. I worked in sections to keep the mess to an acceptable level; anyone who knows me knows I don’t DO messes. Once the residue had been scrapped off I went back over the piece with a rag and mineral spirits to remove any left behind. No lie this is one messy job and not going to be my project of choice any time soon but after some elbow grease my cabinet looks 110% better and exactly the look I was wanting.
I will continue to keep my eyes open and be on the hunt for my next project piece, as I want to create a home that is perfect only for me and my family’s life and style.
By Tonya Mott, Vice President of Operations
The month of May is Lyme Disease Awareness month so I figured it’s the perfect time to advocate for my loved ones suffering from the disease and spread awareness.
Last May I wrote a blog post describing my good friend’s battle with Lyme disease and shortly after my husband was diagnosed with the same illness. You can read the article here: Lyme Disease – The Great Imitator
Given our current situation with COVID-19, I’ve wanted to learn more about pandemics and epidemics. What is the difference between the two and how does COVID-19 compare to Cancer, Cardiovascular disease, and Lyme disease. I came across this article: Parallel Pandemics: Covid-19 and Lyme Disease.
Here’s a few excerpts that I found helpful or fascinating:
EPIDEMIC VS. PANDEMIC:
When the amount of disease in a community rises above an expected level, it becomes epidemic in nature, with sudden increases in the number of cases over a larger geographic area than anticipated. Sometimes, an epidemic stays contained to a specific area—but when it extends into other countries and spreads across continents, it becomes a full-blown pandemic.
IS LYME DISEASE A PANDEMIC LIKE COVID-19?
Arguably, yes. (I am paraphrasing.)
HOW ARE PANDEMICS TREATED DIFFERENTLY?
When epidemics evolve into pandemics, the biggest difference is that more governments are involved in and more financial resources – public and private – dedicated to preventing the progression of the disease and, potentially, treating the people who have it. Unfortunately, this is where similarities between COVID-19 and Lyme disease diverge. Unlike for COVID-19, there is no concerted and comprehensive effort to stem the global increase in TBDs (Tick-borne diseases) or to treat patients suffering from them.
Although Lyme disease patients do not suffer the same infection and mortality rates as those with COVID-19, the long-term consequences of prior infection associated Lyme disease can encompass arthritis, carditis, and neurological complications, particularly cognitive deficit and neuropsychiatric disorders. Collectively, such debilitating and chronic symptomatology leads to diminished quality of life and the increased likelihood of depression and suicidality.
In my attempt to understand our reaction to COVID-19 in comparison to other diseases, I also came across this chart (https://ourworldindata.org/cancer):
Disclaimer, I’m not trying to minimize COVID-19, I’m just trying to understand how it compares to other diseases as far the world’s response, the government’s role, and our own personal steps taken to mitigate the spread. My only conclusion is, if we can come together like we are now to stop a novel coronavirus then imagine the differences we could make in slowing the spread of these other diseases.
By Jennifer Outcelt, Account Specialist
It’s been about 6 months since the Coronavirus hit our radar. Since then, our work lives (awe, let’s face it, our WHOLE lives) have been turned upside down. Our time is now spent pivoting our goals, engineering endless workarounds, avoiding people (while desperately wanting to be near them), and frankly, doing a ton of emotional parkour. So, I bet you’re probably nearing the end of some type of rope by now. While I can’t lobotomize the part of your brain that is FREAKING THE HECK OUT, I can help you control one of the few things left that you still have control over: Your immediate workspace. I’d like to introduce you to the concept of Knolling. I use this method to control my physical and digital workspaces and it helps me create a more Zen work environment. Yeah, you know you could use some Zen.
Ahh, the art of Knolling. No known knowledge of Knolling? No worries. Here’s a helpful link to explain who, what, when, where, how and why. Knolling helps you control your physical space by grouping, and aligning like objects (both tangible and digital) into clear workable units. It provides an aesthetically pleasing overview of everything you are about to work with. Think of it as laying things out to give you a bird’s eye view of all your materials, all at once. While the result of Knolling aids you in working through a project, the act of Knolling is quite peaceful and calming.
Chances are you already do this in some aspects of your life, though you may never have thought much about it. Ever try to assemble Ikea furniture? Maybe you first took all screws and laid them out to count if you had enough. Then, maybe you found all the bolts and made a pile of those too. Perhaps then, you gathered the washers and created an array next to the bolts. Did you group all the draw fronts together and nest all the drawer handles next to them? Congrats! You know how to Knoll! If you have ever employed this method to put together an Ikea dresser, then I bet it went a whole lot smoother than you expected, AND you are still happily married to your Ikea construction partner!
“But Jennifer, I’m not a professional Ikea furniture assembler! I work at a desk (that I didn’t assemble) on a computer with windows and apps! You said this would help me!” That’s right, I did. Way to listen! I use the knolling concepts on my desk and in my digital work as well. Each morning, before starting my day, I clean off my desk getting rid of anything I won’t be using that day. Then, I arrange all the things that are left at 90-degree angles. This keeps my physical space LEAN, clean, and mean(ingful). No visual clutter equals a Zen work mind.
When it comes to the digital world, you have to get a bit more creative. I’ve created a perpetual Knolling environment on my computer screen. It ebbs, it flows, but it maintains a Knoll like structure. For example; I always keep my email window in the top right corner of my desktop screen and I always keep my folder window in the bottom left corner on my desktop screen. These windows shall not be moved! If I open a new folder window, it goes parallel to the existing one. If I open a new email window, it goes parallel to the main one. I can’t begin to explain the stress involved with tracking down windows when you have 20 open at once. If I know that an email will always appear in the upper right corner of my screen, I can train my eyes to always go to that spot. If I always know where to look when accessing a certain type of window, then my digital landscape becomes very organized. I can move quickly from window to window and avoid the searching for that one lost browser window. Because I know it’s always in the bottom right corner on my screen with the rest of them.
So how do you feel about this Knolling process? If you’re unsure, just meditate on the extreme Zen like feelings of satisfaction you get when looking at these pictures. Don’t you wish you felt that way at your desk too?
By Ashley Snodgrass, Executive Account Manager
The single greatest improvement to libraries in the last few years, is the addition of digital libraries. Digital libraries allow you to check out eBooks and audiobooks online, which enables you to easily read and return books. If this sounds like a hassle, it is not. It is much easier than you think – easier than actually driving down to the library, actually. Additionally, in many communities, libraries are still closed but through digital libraries, you can still access new content from the comfort of your own smartphone.
If you have a library card, you can easily access this resource through an app called Libby. (Note: some libraries don’t require library cards, you can learn more about that at this link). Through Libby, you can download eBooks and audiobooks to your smartphone for free. It works a lot like a regular library – with only a certain number of copies available, and a due date when the content will expire. For popular titles that are currently checked out, you can place a hold on the book, just like the in-person library. I recommend sorting by available books, and be sure to set your search preference to eBooks or audiobooks. You can also sort by genre, search by author or scan through Librarian recommendation. Whether you’re looking for a book on leadership, teamwork, a biography, or even Harry Potter, I am confident there is something for everyone at the library… even digitally.
Hidden Pitfalls Under the FMLA
June 18, 2020 | 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM AKDT
The FMLA is one of the most complex laws for Human Resources departments to properly administer. These
complexities are magnified when the lesser utilized provisions of the FMLA are implicated. This webinar is intended
to highlight some of the less well-known pitfalls associated with FMLA administration and some best practices to
avoid compliance concerns.
Click Here to Register or to Learn More- https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/9083448593681047310