By Madasin Jennings, Account Specialist
Most renters and homeowners have one thing in common: neighbors. Nearly everyone must live next to someone and there is nothing worse than being uncomfortable in your own home. This led me to think that the foundation of any great home, whether you own it or rent it, begins with being a good neighbor. So, what does this entail exactly and why is it so important?
While attempting to figure this out in my own life, the first thing that comes to mind is the golden rule: treat others the way you want to be treated. I began analyzing my thoughts on what I considered to be the ideal neighbor. I would want to live next to someone who is friendly. Someone I could trust to help with things like keeping an eye on my home while I’m on vacation but also understands boundaries and respects my time and space. Someone who is considerate when it comes to things like noise pollution and curb appeal.
Applying the golden rule to my ideal neighbor means I must be friendly, trusting, helpful, respectful, and considerate. The importance in being a good neighbor could be different for each household, but all could reap the same reward of a welcoming home in a community you can trust and appreciate. It might not always be easy and could very well take you out of your comfort zone but if you keep these five qualities in mind and treat others the way you want to be treated, they might just do exactly that. It is important to remember every situation will be different and there might not be such a thing as the perfect neighbor, but if you hold yourself accountable to being friendly, trusting, helpful, respectful, and considerate, you can begin building the foundation to a great home.
By Ashley Snodgrass, Executive Account Manager
Have you ever wanted to peek over your neighbor’s fence to get a better view of their garden? Maybe look at their blossoming peonies, size up their tomato plants, or get a clue as to why their grass is always the greenest? There’s something similar that happens in the world of employee benefits; one of the most asked questions by my clients is, “How do my company’s employee benefits compare to what other companies are offering?” In today’s environment where the battle for qualified talent is raging, knowledge of how your benefits stack up is crucial, because the stakes are much higher than neighborhood gardening.
In 2021, we’ve all felt the impact of the worker shortage in several industries. I think it’s helpful to compare the worker shortage to the housing market. As the housing market fluctuates, the market fluctuates between a seller’s market and a buyer’s market. This is all driven by supply and demand. When the inventory (supply) of homes is high, and there are fewer buyers (low demand), sellers are more likely to drop price, pay closing costs for buyers, and make upgrades to meet the buyer’s needs. Oppositely, when the supply of homes is low and there are more buyers (high demand), there is strong competition for homes. Buyers must be aggressive by paying higher prices, offering flexible terms, and accepting homes in “as is” condition.
Let’s consider how this is similar to the employment market. When there are fewer qualified workers searching for jobs, companies must consider raising wages, offering more flexibility, better benefits, and more educational and mentorship opportunities. Compare this to times of the past when the number of job seekers was higher; employees would accept long commutes, sub-par benefits, or a lower salary just to have a chance at any job, and hopefully move up sometime in the future. Some economists view labor as a commodity, which is why the labor market is subject to the fluctuations of supply and demand.
While this is perhaps an oversimplified explanation, and doesn’t account for a variables that impact the market such as COVID-19 related safety concerns, available unemployment benefits, and childcare challenges, it helps to demonstrate that hiring in 2021 is different than prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is why employers must know how their employee benefits compare to other options employees may find when exploring benefits packages that come with employment offers.
Benchmarking is the industry term for comparing what an employer offers to employers in similar industries and geographies. Benchmarking data can be provided by insurance brokerages, insurance companies, and third-party research firms. Most studies look at common plan facets like deductibles, coinsurance, out of pocket maximums, employee cost, employer costs, and types of benefits offered. Some surveys expand beyond insurance benefits and focus on other employee rewards such as Paid Time Off, Parental Leave, Retirement, and Wellness Benefits.
Looking to get an insight into your own health plan? Data isn’t always “Apples to Apples”. Here are a few points to consider when comparing data to what your own company offers:
- Geography – Insurance premium pricing is based on the cost of healthcare in that region (Example: Premiums in Alaska are higher than average because healthcare costs are higher than average, and therefore it wouldn’t be correct to compare Alaska costs to a low cost state like Arkansas, and draw any meaningful conclusions).
- Industry – In sectors where there is greater competition for talent, benefits are more generous. Employees in highly technical industries will demand richer benefits.
- Company Size – Size of company aligns with purchasing power, so be aware that larger companies may be able to offer more benefits or special programs than smaller employers. Additionally, groups under 50 employees are provided rates strictly based on the age of the employees, whereas larger companies pay costs based on claims. Costs for smaller companies may be higher simply if the population is older.
- Employer Type (Meaning Private vs. Public Entities or Union vs. Non-Union benefits) – Different types of employers may have different rules to abide by, or other options available to them, that aren’t available to all employers. Try to compare your company with employers who are most similar to your own to control for variables like high-quality Government benefits, or Collectively Bargained benefits
- Funding Mechanism – Fully Insured plan costs are not comparable to Self-Funded plan costs. Fully Insured rates come from the insurance carriers and the rates are set. Self-Funded plans have additional options to implement cost controls and care management programs.
Ask your RISQ Consulting Team to help provide you with some information that can help your own organization. Brokerages typically have access to reports beyond what is available for free online. Here are a couple great resources to check out to get started:
By Casey Kirkeby, Strategy Consultant
For some people, this may remind them of that pivotal episode of Mad Men when Don Draper mentioned that, in Greek, nostalgia literally means “the pain from an old wound.” Man, I love that show. For others, it may remind them of a time in the past when they watched a commercial that made them want a product like Lifesavers because of the jingle or the picture of the packaging.
Living in the millennial generation, everyone is very skeptical when it comes to marketing but for me, I am an old soul. Technically, I am an older Millennial (born in ‘84) and I welcome that nostalgic feeling when it comes to products and it is probably why I am the ultimate consumer.
Nostalgia, to me, brings up emotions and sentimentality that is more powerful than any memory and this can be true for marketing a product. Creating an emotional bond with a product from a consumer level connects in more ways than if you have no experience with that product. That is why when people sell a product; they are trying to sell an experience at the same time. It could be a time, place, or occasion where that person bought a product and that is what they will relate to in their mind. When they recall that experience, it puts that product at the top of the consumer’s mind. Next, the consumer goes to the store or shop to buy that product and they know exactly what they want because they know precisely how they will feel after they use or consume it.
One of the biggest takeaways from this article I had is sending the right message of nostalgia but also adding something new to stay relevant. Targeting multiple audiences can be difficult and everyone has a connection to an experience in a different way. To market it successfully, figure out a commonality between the past and future of that product while aligning with the current customer of today.
By Casey Kirkeby, Strategy Consultant
For the last 7 years I’ve attended countless networking events, after hours and fundraisers and it has helped me create a network of friends and colleagues that really care about our community. 2020 was a very challenging year because everything was virtually virtual (see what I did there), even the meetings and events.
Now that everything is opening back up in Alaska, we’re getting back to in-person networking and events. The Anchorage Chamber of Commerce is in full force and striving to reconnect people and the community. I remember someone said once “If I want to find out more about the city I’m visiting, I track down the local Chamber of Commerce website and check out their events page”.
Here is a link to the current events happening this summer: Anchorage Chamber of Commerce Networking Events
By Bailey Penrose, Employer Services Account Manager
Marijuana is becoming a problem, y’all. Not from any philosophical or moral viewpoint (that’s an individual’s point of view and out of my purview) but from an employment standpoint. As it currently stands, 36 US states and 4 US territories have legalized cannabis products for medicinal use; 18 US states, 2 US territories, and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis products for recreational use. On the flip side, on the federal level the use of cannabis products for either medicinal or recreational purposes is totally illegal.
The divide between state and federal regulation is causing some distinct headaches as employers and individual’s try to understand which standard to follow. We don’t have to look very far to see examples of this. Just look at the headlines from the beginning of July, where athlete Sha’Carri Richardson ran afoul of differing rules:
Guidance is still coming, but I’m afraid it’s going to be a little bumpy as the US feels it’s way through the quagmire. Please see the articles included here for more information on how these regulations realistically apply to employers and their employees.
By Alesha Combs, Account Manager
Kids only know what they’re taught. What were you taught as a child and what do you want to teach your children? Think back to your 4- or 5-year-old self. For me, at that time, there was an emphasis on learning the ABCs and 123s, science, manners, and learning how to read; these all took center stage. But what about social and emotional intelligence? Many of us were taught to be kind, and were made aware of the different types of emotions that exist, but too often the extent of children’s education regarding emotion is classification of the emotions that are “good” and socially appropriate, or “bad” and should be suppressed. All emotions are valid. Even if you’re never taught to identify them, you can bet you’ll have the opportunity to feel the full range of them over the course of a lifetime.
Fast forward to your adult life. You’re responsible for dealing with a range responsibilities and life’s unknowns. These will evoke strong emotions and you’re now responsible for dealing with them, well…like an adult. You use the tools you were given and taught in your formative years as the baseline for managing these things, and you sharpen the edges of these tools as you grow and receive more opportunities to use them. So do you let yourself experience your emotions fully, or do they make you uncomfortable? Do you know how to respond in a healthy way when you experience those dreaded “bad” emotions like stress, anger, grief, anxiety, fear, insecurity, or envy, or are you still working on it?
Emotion is an unavoidable part of life. The self-help industry continues to grow, as adults seek out new ways of improving themselves and learning how to live and enjoy life. Unavoidably, this includes learning how to manage our emotions. The self-help industry is projected to reach a net worth of 13 billion dollars by 2022. Be honest, how many self-help classified books do you have sitting on your bookshelf? Now how many are sitting on your child’s bookshelf, and how often are you talking to them about their feelings in a positive manner, versus in response to negative behavior?
Author and illustrator Diane Alber has created a wonderful range of interactive children’s books and toys all focused on helping children build their confidence and promote their social and emotional intelligence. She’s created a series of interactive stories, focused on the emotions that we all experience. These books provide children with tools that can be easily implemented to help engage and encourage mindfulness in the way they understand and respond to their feelings. I recommend the “A Little Spot of Emotion Box Set”. Diane even provides access to an Educator Guide, which parents can use as a tool to help chaperone their children through this learning process and help them receive the most from it.
Parents are given an opportunity to learn when they take the time to teach their child(ren). Diane Alber’s books are primarily geared towards children ages 4-8, but the fundamentals of emotional intelligence are a welcome reminder for all ages. Give yourself a break from that 400-page Self-Help book that you feel guilty (ah emotion!) for not finishing, even though it’s been sitting on your table untouched for the last who knows how long, and give your inner-child a refresher on the basics. You can check out and purchase Diane Alber’s books online at https://www.dianealber.com/.
By Alison Nelson, Sales and Marketing Coordinator
A couple weeks ago, I wandered over to a colleague’s desk where we started chatting up a storm of, non-work related, topics. A few minutes into our conversation, the Employee Benefits President of the company walked by and asked me what I was up to. I told him that I was taking a break. His only response was “that’s good, enjoy”, and I did. I chatted with my colleague for a while longer before I returned to my desk to tackle a report that I was working on. I didn’t think much of it until recently when a friend called me to vent about how she got in trouble with her boss for, well, doing the exact same thing I did.
If you’ve been following The Vantage Point, you probably have realized that RISQ prides itself on our unique leadership style and company culture. We’re not micromanaged, discouraged from socializing, and even goofing off isn’t frowned upon. The only caveat is that our work needs to be done correctly, on time, and, above all else, clients come first. While this rule may sometimes seem like insanity, especially when there’s a nerf-gun battle, someone is hopping around on an exercise ball, or you can’t reach the coffee maker because there is a string at eye-level from a string/cup phone that someone decided to make (and yes, all of those things have happened), there is a method to this madness.
Taking regular breaks throughout the day can reduce employee stress, increase motivation, and improve engagement. All of which makes for a more productive workforce. According to this article, regular breaks can even help you process and retain information, help you get a better sense of the big-picture, and even inspire creativity! Still aren’t sure about letting your employees go break-crazy? Check out the below articles, which also conclude that, in a culture of “go-go-go”, frequently taking a step back, can make all the difference to employees.
By letting your employees take breaks, socialize, and even goof around, you’ll create a fun work environment and increase employee productivity. Sounds like a win-win to me!
You can learn more by clicking the links below-
By Shayla Teague, Individual and Family Benefits Consultant
We all have suffered from a “case of the Mondays,” but what if we could turn all our bad days into good ones? Have you ever noticed that bad days often just get worse? First, you wake up in the morning feeling unrested, then you stumble to the kitchen to find that you are out of coffee. It all just continues to go downhill from there and your mood spirals along with it. You can turn your day around and it all comes down to having the right mindset and the Law of Attraction.
The Law of Attraction is the idea that positive thoughts bring positive results and negative thoughts bring negative results. The true philosophy behind the idea is that thoughts are a form of energy and positive energy brings success. You don’t have to fully believe that in order to make the Law of Attraction work for you. Let’s dig a little deeper.
The Law of Attraction can be broken up into three different laws. The first one is Like Attracts Like. Similar people with similar mindsets attract to each other, and similar thoughts attract similar outcomes. This boils down to what we have already been talking about, that positive attracts positive and negative attracts negative. The second law is Nature Abhors a Vacuum. This means removing negative things from your life will make room for more positive things. The third law is The Present is Always Perfect. You can always do things in the current moment to better your situation. You can find the silver lining or find a solution.
There is another philosophy relating to the Laws of Attraction that adopt seven different laws such as, the Law of Manifestation, the Law of Magnetism and the Law of Harmony. These get a little more into the energy aspect and I prefer to focus on the mindset parts.
I have been practicing the Law of Attraction for approximately the last 2 years. For me, it all comes down to controlling your mindset. There are certainly days that this proves more difficult, but those are also the days where you get the most practice. I have been more purposeful about my thoughts. When a negative thought comes creeping in, I recognize it and think of a positive thought to counteract it. When something stressful in life happens, I look hard for a silver lining. I am working on a complete shift in my self-talk. I am taking away the internal self-deprecation and exchanging it for words of affirmation. It really is not easy, and it takes a lot of practice. It also feels phony and corny at first. However, just like the term, “fake it till you make it,” when you practice enough your mind starts to turn positive automatically and it becomes natural.
Are you ready to turn around your bad days? Here are some things that you can practice:
- Gratefulness and Journaling: Start your morning by writing down 3 things that you are grateful for. End the day with 3 positive things that happened. When you are having a difficult day seeing the silver lining, refer to your journal
- Meditation: Take some time each day to sit in silence. Do your best to clear you mind and just focus on breathing. This is called grounding yourself and when things seem stressful, it is a great way to counteract the stress.
- Practice, Practice, Practice: Be very mindful with your thoughts. When a negative thought creeps in, replace it with a positive one. Instead of focusing on what is wrong, try to accept it as it is or find a solution. Give yourself grace and don’t be over critical. Tell yourself how amazing you are!
“You can’t control people, places, things or situations…but you can control your mindset”
By Alison Nelson, Sales and Marketing Coordinator
Last week, Naomi Osaka, a world-renowned tennis player, withdrew from the French Open. Why would she withdraw from such an important match, resulting in a $15,000 fine? The answer is simple: mental health.
Naomi Osaka explained that she struggles with depression and anxiety and needed to put her health first. Unfortunately, critics were quick to label Osaka a “diva” or even a “special snowflake”. While most of the world applauded Osaka’s stand, and the mediation app, Calm, even offered to pay the fines for any tennis players who skip media appearances due to mental health, the initial critics provided an alarming reminder of the stigma surrounding mental health.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 264 million people suffer from depression and many of those people also have anxiety. WHO also states that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy one trillion U.S. dollars each year in lost productivity. Despite the staggering amount of people who have depression or other mental illnesses, and as the Osaka critics demonstrated, the negative stereotypes about mental health are alive and well. Yet, it is because of this stigma that employers can’t afford to stay silent.
Not only is there a direct correlation between mental health and productivity, but according to this article:
- Employees with untreated mental health conditions use nonpsychiatric health care services 3 times more than those who do get treatment.
- Mental illness is the single greatest cause of worker disability worldwide.
- 62% of missed work days can be attributed to mental health conditions.
- Turnover rates are higher for depressed employees, who are 20% to 40% more likely to become unemployed because of their condition.
Below is an image from Kaiser Permanente displaying the cost different between flu prevention and depression intervention.
The cost alone should incentivize employers to make an effort to destigmatize mental health, but how should you go about it? Below is a list from LifeSpeak of 10 ways employers can improve mental health in the workplace and you can read the full LifeSpeak article here.
- Speak candidly about mental health. The first step to beating the stigma is to stop treating mental illness as taboo. Whether it’s an article you read, a show you watched, or a personal experience you had, talking about it openly and without shame will help others realize they aren’t alone.
- Keep the conversation going. Workplace culture must be nurtured, which means you can’t just mention mental health once and expect it to catch on. Find multiple opportunities to incorporate the subject into your employees’ day so it stays top-of-mind.
- Include all levels of staff. Your employees won’t believe that you genuinely care about their well-being unless every manager and executive also demonstrates the importance of mental health.
- Encourage employees to take mental health days off. If you still require your employees to provide a doctor’s note or otherwise “legitimate” reason for missing work, it might be time to stop. Part of preventative health involves giving your mind and body a break every now and then, and allowing your staff to miss work in order to recharge can help them stave off more serious health issues down the road.
- Pay attention and be ready to help. If you do notice an employee behaving differently (ex: irritability or low mood), don’t hesitate to ask them if everything is alright. Even if they tell you they’re fine, remind them that you’re there to help and that they have access to assistive resources.
- Make sure the tools and resources are relevant. No matter how much information you supply your employees, it’ll never do any good if it’s outdated or irrelevant. In fact, it might even do harm. Frequently audit your mental health resources to make sure they’re accurate, up-to-date, and contain practical advice that your employees can use to get better.
- Facilitate access to these resources. Similar to the previous point, your staff won’t get much use out of the information if it’s difficult for them to find. Eliminate barriers to access by providing the content in a variety of formats (audio, video, written, etc.), and minimizing the number of steps it takes for them to find it.
- Prioritize confidentiality and anonymity. Even though mental health might be normalized in your workplace, some people might still feel uncomfortable discussing it, particularly if they struggle with addiction, trauma, or suicidal thoughts. Reassure your staff that their privacy is your top concern, and that their use of mental health resources will never be monitored or tracked.
- Design a mentally healthy work space. It’s important for your employees to feel energized and uplifted by their work environment. Research has shown productivity, engagement, and overall wellness increase when people feel comfortable in workspaces with natural lighting, plants, and other positive features.
- Focus on the positive. Mental illness is a serious issue, but it can still be addressed in a way that makes people feel understood, appreciated, and hopeful. Always remember to leave your employees feeling like they have a clear plan of action ahead and that they or their loved ones can get well.
Need more ideas for promoting mental health in your place of work? Click the links below to view additional resources.