This article is from RISQ Consulting’s Zywave client portal, a resource available to all RISQ Consulting clients. Please contact your Benefits Consultant or Account Executive for more information or for help setting up your own login.
High blood pressure (or hypertension) is a common but often underestimated health condition affecting millions of people. In fact, the American Heart Association (AHA) reports that nearly half of American adults (48%) have high blood pressure—and only 1 in 4 have their condition under control. This condition puts individuals at risk for heart disease and stroke, which are leading causes of death in the United States.
High blood pressure is a serious medical condition that, if left uncontrolled, can lead to severe complications such as heart disease, stroke and kidney problems. Understanding this condition, its prevalence, risk factors, prevention and management is crucial for maintaining good health.
This article highlights the basics of high blood pressure and tips for prevention and management.
Blood Pressure Overview
Blood pressure is the force exerted by the blood against the walls of the arteries as it is pumped through the body by the heart. It’s typically expressed in two numbers: systolic pressure (the top number) and diastolic pressure (the bottom number). Systolic pressure measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats, while diastolic pressure measures the pressure when the heart is at rest between beats. The AHA considers a normal blood pressure reading to be 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).
It’s considered high once the blood pressure reading reaches 130/80 mm Hg or above. High blood pressure occurs when the force of the blood against the artery walls is consistently too high, which means the heart and arteries have to work harder than usual. As a result, this condition can damage arteries and increase the risk of serious health problems.
High blood pressure is often referred to as the “silent killer” because it rarely exhibits noticeable symptoms until it reaches a dangerous level. The only way to know whether someone has high blood pressure is by measuring it.
Several factors increase the risk of developing high blood pressure. Factors that can’t be changed or are difficult to control include:
- Gender (men are more likely to have high blood pressure than women)
- Race/ethnicity (Black adults are more likely to develop this condition)
- Increasing age
- Family history of high blood pressure
- Chronic kidney disease
- Obstructive sleep apnea
Fortunately, some risk factors can be improved or treated, including:
- Being overweight or obese
- Cigarette smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke
- High cholesterol
- Physical inactivity
- Poor diet that is high in sodium, low in potassium and includes excessive alcohol
Prevention and Management
The good news is that high blood pressure is often preventable and manageable. Consider these tips:
- Adopt a healthy lifestyle. Healthy living includes a balanced diet low in sodium, rich in fruits and vegetables, and low in saturated and trans fats. Engage in regular physical activity, aim for a healthy weight, and avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
- Limit alcohol. The AHA recommends limiting consumption to no more than two drinks per day for men and one for women.
- Be physically active. Strive to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week, such as brisk walking.
- Reach and maintain a healthy weight. A health care professional can suggest healthy approaches for losing and maintaining weight. For example, they can help you determine how many calories you need for weight loss and advise you on the best activities.
- Get regular checkups. Visit your health care provider regularly for blood pressure checks and follow their recommendations.
- Take medication as prescribed. If lifestyle changes alone are insufficient to control your blood pressure, your doctor may prescribe medication. It’s essential to take prescribed medications as directed.
- Manage stress. Practice stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga or deep breathing exercises to help lower stress, which can contribute to high blood pressure.
- Monitor blood pressure levels. If you have high blood pressure, monitoring your blood pressure at home can help you and your health care provider track your progress and make necessary adjustments to your treatment plan.
It comes down to knowing what your blood pressure should be and trying to keep it at that level. Your doctor can answer any blood pressure questions.
High blood pressure is a common but potentially serious health condition that affects a significant portion of the U.S. population. Understanding this condition is essential for maintaining good health. By adopting a healthy lifestyle, prioritizing routine health care and following medical advice, individuals can take control of their blood pressure and reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure and associated complications.
Contact a health care professional for a blood pressure reading and to discuss any risk factors or concerns.
This article is from RISQ Consulting’s Zywave client portal, a resource available to all RISQ Consulting clients. Please contact your Benefits Consultant or Account Executive for more information or for help setting up your own login.
A health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) is an employer-funded account that is designed to reimburse employees for qualified medical expenses that are paid for out-of-pocket. There are no annual contribution limits on HRAs. However, the employer usually sets the contribution below the annual deductible. HRAs are often designed to operate with a high deductible health plan (HDHP), thereby reducing premium costs while encouraging employees to spend wisely.
Your employer sets up the HRA, determines the amount of money available in each employee’s HRA for the coverage period, and establishes the types of expenses the funds can be used for.
What are the benefits of an HRA?
You may enjoy several benefits from having an HRA:
- Contributions made by your employer can be excluded from your gross income.
- Reimbursements may be tax-free if used to pay for qualified medical expenses.
- Any unused amounts in the HRA can be carried forward for reimbursements in later years.
Who is eligible for an HRA?
HRAs are employer-established benefit plans. These may be offered in conjunction with other employer-provided health benefits. Employers have complete flexibility to offer various combinations of benefits in designing their plan. You do not have to be covered under any other health care plan to participate. Self-employed persons are not eligible for an HRA. Certain limitations may apply if you are a highly compensated participant.
An HRA may reimburse medical care expenses only if they are incurred by employees or former employees (including retirees) and their spouses and tax dependents. HRA coverage must be in effect at the time the expense is incurred.
Are HRAs really best only for the young and healthy?
No. HRAs and other HDHPs are well-suited for a very wide demographic of people. According to Aetna, the average age of its HRA plan members is 42, the same average age as those who opted for more traditional plans.
What is an HDHP?
An HDHP has:
- A higher annual deductible than typical health plans; and
- A maximum limit on the sum of the annual deductible and out-of-pocket medical expenses that you must pay for covered expenses. Out-of-pocket expenses include copayments and other amounts, but do not include premiums.
An HDHP may provide preventive care benefits without a deductible or with a deductible below the minimum annual deductible. Preventive care includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Periodic health evaluations
- Routine prenatal and well-child care
- Child and adult immunizations
- Tobacco cessation programs
- Obesity weight-loss programs
- Screening services (e.g., cancer, heart and vascular diseases, infectious diseases)
Contributions to an HRA
Your employer funds the account, so it costs you nothing out-of-pocket. There is no limit on the amount of money your employer can contribute to the accounts. Additionally, the maximum reimbursement amount credited to the HRA in the future may be increased or decreased at your employer’s discretion. The maximum annual contribution is determined by your employer’s plan document. There may also be a cap amount for the HRA. Your employer can choose to fund your HRA with an annual contribution or on a monthly basis.
Distributions from an HRA
Distributions from an HRA must be paid to reimburse you for qualified medical expenses you have incurred. The expense must have been incurred on or after the date you are enrolled in the HRA.
Debit cards, credit cards and stored value cards given to you by your employer can be used to reimburse participants in an HRA. If the use of these cards meets certain substantiation methods, you may not have to provide additional information to the HRA.
If any distribution is, or can be, made for other than the reimbursement of qualified medical expenses, any distribution (including reimbursement of qualified medical expenses) made in the current tax year is included in gross income. For example, if an unused reimbursement is payable to you in cash at the end of the year, or upon termination of your employment, any distribution from the HRA is included in your income. This also applies if any unused amount upon your death is payable in cash to your beneficiary or estate, or if the HRA provides an option for you to transfer any unused reimbursement at the end of the year to a retirement plan.
If the plan permits amounts to be paid as medical benefits to a designated beneficiary (other than the employee’s spouse or dependents), any distribution from the HRA is included in income.
Reimbursements under an HRA can be made to the following persons:
- Current and former employees
- Spouses and dependents of those employees
- Employees’ covered tax dependents
- Spouses and dependents of deceased employees
Qualified Medical Expenses
Qualified medical expenses are those specified in the plan that would generally qualify for the medical and dental expenses deduction. Examples include amounts paid for doctors’ fees, prescription medicines* and necessary hospital services not paid for by insurance. You can use your HRA funds for deductibles, copayments and coinsurance. An extensive list can be found in the IRS document, Publication 502 at www.irs.gov.
Balance in an HRA
Amounts that remain at the end of the year may be carried over to the next year depending on your employer’s plan design. Your employer is not permitted to refund any part of the balance to you. These amounts may never be used for anything but reimbursements for qualified medical expenses.
What if I terminate my employment during the plan year?
If you cease to be an Eligible Employee (i.e., you die, retire or terminate employment), your participation in the HRA Plan will end unless you elect COBRA continuation coverage. You will be reimbursed for any medical care expenses incurred prior to your termination date, up to your account balance in the HRA, provided that you comply with the plan reimbursement request procedures required under the plan. Any unused portions will be unavailable after termination of employment. The rules regarding COBRA are contained within your Summary Plan Description.
Will I have any administrative costs under the HRA plan?
Generally, no. Your employer bears the entire cost of administering the HRA plan while you are an employee.
How long will the HRA plan remain in effect?
Although your employer expects to maintain the HRA plan indefinitely, it has the right to terminate the HRA plan at any time. Your employer also has the right to amend the HRA plan at any time and in any manner that it deems reasonable, in its sole discretion.
Are my benefits taxable?
The HRA plan is intended to meet certain requirements of existing federal tax laws, under which the benefits that you receive under the HRA Plan generally are not taxable to you. Your employer cannot guarantee the tax treatment to any given participant, since individual circumstances may produce differing results.
What is the difference between an HRA and FSA?
HRAs are employer-funded, which means your employer determines the amount that goes into the HRA account. FSAs can be funded by employee and employer contributions. FSA contributions are deducted from your salary, usually on a pre-tax basis. You determine how much to contribute to your FSA account.
What does the IRS require me to report on my taxes concerning my HRA?
Nothing. Your HRA is a health benefit.
*Over-the-counter medications are considered to be qualified expenses only if purchased with a prescription (except for insulin, which is considered to be a qualified expense even without a prescription).
As summer comes to an end and fall begins, employees with school-age children may have increased caretaking responsibilities as their kids begin a new academic year. In addition to other day-to-day challenges, parents are now dealing with school pick-up and drop-off, unexpected sick days and other occurrences that could affect their work-life balance.
Employers can support employees during this transition into the school year by acknowledging these changes and offering flexibility. This article explores considerations for acknowledging and responding during the back-to-school season.
Supportive Leave Policies
As Americans continue to live with COVID-19 circulating just like the common cold and flu, illnesses are inevitable. Therefore, employers may want to review their leave policies. While an organization’s policies may accommodate employees who become ill, family members could also become sick. Employers should consider offering workplace flexibility that allows them to leave and care for their family members if needed. Some employers have leave policies that allow employees to take time off when they or their family members are sick or when they need to receive vaccines for these illnesses. With the back-to-school season approaching, employers may be reevaluating their current leave offerings to ensure they reflect these realistic needs.
Flexible Working Arrangements
Remember that life happens, and unexpected circumstances will arise. Employers can consider providing remote and hybrid work models when possible or as needed. Even when remote and hybrid work is not feasible, flexible scheduling can allow employees time for other tasks, such as dropping off or picking up their children from school.
Furthermore, the workplace could implement core hours that allow employees some leniency in when they can start and stop their days. Whichever accommodations an employer chooses, it’s important to communicate to employees that the company is willing to work around events that may arise in their lives. This assurance may reduce stress during the back-to-school transition and could positively impact employee retention. However, it’s important to note that accountability should come with flexibility, so employees must work out any arrangements with their managers and teams.
Resources for Caretakers
Family caregivers account for an estimated 18% to 22% of the U.S. labor force, according to the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers. Furthermore, nearly one-third of caregiver employees have voluntarily left a job at some point during their careers because of their caregiving responsibilities.
While it may not be feasible for all employers to directly provide caretaking services, they can help ensure their employees have access to such resources.
Employers may consider hosting a workshop, distributing a handout or otherwise providing information regarding caretaking resources. Even if there are no specific caregiving benefits available at an organization, managers or supervisors could simply ask working employees how they are doing during the back-to-school season. This kicks off an open dialogue, demonstrating an interest in how they’re doing as a person and helping reduce guilt about juggling personal and work responsibilities.
Many schools end between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., which means working parents might need child care for several hours or leave to handle it themselves. When school is closed due to holidays or professional development, working parents may have to find a secondary plan for those days while they’re still working. Helping employees feel supported during their search for caretakers or after-school programs for their children can go a long way in making them feel supported and may boost overall employee retention.
The back-to-school transition may initially seem misplaced to the workplace, but the reality is that many employees have school-age children and associated caretaking responsibilities. As a result, employers should prepare to be flexible, accommodate employees during this transition and provide relevant resources. These efforts can help make a difference and ultimately assist in appealing to and keeping workers during a time when attraction and retention are significant challenges for organizations.
Contact us for additional workplace resources.
Many employees need help with open enrollment. This is particularly true among younger workers, who typically have less experience selecting benefits than older generations that have been in the workforce longer. A study by insurance and employee benefits provider MetLife found that 26% of Generation Z (Gen Z) employees are insecure about making benefits decisions.
Employers who successfully educate young employees about open enrollment are likely to find that workers are more satisfied with their benefits packages, make better financial decisions and are more likely to recommend their organization to other people. Such positive outcomes can significantly influence an organization’s overall financial performance.
To this end, employers can implement several strategies for educating young employees to help them navigate open enrollment.
Educating Young Employees
Clear communication is crucial to ensure workers understand the open enrollment process and the benefits they’re signing up for. Employers should consider the following strategies for educating younger employees on open enrollment:
- Prioritize internal communications. Young employees may be unfamiliar with the open enrollment process. Inform employees about the upcoming open enrollment through multiple channels (e.g., emails, flyers and meetings). Ensure every employee knows when open enrollment begins, the last day to complete enrollment and the consequences of failing to enroll in time.
- Create multiple avenues for communication. Ensure young workers know how to ask questions about open enrollment and feel comfortable speaking to HR and their managers about the upcoming enrollment. Encourage these employees to discuss their benefits plans with their friends, family and more experienced coworkers.
- Provide educational resources. Give workers the information they need to make informed benefits decisions during open enrollment. To target young workers, employers should provide digital resources such as online webinars, videos, social media posts and articles.
- Explain benefits options. Employees are likely to think primarily of health insurance during open enrollment and may overlook voluntary benefits that could be useful to them. Employers should provide information about employee benefits choices (e.g., pet insurance, student loan repayment assistance and employee assistance programs) so that young employees don’t forgo benefits they may want later in the year.
- Cater to employee needs. Young generations of workers have different benefits needs than older generations. For example, they’re more likely to prioritize mental health resources and student loan assistance over life insurance or financial planning for retirement. Employers should capitalize on the wants and needs of younger generations to educate them on benefits they care about.
- Encourage young employees to take their time. Rushing through open enrollment can cause workers to forgo crucial benefits. This is especially true of young workers, who may feel stressed or unsure of the open enrollment process. Give employees ample time to research and select their benefits and encourage them to ask questions.
- Communicate all year round. Benefits education should be more than a flurry of activity during the open enrollment window. Employers should provide employees with the resources they need to understand and maximize their benefits all year round, highlighting the direct financial impact benefits decisions can have on employees. This can help young workers understand the importance of open enrollment and the impact that rushing through the process can have on their financial well-being, increasing the likelihood that they’ll make informed benefits decisions when the time comes.
Open enrollment can be a nerve-wracking period for all employees. The stress of selecting benefits is often most keenly felt by younger workers with less experience selecting benefits. Employers can use open enrollment as an opportunity to increase communication and trust with young workers by educating them on the process and their benefits choices. This may increase younger generations’ satisfaction with their benefits packages and jobs, improving organizations’ employee attraction and retention and ultimately their bottom lines.
Contact us today for more information.
Due to rising health care costs, small businesses often struggle to provide employees with affordable, high-quality benefits. In fact, many small businesses choose not to offer employee benefits because of cost constraints. Failing to offer health benefits can place small businesses at a disadvantage when it comes to attracting and retaining key talent compared to their larger counterparts. However, qualified small employer health reimbursement arrangements (QSEHRAs) offer small businesses the opportunity to provide employees with affordable, quality care.
A QSEHRA is a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) that allows a small business to provide employees tax-free reimbursements for health insurance premiums and other qualifying health care expenses. Compared to traditional group health plans, QSEHRAs can offer small businesses more flexibility and affordability when administering health care benefits while tailoring benefits offerings to fit employee needs.
This article provides a general overview of QSEHRAs and outlines some considerations for employers to keep in mind when deciding whether to offer employees this coverage.
What Is a QSEHRA?
A QSEHRA is a health reimbursement arrangement for employers with fewer than 50 full-time employees. It allows qualifying small businesses without employer-sponsored group health benefits or any excepted benefits, such as dental and vision, to provide tax-free reimbursements to employees for eligible medical expenses. To qualify for tax-free reimbursements, employees must be enrolled in health plans that meet the minimum essential coverage (MEC) requirements outlined in the Affordable Care Act.
How Do QSEHRAs Work?
An employee with MEC can submit qualified medical expenses and supporting documents to their employer for reimbursement. Qualifying expenses typically include:
- Insurance premiums
- Prescription or over-the-counter drugs
The employer then provides tax-free reimbursements to the employee, up to a specified annual maximum amount. The IRS imposes annual maximums per employee, with separate limits for individual and family coverage. If an employee’s medical expenses do not reach the annual maximum reimbursement amount during the plan year, the employer may keep the remaining balance or roll it over for the following year. Employees may not receive cash payments for the difference if their expenses fail to reach the annual maximum amount.
QSEHRA Eligibility Requirements
The eligibility requirements for QSEHRAs differ for employers and employees.
Employer Eligibility Requirements
For employers to be eligible to offer a QSEHRA, they must meet the following requirements:
- Employ less than 50 full-time employees
- Not offer a group health plan, excepted benefits or a flexible spending account (FSA)
Employee Eligibility Requirements
Most employees of an eligible employer may qualify to participate in a QSEHRA. Even employees without MEC can still participate in their employer’s QSEHRA, but their medical reimbursements will be taxable. Additionally, employees with group health coverage through their spouse can participate in a QSEHRA, but their group health premiums cannot be reimbursed. However, employers can exclude certain categories of employees, including part-time and seasonal employees as well as employees younger than age 25.
Considerations for Offering a QSEHRA
QSEHRAs allow small businesses to offer employees health benefits without having to manage a group health plan. This can help small businesses avoid the potential downsides of traditional health insurance plans, such as expensive premiums, restrictive participation, contribution requirements and annual rate increases.
QSEHRAs can also benefit employers offering health benefits for the first time since these plans allow employers to control costs, provide flexibility and scale their benefits as their organization grows. They are often a good option for organizations with a remote and geographically disbursed workforce because small businesses may be unable to find a national carrier that provides high-quality, affordable health benefits. Additionally, QSEHRAs can offer employees more choice in how they spend their health care dollars than traditional health plans.
QSEHRAs offer a valuable solution for small businesses seeking to provide health benefits to their employees without incurring the costs typically associated with traditional group health plans. Leveraging the flexibility and tax advantages of QSEHRAs can help small businesses offer competitive benefits to attract and retain top talent while controlling costs.
Reach out to us today for more information on QSEHRAs.
In today’s competitive employment landscape, many organizations recognize that employees are their most valuable asset. To attract and retain top talent, employers must go beyond competitive salaries and create holistic and meaningful employee benefits packages that address diverse workforce needs.
Understanding and addressing any gaps in employee benefits is crucial for employers who aim to create an engaged, supported and satisfied workforce. Well-rounded benefits packages often translate to enhanced employee well-being, boosted retention rates and a positive work culture.
This article highlights proactive steps employers can take to assess and identify gaps in employee benefits offerings.
Identifying gaps in benefits offerings can be a complex task, as it requires a careful assessment of employee preferences, trends and organizational resources. Consider the followings strategies for identifying and addressing these gaps:
- Review existing benefits. Start by reviewing the current employee benefits package. While taking inventory of benefits, organizations should assess if they offer the basics (e.g., health insurance, sick and family leave) or anything unique compared to competitors or other employers in their industry. This is also a good time to review benefits utilization to better understand if there are any benefits that employees do not or rarely use.
- Analyze employee demographics and specific needs. Demographics, such as age, gender and marital status, can influence employees’ preferred benefits. Recognize that those needs can shift over time, so this is an ongoing exercise.
- Gather employee feedback. Conduct surveys, focus groups or collect feedback through other methods to gather information and opinions directly from employees. Employers could inquire about employee satisfaction with existing benefits, what they value most and if there are any benefits they feel are missing from their package or that could be improved.
- Benchmark against industry standards. Research industry standards and best practices to understand what benefits competitors, and similar or local organizations provide. This can help employers identify any gaps in their offerings compared to competitors.
- Explore emerging trends and employee preferences. Stay informed about employee benefits trends. Current trends include flexible work arrangements, mental health support and student loan assistance. This is also the time to consider employee feedback results and reported preferred benefits.
- Prioritize benefits based on budget and resources. While employers may be faced with a long list of attractive or preferred benefits, the reality is that they must also consider organizational finances and resources to determine the feasibility of new or different offerings. It may be helpful to prioritize the benefits that would have the most significant impact on employee satisfaction and overall well-being.
- Communicate changes effectively. Employers should ensure clear and effective communication with employees when introducing or modifying benefits. Education is critical to utilization, so employers should clearly describe any changes, provide their rationale and explain how benefits changes align with employee feedback, emerging trends or organizational goals.
- Monitor and reassess. Benefits needs and preferences change over time, so it’s important for employers to regularly monitor the utilization and effectiveness of offerings. If drastic changes were made, checking in with some employees to gauge their feedback could be worthwhile. Lastly, keep the conversation going with employees to keep a pulse on their preferred benefits and reassess available options to ensure they meet evolving needs.
Savvy employers continually evaluate their existing benefits, gather employee feedback, benchmark against industry standards and strategically address any identified gaps. By periodically reassessing benefits offerings, employers can ensure they remain competitive in the labor market and meet the evolving needs of the workforce.
By taking a proactive approach to understanding needs and preferences, organizations can create benefits packages that truly support current and prospective employees. This concerted effort can lead to increased workplace engagement and satisfaction, and, ultimately, organizational success.
Contact RISQ Consulting for additional employee benefits guidance.
By Alison Nelson, Employee Benefits Account Manager
“I’m turning 65 and need to learn more about Medicare. What do I do?” This is a common and very valid question that I’m often asked. Medicare is daunting, and with 75% of Medicare beneficiaries worrying about affording costs beyond premiums, you’re going to want to understand all of your options.
I want to start by noting that I am not a Medicare expert. However, before you scroll away, I can provide some tools and resources that could be helpful in your Medicare journey.
A great first resource is medicare.gov. I know, I know. The government’s Medicare website for info on Medicare… revolutionary! But it truly is a great and underutilized site that breaks down the ins and outs of Medicare. In summary, there are four main plans with additional coverage available:
- Medicare Part A: Hospital Coverage
- This is often free and is automatic if/once enrolled in social security.
- Medicare Part B: Provider Coverage
- $170.10/month (or higher depending on income).
- We see most people waive Part B as long as they are enrolled in a qualified employer-sponsored health plan.
- Part B has no out-of-pocket maximum, so you would be responsible for 20% of expenses with no cap – this can add-up quickly. If employer coverage is terminated, we often recommend enrolling in a Medigap or Medicare Supplemental policy. This puts a “stopgap” or out-of-pocket limit to expenses. If this coverage is obtained following the loss or termination of qualified coverage, you can likely forego underwriting. If Medigap is waived at initial eligibility and obtained later, underwriting is likely – meaning if there are pre-existing conditions, you could be denied coverage.
- Medicare Part C: Medicare Advantage
- Part C is offered by Medicare-approved private companies that must follow rules set by Medicare. Medicare Advantage Plans include Part A and B coverage, and many include Part D drug coverage as well. However, it’s important to note that Part C is not available in Alaska.
- Medicare Part D: Prescription Coverage
- The costs vary by plan
- Medigap or Medicare Supplemental Coverage
- You are able to obtain supplemental coverage if enrolled in Part A & B.
- RISQ Consulting has a dedicated individual who is appointed by Medicare and is able to assist with Premera Medicare Supplemental Plans. There are no fees for her service.
- An additional popular Medicare Supplemental plan is with United Health Care through AARP.
Another resource, and one of the most comprehensive and digestible guides, is the Medicare & You 2023 Guide.
However, my number one recommendation is to reach out to the amazing folks at the Alaska Medicare Information Office! This is a free service for Alaskans by certified Medicare professionals. These pros are able to provide personalized recommendations and can walk you through the complexities of Medicare.
Becoming Medicare eligible can seem overwhelming, but with the right tools and resources, you’ll be able to navigate it like a pro. And, as always, if you have any questions or need to be pointed in the right direction, RISQ Consulting can help.
By Alison Nelson, Employee Benefits Account Manager
In case you couldn’t tell from this article I wrote last year, mental health is something I am very passionate about. I aspire to contribute to the destigmatization of mental health, especially in the workplace, in whatever capacity I can. When I recently read this article stating that only 19% of employees used their mental health benefits in 2022, I was saddened, but not shocked by that statistic. The article goes on to say:
“A new report by One Medical and Workplace Intelligence, which surveyed 800 employees and 800 human resources (HR) professionals, found that, not only did over nine in 10 (91%) employees tell surveyors mental health was negatively impacting their productivity, but the usage of benefit offerings already in place by employees was extremely low. Less than a fifth (19%) of employees said they used their mental health care benefits in 2022.”
Why don’t employees utilize their mental health benefits? According to Business Wire, it may be because employees undervalue their mental health and tend to reserve benefits for more urgent needs. In other words, people tend to prioritize their physical health over their mental health. I hypothesize that this is, in part, due to the differentiation between physical healthcare and mental healthcare. They are often discussed as two completely different disciplines, but, in truth, mental health IS health.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, “one in three people with a long-term physical health condition also has a mental health problem, most often depression or anxiety.” Physical health and mental health are two sides of the same coin and should be treated as such. If an employee can call out sick when they have the flu, they should also be able to call out sick due to an anxiety attack.
Employees should be able to take mental health days, and one way an employer can encourage that is by implementing a separate mental health policy. Having a separate bucket of mental health days can help encourage employees to recharge without forcing them to choose between taking a day or powering through a panic attack, just in case they spike a fever and need a sick day down the road.
This survey conducted by Breeze in 2022 indicates a number of interesting things, but most notably:
- 63% of employees have taken a mental health day in the last year
- Nearly half of all people who took a mental health day fibbed to their employer on why they needed the day off out of fear of being judged
- 50% of employees left their jobs in 2021 for mental health reasons, including 68% of millennials and 81% of Gen-Z
Adding a mental health policy to your business’ employee offerings is a great way to support employees and show that you care about their entire wellbeing. There is also the additional benefit that employees who take mental health days are less stressed, which results in long-term productivity. No one should feel embarrassed about taking a mental health day. Having a specific policy in place for mental health is a step in the right direction to end the stigma. Here is a great article that lists some other ways employers can implement a mental health policy to support employees and end the stigma. Remember, mental health IS health.
Small businesses often don’t have the resources or expertise required to conduct every necessary function. That’s where vendors come in; they provide access to expertise, products and services that help a business run. Establishing practices for managing vendors is important for small businesses’ overall success and long-term growth, but vendor management comes with its own challenges. Luckily, there are strategies small businesses like yours can implement to efficiently manage their vendor relationships in order to optimize processes.
This article explores vendor management, including its benefits, potential challenges and best practices that will aid small businesses.
What Is Vendor Management?
Overall, the purpose of vendor management is to build, maintain and strengthen relationships that are essential to an organization’s success, such as lowering costs or increasing output. Therefore, it is important to note that regardless of your small business’s vendor management practices, they require overall business discipline and coordination from different areas, such as HR, finance and leadership. This is because the key elements of successful vendor management include vendor selection, contract negotiations, onboarding, vendor performance monitoring, risk management and payment processes.
Importance of Vendor Management
Vendor management is important for several reasons, including having better vendor selection, streamlining contract management, creating strong vendor relationships, enhancing vendor performance management and creating overall better value. The end goal of vendor management is to strengthen a company’s success and overall market performance, improve efficiency and lower costs, all of which can help your business get the most value out of using vendors and achieve its short- and long-term goals.
Vendor Management Challenges
Despite the benefits to vendor management, there are challenges to consider as well. The most common vendor management challenges small businesses face include:
- Compliance risks
- Payment terms
- Data storage and security
- Reputation management
It’s crucial to have processes in place for your business to follow when working with vendors to avoid challenge-related threats. Working with vendors often includes sharing sensitive information, which puts your business at risk if you’re not careful.
Navigating challenges related to vendor management doesn’t have to be impossible. In fact, there are ways to make the process easier for your small business.
Vendor Management Best Practices
To navigate challenges and avoid risks, it’s important to develop established practices for your small business to follow when working with vendors. Consider some of the following best practices:
- Review contracts. It’s important to write formal documentation while working with vendors. This keeps both the small business and the vendor on the same page and accountable for any communication or financial transactions.
- Put all terms in writing. Put all terms and agreements between your small business and vendors in writing. This could include agreements regarding quality control, delivery times and communication expectations.
- Communicate regularly. Getting to know your vendors is essential; this means you must communicate with them on a regular basis. Respond to vendor communications quickly and address any issues in a timely manner. The more effective the communication lines are, the better the experience will be for both parties.
- Be selective. Every time a small business chooses to outsource, it has to navigate the risk of doing so. Therefore, it’s beneficial to avoid high-risk collaborations, such as vendors who process financial transactions on the organization’s behalf. It can also be advantageous to create a framework and policies that help deal with issues if they happen to occur to mitigate potential risks.
- Establish expectations. It’s important for small businesses to communicate their expectations to vendors. This means it’s important that you and the vendor are in frequent communication. Expectations can be built into the terms of the contract and mutually agreed upon before the partnership is finalized.
- Control costs. Before committing to working with a vendor, verify that the vendor’s pricing does not exceed your organization’s budget. All details pertaining to pricing, such as payment methods, billing frequency and rates, should be laid out in advance in the agreement between the vendor and the small business.
Working with vendors can be challenging, as there are a variety of moving parts for both the small business and the vendor. The way each business chooses to navigate working with vendors is unique, so what may work for one business may not be the best for another. However, by creating processes for your small business to follow when working with vendors, you can mitigate the risks you could face and establish a strong, successful vendor relationship.
For additional small business resources, reach out to RISQ Consulting today.