Benefits administrator blog from Delta Dental

Tag: benefits administrator

6 strategies to ease employee stress and create a happier workplace

4-minute read

Stress is costly. From teeth grinding to high blood pressure and anxiety, our bodies often pay the price. Just reading this list of 50 common physical and mental symptoms of stress is stress-inducing itself! But the effects of stress go beyond health — it can even take a toll on your business. In fact, a recent study found that businesses lose billions in productivity due to employee stress.

Take a deep breath. We’re here to help you with proven strategies to help reduce stress in your workplace (and even have some fun)!

Harness the power of good (deeds).

Volunteering is one of the best ways to combat stress. Research shows that volunteering has many health benefits, including stress reduction.

Volunteering can also give your employees a sense of purpose and appreciation, strengthen relationships and even encourage exercise — all great ways to lower stress. One study even found that people who volunteered for at least 200 hours in a 12-month span were less likely to develop high blood pressure (a common symptom of stress) than non-volunteers.

If your company offers a volunteer time off (VTO) benefit, you can organize events and activities that encourage employees to attend together. If VTO isn’t an option, you can share local volunteer events with employees that happen outside of work hours. Bonus points for including volunteer events with dogs (keep reading to see why)!

Fight stress with fitness.

Exercise is a stress triple threat. Why?

  • Increased happiness: Exercise boosts the body’s natural production of endorphins. This perky chemical has been proven to boost happiness.
  • Positive outlook: Concentrating on your body’s movements — like achieving that perfect push-up form — helps shift focus from life’s stressors to a calm, more positive energy.
  • Improved sleep: Various studies suggest that exercise improves sleep. Poor sleep can increase cortisol levels, which is often referred to as the stress hormone

To get employees moving, try organizing an intramural-style team sport or sponsoring a race for your company. If you’re not sure what types of activities your employees might enjoy, send out a survey to find out.

Laugh it off! (And no, we don’t mean ignore it.)

Stress is no laughing matter. Or, is it? Are you familiar with the phrase, “laughter is the best medicine?” When it comes to fighting stress, laughter may be an effective remedy. Studies show that laughter can relieve some of the physical symptoms of stress by stimulating circulation and muscle relaxation. Over time, “positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses,” according to Mayo Clinic.

Don’t worry — there’s no need to host a daily comedy hour at the office. But taking a moment to share a funny story or keeping a joke book on hand may be a good idea. To really get the workplace rolling, why not try a group outing to a laughing yoga class? In addition to getting the giggles, you get a wonderful opportunity to encourage employee bonding and create endorphins.

Create a serene space.

Is there a big deadline coming up? Holding a wellness fair soon? Consider contacting a local pet therapy organization that can bring in dogs to interact with employees. Multiple studies suggest that dogs can lower our stress levels — oftentimes even more than a supportive friend according to new research. Plus, dogs can help fulfill our longing for human touch, which can boost dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin (aka our feel good hormones).

Let’s start with color. For centuries, people across the globe have believed that certain colors can affect mood. In 2003, a Minnesota State University study actually found that subjects placed in a red room gave higher stress ratings than subjects placed in green and white rooms. Why not pick up a paint brush or add some calming accents of green and white to your office space?

Beyond color, research continues to show that exposure to nature can alter mood. A 2018 study even suggests that just visiting a natural environment can reduce stress levels. If your office is in a natural setting, encourage employees to get out and enjoy it during breaks. If a concrete jungle is your landscape, consider organizing nature walks for employees at a nearby park. Adding plants and nature-inspired artwork may also help!  

Send in the dogs.

Not only can these furry visitors perk up your workplace, but they can also help employees feel more comfortable connecting with each other. Win-win!

Check stress levels and offer support.

With the rise of telecommuting, face-to-face interaction with employees might not be as regular as it was in the past. However, that doesn’t mean we should be less connected! Sometimes just acknowledging employee stress can provide relief. Remind managers to check in on employees’ stress levels regularly, not just when there’s a big project on the line.

In addition to using the stress-busting strategies in this article, encourage managers to stay current on the types of services your company offers to help cope with stress. And, if it seems like employees are feeling more than situational stress, it may be time for them to seek professional help.


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Bacteria on the brain? Exploring the Alzheimer’s and oral health connection

2-minute read

By now, you’ve probably seen the recent headlines highlighting a possible link between Alzheimer’s disease and poor oral health. You may be getting questions from enrollees, or even thinking about how this information could impact your own family.

Alzheimer’s affects nearly 5 million Americans and is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. — so it’s no wonder that the potential dental connection is raising concerns. However, before your enrollees start panicking, and feverishly reaching for their toothbrushes, it’s important to set a few things straight about the research.

New evidence, but not a new idea

The potential link between Alzheimer’s and poor oral health is not a new discovery. In 2008, periodontal (gum) disease was already identified as a possible risk factor for Alzheimer’s. Since then, the body of evidence supporting the link has only grown. A group of researchers identified P. gingivalis as the specific kind of oral bacteria associated with Alzheimer’s in 2013. Subsequent studies have found that this same type of bacteria, often the culprit for gum disease, can transfer from the mouth to the brain in mice. Once P. gingivalis enters the brain, it can create the characteristic symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

The latest study making waves further explores the role of P. gingivalis in the development and progression of Alzheimer’s. Researchers looked at brain tissue, saliva and spinal fluid from Alzheimer’s patients, and not only found evidence of P. gingivalis, but they also discovered the presence of a toxic enzyme created by P. gingivalis in 96% of the brain tissue samples examined. Once in the brain, this toxic enzyme can destroy brain neurons, a hallmark feature of Alzheimer’s.

Correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation

While the new study adds to the evidence that gum disease is associated with Alzheimer’s risk, not everyone who has Alzheimer’s has gum disease, and not everyone who has gum disease has Alzheimer’s. Additional research is needed to understand if and how a cause and effect relationship exists. While more needs to be learned, it’s still important to encourage enrollees to prevent and manage gum disease, especially in older adults or individuals who have increased risk for dementia.

Oral health is just one piece of the puzzle

Alzheimer’s is linked to a host of risk factors, not just poor oral health. Genetics, heart health, diabetes, hypertension, exercise and diet may also play a role, just to name a few. Here’s the good news — by encouraging enrollees to prioritize oral health, you may also be helping improve their overall health! Send enrollees to our SmileWay® Wellness site for resources to protect their smiles and well-being for years to come.


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The surprising ways a smile keeps hearts pumping

2-minute read

No matter employees’ opinions about Valentine’s Day, the holiday gives you a chance to remind your workforce to take care of their hearts — both physically and emotionally. Promoting oral health is a great place to start. Check out the unexpected ways a healthy smile is linked to a healthy heart.

Physical impact: If the heart was an engine, how would it run?

Heart disease

Stronger evidence linking periodontal disease with heart disease continues to emerge. Although we can’t yet say the relationship between oral health and heart health is causal, new research suggests that even poor dental hygiene, such as infrequent tooth brushing, may be a risk factor for heart disease.

Hypertension

Hypertension can lead to a host of serious health threats, including heart attacks and heart failure. That’s why managing your blood pressure is so important for heart health. A new study found that those with healthy gums were less likely to have hypertension and responded better to hypertension treatment than those with gum disease. Food for thought.

Emotional impact: The mind thinks but the heart feels.

Relationships

It may be common knowledge that relationships — romantic or platonic — can hold an important place in one’s heart. But did you know that by encouraging good oral health among your workforce, you may also be helping to boost your employees’ relationships? It’s true! According to the 2017 Delta Dental Plans Association (DDPA) Adult Oral Health & Well-Being Survey:

  • 74% of people say a smile can make or break a first impression
  • 69% of people say a person’s smile stays top of mind after meeting them
  • 76% of people are more attracted to people who show off their smiles often!

Self-love

Something as simple as a smile can affect everyone around us, including ourselves. In fact, nearly 60% of adults say good oral health makes them feel confident, according to the DDPA survey. Maybe that’s why adults committed to their oral health are more likely to describe themselves as happy and comfortable in their own skin. Adults who prioritize their oral health are also more likely to give their overall well-being an excellent rating.

For Valentine’s Day, and every day, help protect employees’ hearts with healthy smiles.  

With love,

Delta Dental


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Are you a broker, agent or consultant? Subscribe to Insider Update, our newsletter for benefits producers.

Thanks for brightening our year

Wishing you and your enrollees your healthiest, happiest holiday season yet.

While your enrollees’ smiles are our top priority, it’s your support that keeps us smiling in return. We’re so grateful for clients like you who make our entire year merry and bright!

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading Word of Mouth in 2018, and we can’t wait to bring you even more engaging content next year. Remember, this blog is for you – so we’d love your suggestions on topics you’d like to hear more about. And if you’re not already, be sure to subscribe to Word of Mouth so you never miss out on helpful articles, tips and industry news.

Cheers to the New Year! We’re looking forward to serving you in 2019.

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