Benefits administrator blog from Delta Dental

Tag: human resources (Page 1 of 2)

It’s time to get comfortable with casual dress codes

The business formal dress code has been dying for decades. The rebellious anti-dress codes of ‘70s Silicon Valley spread slowly through American offices until business casual struck even the most old-school firms in the 1990s. The rise of the tech start-up in the 2000s has slackened dress codes even more. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, dress codes are relaxing even more.

The pandemic has shifted employee expectations

After more than a third of American workers spent the better part of a year working from home, getting them back to the office may be enough of a problem. Getting them back into blazers and slacks? That may not happen at all.

Casual dress policies have long been considered a perk, but for some workers they’ve been turning into a requirement for some workers. The shift from soft and stretchy loungewear at home to less comfortable clothes is just not desirable for employees., especially in a market where businesses are struggling to hire.

What’s the point of your dress code?

It’s important for your company to nail down why it has the dress code it does to see whether it can change. Is it the desire to be perceived externally as professional? Is the goal to maximize productivity? If so, how is your dress code maximizing productivity?

There’s a popular belief that to work their best, employees need to dress their best and that can be true. Wearing a suit may give a sales representative more confidence and authority, but people in other positions may not need those boosts to be efficient in their job. It may be more distracting dealing with shoes that hurt your feet or slacks and button ups that are too heavy for the summer heat. In those cases, the cons of uncomfortable clothing may out weight the pros.

The financial burden of formal dress codes

It’s easy to say that people who have uncomfortable work attire should just buy new clothes, but is that always reasonable? Work suits can cost hundreds of dollars and professional clothes for women can be prohibitively expensive and the costs can add up quickly. Business casual outfits cost much less on average which allows workers to invest in more options and replace uncomfortable workwear.

For women, makeup and hair care present an additional financial burden as well as a considerable time commitment. Women spend an average of 55 minutes on grooming and $8 worth of makeup each day. Many women have reported that they intend to leave additional grooming behind after a year of not needing to go through their routines.

Online work and relaxed dress codes may help lessen the divide between the cost of men and women’s work wardrobes will hopefully lessen. If your weight fluctuates, you don’t need to buy a full suit or new dress to be comfortable and professional on video calls. Casual or no makeup can free up time to get other things done, so you’re less stressed while working.

Finding the balance

For most companies, returning to in office work in some capacity is a necessity. This is the opportune moment for a company to reassess its dress code to prioritize productivity, diversity and inclusion and the company culture they want to cultivate. Figuring out a way to balance an employee’s expectations of comfort and financial investments with what is an actual necessity for your company is a great place to start.

Remote work and employers: what are the pros and cons?

In 2020, we all learned just how fast the world could adapt to new measures. In the workforce, this has meant relying on coworkers and employees to bring their work home without missing a beat. With a year passed since COVID-19 changed the world, it’s time to reflect on the first year as full-time remote employers, what has been learned from it, and how to continue to adapt moving forward.

Here’s a closer look at the pros and cons of remote working:

Pros

Flexibility

Working from home is far from a new concept. In fact, it’s often touted as a job perk by hiring managers. For employees, it often comes down to flexibility. Working remotely can be an opportunity schedule quick errands, focus in a less distracting environment or even to enjoy more time with the pets while still accomplishing the tasks at hand. The freedoms of remote work can be a major morale-booster. A study by PwC recently found that 55% of would like still to keep working from home at least three days a week once it’s safe to return to the office.

Lack of commute

Who wouldn’t choose walking to their living room over an hour commute on an over-stuffed train? Eliminating this often stressful part of the day saves time, money and headaches. It also takes more cars off the road, meaning less air pollution. In November, NASA announced that global nitrogen dioxide concentrations had been reduced by nearly 20% since February of 2020.

Larger pool of candidates

Eliminating a tough commute can also mean a more competitive job market. When people can work from anywhere, it widens the pool of potential candidates. For permanently remote jobs where location isn’t a requirement, employers can reap the benefits with a larger number of viable applicants.

Saved money

Less people in an office means a smaller office space, fewer everyday office expenses like supplies and cleanup, and less utilities at work. These kinds of savings aren’t just beneficial during uncertain times — they can be lucrative to new businesses trying to grow.

Cons

Blurred work/life balance

One of the more complicated issues to arise from remote working has been the stress of balancing a regular workday with our rapidly changing world. When the physical barrier of an office is removed, the lines between professional and personal lives can get a bit fuzzy. While flexible work hours may be a pro, they can become a slippery slope of overtime and burnout if left unchecked. In fact a recent Gallup poll showed that 29% of people who always work from home feel burnt out “very often” or “always.”

Encourage your staff to set up a corner of their home just for work if they can and to stay online for office hours only. Check in regularly to make sure that they feel heard and supported in their work endeavors.

Internet complications

We’ve all heard the horror stories: Someone forgot to mute themselves in a meeting or couldn’t figure out how to turn a Zoom filter off. In 2020, the learning curve got a bit steeper as our toolboxes grew along with our reliance on technology.

A little bit of training and empathy can go a long way in these cases. As expectations change, offer learning guides, webinars and other resources to help employees with the learning process. Additionally, understand that complications can occasionally arise when employees are at the mercy of Wi-Fi, laptops, and other far-from-perfect technologies.

Less organic opportunities for connection

With no watercooler to gather around, those little day-to-day opportunities for staff to connect can be tougher to find. Don’t let it wedge a gap between the team.

Schedule a little time for virtual team-building opportunities, be it a lunch meet-up or a Friday game hour. Take this time to focus on company values and consider how you can foster trust and communication.

As the world continues to change, take some time to reflect on how much you and your team have already adapted and give yourself credit where it’s due. Creating a culture of openness and empathy will help address issues as they arise and keep you connected to your team.

What lasting effects will COVID-19 have on the workplace?

COVID-19 has brought about seismic shifts in most aspects of American life. Saying with certainty what the future will bring is impossible, but these four major trends are likely to shape how companies do business.

More remote working than pre-COVID

Working from home has become the new normal for 42% of the American workforce, according to a study from the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.  Despite its challenges, an increasing number of workers have developed a preference for work-from-home arrangements.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 5% of working days were spent from home. That number currently stands at 40% and is expected to drop to 20% post-pandemic. The two most common responses to the question “[After COVID-19] how often would you like to have paid work days at home?” were “5 days a week and “never.”

For that reason, we anticipate that most employers will seek to find a balance where they allow their workers to work remotely for one-to-three days each week and come into the office for meetings and collaborative work on the other days.

More tools and benefits that facilitate remote work

With more people working remotely, employers will do more to provide the tools and resources that those workers need to be productive. A survey by the global professional services firm Aon has found that 42% of companies around the globe are either already helping their employees pay for home office expenses or are planning to do so. This includes hardware such as keyboards, monitors and headsets; software such as productivity and creative suites; and stipends, such as a monthly internet stipend or a one-time grant to purchase home office equipment.

Because the line between personal and work life can blur when working from home, benefits such as stipends for and wellness may become more common as well. There could even be a shift away from more in-office and commute-based perks. After all, company-provided lunches and public transit stipends aren’t very useful to someone who is working from home, but a monthly stipend for health and wellness costs may be. Such a stipend could be used on everything from traditional health needs (such as doctors’ appointments and prescriptions) to mental health needs (such as counseling and therapy) to overall wellness (such as yoga and guided meditation apps.)

More part-time and contract workers

In the initial stages of an economic downturn, part-time and contract workers can be hit hard, as they tend to have fewer protections than full-time workers. The early stages of the COVID-19 lockdown were no exception, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics finding that part-time workers accounted for one-third of the job losses in the initial stages of the pandemic despite being 20% of the workforce. However, this trend has begun to reverse as businesses have reopened with varying levels of success.

Economic uncertainty may lead to more roles for part-time and contract workers. Companies may be hesitant to bring on full-time employees out of fear of another downturn, and an unstable economy will lead workers to an increased willingness to take contract and part-time positions with fewer benefits.

Changes in business plans and organizational complexity

COVID-19 has laid bare many of the assumptions that undergirded common business thinking. For the past few decades, efficiency has been king. Businesses have tightened their supply chains, focused on reinvesting profits or paying out dividends rather than keep cash on hand, and generally strived to operate as leanly as possible. The disruptions to global supply chains and daily life caused by COVID-19 have demonstrated the need for resiliency in both business plans and organizational structures.

In the future, businesses may keep more cash on hand in order to help them weather unforeseen economic shocks. Some of the money that would be invested into research and development or payouts for investors may instead go towards reinforcing supply chains and building up reserves of essential equipment and material. After all, businesses have a financial obligation to their stakeholders, and that obligation can’t be met if the business doesn’t have the resources it needs to stay afloat.

Plan on adapting

Both small businesses and large corporations will have to plan for a post-pandemic future. The biggest lesson from COVID-19 is not that there is any single best practice, but rather that unforeseen events can cause massive disruptions across entire economies. Employers should keep in mind that illnesses, natural disasters, economic downturns and more are all possible, and they should have plans in place to deal with a major disruption.

Millennials love their insurance jobs?!

2‑minute read

When Sarah Lee asked herself what she wanted to do when she grew up, she did what any millennial might do: She Googled it. “I searched ‘good at math, but don’t want to be a teacher’, and actuary was one of the first things that came up,” she says.

About a decade later, Lee is now happily in her second year as a senior actuarial analyst at Delta Dental. It might not sound like the most “millennial” career, but a job in the insurance industry offers more appeal to the rising workforce than it might seem on the surface.

A recent survey from Vertafore© found that 87% of millennials in the industry would recommend a career in insurance to their friends. What’s more, 76% have been in insurance for more than three years and 72% plan to stay in the industry as long as possible, bucking the popular stereotype of millennial job hopping.

For millennials at Delta Dental, the excitement of an industry that’s always changing keeps them engaged at work.

“There’s always something new in your current role, so you never really get bored of what you’re doing,” says Ben Calderon, senior actuarial analyst. “That’s definitely important. I don’t want to feel stagnant in my position.”

Conversely, Calderon says millennials fuel the evolution of the industry with new ideas and skills.

That’s what attracted Shamekha Ghani to the newly created role of business intelligence manager at Delta Dental. Feeling like her previous position had gotten too routine, she jumped at the chance to “have a big impact” in her job.

“Millennials are very driven by learning, by having challenges,” she says. “They’re really concerned about their career development. They really want to feel like they’re making progress.”

Even in traditional roles, a fresh perspective can make a big difference. When Taylor Granville started at Delta Dental, she saw an opportunity to take her account manager position to a new level.

Granville was originally drawn to the client-facing nature of the role—rather than the world of insurance. But now she’s a major advocate for the importance of dental benefits, and she loves speaking with people and giving them the opportunity to enroll and improve their oral health.

“If you’re driven and you like to make a difference in people’s lives, then it’s definitely the industry to be in,” Granville says.

She adds that the strong insurance job market may allow young millennials to get a fast start on a career.

The intrigue of a stable job with room for advancement might sound old-fashioned, but it’s not completely lost on millennials.

“When I was choosing what career path to go down, I was really focused on [job] stability, and I feel like a lot of my peers were not,” Lee says.

The insurance industry might not seem flashy enough for some millennials, but the ones who found themselves at Delta Dental have found a lot to like. And they can see why 87% of their surveyed peers would recommend a job in insurance.

 

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7 ways to make workplace meetings more productive

Are you regularly engaging with your team members at work? Whether you’re an individual contributor or in a leadership role, refresh your knowledge on the advantages of team meetings, including building trust, fostering innovation, sharing feedback and celebrating successes.

Brainstorming Meeting

Whether staff meetings are common practice at your organization or you’re considering implementing team collaboration, here are a few tips for making the most of your time:

  1. Make it a routine

Start by making your meetings an expected — almost natural — part of your team’s work schedule. Add a recurring appointment on your calendar or set reminders for team engagement so people anticipate the meeting and prepare properly. (More on preparation in a bit.)

  1. Consider location, location, location 

It may sound odd, but the popular real estate mantra also applies to team meetings. Did you know that factors like room temperature, the amount of natural light and even the color of walls can affect how productive or focused people are at work?

You may even consider taking your meeting outside the office. Depending on the occasion, you may meet to plan a project at a local coffee shop, discuss goals and progress over lunch, or celebrate a big win with a round of miniature golf.

Wherever you decide to meet, ensure the setting is appropriate and suited to optimize your team’s focus.

  1. Present information in a way that resonates

Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, recently revealed that the company’s meeting culture is “the weirdest […] you will ever encounter.” And that may not be a bad thing.

The CEO cited the way information is presented at executive meetings — as six-page narrative memos — as an example of said culture. This style could help foster better reading, writing and listening skills among meeting participants. And it forces meeting attendees to do the required reading. (Anyone getting flashbacks from their high school or college English instructor?)

Bezos’s presentation style may not work for you, but carefully consider the best way to share information with your team. It may be a presentation, a video, a list of references to consider, etc. If you really want to up the fun factor, consider some of these innovative ways deliver engaging meeting content.

  1. Prioritize preparation and set an example

Speaking of doing the required reading, you should make preparation a key requirement for meetings. Send a detailed agenda with any supporting resources beforehand, and don’t skimp on said resources. If your team needs a report, statistics, contextual information, etc. to be productive during the meeting, provide it in advance.

During the meeting, reinforce how crucial preparation is. You may even ban “thinking out loud” unless the meeting is primarily focused on brainstorming.

  1. Encourage creative development

A meeting where attendees are not allowed, or encouraged, to think creatively, offer suggestions and provide candid feedback will most likely not lead to innovation and improved trust. But don’t take our word for it — here are tips from 15 members of the Forbes Coaches Council on promoting creativity at work.

  1. Facilitate compromises when necessary 

We know that a culture promoting collaboration and candor can also lead to creative conflict. Be prepared to facilitate professional disagreements by encouraging compromises during meetings.

One of the most important tips in compromising is a classic — choose your battles. Know what your team’s goals are, communicate them effectively, and know when to compromise based on your objectives.

  1. Cancel if you need to

Even though it’s important to make team engagement a regular part of your work schedule, it’s definitely acceptable to cancel a meeting here and there. In fact, in some cases it may be for the best. If you don’t have much to discuss or work through, don’t meet for the sake of meeting.

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10 scientifically-supported ways to celebrate your employees

3‑minute read

Most businesses organize some sort of employee appreciation event every year. Why do we do it? Because other companies do it? Because social media tells us we should? Or maybe there’s a science behind it?

There actually is some science behind it. Here are ways you can boost employee happiness and productivity while going easy on your budget.

Employees smiling and talking in the office

Pay attention to these four brain chemicals, their positive effects, and some ways to get them pumping:

Endorphins

Endorphins are chemicals meant to ease pain and stress, but they are also proven to boost happiness. Since physical activities help produce endorphins, here are a range of activities that can get your employees moving:

  • Organize an intramural-style sport activity for your company. Popular sports include basketball, softball, volleyball and kickball. ZogSports coordinates leagues in major metro areas, and many smaller areas have local leagues.
  • Encourage members of your team to start a running group and run a race. Bonus points if you’re benefitting a charity or cause!
  • Look into getting a reduced group rate for fitness classes. There are plenty of cycling, strength training, yoga, barre and other studio fitness classes to choose from.

Dopamine

A lift in dopamine can kick-start some serious motivation and productivity, because it targets the reward center of the brain. Low levels of dopamine have been linked to procrastination and self-doubt, which is the opposite of how you want your employees feeling. Some motivation-boosting activities include:

  • Coordinate goal-setting meetings with specific rewards. If you plan out small milestones and celebrate each one, you’re encouraging continuous productivity and rewarding motivated behavior each time. Rewards can be as big or small as you want.
  • Play music at some points during the day, as long as it’s not distracting. Hearing music that you like is proven to boost dopamine levels. And it wouldn’t hurt if your team also got up and moved to the beat!
  • Encourage learning new skills or being creative. Set up a class at a local craft shop, share a video on the basics of drawing, or give your employees access to adult coloring books.

Serotonin

Serotonin is the chemical perhaps most closely linked to your mood. It contributes to feelings like calmness, and a lack of serotonin is linked to anxiety. Thankfully, there a lot of natural ways to boost serotonin levels and improve your employee’s moods, including:

  • Soaking up some sun. Plan your next team event around being outside —organize a team lunch at a local restaurant with a great patio, or simply relocate your weekly brownbag to a picnic table near the office.
  • Think positively and spread positivity. One of the easiest ways to boost serotonin levels is to recall positive experiences from the past. And try creating positive experiences for your employees going forward with a recognition program.

Oxytocin

The “trust hormone” is crucial in corporate culture. It helps us build working relationships and create positive interactions with one another. Here are a few things you can try in the workplace to build relationships and trust:

  • Try a trust- and team-building experience, like an escape room or obstacle course.
  • Give (and receive) small gifts! It’s been proven that giving a gift can often feel just as good as receiving one. Take this CEO for instance, who wrote each of his employees a birthday card (and received cards in return for his!).

Take a challenge and try integrating each of these happy chemicals into your employee engagement strategy throughout the year.

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