Benefits administrator blog from Delta Dental

Tag: workplace tips (Page 1 of 2)

Help your employees quit smoking for the Great American Smokeout

November is the perfect time to encourage your employees who smoke to quit. On the third Thursday of each November, the American Cancer Society sponsors the Great American Smokeout, a day to inspire people to stop smoking.

Supporting your employees through cessation is one of the most effective steps you can take to help improve their dental and overall health. In honor of the Great American Smokeout, help your employees who smoke create a plan to quit.

How smoking affects your employees’ health

About 34 million American adults smoke cigarettes, and smoking remains the single largest preventable cause of death and illness in the world. Smoking causes an estimated 480,000 deaths in the U.S. every year, or about one in five of all deaths.

The total economic cost of smoking is more than $300 billion a year, including more than $225 billion in direct medical care for adults and more than $156 billion in lost productivity.

Most people know that smoking greatly increases the risk for many diseases, including cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. But smoking can also take a serious toll on oral health. The damage includes:

  • Tooth discoloration. The nicotine and tar in cigarettes can cause yellow or stained teeth.
  • Cavities. Consuming nicotine reduces saliva production in the mouth, and without enough moisture, plaque and tartar easily build up on the teeth, leading to cavities.
  • Gum recession. Smoking irritates the lining of the gums, causing them to pull back from the teeth. Nicotine from smoking or vaping reduces blood flow to the teeth and gums, which also contributes to gum recession.
  • Gum disease. Smoking weakens the immune system, which makes smokers more vulnerable to developing gum disease. Smokers have twice the risk of gum disease compared with non-smokers, and that risk increases the more you smoke.
  • Tooth loss. Male smokers are up to 3.6 times more likely to lose their teeth than non-smokers, while female smokers are up to 2.5 times more likely.
  • Oral cancer. Tobacco is the major risk factor for cancers of the mouth and throat. Smokers are 10 times more likely than non-smokers to develop oral cancer.

Resources for the Great American Smokeout

Quitting smoking isn’t easy. Cessation often requires long-term support. To have the best chance of quitting and remaining smoke-free, your employees will need to know the facts: what they’re up against, what their options are and where to go for help.

Use the following resources as reminders and encouragement for your employees:

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.

How to support your Asian American and Pacific Islander employees

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, and it’s a great time to celebrate and honor your AAPI employees. In addition to fun and festivities at work, one way to help your employees feel seen and heard is to offer them quality benefits that fit their needs. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to let your AAPI employees know you have their back.

What hurdles do AAPI populations face when accessing dental care?

In general, racial and ethnic minorities can face extra difficulties when it comes to accessing oral health care in the United States. When it comes to AAPI populations, individuals’ time spent in the United States is the strongest predictor of whether or not they’ve recently visited the dentist. Native-born and long-time residents are more likely to visit the dentist than recent immigrants for three reasons:

  • They’ve likely had more experience with the U.S. health care system. Outside the U.S., dental and medical are often both covered through the same insurance system and may even be available within a single medical center. New immigrants face a learning curve navigating the U.S. system.
  • They’re likely more comfortable communicating in English. Language barriers can make it difficult to find dental insurance, understand coverage and communicate with a dentist.
  • They’re likely wealthier than recent immigrants, so they have an easier time accessing and affording care. Wealth increases for immigrants of all races as the time they spend in the U.S. increases.

These may seem like issues that can only be solved by time, but dental insurance can help to address them. Dental insurance:

  • Assists employees in understanding the care they need by making diagnostic and preventive care available at no cost or low-cost
  • Reduces employees’ out-of-pocket costs with contracted rates at in-network dentists and cost sharing
  • Helps to bridge language and experience gaps with written material in multiple languages and in-person interpretation

How can I support my AAPI employees?

When it comes to supporting AAPI employees, actions are more important than words. Offer resources that help them get the care they need and alert them to the existence of these resources. If employees are unfamiliar with insurance or dental care systems, they may not know what they need!

If you have a large population of AAPI employees with limited English proficiency, consider providing materials (such as benefits highlight sheets) in their native languages to help them understand their coverage. Delta Dental can provide translations of these essential documents for you to distribute. Just talk to your account manager.

What resources does Delta Dental offer to its AAPI members?

Language barriers can be a major impediment to effectively communicating with a dentist and getting needed care. Approximately 77% of AAPI families speak non-English languages at home. The most common AAPI languages in the United States are:

  • Chinese
  • Tagalog
  • Vietnamese
  • Korean
  • Hindi and Urdu

Delta Dental offers resources and tools to all of its members that may be especially useful to your AAPI employees and their families, including:

  • The Language Assistance Program (LAP). The LAP is a free service that employees can use to get professional interpretive services for their non-English needs. This includes phone assistance, written materials and more, including an in-person interpreter when given 72 hours’ notice.
  • The Find a Dentist tool. Employees can use Delta Dental’s online directory to locate dentists who fit their specific needs. They can search by distance and specialty or search by languages spoken (such as Chinese or Tagalog) and accessibility features.

May is AAPI Heritage Month, but there’s no bad time for considering your employee’s dental care needs. Offering quality benefits like dental insurance is a great way to support the health of your AAPI employees, their families and everyone else on your staff, too.

Employer considerations for COVID-19 vaccines

The speed and efficacy with which COVID-19 vaccines have been developed is a testament to human ingenuity and the drive to create a safer world for us all. The three vaccines that are widely available in the U.S. (Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson) have all received emergency authorization by the FDA after demonstrating both efficacy and safety, but there are still some points you may want to consider when deciding on how your company should approach a vaccine policy.

What are my options as an employer?

There are three main courses of action you could take when it comes to employees and vaccines:

  • Do nothing. This means choosing not to implement a company-wide vaccine policy and not advocating for and encouraging vaccinations. Doing nothing may not be the optimal choice from a public health perspective, but it’s certainly a valid one from a legal standpoint. Mandating or incentivizing vaccination could help to reduce increased costs or absenteeism from employees, but it can also expose your company to legal liability depending on how such policies are implemented (and how litigious employees are).
  • Encourage and incentivize vaccination. This is a gentler approach than outright mandating vaccinations as a condition of continued employment. Encouraging employees to get vaccinated is legally safe, although it may run the risk of upsetting employees who don’t believe in vaccination, who have concerns about vaccine safety, who have health considerations that keep them from getting vaccinated or who simply don’t like feeling pressured when it comes to managing their health. Incentives, such as offering paid time off or a bonus to employees who get vaccinated, must be carefully implemented, however. Aside from the cost considerations that comes with bonuses and incentives, you may find yourself legally liable for any issues that arise if you implement on-site vaccinations.
  • Mandate vaccination. This is an aggressive option, but it’s certainly the most effective from the point of prioritizing the health and safety of employees. Mandating that employees get vaccinated is generally legal (although it may not be in some states), but it’s possible that some implementations of such a policy could put you at legal risk (for example, setting up on-site vaccinations or inquiring about employees’ personal health to determine their eligibility for vaccination).

Which employees should get vaccinated first?

Until vaccines become more widely available, it’s best to prioritize employees who are most vulnerable to exposure and at greatest risk of complications from COVID-19. Of course, in health care and senior care industries, everyone with regular contact with the ill and elderly should be vaccinated. Outside of these industries, consider prioritizing:

  • Employees who work in close physical contact
  • Employees who have regular exposure to customers and other members of the public
  • Employees who have regular exposure to heavily trafficked enclosed spaces, food products or other settings where infection may be a risk
  • Employees who are 65 or older
  • Employees who are 16–65 with underlying medical conditions that increase the risk of life-threatening COVID-19 complications

What are the risks of implementing a vaccine policy?

You could get into legal trouble if pre-screening vaccination questions aren’t job-related and consistent with the requirements of your business. To avoid this outcome, make sure that any pre-screening questions are related to the job and that you can prove that unvaccinated employees pose a direct threat to the health and safety of other employees. Similarly, you could get into legal trouble if you attempt to prevent workers’ concerted activity, such as expressing opposition to mandatory vaccines.

Make sure to follow state and local laws, as well. Some locales may have prohibitions against mandating vaccines that aren’t required by state or federal law.

Setting a policy and moving forward

Before settling on the policy that’s best for your company and your employees, there are a few final things to consider.

  • Make sure you follow all federal, state and local laws. You don’t want to put your organization at risk of legal exposure. Do some research to make sure you stay up-to-date on the latest laws and regulations.
  • Get a sense of how employees feel. If you have employees who feel very strongly about vaccines, either adopting a mandatory policy or doing nothing may cause disquiet. Taking surveys of employee sentiments can be a good way to decide how to craft your message.
  • Identify who should be doing the communication. Figures like respected managers, team leaders and union officials can be excellent ambassadors for your company’s policies, especially in larger organizations where employees may not have personal relationships with upper management.
  • Be transparent. As always, communication is key when it comes to rolling out new policies that can affect employees’ work lives. Let employees know both what your COVID-19 vaccine policy is and how that position was reached. Be sure to listen to and address employee concerns, even if your policy remains firm.

Regardless of what policy you decide to implement, wearing masks and respecting social distancing will stay important aspects of infection management. Even as vaccines become more readily available, maintain practices and procedures to minimize the chance of infection and help your entire organization stay healthy.

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.

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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