November 2012

Wellness Tip:
Stay healthy, be proactive, don’t let a cold or flu slow you down. Who has time to be sick? Not you.
The very best time to treat a cold or flu is when you don’t have one! This may sound silly but prevention is always better than cure.
The common cold is caused by any one of 200 different viruses. Symptoms range from sore throat, running nose, nasal congestion,
watery eyes to hacking cough, headache, and fever. Most colds or flus run their course over 7-10 days. Recurrent colds may indicate a lowered immune capacity
and too much stress and often not enough sleep.  Listen to your body and slow down. Some natural “off the shelf” preventative remedies you may try to help ward off any nasty cold or flu bug are vitamin C and zinc lozenge, they boost your immune system and increase the number of white blood cells. Should you be have very early symptoms, colloidal silver and garlic capsules kill viruses. To take extra measures you may also try a tea mixture which includes 1 tsp. bayberry bark; 1 tsp. grated ginger root; ½ tsp. cayenne powder; 1 cup of boiling water. Let it sit for 20 minutes.  These herbs all have immune system boosting elements. Always consult with your physician before taking any off the shelf medications or home remedies, as they may interfere with the effectiveness of prescription medication .

Preparing your workplace for a major flu outbreak

A widespread outbreak of the flu or a pandemic can have serious consequences for the workplace.

A widespread outbreak of the flu or a pandemic can have serious consequences for the workplace. Preparing now for a future pandemic makes good business sense.

If you already have a plan for managing a pandemic, it’s a good idea to review those plans in light of current conditions. If you have not given consideration to planning for a pandemic, here are some tips to help you get prepared:

Establish a flu manager. Identify a person in your organization who can take responsibility for health and safety measures and give that person the time to assemble a Pandemic Response Plan, with appropriate resources and committee if required.

Support a hygienic workplace. Even the deadliest of flu viruses are destroyed with soap and water. Washing hands, using tissues, and wiping common surfaces like door handles and telephones is a very effective first line of defense.

Stock up on hygienic supplies, including tissues, medical and hand hygiene products, cleaning supplies (to sanitize workstations) and masks (for infected individuals). These items may be difficult to obtain once a pandemic begins.

Communicate early. Establish a communication plan for employees and business contacts. Provide current influenza information to all employees. Identify and make available information on community resources.

In the event of a pandemic, your employees will look to you for up-to-date information. Good communication with your employees is essential to avoid rumours and misinformation. Here are some steps you can take:

·         Pre-build a web page that can go live in the event of a pandemic and include key contacts and a tracking system for
employee status.

·         Establish a phone tree in the case of internet disruptions.

·         Make certain you are especially clear about the importance of staying away from the workplace if they become ill.
Preparing to address concerns, such as potential lost wages can be one of the largest deterrents to self-quarantine.

Anticipate significant staff absences. Consider the disruption to your organization if one-third of employees are home sick or caring for their families. Identify key roles that need to be maintained and make certain other people can cover them. Review Information Technology (IT) plans to ensure resources are in place to allow some people to work from home if needed.

Consider temporary closures. Can the organization remain operational with “skeletal” staff? What are the pros and cons of closing down the entire operation? If supply lines are cut there may be no other option. Determine the implications of being shut down for a week, a month, or six months.

Protect your staff. The first priority in an outbreak will be managing the health of your employees and limiting the spread of the disease within the organization. Educate staff of signs of illness and ensure that they go home immediately. Determine what your policy is for high risk employees such as expectant mothers and spouses. Monitor staff who are ill. Track their progress by phone and help them arrange for somebody to provide care. Ensure that quarantine periods as set by your public health system are followed before returning to the workplace.

Secure your data. Back up essential files off site. Provide access to a network of key employees and be clear about what roles they will need to step into should other employees be off the job.

Review employment policies. Know your rights and rights of your employees in an extreme health crisis. Can you require staff to stay away if they are sick? Are there clauses for business closures or emergency situations? Will you provide sick pay for an extended pandemic outbreak? What efforts can you expect from healthy staff who may not be able to report to work when public transit is shut down?

Addressing the presenteeism issue

On any given day, you may look around your office and see that all your employees are at work. But present doesn’t always mean productive. Presenteeism—absenteeism’s lesser known, but still costly, cousin—occurs when employees who are physically present are, due to a physical or emotional issue, distracted to the point of reduced productivity.

As employers increase their sensitivity to the issues surrounding mental and physical health in the workplace, they also increase their awareness of presenteeism. Everyone is aware of situations where employees are at work but are not productive due to emotional or physical distractions. Some may call these individuals the ‘walking wounded’ or, to use a sports analogy, say they are ‘playing hurt’.

But beyond this simple definition, presenteeism has several nuances. If, once or twice, an individual is distracted at work by a personal matter, that is not presenteeism or, at least, it is not consistent presenteeism. If the problem that creates the distraction persists and results in chronic stress with unhealthy physical or emotional manifestations (racing heart, headaches, depression), it becomes a health issue that interferes with productivity That’s the presenteeism employers should be concerned about.

Lost productivity costs
Increasingly, plan sponsors and their consultants understand that a well-designed wellness campaign should help improve workplace health and employee productivity. And it is generally understood that the more a wellness strategy is ingrained across all levels of an organization—from procedural to social—the more positive its influence on employee health. To measure the impact of such a strategy, plan sponsors typically track criteria such as degrees of absenteeism, increases/decreases in drug claiming for chronic conditions with a lifestyle connection, short- and long-term disability claims and return-to-work successes and failures.

But absent from this list, due to its difficulty in quantifying, is measurement of presenteeism. To properly measure, presenteeism requires initial benchmarking followed by a form of intervention to address its causes. A follow-up measurement, post-intervention, then quantifies the degree of presenteeism. It sounds straightforward, but it’s not when you consider the depth to which employee actions, reactions, expectations regarding output and individual physical and emotional influences need to be identified and measured—all while using statistical protocols.

The labour-intensive components of this activity—and its need for a command of sophisticated measuring and statistical criteria—preclude many from doing so. Nonetheless, many sponsors continue to want, and need, to know what they can anticipate as their return on investment (ROI) before investing time in planning and delivering a possible solution.

Numbers game
Unfortunately, despite the existence of various North American studies on the matter (some dating back to the mid-’70s), quantifying presenteeism in terms that relate to businesses across the board has been difficult because of issues around consistency and integrity of the studies. Fortunately, clarity is on its way in the not-too-distant future. Soon, Canadians will be able to look to a number of Canadian research projects on absenteeism, disability and presenteeism in relation to wellness investment that will provide metrics rooted in scientific, objective and reputable research mechanisms. These projects, currently under way, are the result of a partnership of insurance companies, educational institutions and others with a vested interest in quantifying the human and ROI value of wellness programs.

In one such effort, a well-established insurance provider has partnered with the University of Montreal in the study called Developing Better Assessment, Interventions and Policies in Occupational Mental Health: A Multi-disciplinary Approach. The objective of this five-year project is to analyze the link between personal and organizational characteristics; namely, to better understand the influence of a company’s management practices on employee mental health. Early results will be released this fall, with the remainder throughout 2013.

The main company objective is to help educate employers to help them visualize the human and financial cost of mental health issues in the workplace. They want to put numbers around this issue to help our plan sponsors better understand the negative implications (including presenteeism) of having unhealthy or distracted employees—whether or not they are at work—as well as the value of investing in wellness.

Getting to ROI
In an effort to generate quality, scientifically sound data on the ROI of wellness, a wellness institutes have partnered with the Richard Ivey School of Business for the Return-on-Investment (ROI) Study of Workplace Wellness Programs, intended to increase evidence and insight into Canadian workplace wellness. Phase 1, completed earlier this year, consists of a comprehensive review of all published literature on the issue of workplace wellness programs and their outcomes. Phase 2, under way now, is a two-year field study involving a number of Canadian organizations and examines wellness strategies in relation to ROI.

Dr. Michael Rouse, director of the Health Sector MBA with the Ivey School of Business and head of the joint study, recently shared results of the completed Phase 1 with industry members and says the study’s rigorous review of global literature and studies on the ROI of wellness programs “reveal a savings of 1.5 to 1.7 absentee days per employee, per year when a wellness program is in place. This translates into a savings of $251 to $274 per year, per employee.”

Bear in mind, the above statistic is only what has been revealed by research literature to date and includes data from outside Canada. Phase 2 of the study is restricted to Canada.

The Burnout factor
Further insight into the effects of presenteeism, its hidden costs and impacts within the workplace can be found in a recently published report The Burnout Factor. The following details from the report highlight the high toll of poor physical and mental health on workers and, by extension, their employers.

The group with the highest average “burnout factor” (stresses in emotional, financial, personal, professional and health areas) is that of full-time employees. They received a score of 38, which is high in relation to retired individuals (with a score of 20) and in comparison to all Canadians (with a score of 31).
Of the full-time employee group, it is the individuals between the ages of 35 and 44—prime productive working years—who are at a particularly high risk of stress. Their burnout factor score was, on average, 40.4, which is 30% higher than that of the average Canadian.
Why the focus on chronic stress? Because medical research indicates prolonged exposure to stress has strong links to chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, obesity and more. While other research on this matter is taking place in North America, these two studies are uniquely Canadian and, therefore, are expected to be influential in helping Canadian plan sponsors better understand and quantify expectations around investing in wellness.

Outside of any research taking place, the reality is that employers will always need to be sensitive to the human and financial costs of presenteeism, absenteeism and disability in the workplace and will always wish to mitigate those costs. If plan sponsors currently believe in the strong correlation between improved ROI and the time, effort and initiative involved in creating and sustaining a proactive organizational culture that is committed to mental and physical health, then following this data will be key to developing wellness programs in the future.

excerpts provided by:     Homewood – Human Solutions September 2012

Benefits Canada article provided by:Pal Benefits- E. Huberman/October 2012

MC&A “A Thought to Ponder” – “Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It is what the client or customer gets out of it.” – Peter Drucker

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