The Modern Office & Managing the Risk

modern officeToday’s employers are placing a premium on employee wellness and engagement. And rightfully so, hard working employees deserve some love. But in addition to doing right by their people, businesses that provide comprehensive wellness plans and lifestyle perks for their employees are realizing huge benefits from it. But with more unconventional and physical activities going on in the office, there comes a whole new set of risks for employers.

Let’s talk about what employers are doing for their people, how it’s working, and how to manage the risks involved in the modern office.

A New Age of Employee Engagement

Now more than ever organizations in business are truly investing in their people. Employee perks and benefits are evolving to an all new level thanks to forward-thinking companies like Google with state of the art fitness facilities, fully stocked game rooms, free bicycles and more cool perks for employees. Who ever thought we’d see a rock climbing wall at the office?  Googles’ perks go so deep that past and current Google employees have gone online to list their favorite perks working for Google.

Here are Some Common Contemporary Employee Benefits, Perks and Activities

  • Fitness gyms
  • Yoga, Karate, Pilates studios
  • Basketball courts
  • Table games: Ping Pong, Foosball, Billiards, etc.
  • Video games
  • Reading rooms
  • Massage chairs
  • On Site Pet Care
  • And yes, even rock climbing

A New Age of Risk

Not to be a wet blanket, but you can get hurt playing Ping Pong, and the bottom line is: If you’re putting perks and activities in place that present the potential for an accident or injury, you have a responsibility to manage the risk and provide the safest environment possible for your employees. So, before you put up the basketball hoop, put some basic risk management measures in place.

Here are some simple things that you can do to manage the risks involved with lifestyle perks:

Liability Waivers: If you’re offering activities with any level of physicality or potential for injury, it’s a common best practice to get signed waivers from participants…even if it’s only Ping Pong.

Medical Clearance: Depending on the physical level of the activities you make available, you may consider requiring clearance from a doctor before employees may participate in any activities.

Restrict Access: To reduce employer risks, allow only employees of the company (and not friends and family) to take advantage of the amenities (Gym, Sports Court, etc).

Safety Programs: Institute a safety education program covering the equipment and activities, and post safety guidelines in game rooms, gyms, and on ball courts or playing fields.

Get Covered: If you’re thinking of providing any new perks or benefits for your employees, make sure that you have adequate liability and workers’ comp  insurance coverage in place (yes, even if it’s ping pong).

The modern office landscape is changing, and with this new era of employee engagement and all of the perks that go with it, a new set of risks arise. So, if you’re considering taking your benefits package to the next level, talk to us at Sinclair. We specialize in measuring your risk and covering your exposure. We’re also Liability and Workers’ Comp experts, so this is right up our alley.

Shannon Hudspeth
Human Resource Director
shudspeth@srfm.com

Why your business needs a wellness program

Building Healthy Habits — Beat Holiday Indulgences and Feel Fantastic

healthy habitsEating and drinking is one of the great pleasures in life, and the holiday season is the perfect time to indulge. Celebrating with family and friends makes it easy to just have one more serving, an extra slice of cake, or another glass of wine. Of course, that can mean putting on a few more pounds than you’d like, so what’s the best way to shift that holiday weight?

Rather than starting up a new diet or exercise regime, it’s all about making small, positive lifestyle changes and building good habits — Here’s how to do exactly that.

Understand what you want to change most to get healthier

You can only change your lifestyle if you’ve got a good reason. Think about what your goals are when it comes to getting healthier — Is it losing weight, lifting a certain amount, walking up a steep hill without being out of breath, or something else?

Your goals should be short-term and easy to reach — If you want to lose weight it’s much better to aim at losing a couple of pounds a month than 25 pounds this year. So, choose one goal, write it down, and commit to it.

Focus on making one small change to your health at a time

If you try to do too much too soon, you’ll lose focus, get distracted, and it won’t last. That’s why getting healthier is all about making small, incremental changes that together add up to you feeling fantastic. Look at your goal and think about the one small thing you could do today to get towards it. For example:

  • Reduce your mid-afternoon snacks.
  • Drink one less beer during an evening out with friends.
  • Walk for 15 minutes each day.
  • Have one “meat free” day a week.

Then, make the change and stick to it.

Take pleasure in what you’re doing to create a healthier lifestyle

It’s important to feel positively about the changes you’re making, rather than seeing them as denying yourself. Be “in the moment” and conscious of how and why you’re making your choices. If you’re taking a walk each day, spend the time really enjoying and noticing your surroundings. If you’re reducing how much you drink, replace the beer or wine with a delicious fruit smoothie. Think about ways to positively reinforce what you’re doing.

When it comes to getting healthier, don’t do too much, too quickly

As you make changes, wait for them to become a habit and “stick” before you move onto something else. Ideally, you want your positive lifestyle changes to become effortless and part of who you are. That way, it will never feel like a chore.

Really feel the benefits of a healthier lifestyle

Positive reinforcement is vitally important. That’s why you want to notice the changes you’re making and the benefits they’re having. Appreciate the fact you don’t run out of breath when you’re hiking up a hill, or that you look great in the new clothes you’ve been able to buy. Reward yourself for creating healthy changes in your life.

It’s amazing how much you can do for your health if you set realistic goals, turn small changes into habits, feel the benefits, and take pleasure in what you’re doing. Of course, you can still have “cheat days” and overindulge from time to time. Now you’ll have the confidence you’re completely in charge of your lifestyle and the healthy choices you’ve made.

Heather Sinclair
Risk Management Consultant
hsinclair@srfm.com

Healthly Habits

Prepping Your Vehicle for Winter

Prepping Your Vehicle for WinterAs the temperature drops and the skies turn gray, natures’ animals prepare for the great hibernation that is winter. Squirrels stockpile nuts, bears fatten themselves up, birds fly south, and us humans head to the store and buy a new winter coat. For those of us with opposable thumbs, we also have to prepare other things for winter that are distinctly human…like our automobiles.

Owning a car, which most of us do, comes with the responsibility of regular maintenance and upkeep and for those of us living in colder climates, we have the added task of prepping our automobiles for winter. So as the cold front approaches, what do you need to do to get your car ready for the change of season?

Getting your car mechanically ready for the cold:

  • Fluids: Fluids are the life blood of your vehicle and as the temperature drops, the fluids in our vehicle respond. Frozen or broken down fluids are generally not good for a car. It’s critical to ensure that the fluids we’re using in our car can stand up to the freezing temperatures of winter. Specifically:
  • Engine Coolant/Anti-Freeze:  A coolant system flush and new radiator fluid is a good idea going into winter, and make sure you have anti-freeze in your radiator that’s rated for sub zero temperatures.
  • Engine Oil: Most engine oil these days are rated for two temperature ranges (10W 30 for example). The numbers signify the weight or viscosity of the oil. The more viscous the oil, the more easily it flows through the engine. With engine oil, lower numbers means the oil flows more easily. In winter you want a lower weight oil so the cold doesn’t thicken the oil and impede the flow through the engine. Be sure you have some 10W in your oil weight. Did you know that the “w” in 10w30 stands for winter? It does.
  • Transmission Fluid: Typically, the transmission fluid in your vehicle is rated for the cold but heading into winter is a good time to have a mechanic check the fluid, flush it out and replace it if needed.
  • Windshield Wiper Fluid: While it’s not critical to the operation of your vehicle, wiper fluid if not rated for the cold can freeze up and cause damage to the wiper fluid reservoir.
  • Tires: The obvious item to prep for winter is your tires. Have your tires inspected by a professional mechanic to ensure that there is sufficient tread to get you through the snowy days. If your area sees a lot of snow, you may want to consider putting on tires with snow specific tread. These tires have a more aggressive tread pattern and will reduce your gas mileage so consider the trade off. Here are some tips from the pros on winter tires.
  • Heater: None of us want to be stuck in the dead of winter with no heater in the car. Have your mechanic check your heater operation and make sure you’re ready for the chill.

 Preparing to drive and store your car in the cold:

Once your vehicle is mechanically ready for the cold weather, it’s time to prep yourself as a driver for the cold days ahead. Here are some things you can do to make your winter driving life easier.

  • Keep an emergency kit in the car: You never know when your car may break down or get stuck in the snow leaving you stranded in the cold. Act like a boy scout and be prepared with a winter emergency car kit with items like flares, a camping shovel for digging out of snow, and some cold weather gear.
  • Get an Ice scraper/Snow brush: Duh. I know, it’s obvious to have one but it’s also good to invest in a good quality scraper.
  • Get a car cover: If you’re not into scraping and brushing snow off the car in the morning, a car cover could make your life more enjoyable. A couple of minutes to put a cover on your car in the evening can save you several minutes of scraping ice and brushing snow in the morning. And who wants to do that on a cold winter morning when you’re late for work? You can purchase a car cover online that is made specifically for your car.

Here’s a tip: Always make sure that all of the snow is completely removed from your vehicle before driving. I know, you just want to get to work, but when you leave snow on your car, it blows off while you drive blinding drivers in cars behind you in a snow drift, which is unsafe, and not too friendly.

As winter approaches, do these few things to get you and your car ready for the cold and it’s going to make your life a whole lot easier. At Sinclair, we’re always preparing for the future and the unforeseen. We are Risk Management Specialists ready to handle whatever life brings your way.

Stephen Davis
sdavis@srfm.com
Sinclair Risk& Financial Management

Prepping Your Vehicle for Winter

Health Insurance and Large Groups — Understand How Your Premiums Are Calculated

?????????????????????????????????As an employer, one of the most valuable benefits you can offer to your employees is health insurance. For larger groups of 51 employees or more, you’ll likely have group health insurance coverage. This is a policy you’ll typically purchase from a broker (so you get the best deal) that you can then offer to all of your eligible employees. Around 98% of large employers (businesses with more than 200 employees) provide health coverage to some or all of their people.

These types of health insurance policies are great for your employees

Large group policies have several advantages over small group or individual health insurance plans:

  • The employer typically pays half or more of an employee’s premiums.
  • Premium only plans (POP) mean employees can pay premiums out of their pre-tax incomes.
  • This results in significantly subsidized premiums, meaning happier employees.
  • You get a healthier, better motivated workforce.

The health insurance cost is calculated slightly differently for large groups

The cost of large group policies is typically worked out when the employer decides to purchase, rather than being a fixed rate. The premiums, coverage, deductibles, and benefits are normally based on several factors:

  • The number of employees participating.
  • The type of coverage needed.
  • The amount of payments, deductibles, and benefits desired.
  • An employer’s prior claims history.

Individual employees don’t normally have to fill out health questionnaires, although employers may need to answer general questions on the health of their employees.

Other factors that can impact your health insurance premiums for large groups

Some insurers will also take the following into account:

  • The average age of the workforce.
  • Large claims that have been made by the employer previously.
  • The employer’s location — New York City is going to be more expensive than rural Wisconsin.
  • The gender makeup of the workforce.
  • The sector an employer works in — Premiums for constructions workers are going to be higher than for a retail shoe store.

All of these factors will feed into the calculations, coverage, benefits, and premiums.

Differences in health insurance premiums between small and large groups

If we look at a typical health insurance plan for a family, an employee will generally contribute:

  • In small groups — Around 35% of the premium.
  • In large groups — Around 25% of the premium.

There’s less of a burden on employees in large group health insurance plans.

If you’re a large employer, you must offer health insurance

The Affordable Care Act requires that employers of more than 50 people must offer affordable health plans to their ‘Full Time Equivalent” employees. The penalties for not providing this type of cover are:

  • Mandate Penalty — This comes into effect if an employer does not offer group health coverage. It’s calculated at $2,000 per employee, after the first 30 employees.
  • Qualification Penalty — This applies if an employer does not offer a “qualifying plan.” Qualifying plans must offer a certain minimum standard of coverage, and must be affordable to employees. The penalty is $3,000 per employee that does not get qualifying coverage and purchases a policy through the health insurance Marketplace.

The best way to make sure you get an affordable policy, and your employees get the coverage they need, is to use a specialist health insurance broker. They can help you navigate the complicated areas of health insurance and make sure you get the support you need to make the right choice.

Jill Goulet
Risk Management Consultant
jgoulet@srfm.com

Sinclair 7-22-15-14