The joke is on us — Open Enrollment doesn’t have to be painful. In the latest episode of the People Purpose Podcast, Chas and Julie talk about the importance of overcommunication, some of the new demands you may not consider as an employer, and everybody’s favorite: compliance considerations. You will also hear about Julie’s paper-filled experience as a practitioner when handling Open Enrollment, as Chas chats about his journey being a millennial while dealing with benefits.

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Today's post comes to us from Workforce Institute board member Neil Reichenberg.

A survey titled Mind Over Money, released in January 2020 by Capital One and The Decision Lab, found that 77% of Americans report anxiety over their financial situation, with 58% believing that finances control their lives. More than 40% stated that their financial stress makes it difficult for them to concentrate at work. Similarly, the 2020 Workplace Benefits Report issued by Bank of America found that less than half of employees are feeling financially well, which is a 12% drop from two years ago. Almost 60% of employees say they do not have control over their debt.  

The Bank of America study also found that 62% of employers feel extreme responsibility for their employees' financial wellness, which is up from 13% in 2013, while more than 80% of employers believe financial wellness leads to greater productivity, more loyal employees, and more engaged and satisfied employees. Employees cite lack of access to guidance as the greatest barrier preventing them from making progress towards their financial goals.  

Given these facts - which echo our own December 2019 survey - on a similar topic - it was with great interest that I read a recent report by The Center for State and Local Government Excellence (SLGE) titled Financial Literacy Programs for Local Government Employees which highlights the financial well-being programs of two local governments. A previous SLGE survey found that while only 26% of state and local governments offer a financial literacy or education program, 68% of state and local government employees said they would be likely to participate if one was offered.  

The City and County of Denver, CO was one of the local governments discussed in the report.  Denver restructured its employee well-being program to be data-driven and allow targeting of those wellness areas that are employee priorities. The well-being initiative had the support of Denver's top leadership. The program is based on four wellness pillars: financial, mental, physical, and professional. Data was collected and aggregated based on different metrics. The data was provided to the 32 governmental agencies on the four pillars and how each agency compares to the rest of the city.

To address financial well-being, Denver identified several potential interventions:

Areas that may be targeted include low retirement savings by providing more education so that employees understand how a deferred compensation retirement plan can supplement the city's pension plan and how to take advantage of the pre-tax benefits when participating in the flexible spending accounts for health care, dependent care, and parking. Denver provides annual financial incentives to employees who participate in its wellness program that can include earning a $600 health spending account deposit or health insurance premium reduction for 2021. Denver provides employees with short, interactive, financial-focused learning experiences online.  

Each agency has a wellness champion who coordinates the agency's activities, communicates activities and incentive details, and works with the HR office to ensure access to programs and resources. Wellness champions network with each other to share ideas on ways to keep employees engaged with this initiative. Agency leaders determine which leading and lagging measures they can use to determine progress and when they may need to change the course of action. By returning a portion of annual premium payments, the city's healthcare providers are an ongoing source of funding that keeps the program operating.

The Bank of America report noted the business reasons for expanding financial wellness programs. The report stated, “Employees now want to see education and support that will help them not just save for retirement, but also help with everyday financial decision - from making retirement savings last to managing healthcare costs, managing debt more effectively, using budgeting and saving techniques and balancing competing financial goals.”

In a year like the one we find ourselves in with a global pandemic and widespread unemployment and economic hardship, helping employees feel more in control of their finances is something all employers should be striving to do. Recognizing that financial well-being is a critical component of overall employee health will help employers better serve their employees and keep them happier and more loyal.

The following post is courtesy of our board member John Hollon.

For many workers, it's a rite of summer -- cutting out early to get the weekend going a little sooner.

But now it's becoming more than that for a lot of companies.

According to a study released this month by CEB (now Gartner), some 42 percent of the companies that were surveyed will offer employees a "Summer Friday" arrangement where employees have the flexibility to leave early on Friday, or in some cases, take the entire day off.

This is a great perk if you can get it.

As The Washington Post notes:

“(This) benefit is ... a no-brainer for companies to offer. As flexible work arrangements have grown and the average office worker is just a text or phone call away, many people already duck out early on Friday afternoons, especially before long holiday weekends. Making it official gives the company a way to plug their generosity without spending much at all."

What makes this great is that it not only acknowledges something that a lot of employees are already doing, but that it also doesn't cost the organization much to do it. Anytime you can offer something that employees love with little financial impact, that's a huge win-win for everyone.

This also shows that companies are working to get more creative with their benefit offerings, especially for things that have a lot of value for employees (like getting some longer weekends during the summer) yet don't really detract from the bottom line.

And, it is a perk that benefits employees up and down the workplace totem pole, from down in the trenches up to the executive level.

Sounds too good to be true, no? Well, not exactly.

While generally touting the Summer Friday concept, The Washington Post also pointed out that this is a benefit that is designed largely - and only - for salaried workers:

“Of course, summer Fridays are hardly a benefit offered to all employees. They're yet another example of the bonus and benefit divide that exists as professional office workers get perks that hourly workers -- who are less likely to get variable pay and often receive less cushy benefits, such as paid leave -- don't. Letting cashiers or production line workers skip out at noon the Friday before Memorial Day just isn't in the cards for most companies."

I can see the point The Post is making, and I agree that there will be a lot of workers that won't benefit from Summer Fridays, but I still think they're a valuable benefit for employers to consider.

My experience is that ANYTHING that helps to move the needle on employee benefits is a good thing. Yes, there are a lot of people who won't be able to utilize a Summer Friday off, but it's rare when any benefit comes along that is something all employees can utilize universally across-the-board.

In the real world, new benefits get tried and tested, and if they seem to be working, companies and organizations start looking for ways to spread them to more and more employees.

This is especially true if they don't cost much to implement.

So consider me a fan of the Summer Fridays concept even if it doesn't reach everybody in every workplace everywhere. You gotta start somewhere with these things, and I seem to remember reading that we shouldn't "let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

Those are a few good words to remember whether we're talking about life, or, the offering of a new benefit.

How about your workplace - are you giving your employees extra flexibility this summer?  

Last Thursday, Kronos held its second annual 5K walk/run in Chelmsford, Massachusetts (home to our headquarters). Participation was complimentary and open to all Kronos employees and their families.

Kronos5K3

Our now-annual 5K is a great way to get Kronites outside and active together - whether you're an experienced runner or you'd just prefer to walk the 3.1-mile loop.

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Leading up to the event, we held a Desk to 5K program for anyone who wanted to get fully prepared for the race. (It's Kronos' version of the popular Couch to 5K program). In addition to engaging employees, this program also successfully increased participants' endurance for race day.

Kronos5K1

Although the 5K is a great incentive to get Kronites active and engaged, we're lucky that it's only one element to Kronos' breadth of healthy living benefits. From our on-site, fully-equipped gyms to the Quit for Life program to Weight Watchers discounts (to name a few), Kronites throughout the world are constantly encouraged to live healthy, happy lives - inside and outside of work. (To see all the photos from this year's 5K, visit Kronos' Facebook page).

What are your tips for staying healthy - and active - inside and outside of work?

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