Workplace Flu Shots & Other Wellness Options Gain Ground

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As flu season approaches, an analysis conducted by ERC shows that the percentage of employers offering workplace flu shots and other wellness options has increased significantly since 2007.

According to the 2011 NorthCoast 99 Winners Report, 19% more NorthCoast 99 winners offered free flu shots to keep their workforce healthier during flu season when compared to 2007. Additionally, since 2007, more winners are encouraging fitness by providing subsidies for fitness club memberships; making exercising more convenient by providing on-site fitness classes; and providing annual health fairs. This data seems to suggest that more local employers, and especially employers of choice, are increasing their wellness initiatives.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen more employers expand their health and wellness initiatives in order to improve their employees’ health and well-being. Flu shots and annual health fairs tend to be some of the most common options employers offer. Wellness initiatives can reduce absenteeism, decrease health insurance usage and claims, and create a healthier workplace – all of which are results that many employers are seeking nowadays.

For more information or to purchase the current NorthCoast 99 Winners Report, please click here

Top 10 Corporate Wellness Program Mistakes

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If you’re grappling with low participation and minimal results in your organization’s wellness program or aren’t sure how to make your initiative more successful, you may be making some critical oversights. Here are the top 10 corporate wellness program mistakes.

1. No budget

Many organizations plan to create a wellness program without allocating the resources they need, especially a budget. A wellness initiative can be a major undertaking and adequate funding, staffing, and resources are all critical to a successful program. It’s unlikely that you will be able to see any meaningful results without investing any money or resources into a wellness initiative.

2. Limited interest

Many wellness programs fail because employees have limited interest in the activities or wellness in general. Thus, it’s important to identify the activities in which employees have interest to determine those that may generate better participation, as well as find creative ways to generate interest in wellness (incentives, social activities, contests, etc.). Without participation, you likely won’t achieve any significant behavior change.

3. Assuming that one-size-fits-all

No two employees have the same body, strength, or motivation and likewise not all employees need the same type of help with wellness. Some may need assistance with nutrition and others with fitness. Even within these buckets, employees will vary in terms of their level of fitness/wellness (i.e. beginner, intermediate, advanced). Offer a variety of options and resources so that you can meet the needs of your employees’ many interests, needs, and levels of health.

4. Offering just a few wellness activities

A wellness program is more than just offering an on-site fitness class, annual fair, flu shots, and an occasional seminar. These are wellness activities rather than a comprehensive wellness program. While activities are critical to a wellness initiative, activities alone will rarely create the behavior and lifestyle changes that you are probably seeking. The activities you choose should be connected to the behaviors you want to change in your workforce and the needs of your employees.

5. No connection to your benefits strategy

Wellness programs with no strategy or goals lack direction. Too often, they may not be linked or connected to benefits plans or business strategies, or may be perceived as an extraneous benefit by employees. It’s important to consider the reasons why you are creating the wellness program in the first place and the purpose it serves your business in order to measure whether or not you are meeting its goals. It’s equally as important to make sure that employees see the connection between the wellness program and these strategies.

6. Limited support from senior management

We don’t just mean support for the program’s budget. Senior management needs to buy into your wellness program and participate regularly. They must to be visibly “walking the talk” when it comes to wellness, and most of all, they need to care about employee well-being and recognize how it affects the business. It tends to undermine the success of the program when employees don’t see that their leaders care about wellness.

7. Failing to target high-risk employees

While it’s important to try to engage all of your employees in your company’s wellness efforts, be especially concerned with those that are high-risk. Every organization has some employees who are driving their claims more than average employees. Without engaging these employees to participate, you may not see the results you want. Be prepared to provide targeted resources and support to these employees to help them make critical lifestyle changes.

8. Not changing the little things

By “little things,” we mean the nuances of your culture. If you want employees to take wellness seriously, you’ll need to impact the “little things” in your organization that impede your efforts to create a healthy place to work. These could include replacing soda vending machines with healthy drink options; changing food choices at meetings and staff functions; allowing flexible schedules to work out; and getting rid of traditional morning donuts. If wellness is truly a priority, you have to exemplify that throughout your entire workplace.

9. Lack of change and reinforcement

Over time, employees’ enthusiasm for your wellness program will fluctuate if you don’t keep the program fresh. If new activities and components are not constantly being integrated into the program to maintain employees’ interest, it may be difficult to motivate continued participation. Similar to other workplace initiatives, continue to change and adapt the program over time.

10. Doing it alone

Many organizations try to launch a wellness program with just their own internal staff and the assistance of their health insurance carrier and neglect to use outside experts and vendors. The reality is that designing a wellness program usually requires expertise and experience beyond the traditional HR function. As a result, it’s good practice to select outside resources and support that can help a wellness program succeed. There are many vendors which not only offer assistance with program design, but also provide a variety of tools, services, and products to support and complement your program. 

Corporate wellness programs can be incredibly beneficial to workplaces, driving down health insurance costs, engaging your workforce, and ultimately creating healthier employees. Keep in mind, however, that just a few mistakes can potentially prevent a wellness program from generating the results you want and need for your business.

Additional Resources

For more information about health and wellness from ERC Health, click here.

Health Care Trends for 2012

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Open-enrollment and budgeting season are upon many organizations and the trends are similar to previous years: rising costs, shifts in plan design, increased emphasis on wellness and health management, and greater employee accountability – but with a few positive surprises. Here are some major health care trends that had effects on organizations in 2012.

Health care costs are still rising, but are slowing.

Several studies conducted by Mercer, Towers Watson, and Segal, have found that health care costs will continue to rise in 2012 by approximately 5.4-7.6%, but there is solid evidence that costs are slowing from the past few years. 

Cost-shifting to employees is slowing from past years.

As a result of lower increases in health care costs, experts believe that cost shifting to employees will slow as well in 2012. This trend coupled with slower health care cost increases is likely attributable to more cost sharing practices that have occurred over the past few years and wellness initiatives that many employers are using to manage health care expenses.

Healthcare utilization seems to be trending downhill.

Other positive news is that healthcare utilization is trending downhill. Employees are using fewer medical services, mainly due to wellness and health management programs and choices to postpone medical visits and procedures due to higher health insurance costs (co-pays, deductibles, etc.) and lower disposable income.

High deductible and health savings plan options continue to increase in popularity.

Employers are placing more accountability on individuals in terms of spending their health care dollars and managing their health by integrating a Health Savings Account (HSA) option in their benefits packages. Similarly, high deductible plans are quickly becoming a chosen plan design for many employers.

Greater individual accountability for health continues to increase.

In addition to modifying plan design, employers continue to offer tools to help employees take responsibility for their health including health risk assessments and screening. Many have also turned to incentives to promote the healthy behaviors they are seeking.

Employers are re-evaluating their benefits strategies.

Organizations continue to be concerned about the sustainability of health insurance costs on their businesses and are re-evaluating their benefits strategies for the short and long term, focusing on benefits that are most valuable to their employees including health care, retirement, and lifestyle benefits.

More employers are exploring narrower options and access.

More small and midsize employers are considering swapping lower premiums for narrower access to providers and changing their approach to providing benefits for dependents. Out-of-network options are also coming at a higher price. These three areas appear to be the most common tradeoffs employers are making in order to keep premium costs manageable.

Health management will remain a critical priority for employers.

Organizations aren’t planning to decrease their wellness efforts anytime soon. In fact, in 2012 and beyond, employers can expect that health management and wellness programs will increase and continue to be a priority as they attempt to control health care costs. Employers will be focusing on greater prevention of health conditions by exploring ways to integrate wellness initiatives into their benefits strategy.

As your organization plans its health care strategies for 2012 and negotiates its renewal rates, keep these trends in mind to ensure that your organization manages its health insurance costs effectively in the short and long term.

Sources: Mercer, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Segal, Towers Watson, WorldatWork

When To Get Your Flu Shot

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The Center for Disease Control (CDC) encourages people to get vaccinated throughout the flu season, which can begin as early as October and last as late as May.  For a typical flu season, vaccination should begin in mid-October, assuring strong immunity throughout the season.

Vaccination before December is best since this timing ensures that protective antibodies are in place before flu activity is typically at its highest. Over the course of the flu season, many different influenza viruses can circulate at different times and in different places. As long as flu viruses are still spreading in the community, vaccination can provide protective benefit.

In addition, there are other people who may benefit from seasonal flu vaccination as late as April or May, even if influenza viruses are no longer circulating in the United States. This includes:

  1. Persons likely to be traveling to the Southern Hemisphere where influenza may be circulating and
  2. Children younger than 9 being vaccinated for the first time who still have not received their second recommended dose of vaccine. Studies have shown that two doses are needed in children younger than 9 the first year they are vaccinated in order to maximize the protective benefit from vaccination.

For more information, please contact Gary Walker
Phone: 216-767-8985
Email: gary.walker@uhhospitals.org
Website: UHhospitals.org/EmployerSolutions, University Hospitals is a preferred partner of ERC.

3 Tips to Help Workers Beat the Heat

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The August heat presents challenges for employees who don’t have the luxury of working in comfortable office settings – such as manufacturing workers and outdoor employees. Specifically, heat can impair mental alertness, physical performance, and safety, and may also lead to more conflict. Here are three ways you can help employees “beat the heat” to stay productive and safe.

Break up the day.

Breaks are one of the best ways to help employees beat the heat. Offer employees a few extra breaks during extreme heat conditions and allow them to take a break whenever they feel extremely overheated. Additionally, use earlier or later shifts (if possible) to minimize working during the heat of mid-day.

While employees are on breaks, consider finding useful opportunities for them. For example, some local companies set up learning opportunities for employees to access when they are on break, or when they get too fatigued or hot to work. Organizations create learning rooms where employees can access self-directed learning on topics that would be useful for them – either work-related or pertaining to stress management, fatigue, and wellness. These breaks are an ideal time for employees to train.

Help them stay cool.

Consider providing water and other cold beverages to help your workforce cool off during their breaks. Many employers stock coolers or refrigerators with water, Gatorade (or drinks with electrolytes), and other fluids for employees to freely access. This ensures that workers stay hydrated, thereby minimizing their risk of illness or injury on the job. Some employers also offer “cool treats” on occasion to employees. This can be a great morale booster and shows special appreciation for employees working amidst hot conditions. 

There are several other ways to help employees stay cool. Use recovery areas, such as air-conditioned rooms and enclosures. Add as much ventilation, air-cooling, and insulation as possible to the work environment. Additionally, invest in thermally conditioned clothing for employees such as ice vests, water-cooled garments, and apparel with self-contained air-conditioning.

Be aware that you may also have to help employees “cool off” not only physically, but also in an emotional sense. The discomfort heat causes can enhance irritability and anger, creating more conflict. Employees may fight more with their coworkers or lose patience easily, as a result of the intense physical conditions in which they are working. 

Minimize heat risks.

Educate employees on the signs of heat exhaustion and other heat related injuries and illnesses.  Make them aware of the symptoms to look for when on the job during hot conditions. Additionally, be aware of any employees that are more at risk of heat related issues (i.e. employees with health issues, older employees, pregnant women, etc.) and monitor them a bit more closely on the job or make special arrangements to reduce risks. Also, consider assigning more workers or using relief staff to help reduce heat stress.

Additionally, be aware of potential safety issues that arise during hot weather. Safety procedures have a tendency to be overlooked when heat persists. Personal protective equipment may become uncomfortable to wear; sweat may cause hands to slip; among other issues.  Find ways to maintain safety and reduce risks of work injuries.

Recently, OSHA created an application for SmartPhones which allows employees and supervisors to monitor the heat index at their work sites to prevent heat-related illnesses and injuries.  The application provides users with information about specific precautions they can take to reduce their risks. This application is part of OSHA’s on-going efforts to deal with the dangers of extreme heat, and can be downloaded here.

While all of these precautions and actions are beneficial to help employees “beat the heat,” most importantly, be sympathetic and understanding with employees who work in uncomfortable conditions. Make sure to ask them how they are doing throughout the day and express consideration for the challenges they are experiencing. Do everything you can as an HR professional or manager to support these employees on the job.

Additional Resources

Preferred Partners ERC partners with a number of organizations that can provide support to employers in the areas of OSHA safety training and compliance, health and safety training, workers compensation, and even workplace water solutions. 

e-Learning Center
ERC’s e-Learning Center provides thousands of self-directed courses for employees to access at an affordable cost. These courses are ideal for employers looking to provide learning opportunities for employees to access on breaks. In addition, to learn more about other training and learning opportunities offered by ERC, please click here.

4 Ways to Manage Employees’ Needs

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We often define quality of managers by how they make us feel – how they energize and move us through encouragement, support, and inspiration. As a manager, your role is similar to an essential energy source – feeding employees’ needs and sustaining your team’s motivation. Knowing how to energize and motivate your employees requires addressing (4) of their most basic needs.

1. Am I supporting my employees’ physical well-being?

At the most fundamental level, employees need to feel that their managers care about their well-being. Employees’ most basic physical needs, such as rest, fitness, and proper nutrition, support physical health and the energy employees need to perform well. These are all needs which a manager can support through reasonable working conditions, adequate concern for well-being, and an appropriate level of consideration for work/life issues. Managers aren’t always cognizant of unmet physical needs. Additionally, they may be unaware of their coercive style’s affect on the physical well-being of employees. Numerous studies now document the correlation between negative management relations and coronary heart disease, poor mental health, among other health conditions.

2. Am I creating and contributing to a positive atmosphere?

Employees work best when there is positive energy in the work environment to meet their emotional and social needs. Employees have a need to belong, be accepted, and feel part of a team. They need a sense of security and to feel supported and respected. What this means for a manager is cultivating an environment that encourages collaboration, teamwork, and support; and striving for minimal conflict and productive working relationships, both with subordinates and among coworkers. It also means understanding that employees need acceptance and acknowledgement from others, and providing recognition. Creating positive energy doesn’t mean not addressing problems, but does mean that these problems are dealt with in a courteous, respectful, and constructive manner.

3. Am I providing enough challenge and mental stimulation?

Next, there are mental needs, which deal with challenge, personal development, and mental stimulation. Employees have needs for continuous intellectual development and cognitive stimulation. When these needs aren’t met, employees tend to become stagnant, bored, and eventually dissatisfied. Managers can support mental needs by providing intellectual challenge and opportunities for employees to expand current knowledge and thought processes; increasing employees’ ability to work creatively and independently; and offering continuous opportunities to grow new skills. Managers who energize and stretch the minds of their employees foster higher levels of engagement.

4. Do my employees understand that their work matters?

Finally, beyond mental needs, are self-actualized needs. These needs including finding meaning in our work, feeling fulfilled and that we’re making a difference, taking pride in our work and what we do, and being able to see how it impacts others and those we serve. Sometimes employees can’t see the big picture or lose sight of the mission. For these reasons, managers need to define purpose, show employees’ how their work matters, illustrate how it makes an impact, and connect individual goals and contributions to the department and organization. Employees have a basic need to understand that their work matters and is important. This purpose fuels their motivation.

There are many well-documented adverse effects that can occur when these needs go unfulfilled in the workplace. Because these needs directly impact on the energy and motivation of our workforce, as managers, we need to understand the importance of helping employees’ meet these basic needs to energize and motivate our teams.

Additional Resources

Supervisory Series
In the series, participants will gain an understanding of their role as a supervisor as well as employment law as it relates to common supervisory issues. They will also learn how to apply basic managerial and interpersonal skills including dealing with the everyday challenges of being a supervisor, communicating effectively with others, resolving workplace conflict, managing performance, and coaching.

Management & Leadership DevelopmentERC offers several courses in management and leadership development on topics related to communication, conflict management, performance management, project management, problem solving and general leadership. These courses can also be customized to your organization’s unique needs. For more information, please contact ckutsko@yourerc.com.

Employers Increasingly Offering Health Savings Plans

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According to the results of the 2011 ERC/Smart Business Workplace Practices Survey, the percentage of Northeast Ohio employers offering health savings plans continued to increase from its current 35% – the highest percentage reported by the survey since 2003. The survey, conducted in partnership with Smart Business Magazine, showed a steady increase in the percentage of Northeast Ohio employers offering health savings plans over the years, indicating that this benefit is increasing in popularity.

The results of the survey also showed that health insurance premiums were continuing to rise, and more employers said that health insurance costs are a growing challenge for their businesses. Specifically, organizations report a 10% increase in health insurance premiums from 2010, an increase of 1% from 2010, and the highest increase from 2007 based on the survey results. Employers appeared to be turning to alternative health care options, such as health savings plans, to manage rising costs.

 “The increase in Health Savings Plans (HSA’s) is not surprising as more employers are seeking ways to balance providing competitive benefits with gaining more control over rising health insurance costs,” says Patrick Perry, President of ERC.

To download the free results of this survey, please click here

4 Ways to Motivate Employee Wellness

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Wellness programs have the best of intentions: to improve employee health, cut health care costs, and enhance productivity. Motivating employees to engage and participate in wellness programs and make lasting lifestyle changes, however, can be challenging for employers. Here are four (4) ways organizations have been successful in motivating employee wellness.

1. Make it easy.

Simplicity is key. Health management tools that are offered to your employees should be easy to use and integrated into their daily lives. For example, web-based tools and applications for smart-phones are available which help employees track fitness, diet, and other activities to help manage health and wellness. Some of these applications also have health alerts and reminders to help employees keep wellness at the forefront of their priorities, as well as the ability to link pedometers, scales, and monitoring equipment to their health profiles. These applications are intended to provide simple wellness solutions that are integrated into employees’ daily lives.

Additionally, educational messages (such as wellness tips, articles, etc.) should be short, direct, and easy to view. Wellness education often gets lost in lengthy company newsletters or placed on an HR bulletin board that employees rarely view. Great information can also be buried within your carrier’s website, or your organization may just be providing too much information. Consider creating or subscribing to a short wellness communication that provides tips and education on various wellness issues, or provide links to resources on a particular topic. “Quick reads” are usually ideal.   

Finally, offer wellness activities which are relatively easy and that all (or most) employees feel comfortable doing. Excessively rigorous fitness routines and diet programs, while beneficial, may not appeal to your entire workforce. Once you’ve engaged participants, continually introduce more difficult programs to stretch employees to new levels.

2. Bring it on-site.

Organizations are increasingly bringing health specialists on-site for their employees to access. These specialists include wellness coaches, nutritionists, physical fitness experts, trainers, therapists, and more. They may offer convenient and accessible services such as coaching and education, and also provide customized and personalized attention for individual employee needs.

On-site clinics or shared clinics, which provide a range of primary care and wellness services, are also becoming more common in the workplace. Depending on the type of health practitioners employed and resources available at the on-site clinic, they can provide physicals, screenings, immunizations, biometric screening, treatment for work-related injuries, on-going care for chronic conditions, assistance with acute symptoms/diseases (i.e. colds, infections, strep, etc.), access to prescriptions, among others. Employers typical employ or contract a nurse, others also offer a physician, and some may even offer access to other specialists. These individuals may be available on a limited basis or everyday depending on the organization’s needs, and employers typically eliminate co-payments or at least reduce them for on-site services.  By taking control of on-site health management, employers have found that they can better manage health-care costs and reduce absenteeism. Aon Hewitt finds that employers typically receive a return of $2-$4 for every $1 they invest in clinics.

On-site fitness programs, classes, centers, and facilities are also a core part of bringing wellness to the workplace. Employees are more likely to participate in fitness programs that they can access at lunch, during the workday, and directly after or before work. Bringing healthy food on-site is another way employers are making healthy habits convenient. Offering free healthy snacks, incenting healthy food choices with lower costs in cafeterias, coordinating an on-site farmers’ market, using lunch delivery programs, and replacing vending machine selections with healthier choices, are all common ways employers are providing healthy options on-site.

3. Keep it fun.

Most employees do not consider health management enjoyable, which can be a major barrier to participation in wellness programs. Some employers, however, have been able to engage their staff in becoming more active by creating fun opportunities – such as a “recess” in the middle of the work day, pick-up sports or games, special interest groups (i.e. biking, walking, etc.), and friendly challenges or contests between employees to lose weight and make other important lifestyle changes. Some employers in our region have even coordinated walks or bike rides to exotic and exciting locations…including Hawaii and Cedar Point. By making wellness social, employers find that their staff is more open to being active and has fun doing it. Additionally, these organizations receive an added benefit of improving coworker relationships and teamwork. Some employers even offer fun rewards and prizes for progress towards health goals, such as gift cards, trips, and entertainment.

4. Integrate it with work/life.

Organizations are recognizing that work/life issues are integral and related to a successful wellness program. Not only can work/life issues impair physical well-being, but they can also prevent employees from taking advantage of wellness programs. For example, “not having the time” is one of the most frequent reasons that employees do not participate in wellness activities. Lack of time is often related to work/life constraints, workload, and other stressors that work/life programs can reduce.

Several employers realize that well-being is not limited to just physical health, and take a comprehensive approach to improving employee well-being, extending services to social, financial, mental, and emotional health. To help employees manage all aspects of their well-being, more employers are offering services beyond the traditional employee assistance program such as counseling services, child care/elder care, on-site massage therapy, yoga, stress management training, financial planning, retirement assistance, flexible scheduling, alternative treatments, and on-site convenience services.

Employees are highly receptive to work/life programs, viewing them as supportive to their needs. Thereby, integrating them with wellness initiatives can be advantageous in motivating participation, reducing stress, and helping employees manage their health in a more holistic sense. 

Making wellness work is all about decreasing barriers to its success, one of which is usually motivation and participation by employees. If your organization is attempting to drive participation in its wellness initiatives, try making wellness easy, accessible, on-site, enjoyable, and integrated with work/life programs.

Additional Resources

Preferred Partners (Members only)
ERC has many Preferred Partners and vendors that facilitate different aspects of wellness programs, such as executive physicals, employee assistance programs, health and safety training, and health screening. To view a list of Preferred Partners and the services and cost-savings they offer to ERC members, click here.

ERC Health
For more information about ERC’s health insurance program for small and mid-sized businesses, please click here.

Healthy Living Ideas: Sleep

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The importance of sleep is underscored by the symptoms experienced by those suffering from sleep problems. People suffering from sleep disorders do not get adequate or restorative sleep, and sleep deprivation is associated with a number of both physical and emotional disturbances.

Below are suggested herbal sleep aids supplements to help get a good night's sleep.

1. Chamomile: Chamomile is one of nature's oldest and gentlest herbal sleep aids. It is most often drunk as a tea, which has a mild and pleasant taste. In addition to promoting calm and restfulness, chamomile is also used in cases of stomach irritation.

2. Valerian: Valerian is a root that has long been used as an herbal sleep aid. It has a characteristic smell – just like old socks. Valerian can be used to help occasional sleeplessness, but is also particularly helpful taken long-term.

3. Melatonin: Melatonin is a hormone that the body produces at night. It is sometimes called the "sleep hormone" because it is so important to healthy sleep. People who are blind, who suffer from jet lag, or who live in places with extended sunlight hours may have trouble sleeping because their bodies do not produce enough melatonin.

4. SAMe: SAMe (S-adenosyl-methionine) is an amino acid derivative, and is found normally in the body. It is typically used as an antidepressant, but is also commonly used to treat chronic fatigue syndrome or as an herbal sleep aid. Its actions in the body help to promote healthy sleep cycles, especially when taken daily for several weeks.

5. Tryptophan: Tryptophan is an amino acid that is a precursor to seratonin. Low serotonin levels can cause irritability, anxiety, and sleeplessness, so adding more tryptophan to your diet can help you relax and will promote healthier sleep patterns.

HR Guide to Summer in the Workplace

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It’s that time of year again. Memorial Day signals the return of warm weather, summer activities, and plenty of HR and workplace issues from enforcing dress code and attendance policies to planning a company outing or event. This is your guide to managing summer in the workplace.

Spell out specifics in your dress code policy.

Dress code tends to become more open to interpretation during the summer (sleeveless tops, open-toed shoes, flip flops, capris, skirts, etc.), so be sure to specify exactly what you mean by “business casual” attire instead of leaving it to the employee’s discretion.  Spell out acceptable and unacceptable types of clothing and shoes (and examples), colors and styles (depending on your industry or type of organization), and specific days or situations that require different attire (such as formal or casual) that the usual. Also, be sure that you apply the dress code policy uniformly and consistently.

Provide flexible scheduling.

Now is an ideal time to remind employees of your attendance policy as issues of consistently coming into work early or late or “calling off” tend to become more of a problem during the summer months. Another way to address this issue is by introducing flexible scheduling options to allow employees to better self-manage their work/life throughout the summer. In the summer, employees are typically faced with greater work/life constraints such as more activities, family obligations, and children home from school. Seasonal perks like flex-time, shorter hours on Fridays, compressed work weeks, and revised work schedules are all offered by some employers during the summer to help employees achieve better balance.

Hire an intern or new graduate.

Another useful way organizations provide relief to their employees during the summer months is by hiring an intern or new graduate. Interns offer a variety of workforce support and assistance with special projects at an affordable cost. They also bring fresh ideas and perspectives, technical knowledge, and a desire to learn. New graduates offer similar capabilities. If you’re not sure where to start in terms of hiring and compensating an intern or new graduate, check out our Intern & Recent Grad Pay Rates & Practices Survey for detailed information about recruiting, hiring, training, engaging, and paying interns and new graduates.

Offer time off from work.

Time off is a common request during the summer with three major holidays (Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day). Be sure to communicate the paid time off your organization intends to provide for these holidays. Consult our Holiday Practices and Paid Holiday Survey for information about which paid holidays employers plan to offer this year.
Additionally, scheduling and coordinating summer vacations requires an efficient and fair process to ensure that employees are able to take time off when desired, but also that the business is able to meet its demands. Here are some common ways organizations effectively coordinate vacations and paid time off:

  • Use a vacation planner or vacation planning system.
  • Create a method for employees to request or “bid” on preferred dates of vacation – such as a vacation request form. Build in supervisory approval.
  • Require employees to schedule time off in advance, but be reasonable about how far in advance they need to schedule.
  • Have employees coordinate vacation time with their coworkers and/or self-manage vacation time.  This helps ensure that “back-ups” exist.
  • Develop policies that specify what criteria will be used to approve vacations (first come, first served, seniority, rotation, etc.).
  • Specify the limits of taking vacation (i.e. people with the same skill set can’t be out at the same time, maximum number of days, etc.).
  • Monitor and take into account other leaves (FMLA, maternity/paternity, sick, disability, etc.).
  • Remind employees that the business’ needs need to come first when scheduling vacations. As an employer, you do have the right to require an employee to postpone a vacation or require advanced notice. If you do promise vacation, however, you may be legally bound to it, according to Ohio law.

Start (or re-energize) your wellness program.

There’s no better time to start or re-energize a wellness program than at the beginning of summer. Summer is an ideal time for employees to get into shape and improve their well-being and the workplace can help them do that. Employees also tend to be more interested in wellness at this time of the year given the nice weather, outdoor activities, and greater availability of fresh and healthy foods. This can boost participation rates which help you keep your workforce healthier and manage the sting of rising health insurance costs. Here are some ideas for your summer wellness program:

  • Introduce a walking program
  • Hold company-wide wellness/fitness competitions, challenges, or team-building functions
  • Coordinate informal pick-up sports at lunch-time or after work
  • Provide fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Hold seminars on nutrition-related topics
  • Encourage employees to go outside during their lunch break, or even hold meetings outside

Plan a company outing or event.

The summer is a great time to plan a company outing or event and many businesses take advantage of the nice weather to spend time informally socializing with their employees.  Outings and events are great opportunities to get to know your staff, show appreciation, and do some team-building. Here are some tips for planning a summer event, provided by ERC’s own event experts:

  • Form a committee. Don’t plan your event alone. Get other employees involved in planning the outing and event and delegate responsibilities.
  • Define the event or outing’s purpose. Is the outing intended to be a social or networking event? Or is it an event that celebrates or recognizes something?
  • Determine the location. Outdoor locations are ideal for summer events, but make sure that the venue fits your audience and the type of event you are creating. A formal event will need a formal setting.
  • Set a date. Identify a couple potential dates and confirm the availability of the location as well as those that need to attend the event. Provide confirmations.
  • Create an agenda or timeline for the event. Lay out the entire event in terms of breaks, activities, meals, etc. and the times that they should take place. Assign roles to people on your committee and have them “own” certain tasks.
  • Communicate details. Be sure that your guests have all the information they need about the event or outing (i.e. location, directions, timing, attire, meals provided, response directions, and contact information).
  • Select food and activities. Make sure these are relevant to the type of event and the people attending, and also consider any dietary restrictions ahead of time. For example, if children will be attending the event, activities and food selections should be fitting.
  • Test-drive the event. Test equipment, walk through the venue, and get familiar with the things you’ll need during the outing. Pretend like you’re the guest.
  • Make it unique. Traditions are great, but try to build an element of surprise into your outing or event to make each year exciting. This could be a new location or venue, different entertainment, or a new giveaway.

Continue to train and guide performance.

Engagement can often become stale in the summer months. That’s why performance management, training, and development should not wane during the summer months. It’s important to keep investing in these practices so employees stay engaged and productive. For example, the summer signals mid-year, which is an ideal time for employees to meet with supervisors to discuss their performance and progress towards goals and objectives set at the beginning of the year. This discussion can help refocus employees on their goals, help establish new projects and objectives, and identify what additional support is needed. Additionally, while many employers refrain from scheduling training during the summer due to vacations, this actually can be an ideal time for training and development – especially if business is slower than normal during this season. 

Have a contingency plan for severe weather.

More severe weather is being predicted for this summer. Be sure that your organization has contingency and disaster recovery plans in place to deal with unexpected power outages, damages, and other issues that severe weather (such as thunderstorms, tornados, flooding, etc.) could cause for your business and its employees.

Prepare for budgeting. 

The summer passes quickly and budgeting will be just around the corner. With most employers planning to provide salary increases this year, it may be worthwhile for your organization to benchmark your employees’ compensation so that you are prepared to make good decisions about market adjustments and compensation increases when budgeting time approaches. Keep a compensation project on your agenda this summer and use our recently published 2011 compensation surveys as resources. Similar to compensation, use the slower summer months to catch up on major HR projects that have been on your to-do list.

The key to managing summer in the workplace is to acknowledge employees’ work/life needs, balance work with fun, and continue to engage.

Additional Resources

Supervisory Series
In the series, participants will gain an understanding of their role as a supervisor as well as employment law as it relates to common supervisory issues. They will also learn how to apply basic managerial and interpersonal skills including dealing with the everyday challenges of being a supervisor, communicating effectively with others, resolving workplace conflict, managing performance, and coaching. Click here

Emerging Leaders
This two-part series covers professional etiquette in and out of the workplace, communication skills, and the traits of a strong leader. It is an ideal course for younger professionals, such as new graduates. Participants will learn tools to present themselves more effectively and enhance their contribution to the organization. Click here.

Compensation Surveys
Get a jump-start on budgeting this summer by benchmarking compensation with our Salary Surveys which provide pay information on nearly 300 jobs that are relevant to all organizations and industries. Click here