By Kayla Fanning

Whether it’s something you’ve actively worked to build or not, your company has its own culture. As a culture consultant, employers often tell me they want to build their culture from the ground up after being in business for 10 or more years! You already have one even if it isn’t the healthiest, because “culture” isn’t this shapeless set of ideas; rather, it’s the building blocks for your entire organization and it’s tied to behaviors, beliefs, purpose, and core values. Now that this quarantine has pushed many of us behind our laptops at home for the first time, managers and employers may be experiencing some anxiety related to maintaining a healthy company culture, which is strongly tied to our bottom lines. The root of culture is to care for each other and ourselves so how do we maintain a healthy company culture with a remote workforce?

I do want to take this moment to mention a compliance resource available to employers. We’re in a lot of HR grey area right now, but there are resources and FAQs that can help employers navigate issues surrounding furlough, lay offs, sick pay, and more. I lean heavily on ThinkHR for my compliance resources. If you’re needing more information, please reach out to me.

Consistent + Honest Communication

Through providing your population with resources, you convey confidence and stewardship, two key components of strong leadership. Anxiety and uncertainty grip us all these days. You should feel empowered being able to control the messages they receive from you and management as it’s an opportunity, not a burden. We’re dealing with a ton of information and “noise.” The clearer your communications can be across your entire organization, the better. It’s vital that any other communicators within your organization are on the same page as you.

Consider making an editable FAQ on your intranet or easy to access location that’s updated weekly. Lean on your broker partner for the healthcare side of your communications and if they aren’t providing education and updates to you weekly right now, they’re not doing their job. Include messages of hope in your communication, but I urge you not to shy away from the truth. Trust is an important part of your culture and remote working doesn’t have to shake that trust. We all need facts right now so keep your communications free of speculation and fear.

Even if your organization was already remote, consider some visualization tools so that employees can see each other and have regular access to each other’s faces. If the whole organization cannot video chat at the same time, break it up into teams as it makes sense for your population. Many employees have never set up a home office before so creating teams right now can help provide internal resources for day to day functionality, such as how to set up your desk, what kind of webcam should I get, etc. This takes that task off of you and managers so that you can focus on the big picture communications and culture.

Resources for Mental and Physical Well-Being

Let’s start with your company’s health plan, if offered. Make sure employees have solid resources for telemedicine information, how to use their health plan, how to make changes to benefits when needed, and where to go if they’re concerned about COVID19 diagnosis and treatments. Every health plan offers mental healthcare under the Affordable Care Act; it’s vital that you or your broker team are aware of those, as well as FREE resources available through the health insurance carrier or another vendor. Some free resources, such as Optum’s telephonic support that I’m updating as needed, don’t require any health insurance and should be communicated to your population on a weekly or biweekly basis. If your organization or healthcare offering includes an Employee Assistant Program (EAP), make sure that information is readily available. Many of those include financial support as well as mental health resources.

Allow for an element of flexibility. Life as we know it has been turned upside down, but that doesn’t mean the core of your business can’t keep operating. It just requires we get creative and allow for more flexibility in our schedules. Many employees are now at home with children, and whether virtual school is available to them or not, there’s a strong blend of personal and professional time happening in homes across the world. We need to show compassion for that as leaders while still holding each other accountable for getting the job done, however that may look for a while.

Does your healthcare plan include a stress prevention component you can encourage your population to tap into? Do you as an organization offer a fitness program that now is more limited due to gym closures? Regardless of the answers, don’t think you can’t start one during this time or continue with flexibility and creativity. Sharing workouts, mindfulness apps, and encouraging time in nature are valuable resources your population needs. Sure, some will ignore it, but offering it is a way to nurture your culture from afar. These messages can flow through your HR team or management under compliance terms and I can help as needed.

Purpose over Positivity

Let’s get real, forcing a positive mindset rarely works even without a global pandemic dominating the airwaves these days. It’s never been clearer that humans need purpose. Purpose is as essential to our over all well-being as is eating our leafy greens. I wrote on purpose last week related to studies about post retirement risks people develop due to loss of purpose. In some ways, having our daily schedules crumble can put a big dent in our sense of purpose. Even though I’ve always worked remotely, I found myself more irritable each day these last few weeks until I tapped into my purpose regardless of how simple the task may have been.

Developing a daily work schedule for your organization–keeping that need for flexibility in mind–can go a long way in maintaining purpose for you and your employees. Daily webinars, check ins, project discussions, and even some big picture dreaming can help us feel less than we’re just surviving, and more like we’re thriving. Maybe there’s a project that’s been on the back burner that can now get some attention. And don’t forget to recognize those teams or employees going the extra mile. We need our cultural cues and recognition now more than ever.

Our organization encourages we submit one photo each day of something that brings us joy. Our phones are filled daily with evidence of springtime, yummy meals, and cute kiddos or animals. Sure, this is unrelated to our business, but if we were physically together, we’d be sharing quick stories of our weekends or fun things we did with our families. These tasks take very little time to complete but they’re guaranteed to get some smiles and appreciation. Keeping this small communication up strengthens our sense of togetherness and connection while keeping it lighthearted and simple. We are all in this together, but feelings of isolation and loneliness are a problem for both our mental well-being and your organization’s bottom line. Remember to keep communication clear, factual, and consistent. No need to force positive mindsets, but keeping purpose in mind is the key. Re-entry will happen for us all and the better we nurture our cultures compassionately, the easier re-entry will be, and the more likely we are to arrive there ready to dive back in.

By MARK P. CUSSEN, an article from Investopedia

Life insurance provides financial protection for millions of people in America and around the world. Not all life policies are purchased by individuals; many companies and other institutions also use life insurance for various purposes, such as to provide liquidity. But the rules that pertain to corporate ownership of life insurance are somewhat more complex than for individual or group policies. This article examines the history, purpose and taxation of corporate-owned life insurance (COLI) in America.

SEE: How Much Life Insurance Should You Carry?

Nature and Purpose of COLIAs the name states, COLI refers to life insurance that is purchased by a corporation for its own use. The corporation is either the total or partial beneficiary on the policy, and an employee or group of employees, owner or debtor is listed as the insured(s). Fundamentally, COLI differs from group life insurance policies that are typically offered to most or all of the employees in a company, because this type of insurance is designed to protect the employees and their families and not the company itself. COLI can be structured in many different ways to accomplish many different objectives. One of the most common is to fund certain types of nonqualified plans, such as a split-dollar life insurance policy that allows the company to recoup its premium outlay into the policy by naming itself as the beneficiary for the amount of premium paid, with the remainder going to the employee who is the insured on the policy. Other forms of COLI include key person life insurance that pays the company a death benefit upon the death of a key employee, and buy-sell agreements that fund the buyout of a deceased partner or owner of a business. https://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.htmlIn many cases, the death benefit is used to buy some or all of the shares of company stock owned by the deceased (such as with a closely-held business). COLI is also frequently used as a means of recovering the cost of funding various types of employee benefits.

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By Darla Mercado, CFP® Article from FA Playbook, CNBC

KEY POINTS

This fall, when employees sign up for next year’s workplace benefits, they should take a close look at the offerings. Odds are they’ll be changing in 2021.

The coronavirus pandemic was hard on employers and workers, forcing them to adapt on the fly amid social distancing and efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus.

Suddenly, employees found themselves working extended hours from their kitchen tables while caring for their children, often at the same time.

Workers are stressed out. Their bosses know it. That means their workplace benefits could reflect that new post-pandemic reality.

“It’s an opportunity for employers to re-look at what they’ve been providing,” said Kristen Appleman, senior vice president at payroll provider ADP.

“How do you position it?” she asked. “Can you increase it to provide for mental health or support services, including child care and dealing with adult family members?”

Here are three major themes employees can expect to see during the 2021 benefits enrollment season.

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From The Limeade Team

Employees deserve to feel like their company cares about them. It’s a concept that yesterday’s business leaders questioned — but no one’s questioning it now. More than six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, employees are struggling in unprecedented ways and are looking to their employers as a source of support.

Ironically, Limeade launched the 2020 Employee Care Report on March 5, just days before stay-at-home orders were declared in multiple states. The report found that employers were coming up short on employee care.

Fast-forward multiple months, we wanted to know — have organizations stepped up their game when employees need it most?

HOW WORKERS REALLY FEEL ABOUT EMPLOYEE EXPERIENCE DURING THE PANDEMIC

Limeade is committed to improving the employee experience, which is why we wanted to see how workers feel about work right now — and how that’s changed during the pandemic. To get answers, we surveyed 1,000 employees (500 in manager roles and 500 in non-managerial roles) at companies with 500 employees or more, on burnout, well-being and perceptions of employee care during the pandemic. Here’s what we found.

Managers are carrying the weight of COVID-19, and their teams are slipping through the cracks

Managers feel they have the necessary tools to care for those they manage. Seventy-three percent said their organizations provided them with resources to support the emotional well-being of their teams, and 85% said they felt at least “somewhat equipped” to support the emotional needs of their teams.

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From WorkersCompensation.com

Flu season is nearly upon us. This year’s flu season, which usually begins in November and lasts through April, will be hitting as the U.S. is battling the coronavirus pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that there was between 39 to 56 million flu cases for last year’s flu season. In the same period, there have been nearly 7 million reported COVID-19 cases.

The CDC explains that the flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but are caused by different viruses. But, because the symptoms of the flu and COVID-19 are similar, it could be hard to tell the difference between the two based on symptoms alone, and testing may be needed to confirm the correct diagnosis.

In a regular year, the flu, on its own, can have a significant impact on organizations in both direct costs and lost productivity. Add in COVID-19, and the cost can be detrimental to a small business. On top of the safety precautions to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, companies need to be prepared for the flu season and minimize the risk of employee illnesses by practicing flu prevention procedures.

Workplace Flu Shot Programs

This year, getting a flu vaccine will be even more critical than ever. It will not protect against COVID-19, but it has shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization and death and having one will help conserve health care resources. The CDC recommends getting a flu shot in September or October, but you can still get one throughout the flu season.

Many organizations are hosting on-site flu vaccinations as part of their workplace wellness programs to encourage employees to get their shots. Plus, flu shots are covered under most company healthcare plans.

If an employee is not available for the on-site flu shot event, then it is important for employers to make it easy for them to get their vaccination out of work. Employers can aid in this by letting them know of flu shot clinics in the area and giving them time to get the vaccine during work hours.

Benefits of Having a Workplace Flu Shot Program

According to Health Advocate, the cost of lost productivity due to the flu averages to be $1,000 per employee. This number does not include doctor’s visits, medication and other costs due to illnesses. Alternatively, the flu shot costs $32 per person.

There are many employer and employee benefits to having flu vaccinations in the workplace. For the employers, a flu shot program can decrease costs by reducing absences due to illnesses, as well as improve productivity and morale.

Cold and Flu Prevention Tips for the Workplace

Employees need to be informed about the contagious nature of colds and flu in the workplace and the proper way to prevent spreading these illnesses. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) created basic hygiene guidelines for workers to help prevent the spread of the flu in the workplace. Getting a flu shot is the best method, but additional cold and flu prevention tips for the workplace include:

Forbes – Forbes Real Estate Council, by Joe Brady

Months into the pandemic that has forced the ultimate work-from-home experiment, companies including Google, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan, Amazon and Salesforce, just to name a few, have all reportedly extended their work-from-home options. Salesforce, for example, is allowing employees in all its 160 office locations globally to work remotely for the rest of this year, long after it began reopening offices in phases at the end of May 2020.

Twitter and Facebook have taken a more radical approach and have announced that their employees can work remotely forever. A Twitter representative told TechCrunch, “We were uniquely positioned to respond quickly and allow folks to work from home given our emphasis on decentralization and supporting a distributed workforce capable of working from anywhere. The past few months have proven we can make that work.”

Since the start of the pandemic, we have spoken with over 50 heads of corporate real estate across the globe as part of our Agile CRE Think Tank (ACT). As one participant summarized, work-from-home is no longer the enemy of the C-suite. Through these conversations, we have made a conservative estimate that we will see 15%-20% of participating firms will move to a more agile strategy.

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EBN, By Sam Del Rowe

Work-related stress was a very real issue for many employees even before the outbreak of the coronavirus, but the pandemic has doubled rates of stress in the workplace. More than 60% of employees say that they are experiencing greater stress than before the pandemic started, up from 30% pre-pandemic, according to research from MetLife.

“Going into the pandemic, one in three employees was already feeling stressed and burned out. That is just going to continue to magnify,” Tracey Ferstler, assistant vice president, head of return to health at MetLife, said at DMEC’s 2020 virtual annual conference.

The workplace has changed significantly since the start of the pandemic: more than 40% of employees are currently working from home, according to research from Stanford University. Additionally, they are working 2 hours more per day on average, according to data from NordVPN, a virtual private network provider.

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Fast Company, RITE AID

Seasonal flu typically strikes hardest from October through March. With COVID-19 still very much a concern throughout most of the U.S., many health experts predict the country will face two serious outbreaks at once.

The COVID-19 pandemic has already contributed to 33 million furloughs and layoffs across the U.S. since March 2020. We know from previous years that the seasonal flu accounts for nearly 17 million lost work days. To compound matters, reports from the CDC indicate that the H1N1 strain may resurface.

That means serious implications for businesses and their employees if COVID-19 and the flu coincide this winter. Many organizations are gradually re-opening their physical locations and bringing employees back to work after several months of downtime and lost productivity. A flu outbreak could hinder that progress. Even companies that have embraced remote work culture would experience productivity losses as employees get sick.

Proactive leaders from C-suite, human resources, and employee wellness teams have already begun preparing for these circumstances by setting up opportunities for employees to get immunized ahead of flu season.

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JUL 25, 2020 4:49 PM CDT

U.S. President Donald Trump signed four executive orders on Friday to lower the price Americans pay for prescription drugs.

A White House statement said the executive orders focus on several cost-cutting measures. 

Aug. 24 to make a deal.

The president said pharmaceutical executives will be meeting with him on Tuesday at the White House. “We may not need to implement the fourth executive order, which is a very tough order,” he said.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, prescription drugs cost people living in the U.S. more than they do for people living in any other developed nation.

Robin Saks Frankel, Forbes Staff

If doing the paperwork to have your Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan forgiven seems intimidating, help has arrived. A new online tool can simplify the process—and it won’t cost you a cent.

You can find the new PPP forgiveness platform at PPPForgivenessTool.com. Any business that took out a PPP loan can use the tool for free, regardless of whether they worked with a bank or a non-bank lender. The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and CPA.com released the platform this week, which is powered by software from small business lender Biz2Credit.

An Easy Way to Get Started on PPP Loan Forgiveness

Business owners or their accountants can access a suite of loan aids on the platform, including the AICPA’s PPP forgiveness calculator, the PPP loan forgiveness application and all of the required government forms mandated when you submit your loan forgiveness application.

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