Monthly Archives: January 2017

How do EEOC Regulations on Wellness Programs Affect Employers?

Employee Wellness Programs

On January first, The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) rules on employer-offered wellness programs went into effect. These rules, issued in May 2016, provide guidelines on how these wellness programs must remain fair with respect to all employees and their rights to privacy.

How do the EEOC Regulations on Wellness Programs Affect Employers?

Specifically, the rules offer specific limits that will keep wellness programs in compliance with two federal laws: the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which “prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life,” and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), which “prohibit[s] discrimination on the basis of genetic information with respect to health insurance and employment.”

The rules come as a response to the recent increase in employee wellness programs: initiatives that offer health insurance discounts to employees who participate in fitness and weight loss programs. Many of these initiatives collect personal medical information, including through the use of biometric screening— potentially creating a risk of privacy violations.

The new EEOC rules are designed to provide protection from such violations and also from giving employers the opportunity to discriminate against employees for health issues. According to the EEOC, “[The rules] seek to ensure that wellness programs actually promote good health and are not just used to collect or sell sensitive medical information about employees and family members or to impermissibly shift health insurance costs to them. The ADA and GINA rules require wellness programs to be reasonably designed to promote health and prevent disease.”

Under the new rules, “Information from wellness programs may be disclosed to employers only in aggregate terms.” Further, “The value of the maximum incentive attributable to a spouse’s participation may not exceed 30 percent of the total cost of self-only coverage.” Since financial incentives have been linked to increased employee wellness, these rules may immediately affect the many companies that offer these wellness programs.

Tea Parties Around the World

Health Benefits of Hot Tea

January is Hot Tea Month, and what better time of year to sit back with a nice hot “cuppa” your favorite infusion? With many health benefits, tea is one of the world’s most universally enjoyed drinks. And with the increasing globalization of food and beverage trends, you can explore some of the world’s tea traditions at your own desk.

What are the health benefits of hot tea?

Britain: American colonists protested the British tax on tea by dumping a shipload of it into Boston Harbor. Now, over 200 years later, Americans still prefer coffee to tea, while Great Britain remains a predominantly tea-drinking nation. Most Brits prefer a standard black tea like PG Tips, but for a more refined taste, try Earl Grey, English Breakfast, or Prince of Wales.

Morocco: Healthy and refreshing, Moroccan Maghrebi mint tea (also known as Touareg) involves pouring hot brewed green tea over fresh spearmint leaves and adding sugar. According to tradition, hosts serve three glasses of tea to guests: “The first glass is as bitter as life; the second glass is as strong as love; the third glass is as gentle as death.”

South Africa: Rooibos (or Redbush) tea is actually an herbal tea brewed from the leaves of the rooibos plant. It has a distinctive red color and a sweet and fruity flavor that derives from the post-harvest fermentation process. Like many teas, Rooibos is high in antioxidants, and its supporters cite properties that fight cancer, promote heart health, and prevent diabetes.

Argentina: If you happen to have a dried calabash gourd hanging around, you can re-create the South American tradition of drinking Yerba Mate, brewed from the South American rainforest holly tree. This naturally caffeinated beverage is served in a gourd (or a gourd-shaped cup) and passed around among friends to drink with a straining straw called a bombilla.

Tibet: Want to try something really exotic? Try Tibetan po cha, or butter tea. Traditionally, Tibetans brewed black tea for hours before blending it with yak butter, milk, and salt. The hot tea is warming in the cold Himalayan mountain air, and the salt likely helps counter the dehydrating effects of high-altitude living.

How to Set Realistic Resolutions in 2017

Almost half of all Americans make New Year’s resolutions, yet two years later, only 19 percent have been able to keep them. One significant cause of this loss of resolve lies in the resolutions themselves; unrealistic resolutions are almost impossible to keep.

Setting realistic resolutions for the new year

This year, start by getting your resolutions into shape before doing anything else. Check out these simple ways to make your resolutions more realistic.

Instead of “Lose weight,” try “Eat healthier.”

Year after year, people resolve to go on diets and swear off unhealthy foods. Yet before the summer, they’re back to their old habits. That’s because strict deprivation is almost impossible to maintain over the long term.

Instead of testing your willpower with a destined-to-fail diet, try making small, incremental steps to improve your overall eating habits. Before diving into a cheeseburger, eat a hearty salad first. You may still want the cheeseburger, but you might eat less of it if you’ve satisfied part of your appetite already.

When eating from USConnect’s Bistro To Go!® micro markets, make sure to look for the apple heart logo that indicates  The Right Choice … for a Healthier You items to help you make better choices.

Instead of “Go to the gym every day,” try “Be more active.”

Every January, gyms across the country are overrun by New Year’s Resolutioners: people who have resolved to go to the gym more in the new year and are getting a good start on their goals. However, by February, the crowds have thinned out, and by summer, half the equipment is empty again.

Going to the gym every day is just not realistic for most people. But walking an extra 10 minutes a day is, along with taking the stairs, doing some yoga every day, or myriad other small changes.

Fitness experts suggest that fitness goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.

Instead of “Be less stressed,” try “Work to improve my well-being.”

Stress and exhaustion can derail even the most realistic resolutions. Ordering yourself to be less stressed is counterproductive, but once again, there are many small steps that can help you achieve this goal. Tried-and-true methods include the following:

  • Get more sleep by turning off all electronics an hour before bedtime. Studies consistently show that the blue light of short-wavelength-enhanced phone and tablet screens can interfere with the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep.
  • Keep a gratitude journal. Researchers have found that actively being grateful is strongly correlated with happiness and a sense of well-being. The act of thinking about gratitude can actually affect brain chemicals!
  • Try meditation. Meditation, mindfulness, and even just deep breathing exercises can reduce the amount of cortisol—a hormone linked to stress—in your brain.