Tag Archives: HR

HR Focus: Recognizing Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Every October, the entire country turns pink. While it may be pretty, wearing pink or offering pink products does little to educate employees about breast cancer or raise money for the cause. In October, which has become the nation’s annual observance of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, your company should develop a plan to provide information and education to employees on breast cancer prevention and early detection, as well as to find meaningful ways to raise funds for breast cancer research. Participating in Breast Cancer Awareness Month can help align your company with a worthy cause if done properly.

Here are some impactful ways your company can get involved this October:

Provide breast cancer prevention information and educational materials to employees and clients and their families.

Advocate for the cause by being proactive in helping employees take charge of their health. Connecting your company to breast cancer prevention can bring good will to your brand while providing useful information for women. Create a handout (with breast cancer facts, risk factors, mammogram information, and how to perform a self-exam) that employees can take home and use. Or add your logo to these pocket sliders (small interactive slide charts in which you match up the bullet point and view information and tips in the cutout window) available at  https://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/2317504/Pinktober%20Promos.pdf?t=1537766091314.

Share breast cancer facts and prevention tips on your company’s social media.

Get creative on Facebook and Instagram by sharing photos and memes with prevention tips and breast cancer facts for the entire month of October.

Share breast cancer and nutrition facts.

There is a lot of misinformation about the causes of breast cancer, especially when it comes to diet. As a food service company, clarifying the connections of breast cancer and diet can have a big impact. Share the facts through educational materials, blogs, newsletters, and social media. A good place to start is https://breast360.org/topics/2017/01/01/breast-cancer-and-nutrition-facts-and-myths/.

Share survivor stories.

Sharing breast cancer survivor stories and photos is also a powerful way to recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month. If you have employees or clients who are willing to share their breast cancer stories, include their photos and stories in your company’s blog and/or newsletter with links to your social media.

Organize a company team for a Breast Cancer Walk/Run or other event.

There are numerous Breast Cancer Walks/Runs and other fundraising events happening in October all over the country. Find a local event and organize a company team to get involved by fundraising and participating the day of the event. At the event, your team can wear t-shirts with your company name and logo and give away promotional products to promote your partnership.




Diversity in the Workplace: Honoring Ramadan

This week marks the beginning of Ramadan, the holiest Muslim month. During the ninth month in the Muslim lunar calendar, observant Muslims all over the world commemorate the revelation of the Quran to Muhammed by both feasting as fasting. Islam is the world’s second-largest religion; what do HR departments and employees need to know about this important holiday?

Diversity in the Workplace - Ramadan

Even during the rest of the year, observant Muslims eat only foods that are halal. Like kosher foods, halal (lawful) rules of Islam prohibit pork, as well as “carnivorous animals, birds of prey, animals without external ears (some birds and reptiles), blood, alcohol, and foods contaminated with any of these.” According to Today’s Dietician, processed food containing ingredients like gelatin, emulsifiers, and enzymes may be unlawful for some Muslim consumers, so providing nutrition information is especially important.

The timing changes every year. Ramadan goes by a lunar calendar instead of the Gregorian calendar that is most widely used in secular society. The holiday starts the day after the new moon of the ninth month, and ends with the new moon of the tenth month. In 2018, Ramadan starts on May 15. In 2019, it will start on May 5. To be culturally sensitive to this changing holiday, it’s a good idea to keep track of when it will fall each year.

Observant Muslims fast during the day during the whole month of Ramadan. Before dawn, Muslims eat a meal called suhoor, and they break their fast after dusk with a meal called iftar. Be aware, if any colleagues or employees are observing Ramadan, that it would be insensitive to offer them lunch or snacks during the day.

Iftar is often a social meal. While specific food customs differ around the globe, iftar often involves a gathering in the home or a location central to the community. Want to try some Ramadan treats? The Kitchn suggests the following tasty treats from around the world:

  • Dahi vadey: Lentil dumplings that are soaked in a spicy yogurt sauce (India)
  • Haleem: A slow-cooked stew of meat, bulgur wheat, and lentils (Middle East, India, Pakistan, and Central Asia)
  • Chicken 65: Spicy, bite-sized pieces of chicken that are marinated and deep-fried (India)
  • Ramazan Kebabi: A dish made with lamb, onions, yogurt, and pita bread (Turkey)
  • Ful medammes: Fava beans cooked with garlic and spread on bread (North Africa)
  • Paomo: A bread and mutton soup (China)
  • Chapatis: Unleavened flatbread that is rolled up with vegetables and meats (India and Pakistan)
  • Fattoush: A salad made of vegetables and pita bread (Lebanon and Arab countries)
  • Konafah: A pastry made with phyllo dough and cheese (Middle East)
  • Kolak: A fruit dessert made with palm sugar, coconut milk, and pandanus leaf. Fruits, such as jackfruit or banana, or mung beans are added (Indonesia).

In our increasingly globalized world, it’s more important than ever to be respectful of all traditions, and USConnect is glad to help.

HR Focus: Yoga in the Workplace

The connection between workplace wellness and employee productivity is well documented. In an effort to both boost employee health and improve employee retention in a tight job market, more and more companies are offering nutrition, fitness, and other wellness programs.

One offering whose popularity keeps growing is workplace yoga. Studies have linked the mind-body connection of yoga to better body image, more mindful eating, and improved fitness outcomes, among many other benefits. It turns out that when it comes to workplace wellness, yoga has some very specific benefits that increase employee productivity. Employees who participate in workplace yoga programs report:

  • Increased energy
  • Decreased pain
  • Stress relief
  • Better concentration
  • Heightened creativity
  • Improved morale

The practice of yoga is relatively simple; it requires only a mat and some room to move around. This relatively low barrier to entry—not requiring any special equipment or a specially-designed room—makes yoga programs among the easiest to set up. For just the cost of some mats and a certified yoga instructor, HR departments can offer lunchtime, morning, or evening yoga classes for employees. Evidence indicates that employees flock to these programs and even demand more.

A study from the National Business Group on Health estimates that around 50 percent of corporate healthcare costs are related to “lifestyle issues.” The World Health Organization counts stress and depression as major factors in reducing corporate employee wellness, citing “long hours, multi-tasking, stiff competition, rigorous commute, irregular eating habits, sedentary desk jobs, and bad sitting postures as the prime offenders contributing to poor employee states of mind.

Once a company has established a yoga program for employee wellness, the employees themselves often take it upon themselves to pursue their own individual yoga practices. Again, since yoga is such a fundamentally simple exercise, it lends itself to self-guided, self-paced practice that employees can do for 10 or 20 minutes on their own.

If you’re considering setting up a yoga program at your workplace, Workforce magazine has some tips:

  • Survey employees to gauge interest level, determine what type of yoga to offer, and identify the most popular times for classes.
  • Talk to several certified yoga instructors with experience creating and teaching workplace yoga programs.
  • Schedule classes several months in advance so employees can plan their schedules.
  • Educate employees the benefits of relaxation and stress management through yoga.


HR Focus: Mindfulness at Work

The 1970s had EST(Erhard Seminar Training—described by psychologists as a large group awareness training program).  The 1980s saw the rise of “The Me Generation.” For the current generation, one of the biggest cultural trends is mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention to the present, a state of living “in the moment,” and not being distracted by thoughts about the past or future. Although mindfulness is linked to ancient practices like yoga and meditation, it is only in recent decades that scientific studies are tying mindfulness to improved pain management, increased weight loss, enhanced productivity, and a host of other benefits.

In order to reap the benefits of mindfulness, many companies are starting to implement mindfulness training programs. According to a study from the National Business Group on Health and Fidelity Investments, 22 percent of companies have mindfulness training programs in place, and another 21 percent of companies planned to add such programs in 2017. Although such programs can be costly, the financial benefits of reduced stress and increased productivity could offset those costs very quickly. Companies like General Mills, Google, Harvard, and Apple have used such programs, and their employees report positive impacts like improved decision-making and listening capabilities.

In this digital age, employees are constantly bombarded with requests for their attention and time. And with a post-recession focus on lean business management, companies are having to do more with less, which puts even more demands on each employee. With its focus on … well … focus, mindfulness is a natural tool for reducing stress and increasing productivity in the workplace. It helps employees sort through the clutter and concentrate on what needs to be done. Below are some easy mindfulness strategies to try today:

  • Do one thing at a time, and stick to it until it’s done.
  • Take a five-minute vacation by taking a tour of your senses. What do you see, hear, feel, smell, and taste at this particular moment?
  • Practice “box breathing” (also known as “square breathing”) by breathing in for four seconds, holding your breath for four seconds, breathing out for four seconds, and holding again for four seconds. This calming breathing can soothe the flight-or-fight instinct that stress causes and help you get back to work.

Increasingly, mindfulness is also being used to promote healthy eating. “Mindful eating” is in some ways more concrete than general mindfulness in that it is the opposite of mindless eating: for instance, like working your way through a bag of potato chips while working without really paying attention to either the chips or the work you’re doing. Mindful eating involves some simple steps liked the following:

  • When you eat, focus on eating. Don’t multitask.
  • Concentrate on your food, on the flavors and textures. Think about the journey the food made to get to your plate.
  • Eat when you’re hungry, not according to the clock.
  • Stop eating when you start to feel full, not when your plate is empty.

HR Focus: National Physical Fitness and Sports Month #GetActive

Do you or your colleagues need a boost to get moving this spring? The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition has you covered! Operating with the Twitter hashtag #moveinmay, the President’s Council is promoting May as National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, complete with a playbook on how to get moving and stay active.

National Physical Fitness and Sports Month

National Physical Fitness and Sports Month in May is not a new event; it has actually been observed since 1983, when President Reagan urged “individuals and families to use this occasion to renew their commitments to make regular physical activity an integral part of their lives.” In 2017, National Physical Fitness and Sports Month is still going strong with a slew of programs and activities to encourage healthy, active lifestyles.

In the last three decades, technology has changed our lives, both for better and for worse. On the one hand (literally), the accessibility of technology has given many Americans a screen addiction, making us virtual slaves to virtual reality. However, technology has also positively transformed some aspects of physical fitness, especially in the area of tracking and recording, as well as accessing helpful information and interactive guidance.

In addition to the many commercial activity trackers and tracking apps available, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has created the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA+), an eight-week program to help people get a jump-start on their fitness goals. With a focus on healthy eating and activity levels, PALA+ lets participants keep track of their progress toward their targets. For adults, the physical activity goal involves having 150 active minutes and five active days per week. Nutrition goals include these :

  • Vegetables: Log at least 3 vegetables per week.
  • Fruit: Log at least 3 whole fruits per week.
  • Grains: Log at least 3 whole grain foods per week.
  • Dairy: Log at least 3 low-fat or fat-free dairy items per week.
  • Protein Foods: Log at least 3 lean protein foods or seafood items per week.

Those who complete the PALA+ challenge can download an award certificate from Fitness.gov. This ready-made challenge is a great way to bring colleagues together to work toward a healthier lifestyle, so they can get out there and #moveinmay!

Financial Incentives for Physical Activity: What Works?

Increasing the Physical Activity of Your Employees

How can organizations help keep their employees healthy? This is a question that has dogged company executives for decades, particularly since the 1980s when researchers first started tying workplace wellness programs to lower healthcare costs and higher employee productivity.

Do financial incentives for employee wellness programs work?

Most wellness programs consist of some or all of the following:

  • Biometric screening
  • Nutrition counseling
  • Weight management assistance
  • Stress reduction programs
  • Step challenges, either self-reported or using a pedometer
  • Awareness-raising campaigns, including posters, newsletters, and wellness events

That wellness programs have the potential to make employees healthier is undeniable. However, just having the program is not enough; employees need to participate, and they need to change their behaviors in order for the program to work. This is where the rubber meets the road, and it’s where many wellness programs fail to provide the hoped-for outcomes.

A recent Rand Health and Gallup study found that in companies that provide wellness programs, only 24 percent of employees choose to participate. This can severely reduce the ROI of the program, no matter how well-designed it is! And a study from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (ERBI) found that late adopters of wellness programs were likely to be less healthy than their early-adoption counterparts, with more people at risk of diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, as well as worse biometric readings and more expensive medical insurance usage.

So, with a wellness program in place, how do human resources departments encourage participation, especially from those who need it most? Several recent studies indicate that financial incentives might hold the key: but with a caveat. A 2016 study from the University of Pennsylvania called “Framing Financial Incentives to Increase Physical Activity Among Overweight and Obese Adults” found that offering a positive financial incentive—i.e., giving additional money for participation—did not increase activity. However, offering a negative financial incentive—taking away money for lack of participation—resulted in a 50 percent increase in participation.

The ERBI study cited above offers hope as well; although unhealthy and overweight people were less likely to join wellness programs without incentives, financial incentives did increase participation and encourage a favorable response. It’s important to note that wellness programs cannot be mandatory, and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) forbids discriminating against employees based on their health or genetic makeup.