Tag Archives: Benefits

Telemedicine via Google – A New Employee Benefit?

Last week Google unveiled Google Helpouts, a new service that allows users to pay for a Google Hangout video chat sessi0n. One of the applications that was most intriguing? Telemedicine.For those of you unfamiliar with the term, here’s what it means:

tel·e·med·i·cine noun 1.the remote diagnosis and treatment of patients by means of telecommunications technology

Telemedicine is basically a way for people to get treatment for basic illnesses without ever having to go to the doctor’s office. It’s faster, more efficient, and cheaper, too. Now, what if instead of using the telephone, you used your computer? That’s where Google Helpouts come in.

To start, Google Hangouts has categories for art and music, computer and electronics, cooking, education, fashion and beauty, fitness and nutrition and home and garden. For now, Google is screening people and companies that want to offer their services through Helpouts. Users review will help control the quality of providers.

The category with the most intriguing potential is health services. People can have a counseling session, consult with a dietitian or get advice from a registered lactation support consultant over the video chats. There are partners doing basic triage through registered nurses, and pet care experts available to talk about why Mr. Fluffersons has lost his appetite.

Google Helpouts are HIPPA compliant to address privacy concerns, and Google is checking credentials for any providers in the medical field. There is no framework for getting a Helpout session covered by insurance, but Google thinks the category has potential to become a regular part of modern health care.

Telemedicine is not a new idea. Companies already offer therapy sessions and one-on-one physician appointments over video. It’s great for people who are far from proper medical facilities or who are homebound because of illness.

I’ve just started to seriously consider telemedicine options for our staff, and this is yet another avenue to help make that option more viable. The “teledoc” options in our local area are normally 100% company paid, but there is no copay, no insurance reporting, and no limit to the number of times an employee can call in.

Anyone else using or considering telemedicine in their employee benefits? Would something like this appeal to your staff? Why or why not?

 

Happy Workers: Perception, Psychology, and Reality

I know, many of you are thinking, “Happy workers? I just want them to come to work and be productive!” Don’t worry, I think today’s discussion will be helpful for you as well.

happy workersI spend an inordinate amount of time trying to determine how to make our people happier. Sometimes that comes in the form of removing obstacles, but it can also come in the form of ensuring that they know what they’re getting. Equity theory is a tool that plays into that. For instance, helping to educate employees on how your benefits or work environment transcend the market average can help them to feel better/happier, despite there being no real change made. A large part of this is simply how well you communicate things.

To keep the conversation targeted today, we’re going to look exclusively at the benefits realm. Even if that’s not your idea of fun, stick with me and we’ll see if we can learn something new.

What the data says

I received a news piece recently that focused on several topics surrounding employee satisfaction and happy workers, but one in particular caught my eye.

1 in 3 (31%) employees report that they do not believe their benefits are better than those offered at competitor companies

Wow.

And as far as which benefits are most important to the employees surveyed, here’s the list:

  • 76% – medical plan/coverage
  • 72% – holidays/vacation/sick time
  • 62% – 401K/retirement/pension
  • 60% – dental plan/coverage
  • 27% – employee development/training
  • 26% – wellness programs e.g., health screening programs, exercise/physical fitness programs, or health insurance education
  • 26% – employee discounts e.g., commuter subsidies, gym membership discount, discounts on company products/services
  • 23% – tuition reimbursement
  • 21% – office perks e.g., free food and drink, casual dress, or a pet friendly office

Your job

In case you didn’t realize it already, your employer thinks it’s your job to 1) help people understand their benefits and 2) provide benefits that your employees care about. If you don’t know what your people want, definitely take some time to learn more about that.

That 31% of people who think benefits are better at other companies? That’s your target audience for these kinds of communications. How you communicate your response is key, because you want to avoid being condescending, but you also want to give solid information that allows them to judge the situation with all the facts at hand.

My experiences

This year I have a goal (not just a “that would be nice if…” but an actual performance-related metric!) relating to employee benefits. It’s my objective to do a better job of communicating our offerings, sharing some of the market averages, and educating our employees on how to make use of what we do provide.

  • Lifetime financial planning articles and lunch-and-learns
  • What disability coverage is, how it’s used, and how it impacts their family
  • What are the key impacts of the PPACA for individuals and how to prepare
  • How and why to use the employee assistance program

These are a few ideas, but you can see how they’re oriented: education. The better I can teach our people, the better equipped they will be to make sound decisions regarding the benefits we offer. It’s not cash wrapped in bacon, but it will do in a pinch.

Have you ever stopped to find out how your people feel about the benefits they receive? Do you offer any different/unusual benefits to your employees that might differentiate you from other employers?