YourForce: Healthy Choices

By Mike Prokopeak

Feb. 21, 2016

Imagine someone offered you a sure-fire way to guarantee higher performance, boost engagement and improve productivity while simultaneously driving down costs. You’d be all ears, right? You’d probably be skeptical, too.

The answer’s not as far-fetched as you might imagine. In fact, it’s already within your reach.

This month, starting on p. 28, Workforce focuses on health at work with a special issue dedicated to exploring what has been ailing your workforce.

From aching backs and stress headaches to slumping productivity and everything in between, the total economic cost of poor health is $589 billion annually in the U.S. alone, according to the Integrated Benefits Institute.

In this issue, we take a look at what HR can do to help. It’s high time employers acknowledged that some workers aren’t just sick of work — work is actually making them sick.


Reader Terry Oldberg had this to say about a recent story titled “The Scientific Method: Sell STEM to U.S. Students” posted on

That ‘the United States economy is suffering from a lack of qualified STEM candidates for science, technology, engineering and mathematics jobs’ is a statement that artfully evades the issue of the wages that are offered for the labor. The shortage is of $10 per hour STEM workers. There is no shortage of $100 per hour STEM workers.


These letters were sent to Associate Editor Sarah Sipek after her story “Caring for the Caregivers” appeared in the January issue of Workforce, P. 28:

I can’t express how delighted I am to see that elder care caregiving challenges for employees is getting more attention. Thank you very much for your on-point article.

I’ve been beating this drum since I completed my master’s thesis for gerontology in which I focus on employees who do double duty as elder caregivers and how it affects them and the company. In the past some company executives would not even have me speak to their employees about elder care and how they can be helped. Executives have usually told me, ‘Veronica, you have a great idea here, but you are way ahead of your time.’ Really. They couldn’t see what was happening right under their nose. Today I still perform consulting but most of it is what I refer to as ‘front door’ geriatric care management. I am a professional member of the Aging Life Care Association and would spend a specific number of hours in which to assist them ‘find the right rooms to visit’ once I get them through the ‘front door.’

—Veronica Woldt, Corporate Eldercare Solutions, Franklin, Wisconsin

I really appreciated your article on caring for caregivers. It’s an incredibly important topic we need to address in society. Unfortunately, I feel like you overlooked a huge piece of this caregiver puzzle: parents of children with special needs. We parents of children with special needs are often hidden in the shadows and scrambling just to get through each day. And when it’s your child who needs you to be a full-time caregiver, it can be hard to find additional support (unlike when it is a parent you are caring for, since people often have siblings they can lean on to share the burden). And, quite frankly, when it’s your child who has special needs, you know you are looking at the rest of your life as a caregiver.

—Laura Francis, River Software, Greenwood Village, Colorado

The story in the January issue titled “Pavlov’s Dog … Didn’t Have Pet Insurance,” drew these responses:

RAWLCM said: My wife’s company recently started offering pet insurance as a ‘benefit.’ The cost of premiums through her company was exactly the same as was offered to the public on the pet insurance company’s website. I’ve found this to be true of a lot of optional ‘benefits.’ They offer nothing the employee can’t get on their own, but the employer gets a kickback for every employee who signs up. Another difference between pet insurance and pet wellness plans is that the wellness plans cover pets of all ages, where the insurance usually cuts off coverage for mature animals.

To which Markovian responded: I’m an HR professional, and I question whether there’s any ‘kickback’ to the employer for offering pet insurance, even if the premiums are the same as on the carrier’s website. In fact, it’s probably ‘costing’ the employer in terms of administration of the plan, even if the employees are fully paying the premium via payroll deduction. It takes time to reconcile the invoices, process payment, mail the payment to the carrier, maintain documentation about the plan, communicate it to employees, answer their questions about it, etc. Benefits are an expense to an employer, not a source of revenue (unless there happens to be something shady going on).

Mike Prokopeak is Workforce’s editor in chief.

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