This week in Insider News we have the latest on Massachusetts COVID-19 guidance, a survey on how well employees understand their health benefits, and the studies that suggest stability balls may not have significant health benefits.
Gov. Charlie Baker will allow indoor performances and recreational activities such as laser tag to resume on Oct. 5 in Mass. communities with lower COVID-19 transmission rates, and many businesses will also be permitted to increase their capacities. His order will loosen a range of restrictions, but only in communities deemed "lower risk" based on three weeks of municipal-level infection data the administration uses to produce its risk charts. Any municipality deemed high-risk must keep current restrictions in place.
In the height of a health pandemic, few employees understand health benefits from International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
A survey (available for purchase) from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans found only 34% of employees have a high level of understanding of their health benefits despite the necessity of comprehending health insurance amid the ongoing pandemic. Over half (52%) have a medium level of understanding and 15% have a somewhat or very low level of understanding. Employers are pivoting their efforts to improve employee understanding of their benefits this year by using virtual tactics and topic-driven communication. Other takeaways include:
- About one in five (21%) organizations made changes to their open enrollment procedures because of the pandemic, and nearly all the changes involve shifting from an in-person experience to a virtual option.
- Of organizations with workers without regular access to a computer or email, 43% find it challenging to communicate to that population.
- Employees don't open and read communication materials or access resources regarding their health benefits, according to 76% of employers.
To further encourage employees to read their open enrollment materials, the survey found employers are focusing on more COVID-19-related topics when communicating benefits this year.
You might want to rethink using a stability ball as your desk chair from The Washington Post
With many businesses looking to find healthy ergonomic solutions to working at home, some employees have turned to balance balls as an office chair alternative. This decision is typically driven by claims that stability balls improve posture and strengthen core muscles. But, studies suggest that stability balls don't actually offer any significant health benefits, according to a representatives from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
One study named in their statement found that, “prolonged sitting on a stability ball does not greatly alter the manner in which an individual sits, yet it appears to increase the level of discomfort.” In fact, it may have negative effects including 'spinal shrinkage' and the risk of accidents due to the unstable surface.
Ultimately, the more important health consideration for employees is to vary the way they work throughout the day, whether that's sitting in an office chair, on a stability ball, standing, or taking regular breaks to stand and walk around.