Tips for Your Business: Increase Productivity by Reducing Stress

Stress in the workforce has become one of the biggest problems in business today. It has been called a global epidemic, with numerous studies encouraging businesses to be more proactive in helping their employees manage stress. “Every day, people deal with stress at work or in their personal lives — or probably both,” says Cindy Ballog, manager of Health Promotion, Wellness and Disease Management for Medical Mutual. “That’s why it’s important for organizations to understand the effect it can have on the health of their employees, and what that means for the future of their business.”

Stress in the workforce has become one of the biggest problems in business today. It has been called a global epidemic, with numerous studies encouraging businesses to be more proactive in helping their employees manage stress. 

“Every day, people deal with stress at work or in their personal lives — or probably both,” says Cindy Ballog, manager of Health Promotion, Wellness and Disease Management for Medical Mutual. “That’s why it’s important for organizations to understand the effect it can have on the health of their employees, and what that means for the future of their business.”


With the high demand and fast pace of today’s work environment, employees at practically every level of an organization are dealing with some level of stress. By providing stress management resources, organizations can help employees be healthier and control healthcare costs. “Healthy employees are often happier and more productive employees,” says Ballog. “In many cases, turnover and absenteeism can also go down.”


Stress is hard on the body. There are the obvious and immediate effects, such as headaches, upset stomach and loss of sleep. But there are more long-term consequences. Chronic stress can weaken the immune system, which makes it tougher to fight off illness, causing people to get sick more often. It’s also linked to high blood pressure, abnormal heartbeat, heart attacks, anxiety and depression. These conditions and others can worsen as a result of continuous stress. 


According to Ballog, diet and exercise go a long way. “When your body feels good, your mind often does, too,” she explains. “People often adopt poor eating and lifestyle habits as a form of stress relief, but those habits just make the symptoms worse.” Exercise is another important factor. Just 30 minutes of exercise a day can have a significant impact on stress. Even at work, when feasible, Ballog says employees should be encouraged to do things like go for a walk at lunch or use the stairs instead of the elevator. 


Of course, each employee is different when it comes to stress, with different sources and different effects on their health. Some employers offer classes on relaxation techniques and managing time more effectively. Employees should also feel comfortable discussing challenges and asking for help, which can help reduce stress for those employees and ensure projects are completed on time. 


“It can be difficult to eliminate all the stress factors in life, but everyone can find ways to understand their stressors and respond to them a little better,” says Ballog. “Helping your employees along in the process could help your business be healthier—both physically and financially.”

This article originally appeared in the July 20, 2015, edition of Small Business Matters.


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  • Next up: Increase Workplace Safety with Free Services from BWC
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  • Increase Workplace Safety with Free Services from BWC

     

    The COSE workers’ comp team at Minute Men HR (MMHR/COSE) is here to help you increase workplace safety by using the BWC’s complimentary safety services. As we reported in February, increased participation in BWC safety programs has led to a decrease in claims filed and overall claims costs. That has resulted in significant reductions in BWC premium rates over the last 8 years with a 20% decrease in base rates for the 2019 policy year—the biggest drop in rates in the history of the BWC.  

    For more information, visit the Ohio BWC website at www.bwc.ohio.gov and select Safety from the pull-down Menu at the top. You’ll be able to register for classes, request a safety consult and learn about safety grants and other programs designed to keep your workplace safe. 

    Green Year Injury – 2 Hour Training Requirement

    Each year, policies enrolled in a group savings program (Group Experience Rating or Group Retrospective Rating) that had a workplace injury during the defined green year period, are required to take 2 hours of safety training to maintain your eligibility to remain in the group program.  Participants in the 2019 MMHR/COSE workers’ comp group programs with workplace injuries between July 1, 2017 and September 30, 2018 are required to take the training before June 30, 2020.  We will be sending you a letter this month which will include an explanation of the requirement as well as training options and information about the BWC Learning Center. You have options for completing the training

    1. The BWC Learning Center provides both classroom and online training. 
    2. This is the only BWC training requirement that allows you to use external training – so, if you have internal safety training/meetings or participate in 2 hours of safety/security related training through an outside source, it will satisfy this requirement. 

    Please click here for a link to the BWC Guidelines for Group Rating Training and an FAQ developed by the MMHR/COSE Workers’ Comp Team to help you through this process.

    We also want to encourage you to be more active in monitoring and managing your policy (if you aren’t already).  The following action items can help you: 

    1. Set up an e-account on the BWC website (www.bwc.ohio.gov).
      1. Pay premiums online through the BWC website and opt to receive your BWC invoice electronically to obtain the Go Green rebate (electronic invoices are required as of 7/1/19)
      2. Check your BWC policy online once a month to stay on top of any changes and make sure you don’t have a balance due.
      3. Make sure your contact information is current – on the BWC website and with your Third Party Administrator (TPA) and Managed Care Organization (MCO) so that you never miss important information. If you have an e-account, but can’t find your login information, you will need to contact the Ohio BWC at 1-800-644-6292 for assistance in resetting your account information.

    The MMHR/COSE Workers’ Comp Team is here to answer questions and help you with BWC issues.  Please call us at 216-452-0107 for more information about our programs or for assistance. 

    BWC Group Program 2-Hour Safety Training: Frequently Asked Questions

    Q: Why do I have to do this?

    A: The Ohio BWC encourages all employers to maintain a safe workplace. For employers participating in group savings programs that experience a workplace injury during the defined “green year” period are required to take 2 hours of safety training to help maintain a safe workplace and avoid future injuries.

    Q: I did this last year/in a prior year, do I really have to do it again?

    A: Yes. As long as you are participating in a group savings program and experience a claim during the defined green year period, you will be required to complete 2 hours of safety training.

    Q: What is a defined green year period?

    A: Each policy year begins on July 1 and runs through the following June 30. The defined green year is the period of time when claims have not yet entered the experience period and have not started to impact your rates/premiums.  It generally starts 2 years prior to the start of the current policy year and runs 18 months (July 1, 2017 to September 30, 2018 is the defined green year for the 2019 policy year).

    Q: What are my options for meeting this requirement?

    A: You have several options. You can take advantage of the BWC Division of Safety & Hygiene/BWC Learning Center and take online or in person safety classes. Or, you can utilize external safety training such as CPR/AED/First Aid certification, OSHA training or any specific industry training that is related to safety or security. This is the ONLY BWC safety training requirement that allows you to use external training. Safety Council meeting attendance DOES NOT satisfy this requirement.

    Q: Does the owner have to take the training?

    A: You can designate anyone on staff to complete the training. 

    Q: We have scheduled safety meetings, do those count?

    A: Yes, they can. If the training goes above and beyond expected day to day workplace training. Just be sure to keep a sign in sheet that includes the date, start and end time, topic, speaker and the names/signatures of employees that attended. You can submit more than one sign in/log to meet the 2 hour requirement (if the meetings are shorter).

    Q: Does my safety council meeting attendance satisfy this requirement?

    A: No. Since Safety Council meeting attendance meets the requirement for the Safety Council rebate, it cannot satisfy this requirement.  Neither does BWC training taken for any other program (Industry Specific Training, One Claim, EM Cap, etc).  In other words, you cannot “kill 2 birds with one stone” by taking one class and applying it to more than one BWC program.

    Q: Where do I submit my documentation?

    A: Please submit your documentation to the email address/fax number we will provide in the letter that we send you.

    Q: How do I access the BWC Learning Center?

    A: Instructions are included on the one page information sheet from the BWC that will be included with the letter we send you. You will also receive reminders throughout the policy year to make sure you meet this requirement. You can also access the BWC Learning Center through the BWC website at www.bwc.ohio.gov.

    Q: What if I have trouble with the BWC Learning Center?

    A: Since the site is maintained by the BWC, you will need to call the BWC for assistance with your log in or the site in general. We cannot help you with login or system issues. The BWC can be reached at 1-800-644-6292.

    Q: What type of documentation will I get from the BWC Learning Center?

    A: In most cases, you should be able to print a certificate, but you may need to “print screen” and send that as your documentation if you are having trouble printing the certificate. Note the date, time, online course name and policy number when sending the print screen to us.

    Q: When do I have to complete this?

    A: You must complete the 2-hour safety training by June 30, 2020.  We encourage you to complete it as soon as possible so as not to be overwhelmed at the last minute.

    Q: What happens if I don’t complete the 2-hour safety training?

    A: Since this is a BWC requirement, the BWC can disqualify you from participating in group savings programs in the subsequent year. We know that your discounts/rebates are important, so we encourage you to complete the training, and do it as early as possible to avoid paying higher premiums. 

    Q: If I still have questions, where do I call?

    A: For issues related to the BWC Learning Center or website, please call the BWC at 1-800-644-6292.

    If you have questions about the MMHR/COSE Workers’ Comp program, please call our team at 216-452-0107. 

     

     

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  • Next up: Internship Help for Your Business
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  • Internship Help for Your Business

    The Greater Cleveland Partnership’s Internship Central program is collaborating with Tri-C to offer GCP members the opportunity to participate as an internship host employer for Tri-C’s Summer Internship Program. There are 50 internships available and employers can host more than one intern. The program is five to 10 weeks (maximum of 100 hours to be worked) from May 30 to August 11, 2017.

    Internship Help for Your Business

    The Greater Cleveland Partnership’s Internship Central program is collaborating with Tri-C to offer GCP members the opportunity to participate as an internship host employer for Tri-C’s Summer Internship Program. There are 50 internships available and employers can host more than one intern. The program is five to 10 weeks (maximum of 100 hours to be worked) from May 30 to August 11, 2017.

    As an external host employer, the company would be placed with an intern that best matches your needs. Tri-C manages the HR functions of the internship such as hiring, placement and internship compensation. Students will be compensated by the college at $10 per hour and will also receive financial support for one course during the Summer Term (up to 4 credits) and one book (up to $125).  

    The host employer is responsible for:

    • Providing supervision, coaching, feedback, and support to the intern.
    • Providing meaningful work and learning experiences for the intern.
    • Developing and sharing a work plan for the intern, outlining objectives and deliverables throughout the five- or 10-week internship.
    • Providing a workspace and other resources (e.g., access to computer, reference materials, and telephone).
    • Attending the Host Information Session and an Onboarding Session during Spring Term.
    • Attending the Internship Fairs. This is essential because this is where you will meet and interview potential interns and make your top three intern selections.
      • Metropolitan Campus (downtown Cleveland) - Monday, March 13, 2017, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
      • Western Campus (Parma) - Wednesday, March 15, 2017, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

    Internship host opportunities are limited and will be filled on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you are interested in hosting a student during summer 2017, please complete the Summer Internship Job Description and return to Angela Finding at afinding@gcpartnership.com by November 18, 2016. For questions regarding the program, call Angela at 216-592-2385.

    Please click on the links below to access additional information about the program.


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  • Next up: Internship Program Resources for Employers
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  • Internship Program Resources for Employers

    Cultivating talent early on in the IT industry was a focus of one of the sessions at the 4th annual GET IT Here! Summit hosted by RITE on April 15 during the 2016 chapter of OHTec’s annual Tech Week.

    Cultivating talent early on in the IT industry was a focus of one of the sessions at the 4th annual GET IT Here! Summit hosted by RITE on April 15 during the 2016 chapter of OHTec’s annual Tech Week.

    The attraction, development and retention of employees in the industry begins at the internship level. During the first afternoon session titled “Resources for Employers” the Ohio Department of Education’s Linda O’Connor and Brenda Davis Smith with the Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education presented resources employers can use as it relates to developing their internship programs.

    Those resources are listed below:

    RITE Resources: A list of resources compiled by RITE that assist employers with developing and managing a quality internship program and additional information for educators.

    Contact:

    • Courtney DeOreo, Board Administrator
    • cdeoreo@lorainccc.edu
    • Lorain County Community College
    • 440-366-4214

    Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education (NOCHE): Brings together business and higher education for regional economic & workforce development. Their Northeast Ohio Talent Exchange program offers individual consulting to assess your needs and design a custom program that supplements your talent acquisition and development strategies. Through their extensive network of colleges and universities, they can help you gain exposure and establish relationships with career services professionals and faculty members in a variety of disciplines. 

    Contact:

    Ohio Department of Education (ODE): Oversees the state’s public education system, which includes public school districts, joint vocational school districts and charter schools. The department also monitors educational service centers, other regional education providers, early learning and childcare programs, and private schools.

    Contact:

    Apprenticeships and Internship: Descriptions and qualifications of the different types of apprenticeships and internships employers offer.

    Ohio Career Exploration Internship Program: Grants for businesses that employ up to three high school students in career exploration internships/year, 50% of the wages paid to the student up to a $5,000. Eligible to attend school in Ohio (ages 16-18) or enrolled in grade 11 or 12 and must employ them for 200 hours (20 weeks)

    Contact:

    Ohio Manufacturing Extension Partnership (OHMEP): OHMEP supports Ohio’s small and medium-sized manufacturers by providing the products, services and assistance that are dedicated to the productivity, growth and global competitiveness of Ohio manufacturers.

    Contact:

    US Department of Labor Apprenticeship USA Toolkit: Includes tools on building apprenticeship partnerships, business outreach materials and a guide for Business Service staff, guides for funding apprenticeship and counting outcomes under WIOA and models of successful workforce system/apprenticeship partnerships

    For additional information, visit Ohio Department of Education and search keywords “apprenticeships” and “internships” for helpful forms, templates and contacts for program models.

    View the full Get IT Here! Summit Afternoon Presentation

    Looking for more IT-related resources? Keep an eye out for the June Mind Your Business Resource Guide that will feature a resource directory related to the IT industry. Contact Sara Adams at sadams@gcpartnership.com for more details.

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  • Next up: Internship Programs: 3 Keys to Finding and Retaining Top Talent
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  • Internship Programs: 3 Keys to Finding and Retaining Top Talent

    Hundreds gathered at Corporate College East on Feb. 21 for the 2019 Cleveland Internship Summit. Throughout the year, we will be bringing you highlights covered during the event. Today’s recap focuses on the three key strengths of FedEx Custom Critical’s internship program.

    The success FedEx Custom Critical’s internship program has enjoyed over the years comes down to three things, Ramona Hood, the company’s Vice President of Operations, Planning and Strategy, said during the opening keynote of the 2019 Cleveland Internship Summit:

    • Establishing partnerships with key partners;
    • providing interns with meaningful work; and
    • putting an intentional focus on the program in order to generate the highest possible return.

    Hood elaborated on each of these points during her address, providing a roadmap the assembled group of business leaders and educators could follow in order to provide the best possible internship experience for their own students and interns. For example:

    Establishing partnerships

    FedEx maintains close partnerships with several schools in the Northeast Ohio region in order to ensure that the company’s pipeline of interns—typically between 12 to 18 interns are in the program at one time—remains full.

    FedEx also takes these partnerships a step further through assisting the universities with resume workshops for the students, mock interviews and more. These kinds of touchpoints help build relationships with the schools and through those relationships, FedEx Custom Critical’s internship program leaders can provide feedback on the students’ work at the company and, vice versa, the universities can give constructive criticism back to FedEx on the structure of their program. She added later that it’s vital for companies to take this feedback seriously and be willing to make changes as needed based on it.

    Meaningful work

    The days of viewing interns as someone who refills the boss’ coffee mug are long over, Hood said. It’s vital that companies provide meaningful work and experience to the students because these are people who might well end up working fulltime for the company after graduation.

    At FedEx, Hood said company officials have found the best way to accomplish this goal is by doing legwork before the internship starts. The company communicates expectations and what success looks like and in doing so, can gauge the intern’s progress as the internship progresses.

    Hood said her company is also not afraid to give interns an opportunity to focus on finding ways to transform the organization and make it more efficient. A lot of times, this means taking a closer look at repetitive processes at the company and allowing the students to find ways to improve these processes. An added benefit? It frees up time for fulltime staff members to focus on other important tasks.

    Intentional focus

    Lastly, Hood stressed to attendees that a company’s internship program must be a point of intentional focus within a company. It’s critical, she said, that companies design internships to be a part of their overall talent strategy.

    As an example, she cited the fact that FedEx takes internships as an opportunity to take their own fulltime staff and challenge them even further by placing them in a mentorship role. Not only does such an action help the interns excel within the program, it also gives the fulltime employee experience in a leadership role.

    Want to know more about internship best practices? Visit the Greater Cleveland Partnership’s Internship Central hub to learn more about how to build a best-in-class internship program at your business.

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  • Next up: Is Your Ohio Business Website ADA Compliant?
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  • Is Your Ohio Business Website ADA Compliant?

    If your Ohio business website is not ADA compliant it could make you a lawsuit target. Follow these guidelines to make sure you’re following the law.

     

    Are you an Ohio business with a website? Do you have a brick and mortar location, or do you sell to out-of-state consumers? Congratulations, you must now comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) requirements to make your website accessible to people with disabilities or be subject to the increasing rash of lawsuits seeking damages and attorney fees. 

    How must your website be compliant? The courts don’t really know, but they are sure willing to tell you that you must comply.  Multiple standards have been asserted as “in compliance” with the ADA, including the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0), but courts have regularly refused to explicitly adopt any specific standard of compliance as a minimum requirement for the ADA.

    Instead, courts have sidestepped the question of “how does a website comply with the ADA” and instead focused on the question of whether there are articulable and comprehensible standards to which a website must conform, to which, somehow, the answer is yes.  As restated by the ninth circuit regarding the ADA’s application to websites, “[a] statute is vague not when it prohibits conduct according ‘to an imprecise but comprehensible normative standard, but rather in the sense that no standard of conduct is specified at all.’ ”  Moreover, “[b]ecause the ADA is a statute that regulates commercial conduct, it is reviewed under a less stringent standard of specificity” than, for example, criminal laws or restrictions on speech.  Therefore, the ADA would be vague “only if it is so indefinite in its terms that it fails to articulate comprehensible standards to which a person's conduct must conform.” 

    It’s also not going to help you if you have a business that is in a friendlier jurisdiction. A tremendous amount of these cases are coming out of a few firms in western Pennsylvania. Why does that matter? Because one of the judges in the Federal District Court of Western Pennsylvania has been incredibly friendly to Plaintiffs, refusing to dismiss cases brought by them at the early pleading stage, and in some cases going against established precedent in that Circuit. This includes cases in which, despite clear case-law to the contrary, businesses without any physical location whatsoever.

    None of this is particularly helpful to businesses who are trying to determine what technical requirements their websites must have to comply with the ADA, or protect themselves if they DO get sued. There are, however, some general rules of thumb:
    1) Make sure your website is compliant with WCAG 2.0 guidelines, including having text in your website capable of being read by a screen-reader.
    2) Include indemnification clauses in your contracts with any party creating your website, and include a requirement that the website creating/maintaining party has sufficient insurance to cover a suit.

    The easiest way to do this is to have WCAG 2.0 compliance built in to the original website, rather than attempt to strap on screen reading compatibility after the fact. If that’s not doable and you already have a website up and running, work to get your website as compliant as possible by bringing on an ADA consultant who can improve and monitor the website to ensure compliance.

    At the very least, run an automated review of your website to ensure that you are meeting the WCAG 2.0 criteria. WCAG offers a list of free and pay-per-use products to conduct tests on your websites regarding compliance: www.w3.org/WAI/ER/tools/?q=wcag-20-w3c-web-content-accessibility-guidelines-20. Keep in mind that many of these programs are the exact same programs that Plaintiffs and their attorneys are going to use against your company’s website, so the fifteen seconds it will take you to run a compliance check could end up saving you tens of thousands in fees and penalties in the future.

    Let’s talk about those fees. Some of you may be asking big “so what” on compliance. What’s the actual damage that will be caused by not fixing the website? The actual harm is that these cases are frequently resolved by the court by ordering a business to comply with the ADA in specific, and costly, ways. This includes spending tens of thousands of dollars on ADA audits, but also to pay all of the attorney fees incurred by the Plaintiffs, and all fees that will be incurred by the Plaintiff to monitor your website for compliance. That’s right, the Plaintiff’s counsel now gets to monitor your website and bill you for the privilege of doing so.

    Also note that your general commercial liability policy is not going to cover a lawsuit on this issue. If you’re relying on your insurance policy to protect you without getting a separate ADA rider, you’re out of luck.

    So what? You’ll fix the violations if you get called out on it. No harm no foul, right? Probably not. Only a single court has found that fixing the issues complained of during the case is sufficient to moot the alleged violations in a website accessibility case.  In Diaz v. Kroger Co., a visually-impaired individual in New York sued the Kroger supermarket chain, which has no locations in New York. Kroger argued that Diaz could not seek the injunctive relief sought because the case had already been mooted by the actions taken by Kroger to make its website compliant. 

    Diaz opposed the argument, asserting that because a website was always changing that the issue of whether the website was compliant could never be mooted. The court agreed with Kroger, and found that because Kroger had already made the requested changes, that there could be no lawsuit.
    But that is only one case. Your best bet is to never get to that spot, and take action to make sure that your website is ADA and WCAG 2.0 compliant before a lawyer in Pennsylvania decides that your company would make a good target for a lawsuit.

    This article is meant to be utilized as a general guideline for ADA compliance. Nothing in this blog is intended to create an attorney-client relationship or to provide legal advice on which you should rely without talking to your own retained attorney first.  If you have questions about your particular legal situation, you should contact a legal professional. 

    For questions, contact Cathryn Ensign at 216-287-2979 or by email at ce@gertsburglaw.com

    Stop worrying if your company is vulnerable to lawsuits or liability and schedule a confidential, no-cost CM6 Vulnerability Check with Gertsburg Law Firm. CEO Alex Gertsburg will walk you through the minefields in your documents and key processes and tell you how to fix them yourself. Call 440-571-7774 or e-mail cz@gertsburglaw.com to schedule your CM6 Vulnerability Check today. Explore the full CoverMySix legal audit suite at covermysix.com.

     

    _____________________________________________

    i Castillo v. Jo-Ann Stores, LLC, 286 F. Supp. 3d 870, 882 (N.D. Ohio 2018).

    ii Robles v. Domino's Pizza, LLC, 913 F.3d 898, 906 (9th Cir. 2019).

    iii Botosan v. Paul McNally Realty, 216 F.3d 827, 836 (9th Cir. 2000) (quoting Coates v. City of Cincinnati, 402 U.S. 611, 614, 91 S.Ct. 1686, 29 L.Ed.2d 214 (1971) ).

    iv Id. (citing Vill. of Hoffman Estates v. Flipside, Hoffman Estates, Inc., 455 U.S. 489, 498–99, 102 S.Ct. 1186, 71 L.Ed.2d 362 (1982) ).

    v Id.

    vi Diaz v. Kroger Co., No. 18 CIV. 7953 (KPF), 2019 WL 2357531, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. June 4, 2019).

     
     
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