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Ducks in a Row: The Ultimate In Employee Trashing

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017


“We value/care about our employees” is one of the most hypocritical statements companies make these days.

(“Our customers are very important to us” is the other.)

Want proof?

The Republican-controlled Congress is pushing through a bill to give corporations the ability to intrude deeper and more personally into your life than ever before.

A little-noticed bill moving through Congress would allow companies to require employees to undergo genetic testing or risk paying a penalty of thousands of dollars, and would let employers see that genetic and other health information. (…) The new bill gets around that landmark law by stating explicitly that GINA and other protections do not apply when genetic tests are part of a ‘workplace wellness’ program.

This mean that, in the name of “wellness,” your boss will know if you were treated for an STD or that you are predisposed for alcoholism, Parkinson’s, cancer, or whatever.

Not only your boss, but the unregulated company that runs your company’s wellness program, but is not constrained by HIPPA rules.

Employers, especially large ones, generally hire outside companies to run them [wellness programs]. These companies are largely unregulated, and they are allowed to see genetic test results with employee names. (…) They sometimes sell the health information they collect from employees.

Can your company actually force you to comply?

No, but the penalty for refusing is costly in the form of higher insurance premiums and co-pays.

No health insurance at your company? You could still take a major financial hit.

If an employer has a wellness program but does sponsor health insurance, rather than increasing insurance premiums, the employer could dock the paychecks of workers who don’t participate.

In general, Corporate America’s attitude towards its employees reflects its attitude towards customers.

For the most part, that ranges from “general nuisance” to “necessary evil.”

And while the number of exceptions to that attitude, at least when it comes to customers, is growing, it doesn’t always apply to employees.

As the provisions of this long-desired bill prove.

That said, it will be a great recruiting tool for those companies that don’t do it.

Image credit: Daniel R. Blume

Ducks In A Row: Pros And Cons Of Omada Health

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017


Companies are becoming more and more involved in their employees personal lives, especially health-wise.

That’s understandable, considering how fast costs keep rising.

Startup Omada is a good example of what’s new.

The company’s business model is unique, as it doesn’t just charge employers per customer, but it actually depends on the success of each individual to make money. Omada’s revenue is outcome based.

This means that client companies pay only when there are positive results and that’s a good thing.

Accomplishing it, however, can feel invasive.

Its flagship program, Prevent, is modeled around the National Institutes of Health study called the Diabetes Prevention Program and is designed to help participants modify their behavior and reduce their risk of Type 2 diabetes.

The client company contracts with third-party organizations to identify those most at risk for at risk of diabetes or heart disease and enrolls them for intensive personal counseling.

The digital scale that each user gets, which is connected wirelessly to their Omada account, does daily weigh-ins to track their weight loss, as that is a good indicator of blood sugar and the risk of diabetes. Omada then gets paid based on the percentage weight loss that user has seen.

However, weight is not always an accurate indicator. Based on my lifetime weight I should be diabetic, have high blood pressure and likely a heart condition.

But I don’t.

In fact, I am amazingly healthy, always have been, and require no medication, whereas 85% of people my age are taking at least one prescription drug.

While Omada’s process would work for many people it feels invasive to me and if I were an employee I’d want to opt out of it.

So the real question here is not the value of the program offered, but whether the employer forces people to do it and penalizes them if they refuse.

Image credit: Vator TV

Hydrate Yourself with Plant Nanny

Monday, March 16th, 2015

plant-nannyLast year I wrote two posts on the value of sleep and how to power nap, important to all, but especially to entrepreneurs.

Without good sleep your life will be ruined, but if you don’t drink enough water your life will end, period. (Note: it’s not a comfortable ending.)

People know this, it’s not rocket science.

But knowing isn’t doing.

So as a public service today I’m sharing an article about Plant Nanny; a whimsical way to make sure you stay hydrated.

When you download the app, you input some personal information (height, weight, physical activity level) and then pick out a plant. Plant Nanny tells you how many cups of water you have to drink per day.

For every cup of water you drink, you tap the little circle in the bottom right hand corner. The goal is to drink all the cups of water you’re supposed to every day. It keeps your plant happy, and presumably it keeps you hydrated. If you forget to water your plant, it will look sad. If you completely neglect it, it will die and you’ll have to start over.

I like the fact that the amount of water, as well as the size of your “cup,” is customizable based on you — not one-size-fits-all, which it doesn’t.

It works on iPhone and Android, so you don’t have that excuse.

Besides being a lot healthier, water is a whole lot cheaper — as in free.

If you have a thing against tap water, invest in a good, refillable, filtering water bottle.

Because a lot of bottled water is not special and plastic is definitely not green.

Happy hydrating.

Image credit: Plant Nanny

Entrepreneurs: Why Should You Sleep?

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

http://www.flickr.com/photos/explosivebolts/60622410/Startup people are notorious for their long work hours.

They’re also known to play hard and not just in bars; most are into some form of working out or athletics and many are into extreme sports.

And most are knowledgeable enough to eat right and allow their bodies to recuperate.

But what about brains?

Brains work just as hard as bodies, if not harder and longer per 24 hour period.

It turns out that brains have their own janitorial system comparable to the body’s lymphatic system that cleans up metabolic toxins.

Maiken Nedergaard, a Danish biologist who has been leading research into sleep function at the University of Rochester’s medical school calls She called it the glymphatic system, a nod to its dependence on glial cells (the supportive cells in the brain that work largely to maintain homeostasis and protect neurons) and its function as a sort of parallel lymphatic system.

The bad news, from the viewpoint of most startup folks, is that it only works while sleeping.

“In a series of new studies on mice, her team discovered exactly that: When the mouse brain is sleeping or under anesthesia, it’s busy cleaning out the waste that accumulated while it was awake.”

But the truly bad news, the news that should make you think twice about ignoring these findings and charging ahead, is the long-term damage.

“The Journal of Neuroscience, the Veasey lab found that while our brains can recover quite readily from short-term sleep loss, chronic prolonged wakefulness and sleep disruption stresses the brain’s metabolism. The result is the degeneration of key neurons involved in alertness and proper cortical function and a buildup of proteins associated with aging and neural degeneration.”

It’s been proven over and over that a tired brain is neither productive nor innovative and now there’s early proof of potentially serious long-range damage from lack of sleep.

After all, what good does it do to improve physical health if your mind is rotting?

“Nationwide, entrepreneurs tend to eat more healthful foods and exercise more than other workers. But they also have more stress and are less likely to have health insurance.”

Worse, there is a chicken-and-egg connection between less sleep and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Not absolutely proven, but neither was the football connection between concussions and brain problems that is playing out in the courts today.

Editor’s note: Since the subject came up, what makes more sense to solve the problem of how a startup can offer health insurance than a startup with a founder who really understands?

Scott Gerber, founder of the Young Entrepreneur Council, which provides startup mentorship and resources and conducts research on entrepreneurs’ needs. To address this problem, his organization is introducing StartupInsurance, an online platform of health insurance plans offered by major health insurers, which will be compliant with the Affordable Care Act by 2014 and are tailored for entrepreneurs.

Flickr image credit: Adam Goode

Wal-Mart, sustainability and people

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

Image credit:Brave New Films

Yet another article on Wal-Mart’s commitment to sustainability. Now, I’m not knocking what they’re doing, but I do wonder if Wal-Mart’s sustainability efforts will ever be extended to their workforce.

Of course, according to Northeast corporate affairs representative Steve Restivo it is, “”Another component, and the one, frankly, that I’m most proud of, is the Personal Sustainability Program for our associates.” At the Portsmouth store, employees are taking part in three programs — stopping smoking, losing weight and changing to CFL bulbs in their homes.”

It really is too bad that sustainability doesn’t extend to equality in the workplace, health insurance, full-time employment and decent wages, but maybe the shopping public won’t support that.

What do you think? Are Wal-Mart’s efforts ground-breaking or damage control?

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