A management objective that never seems to get old is the need to drive greater levels of efficiency and productivity. From an employer's perspective, leaders recognize that there is a lot competing for an employee's attention that is both work and non-work related during a business day. From attending meetings, wading through a flood of emails, distractions from worrying about finances, a troubling health or relationship situation -- there is a plethora of distractions at play.
One distraction that remains a consistent time drainer involves the ineffective use of email. Increasingly, employers are looking to find ways to provide support for employees to make the most of their workday. Although there are various means of communication that have surfaced in recent years from texting, instant messaging to collaboration apps, it is email that still holds center stage as a key form of exchanging information.
Email tends to be passive and non-confrontational and therefore is a popular way to communicate any time of day. In addition, it is tempting for employees to constantly check their email inbox and avoid tackling their most important tasks. In Brian Tracy's book, Eat That Frog, he talks about the importance of addressing your biggest ugliest frog (your most pressing and important task) as your first order of business in each workday and building a healthy addiction toward completing what you start before allowing yourself to be distracted by less important email time wasters.
An employee can get the sense that sufficient work is being done when (s)he constantly responds to email messages during the day. Unfortunately, this is a sure-fire method to avoid addressing goals and projects that really count.
To help combat the follies of email, here are some tips to help foster greater levels of productivity:
1) Try to keep your email inbox at zero each day. A great method for doing this is the "D" method as per Michael Hyatt who describes being an email ninja as:
• Do – If it’s actionable, do the task right now.
• Delegate – Forward it to the correct person.
• Defer – Decide to do it later.
• Delete – If you don’t need it for later, drop it like a bad habit.
• File – Add it to your archives for later reference
2) Book time in your schedule when you DON'T check email. Make an appointment with yourself to focus on your projects and pressing work. Put your smartphone out of reach and out of sight. Many productivity experts only check email twice a day.
3) When using email consider how you engage with it. Do you make the subject clear and the points in your correspondence actionable? Do you proofread your message before sending? Do you make it polite and actionable so that the recipient has a clear sense for what you're sharing and why? Do you include only those people who need to be part of the email or do you cast a wider net?
4) Try to keep to only one subject as the topic of your email and if possible and appropriate -- pick up the phone or walk over the person and have a conversation instead or in addition to sending the email. Remember that email messages don't communicate tone and can be easily misinterpreted.
Each of us only has 168 hours in a week to pack in every aspect of the experiences and things we do in our workday and personal life. Help employees make the most of their workday so their confidence grows and productivity soars. For more tips and resources, please contact us. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
March is also know as Pharmacist Awareness Month (PAM) and it creates an opportunity for the pharmacist community to help educate Canadians on the contributions that this profession makes in the delivery of health care.
During the course of the last decade, there has been a significant shift and a much greater emphasis on expanding the scope of the pharmacist's practice and the services they deliver. Perhaps some of this has to do with helping consumers understand prescription costs and dispensing fees and how and why they vary among pharmacies.
This month is a great time to remind employees of the value of being smart consumers particularly when it comes to prescription drugs and their respective group insurance coverage.
Here are my tips to promote empowering employees with knowledge to save them money while enhancing the experience they have at their local pharmacy.
1. Understand your benefits coverage and how it integrates with government sponsored programs. In Ontario, there is the Ontario Drug Benefits (for eligible Ontarians over age 65) There also is the Trillium Drug Program for eligible Ontarians who have high prescription drug costs relative to their household income. Most other provinces have a program to help Canadians save on prescription costs.
Encourage employees to check out government websites as well as information about their group benefits program. Make a checklist available online as an easy-to-access resource. A trivia quiz or a one page fact sheet may prove invaluable to address frequently asked questions such as:
1) Do I submit a prescription receipt for reimbursement or does the pharmacist bill the insurance provider directly?
2) Is the a deductible (amount the employee pays out of pocket before the rest of the cost of the prescription is covered) and if so, what is the amount/percentage?
3) What is the maximum dollar amount that can be claimed in the plan year and is there a lifetime maximum of coverage?
4) I have children -- when does their coverage end?
5) What is a dispensing fee?
6) What is the difference between the prescription cost and the dispensing fee?
7) What is the difference between generic and name brand drugs?
2. Be a smart consumer and compare dispensing fees. Differences in pharmacist dispensing fees can vary greatly. Encourage employees to shop around for the best service and best price. Dispensing fee lists for pharmacies are available online. A dispensing fee is the pharmacist's charge for their time to stock medication, dispense the drug product, talk about treatment with the customer, maintain and check medication records to avoid drug interactions, provide drug information to their client's attending physician and provide other specialty services like blood pressure checks.
It helps to provide examples that employees can relate to. For example, a dispensing fee could be compared to the shipping fee a consumer pays for an online purchase. Most people shop around for the lowest cost shipping or free shipping if possible. The same premise holds true when shopping for a pharmacy service.
While some provinces regulate the fee, most are set by each retailer and dispensing fees vary. Lower cost providers tend to be closely linked to big box stores like Costco (around $5.00) and Walmart with higher prices at retailers such as Shoppers Drug Mart and Rexall Pharmacy (around $12). Also, many retailers offer points programs such as Air Miles or their own in-house program.
3. Saving on refills. Remind employees that a dispensing fee is charged PER prescription. Filling a three month prescription at once is less costly than filling three prescriptions at the same time. Remind employees of the group insurance provision and if the plan covers up to a maximum (i.e. 3 months of a prescription at a time). Then, provide employees with examples to drive home the point such as:
(Prescription cost is $8.02/month + $9.99 dispensing fee) x 3 refills = $54.03 a year
(3 months of a prescription $24.06 + $9.99 dispensing fee) x 3 refills = $34.05 a year
4. Promote generic drugs. Perhaps there is a bit of a stigma or a concern about shopping for a generic product versus a name brand where people believe there is a significant difference in quality. Where they might have a greater appetite to consider this at the grocery store, but they are far more reluctant to choose generic if they believe there is a quality difference with a prescription drug purchase. Educating employees that the generic version of a drug generally costs about 50 percent less than the name brand version AND the quality standards are the same in that generic drugs MUST contain the same amount of medicinal ingredient as their name brand counterparts.
Knowledge is power and helping to educate employees and remind them of ways to save and have a better experience at the pharmacy creates a win/win/win situation for the consumer, the employer and the pharmacist. For more information about prescription drug coverage and the optimal group benefits program to meet your needs, please contact us. We're here to help so you can focus on what you do best.
March is National Nutrition Month and a great time to ramp up the importance of fostering a healthy lifestyle. It is an opportunity for more than wellness practitioners and dieticians to dial up a greater awareness of healthy eating for employees.
The old adage, "you are what you eat" remains true to this day. While it may seen like overkill or a commonplace reminder, the reality is that many Canadian adults don't meet the minimum servings recommended in Canada's Food Guide on a daily basis. Nutrition awareness campaigns, along with healthy eating reminders are not only helpful, but necessary.
Many employees spend a great deal of time sitting at work. Compound what is becoming coined as a sitting disease with poor dietary choices, and we increasingly see employees with reduced energy, distracted attention and growing health concerns, These contributing factors generate a costly emotional and physical toll on employees. In addition, employers feel the effects in terms of greater incidents of workplace illness and disability claims. The workplace therefore becomes an important place to promote healthy eating.
Many employers may approach March, or any other month for that matter, wondering where to start and how to begin promoting healthy eating and nutrition in the workplace. Fortunately, there are a number of useful and free resources available online. I've included a list of links and brief descriptions of each.
Tips for promoting March's Nutrition Month - check out the Dieticians of Canada website.
Healthy Eating at Work, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety. A soup to nuts resource to guide employers in the development of a healthy eating program.
Healthy Eating in the Workplace Guide - prepared by the Nova Scotia Public Service Commission. This is a comprehensive guide with tools and activities for managers and wellness committees alike.
Healthy Eating Toolkit - a resource to help employees make better food choices.
Looking for ideas for healthy food choices in vending machines?
Healthy Eating - Heart and Stroke Foundation. Learn about the steps ensure a heart-healthy diet.
Good nutrition is an integral component of leading a healthy lifestyle. One's diet, along with moderate physical exercise for 40 minutes, 3 times per week, can help attain and maintain a healthy weight and prevent the risk of chronic disease. The Mayo Clinic reminds us that eating a healthy diet as well as exercising may lead to a better physique and that often triggers a boost in confidence and self-esteem.
Looking for additional resources to bolster healthy eating in your workplace and to promote better benefit plan results? Contact us, we're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Dave Dickinson, B.Comm, CFP, CLU, CHFC
Experienced Benefits Specialist ready to optimize your group benefits and pension plans.