Podcast: A Look Back at the Best of 2022
Published On: December 15, 2022
Editor’s Note: To access your SHRM credits for listening to this podcast episode, click here. Welcome to This Week in Benefits, a new biweekly podcast from Mployer Advisor, the company that is changing the way employers search, evaluate, and select insurance advisors online.
In each episode, our team will bring you the latest news and industry updates in the world of employee benefits. We will break down top headlines, bring you interviews with industry insiders, and highlight market trends and stories we’re following.
Date: December 15, 2022
Episode Season and Number: Season 1, Episode 18
Episode Details: In this week's episode and season finale, Abbey Dean looks at some of the year’s most popular episodes and the top employee benefits news of 2022.
To listen to Episode 18 of This Week in Benefits, listen below.
Abbey Dean: Hi everyone, and welcome to another episode of This Week in Benefits, a podcast from the team at Mployer Advisor where we discuss all things employee benefits. I'm your host, Abbey Dean, Mployer Advisor's, Director of Content, and thanks for being here today in this episode. It is not only the last episode of 2022, but also the final episode of our first season as a podcast. We have covered a lot of ground in this first season. Oh gosh, I think the first episode aired in March and it's December. So we've come a long way. But in today's episode, what we are going to do is sort of do a year in review, and I've taken clips from our top three most popular podcast episodes and inserted some of my favorite bits of the interviews for you all to relisten to or perhaps listen to for the first time take, take a walk down memory lane to earlier parts of this year, earlier trends, breaking news stories, all of that. So I'm very excited for this episode.
The first interview that we are going to listen to comes from our most listened to episode, which far and away was the most listened to episode and that is when, earlier this year we spoke with Kari Beam and Rebecca Williams about best practices to identify and mitigate employee burnout. So we're going to start with that and then I'm going to pause, give you guys a little more information about the other two interviews and I will play those. Also, stay tuned for the end of the show because we have a few exciting announcements as well. So with that, here is part of that interview with Kari and Rebecca.
So Kari and Rebecca when you were both doing this research, was there anything that really surprised you or did you guys find something that was unexpected?
Kari Beam: Rebecca, I think you should share your story about vitality.
Rebecca Williams: Yeah, thanks. I love that you say that. Yeah, so we were sitting here doing all this research trying to figure out how to solve for burnout, and it was very fascinating. I was talking to a master coach, his name is Paul Wyman, and interviewing him about his thoughts on this. And he said to me at the very end, I said, do you have anything else you wanna add? And Paul goes, Rebecca, you're asking the wrong question. I said, what? He goes, the problem, how do you solve burnout? He goes, the question is, what is the opposite of burnout? He goes, vitality, resilience, they're just not talked about enough. He goes, it's, you don't wanna sit at neutral. Don't you want a life that's full of vitality? And I was like, oh my gosh, Kari, I remember calling Kari, we're asking the wrong question. And that for me was probably just the powerful is let's move beyond this. Let's not just go to neutral. Let's say, what would life look like if we were truly living it as vitally as we could?
Abbey Dean: I love that so much.
Rebecca Williams: Me too. <laugh>, I get goosebumps saying it.
Abbey Dean: So in the coming months and years, either of you have any predictions about how companies will address burnout or evolve to support their workforces more?
Rebecca Williams: Yeah, I think for me, I really think that the pandemic has put pressure on organizations to really think about their cultures. And I referenced earlier that McKinsey study that was done on culture, and they asked a question that I loved, which is, what if we aren't solving the right problem? What if instead of asking how do we fix burnout once it happens, we said, how do we prevent it from ever happening? And that goes straight to what Kari talked about earlier, which is understanding root cause and in the research that they did this need to make sure that we don't create toxic cultures. And for me, my prediction is companies are going to become more and more concerned about what is the culture we're putting forward? Because every company has a culture, it's whether you're being intentional or not. So I really do think companies will look at that more. And I also think more, when we think about the four aspects of wellness, mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual/purpose, I do think that there's going to be more benefits coming around out around that purpose side because we know coming out of the pandemic, a lot of people are saying, how do I live a life that's truly full of meaning?
So I think we'll see more work coming around benefits coming out in that space as well. Kari, I don't know what you think on that, but wanted to throw it over.
Kari Beam: I so agree with your comments and particularly the part at the end about finding purpose and connecting to values. So I think personally connecting to your values and then organizations helping employees connect to their values as a driver for positive energy and vitality to steal your word, Rebecca.
Rebecca Williams: Paul's word <laughs>.
Abbey Dean: Is there anything that we haven't touched on yet today? I know we've talked about a lot but is there anything that we haven't discussed that you guys think is really important to mention to all of our listeners?
Rebecca Williams: Kari, I would love if you wanted to talk a little bit about what you can do at an individual level around burnout because I think that's important for people to understand that they shouldn't just wait for their enterprise, that they too have some ownership of this. And I know you did a lot of work in that space.
Kari Beam: Yeah, I think that's a great point and a great way to end our discussion probably because we talked about all these things that organizations can do and they do have a responsibility and an obligation to support their teams towards that end. But we as individuals have a responsibility to ourselves and we can't depend on other people or other things that we don't have full control of to bring us out of a bad space. So for yourself, if you're struggling with burnout as an individual we talked about root cause. So first and foremost, get to the root of what's driving your burnout. And that's going to help lead you to some of the solutions that are out there, being self-aware and being proactive. So that might look like taking some time for reflection to really check in with yourself and where you are and thinking about what you can do to move yourself forward to wherever it is that you need to go.
Identifying connecting to your values and setting boundaries. And setting boundaries is one of those things that I think is easier said than done. So connecting the discussion of your boundaries with an accountability partner can go a long way. So whether that's a therapist or a coach or a friend who you can say, this is what's important to me, this is how I'm going to respect my boundaries. And they can help you think about how to do that and call you out when they see that you might be slipping up and helping them make sure that you're staying true to what you need. And Rebecca, you mentioned mental health resources. So employers have a responsibility to get mental health resources in front of employees and help them know. But employees, you have a responsibility as well to understand where your resources are and seek them out and use them. And lastly, I'll just say gratitude. I think we as a society probably have talked a lot about gratitude, at least in the circles I run, we talk a lot about gratitude and I think it's easy for that to slip by the wayside when we're in a bad spot. So re-energizing your gratitude practice, get your journal back out do your meditation think about what you're grateful for, all those small things in life. And it's always surprised me how far that can take me when I lean into it. So that's what I got.
Abbey Dean: So our second most listened to and popular episode of the year came from my interview with Wes Keegan. You guys might remember that he is the founder, owner and brewmaster of this wonderful local brewery here in Nashville called Tailgate. And when we spoke with Wes, he and his company had just announced the decision to dramatically expand his company's comprehensive employee benefits plan, and he also detailed specifically how he and his team communicated those changes to employees and the mini complexities involved in expanding that coverage. So here is a couple of clips from that interview.
Abbey Dean: So for everyone wondering <laugh>, why I'm interviewing Wes, Tailgate made a very exciting announcement I believe it was at the end of May or start of June. So tailgate announced big change to their benefits package specific, the decision to not only pay for 100% of healthcare benefits for their team members, but to also expand that coverage to every team member. Is that correct?
Wesley Keegan: Yeah, yeah. So we're a production brewery first with supporting tap room. So we have people that work in the brewery, we have offices, we have art, we have marketing, we have bartenders, bar backs, kitchen team members, pizza makers, all that kind of stuff. And everybody was eligible for 100% paid benefits.
Abbey Dean: And this is full-time employees, I'm assuming?
Wesley Keegan: Yeah, we're trying to figure out the right way to identify that. And what we found was the lowest number that we could find nationally for hours worked to qualify for 100% healthcare was like 30 hours, I think there was 29. So we settled to 29 hours a week as that metric to get people eligible. So yeah, that's our metric. It's much lower than what the benefits provider wants us to be doing, but we wanted to make it a reachable number. It was a really simple conversation to the point of when we told the team, Hey, this is a complicated discussion and there's a lot of things that are going to be difficult and we need to work together to figure it out. But what our goal here is to just very simply say, Hey, if you work here, we pay your benefits period. So we want everybody to hit those hours. And when you apply, that's one of our first questions is can you work 29 hours because we wanna make sure that you're qualifying for healthcare and we wanna pay for it.
Abbey Dean: And I think I know the answer to this question already, but I'm assuming this isn't something a lot of other breweries or even restaurants or other companies like yourself are doing benefits wise?
Wesley Keegan: No, no, I don't know all of it. We did some pretty good market research. Maybe a company like New Belgium might be one of the couple on a national level. There are some exceptions. Hey, there's a craft brewery in whatever city that has three employees and two of them are the founders and another is their employee. So a hundred percent of their company gets a hundred percent of healthcare. There's those types of outliers, but 50 plus employees all the way up. Not to our research, no. For that matter, when we launched healthcare with 50% coverage we used to pay 50% medical, 100% dental and vision, and then 100% telemed. Even that was unique. And especially on the restaurant side, it's just, it just doesn't exist. And if it does, it's an unattainable number, have to work 39 and a half hours a week and you know, miss it once and you're dead kind of thing.
Abbey Dean: So tell me about how you arrived at this decision. If it is not because you felt the need to compete with what other competitors are doing like yourself to attract or retain talent, how did this decision and idea begin?
Wesley Keegan: Yeah, I mean it's interesting and I think through the lens of a benefit-centric discussion I guess I'll back up. The answer is it's not any one thing, it's everything. But some bigger points to directly answer your question, we kind of found over the years that even when we launched healthcare, it really didn't matter to most of our team members even when somebody never had healthcare before and it was like, Hey, we're going to pay 100% of your dental and vision, they just like, it didn't factor into their overall evaluation of compensation. And we would have conversations where it'd be like, well hey, this place down the street said they'd pay me 25 cents more an hour. And you know, would see new on the restaurant side, you'd see a new restaurant open up and they would highlight really big wages, but they wouldn't have the hours or breweries would be looking for part-time.
But in Tennessee, we're probably the highest-paid brewery in Tennessee and we're definitely one of the highest-paid breweries in the United States. I haven't found a competing wage that really goes above us. I mean, it's an arms race that you can't win but the benefits were never something that really kind of added to the total hourly rate for a team member. So it wasn't something where it was like, hey, this is good, but this would mean more to somebody. It meant more to us as an organization, I think is the short answer.
Abbey Dean: I see. So one of the ideas we're seeing a lot in the benefit space right now is with the rise in inflation and then of course the great resignation happening right now a lot of companies if they're unable to increase salaries, are looking to increase or audit change their benefits packages. But you're saying that wasn't necessarily the case here. Is that correct?
Wesley Keegan: No, I mean not really. One of the things that we talk about is our business plan is very simply we wanna be the best brewery in Tennessee. And the way that we talk about that internally is if your goal is to be the best brewery, you need to have the best beer, you need to have the best food. If you have food, you've gotta have the best people, you've gotta provide the best service both to the guest and to each other. But for a workplace, we also talk about, hey, we appreciate our people here and it's important that we have candid conversations that when we say we appreciate you, we show you that by the way you're compensated. I mean, that's how businesses show appreciation. We talk a lot about when we have twice a year all company meetings, and this is something that's starting to resonate more and more, but I tell people that this isn't a family.
All of us have that one family member that's like, Hey, I don't know if I really wanna claim that person. We all have that weird family member. This ain't, that is a job for all of us and myself included, if we weren't paid, we'd be off doing something else. And if we didn't have to work for a living, we'd probably be on a beach or a mountain or wherever tickles our fancy, but the overall compensation is our obligation to the team member. And that's something that we want to make sure is improving and is continuing to be out and ahead of what people can find somewhere else. Because we've been growing and we've been growing well and they should feel that too.
Abbey Dean: And last, but definitely not least, our third most popular episode, but also the one that was the most commented on and shared interestingly enough, came from my conversation with Lisa Nelson, who is the Vice President of Employee benefits at the Leavitt Group. And she came on the podcast quite quickly after the news broke about the overturning of Roe v. Wade. And so she was kind enough to speak with me just a couple of days after that new story hit and the decision came out.
In addition to sort of discussing what that change in legislation meant for employers across the country we also specifically discussed in detail what employers should consider in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision. This was probably my favorite interview of the year, and again, I think it was a very timely one. It wasn't one we had scheduled to do weeks in advance, but when the news broke, we kind of made it happen. And I think that's one of the reasons why I loved it so much because she was able to give so much incredible detail and information and context as it was unfolding. So a big thank you to Lisa, and here is a section of that interview.
Abbey Dean: What does this mean for employers nationwide and what are you thinking about now for your own clients?
Lisa Nelson: Yeah, this decision really created a more complicated patchwork of rules. We're already used to a patchwork of rules for self-funded versus insured, but now it's really created a lot of variation depending on the state in which the employers are located as well as where the employees are located. So in those states that already had restrictions on abortive care, well actually the ones that already protected abortive care like my state in California the employers will just really need to consult with their insurance brokers and consultants as we call them, as well as potentially legal and tax professionals because there are so many facets that must be considered like does my plan cover abortive care? And what happens now, which will require not only reviewing the details of the plan, but the state laws as well. You also have to consider what if my employee wants to travel out of state to receive abortive care?
Can I pay for it? What are the tax implications? Am I even allowed to facilitate travel over state lines? Because some states like Texas, even facilitating is a crime under their new state ban on abortive care, you have to consider how do I communicate with my staff on this very sensitive issue? There are really just a lot of questions that need to be answered by the consultants, lawyers, and tax professionals that the employers must rely on. So the employers just really need to ensure that they're working with the appropriate professionals with the capability to respond to those difficult questions.
Abbey Dean: And I assume the fact that so many companies now are hybrid, so they may have employees all over the country. Yeah, further complicates this in addition to what you mentioned about self-funded plans versus fully insured plans. Sure. Does that sound right?
Lisa Nelson: Right, for sure. Yeah.
Abbey Dean: So back in May, but then also since Friday, we've heard a lot about companies coming out and saying that they would offer reimbursements for travel required to obtain an abortion. What's your reaction to this benefit and what would that look like logistically for employers to offer? Because that also sounds like you alluded to before, very complicated.
Lisa Nelson: I have a girlfriend who works for Intuit, and so I was quite aware very early on of company's approach to the challenge the news. So I was slightly concerned, again. I feared that some of those companies may not have considered all of the implications flowing from the offer to facilitate abortive care where state laws ban not only the legal and criminal implications, but how are the reimbursements being taxed if they need to be, depending on if they're drawing the funds from the plan or an employer fund unrelated to the plan, like a hardship fund or a lifestyle spending account, for example. You have to consider who is offered this only where states have bans or do they need to also offer reimbursement for travel in states where abortive care is legal, perhaps they are not afforded travel or covering any out-of-pocket costs typically for abortive care.
What does your plan even offer? If covering lodging and travel outside of the plan there's a lot of flexibility, but then you know, you have to consider if you're offering it within the plan, how does it affect mental health parity, non quantitative limits that really require that mental health and substance use disorders must be offered at the same level in cost as a medical offering. So if you're offering abortive care with no cost, then obviously that could impact the Mental Health Equity Act, which will require that comparison. If you're offering travel and lodging at no cost, that will definitely impact it. So if you're offering within the health plan, like with your HRA or FSA which is a health reimbursement account or flexible spending account reimbursements for lodging is capped tax free at $50 a night <laugh> per IRS publication 502 and 969.
So that won't get you very far. You also have to consider HIPAA, which will require if you're obtaining sensitive information in order to receive that reimbursement, which most of the time is required, then HIPAA's going to be impacted. You'll have to consider are you getting those business associate agreements or those HIPAA releases with the appropriate people you have to consider, do you need to change your plan documents? Can telehealth cover it? Specifically the abortion pill, which in some states are also considering banning access to that pill through telehealth. You have to also consider the Pregnancy Disability Act and other non-discrimination laws. And also the Affordable Care Act mandate to cover contraception in most plans is also being challenged right now. So you have to even start considering the future of contraception under your plan in your state.
And finally, I really, really implore everyone to consider how you're discussing this. Be gentle, consider communications on this topics, your clients, related entities, be proactive and gentle and matter of fact on the news, rather than having opinion, you've lost your right to abortion, saying something like that could really impact some of those entities, clients, or employees with that statement for example. So there are a lot of logistics to consider.
Abbey Dean: No, I'm glad you raised that last point as well. Also, wow, what a list. And we don't even know what will be entirely, I mean, we don't have a clear idea yet if I understand what the weeks and months ahead may bring as well, right. So the world as we know it today in certain states via this ruling may be different next week or next month too. Is that correct?
Lisa Nelson: Yeah, we don't really know the reaction yet from the states fully. Some states, for example, I believe it's Minnesota, which has a Democrat governor who is challenging the state law banning abortion there. So that puts a hold on it. In Texas, there's even a hold on the ban on abortion there, which just happened due to new pending litigation. So even in states with bans, there are lawsuits happening that may also pause a ban for a period of time than in some states like Oregon, Washington, California, they're working on the opposite to make abortive care a constitutional right for women. So we don't know yet how states will even criminalize the facilitation of abortive care will they come after employers offering this coverage. So there are a lot of impactful in the unknowns at this time.
Abbey Dean: And that's the end of the show and the end of our first season of This Week in Benefits. Thank you to everyone who has so consistently listened and shared and commented and joined us for these episodes. It's been so fun and I am excited to announce that we are going to have a season two, which will begin in early 2023. We're going to expand and maybe do some new fun things, which I'm excited to think about and talk about and share with everyone. So if you guys have any suggestions for what you would like to see for season two, please let me know. In the meantime, I'm wishing everyone a happy holidays, happy New Year, and once again, thanks for joining us. I will see you all next year.
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