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The cannabidiol (CBD) market in the United States has taken off like a rocket. Some projections have this market reaching $16 billion by 2025. After years of singing its praises for treating, albeit illegally, a myriad of health issues, supporters of cannabis have seen an uptick of mainstream support in the last 2 years with the legalization of this herb in many states. The exact truth about its benefits is still under review. Let’s dive a little deeper into this trending topic.

HISTORY & STATISTICS

The first use of cannabis can be traced back as far as 500 BC as a Chinese pharmacopeia. Made from the hemp plant, CBD does not produce the hallucinogenic aftereffects of its popular cousin, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) derived from the same plant. In fact, CBD must contain less than 0.3% THC. In 2018, President Trump signed the Farm Bill which allowed farmers to legally grow hemp. Since this victory, the CBD market has definitely been amped up and its use has become so commonplace in our society that you can find a CBD store (or two or ten) in every city.

  • More than 60% of users claim CBD is being used to treat their anxiety.
  • Other widespread uses for CBD are for depression, sleep disorders, and PTSD.
  • In 2018, the FDA approved the first CBD product, called Epidiolex, to treat those with rare seizure disorders Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.

FACTS

Users of CBD speak to its benefits in treating anxiety issues. With its widespread availability, consumers can find it in lotions, baked goods, and even makeup.  Because of this prevalence in the marketplace, the FDA and FTC are quick to squash claims that are unfounded in trials. Here are the facts:

  • CBD can come in varying methods of delivery.
    • Tinctures: concentrated herbal extracts suspended in alcohol or vinegar
    • Ointments
    • Vaping oils
    • Oil: extracts from seeds or flowers or stems of hemp put in a base oil to aid absorption
  • The exact amount that can safely be used in a day is unknown.
  • Side-effects include: drowsiness, digestive issues such as diarrhea, and irritability

FICTION

There is only one FDA approved use of CBD and that is for rare cases of epilepsy. So, when you see health claims for other than that use, they can be false.

  • NOT proven to be a treatment for cancer
  • NOT without consequences. Serious side-effects can cause serious damage to your health.
  • NOT proven to battle COVID-19.

The use of CBD definitely has its supporters and detractors. When making a decision about its use, it is helpful to weigh the pros and cons and seek the truth. One thing is for sure—CBD is a swiftly growing market with high demand.

We are seeing so many changes to our work, personal, and social life due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While these changes can seem daunting and the obstacles they create

insurmountable, this can be a time of healthy change. There is always the chance for good to happen when you stop, stay home, and start something.

 

STOP

Are you someone that people would describe as constantly “on the go”? Do you always have a list of to-dos in your head and not enough time to do them? If so, stop. Take the gift of this crisis to stop running around and working to check off the box of every task on your list. Slow down. Stop. Rest is important to your overall health in that it allows your body to restore depleted energy. It also boosts your creativity and productiveness because it decreases fatigue and brain fog.  Not being pulled in a million directions will actually boost the quality and quantity of work you can accomplish. Turn this negative situation into a positive by slowing down and re-centering.

 

STAY HOME

One big takeaway from this quarantine is that we have all become quite aware of the massive amounts of time we have spent away from our home and family. Whether it be long hours at work, kids’ sports practice, kids’ music lessons and concerts, socializing with friends, or a mixture of all of the above, we may be realizing now just how little time we’ve spent inside our four walls. Now, our government is asking us to stay home for the sake of flattening the curve of COVID-19 cases. Many cities have taken this a step further and have “shelter in place” orders restricting the amount of time citizens are outside of their home to only essential tasks. These restrictions help lessen the chance of the virus spreading and assist our healthcare system by not overwhelming our hospitals and healthcare workers as they care for the sick. Help your family, your neighbors, and your workplace and stay home during this season.

 

START SOMETHING

It is so easy to look at our current situation in the world with COVID-19 and to only feel fear and see restrictions. But, now you have the opportunity to flip the switch on those feelings and choose to find the good during this quarantine. Remember when we were all going to start knitting, or scrapbooking, or photography? Go find those things and start them again! How about that idea you’ve had for years about starting a family game night? Tonight’s the night to start! Ever caught yourself saying “well, back in my day we knew how to <insert long lost basic skill here>” to your kids? Start teaching them about that skill whether it’s sewing or typing or laundry!

 

NOW

Now is the time to begin seeing the good in this situation. You can do it. Don’t let this time slip away and feel like it’s been wasted. Stop rushing. Stay home and keep everyone healthy. Start something good and memorable in your house. Don’t waste this global crisis—use it for a positive outcome in your life. – use it as a great opportunity to slow down, stay home, and start something new!

In 2020, many people with disabilities use the emotional and physical support provided by a service animal. This means that the workplace has seen an increase of these service animals over the last decade and therefore the workforce needs to be educated on this changing environment. Let’s take a look at what constitutes a service animal and the accommodation of such in the workplace.

Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides a framework of protections for people with disabilities in the workplace. Title I of the ADA prohibits employers from discriminating against potential candidates and employees with disabilities. In fact, Title I outlines that the workplace must make “reasonable accommodations” for this specific group of people. “Examples of reasonable accommodations include making existing facilities accessible; job restructuring; part-time or modified work schedules; acquiring or modifying equipment; changing tests, training materials, or policies; and providing qualified readers or interpreters.”

“Service Animals” Definition

According to the Department of Justice’s revised Title III of the ADA, a service animal is now defined under Title III as “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual’s disability.” Currently, a “service animal” can also include another species of helper: a trained miniature horse. Of course, there are limitations to what a workplace can accommodate in terms of miniature horses and the employer would make those limitations known if approached with the need of a person with a horse as their assistant.

Accommodation Requests & Documentation

When an accommodation is requested on behalf of a disabled candidate or employee, the employer must consider the request. However, the employer is simply required to assess and suggest options for the reasonable accommodation for the employee. Some examples of job accommodations may include installing a ramp or modifying the layout of a workstation. Technology accommodations may be providing sign language interpreters at events or providing screen reader software. The ADA does not specifically address or require the inclusion of service animals in the workplace. So, if the employer has a no-animals-in-the-workplace policy and is asked to allow a service animal for an employee, the employer must consider modifying this policy but is not required to modify it. A “reasonable accommodation” for an employee does not always equal their “preferred accommodation.”

As for documentation for service animals in the workplace, the ADA does allow for an employer to request medical documentation for the need for the disabled person to need this accommodation. It also allows for the employer to request proof from the employee that the service animal is appropriately trained to assist them and that it is trained to not disrupt the workplace under normal conditions. It is worth noting that an “emotional support animal” is NOT classified as a “service animal” by the ADA unless it can perform a specific task, such as sense when an anxiety attack is about to happen in the case of someone with PTSD and the animal helps avoid or lesson that attack.

Conclusion

Every workplace should have written policies on reasonable accommodations for disabled employees. Of course, there is no way to include all possibilities and so the policies can include the language of consideration of requests on a case-by-case basis. The key to this policy is that those who are in charge of assessing accommodation requests must be willing to truly consider the accommodation of service animals.

Resources

Need help? Check out these resources on workplace accommodations for those with disabilities:

Office of Disability Employment Policy

FAQ about Service Animals and the ADA

Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion

Job Accommodation Network

Each February we focus on ways to improve our heart health in honor of American Heart Month. This year we want to help you by turning your attention to the foods you eat and how to make smart choices with our “This or That” challenge!

Below you will see two foods to choose between. Your goal is to choose the food that is the healthier option. Answers can be found at the end of the challenge.

 

Diet Soda vs Carbonated Water

Skip the drink with the high levels of artificial sweeteners and choose carbonated water! Diet drinks have been linked to symptoms of metabolic syndrome. Some symptoms of this include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and lower than normal HDL cholesterol levels. Pour yourself a glass of carbonated water and put a slice of fruit in your glass instead!

 

Butter vs Olive Oil

Pour on the olive oil to maintain good heart health. Butter is full of high amounts of saturated fat. Butter is also known to raise the bad cholesterol levels in your blood. Olive oil and even canola and sunflower oils contain heart healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats.

 

Sweet Potato Fries vs French Fries

Warm up your new Air Fryer and start cooking sweet potato fries with a little olive oil. French fries are full of fat and salt and a study linked eating 2-3 servings of fries a week to a higher chance of an early death.

 

1 oz Salted Nuts vs 1 oz Potato Chips

Pass the pecans, please! When you choose nuts over chips, you are also choosing your health. Regular nut snackers are 14% less likely to develop cardiovascular disease and 20% less likely to develop coronary heart disease.

 

1.5 oz Dark Chocolate vs 2 Chocolate Chip Cookies

No matter how much you love Grandma’s cookie recipe, your heart needs you to choose the dark chocolate. A study has found that those people who eat dark chocolate 3 times a week reduce their risk of a heart attack or stroke by 11%.

 

T-bone Steak vs Grilled Salmon Fillet

Just keep swimming! Just keep swimming! Salmon is chock full of omega 3 fatty acids which reduce fat in your blood and reduces clogged arteries. Steak is famous for high levels of saturated fat and LDL cholesterol.

 

Coca-Cola vs Red Wine

Pop the cork, not the soda tab. Carbonated sodas are full of artificial ingredients and sugar. Red wine has been shown to increase your good cholesterol levels and has many antioxidants that can help protect the lining of the blood vessels in your heart.

 

You are now a “This or That” Food Challenge winner! Go celebrate with a grilled salmon dinner, a glass of red wine, and a handful of dark chocolate!

 

Sources:

https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/ss/slideshow-foods-bad-heart

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/5-hearthealthy-food-swaps

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/red-wine/art-20048281

Everyone knows that eating healthy, getting exercise, limiting alcohol intake, and not smoking leads to a healthy lifestyle. Did you know that sleep is also an important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle? With 1/3 of our lifetime being spent sleeping, this part of our life must take importance. Let’s delve into why sleep is important and what you can do to improve this area of your life.

 

No Snooze, You Lose

At different stages in our life, we require different amounts of sleep. From birth to 4-years old, toddlers need about 11-14 hours of sleep. They are growing and learning both cognitively and emotionally and this takes lots of energy. To restore that energy that is expended during these active toddler years, they require lots of sleep! School-age children are some of the most active humans on the planet. Being at school from 8-3 everyday really wears their little bodies out. Because of their activity, these children need between 9 and 11 hours of sleep each night. As they grow into their teen years, kids need 8-10 hours. And, as adults, we need 7-9 solid hours of sleep a night.

 

Why?

During our restful time of sleep, our bodies are hard at work restoring, rejuvenating, growing muscle, repairing tissue, and synthesizing hormones. To say the least, our bodies are never at rest. When we are awake and moving, we are busy processing stimuli, converting calories to energy, and growing, to name a few basic functions.  When we sleep, these processes continue but our body also does the intricate work of strengthening our immune system, fighting disease and infection, and processing the day’s emotions through dreams. Scientists say the benefits of good sleep include:

  • Sharper brain
  • Healthier heart
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Weight control
  • Mood boosters
  • Steadier blood sugar

 

Rhythm Section

To get the optimized benefits of sleep you have to get your body in the correct circadian rhythm.  According to the National Institutes of Health, “Circadian rhythms direct a wide variety of functions from daily fluctuations in wakefulness to body temperature, metabolism, and the release of hormones.  They control your timing of sleep and cause you to be sleepy at night and your tendency to wake in the morning without an alarm.  Your body’s biological clock, which is based on a roughly 24-hour day, controls most circadian rhythms.  Circadian rhythms synchronize with environmental cues (light, temperature) about the actual time of day, but they continue even in the absence of cues.” Stimulants like coffee and energy drinks, alarm clocks, and even external lights can interfere with this rhythm and therefore have a negative impact on your overall health.

 

How?

To get the best sleep and the right amount of sleep, you need to optimize that circadian rhythm. Here are some tips:

  1. Stick to a consistent schedule of both bedtime AND waketime
  2. Go for a morning walk—getting your body up and moving when it wakes up from overnight sleep helps reset your rhythm.
  3. Limit evening technology
    1. bright lights confuse the brain into believing it’s still daytime
    2. blue lights—specifically in laptops and cellphones—should be turned off within 2 hours of bedtime

Understanding the importance of and the benefits from a good night’s sleep will help you prioritize this task each day. Start doing the basic work of setting a consistent bedtime and build up to turning off that cellphone game early.  You can’t afford to skimp on sleep—your body depends on it!

Today’s workforce looks markedly different than it did just 10 years ago. 1 in 3 workers in the US are millennials and this makes them the largest generation in our current workforce. The way this generation communicates makes it necessary for the office to adjust its messaging strategy. What was seen as top-notch communication tech in the early 2000’s has been replaced by new options. As we peer into 2020, let’s take a look at some new ways to communicate effectively with employees both in an office setting and across the globe.

Video Conferencing

Utilizing tech to communicate in your workplace is essential. Office spaces that were previously filled with people who interacted with one another daily now house screens and common space workstations. Because of this, video conferencing has become a necessity to build a sense of unity and community within a department. Employees that are in the office are able to see and interact with their coworkers that may be at their home office or even across the globe in a different country via video services like Zoom, GoToMeeting, and Skype. Collaborating on projects no longer requires you to sit across the table from your team as you can sit in front of a computer screen and share ideas and update progress.

Project Management

Since it is no longer commonplace to have all employees in the same office each day, managing workflow digitally is a necessity. Sites like Basecamp allow projects to be created and teams assigned to jobs within the project. As tasks are completed, team members update their progress online and everything stays organized. Information is easily shared because anyone can log on and read the latest update or ask for help. Emails aren’t lost in an inbox or spam box as the communication happens on one platform. It’s a great way to manage both a physical or virtual office.

Sharing is Caring

There are so many options for sharing files across platforms and with team members. Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive are just a few examples of online tools to assist your team with sharing data, storing information and files in the cloud, and syncing files across multiple devices. These options can range from very basic and free to very secure and costly depending on your needs. Some services only offer small file storage and sharing capabilities and so you’ll want to do your homework to find an option should you have a large image file or data file that needs to be shared.

TXT 2 TLK

According to a survey with OpenMarket, 76% of millennials say texting is more convenient and allows them to communicate on their own schedule. 19% of them say they never check their voicemails. Why is this important to you? With millennials comprising the largest percentage of of the current workforce, you need to make sure you are communicating with them the best way possible. Texting to communicate upcoming events, meetings, reminders, or even to conduct employee surveys is a great option for relaying information to your staff. One thing to remember is that when sending a message via text, the context or heart behind the message is somewhat harder to convey than when delivering it verbally. Make sure the message is not open to interpretation so that the end result isn’t skewed.

As we ring in the new year, take the time to consider new ways to communicate and conduct business in your physical and virtual offices. Test out the methods mentioned here and maybe you’ll find a great new avenue for connecting with your employees!

Having just wrapped up Thanksgiving, we are now only 2 ½ weeks out from Christmas! While we start planning the perfect gifts for everyone special in our lives, we are also thinking of traveling to visit family and friends. Whether you go by car, bus, or plane, traveling during the holidays needs to be safe. Follow these tips to help you get to your holiday destination safely this season.

 

Car Travel Safety

  • Make sure you get plenty of sleep the night before you travel. Being sleep deprived results in slower reaction times and distracted driving.
  • Buckle everyone up in your car—not just those in child-safety seats. If you are riding, you need to be buckled in.
  • Put your phone away. That text or that phone conversation can wait. If you need to communicate while traveling, have your passenger handle your phone.
  • Make a roadside emergency kit. Include essentials like jumper cables, phone chargers, flashlights, batteries, water, snacks, and blankets. Make sure your spare tire is undamaged and you have a jack and tire iron in your vehicle should you need to change a tire.

 

Apps to Help with Holiday Travel

  • Hotel Tonight—If you find yourself getting tired as you drive, consider stopping and getting some sleep. Hotel Tonight helps you find last minute hotel openings near you.
  • GasBuddy—Don’t spend your time driving around in unfamiliar areas to find the cheapest gas prices. Use GasBuddy to find the cheapest gas in your immediate vicinity.
  • Waze—Most everyone knows about Waze by now. This community-driven navigation tool allows you to see where slowdowns are happening near you as well as road debris, accidents, and alternate routes.
  • iExit—Trying to remember all the food places listed on the highway exit signs is hard! iExit gives you a list of what’s near each highway exit from food to hotels to gas stations.
  • SitOrSquat—One of the top complaints of holiday car travel is finding clean bathrooms when you need them. This app rates public bathrooms by their cleanliness. Brilliant!

 

Air Travel Safety

  • This goes without saying, but listen to your flight attendants. They give valuable information to passengers in case of an emergency. Pay attention to the pre-flight instructions including where to locate emergency exits.
  • Get up and walk around a little during long flights. This keeps the blood moving in your legs that are probably cramped into the tiny space between seats.
  • Skip the next drink of alcohol. You want to be clear-headed in case an emergency happens. Wait and have that glass of wine once you land and are safely at your destination.
  • Put the oxygen mask on yourself first. If there happens to be an emergency mid-flight, you need to first place the mask on your face and then help others around you. This ensures that you are able to clearly hear instructions and are able to help someone nearby who may not be able to get the mask on themselves.

 

Following these simple travel tips will help get you to your destination safely this holiday season. Remember, surrounding yourself with the ones you love and value is the goal. Get to those loved ones safely and your holiday will be memorable!

We’ve all heard the saying “A dog is a man’s best friend” and we know it’s true! Pets give us unconditional love, companionship, and joy. But, are we willing to pay the price when a hefty vet bill comes along? Pet insurance may help you stomach that unexpected emergency room charge due to Fluffy’s uncanny ability to eat anything within reach—even if it’s rotten!

In 2017, over $16.62B were spent on veterinarian bills in the United States. In that same year, Americans also spent over $1B on pet insurance. This begs the question “is pet insurance worth buying?” While this market continues to grow, 99% of pet owners report NOT having pet insurance. The number one reason? Cost. Premiums are at their lowest when you own a puppy or kitten and increase as the pet gets older. This results in the insured only keeping pet insurance for an average of 3 years. The cost of insurance can increase 5-fold between the puppy and adult years.

Pet insurance is one of the fastest growing markets in the US. This insurance can be purchased with increased levels of coverage. The most basic level may cover treatments for some common illnesses or accidental injury. The mid-range coverage could cover preventative care as well as immunizations. An example of premium coverage is surgical cost and liability for if the pet injured someone. Prices for these levels range from $15/ month to $45/month.

Pet insurance is now becoming a more commonplace employee benefit.  Contingencies.org says that 6500 employers in the US and Canada offer pet insurance to its employees. A report by SHRM says that of those offered pet insurance as an employee perk, only 6% of pet owners utilized that benefit in 2012. By 2017, that number rose to 9%. Employees say this is an important benefit because, for many, pets are considered part of a family and if you insure a human member of a family, why wouldn’t you also insure your pet?

If your company does not offer pet insurance, here are some tips on what you should look for when considering purchasing pet insurance:

  1. How much do my premiums increase as my pet ages?
  2. What is covered and not covered? Does the plan include pre-existing conditions?
  3. Can you purchase just accident coverage for if your pet injures someone?

With our pets being a vital part of our family, having pet insurance can give you peace of mind that you don’t have to shoulder the entire cost of an injury or illness of a pet. Not having to make decisions for their care based on money is a blessing to their families. For over 6,000 companies and their 80,000 employees this perk is worth every penny.

 It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

No, it’s not Christmas—it’s Open Enrollment!!

When the autumn leaves fall and the weather turns cooler, we know it’s time to start thinking of open enrollment hype and meetings and meetings and meetings. So how do you change normal and ordinary communication about employee benefits and change them into rockstar communication? We have some tips that may help!

 

COMMUNICATE EARLY

People need time to process all the information you share about their employee benefits. Once they have received the info, they typically need to ask questions, compare/contrast plans, and weigh decisions. By communicating with your employees early, you give them plenty of time to make their choices without feeling rushed by a short deadline.

 

COMMUNICATE CLEARLY

HSA, FSA, PPO, HMO, LTD? What? You can see how your employees can get confused with all the terms and plan names that get presented to them during open enrollment. The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) suggests creating a glossary of common terms for enrollment meetings. Another way to clearly communicate benefits is to think ahead to the common questions asked each year and make a FAQ sheet with the answers.

 

COMMUNICATE FREQUENTLY

Did you know that it takes 8 times to read something before you retain that information? Think of all the material that gets shared at open enrollment meetings. There is no way that an employee would be able to retain that info in one sitting. So, communicate about your benefit plans all year long. Do trivia contests with prizes in your company newsletter about different benefits topics. Use multiple channels to frequently communicate such as print, digital, and animated videos!

 

COMMUNICATE PERSONALLY

Share “real life” examples of a sample employee with specific health issues and how they can utilize their benefits. This helps your audience think of additional situations in which they could see themselves needing some of the insurance products offered in your meetings. Host small Q & A sessions after larger meetings to allow for more personalized attention. When you communicate personally, you are able to explain the value of the benefits to your employees better.

 

By focusing on these communication techniques, you will reap the rewards of a well-informed and connected employee when they are choosing benefits. Plan ahead, speak with a clear message, personalize example situations, and repeat, repeat, repeat. Here’s to a great open enrollment season!

As 2019 is nearing an end, many people are looking at this year’s medical expenses to plan for how much they should set back for next year. In investigating these expenditures, you may notice that you still have money in your Flexible Spending Account (FSA) for 2019. FSAs are unique in that any unused money from this plan year is forfeited once the new year begins. You definitely do not want to leave money in your FSA once 2020 rolls around. To help, we’ve compiled a list of some ways to use up your hard-earned FSA money that you may not have thought possible!

  • Acupuncture
  • Acne treatment
  • Breast pump and supplies
  • Chiropractic treatments
  • Dental treatments—orthodontia, medically necessary water fluoride treatments, caps, fillings, x-rays
  • Eyes—glasses, surgery, contact lenses
  • First aid kit
  • Genetic testing—including BRCA gene testing
  • Motion sickness medicine
  • Nutritionist consultations
  • Sunscreen
  • Smoking cessation program
  • Vaporizer
  • Vasectomy
  • Weight loss programs/surgery

There are even some high-tech gadgets that may fall into the medically qualified expenses category:

  • Acne light therapy
  • Electronic stimulation instruments for pain
  • Medically necessary mattresses
  • Smart thermometers

Don’t leave your FSA money on the table in 2019! You have earned this money so make sure you use it to its full potential.

This list is not an exhaustive list of ways to spend your FSA money nor does it guarantee your insurance program considers these to be qualified expenses. Check with your HR department and insurance agent if you have questions about qualified expenses.

 

Kathy! You are amazing! I was speaking with Dr. John today re a patient and on his own he brought up how you were able to fix his wife and daughter’s insurance in less than 24 hours AND you were so NICE and PROFESSIONAL. He then said you were AMAZING. I absolutely love working with you, Ron, and the entire gang! Just wanted to pass this on - and again thank you for all you do for us!!!!

- Office Manager, Surgical Center in San Francisco

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