B3 Monthly – July 2020 – BeneFit³

Welcome to another B³ Monthly. This month we focus on Work from Home culture. Businesses face evolving challenges and opportunities for ensuring a safe return to work, as well as providing the resources for those who are unable or unwilling to return. We explore the wonders of Telehealth, the challenges of encouraging WFH flexibility whilst maintaining safe habits, and the opportunities for our daily commute.

Telehealth a key to successful wellness programs

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It’s taken a global pandemic for health to be catapulted into the 21st century.

Since mid-March, the federal government has allowed Medicare rebates for medical services such as GP consultations and psychological appointments to be conducted via phone. Despite the impending September planned end date, there is now view for these services to be continued indefinitely, says this Sydney Morning Herald article.

As businesses look to increase the capacity of its employees working from home, Telehealth becomes more important for an Employee Benefits Offering, ensuring that the medical and psychological benefits in place can be accessed from any location.

And the numbers are stacking up. The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) conducted a survey of 1000 of its members last month finding that 90 per cent were using Telehealth services and 75 per cent felt that accessibility to healthcare had increased that to the services. Even more telling is that 70 per cent of respondents said their patient were more likely to keep their appointment when using Telehealth.

With this sort of feedback, the continuation of Telehealth services seems paramount in the new WFH climate. The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) president Professor John Wilson highlights the ability of telehealth to improve equity and access to healthcare services for those who find it difficult to attend a traditional consultation. He goes on to add, “there’s no going back to how things were done in the past”.

BeneFit3 clients have also taken advantage of the new telehealth world, with GP and psychology/EAP appointments currently conducted via video conferencing, allowing for a much smoother transition for their employees. If you currently run these sorts of programs as part of your benefits strategy, ensure you are speaking with your providers to take advantage of our new Telehealth world.

To WFH or not to WFH, that is the question…

As a return to work for larger office spaces lingers on the horizon, there are an increasing number of studies emerging showing employees want greater ability to work from home on a continuous basis. Striking the right balance between employee wishes and what an organisation needs can be difficult and HR Teams across the country are considering how best to tackle this issue as this situation continues to unfold.

The preference to work from home isn’t just due to health concerns for many of us. While the current risk of infection is an area of concern, recent polls suggests that employees are increasingly showing a preference for more remote working options, irrespective of health issues. A recent NBN co study of large professional services firms in Australia found 67% of workers “expect” to work remotely more frequently from now on.

If the expectations of employees are evolving, how can organisations best blend remote working with a cohesive teamwork environment in-office?

In the HRM article Reverse hot-desking and deep work chambers: new ideas in office design, Kate Neilson outlines a few thoughts on how to create spaces to maximise employees’ output while in the office environment. Providing work-space options allows individuals to achieve their work outcomes and promotes an office environment that will bring out the best of employees. In addition to revising the office environment, organisations must incorporate flexible work offerings as demand from employees will increase as we face the potential of a second wave rolling across Australian cities.

Transitions of HR policies and subsequent wellness offerings can be difficult, please let us know if you need any guidance in supporting your staff as we negotiate a new working world.

Walking the Walk

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Continuing our WFH spotlight, let’s talk about the daily commute. It’s no surprise that public transport usage has fallen, with patronage on busses down by 47% and on trains by 39% compared to the last 2 years. The reason is two-fold; commuters are unwilling to risk their health, and there is a spike in WFH culture.

Where options to WFH are limited, or where businesses are encouraging staff to come back to the office, we must look for alternate solutions for our work commute.

The benefits of walking are numerous, with studies showing that those who walked 6 hours per week had a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and cancer compared to those who were not active.

Or how about riding a bike? October 21, 2020 is Ride2Work day. Why not add this to your HR calendars to promote to staff, encouraging them to stay mentally and physically healthy and safe.

Whilst these options aren’t available to everyone, there is always the opportunity to change

some part of the commute, whether it’s getting off the bus earlier, or choosing to walk to the train station rather than catching a bus there.

Either way, whether WFH or commuting in and out of the office, encouraging staff to get up, stretch their legs and clear their minds, is vital in the overall happiness and productivity of your people.

‘Rona’s Rocky Road to Retirement

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The drastic market movements over the last few months have left the majority of Australians worried, specifically about their retirement nest eggs.

Those of us closer to retirement, or already in retirement phase, will have felt the pinch more acutely, worrying about the lack of time to recuperate any losses associate with the recent market dips.

Expectations of investment income providing 5-7% a year in returns is unlikely to be the norm in coming years. Term-deposit interest rates are now falling lower than 1%.

Not all is lost, however, especially when managing money thoughtfully. Whilst moving investment into shares or bonds may seem appealing, there will always be risks. Stephen Miles of Sydney Morning Herald outlines, ‘It’s a matter of weighing up how much threat to your capital you are prepared to maintain current retirement income’.

When it comes to your workforce, there will no doubt be many who are feeling the strain of the market fluctuations, especially those who think they may outlive their retirement savings.

Stanford Brown offer several avenues for staff to learn more and obtain general advice about retirement and how to successfully plan for it, including a ‘Road to Retirement’ webinar and ongoing financial 1:1 advice with a licensed financial adviser.

Key Superannuation, Private Health Insurance and Law Figures for the Tax Year

The following figures may be useful for your HR/Payroll processes for the upcoming tax year.

Please note that some figures are unchanged due to the delay in the federal budget.

The Henry William Lawyers Employment Team has compiled the key employment law figures for the new financial year here.

Stanford Brown has compiled key superannuation and private health insurance figures for the new financial year here.

 

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