Monthly Archives

September 2018


5 Steps to Starting a Construction Company Employee Wellness Program

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An employee wellness program has a lot of benefits for your company. Healthier employees miss fewer days at work, are less likely to spread illness, and are overall more productive. Not only that, they’re more likely to stick with your company, since they have a strong incentive for staying with you.

How do you get that important wellness program started? Try some of these key tips:

Step One: Learn What Your Employees Need

Before you design an employee wellness program, you need to get to know your employees! What are their health challenges? What does your company culture look like? If you have employees who are struggling to get healthier due to chronic illness, you may need a different wellness program from a company where employees are overall relatively healthy, but simply need to get moving more frequently. Consider what your employees need most, whether it’s:

  • A company fitness center located on-site
  • Fitness challenges throughout the company
  • Healthy foods offered as company-sponsored meals
  • Flexible lunch periods that allow employees time to cook in the office or take other options

Keep in mind that as a construction company, you may have unique needs with regard to your wellness program. Your employees are often off-site: does that mean that they will benefit more from a discounted gym membership elsewhere than an on-site wellness center? Is there a way to make it easier for your employees to find healthy food options for lunch? Listen to their feedback to learn more about what each employee considers most important and what they face every day.

Step Two: Decide What You Can Afford

Your company might not be able to dive in with a full, big-picture company wellness program immediately. In fact, you might need to start a lot smaller: virtual challenges, healthier food at corporate events, and other options. Take a solid look at your budget before you start your company wellness program, and know what you’re able to spend. Then, prioritize based on what you know your employees need most.

Step Three: Offer Incentives

If you really want to motivate employees to take advantage of your wellness program, offer incentives! You might, for example, offer a reduced-price gym membership for employees who visit the gym at least twice per week. You could conduct a company fitness challenge, where the employees who complete the most steps per week or month are offered a reward. Conversely, you could encourage employees to join you at company events with reduced prices: take a team to a fun 5K race or head out together for an enjoyable hiking challenge, all with rewards for employees who meet specific goals.

Step Four: Spread the Word

Your new wellness program doesn’t do you any good if no one knows about it! While it might be hard to miss the grand opening of a new fitness center, employees who have avoided the vending machines for years might not notice that it’s suddenly been filled with granola bars, nuts, and yogurt. Make sure that you spread the word about your new offerings! This could include:

  • Sending out newsletters
  • Announcing wellness program changes in meetings or at company events
  • Posting memos or signs

The more employees know about the new program, the more likely it is that they’ll take full advantage of it–and that means you get to reap the benefits.

Step Five: Collect Feedback

Your new wellness program is a great idea, and you’ve put plenty of time and effort into planning it. That doesn’t mean, however, that it has no room for improvement. Make sure that you’re taking the time to collect feedback regarding your program. In many cases, this will enable you to make changes that will make it more accessible to or enjoyable for employees.

Your company wellness program can be a big step for your company–especially if you launch it the right way. By following these steps, you can ensure a smooth transition that will allow more of your employees to take full advantage of the program.

Do you want to learn more about the types of benefits that help your company attract and retain the best candidates? Check out this new eBook to learn more about how the right benefits (like a great wellness program) can transform your company. At Harbor America, employee benefits are only one of the many great services we provide.


Does Your Company Need a Stronger Harassment Policy?

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Harassment is a serious problem in many offices. If your employees are struggling with harassment, whether they are being harassed on the basis of race, gender, or religion, they aren’t in a productive working environment, and chances are, they aren’t engaged with their daily job tasks, either.

The right harassment policy makes employees feel more secure and comfortable at work, allowing them to be more productive and boosting morale. Does your company need a stronger harassment policy? Check out these signs that your harassment policy isn’t meeting your employees’ needs:

Sign #1: There Are No Consequences for Harassment

Bill in marketing made yet another racist joke, and it’s been reported–for the third time this month. He’s pulled into another meeting with HR, but everyone knows that nothing is going to come of it, and frankly, most of his coworkers have stopped bothering to report it at all. Sound familiar? If your harassment policy doesn’t include consequences for harassment, it’s not going to be effective. Make sure, instead, that your employees know what will happen if they engage in harassment–and that you follow through on the consequences.

Sign #2: The Average Employee Doesn’t Know How to Report Harassment

What steps should your employees take if they are victims of harassment in the workplace? Do they know how to report harassment–not only where it should start, but who they need to inform if things don’t change? Your harassment policy should include clear steps for reporting that harassment to ensure that your employees know exactly what their rights are and what they should do if they’re being harassed at work. The policy should be shared with employees beginning with their new hire onboarding.

Sign #3: No One Can Explain What Harassment Is

No, this doesn’t mean that you have to have endless training sessions titled, “How to Avoid Harassment in the Workplace.” It does mean, however, that you should have a clear definition of harassment and what type of conduct is considered unacceptable in the workplace. In some cases, this may be as simple as offering a refresher course once a year or leaving a clear definition in the employee handbook. In others, you may need to have more extensive training for your employees.

Sign #4: Your Employees Fear Retaliation for Reporting Harassment

Not only should harassment be reported by individuals who are experiencing it, but employees who witness harassment should also feel free to report it, as well–and they should know that they have the ability to do so without needing to fear potential repercussions. Does your harassment policy include an assurance that employees won’t experience retaliation, including worsening job circumstances or potential job loss if they report harassment? Make sure that employees feel safe at work by offering them those reassurances.

Sign #5: Your Employees are Harassed By Non-Employees Regularly

Have you observed harassment taking place, not between your employees, but between employees and individuals outside the company structure? Make sure that your employees know they can count on you to take care of them. If they’re experiencing regular harassment from anyone, the company’s actions should be swift and decisive, whether that means kicking out a customer who is treating the staff unfairly or dissolving relationships with vendors and other companies that are mistreating your employees. After all, your employees should come first–and they should be able to count on your company to protect them.

Eradicating harassment from the workplace is an ongoing process. By taking the right steps, you can create a significant impact on the way your employees feel about coming to work, their overall engagement, and their ability to take care of their daily work tasks. Is your harassment policy up to par, or are you leaving the door open for your employees to become victims of harassment? If it’s not strict enough, it’s time to revamp your harassment policy and create a more effective policy that will protect your employees.

Need more help managing HR matters at your company? Check out our website to learn more about the great services offered by Harbor America.


Office Ergonomics 101

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If you run a small business, you may be familiar with the term ergonomic workstations but have wondered what it meant. Simply put, ergonomics pertains to how a workplace environment is designed so that it benefits its workers as well as supports their limitations.

The main goal of office ergonomics is to ensure a workplace is as safe and comfortable as possible. This way, employees are less likely to be fatigued or distressed, besides not be injured. Here are some basic guidelines for improving a workstation, along with other considerations.

Benefits of Office Ergonomics

There are many advantages of office ergonomics, such as employee comfort. When your workers are more comfortable, they tend to be more efficient, productive and engaged in their work. They’re less likely to be become fatigued or be injured at their workplace.

According to one study, an insurance company reported an increase of $620,000 in productivity after spending $500,000 in ergonomic furnishings. Moreover, 90 percent of the decision-makers who were surveyed confessed that an improvement in office design resulted in better productivity. On the other hand, poor office ergonomics can lead to problems, including musculoskeletal (MSD) injuries. These injuries often mean increased employee absences and reduced productivity.

Office Chairs

Because many workers spend up to eight hours sitting, having the right type of office chairs is especially critical. When selecting chairs, choose ones that provide exceptional lumbar support. As for the height of a chair, a user’s feet should be positioned flat on the ground and should not dangle. While shorter people may need to use a footrest, taller workers may have to adjust the height of a desk.

There should be adequate room between the back of a person’s knees and the edge of the chair, which is about the size of a fist. You may be able to adjust the depth of the seat on some types of chairs. Be sure your chairs offer good neck support. The entire weight of the typist’s head needs to be positioned directly above his or her neck so that the neck receives full support. Consider how craning the head forward when working can lead to neck strain or even injury.

Computer Stations

Show your employees how to position their computer monitors directly in front of their heads at about an arm’s length. The top of a computer screen needs to be at eye level or slightly below it. Employees wearing bifocals should lower their monitors about an inch or two inches, so they can comfortably see their screens.

A computer keyboard needs to be directly in front of the monitor. Don’t have your keyboard too far to either the left or right because this can force you to turn your head and neck frequently to see what you’re typing, leading to repetitive stress.

Your team members need to be able to easily reach a computer mouse. Furthermore, a mouse should be on the same surface as a keyboard. To minimize mouse use, it helps to use keyboard shortcuts.

Other Considerations 

  • Tell your employees to keep their desk phones, printed materials, staplers and other key desk essentials near the body so that they don’t have to reach far. If they can’t reach something without having discomfort, they need to stand up to get it.
  • Employees who do a significant amount of writing, typing or talking on the phone at the same time should use a headset to prevent neck strain from having a phone cradled between their neck and head.
  • If you see employees sitting in an odd position, such as sitting on a single leg or their feet tucked behind them, this may be a sign that their chair needs to be adjusted.
  • Encourage your employees to get out of their chairs and move to stretch their arms and legs. This should be done at least once every hour. Consider that it’s important to stretch the body, so health problems won’t develop from extended sitting.

Helping design employee safety plans is one of the many services of a PEO (Professional Employer Organization.) If you’re spending too much time on administrative tasks and HR, we want to help you. Please contact us at Harbor America for a free consultation.


Staying Healthy On the Job Site: 6 Health Tips for Construction Workers

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When you’re out on a construction job site all day, every day, it can be difficult to make sure that your health stays at the top of your priority list. Still, you don’t want to start racking up sick days or find your overall health deteriorating. If you want to stay healthy on your job site, try some of these handy health tips!

Tip #1: Pack a Protein-Packed Lunch

All too many construction workers find themselves hurrying off the job site without a lunch box in hand each day. By the middle of the day, you’re starving, so you find yourself looking for the nearest fast-food restaurant, preferably one with a drive-through. Unfortunately, that leads to an unhealthy diet that can leave you feeling less than your best and your health suffering as a result.

Instead, take the time to pack a healthy lunch filled with things like lean meats, hard-boiled eggs, and protein bars. This will give you more energy to tackle the tasks on your list every day.

Tip #2: Avoid Repetitive Stress Injuries

Hauling shingles onto the roof, swinging a hammer, or even painting a room can all cause repetitive stress injuries over time. Don’t leave yourself open to these injuries! Instead, take steps to protect yourself. Perform these movements correctly. Don’t overload yourself when lifting heavy objects, and ask for help if you need it. If you start to notice continuing pain or soreness, talk with your doctor about what you can do to alleviate symptoms.

Tip #3: Plan Your Breaks

When do you take your breaks each day? Some crews will all take their breaks at the same time, but others prefer that you take your lunch break when the job is done. Try to plan your breaks effectively. You want to take your lunch break before your blood sugar crashes, which can lead to irritability or overeating. If your job allows it, taking a quick break every few hours just to stretch, clear your head, or go on a short walk will also help keep your energy levels up.

Tip #4: Hydrate

You’re working out in the hot sun all day–or perhaps working inside, often in a hot environment. Chances are, you’re sweating. Are you drinking enough to make up for it? Symptoms of dehydration often don’t show up until you’ve waited way too long to start drinking water. Keep a jug of water next to you on the job site to increase the odds that you’ll get enough throughout the day.

Tip #5: Invest in the Right Gear

As a construction worker, you don’t always get a choice about the weather conditions you work in. You might find yourself working out in the heat of summer or shivering through the cold winter months. Make sure that you invest in the right gear to keep you safe and comfortable! High-quality gloves, shoes, and other gear can make you much safer on the job, not to mention making you more comfortable.

Tip #6: Know Your Risks

Every day, you work with solvents, glues, and other materials that have the potential to be hazardous. Take the time to read those safety training materials and know what the risks are when you’re dealing with them. Make sure that you know how to safely operate all the equipment that you use on the job site, and don’t cut corners with safety precautions. Your health and wellness aren’t worth a slight increase in productivity!

Staying healthy on a construction site is an ongoing process–and it’s one that you have to pay attention to. With these tips, you’ll increase the odds that you’ll stay healthy, keeping you working in spite of what’s going on around you.

Does your company need more help handling HR tasks, including instituting a solid company wellness policy? At Harbor America, we’re here to help! Contact us today to learn more about the great services we offer, all of which are designed to help you save time and money. We even have services dedicated to improving your company’s safety and risk management.