Be Well, St. Pete!

Defining and Achieving Wellness: Tips from a Wellness Coordinator

I like to say that wellness is the ‘fourth W’ at W3 Insurance. As the wellness coordinator for the St. Petersburg-based company, I spend my days helping clients achieve healthy workplace outcomes. That includes my own employer, which was recently named a Healthier Together Gold Partner, and it means something different to each employee group. Throughout my years crafting programs to nudge people toward healthier lives, I’ve gathered an advice tidbit or two (or four, of course). Whether you are part of a workplace that could use a revamped wellness focus or you’re simply an individual who wants to be healthier, read onward.

Here’s how to be well, St. Pete – from a veteran wellness coordinator’s perspective.

  • Repeat after me: Wellness is not synonymous merely with weight loss or fitness.
    Too often, people see ‘wellness program’ and immediately think their employer is going to sanction a Biggest Loser competition or yank the break room pastries in favor for apple baskets. Both are solid ideas, but do they address a business’s unique challenges? Do they address yours?W3 Insurance client populations vary too much for such a general definition of wellness to apply. A manufacturing plant, for example, may see musculoskeletal issues among employees and need a strategy to address them. Office employees tend to have higher rates of depression and anxiety; they benefit from coping strategies. A workplace that struggles with smoking cessation needs exposure to quitting tools.
  • Focused efforts are always more helpful than general initiatives.
    Wellness consultants are by nature strategists. When I work with one of our benefits clients, for example, I look at claims data and listen closely to the HR department’s assessment of needs. How can we help people with high blood pressure and other risk factors?  Perhaps we survey the employee population, anonymously: What do you need help with? What would you like to see as part of the company wellness program? Instead of being a generalist, I try to be specific and ask how I can assist this particular group with its wellness roadblocks – and then, I make a plan with the employer.Individuals striving for wellness should be similarly specific. What are you hoping to achieve? How will you get there? Make a plan – and follow it.
  • Help is widespread.
    Once it’s clear where the wellness focus needs to be, it’s time to find resources. Luckily, they’re widespread. If you’re an individual seeking wellness assistance, take a good look at your insurance program. It may include more help than you ever believed possible. Often, the insurance carrier has plenty of informative materials. Many carriers offer free programs for weight loss, diabetes prevention, stress management, health coaching and mindfulness. Carriers may even offer incentives to employees who embark upon exercise plans, for example, or points to redeem for merchandise as part of activity program participation.
  • Regularly take stock of what’s working – and what isn’t.
    Once I help an employer develop a plan to address the wellness concerns of their employee population, I help to promote that plan through multiple media sources. We decide on budget for the program and include any incentives. Quarterly, we review the data together and adjust as necessary to keep moving toward our goals.This review strategy works for the person looking to achieve wellness on their own as well. If you feel as if what you are doing is not moving you forward toward desired wellness outcomes, take stock of how you’re going about the journey. It may be time to pivot.

I’ll leave you with this truism: Wellness is not one-size-fits-all. Every employer population, and each individual person, has their own journey to travel in order to achieve it. Good luck to you as you embark upon your wellness quest!

Trish Blocker recently celebrated eight years at W3 Insurance. She has been in the employee wellness space for eleven years and loves her job of helping clients help their employees. She enjoys spending time with her family, whether that means boating, golfing or attending her son’s lacrosse games. On weekdays she starts her day off with an early morning bootcamp class, She also meditates, if even for five minutes, during her lunch break.

Stay Safe and in-the-know with Uninsured Motorist Coverage

What About Uninsured Motorist Coverage? Should I elect or reject coverage?

If you or a resident relative are involved in an accident with an uninsured driver and you or the relative (and even passengers in your vehicle) are injured, who will pay for the medical expenses, lost wages, emotional distress or pain and suffering sustained due to the accident? The other driver may not have insurance or may have low bodily injury liability limits. Some protection will be available with Personal Injury Protection coverage on your automobile policy for you and your resident relative, but PIP coverage is typically $10,000.

What if the medical bills and expenses are close to $100,000 each? If you elect to carry Uninsured Motorist bodily injury coverage, there would be coverage available up to the selected limit.

Total rejection of uninsured motorist coverage can lead to a worst-case scenario that no one wants to experience: no coverage. You, your resident relative, or a passenger in your vehicle, then has to pay out of pocket for their expenses. Even if all injured parties have health insurance, there could be expenses not covered by health insurance. Examples include lost wages, emotional distress and pain and suffering.

Not long ago, Florida ranked 1st for the highest percentage of uninsured motorists. That’s a startling statistic – and yet another reason to reconsider adding or stacking uninsured motorist coverage to your policy.

We suggest you elect the same limits of uninsured motorist coverage for all insurance policies, you should check for gaps in coverage. If your auto policy has 250/500 and your motorcycle policy has 100/300, you are not getting the same coverage from one policy to the next.

Stacked or Non-Stacked Uninsured Motorist coverage: What’s the difference?

Let’s picture uninsured motorist coverage as buckets filled with insurance protection. Each vehicle on a policy has a bucket of coverage. Each bucket contains uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage of 100/300 ($100,000 per person/$300,000 per accident) and there are three vehicles on the policy.

There would be three buckets, one for each vehicle, filled with 100/300 limits.

If the automobile policy has non-stacked uninsured motorist coverage, each vehicle has 100/300 coverage available for each vehicle individually. If the policy holder or a covered resident relative are injured by an uninsured driver, there is only the one bucket of coverage available for the vehicle involved in the accident.

Now, use this same example but change the coverage to stacked uninsured motorist. All buckets of coverage are stacked together to give three times the amount of coverage to the one car involved in the accident. Therefore, the available coverage would be 300/900.

Please keep in mind that the stacked limit will change if the number of vehicles on the automobile policy changes. Let’s say you delete a vehicle – then the maximum limit would change to 200/600 because there are two vehicles on the policy.

Stacking uninsured motorist coverage, selecting coverage limits, or rejecting coverage completely, is a personal decision. We recommend our clients consider stacked limits.

Workplace COVID-19 Challenges

Answering Questions About Face Masks, Vaccination Liability and More

Welcome to Workplace Version 2021: Cubicles stand emptied of their former occupants, who gather from home on laptop Zoom calls. The remaining office workers wouldn’t dream of leaving a communal birthday cake in the breakroom. Where did you get your latest mask? is standard water cooler banter (though everyone totes their own pre-filled water bottle these days). So much has changed in such a short amount of time; it can be tough for employers and employees alike to know what is admissible in the workplace.

Employers have questions:

  • Can I require employees to elect the COVID-19 vaccine?
  • What do I do if an employee refuses to wear a face mask?
  • Are there privacy issues as we track employees who receive the vaccine?

Employees have questions:

  • What if my child’s daycare or school closes or my child becomes quarantined? Can this affect my employment?
  • If I have a disability, can my employer still require me to receive the COVID-19 vaccine?
  • Is my employer required to let me work from home?

W3 Insurance and Janet McEnery, a labor and employment attorney with Stearns Weaver Miller, have answers. During a February 17 virtual webinar entitled Workplace COVID-19 Issues in 2021: Vaccinations, Face Mask Challenges, Extended Work from Home Orders and Incentives, Ms. McEnery, JD will address some of the frequent questions employers and employees are asking. These include (but are not limited to) the following queries:

Can I require my employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine?

Total workplace vaccination seems like a reasonable request. Everyone vaccinated means everyone back to the office, right? According to the Society for Human Resource Management, many employers can reasonably require employees to be vaccinated. Loopholes exist for the disabled and for those who harbor sincere religious objection. Depending on the daily work situation, mandatory vaccination may make total sense – as it does with health care workers or others who come into contact with the public often – and less sense if all or the majority of employees work remotely.

Keep in mind that when the vaccine becomes widely available, employers could be liable if they do not require it. The employer must provide a safe and healthy work environment, as spelled out by the Occupational Health and Safety Act. If an employee does contract COVID-19 and believes it is due to their employer’s lax vaccination stance, the employer may face legal action.

Am I able to require proof of COVID-19 antibodies?

This is a ‘hard no.’ The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employer-mandated antibody testing as a requirement for return to workplace activities.

What about a face mask mandate? Am I able to require them in the workplace?

Protective gear, social distancing and face masks: they’re the triumvirate of pandemic control. They’re also an employer’s right to require, but with caveats. For example, employers can require said gear and adherence to certain social distancing mandates. The OSHA recommendation is that employers encourage face coverings in the workplace, though in some situations they are not feasible (in an environment where chemicals may collect within the mask, for example).

If an employee states a religious reason or reports that disability prevents such an election, the employer must provide another option. This does not mean an employer has to drastically change workplace protocol, as any action that represents ‘an undue hardship’ is not required.

What do I do if an employee refuses to use a face mask?

Look to the root cause. Is it because the employee has a serious health condition that is covered under FMLA or a disability covered by the ADA? The employer can require the employee provide FMLA certification (this is completed by their health care provider) showing they are not able to perform the functions of their job with a mask as a result of their health condition. Reasonable accommodation under the ADA is also a feasible argument for anti-maskers. The employer may ask for reasonable documentation from the employee.

Florida follows the at-will employment doctrine; if an employee does not give sufficient proof that they are unable to wear a mask because of a valid reason, the employer is within their legal grounds to terminate.

Am I able to ask employees if a family member has COVID-19?

No. GINA (The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act) prohibits this.

If an employee misses work and I suspect it is because of COVID-19, can I ask them why they were absent?

If an employee misses work for any reason, you are within your rights as an employer to ask the cause.

What if an employee states a religious reason for their reluctance to vaccinate?

If the religious reason is sincere, the employee may not be required to vaccinate. An employer may ask for proof, but this will open them up to potential legal action from the employee. Keep in mind that an employee who states that they just do not believe in vaccines cannot submit this belief as a valid reason not to vaccinate.

Still have questions about COVID-19 and how to make the right decisions regarding work life? Register for the upcoming webinar here.

Drugs and Alcohol in the Workplace?

An Employer Guide to Handling Substance Abuse

Substance abuse numbers are staggering: According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, more than 70 percent of those who abuse illicit drugs also work. That means substance abuse is widespread and affects people across all demographics. Perhaps it’s the person in the cubicle down the hall who has challenges with binge drinking; then again, it could be the C-Suite employee in the corner office who seems to be a tireless workhorse.

Without solid proof that an employee is abusing a substance, there’s no need to start pointing fingers. This isn’t a blog designed to teach you how to merely recognize and respond to an addicted person with penalties. Instead, we aim to share resources to help those caught in a trap of addiction break free. And if you do suspect that an employee has a problem with an illicit substance, there are certain steps you can take to legally protect your organization.

 

What’s the big deal?

Being high on the job doesn’t lead to high performance. The U.S. Drug Test Centers states that $81 Billion in lost productivity occurs every year due to drug abuse and addiction. That’s healthcare costs and productivity down the proverbial drain. It’s an even bigger deal if the person impaired operates heavy machinery or is similarly engaged.

Some substance abusers argue that they can function at an optimum level even while impaired. Perception in this case is not necessarily reality. They are likely incorrect – and they are likely not very healthy. It’s most definitely a big deal to abuse drugs or alcohol at work, but most people would likely agree that it’s at least not a benefit.

 

What should an employer do?

Take a look at your employee handbook. It should state in very clear terms that alcohol use is not permitted during work hours. Catch an employee sipping a lager while on the clock, and you very well could proceed with standard company disciplinary procedures. However, this situation demands common sense. If a salesperson is entertaining a client at lunch and happens to order a glass of chardonnay, that is obviously a different situation than that of the cubicle worker taking covert sips from a whiskey bottle hidden in their top desk drawer.

 

What if I think an employee has a problem but I’m not sure?

Don’t trust office gossip. Instead, if you believe someone has a problem but do not know for sure, share resources that could help that individual – but do it collectively. For example, all employees benefit knowing that their EAP may include therapy sessions and other such wellness tools. Help with alcohol or drug addiction is yet another highlight of an EAP, which will point those in need toward organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.

Perhaps your workplace has offerings through the health insurance carrier for behavioral health. This assistance can be beneficial, and it is not as intense as rehabilitation center scenarios. Assistance comes through health coaching; some even have access to counselors via virtual visits. This is a solid start for those afraid to take the next step of in-person rehab.

Performance discussions are one way to proceed. Let’s assume an employee has been missing deadlines and coworkers describe them as scattered and confused while at work. Management could address these concerns and ask if there is anything they can do to alleviate the situation.

This discussion opens the door toward revealing the truth. Perhaps the person has a newly diagnosed health condition and is adjusting to new prescribed medication. The workplace has a duty to make reasonable accommodation for this situation. It could be that they are experiencing turmoil in their daily life that is hampering their work. Or the person could deny any issues, and thus the employer can proceed as they normally would if an employee is not achieving desired outcomes.

Expectations should be discussed going forward and any continuing conduct or work-related issues pertaining to the employee should be clearly documented. If the employee does admit to substance abuse, consideration of a few factors should occur. How has this situation been handled in the past at this workplace? Will the employee be given time off to attend a rehab center program? Will they simply be directed to the EAP?

Keep in mind that if a workplace has a ‘no tolerance’ policy for alcohol and/or drug use, they may immediately terminate the individual. Proper documentation of the work issues leading up to that moment should occur, however. Employers who are not sure of the right course of action should seek legal counsel.

 

What about offering help?

We mention the EAP multiple times because these programs are so comprehensive. However, other resources exist that can prove helpful to a person struggling with addiction. For example, addiction experts across the United States agree that a vast majority of people who need treatment for substance abuse disorders do not seek it. Though many barriers exist to discourage people from obtaining needed help, cost is a significant factor. Help.org created a guide that provides comprehensive information on topics like available care options, financial support, and free resources available in Florida.

These guides are available at no cost and are viewable at the links below. Share these with employees. Post them on the company Intranet. And know that someone who needs help with a dependence challenge may well change their course of living because of it.

https://www.help.org/drug-and-alcohol-rehab-centers-in-Florida/

https://www.help.org/drug-abuse-hotline/

We recognize Operation Par on the list; located in Clearwater, this facility is a W3 client that specializes in treatment for substance abuse and mental health.

Learn more about recognizing and reacting to drug and alcohol use in the workplace by reading this comprehensive article from SHRM.

20/20 Vision Advice for 2020

Warning: prepare for plenty of eye-related puns in this post about vision benefits. Consider this an eye-opening reminder to check your benefit details before the end of the year. Use those dollars to pay for a much-needed eye exam. Purchase that annual supply of contact lenses or add a stylish new pair of glasses to your wardrobe. You’ll likely need to use your benefits before 2020 is over – and that means making an appointment now.

When you make that appointment, you’ll likely encounter a choice that is a relatively new option as part of the annual exam: a no-dilation glaucoma test. That’s right: no drops needed! No waiting for the dilation to decrease before you drive home from the optometrist; no waiting extra time for the drops to take effect before an exam can occur.

Introducing the Optomap, a painless diagnostic protocol that takes a picture of the retina. Contact your carrier before the visit to check if insurance covers this service; if not, the added cost is usually small.

Why consider the Optomap instead of a standard dilation exam?

Dilation allows the doctor to view a select spot of the retina; Optomap reveals the majority of the retina. The digital capture is painless and non-invasive; it also allows for an instant reveal of the image. That means you and your doctor can go over the results immediately. While it is a personal decision whether or not to ‘opt’ for the Optomap, certain elements should be considered before making the selection.

Benefits of the Optomap include:

  • Time savings – From start to finish, the dilation process is about 45 minutes.
  • Comparison ability – Because the Optomap generates a comprehensive digital picture of the retina, that picture can be compared to others in subsequent years to monitor any changes in eye health.
  • No sensitivity issues – That uncomfortable numb feeling caused by dilation is not an issue with Optomap, which requires no desensitization. Note: Optomap is also an ideal alternative to dilation for those who experience a vasovagal episode as a result of the numbing agent. (These select few faint or feel uncomfortably woozy after the eye drops are inserted).
  • More comprehensive view of retina – The classic dilation test reveals a sliver of the retina, while the Optomap engages ultra-widefield retinal imaging to showcase a much wider surface area.

How to Decide Whether or Not Dilation or the Optomap is Right for You

Three words are sufficient here: Ask your doctor.

This has been a tough year all around; at the very least, you can begin 2021 by seeing clearly, no matter which type of test you select. In addition to ensuring your vision benefits do not expire, it’s important to be aware of ‘pandemic eye strain.’ Yes, as if COVID-19 didn’t give us enough to worry about, it’s doing a number to our eyes. The good news is that your peepers don’t need a mask in order to find protection. Lessen eye strain caused from all that remote work.

COVID-19 is Leading to Eye Strain. Here’s What to Do.

1. Tip One: Realize that the eyes aren’t meant to stare at a computer screen for hours on end.

  • Most Americans (70%, as reported by The Vision Council) don’t believe they’re susceptible to eye strain. News flash: They’re wrong. With so many of us sitting in front of dimly lit screens for 4-6+ hours each day, eye strain is inevitable.

2. Tip Two: Identify whether you are experiencing eye strain.

  • Are your eyes sore or tired? Burning? Those who have dry eyes, blurred vision, increased light sensitivity and/or difficult focusing are prime eye strain candidates.

3. Tip Three: Make a plan to lessen the strain.

  • Cut down on the screens. This can be easier said than done; so many adults are working remotely during these pandemic times, and children engaged in digital learning find themselves glued to the screen for hours on end. Even those heavy screen users can employ simple strategies to lessen the strain.

There are many ways to combat the effects of screen time on your eyes. They include the following practices:

  • Decreasing the glare – How bright is that monitor? Go darker. Head to settings and turn the monitor brightness factor down.
  • Dimming that lighting – Glare is a prime cause of eye strain, so consider a little ‘mood lighting’ when you’re working on a screen. It’s nice to have natural light filtering through the home, but consider moving away from a window. Your eyes may thank you for it. An anti-glare filter for the monitor is a solid idea as well.
  • Getting comfortable – How are you, ergonomically? The screen should be in front of the face just below the eyes. Place the computer about an arm’s length away.
  • Making those letters huge – Increasing font size will lessen your squint. We’re not talking size 36 times new roman, but a little increase can make a huge difference!
  • Purchasing stylish computer glasses – You can choose ugly ones, but why? There are so many stylish, affordable glasses available today that filter out the blue light that’s so damaging to the peepers.
  • Don’t forget to blink – Really. We know you’re focused on that report, but blinking is an absolute necessity.
  • Live by the 20-20-20 rule – Every 20 minutes, glance away from your screen at something else for at least 20 seconds. Those of us working from home as our children learn remotely at home are likely having no problems with this one. The rest of us may need to consciously remember to do it.
  • Read a physical (paper) book – It had to be included in the list. After all, going from computer work all day to e-reader at night is not going to help reduce eye strain.

As with any vision problems, consult your doctor if you have any concerns at all. Your sight is too important and valuable to gamble with. Abide by the suggestions listed above and read this Healthline article for even more options.

Here’s to better eye health and an overall better outlook for 2021! For more information about vision benefits and wellness benefits in general, contact W3 Wellness Coordinator Trish Blocker at tblocker@w3ins.com.

Follow These Halloween Safety Tips for an Un-Scary Night

Halloween safety tip tales have long included horror stories of razor-filled caramels and egg-tossing teenagers. As your friendly insurance advisors, we’re sorry to report that the list of potential All Hallows Eve havoc does not end there. Things that go bump in the night can lead to scary claims – and, just to be clear, those ‘things’ are people. Read below as we share how to keep your Halloween as free from risk as possible. We’ll even throw in a few COVID-specific guidelines.

Remember: The scariest thing you can encounter going ‘bump in the night’ October 31 isn’t that horror flick marathon you insist on watching. It’s the ‘L’ word, also known as lawsuit. The travesty of Halloween night should be that your child doesn’t share enough of their chocolate stash, not that you’re calling your insurance advisor at 10pm to check coverage limits.

Therefore, we advise you do the following long before you stock up on bags of candy for all those trick or treaters. Start with these.

Check your potential tripping hazards.

  • There is little more terrifying than realizing that the little goblin or Star Wars character laid out in your yard is screaming in pain. Before Halloween night arrives, walk the routes children will take to arrive at your doorstep. If there are any holes in the lawn or wonky stepping stones, address those.
  • Nix the fog machine if it elicits confusion. If children can’t see their gloved hand in front of their face, the fog is too thick. You’re not setting a mood – you’re setting a hazard.

Say NO to hosting a haunted house in the age of COVID-19

  • We know that this is an especially difficult suggestion to follow. The pandemic has inspired so many potential horror vignettes (people without masks! Less than six feet apart in social situations)! Even if yours is the house that usually invites the neighborhood inside for creative scares, forego it this year. The risk of COVID is just too high.
  • In the future, know that charging admission to your own haunted house could lead to it being viewed as a business – with the accompanying risks. Our advice? -Don’t do it.

Look where you’re placing those pumpkins. And life-size grim reapers. And….you get the idea.

  • That skeleton in the middle of the driveway is destined to scare the pants off some kid, so goal achieved! We applaud your attention to location, really, but said kid could also be seriously hurt in this situation. Move the skeleton to a more well-lit area.
  • While you’re at it, it’s worth noting that a real fire is not to be considered a scare success. Check your electrical outlets. Don’t overload them. And if you select decorations that contain lights, check to ensure they are safe.
  • If a decoration contains a light source, don’t place anything over it. That goes with black paper, towels, etc. Looking for ambience? Consider a colored light bulb. Simply screw it into a normal light outlet and, voila! Instant creepiness. We suggest the lights that give off a rosy glow. Unexpected….and simultaneously foreboding.

Remember that this is Halloween with a pandemic twist.

  • Even if you don’t normally host the scariest haunted house walk-through on the block, this isn’t the time to invite neighbors inside for spiked apple cider. Respect social distance guidelines. Hand out candy yourself, instead of allowing all those little hands to grope around in the bowl for the biggest piece. And follow up the visit with a squirt of hand sanitizer (for the trick or treater and yourself).
  • Organize a bike parade. This really only works if the neighborhood understands what’s going on – otherwise, you and your kids will just get exercise without the candy. A bike parade allows for social distancing and allows everyone to wear those cute costumes they’ve been planning for months. Neighbors stand on driveways and throw candy while people cycle by. It’s really that simple.
  • Set up a table at the end of your own driveway and decorate it. You’ll be able to control how close people interact, keep those sticky hands out of your treat bucket, and still participate in the holiday to the fullest.
  • Stuff a pinata with your household’s favorite candy and let the kids pummel it. There you have a win-win: no undue coronavirus exposure, plus all the candy the kids collect will go in the ‘keep’ pile.

Before the big BOO day, talk with your insurance advisor about your homeowners and umbrella policies. Being prepared this year for Halloween means so much more than just purchasing bags of candy. The same Halloween safety tips apply as always – with some extra COVID precautions thrown in for good measure.

Florida Homeowners Insurance: Tips You Should Know

Thanks to those serious Sunshine State-loving hurricanes, Florida homeowners insurance premium numbers tend to be higher in comparison with the rest of America. Add state-specific legislation regarding property insurance and insurance fraud to the equation to bump the numbers ever higher, and it’s no wonder that Floridians are so eager to learn about coverages and policy discounts. For homeowners who see themselves paying nearly double (sometimes more) than their neighbors in nearby states, it makes sense to learn everything possible about the subject.

That’s why we’ve put together a Florida homeowners insurance primer to help you make the right decisions for you and your family. We realize there are challenges in selecting a policy and assessing risk. That’s why it’s so important to also talk with a Florida-specific insurance advisor who understands where you definitely need coverage, where it’s not supremely necessary, and how to edge those payments lower and lower through strategic methods.

A knowledgeable Florida insurance advisor will reveal the ins-and-outs of homeowners insurance.

Simply put, Florida homeowners insurance is designed to cover sudden and accidental direct physical damage or destruction of the interior or exterior of a private home subject to the insurance policy provisions. But there’s more: it’s not just those walls that are protected by a policy of this sort. The possessions inside are as well – and some third-party liability protection is tucked nicely in there as well. This is a quick answer to the question Why do I need homeowners insurance? A more detailed description of why is shared below.

Did you know Florida homeowners insurance is not required by law?

This purchase is a preventative measure that homeowners take in order to secure what is likely their most costly asset: the home sweet home. But no, it is not required. And that means if disaster occurs, it is the homeowner’s responsibility to have planned for any possible loss – whether partial or total.

Hurricanes aren’t the end-all.

In fact, most homeowners insurance claims don’t stem from mammoth storms. It doesn’t take a natural disaster in order for loss to occur. It goes without saying that a hurricane can completely decimate a property and its contents, but the dramatic scenario of a house being torn from its foundation is much less likely than other issues that can arise on a normal occasion due to what’s known as unforeseen perils. Even without worst-case scenarios, plenty of risk exists. Common events such as water losses can do major damage, for example. Opt to go without Florida homeowners insurance, and those repairs will come straight out of your wallet.

Floridians can’t put their homes in a protective bubble; homeowners insurance is the closest thing to it.

Wind, water, theft, fallen trees that crush the roof and more can prove disastrous to a homeowner. Those losses can be covered under homeowners insurance.

Let’s talk canines. The liability portion of a homeowners insurance policy might include dog bites, as those that do happen commonly occur at the owner’s residence.

Before adopting a dog, check with the insurance carrier to see if they will deny coverage because of the breed. Many insurance companies have an Animal Liability Exclusion, or they limit the amount of liability you can purchase for this type of coverage. This is another solid reason to review your policy with an insurance advisor.
Costs of Florida homeowners insurance policies vary.

Florida homeowners face a common challenge when deciding what type of homeowners insurance to actually select.

A trio of options exist; knowing the aspects of each will help in the decision. Before you head into that appointment to talk with an insurance advisor, know your ACV, replacement cost and extended replacement cost verbiage. That way, you’ll be able to have an in-depth discussion and decide together which is right for you and your family.

  • Actual cash value – A homeowners policy that is ACV will take depreciation into account. Let’s say an ACV policyholder experiences a loss that is covered under their Florida homeowners insurance policy. Since they’ve opted for ACV, which was likely less expensive in premium than the replacement cost option, they will likely not receive the same amount they originally paid for the insured item. Instead, the actual value at the time of the loss will factor into the claim. As anyone who has ever sold a car can tell you, depreciation is not a positive element. But then again, at least with this coverage the insured is protected up to a certain point.
  • Replacement Cost on Contents – You paid that certain amount for that property that was damaged or stolen. In your mind, it was worth that sum and perhaps more, due to sentimental value. The policyholder who opts for replacement cost insurance will be talking to their insurance adjustor about the replacement of covered items with ‘like kind and quality’ without depreciation; unfortunately, sentimental value is not a consideration when adjusting a claim.
  • Ordinance or Law Coverage – Looking for even more coverage? This endorsement will extend the coverage amount 25%-50% above the dwelling coverage limit. Someone who wishes to opt for this likely is looking ahead at possible scenarios: perhaps they live in an especially storm-prone area and know they’d have to incur more expense due to updated ordinances, or they are anticipating laws regulating the construction and repair of damaged homes. Cost varies for this extra assurance, but should a covered claim strike you’ll have peace of mind.

How can you lower your Florida homeowners insurance premiums?

Time for some good news! Opportunities do exist to lower your premium and still enjoy the benefits of comprehensive coverage. Some of these elements include:

  • Water shutoff devices – How sturdy is your water heater? Has that hose connected to the washer ever been serviced? These questions are important to answer affirmatively because water damage can really be a drain on your finances. The right water shutoff device will not only protect you from that damaging H20, but it can also elicit a premium discount. Inquire as to whether that water shutoff device is approved by your carrier for savings.
  • Multipolicy discounts – Have you opted to keep your insurance coverage through one company? Perhaps it’s time to start. An insurance company may offer you multipolicy discounts, and with that one-stop-shop mentality comes the ease of dealing with one company. Imagine it: One comprehensive renewal, and one advisor who understands customized protection for what matters to you. It’s a win-win scenario. W3 is an independent insurance agency, we shop for insurance solutions tailored for you!
  • Of course, there’s always the tried-and-true higher deductible choice. If you are looking to reduce your premium, consider a higher deductible. An advisor who understands your unique situation can give insight as to whether that’s likely a good fiduciary move.
  • Improve home security – It makes total sense that an insurance carrier might give you a discount for installing a solid security system. If a thief has difficulty making their way into and out of your home, those possessions that you’ve insured are much safer.
  • Wind mitigation credit – How wind-prone is your residence? Consider having an expert inspect your home. If it’s wind-resistant, you’ll get credits – and that means discounts.
  • Straddle that line between overinsured and underinsured. Again, that’s where the knowledgeable insurance advisor is worth his or her weight in gold.

Consider adding umbrella insurance to your homeowners portfolio.

  • While you’re talking with your Florida homeowners insurance advisor, be sure to ask about the mighty umbrella. There are so many true-life stories of people who purchased Florida homeowners insurance with total confidence, only to find out later that they were in fact underinsured. The umbrella covers you like a shield, one more layer of liability protection. It’s so possible to imagine any of the following scenarios occurring. That’s why it’s so important to acquire the right amount of insurance.
  • Falls on your property – Who knows to what extent the medical bills will be for someone who trips over that loose paver in the driveway? You could be paying for hospital stays in perpetuity.
  • Calamitous events – No one can see into the future. That’s why accidents occur, and that’s why it’s important to consider umbrella insurance to fully cover you if they do.
    Add your own here: __________. It only takes a small amount of creativity to imagine the Halloween trick or treater who stumbles on the step and needs medical attention or the teenager who goes to take the car out of the garage for a joyride and forgets the gear is in reverse.

No one wants to go through the claims process, so take measures where you can to improve the hardiness of your home and keep more money in your pocket. As a Florida homeowners insurance shopper, you’re on the right track; you’re definitely ready to search for the right policy now that you’ve read this blog.

Good luck as your protect that which you hold most dear, and contact W3 Insurance when you’re ready to talk about coverage options. Please note that this article provides a general description of coverages. For complete policy information, including exclusions, limitations, terms and conditions, please refer to your insurance policy contract.

We’re here to help you protect and save. As an all-lines agency, we offer advice regarding coverage, discounts and more. Contact W3 Insurance at 727-522-7777 for more in-depth advice regarding Florida homeowners insurance.

‘Tis the Season for Flu Shots: Tips for Employers

Encourage employees to vaccinate with (or without) an onsite event

It’s time to get shot; make sure your employees don’t miss out. We’re talking of course about the flu vaccine, that yearly preventative measure that today is more important than ever. The prospect of contracting both COVID-19 and this year’s flu strain is too potentially dire to imagine. Can you imagine enduring the ‘twindemic’ triggered by a dual diagnosis of COVID and influenza?

All together now: SHUDDER.

As an employer, you can inspire members of your workforce to choose vaccination and thus take a proactive step that can lead to lower absenteeism rates companywide. Like COVID, influenza is not welcome in the workplace. Unlike COVID, there’s something we can do as a society about contracting influenza. That begins and ends with the flu shot.

But how effective really is the flu shot at preventing influenza – and who should make absolutely sure to receive it? Dispelling the below myths will give your employees the confidence they need in order to stick those arms out (literally).

Myths surrounding the flu shot include:

  • We don’t know which strain of flu will be most prevalent, so the flu shot likely won’t be that effective. While it’s true that different strains of flu exist and that it’s difficult to state for sure which will be the most dangerous year-to-year, getting the flu shot is a solid idea because, according to the Centers for Disease Control, each vaccine includes immunity against four strains. That’s a decent gamble!
  • I don’t get sick a lot, so I don’t need this shot. This has always been a very loose argument because it only takes one time contracting the flu to change one’s mind forever. The flu can be extremely serious. Thousands – in fact, tens of thousands die of the flu each year. Even in mild cases, it wrecks a person’s week (or even two weeks).
  • My kids get the shot, so I don’t need to. Who is going to take care of said kids if you’re laid up because of the flu? Enough said.
  • My child is too young to get the flu shot. Babies aged 6 months and older can receive the flu shot – and they may be eligible for the nasal vaccine. That means no needles involved!
  • I always get sick from the flu shot. While some people have mild symptoms they attribute to the flu shot, those symptoms are much less serious than those that can potentially occur with the full-blown flu. The virus contained in the flu shot vaccine has been inactivated. Any side effects from the shot should be mild.
  • I hate needles; if I can’t get the nasal vaccine, I won’t do it. For those aged 2-49, the nasal vaccine is often an option. Those who are pregnant should opt for a syringe instead. If a person really can’t stand needles, he or she should talk with a medical professional regarding the positives and negatives of that year’s nasal version.

Now that we’ve dispelled those myths, let’s be clear: there’s an extra reason to make sure everyone eligible receives the flu vaccine this year. A twindemic of COVID/INFLUENZA is threatening our nation. Employers can help in the fight to prevent a ‘twindemic’ outbreak. Make sure your workers understand the benefits of the flu shot and where to receive the vaccination. Used to hosting an annual on-site clinic but forced to skip it this year? Motivate your workforce in ways other than shot proximity. We know this is a very real challenge; about 30% of our clients who host onsite clinics have had to cancel due to an inability to meet on-site minimums.

There’s no cure yet for COVID; it’s time we get creative and inspire those around us to take healthy inoculation initiative. We’re all hoping for an end to COVID. In the meantime, here’s how to motivate your staff to inoculate against the malady we often can prevent: flu.

  • Tell everyone how to get the shot. For free. The flu shot is a preventative service. It’s covered at 100% when the member visits a participating pharmacy or retail location. With social distancing recommendations still in effect in many states, look for more drive-through opportunities.
  • Be transparent regarding where people may not want to receive the shot. Be sure to share the possibility that a primary care physician may possibly charge a copay for an office visit if they choose to go that route. Sharing this information is similar to that of advising those who opt to visit the emergency room for every sniffle to choose a primary visit or walk-in clinic instead. When cost is an issue, information is invaluable.
  • Got a shot? -You get a smoothie! (Hopefully the employee will choose the Vitamin C-rich option over that chocolate brownie peanut butter bomb on the menu). Grocery gift cards make a great reward as well. Consider gifting wellness baskets stocked full of wholesome goodies: oranges, hand sanitizer and tissues are favorites. While you’re at it, print out some flyers about flu shots, telehealth, and EAP. Stuff those in the baskets – people need something to read while they’re eating those orange segments.
  • Post signage – If you do have employees on-site, put informational signage in well-trafficked areas. Download free flyers from the CDC here: https://bit.ly/2H0GNNW.
  • Educate, educate, educate – Influenza and COVID-19 are both respiratory illnesses. Consider the decision to vaccinate this way: We do not, at the time this blog was written, possess a vaccine or powerfully effective treatment for COVID-19. We do, however, have the flu shot. Not electing to receive the flu shot leaves an individual doubly vulnerable.

Most onsite clinics are already scheduled, so that route may be out of the question for this year. Go ahead and mark your calendar for Summer of 2021 as the pivotal moment you reach out to schedule the next one, however. Hopefully by then we will have an effective vaccine for COVID-19 as well.

We understand that in this current health climate it can be especially overwhelming to guide your employees toward healthy decisions like vaccination. Need assistance motivating employees to receive the flu shot? Not sure where to start? Usually have an onsite clinic but not hosting one due to a remote worker shift? -I’m here for you. Contact me (Trish Blocker) at 727-522-7777.

Have You Considered Adding A Water Shut-Off Device To Your Water Damage Action Plan?

Picture this. You’ve just arrived home, and as you pull into the driveway, you see water seeping out the garage. You open the door and discover the painful truth: a plumbing leak has occurred, and water is everywhere. Cue the panic questions:

Do you have insurance coverage? How much coverage do you have for water damage losses? Don’t let the above scenario happen.

Thanks to leak detectors and water shutoff devices, protecting your property from water damage losses has become much easier. From leaky pipes to water heater malfunctions and everything in between, these water damage culprits that lead to property insurance claims are preventable.

Avoid costly repairs and potential insurance claims by installing a preventative device. Some devices could even lead to a policy discount with some insurance companies. Take some time to research and discover more about the various types of leak detectors and water shutoff devices. An initial investment can save you time, money, and aggravation in the long run.

Check out what one of our clients recently told us about their experience with a water shut-off device:

“I wanted to report firsthand about water shutoff devices you recently mentioned. Like you my insurance carrier here in Cincinnati the Cincinnati insurance Co. recommended the installation of a water flow control device. They mentioned four different brands. I researched them and chose Flo by Moen.

When I purchased it online they had a special deal with a plumber for the installation cost of $150 I booked it several weeks out it was installed without a hitch. It was then connected to AC power and Wi-Fi and is now providing daily reports on water usage and every night it performs a system check for leaks.

If I leave the home for any extended period of time I put it in away mode so that it is much more sensitive to shutting off the water supply in the event of what is deemed to be a leak. So for the total cost including installation of about $550 I’m also saving $200 per year on my homeowners policy here.”

It is important for you to review the policy limits for water damage coverage within your insurance contract. If you have questions, contact W3 at 727-522-7777. A great place to begin is a water damage action plan. Find advice regarding crafting one here: w3ins.com/news/category/homeowners

W3 Insurance Named to Business Insurance’s Annual Best Places to Work in Insurance List

Award Showcases W3’s Consistent Workplace Success

ST. PETERSBURG, FL – For the fifth time, W3 Insurance has been named to the Best Places to Work in Insurance list. The honor demonstrates that Business Insurance recognizes W3 Insurance as a workplace where employees feel they can thrive and collectively help the organization to grow and prosper.

“We maintain an employee experience (EX) focus,” says W3 Insurance Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Hammond. “Our ‘Raving Fans’ culture starts internally, with our employees.”

The vetting process to identify leading agents, brokers, providers and insurance companies in the insurance industry included a two-part questionnaire from Best Companies Group. Employees completed a confidential employee survey regarding engagement and satisfaction; employers were directed to answer questions explaining company policies, practices and demographics.

Best Places to Work in Insurance is an annual sponsored content feature presented by the Custom Publishing unit of Business Insurance and Best Companies Group. As to what makes W3 a consistent honoree, an employee response from 2019 explains it all:

We have a culture of Integrity, Accountability, Success, and Passion. We’re a team and we love what we do…Our employees participate in internal committees that foster relationship building activities within the W3 family. Our employees also create fundraising and volunteer opportunities and activities to support the Tampa Bay Area to improve the overall quality of life for those in need around us.

About W3 Insurance

Founded in 1925, Wallace Welch & Willingham Inc (W3 Insurance) is an independent insurance agency with a rich history of providing quality service and unwavering commitment to clients and community. The agency represents an extensive list of “A rated” insurance companies and offers insurance products to fit the specific needs of businesses and individuals. For more information, call (727) 522-7777 or visit www.w3ins.com.

About Business Insurance

Business Insurance is the authoritative news and information source for executives concerned about risk and the impact on their business. With information for risk managers, insurers, brokers and other providers of insurance products and services, Business Insurance delivers in-depth analysis on new and emerging risks, case studies of successful programs, market intelligence on trends, and guidance on how to capitalize on opportunities and overcome challenges.

In addition to a monthly print magazine, Business Insurance provides essential news via its website, BusinessInsurance.com; daily and weekly e-newsletters; and breaking news via email news alerts. To subscribe, please contact Business Insurance at info@businessinsurance.com.

Best Companies Group works with partners to establish “Best Places to Work,” “Best Companies,” and “Best Employers” programs on a national, state-wide and regional basis.