Pandemic Pragmatism: Return To Work Advice for Employers

This is a message to employers who look out upon a sea of empty cubicles and yearn for normalcy. We understand the temptation to welcome employees back in droves. Business is not as usual, and we all feel it: no sector is immune to the effects of COVID-19. As we grapple with our ‘new normal,’ it is imperative that employers handle the return of employees to the physical workplace with proverbial ‘kid gloves.’

Here are some safeguards to consider as you reopen your doors to the employee population:

  • Constant vigilance is key. That employee who tested negative yesterday could arrive at the office this morning as a COVID-19-infected individual. Therefore, daily health checks are necessary, and the EEOC has ruled that employers may ask workers whether they are in fact suffering from COVID-similar symptoms. *Compliance with the ADA is still mandatory; any medical information gleaned from such daily checks becomes part of the individual’s confidential medical record.
  • Thanks to human ingenuity, we already have multiple options for these checks, including:
    • COVID-19 and antibody testing – Antibody testing is not, at this moment, FDA approved. It demands a blood draw and can take days to reveal results. A person may test negative for COVID-19 one day and positive the next, making such testing an unlikely option for regular use.
    • Medical screenings conducted by medical personnel – In this scenario, employees stay in their vehicle while a medical professional takes their temperature and administers a brief questionnaire. Anyone with a temperature at or below 100.4 is cleared to enter the building.
    • Non-contact thermometer at building entrance. Not every person infected with COVID-19 has a fever. However, the thermometer check will identify some infected individuals.
    • App use requiring daily report of symptoms, exposure, and temperature – Responses are recorded. If suspected COVID-19 is identified, correct company personnel is notified.
  • Remember that discriminatory practices are not admissible just because a pandemic is at large. However, individuals aged 65 or older may be given more flexibility than compared with your younger employee population. Those within the older age group are at higher risk to suffer complications from COVID-19. Treatment of demographic groups such as pregnant women and those with family responsibilities is discussed at length here.

Return to work symbolizes a return to normal, and that is what we as a society yearn for during this age of uncertainty. Still, don’t rush the Welcome Back celebration. Work with your HR department to outline clear and concise policies that protect the health of everyone in the organization. For assistance, contact W3 Benefits and Wellness Strategist Trish Blocker at tblocker@w3ins.com or 727-522-7777 x173.

Hurricane Preparation in the Time of COVID-19

Not to be outdone by the COVID-19 pandemic, the hurricane season of 2020 is forecasted to be a doozy. The season begins June 1, and early prediction models warn of 16 potential storms featuring tropical-strength winds. Among these, eight have the potential for U.S. landfall. It’s always important to prepare for hurricane season. How will COVID-19 make this one different?

Hint: extra face masks are advised, but that’s just the beginning. Read below as we examine some of the extra precautions you and your family should take in order to ensure you are safe from both storm and pandemic this hurricane season.

Proper hurricane prep in the time of COVID-19 looks like this:

  • An updated emergency preparedness kit. FEMA recommends hand sanitizer, two cloth face coverings for each person, soap, disinfecting wipes and other disinfecting agents. Add those to the standard hurricane kit suggestions shared here.
  • Your regularly advised shelter may be deemed too close-for-comfort, so check the evacuation plan your city has released long before that cone of uncertainty shows up on the radar. If you do end up at a shelter, maintain 6 feet of space between others.
  • Does your family know the emergency plan? If not, it’s time to share it. You can make your household’s hurricane plan here and avoid last-minute ‘What should we do…where should we go?’ decisions. Find a template here.
  • If you choose to opt for storm coverage, do it now. It’s too late to opt for coverage once the hurricane forms over the Atlantic. At that moment, you’ll want to know that you have all the safeguards in place to keep you and your family safe, COVID-19 or not. Consider that insurance coverage is just one more vital piece of your hurricane preparedness plan.

Contact the advisors at W3 Insurance for guidance regarding storm coverage. You’ll receive advice regarding the different types of coverage you can consider, and information about what happens if a named storm does head your way. For both homeowners and boat owners, this coverage is a blessing in a time of peril.

So how does hurricane preparation during the time of COVID-19 really vary from years before? Mainly, it’s important to practice social distancing guidelines and sanitize as much as possible. This year, showing up at a shelter does not earn you a proverbial ‘gold star’ for hurricane preparedness. Today, as never before, we must all look to further measures to keep us healthy.

Wellness in the Time of COVID-19

Much of the workforce is still tapping away on those home laptops. Kids are trying to learn calculus or sight words or American Revolution facts right alongside their parents. The threat of exposure to the pandemic looms like a mystery cloud of despair. In this time of uncertainty, close quarters and overall life disruption, what’s a company to do?

It’s time to call in the Employer Assistance Program.

Employers, an EAP can be one of your closest allies right now. Here’s how to make yours a visible tool to your employee population – a tool that they actually use for good.

  • First, remind your workers that the EAP actually exists. It’s quite possible they’ve never used it before. It’s designed to help employees with stressors both large and small, and it’s confidential. Remind employees that the company will not be able to access personal information through it. This is confidential assistance.
  • Share general examples with employees regarding how the EAP can help. For example, consider the following scenario: An employee was wondering whether or not he was drinking too much. He was feeling especially anxious about his ability to perform his work at a high level while at home. Seeking expert advice on the matter, he reached out through the EAP and was able to secure a therapy appointment.
  • Another scenario might look like this: For the past few weeks, nothing seems to make this employee happy. He’s worrying all the time, and it’s difficult for him to complete his work because his heart is just not in the task. As a matter of fact, nothing is really making him smile anymore.

Individuals with situations that mimic the examples above would be referred to a therapist who would address their issues specifically. Note: Most EAPs are not going to take an individual through long-term counseling. But for the scores of people feeling ‘not quite themselves’ in this time of Coronavirus, an EAP can provide exactly what they need in order to put themselves on a sturdier road toward mental health.

For more information regarding EAP help in the time of COVID-19, take a look at the International Employee Assistance Professionals Association resources specifically aimed at EAPs: https://bit.ly/2yKAqdG.

For answers regarding your specific EAP and further advice regarding how to communicate the benefits of it to your organization, call your W3 advisor. And remember this one silver lining throughout this time of uncertainty: Thanks to the EAP, people can continue to access the help they need.

Home Business Coverage – Who Needs It?

From Etsy store owner to multi-level marketing mavens and every aspiration in between, plenty of business owners choose the home front as their business address. It’s conceivable that the coronavirus pandemic’s ‘stay at home’ directive has spurred a new wave of stay-at-home inspiration. After all, plenty of people are finding ways to work from home. How does this class of businesspeople protect themselves and the organizations they cherish?

Do home business moguls need to take insurance along for the ride as they build an empire?

The answer is likely ‘yes.’ Just because an office is a kitchen table and the commute involves a grueling six steps from the bedroom, that doesn’t mean that it’s time to neglect insurance coverage. Coverage is available for a wide variety of home-based businesses; opting for it is often a good idea. Here’s why.

  • The overbooked photographer scenario – Let’s say you’re a photographer who overbooks (gasp) a wedding. First, congratulations on being so popular. Secondly, be prepared for the possibility that you could be sued. The angry bride or groom-to-be who booked with you originally could sue you for the cost of a replacement photographer.
  • The home-based business accident – Do customers visit your home for business purposes? If so, it’s imperative to purchase insurance. Imagine the shock of the in-home piano teacher whose student tripped on a slick floor and broke his ankle, or the computer repairman who fell as he carried his overheated laptop up the driveway and needed multiple surgeries to repair a fractured hip. Guess who foots the bill for these medical snafus? -Hint: It’s often not the injured person.
  • Annihilated inventory – Are you a maker? A baker, crafter, or an all-around-artsy person? Do you store your products in the home? Don’t expect your homeowners policy to cover that collection that took you months to amass. Make sure that you have the correct coverage in place so that if something happens, you’re able to replace and rebuild. Business income coverage will go a step further by compensating a portion of lost income as a result of a covered accident.

So who is actually eligible to elect coverage? Crafters, jewelry makers, cosmetic/beauty sales consultants (Rodan + Fields, Monat, doTERRA), teachers/tutors, disc jockeys, bakers and photographers are some of the more common eligible professions. But even those that are commonly not eligible may find coverage through a commercial or professional lines form.

That’s why it’s so important to cultivate a relationship with an insurance provider who gives good advice regarding your personal and business coverage needs. And that’s where W3 Insurance shines. As an all-lines agency, W3 serves as your comprehensive coverage source. Contact an advisor today. Describe your business and its liability. A W3 advisor will advise you regarding coverage type and scope, so you can get back to what’s really important: focusing on your home business dreams.

Your One-Stop W3 Covid-19 Resource Center

Need answers? Find them here.

As we continue to deal with the ramifications of COVID-19 on our lives and livelihoods, W3 is staying vigilant. We are continually striving to answer the question: What does this pandemic mean for businesses? The answers vary day-to-day; therefore, we have developed a one-stop W3 COVID-19 Resource Center to provide regular updates and issue sound advice.

W3 Coronavirus Resource Center

Within this Resource Center, you’ll find timely information regarding:

  • Insurance coverage – How will your policies be affected? Can premiums be deferred or delayed?
  • Human Resources and Compliance – HR professionals: How will you keep your office in compliance with federal regulations surrounding COVID-19? For those non-essential businesses facing a newly remote workforce, how should you navigate this ‘new world’ of employment?
  • Financial and Tax Legislation – Interested to know the latest financial and tax legislation news? -We’ve done the research for you.
  • Employee Benefits – How does COVID-19 affect employee benefits?
  • Health & Safety – Are OSHA concerns different for remote employees? How can an organization strive to keep the workforce as healthy as possible in the midst of a pandemic?
  • Reasons to Smile – It’s not all ‘doom and gloom’ out there, friends and colleagues. In this time of social distancing, businesses are providing grocery cards to employees, sending heart-warming messages and encouraging everyone to slow down and smell the proverbial roses. Here, you’ll read real-life examples of employers doing what they can to give their employees a reason to smile.

Visit w3ins.com/covid-19 and view our extensive information library. And remember: We consider ourselves your ‘partner in protection.’ This pivot of providing information related to COVID-19 is just one more way we offer you ‘Raving Fan’ service.

Let’s all take care of each other. Hopefully, the W3 COVID-19 Resource Center will make doing that easier.

Put Down the Snack Cakes – National Nutrition Month

Welcome to National Nutrition Month! Grab an apple, take a crunch, and read onward as we share healthy workplace outreach strategies. No, you can’t snatch Twinkies from desktops or institute a “no fries” rule in the employee manual. However, by sharing reputable dietary information and committing to fostering a healthier workplace environment, you can make a real dent in that employee pizza habit.

First, remember that you are not the Food Police. A healthy diet should contain a variety of foods from different sources; that means those diets composed of one or two items are not advisable. Who remembers the grapefruit diet (shudder)? Healthy eating is not just a bandwagon – it’s a lifestyle that allows for plenty of choice.

Plenty of medical evidence exists to prove that a healthy, well-rounded diet leads to better health outcomes. You can tell people that – but it won’t matter if they haven’t eaten since yesterday and there’s a box of donuts beckoning in the breakroom. You can get your employees to ‘buy in’ to the nutrition data without causing a run on the last cruller. Here are a few ways to nudge your employee population toward healthier choices.

  • Just say ‘no’ to the following: donuts, cronuts, croissants, muffins….you get the picture. But no one wants healthy birthday cake! We agree – so choose your battles. Healthy birthday cakes can be a real bummer. Instead of providing one for every birthday, why not celebrate employees monthly with a communal cake? And replace those donuts with ingredients for serve-yourself yogurt parfaits. Low fat yogurt, granola, fresh fruit and chia seeds make for a healthy, filling breakfast.
  • Look at your catering menu. When you order food for meetings, are you offering gluten-free and vegetarian options? The classic ‘sub sandwich ring’ is likely not going to be the number one choice. Remember that adage ‘An army runs on its stomach’ and take it to heart. Your employees and clients may be satiated by the double chocolate cookies you purchased for dessert – or they may be so drowsy that they fall asleep. We dare you to take this moment to ask for the sale.
  • Now for an examination of the vending machine. Can you replace those sugary, preservative-filled candy bars with high quality dark chocolate options? Are there baked options for the chips that everyone seems to be crunching at 4pm? Is there room in the company budget to simply stock a bowl with fresh fruit and invite employees to eat it free of charge? It doesn’t take huge gestures to nudge an employee population to make better nutritional choices.

Workplaces that go above and beyond the everyday nutritional hacks may opt to invite an organization like Weight Watchers to host meetings at the office. They may hire a nutritionist to do a lunch and learn presentation – complete with a healthy gratis menu. Whatever you decide, know that a healthier workplace is possible. For more tips, put down the snack cakes and contact W3 Wellness Coordinator Trish Blocker at 727-522-7777 ext. 173 or tblocker@w3ins.com.

Find more information here: https://www.eatright.org/

W3 Insurance Welcomes Employee Benefits Advisor to Team

Conor J. Fitzgerald Joins our St. Petersburg Office

Conor J. Fitzgerald Joins our St. Petersburg Office

Wallace Welch & Willingham (W3 Insurance) has hired Conor J. Fitzgerald  as an employee benefits advisor. Fitzgerald comes to W3 from Bouchard Insurance, where he was responsible for employee benefits and business insurance production. He looks forward to helping W3 clients achieve their financial and organizational goals through innovative and consultative strategies.

“Conor should make a great addition to our team of benefits professionals,” says W3 Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Hammond. “He has proven experience in customer service, sales and benefits.”

Fitzgerald’s civic participation fits in well with the W3 spirit of giving back. An active community member, he volunteers in various capacities, including shifts with organizations such as Metropolitan Ministries, Tampa Bay Frogman Swim and Sal’s Soldiers – The Fight Against Multiple Sclerosis.

Founded in 1925, Wallace Welch & Willingham (W3 insurance) is an independent insurance agency with a rich history of providing quality service and unwavering commitment to its clients and community. The agency represents an extensive list of “A rated” insurance companies in order to provide the best coverage at the most affordable rates available.  Wallace Welch & Willingham has insurance products to fit the specific needs of both businesses and individuals, offering commercial, homeowners, auto, boat and life insurance, as well as employee benefits coverage. For more information, call (727) 522-7777 or visit www.w3ins.com.

New Year, No Alcohol? Embracing Dry January in the Workplace

After all the holiday toasts, hot toddies and themed party cocktails, is it time for your workplace to go dry? The movement dubbed Dry January ironically stems from a land full of pubs and pilsners; since 2013, England has spread its message of New Year, No Alcohol worldwide. It’s catching on, and breweries are noticing; according to CNBC, many are now promoting low alcohol or even no alcohol alternatives.

To jump on the no alcohol bandwagon and encourage employees to put down the pints (at least for a while), consider the following strategies:

  • Find a Dry Champion. Have you heard anyone talking about going dry? Ask them to lead the campaign and recruit others.
  • Design a pledge-signing event and make it a focal point in your break room. Those who sign the pledge will have a visible reminder from Monday through Friday about their commitment to forgoing alcohol.
  • Circulate a quiz to help employees identify how much they are actually drinking. Heavy drinkers can see definite benefits from going dry, including decreased liver fat and lower cholesterol levels. Others report better sleep and concentration – both which could affect workplace performance.
  • Consider crafting a self assessment to showcase how alcohol changes the body. It’s very possible that your workforce doesn’t know how many drinks can result in impairment; usually, it’s fewer than people think. Share this article from Good Morning America to illustrate the health connection.
  • Organize a tasting for your employees – a sort of happy hour that involves plenty of ‘mocktails.’ Have a resident mixologist who’s always the life of the party? Ask him/her to judge the competition. Employees can feature their best creations (pineapple and orange juice with a splash of cherry juice is a great place to begin).
  • Have a competitive employee roster? Give incentives. Who can stay dry the longest? Hand out mocktail ingredients at the kickoff party. There are so many ways to be creative about going dry. Tailoring your strategy to what works for the individuals involved is always a great idea.

Take January to dry levels, and you could see a more productive workplace. For more information about how you can help your workplace go try, call W3’s wellness coordinator Trish Blocker at 727-522-7777.

Food Poisoning: A Survival Guide

‘Tis the season for tummy trauma. Holiday grazers, pay special attention to this article. Your habit of digging into tepid sausage dip left out during that marathon Christmas party can cause major issues. Enjoy yourself without ingesting a hearty dose of salmonella, parasite or virus. Here’s a survival guide to avoid food poisoning during this time of year and beyond – and what to do if you’re infected.

Step One: Thou shall adhere to the rules of food safety – namely, the two-hour rule. This is not to be confused with the five-second rule, which dictates that any food dropped on the ground is safe to eat if consumed before five seconds. (This rule is false, by the way). If food has sat out for more than two hours, throw it away. That’s right, toss even the delectable prime rib that fits so snugly into those leftover potato rolls. It’s not worth the risk. After refrigerating your favorites, eat them within three or four days, and make sure to reheat. Ignore the steps inherent in Step One to your peril; doing so may result in Step Two.

Step Two: Even when you say ‘no’ to that late-hour shrimp cocktail appetizer, food poisoning can still strike. Know the symptoms that can arise within hours or sneak up within days. Either way, this is not usually something you can ‘power through.’ How you feel will vary based on the severity and type of the poisoning, but one thing is for certain: You are going to feel lousy – and you likely will need to stay near a bathroom. This is where your medical plan savvy comes in handy. Consider telemedicine – that way, you won’t need to leave your home. If that is not an option, the primary care provider or convenient care clinic are likely your best bet. Only go to the ER if it is absolutely necessary.

Step Three: If you believe the offending food is still in your possession, throw it away before a household member can unwittingly infect themselves as well. Think your illness is due to a restaurant item? Call the restaurant. Most do not want to give their patrons a side of illness with their meal. Next, rest up. Don’t force yourself to do more than your energy level provides. The effects of food poisoning can linger, depending on the severity. Hopefully yours will prove short and mild.

Foodborne illness is a real threat to holiday hoopla. It causes approximately 3,000 deaths yearly in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Over a hundred thousand are sickened; some are hospitalized. Many others suffer in silence at home until the symptoms subside. If you experience fatigue, nausea, cramps, or diarrhea, there’s a possibility that you’ve fallen victim to food poisoning. May your bout be short and your health return as soon as possible!

Your Home: A Water Damage Time Bomb

Keep Dry With This Action Plan

Water damage can be a real drain. Protect your home and your pocketbook by opting for the right water damage coverage and addressing potential threats. Proactive “waterproofers” save themselves the expense and headache that comes with an unwelcome deluge. Keep the wet away from your Welcome mat by completing essential home maintenance essential to loss prevention. Below, we’ll examine the common sources for home water damage and how you can prevent excess H20.

  • Roofing: Plenty of water damage risks don’t involve torrential rainfall or wind. Homeowners are often surprised to learn that maintaining their roof is only one element of protection – but it is of course an important one. Give yours a birthday present by having a professional roof inspector examine it every year. This professional will spot suspect shingles, crumbling flashing and other elements that can put you at risk for leaks.
  • Plumbing: Plumbing in general should be treated as a valuable home element. If you see corrosion, condensation or leaks emanating from plumbing anywhere in your home, act immediately. Here’s a hint: If your water bill suddenly spikes, you may well have a malfunctioning plumbing element.
  • Sump Pump: Heading out on vacation? Avoid a surprise ‘gift’ upon your return home by turning off your main water supply line. Since sump pumps can fail for a variety of reasons, it’s a solid strategy. Take the time to inspect those. Clogged inlet screens and float switches can yield problems. Remember to take a look at the outside pipes and watch for that water flow – it should occur away from the home.
  • Water Heater: Five years is the magic number for these home elements. After age five, water heaters are much more likely to burst. Flush yours of sediment twice annually. And once a year after that five year point, ask a professional plumber to take a look at the anode rod, which will inevitably eventually deteriorate. And remember: no hot shower is worth the amount of damage that water heaters can cause if compromised.
  • Toilet: Anyone who has ever experienced a toilet overflow will tell you that it’s not a pleasant experience. It’s also unfortunately a common one. A backed-up toilet can wreak plenty of havoc on wood floors and baseboards; plus, it’s downright gross. How’s that flush mechanism working? Ask that question and answer it every six months. If you need to replace the flapper or film valve, do so. Also, giving the supply line some TLC every six months or so will keep that water flowing where it’s supposed to.
  • Sink: Faulty plumbing lines, thou art evil. When they deteriorate, these lines and the damage they cause can cost a homeowner approximately $7,000. Faulty plumbing lines are the big risk factor in a sink. Inspect it every six months, and if you don’t know where the water supply shutoff line is, go find it immediately.
  • Washing Machine: This one’s an obvious risk. After all, it has ‘water’ in the name! What you should really be on the lookout for here is water supply lines. Every six months, take a look at it. Is it secured correctly? Is it looking worse for the wear?
  • Ice Maker: That supply line can really be a doozy. If an icemaker is not properly installed, that supply line hose can fail. The result of such an incident is a watery mess and inevitable damage. Again, every six months should be a good adage for inspection.

It doesn’t take a lot of time or energy to do quick checkups on water hoses and the like. Schedule these ‘visits’ in your calendar and adhere to them. Putting off inspection of potential water damage sources can prove a costly mistake. Additionally, contact your insurance advisor to discuss whether you need increased water damage coverage. Different elements such as age of the home can increase your risk.

Remember: Your insurance policy is designed to cover you for sudden and accidental loss not otherwise excluded in the policy form. It is not a home maintenance policy. By understanding your coverage and doing your part to maintain your home, you’ll earn an A+ in water damage prevention.

Request a review of your current coverage

At W3, our advisors are committed to helping you understand the protection provided by your policy and making sure that it works for you. Contact us! We’ll review your options and put a watertight plan in place.