Quick Hits - September 14, 2022 - American Society of Employers - ASE Staff

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Quick Hits - September 14, 2022

Is there a growing drug problem in the workplace?  With the legalization of marijuana in many states, drug use appears to be growing for young working age employees.  Marijuana and hallucinogen use among young adults has reached a new high.  Use of marijuana and hallucinogens by 19- to 30-year-olds reached their highest levels since tracking began in 1988, according to a new Monitoring the Future panel study supported by the National Institutes of Health.  In 2021, 43% said they'd used marijuana in the last year, which was up 34% from five years ago and 29% compared to 10 years ago. More than 1 in 10 said they now use marijuana every day, according to the study.  Eight percent of young adults reported using hallucinogens in the past year in 2021, up from 5% in 2016 and 3% in 2011, the study showed.  Alcohol remained the most-used substance among adults in the study, and binge drinking -- having five or more drinks in a row in the past two weeks -- rebounded in 2021 after a historic low in 2020.  If you haven’t reviewed your drug and suspicious behavior policies recently, it may be a good time to do so with legal counsel.  Source:  Yahoo News 8/23/22

Healthcare costs expected to rise 6.5%: Average costs for U.S. employers that pay for their employees' health care will increase 6.5% to more than $13,800 per employee in 2023, according to a new poll by Aon. This projection is more than double the 3% increase to health care budgets which employers experienced from 2021 to 2022; but is significantly below the 9.1 inflation figure reported through the Consumer Price Index. On average, the budgeted health care cost for clients is $13,020 per employee in 2022. The analysis uses the firm's Health Value Initiative database, which captures information for nearly 700 U.S. employers representing approximately 5.6 million employees. Employees in 2022 are contributing about $4,412 for health care coverage this year, of which $2,520 is paid in the form of premiums from paychecks and $1,892 is paid through plan design features such as deductibles, copays, and co-insurance, according to the firm's analysis.  As the pandemic recedes, a new issue may come in play.  Although Medicare can negotiate drug prices, the fallout may be higher than expected pharmacy costs for health plans.  Therefore, 6.5% could be still on the low side.

Given the aging workforce, have you considered hearing benefits? Over the past two years, employers have become increasingly aware of how vital healthcare benefits are to employee productivity, retention, and overall company success. Yet, employers may still be missing a part of the healthcare picture.  Approximately 48 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss, but very few Americans have access to hearing healthcare benefits. According to Tuned, a hearing healthcare benefits platform, while 92% of the workers they surveyed received health benefits from their employer, less than 30% have hearing care included. One notable consequence is auditory fatigue, where an individual experiences discomfort or loss of sensitivity in their ears after being exposed to prolonged auditory stimuli. In Tune's survey, 74% of workers admitted to experiencing auditory fatigue by the end of the workday, and 61% shared that they needed to take breaks due to fatigue. Listener's fatigue is often more associated with those who work in manufacturing, construction, or even music. However, the risk rises as remote work pushes employees to make extensive use of their headphones and compete with the noise of their environment.  Source:  EBN 8/18/22

Does proximity bias permeate your workplace? Hybrid work has become the norm in many industries, yet proximity bias (PB) still runs rampant in dispersed workplaces.  Just over 66% of professionals surveyed by virtual presentation company Prezi say they believe colleagues who are together in the office receive preferential treatment and are more highly favored by management. Proximity bias isn’t new, but it has the potential to derail recruitment efforts amid the frenzied search for top talent, says Prezi CEO Jim Szafranski. “It was a niche problem, but the moment we all went remote, that niche problem became a mainstream problem,” he says. This bias is becoming more pronounced in talent reviews, considering remote and hybrid work.   It creates a situation that decision-makers view workers that spend more time in a company-designated office location, or are in proximity to decision-makers, more favorably than their remote counterparts. PB can lead managers to overestimate employees’ performance and potential (a false positive) or underestimate it (a false negative). Talent leaders might want to analyze the results of their organizations’ talent review assessments—assuming a large enough population—to determine if there are significant differences in the talent assessments of workers deemed remote vs. in-office. Source:  Brian Heger HR 8/14/22, Fortune 8/11/22

Victoria Secret settles 401K fee lawsuit: L Brands Inc., the parent company of notable names Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works, has agreed to a $2.75 million settlement of a proposed class action lawsuit that alleged pricey fees and investment options in its $1.6 billion 401k plan.  The 401(k) Averages Book, referenced in the suit, shows the average cost for recordkeeping and administration in 2017 for plans that were much smaller than L Brands’ plan was $35 per participant, yet participants in the L Brands plan were paying $56 per participant.  “The lawsuit also alleges that from 2014 through 2019, the plan paid out investment management fees of 0.38% to 0.46% of its total assets, higher than the average of 0.28% for plans with more than $1 billion in assets,” ERISA attorney Ary Rosenbaum noted. “The lawsuit also accuses plan fiduciaries of failing to use the least expensive share classes for mutual funds on the 401k plan’s investment menu.” The monetary figure might not stretch far, as the deal could cover the plan’s 33,761 participants.  Calling the case, and many like them, “fill in the blank” type of case, he said they merely “allege that the plan costs are higher, but they still have to prove that paying higher fees was an actual breach of fiduciary duty.”  Source: 401K Specialist 8/15/22

Use brown noise not white noise to sleep according to TikTok users:  Listening to background noise to help you concentrate, zone out, or fall asleep isn’t exactly a new concept. Many people find it hard to fall asleep and have tried everything from breathing exercises to ASMR, but right now, TikTok users are raving about brown noise.  Sound therapy has been used and promoted for years, specifically white noise therapy which is said to help manage health conditions like tinnitus and ADHD. However, the latest TikTok sleep trend, brown noise, is said to be more effective than white noise for helping with sleep and health issues. Brown noise, also known as red noise, is a type of sound that contains all frequencies and sounds from every octave of the sound spectrum, according to Sleep Foundation. Brown noise produces deeper low-frequency tones that sound similar to rumbling thunder, heavy rainfall, and waterfalls.  There are many different types of sound or noise, including white, brown, and pink noise. What sets them apart from one another is the pitch or frequency of the sound. White noise is an evenly spread sound that has a mix of low, mid-range, and high pitches, which gives it a consistent humming noise. Pink noise is lower than white noise and sounds similar to wind and light rain. Brown noise is the deepest version of sound that you can get, and it’s this deepness that seems to have captivated TikTokers. Source: T3 9/6/22

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