Experts will share strategies to engage employees, improve outcomes and reduce costs

Plymouth Meeting, PA, January 24, 2017 — West’s Health Advocate Solutions, the nation’s leading clinical healthcare advocacy company, announced today that its annual Solutions Series of webinars will start January 31 with a session about understanding healthcare ROI. The series will feature industry thought leaders discussing a number of current health and benefits topics, including employee engagement, pricing transparency, population health and wellness, and data analytics, among others.

“Healthcare is complicated and ever-changing, but by simplifying the experience, it’s possible to make it easier for employees to take charge of their health and for organizations to realize the potential positive impact,” said Abbie Leibowitz, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, Founder and President Emeritus, West’s Health Advocate Solutions. “Our Solutions Series offers organizations the opportunity to hear the latest about key industry topics and issues from leading experts in their field, gleaning useful strategies they can apply within their programs.”

Sessions occur on the following Tuesdays at 2 PM ET:

  • January 31: Bending the Curve. Evaluating the true return on investments of health benefits programs.
  • February 7: Total Population Wellness. Leveraging the power of prevention and intervention.
  • February 14: A New Generation of EAP+Work/Life Services. Lowering stress and healthcare costs.
  • February 21: Beyond Navigation to Integration. Multi-faceted clinical advocacy to encourage value-based health decisions.
  • February 28: Boosting Participation. The importance of incentives to drive engagement.
  • March 7: Targeted employee Engagement. New personalized ways to drive empowered action.
  • March 14: Analytics for Better Outcomes. Integrating employer data to uncover trends, risk drivers, and opportunities for targeted interventions.
  • March 21: Empowered Health. The power of a one-call solution for better outcomes and lower costs.
  • March 28: Taking Engagement to the Next Level. Putting healthcare in the palm of your hand.
  • April 4: Biometrics. A proven way to impact outcomes and improve wellness programs.

How to Register

To register for individual webinar events or the entire Solutions Series, visit www.HealthAdvocate.com or call 866.799.2655.

About West’s Health Advocate Solutions

West’s Health Advocate Solutions makes healthcare easier for over 11,500 organizations and their employees and members nationwide.

Our solutions leverage a unique combination of personalized, compassionate support from healthcare experts using powerful predictive medical data analytics and a proprietary technology platform including mobile solutions to provide clinical support and engage members in their health and well-being.

Our members enjoy a best-in-class, personalized concierge service that addresses almost any clinical, administrative, wellness or behavioral health need. Our clients benefit from high levels of engagement, improved employee productivity and health, and reduced medical costs while simultaneously simplifying and upgrading their health benefits offerings.

For more information, visit us at www.HealthAdvocate.com

 

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Episode 3: Shifting from Wellness to Wellbeing

Workplace wellness programs are now widespread in the U.S., but in order to engage employees, it’s important to create a well-rounded, flexible program that is personalized for each participant. In this episode of Health Advocate’s Ask the Expert, Pam Mortenson, Executive Vice President at West’s Health Advocate Solutions, discusses how organizations can transition from traditional wellness programs to a holistic approach that meets employees where they are in their lives and fulfills their needs.

By Rachel Newman | Medill Reports Chicago

Greg Madden isn’t the man he used to be.

In 2016, the 23-year-old Homewood, Ill., resident embarked on a fitness journey that would turn him into the kind of “health nut” he once mocked. Since June, he’s lost 75 pounds, down from a high of 280.

Madden credits his success to a rigorous diet and exercise regimen. But he also had a tool to help him stay motivated: his Fitbit Blaze, a watch that tracks heart rate and physical activity.

“It’s become a part of my everyday regime to the point where I never leave the house without it,” Madden said.

Though Madden is skeptical about the accuracy of his Fitbit, he says that seeing his step count or heart rate motivates him to work harder at the gym and move around more at his job in an engineering firm.

Employers and health care companies are wondering if they can harness the power of wearable fitness trackers to help consumers replicate Madden’s success. Companies hope that motivating users to exercise will help drive down long-term health care costs.

UnitedHealth Group Inc., the largest health insurance company in the United States, announced a partnership with Fitbit Inc. in January. The Fitbit Charge 2 is the latest fitness tracking device to be integrated into the UnitedHealth Motion rewards program.

Program enrollees can earn up to $4 a day, or about $1,500 a year, in Health Savings Account or Health Reimbursement Account credits if they hit designated activity goals.

UnitedHealth customers have earned more than $255 million in incentives for healthy behavior, said UnitedHealth President David Wichmann in a conference call with investors on Tuesday.

Furthermore, increasing physical activity may drive down health care costs long term, UnitedHealth stated in a press release accompanying the announcement of the Fitbit partnership.

People who walk 10,000 steps a day will use less than $5,000 in health care services annually, compared with $12,000 annually for people who walk less than 2,000 steps a day, according to a 2014 study conducted for UnitedHealth by research firm Savvy Sherpa.

The announcement of UnitedHealth’s partnership with Fitbit comes amid turbulent times for the fitness company, which posted disappointing third quarter earnings in November. Though Fitbit reported a 23 percent revenue increase, a 43 percent decline in profit and a shortfall from projected holiday sales led to a 33 percent drop in the company’s stock the day following its earnings release.

These results may suggest that consumers are turning away from activity tracking devices, which some experts say may not lead to long-term weight loss.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found that adults using wearable fitness tracking devices in addition to dieting and exercising lost an average of about 7.7 pounds over the course of two years. But adults who did not use such a device lost about 13 pounds over the same period of time.

Studies have also shown that many fitness tracking devices end up abandoned shortly after they’re purchased. A third of adults who own a fitness tracker stop using the device after six months, according to research firm Endeavor Partners.

“People tend to get them and are excited about them up front because it’s something new, but the longevity and use of that declines over time,” said Pam Mortenson, executive vice president at Health Advocate Solutions.

But financial incentives, such as earning credits towards future health care expenses, may motivate people to use their fitness tracking devices more consistently, she added.

While it’s too early to tell if wearable technology can drive down health care costs for the general population, some devices can benefit patients managing chronic conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure, Mortenson said.

Chronic conditions account for 86 percent of annual health care spending in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Annual health care spending came to more than $3 trillion in 2015, the CDC reported.

For all patients using health data tracking devices, technology can’t replace the value of person-to-person communication. It’s important to have a health care professional or fitness coach to interpret the data that’s being collected, said Colin Roberts, vice president of product strategy for West Corp.

“The technology is great as a tool, but if there isn’t someone there to act on the data you’ve collected, then you’re not going to see the results,” Roberts said. “In some instances you can see that you walked 15,000 steps today, but what does that mean?”

For Greg Madden, Roberts’ observation has certainly held true. Though he likes his Fitbit, the real secret ingredient to his weight loss has been his fitness coach, who sends him activity challenges through the Fitbit app and helps him analyze the data he’s collecting.

“For me, the numbers might not necessarily matter,” Madden said. “When you look at the numbers and where you are off of your body, it makes you want to push harder.”

By Jared Bilski | HR Morning

There are plenty of technological innovations in the world of benefits services and communications, but HR pros should never forget the importance of old-fashioned human interaction.

That’s one of the main takeaways from a recent Health Advocate study that was part of the whitepaper titled “Striking a Healthy Balance: What Employees Really Want Out of Workplace Benefits Communication.”

Cost, wellness, personal issues and care

The study broke down employees’ preferred methods of benefits communications in a number of areas. (Note: Employees could select more than one answer.)

When asked how they preferred to receive health cost & administrative info, the report found:

  • 73% of employees said directly with a person by phone
  • 69% said via a website/online portal, and
  • 56% preferred an in-person conversation.

Regarding their wellness benefits:

  • 71% of employees preferred to receive the info through a website/online portal
  • 62% said directly with a person by phone, and
  • 56% preferred an in-person conversation.

In terms of personal/emotional wellness issues:

  • 71% of employees preferred to receive the info directly with a person by phone
  • 65% preferred an in-person conversation, and
  • 60% would most like to receive the info via a website/online portal.

Finally, when it came to managing chronic conditions:

  • 66% of employees preferred to receive the info directly with a person by phone
  • 63% would most like to receive the info via a website/online portal, and
  • 61% preferred an in-person conversation.

HR says this, but staffers say …

On top of personal benefits communication, employees want more frequent education. In fact, the top complaint (cited by 41% of employees) about their employers’ benefits was too infrequent communication, the study found.

The report also found a significant disconnect between how often HR and benefits managers say they communicate with employees about benefits and how often workers say they’re actually receiving info.

For example, 28% of HR managers said their health and benefits communication takes place on a weekly basis, but just 4% of employees said they received weekly communications.

Here’s the rest of the breakdown on benefits communication frequency:

  • Just 13% of HR managers said they only communicate health and benefits info annually, biannually or once during onboarding (compared to 47% of employees)
  • Twenty-six percent of HR managers said they communicate on a quarterly basis (and 27% of employees said this as well), and

Nearly a third (31%) of HR managers said they offered monthly communication, compared to just 17% of employees.

The New Rules of Wellness

Keeping Your Whole Organization Healthy in the New Year

Pam Mortenson
Corporate Wellness Magazine | January 17, 2017

When you think “wellness,” the first thing that typically comes to mind is diet and exercise. While these are important components of wellness, it’s important to expand this focus more broadly. Wellness has come a long way in recent years, evolving to encompass a variety of health and well-being initiatives. Including a wider array of components in your wellness program can help your employees improve their health while positively impacting your organization’s costs. In the New Year, consider retiring the old rules and introducing one or more of the new rules of wellness into your program.

Old rules: Siloed, fragmented approach

Wellness is one of a variety of benefits you provide your employees. However, if these benefits are not connected, there’s no easy way to use data from one benefit to help your other benefits be more effective. Additionally, your employees may be frustrated because they need to use a separate phone number and set of website credentials to access all of their benefits. Because your employees find these logins tough to keep track of, they may not be as engaged in the programs as you would like.

New rules: Integrated approach

Providing your employees with a service tying all of your benefits together will help the employee better understand all that you offering them and demonstrate that you care about their health and overall well-being. By integrating your benefits, they connect to one another by state-of-the-art technology with a team of experts trained to dig deeper and ask the hidden question. This allows your employees to access a holistic wellness program that focuses on their total well-being and gives them the help they need to truly improve their health.

Old rules: Diet and exercise

As mentioned, there’s so much more to wellness than just eating right and exercising regularly. But programs that are not moving beyond that do so at the risk of their employees’ well-being.

New rules: Comprehensive, holistic program

Many available programs are not moving beyond the traditional definition of wellness, meaning employees’ full range of physical/clinical, mental/emotional, financial, and work/life balance needs are not met. That’s why providing services to address the whole person in an integrated way is what most employers want to move toward. Addressing the needs of an employer’s entire population is key in driving better health and ultimately reducing health claims costs.

Old rules: One size fits all

In the past, wellness programs were often designed simply, with the same activities for the whole employee population.

New rules: Unique, customized approach

The best wellness programs available meet people where they are. Employees have different goals and starting points when it comes to eating right, being fit, losing weight, and more. They will benefit greatly from a wellness program that includes a wide variety of activities and ways to get help. For example, your wellness program could include interactive challenges, workshops, flyers and tip sheets, a robust blog filled with helpful articles, a healthy meal planner and recipe guide, health and fitness trackers, and more. It could also include online resources employees can access at anytime through a secure portal, along with telephonic and email help from experts like wellness coaches to ensure that they get the personalized guidance they need; and the opportunity to get their questions answered by a real, live person.

Old rules: The stick

Unfortunately, some incentive programs tied to wellness activities unintentionally discourage participants, penalizing employees who do not complete activities by imposing higher health premiums on them, or some other undesirable consequence.

New rules: The carrot

Rewarding employees by providing incentives for participation or meeting goals is more effective. It can be hard for even the most enthusiastic employees to find time to make healthy changes during their busy lives. Offering a meaningful reward has the potential to increase employee engagement, morale, and satisfaction. Offering to deposit money in employees’ HSA, reduce their health premiums, or give cash or gift cards are rewards employees respond to positively.

Old rules: Fitness on their own time

Many wellness initiatives focused on encouraging employees to exercise on their own time outside of work; but employees with busy lives outside the workplace may find it challenging to fit in fitness during their few free hours each week.

New rules: Fitness anytime, even at work

With working hours being more flexible now than ever— due to an “always on” culture where many employees can and do, literally work from anywhere, often putting in extra time—it’s unfeasible to expect that employees only exercise outside of work. Instead, give them opportunities to increase their physical activity level at work. For example, select a program that incorporates online health trackers that can sync to popular apps and devices, helping employees monitor how many steps they’re walking each day. Boost participation by introducing competitions or challenges to motivate participation. If possible, offer access and/or subsidies to on-site fitness classes, a nearby fitness center or walking trails, and encourage employees to take advantage of them during lunchtime and breaks.

Old rules: Wellness apart from biometrics

Many companies are smart enough to know that both wellness and biometrics are important when it comes to lowering costs and improving health outcomes. However, to maximize both programs and opportunities to improve employees’ health, it’s important that they talk to each other.

New rules: Wellness and biometrics working hand-in-hand

The best wellness programs don’t work in a silo—they work hand-in-hand with a biometrics program. Biometric screenings are often the first step toward better health, and wellness programs can provide employees with the personalized guidance they need to keep improving. When an employee discovers a health issue during a screening, getting prompt treatment can lead to improved outcomes and reduced costs. Plus, when paired with a wellness coach, employees have the tools they need to make lifestyle changes to improve their health.

Old rules: Coaching or online resources

Some wellness programs offer coaching. Some offer only online resources. Neither approach meets the needs of all of your employees.

New rules: Coaching and online resources

Consider a high-touch, high-tech approach. Offering a wide range of resources and tools, and ways to access them, is the best way to meet employees where they are. Your wellness program could include live telephonic coaching, email support from coaches, text messages, and automated voice reminders, along with interactive features like challenges and workshops; and information that’s accessible anytime like workshops, videos and blog articles. The best wellness programs allow employees to access the online program features anytime, anywhere through apps and mobile-optimized websites.

Old rules: Just using flyers and emails to communicate

They might be your benefits department’s favorite way to communicate wellness program details and benefits to your employees. But surveys show that your employees feel differently…

New rules: A wide variety of communications channels

Having a wellness program equipped with a multitude of communications channels is an easy way to ensure that every employee’s preferences are met and they are receiving important information about the program, making them more likely to participate. Making it possible to address health and wellness needs over the phone with a live person, through a comprehensive online wellness portal, or through text or email notifications helps meet employees where they are in their wellness journey, leading to lasting healthy behavior and lifestyle changes.

Throwing the old playbook out the window and playing by these new rules of wellness in 2017 can lead to improved engagement in your programs, positively impacting both health outcomes and costs.

About the Author

Pam Mortenson is the Executive Vice President for Wellness Solutions at Health Advocate [www. HealthAdvocate.com]. She brings extensive experience in solving healthcare consumer engagement and communication challenges to West/Health Advocate clients. Her expertise and insights center on balancing best-in-class consumer engagement technologies with lifestyle coaching and support to drive healthier outcomes.

Action Reaction: Work to be done …

Compiled by Paul Wilson | BenefitsPRO
January 2017

“What are your 2017 industry resolutions?”

RETURN TO STRATEGY

“Since 2012 and the passage of the ACA, much of the employee benefits industry has been preoccupied with complaining, confusion and compliance. These three ‘Cs’ have contributed little to improving the employee benefit landscape for employers, employees, or their consultant partners. For 2017 we should resolve to have more substantive conversations about benefits strategy.

These conversations should start with analyzing the current plan’s performance with real data that can be meaningfully applied to legitimate benchmarks. This analysis must be thoughtfully designed to help decision makers decide to pursue initiatives that will make a real difference in the health of their plan and the happiness of their employees. And finally, these initiatives must be integrated into a comprehensive benefit delivery plan that creates measurable outcomes in the areas of efficient administration and effective engagement.

Eric Helman, Chief Strategy Officer, Hodges-Mace

SIMPLIFY, SIMPLIFY

“Looking ahead to 2017, it is important that we as an industry shift our central focus back to the individual employee or consumer. Despite efforts to the contrary, surveys continue to show that benefits are increasingly complicated and confusing for consumers. We should consider ways to simplify access and make benefits more understandable, including providing employees with tools and resources to become better healthcare consumers.

Prioritizing the expansion of value-based benefit plans is a key part of this to drive people to quality, cost-effective care, as well as developing innovative ways to engage employees and encourage a culture of wellness and overall well-being. These efforts benefit clients as well as their employees and can help us hone in on true ROI and VOI. However, 2017 should also be the year we reemphasize personal support. Existing and emerging technology continues to offer our industry so many advantages, but it can’t replace the value of ‘people’ when helping clients’ employees navigate the complexities of healthcare.”

Abbie Leibowitz, M.D., F.A.A.P., chief medical officer, founder and president emeritus, Health Advocate

A BENEFITS RENAISSANCE

“2016 was certainly a year of opportunities and challenges, but as we enter 2017 I have some industry resolutions I would like to share. We are in an insurance renaissance of sorts; this industry will continue to experience new growth and activity for many years to come. I will personally continue being a student of the industry, and work to increase my thought leadership and knowledge. I pledge to continue to push our industry to new heights. 2017 is going to bring many new opportunities (i.e. potential changes to ACA) to educate consumers and business owners. The opportunity to make informed decisions about health care has never been better, and available tools and resources for the industry are only going to improve. Alternative funding mechanisms (self-funding, captives), transparency tools, big data and the ability to bring consulting services should be top of mind for every industry professional.

Brokers and consultants should push themselves to keep improving. Getting out of our comfort zones will be paramount to growth, development and prosperity. Getting involved in industry groups and being more active should also be top of mind. Sit on a committee, mentor new agents, further develop in a best practice group, whether it be NAHU, Assurex, BAN, UBA, Prosential or somewhere else.

Code SixFour pledges to continue to drive industry innovation. Continuously building and improving consultancy tools to automate, bring scale, and heightened professionalism to the benefits industry is our core focus. Paving new roads and trailblazing the ever-evolving employee benefits.”

Chad Schneider, chief sales officer, Code SixFour

EDUCATIONAL EFFORTS

“Sy Syms, founder of retail chain Syms Corporation, famously said that ‘an educated consumer is our best customer.’ This adage applies beyond the retail world and is particularly pertinent to our current health care system, which increasingly requires individuals to act as consumers.

As the health care landscape continues to change with the political, regulatory and economic tides, it’s more important than ever that individuals get smart about what they’re buying—from the basics of how insurance works and how to use it wisely, to how to be a true consumer (how to tell quality, how to comparison shop and how to determine the ‘best fit’). Employers need to do their part by developing a benefits communications strategy encompassing year-round communications, broad and tailored messaging and targeted support while meeting compliance requirements.”

Kim Buckey, VP of client services, DirectPath

RETIREMENT ADVICE

“As we enter into 2017, employers and employees will face new challenges in the retirement industry as the former will be forced to navigate changes necessary to their 401(k) offering brought on by the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule, and as the latter continues to struggle with a shortfall in retirement savings. My New Year’s resolution is to continue to ensure that employers and employees alike know what their options are when it comes to 401(k) plans, and that by leveraging technology, companies can offer unconflicted advice and help employees better prepare for retirement.”

Cynthia Loh, general manager, Betterment for Business

WELLNESS BARRIERS

“In 2017, I hope employer staff responsible for employee benefit plans will take a more holistic view of employee total wellbeing when assessing stakeholder needs, building the business case for leaders’ support, designing strategy and applying investments, and communicating and promoting available and new programs and resources. In addition to top-down evaluations as summarized in colorful dashboards, risk assessment scores, and the like, ideally employers will also solicit employee feedback and input. This bottomup effort should seek to surface the barriers to employee understanding, motivation and capability in improving their wellbeing—whether their physical, financial, emotional or social health—so that solutions can ‘meet employees where they are’ and in turn, better drive desired behaviors and outcomes.”

Ruth Hunt, principal, Xerox HR Services

How to keep tempers in check during touchy start-of-year tasks

Dana Wilkie | SHRM

The end of one year and the start of another bring tasks that can cause friction in any workplace: Managers may have to deliver bad news to employees during performance reviews; department heads may need to explain why they overspent a budget, or quibble about dividing the new budget; and workers may grow angry about the size of their bonus or salary increase.

All these conversations can be breeding grounds for hostility, finger-pointing, defensiveness and more. And stress left over from the holidays can compound people’s emotions when they approach touchy subjects at work, said Norbert “Bert” Alicea, vice president of employee assistance programs and work/life services at benefits solutions firm Health Advocate, based in Plymouth Meeting, Pa.

“The holidays can bring long-term issues to the surface,” he said. “They can create stress, anxiety and depression among [some] employees. The combination of both professional and personal stress can be a major contributor to tension and conflict.”

How can HR pros ensure that interactions remain civil?

Performance Reviews

No one likes to hear negative feedback during their performance review. The discussions between worker and supervisor can be ripe for hurt feelings, arguments and blame.

“The way employees are assessed is one of the biggest unnecessary stress factors,” said Andrew Faas, founder of The Faas Foundation in Toronto, in the Ontario province of Canada,- and author of From Bully to Bull’s Eye: Move Your Organization Out of the Line of Fire (RCG Press, 2017). “Subjectivity, ambiguity, biases and the ability to manipulate the performance management system has created a loathing of” such reviews.

Long before face-to-face reviews happens, managers need training on how to conduct them, said Catherine Mattice Zundel, SHRM-SCP, a consultant with Civility Partners in La Mesa, Calif.

“Performance management is one place a lot of organizations fail miserably,” she said. “So many organizations never train managers on how to ‘do’ performance management. Every single manager out there should know how to prepare themselves for workers who react angrily, because they should’ve gone through a refresher training before they had the conversation. If you’re not offering a refresher training on performance evaluations, do.”

As part of that training, Alicea suggested asking supervisors to write down a list of reasons to help their employees understand why they received their rating. Remind supervisors to give employees suggestions to make improvements and to refer employees who feel that personal issues are keeping them from accomplishing their goals to HR.

Carole Lieberman, a Beverly Hills, Calif.-based psychiatrist and expert witness in employment cases, said it’s always a good idea to first give an employee her performance review in writing.

“Let them address, in writing, what they disagree with, then the manager and employee can meet to discuss their differences of opinion, after each one has had time to think about it and cool down,” she said. Before the reviews, the HR department can remind supervisors and subordinates of some ground rules, Mattice Zundel said.

“This is our livelihood and who we are, so of course we’re emotional when someone tells us we aren’t meeting expectations,” she said. “HR can suggest to employees—well before evaluations are scheduled—to keep emotions in check. This is a tall order. This is work. But employees who want to be heard must stick to the facts when they disagree. Keep it factual, unemotional, and focused on you.”

Coach workers on how to react positively to what they perceive to be negative feedback, Alicea added.

HR managers should coach workers to turn negative feedback “into a positive or [take steps] to rectify the issue—without blaming others.” If you a personal issue is interfering with someone’s work, HR should encourage a discussion “to see if resources like an employee assistance program may be available to help relieve stress or address setbacks.”

Budget Tensions

Workplace budgets are often a root cause of stress and tension at this time of year. While HR is not typically involved in other departments’ financial discussions, those discussions can end up on HR’s doorstep if conversations become heated.

“The best route for HR is to work directly with managers involved [in budget talks] to shift the discussion in a more positive and productive direction,” Alicea said. “Managers set the tone, and the boundaries, for their departments, and their attitude and behavior will determine how their teams respond to potential conflict. When HR works with managers to overcome their anger or strife, it can help create an environment of mutual respect and civility, leading to easier resolution of budget reconciliation issues.”

In the case of an overspent budget, it is tempting for a manager to point fingers—for instance, to blame the company for underfunding his department, to blame other departments for siphoning off his funds, or to blame subordinates for failing to be financially responsible.

“In the case of pointing fingers on overspending, this comes down to the organization’s culture,” Mattice Zundel said. “If your organization has a negative culture of blame, the only thing HR can do is to remind people to stay civil and keep eyes peeled for any behavior or language that is inappropriate. And in 2017, you better get moving on culture change.”

One way HR can keep such talks civil, Lieberman said, is by suggesting that managers vote by secret ballot on how best to spend the year’s budget, or how to avoid overspending in the future.

“Then a meeting can be held to discuss what suggestions were made, without ascribing these suggestions to the individuals who made them,” she said. “This way, employees can more objectively discuss what expenditures will help the company as a whole, without being influenced by whether or not they like the employee who suggested it.”

Post-Election Fallout

While the 2016 presidential campaign is over, politics may continue to be a source of friction in the workplace, said Jeanne C. Meister, founding partner of Future Workplace, an HR executive network and research firm in New York City.

“HR can expect the bitter aftereffects of the election to continue well into the first quarter of 2017,” she said. “Business leaders must prepare for comments about politics entering into [company] town hall meetings, during team presentations and on the factory floor. Do not even think of banning this. It will have no impact at all.”

Mattice Zundel suggests sending an e-mail to all employees—at all levels—reminding them how to conduct themselves during such discussions.

“Remind them that your organization is a workplace focused on respect and civility, so emotional and angry political conversations have no place in your company,” she said.

She said HR can also offer these reminders:

*Although political conversations evoke strong emotions, everyone should keep their volume and emotions in check.

*If you don’t like where a conversation is headed, say, “Excuse me, I’m going to step out” and walk away. *Don’t expect to convince others to agree with your political views. “If you go into political conversations knowing it will only be a conversation, and you will never be successful in swaying people, it can help keep your frustrations in check,” Mattice Zundel said.

*Agree to disagree. “The workplace is already full of different people who believe in different religions, ways of life, and more, so continue to celebrate those differences and enjoy your co-workers,” Mattice Zundel said.