LivingSocial, a company that provides a global marketplace for online deals on a variety of services and activities, has partnered with Willis Towers Watson’s OneExchange, a private health insurance exchange, to provide health benefits to its active employees. The company previously worked with another exchange vendor but “costly problems and rising employee dissatisfaction with benefits made a benefit program change an absolute necessity,” according to a company spokesperson.

“Because we’re a tech company with a workforce composed mostly of tech-savvy Millennials, it’s crucial to give our employees a consumer-grade experience via technically advanced tools,” said senior vice president of HR, Colleen Wood. “For us to retain the talent we need in today’s tech market, advanced technology is essential in everything we do. And how our benefit programs are perceived in the market affects our ability to evolve and thrive as a company. During our competitive search, it became clear that Willis Towers Watson and OneExchange were best equipped to meet our needs.”

LivingSocial self-identifies as a company in transition in the midst of considerable business upheaval, but senior director of operations David Chianese expressed confidence in OneExchange as “the partner that’ll help you navigate the ups and downs to get where you need to go.”

A comprehensive case study of LivingSocial’s decision to switch to OneExchange, as well as advice to other employers considering a private health insurance exchange for their active employees, is available on the Willis Towers Watson website by clicking here.

A growing number of health insurers are implementing so-called “narrow networks” of medical services providers to control costs. But while about half of all plans on public exchanges had narrow networks in 2014, it has taken longer for employers to embrace them. According to Trevis Parson, chief actuary of Health and Group Benefits for Willis Towers Watson, employers have been waiting to see evidence that narrow networks still deliver value in addition to lowering cost.

In a recent article in Business Insurance, Parson explained what motivates employers to consider narrow networks. “Really finding value is what employers are after,” he said. “That’s the fuel for these narrow networks on the large-employer group side.”

Narrow networks are networks that limit providers to those that have the best outcomes and lowest cost. While these types of networks in theory are what large employers seek, there are still too few of them to support a wholesale shift, said Parson. This is primarily because large employers need coverage across many states.

However, while Parson noted that early data on narrow networks is promising, “[Employers] want to see evidence before they act. The last thing they want to do is disrupt employees.”

For the complete article in Business Insurance, click here.

New data from a recent Willis Towers Watson survey of U.S. employers showed that 75% ranked stress as their number one employee health and productivity concern. However, a comparison of the views of employers and employees based on the employer survey and a concurrent survey of U.S. employees revealed a significant disconnect on what the two groups consider to be the top causes of workplace stress.

These findings are from the Willis Towers Watson’s 2015/2016 Global Staying@Work Survey of 487 U.S. employers and the Willis Towers Watson’s 2015/2016 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey of more than 5,000 employees.

When asked to identify the primary sources of stress in the workplace, employers and employees overlapped in just one of their three top choices, “inadequate staffing.” Employees consistently identified issues related to their personal workplace experience, such as low pay. In contrast, employers focused more on larger organizational and change management issues.

According to Steve Nyce, senior economist at Willis Towers Watson, these differences are an obstacle to employers interested in reducing workplace stress. “To address workplace stress, employers first need to understand its root cause from their employees’ point of view,” said Nyce. “Those who base their efforts on misguided assumptions risk trying to solve the wrong problems, and could end up wasting money and alienating employees. A good place for employers to start is by asking employees directly what’s causing their stress and how they can help.”

To read the press release from Willis Towers Watson, click here.

Most employers recognize the importance of paid time off (PTO) as a means for employees to recharge and return to work refreshed. In fact, research shows that employees who take time off are more productive than those who stay at work and do not use their PTO.

But do traditional PTO plan designs and administration strategies work? Or are there better alternatives?

These were questions posed in a recent article in Employee Benefit News (EBN) on PTO banks. In contrast to traditional PTO plans, which allocate a set number of days for specific types of PTO such as sick leave, personal days, and other reasons, PTO banks leave the decision of how paid time off is spent to the employees–a move that employers report has resulted in less absenteeism.

However, according to Jackie Reinberg, national practice leader for disability management for Willis Towers Watson, employers considering PTO banks need to take into consideration both national and state regulations related to mandatory paid sick leave when they design their PTO banks. In the EBN article, Reinberg noted there is wide variation from state to state.

In addition to addressing the challenge of complying with regulations, Reinberg recommended three questions employers ask themselves when designing PTO banks to ensure they are meeting the needs of their workforce:

  • What kind of culture do you have? What is your current program like and what is the compelling business case for change?
  • Are you competitive? Are you in sync with your business rivals and your clients?
  • Are your demographics changing? Millennials put a high value on discretionary time off.

For more on PTO banks, read the complete article in EBN.