Human resource specialists know the importance of workplace wellness. They successfully implement strategies that improve employee health in the office, including nutritious snack options in the minibar, standing workstations, and everyone’s favorite, chair massages.
But wellness isn’t something that can be achieved in just eight hours a day. What else can you as an HR specialist do to encourage employees to take their health to heart after the clock strikes five?
Keep wellness top of mind
The reality is, you don’t have much control over what employees do or don’t do to affect their health outside the office. You can’t hold their hands while they go to the dentist or remind them every night to go to bed on time.
What you can do is educate them on general wellness and encourage them to use their FSA/HSA accounts to achieve it. It’s a win-win. The company will have healthier and therefore more efficient employees. And employees will save money by remembering to use their tax-free dollars, which is important when you consider the average worker loses $170 annually to FSA expiration dates.
Of course, sending out a fourth-quarter email suggesting employees use their FSAs to stock up on bandages and ibuprofen before Dec. 31 isn’t going to achieve either goal. Instead, make it a year-round conversation.
Start educating employees now on how they can use their money to get healthy. Try highlighting one eligible expenditure in the employee newsletter each month or posting a list of the most impactful ones on the intranet. Here are some to get you started, all of which may be subject to getting a doctor’s recommendation.
It’s an easy sell and most employees aren’t aware they can use their FSA accounts for something that feels so luxurious. But they can, and you should want them to, considering the many benefits massage offers, including improved circulation, blood pressure regulation, and stress reduction.
Drug and alcohol treatment
It’s easy to see why this would benefit the employee and the company, but the cost is often a deterrent to seeking inpatient treatment. The IRS considers alcohol and drug treatment, including meals and boarding at an inpatient facility, a medical expense. The same goes for transportation costs to and from Alcoholics Anonymous meetings if deemed medically necessary for treatment.
Breast pumps are a working mama’s best friend. While many health plans cover the cost of the initial breast pump purchase, employees can use FSA/HSA accounts to pay for ongoing supplies. They can also apply funds toward breastfeeding and childcare classes.
Employees can use FSA/HSA funds to purchase eyeglasses and contacts with a prescription. Or, they can apply them toward corrective eye surgery, including laser procedures and radial keratotomy. What company wouldn’t want their employees to see better?
This is a biggie. Diagnosing and treating infertility is costly, and many health insurance plans don’t cover it. But in the flood of information, they’re getting at the doctor’s office, would-be parents might not think to hand over their FSA/HSA card at check-out. Remind them they can use tax-free money to pay for diagnostic procedures, surgery and even in vitro fertilization.
Employees can use FSA/HSA funds to pay for tutoring a child with special needs as recommended by a physician. This includes the costs associated with teaching Braille to someone who’s visually impaired, teaching lip reading to someone who is hearing-impaired and language training for someone has speech impairment related to a birth defect. It also includes tuition, meals, and lodging associated with attending a specialized school for learning disabilities.
Having a tobacco-free campus is essential to protect individuals from the harms of secondhand smoke, but it’s unlikely to deter individual employees from smoking outside of work. Smoking-cessation programs and prescriptions drugs do help though, and employees can use tax-free dollars to pay for them. Just know over-the-counter nicotine-replacement products are not included.
Employees cannot use their FSA/HSA accounts for gym memberships, diet products or weight-loss program fees for appearance purposes. They can, however, use them for weight-loss programs to treat diagnosed medical conditions such as obesity, hypertension or heart disease.
That’s not even the half of it. Check out this full list of ways employees can use their FSA/HSA funds year-round.
A longtime freelance writer, Shelly Flannery has previously served as editor-in-chief of About Health, a 24-page consumer health magazine and editor-in-chief of Vim & Vigor magazine, a 56-page consumer health magazine syndicated in markets across the U.S. and Canada.