When Big Bang Technology started out two and a half years ago, it was just Max and Cam. But in the last year, the growth of the company has created new challenges and opportunities for us to develop a company culture that supports everyone at Big Bang. Armed with that mandate, Big Bang set off to create a company health plan that would not only keep all of us healthy, but also address our individual needs. Read more...
All too often, companies approach health benefits in a top-down, dictatorial way. They base their decision making on the cost to the company, and not the needs of the employees. Employees are usually shut out from the decision making process because the thinking seems to be, the less they know, the better. But at Big Bang we’d like to challenge the “ignorance is bliss” model and suggest that small businesses actually have the advantage of size - they should use it by being inclusive about deciding on the structure of their plans.
But before we could even ask staffers about the benefits they’d like to have, we needed to do some preliminary research about our options. After arming ourselves with information about what was available, we scheduled a workshop with the gang to present our findings and get their feedback.
In order for our workshop to yield any real results we needed to approach it with thoughtful consideration, meaning that we needed to ask a lot of good questions. As a starting point, benefit premiums are based on certain variables. Variables such as age of employees and size of the company are fixed, at least initially. But there are independent variables like employer/employee contribution percentages, or level of extended health coverage, which at a premium level covers things like massage therapy. Those are the variables that we wanted to zero in on during the workshop. By asking the right questions of your staff you can gauge what their expectations are regarding a whole host of insurance issues.
We began by asking them general questions about what areas of health are important to them, and their basic regime. We broke overall health down into four subsections - Nutrition Health, Physical Health, Mental Health and Beauty Health - and asked everyone to rank those in terms of importance. We also did a word association exercise to expose our real health priorities.
Next we asked specific questions about health habits. Do they have regular check-ups with a GP? How about an eye doctor? Or the dentist? Is access to mental health support a priority? During the workshop we also asked the gang about what kinds of health expenses they were currently paying out of pocket. Would they rather pay a higher monthly premium to ensure they had unlimited access to those resources without paying out of pocket? (Those costs would be things like prescription drugs, eye wear, teeth cleaning and polishing, or even an appointment with a nutritionist.) Then we asked practical questions about health insurance and affordability. What level of contribution did they feel Big Bang should make? And what was a reasonable dollar amount per month that they could afford to spend on their company insurance?
We learned some very interesting things from our research, and even more from talking to everyone in the office about what their needs and expectations are. We learned that preventative care is not as big a priority to the insurance companies as it is to us. (Insurance companies, for example, won’t pay for the removal of pre-cancerous moles, although they will pay for your skin cancer treatment.) We also learned that some insurance companies will provide access to various private counseling services for a negligibly higher premium. This was a resource, we learned during our workshop, which was important to staffers.
But the workshop had a value beyond benefits. Not only did we learn a lot about the insurance available in the market, and what the Big Bang gang thinks about their own health and our potential plan, we also learned that doing exercises like this can strengthen our team. When you take a group approach to what might be considered a very personal thing - health - you build empathy into your team.
There is also the added advantage of having one plan for the entire team, which lowers our premiums. This is particularly important for small businesses, who typically get slammed with higher premiums simply because of the size of their staff. Collective bargaining with insurance companies means everyone gets the lowest rates possible, even if they are paying for coverage they themselves might not use. Some members of our team have vision problems, but by talking through the coverage options with everyone, the gang members with perfect vision are a lot less likely to resent paying extra to ensure we get the the highest coverage for vision care.
Getting a company health plan follows from the belief that we all spend most of our adult lives working; it is in Big Bang’s best interest to look after all of us, keep us healthy, and by extension, productive. It’s also the right thing to do.