Science and Religion, Bill Nye and the Mayor of San Antonio – A Clash of World Views in Texas


The being cannot be termed rational or virtuous who obeys any authority but that of reason. Mary Wollstonecraft

After delivering a keynote last week in Roanoke on the topics of science and reason, exuberance, liberty, rejuvenation and improved men and women with ample references to Robert Green Ingersoll, I was ready for the first episode of a new Netflix series that complements all these qualities, namely, Bill Nye Saves the World.

The first episode entertained, informed and educated – three things that every keynote should do. The episode focused on demonstrating the reality and frightful consequences of climate change – and how a dire future could be mitigated by changes in public policies and innovative scientific safeguards during the coming decades. Using a panel of experts, special reports from around the world and a series of demonstrations, Nye made clear the dangers, and plain the solutions.

However, without a sea change in the science literacy of the political class, the future looks grim.

The Show

Bill Nye is a skilled promoter of science. His new show commenced just days after the March for Science in Washington, DC, Los Angeles and cities across the U.S. and the world.

Nye’s goal is to promote a scientific view, a key feature of the Reason dimension of REAL wellness. This orientation is critical in America for dealing effectively with the onslaught of religion in public policy by Republican politicians (and a few Democrats). The extent of climate change denial and all forms of bad politics inspired by reliance on revelation, holy books, indoctrination of the young and the privileged status of religions, no matter how ludicrous their dogmas and beliefs (see Scientology) is a threat to well being far greater than most recognize. Carl Sagan, who gave us the wonderful insights of Baloney Detector guidelines for good decision-making, said that a secular society dependent on technology that seeks to keep separate matters of church and state must promote a science – aware population.

This is not something we enjoy in America. The result? The leadership and politics we have today at the national and many state levels.

Because reason and science are not priorities in our school systems, we elect dunderheads who are aggressively anti-science. Things are worse than bad because people do not understand how science works and its applications in daily life – the religious elements have actually created an air of anti-science. Science is the bane of superstition; the magical thinkers, however, do understand that ignorance is their friend.

As Nye put it:

When presented with evidence that conflicts with your worldview, you’ve either got to change your entire worldview which you’ve held for decades or your whole life, or deny the evidence. And denying the evidence is easier.

Surprisingly, Bill Nye believes that if we work at it and present reason in effective ways, people will come around. I don’t believe that, though I surely want to.

An Egregious Example of Antediluvian Thinking

At a forum for mayor candidates last week, current San Antonio mayor Ivy Taylor was asked about the root causes of poverty in San Antonio. Her response:

Broken people. People not being in relationships with their creator and therefore not being in good relationship with their families and their communities and not being productive members of society. So I mean, I think that’s the ultimate answer.

Translation: Nonreligious people are at the root of society’s ills.

This strikes me as being unintentionally insulting to everyone in San Antonio who is not a judgmental, anti-science Christian fundamentalist. More seriously, it’s a reflection of the fact that religion can and does render otherwise sentient beings ignorant, socially intolerant and annoyingly divisive. This mayor and just about every Republican in the Congress and State Houses across the land are ill-suited for political office.

The mayor should know that there is no evidence for a sky god creator, and if there were such an entity we’d have no reliable clues as to what a relationship with him/her or it might entail. Based on existing religious dogmas, I’d guess it would entail lots of bowing and cringing, fear and guilt.

As Annie Laurie Gaylor explained in a Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) news release on April 25th, the least religious countries of this world:

* Have the lowest rates of violent crime, homicide and corruption.

* Are the best places to raise children and be a mother.

* Have the lowest levels of intolerance against racial and ethnic minorities.

* Score highest when it comes to women’s rights and gender equality.

* Have the greatest protection and enjoyment of political and civil liberties.

* Are better at educating their youth in reading, math and science.

* Are the most peaceful, the most prosperous and have the highest quality of life.

The correlation between lower religiosity and higher societal well-being is not limited to an international analysis. This trend also exists within United States. Those states that are the most religious also have a high occurrence of societal ills. The most religious states in the nation tend to have the highest rates of poverty, obesity, infant mortality, sexually transmitted diseases, teen pregnancy, murder and violent crime.

The mayor uses her religiosity to guide her politics, but the office she holds is not a pulpit for injecting superstition into public policy. Godlessness is not the root of all, or any evil, for that matter. There is no evidence linking non-belief in a sky god with family harmony or functioning in a productive capacity in society.

Godlessness is not the problem: superstition that fosters resistance to reality is the problem.

The mayor’s remarks call to mind the words of Edward Gibbon in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire describing early Christianity:

It was not in this world that the primitive Christians were desirous of making themselves either agreeable or useful.

All the best. Be well and think straight and try to look on the bright side of life.

Employee wellness is serious business 

Today’s workers spend most of their time sitting behind desks. In the early 1960’s, almost half the jobs in private industry in the U.S. required at least moderate physical activity. Now less than 20% of those occupations require this level of activity, causing Americans’ level of daily energy expenditure to drop significantly.  One survey suggests that inactivity is as dangerous as smoking!  

Current research continues to show that companies with fit and healthy employees have a distinct advantage over companies that don’t. Let’s look at some statistics.  According to a 2013 report on a study conducted by the Health Enhancement Research Organization, employees who eat healthy are more engaged at work and 25% more likely to have higher job performance. The same survey also found that employees who exercise for 30 minutes, three times a week, are not only more engaged, but also 15% more likely to have higher job performance, lower levels of stress and increased mental resources. Further results of the study indicated that healthy employees take fewer sick days. Absenteeism is 27% lower for those workers who eat healthy and get regular exercise.  Another report conducted by the Northeast Business Group on Health found that overweight employees cost their employers $73.1 billion a year and file twice the number of workers’ compensation claims.   

As the previously mentioned research shows, having healthy employees is important for productivity, culture, and cost containment. So where does a company start?  First of all, upper management must be supportive of the program. Researchers found that people who had a highly supportive environment at work not only exercised more, but also engaged in increased levels of leisure time activities while they were away from the office. Once the company’s leadership is on board, the focus should be on stress management, nutrition and exercise programs. Wellness programs don’t have to cost a fortune – there are many low-cost options that cover these three areas.  Studies show that the key to success with wellness programs is consistency. Programs were more successful when offered to employees on an ongoing basis for a long duration. Web-based programs, when administered for three plus years, saved employees an average of $332 annually in personal costs. The study also found that wellness program participants are more likely to take responsibility for their own health and have regular physicals and preventative screenings.  

When starting a wellness program, it’s important to remember that employees come in all shapes, sizes  and fitness levels. The program must allow everyone to comfortably participate at their own level.  Companies who make the effort and offer quality programs in a supportive environment will definitely see the many benefits that will ultimately boost the bottom line and make positive changes in their employees’ lives both at work and at home.    


Bob Carpenter is the Principal at Hockessin Athletic Club. HAC has been serving the Hockessin community since 2007 and will celebrate its tenth anniversary on June 10, 2017. For more information go to Bob also sits on the Corporate Board of Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware.To learn more about Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware, visit

The Effects of Compensation on Employees Work Performance

HRM strives to achieve organizational goals and the goals of employees through effective personnel programs policies and procedures. Successful performances of the personnel function can greatly enhance the bottom line of any organization. The personnel practitioners however are challenged more today than at any time in the history by a changing and more demanding labor force that has high expectation about the work place. At the same time, rapidly advancing technologies and outside influences are changing the nature of our jobs. It is thus more critical and more difficult to maintain a work environment that motivates and satisfies Human Resources.


Edward flippo states: “personnel management is the planning, organizing, directing and controlling of the procurement, development compensation, integration, maintenance and separation of human resources to the end that individual, organizational and societal objectives are accomplished.”


According to Wayne. F. Cascio “Compensation which includes direct cash payment, indirect payments in the form of employee benefits and incentives to motivate employees to strive for higher levels of productivity is a critical component of the employment relationship. Compensation affected by forces as diverse as labor market factors. Collective bargaining, government legislation and top management philosophy regarding pay and benefits”     

Compensation may be defined as money received for the performance of work plus many kind of benefits and services that organizations provide their employee.

Compensation is recompense, reward, wage or salary given by an organization to persons or a group of persons in return to a work done, services rendered, or a contribution made towards the accomplishment of organizational goals. Wage, dearness allowance, bonus and other allowance are examples of monetary compensation, while good accommodation, children education, transport facilities, subsidized ration of essential commodities, etc. come under non-monetary compensation. In short, wage paid to collar workers or salaries paid to white collar employee can be classified as compensation.

A good compensation package is a good motivator. Hence, the primary responsibility of the HR manager is to ensure that the company’s employees are well paid.


To attract capable applicants. To retain current employee so that they don’t quit. The employee is motivated for better performance. Reward desired behavior. To ensure equity. To control cost.Facilitate easy understanding by all i.e. employee operating manager and HR personnel




The remuneration paid, for the service of labour in production, periodically to an employee/worker. Wages means any economic compensation paid by the employer under some contract to his workers for the services rendered by them. Usually refer to the hourly rate paid to such groups as production and maintenance employees’ wages include family allowance, relief, pay, financial support etc.


Salary is influenced by the size of a company by the specific industry, and in part by the contribution of the incumbent to the process of decision-making. Salary refers to the weekly or monthly rates paid to clerical, administrative and professional employees. Salary is determined by mutual agreement between the individual and the employer.


An incentive scheme is a plan or programs to motivate industries or group performance. An incentive program is most frequently built on monetary, but may also include a variety of non- monetary rewards or prizes.


The effective use of incentives depends on three variables. They are:

1. The individual.

2. The work situation.

3. The incentive plan.

Factors influencing compensation:

1. Organization’s capacity to pay

2. Prevailing pay and benefits in the industry:

3. Compensation in the industry and availability of special competent personnel

4. Flexibility, i.e. kind of competencies and abilities in managers:

5. Performance/productivity/responsibilities of individual.

6. Organization philosophy such as to be leader or pay prevailing rates.

7. Qualifications and relevant experience.

8. Stability of employment and advancement opportunities.  


“Compensation literally means to counterbalance to offset, and to make up for. It implies an exchange. Compensation translates into different meaning among countries and even overtime”.

Society View:

According to G.T Milkovich and bloom “perception of compensation differ within countries as well. Some in society may see pay difference as a measure of justice.


Stockholder View:

To stockholder, executive’s pay is of special interest. In united state stock option are commonly believed to tie pay of executives to the financing performance of the company.



Employee may see compensation as an exchange of service rendered or as a reward for a job well done. Compensation to some reflects the value for their personal skills and abilities, or the return for the education training they have acquired. The pay individual receive for the work they perform is usually the major source of personal income and financial security and hence a vital determinants of an individual economic and social well being.



Managers also have a stake in compensation: it directly influences their success in two ways. First it is a major expense competitive pressure both internationally and domestically, forces managers to consider the affordability of their compensation decisions. Studies show that many enterprises labor costs account for more than 50% of total costs. Among some industries, such as service or public employment, this figure is even higher.

In addition to treating pay as an expense, a manager also treats compensation as a possible influence on employee work attitude and behavior and their organization performance. The way the people are paid affects the quality of their work, their focus on customer needs, and their willingness to be flexible and learn new skills, to suggest innovation and improvement, and even their interest in union or legal action against their employer. 



Total compensation includes pay received directly as cash (e.g., base wage, merit increases, incentives, and cost of living adjustment) or indirectly through benefits and services (e.g., pensions, health insurance, paid time off). Programs that distribute compensation to employees can be designed in an unlimited number of ways, and a single employer typically uses more than one program. The major categories of compensation include base wage, merit pay, short and long term incentives, and employee benefits and services.

Base wage

Base wage is the basic cash compensation that an employer pays for the work performed. Base wage tends to reflect the value of the work or skills and generally ignores difference attributable to individual employees. Some pay systems set base wage as a function of the skill or education an employee possesses; this is common for engineers and scientists. Periodic adjustments to base wages may be made on the basis of change in the overall cost of living or inflation, changes in what other employers are paying for the same work, or changes in experience/ performance/ skills of employees.


Incentives also tie pay directly to performance. Sometimes referred to as variable compensation, incentives may be long or short term, and can be tied to the performance of an individual employee, a team of employees, combination of individuals, team of employees, a total business unit, or some combination of individuals, teamed unit. Performance objectives may be defined as cost savings, volume produced, quality standards met, revenues, return on investments or increased profits; the possibilities are endless.   

Long-term incentives are intended to focus employee efforts on multi year result. Top managers or professionals are often offered stock ownership or bonuses to focus on long-term organizational objectives such return on investments, market share, return on net assets and the like. Coca-Cola grants shares of stock to selected “key contributors” who make outstanding contribution to the firm’s success. Microsoft, Pepsi, Wal Mart and Proctor & Gamble offer stock options to all their employees. These companies believe that having a stake in the company supports a culture of ownership. Employees will behave like owners. 

Incentives and merit pay differs. Although both may influence performance, incentives do so by offering pay to influence future behavior. Merit on the other hand, recognizes outstanding past performance. The distinction is a matter of timing. Incentives systems are offered prior to the actual performance; merit pay on the other hand, typically is not communicated beforehand. 

The national commission on labor makes the following recommendation with respect to incentives:

(a) The application of incentives schemes has usually to be selected and restricted to industries and occupations where it is possible to measure on an agreed basis, the output of workers or a group of concerned workers and maintain a substantial amount of control over its quality.

(b) Incentive schemes have to embrace as many employees of an enterprise as possible and need not be limited only to operative or direct workers.

(c) A careful selection of occupations should be made for launching incentives scheme with the help of work-study teams commanding the confidence of both the employer and employees. The incentive scheme is required to be simple so that the workers are able to understand its full implications. The employers need to ensure that external factors such as non-availability of raw material and components, transport difficulties and accumulation of stock do not exert an unfavorable impact on incentive schemes.


(d)   Production has to be organized in such a way, which does not provide incentive wage on one day, and unemployment on the other day- there should be a provision of the fullback wage as a safeguard against it.

(e)    According to Subramaniam, there are several prerequisites to the effective installation and operation of payment system:

a.) It should be developed and introduced with the involvement of the workers concerned in a harmonious climate of industrial relations.

b) Work-study precedes the installation of incentive programs.

c) The wage structure should be rationalized on the basis of job evaluation before devising an incentive plan.

d) The objective to be accomplished through incentives should be defined and accordingly, an attempt should be made to select a scheme, which is most suitable to accomplish them.


The fringe benefit systems purported to develop a climate for healthy employer-employee relationship, minimize excessive labor turnover costs and provide a feeling of individual security against hazards and problems of life with a view to eventually enhancing employee loyalty to the company and improving productivity.

M.Chandra lucidly describes fringe benefits provided by the employers to their employees under the statutory provision or on a voluntary basis. The social services provided under the factories Act, 1948, in the manufacturing industries include canteen, rest shelters, crèche , storage or lockers, sitting arrangement, bathing and washing facilities and appointment of welfare officers, etc. other benefits include festival, year-end profit sharing, attendance and production bonuses, protective equipment’s, free supply of food items on concessional rates. Social security system provides benefits such as provident fund, employees state insurance (ESI) scheme, retrenchment compensation, employment injury compensation, maternity benefits, gratuity, pension, dependent allowance and contribution toward pension and gratuity claims.

In addition, other facilities enjoyed by the workers include medical and health care, restaurants, cooperative credit societies and consumer stores, company housing, house rent allowance. Recreational and cultural services, clubs, cash assistance. Some employers also provide education, transport facilities and conveyance allowance.

Laxmi Narain points that fringe benefits are an integral part of the reward system in the public sector undertaking and relate to management motivation similar to basic compensation.

Sound Healing That Resembles Our Ancestors’ Techniques

Sound Healing, is the conscious use of the energy of sound to promote human systems’ health, balance, and wellness in the physical body, the energetic body, the spiritual body, or a combination of all three. Scientific studies have in fact proven that the same way sound can change the molecular structure of water, sound or vibration, can also change or effect consciousness. Dating back one thousand years to ancient Egyptians and Australia’s Aborigines, many of our ancestors have used sound to heal themselves or to help them access higher levels of consciousness through traditional instruments and chants or mantra to restore balance to mind, body, and spirit.

The entire universe is in a constant state of vibration and every atom in it resonates at it own unique frequency. Frequency is measured in hertz, which is the number of cycles per second at which sound vibrates. Illness and disease occur when any single part of our body begins to vibrate at a different rate, and in turn, becomes out of harmony with the rest. Because the cells in the human body are made up of 70 to 80% water, they are the perfect conductor of sound to help bring your physical body back to perfect health.

Constant stresses in daily life trigger the brain’s “fight or flight” response, creating a constant imbalance, making it more difficult for some to get their bodies and minds back to a space of tranquility and wholeness, which creates imbalance and illness. Sound is starting to become more and more prevalent in our society for healing. Psychologists are now using sound to help children with learning disabilities. Sound has also been found to assists people with sleep disorders by altering brain wave states. In today’s modern society, sound therapy is becoming one of the most powerful of therapies, due to results of a wide array of ailments.

The answer to these constant stresses in life is simple is simple right? Slow down, relax, take time for yourself, exercise, eat right, spend time with your family, sit outdoors and get grounded. While these things may sound very simple, we live in a different world than we did 30 years ago. Homes with both parents working, daily stresses and larger demands at work, running the kids to and from their schools, and many after school activities, make just simply taking the time to live a fulfilled life and enjoying your family hardly existent anymore. This is why we need to be cognizant of keeping our bodies in a continuous and harmonious state. Slowly but surely though, we are trying to get back to those times of ease and centering ourselves with what’s important in life.

Findings of resonant frequency of organs is happening worldwide by doctors to aid in vibrating the entire body back into a state of health, and transmute illness and diseases such as anxiety, PTSD, migraines, depression, memory issues, chronic pain, sleep disorders, and even cancer. “You can really look at disease as a form or disharmony,” says Dr. Gaynor director of oncology at the Strang-Cornell Cancer Prevention Center in New York, and author of Sounds of Healing. “We know that sound and music have profound effects on the immune system, which clearly do have a lot to do with cancer.” [1]

There was also a study in April of 2016, that involved patient with Alzheimer’s Disease. Researchers from the University of Toronto, Wilfrid Laurier University, and the Baycrest Centre Hospitals conducted a study of these patients in different stages of the disease, subjecting them to sound simulation at 40 hertz. They noted “promising” results with cognition, clarity, and alertness. Lee Bartel, one of the authors of these findings stated that,”Parts of the brain appear to be at the same communication frequency, and that frequency is about 40 Hz. So when you have a deterioration of that – when you have too little of it – the two parts of the brain that want to talk to each other, like the thalamus and the hippo campus, the short-term memory to the long-term memory, they can’t talk to each other, they won’t communicate, so you won’t have long-term memory.” Bartel explained that the sound-simulation treatment at 40 Hz leads to an “increased” frequency, which allows “parts of the brain to talk to each other again.” [2]

There are various methods of utilizing sound to invoke this change or level of consciousness. People that meditate will tell you that Chanting and Toning are two very powerful ways to vibrate sound through the body. As a person that meditates with sounds of chanting, I will say that it’s a game changer to the entire process. Sound altering brainwave states such as binaural beat frequencies are now being used to help with sleeping disorders. Our Chakras (life force energy centers) also benefit from musical sounds, helping to release blockages creating illness and disease to realign the flow of harmonious, predetermined frequency within the body.

Crystal Singing Bowls offer a unique advantage over synthesized sound, as they are made with the highest quality quartz crystal. We know that clear quartz is a crystal that is sometimes called the ‘Master Healer’ as it has the ability to amplify, transform, store, and transfer energy. The quartz crystal vibrates through the 70% of water of the human form and resonates with the various crystalline substances that also make up the physical body. The tones produced by the crystal bowls are not only heard by the ear, but felt in the body, enabling the energy to echo throughout each of the Chakra Centers. In essence, with Quartz Crystal Singing Bowls, one can create a powerful level of symphonic response to restore and rejuvenate. That’s the power of quartz crystal.

[1] Spencer, Susan. “Healing Sounds.” Cbs News. June 1999. CBS News Web. 8 May 2017.

[2] “The sound of healing: Study says sound-stimulation could help Alzheimer’s patients.” CTV News Staff. April 21, 2016. Web. 11 May 2017

Citizen Scholar Adannekwu ‘Ada’ Dibor: Leading the way to wellness | Citizen Scholar

Of the dozens of school and volunteer endeavors Pennridge High School senior Adannekwu “Ada” Dibor is involved in, Students Against Destructive Decisions Club is what she’s most proud of. 

“We raise awareness of mental health issues, bullying, the effects of drunk driving,” she explained.

To drive the point home, the club hosts a yearly Grim Reaper Day, when one student dresses as the iconic death character and goes classroom to classroom tagging other students, who are then considered “dead” for the rest of the day.

The idea is to show how many students will fall victim to premature deaths due to suicide, homicide, drunken driving and drug overdoses, said the teen. At the end of the day, the chosen students line up holding death certificates.

“It’s a pretty powerful thing,” Ada said. “Even if people aren’t serious, they’re at least paying attention to the message. They take a second look and realize that what they are doing could damage not just themselves but their relationships.”

Additionally, Ada has volunteered for the Bucks County Free Library, The Color Dash for Salvation Army Kids, 5K for Mental Illness, Red Ribbon Week, school clothing drives and campus cleanups. She’s served on the school’s executive council, is a top 1 percent National Honor student and has won the Presidential Academic Award.

She’s been accepted into Penn State’s accelerated six-year medical program and hopes to become a pediatrician when she graduates.

“Ada has been the ideal student, balanced and well-rounded,” wrote her guidance counselor Eric Herpen. “She is on her way toward making a major impact on the world.”

Her advice to upcoming seniors is to have confidence.

“Don’t sell yourself short. I think I did a lot of that. I never dreamed that I would have gotten into this Penn State program. When I  made it, I thought, ‘Oh wow, there’s something here to be proud of,’” she said.

“Be confident about everything you do. You can have whatever you want if you work hard and try to achieve it.”

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5 Problems For Children in Africa

I will simply provide the list below and provide my own brief review for each point I make. If you take some time to read the article right to the end, you will gain more valuable insights in to this serious subject.

Most of them cannot afford to go to school or are forced drop out

A good education is important to improve the lives of African children. Children in Africa lack financial resources to be able to go to school. A large portion of the African population has people who live below the poverty line, and thus many families cannot afford to take their children to school because it is expensive. For example 69% of the people in Swaziland live with just about $3 per month. This has caused under privileged children not to have formal education.

Rape is another problem that children are faced with in the African continent

Sexual violence is one of the largest crimes against children, which threaten lives of so many of them. Violence, domestic abuse and discrimination are some of the painful things children have to go through everyday of their lives.

African countries have poor health care facilities, which have resulted in an increase in health problems for children

The lack of health care facilities has increased the number of deaths of children. Children suffer from water-borne infection from the lack of clean drinking water. Children also get health problem through mother to infant, where mothers abuse alcohol and drugs creating abnormalities and growth disorder to infants.

Another problem faced by children is starvation, which is caused by poverty where there is lack of financial resources to buy food

Starvation has resulted in malnutrition and underweight children. Most African countries rely on food donations in order to feed the hungry children; also there are orphanages where orphans are taken care of and given the necessary basic needs.

A large number of children in Africa are infected and or affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic

This has increased the number of orphans and vulnerable children and causing a large number of the young ones to be without parents or a guardian. The pandemic has resulted to a high number of child-headed households. Furthermore, because these kids are not adequately taught, they have a high chance of contracting the HIV virus while taking care of their sick parents or by being engaged in “sex games”.

Jumpstart the next phase of financial wellness at work

Financial scarcity is the gap between an employee’s wants and needs and the resources (money) required to get those needs, which can affect mental, physical and emotional health in the long run. Of the more than 10,000 employees AFS 401(k) Retirement Services, a retirement advisory firm, has met, most are only one life event — such as a catastrophic medical incident or premature baby — away from experiencing it.

It’s up to employers to keep their employees protected, said Jim Keenehan, senior consultant, retirement plans at AFS, at a retirement symposium sponsored by the Bethesda, Md. company last week.

Employers are receiving the message, he said. Ninety-two percent of employers responding to a 2017 study by Aon are planning on enhancing financial wellness programs beyond retirement savings mechanisms. For example, combining existing financial literacy education with technology that allows an employee to take a more holistic look at their financial picture. This includes areas such as budgeting skills and emergency savings planning, added Alex Assaley, managing principal at AFS.

“Employees are asking for help,” Keenehan said. “[But] most importantly, it is the right thing to do. Putting in effective financial wellness programs can place an employee on the path to financial freedom.”

The next phase
The challenge — one advisers need to lead — is taking what plan participants have learned so far and combining it with technology that will better understand an employee’s financial life, Assaley said. It’s what he calls financial wellness 2.0.


The 50 best places to work in 2017 – Part 1

Jobs resource website Glassdoor has released its annual rankings of top employers based on workers’ evaluations. These companies top the list.

“A very simple way to jumpstart financial wellness 2.0 is to informally survey … an employee base and ask three to five questions on health benefits and financial needs,” he explained. “Get a good picture of what is most important. With just [that information], we can do a better job on what programs to deliver.”

As employers move into phase 2.0, Assaley suggested items to consider:

First, understand a client’s culture and what the mission and value of the organization is and how that shapes benefit offerings. “How can you align retirement benefits with culture?” he said. “That is the first step of introspection you have to have to understand what to deliver to employees.”

The program also needs to be customizable. “To date, financial wellness broadly can mean a lot of things,” Assaley said. “But in many cases, it is just recycling general education topics.” In version 2.0, it is more about customized programs, contents and resources deployed in a way that aligns with the unique demographics of an employer. It has to have engagement, which includes friends and fun, he said.

Last, results need to be measured using technology. “We can create challenges that measure engagement,” Assaley said.

At Many Companies, Employee Wellness Is Serious Business

Move Along

Mike Morin says sales of adjustable sit-stand desks are soaring as employers discover their health and wellness benefits.

It’s no secret that workers who struggle to stay healthy and fit can cost employers in myriad ways, from absenteeism to lowered productivity. That’s why more forward-thinking companies are launching wellness initiatives aimed at boosting their staff’s health and — by extension — their morale and job satisfaction. While they can take many forms, these efforts often start with a simple goal: get moving.

Attention, desk jockeys stuck at uncomfortable workstations: Mike Morin feels your pain.

“I’ve had jobs before where you get hired, go to the office and sit down at the computer, and you realize, geez, this is not how I naturally work,” said Morin, marketing and communications coordinator at Conklin Office Furniture in Holyoke. “I’ve had that moment where you step back and realize you’ve been hunched over the desk, staring at a computer screen for two hours.”

Many employers, however, are giving desk workers some relief by installing adjustable sit-stand desks, so employees have the option of working on their feet, which can improve blood flow, reduce tiredness, and avoid the long-term drawbacks of being largely sedentary for eight hours a day.

“People are definitely more concerned about health nowadays, in general and in the workplace,” Morin said. “We offer a sit-stand, height-adjustable desk, and sales are going through the roof with those. People are spending more time at the office — not just at their workplace, but at the home office as well. And they want desks they can stand at.”

One selling point, he said, is giving employees a choice, convincing employers they don’t have to go with a one-size-fits-all mentality. Sit-stand desks can often be incorporated right alongside traditional desks and tables, and can be designed to match the existing décor and furniture in the office.

Lisa Bowler says Baystate takes a holistic approach to employee wellness, as reflected by its wide range of programs to that end.

Lisa Bowler says Baystate takes a holistic approach to employee wellness, as reflected by its wide range of programs to that end.

It’s one way employers are taking a harder look at workplace wellness, incorporating not just equipment, but programs and incentives to keep their workers healthy, reduce absenteeism, and, in theory, lower costs in the long term.

Lisa Bowler, manager of Wellness and WorkLife at Baystate Health, says her employer has offered a raft of wellness benefits for many years, and sit-stand desks are an option many workers have chosen — but emphasized that they’re a very small part of the equation in a system where 60% of employees are clinical staff who are on their feet all day, not behind desks.

“It’s such a vast array of roles and types of jobs … the challenge is, how do we deliver wellness programs that make the most sense?” Bowler noted. “We offer a whole host of programs — a great variety — and we provide those resources to support our employees’ health and well-being because we know, in many ways, that contributes to a healthy organizational culture and also makes for a great place to work.”

Lisa Verville would agree. As Human Resources director for the O’Connell Companies in Holyoke, she has overseen a formal wellness committee launched two years ago that partners with Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) to offer wellness-related apps, challenges, and incentive progams where not only employees, but their spouses can earn money for reaching activity and fitness goals. Employees are also reimbursed up to 75% for annual gym memberships.

The O’Connell Companies have always had a culture of caring about their employees,” Verville said. “This is another facet of that — making employees aware of things they can do and listening to what they want, and trying to provide resources that make the healthy choice the easy choice.”

Culture of Health

Mary Ellen Shea, Marketing manager at O’Connell, told BusinessWest that wellness efforts at the firm stretch back well before the formal committee. “There’s always been a culture of health,” she said, “but now I feel it’s been ramped up.”

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Employees earn points through the BCBS partnership for walking, hydration, and nutrition challenges, as well as completing online workshops, scheduling wellness visits, and other tasks.

“It encourages a holistic approach,” Verville said, noting that employees were surveyed on the types of programs they wanted to see. “It’s actually been a lot of fun. We also had our health fair last November, and it was fun to see people from all our companies get together. We provided incentives — gift cards, gift baskets — to get people to come, and we had a great turnout, and got a lot of good feedback; we’re looking forward to doing it again this year, with hopefully an even bigger event.”

While many employees try to participate in many wellness activities, one challenge for O’Connell is that it’s a geographically dispersed company, with several affiliate companies spread across the Valley. “So it’s hard to get everyone to participate in a lunch and learn, with so many employees out in the field,” she went on. “But the committee has representatives from every subsidiary, we get direct feedback on what works and what doesn’t work. Not every program is tailored to the same group; we try to offer a lot of variety while still focusing on what the needs and interests are.”

This fall, it will be easier to bring employees together for wellness activities when O’Connell moves into a newly built headquarters on Kelly Way in Holyoke, consolidating more of its operations under one roof. The project allows the company to incorporate wellness initiatives right into the building design.

“We have a great opportunity there,” Verville said. “When we move, the plan is to install, for those who want them, the adjustable workstations. We’re also thinking about walking paths and things of that nature, a fitness room with equipment in it, and there will be an area dedicated to the wellness seminars.

“It’ll bring more people together,” she went on. “The new building will provide a lot of new opportunities, and having more employees in one location will help encourage more collaboration and cohesiveness, and get more people involved.”

Bowler said Baystate has built a similar emphasis on wellness into its operations, which are even more spread out than O’Connell’s.

Lisa Verville

Lisa Verville says employees at the O’Connell Companies have taken enthusiastically to the wellness programs launched two years ago.

“We would define a culture of health as a work environment where our employees have the resources and tools and support that empowers them and motivates them to take steps to benefit their health,” she said. “We’ve evolved the program over the years, and we think it’s important to view health holistically. Programs are designed in such a way to help our team members learn how to make healthy lifestyle choices and help them manage their responsibilities at work and at home.”

The effort includes access to a WebMD portal that provides not only health information but access to fitness challenges. In addition, “we have walking clubs, mindfulness classes, two or three educational webinars each month, confidential counseling for employees and family members, Weight Watchers memberships free of charge, and a whole host of resources for parents,” Bowler said, not to mention smoke-free facilities since 2007.

Rising Tide

Many of the initiatives at Baystate and O’Connell mesh with the top workplace-wellness trends recently outlined by the Corporate Health & Wellness Assoc. These include:

• Lifestyle management, which may include cholesterol screenings, flu shots, sleep-management programs, and incentives (like gift cards or insurance-premium discounts) for participating in corporate wellness programs;

• Weight-loss programs, from yoga and Zumba classes on site to gym and Weight Watchers memberships, to offering healthy sbacks in the office;

• Redesigned workspaces, which include standing or treadmill desks, ergonomic chairs and headsets, and FitBit trainers and pedometers;

• Smoking bans in the office and accompanying smoking-cessation programs to help employees kick the habit for good; and

• Stress-management programs, including meditation instruction and guidance in everything from personal finance to parenting.

And programs don’t have to be tied to specific company initiatives, Shea said. “Usually twice a day, team members or employees meet in the lobby, go out, and walk together around the block.”

She and Verville said wellness programs conceivably lower costs for companies by reducing absenteeism — or presenteeism, where tired or ailing employees show up but are far from productive.

“We certainly have seen that,” Bowler added, noting that Baystate has won recognition from national business groups for its wellness policies. “Employees who regularly participate are more engaged, healthier, and more productive. Beyond that, having these programs available is the right thing to do. As an organization, we’ve taken the view that achieving a culture of health is not something that occurs overnight. We are in this for the long term and are committed to it.”

From talking to Conklin’s clients, Morin can tell interest is rising.

“Nowadays, people are obsessed with health, and for good reasons,” he said. “People are paying more attention to what they’re eating, so it’s natural they’re noticing how much time they’re sitting at a desk each day. Studies have come out claiming that sitting down for long periods of time is as unhealthy as smoking.”

That’s why he’s gratified that employers are increasingly tailoring office design to individual worker needs through flexible workstations. “In the past, offices were set up a certain way, but not everyone works like that. There’s a new focus in ergonomics where it’s more customizable.”

Bowler said companies of any size can make changes to improve employees’ health, and some — from walking clubs to lunch-and-learn sessions — don’t take much financial investment. “But to really get that return and change the culture, there needs to be a comprehensive approach.”

And it’s happening more and more, she told BusinessWest. “The concept of worker wellness has been around a long time. It just seems to be gaining more energy and visibility the last several years.”

And it can begin with something as simple as standing up.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

International Trade – Tariffs or Restrictions to Trade

Tariffs are taxes or duties imposed on imports and exports by the government of a country. The idea behind tariffs is to restrict the volume of trade or improve the international terms of trade. Tariffs are imposed to protect infant industries from undue competition with foreign firms, to generate revenue for the country-many countries derive their revenue from import and export duties. Also tariffs are imposed to prevent dumping of goods from foreign countries, hence leading to very low sale prices when compared to home prices.

That’s not all, tariffs help to correct unfavorable balance of payments by discouraging massive imports; prevent dangerous or harmful goods from other countries; encourage the establishment of local industries or enhance the expansion and growth of existing ones so as to provide job opportunities; serve as discriminatory measure against unfriendly countries; imposed on imported goods to enable a country be self sufficient in production of numerous goods and to check consumption pattern as citizens may develop uncontrolled appetite for foreign goods, can be used in most cases to protect certain strategic industries.

Tools or instruments of trade restriction

1. Import duties or tariffs: This is a tax imposed on imported goods to reduce the amount of trade.

2. Foreign exchange control: Trade can be controlled by reducing the foreign exchange available for trade transactions.

3. Devaluation: By lowering the value of a country’s currency vis-a-vis others, importation becomes costly while export becomes cheaper.

4. Embargo: This is the prohibition or outright ban placed on some imported goods

5. Import monopoly: This refers to a situation in which the government of a country takes over the importation of certain goods which are only essential to the country.

6. Import quota: Import quota restricts imports by imposing a limit on the quantity of goods but can be imported at a particular country.

7. Preferential duties: In order to either encourage or discourage the importation of certain goods from certain countries, discriminate duties are charged on these goods.

8. Excise duties reduction: This method helps to reduce the prices of locally made goods so as to enable people to patronize them instead of foreign made goods.

8. Import licence: Import licence is a permit that allows an importer to bring a certain quantity of foreign goods into a country and allows him to purchase the foreign currency required to pay for them.

Tariffs and restrictions are very essential to check-mate international trade to suit the developments and interests of a particular nation.

Your guide to health and wellness during pregnancy

A healthy baby is the goal for mothers-to-be, and as such, a happy pregnancy should also be high priority.

While expectant mothers are tasked with making many important lifestyle changes, a healthful pregnancy does not need to be overly restrictive. “Pregnant women have 40 weeks to make healthy decisions for her baby and herself, and many of the good habits picked up during pregnancy stick around long after delivery,” said Matthew Grolle, MD, OB/GYN at Sunrise Children’s Hospital.

While the topic of pregnancy can be fraught with concerns, following a balanced, intuitive lifestyle can contribute to the overall wellness of both mother and child.

The pillars of pregnancy health

Pregnant women need to be conscious of their health by maintaining a nutritious diet, exercising, getting plenty of sleep and avoiding harmful substances. “The most important lifestyle changes are self-explanatory — be good to yourself!” Grolle said.

For some, this means breaking bad habits: Alcohol, tobacco and drugs should be avoided completely. Even in moderation, these are linked to dangerous complications and serious birth defects.

If you’re struggling to kick a habit, talk to your doctor about addiction treatment options that can help.


Pregnant women should focus on a well-rounded diet including lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, veggies and healthy fats. However, your changing body may draw its own limits as well.

“Each trimester poses different challenges, and it’s important to keep realistic goals,” Grolle said. “Maintaining a diet rich with fruits and vegetables can be difficult when nausea peaks in the first trimester.”

If you’re unable to eat certain foods, you may need to supplement those nutrients in different ways.

• Important nutrients for pregnancy: Folic acid, iron, calcium, protein

• Foods to limit: Artificial sweeteners, caffeine and fish with high-mercury content such as tuna, swordfish and king mackerel

How much caffeine is safe? The recommended maximum for pregnant women is 200 milligrams of caffeine a day, about a 12-ounce cup of coffee.

• Foods to avoid: Unpasteurized milks, cheeses and juices; processed meats including hot dogs and cold cuts; raw or undercooked seafood, eggs and meat; smoked seafood.

These foods may carry listeria, a bacteria that can cause serious infections in pregnant women and jeopardize the baby’s health. Listeria also can be found on fruits and vegetables that have not been properly washed, so be thorough while preparing meals as well.


“Exercise during pregnancy will lower blood pressure, promote healing, help with sleep and fend off gestational diabetes,” Grolle said.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that healthy pregnant women get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity spread evenly throughout the week.

Women with high-risk pregnancies require different exercise considerations and should strategize with their doctor to create a safe regimen.

• Exercise that should be avoided during pregnancy: Contact sports, hot yoga/other heated workouts, high-weight, low-repetition lifting.


Staying hydrated is especially important during pregnancy. The Institute of Medicine recommends women get 10 cups of water daily (about 2.4 liters). Grolle notes that during summer months, this should be increased to up to 12 cups daily.

Over-the-counter medications

Only some OTC medications are safe during pregnancy. “Many of my patients try to avoid medication altogether, however that’s not always possible. Medications like Tylenol and Robitussin have never been shown to have adverse side effects on pregnancy,” Grolle said.

Acetaminophen medications are generally fine, but pregnant women should avoid nonsteroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) — such as ibuprofen — which can damage the baby’s cardiovascular system.

Vitamins and supplements

High-quality prenatal multivitamins are safe and recommended, but any additional vitamin supplements/herbal remedies should be discussed with your doctor before use during pregnancy. These products are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and aren’t subject to safety testing.

Cleaning supplies

Keeping surfaces germ-free is smart during pregnancy, but some common household solvents may pose a risk. While the effects of cleaning chemicals on pregnant women have not been clinically studied, Grolle recommends erring on the side of caution.

Clean only in well-ventilated areas while wearing a mask and gloves, and use natural cleansers (such as vinegar, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide) whenever possible.

Personal care products

Skin/hair-care products, makeup, nail polish and other similar products should be re-evaluated during pregnancy.

Anything applied to the skin can reach the bloodstream and circulate to the baby.

While most personal care products undergo general safety testing, there is little research about their effects during pregnancy. “Because some of the chemicals can be so caustic and the research is lacking, I tell my patients to avoid things like hair dye and self-tanner until after pregnancy. I also strongly recommend discontinuing use of any acne products, especially during the first trimester,” Grolle said.

There are plenty of natural alternatives to use while pregnant, so make an informed decision about which products to keep in your rotation and which to replace.


If you have a pet cat, avoid cleaning the litter box while pregnant. Cat feces can contain a parasite that causes toxoplasmosis, which is a rare but serious illness.