County Manager Column from Feb. 9, 2021

Pandemic parenting and the need to take action: Wellness Works, Healthy Benefits and the latest resources available for county employees

I know that many of us here at Ramsey County are working parents and family caregivers. Moreover, six in 10 Ramsey County employees are women, and women continue to bear a disproportionate amount of parenting and caregiving in our society. This is not something we should gloss over as we think about the present and future.

Balancing our jobs and parenting duties can be a difficult task in the best of times for parents of any gender or sexual orientation, and it has proven especially daunting during a global pandemic. I want to recognize the extra efforts of our county workforce throughout COVID-19, especially working mothers. I know it hasn’t been easy. Our communities and families are better off because of your continued efforts at home and at work, and we all must do what we can to acknowledge this disparate workload and take individual and collective steps to address it.

A recent New York Times article – Working Moms are Struggling. Here’s What Would Help – offers many suggestions about what our government and employers can do to help working parents. Some of these changes happen in households. Many should occur at an organizational and governmental level. Particular attention is given to the extraordinary lengths to which women in the workplace have had to go during the COVID-19 pandemic to not only do their job, but serve as a parent and teacher. It’s well worth a read if you can find the time.

Ramsey County continues to work to offer meaningful benefits to support employees, including working parents, year-round. Please take advantage of these benefits – particularly during challenging times like this. Every week I hear from someone who benefited by picking up the phone or logging on to find support in a new way. We all need support and now more so than ever.

Our Human Resources team is continually introducing new programs and tools to better support our workforce. We can and must continue to think of what we can do to improve, and we should build a future that better accommodates parenting, caregiving and working for employees at all levels of our organization. I look forward to continuing this important and urgent journey with all of you.

Wellness Works

Through Wellness Works, Ramsey County encourages better health and lifestyle practices among employees. Physical health, emotional health, positive social connections and sound economic practices all contribute to wellness in the broadest sense.

If you haven’t visited the Wellness Works section on RamseyNet lately, it’s worth a visit. Find information there on topics ranging from financial management to social distancing and the self-care kit, which features resources that can help you recognize your pain and/or that of others, and begin a shared path forward.

Wellness Works articles on current topics are regularly featured in Ramsey News, including today’s article on ergonomics. You can also get the latest Wellness Works information by joining the Wellness Works team on the Microsoft Teams platform or by attending a Wellness Works webinar. The latest webinar took place Feb. 9 at 12:30 p.m. – a video will be available.

Healthy Benefits

Employees, retirees and spouses who are in the HealthPartners Distinctions plan can participate in Healthy Benefits to qualify for lower office visit copays in 2022. It’s easy to join and participate right from your smartphone or computer to learn about your health, try different activities and make your health a priority. The current year’s Healthy Benefits program has launched only recently, so you have plenty of time to participate.

Basic steps to complete the Healthy Benefits program in 2021:

  1. Take your annual health assessment. It’s confidential and takes less than 10 minutes to complete. Plus, you’ll get a useful snapshot of your current health status.
  2. Complete at least one activity. Try to break out of your routine and try a new activity this year! In order to qualify, you must begin your wellness activity no later than July 1, 2021.
  3. Feel great. Get rewarded. By completing the health assessment and at least one activity by Sept. 30, 2021, you will earn a lower office visit copay in 2022.

Throughout the year, look for ongoing updates about the Wellness Works and Healthy Benefits programs on RamseyNet.

I’d like to call out one additional benefit agreed to recently in the congressional Consolidated Appropriations Act: changes to pre-tax cafeteria plan accounts. The county’s flexible spending account program (which includes the Health Care Reimbursement Plan and the Dependent Care Reimbursement Plan can now offer temporary plan provisions, which you can read about in detail on RamseyNet.

Thanks to our Human Resources professionals for continuing to provide us with programs and tools to support our health and well-being – here at work and beyond. Support for working parents – and working moms in particular – requires a multifaceted response. So we will continue to listen, grow and evolve to ensure that Ramsey County is an employer of choice today and into the future beyond COVID-19.