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Launchways Client LulaFit Enabling Employee Fitness & Positive Team Time During COVID-19

The ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has dominated the headlines and business dialogue for the last month. It’s easy to get bogged down in the daily numbers and constant flood of guidance updates, but it’s also important to maintain hope in the power and innovation of our collective community.

Launchways is proud to announce that one of our clients, LulaFit, is taking an innovative approach to provide services in the age of stay-at-home orders and doing work that we’re truly proud to support them in. We’re so impressed by the work they’re doing that we wanted to share it forward with our extended network of partners, clients, and the community at large to spread the word and offer some inspiration.

This post we’ll explore:

  • Introduce LulaFit, an innovative and growing Launchways client
  • Explain how LulaFit is adapting to the challenges of COVID-19
  • Describe the value of LulaFit’s new LulaFit LIVE program for employers
  • Discuss how you can connect with LulaFit’s services & keep your team fit—even during social distancing!

Meet LulaFit

LulaFit provides luxury fitness and wellness concierge services to businesses, residential facilities, and individuals in the greater Chicago area. Their customized approach to fitness training and wellness program management builds significant value for their clients when it comes to attracting and retaining great talent or desirable tenants.

If you’re interested in learning more about LulaFit’s commercial, residential, corporate, or individual wellness services, be sure to visit their website!

How is LulaFit Adapting & Providing Support During Coronavirus

Social distancing and stay-at-home orders have closed gyms to the public and made it much tougher to take a fitness class, interact with a trainer, or recreate the positive experience of working out with a group of people keeping each other accountable.

During this challenging time, LulaFit knew they needed to find a way to offer services that allowed people stuck at home to continue their fitness routine to the best of their ability and continue to work with the trainers they knew and trusted.

LulaFit also recognized that much of their wellness program guidance, from healthy shopping and meal prep to structured lifestyle planning, was more relevant than ever for people looking to stay sane, productive, and healthy while under stay-at-home orders.

The result was LulaFit LIVE, a web-based subscription service that contains articles, activities, meditations, lifestyle guides, and a variety of live or on-demand workouts.

LulaFit LIVE: An Exciting Wellness Solution for the Age of Social Distancing

LulaFit LIVE addresses many of the needs individuals in our community have at this time. People can virtually assemble in a group to take a live class together, creating some authentic human interaction and creating that sense of teamwork that fosters physical and mental wellness returns.

To maximize those mental wellness benefits, LulaFit LIVE also contains live competitive trivia and opportunities for socialization after a video class. That means you can invite your friends, neighbors, or colleagues to a fitness class and then enjoy a virtual happy hour from the safety of your individual homes.

This new distancing-friendly approach to presenting their wealth of wellness knowledge means that LulaFit can provide total continuity of service to their existing clients, honoring all their obligations and keeping their team members productively employed during this crucial time.

Launchways Supports LulaFit

LulaFit LIVE is a great example of how innovative thinking and the willingness to adapt can help businesses continue to do their work, even in industries where we’ve historically relied on face-to-face conversations and physical interactions.

What’s really special about LulaFit’s approach is that they created something that is empowering thousands of people around Chicago to continue with some semblance of normalcy during this extremely challenging time of social isolation. That’s the kind of community-first thinking we respect and embody in the way we do business.

How to Learn More

If you’re an employer looking to maintain positive physical and mental wellness for your employees during this tough time, you should consider signing up for LulaFit LIVE!

For additional information, please reach out to info@lulafit.com!

We’re also proud to announce that thanks to our partnership with LulaFit, if you tell them Launchways sent you, you will get 25% of your first month (one week free) of LulaFit LIVE. We’re truly excited about these services, and we wanted to make sure we were able to make them accessible to the members of our extended network of clients, partners, and community members.

Takeaways

During these unprecedented times, it’s important to keep our eyes and ears open for stories about businesses who are finding new ways to thrive, serve their customers, and keep some sense of normalcy alive until we can all return to our normal ways of working and staying well.

LulaFit is a great example of an organization that adapted and innovated a new way of delivering services that preserves value and maintains that positive spirit of community that comes from collective wellness.

Remember:

  • LulaFit is a Chicago-area business that was able to adapt quickly to social distancing and the stay-at-home age thanks to outside-the-box thinking
  • LulaFit LIVE includes a variety of live and on-demand fitness classes as well as lifestyle guides, wellness articles, newsletters, and other downloadable resources
  • Contact info@lulafit.com and tell them Launchways sent you to claim your special discount!

What to Do if an Employee Gets COVID-19

From supply chain disruptions to shrinking demand, business owners have to contend with a lot during the COVID-19 pandemic. But often the most stressful task is protecting employees from exposure while keeping your business running. Fear of an office outbreak is causing plenty of sleepless nights for business and HR leaders alike.

Over the past two weeks, we’ve written a lot about how to protect your employees and your business from the effects of COVID-19. But one issue that we have not covered in detail is what to do when the worst happens and one of your employees tests positive for the highly-contagious virus.

So we’ve created a handy checklist for employers to use to structure their response. The checklist contains all the essential steps for protecting the rest of your team from exposure, looking after the employee’s wellbeing, and managing their transition back to the workplace.

Let’s take a look at some of the issues this checklist will help you tackle:

Working with the Affected Employee

Before you can work with the employee to determine next-steps, you need to identify that they have or are caring for someone with coronavirus. So, it’s important to regularly emphasize how crucial it is that employees who think that they or a loved one has COVID-19 notify you as soon as possible.

Once they do tell you that they have been exposed or infected, you should find out from them who they have worked closely with in the past two weeks. Getting this information can help you prevent a widespread outbreak by putting extra protection measures in place for high-risk employees. Next, you should plan the next steps for the employee by either setting them up to work remotely or helping them file for relief through the Family Medical Leave Act.

Updating the Rest of the Team

No one wants to find out that their company has been hiding the fact that a coworker has COVID-19. It’s important for your employees’ safety and your reputation as an employer that you notify your entire team that an employee has tested positive for COVID-19, is thought to have the virus, or is caring for someone with the virus. Just remember to maintain the required amount of confidentiality to protect the affected employee.

Next, reemphasize the importance of following proper procedures in the workplace as it is especially important in the days after an employee has tested positive. Conduct training or share resources to help employees reduce their risk of exposure. And notify any other tenants in your building, if applicable, so that they can manage their response.

Maintaining a Safe Workplace

When it looks like an infected employee may have entered your place of business, be it an office or a manufacturing facility, you have to take immediate action to disinfect the area. While employees should be particularly careful once you notify them of the risk, you still have your own responsibilities to minimize that risk. Clean common areas and the employee’s workspace thoroughly.

Planning the Employee’s Return to Work

Whether the infected employee has been working from home or taking a leave of absence, it’s important to know when it is safe for them to come back to work as normal. The downloadable checklist below lays out different standards depending on whether or not the employee will be tested to confirm that they are no longer contagious. But both cases depend on how long it has been since an employee’s symptoms appeared and how long it has been since they subsided. As a general rule of thumb, they should be asymptomatic for at least three days and have first shown symptoms more than a week ago for it to be safe for them to return to work.

Download the Checklist

We’ve gone over the general best-practices for when an employee tests positive for COVID-19 and given you some concrete steps to take. But the checklist will give you an in-depth step-by-step reference to guide on how to handle when one of your employees has COVID-19. Download it for free right now!

CARES Act Brings Bailout Protections for Individuals & Businesses

Just before midnight Wednesday night, the Senate passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The Act creates further economic protections for individuals and businesses in addition to the FMLA and paid sick team leave expansions created by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

Generally speaking, CARES strengthens the safety net of unemployment insurance, offers new tax credits for businesses and individuals, and creates an emergency lending fund of more than $450 billion for businesses and municipalities.

In this post we’ll explore:

  • Additional unemployment protections for individuals under CARES
  • The employer-facing tax credits created by CARES
  • The employee/individual-facing tax credits created by CARES
  • How CARES enables emergency lending
  • Other useful protections under CARES

Unemployment Insurance Expansion Under CARES

The major impact of CARES for the general workforce is the significant expansion of unemployment insurance (UI). UI benefits are set to increase $600 per week for up to four months, and federal funds will continue providing UI to those losing their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic for up to 13 weeks after state unemployment benefits have been exhausted.

The federal government is also creating incentives to encourage states to reduce their UI waiting periods so workers can maintain consistency of income following a layoff and looking to increase accessibility for the self-employed and others who have historically not qualified for UI.

Tax Credits Under CARES

From a dollars and cents perspective, CARES clarifies and defines the tax credits that legislators have been promising since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak.

How to Understand Your Eligibility for CARES Tax Credits

Your eligibility (as an individual or business) for CARES tax credits depends on your 2019 tax return (or 2018 if you did not file last year). If you qualify for additional credits due to income/profit loss after your 2020 tax return, you will receive those as well. If you qualified during 2019 but do not based on 2020 filings, you still qualify.

CARES Tax Credits for Employers

CARES creates a variety of new employer tax benefits, including:

  • A 50% refundable payroll tax credit on wages paid up to $10,000 per employee is available for businesses posting a 50% or worse return in gross receipts compared to the same quarter of last year
    • For businesses with more than 100 employees, this credit applies to all workers on leave who are under your employ but not working
    • For businesses with 100 or fewer employees, this credit applies to all employees
  • A delay on employer-side Social Security tax payments until 1/1/2021
  • A delay on aviation excise tax payments until 1/1/2021
  • An exclusion of eligible student loan payments (up to $5,250 per employee) from taxable income calculations
  • A suspension on the excise tax for alcohol used to make hand sanitizer for all of tax year 2020

CARES Tax Credits for Individuals/Employees

CARES create a refundable tax credit (the “Recovery Rebate”) of $1,200 per individual or $2,400 per jointly filing couple plus an additional $500 credit for each child. Income limits/qualifications for those credits are as follows:

  • Individual/Single taxpayers must have a taxable income of less than $75,000 to qualify for the full credit and less than $99,000 to receive any credit
  • Heads of Household must have a taxable income of less than $112,500 to qualify
  • Jointly filing couples must have a taxable income of less than $150,000 to qualify for the full credit and less than $198,000 to receive any credit
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Access to Emergency Lending

In addition to providing tax credits for businesses affected by coronavirus, CARES also creates a $454 billion dollar emergency lending fund for businesses, states, and cities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The fund will be overseen by a Congressional Oversight Commission and a Special Inspector General.

The fund includes but is not limited to:

  • $25 billion allocated for lending to airlines
  • $17 billion allocated for lending to national security-critical organization
  • $4 billion allocated for lending to cargo/shipping/supply chain firms

In order to qualify for these emergency loans, businesses:

  • Must retain 90% of their March 24, 2020 employee count
  • Must not engage in stock buybacks during the duration of the loan plus one year

Other CARES Considerations

Payroll Protection for Small & Medium-Sized Businesses

CARES creates a $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program fund for businesses with fewer than 500 employees struggling to make payroll or cover operational expenses between February 15 and June 30.

Technically, these funds are granted in the form of loans, but the loans will be forgiven as long as funds are used for payroll, rent, interest on mortgages. However, that loan forgiveness will be reduced proportionately if businesses shrink their workforce or reduce overall employee compensation 25% or more.

Eliminating Early Withdrawal Penalties for 401(k)s & IRAs

CARES waives the 10% early withdrawal penalty of 401(k)s, IRAs, and certain qualified trusts and annuities for individual taxpayers facing virus-related challenges. Withdrawn amounts will be taxed over the next three years, but individuals can also replenish the withdrawn funds during that same three-year period without affecting their cap.

This effectively unlocks long-term savings for a large number of Americans, making up for work reductions, layoffs, and other challenges facing individuals and families.

The Coronavirus Relief Fund

The CARES Act establishes a $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund for state and city government expenditures related to the coronavirus epidemic and resulting public health emergency. Funds will be divided based on population, with each state receiving at least $1.25 billion.

Takeaways

The CARES Act clarifies the federal government’s approach to economic protections for individuals and businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak, filling in many of the gaps in the language of the FFCRA and other recent guidance related to coronavirus. Specifically, the Act entails:

  • $600/week unemployment insurance expansion
  • Tax credits for lost productivity (for large businesses) and overall staffing impact (for small businesses)
  • Tax credits for individuals based on their income and family size
  • An emergency lending fund for businesses & municipalities
  • Payroll protections for small businesses
  • Eliminating retirement withdrawal penalties for individuals facing virus-based need

In the Midst of the COVID-19 Outbreak Telemedicine Is More Important Now Than Ever More

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has put telemedicine in the spotlight and directed new resources towards this crucial healthcare innovation. Over the past few years, telemedicine has gained traction with forward-thinking growing businesses and benefits brokers as a cost-saving way for employees to get the medical advice they need – without having to miss work to do it. However, many businesses and healthcare professionals have treated it as a handy supplement at best and an unnecessary expense at worst.

But as the nation locks down under quarantine and a trip to the doctor means potentially exposing yourself and others to the risk of infection, telemedicine is coming to light as a critical point-of-care option.

Let’s take a look at why employers should leverage telemedicine to keep their employees healthy and contribute to containment efforts, explore plus the ins-and-outs of getting employees access to telehealth during the outbreak, including:

  • Why COVID-19 makes telemedicine more important than ever
  • How telemedicine is becoming more accessible due to the outbreak
  • How to get your team members the telehealth care they need

Why Telemedicine Is More Important Than Ever

There are almost limitless reasons to use telemedicine during the COVID-19 outbreak. On an individual and societal level, at this point in time our safety relies upon two things: limiting physical interactions through social distancing and preventing the healthcare system from getting overwhelmed. Telemedicine is a powerful tool to facilitate both of these goals.

Quarantine orders and the very real risk of exposure – or exposing others – mean that seeing a healthcare professional in-person should be the option of last resort for you and your employees. Your team members should still get physical assistance if their health condition becomes serious, but telemedicine can minimize the risk of the disease spreading to or from your employees. And given the fear of exposure, telemedicine will likely increase your employees’ access to healthcare in a very real way. People who would otherwise avoid a doctor’s visit for fear of leaving the house will be able to get the care they need.

Telemedicine is also quicker and easier for providers compared to a regular office visit. And it puts a significantly lighter burden on the healthcare system than an urgent-care or emergency-room visit. That means that it can limit the amount of strain that employees put on an already overburdened system, potentially saving lives.

While telemedicine can help employees safely get medical advice for issues not related to COVID-19, it is especially important for employees who suspect that they have the virus to use telemedicine as a first resort. As long as the symptoms are mild, doctors are encouraging home-treatment akin to mild flu. Unless the case is severe and requires urgent attention and physical treatment, telemedicine can resolve employees’ fears and get them the advice they need without causing COVID-19 carriers to go out into the world and potentially spread the disease. And while it is impossible to administer a COVID-19 test remotely, the current limited supply and application of the tests mean that mild cases would not be tested even if employees went to the hospital or doctor’s office.

Telemedicine Is Becoming More Accessible

The medical community and government have recognized the utility of telemedicine in combating the crisis of a rapidly spreading disease and an overwhelmed healthcare system. The good news for individuals and businesses alike is that they are increasing access to telemedicine as a result, generally at reduced or zero cost.

For example, the CMS has expanded Medicare to cover telemedicine and eliminated all requirements regarding the location of both patient and provider. They have also loosened restrictions to allow consultations over platforms such as Skype and FaceTime in addition to formal platforms. Some states have also similarly expanded their Medicaid coverage. While these expansions are unlikely to be directly applicable to your employees if you offer health benefits, it is a strong sign of the general support for telemedicine. And employers should inform their team members of the expansions as they may well have parents or loved ones on Medicare or Medicaid.

States are also starting to mandate that private insurance companies cover telemedicine for all members in the state. Thus far only Massachusetts has implemented the measure but more states will likely join Massachusetts as the situation continues to develop.

In the meantime, many if not most major private insurers are temporarily expanding their telemedicine coverage to address the outbreak. UnitedHealth and Aetna have both extended telehealth coverage to all members and waived co-pays, while Humana has followed suit for urgent-care telemedicine calls. CIGNA has also added the option to make a telemedicine appointment with a CIGNA doctor through their website at no added cost, which increases care but does not waive co-pays for standard telemedicine. As of today, Blue Cross Blue Shield is one of the only major insurers to not expand telemedicine coverage in light of the outbreak, though they have promised to “encourage the use of virtual care and will also facilitate member access and use of nurse/provider hotlines.”

How to Leverage Telemedicine to Get Your Employees The Care They Need

By now, it should be clear that telemedicine isn’t just an added employee benefit but a true necessity during the COVID-19 pandemic. But as with so many issues related to the outbreak, the situation is constantly changing in terms of access to care. So how can you ensure that your employees can take advantage of telemedicine to keep themselves and their communities safe and healthy?

The first thing you should do is to talk to your benefits broker and your insurance provider to evaluate your current telemedicine coverage. You should also ask about any changes that they may have made in light of the current COVID-19 situation. And if your employees aren’t covered, lobby your insurance company to expand their telemedicine coverage and consider shelling out for additional telemedicine coverage, at least temporarily. Also consider the fact that a prescription delivery option makes it easier for employees to follow-up on their telemedicine visit to get the treatment they need without added risk of exposure.

You might also consider making these changes permanent additions to your employee benefits, if they aren’t already. Telemedicine is an effective way to reduce healthcare expenses and health-related absenteeism even when there isn’t an ongoing health crisis.

Final Thoughts

During this unprecedented health crisis, it can be hard to tell what you should do to protect yourself, your employees, and your business. Telemedicine is emerging as one method that is certain to improve the situation. Talk to your employee benefits broker today to see how you can leverage telemedicine to address the COVID-19 outbreak.

COVID-19 Is Hitting Growing Businesses the Hardest: Here’s What They Can Do

In the last few weeks, the global economy has felt the pinch of coronavirus in a major way. The stock market has been dangerously volatile, and the federal government has announced a multi-trillion-dollar bailout.

While the media focus has been primarily on the economic impact for large corporations and mom n’ pop shops such as small retailers and restaurants, some of the biggest pain is being felt right in the middle of those two worlds – among early stage or growing businesses who were just getting their feet under them when the COVID-19 outbreak began.

For business, finance, and HR leaders at VC-backed startups or boutique companies that started small and bootstrapped up to business relevance, this is without question a time of tremendous uncertainty. Moving forward, we’ll explore:

  • Some of the biggest challenges facing growing or early-stage businesses right now
  • Ways growing businesses can address, manage, or outsource these challenges to preserve core function and the ability to keep the work going

How COVID-19 is Creating Challenges for Growing Businesses

During this time, it’s crucial to fully dedicate yourself to protecting your team as individual employees while also protecting the health of your business overall. That requires recognizing each individual challenge and addressing it effectively.

Here are some of the most complex, relevant problems that the leadership team at any growing business must address to weather this storm:

Increased Impact of Each Illness or Leave

Growing businesses operate with lean teams out of necessity. That means each professional manages more individual responsibilities and has a greater impact on overall business function than they would in a corporate setting.

That model works well when you’ve built a great team and everybody is healthy and engaged, but in a scenario like the COVID-19 outbreak, in which employees may need to take weeks off at a time due to severe illness, it is without question an area of weakness.

Creating an effective coronavirus response plan at the early-stage or growing business level requires creating a comprehensive strategy for how you’ll plug holes, rotate responsibilities, and maintain the quality and consistency of your core function.

Required PTO & FMLA Expansion

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which goes into effect on April 1, requires that any business with 500 or fewer employees must provide:

  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick time at their normal rate for employees who are sick with, experiencing symptoms of, or awaiting a diagnosis for COVID-19
  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick time at 2/3 their normal rate for employees who are caring for someone with COVID-19 or providing childcare for minors whose schools or normal daycare facilities are closed due to COVID-19

That means a lot of growth-stage or medium-sized businesses will need to pay employees for significant time during which they are minimally productive. Tax credits to cover these increased expenses have been announced, but that does little to help smaller organizations who may experience short-term cashflow or liquidity issues during this pandemic.

In the short term, you need to be ready for employees to go on leave (as we mentioned above), but you also need to gather your core finance team and figure out how you’ll provide the leave your team members need while protecting your business’ ability to maintain operations in a way that keeps you afloat.

Exposing Lack of HR Scaffolding

Most growth-stage businesses do not have an internal asset dedicated to the Human Resources function. In fact, many early-stage companies have their CEO or CFO also managing CHRO responsibilities.

That system can work well under normal circumstances, but it certainly wasn’t designed to manage a time like this, when HR communication, employee benefits education/accessibility, and leave request processing are so crucial.

That means you need to protect, strengthen, and expand your core HR function and resources to ensure you’re able to address and meet all employee needs during this time. Make no mistake: HR is a critical function within each individual organization working to combat COVID-19. The better your HR function (whether internal or outsourced) is able to understand and address employee health needs in a timely fashion, the stronger and more informed your COVID-19 response can be.

How You Can Get the Outside Support You Need

As we’ve uncovered, there are a variety of areas in which the COVID-19 pandemic is hitting new and growing businesses harder than nearly anybody else in the business space. We’ve also seen that most of those challenges are directly connected to business function and require extensive leadership planning and attention in ways that can be quite intimidating to lean teams with little or no HR bandwidth.

If you’re in one of those leadership positions, things can feel pretty discouraging right now, but the good news is there are resources you can tap into to get the answers you need, shore up your business, and maintain the productivity of your healthy team.

Start Working with a Trusted HR Partner

Growing businesses with internal HR resources typically have highly functional HR leaders who specialize in wearing a variety of hats and working around the clock to get things done. In these types of organizations, one or two people frequently do the job of what would be a fifteen-plus person team in the corporate world.

However, no matter how great they are at their jobs, those professionals need support right now. They need an extra sets of eyes over their work to ensure they’re complying with the latest guidance. They need HR technology that makes it easier and faster to view and process employee requests. They need the human support that makes them feel confident that if they become sick or need to leave work to care for a family member who is ill, they won’t be abandoning their employer to fall apart.

The best way to connect with that support quickly is by contacting an HR consultancy or management firm. They can step in to provide leaders and employees with the latest guidance and educational materials, provide a fresh perspective to enable best practices for human capital management, and pick up the slack on day-to-day HR tasks, empowering your core team to focus on leadership and taking the pressure off those key stakeholders to stay healthy and stay at work.

Connect with Proven Leadership Coaching

Many departmental and overall leaders in start-ups and early-stage companies skew younger. That’s part of what makes the start-up scene so vibrant and energetic. What young leaders don’t always have, however, is vast experience – and they’ve certainly never seen anything like this before.

That’s why it can be so valuable to reach out to veteran business leaders who’ve moved into consultancy. Their perspective can provide valuable emergency response management strategy, both in terms of short-term communication/leadership and planning long-term ways to emerge from this ordeal stronger and better than ever.

They say that two heads are better than one, so when it comes to tackling one of the biggest, most complex business challenges of our time, why wouldn’t you reach out to someone who has navigated an entire career of workforce challenges and complexities?

Launchways is Here to Help!

Based in Chicago, Launchways is the Midwest’s most forward-thinking provider of human resources support and employee benefits brokerage. We have 10+ years of expertise in the fields of employee benefits, business insurance, payroll, human resources, compliance, and more, and we’ve always taken great pride in the work we do both locally within the Chicago startup community.

During this time of incredible need and uncertainty, we’ve been doing what we can to keep our clients, partners, and community business allies up to date on the latest information about COVID-19 and connected with the most impactful possible pandemic management strategies. We’re pretty proud of the resources we’ve created, including…

If you’re a growing or early-stage business feeling the pinch of the COVID-19 pandemic, contact Launchways today to see what we can do to strengthen your HR function and empower your leadership in difference-making ways.

Launchways partner and the most active early-stage investors in the Midwest, Hyde Park Angels, has put together a resource center specifically tailored to the needs of growth-stage businesses. Please visit their COVID-19 Resource Center here.