Fran Melmed

Fran Melmed is an award-winning HR communications consultant specializing in workplace wellness and health care consumerism. Prior to founding context communication consulting llc context communication, Fran worked at Hewitt Associates in their Talent and Organizational Change and Communication practices in the U.S. and U.K. Contact her at, and follow her on Twitter at

Articles by Fran Melmed

Classic TLNT

Three Days for Death (or Why HR Policies Make No Sense)

123RF Stock Photo

Editor’s Note: A number of TLNT readers have asked about this post recently, so here it is again in case you missed it originally.

This past week a member of my husband’s team suffered a devastating loss: his one-year-old daughter died, which sent my husband — his manager — looking into the company’s bereavement policy.

It was three days.

Three to five days is standard, so this isn’t a knock against his company. This is a knock against blanket HR policies which don’t get discussed much (by those outside of HR) until, that is, you come slamming up against one of them. Read more…

HR News & Trends

Our Email Addiction: Can We Keep it From Following Us Home From Work?

Illustration by Dreamstime

According to a new survey by GFI Software, email is alive and doing well in small- to mid-sized America.

Some 44 percent of respondents use email over other available channels, such as instant messaging (6 percent), face-to-face (22 percent), and phone (28 percent). They’re also quick to review and respond to email, with 76 percent of respondents replying within an hour of receipt ,and 32 percent within 15 minutes.

Even after the workday is over, email checking is not. Respondents report checking email at school events, weddings, even funerals or when their partner was in labor. (Labor can go on forever, so that’s not as bad as it seems at first blush.) Read more…

Benefits, HR Management

How Far Can Employers Go In Mandating What Employees Eat?

123RF Stock Photo

I’ve yet to talk with someone about employee wellness without hearing about how an employer allows — if not actually provides — donuts or cupcakes or something similar at meetings.

The underlying message is this: the employer can’t be very serious about wellness if they’re still offering such junk food regularly.

I don’t disagree, but how far is too far? The comments on a post about junk food-free workplaces suggests barring people from bringing in their own food is simply a bridge too far. Read more…

Benefits, HR Management

The Workplace Ethics of Not Hiring Tobacco Users

123RF Stock Photo

As more employers consider how to reduce the percentage of tobacco users in their workforces, one policy in particular has raised eyebrows and hackles more than others: No-hire tobacco policies.

Today, it’s mostly health care systems implementing these policies barring the hiring of tobacco users. They easily argue the importance of employing a workforce that boldly and uniformly stands for healthy lifestyle habits.

On the surface, it’s hard not to agree with the policy. And since health workers are the least healthy among us, perhaps we should consider this a laudable stand by their employers. But once you burrow into the ethical considerations, you may discover what a complex, divisive issue this is. Read more…

Benefits, HR Management

The Wellness Dilemma: Getting More Employee “Skin in the Game”

123RF Stock Photo

Last month I shared a story on health care costs titled The Bitter Pill.

That might’ve been what CVS felt they swallowed when they saw their name splashed across the virtual front pages of Fox News, The Huffington Post, The Today Show, The Washington Post, and The Boston Herald, who “broke the story” about a CVS health care surcharge. CVS, these stories reported, plans to fine employees $600 a pop if they don’t get a health screening that collects height, weight, body fat, and cholesterol levels.

I use quotations because there was no story to break. CVS was tying a penalty to inaction, an approach taken by a considerable number of employers today, with more to come this year and next. At least the reporting on the surcharge was accurate. Read more…

Benefits, HR Basics

What to Tell Workers About That New Health Care Costs Line on the W-2


Whoa! What’s that new line item on my W-2? Is that taxable?

Employers are starting to field questions like these from their employees. That’s because employees are having their eyes opened to the actual cost of their employer-provided health care benefits.

Some employees have seen the value of these benefits before in company-wide communications or total compensation statements. Now, as part of the Affordable Care Act, all employees are seeing what their employers pay for their health care coverage.

It’s easy to understand why employees are shocked. they’ve been as removed from the cost of health care as most of us — including doctors and other providers. Read more…

Benefits, HR News & Trends

Pew Study Shows That Employees Are Turning Into Health Care Consumers

Health care communications

Employees have heard you loud and clear, Ms. and Mr. Employer. They got the message that it’s time to become a savvy health care consumer.

They’re out there researching medical ailments and specific diseases, trying to understand medical procedures, and figuring out how their health insurance works and how to reduce their health care costs. So finds Pew in their Health Online 2013 Report, an update on their investigation into the online health habits of adult Internet users.

Employees start their search with Google and end it with their doctor, and somewhere in between they run things past friends and family. Read more…

Benefits, HR News & Trends

Aon Hewitt Study: Stress Keeps Your Workers from Being Healthy


We have such good intentions, particularly at this time of year.

We intend to eat better, get more sleep, head to the gym more often, budget better. Then life happens and our good intentions get sidetracked, put off, discarded.

That sweet spot between intentions and outcomes is the focus of Aon Hewitt’s 2013 Consumer Health Mindset Study, conducted in partnership with the National Business Group on Health (NBGH) and the Futures Company. This study explores the perspectives, attitudes and behaviors employees and their families hold toward health and health care, and the employee plans and offerings that support them. Read more…

Benefits, HR News & Trends

13 Easy and (Mostly) Low-Cost Employee Wellness Changes for 2013

From the HR blog on TLNT: workplace wellness

Right about now, your employees are wondering whether they’ll keep their new resolutions or dust off the old ones and give them one more go.

Even your employees who didn’t make resolutions are likely stewing over possible ones as they listen to everyone talk about strategies for keeping theirs for this year.

Since health resolutions top most employees’ lists, why not give your employees a helping hand? After all, you have a vested interest in their success. Read more…


Connecting With Workers About Health Care? Call Their Cell Phone


Our phones are fast becoming the ATM of health. That’s the upshot from the Pew Mobile Health 2012 report.

Some 85 percent of American adults own a cell phone today, and 31 percent of them turn to their phones for health or medical information, up from 17 percent since this study was last conducted in 2010.

The figures are even rosier with smartphone owners. The survey found that 45 percent of all Americans own a smartphone, with 52 percent of them using it for health reasons — no doubt because accessing, viewing and sharing are all easier with a smartphone. Read more…