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Blog - Page 3 of 7 - Fully Effective Employees

10
May

Do Your Employees Have Financial Problems?

While there are signs the economy is improving, people continue to experience unemployment, foreclosure, bankruptcy and credit card debt. Many Americans live well beyond their means and survive from paycheck to paycheck.  Financial problems create stress, anxiety, relationship issues and depression. As a result, employees may have a difficult time keeping their financial problems separate from their work lives.  Stress and emotional difficulties can lead to absenteeism, accidents and performance issues which will affect an employer’s bottom line.

Although the economy has been the primary source, there are other reasons employees may be experiencing financial difficulties.

These include:

  • Gambling
  • Drug or alcohol addiction
  • Shopping addiction
  • Depression
  • Poor money management
  • Divorce

The following are some signs that employees may be experiencing financial difficulties:

  • Requesting paycheck advances
  • Requesting an employer loan
  • Often volunteering to work overtime
  • Taking out 401K loans or discontinuing contributions
  • Calls to verify employment or wages by lenders
  • Garnishment of wages
  • Change in work peformance, attitude or behavior
  • Frequent phone calls
  • Overly emotional behavior

Employers can take a proactive approach to help employees with personal and financial problems by providing a good employee assistance program.  You can actively encourage the confidential use of  the program for employees and their families by distributing promotional materials, linking the EAP website to the company’s Intranet, and reminding workers about the EAP in meetings, company newsletters and emails.  Fully Effective Employees provides an optional legal and financial assistance program which allows employees the opportunity to speak with an attorney or CPA about their financial situation.  We can also arrange to have financial planners provide financial seminars at no additional cost.

If personal problems have begun to affect performance, you should refer the employee to the EAP for the performance issue and if you suspect financial issues may be the reason,  you can share that information with the EAP counselor.  Investing in your most important asset- your employees makes good business sense.

 

 

12
Apr

Ten Reasons to Have an Employee Assistance Program

Most employers retain the services of an Employee Assistance Program to help employees and their families with personal and work related problems. If employees function well at work, they contribute to the well being of an organization as a whole.  Most EAP’s help with a wide range of problems including stress, depression, anxiety, family or relationship difficulties, work issues, financial, legal, worklife, work problems and more.  An EAP can be highly effective at reducing employee problems and increasing the bottom line.  However, there are many choices in the EAP market and like all services, it is important to understand what you need and what you are receiving from your current or potential vendor. The following is a list of the top ten reasons to have an EAP:

1. Increase productivity

When employees are faced with personal problems, their concentration, focus and motivation are all negatively impacted so an EAP can help them deal with these issues which will improve productivity. An EAP reduces absenteeism, accidents and turnover, thereby making employees more productive.

2. Reduce Company Costs

Employee problems are costly.  Troubled employees take more sick days, have more accidents, and make more health insurance claims. When employees suffer emotionally, their work and productivity also suffer.  An EAP will improve work peformance and help increase the bottom line.

3. Confidentiality

When a third party company provides EAP services,  employees are more likely to seek help, when they know their employer is not privy to their confidential personal information. Employers are not put in the position of assisting employees with personal problems when they are not trained or equipped to do so. They are able to manage people but not their problems.

4. Aids in the Recruitment and Rentention of Valued Employees

An EAP is a value-added benefit for employees and their families which provides confidential access to counseling and resources they might not otherwise have. It builds morale and loyalty when employees know their employer supports their physical and emotional well being.

5. Resolution of Work Related Problems

EAP’s help employees deal with personal problems that have begun to affect work peformance which will hopefully prevent termination and get the employee back on track. The EAP can also help the employee  to develop skills to deal with work related stress and problematic work relationships.

6. Assistance in Getting the Right Help

When left to their own devices, employees may be confused or overwhelmed about how to access services, treatment or counseling in their own community or may not even know where to turn.  The EAP counselors sort out the issues and assist with appropriate referrals and resources for ongoing support and problem resolution.

7.  Management Assistance

Managers and supervisors may need help confronting and dealing with problematic employees or workplace situations. The EAP provides management training, coaching and consultation. The EAP can also assist with drug testing, harassment and potential workplace violence.

8. Drug Testing Programs

The EAP can assist employers with their drug testing programs by providing assessments, referrals, case management and assistance with Return to Work Agreements when employees test positive for drugs at work. Drug testing prevents serious accidents, injuries and fatalities and the EAP can help employees get back on track without losing their jobs.

9. Training

The EAP can provide online and onsite training to employees and supervisors on a range of topics. Training also increases awareness of the EAP. Most EAP’s also provide critical incident debriefings after a traumatic event has occured at the worksite.

10. Resourcs and Referrals

The EAP can be a wealth of information for employers, employees and their families. Not only can the EAP counselors assist with the pyschological well being of employees, they can also assist with legal issues, childcare and eldercare referrals, treatment programs, community resources, human resource assistance and much more.

For information on how Fully Effective Employees can help your company, contact us at audreyr@fee-eap.com

 

 

 

1
Mar

Managing the Workplace After the Death of an Employee

As a manager, one of the most difficult situations you may face in your career is managing the aftermath of the death of an employee and the multiple repercussions that may affect your work group or department. Because a critical incident of this nature may be traumatic for co-workers of the employee, it is recommended that you, or your Human Resources support person contact your Employee Assistance Program to assist you. It is helpful to schedule a debriefing session after news of the employee’s death has been received. Your EAP specialist will be available to facilitate the session once it can be arranged. Research has shown that early intervention with the affected work group, within 24 to 72 hours after the word of a death arrives, reduces the stressful impact of the news. Co-workers have the opportunity to volunteer expressions of grief and time to share thoughts in remembrance of the person. Plans for gestures of condolence to family members can be completed and satisfy the general need to do something to commemorate the loss. Effectively managing what may be an extremely emotional situation for you and your work group may mean delegating certain duties associated with the death to those who are more detached from the situation.

Because an incident of this nature can result in a traumatic stress response, it is recommended that you or Human Resources contact the EAP to facilitate a debriefing session for all affected employees within 24 to 48 hours after learning of the death. Research has found that early intervention with a work group reduces the possibility of delayed stress responses and enables the work group to return to their normal level of productivity sooner. Another benefit of the debriefing is that the organization and its management staff are viewed by employees as responsive and caring people.

Since each member of the work group may grieve the loss of their co-worker in individual ways, it makes sense to recognize that need. Provide ways for these emotions to be channeled and recognized. There is a wide range of normal and appropriate reactions to grief and loss.

When you contact the EAP, you will be asked to provide whatever relevant information is available regarding the death of the employee and your assessment of the work group’s reaction to the situation. A one to two hour debriefing session or meeting for employees should be scheduled as soon as possible. This meeting should be voluntary; interested employees are encouraged to attend. Individuals may choose to speak or not speak. There may be individual employees, identified by you or by the EAP counselors, who may need one-on-one attention, due to the severity of their grief reaction.

Listed below are subject areas to be considered when trying to effectively manage this kind of workplace situation. You will not be able to think of everything or meet every need – this is an unusual work situation where there are few protocols. You will, however, want to thoughtfully consider the following steps:

First Things First

Get all of the assistance you feel you will need to effectively manage the situation. Assess your own reaction to the news in order to anticipate the need to involve other resources within the organization.

Staff Notification

There is no way to anticipate how you will learn of the death of one of your employees. You may be the first to know from the family, but often the news will travel a more circuitous route and another employee may alert you. No matter how you learn of the incident, react quickly by notifying immediate staff and close work friends directly, and the rest of the company through written communications, such as an email or memorandum. Remember to contact staff who are away or on leave. Share whatever information you have and explain that more details will be forthcoming.

Attending the Funeral or Memorial Service

Arrange time for your staff to attend the funeral or memorial service if they would like to do so. You may need to hire a temporary worker to answer phones for a few hours so that everyone can attend. Attending the memorial service is an important part of the grieving process.

Remembering the Deceased Employee

The relationship the employee had with co-workers will often determine how the workplace decides to remember the deceased. Examples of work group responses include: creating a memorial bulletin board with photos and other meaningful images, holding a workplace event such as a luncheon or reception to honor the deceased employee. Invite family members and close friends outside of work to share their memories with the group. You might also: create a memory book filled with stories and sentiments from co-workers to give to the family, have a fundraiser to give a financial donation to a chosen charity organization, or write an article about the employee for the in-house newsletter.

Other Workplace Issues

Some of the more concrete issues which you, as the manager, will need to address are:

Desk and personal belongings.

Family members or a close work friend may want to handle the task of boxing up the in dividual’s personal belongings.

Changing the voice mail message, retrieving messages (voice mail and email), handling inquires intended for the deceased employee.

These tasks could be shared or rotated among staff to ease the emotional burden of having to tell callers that the employee has died. Prepare a brief statement to assist those who reply to calls.

Staff coverage for unfinished or future work assignments.

A temporary, short-term plan can be put into place until a more permanent decision can be made. It is best to put a temporary plan into action as soon as possible to lessen the level of anxiety that is already present among the staff. Make it clear what is needed and who is responsible.

Office space.

It is best not to make any abrupt moves in regard to space changes; people need time to grieve the loss of their co- worker before seeing his or her workstation dismantled. In a month or so, there will be more acceptance of the changes which come from the loss of the co-worker.

The replacement employee.

Under the best of circumstances, a new employee needs to be prepared for possible negative comparisons with the deceased employee. If the deceased was particularly well-liked, the transition will be even more difficult. It is advisable to give staff notice of the new employee’s start date, relevant work background and to prepare them for the change. It is a normal part of accepting a loss to welcome someone new.

Loss of work productivity and motivation.

As the manager, expect the death of an employee to result in lower productivity and motivation for a brief time. The debriefing held soon after the announcement will ease the impact of loss, but it cannot be avoided entirely. Eventually, the work unit will return to its normal level of functioning.

Referring to the EAP.

If one to two months pass and you notice that one of your employees has not returned to his or her normal level of functioning and appears to still be grieving, talk to that employee, give them feedback on what you have observed and share your concerns about them. You may suggest that they seek counseling from your EAP. Often, a loss in one area of someone’s life, as in the loss of a co-worker, triggers unresolved feelings about previous losses or anticipated losses. This person may need extra assistance in coping with these feelings.

This article was written by Nancie Bowes Kenney, M.S.W. Edited by Mary McClain Georgevich

CopeLine is published by: COPE, Inc. 1120 G Street, NW Suite 550 Washington, DC

Additional Resources

Necessary Losses, The Loves, Illusions, Dependencies, and Impossible Expectations That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Grow, Viorst, Judith, Fireside, 1998. Section IV, Chapters 16 through 20 are particularly significant in regards to loss and grief.

Death and Dying, Kubler-Ross, Elisabeth, Scribner, 1997.

When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Kushner, Harold, Avon, 1997.

 

10
Feb

Caregiving Employees

As our aging population grows, the number of working caregivers does as well.  The Alzheimer’s Association estimates there are 10 million caregivers for those affected by this disease, and most of these caregivers are in the workforce, and this is for Alzheimer’s only!  Many times during the workday, a caregiving employee may need to drop everything to deal with a loved one’s health crisis.  A friend of mine has gotten 3 calls in the last month from the emergency room regarding her mother, each time she was at work and had to leave to address the emergency.  Luckily she has a flexible job.  We have talked about some things she can do to be more pro-active with her employer.

As an employer, the following are some things you can share with your employees;

1. Talk to your employer about the situation, familiarize yourself with company leave policies and state/federal laws for family leave.  If appropriate also discuss with co-workers as oftentimes, your workload may fall to them in your absence.

2. Since you cannot predict a crisis, make sure that you are up-to-date on your assignments, maybe work longer hours in anticipation of leaving suddenly, and also communicate with your co-workers anything that will involve them.

3. Have medical and contact information at the ready.  This will allow for smooth admissions and access to services.

4. Set boundaries!  Know yours!  Oftentimes, caregivers will take on more than they can handle.  Overdoing it can leave caregivers feeling overwhelmed and quite honestly, not doing everything well.

5. Have backup plans- while some elderly parents may deteriorate quickly or require acute care due to a sudden serious illness or fall, others slwly decline and may need caregiving for a longer time.  If so, it would be a good idea to have respite care, other family members or family friends who can share the work and information on nursing homes or other facilities if you can no longer do it on your own.

6. Take care of yourself- if you don’t you won’t be good to anyone. Be sure to balance your work and personal responsibilities. Take time to rest, exercise, eat well and do some enjoyable activities.

7.  Seek profesional assistance if needed- sometimes the stress of caregiving, work and other family responsibilities can be too much. If you find yourself being irritable, depressed or not doing as well as you should, contact a professional counselor or the EAP for confidential assistance.

In addition to the above tips, the employee assistance program can be an invaluable help to your employees.  The EAP can provide the needed emotional support, and assist with resources and referrals.  If you don’t have it  already, consider adding the Worklife Program to your EAP services. The additional program provides a well of information, resources, and referrals for all aspects of caregiving and dealing with ill or aging family members.

For more information about Fully Effective Employees or our services contact us at audreyr@fee-eap.com

20
Jan

EAP’s Help Reduce Absenteeism

All employers know that employee absenteeism is a big problem. It reduces productivity, morale and the company bottom line.  The ever present challenge is how employers can prevent and reduce absenteeism. CCH, a leading provider of human resources and employment law information (hr.cch.com) conducted an unscheduled absence survey in 2005  and found that the  average per employee cost of absenteeism is $660 with some larger companies losing more than $1 million per year.  What is of great concern to employers is that almost two out of three employees who call in sick are not physically sick. Personal illness accounted for only 35 percent of unscheduled absences and 65% were due to other reasons including family issues (21 percent), personal needs (18 percent) entitlement mentality (14 percent) and stress (12 percent).

Companies with low morale saw higher rates and costs of unscheduled absences. 78% of human resource managers feel that the main cause of absenteeism is the belief that those who skip out of work believe they are entitled to time off.  The other reason cited by human resource managers is  a lack of supervisor involvement as a catalyst to discourage employee absenteeism. When managers understand the causes of absenteeism and use the EAP as a resource for assisting employees, they can play a big role in reducing absenteeism.

When employees are faced with stressful everyday life situations, it has an impact on their ability to be present in their jobs. Stressful situations include family and relationship problems, physical illness, addictions,  financial difficulties including foreclosure, bankruptcy, identity theft, debt and unemployment by a spouse. If employees have a confidential, employer sponsored way (the EAP) to obtain assistance with these difficulties, they are more likely to address their problems earlier and resolve them quicker. Additional worklife and wellness programs as part of the EAP can be very helpful for employees trying to manage the stress of balancing work and family issues.

The EAP can also train managers on how to recognize and identify personal problems before they have begun to effect performance. When managers can coach employees on how to use the EAP, they stay out of the middle of their personal problems, while still offering a way to get help. Once personal problems have begun to effect performance or absenteeism, they can refer the employee to the EAP as a supervisor referral for peformance based issues.  In addition, when employees know they are valued and given a free, confidential resource to address their personal problems, they feel appreciated by and more loyal to their employer.

Employers should also create incentive programs that  can improve both attitude and attendance rates. This works for several reasons. Some employees may lack the internal motivation necessary to keep their spirits up and give them the drive and desire to show up to work every day. These people may need the external motivation that incentives provide.

Additionally, incentives tend to promote certain goals, which can be beneficial for employees with attendance problems. The company can create an incentive program that is specifically linked to attendance. Examples of this type of program include:

1) The ability to cash-in unused sick days at the end of a specific period

2) Allowing employees to leave early one Friday per month of perfect attendance

3) Bonus pay for periods of perfect attendance

4) Gifts such as savings bonds or gift cards for periods of perfect attendance

5) Paid time off programs which allow for personal issues, vacation and sick time all in one bank of hours so employees can use what they need when needed.

Of course employers do need to be clear with employees that if they are legitimately sick, they should stay home so that no one else at work gets sick and so they can take the time they need to get better.  When the workplace culture is one that does not allow people to be ill, then it will create resentment and poor morale.

Do you have any good suggestions for preventing absenteeism? If so, we would love to hear your ideas.

Fully Effective Employees offers assistance with drug testing, management training and consultation, and confidential assistance to employees and their families with personal and work related problems.

16
Jan

EAPs Can Help Employers Reduce Workers’ Compensation Costs

Many employers may see their Workers’ Compensation premiums increase for 2012.  Fully Effective Employees, employee assistance program can help employers reduce their liability while preventing expensive claims and reducing the amount of time an employee is off work. Prevention is key- offering support to employees and awareness for employers of the causes of increased WC claims will go a long way to reduce costs. Behavioral risk factors including, attendance, performance issues, depression and drug and alcohol abuse are all known to be associated with workplace accidents, injuries and even fatalities.

The first step employers can take is to provide a drug testing program. Research shows that employees who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol are 3.6 times more likely to be involved in on the job accidents and 5 times more likely to injure themselves or someone else.  They are also five times more likely to file a worker’s compensation claim.

When employees are impaired, their judgment, response time and reflexes are also impaired. Letting all employees know that your company will be conducting pre-employment, random and post-accident drug testing will discourage drug users from working for you.  Over the years, we have found that the companies with the highest compensation rates are the ones that don’t drug test. Obviously, more drug users work for companies that don’t drug test.

Next, employers should use their EAP to help all employees who test positive for drugs.  The EAP can assess the client, refer him for treatment if indicated, and monitor his progress in treatment. The EAP will continue to provide support once treatment has been completed when he is at the greatest risk for relapse.

Employers could also refer all employees to the EAP when they are injured.  The client can choose to confidentially discuss issues related to the injury, including relationship and communication issues with co-workers and family members.  The EAP counselor can assess whether there are pre-existing issues or if the employee is at risk for malingering, depression, or drug abuse due to prescription medication or untreated substance abuse issues that occured prior to the claim.  The EAP counselor can assist the employee with a return to work plan, preparing him or her for a change in job function or an adjustment to work as soon as possible.  The result of working with the EAP is that  injured employees may be more likely to return to work sooner and be less likely to abuse the WC benefits.  The EAP would also provide follow up and support to the worker after he has returned to work.

The back to work plan is essential.  Supervisors should be encouraged to avoid conflicts with employees via telephone or by email with injured workers. Research has shown that supervisor and co-worker conflicts figure prominently in increased injury recovery times and protracted absenteeism of injured workers. In addition, a zero tolerance policy should be implemented for harassing employees on light duty.  If a medical doctor has approved an employee to return to work on light duty, co-workers should not be permitted to guilt, influence or intimidate a recovering worker to participate in unapproved work activities. (www.workexcel.net)

Our staff at Fully Effective Employees will meet with your company safety or human resources manager to discuss the role the EAP can play in helping you to prevent and reduce your WC claims.  We can discuss your risk exposure, safety plans, training, and assist with a drug testing program.  These services are all part of our program to provide both an employee and employer assistance program. Once you have implemented this plan, you should be able to provide evidence of your program to prevent and reduce WC claims ,which should result in lower rates for the following year.  The added bonus is a safer workplace and healthier, happier or more loyal employees.

 

14
Dec

Stress Management Tips for the Holiday Season

While most of our blog posts are geared toward Human Resource Managers and company owners, we feel this blog has tips that  can be useful for employees as well.  While the holiday season can be a time of joy and celebration, it can also be an extremely stressful time of year for others.  While some people can celebrate and engage in parties and family get togethers, others struggle with depression, addiction, financial difficulties or family problems that can be intensified over the holidays.  Some employees  may have suffered a loss of a loved one or gone through a divorce during the year which can make the holidays very difficult.  Employers should be sensitive to theses issues and ensure that employees are aware of the Employee Assistance Program which can offer them resources, brief counseling and support during tough times. If you feel stressed out by the thought of holiday chores, obligations, and the clan dropping in for a spell—or if this year’s circumstances make the holiday season difficult for whatever reason—start preparations now to manage your holiday stress.

The following tips were written by Dan Feerst, LICSW-CP of WorkExcel.com .

Holiday Myth Busters —Along with good tidings come high expectations based on the commercialization of the holiday season, past childhood memories we may long to duplicate, and the expectations of others.

If family members count on your “holiday magic” to make every year special—the cooking, cleaning, baking, decorating, and gift-wrapping—you face a bigger challenge letting go or finding balance.

Here’s how to cope better with expectations, demands, and added pressure during the holidays.

We wish all of our clients and their families a very Happy Holiday Season.If you are interested in learo

Decision Time —Make a decision to take charge and tackle holiday stress. This mentally prepares you to enjoy the time while facing demands of the season with better endurance.

Your Priorities —Decide on your priorities to make the season meaningful. Did you miss the tour of homes last year because the Waltons next door had their open house on the same day? The idea here is to plan a few “non-negotiable” events for yourself.

 Now the Rest —What activities are important to your brood this year? Seek to trim the “idea tree” to reduce stress from trying to fit it all in. A family meeting to gather ideas can work, and chances are activities you thought everyone still wanted are no longer of interest.

Avoid the Rush —Are holiday lights on the house critical? If yes, go for it, but if it seems more like a “chore” than a pleasurable task, that’s a clue about its priority and importance to you. Activities that feel like chores get delayed. Pay attention to procrastination. It is insight to help you decide whether it’s thumbs up or down on something that seems desirable.

Fight the Blues —If the holidays are a sad time of year because of difficult memories or because a loved one can’t be there, then develop a personal intervention strategy. Volunteering for a local charity is an interactive experience, and those who’ve tried it claim it works to lift one’s mood. You’ll feel empowered and more positive, and the experience of helping others anchors you to a memory that lasts.

Navigating Family Conflict —If you can’t avoid holiday gatherings with family members who experience feuds and conflicts, try discussing with kin your desire to avoid conflict. Be up front and ask that differences be set aside. Older adults criticizing teenagers is a famous trigger. So are statements from in-laws that appear critical, interfering, or meddlesome. Self-awareness is power, so you stand a good chance of at least minimizing this behavior.

Take Care of Yourself —What improves your mood—exercise, positive affirmations, alone time? During the year, have you been promising to do something for yourself, but keep putting it off? Do it. The holiday season is a perfect time to reaffirm your love, not only for those you care about but also for yourself.

 EAP Can Help —Holiday stress affects everyone differently, so suggestions here may not match what’s unique for you. Don’t face the stress alone. Instead, call Fully Effective Employees, assistance program. The EA professional will help you find the resilience and strength you need to face any challenge the holidays may bring.

We wish all of our clients and their families a very happy holiday season and all the best for the coming year.

If you would like to learn more about how Fully Effective Employees can help your business and your employees, please contact us at audreyr@fee-eap.com or 425-557-0907

Copyright 2011 WorkExcel.com

 

5
Dec

Hosting Safe Holiday Parties at Work

As the holiday season quickly approaches, many businesses are starting to plan their holiday social events.  Many employers use the holidays as a time to reward their employees, to socialize and to provide a positive experience for everyone.  The majority of companies serve alcohol at holiday parties and events.  Individuals who drink too much during a company event can do things to jeopardize their health, safety and their careers.  When people drink, their inhibitions decrease and they may do and say things they would never dream of during a regular work day when not under the influence of alcohol.  Employers should also consider that not everyone drinks; some choose not to drink, some are under age,and others may be in recovery from addictions and be particularly vulnerable to temptation during the holidays.  Employers should be aware of the issues that can arise as a result of office parties where alcohol is served.

The U.S Department of Labor Working Partners for an Alcohol and Drug Free Workplace offers the following tips to minimize the negative consequences of alcohol consumption at your holiday party.

1. Be honest with employees.  Make sure employees know your workplace substance abuse policy and that the policy addresses the use of alcoholic beverages in any work related function.

2. Post the policy. Use every communication vehicle to be sure your employees know the policy. Before an office party, use break room posters, payroll stuffers and email to communicate your policy and concerns.

3. Reinvent the office party concept.  Try something like an indoor carnival, volunteer opportunity or group outing to a sporting event or amusement park.

4. Make sure employees know when to say “when”.  If you do serve alcohol, make sure all employee know they are welcome to attend and have a good time but that they are expected to behave responsibly.

5. Make it the office party of choice. Be sure there are plenty of non-alcoholic beverages.

6. Eat.. and be merry!  Avoid serving lots of salty, greasy or sweet food, which tend to make people thirsty. Serve foods rich in starch and protein- that stay in the stomach longer and slow down the absorption of alcohol in the bloodstream.

7. Designate party managers.  Remind managers that even at the office party, they may need to implement the company’s alcohol and substance abuse policy.

8. Arrange alternative transportation. Anticipate that some partygoers may drink too much to drive safely.  Make special transportation arrangements in advance (ie shuttles or taxis to public transportation). Encourage all employees to make use of this service.

9. Serve none for the road. Stop serving alcohol before the party officially ends.  Employers should review their policies regarding alcohol consumption and enforce these policies at all company celebrations.

 

16
Nov

PTSD in the Workplace

PTSD stands for post traumatic stress disorder. According to the National Center for PTSD, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can occur after a person has been through a traumatic event.  A traumatic event is something horrible and scary that one witnesses or is involved with.  During this type of event, the individual may think that his life or others’ lives are in danger.  He may feel afraid or feel that he has no control over what is happening.

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, symptoms are grouped into three main categories.

1. Re-experiencing symptoms which include:

  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Scary and recurring thoughts

2. Avoidance symptoms

  • Staying away from certain situations or places
  • Feeling emotionally numb, guilty or depressed

3. Hyperarousal symptoms

  • Easily starled
  • Feeling tense
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Angry outbursts

While many mililtary vets have PTSD, it can occur in non-military employees as well. They may have been in an accident, witnessed a fatality or serious injury at work, or been a victim of a natural disaster or war.  Due to the nature of the profession, PTSD tends to occur more in the medical field, fire fighters,  police officers, and the construction industry.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employees are not required to disclose a diagnosis of PTSD, however they are required to disclose their condition, if or when they need accomodation to perform the essential duties of the job.  PTSD can negatively impact memory, concentration, time management and organizational skills and more.

The Job Accomodation Network is a great resource that provides suggestions for employers to consider when accomodating employees.

While some employees have been diagnosed and are being treated for PTSD, others may not be aware they have it. If you are concerned about an employee who may be displaying or experiencing some of the above symptoms, it is a good idea to refer them to the EAP. If there are no performance issues, you can suggest they contact the EAP and emphasize that all contact with the EAP is confidential. If however, there are performance issues, you should refer the employee to the EAP for the performance problem and you can certainly share your concerns about the possiblity of PTSD or emotional issues with the EAP counselor who will conduct a thorough assessment.

If a traumatic event such as a sudden death, injury or serious accident occurs at work, you should contact the EAP about the possiblility of conducting a critical incident debriefing. Allowing employees the opportunity to discuss what they saw and their reactions to the event, can help them process their feelings and prevent PTSD.  The EAP also offers education about the symptoms of trauma and helps normalize their reactions to an abnormal event.

 

 

3
Nov

Critical Incident Debriefing

This week we were asked to conduct critical incident debriefings for two different companies, after both had an armed robbery in the same week. The event reminded me how important a message it is to employees that their employer cares enough to give them time and resources (the EAP counselor) to process their feelings about these traumatic events.
A critical incident can be defined as a situation beyond a person’s usual realm of experience that overwhlems his or her vulnerability and lack of control. This event can cause changes in a person’s emotional, behavioral and cognitive functioning. In general, most people feel that work is predictable and safe but when that sense of security is shattered by a violent act, serious accident or even a fatality, it can have a significant emotional impact on the lives of employees.

A critical incident debriefing allows individuals impacted by a critical incident to process their thoughts and feelings with others who have experienced the same thing. We remind individuals that their reactions are a NORMAL reaction to an ABNORMAL event. The critical incident debriefing also provides education about the signs of cognitive, behavioral and emotional symptoms commonly experienced after a traumatic event. The EAP counselor will also discuss self-care techniques and when to determine if professional help is necessary.
Some people have unresolved personal losses or traumas that can surface at the time of a critical incident which can make their reactions to the new event even more intense. The EAP counselor can also provide individual counseling if needed.  Allowing employees the opportunity to share their feelings and reactions in a confidential environment which is supported by the employer, can prevent individuals from experiencing post traumatic stress disorder and allows employees to feel validated, supported and loyal towards their employer.

Critical incident debriefing is an important part of the employee assistance program. The EAP counselor can help the employer determine if it is appropriate to conduct a debriefing or if other forms of intervention may be more beneficial.