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16
May

Combating Workplace Negativity

Negativity is a habit. It is contagious and quite common in many workplaces and can easily become part of a company’s culture. Negativity can include gossiping, poor morale, badmouthing management or the company, lack of enthusisasm, bullying, harassment, and lack of loyalty to the employer.  Restructuring a negative workplace can take years.  Therefore, it is better to prevent negativity from occuring in the first place and when it does arise, recognize it and nip it in the bud.

According to Cheryl DeMarco http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Cheryl_DeMarco, some business consequences of workplace negativity can be:

Customer complaintsBusinessman Looking Suspiciously Over His Shoulder

Errors and poor work quality

Increased employee turnover

Absence and tardiness

Pesonality conflicts

Poor morale

Loss of loyalty to the organization

Decreased creativity

Negativity has a tremendous impact on a company’s bottom line. It will also affect the worker, emotionally and physically and when employees work in a negative environment, it is hard not to take it home with them.

As a manager, be consciously aware of someone’s attitude when determining if you wish to hire them.  Look for hints of negativity and if you pick it up, listen to your gut and don’t hire that person.  Also, carefully listen  for negativity when requesting references.  If you have an employee who has become negative, react quickly. Meet with the employee and discuss your observations and concerns. Sometimes the reasons may be justifiied and you should acknowledge that and help find ways to resolve the cause, if possible.  Help this person take responsibility for their negativity.  Even if there are valid concerns for one’s feelings it is not appropriate to express them negatively at work. You may not be able to change someone’s point of view but you can influence behavior during work hours.  Describe exactly what you expect.  Tell the employee exactly what you have observed and how if has affected the company and co-workers.  Help the employee replace negative behaviors with more positive ones.  Negative behavior is a performance issue and it may be very approprate to refer the individual to the EAP as a management referral.  When you use the EAP as a partner with management, you can monitor an employee’s motivation to improve and their progress, while staying out of the personal issues or details.

If the behavior has been ocurring within a group of employees, it would be advisable to consult with the EAP about how to handle the situation. Depending on what is happening and the causes for the negativity, it may be appropriate to meet with the group together or to meet with individuals separately. 

Unfortunately, sometimes you will have no choice but to fire a really negative person.  As a leader, you model by example and if you allow a negative or inappropriate employee to remain, it sets a bad tone.  Be the change you want to see.

For information on preventing or dealing with negativity in your workplace and how the EAP can help, contact us at 425-557-0907.

 

 

17
Mar

“Free” Employee Assistance Programs

“Free” employee assistance programs have become more and more prevalent.  EAPs are often included as part of other core services such as health insurance, disability carriers and even payroll companies. These providers and the employers and benefit brokers they market to rationalize “why not throw in a free EAP?”  However, as a consumer of employee benefits, employers must understand what they are getting.  First of all, nothing is really free- the cost of the EAP services are covered by the carrier and as a result, often the cost is embedded and passed onto the purchaser of these services. Second, do you know who your provider is and just what you are getting?

Ron Holman wrote an article titled “Free Employee Assistance Programs, You Get What You Pay For”  in the California Broker back in 2003 as free EAP’s were just emerging.  It appears as though “free” is here to stay.  However, many of these providers offer very little.  Holman wrote “When a company chooses to offer its employees a “Free” EAP, they may not be invested in who utilizes the plan since they are not paying for the EAP.  However, one very important quality of the EAP is the ability to detect any patterns within the employee population regarding drug and alcohol use, personal problems, legal or financial problems and issues with childcare and eldercare and  to identify any necessary assistance…. Because many “free EAPs” do not provide employers with utilization reports, company executives are not able to understand their employee’s needs.”

The more employees use the EAP, the more it costs the provider.  Therefore most  free EAPs are not motivated to promote and provide awareness of the program because it costs them.  As a result, some employers don’t even know the name of their EAP company and rarely use it.  Usually on site services, critical incident debriefing, management consultation and management referrals and case management are either not provided or rarely used.  All of these services are essential elements of a high quallity EAP which are also required under the “Standards and Guidelines for EAPs” according to the Employee Assistance Professionals Association.

Employee assistance programs that are offered as stand alone services are far more beneficial to employers.  Many companies change their insurance providers frequently based on the most favorable rates they can obtain.  If the EAP is included, it too will have to change which can be confusing and may discourage use by employees.  If cases are managed for a long time then they will need to be transferred mid-stream to another provider that is unfamiliar with the case, which can be especially problematic for positive drug tests,  management referrals and complex cases.

As an employer, you should be looking for a locally based EAP provider;Business Team one that knows the treatment facilities, the community resources and the nuances of your company.  Your EAP provider should be able to assist you with the specific needs of your company and have regular contact with you.  It should be able to provide trainings, management consultation, critical incident debriefings, assist with management referrals and drug testing policies.  It should provide yearly utilization reports and assist you in promoting and increasing, rather than avoiding utilization of the program.

If you have a free EAP or one that is not meeting your needs, it may be time to evaluate what you need now.  For more information contact Fully Effective Employees at 425-557-0907.

 

 

9
Mar

EAP and HR for Small Businesses

Business HandshakeEmployee assistance services are available for small businesses through our EAP and HR Partnership Program. 

It is very difficult for small employers to obtain quality, personalized EAP services because the majority of Employee Assistance Programs cater to the larger employer.
We have developed a program to assist very small employers (10-25 employees). For one low flat rate, we will provide one (1) face to face counseling session for clients who reside within the Puget Sound, WA area.  If clients are outside our local area, we will provide a comprehensive telephone assessment with one of our in-house professionally trained EAP staff members.  We also provide unlimited management consultations, telephone counseling and support to employees and their dependents and access to our password protected website.  Our comprehensive website includes self-assessment tests, articles, resources, newsletters and much more.

The cost of this program is very minimal and can provide peace of mind to employers who have concerns about how to handle difficult employees or situations. It is always more cost effective to help current employees than to replace, recruit and retrain a new one.

If you have employees with:

  • Performance issues
  • Attitude problems
  • Absenteeism, tardiness
  • Poor moral
  • Personal problems
  • Drug or alcohol issues  and more…

We can help! The EAP can increase employee loyalty and performance.  It will improve your company’s bottom line with reduced health care costs, workers’ compensation claims and reduced absenteeism and turnover.

Because we do all the EAP work ourselves, we get to know the key players within our clients companies and we understand the company culture.  If you are a small business owner, you have may have questions about how to handle difficult employees and may need a professional to consult with about a certain employee or problematic employment situations.  We can advise you on assisting employees with personal and or performance related issues.

 If your company is too small for your own HR staff,  we can refer you to our Human Resource partner who can provide you with some of the following:

  • Creation or revision of your employee handbook
  • Assistance with forms, procedures and compliance issues. 
  • Assessment of your company’s needs
  • Assistance with recruitment, difficult terminations

If warranted, we can also refer you to employment attorneys and we will provide ongoing case management with difficult situations.

Examples if situations where we can help small business are:

1.  A long term employee died over the weekend.  Since the group of 12 co-workers had worked with this individual for many years, they were all very upset and had a tough time getting their work done.  In addition, this employee had a specialized position that no one else could do.  Our EAP provided a critical incident debriefing to the whole company to help them process their reactions and grief.  We met with the company owner to allow her to process her grief, to help her plan a memorial for the employee and to make plans to replace the position that was difficult to fill.

2. An employee tested positive for drugs after a pretty serious workplace accident.  We were able to provide an initial drug and aclohol assessment and then referred him to a treatment agency where he was able and willing to enroll in so that he could keep his job.  We assisted the employer with a return to work agreement and monitored the employee’s progress in treatment. We have been following up with him for the past year and he has remained clean and sober and is thankful that his employer offered the EAP for help.

3.  A long-term highly skilled supervisor had been accused of harassing and intimidating a subordinate.  The subordinate employee complained to management. In the course of the investigation, the employee informed management that two previous employees had left because of this supervisor. The supervisor was very hesistant to reprimand the supervisor because his position was so difficult to replace.  We consulted with management, helped them document the issues and they  referred the employee to the EAP as a management referral.  We  referred the employer to our HR partner for one on one harassment training with the supervisor and she assisted the employee and employer with a performance improvement plan.  We also provided support to the subordinate employee.

For more information about how we can help your small business, contact us at audreyr@fee-eap.com

 

 

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

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.

15
Sep

Medical Marijuana and the Workplace

A couple of months ago, Fully Effctive Employees  held a free one hour seminar on Medical Marijuana and the Workplace in Bellevue, Washington.  We invited guest speaker, Laurie Johnston, an employment attorney and partner at Gordon and Rees, P.S. to speak about the State law which was passed by the Supreme Court of Washington in June 2011, referring to the Medical Use of Marijuana Act (“MUMA”).  MUMA does not require private employers to accommodate an employee’s off site use of medical marijuana.  The Court further held that MUMA does not create a public policy that would support a claim for wrongful discharge.  What this means is that employers CAN terminate an employee who tests positive for marijuana even if it is used for medical purposes.

What this means is that employers CAN terminate an employee who tests positive for marijuana even if it is used for medical purposes. While medical marijuana is readily available and many
employees are using this option to argue the cause for a positive drug test, it is still an illegal drug according to Federal law and if an employer does have a drug testing policy, the employer is not required to accommodate for this drug.  There is no legal prescription for medical marijuana- a letter from a doctor or what is commonly referred to as a “green card” just states that an individual can use a certain amount for a particular diagnosis which can range from chronic, severe pain to minor skin ailments or anxiety.  Marijuana is not approved by the FDA because it cannot be regulated and the carcinogens from the smoke and other additives cannot be evaluated as medically safe.

Laurie Johnston advises that it is wise to treat all employees the same, regardless of whether or not they work in a safety sensitive position.  If an employee who works in a “safety sensitive position” tests positive for marijuana due to “medical reasons” refuses to cease use, an employer should treat him that same as someone in a desk job, even though safety may not be an issue.  Ms. Johnston pointed out that if the employer asks the employee in the desk job to run an errand during company time and that person gets into an accident and it can be proved he has marijuana in his system, there could be liability for the employer.  In addition, there may be other protected class or discrimination claims.  Ms. Johnston recommends that if an employer chooses to keep an individual who uses medical marijuana solely because the position he works in is not a safety risk, there should be clear policy and documentation to that effect.  The employer may be subjecting itself to increased risk and the potential for lawsuits by other employees.

It should be noted that marijuana stays in a person’s system for a long time and someone who has been using it for a while may have to be off of work for up to thirty days until it no longer shows on a drug test.  Due to the cut-off levels that the lab uses, trace amounts of the drug can show up but not be considered a positive drug test, therefore “passive inhalation” or second hand smoke would not create a positive drug test.  In addition, if the employer is using a SAMSHA certified lab (which they should use) rather than instant tests purchased on line or at a drug store, any substance that one ingests to “pass the test” will result in an “adulterated” sample which would be considered a positive.  This is no way to “beat” a drug test if the test is done properly.
While there may be legitimate situations in which medical marijuana is an appropriate option for a physically ill person such as someone who is suffering from a terminal disease or severe pain. In these situations, the person would not be in the workforce or causing a safety risk to himself or others.  If employers choose to drug test, they should be aware that they will eventually have an employee who tests positive for medical marijuana and a clear policy and training of all personnel is vital.

We will disucss how the EAP works with employees who test positive for drugs in another post. Stay tuned!

If you have questions about drug testing in your workplace, feel free to contact us.

 

 

25
Aug

Prepare Your Employees and Your Workplace for a Disaster

Since it is hurricane season, we thought this article might be timely.
Barely a day goes by when the news isn’t covering a horrific national or local disaster. Survivors are interviewed looking for loved ones, possessions and shelter. Some things can be learned from their experiences, such as a disaster can strike suddenly and without warning and what a person can do to prepare in advance. Below are some steps you can follow to prepare your company for a disaster:

Determine what kind of disasters are common to your area from the local Red Cross. For example if you live in Alaska, you don’t have to worry about hurricanes but you should be ready for an earthquake. In the Northwest, we should all be prepared for an earthquake, especially after seeing the devasting and catastrophic effects of the earthquake in Japan.
Designate an out of state partner or branch company you can use to deseminate information to family members, clients or customers about your status.
Be sure employees know where fire extingushers are and how to use them if you don’t have an overhead sprinkler system.
Have an evacuation plan and assign a company individual to bereponsible for the plan and it’s a good idea to conduct a drill ocassionally so everyone is aware of the plan and procedures.
Stock emergency supplies, water and a first aid kit; enough for all employees for at least two days. Replace these items before the expiration date.
Have employees bring in extra medications, foods they eat, eye glasses or extra contact lenses and and a warm sweater and pair of gloves.
Have members of your company learn first aid and CPR.
Be aware that some individuals may be very traumatized especially if they have experienced a previous traumatic event or if they lose their homes or loved ones.
After a disaster, employers can provide critical incident debriefings conducted by the EAP. Some companies will provide meals and other services to employees in the short term to help them recover and get back on their feet.
The EAP can be a helpful resource both before and after a disaster. Preparation is key!

 

11
Aug

Personal Skills for Professional Success

Sometimes employees are promoted and thrust into a management or senior role without the prepartion or information they need to feel comfortable hosting clients or networking.  I atttended a business etiquette presentation last week. The tips that were shared can be useful to employees, managers and sales professionals.   The presenter, Arden Clise, presented the following 10 Personal Skills for Personal Success:

1. Host suggests – The host is responsible for suggesting a restaurant, time and date that is convenient for the guest.

2. Check matters – The host pays and should take care of the bill before the guests arrive.

3. Guest is king – The host gives the guest the best seat and indicates to the guest where to sit.

4. That’s my bread – Navigating the place setting is as simple as “b” and “d” -( Bread plate on the left and drink on the right.)

5. Big talk before small talk – Business discussions start after pleasantries have been exchanged and the order has been placed.

6. Shake hands with confidence – Have a firm handshake, where your hand is fully in the other person’s hand, web to web.

7. Name authority first -When making business introductions, say the name of the person with more authorityfirst and introduce the person of less authority to them (“Mary, CEO, this is George Manager”)

8. One alone or in groups of three+ – When networking, approach someone alone or in groups of three or more. Two people may be in an intimate conversation,

9. Build relationships – Social media is meant to be dialogue, not a broadcast opportunity

10. Don’t default – always presonalize your social media connection, recommendation and referral requests. Don’t use default messages.

 

For more information, visit     clliseetiquette.com

 

 

9
Jul

Employee Assistance Programs Lead to Healthier, More Productive Employees

EmployeesMorneau Shepell, the largest Employee Assistance firm in Canada, released a new study that said that intervention through employee assistance programs leads to improved employee mental health and higher productivity, as well as a reduction of 25 percent in costs due to lost productivity.

The study collected data to measure four specific outcomes: general health status, mental health status, productivity, and absenteeism.  Here are some of its findings:

  • Employees rated their mental status 15 percent higher after receiving EAP support.
  • EAP intervention resulted in a 34 percent reduction in costs related to lost productivity.
  • Before EAP intervention, decreased productivity and absence was costing organizations almost $20,000 per employee per year.

75 percent of North American businesses have an employee assistance program and they are a key component of employee benefit plans.  The Morneau Shepell study made two key recommendations:

1. Organizations should develop a more strategic partnership with their EAP provider as a first step in reallizing the return on investment.  The provider can recommend strategies to optimize the use of the EAP as a preventative measure with the objective of saving costs on the bottom line and using the EAP to support the organization’s health priorities.

2. Organizations should consider a strategic approach to absence management, cost management and strategies related to employee engagement and retention.

For more information about this study go to http://bit.ly/kZ2Xx1

While 75 percent of employers may have an EAP, all programs are not alike.  Employers should investigate their vendors to be sure they are meeting the needs of their company. The company contact or HR representative should have a good relationship with their EAP provider, with the ability to consult or to seek management assistance on a range of personnel issues.

Your EAP should be your partner in assisting with your employees’ emotional health.  The more the employee assistance program is supported by management and  promoted and marketed to employees, the more it will be used.

Healthy, happy and engaged employees will save their employers thousands in lost productivity,  morale issues, performance problems and health insurance claims.   Employees who feel supported by their employer will be loyal in both good and bad economic times.

10
Jun

Funny Excuses for a Positive Drug Test

The national average for a failed drug test is between 4-6%. While some of the excuses are indeed legitimate, more times than not, the excuses while feeble, can be very humorous. Here is a list of some of the excuses we have heard over the years:

  • It was the cookies I ate at a party, I think it was medical marijuana.
  • I buy hemp oil and make salad dressing with it.
  • I take these supplements from the health food store.
  • I kissed a girl who had just used cocaine.
  • I ate a bunch of poppy seed muffins.
  • I thought we were going to do the drug test next week.
  • Impossible! I bought some stuff on line that was guaranteed to make me pass the test.
  • I used to smoke pot back in the day but I am really fat so I hear it stays in your system for a really long time.
  • I thought I would be positive for pot, not meth!
  • I got it in Canada and it’s legal there.
  • All of my friends were smoking in a small car, it must be second hand smoke.
  • I have to light my wife’s joints for her because she uses medical marijuana and she is too sick to do it herself.
  • I was at a party and everyone was smoking pot around me.
  • I thought it only takes a week to get out of your system.
  • Someone must have put something in my drink, I swear I would never use drugs.
  • I take my friend’s pain meds when I have a migraine.

While these excuses may be funny, drug use at work is a serious issue. Employees who are under the influence of mind altering substances can cost employers significant amounts of money in accidents, injuries, errors, absenteeism, tardiness, poor performance and more.
The EAP can help.
Rather than listening to an employee’s story about why his or her drug test was positive, refer the employee to us for a comprehensive assessment and return to work plan. Our goal is to help employees keep their jobs, while remaining drug free and to assist employers in maintaining a safe, healthy and productive workplace.