A nationwide flu outbreak is showing no signs of easing up and may continue for many more weeks. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control said so far more than 17,100 people have been hospitalized with influenza since the flu season began in October. The main culprit for this harsh flu season is the predominant strain, H3N2. Seasons where H3N2 dominates typically result in the most complications, especially for the very young, the elderly and people with certain chronic health conditions.
Workplaces offer many opportunities for people to interact. More interaction between people in close contact increases the risk for respiratory illnesses like the flu to spread. According to the CDC, flu viruses can spread to people from up to six feet away through droplets made by sneezing, coughing or talking. Even before showing symptoms, an infected employee who sneezes during a meeting or coughs at someone’s desk without covering his or her mouth can expose others to the flu.
Here are important steps from the CDC that employers can take to prevent the spread of this year’s outbreak:
Communicate with employees about flu prevention through emails, websites, posters and announcements.
- Use staff training, routine workplace communications, and email announcements to encourage healthy workplace policies and behaviors.
- Encourage managers and employees to get a flu vaccination as soon as possible. It’s not too late since there are still weeks of flu activity to come.
- Consider offering flexible leave and telework policies to make it easier for your staff to stay home when they are sick or caring for a sick family member. Managers should promote sick leave policies that encourage sick employees to stay home.
Maintain a clean environment, and provide employees with supplies that prevent the spread of flu.
- Be sure frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as telephones, keyboards, doorknobs and water fountains and microwave handles are cleaned often.
- Provide supplies that promote healthy hygiene, including tissues, soap, and hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. You can also provide a bleach-and-water solution or a disinfectant with a label that says “EPA approved” for killing bacteria and viruses.
Educate employees on the following healthy behaviors and when to stay home:
Wash hands often with soap and warm water. Rub them together for at least 20 seconds and be sure to dry them thoroughly. If there is no soap and water available, use alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gels and also let it dry completely. Washing hands at specific times reduces cold and flu transmission, for example:
- After coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose;
- Before touching your face;
- After touching contaminated objects such as tissues;
- After cleaning surfaces which may be contaminated;
- After shaking hands with someone known or suspected to be infected;
- Before eating.
Practice good cough and sneeze etiquette – covering the mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing reduces the likelihood of cold and flu viruses becoming airborne and/or contaminating surfaces and other objects in the work environment. However, when hands are used to cover the mouth, they become contaminated. Use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose if you cough or sneeze and encourage workmates to do the same. The tissue should be disposed of and hands washed immediately afterwards. If no tissue is available, cough into the sleeve at the inner elbow. Make sure you have a bin for tissue disposal.
Cold and flu viruses can survive on hard surfaces for up to eight hours and on a person’s hands for approximately five minutes after they touch a contaminated surface. From there they can cause infection if the person touches their mouth or eyes. Reduce your risk of infection by avoiding touching your face, or washing your hands before you do so.
Employees should stay home if they have any of these symptoms:
- Extreme tiredness
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle aches
- Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention- Nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs): At work
According to the Pew Research Center, the vast majority of Americans – 95% – now own a cellphone of some kind and 77% of adult Americans own smartphones. Many employees use their personal devices to make phone calls, surf the internet and send texts while at their workplace, and with 69% of U.S. adults using social media, many also check their accounts while they’re on the clock. When less formal policies fail to limit cell phone use at work, it may be time to establish a formal cell phone policy.
Cell phones can be an important tool in the workplace. Business owners and employees often deal with pressing situations, and a delayed response can mean losing a customer, a client, a sale or a business opportunity. While sending a quick text might be important, and a few minutes of cell phone use here and there won’t typically hurt a business, excessive use can be a big distraction and become a problem in terms of productivity.
Your employees could resist strict or unrealistic requirements, so don’t ban cell phone use at work unless there’s a security or safety issue. However, you may want to set rules, such as requiring employees to keep their cell phones on silent and to limit personal phone calls to breaks and emergency situations. It’s also appropriate to ban the use of smartphones for playing games, watching videos or texting and chatting while at work.
Policies can be incorporated into the employee handbook and/or communicated to employees in other ways, such as with orientation materials distributed to new employees; in an email or written notice to all employees; and posting the policies in areas frequented by employees, such as break rooms, main hallways or bulletin boards.
Here are some guidelines to consider including in a cell-phone policy:
-Limit private phone use to urgent and time sensitive matters such as childcare and medical emergencies.
-Employees should make personal cell phone calls during break or lunch times whenever possible.
-Employees who need to make or take personal calls should be asked to step out of the office or go into a private area to not distract others.
-Phones can be kept on but should be set on quiet mode at work, with ringtones off. Those who want to listen to music should use headphones.
-When in a business meeting, or at a business meal, do not text and let calls go to voicemail. If an urgent call is anticipated and received, step away to talk.
-Cell phone use at work must never include obscene, discriminatory, offensive or defamatory language.
-Personal cell phones should generally not be used for business-related purposes unless a business phone is not provided or available.
Be sure to also address employees on the road. Prohibit texting while driving, whether your employees drive full-time or only occasionally to carry out their work, and whether they drive a company vehicle or their own.
One of the best things an employer can do to promote proper cell phone workplace etiquette is to model the behavior. If you’re constantly checking your phone, surfing the Web or replying to texts, your employees are likely to do the same.
Cell phones are a part of everyday life for most Americans, and by creating clear guidelines and realistic expectations, their use in the workplace can be managed to both employers’ and employees’ satisfaction.
January 1st will soon be here and for many people that means it’s time to start their annual New Year’s Resolutions. Research suggests, however, that only a fraction of people actually keep those well-intentioned resolutions. If you’re like most people, your resolve to get in better shape, declutter your home, learn a new language, or read, more likely dissipates by the time February rolls around. Gyms around the country are packed with people after the New Year, but treadmills become much more available after one month or two!
Here are some ways to set and achieve your New Year’s Resolutions:
Be realistic by setting achievable goals. Some of the biggest mistakes people make are setting goals that are too broad, too big, or too many. Your resolutions should be absolutely clear and describe them in specific terms. Instead of “I want to be a better person” which, according to one poll, was 2017’s top resolution, think of specific behaviors which you feel will make you a better person and resolve to act on those behaviors. Find alternatives to a behavior that you want to change and make this part of your resolution plan. Do you want to quit smoking but you smoke to relax? Find other forms of relaxation that don’t include smoking.
Understand that unhealthy behaviors develop over time and changing them will take time, as well. Your timeline toward reaching your goals should be realistic. For years experts used to think it took about 21 days to form a new habit. Current thinking from a landmark 2009 study is that 66 days is much more realistic.
Break down large goals into smaller ones. For instance, if you want to lose weight resolve to join a gym and improve your eating habits. If you would like to make more friends, you could look into joining a club that interests you and volunteer for a cause you believe in.
Setting deadlines is a key to success, especially when dealing with big goals. You can only successfully break a goal down into smaller steps if you set deadlines for each step. It makes your goals more concrete and creates the urgency for you to begin. Logging progress into a journal or making notes on your phone or in an app can reinforce the progress, no matter what your resolutions may be.
Before you start acting on your resolutions, think about the potential barriers that might get in the way and identify contingency plans for how you will respond in those moments. Slips-ups while reaching toward your goals are completely normal. Don’t give up completely because of a minor transgression such as eating a few cookies or skipping the gym for a week because you were busy. Everyone has ups and downs; resolve to recover from your mistakes and get back on track. Be compassionate with yourself, acknowledge your slip-ups, and move on. Identify an important reason why you are resolving to change something in your life. Reminding yourself of that will keep you motivated, even if you experience a setback.
Share your experiences with family and friends and accept help from others. Consider joining a support group to reach your goals, such as a workout class at your gym or a smoking cessation group at work. Having someone to share your struggles and successes with makes your journey toward achieving your goals that much easier and less intimidating.
Celebrate the small steps and achievements along the way. And, even if you run out of steam before achieving your goals, remember that you can start over again. You don’t have to wait for a new year to make a resolution to better yourself.
Employee assistance programs can promote healthier and more productive workers. When employees bring their personal problems to the workplace it can impact their behavior and job performance and negatively affect office dynamics. Access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) gives your employees a confidential way to cope with personal issues which can range from workplace stress to drug and alcohol abuse.
EAPs are unique in that they provide services to individual employees and family members and to the employer as a whole. EAPs support management and supervisors by helping them manage troubled employees, as well as by addressing such topics as workplace violence, emergency preparedness and sexual harassment. Companies and organizations that have an EAP see a return on their investment with more productive employees and less absences and employee turnover. Workers are also more inclined to stay with an organization which supports and helps them resolve their personal issues.
Along with decreasing absenteeism and increasing employee retention, EAPs have been shown to help reduce accidents, workers compensation claims and the number of labor disputes, and significantly reduce medical costs by early identification and treatment of mental health and substance use issues. Employers have found that efforts to help employees resolve personal issues before they have serious consequences make good financial sense.
Fully Effective Employees, Inc. has an excellent reputation as a caring, personalized and service-oriented EAP, in which our own professionally trained staff counselors conduct most of the EAP work, from intake to assessment, brief counseling, referral and case management. Our programs can be customized to meet our employer client needs and we service companies nationally who have from five to five thousand employees. We offer a full range of services, including EAP and HR consulting, drug testing, background checks, as well as supervisor and management trainings and consultations. We also offer work/life and legal programs which further assist with employee health and well-being.
If you would like to learn more about our company, please visit us at www.fee-eap.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Holidays can be a lonely time for some. If you find yourself alone during the holidays this year, there are a lot of creative ways to overcome feelings of isolation.
People end up alone during the holidays for a variety of reasons. Some live far away from family or have jobs that require they work the holiday. Those who are grieving sometimes choose to spend the day alone. Others have dysfunctional families that can turn a happy holiday into a depressing day of drama that they would rather avoid. No matter the time of year or season, develop life skills to avoid and overcome loneliness, because research shows it can have adverse effects on health.
If you find yourself alone and without holiday plans and wish to celebrate, take action. Plan now and create action steps. Doing so can help you avoid “depression triggers” that can throw you into a rut. Grab a calendar and plan concrete steps in writing that you will take when the holiday period arrives. Will you open your home to other single friends? Will you seek volunteer opportunities nearby? What about helping feed the homeless or perhaps singing carols at a nursing home? These activities are tried-and-true intervention steps others have used to overcome loneliness and experience gratitude.
Check the newspaper, and begin your to-do list of events, special “me-time” treats, day trips, and new and unusual ways to fill the days. Look to your community for creative opportunities, such as spending the day with military members stationed in your town or baking cookies and taking them to your city’s first responders. A quick way to find ideas to alleviate loneliness is to search online “alone during the holidays.” It’s nearly guaranteed that you will find ideas appropriate for your situation.
Social media can contribute to feelings of loneliness, isolation, and depression, especially during the holidays. Consider limiting your time online. At the very least, remain aware of its potential to show you an unrealistic view of life—friends usually post only the good.
The secret to lifting your spirit is engagement with others. Enjoy the holidays whether you are with others or alone. However, be sure you experience daily interactions with people to safeguard your health during the holiday season and throughout the year. You will feel more uplifted, experience less negative self-talk, and have accomplishments you will look back on with fond memories.
Excerpted from WorkExcel.com
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) it is unlawful to harass a person, whether an employee or an applicant, because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations, as well as to the federal government.
Both victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex. The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer. Sexual harassment can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex, so it is illegal, for example, to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.
The EEOC states that, although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in the victim being fired or demoted.
Prevention is the best way to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers are encouraged to have anti-harassment guidelines and clearly communicate to employees that sexual harassment will not be tolerated.
Here are important steps to take:
- Write an anti-sexual harassment policy and be sure to review Title VII and your state law to make sure that you are including all applicable behaviors.
- Encourage reporting of sexual harassment incidents and lay out clear steps on how to report claims. Identify several individuals within the company whom employees can choose to report to.
- Your policy should be in your employee handbook. With sexual harassment currently front and center in the news, now is a good time to email the guidelines to every employee.
- Train supervisors and all levels of management to spot, prevent, and punish sexual harassment and train employees in the correct steps to report sexual harassment. Conducting at least once-a-year trainings for employees and management is a good idea, and some states even require it by law.
- Throughout the year, talk to your employees and managers about the work environment and look around your workplace for anything offensive and/or suggestive.
- If someone complains about sexual harassment, act immediately to investigate the complaint.
Fully Effective Employees provides basic sexual harassment training and consultation, and for more comprehensive trainings and investigations, we work with our HR partner, Fit HR. For more information please contact us at Fully Effective Employees .
September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Every year, approximately 44,000 people die by suicide, making it the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. According to a newly released study published in JAMA Psychiatry, suicide attempts among U.S. adults are on the rise. Middle-aged adults (aged 45-64 years) had the highest suicide rate and young adults (aged 21-34 years) had the biggest increase in suicide attempts. And, while suicide attempts were higher among women than men, more men completed suicide.
While suicide is preventable, it is a topic that many feel uncomfortable talking about, even with family and friends. It is important to know that family members, friends, coworkers and others can play an important role in recognizing when someone is at risk or in crisis and connect that person with the most appropriate sources of care. Here are the major warning signs to be aware of:
Signs of Acute Risk:
– Threatening to hurt or kill him or herself, or talking of wanting to hurt or kill him/herself; and or,
– Looking for ways to kill him/herself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means; and/or,
– Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide when these actions are out of the ordinary.
Expanded Warning Signs:
– Increased substance (alcohol or drug) use
– No reason for living; no sense of purpose in life
– Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all of the time
– Feeling trapped – like there’s no way out
– Withdrawal from friends, family and society
– Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge
– Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
– Dramatic mood changes
Suicide Prevention Awareness Month reminds us that suicide deaths can be prevented. According to the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, for every one person who dies by suicide in the U.S., there are approximately 278 people who move past serious thoughts of suicide and nearly 60 who have survived a suicide attempt. The overwhelming majority of these people will go on to live out their lives.
If you or a loved one is experiencing a mental health crisis or thoughts of suicide, help is available 24/7 through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK, or go to your nearest emergency room.
For more information about counseling and resources contact the EAP at 425-454-3003 or 1-800-648-5834.
When natural disasters strike, employees often look to Human Resources for answers to their questions. Disasters can create havoc, uncertainty and logistical problems within a company if there are not procedures already in place.
With forest fires raging in the West and hurricanes simultaneously lashing the Gulf and East Coasts, emergency management and disaster response are front and center on many people’s minds right now. To help employers cope with whatever disaster strikes next, here are some valuable resources we found on the HRHero.com website and are sharing with their permission:
- “Crisis Management and Disaster Planning for Employers,” http://bit.ly/2vU5hls
- “Employers can play vital role when natural disaster strikes,” http://bit.ly/2eKvW9V
- “HR issues that arise when natural disasters hit,” http://bit.ly/2vH8wYC
If any of your employees are experiencing trauma from the current forest fires or other natural disasters, the EAP can help. Contact us at 1-800-648-5834 or locally at 425-454-3003.
Depression in teens has become extremely common. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, research indicates that roughly 3 million adolescents ranging from ages 12 to 17 have experienced at least one major depressive episode within the past year. Teen depression is a mental health problem that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest in daily activities. It can affect how your teenager thinks, feels and behaves, and it can even cause emotional, functional, and physical problems.
Issues such as peer pressure, academic expectations, and changing bodies will inevitably bring ups and downs. Yet, for some teens, the lows are more than just a fleeting emotional state. Depression in teens isn’t a weakness or something that can be overcome with willpower and “tough love.” Serious cases can require long-term medical treatment and threaten dire consequences. However, for most teens that are beginning to chronically “feel low,” depressive symptoms can greatly improve with the help of weekly therapeutic counseling.
For parents attempting to approach the challenging and delicate task of raising a teen who struggles with depression, it can be helpful to keep these six guide rules in mind:
•Be Genuine – Engage in “real talk” with your teen, both about struggles and ambitions.
•Give Space – Teens need space to grow and gain independence from parents.
•Be Curious – Pay attention and show interest in your teen’s life and inner workings.
•Reserve Judgement – Don’t show anger first, display compassion and concern instead.
•Don’t Delay – If you think your teen might need help, talk with a counselor soon.
•Family Effort – Depression can’t be cured on an island. Familial support is a must.
If your teen is exhibiting signs of depression, contact the EAP for further assistance.
by Drew Thomas, MACP, CMHS, LMHC