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January 31, 2010

Resources for elder caregivers

It's estimated that between 15 and 20 million U.S. employees are caring for aging parents and that caregiving results in more than $30 billion a year in lost productivity. CMHS offers a helpful new video which reviews programs and resources that are available to caregivers and those caring for elder parents. These programs could offer valuable support to any of your employees who have caregiving responsibilities.

Additional resources
Caregiver Information from Medicare
National Caregiver Support Network
Eldercare Locator - or call 800-677-1116
Medicaid Waivers and Demonstrations List
Aging and disability resource centers

Prior posts on caregiving
Employer best practices for caregivers in the workplace
The high cost of caregiving
Caregiver employees are at heightened risk
EEOC guidance on caregiver discrimination

January 28, 2010

Families in crisis: coping with domestic violence, substance abuse, mental health issues

Here in the Boston area, there's been a tragic story of domestic violence leading to death. The 70 year old father of celebrated Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan, Daniel Kerrigan died after an altercation with his adult son, Mark Kerrigan. The senior Kerrigan was found bleeding and unconscious on the kitchen floor of his home, passing away a few hours after being brought the hospital. According to police reports, his combative and intoxicated son Mark had to be forcibly removed from the basement of the home. He has been charged with assault, although further charges could ensue after an autopsy.

Mark Kerrigan is a veteran who has battled substance abuse and behavioral issues over the span of many years. He had been jailed numerous times for violent incidents, including assault on his ex-wife, Janet Kerrigan, who had told police that "Mark made statements that he was going to kill himself, if not by himself then by the cops."

In a series of video interviews with local station NECN, Janet Kerrigan talks of her ordeal as a victim of domestic violence, as well as the elder Kerrigan's attempts to help and support his son. She is frank in her assessment that his family was in denial about his problems and that the family did not believe or support her.

In a followup story, Boston Globe reporters Peter Schworm and Milton Valencia talk about the dilemma that families face in coping with adult children who have behavioral and substance abuse problems.

These weighty family issues are ones that surface every day among our clients' employees. While many people think that EAPs are for people who are experiencing their own substance abuse or mental health issue, we probably see or talk to almost as many people who are debilitated from coping with the effects of a family member's substance abuse, depression, or mental illness, or who are weighed down by the terrible burden of domestic violence. As Janet Kerrigan's interviews depict, such problems can be stressful and terrifying in the extreme. These are problems that can often tear families and lives apart. It can be very difficult for family members to know where the line is between support and enabling, the appropriate balance between love and tough love. The natural tendency - particularly for parents - is to protect and support their children, but the wrong type of support can actually help perpetuate a problem. There are no easy answers.

Our employer clients are often made aware of a terrible family issue by a change in employee behavior. A formerly conscientious employee suddenly has frequent absences and a change in demeanor: Anxious, distracted, stressed, moody, withdrawn. When spotting a change in productivity or work behavior, we recommend that employers don't try to diagnose the problem, simply to address the change in performance and refer the employee to resources for help - preferably to an EAP or other trusted resource. But we also encourage employers to offer help in other ways: as part of an ongoing wellness and HR communication effort, include information about community mental health resources in a newsletter; keep a list of helpful links on the company intranet; and invite representatives from various mental health support services to the annual health fair.

Families for Depression Awareness - a resource to help people in caregiver roles and people with depressive disorders understand the conditions, reduce stigma, and share issues.
NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness - a grassroots organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness.
Al-Anon and Alateen - offering strength and hope for friends and families of problem drinkers.
Mental Illness in the Workplace - a prior post on HR Web Cafe
Domestic Violence and the Workplace - a prior post on HR Web Cafe

January 24, 2010

What's so great about Fortune's top 100 companies?

Fortune recently released its 100 best companies to work for 2010. We like this list because it is usually accompanied by company profiles and data that offer a window into what makes some of the most progressive companies great. It's always worth spending a little time to note the best practice trends.

Among the companies that made the top 5 slots, there are two technology companies, two grocery store chains, and one investment advisor:

  • SAS, a software company, shot up from #20 to earn this year's top honors. The company boasts a laundry list of strong benefits as well as a culture based on "trust between our employees and the company"
  • Edward Jones, investment advisor, held on to its #2 position. In a tough economy, didn't lay off a single employee or close any of its 12,615 offices.
  • Wegmans groceries earned the #3 position on the list - it had been #5 last year. Incredible fact: Wegmans has never had a layoff in its 94-year history.
  • Search giant Google held on to its #4 position. Google is in hiring mode for 2010, too - it plans to add thousands of employees to its payroll this year.
  • Nugget Markets, another supermarket chain, was named as #5, having climbed form the 10th position last year. The company offered employees discounts on groceries to help in a tough economy.

We think one of the best features of the online list is the way that you can sort it. You can see the 22 companies that plan to be in hiring mode this year, view the 25 top paying companies, view the 10 with the best work-life balance, or see a list of the most unusual perks.

Best benefit perkfinder
The sorting tool we liked the best - and the one that we think could be most useful for HR managers - is the best benefit perkfinder.

  • 96 have gay-friendly policies (non-discrimination policies)
  • 84 offer telecommuting benefits (see list of 10 highest percentage of commuters)
  • 83 offer gay-friendly benefits (domestic partner benefits)
  • 81 offer a compressed work week
  • 72 have gym discounts
  • 69 offer an onsite gym
  • 68 offer job sharing
  • 32 offer onsite childcare (see list of 10 with the lowest monthly rates)
  • 19 offer fully paid sabbaticals (see list)
  • 14 offer fully paid healthcare (see list)

January 19, 2010

News briefs: texting & sexting, job dissatisfaction, green disputes & more

Privacy & sexting - Do your employees have a right to privacy when sending explicit text messages on company-owned devices? Employee Benefit News reports that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case of City of Ontario v. Ouon in the spring. The case involves a police chief who read several SWAT team members' text messages without their consent because he wanted to see if what he deemed as excessive use of their pagers resulted from personal or work-related activities. In June 2008, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the police chief's actions represented a violation of the SWAT team members’ Fourth Amendment rights. Get your popcorn ready - this will be a case to watch.

Dueling pollsters - A recent poll commissioned by the Conference Board reported that American job satisfaction hit an all-time low. Given the economic climate and the overall tenor of the times, that's not too hard to believe. Unless, as Carol Morello of the Washington Post notes, you read competing surveys by Gallup and the University of Chicago, which show that job satisfaction has been remarkably stable over several decades. So your workforce is either very content - or it's not.

Obesity - In the L.A. Times blog Booster Shots, Shari Roan asks whether obesity is inevitable. A recent book on the topic answers affirmatively, saying that without major societal changes, it will be nearly impossible to reverse obesity trends. According to Martijn B. Katan, one of the book's authors, "Studies show that even the most motivated, thoughtful, strong-willed people have a hard time losing weight when huge portions of cheap, tasty, convenient food are available at every turn of the road, and when walking and other forms of exercise are superfluous or impossible." One of the major societal changes needed might be a serious shift in the way we spend our leisure time. A recent study by Australian researchers showed that each hour a day spent in front of television is linked with an 18% greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and an 11% greater risk of all causes of death, and a 9% increased risk of death from cancer. The culprit here is long periods of inactivity and sitting - true also of extended periods of computer use.

Green disputes - Leslie Kaufman of The New York Times reports on a new type of lifestyle issue that is surfacing in marriage counseling offices: an increase in green disputes. Couples are arguing about conflicting values related to recycling, exercise, diet, and overall commitment to the environment:

"While no study has documented how frequent these clashes have become, therapists agree that the green issue can quickly become poisonous because it is so morally charged. Friends or family members who are not devoted to the environmental cause can become irritated by life choices they view as ostentatiously self-denying or politically correct.

Those with a heightened focus on environmental issues, on the other hand, can find it hard to refrain from commenting on things that they view as harmful to Earth — driving an oversize S.U.V., for example."

Workplace bias - While workplace discrimination charges dropped by 2.2% in 2009, the EEOC reports that 2009 was the second highest year for workplace bias claims. The most frequently filed discrimination allegations in 2009 were based on race (36%), retaliation (36%), and gender (30%), which the EEOC said followed recent trends. Stephanie Thomas presents a pictorial analysis of EEOC charge statistics from 1997 to 2009 on her blog The 80% Rule and Other Fallacies.

Violence & the economy - the Christian Science Monitor raises the question of whether the economy plays a role in workplace violence in its coverage of the shooting rampage by a disgruntled worker of manufacturer ABB Group in St. Louis. The shooting left three dead and several wounded. There have been some studies that point to a link between financial stress and domestic violence as discussed in a recent article about domestic violence in Connecticut. While most experts agree that the economy isn't what creates a batterer, economic stress can often be an ignition point or a catlyst for domestic abuse.

The benefit of placebos - The Wall Street Journal Health Blog reports on a recent JAMA study showing that some popular antidepressants are no more effective than placebos:

"It suggests that both placebos and drugs help alleviate depression, and that the benefits of both placebos and drugs increase as the severity of the depression increases. As you move along the spectrum from mild to severe disease, the benefits of the active drug increase more than the benefits of the placebo. So for patients with severe depression, the active drug works significantly better than the placebo."
Pop quiz - How well versed are you in health care terminology? Test your savvy in this quick quiz on health care phrases.

January 14, 2010

Haiti resources for HR managers: finding loved ones; ways to help; managing trauma

We've received notice that several of our clients are concerned about relatives and loved ones who are missing in Haiti. Other clients have asked us about ways their organizations can help. We will use this post to link to helpful resources, and will update our list when we find additional resources:

Looking for loved ones in Haiti
The U.S. Embassy in Port Au Prince has set up a task force at the Embassy which is taking calls as conditions permit. The Embassy is working to identify Americans in Haiti who need urgent assistance and to identify sources of emergency help.

  • Americans are urged to contact the Embassy via email at ACSPaP@state.gov to request assistance
  • Americans in Haiti can call the Embassy’s Consular Task Force at 509-2229-8942, 509-2229-8089, 509-2229-8322, or 509-2229-8672.
  • The State Department has also created a task force to monitor the emergency. People in the U.S. or Canada with information or inquiries about U.S. citizens in Haiti may reach the Haiti Task Force at 888-407-4747. Outside of the U.S. and Canada, call 202-501-4444. Note: due to heavy volume, some callers may receive a recording.
  • To reach or find Haitian residents, the Red Cross recommends that callers continue to call or text family members who live nearby.
CNN ireport: looking for loved ones in Haiti - Are you searching for a family member or friend in Haiti? Upload his or her photo on CNN's ireport.

Family Links - The aim of the Family Links website is to accelerate the process of restoring contact between separated family members. It is managed by the ICRC, in cooperation with the tracing services of the Haitian Red Cross Society and of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies throughout the world. At this stage, the website offers the possibility for persons in Haiti and abroad to publish the names of relatives with whom they are striving to restore contact. It will progressively incorporate information offering responses to those queries. (Note: The ICRC has no means of verifying the information sent through the network. It is not responsible for any inaccurate information given through the services made available on this site.)

How you can help:
Red Cross: People can make an unrestricted donation to the International Response Fund at www.redcross.org , or by calling 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767). The public can also help by texting “Haiti” to 90999 to send a $10 donation to the Red Cross, through an effort backed by the U.S. State Department. This donation will be charged to your next cell phone bill. Funds will go to support American Red Cross relief efforts in Haiti.

Clinton Bush Haiti Fund:

  • Online donations page
  • Text the word "QUAKE" to 20222 to donate $10 to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, charged to your cell phone bill
  • Mail to: Mail: The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund / c/o William J. Clinton Foundation / Donations Department / 610 President Clinton Avenue / Little Rock, AR 72201 - OR -
    The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund / c/o Communities Foundation of Texas / 5500 Caruth Haven Lane / Dallas, TX 75225

Other resources:

Scam alert
FBI warning of Haiti earthquake scams

  • FBI says don't click on links or files in unsolicited donation request e-mails
  • Do not ever donate cash; don't give your credit card info to people phoning for donations
  • Ask if charity is registered and what percentage of money goes to victims

News resources

Managing trauma in the workplace
Workplace Critical Incident Resources from the Employee Assistance Professional Association. In particular, see their page on Haiti resources and the following information on traumatic events:

Also see our prior post: The aftermath of Katrina: HR lessons learned

January 10, 2010

Best & Worst Jobs 2010

In 1967 when Dustin Hoffman starred in The Graduate, the future may have been in plastics, but in 2010, actuarial science might be a safer bet. That's the word according to the CareerCast 2010 Best & Worst Job rankings. Sarah Needleman of the Wall Street Journal offers a commentary on the 2010 list, and you can compare this to her article on the 2009 job list.

Of its ratings, CareerCast says: "Data on each job is broken down into five key categories: Physical Demands, Work Environment, Income, Stress and Hiring Outlook. Jobs receive a score in each individual category, and when these are added together, the career with the best overall score is ranked 1st, while the one with the worst overall score is ranked 200th." (More on the rating methodology)

If you want to cut to the chase, see a slideshow of the 10 best jobs or the ten worst jobs.

We didn't find HR manager on the list so we leave it to you to extrapolate to the nearest professions based on your particular work environment:
21. Sociologist
29. Parole Officer
47. Anthropologist
49. Vocational Counselor
52. Social Worker
55. Personnel Recruiter
69. Psychologist
133. Corporate Executive (Senior)
143. Child care worker

January 5, 2010

Study: disability spikes in January-February

Now that the parties are over and the bills are coming due, your employees may be returning to work with a heavy load of stress, a case of post-holiday letdown, or a more serious case of depression linked to Seasonal Affective Disorder. Post-holiday malaise is as predictable as the swallows returning to Capistrano and while it will not affect all your employees, it will effect enough to make a serious dent in productivity. A recent study of employee disability claims by The Hartford offers further testimony to this matter. The study, which analyzed more than one million short-term disability claims filed from 2004 to 2008, revealed a seasonal pattern:

"Excluding pregnancy-related claims, the review found that short-term disability claims dropped to their lowest level in November and December. But the dip was followed by a surge in disability claims in January and February linked to depression, respiratory illnesses and injuries. The average time a worker took off work for a disability was about 60 days, not counting pregnancy-related claims."

"Glenn Shapiro, vice president for claims at the company’s group benefits division, said the pattern was not entirely surprising given that dreary and cold winter days had long been linked to depression, a higher risk of colds and flu and slipping and falling accidents."

Forward-looking managers should anticipate the increased risks for disability over the post-holiday season and plan accordingly. Here are some resources and tips that might help:

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