November 11, 2014

Honor our veterans by hiring them!

As we honor veterans today, it's important to note that far too many of those who put their lives on the line are now unemployed. While the non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for former service members fell to 4.5 percent in October (its lowest point since August 2008), the youngest vets are still struggling. Josh Hicks reports in the Washington Post:

"The bureau published a report on Monday showing that younger veterans struggle considerably more with unemployment than those who are older. The jobless rate for former troops between ages 18 and 25 last year was about 21 percent on average, while the overall rate for veterans was barely above 6 percent during that time."

It's a very dismal report, but we are heartened by the example of one employer. Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, has committed to hiring 10,000 vets over five years, and has employed a veteran recruiter, and are now 10% of the way to attaining that goal. Schultz says that the veteran recruiter "understands the language, understands the anxiety and can bridge the gap." The company also has a network of veteran mentors.

It would be great if more employers followed his lead. You can't do better than hiring a veteran. Here are 10 Reasons to Hire Vets.

Here are employment resources for veterans and for employers:

CareerOneStop - Hiring resources for businesses and human resources managers.

Workplace Warriors: The Corporate Response to Deployment and Reintegration (PDF)
Highlighting Best Practices in Human Resources and Disability Management
Employers can help America's heroes succeed in the workplace by offering employee assistance and mentoring programs, advised the Workplace Warrior Think Tank - the first-of-its-kind group launched by the Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC), the leading developer of employee health and productivity strategies, and three of the nation's leading disability insurers - The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc., MetLife and Unum.

For Employers: Helping Employees Reintegrate into Civilian Employment
A veteran’s return to work following a deployment or mobilization is an employment transition, and he or she often brings new skills of leadership, teamwork and a broadened perspective that can be invaluable to your organization. Additionally, like any other employee making a transition, a veteran’s transition may face some unusual circumstances. This resource helps employers understand how to help ease the reintegration of veterans in a number of ways.

Tips for Workforce Professionals on Assisting Veterans in the Job Search Process
Connect veterans, transitioning service members, and their families with career planning, training, job search, and other resources to help smooth their transition to civilian life.


Veterans' Employment and Training Service - the U.S. Department of Labor offers veterans and transitioning service members with the resources and services designed to maximize employment opportunities, protect employment rights and meet labor-market demands with qualified veterans.

American Corporate Partners - a nationwide mentoring program helping veterans transition from the armed services to private enterprise through counseling and networking with volunteers from some of America's largest corporations.

American Heroes at Work - a U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) project that addresses the employment challenges of returning service members living with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and/or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

National Center for PTSD - this site from the Division of Veteran Affairs aims to help U.S. Veterans and others through research, education, and training on trauma and PTSD.

Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act - a federal law intended to ensure that persons who serve or have served in the Armed Forces, Reserves, National Guard or other "uniformed services": (1) are not disadvantaged in their civilian careers because of their service; (2) are promptly reemployed in their civilian jobs upon their return from duty; and (3) are not discriminated against in employment based on past, present, or future military service.

Safeguarding the rights of servicemembers and veterans - from the U.S. Department of Justice

Disabled American Veterans - Congressionally chartered as the official voice of the nation’s wartime disabled veterans, for nearly nine decades this 1.2 million-member nonprofit has been dedicated to building better lives for America’s disabled veterans and their families.

U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs - Veterans Services - Veterans of the United States armed forces may be eligible for a broad range of programs and services provided by the VA. Eligibility for most VA benefits is based upon discharge from active military service under other than dishonorable conditions, and certain benefits require service during wartime.

Department of Veteran Affairs Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program - Information for Employers - Employers hiring disabled veterans may qualify for benefits and incentives through the VR & E programs or other Federal Resources.

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esi.JPG Returning service members face the challenge of reintegration in the family, the workplace, the community. Some will face the special challenges of coping with physical or psychological wounds, such as PTSD. ESI EAP offers members a variety of services addressing the challenges of military deployment. We also have resources for employers. To learn more about how ESI EAP can help, give us a call: 800-535-4841.

October 24, 2014

Don't let Halloween become a nightmare in your workplace

There's nothing quite as scary as Halloween for an organization that has not clearly established a set of expectations. Can you say sexual harassment, hostile work environment and workers comp?

If there has been a terrible or offensive event in the news over the prior year that should not be lampooned, rest assured it is fodder for Halloween costumes - from Ebola and ISIS beheadings to Ray Rice & his battered wife...there are no end to the potential horrors. Not to mention the garden variety of perennial offenses like black face; racial, religious, sexual and age-related stereotypes; and suggestive or revealing costumes. And we are simply assuming that your celebrations would never include alcoholic beverages, fire-related decor and other liabilities-waiting-to-happen "celebratory" components.

Besides the potential legal pitfalls, camera phones and social media mean that anything inappropriate that happens in your workplace can turn into a public relations nightmare in an instant. Kathryn Twedt-Johannsen posts some frightening anecdotes about what we would call "career limiting" costumes that went viral in social media.

Fisher & Phillips Attorneys Offer Tips to Ensure Your Office Halloween Party Doesn't Turn Into a Nightmare - we're excerpting some of their pre-planning suggestions.

• Decide if costumes are appropriate for the workplace.
• Clearly communicate costume guidelines in advance.
• Remind employees they are still at work, despite the holiday overtone.
• Don't overreact, but be sensitive to the issues.
• Consider any feedback the company received from employees or customers concerning last year's Halloween party or employee costumes.
• Offer alternative celebrations.
• Be prepared to discipline for misconduct, if necessary.

We'd add a few points:

• Make any celebrations or parties optional. Nothing says workers comp quite like "mandatory" fun.
• Be sure to add "safety" to your costume guidelines.
• Discourage tricks or pranks that could scare others or pose a safety hazard.

We like the idea of alternative celebrations. We're recycling and expanding on ideas we've suggested in the past:
• Have a family event geared to kids. Let kids and pets come in costumes
• Organize a "trick or treat" event for a local nursing home or have an event to raise money for a charity. A zombie walk might be fun!
• Sponsor a pumpkin carving contest
• Have a Halloween pot-luck lunch with themed food
• Sponsor a blood drive on Halloween and offer treats for participants. A zombie or vampire theme might be fun.

OK, now that we've sufficiently terrified you about potential liability, we feel we need to offer a few treats - Halloween can indeed be fun. Here are some clever, non-controversial costumes that amused us

Ice Bucket Challenge

Dilbert

A Better Bat Costume

Pop-art Roy Lichenstein Costume

Elaborate animal masks

More resources:

How to Make Halloween Safe and Fun in Your Workplace

5 Halloween Office Celebration Risks To Address In Your Code Of Ethics Training

Trick or Treat: Can Employers Face Liability for Celebrating Halloween in the Workplace?

Can the ‘Naughty Nurse’ and Modern Workplace Coexist?


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ESI-Logo.jpg When complex employee issues arise, ESI EAP offers member employers direct access to Certified Senior Professionals in Human Resources (SPHR) and senior clinical counselors. If you need an Employee Assistance Program give us a call: 800-535-4841.

December 6, 2013

Holiday celebrations: Take steps to limit liability and reduce employee stress

According to BLR's 2013 Holiday Practices Survey, about 7 in 10 employers will hold a 2013 holiday party for their employees. And while most will hold their party off company property, over 80% will decorate their workplace. The survey offers information about paid holidays in 2013, pay for nonexempt employees who work on holidays, bonus payments and gifts for employees, pay practices for planned holidays for 2014 and more - download the full survey. (Related: SHRM survey: Employers set 2014 holiday schedules.)

BLR also offers a reminder that holiday parties and other seasonal expectations can combine to create a great deal of stress for employees. They offer a helpful list of holiday stressbuster techniques. One that we particularly like: "Wait until after the holidays. Workers may be better able to appreciate awards ceremonies and other work-related events when things have slowed down." This is a great idea because there are a flurry of activities between Thanksgiving and year end and then a long winter slump with few holidays and activities

Here's a roundup of some other holiday-related tools that focus on limiting liability and reducing stress:

Here are a few alternative celebratory ideas we've previously suggested:
Consider an alcohol-free family event. Invite employees to bring spouses and kids to the worksite. Serve light refreshments and have small gifts and favors for the kids. It's a good way for managers and supervisors to meet employees' family members.

Consider a neighborhood block party. Open your doors to neighboring businesses or residents for cake, cookies, alcohol-free eggnog, and a tour of your premises.

Consider a charitable event. Invite your employees to be hosts for a community based charity event or fundraiser. Stage a caroling event for local nursing homes or shelters. Have a toy or food fund drive, or sponsor mailings to military folks in active deployment.


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ESI-Logo.jpg When complex employee issues arise, ESI EAP offers member employers direct access to Certified Senior Professionals in Human Resources (SPHR) and senior clinical counselors. If you need an Employee Assistance Program give us a call: 800-535-4841.


November 27, 2013

Thankfulness

With the upcoming holiday, we are mindful of gratitude and thankfulness. We've gathered some of our favorite quotes on the topic and thought this lovely song by Josh Groban might also fit the bill. It's nice to have a holiday devoted to gratitude, but really, it should be a sentiment for all seasons. From all of us at ESI EAP, to all of you who read this -- best wishes for a happy Thanksgiving!

"Sometimes our light goes out but is blown into flame by another human being. Each of us owes deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this light." Albert Schweitzer
"Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses." Alphonse Karr
"Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom." Marcel Proust
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Albert Einstein
"The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings." Eric Hoffer
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” John F. Kennedy
"Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: it must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all." William Faulkner

November 10, 2013

Work resources for and about veterans

Looking for some dependable, disciplined, team players who are experienced at performing under pressure? You can't do better than hiring a veteran. Here are 10 Reasons to Hire Vets

Here are employment resources for veterans and for employers:

CareerOneStop - Hiring resources for businesses and human resources managers.

Workplace Warriors: The Corporate Response to Deployment and Reintegration (PDF)
Highlighting Best Practices in Human Resources and Disability Management
Employers can help America's heroes succeed in the workplace by offering employee assistance and mentoring programs, advised the Workplace Warrior Think Tank - the first-of-its-kind group launched by the Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC), the leading developer of employee health and productivity strategies, and three of the nation's leading disability insurers - The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc., MetLife and Unum.

For Employers: Helping Employees Reintegrate into Civilian Employment
A veteran’s return to work following a deployment or mobilization is an employment transition, and he or she often brings new skills of leadership, teamwork and a broadened perspective that can be invaluable to your organization. Additionally, like any other employee making a transition, a veteran’s transition may face some unusual circumstances. This resource helps employers understand how to help ease the reintegration of veterans in a number of ways.

Tips for Workforce Professionals on Assisting Veterans in the Job Search Process
Connect veterans, transitioning service members, and their families with career planning, training, job search, and other resources to help smooth their transition to civilian life.


Veterans' Employment and Training Service - the U.S. Department of Labor offers veterans and transitioning service members with the resources and services designed to maximize employment opportunities, protect employment rights and meet labor-market demands with qualified veterans.

American Corporate Partners - a nationwide mentoring program helping veterans transition from the armed services to private enterprise through counseling and networking with volunteers from some of America's largest corporations.

American Heroes at Work - a U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) project that addresses the employment challenges of returning service members living with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and/or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

National Center for PTSD - this site from the Division of Veteran Affairs aims to help U.S. Veterans and others through research, education, and training on trauma and PTSD.

Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act - a federal law intended to ensure that persons who serve or have served in the Armed Forces, Reserves, National Guard or other "uniformed services": (1) are not disadvantaged in their civilian careers because of their service; (2) are promptly reemployed in their civilian jobs upon their return from duty; and (3) are not discriminated against in employment based on past, present, or future military service.

Safeguarding the rights of servicemembers and veterans - from the U.S. Department of Justice

Disabled American Veterans - Congressionally chartered as the official voice of the nation’s wartime disabled veterans, for nearly nine decades this 1.2 million-member nonprofit has been dedicated to building better lives for America’s disabled veterans and their families.

U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs - Veterans Services - Veterans of the United States armed forces may be eligible for a broad range of programs and services provided by the VA. Eligibility for most VA benefits is based upon discharge from active military service under other than dishonorable conditions, and certain benefits require service during wartime.

Department of Veteran Affairs Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program - Information for Employers - Employers hiring disabled veterans may qualify for benefits and incentives through the VR & E programs or other Federal Resources.

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esi.JPG Returning service members face the challenge of reintegration in the family, the workplace, the community. Some will face the special challenges of coping with physical or psychological wounds, such as PTSD. ESI EAP offers members a variety of services addressing the challenges of military deployment. We also have resources for employers. To learn more about how ESI EAP can help, give us a call: 800-535-4841.

October 27, 2013

Does Halloween get scary at your workplace?

It's that spooky time of year again, and we're dusting off and updating some of our seasonal advice about the annual question: should you allow costumes at work?

For many employers, the answer is an unequivocal "no." A decision to disallow costumes may be based on business reasons or organizational culture such as upholding a professional image or for safety reasons - costumes don't work well in every environment. For many employers, it's simply not worth taking on the additional liability risk.

But other employers see the holiday as a fun time to build team spirit and camaraderie given that Halloween ranks second after Christmas in terms of holiday popularity. If you are among the employers who choose to allow costumes, forewarned is forearmed. Set expectations in advance about what is and isn't allowed - no risque costumes; no costumes that might be perceived as racially, ethnically, religiously, or politically offensive; and no costumes that could be a safety hazard. Employees should use good sense and avoid what we would refer to as potentially career-limiting costumes.

Human Resources Executive poses some spooky legal scenarios along with some advice. At SHRM, Dana Wilkie asks whether the Naughty Nurse’ and Modern Workplace Coexist?, posing some really scary examples of offensive or discriminatory scenarios. SHRM's prior advice is also good: Halloween Celebrations Can Lead to Scary Situations.

And in turnabout is fair play, it's not just the employees who can get scary: The Scariest Bosses of All Time

We like the idea of alternative celebrations in lieu of at-work costumes. Here are a few ideas:

  • Have a family event geared to kids. Let kids and pets come in costumes
  • Organize a "trick or treat" event for a local nursing home or have an event to raise money for a charity. A charity zombie walk might be fun!
  • Sponsor a pumpkin carving contest
  • Let people decorate their offices and work stations
  • Have a Halloween pot-luck lunch with themed food - special bonus if your treats are healthy
  • Sponsor a blood drive on Halloween and offer gruesome seasonal treats for participants

Just for fun, here's are favorite costume so far this year - showing what a little creativity and some LED lights do!

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ESI-Logo.jpg When complex employee issues arise, ESI EAP offers member employers direct access to Certified Senior Professionals in Human Resources (SPHR) and senior clinical counselors. If you need an Employee Assistance Program give us a call: 800-535-4841.

May 11, 2013

The Mom Index: calculating Mom's value on the open market

For the 13th consecutive year, salary.com is tracking data on the market value of a Mom. More than 6,000 moms were surveyed to quantify hours by job description to compute the yearly average. Moms are multi-talented multi-taskers who perform a variety of roles: CEO, janitor, psychologist, laundry worker, van driver, cook, housekeeper,computer operator, facilities manager, and day care teacher.

Stay-at-home moms work an average of 94 hours per week for a total estimated "mom salary" of $113,586 a year. Working moms -- in addition to their 40-hour work week -- spend an additional 58 hours on household and childcare jobs, and would earn a total of $67,435 if they collected a paycheck.

You can see more detail on the jobs that Moms perform and how that salary was calculated, or use the salary wizard to build a paycheck for a Mom that you know. Also, see some graphs and charts tracking Moms' value over the years, infographic style. We're including one one Working Moms.

working-moms-salary.com.jpg

December 9, 2012

Surviving the holidays: Practical tips for work and home

Here's our holiday survival guide to help you and your employees deal with various stressors and special situations over the holidays.

At the Workplace
Seven Dos and Don’ts for the Holiday Season - from employment attorney Jonathan Segal

Top 10 Holiday Aggravations at Work - what not to do

Tis the Season - to be extra careful about holiday legal issues

14 Ways to Stay Focused at Work Through the Holidays

Avoiding stress & problems
9 Holiday Depression Busters

Coping with SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder

Ease Holiday Stress, boost work life balance

Holiday Health & Safety Tips - Centers for Disease Control

Stress, depression and the holidays: Tips for coping - from the Mayo Clinic

Eating & Drinking in the Holidays
Healthy Eating and Holiday Meal Planning from the American Diabetes Association

Healthy Eating Tips and Light Party Recipes for the Holidays

Top 10 Holiday Diet Tips - WebMD

The Holidays: Challenges and Survival Guide for Sober Alcoholics

Al-Anon helping families through alcoholism during holidays

How to Cope with Family Holiday Events... Without Alcohol!

Family Matters
7 Holiday Stress Busters for Kids

10 Tips to Help Seniors Enjoy the Holidays

Children of Divorce List Holiday Dos and Don'ts

2012 Dangerous Toys report

Special situations

Military Holiday Center , including 5 Tips Managing Deployment Stress During the Holidays

Dealing with grief or loss over the holidays

Helping Children Cope with Holidays After a Disaster (PDF)

Top Ten Ways to Survive the Holidays During and After Divorce

Handling Holidays After Divorce

Multicultural Familia - Holidays

How to Cope with Spending the Holidays Away From Home

Money and finance
Manage Your Holiday Spending (PDF) - tips from The American Financial Services Association Education Foundation (AFSAEF)

Avoiding competitive shopping for fun & profit - minimizing financial stress

Mastering Your Holiday Season Budget

Making the holidays less materialistic for your kids - from KidsHealth

Financial stress is a big issue at this time of year. The following resources are not specific to the holidays, but helpful in addressing the financial stress that can accompany the holidays.

Coping in Hard Times: Fact Sheet for Parents (PDF)

Dollars and sense: Talking to your children about the economy

Guide to Meaningful & Charitable Gift-Giving
American Red Cross - Gift Giving Catalog

Guidestar

Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance

Charity Navigator

Avoid Charity Fraud

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esi.JPGWhen Holiday stress gets to be too much, an EAO can be a lifesaver. Learn how ESI Employee Assistance Program can help address your employees' wellbeing issues - from a wellness benefits and help for everyday work-life matters to comprehensive assistance for a wide array of potentially disruptive issues and problems. To learn more about how ESI EAP can help, give us a call: 800-535-4841.

November 10, 2012

How to honor our veterans: Hire them!

Looking for some dependable, disciplined, team players who are experienced at performing under pressure? You can't do better than hiring a veteran. And if you hire a qualified veteran who begins work before January 1, 2013, you may be eligible for a tax credit. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is a provision in the VOW to Hire Heroes Act 2011 that allows employers to claim the WOTC for qualified veterans. Credits can range as high as $9,600 per qualified veteran for for-profit employers or up to $6,240 for qualified tax-exempt organizations. There are a number of factors that determine the credit amount, including the length of the veteran's unemployment before hire, the number of hours the veteran works, and the veteran's first-year wages. Learn more about potential tax credits for hiring veterans from the IRS.

Here are a few resources:

CareerOneStop - Hiring resources for businesses and human resources managers.

Workplace Warriors: The Corporate Response to Deployment and Reintegration (PDF)
Highlighting Best Practices in Human Resources and Disability Management
Employers can help America's heroes succeed in the workplace by offering employee assistance and mentoring programs, advised the Workplace Warrior Think Tank - the first-of-its-kind group launched by the Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC), the leading developer of employee health and productivity strategies, and three of the nation's leading disability insurers - The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc., MetLife and Unum.

For Employers: Helping Employees Reintegrate into Civilian Employment
A veteran’s return to work following a deployment or mobilization is an employment transition, and he or she often brings new skills of leadership, teamwork and a broadened perspective that can be invaluable to your organization. Additionally, like any other employee making a transition, a veteran’s transition may face some unusual circumstances. This resource helps employers understand how to help ease the reintegration of veterans in a number of ways.

Tips for Workforce Professionals on Assisting Veterans in the Job Search Process
Connect veterans, transitioning service members, and their families with career planning, training, job search, and other resources to help smooth their transition to civilian life.

esi.JPG Returning service members face the challenge of reintegration in the family, the workplace, the community. Some will face the special challenges of coping with physical or psychological wounds, such as PTSD. ESI EAP offers members a variety of services addressing the challenges of military deployment. We also have resources for employers. To learn more about how ESI EAP can help, give us a call: 800-535-4841.

February 12, 2012

Cupid's arrow or sexual harassment?

Have you heard the one about the nurse, the social worker, and the exotic dancer who walked into a bar ... ?

But wait, there's one little twist... in this case, the bar was the plaintiff bar in a courtroom and the punchline was no joke for their employers. To commemorate Valentine's Day this year, employment Attorney Robin Shea offers a bouquet of sexual harassment cases. She describes the circumstances surrounding all three recent cases and offers morals and lessons for each.

There were 11,364 sexual harassment charges filed with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2011, down from 15,889 in FY1997. Of that number, 16.3% of the charges were filed by males, up from 11.6% in FY1997. You can seem more info on Sexual Harassment Charges - EEOC & FEPAs Combined: FY 1997 - FY 2011

But when romance is in the air, what's an employer to do? Today's romance can turn into tomorrow's harassment. A few years ago, we discussed the pre-emptive strategy of so called Love contracts to limit employer liability for office romance. Mark Toth of ManpowerGroup Employment Blawg just posted results of a reader poll on the issue, finding there is no love for the love contract.

If an employee reports an incident, you need to take it seriously. Employment Law Attorney Jason Shinn of Michigan Employment Law Advisor offers An Employer's Playbook for Responding to an Allegation of Sexual Harassment.

Prior related posts
Taking the pulse about workplace romance on Valentine's Day
Cupid at work: office romance

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ESI-Logo.jpg. Supervisors of ESI EAP member organizations have telephone access to our Senior Professionals in Human Resources (SPHRs) who can discuss "best practice" scenarios or assist in researching the best strategies for addressing a myriad of employee dynamics. It's like having a coach on the team when managers or supervisors face difficult issues. Click to learn more about HR benefits.

December 21, 2011

Holiday cuteness: singing hedgehogs

Holidays can be hard on hedgehogs - who knew? This is a cute interactive feature that we couldn't resist sharing!


December 18, 2011

Holiday survival kit

There are all kinds of reasons that people can have trouble coping with the holidays. In a short video clip from Good Morning America, psychologist Dr. Ryan Fuller talks about several, ranging from family dynamics and financial stress to changes in schedule and poor diet/drinking factors. See tips for beating the holiday blues, which offers a few good rules of thumb:

  • Don't Take On Too Much
  • Keep Some Semblance of a Routine
  • Give Yourself Some Space
  • Don't Drink Too Much
  • Honor Loved Ones

For some, the holidays can serve as a trigger exacerbating some other issue. To help you and your employees survive the next few weeks, we've compiled a list of tips for handling various stressors and problems.

Helping Children Cope with Holiday Stress

Holiday stress: It's not just for grownups anymore!

Dealing with grief or loss over the holidays

Coping with SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder

Stress, depression and the holidays: Tips for coping from the Mayo clinic

10 Tips to Help Seniors Enjoy the Holidays

Ease Holiday Stress, boost work life balance

Military Holiday Center , including 5 Tips Managing Deployment Stress During the Holidays

Five Christmas Survival Tips For The Divorced & Single Parent

Practical Ways to Enjoy a Divorced Family Christmas

How to Cope with Family Holiday Events... Without Alcohol!

The Holidays: Challenges and Survival Guide for Sober Alcoholics

Al-Anon helping families through alcoholism during holidays

Avoiding competitive shopping for fun & profit - minimizing financial stress

Financial stress is a big issue at this time of year. The following resources are not specific to the holidays, but helpful in addressing the financial stress that can accompany the holidays.

Coping in Hard Times: Fact Sheet for Parents (PDF)

Dollars and sense: Talking to your children about the economy

October 31, 2011

Just for Halloween...

The Mummy Meets Human Resources...

Also: see Ray Villafane's awesome pumpkin gallery

It's not too late to remind your employees about safe driving on their way home tonight because a lot of little kids might be out and about right around commuting time. Why not send them a link to this: At-Home Safety: Brake for Ghosts and Goblins this Halloween

February 13, 2011

Taking the pulse about workplace romance on Valentine's Day

On Valentine's Day, life might be just a box of chocolates - but be careful not to chip your tooth. Daniel Schwartz of Connecticut Employment Blog warns us about legal perils on Valentine's Day - a day that he says "brings out the the inner sexual harasser in far too many instances." He recounts a series of workplace valentine's gestures or actions that led not to romance but to the courtroom.

It is precisely such potential peril that leads us to view the whole business of "work spouses" with such a jaundiced eye. Sue Shellenbarger of the Wall St Journal Work & Family blog posts about co-workers acknowledging their work spouses on Cupid's Day. It's not that we don't think that strong bonds in the workplace aren't something to be valued and acknowledged. But we question framing them with trappings that have been traditionally associated with romance.

Despite the perils, workplace romance seems to be thriving. A recent CareerBuilder survey seems to indicate that the taboo against dating coworkers may be breaking down. "Approximately 40 percent of workers say they have dated someone they worked with over their career; 18 percent report dating co-workers at least twice in their career. Additionally, 30 percent report they went on to marry a person they dated in the office."

Is there anything an employer to do to limit liability? Some suggest love contracts, a form of consensual relationship agreements, as a way to minimize the employer's exposure. (We posted about these previously - see: "Love contracts" may limit employer liability for office romance). Mark Toth of the Manpower Employment Blog polled his readers about whether such "contracts" are a good idea or not and found his readers split. As for his own opinion, he has no love for love contracts.

Related:
EEOC - Sexual Harassment; see Prohibited Practices
Sexual Harassment Training: A Must-Do for Employers


December 3, 2010

Holiday parties: risk-management tips for liquor-related liability

BNA has published its Year-End Holiday Practices Survey, which offers a useful benchmark - they've been conducting these surveys for more than 20 years. This year's results encompass the responses of human resources executives representing 300 U.S. employers. The big news this year? Parties are on the upswing...76% of respondents said they will be holding a year-end holiday celebration of some type this year, up 9 percentage points from last year's 10-year low of 67%. And of the party givers, 52% say they will open the parties to spouses or other guests. But the partying will include slightly less emphasis on liquor. While 58% of the holiday parties will include the serving of alcoholic beverages, this is a 3% drop since 2009 and a 7% drop since 2008. In addition, most employers indicate that they are taking one or more measures to limit excessive drinking and ensure the safety of party attendees. Here are some of the strategies that employers employ:

74% - will have bartenders monitor alcohol consumption
54% - will limit times when alcohol is served
49% - will offer a taxi service
24% - will provide discounted hotel rates to encourage overnight stays
4% - will appoint designated drivers

Protecting against liability from alcohol-related driving accidents is important, but there are other liquor-related issues that can pose risk for employers. Attorney Daniel Schwartz of Connecticut Employment Law Blog reminds us that alcohol-induced stupidity can also lead to serious sexual harassment claims - he cites a number of cases and offers links to a series of excellent posts that he has made on the topic of office parties:

Holiday Office Parties: What Issues Should an Employer Be Considering?
Part I - Employer Liability at Office Holiday Parties -- Beyond Sexual Harassment
Part II - Employer Liability at Office Holiday Parties - Beyond Sexual Harassment

Here are some other office holiday party pointers:
7 tips for a safe workplace holiday party
How to lawsuit-proof your holiday office party
Office Holiday Party Survival Guide
Best practices for employer-sponsored events

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:

December 15, 2009

Holiday work parties, 2009 style

Most companies plan to hold an end-of-year/holiday party for employees this year, but one in five employers will not hold a party due to economic cutbacks, according to a holiday poll of 300+ employers by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). The smaller the employer, the more likely the party: Small (72%) and medium-sized (67 %) organizations were more likely than large-sized organizations (48%) to stage parties.

BNA’s Year-End Holiday Practices Survey also found that the economy is having an impact on seasonal festivities. Two out of three employers (67%) will hold some sort of year-end holiday celebration in 2009, down from the 81% that sponsored such events in 2008. More employers will limit party access to employers this year too - 47% of surveyed employers will open up their holiday parties to spouses or other guests, compared to 55% in 2008. And in what may be even more dispiriting news to cash-strapped employees, the survey revealed that holiday gifts and bonuses have fallen to a record low - down to 33%, a drop from the recent high of 49% in 2006

We posted about workplace holiday festivities in a recession last December, and except for the change in employer practices noted above, some of the excellent tips from experts for organizations hosting holiday parties still stand and are worth perusing. Here are some additional resources for employers and employees:

Navigating holiday parties: tips for employers


Navigating holiday parties: tips for employees

October 26, 2009

Costumes at work - the seasonal quandary

Here's a question that spooks employers every year about this time: should you allow costumes at work? For many employers, the answer is an outright "no way." A decision to disallow costumes may be based on business reasons such as upholding a professional image or for safety reasons - costumes don't work well in every environment. Or for many other employers, it's simply not worth taking on the additional liability risk.

But other employers see the holiday as a fun time to build team spirit and camaraderie given that Halloween ranks second after Christmas in terms of holiday popularity. If you are among the employers who choose to allow costumes, forewarned is forearmed. Set expectations in advance about what is and isn't allowed - no risque costumes; no costumes that might be perceived as racially, ethnically, religiously, or politically offensive; and no costumes that could be a safety hazard. Human Resources Executive poses some spooky legal scenarios along with some advice. Also see SHRM's advice in their article Allowing Halloween Costumes at Work Can Be Tricky, along with some legal advice from HR Tools, Costumes at Work? Avoid Liability Nightmare at Halloween. (Although here's an unusual case that turns the tables: Halloween Photos Can Be Used in Harassment Case)

One idea that we advocate: many experts suggest alternative celebrations in lieu of at-work costumes. Here are a few ideas:

  • Have a family event geared to kids. Let kids and pets come in costumes
  • Organize a "trick or treat" event for a local nursing home or have an event to raise money for a charity. A zombie walk might be fun!
  • Sponsor a pumpkin carving contest
  • Let people decorate their offices and work stations
  • Have a Halloween pot-luck lunch with themed food
  • Sponsor a blood drive on Halloween and offer treats for participants

For more thoughts, we call your attention to advice we offered in a prior year's post: Halloween in the Workplace. In addition to advice, there are also some costume and Halloween party food tips.

September 6, 2009

The way things were: photographic retrospective of the American workplace

In honor of Labor Day, a historical look back at the the U.S. workplace through images.

The Way We Worked - A photographic exhibit from The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) that offers a view of the American workplace from the mid 19th to the late 20th centuries.

Lost Labor: Images of Vanished American Workers 1900-1980 - a selection of 155 photographs excerpted from a collection of more than 1100 company histories, pamphlets, and technical brochures documenting America's business and corporate industrial history.

Labor Arts - The site states that it is a virtual museum, which gathers and displays images of the cultural artifacts of working people and their organizations. Its mission is "to present powerful images that help us understand the past and present lives of working people."

Women Working, 1800-1930 - focuses on women's role in the United States economy and provides access to digitized historical, manuscript, and image resources selected from Harvard University's library and museum collections.

U.S. Steel - Gary Works Photograph Collection - more than 2000 photos tell the story of the steel mill, the city, and the citizens who lived and worked there.

Los Angeles At Work: 1920 -1939 - a selection of images from the Chamber of Commerce.

January 20, 2009

Employers braced for an inauguration slowdown

Inauguration day is a normally big day for the nation. This year, the historic nature of having the first black president makes it even more significant. Many employers are expecting a slowdown today - HR departments report that many employees are taking the day off entirely to watch events or take part in local events. At the workplace, some employers are making accommodations to allow people to take part. If your work situation allows, you may be able to view all or part of the day's events online - Lifehacker has compiled a Guide to Catching the Inauguration from Anywhere

But for those of us who won't be able to watch things live, here are a few good sources of information to be able to enjoy the day's events after the fact:

Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies

The New York Times features Picturing the Inauguration: The Readers' Album - an changing gallery of photos submitted by readers, or you can view photos and short video clips from Flickr's Inauguration pool

YouTube's Change.Gov will feature selected clips.

Viewer's Guide to the Inauguration

The Inauguration page from MSNBC

Inauguration Report is a Twitter feed that focuses on citizen-generated content. As might be expected, this can vary in quality, content, and language, so be aware.

Inauguration Day Events - fascinating historic overview of the day's ceremonies and traditions

Slideshow - Presidential Inauguration Through the Years

Inauguration History

December 22, 2008

The unique work challenges of being Santa

As these short clips attest, not just anyone can be a Santa - rigorous training is involved. But even with the best training, things can go unexpectedly wrong at work - from dissatisfied customers to assaultive business partners.

Just like any of us, Santa can find himself the victim of unreasonable work demands. He has to keep track of an elaborate set of international protocols, schedules, and languages - a little known fact is that his travels require numerous wardrobe changes. And he is subject to some unusual risks and health hazards on the job, too.

And as if all that didn't make his job tough enough, he is also feeling the effects of the bad economy. In a recent letter to his constituents, Santa explains that times are tough all over: the North Pole is melting and Rudolph's been suspended - he's thinking he may need to change his trademark greeting from "Ho, ho, ho!" to "Oh, oh, oh!"

And you thought your job was tough! You might want to bake Santa some extra special cookies this year.

December 14, 2008

Workplace holiday festivities in a recession

Are you going ahead with a holiday party this year? According to a recent survey of 100 companies by Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., 23 percent of their respondents indicated that they aren't having a holiday party this year, compared with 10 percent last year. Given the grim economy, many companies are choosing to scale back or to focus on charitable events. For another perspective on what other employers are doing this year, see BNA’s annual Year-end Holiday Practices Survey, courtesy of Mark Toth at Manpower Employment Blawg.

But if you are among those organizations that will still be scheduling holiday festivities, here are good tips from some experts:

Managing the Holiday Cheer at this Year's Office Party - Michael Moore of Pennsylvania Labor & Employment Blawg offers sound pointers, including advice for for managing alcohol consumption.

Holiday Office Parties: What Issues Should an Employer Be Considering? - Daniel A. Schwartz of Connecticut Employment Law Blog discusses various aspects of holiday parties, including last year's posts on workers compensation claims and other party issues.

Top Seven Office Party Gaffes from Susan Heathfield of About.com's Human Resources.

Office Holiday Party Etiquette - from Susan Bryant of Monster.com.

December 19, 2007

The lighter side: HR Web Cafe's pre-holiday extravaganza

In 2005, the BBC ran a most entertaining feature called The Worst Jobs in Christmas history - you can view the 48 minute video clip or visit the accompanying website to read about bad seasonal jobs from yesteryear, spanning the Anglo-Saxon to the Victorian era. Believe it, your job will look great in comparison.

Having trouble getting into the seasonal rhythm this year? (video alert) Feeling cranky this season? Take the "How Scrooge Are You" quiz to find out how your register on the "bah, humbug" index. What's a better antidote to holiday crankiness than a video with cats and Christmas trees? Perhaps an animated cats and Christmas trees video. It's almost as good as singing reindeer (video alert) and dogs in holiday costumes.

If you are running around at the last minute trying to find a holiday gift for a for a boss, a co-worker, or for the office party grab, experts suggest keeping things practical and impersonal when it comes to work gift-giving. This handy guide to holiday gift etiquette for coworkers offers some "dos and don'ts" for office gift giving. If you are really stuck for a small last minute idea, you might try making your own holiday gift - or here are a few variations on the theme.

And in the how NOT to do things department, may we suggest:
Dave Barry's Annual Holiday Gift Guide and the Bad Gift Emporium where you can review a gallery of bad gifts that others have been given, and you can also add any of your own to the gallery if you are the recipient of some bad gifts this year.

More holiday silliness:
Christma-Hanu-Rama-Ka-Dona-Kwanzaa - a holiday song by Roy Zimmernan (video clip)

Chrismukkah - resources for a merry mish-mash holiday. Related: Oy to the World - holiday music from the Kelzmonauts

Make a snowflake

Take a tour of Yahoo's amusing gallery of Santa photos

Jacob Richman's Chanukah humor page

Christmas Cubicle 2006

November 14, 2007

Holidays and grief: helping the bereaved

For people facing a recent loss, the holidays can be anything but happy. Thanksgiving will kick off a 6 week season of holiday celebrations for many; for others, it will be a sad reminder of loved ones lost. For those who have suffered a recent loss, the wounds are particularly raw and painful, but the effects of loss and grief can recur for many years. Memories of past celebrations with the departed can rekindle the feelings of loss.

Supervisors and HR managers should be sensitive to the fact that this may be a difficult time of year for any workers who have experienced a significant loss within the last year and should watch for signs of depression. Nancy Schimelpfening of about.com offers a brief refresher on the various stages of grief, along with "do" and "don't" lists offering guidance in ways to be supportive to people coping with grief. The Hospice Foundation of America issues an annual holiday newsletter of tips for coping with grief (PDF), which can be ordered online. Single issues are available at no charge, and small lots can be ordered at a reasonable price - these might be handy to have available for employees. And managers should also be sure to keep the EAP telephone number handy - in fact, for those employers that have an EAP, it's a good time of year to issue a reminder that services are available.

We've found a few good articles on coping with holiday grief that might be useful in helping you to communicate with and support any employees who are coping with grief:

October 29, 2007

Halloween in the workplace

According to a recent Halloween at the Workplace survey released by Vault.com Inc., 37% of employees say they celebrate the holiday with their co-workers and 27% dress up in costume.

Susan Heatherfield of Human Resources at about.com says that Halloween is the second most popular holiday after Christmas and that celebrating it at the workplace "appeals to the child in each of us and helps create a motivational, team work-oriented work culture." She offers suggestions for celebrating Halloween at work, ranging from a themed breakfast or lunch to a pumpkin carving contest or philanthropic activities.

Of course, on-the-job masquerades are more appropriate for some workplaces than others. Mike Copeland of the Waco Tribune-Herald polled some local companies about Halloween practices, and unsurprisingly, there were varied responses. For some organizations, such as manufacturers or equipment handlers, costumes could jeopardize safety. Other organizations such as hospitals don't want to let professionalism slip for even a day, fearing that masks or costumes might alarm patients. And a local bank has two sensible rules: no masks and no toy weapons.

Far be it from us to be the wet blanket in the crowd, but employers do need to exercise some caution when it comes to any parties and celebrations. We favor the "no alcohol" at work rule, and suggest that you issue some guidelines about costumes. Here are a few recommendations for your work festivities:

  • Make wearing costumes optional. While some people enjoy participating in Halloween festivities, everyone doesn't love a parade. Some employees find the idea of wearing a costume horrific.
  • Consider charging a toll of a dollar or two for the privilege of wearing a costume and donate all proceeds to a favorite local charity.
  • Issue some basic rules about costumes. Put safety first and foremost, and let employees know that revealing, offensive, off-color, or racist costumes will not be allowed. (Employees: use good sense. No matter how clever the idea, resist any urge to wear a "career limiting costume.")
  • Discourage tricks or pranks that could scare others or pose a safety hazard.
  • If costumes don't "work" for your organization, consider some alternative celebrations, such as holding an off-hours parade or party that family members could attend or staging contests for best pumpkin carving, best kid's costume, best pet costume, etc.
  • Consider a free "ghoulish" buffet breakfast or lunch, or put special seasonal treats in the break room.

Halloween treats
Here are a few humorous seasonal links we thought you might enjoy:
How to make a Dilbert Costume - perfect!
How to build a better bat costume
How to look like a zombie
Gruesome Halloween recipes; more creepy cuisine.
Pumpkin House of Horrors
Cats in costume - just because!

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