December 6, 2014

2014 Holiday Survival Kit for Employees & Families

We've updated our annual holiday survival guide to offer resources for you and your employees in dealing with seasonal stressors and special situations over the holidays. If you'd like to share these resources with your employees, copy this link: http://www.hrwebcafe.com/2014/12/2014_holiday_survival_kit.html

At the Workplace
Tools & Tips to Help Your Organization Create a Happy, Ethical & Compliant Holiday Season

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

Holiday Stress? Try These 5 Tips for a Heart-Healthy Holiday Season

16 Ways To Beat Holiday Stress

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

Holiday Stress Calls for an Attitude Adjustment

Eating & Drinking in the Holidays
8 Tips for Healthy Holiday Eating (Infographic)

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

4 Health Excuses To Stay Sober At Your Holiday Party

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

Family Matters
Stress & Parenting During the Holidays

7 Holiday Stress Busters for Kids

10 Tips to Help Seniors Enjoy the Holidays

Multicultural Familia - Holidays

Holiday Tips for Blended Families

Children of Divorce List Holiday Dos and Don'ts

Special situations

Mental Illness: Coping with the Holidays (PDF)

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

Dealing with grief or loss over the holidays

Helping with Holiday grief: "do" and "don't" lists

Tips for Reducing Holiday Stress for Families of Children with Autism (PDF)

Holidays and Alzheimer's: Tips to enjoy the season

Helping Children Cope with Holidays After a Disaster (PDF)

Top Ten Ways to Survive the Holidays During and After Divorce

Handling Holidays After Divorce

Coping With Loneliness During the Holidays

How to Cope with Spending the Holidays Away From Home

Keeping Safe
Holiday Decorating Safety Tips (PDF)

Put a Freeze on Winter Fires

Food Safety

2014 Dangerous Toys report

Hosting a Holiday Party? You Might Want to Brush Up On Social Host Liability

Pet Holiday Safety Tips

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

Eight hidden holiday costs and how to avoid them

8 Smart Ways to Save When Buying Holiday Gifts for a Big Family

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

Security & Crime Prevention
12 Scams of the Holidays

Pass It On - FTC Info for consumers on common scams and fraud

Simple ideas to prevent identity theft during the holidays

Don't Lose Money on PrePaid Debit Cards

Top Tips for Safe Online Holiday Shopping

Do not let thieves steal your holiday spirit

Crime Prevention Tips for the Holiday

Guide to Meaningful & Charitable Gift-Giving
American Red Cross - 2014 Holiday Gift Giving Catalog

Guidestar

Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance

Charity Navigator Holiday Giving Guide

Avoid Charity Fraud

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esi.JPGWhen Holiday stress gets to be too much, an EAP 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.

February 2, 2014

Low Productivity Monday?

Conventional wisdom holds that the day after the Super Bowl is a wash at the workplace in terms of productivity. Over the years, a variety of pollsters and firms with their fingers on the HR pulse have pegged lost productivity in the $820 million range. Reports have it that more than 1.5 million people will call in sick tomorrow and another 4 million+ will be late for work. The conventional wisdom about a Super Bowl productivity is so ingrained that it has led to suggestions to move the game to Saturday and near-annual petitions to declare Super Bowl Monday a holiday.

But some HR pros challenge this annual assumption about peak productivity losses. At TLNT, Lance Haun has taken a critical look at those numbers and puts them in perspective:

"According to the latest BLS numbers (PDF), there are about 140 million employed people in the United States. So, to put those national loss productivity numbers in perspective, the average American worker loses about $5.85 worth of productivity for the entire week of the Super Bowl, and about 4 percent of your employees are either going to miss work or be late on Monday due to the big game Sunday in Indianapolis
That productivity epidemic seems a lot less serious given those numbers. And I imagine if you take out the most egregious offenders who should actually be addressed (the guys who spend all week on ESPN, working on betting pools, and trolling discussion boards), that number would improve even more."

And at AOL, Laura Vanderkam makes the case that this loss of productivity is a myth and that it's more just a case of "human beings are still human beings at work." She suggests that:

"...if people want to start hunting for sources of lost productivity, I'd look first at meetings that didn't have to happen or went on too long, emails that never needed to be sent, and rabbit holes gone down because of unclear communication, personal agendas, and a general desire to cover one's rear end. I'd put the lost productivity at $1 trillion weekly -- but that's just a guess."

Maybe all Mondays suffer a bit from the transition of off-work to on and people need to reset and reprogram. This might account for why some surveys point to Tuesday as the most productive day of the week. At Fast Company, Laura Vanderkam offers some excellent suggestions for how to make Monday as productive as Tuesday.

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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.

September 14, 2012

Normal aging or dementia - how can you distinguish?

Uh-oh. One of your senior relatives is starting to forget things: Where they put their car keys. The name of that restaurant at the beach house that they used to love. The actor in the movie they saw last month.

Or maybe it isn't a relative. Maybe it's you.

Are these "senior moments" normal manifestations of aging, or early signs of Alzheimer's?

In a survey last year, Alzheimer's disease was identified as the second most feared disease following cancer. In the fear factor department, it beat out ominous illnesses like heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. As a society, it's something we think about and talk about and worry about a lot. But in reality, most people don't know the difference between Alzheimer's disease and normal aging - and according to a recent survey, even caregivers have confusion about dementia vs. normal aging (PDF).

"A new survey of relatives and friends caring for people now diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other dementia found two-thirds mistook early symptoms for normal cognitive wear and tear. In doing so, they may have delayed proper diagnosis and early treatment for their loved ones."

Alzheimer's Association offers 10 Early Signs and Symptoms to watch for, and they compare these to normal signs of aging. It's worth reading the full discussion, but here's a summary:

1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
4. Confusion with time or place
5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
8. Decreased or poor judgment
9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
10. Changes in mood and personality

Alzheimer's Disease is the most common form of dementia, but there are other causes, too. It's important to consult with a doctor because some dementia-like symptoms may be treatable - such as drug interactions, thyroid problems, depression, diet, or other causes.

What's "normal" aging?

AARP talks about 6 Types of Normal Memory Lapses - lapses that are not signs of dementia. The article also offers suggestions for how to minimize or counter those pesky so-called senior moments.

Experts say that even if you or a loved one have a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer's, you can lower your risk by exercising, losing weight, eating well, and managing any medical conditions like diabetes and stress. In the article Age-Proof Your Brain, they offer 10 ways to keep your mind fit. Among the suggestions are keeping active and fit, engaging in exercise, including weight-bearing exercises, keeping your mind active, seeking out new skills and challenges, setting goals, and keeping socially active. Diet is also very important - - think "Mediterranean diet." Eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and avoiding fats can be very beneficial. See Foods that lower your risk of Dementia.

esi.JPG If you or one of your employees is grappling with issues related to an aging loved one, we can help. ESI Employee Assistance Program can help caregivers find support and resources. To learn more about how ESI EAP can help, give us a call: 800-535-4841.

February 26, 2012

Transgender in the Workplace

In December, the conservative U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit found in favor of Vandiver Elizabeth Glenn's claim of sex discrimination for having been fired from a job as editor with the Georgia General Assembly. The Court found that Glenn's firing violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, just the latest in a series of such rulings. And the courts are not the only sign that the tide is turning. In an essay in TIME, Adam Cohen notes:

"Meanwhile, things are also changing in the workplace. Last week’s [December] report from the Human Rights Campaign found that 207 of 636 major U.S. companies surveyed, or nearly one-third, covered the cost of gender-reassignment surgery for transgender workers. That number increased from just 85 a year earlier. When HRC began monitoring the issue a decade ago, no corporations covered the surgery. Among the corporations that added coverage this year are Apple, American Airlines and Chevron. In pop culture, transgender people are also becoming more visible and recognized. Chaz Bono, the only child of Sunny Bono and Cher, has put a celebrity face on being transgender — especially after he competed this season on Dancing with the Stars."

Last week, Baltimore County approves transgender discrimination ban. Nationwide, more than 160 cities and counties have laws banning transgender discrimination, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Employment law attorneys Robert Brody and Rebecca Goldberg talk about what this means for employers in Changing Gender — The New Sex Discrimination (PDF). In discussing the case, the authors note:

But the most likely problem is workplace harassment. Research suggests as many as 97 percent of transsexual employees are harassed at work, more than double the number who reported being denied a job or promotion or fired. To prevent this problem, employers should proactively include gender identity in their anti-harassment policies and training programs. Waiting until an employee identifies as transsexual to implement these changes can draw negative attention to the employee and exacerbate the problem.

Dionysia Johnson-Massie and Gina Cook, attorneys at the employment and labor law firm Littler also take about the Court ruling's impact on employers in 11th Circuit Rules for Transgender Employee in Sex Discrimination Case.

Among other things, they suggest that both public and private employers should review the following policies:

  • Equal opportunity, anti-discrimination, anti-harassment and anti-retaliation policies
  • Dress code and appearance standard policies
  • Codes of conduct between employees, constituents or customers
  • Policies regulating the use of gender-segregated areas such as bathrooms
  • Policies regarding respect for the individual or manager-subordinate relations
.

Additional Resources:
State Advocacy from the Human Rights Campaign offers maps of state laws and policies, lists of cities and counties with Non-Discrimination Ordinances that include gender identity, and other resources.

Employer and Union Policies from the Transgender Law Institute

Transgender Discrimination - more resources at a prior HR Web Cafe posting.

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ESI-Logo.jpg ESI EAP offers help with supervisory training and compliance issues, as well as help for employees who are facing any difficult life issue or decisions. Don't have an EAP? Call 800-535-4841.


November 3, 2011

November is National Family Caregivers Month

To commemorate National Family Caregivers Month, we are sharing some resources that we've found helpful and encourage you to share these with your employees.

ShirleyBoard is a free resource that gives you the tools to create your ow online community and to link all the people in your network and all those caring for a loved one. You can centrally store all important caregiving information, such as a patient journal, a list of medications, a directory of doctors, and a calendar. It allows you to give access to friends, family and healthcare professionals – and to establish permissions for what information they can and can't see. It allows you to keep an ongoing record, to access resources and tips, and to network with other caregivers.

BenefitsCheckUp - A service from the National Council on Aging. Many older people need help paying for prescription drugs, health care, utilities and other basic needs. Many are eligible for but not receiving benefits from existing federal, state and local programs. There are many public programs available to seniors in need ranging from heating and energy assistance to prescription savings programs to income supplements. BenefitsCheckUp includes more than 2,000 public and private benefits programs from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) is centered around the belief that it is better for the well-being of seniors with chronic care needs and their families to be served in the community whenever possible. PACE serves individuals who are age 55 or older, certified by their state to need nursing home care, are able to live safely in the community at the time of enrollment, and live in a PACE service area. Delivering all needed medical and supportive services, the program is able to provide the entire continuum of care and services to seniors with chronic care needs while maintaining their independence in their homes for as long as possible. Care and services include:

  • Adult day care that offers nursing; physical, occupational and recreational therapies; meals; nutritional counseling; social work and personal care
  • Medical care provided by a PACE physician familiar with the history, needs and preferences of each participant
  • Home health care and personal care
  • All necessary prescription drugs
  • Social services
  • Medical specialists such as audiology, dentistry, optometry, podiatry, and speech therapy
  • Respite care
  • Hospital and nursing home care when necessary

Aging Pro - bills itself as the best one-stop destination for a comprehensive set of caregiving tools, resources, community support information and access to professionals in aging on the Web. It is a resource for caregivers, professionals, and people planning their future.

Family Caregiver Alliance - Founded in 1977, FCA was the first community-based nonprofit organization in the country to address the needs of families and friends providing long-term care at home. Long recognized as a pioneer in health services, FCA now offers programs at national, state and local levels to support and sustain caregivers, including the Family Care Navigator with state-by-state help and the National Center on Caregiving, the policy and research center of FCA.

EEOC: Unlawful Disparate Treatment of Workers With Caregiving Responsibilities and Employer Best Practices for Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities

Additional resources:
National Family Caregivers Association
National Association for Homecare and Hospice
Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease: Your easy to use guide from the National Institute on Aging
Coping with cancer: For caregivers, family & friends
Miles Away: The Metlife Study of Long-Distance Caregiving (PDF)
Family Caregivers & Depression - Symptoms and Hope

Prior posts:
Resources for elder caregivers
Employer best practices for caregivers in the workplace
The high cost of caregiving
Caregiver employees are at heightened risk: how employers can help

July 15, 2011

Eldercare takes a toll on the workplace

Mike Haberman of HR Observations has an excellent post on the high toll that eldercare takes on both the employee and the employer, and he cites a recent news report which says that "One in four American adults provides care for an aging parent, a threefold increase since 1994…" He discusses the emotional and financial cost to the employee caretaker, as well as the potential career loss. And on the employer side, costs range from productivity losses and absence to the potential loss of valued employees.

It's a problem that is growing exponentially. According to AARP, 30 million households are currently providing care for an adult over the age of 50 and that number is expected to double over the next 25 years.

As Haberman points out, the caregiving employee shoulders an enormous burden - and caregivers are also a population at risk on virtually every front - caregiving takes a toll on mental and emotional health and physical health. It also takes take a toll on the wallet. A study by the MetLife Mature Market Institute reported an average loss of $566,443 in wage wealth due to the unanticipated consequences of their caregiving responsibilities. In a prior post, we discuss The high cost of caregiving and what employers can do.

Haberman notes the need to educate employees. One practical tool we've found that could be useful in this effort is the AARP Foundation's excellent guide, Prepare to Care: A Planning Guide for Families (PDF). It discusses the importance of making it a priority to work with the elderly loved one and other family members to put together a caregiving plan in advance. Advance planning helps to minimize the emotional and logistical stress of a last minute scramble, to reduce the financial strain, and to ensure that the loved one's wishes are factored in. The guide includes practical information on forming a caregiving team and plan, ways to broach a difficult topic, and checklists of needs, considerations, and necessary information.

Because both eldercare and general caregiving is an issue that so many of our employee and employer members face, we've also put together some excellent Caregiver Resources that might be helpful to share with your employees.

February 11, 2011

Nigel Marsh: How to make work-life balance work

Just after listing a crop of work-life blogs, we found a new Ted Talk on the topic. Nigel March, author of "Fat, Forty and Fired," offers his thoughts on Work-Life balance. He makes the case that balance is too important an issue to be left in the hands of your employer. March lays out an ideal day balanced between family time, personal time and productivity -- and offers some amusing and inspirational thoughts about why it's a worthy goal and how to get there.

February 6, 2011

7 blogs that focus on work-life issues

The New Old Age - from New York Times, this blog says, "Thanks to the marvels of medical science, our parents are living longer than ever before. Adults over age 80 are the fastest growing segment of the population, and most will spend years dependent on others for the most basic needs. That burden falls to their baby boomer children. In The New Old Age, we explore this unprecedented intergenerational challenge."

Working Parents Blog - This BusinessWeek blog posts about "...issues and day-to-day concerns of working parents, offering up interviews with work/life experts, examinations of relevant research, and their personal accounts of bouncing between separate, sometimes conflicting worlds."

The Working Caregiver - by Susan Avello, the Vice President of Network Development with AgingInfoUSA and a caregiver advocate. She describes the blog as "an everyday guide for working caregivers."

Corporate Voices for Working Families - the blog's sponsoring nonprofit organization describes itself as "the leading national business membership organization representing the private sector voice in the dialogue on public policy issues involving working families...Collectively our 50 partner companies, with annual net revenues of more than $1 trillion, employ more than 4 million individuals throughout all 50 states."

The Juggle - Wall Street Journal sponsored blog that "examines the choices and tradeoffs people make as they juggle work and family. The site provides readers with news, insight and tips on parenting, workplace issues, commuting, caregiving and other issues busy readers with families face. It is also a place for readers to share and compare their own work-and-family experiences and to seek advice and recommendations."

Work and Family Blog - sponsored by the Sloan Work & Family Research Council, this blog focuses on work/life issues, and frequently includes a great roundup of news stories related to work & family issues.

Working Moms Blog - Katherine Reynolds Lewis is an award-winning journalist whose articles on work, family, personal finance, business and politics have appeared in dozens of different regional and national publications. A working Mom herself, Katherine and her husband Brian are the proud parents of three daughters, aged 3, 6, and 17.

November 22, 2010

Caregiver Resources

According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, more than 65 million people, 29% of the U.S. population, provide care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend during any given year and spend an average of 20 hours per week providing care for their loved one. That means that about one in every 3 or 4 of your employees has caregiving responsibilities, a significant work-life issue. If you have a good EAP, your employees should be able to access resources and help - along with help for the stress that caregiving adds to their lives. To commemorate National Family Caregivers Month, we are sharing some resources that we've found helpful and encourage you to share these with your employees.

ShirleyBoard is a free resource that gives you the tools to create your ow online community and to link all the people in your network and all those caring for a loved one. You can centrally store all important caregiving information, such as a patient journal, a list of medications, a directory of doctors, and a calendar. It allows you to give access to friends, family and healthcare professionals – and to establish permissions for what information they can and can't see. It allows you to keep an ongoing record, to access resources and tips, and to network with other caregivers.

BenefitsCheckUp - A service from the National Council on Aging. Many older people need help paying for prescription drugs, health care, utilities and other basic needs. Many are eligible for but not receiving benefits from existing federal, state and local programs. There are many public programs available to seniors in need ranging from heating and energy assistance to prescription savings programs to income supplements. BenefitsCheckUp includes more than 2,000 public and private benefits programs from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) is centered around the belief that it is better for the well-being of seniors with chronic care needs and their families to be served in the community whenever possible. PACE serves individuals who are age 55 or older, certified by their state to need nursing home care, are able to live safely in the community at the time of enrollment, and live in a PACE service area. Delivering all needed medical and supportive services, the program is able to provide the entire continuum of care and services to seniors with chronic care needs while maintaining their independence in their homes for as long as possible. Care and services include:

  • Adult day care that offers nursing; physical, occupational and recreational therapies; meals; nutritional counseling; social work and personal care
  • Medical care provided by a PACE physician familiar with the history, needs and preferences of each participant
  • Home health care and personal care
  • All necessary prescription drugs
  • Social services
  • Medical specialists such as audiology, dentistry, optometry, podiatry, and speech therapy
  • Respite care
  • Hospital and nursing home care when necessary

Aging Pro - bills itself as the best one-stop destination for a comprehensive set of caregiving tools, resources, community support information and access to professionals in aging on the Web. It is a resource for caregivers, professionals, and people planning their future.

Family Caregiver Alliance - Founded in 1977, FCA was the first community-based nonprofit organization in the country to address the needs of families and friends providing long-term care at home. Long recognized as a pioneer in health services, FCA now offers programs at national, state and local levels to support and sustain caregivers, including the Family Care Navigator with state-by-state help and the National Center on Caregiving, the policy and research center of FCA.

EEOC: Unlawful Disparate Treatment of Workers With Caregiving Responsibilities and Employer Best Practices for Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities

Additional resources:
National Family Caregivers Association
National Association for Homecare and Hospice
Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease: Your easy to use guide from the National Institute on Aging
Coping with cancer: For caregivers, family & friends
Miles Away: The Metlife Study of Long-Distance Caregiving
Caregiver depression - symptoms and hope

Prior posts:
Resources for elder caregivers
Employer best practices for caregivers in the workplace
The high cost of caregiving
Caregiver employees are at heightened risk: how employers can help

August 13, 2010

The Steven Slater saga - get that guy to an EAP!

Steven Slater catapulted from obscurity to national folk hero status in one fell swoop - in almost the literal sense of that phrase. The frustrated airline employee seems to have caught the imagination of everyone who has ever fantasized about a "mad as hell and not going to take it any more" moment - and who among us hasn't had one of those?

But where an overwhelming preponderance of the nation sees Slater as a working class hero, we see a desperate scream for help. We have a few words for his employer: get that guy to an EAP!

We kind of hate to be the grown up in the room when everyone in the world seems to be having so much fun with this story...and with other infamous "I quit" stories -- but we think it's important to take a more sober look. When employees exhibit explosive rage and poor impulse control, there is usually something else going on - and it's frequently a problem that is rooted in an employee's personal life that spills over into the workplace.

If emerging passenger reports are true, Slater's bad day may have started before he even got to the plane. Some passengers said that Slater came on board with the injury and that it didn't happen during the altercation with a passenger. Other passengers said his demeanor was "stern" and "rude" from the outset of the flight and said that he seemed distracted. Upon his arrest, police reported that, "His eyes were bloodshot, he smelled of alcohol and he was unsteady on his feet."

We can't ascertain these reports or the time line in the Slater incident, but alcohol abuse is certainly a common culprit in many instances of problem work performance. And in the case of an airline flight attendant, who would qualify as a "safety sensitive employee" under Department of Transportation rules, any use of alcohol within 8 hours prior to reporting for service would be prohibited; in addition, a safety sensitive employee must not report for duty or remain in service while under the influence of alcohol - and could be subject to random drug testing.

Caretaker fatigue?
News reports also indicated that the stress Slater exhibited may have been compounded by a truly difficult personal situation. Slater has been the primary a caretaker of elderly parents. A post on the parenting blog Strollerderby suggests that Slater may have been suffering from caretaker fatigue:

It has since been revealed that Slater’s mom is suffering from lung cancer and that the flight attendant had been commuting between his New York residence and her home in Southern California to take care of her. He was also a caretaker for his father, a retired airline pilot who died two years ago after a long battle with Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

One of the major symptoms of caretaker or compassion fatigue is emotional outbursts and a high stress level. It sure sounds like Slater qualifies. Longtime family neighbor Ron Franz certainly seems to think so, telling reporters “He cared for his father during a protracted illness and here he is doing it again and trying to juggle that with a stressful job,” adding “I don’t know what his motivation was. I am just saying those are the conditions that may have influenced him.”

On Tuesday, mom Diane Slater, herself a former flight attendant, came forward to issue a statement of support for her son as she was leaving her house for chemotherapy, saying she would have "snapped worse."


This rings true to us. 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. We've frequently posted about the high toll that caretaking imposes on the employee and the employer alike.

How an EAP could help
Certainly, this situation seems benign relative to a horrifying recent instance of employee frustration, but poor impulse control and rage in the workplace really aren't matters to be taken lightly. Reports indicate that Slater has been suspended but not fired. JetBlue noted the incident on their blog and public comments on the post show there is widespread sympathy for Slater ("Give the guy his job back.") Of course, employee privacy would dictate extreme caution on the part of the company in any public statements about Slater or any other employee's performance.

JetBlue needs to make a judgment about its next steps based not on what will be popular with a bemused public, but on weighing and balancing its policies and principles, its duty to protect and serve the public, and its obligations to its employees. It could be that events have transpired too far for this employee to be salvaged, but we can attest that proper and timely referrals to an EAP can often help to salvage a long-term employee's position, even under some very difficult circumstances. The die may well be cast in this case, but the employer take-away should be to stay alert for signs of stress, burn-out, personal problems, substance abuse or other issues that may be impeding employee performance - and utilize your EAP!

June 20, 2010

What broke my father's heart

Katy Butler's recent article in the New York Times entitled What Broke My Father's Heart kicks up a variety of issues related to caregiving, healthcare choices, and difficult end-of-life decision making. It is tough reading - a wrenching, sad, and frightening personal account of her father's deterioration and death - which was prolonged by a medical technology that was intended to bolster the quality of life rather than detract from it.

"...Thanks to advanced medical technologies, elderly people now survive repeated health crises that once killed them, and so the “oldest old” have become the nation’s most rapidly growing age group. Nearly a third of Americans over 85 have dementia (a condition whose prevalence rises in direct relationship to longevity). Half need help with at least one practical, life-sustaining activity, like getting dressed or making breakfast. Even though a capable woman was hired to give my dad showers, my 77-year-old mother found herself on duty more than 80 hours a week."
The article raises many questions about medical choices, along with end-of-life issues that few of us want to spend a lot of time thinking about. It offers a window into the weighty emotional environment that many of your employees face in dealing with aging parents or the terminal illness of a loved one. In reading the article, we recognized many of familiar life/death issues that we deal with on our EAP help line.

As an employer, you can provide support resources by way of referrals to EAPs, grief counselors, complex health care consultants, hospices, and local resources for the elderly. Via your wellness program. you can make information available on caregiving, advance directives, living wills, and healthcare proxies. Here's a start:

May 31, 2009

Planning for summer on the job

Planning a summer vacation this year? According to a recent survey by CareerBuilder, 35 percent of workers aren’t planning to take a vacation this year. About 71% of those who don't plan to take a vacation say that they can't afford it, and almost 20% said they feared job loss if they are away, or just felt guilty being away from the office. But too much work without a break is not a good thing - it can lead to burnout and stress. Managers should encourage employees to take that vacation. Suggest long weekends or the increasingly popular staycation - sticking close to home but spending time relaxing with family and taking lower cost field trips. Here are some resources for staycation activities:

Summer work perils
Summer is also a time that many of your employees face different job hazards - particularly if they spend any time working outdoors or in settings where heat can be an issue. Here are resources to ensure your employees stay safe this summer:

Wellness: Eye exams can save money - June 27 to July 5 is Eye Safety Awareness Week and July is Eye Injury Prevention Month. Besides addressing your work exposures, another way to commemorate might be to encourage employees to have their eyes checked. HR World reports on a study showing that regular eye exams can save healthcare dollars because eye exams can often detect chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. Here's another wellness resource for eye safety: Protecting Your Eyes: At Home, At Work, At Play

May 7, 2009

Employer best practices for caregivers in the workplace

Caregiving is a work-life issue that our counselors deal with often - it can be a terrible burden to juggle the responsibilities of a full-time job while caring for an elderly or a disabled family member. There are some family responsibilities that can be scheduled or defered to another time, but caregiving is not one of them. It entails immediacy and urgency, and the weight of the responsibility means that caregivers are a population at risk.

As part of a push to support family-friendly workplaces, The EEOC has recently been focusing on caregiver discrimination and has issued a technical document giving guidance to employers on best practices related to caregiving employees. Melissa Turley of Human Resource Executive notes that although caregivers are not a protected class, "Discriminating against caregivers, however, could result in Title VII, FMLA or ADA claims." She offers a summary of best practices.

Mark Toth at Manpower Employment Blawg also offers a great summary of the EEOC's Caregiver Best Practices. After polling readers, he learned the the number one employment law headache was identified as medical leave. In response to this, he is developing a series of cheat sheets on various laws relating to medical leave. This week, he issued an FMLA cheat sheet.

Additional Resources
State-by-state Family Care Navigator
The Family Caregiver Alliance
Caregiver resources
The high cost of caregiving
Caregiving employees at heightened risk: how employers can help

November 8, 2008

10 useful work-life tools for you and your employees

Aging Pro - bills itself as the best one-stop destination for a comprehensive set of caregiving tools, resources, community support information and access to professionals in aging on the Web. It is a resource for caregivers, professionals, and people planning their future.

Campus Explorer is a free online resource with information on more than 6,000 colleges and institutions of higher learning. It claims it will provide everything one might want to know, from tuition to average temperature and boasts direct partnerships with schools so that users can be put directly in touch with admissions officers.

Quicken Online recently eliminated their $29.95 a year fee and the online version is now free. Users can consolidate and manage bank and credit card accounts, get bill reminders, view a 10-day forecast to project the impact of upcoming expenses, and even get text messages when they're overspending. It allows users to budget better and to see where their money is going.

Healthy Dining Finder aims to provide consumers with a centralized resource for identifying the healthier choices and corresponding nutrition information from restaurants nationwide. Developed in collaboration with the National Restaurant Association (NRA) and with partial funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the site aims to provide U.S. diners with information that, in many cases, is not available anywhere else.

Fuelly is a free site that allows you to record and analyze your mileage and to see how much money you could save with small driving changes. You can see how your mileage compares with EPA estimates and the mileage of other drivers using Fuelly. The free site also offers tips and a discussion forum.

Cool Savings offers coupons and deals. The site's stated goal is "to make your life easier by being your free resource for valuable coupons, discounts and special offers from your favorite brands and stores."

BillShrink is a free, personalized savings service for everyday services like wireless and credit cards. The site's goal is to save users time and money through highly-personalized analysis of complex service usage and then finding the best wireless plans and credit cards based on that usage. The site can also automatically repeat the analysis on a regular basis as usage changes or as better product offers come to market.

Greenzer is a free shopping engine designed to make environmentally conscious shopping easier. Browse, compare and shop thousands of greener products from dozens of merchants selected for their commitment to environmentally friendly practices and products.

Real Age - your RealAge is the biological age of your body, based on how well you've maintained it. Take a free test to see how you measure up. Access other health quizzes and assessments, as well as helpful articles, recipes, and tools.

Child Care Aware is a program of the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (NACCRRA). The service offers information on various child care options and what to look, as well as a local search tool.

September 8, 2008

Trouble at Work

Business Week unveils a new double issue, one that was created in collaboration with readers using online surveys and blogs through its own site, through LinkedIn, and in a poll conducted with YouGov and the Washington firm RT Strategies. Through more than 8,500 votes and 5,000 comments, readers identified their top concerns at work and offered their thoughts on how they address these problems. Editors note that this "reader-generated" approach was markedly different than the normal reporting where they might have contacted consultants to learn about emerging trends.

We've listed the 6 issues that readers identified below. Each identified problem has a mini sub-site with videos, articles, and an associated blog. You can access content through the index Trouble at the Office, or search any of the top problem areas that were identified:

Work-life balance - how to manage workplace balance without going crazy.
Staying entrepreneurial - sparking innovation and fostering creativity.
Time management - tips for making every hour count.
Negotiating the bureaucracy - breaking out of the box.
Generational tensions - generational collisions in the workplace.
Toxic bosses - or "how to live with the s.o.b."

August 22, 2008

Side effect of an ailing economy: spike in domestic abuse

We are noting an unhappy trend in news headlines lately - we've seen an unsettling amount of news stories from various parts of the country reporting on an increase in domestic violence: California, Michigan, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Louisiana all report spikes in the number of reported cases of domestic violence. And in Pennsylvania, officials sound an alarm about domestic violence deaths - thirty such deaths occurred in the state during a 30-day period beginning June 22, according to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

These are just the few headlines we've gleaned from a Google search of news items in the last few weeks; no doubt, they are merely the tip of the iceberg. A correlation between the economy and domestic violence makes complete sense to most counselors and professionals who work with troubled people: when they economy falters, domestic violence rises. Money is one of the most disputed family issues in the best of times, but when pressures mount - job loss, home foreclosures, increased costs of living - frayed tempers often give way to violence.

A spike in domestic violence should be of concern to employers for a number of reasons. The health and well-being of workers is directly linked to productivity, and a problem as highly highly intense and disruptive as domestic violence leads to absenteeism, lower productivity, turnover, and excessive use of medical benefits. Researchers from the University of Arkansas found that women who were victims of recent domestic violence had 26 percent more time lost to tardiness and absenteeism than non-victims. And violence frequently spills over into the workplace. In a National Safe Workplace Institute survey, 94% of corporate security directors ranked partner violence as a high security problem.

From our vantage as an EAP, we see that employers can play a pivotal role in helping to curb domestic violence. That help may be as simple as being alert for warning signs and making referrals to an EAP to instituting a full workplace awareness and education program. One good resource that employers should know about is the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence. They offer an extensive library of resources ranging from educational materials and sample policies to practical dos and don'ts for employers. One resource that we find particularly helpful is the best practice library where programs from a few dozen of the nation's most prominent employers are profiled - it's a good way to get ideas for things you could do at your workplace.


Additional resources
Violence prevention in the workplace
Domestic Violence in the Workplace - a weblog by Kim Wells, Executive Director of CAEPV
Family Violence Prevention Fund
Intimate Partner Violence: Intervention - from the U.S. Department of Justice

May 14, 2008

Survey: When gas goes up, employee productivity goes down

According to a recent survey on the effect of rising gas prices on commuting employees conducted by Wayne Hochwarter, a management professor at Florida State University’s College of Business, more pain at the pump means more employee stress on the job. Hochwarter recently surveyed more than 800 full-time commuting employees when gas prices were about $3.50 per gallon. The survey showed that workers are preoccupied, experience "the blues," are less attentive to job tasks, and feel less enthusiasm about going to work. At least one in three said they would consider quitting their current job to find a comparable one nearby. Among the other survey findings:

  • 52 percent have reconsidered taking vacations or other recreational activities
  • 45 percent have had to cut back on debt-reduction payments, such as credit card payments
  • Nearly 30 percent considered the consequences of going without basics including food, clothing and medicine
  • 45 percent report that the escalating gas prices have "caused them to fall behind financially"
  • 39 percent agreed with the statement "Gas prices have decreased my standard of living"
  • About 33 percent -- or one in three -- said they would quit their job for a comparable one nearer to home

Sharing the pain - what employers can do
As the survey shows, if your employees are hurting, you are hurting too. Find ways to help your employees lessen the pain at the pump. Be creative - your employees will appreciate your help. Even for small companies, there are may low- to no-cost options that you can pursue.

Encourage pedal-power - Offer bike-to-work incentives, such as subsidizing bike purchases for employees who bike to work; install expanded bike parking options; sponsor bike-to-work days with free breakfasts for participants.Biking will not only save your employees money, it will keep them healthy.

Walk the walk - Nothing becomes a leader more than leadership. Managers - including the CEO - could bike to work, take mass transit, or rideshare to set an example. Subsidize or sponsor bus, van, or other group transit options. Organize car pools - encourage your management team to participate.

Expand your telecommuting options - Even allowing employees to work from home one or two days a week would reduce employee fuel expenditures by 20-40%. If you have employees who need to be on premise, consider reorganizing schedules, such as four 10-hour days instead of five 8-hour days.

Meet wisely - Use more online meetings so that people don't have to drive to the office. Consolidate regular in-house meetings to one or two days of the week to allow for more telecommuting options.

Find resources - Investigate and publicize any regional or state sponsored rideshare resources. Websites like eRideShare.com are cropping up to provide bulletin boards so that commuters can find ridesharing partners.

Exchange tips - Publicize gas saving tips in your company newsletter or Intranet. David Bauerlein of the Florida Times Union has a great list of suggestions to lessen the sting of rising gas costs. There are also online resources, such as GasBuddy to help employees find the lowest local gas prices. Research gas conservation and buying tips and add them to your company's newsletter or website.

Consider "conservation contests" - Invite your employees to suggest the best gas and energy conservation tips and cost saving ideas. Offer "green" prizes and publicize the best ideas and tips both internally and in your local paper.

Offer debt counseling services - As gas prices go up, so too do food and other necessities. This is causing serious hardship for many who try to solve the problem with additional credit card debt. Some EAPs offer debt counseling services. It's a good time to publicize and remind your employees when such resources are available.

April 30, 2008

The high cost of caregiving

In 2006, the MetLife Mature Market Institute and the National Alliance for Caregiving coauthored a study entitled The MetLife Caregiving Cost Study: Productivity Losses to U.S. Business (PDF), which estimates that the average cost to an employer per 'employee caregiver' is $2,110 per year. The total estimated cost to employers for all full-time, employed caregivers is $33.6 billion. The study puts the number of full-time employed caregivers at close to 16 million, and growing.

The costs in terms of lost productivity are associated with:

  • Absenteeism and partial absenteeism (Coming in late or leaving early)
  • Workday interruptions
  • Crisis in care
  • Supervisory time
  • Unpaid leave
  • Reduction in hours from full-time to part-time
The study defines a caregiver as someone caring for a person over the age of 18. Typically, the person being cared for is over 50. The chances are very high that you have caregivers in your organization right now, whether you know it or not.

The term caregiving is a relatively recent one - it's not even in my spell checker - but the concept is certainly not new. Since the beginning of time, family members have been taking care of their sick or elderly relatives. What is new is the number of baby boomers in the workforce who have elderly parents, spouses, or children with significant health issues.

I speak from personal experience since I have dealt with elderly parents as well as with a child with a significant health issue health while working full-time. I know the amount of time and energy these problems can absorb. Even when you are at your desk, it's often difficult to focus on your job when people that you love are sick. At the time when these family health issues were on the table for me, I was unaware that my employer even had an EAP or that an EAP might be able to help me with support and services. At the time, I was under the misperception that EAPs are only for substance abuse or mental health issues. Many of your employees may be missing valuable support if they are also under this misperception.

Your EAP can help your employees with these caregiving issues. We have invested significant resources in training our counselors and staff to deal with the myriad issues that are part and parcel of caregiving. In fact, we added a specific Caregiver Resource benefit in response to the many member calls we noted around caregiving issues, from resource referrals to help dealing with all the associated emotions.

A benefit is only as beneficial as its utilization. Make sure any caregivers in your organization are aware of your EAP and publicize specifics about the type of support and services they can obtain from your EAP. Help and support services can be invaluable to your caregiving employees and can also help minimize the effects on your organization's productivity.

February 7, 2008

FMLA amended to include leave for military families; more changes pending

This week marks the 15 year anniversary of the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which was signed into law on February 5, 1993. FMLA requires employers of 50 or more employees to provide eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave each year for the birth and care of a newborn child, for placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care, or for the serious illness of the employee or of the employee’s child, spouse, or parent. D.O.L.'s FMLA Compliance Assistance page offers more detail and resources.

On January 28, the FMLA had its first major expansion when President Bush signed the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act into law, which, among other provisions, extends FMLA to family members of military personnel who are recovering from illness or injury. While regulations are still pending, the Department of Labor (DOL) states that the amendment to the FMLA allows a "spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin" to take up to 26 weeks of work leave to care for a "member of the Armed Forces, including a member of the National Guard or Reserves, who is undergoing medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy, is otherwise in outpatient status, or is otherwise on the temporary disability retired list, for a serious injury or illness."

More changes in the works
In addition, more regulatory changes to FMLA are forthcoming. DOL will be issuing recommendations for additional amendments on February 11. According to Human Resources Executive, it is expected that DOL recommendations might address the difficulties posed by intermittent leave and might strengthen the definition of "serious medical condition." It is also anticipated that employees will be required to request FMLA-related leave two days prior to taking time off, a change from the current system in which employees can be absent for two days before requesting the leave be designated as FMLA leave.

Once the new recommendations are issued, final regulations will need to be approved, a process that could take 90 days or longer. Once approved, Congress has up to 60-days to review the rules. As the HRE article points out, "That means a new Congress next year could reject what the Congress this year approved."

At least one of the authors of the original FMLA legislation would like to see even more changes. Senator Christopher Dodd wants to strengthen the law to give Americans 8 weeks paid leave after having a child or during a family illness. Dodd contends that millions of workers do not take advantage of FMLA because they can't afford time off without pay. He also notes that 128 countries provide paid and job-protected maternity leave, with an average paid leave of sixteen weeks. Dodd has made several prior attempts to expand FMLA to include paid leave but has met with little success. Time will tell whether a Congressional party shift and change in administration would create a more favorable climate for such a proposal.

Employer advice from legal experts
Meanwhile, legal experts are advising that employers act expeditiously to amend their FMLA policies and practices to reflect the changes. And the employment law firm Littler Mendelson also reminds employers that in addition to these changes, employers may face other obligations under state laws:

"Employers should be aware that time off under this new legislation may be in addition to family leave available under state law. Several states have now passed legislation providing their residents with unpaid family military leave. These states include California, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, and New York. Other states, including Hawaii and Wisconsin, have family military leave legislation currently pending before their respective state legislatures. Employers also should be aware of applicable state statutes and modify their leave policies as appropriate. The family military leave laws do not purport to affect an employee's right to any other legally-mandated leave or employee benefit, including the additional leave benefits now available to employees under the Amendment."

November 27, 2007

Stress at work affects employee retention

Are you having trouble retaining employees? You may want to check the stress level at your organization. When asked about reasons for leaving a job, stress was cited as the top reason by 37 percent of the employee respondents in a recent 2007/2008 Global Strategic Rewards study conducted by Watson Wyatt Worldwide and WorldatWork. Yet employers seem relatively oblivious to the role that stress plays in their employees' decisions to stay or leave a job: stress does not even make the list of the top five reasons cited by employers.

The purpose of the study was to examine how employers are tackling attraction and retention issues and reward management. The study encompassed nearly 1,000 companies in 22 countries, in conjunction with a survey of more than 13,000 workers at mid-size to large employers.

Two of three companies worldwide report difficulty attracting top-performing workers, while a full 70 percent reported that they have difficulty attracting critical-skill employees. At 11 percent, the U.S. has the highest median voluntary turnover rate.

Employee view - top 5 reasons
Stress levels - 37 percent
Base pay - 33 percent
Promotion opportunity - 26 percent
Career development opportunities - 23 percent
Work/life balance - 22 percent

Employer view - top 5 reasons
Base pay - 52 percent
Career development opportunities - 47 percent
Promotion opportunity - 5 percent
Relationship with supervisor/manager - 35 percent
Work/life balance - 24 percent

But the stress climate of an organization was not just a strong reason cited for turnover, an acceptable stress level was also cited as a reason for staying with an organization and recommending it to others:

The study found that when employees are satisfied with stress levels and work/life balance, 86 percent are more inclined to stay with their company (versus 64 percent when dissatisfied) and 88 percent are more likely to recommend it as a place to work (versus 55 percent when dissatisfied).

"Worldwide, the frenetic pace of modern business is taking its toll on employees," said Adam Sorensen, global total rewards practice leader at WorldatWork. "There's no question that employees are more likely to leave or speak badly of their workplace if they feel overburdened. Companies that take steps to ensure that stress levels are not onerous will save money in the long run by reducing attrition."

The survey notes that with such a misunderstanding of the actual reasons for dissatisfaction, some of the actions that employers are taking to attract and retain employees may be counterproductive.

Other study findings
The full report - Playing to Win in a Global Economy (PDF) - offers other findings as well. Results are segmented into global and U.S - specific findings. In addition to a disconnect between employers and employees in the reasons for leaving, some other key U.S. findings include:

  • Employers report difficulty in attracting and retaining employees—particularly, top-performing and critical-skill employees—for the fourth year in a row.
  • As employers continue to manage their cost structures, they are putting more money into variable pay and raising the bar for performance.
  • Merit-increase budgets for 2007 remained relatively stable, at an average 3.6 percent, and are expected to rise only slightly, to 3.7 percent, in 2008.
  • Highly engaged employees are more than twice as likely to be top performers than are other employees.

June 28, 2007

Employers have a key role in curbing domestic violence

Lately, there's been a spate of grim headlines about domestic violence resulting in deaths: the professional wrestler who killed his wife and young son and then himself, and the pregnant Ohio mother who was murdered, allegedly by the father of her child. Domestic violence is certainly nothing new but, occasionally, high profile cases such as these bring the issue to the forefront.

Because we spend so much time at work, colleagues and supervisors are often in a unique position to spot signs of domestic violence and employer can often play a critical role in directing the employee to help through referrals to an EAP or other community resource. In the past, the "none of my business" type of thinking often prevailed, but today employers know that problems at home rarely stay at home. All too often, domestic abuse comes right to the workplace:

  • Homicide is the leading cause of death for women in the workplace.
  • Of the approximately 1.7 million incidents of workplace violence that occur in the US every year, 18,700 are committed by an intimate partner: a current or former spouse, lover, partner, or boyfriend/girlfriend.
  • Lost productivity and earnings due to intimate partner violence accounts for almost $1.8 billion each year.
  • Intimate partner violence victims lose nearly 8.0 million days of paid work each year - the equivalent of more than 32,000 full-time jobs and nearly 5.6 million days of household productivity.

The Family Violence Prevention Fund identifies an annotated list of seven reasons why employers should address domestic violence. Here's a quick summary:

  1. Domestic violence affects many employees.
  2. Domestic violence is a security and liability concern.
  3. Domestic violence is a performance and productivity concern.
  4. Domestic violence is a health care concern.
  5. Domestic violence is a management issue.
  6. Taking action in response to domestic violence works.
  7. Employers can make a difference.

The site also offers an excellent list of case histories of what some progressive employers are doing to combat domestic violence and suggests a site with actions that both large and small employers can take to combat domestic violence.

Some of the basic things that employers can do include:

  • Instituting a workplace zero-tolerance policy for workplace violence
  • Providing secure work environments
  • Raising awareness of the problem by educating your employee
  • Reminding employees that help is available for domestic violence
  • Training managers and supervisors to be alert for potential signs of domestic abuse
  • Having referral protocols and resources in place for employees who need help - preferably an EAP or a social service experienced in dealing with domestic abuse

Some other good resources include:
American Institute on Domestic Violence
Safe@Work
Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence
The Corporate Alliance to End Domestic Violence

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