Working World Cafe on December 17th, 2014
photo by: dreamstine

photo by: dreamstine

Written by: Lindsey Patrick, Counselor Intern, Perspectives EAP

For many of us, November and December are the months of Thanksgiving and several religiously-based holidays. This time of year is usually devoted to family and gifts, both given and received. In the preparation for different activities and events, it is easy to lose sight of why we celebrate a day of thanks and why we exchange gifts. The two common threads, regardless of religious/spiritual affiliation or lack thereof, are gratitude and charity.

Gratitude is a concept heavily researched in the field of positive psychology. Active expression of gratitude is positively correlated with increased happiness and helps focus thoughts toward positive emotions, experiences and relationships. It has been my experience, though, that expressing gratitude does not come as naturally to people as one may think. It is easy for somebody to tell a loved one to “be grateful” or “count your blessings.” However, some people need to be taught how to be effectively gracious.

Gratitude Journal

I will always remember an assignment one of my graduate school professors gave to us (and gives to her therapy clients) which was to keep a gratitude journal. Keep a written list of things for which you are grateful (big and small; tangible and intangible). Each night, add one more item to that list. Let this be the last task of your day so you go to sleep thinking of this list. Review the growing list each morning so you begin your day with positivity. This is a simple and quick task to begin shifting your mind from the mundane to the great.

Charity

When I think about charity, I think of people who make Forbes Magazine’s list of Most Generous People in America. How can I possibly live up to these people with my limited resources? How can an average person realistically fulfill this seemingly large and amazing concept of charity? For me, I conceptualize charity in a smaller way than others. I entered the counseling profession not with the notion of changing the world, but with the hope of having an impact on a small amount of people and making the small piece of the world in which I do exist, a better place. This helps make the enormous concept of charity more realistic for me.

What can you do?

Some ideas for giving charity are…

  • Placing the change from your morning coffee in the Salvation Army tins around town
  • Leaving a dollar bill or two taped to the office vending machine with an anonymous note saying “Have a treat on me”
  • Calling a friend who is struggling to say “I am here if you need anything”
  • Paying for the coffee of the person behind you in the Starbucks drive-thru

Charity does not have to take the form of a large donation to an organization. Small and random acts of kindness can have a big impact.

So in this spirit, I challenge you to list 10 things for which you are grateful. I also challenge you to do 5 random acts of kindness between now and the end of the year. You may be surprised to find the amount of personal satisfaction you can gain by actively practicing gratitude and charity.

To get more information on Charity & Gratitude, email Lindsey Patrick at lpatrick@perspectivesltd.com or visit www.perspectivesltd.com.

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Bernie Dyme on December 10th, 2014
Ball and Bow

picture by: dreamstine

Written by: Wendy Kramer

Halloween decorations are lingering in people’s yards and children are just finishing up their bags of candy when discussions of Thanksgiving and Holiday plans emerge. We are all planning ahead to keep expectations manageable and to make sure we can count on the people we love. But it can be much more complicated than we want it to be with family at times. Family relationships can require the delicate art of negotiations at high levels of diplomacy.

Whether you plan a cultural holiday, a religious one, or both, it is important to consider what you want to celebrate at this dark cold time of year. In many Celtic, Greek and Roman traditions in Western Europe, this was a time of introspection, analysis, seeking and finding order. Even in pagan celebrations having reasons to come together to celebrate with the light from fire and candles, making music, dancing and feasts were an essential part of making it through the winter. Make your wishes and plans known to family and friends early, especially if you are changing them from past years patterns and expectations. What most people want in order to be content is to have relaxed time with friends and family.

GIFTS

I am challenged to be in the holiday spirit without spending money! Most important is to agree to keep to a budget. How much expendable income do you have at this point in the year? Think of others’ limitations of time and money as well, and perhaps agree to a grab bag where each of you draws a name and only buys one gift for a family member instead of the whole group. Consider the spirit of the season and it may come to light that it is most important to be together, and agree NOT to exchange gifts. Perhaps the gift of donating your time together to a charity would mean more than having to get the perfect gift for each other.

TRADITIONS

Plan an evenly paced holiday season. Talk it over and share memories of your favorite family traditions. Select a few of them to update and share the stories about them without having to fully recreate them all. Create new traditions that are scaled back in production time and money, but carry the theme and meaning of the holiday to you and your friends and family. My favorite one for Thanksgiving is to go around the table after a blessing and ask each person to voice their own blessings from this year. The children love it and I am always moved to tears with gratitude.

FOOD

Keep it simple and healthy. Ask people to contribute by bringing or helping with preparation. Yes, leftovers are important, but so is your energy and time. I always feel my best when I can help out get involved and be a part of the production of the celebration.

If you would like to get more information on this blog post, you can email Wendy Kramer at wkramer@perspectivesltd.com or visit www.perspectivesltd.com.

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Bernie Dyme on December 3rd, 2014
photo by: dreamstine

photo by: dreamstine

Written by: Bernie Dyme

Recently I was asked to go onsite to help police, fire and emergency medical personnel with a municipality that was dealing with a horrific murder.  This one was so horrible that the chief and leadership were concerned about how their team might be affected.  As I was preparing for my meeting with them, I thought about a number of things that we often forget about when these terrible incidents occur, and what our public servants are called out to assist with.  These insights made me pause and I want to mention them for both the public at large and any helpers out there who do the good work we so often take for granted.  I am referring to law enforcement officers, fire fighters, medical personnel, teachers and anyone else in a “helping” position.

  1. We’re all human. We often think that handling these situations are a part of their jobs and don’t give much thought to the possible reactions that they may have to these incidents. After all, they too are people with emotions just like the rest of us.  Although these folks are trained to handle crises, sometimes things happen that are so unspeakable that even these very strong and resilient folks would have a powerful reaction.  We also forget that these folks see so many of these incidents that they may also suffer from an accumulation of emotions.
  2. Get help. Since these folks are supposed to be “tough and strong”, they learn that it is not okay to have any emotional reaction, which turns into bottling up their feelings and not asking for help. Unfortunately not dealing with these traumas can lead to serious consequences such as depression, anxiety, alcohol or drug abuse or physical illness.
  3. Resources. Sometimes resources aren’t always available to help, nor are there well thought out strategies to help engage these folks and break down the barriers that prevent them from asking for or receiving help. There are a number of sources that should be made available after a crisis, but more importantly these resources should be promoted regularly so that they are seen as safe places for people to get help.  There are a number of options including employee assistance programs, chaplains, peer support teams and physician or nurse assistance programs to name a few.
  4. Support. Leadership support is a main ingredient in getting these helpers assistance. In the presentation I did the other day, it was because leadership set up and actively encouraged the meeting.  Furthermore, they were in attendance and participated by asking questions and giving permission for attendees to ask for help.
  5. Health. It is all about creating a culture that consistently promotes good mental and physical health. That culture also regularly educates its professional staff about the value and need for taking care of themselves before and after a crisis.  Safety is important and if helpers don’t feel that they have safe and confidential places to go for help which are “okay to use”, they won’t use them.

Finally, there are some things that can be done to help folks in helping positions deal with their own reactions to crises.  These are detailed in Emotional First Aid after a Trauma or Crisis.

First responders have very hard jobs that require resiliency and toughness but let’s remember that they are people too with emotions, reactions and needs just like the rest of us.  So if you are a community member who has been assisted by one of these professionals or an employer who manages them, thank them and encourage them to be human and ask for the same help that they are giving to others.

If you would like more information regarding this issue, email Bernie Dyme at bsd@perspectivesltd.com or visit www.perspectivesltd.com.

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Bernie Dyme on November 25th, 2014
photo by: dreamstine

photo by: dreamstine

Written by: Bernie Dyme

Well, here we are again.  Another year almost done with another Thanksgiving beginning the season.  At this time we are supposed to think about what we are thankful for, but I often wonder how this gets translated in today’s fast-paced, commercially oriented, internet based world.

Oh sure, we can be thankful for all of those things that we have.

Things like…

  • A Starbucks grande, non-fat, extra hot latte. Ask my family about this addiction
  • The fact that the Chicago Bulls & Blackhawks are at the beginning of their seasons so they are still not yet losers (like the Bears). I will not include the Sox and Cubs as they are winners since we are still in the off season
  • I will get to attend another Turkey Bowl, the 46th, which will allow me to see my friends again this year albeit most of us will not play or just barely get through the opening kick-off which now comes right after breakfast
  • My wife’s pumpkin pie which is usually snarfed up before I can get any; the benefits of having 3 male adult children who are now much quicker than I
  • The great sales that go on during Thanksgiving day, not only on Black Friday; making Thanksgiving the new “Greengiving” day
  • Great televised football games although this year my beloved 4 and 5 Bears will be playing and will probably be thankful to get off the field

But for me what I am most thankful for are not things but those intangibles that are really important and lasting like:

  • Friends and family who are always there to support me
  • The health of my family, friends, colleagues and associates
  • Children who have grown up understanding that success is not just in what you do to make a living but in giving back and helping others in need
  • Working with the greatest team of folks who are passionate about helping people and providing workplaces and individuals in need of help with the highest quality services possible
  • The luck I had to have chosen a profession that is dedicated to helping people

I could go on, but I think you get the message.  We here at Perspectives want to wish you all a peaceful and Happy Thanksgiving and hope that you will not only enjoy the food, family and partying of the season but also take a moment to reflect on your blessings.  We also hope that you will take a moment to think about those who are in need and offer them a helping hand in whatever manner you feel comfortable.

To find out more on how to help those in need, please visit, http://charity.org/donate/donate-charity.

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Sara DePasquale on November 20th, 2014

Written by: Sara DePasquale, Marketing Coordinator

Every year International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is held. This day is for anyone who is affected by suicide loss and is to provide comfort in meeting at local events in communities for healing and support.

This day was originated when Senator Harry Reid, a survivor of his father’s suicide, announced in 1999 a new resolution into the US Senate. With its passage, the US Congress selected the Saturday before Thanksgiving to have “National Survivors of Suicide Day.”

What can these events do for you? If you or a loved one is affected by a suicide loss, you can attend a local event to hear stories told from people at all stages of healing. These events also allow new participants a chance to share their own stories, which can be very helpful in the healing process.

If you would like to find a Survivor Day event in your area, please visit: http://www.survivorday.org/find-an-event/ or for those who cannot attend any events, you can visit http://www.survivorday.org/survivor-day-live/ to join live events online.

To get more information regarding depression or getting help, please visit http://www.withhopefoundation.org/help-now/suicide-hotline-help or www.perspectivesltd.com.

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Colleen OBrien on November 5th, 2014
photo by: dreamstine

photo by: dreamstine

Written by: Colleen O’Brien, LPC

“A mirror provides an objective reflection, but an eye is selective and subjective” -Text on placard by Magritte’s “The False Mirror” painting

The Magritte exhibit at the Chicago Art Institute was mind-bending. Painted items with the “wrong” names underneath, men chasing a flying item with a cricket bat on a tiled floor while enlarged children’s toys floated around, and a man with a nose that flowed into what we would assume was his pipe were among the images. I knew I had always liked Salvador Dali, but after this experience, the surrealist movement as a whole provokes my curiosity. This is not as surprising as after some light research I learned that the movement was based on some ideas of Sigmund Freud. Art and psychology combine in an effort to encourage freethinking in the masses.

Through provocative images and ideas to challenge the mind, surrealist artists created a way to push people past the boundaries of what is expected and normal. Their movement, in direct rebuttal to using logic and reason that they felt led us to World War I, possessed the goals of encouraging people to open their minds, realize that things are not always as they appear to be, and overall, to revolutionize human experience. We can apply this approach to our own lives and encourage flexibility with our thoughts and our interpretation of activities in our environment.

What would it be like if we no longer believed the negative self-talk that can occur when we are struggling within our relationships, our work, or ourselves? What if a break up with the person of your dreams does not mean there is something wrong with your personality? What if that bad relationship pattern you can’t seem to get out of doesn’t mean you are a loser? What if your struggle with addiction does not mean you are a weak person? What if that negative review at work is not necessarily a reflection of your talent? What if your lack of desire for commitment does not mean you are a flawed human being? What if another’s negative opinion of you holds absolutely no validity? What if experiencing anxiety while taking in the beautiful sites on your European vacation doesn’t mean you’re crazy or abnormal?

Of course there is a difference between denial and automatic negative assumptions. It is important to look at ourselves, practice self-reflection, and to be honest. These practices help us to be in touch with who we are and what we want for our lives. When we know what we want, we can take steps to achieve it.

When we lift judgment and preconceived ideas, we give ourselves a chance to explore and freedom to be who we are without negative ramifications. By taking our thinking to this level we create the opportunity to experience our true nature, without judgment and logic leading the way.

Theoretically, changing the way we view things can sound like an easy task. For most of us, it actually takes a lot of practice.

To get more information regarding Perception, feel free to email Colleen or visit her other blog post, The Power of Perception.

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Sara DePasquale on October 28th, 2014
image by: dreamstine

image by dreamstine

Written by: Sara DePasquale, Marketing Coordinator

The holidays are approaching. The time when we are supposed to be celebrating togetherness and joy, however, this time of year can be very hard on our physical and emotional health. Whether its candy & snacks at work, a lot of travel time or not getting enough sleep– we all struggle to stay healthy during this time.  Besides getting the obvious flu vaccine, check out some of our tips on how you can help your body weather the season.

Eat healthy & be active. Try to only eat when hungry & stay active! Whether it’s a walk with your dog or a morning jog to get up and move your legs – this will help balance you mentally and physically.

Wash your hands often. Getting sick around the holidays is not fun. Make sure to carry anti-bacterial or wash your hands often. When shopping, try not to touch any escalator handrails. “In our testing, we have found food, E. coli, urine, mucus, feces, and blood on escalator handrails,” says Charles Gerba, Ph.D., a professor of environmental microbiology at the University of Arizona “And where there is mucus, you may also find cold and flu viruses.” Philip Tierno, Ph.D., director of clinical microbiology and immunology at New York University Langone Medical Center concurs: “We’ve found respiratory flora on handrails,” he says, “which makes sense because people cough into their hands, then touch the rails.” Especially with everything going on right now with Ebola – make sure to wash your hands frequently!

Get rest.  Sleep is one of the most important factors when staying healthy—and what better way to catch up on sleep than on your days off? “If you run yourself ragged and don’t get a good night’s sleep, you risk getting ill just because you’ve worn down your body’s defenses,” Dr. Leavey says.

Stay hydrated. Drink lots of water and take a multi-vitamin or Vitamin C to keep your defenses high. Staying well-hydrated helps keeps bacteria & viruses out of our systems. Also, decaf green tea can be soothing and has immune-boosting antioxidants.

Snack smart. We all snack, but maybe try to avoid snacking on sweets as much as you can. I know it’s especially hard around the holidays, but try to limit yourself. Instead of snacking on sweets, check out some super foods that are nutritious and will enhance your mood!

To find more tips on Holiday health, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/family/holiday/ , email Sara DePasquale or visit our Working World Café blog.

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Jonathan Eisler on October 23rd, 2014

Written by: Jonathan Eisler, Director of Perspectives Organizational Consulting Group

I’m sure you’re read recent articles discussing the changing make-up of the workforce and how work gets done. You’ve undoubtedly seen plenty of  news programs discussing how organizations should respond to the fact that 30+% of the workforce will be retiring in the next few years, or what to expect when Generation Z joins the working ranks in the next decade, or how employees are facing undue stress as the result of increased performance expectations/demands.  In case that wasn’t enough uncertainty, following the recent recession, businesses have learned that they must adapt how they operate and how they are structured if they want to exist tomorrow.  Not only are we all exposed to these changes in print and on TV, the majority of us deal with these exact challenges at least 5 days out of the week.

The theme here is change. Change is never easy and when faced with change, we can either roll with it or dig in and fight. Given that those who decide to fight organizational change rather than adapt won’t be around next year, Perspectives is focused on determining how we can help others effectively manage the chaos associated with change.

At Perspectives Ltd we are passionate about supporting organizations in every way possible to enable fully engaged workforces.  To best do this,  towards the end of 2013 we surveyed our network to see what organizational changes they were experiencing, or expecting, so that we could ensure we had the right support resources available for their needs. Below are the findings related to the question “what changes will your organization have experienced in 2013-2014?”

  • Growth = 100%
  • Change Within Senior Leadership = 60%
  • Lay-Offs = 56%
  • Restructuring = 44%
  • Merger or Acquisition = 22%

Given the above responses from last year and the new reality that organizations must do more with less (ie-lean), it’s no surprise that the majority of our organizational consulting engagements this year (2014) have been around:

  • Helping organizations shift from yesterday’s culture to one that meets the new demands of today and tomorrow.
  • Assisting organizations in managing their image and sustaining the engagement levels of retained employees by providing outplacement workshops and individual career transition services for those being let go.
  • Providing management/leadership with formalized training through one-on-one coaching and custom designed management development programs.
  • Educating leadership on attracting, developing, retaining and engaging their multi-generational workforce.

What changes is your organization facing? What have you found to be helpful in managing the chaos associated therewith? What is leadership still scratching their heads about? What do you see coming down the pipeline for 2015?

In case you are looking for some guidance about how to adapt to the changing demands of the evolving workforce, you should check out the first webinar in our 3-part series on the topic that will be held on October 28th. You can register at http://join.onstreammedia.com/register/perspectivesltd/TheChangingWorkforce, or to get more information regarding the webinar or post, please email Jonathan Eisler.

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Working World Cafe on October 21st, 2014

breast cancer awareness monthWritten by Adria Passey

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  In recent years, the numerous campaigns to raise awareness about Breast Cancer have sent forth a sea of pink – it seems like everything is available in pink, from clothes to appliances, jewelry to cars.

So, is it working? Do you know the facts about Breast Cancer? If you are a woman, do you know your risk factors? Have you been screened?  Do you have an early detection plan? If you’re a man, have you encouraged the women in your life to get screened and have an early detection plan?

Breast Cancer Facts:

1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with Breast Cancer in her lifetime.

It is the second leading cause of death for women, and it is the most common diagnosed cancer for women.

Breast Cancer will kill more than 40,000 women in the US and more than 500,000 worldwide this year.

And, despite the plethora of pink, it’s not just women:  410 men die each year from Breast Cancer too.

Some of the risk factors for Breast Cancer are both obvious and avoidable: a poor diet, smoking, drinking alcohol, being sedentary and hormone replacement therapy. More good reasons to eat your fruits and veggies and get in some exercise. Then there are some risk factors we can’t do anything about: our genetics, age, race, and family history among them.

However, one of the scary facts about Breast Cancer is that 60-70% of victims have no connection to any of these risk factors at all! In other words, avoiding risk is important, but it’s not enough. Early detection can be key to saving your life.

There is good news: mortality rates from Breast Cancer have been steadily decreasing, partly due to better screening and earlier detection, and also because of more advanced treatment options. More good news: when Breast Cancer is diagnosed early, the 5 year survival rate can be as high as 98%.

Breast Cancer Awareness

Reduce Your Risk: Don’t smoke, limit alcohol, stay active, eat fruits and veggies, and maintain a healthy weight.

Learn: Go to www.nationalBreastCancer.org and learn the facts.

Ask questions:  www.beyondtheshock.com

Plan:  Go to www.earlydetectionplan.org and make a plan. Encourage all the women in your life to do the same.

Volunteer:  www.komenchicago.org/get-involved/

To get more information regarding Breast Cancer Awareness, please email Adria Passey or visit www.perspectivesltd.com.

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Written by: Terry Cahill Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Principal

You might think that it would be hard to find opportunities in this environment.  Though not as highly rated, there were also factors positively impacting Client Retention and New Sales, as follows:

39% – EAP Product Improvements

38% – New Strategic Partnerships

35% – New Product Offerings

35% – Enhanced Broker Engagement

30% – Enhanced Technological Delivery Capability

External EAPs are improving their current service delivery through efforts like SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral to Treatment) which improves clinical intervention with substance abuse cases through motivational interviewing, thus increasing the identification of cases with high impact on the workplace.  Others are creating new products such as those targeting workforce segments which have not traditionally utilized EAP services like physicians.  External EAPs are also integrating their services into their client organizations’ wellness efforts, through both internally developed products and strategic placement of the EAP within a separate wellness vendor’s product.

This wellness integration ranges from EAP seminar attendance counting toward employee wellness requirements to the EAP being used as a front end assessor of high-risk medical cases to determine if any EAP or WorkLife services might help these individuals with comorbid mental health or life cycle issues in order to better prepare them for taking advantage of wellness coaching services.  Enhanced broker engagement has included offering coaching assistance from the EAP to employees attempting to negotiate health care exchanges, allying the EAP more closely with the focus of the broker community.  And technological advances include ecounseling and other employee engagement platforms, including video counseling as discussed by Tom Farris, PhD, of Claremont Partners and Stan Granberry, PhD, of the National Behavioral Consortium in the 4th quarter 2013 issue of The Journal of Employee Assistance.

Not all doom and gloom, but rather signs of healthy entrepreneurship.  Despite the pricing, broker education, outcomes measurement and IT challenges indicated by NBC survey respondents, the following response to the question about whether respondents were pessimistic or optimistic about the future of the EAP field indicates that there are still opportunities for external EAP vendors willing to evolve.

83% of respondents indicated they are Optimistic or Very Optimistic about the future of the EAP field.

Why?  Survey respondents gave the following reasons in the open field provided:

  • Expanding role in psychosocial aspect of behavior change
  • Focus on behavioral risk management
  • Filling the Wellness Gap
  • Technology facilitates EAP reach

To close, I’d like to tie these reasons for optimism to two opportunities for the EAP field that Kathy Mahieu, AON/Hewitt’s Behavioral Health Chief, has challenged us with.  The first is the Wellness Gap.  Per AON/Hewitt’s 2011 Employer Survey, the #1 employer desired benefit-related outcome is to increase the “utilization of wellness and prevention” in order to drive down healthcare costs.  And the #1 challenge to achieving this goal is “motivating (wellness) participants to promote behavior change” (AON Hewitt 2012 Health Care Survey).  This is the Wellness Gap.  And it is creating a focus on behavioral risk management and the psychosocial aspects of behavior change.  And behavior change is the expertise of EAP.  There are many approaches to leveraging EAP behavioral expertise, but the point is EAPs could potentially fill this wellness gap and by virtue of working with customer organizations at one of their main points of pain, extend EAP reach with executives in client organizations, one of the current difficulties identified for external EAP vendors in this survey.

Kathy Mahieu’s second challenge, per her presentation at NBC’s Fall 2012 Conference, is for EAPs to become proactive case finders, to go beyond waiting for cases to come to us in response to program promotion efforts, and actually reach out to potential end users, employees and family members and supervisors, to identify people that need our services.  Key to this proactive case finding is technology.  Technology that enables access to the EAP.  Technology that reaches employee populations with screening tools.  Technology that provides self-service platforms to support behavioral change.  All of these can support the core competencies that have been, and will continue to be, the foundation on which the External EAP industry continues to build. 

CONCLUSION

 Whether by addressing the Wellness Gap, becoming proactive case finders or through other innovations, the EAP field can and is building on its legacy of assistance to organizations and individuals.  In the meantime, the NBC Industry Profile of EAP Vendors study provides a set of metrics to which purchasers, brokers and vendors can compare their current EAP data.  The study also provides differentiation amongst EAP vendors within the current EAP marketplace, particularly based on variations in dominant pricing model, for purchasers interested in generating EAP utilization and/or integrating the EAP into the workplace.

To get more information regarding the EAP Utilization Data and Trends blog post series, you can email Terry Cahill or visit www.perspectivesltd.com. To read the other parts of the blog post, please visit Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, or Part 6 now!

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