Working World Cafe on May 21st, 2015

Written by: Anna Izzi, Access Center Counselor

Stress is caused by many factors. Those that are external are easy to identify and may or may not be alleviated through an organizational intervention. Oftentimes though, how one looks at a given situation either causes or exacerbates the stress that the person is experiencing.

At first glance it would seem that how one views the world is outside the scope of organizational influence. The good news is that recent studies have shown that there is an intervention that can influence perception, help individuals become more capable of dealing with stress, and have a positive influence a number of factors that can contribute to workplace stress. It is the practice of mindfulness.

In order to reduce workplace stress, organizations can focus on improving the various causes of stress, such as:

  • physical work space
  • workplace culture (this includes relationships and social opportunities)
  • workload and work life balance
  • role clarity
  • stress education and support (IE- via EAPs)

Improvement of any of these factors will have a positive impact and reduce the negative stress employee’s face. However, another very important factor not often mentioned is perception and self-regulation. The way an individual employee perceives stress and stressors is often more powerful than the stressor itself. This perception is highly influenced by the individual’s past experience, genetic makeup, and current social, economic, and biological factors. At first glance how one view’s the world seems to be out of the scope of organizational influence.

However, recent studies have demonstrated that mindfulness practice can influence perception; help individuals become more able to deal with stress, and positively impact a number of other factors contributing to it.

Part 5 of Mindfulness & Stress will define what mindfulness is. To catch up on parts 1-3, please visit http://blog.perspectivesltd.com/ or to get more information regarding this white paper, please email JEisler@perspectivesltd.com.

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Gina Higgin on May 20th, 2015

consultationWritten by: Gina Higgin, Executive Account Manager

There are many components to EAP services, and at times one of the most valuable and stress relieving, EAP consultation, may be forgotten in the day to day pressures of the work day for HR reps (and the supervisor and managers).  EAP consultation can be a relief, a lifesaver or necessary support when in the middle of a workplace challenge.

Whether you are part of a management team, a religious organization, a union representative or the head of a school department, the challenges that people bring to the workplace are many.  Whether people in the workplace are dealing with stress, money issues, relationship concerns, substance use, grief or family illness, it will usually come with them to work, and many times, interfere with their performance.

HR staff and supervisors can become the workplace dumping ground for personal issues.  Are they to also become the resource to resolve these daily living issues?  Although aware of the EAP, these resourceful individuals, in their caretaking mode, may forget that they have a partner to resolve these challenges.

What does an EAP consultation do?

  • Provides support to HR and/or the supervisor
  • Provides an objective point of view
  • Helps to explore alternatives in dealing with the situation
  • Provides an opportunity for the EAP to provide services to the organization and the individual
  • Helps HR and supervisors reduce their stress

Our client organizations and their management have reported that when Perspectives is consulted in the event of crisis, workplace violence or other larger workplace challenges (such as harassment or a diversity issue) it has shown to be extremely valuable. Some of the less obvious and more common issues should not be overlooked either.  Seeking consultation for these in my experience, is just as valuable and always worth the call.

To get more information, visit www.perspectivesltd.com or email Gina Higgin at geh1@perspectivesltd.com.

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Working World Cafe on May 14th, 2015

Written by: Anna Izzi, Access Center Counselor 

Before exploring the many causes of employee stress, it is important to distinguish between good stress and bad stress (distress). Not all stress is bad.  Certain stress can actually enhance employee performance and be motivating. For example, a project deadline can increase the speed and quality of the output. Many people feel they work best under some sort of pressure and therefore companies should try to maintain a healthy level of pressure for optimum performance.

How do we know if stress is good or bad? Studies point to the potential outcome as a factor. When employees feel that the stress they are experiencing will lead to a positive outcome (such as recognition, raise, personal satisfaction, etc) they are much more likely to be able to deal with the stress, or they may even be motivated by it.

Stressor + Potential Positive Result = Good Stress

Stressor + No Potential Positive Result or Negative Outcome = Distress

Distress happens when the demands placed on the employee are greater than his/her resources (skills, physical or mental capabilities). Additionally, when the stressor is not expected to produce a positive outcome, the stress becomes distress and often leads the employee to avoid it as much as possible. A good example of this is the office bully that leads an employee to avoid his workplace or parts of his/her job.  This avoidance usually results in negative consequences for the company.

Workplace-based stressors can come from a bad fit between the employee and the organization, change, organizational politics, relations with people who are angry or difficult, and/or leadership/management behavior.

Environmental factors such as noise, temperature and lighting can also have an effect. Additionally, worker stress can be caused by personal characteristics of an employee and home life concerns.

In today’s workplace the usual work stressors are compounded by the ever-changing technology demands and constant distractions. Today’s employee not only has to successfully carry out his work tasks but also answer a multitude of emails and phone calls that require constant focus and prioritization skills.

The employee also rarely “unplugs” after work and this constant demand on his/her attention can deplete an already limited supply. As a result of additional stimuli the mind wanders more and relies more frequently on its autopilot (ex. driving or answering emails while talking on the phone) to get through the day’s demands. A Harvard study found that an adult’s mind can wander about 50% of the time even while performing a task.

Stick around for Part 4 of Mindfulness & Stress, but to catch up on parts 1-3, visit: http://blog.perspectivesltd.com/.

 To get more information regarding this white paper, please email JEisler@perspectivesltd.com.

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Working World Cafe on May 6th, 2015

Written by: Anna Izzi, Access Center Counselor

Employee stress is a rising point of focus for organizations. 75% of US workers consider their jobs to be stressful. Studies have outlined the consequences of a stressed out workforce, which include:

  • Absenteeism
  • Lower productivity
  • Turnover
  • Higher healthcare costs
  • Disability costs
  • Substance abuse
  • Lower organization wide productivity
  • Lower profits
  • Negative impacts on organizational culture

In addition, workplace stress is estimated to cost US based industries greater than $300 billion dollars annually. A Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine study reported that healthcare costs for employees impacted by stress can be up to 46% higher than that of the unstressed. Work days missed by employees struggling with a stress and stress related disorders is up to 4 times higher than for other medical issues according to the  Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

Perspectives Ltd gathered data from over 350 of their customer organizations having Employee Assistance Program (EAP) services.  This data was collected between November 2013 – November 2014 and found that 41.1% of the issues addressed by the EAP had a relationship with stress.  For a company with 1000 employees this can translate to an average of $110 per employee or $110,000 spent annually on EAP services.

Stick around for Part 3 of Mindfulness & Stress when we go into what contributes to employee stress. Catch up on part 1, or to get more information regarding this white paper, please email JEisler@perspectivesltd.com.

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Jonathan Eisler on April 29th, 2015

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

What are your top priorities? When asked this question, it’s rare to hear someone mention themselves in their top 5. Of course this is no surprise given the value that society places on family, careers and putting others before oneself. However, if we take a minute to think about this, what value are we to our employer, those we care about, those we serve or our career objectives, if we’re dead? Okay, ‘being dead’ may be an extreme example, but the point is made.

Fortunately, throughout our recent client experiences, Perspectives is seeing that not only individuals, but organizations are starting to ‘get’ this key concept. There’s always been a plethora of personal diets and exercise routines fading in and out, but think about the recent rise of corporate wellness initiatives, the financial incentives health insurance providers offer for healthy practices, and even government mandated transparency regarding nutritional values of food. This tells us that organizations of all kinds are looking at the long-term financial impact of an unhealthy workforce/population and the short-term impact poor health has on productivity and operations.

Since 2008, Perspectives has seen a rise in organizations struggling with the need to do, or produce, more with fewer resources available. To this end, companies often embark on a journey to revamp their approach to management/leadership, implement a wellness program, provide their employees with access to personal resources and/or restructure altogether. All of these solutions have their place in various landscapes, but as norms change and historically generation-specific preferences permeate more and more of society, we must look at what can be done to empower individuals to tackle what’s at the root of most health related issues: STRESS!

In this series of blog posts, we’ll explore one solution that has been shown to reduce stress; the practice of mindfulness. As we’ll outline, mindfulness can positively impact workforce performance and lead to increased organizational effectiveness.

“’Men spend their health in search of wealth, they work their fingers to the bone; then spend their wealth in search of health, and all they get is the stone.’ My mother use to recite this poem to me as a child and the ideology has stuck with me throughout my entire life.” –Jonathan Eisler

Stick around for Part 2 of Mindfulness & Stress where we will touch on why workplace stress matters. To get more information regarding this white paper, please email JEisler@perspectivesltd.com.

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photo by: dreamstine

photo by: dreamstine

Written by: Bernie Dyme

One month ago, Andreas Lubitz, a pilot for Lufthansa’s Germanwings airline, flew a commercial airliner into a mountain and killed 197 passengers. In the days that followed, we learned that Lubitz may have used this to commit suicide.  Further, we have also learned that he had a history of depression and that Lufthansa’s Germanwings airline knew about it as early as 2009.

So, what happened and what could have been done to prevent this?

We may never know for sure but what is clear to me, is that this pilot was suffering from depression and was in need of assistance.  What makes this situation even more difficult is that this pilot had been entrusted with the safety of a flight full of people.

Identification is the key, as it always is, but we need to step back a bit and try to understand why this doesn’t happen as much as it should.  In the Germanwings incident, if the company knew about this young man’s depression and suicidal tendencies, why did they not take a more active stance in helping him?  It begs the question of how actively Germanwings promotes open discussion of mental health and makes it okay to seek help.  If that openness does not exist, then employees’ shame might prevent them from taking care of themselves.  It could also be related to fear.  If one fears that his or her job is in jeopardy, then what will motivate that individual to seek help?  Why are we so afraid to open up the lines of communication and create workplaces that allow folks whom are suffering to seek the assistance they need? If you are diagnosed with cancer, you may need to get some time off but there is always the hope that, with help and recovery, you may someday return to work.  Yet with depression and other mental health conditions, we have a different standard.

In the U. S.,  Gallup (2013) found “an average 12% of all workers nationwide say they have been diagnosed with depression at some point in their lifetime, and about half of those (representing 6.1% of all U.S. workers) are currently being treated for depression”.

As employers, we need to overcome our biases against mental health and educate our workplaces so that folks feel okay about seeking help.  All the fear about violating the ADA or other legal ramifications should not stop us from doing the right thing.  And by the way, the right thing is also good for business.  According to the University of Michigan’s Depression Center, depression is one of the most costly conditions for American employers costing $44 billion per year (lost productivity, absenteeism and presenteeism).  Further, employees are scared to report for fear that they will lose their jobs.  Ahh, the perfect storm.

So, how do we fix this problem?  Well, it isn’t easy but there are two (2) things that employers can do.

  1. Have leadership. Communicate that mental health issues are like any other medical malady and that when they experience issues, they should seek help. In other words, MAKE IT OKAY TO REPORT IT.
  2. Use and promote your Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Combining depression screening tools with referrals to an effective EAP have shown to more than offset the costs mentioned earlier.

If we can do this and create workplaces free of the stigma of reporting mental health issues, we may be able to avoid the kinds of incidents like Germanwing, create higher functioning and productive workplaces and increase employee retention rates.  Now doesn’t that sound like a good business strategy?

If you would like more information on this blog post, please email Bernie at bsd@perspectivesltd.com or for more information on depression, please visit www.perspectivesltd.com.

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Jonathan Eisler on April 15th, 2015
photo by: dreamstine

photo by: dreamstine

Written by:  Jonathan Eisler Director of Perspectives Organizational Consulting Group

As I was talking with an old friend the other day about how the improving economy has impacted her job as a sales manager, her response reminded me of something we’re starting to see across the majority of our client organizations.  She mentioned that the 2015 performance expectations that were handed down to her team exceeded the pre-2008 numbers, but her company is keeping her team at 2/3rds what it was in 2007 with no intent of adding headcount.

For business leaders, the tough economic times meant they had to figure out how to scrape by with minimal resources.  Now as the market is improving the business landscape is changing and how business is done must evolve as well.  The smart leaders are realizing the benefit to the organization’s bottom line if they can effectively enable their people to do more with less.  As we all know, change is never easy, and unfortunately, even when done strategically, it is the employees, frontline workers and often the customer who feel this pain the most.

Rather than designing a large scale change management or organizational effectiveness intervention, I knew that what my friend needed in the moment were a few pointers that she could take back to her team on Monday.

Throughout our conversation, I noticed a few primary pain points that my friend, her team and her colleagues were feeling, given the shift they were in the midst of. Overall, the new expectations of work were force fed to them which causes frustration and resentment and little guidance was given regarding how they were going to accomplish what was expected and who exactly would do what.

After further dialogue, we ended the conversation with my friend having 3 things she was going to start doing on Monday morning.

Bring her people into the solution design process.

While she, nor her team, had the authority to change the expectations that were handed down, she could eliminate some of the resistance she was experiencing by working with her team to explore how they were going to adjust to the new landscape. This approach will help her team put some ‘skin in the game’ which will ultimately increase their motivation for changing how things are done while identifying the most effective ways to reach their goals. Think process redesign from a ‘bottom-up’ vs. ‘top-down’ approach.

Spread the workload evenly.

This was a tougher one for my friend because she was concerned that the lower performers may not be able to handle the tasks handed down or the higher-stake responsibilities that the higher performers could manage. However, if she holds people accountable, it won’t take long until the low performers either up their game or find a new job. While daunting at first, if implemented this approach will keep her top performers from burning out while increasing the overall effectiveness of her team.

Help them prioritize.

This realization brought implications that go both ways for my friend. She needed to seek input from her superiors regarding the priority level of the things she was being tasked with while at the same time helping her team prioritizes what she was handing down. Given the pure magnitude of everyone’s workload, we agreed that at times, it made the most sense to rank order tasks for her team while asking them to immediately ask for her input if they felt they were being pulled in multiple directions.

As we parted ways, it looked as if my friend was walking away a bit taller than she was when we first started chatting. To top it off, on Monday evening I received an up-beat note from her describing the collective sigh of relief she felt amongst her team as they started to implement the above 3 things during their Monday morning pow-wow.

Doing more with less is not easy, but if management implements the above 3 points, employees will be more likely to go above and beyond in their work today while freeing leadership up a bit more to focus on tomorrow.

Click here to read about one of the ways Perspectives Organizational Consulting Group has helped design and implement plans that enable organizations to maximize their performance without requiring massive investments in additional resources.

To get more information regarding this blog post or the services referenced, email JEisler@perspectivesltd.com or visit www.perspectivesltd.com.

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Sara DePasquale on April 7th, 2015

Written by: Sara DePasquale, Marketing Coordinator

National Alcohol Screening Day (NASD) is an outreach, education, and screening initiative that helps raise awareness about alcohol abuse and alcoholism; both of which are recognized disorders that can be treated.

On this day, anyone interested in being screened can attend one of the screening centers across the United States. Not sure where to go? Check out your local colleges, community-based organizations and military installations as they provide the program to the public. When you visit a center, you will be asked to complete a written self-assessment about your alcohol use. Health care professionals at the centers will then tailor advice to the person concerned.

If you would like to take the Alcohol Screening test online- you will be asked to answer a couple of questions that will then give you personalized results based on your age, gender and drinking patterns to see if the way you drink or the amount of alcohol you consume affects your health.

Please visit: http://www.alcoholscreening.org/Home.aspx  to take the screening, or if you are a client, log in using your login and password, hover your cursor on Balancing on the top tab, click on Addiction/Recovery and you should see the Alcohol Screening. If you have any questions regarding alcohol abuse or alcoholism, please visit www.perspectivesltd.com or if you are having problems accessing this screening email sdepasquale@perspectivesltd.com for more information.

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Working World Cafe on April 3rd, 2015
photo by: dreamstine

photo by: dreamstine

Written by: Adria Passey, Executive Assistant

Much to my family’s surprise, the last time we went out for dinner I ordered a huge steak. No salad, no soup, just a large medium rare piece of cow.  I feed my kids a steady diet of fruit, vegetables and beans or lentils, with the occasional side of chicken or turkey.  We like eggs too. I rarely cook meat and think no meal is complete without at least 3 vegetable dishes. I was raised vegetarian, so luckily my idea of comfort food is brown rice and sautéed veggies, since that was what my mother fed me.

They are used to this, and sort of consider our family to be vegetarian, if only because I make them eat so many vegetables. But like I told my youngest daughter, you can’t actually call yourself a vegetarian if you eat cheeseburgers, which we also do on occasion. She really likes her occasional cheeseburger. And being Chicagoans, there is no way we are willing to commit to never having hot dogs or a nice Polish sausage with grilled onions.

It turns out there is a term for the way my family eats. Apparently we are “flexitarians,” and we are not alone.  According to the US News and World Report, eating flexitarian is an effective and relatively easy way to reap the benefits of vegetarianism, which are many, without depriving yourself of meat. The idea is to add things to your diet, not take anything away. The emphasis is on vegetables, fruits and whole grains, with meat as an accent instead of the focus.

Eating vegetarian or flexitarian can help everyone. Benefits include:

  • Cardiovascular: A high fiber, plant based diet helps keep cholesterol and blood pressure levels low naturally, and plant proteins have way less fat than animal proteins.
  • Weight loss: A little meat and a lot of veggies is an easy way to control or lose weight, without feeling the pains of being denied anything.
  • Energy levels: Many people report that a vegetarian or flexitarian diet gives them increased energy and stamina. As a runner, I know I perform better when I am not weighed down by lots of meat.

To get more information on being a “flexitarian”, feel free to email Adria at apassey@perpsectivesltd.com or visit www.perspectivesltd.com for more information.

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Sara DePasquale on March 25th, 2015
photo by: dreamstine

photo by: dreamstine

Written by: Sara DePasquale, Marketing Coordinator

National Doctors’ Day is held every year on March 30th and is a day to celebrate the impact of physicians who serve our country by caring for its citizens. National Doctor’s Day is honored in a couple different ways. One way is that some hospitals and employers offer luncheons, gifts, or pampering them with spa treatments. Rush University Medical Center in Chicago is giving you the option to send your doctor a gift to say ‘Thank You’.

As an EAP provider, Perspectives would like to honor and say ‘Thank you’ to all of the doctors out there.  We appreciate the treatment and care you provide your patients and their family. Let’s face it; doctors are the ones who keep us well, who help us when we’re sick and do so many other things for our society and so for that, we thank you!

We also know that being a doc is no easy job and the stress thereof can impact their quality of life and may distract from the original reasons these heroes decided to get involved in caring for others. Therefore it’s no surprise this stress may ultimately impact the doctor’s behavior, the quality of their working relationships and even the care they provide their patients. The good news is that once self-awareness is fostered and interpersonal skills are further developed, we often see these docs do a 180° as they get back on track and are able to do what they are passionate about; caring for us!

If you would like more about support services for the heroes we’re celebrating today, please visit https://www.perspectivesltd.com/disruptive-professional-coaching.aspx, contact Jonathan Eisler at JEisler@PerspectivesLtd.com or to get any further information on EAP’s go to https://www.perspectivesltd.com/.

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