AM Series: What HR Directors Need to Know to Navigate the Affordable Care Act

Upcoming AM Series Event
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
8:00 – 9:30 a.m.
720 North Marr Road, Columbus, Ind.

AM Series offers breakfast seminars with opportunities for networking, up-to-date information on thought-provoking topics, and presentations by experts and business and human resources.

At this seminar, attendees will learn how to navigate the complexity of healthcare reform and the ever-changing workplace and understand the practical application and implications of current and future business decisions around healthcare reform. We will also look at the compliance aspects and financial consequences of healthcare reform in order to develop a strategy that minimizes risk and optimizes the employer’s ability to effectively manage employee benefit programs.

Presenter: Tracey Gavin, Health Care Reform Practice Leader at Apex Benefits
Tracey Gavin joined Apex Benefits in 2012, after 12 years as a consultant and segment leader with national consulting firms. Her insight and client focus allow her to establish partnerships as a trusted advisor. She consults with a variety of businesses to help them make decisions on how to implement benefit plans under the changing parameters of the Affordable Care Act. Tracey received her bachelor’s degree in business administration, human resources from Xavier University. She is an advocate for women’s health and enjoys participating in Susan G. Komen local and national activities.

Who should attend?

  • Human resource professionals
  • Business owners
  • Managers/supervisors
  • Other professionals

Click here to register!

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Exercise for Mental Health

Regular physical exercise is good for your body AND your mind! Exercise can not only help prevent insomnia, control weight and reduce insulin resistance, it also improves mood and reduces stress, anxiety and depression. Some studies suggest that physical activity also boosts cognitive ability, creativity and concentration.

Why Exercise Helps

A study in the journal Mental Health and Physical Activity showed that something as simple as going for a brisk stroll could alleviate the symptoms of depression. How exercise helps alleviate depression is not clear, but some research has developed three theories:

  • Biochemical – People suffering from depression have been found to have lower levels of endorphins in the brain. Exercise has been shown to increase the level of endorphins. Some researchers also suspect that exercise alleviates chronic depression by increasing serotonin, the neurotransmitter targeted by antidepressants.
  • Physiological – Exercise has been shown to improve the body’s ability to adapt to emotional stress by increasing the efficiency of the adrenal glands and the autonomic nervous system.
  • Psychological- Exercise provides a distraction to take the focus away from other problems. Feelings of accomplishment and self-confidence that occur during exercise also boost mood. By acting on hormones that govern the stress response, exercise improves the ability of the body to tolerate stress and meet changing demands.

If exercise is so good, why is it so hard to do it?

Many of us feel that we don’t have the time or skill to exercise. Here are some tips to help you incorporate exercise into your everyday life:

Find a workout buddy!

  • Start small. Incorporate 5- or 10- minute walks into your day and add to your routine gradually over time. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. You don’t have to run a mile to see the benefits of exercise on mental health.
  • Find a form of exercise you find interesting and enjoyable. Whether it’s a walk in the park, a dance or yoga class at your local gym, or training for a marathon, find an activity you enjoy and incorporate it into your routine.
  • Invite a friend or family member along. Sticking to your workout routine is much easier when you have someone to keep you accountable, plus the companionship involved can be just as important as the physical activity.
  • Incorporate exercise into your workday. Take a work break and go outside for a short walk with a co-worker. Your body and mind will appreciate it!
  • Ask your employer about a wellness program. Many companies offer their staff discounts or reimbursements for gym memberships or exercise classes.

For more information on emphasizing exercise to improve physical and mental health contact Solutions EAP by calling 800-766-0068 or (812) 377-5074.

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Ergonomics and the Aging Workforce

Upcoming AM Series Event

Wednesday, May 8, 20138:00 – 9:30 a.m.
720 North Marr Road, Columbus, Ind.

AM Series offers breakfast seminars with opportunities for networking, up-to-date information on thought-provoking topics, and presentations by experts and business and human resources.

At this seminar, attendees will learn about the real impact of the aging workforce on you and your company and how the workplace can be adapted to manage the changes in strength, flexibility and balance as aging occurs. We will also address the top causes of injuries in the workplace and how to change the work environment to maximize safe productivity for the aging workforce.

Presenter: A. J. Hale, Safety and Loss Prevention Manager with CompOne
A. J. Hale has been in the environmental safety and health field for 25 years. He began his professional life as a firefighter, before going into safety and education. He returned to school to study environmental law, then worked in manufacturing for 20 years. Three years ago, Mr. Hale began work with CompOne as a Safety and Loss Prevention Manager. In that position, he frequently consults with companies on workplace safety and makes numerous presentations to human resources organizations.

Who should attend?

  • Human resource professionals
  • Business owners
  • Managers/supervisors
  • Other professionals

Click here to register!

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Join us November 29-30 for Group Crisis Intervention Training

Solutions EAP is proud to sponsor a Group Crisis Intervention course presented by Susan Gillpatrick, LPC, CTS, Crisis Management with Centerstone, on November 29-30 in Columbus, Ind. The course is designed to present the core elements of a comprehensive, systematic and multi-component crisis intervention curriculum. The Group Crisis Intervention course will prepare participants to understand a wide range of crisis intervention services. Fundamentals of Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) will be outlined, and participants will leave with the knowledge and tools to provide several group crisis interventions, specifically demobilizations, defusings and the Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD). The need for appropriate follow-up and referrals, when necessary, will also be discussed.

Program highlights:

  • Incident assessment
  • Strategic intervention planning
  • Resistance, Resilience, Recovery continuum
  • Large group crisis interventions
  • Small group crisis interventions
  • Adverse outcome associated with crisis intervention
  • Reducing risks

Registration fee includes seminar, lunch and 15 CEUs. Click here for registration form and more information.

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Solutions Digest: Dealing with Difficult People

Dealing with difficult people is a balancing act. We all have difficult people in our lives. He or she may be a co-worker who doesn’t know when to stop talking and let you do your work or the family member who is opinionated and rude. While you want to draw boundaries, you may not want to be rude yourself. You want to be direct, but you do not want to alienate. So what is the best way to deal with these kinds of people?

Remember that You are in the Driver’s Seat

The key is to realize you are not at another’s mercy, even when a person seems to hold power in a relationship – as in the case of a parent or a supervisor. Just a few options open to you are:

  • Interact with a difficult person only in groups
  • Humor the person to tolerate behavior
  • Ignore the person completely
  • Speed up interactions to minimize time spent

Decide What Factors Should be Considered

How you handle difficult people depends on several factors, like:

  • What kind of relationship you have
  • How long the problematic interaction lasts
  • What’s at risk if you don’t develop a positive outcome
  • How willing the other person is to work on the issue

In the case of a short-term interaction with someone with whom you have little investment – like a rude clerk in a store – you may decide to let the irritation go. It may not be worth the effort to try to change things. Instead, you take a few deep breaths and put your mind elsewhere. But for tough interactions lasting months or years, such as with family, friends, or co-workers, you have more invested, making the irritation harder to overlook.

Take One Step at a Time

When conflict arises, first listen to what the other person has to say in a non-defensive, empathetic manner. Set aside your own thoughts and feelings. This may be tough to do, but it is best not to run away from the conflict, get defensive, or to attack.

Next, acknowledge the other person’s feelings by saying something like, “You really sound concerned about this issue.” As you do this, you show you understand, which often disarms a person. But you must be sincere in your response or it will make the person angry.

Finally, ask open-ended questions about what’s bothering the person, such as, “What would you like to see happen here?” or, “What can we do now to bring about the kind of resolution you’d like?” This technique makes the person feel heard, gets them to focus on problem solving and, hopefully, you can put together a joint plan of action to address the area of conflict.

Your relationship with others is a mirror of your relationship with yourself.

Solutions EAP can Help

If you have employees or departments that have difficulty working relationships, Solutions EAP can assist in defining some strategies that you can use. We can even work with the individuals who are involved to improve their communication with each other.

You can call to find out about Solutions EAP services or to make an appointment by calling 800-766-0068 or (812) 377-5074.

Click here for a PDF of this document.

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Solutions Digest: Addressing Workplace Violence

Work Related Violence

Work related violence is any incident in which people are abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work. It can be an explicit or implicit challenge to someone’s safety, well-being or health with the potential to cause harm. Three forms of workplace violence are:

  • Non-physical violence (intimidation, abuse, threats, etc.)
  • Physical violence (punching, kicking, pushing, etc.)
  • Aggravated physical violence (use of weapons, e.g. guns, knives, syringes, pieces of furniture, bottles, glass, etc.)

Violence, in all its forms, is a concern for staff and management alike. For employers, violence can lead to poor morale and a poor image for the organization, resulting in difficulty recruiting and keeping staff. It can also mean extra costs, such as those associated with absenteeism, higher insurance premiums and legal fees, fines and even compensation payments where negligence is proven. For employees, violence can cause pain, distress, disability or even death. Physical attacks are obviously dangerous, but serious or persistent verbal abuse or threats can also damage employees’ health through anxiety or stress.

Types of Work Related Violence

Understanding the causes of the violence can help eliminate, reduce or manage the risk of it occurring. There are four main types of work related violence:

  • Criminal violence – perpetrated by individuals who have no relationship with the organization or victim. Normally the aim is to access cash, stock, drugs, or perform some other criminal or unlawful act.
  • Service user violence – perpetrated by individuals who are recipients of a service provided in the workplace or by the victim. This often arises through frustration with service delivery or some other by-product of the organization’s core business activities.
  • Worker-on-worker violence – perpetrated by individuals working within the organization: colleagues, supervisors, managers, etc. This is often linked to protests against the company, grudges against specific members of staff, or in response to disciplinary action that the individual perceives as being unjust.
  • Domestic violence – perpetrated by an individual, outside of the organization, who has a relationship with an employee (such as a partner, spouse or acquaintance). Violence is often perpetrated within the work setting simply because the offender knows where a given individual is during the course of a working day.

Reducing Workplace Violence

Employee assistance programs offer assistance in reducing workplace violence. EAPs, through counseling and consultation, aid in increasing employee productivity, efficiency and morale in the workplace, which can decrease employee turnover and absenteeism. An EAP can also provide a program for diffusing workplace anger and violence. The elements of such programs are:

Diagnosis
An employee of an organization asks for assistance and the EAP staff attempts to diagnose the problem.

Treatment
Counseling or therapy is provided. If the EAP is unable to assist the employee, the employee may be referred to the appropriate professional outside of the organization.

Screening
An EAP can provide periodic screening and examinations of employees, especially of those in highly stressful positions, to detect warning signs of violence or aggression.

Prevention
An EAP can assist employers with education and communication to employees with high risk levels about alternative solutions to dealing and coping with stress.

Important Facts About Workplace Violence

Workplace violence has been increasing. A 2000 study conducted by Northwestern National Life Insurance found 2,500 of every 100,000 American workers have been attacked on the job, with the 30 percent of assaults made by coworkers, supervisors or ex-employees. Most experts agree, however, that these statistics do not adequately convey the scale of the problem because most incidents of workplace violence and aggression are never reported.

Homicide has surpassed machine-related injuries as the second most prevalent cause of death on the job, after motor vehicle accidents. Homicide is the leading cause of injury death for women in the workplace. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 15 people are murdered at work on average each week in the U.S.

According to the Workplace Violence Research Institute, workplace aggression takes a heavy financial toll on businesses. One study estimated the total cost of workplace violence to U.S. employers at $36 billion. Expenses associated include lost business and productivity, litigation, medical care, psychiatric care, higher insurance rates, increased security measures, negative publicity and loss of employees.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that the highest risk industries for workplace violence include transportation, health care, community services and retail settings. And nearly 60 times the national average rate of workplace homicide occurs in the taxicab industry.

Click here for a PDF of this document.

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Five Ways to Make Your Holidays Stress-Free

You’re not alone if you wish the holidays were less stressful and more meaningful. Nine out of 10 Americans believe that the season should be more about family and caring for others and less about gifts, according to the nonprofit Center for a New American Dream. Here are five ways to reduce the stress and add meaning to your holidays:

  • Have a budget for each holiday expense. Decide how much you can spend on gifts, decorations, a special meal and other items and stick to your limit. This will help you avoid overspending, a major source of holiday stress.
  • Buy a group or family gift. Spend less time shopping and wrapping packages by choosing gift that an entire household can enjoy instead of buying for each member. Consider a great board game, tickets to an event or equipment for a sport or activity a family loves, such as binoculars that campers can use for nature-watching.
  • Have a potluck buffet. Low-key entertaining is less work and more fun. Make a list of things you’d like people to bring, have it ready when you invite them and confirm what food they’re contributing by phone or email a week or two before the event.
  • Enjoy free holiday events. Check your community newspaper or website for no-cost celebrations such as concerts, plays or readings in your community and plan to attend a few with relatives or friends.
  • Be prepared for the holiday travel rush. Check to be sure your flight or train is on time before you depart for a trip or to pick up a visitor. If you are traveling by car, try to avoid peak holiday traveling hours. Bring snacks, music, reading and games with you to keep your mind off travel hassles and delays.

You’ll find more suggestions on minimizing holiday stress in LifeWorks articles. LifeWorks is a service of Solutions EAP. You can access it through www.SolutionsEAP.org.

You can call to find out about Solutions EAP services or to make an appointment by calling 800-766-0068 or (812) 377-5074.

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Solutions Digest: Bullying in the Workplace

Click here for a PDF of this document.

Prevalence of Bullying in the Workplace

Nearly half of all American workers (49%) report they have been affected by workplace bullying. In 2010, two U.S. surveys conducted by Zogby International for the Workplace Bullying Institute found that 35% of workers have experienced bullying firsthand with an additional 15% witnessing it. Sixty-two percent of bullies are men and 58% of targets are women. Bullying is four times more prevalent than illegal harassment with 68% of bullying being between same-gender employees. The prevalence of this issue is cause for concern – particularly due to its affect on morale, yet bullying in the U.S. is not specifically addressed by current laws.

Defining Workplace Bullying

What is bullying and what is the difference between bullying and harassment? Bullying is distinct from harassment. Harassment is direct, lacks self-discipline, and is often physical. Harassment is often linked to sexuality, race or disability. Harassment can be a single incident. Harassment is much easier to recognize and because of this, harassment is more easily stopped. Workplace policies and procedures can be put in place to eliminate it.

Bullying is about power and control and is based on competence. It can include all types of interpersonal harassment and psychological violence. Few workplace bullying incidents are blatantly illegal. Many may be near the line of acceptable behavior or barely over it. Bullying is systematic, planned and repeated. It escalates. It is often a collection of behaviors which when taken individually look trivial but when viewed as a collective become more evident as abuse.

Bullying crosses all organizational levels from the top-down as well as the bottom-up. It is characterized by repetition, duration, escalation, power disparity and attributed intent. Bullying may include insults about work, belittling in public, nit-picking, hazing rituals or excessive monitoring of performance. Bullying may even include threats to get fired in its more direct form. Indirect bullying behaviors can include denying or minimizing another person’s accomplishments, blaming a person for errors he or she has not committed, taking credit for tasks completed by another, isolating an individual, or omitting vital information to cause another to make errors, be blamed or harmed.

Impact of Bullying in the Workplace

Bullying has economic as well as inhumane consequences. When unchallenged bullying poisons the workplace, undermines productivity and contributes to risk exposure. Organizations are also beginning to take note of workplace bullying because of the costs in terms of employee health. Bullying is linked to a host of physical, psychological, organizational and social costs. Reactions of those who have been bullied include symptoms of depression, anxiety, aggression and even backlash or suicide.

  • One study found that 1 in 10 targets of bullying experience post traumatic stress disorder.
  • 44% of respondents were affected as much as battered women or child abuse victims.

Even those who witness bullying can experience fear, stress and emotional exhaustion. The work environment may experience a drop in motivation, factions and ‘wars’ within a department, excessive turnover and increases in discipline problems, suspensions, and terminations.

What do Participants Get from Bullying

Believe it or not, each role in bullying (bully, bullied, and bystanders) all get something from bullying, or the process would stop. The bully wants a reaction. The bullied may fear that some deeper truth may come out—if the bullying wasn’t taking place perhaps some fundamental incompetency would be exposed. Bystanders want anonymity or may fear that they, too, will be bullied.

How is Bullying Behavior Changed

Bystanders can take away the “approving audience” by which the bully gains power. They can also challenge the person being bullied about what makes them the target and can encourage them to stand against it. Additionally, bullies understand how the “rules of the game” work, so if clear and consistent boundaries are set, the rules are changed and behaviors will change.

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Solutions Digest: The Impact of Suicide on the Workplace

According to the American Foundation for Suicide prevention, in the U.S. a suicide occurs about every 16 minutes. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that w orkplace suicides surged 28 percent in 2008. The uncertain economy, financial stress and job insecurity may be contributing factors. During the Great Depression, the suicide rate increased 21 percent. But regardless of the cause, suicide is a public health issue that impacts the workplace.

Who is at Risk for Suicide?
Suicide occurs across all age, economic, social and ethnic boundaries. All of us have stress, family disruptions, grief, medical concerns or trauma at one time or another which can become contributing factors in a suicide. For some of us those stressors become so unbearable that one starts to think about not being able to survive the pain. Four times as many men kill themselves as women, yet three times as many women attempt suicide as compared to men. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among people between the ages of 15 and 24. It is important to remember that workplaces are not immune to the impact of suicide.

Is Your Workplace Prepared to Respond in the Event of a Suicide?
Many workplaces deny having an effect or contributing role in a suicide. Yet a suicide can touch the lives of many, effecting workplaces as well as relationships for long periods of time. The suicide of a vendor, client or family member of an employee can cause trauma and grieving which impact workplace functioning and productivity. Yet workplaces today are often more prepared to handle a violent episode such as a store robbery, a bomb threat or a fire than to respond to a suicide crisis. Some may not even allow the use of the word “suicide” among employees who face grief and loss after such an event due to its stigma. Others may provide posters or pamphlets about mental health issues and even an employee assistance program, yet do not have a plan in place to address the threat of or the aftermath of a suicide.

Being adequately prepared to respond to a potential employee suicide as well as to cope with the aftermath of such an event can help an organization address any potential problems, help employees and dependents cope with grief, and bring the workplace back to normal functioning more quickly.

WARNING SIGNS
Seek immediate help from a mental health provider if you see or hear someone:

  • Acting in a sad, withdrawn, or unusual way
  • Seemingly distracted, not engaged in their usual work performance
  • Making statements such as “you won’t have to worry about me”
  • Giving away personal belongings or things
  • Whose work performance becomes erratic or out of character
  • Missing an unusual number of days at work
  • Threatening to hurt or kill themselves
  • Looking for ways to kill themselves: seeking access to pills, weapons or other means
  • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide

Also seek help by contacting a mental health professional if you witness, hear or see any of these behaviors:

  • Hopelessness
  • Rage, anger, seeking revenge
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
  • Feeling trapped – like there is no way out
  • Increasing alcohol or drug use
  • Withdrawing from friends, family or society
  • Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep, or sleeping all the time
  • Dramatic changes in mood
  • No reason for living; no sense of purpose in life

Some Key Workplace Strategies

Suicide is a complex and frightening issue that sometimes overwhelms people into immobilization. Yet workplaces can be a key venue to prevent suicide among those in the workforce by utilizing a comprehensive public health approach including:

  • Vocal and visible leaders who model mental wellness and emphasize the importance of suicide prevention.
  • Policies and procedures that promote a mentally healthy workforce including compassionate reintegration policies, life-skills promotion and a culture of belonging.
  • Suicide prevention gatekeeper training (including front-line staff) to help identify warning signs and risk factors and confidently approach and refer a high risk person to appropriate resources
  • Screenings for early signs of mental health conditions before they become life threatening
  • Access with few obstacles to quality mental health services including employee assistance program services
  • Means restrictions that place barriers between those of high risk for suicide and the means to accomplish suicide (roof access, chemical and weapon access, etc.)
  • Crisis response protocol and long-term “postvention” to stabilize a grieving workforce while honoring bereavement needs

Contributor for this article is Cindy Houston, LCSW, is a Centerstone licensed clinical social worker trained in applied suicide intervention skills (ASIST). She has provided numerous suicide prevention workshops, training both clinical professionals and lay people throughout south and central Indiana.

For more information about providing gatekeeper training for your workforce, or to address the issue of workplace suicide prevention, contact Mark Uebel, Director of Business Solutions, at mark.uebel@centerstone.org.

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It’s Summertime and the Livin’ Ain’t So Easy

Ah, Memorial Day Weekend brings the traditional beginning of summer. Schools will soon be out. Vacations are planned. We can spend lots of time out of doors. So, there is no stress, right? Well, maybe and maybe not. The change in routine brings stress. Even exciting events, like vacations, bring stress. With good weather we place lots of expectations on ourselves. Here are some ideas to beat the ‘summertime blues.’

Take Advantage of Summer Stress Relievers
Summer provides extra daylight hours for morning exercise, relaxing evening activities and fun in the garden.

Pace Yourself
While summer offers many opportunities for fun activities, keep in mind that it’s okay to say no to some. Sometimes even fun activities can lead to stress if your schedule is overloaded, so carefully choose among the barbeques, beach days, soirees and other activities and just do what you think you’ll truly enjoy, remembering to also make room for some genuine “down time.”

Keep Kids Occupied
While it’s nice to have kids around more often, and a relief to have a break from all the class projects, school fundraisers, and other events that go along with the school year, summer presents its own list of demands. You’ll need to have some enriching activities to keep them happy and stimulated so boredom doesn’t create misery for all of you. Keeping the house clean, taking kids to various summer activities, preventing excessive bickering between bored siblings and, for working parents, finding alternate child care are just a few of the main issues that arise, each demanding its own set of solutions.

Set Boundaries
While you’re already setting boundaries on your social schedule, you may need to remember to set boundaries at work as well. Don’t let the siren song of summer steal your focus from your job duties—stay as productive as possible—but be careful not to take on too many of your vacationing co-workers’ responsibilities either.

Try a Staycation or Playcation
Yes, staycations, and even playcations, have become the new vacations of choice for those who can’t spare the time or the money for a traditional vacation. In some cases, these can even be better for your stress levels. (Ever hear of someone coming back from their too-busy vacation feeling like they need a vacation from their vacation? Or of a ‘working vacation’ that just turned into an exercise in ‘working from a less convenient location’?)

Covering for Co-Workers
If you skip the vacation (as many people do), you may still experience stress from vacations that your co-workers take. With a significant number of people in a given workplace taking time off, the regular operations of the office can be disrupted. Make plans with your co-workers on who will cover various responsibilities during time off. Let key stake holders know when you will be gone, who will cover your work, and when you will return.

Stressed about Returning from Work?
Make time on your calendar to catch up the day you return. Use the time to meet with your manager and your backup to review outstanding issues and to catch up on email and voice mail. Be sure to put an “out of office” message on your email and voice mail. Clean up your workspace so you don’t come back to a mess.

When All Else Fails
There are plenty of other relaxing activities or energizing activities like cycling, canoeing, walking your dog, boating, swimming, golf, etc., maybe even a summertime family walk after dinner or some lounging and talking on the back patio. What is your favorite?

Each season truly presents new challenges. Solutions can help you find a mental health professional in your area and provide you with helpful resources and information. Call us at 800-766-0068 for an appointment with a professional. Or you can directly schedule an appointment with a provider.

We hope that by the time fall arrives you aren’t singing, “Sometimes I wonder what I’m gonna do, ‘cause there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues.”

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