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Services Offered for Stressed Employees

Services Offered for Stressed Employees

Ventura County Star

November 19, 2009

The holidays can be a stressful time, full of family demands and financial obligations.

This year, more people — who have survived company downsizing or closures — might benefit from employee assistance programs to help them through tough times.

Employee assistance programs can range in scope, but generally focus on helping with issues that might affect job performance. The Employee Assistance Professionals Association reports that more than 97 percent of U.S. companies with more than 5,000 employees have EAPs, with the percentage declining to 75 percent of those with 251 to 1,000 employees.

Employee assistance and counseling professional Beverly Ford in San Luis Obispo has watched the employee assistance field transform since she started in 1976. The major focus on alcoholism and drug addiction has shifted to providing employees a wider range of services.

She’s seen the recession touching employee’s lives this year.

Gender Issues at the Workplace

“The economic struggles mean people are doing things differently in the workplace,” Ford said.

That includes “presenteeism,” where a person shows up for work each day, but might be distracted and unproductive. Often, this is driven by fear of losing that job.

Ford said employers must realize if they’ve got one employee dealing with fear, lack of concentration and productivity, they’ve probably got many others dealing with similar issues.

She tells employers that it costs them money not to intervene when they see someone struggling, since the cost of replacing an employee far outweighs what the company would spend to provide assistance.

Carrie Reuter, business development director at employee assistance provider NEAS in Westlake Village, said businesses are expressing an increased interest in employee assistance programs and services. But there is a lot of hesitation about making that investment because of the economy.

At NEAS, there hasn’t been a huge increase in the number of calls this year, but the types of cases have shifted with the economic woes.

“If anything, the economic situation already added to the stress,” said David Gaynor, clinical operations director.

For example, marital problems add strain to financial problems.

People used to call NEAS to complain about an employer, boss, pay or co-workers, but the common concern now is whether they will be able to keep their jobs, he said.

Poll: How do you feel about crying at work?

Poll: How do you feel about crying at work?