Abuse of alcohol and drugs in the workplace is a reality that employers cannot afford to overlook. According to a 2008 study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, more than 70 percent of the admitted drug and alcohol abusers in the country are employed, and a majority of those are full-time employees.

The costs to an employer can come in different forms. A study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that drug-using employees are 2.5 times more likely to have absences of eight days or more, three times more likely to be late for work and five times more likely to file a workers’ compensation claim.

“Alcohol and drug abuse on the job can cost employers money in many ways. Some of the ways are easily visible, such as higher health care premiums. Other ways are more covert, such as absenteeism, accidents and theft,” says Jan Nedin, MBA, MSEd, RCC, a senior account manager at LifeSolutions, UPMC Insurance Services Division.

Smart Business spoke with Nedin about how to address alcohol and drug abuse at your organization.

What’s the first step to proactively approaching this problem?

Employers must develop a substance abuse policy. It should include:

  • A requirement that all employees report to work and remain free of alcohol, mood-altering drugs and other intoxicants.

  • Acknowledgement that the company recognizes alcoholism and drug abuse as illnesses that are major potential problems regarding health, safety, security and productivity.

  • A statement indicating that behavior and performance problems related to alcohol and drug abuse should be identified early and dealt with constructively via professional evaluation and treatment.

  • A clear statement that chemically influenced behavior and/or performance will not be tolerated and could result in discharge.

How can an employee assistance program (EAP) help?

An EAP is a confidential consultation, assessment and referral service available to employees and supervisors to deal with recognition and treatment of substance abuse problems, as well as other personal problems that may be affecting an employee’s performance. It is an extremely valuable tool in dealing effectively with these problems.

What roles do supervisors play?

Supervisors need to know the company policies and procedures, monitor employees’ performance and behavior, and document performance problems. It is not a supervisor’s job to diagnose drug or alcohol problems — that should be left to the professionals. An EAP consultant can train supervisors on when to refer drug abuse and alcohol matters to the EAP for assessment.

What else is important to remember?

Design appropriate health plan coverage. Efforts to help the employee will be much more challenging unless health plan coverage is in place that allows employees to get treatment as needed.

Consider pre-employment and random drug screening. This is not the answer, but rather a tool that must be utilized wisely and cautiously. Pre-employment screening can weed out undesirable applicants so you have less of this problem to deal with after hiring.

If unionized, involve the union. When unions are present, they must be involved for the program to be effective.

Secure good legal counsel. Be sure to have policies and procedures reviewed and approved by a good labor relations attorney prior to implementation.

Don’t make it a witch hunt. Turning a program into a concentrated search for substance abusers may be counterproductive. Place your emphasis on recognizing and helping those who exhibit problems.

Do not concentrate solely on drugs. Alcohol, which is also a drug, can be just as serious a problem, if not more so, and all should be equally addressed.

LifeSolutions is part of the integrated partner companies of the UPMC Insurance Services Division, which offer a full range of insurance programs and products. The partner companies include UPMC Health Plan, UPMC WorkPartners, UPMC for You (Medical Assistance), Askesis Development Group, Community Care Behavioral Health and E-Benefits.

Jan Nedin, MBA, MSEd, RCC, is a senior account manager at LifeSolutions, a UPMC Insurance Services Division. Reach her at (412) 454-8488 or nedinjs2@upmc.edu.

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Published in Pittsburgh

The modern employee assistance program (EAP) is an employer-sponsored benefit designed to support the achievement of employer health and productivity goals. EAPs also have evolved to become a strategic partner to maximize the human capital of an organization.

“An EAP’s main goal is to resolve problems before they interfere with work attendance or productivity. And, in performing that task, EAPs have a positive impact on a company’s bottom line,” says Sandra Caffo, a senior director at LifeSolutions, an affiliated company of UPMC WorkPartners.

Smart Business spoke with Caffo about how EAPs work and their ROI.

What is the potential payoff of using an EAP?

A study found that for every dollar spent in a typical EAP, there was a return of $5.17 to $6.47 in increased work productivity. The study also showed that 80 percent of costs from lost productivity were associated with presenteeism, which is when an employee is at work, but is not productive, largely because of personal problems.

EAPs employ behavioral health experts who can provide short-term coaching and counseling that focuses on problem resolution. The goal with all EAP services is to resolve problems before they interfere with work attendance or productivity. Because of that, EAPs can help supervisors understand how to manage those valued workers whose productivity suddenly and mysteriously plummets.

How do EAPs enhance value?

Supervisors may be able to spot a troubled employee and express concern, but typically they are not equipped to work out a plan of action to address the problem. Many supervisors would argue — correctly — that this isn’t part of their job description. That’s where an EAP can help. It can provide consultation to both the manager and the employee to develop a plan of action.

EAP consultants are able to guide leaders at all levels to shift their focus to management strategies that will make a difference in an employee’s job performance. With an EAP management consultant, leaders learn how to coach employees toward improved performance while holding them accountable for negative patterns of behavior.

Because EAPs are able to provide services that consider all of the occupational and non-occupational factors that affect job performance, they are able to increase the value of an organization’s investment in its workforce. They achieve this in several ways:

  • By increasing employee engagement and improving productivity, morale and workplace harmony.  
  • By focusing on building the capacity of employees and their dependents to successfully respond to life’s personal and work-related challenges.
  • Through EAP coaching and consultation, which helps leadership, managers and supervisors increase their skills to effectively address difficult employee situations. It can tailor programs and initiatives for key workforce groups to meet specific needs.

How does an EAP mitigate business risks?  

Supervisor consultation helps to build action plans and handle new or complicated employee situations, from incompatible employees to workforce reductions.

On-site trainings focus on staff development and skill building in areas such as stress management, customer service and multi-generational teams.

EAP intervention also can help when an organization has a traumatic incident like an accident or death to support those managing the situation and those affected by it.

A federal occupational health study of more than 60,000 workers using EAP services over a three-year period found statistically significant improvement from pre- to post-EAP intervention for six measures related to work productivity. These include: employees’ emotional problems, employees’ physical health, the interference of physical or emotional issues on work and social relationships, perceived health status, job attendance and/or tardiness, and global assessment of functioning. In short, the benefits of EAPs are measurable, and they can be used to select an effective EAP, gauge its performance and determine the ROI.

UPMC WorkPartners is part of the UPMC Insurance Services Division, which also includes: UPMC Health Plan, UPMC for Life, UPMC for You, UPMC for You Advantage, UPMC for Kids, Community Care Behavioral Health, EBenefit Solutions and Askesis Development Group.

Sandra Caffo is a senior director at LifeSolutions, an affiliated company of UPMC WorkPartners. Reach her at (412) 647-9480 or caffosm@upmc.edu.

Insights Health Care is brought to you by UPMC Health Plan

Published in Pittsburgh

Life is full of stressful situations, be they personal or professional. Stress of some kind is often unavoidable, or, at least, a common experience for nearly everyone in the workplace.

Learning how to be resilient is a life approach that helps those who’ve developed it handle stress more effectively. For some, resilience is a way of living, but for all it’s something to learn and incorporate as they develop.

What exactly is resilience? Resilience refers to the ability to adapt, recover and grow stronger from adverse situations. Robert Brooks of Harvard Medical School calls resilience “ordinary magic” because everyone has the capacity to be more resilient.

“Managers and leaders may not realize that what they do contributes to having a more resilient work force. Their job is to create a work environment that makes it possible for each individual to contribute their competencies, to be creative,” says Annette Kolski-Andreaco, manager of Account Services for LifeSolutions, an employee assistance program and an affiliate of UPMC WorkPartners.

“It isn’t that resilient people are extraordinary people,” she says. “It’s that they’ve been tested and learned that they are adaptable.”

Smart Business spoke with Kolski-Andreaco about resilience in the workplace and why it matters to employers.

Why should the resilience of the work force matter to an employer? 

The workplace can be a challenging environment for employees for a variety of reasons. They need to navigate complex networks of relationships and continuously adapt to changing work processes to keep up with the relentless competition in the marketplace.

Many employees today can easily feel overwhelmed, fatigued and disengaged due to their work environment. They may come to question whether what they do really matters, and if they can find professional fulfillment and meaning in their work.

To succeed on the job, employees need to acquire cognitive skills through training and education. But equally important for success is the establishment of a solid work/life balance with families, social networks and leisure pursuits. It is that support that enables employees to have a solid foundation from which to better handle stress in the workplace and expand their capacity for change and resilience.

Recent surveys from Gallup polls show that less than 30 percent of employees are actively engaged in their work, while 56 percent are disengaged and 15 percent are actively disengaged. When people are able to change their mindset toward being more hopeful and optimistic, the result is healthier, happier and more productive employees.

Research also supports the idea that when employees and employers actively cultivate a positive attitude, the work environment becomes more optimistic and creative.

How can an employer create an environment that encourages resilience?

The capacity for resilience is there in all people, but there are things that can be done to nurture or reward resilience.

What that means for employers and managers is that they need to realize that their employees respond far more flexibly and readily when they have supervisors who connect with them in an authentic and personal way. When managers are able to see their employees as whole persons with a desire to contribute their talents, if given an opportunity, then both parties will benefit.

Employers need to identify their employees’ positive traits and then work with them to improve and strengthen those positives. Engaged employees who believe their contributions have value are able to be more resilient and are less vulnerable to workplace stress.

Most employees want an opportunity to shine. They also want their employer to be fair, and to give them some control over what happens to them. They want their employers to be respectful and they want to connect with their manager on a human-to-human, personal level.

What are the advantages of having a resilient work force?

A more confident, challenged and interested work force is what every employer wants. The simple truth is that for this objective to be realized, managers need to spend the time and make the effort to know each of their employees as an individual contributor to the overall mission and vision of the organization.

Employees are far more motivated by flexibility, fairness, opportunities to learn and develop themselves, and acknowledgement of their accomplishments, than we realize. Stressful work environments are a fact of life, but a more resilient response by employees and their managers makes all the difference in whether they’ll be overwhelmed and burned out.

Creating an atmosphere for resilience to emerge is something that comes from leadership at all levels. An employer can turn to an employee assistance program to learn different ways to develop resilience in their managers and for their staff.

Annette Kolski-Andreaco is manager of Account Services for LifeSolutions, an affiliate of UPMC WorkPartners. Reach her at (412) 647-8728 or kolskiandreacoa@upmc.edu.

Insights Health Care is brought to you by UPMC Health Plan

Published in National

Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) have been a part of the business scene long enough to almost be taken for granted. By now, many people are familiar with the fact that an EAP is an employer-paid program that is best known for helping employees deal with personal problems that are capable of adversely impacting their work performance, health and well being.

Not as well known, however, is how EAPs can also be used by employers to enhance an organization’s performance, culture and business success.

“Creating and maintaining a work environment that ensures quality production is a primary goal of every business,” says Susan Stocker, sales executive for LifeSolutions, a UPMC WorkPartners affiliate. “Effective, professional EAPs address employees’ personal and work-related issues that have the capacity to interfere with both quality and production on the job. They provide ongoing support and direction to employees through coaching in the form of short-term counseling and referral services for employees and members of their household.”

Smart Business spoke with Stocker about why EAPs make good business sense for employers and how implementing one can mitigate the risks to your business.

How do EAPs provide value to businesses?

EAPs can provide value in three ways: By leveraging the value of an organization’s work force, by addressing the cost of doing business and by helping an organization mitigate its business risks. Having a committed, engaged and productive work force is an essential component of any successful business, and because an EAP directly addresses issues that impact the work force, it is an invaluable tool for employers.

How can an EAP leverage an organization’s investment in its work force?

An EAP is a powerful employer tool that focuses on employees and on the issues they are facing that impact the workplace, but those issues may or may not be about the workplace. It is a key component of an employer strategy to increase employee engagement and improve productivity, morale and work place harmony. An EAP can help an employee learn to bounce back from life’s personal and work-related challenges, and, as a result be better able to produce at maximum capacity.

EAPs also develop leadership, management and supervisor competencies through coaching and consultation. EAPs train managers how to best handle difficult employee situations, including substance abuse issues, dealing with aging parents, financial concerns and relationship issues. And, when management is operating effectively, engagement and productivity increase in the work force.

How do EAPs address the cost of doing business?

EAPs function as preventive vehicles. They connect employees with the appropriate resources for whatever issues they are facing, allowing for early identification and intervention, care management and recovery programs. The result is often more efficient use of health care, which can reduce costs.

EAPs also have proven experience in lowering the rate of employee turnover and the costs of replacing those who leave. They provide access to services designed to reduce workplace absences and, when an employee does have to take time off to deal with an issue, to facilitate a safe and timely return to work. EAP services proactively work with employees to manage day-to-day challenges, and that limits disruptions in the work place. This is important because even those issues that are not work related can affect an employee’s focus at work, and increase an employee’s need for more time away.

When an employee goes on a leave of absence, an EAP can be engaged early to determine if there are any issues beyond the stated reason for the leave that need to be addressed. The employee and the EAP can work together from the start to achieve resolution, thereby facilitating optimal outcomes and return to work.

How do EAPs mitigate business risks?

By promoting and supporting drug- and alcohol-free workplace policies and programs, EAPs help to make work places safer. Safety risks, such as the likelihood of workplace violence, are reduced through the use of EAPs by leaders, managers and employees as they address the issue. By maintaining business practices that promote a violence-free workplace, EAPs reduce the likelihood of legal action or liability resulting from violence.

And by supporting disaster and emergency preparedness, EAPs help minimize the disruption after such events. The EAP also works with the organization to manage the aftermath of such an occurrence to ensure that the resilience of employees and the company will return.

How can an organization choose an EAP that is right fit for it?

You want to choose an EAP that can optimize its value to your company’s culture and work force to ensure the achievement of your business objectives. In making your choice, you should weigh an EAP’s experience and expertise in your field, the credentials of the EAP’s staff, the EAP’s level of responsiveness and accessibility, its ability to integrate with other key benefit providers and whether it can tailor a plan design to fit your company’s specific needs.

SUSAN STOCKER is a sales executive for LifeSolutions, part of the UPMC Insurance Services Division. Reach her at (412) 647-6623 or stockerse@upmc.edu.

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Published in Pittsburgh

Bullying has long been considered a concern mainly of parents, teachers and principals, not office managers or CEOs. But in recent years, employers have faced the problem of diminishing civility in the workplace, and that often manifests itself in bullying and other similar kinds of behavior.

“Workplace bullying is basically symptomatic of underlying issues in the culture — uncivil ways of being, behaving and managing people,” says Debra Messer, account manager for LifeSolutions, a UPMC WorkPartners affiliate. “The bullying may not always be intentional, but it is always harmful and must be addressed.”

Smart Business spoke with Messer about bullying and civility in the workplace, how it impacts employers and employees, and what you can do about it.

What is workplace bullying?

Whether it’s referred to as disrespect, rudeness, bad manners or a lack of interpersonal skills, bullying always comes down to unacceptable behavior in the workplace. This behavior causes distress for the targeted employee, for the co-workers who witness it and for any clients who may be affected by it. It impacts the overall morale of an organization.

Bullying is more than an occasional rude remark or thoughtless gesture. It is repetitive over time, and tends to escalate or worsen if left unchecked. It involves a power disparity. It is a pattern of behavior that serves to put down, embarrass or disempower another person.

How is a company affected by bullying in the workplace?

An organization in which bullying occurs stands to lose, any way you look at it. Some of the effects of bullying include retention problems and absenteeism, decreased engagement, and a climate of fear and mistrust. Fearful employees hide mistakes to the detriment of customer needs. New ideas are not shared and creativity and innovation can be affected. Also, a company’s public reputation and image can be damaged. Everyone loses when bullying is allowed to continue.

How common is workplace bullying?

The Workplace Bullying Institute and Zogby International have conducted multiple surveys of adult American workers and made several key findings, including that 37 percent of American workers reported being the target of bullying, and 12 percent of employees reported witnessing bullying. That means that nearly half of all workers have had direct or indirect exposure to it.

The survey also found that 72 percent of the bullies were identified as bosses and that more men are perpetrators than women. However, the majority — 57 percent — of bullying targets are women. The study showed that 40 percent of bullied employees do not tell their employer about the bullying and that 62 percent of employers either ignore reported bullying or take action that makes the situation worse.

Why is bullying coming to light as an issue now?

Bullying has always been present whenever people have worked together. It is only in recent years that it has been identified as a critical issue or a sentinel event and formalized efforts been made to study and address it.

In 2008, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that workplace bullying is a form of intentional infliction of emotional distress. The court awarded $325,000 to a plaintiff bullied by a supervisor. This high-profile case helped to propel workplace bullying into the spotlight. In response, many companies have begun instating anti-bullying policies, and a number of state legislatures have been considering ‘healthy workplace’ legislation that would offer employees means to address these issues.

What is the impact of bullying on the person targeted?

The impact can be considered ‘health harming’ to the employee. It can be emotional, psychological, physical, or social injury, and it may result in a loss of production. Moreover, employees who witness other employees being bullied can exhibit reactions and symptoms similar to those of the targeted employee.

How can workplace bullying problems be solved?

An organization’s leaders need to recognize the more subtle signs of bullying, including those entrenched in the system. Leaders must know how to convey expectations for civil behavior to their employees and commit to consistently and fairly responding to incidents of disrespect or bullying when they occur.

Creating a culture of civility in which disrespect and bullying rarely occur often requires major shifts in thinking, perspective, management styles and behaviors. It will take time, commitment and the willingness to honestly assess the environment and long-held patterns of behavior. It is not for the faint of heart, and one cannot wait until the ‘other side starts to behave better.’ As Gandhi said, ‘You have to be the change you want to see.’

What are some options for management to deal with this problem?

Workplace bullying does not occur in a culture that does not allow it. Leaders need to ask themselves, ‘Do I send the message that each employee is valued, respected and appreciated, or do employees feel dismissed, expendable, or unheard? Do employees feel they can come to me when they are overloaded or stressed?’

The reality is that a company cannot promote a culture of civility or respect unless leadership exemplifies those qualities.

DEBRA MESSER is an account manager for LifeSolutions, an employee assistance program that is part of UPMC WorkPartners. Reach her at messerdm@upmc.edu or (412) 647-9064.

Published in Pittsburgh