8 Ways Managers Can Support Employee Mental Health

Mental health used to be one of those taboo-like topics that no one liked to talk about.   Today, hardly a day goes by without a TV news story, front page article or social media conversation around mental health, especially employee mental health.  And it’s no wonder.  Employees across virtually every industry have never been subject to so much stress and anxiety.  Concern over the prospect of pandemic induced illness or death,  financial and job uncertainly, social isolation, the complications of working from home, the difficulties imposed by home schooling of children and the uncertainty of what comes next are taking a toll on everyone’s mental health.  Add to that social unrest and a hotly contested political environment and you have the mental health perfect storm.

Even before the pandemic, many employers were stepping up their investment and focus on employee mental health.  Increasingly, employers are recognizing how employee mental health issues affect productivity, absenteeism, turnover and ultimately profitability.  The need for more comprehensive employee mental health support is more important today than ever.

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review  provided some excellent advice for what managers and leaders can do to support employees struggling with today’s stressors, safety concerns and economic upheaval.  The article suggested eight specific ways that managers can support employees, which we’re sharing below.

What Managers and Leaders Can Do

Even in the most uncertain of times, the role of a manager remains the same: to support your team members. That includes supporting their mental health. The good news is that many of the tools you need to do so are the same ones that make you an effective manager.

Be vulnerable

One silver lining of the pandemic is that it is normalizing mental health challenges. Almost everyone has experienced some level of discomfort. But the universality of the experience will translate into a decrease in stigma only if people, especially people in power, share their experiences. Being honest about your mental health struggles as a leader opens the door for employees to feel comfortable talking with you about mental health

Prior to the pandemic, the biotech firm Roche Genentech produced videos in which senior leaders talked about their mental health. They were shared on the company intranet as part of a campaign called #Let’sTalk. The company then empowered “mental health champions” — a network of employees trained to help build awareness for mental health — to make videos about their experiences, which were used as part of the company’s various mental health awareness campaigns.

Those of us working from home have had no choice but to be transparent about our lives, whether our kids have crashed our video meetings or our coworkers have gotten glimpses of our homes. When managers describe their challenges, whether mental-health-related or not, it makes them appear human, relatable, and brave.

Model healthy behaviors

Don’t just say you support mental health. Model it so that your team members feel they can prioritize self-care and set boundaries. More often than not, managers are so focused on their team’s well-being and on getting the work done that they forget to take care of themselves. Share that you’re taking a walk in the middle of the day, having a therapy appointment, or prioritizing a staycation (and actually turning off email) so that you don’t burn out.

Build a culture of connection through check-ins

Intentionally checking in with each of your direct reports on a regular basis is more critical than ever. That was important but often underutilized in pre-pandemic days. Now, with so many people working from home, it can be even harder to notice the signs that someone is struggling. Go beyond a simple “How are you?” and ask specific questions about what supports would be helpful. Wait for the full answer. Really listen, and encourage questions and concerns. Of course, be careful not to be overbearing; that could signal a lack of trust or a desire to micromanage.

When someone shares that they’re struggling, you won’t always know what to say or do. What’s most important is to make space to hear how your team members are truly doing and to be compassionate. They may not want to share much detail, which is completely fine. Knowing that they can is what matters.

Offer flexibility and be inclusive

Expect that the situation, your team’s needs, and your own needs will continue to change. Check in regularly — particularly at transition points. You can help problem-solve any issues that come up only if you know what’s happening. Those conversations will also give you an opportunity to reiterate norms and practices that support mental health. Inclusive flexibility is about proactive communication and norm-setting that helps people design and preserve the boundaries they need.

Don’t make assumptions about what your direct reports need; they will most likely need different things at different times. Take a customized approach to addressing stressors, such as challenges with childcare or feeling the need to work all the time. Proactively offer flexibility. Be as generous and realistic as possible. Basecamp CEO Jason Fried recently announced that employees with any type of care taking responsibilities could set their own schedules, even if that meant working fewer hours. Being accommodating doesn’t necessarily mean lowering your standards. Flexibility can help your team thrive amid the continued uncertainty.

Normalize and model this new flexibility by highlighting how you’ve changed your own behavior. Stacey Sprenkel, a partner at the law firm Morrison & Foerster, proactively told her teams that she was working odd hours because of her childcare responsibilities and invited them to share what they needed to work best during the pandemic.

Ask team members to be patient and understanding with one another as they adapt. Trust them and assume the best. They are relying on you and will remember how you treated them during this unprecedented time.

Communicate more than you think you need to

One recent research study showed that employees who felt their managers were not good at communicating have been 23% more likely than others to experience mental health declines since the outbreak. Make sure you keep your team informed about any organizational changes or updates. Clarify any modified work hours and norms. Remove stress where possible by setting expectations about workloads, prioritizing what must get done, and acknowledging what can slide if necessary.

Make your team aware of available mental health resources and encourage them to use them.   Almost 46% of all workers in s study done in relation to this article said that their company had not proactively shared those. If you’ve shared them once, share them again. And be aware that shame and stigma prevent many employees from using their mental health benefits to seek treatment, so normalize the use of those services.

Although managers will be on the front lines of addressing mental health issues, it’s on the most-senior leaders in your company to take action as well.

What Else Can Organizational Leaders Do?

When is comes to mental health resources, employees want a more open and accepting culture, clearer information about where to go or whom to ask for support, and training.

Mental health symptoms are just as common in the C-Suite as among individual contributors. Sharing your own mental health challenges and modeling healthy behavior are two of the most important steps you can take. Here are a few additional things that leaders can do to normalize and support mental health at work.

Invest in training

Now more than ever, you should prioritize proactive and preventive workplace mental health training for leaders, managers, and individual contributors. Before the pandemic, companies including Morrison & Foerster and Verizon Media were convening senior leaders to discuss their role in creating a mentally healthy culture. That positioned them well to navigate the uncertainty that has unfolded. As more and more employees struggle with mental health, it’s important to debunk common myths, reduce stigma, and build the necessary skills to have productive conversations about mental health at work. If you don’t have the budget to invest in training, mental health employee resource groups are a low-cost way to increase awareness, build community, and offer peer support.

Modify policies and practices

To reduce stress on everyone, be as generous and flexible as possible in updating policies and practices in reaction to the pandemic and civil unrest. For example, you may need to take a closer look at your rules and norms around flexible hours, paid time off, email and other communications, and paid and unpaid leave. Try to reframe performance reviews as opportunities for compassionate feedback and learning instead of evaluations against strict targets. In mid-March, Katherine Maher, the CEO of Wikimedia Foundation, sent an email to her organization outlining changes to mitigate stress, including: “If you need to dial back [work hours], that’s okay.” She also committed to paying contractors and hourly staff on the basis of their typical hours, regardless of their ability to work. When you make changes, be explicit that you are doing so to support the mental health of your employees, if that is the goal.

Measure

Ensuring accountability doesn’t have to be complicated; it can be handled in a simple pulse survey done regularly to understand how people are doing now and over time. BlackRock, the global investment management firm, is one of many organizations that have conducted pulse surveys during the pandemic to understand the primary stressors and needs of staff. This direct employee input has helped shape new programs, including remote management skill-building for managers, enhanced health and well-being support for employees, and increased work flexibility and time off.

About Espyr

For over 30 years Espyr, has provided innovative mental health solutions to organizations operating under some of the most challenging conditions. Espyr’s portfolio of customized counseling, coaching and consulting solutions help people and organizations achieve their full potential by providing mental health support and driving positive behavioral change.  For more information on how Espyr can help your organization, call Espyr at 888-570-3479 or click here.

Coronavirus Anxiety is Spreading Fast

Thanks to the widespread and constant media coverage, we all know the factors that facilitate infectious pandemics like coronavirus (COVID-19). A rise in long-distance travel, increased international exchange and global climate changes are just some of the guilty parties helping the spread of disease across our planet faster than ever.

We also know how to minimize our risk of infection – washing hands properly, covering coughs and sneezes, staying home if sick, keeping surfaces clean and staying away from sick people.

According to a Psychiatric Times article, however, that same informative media coverage is also responsible for panic, stress and the potential for hysteria. Pandemics are not just a medical phenomenon; they can be the cause of anxiety-related behaviors, sleep disturbances and an overall lower perceived state of health, especially in individuals already suffering from mental illness.

How Many are Affected?

It’s still too early to know exactly how many are suffering from mental or emotional problems as a result of the most recent pandemic. But take note of how aware you have become of washing your hands, touching surfaces or getting on a plane. For most of us, these things are much more top-of-mind than they were just weeks ago.

There has been some research, however. In February, according to Bloomberg Opinion, the Chinese Psychology Society surveyed 18,000 asking if they felt anxiety related to the coronavirus outbreak. Almost 43% said yes.

Asian students wearing masks to protect themselves from coronavirus

What About Patients and Healthcare Workers?

Not surprisingly, the closer people are to the infection – like coronavirus patients, families of patients and healthcare workers – the greater the anxiety and overall mental toll. 

Quarantine is a prudent and necessary response to any viral outbreak, a critical step towards slowing the spread of the virus and providing valuable time to prepare. Yet, as also stated in Bloomberg Opinion, this isolation is usually accompanied by unwelcome (and under-reported) side effects, including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress (or PTSD). After the SARS outbreak of 2002/2003, researchers identified how these events can take a mental toll on both patients and medical staff.

  • A study of 233 SARS survivors in Hong Kong found that 40% had “active psychiatric illness” years after the outbreak, including PTSD, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
  • 2006 study of 549 employees of a Beijing hospital that treated SARS patients found that 10% exhibited symptoms of PTSD.

Whether for patients, healthcare workers or the public at large, it’s clear that mental health care and treatment needs to be an integral part of the coronavirus recovery process. Long-term psychological effects could become the infection’s longest-lasting legacy.

How Can I Help My Employees Right Now?

When faced with situations that are uncertain and that we can’t control, it is normal to feel more anxious. Here are some helpful tips we provide to our clients to give to their employees, gathered from our team of coaches and counselors, as well as sources such as National Public Radio and the Wall Street Journal:

 

  • Manage Information – Find a credible, trusted source of information like the CDC website (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), your state public health agency or your primary care physician. Stay informed so you’re aware of current information like precautions, warnings or quarantines – but be careful about overloading on information as that can increase feelings of anxiety. Checking your trusted news source once or twice a day should provide the information you need.
  • Plan Ahead – Often, our anxiety increases when we feel a loss of control. While we can’t control if we come in contact with coronavirus, there are some things we can control – like planning ahead. Make plans now for how you would address childcare and work if you or other family members were to get sick or schools/business would close. Talk to your doctor about any prescription medications that may require refills. And take an inventory of non-perishable groceries and over-the counter medications you may want on hand.
  • Stay Connected – Talking to family and friends can be very helpful in relieving stress and anxiety (during a pandemic, or anytime).
  • Maintain Your Routine – Continuing to do the things as usual – like exercise and going to bed at the same time – are helpful in creating a sense of normalcy which helps reduce stress. 
  • Get a Good Night’s Sleep – Research shows many benefits of a good night’s sleep, including reducing stress and anxiety.
  • Breathe – Regularly practicing relaxation techniques – deep breathing, mindfulness, meditation, etc. – can help reduce stress and anxiety. Taking a break and engaging in an activity you enjoy, like watching a favorite show or playing a game, can also help.
  • Take Basic Precautions – Take the recommended precautions to help stay healthy – wash your hands for 20 seconds, avoid touching your face and avoid contact with those who are sick. Not only do these things reduce your chances of infection, they can help you feel more in control.

What About Employees Who Need More Help?

Psychological effects of a pandemic are wide-ranging, and many need help beyond dealing with a little extra anxiety. This is where Espyr comes in. Through our industry-leading coaching, counseling and assistance programs, Espyr has been helping employees maintain good physical and mental health for 30 years. 

One such program is iResolve, a service that is included in every Espyr Employee Assistance Program (EAP). With iResolve, employees can access unlimited and immediate help as easy as making a phone call. There’s no appointment necessary, and employees will speak to one of our licensed professional counselors, coaches or clinicians.  

iResolve helps employees build resilience and develop coping strategies for dealing with uncertainty. Furthermore, it promotes connectedness and strengthening of support networks when social distancing measures are suggested.

Thanks to Espyr and iResolve, employers are able to provide employees with the help they need, whether due to coronavirus anxiety, other mental health issues or work-related problems. 

About Espyr

Espyr is a leader in behavioral health solutions, offering employers a variety of innovative products and services designed to maximize human and organizational potential. 

For more information on how Espyr can help your company provide for the mental health of your employees, call 888-570-3479 or click here. 

Resilience is being able to bounce back from adversity or trauma

Can Resilience Be Learned?

The American Psychological Association (2014) defines resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of stress.  Clinically, it might not be that simple, but for most of us resilience is the ability to bounce back – to mentally or emotionally cope with a situation or return to the way we were before the situation occurred.  If we recognize the importance of resilience the next question we’re likely to ponder is whether we’re born resilient or can resilience be learned?

Resilience is being able to bounce back from adversity or trauma

An example of professional resilience

Annabelle Timsit, writing in Quartz magazine, recently described the tragic situation of a young French woman who, while caring for a new baby at the tail end of maternity leave, discovered she had breast cancer.  After a 15-month bout of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment she was thankfully cancer free. Unfortunately, her much anticipated return to work was shattered with news that her job had been eliminated.

For most of us, a one-two punch like this would have been a crushing blow.  For Patricia Acensi-Ferré it led to an entirely new career as she launched a consulting company coaching employees and employers on how to foster resilience in professional situations.

Why do employers need a resilient workforce?

Acensi-Ferré’s situation may have been more severe than typical, but personal situations that either distract us at work or disconnect us from work happen quite frequently. Situations resulting in employees taking voluntary leave can happen for many reasons.   On average, 273,000 women and 13,000 men take maternity or paternity leave in the US every month.  Many more take voluntary leave for other reasons,  burnout being one of the most common.  According to a recent Gallup study, burnout affects three out of every four US employees to some degree.

Increasingly, companies understand the value in supporting employees through personal transitions, crisis or burnout.   The reason for supporting those employees is quite clear.  When employees take voluntary leave the cost to retain or retrain them when they return can be very high.

Resilience can be learned

Resilience isn’t a trait people either have or don’t have — it involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed.

A good, comprehensive EAP, like what we offer at Espyr, will have coaches specifically trained on how to help employees learn to be more resilient.

Here are 8 strategies used by Espyr’s coaches for building resilience:

  • Nurture a positive view of yourself. Develop confidence in your ability to solve problems and trust your instincts.
  • Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems. “You can’t prevent stressful events from happening, but you can change how you interpret and respond to these events,” says Dr. O’Gorman, PhD., a psychologist in private practice in East Chatham, N.Y., and a spokeswoman for the American Psychological Association. “Try keeping a long-term perspective.”
  • Accept that change is a part of living. Certain goals no longer may be attainable as a result of adverse situations. Accepting circumstances that can’t be changed can help you focus on circumstances you can affect.
  • Look for opportunities for self-discovery. Many people who have experienced tragedies and hardship report better relationships, a greater sense of strength, an increased sense of self-worth and a greater appreciation for life. Take a lesson from Patricia Acensi-Ferré who relied on her personal resilience to not just overcome a trauma, but thrive as a result.
  • Make connections. Good relationships with family, friends or others are important. Accept help and support from those who care about you.
  • Maintain a hopeful outlook. An optimistic outlook enables you to expect good things to happen in your life.
  • Move toward your goalsDevelop some realistic goals. Do something regularly — even if it seems like a small accomplishment — that enables you to move toward your goals. Instead of focusing on tasks that seem unachievable, ask yourself, “What’s one thing I know I can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?”
  • Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly, get enough sleep, eat a healthful diet and limit alcohol consumption.

Consider writing your thoughts about stressful events in your life. Try meditation and other spiritual practices. Many people find these activities help them build connections with others and restore lost hope.

“Becoming conscious of your strengths makes you stronger,” says Dr. O’Gorman. “Resilience increases as you recognize the magnitude of what you’ve already accomplished and survived in your life and helps you believe you can meet the challenges that lie ahead.”

About Espyr

Want to know more about building a resilient workforce?  Espyr is a leader in Employee Assistance Programs, coaching and other innovative behavioral health programs, all designed to help your employees and company achieve their full potential.  To learn more call us at 888-570-3479 or click here.

 

 

 

Woman with insomnia

Want Better Employee Health? Help Them Get Better Sleep.

Chances are there are employees in your workplace right now bragging about how they can get by on four to six hours of sleep. They may need to find something else to brag about. They may think they’re getting by, but a lack of sleep causes a wide range of changes in the body, both physical and mental. Beyond the reduced productivity and increased burden on healthcare expenses, these changes can affect your employee health in dramatic ways, including causing premature death.

How Long Should You Sleep?

A 2010 article covering 16 years of research and 1.3 million people concluded that both too little and too much sleep can serve as significant predictors of early death. Those who slept less than five to seven hours a night were 12% more likely to die prematurely. And those who slept more than eight or nine hours were at an even higher risk: 30%.

The sweet spot? Seven to eight hours per night.

Woman with insomnia

Health Risks from Insufficient Sleep

Study after study has found that sleep issues are linked to everything from weight gain to high blood pressure to diabetes. The website Healthline recently described 10 major areas affected by too little sleep.

  • Memory

When you sleep, your brain forms connections that help you process and remember information. A lack of sleep can affect both short-term and long-term memory.

  • Mood

Too little sleep can do more than make you moody; it can lead to anxiety or depression.

  • Thinking & Concentration

Getting enough rest is important for creativity, concentration and problem-solving skills.

  • Accidents

Drowsiness anytime besides nighttime can lead to falls, car accidents or worse.

  • Immunity

Your immune system needs its rest, too. If your defenses are down, you’re more likely to get a cold, the flu or almost anything else.

  • Blood Pressure

Sleeping less than five hours a night has been shown to increase risk for high blood pressure.

  • Diabetes

With too little sleep, your body’s natural release of insulin is affected, raising your blood sugar levels.

  • Weight

When you’ve eaten, chemicals in your body tell your brain your full. Without enough sleep, these chemicals go off balance, leading to overeating.

  • Sex Drive

If men don’t get enough sleep, it may lead to a drop in testosterone levels – and a reduced sex drive.

  • Heart Disease

Along with increased blood pressure, too little sleep may increase release of the chemicals that lead to inflammation. Both play roles in heart disease.

Why Can’t You Sleep?

Reasons for poor sleep vary. There may be physical factors, such as sleep apnea, or issues related to your sleep habits.

Sleep apnea can be a very serious sleep disorder affecting both the quantity and quality of sleep. If you snore when you sleep, it’s likely that sleep apnea is a factor and you should get medical attention. Sleep apnea has been linked to obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

However, poor sleep can often be traced to bad sleep habits. Fortunately, as with other bad habits, there are things you can do to improve.

Getting Your Sleep Back on Track

An article in Psychology Today several months ago suggested several ways people could improve their sleep habits. Making these positive changes can improve your sleep and have a great effect on improving your overall health. Here are the four approaches they suggest:

  1. Quantity or Quality?

Are you not getting enough hours of sleep, or are you not sleeping very well? Improvements in either can make a big difference. Suggestions for improving your quantity of sleep include relaxing before bedtime or meditating. Reducing nighttime light exposure and eliminating computer and smartphone usage within an hour of bedtime may also help. You should also avoid eating high-fat or high-sugar foods, and drinking sweet, caffeinated or alcoholic beverages shortly before bedtime.

  1. Sleep as a Skill

Sleep should be more than just crashing when you’re tired. When you consider sleep as a skill, one that you can improve with learning and experimentation, bedtime becomes a whole different animal. Try and learn new routines and habits until you find what works best for you.

  1. Find Your Inner Child

For most people, their best sleeping experiences were as a child. There are, of course, good reasons for that – besides the lack of adult-world stress. You had more consistent sleep schedules. Your parents may have read to you before bedtime. You may have listened to music. Go ahead and find your inner child – and childhood sleep strategies. It could make a big difference in your adult sleep patterns.

  1. Check Your Attitude

Don’t think of sleep as a waste of your valuable time, or something that gets in the way of your productivity. As you’ve read in this article, sleep is crucial for good physical and mental health. It should be treated as something valuable and a precious time in your life. In fact, a good night’s sleep is the most important thing you can do for your health and happiness.

The Role of Coaching in Better Employee Health and Better Sleep

At Espyr, we know how poor sleep affects employee health – both physical health and psychological health. Our certified, professional behavioral health coaches are trained to discover the often-hidden factors behind physical and psychological health issues. As it relates to sleep, our coaches know that weight gain is often directly linked to sleep issues. This connection has been recently verified in research published in the June 10, 2019 issue of JAMA Internal Medicine. This study of 43,000 women found that exposure to artificial light at night predicted weight gain over five years of follow-up.

Our coaches also know how sleep problems can contribute and exacerbate issues of anxiety and depression. Studies have shown that when those suffering with anxiety or depression were asked to describe their sleeping habits, most reported sleeping for less than six hours a night.

About Espyr

Our comprehensive EAP and portfolio of innovative behavioral coaching programs are designed to help people and organizations achieve their full potential. To learn more about how Espyr can improve employee health at your workplace, please call 888-570-3479.

 

 

 

We Need To Redefine The Meaning Of Wellness

According to a recent report sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, over 80% of companies in the US with over fifty employees offer some sort of corporate wellness benefit.

The latest Aflac WorkForces Report (conducted in 2015) found that close to half of the 1,977 business decision makers surveyed said their companies sponsored workplace wellness programs.  That was up from just 30 percent in 2012.

In fact, ever since Johnson & Johnson’s groundbreaking Live for Life program launched in 1979, employers have been offering their employees on-site access to fitness centers and behavioral modification programs designed to help employees quit smoking, reduce stress, lose weight and, in general, live a healthier life.

Do wellness programs work?

Despite the remarkable proliferation of corporate wellness programs, there is still debate over whether they actually work.  Workplace wellness programs are an $8 billion industry in the US.  With that kind of money on the table, you can be sure there are a lot people with vested interests pushing the affirmative side of that debate.

Employers think their corporate wellness programs are effective. Per the Aflac WorkForces Report, 53 percent of employers that offer wellness believe their program is effective. That’s up 7 points from prior year.

Various studies over the years have provided conflicting results, with some showing savings and health improvements while others say the efforts fall short.  Many studies, however, faced a number of limitations, such as failing to have a comparison group, or figuring out whether people who sign up for such wellness programs are somehow healthier or more motivated than those who do not.

Women exercising in corporate wellness program

Harvard Business School reported that medical expenses for American based companies fell by $3.27 for every dollar spent on wellness programs.  Furthermore, employee absenteeism expenses fell by $2.73.

A recent study by German psychologist Sabine Sonnentag and reported in Forbes showed wellness programs boosted productivity, reduced stress, and increased employee engagement and communication.

Not all studies agree

However, a more recent, well-publicized study by University of Chicago and Harvard Medical School arrived at a different conclusion.  This study was one of the first large-scale studies to be peer-reviewed and to employ a randomized controlled trial design.

The researchers randomly assigned 20 BJ’s Wholesale Club outlets to offer a wellness program to all employees, then compared results with 140 stores that did not have a wellness program.

As reported in JAMA, the study found that worksites with the wellness program had a higher rate of employee engagement in regular exercise and higher rate of employees who reported actively managing their weight.  However, there were no significant differences in other self-reported health and behaviors: clinical markers of health; health care spending or utilization; or absenteeism, tenure, or job performance after 18 months.

“The optimistic interpretation is there is no way we can get improvements in health or more efficient spending if we don’t first have changes in health behavior,” says Katherine Baicker, dean of the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago, and one of the study’s co-authors along with Zirui Song from Harvard Medical School.  “But if employers are offering these programs in hopes that health spending and absenteeism will go down, this study should give them pause,” Baicker says.

An accompanying editorial in JAMA notes that “traditional, broad-based programs like the one analyzed by Song and Baicker may lack the necessary intensity, duration, and focus on particular employee segments to generate significant effects over a short time horizon.”

In other words, don’t give up entirely on wellness efforts, but consider “more targeted approaches” that focus on specific workers who have higher risks, or on “health behaviors [that] may yield larger health and economic benefits,” the editorial suggests.

There has been criticism of the Baicker and Song study by other scientists.  Some have said the author’s 18-month time frame was too short. Recognizing that as a potential flaw, the authors plan on a follow up after 3 years.

Still, similar findings were recently reported in a 2018 study at the University of Illinois. This randomized controlled trial with university employees concluded that the workplace wellness program did not reduce health care costs or change health behaviors. The study found that wellness-program participants were likely already healthier and more motivated, suggesting that a primary benefit of wellness programs might be the ability to attract and retain healthier workers with lower levels of medical spending.

“The optimistic interpretation is there is no way we can get improvements in health or more efficient spending if we don’t first have changes in health behavior.”

 

Wellness means mental as well as physical health

Today’s corporate wellness programs tend to focus on helping employees improve their health by creating clinical improvement initiatives around certain measures such as blood pressure, Body Mass Index (BMI), cholesterol, glucose, and smoking cessation. These are all important health metrics. However, mental health has been demonstrated to play a critically important role in employee productivity, absenteeism, engagement and retention.

Moreover, as pointed out in the Baicker and Song study, changes in health behavior, something behavioral health coaching can effectively accomplish are a prerequisite for improvements in health or more efficient healthcare spending.

Three reasons why employers should include mental health in their corporate wellness programs

  1. The cost to deal with mental health disorders is huge

Healthstat summarized the relevance of mental health to employers very well in a blog posting last year.  “Mental health issues are a hidden epidemic among American workers. 5 of the 10 leading causes of disability are mental health disorders, including depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and alcoholism. It is estimated that spending in the United States on depression alone accounts for more than $40 billion dollars, and the disorder is also responsible for 220 million sick days annually. Taken as a group, mental health issues result in an estimated $105 billion dollars per year in lost productivity.”

In a related study by Jeffrey Kahn M.D., and Alan Langlieb, M.D., in their book, Mental Health and Productivity in the Workplace: A Handbook for Organizations and Clinicians, people with symptoms of depression had a fivefold or greater increase in time lost from work compared to those without symptoms of depression.

  1. Employees want behavioral health coaching

In a recent Gallup poll, 8 in 10 American workers reported feeling stress sometimes or frequently during the day.  The Gallup study also reported that:

  • 40% said they want help with burnout at work
  •  29% said they want help with managing stress
  • 27% said they want help to improve their sleep health

In today’s hyper-competitive labor market, employers hoping to attract and retain the best talent will need to carefully consider their employees’ interest in physical as well as mental well-being.

  1. Comorbidity is driving higher employer healthcare claims

Comorbidity, the simultaneous existence of two or more chronic illnesses, makes diagnosis and treatment more difficult and drives higher healthcare cost.  Comorbid physical and mental health conditions are not at all uncommon.  29% of patients with a medical disorder also have a mental health condition.  68% of those with a mental health disorder also have a physical health condition.

For various reasons including the perceived stigma of mental health, roughly half of those with mental health conditions won’t reach out for help. Behavioral health coaches, such as those in Espyr’s network of providers, are trained to uncover and address underlying mental health conditions affecting those with chronic physical illnesses.  That leads to better outcomes and reduces healthcare expense.

About Espyr®

Espyr is a leader in developing innovative behavioral health programs. Espyr’s solutions engage employees by proactively identifying at-risk employees and applying appropriate behavioral health intervention.  The Espyr approach enables employers to surgically target their healthcare spending where it’s most needed and can drive the greatest results. Ultimately, Espyr’s solutions result in reduced healthcare expense and increased employee productivity and well-being.

To learn more about how Espyr can help your company click here or call 888-570-3479.

Burnout can ignite like a flame in this match.

Seven Steps To Avoid Or Reverse Burnout

In our last post we defined burnout, described the causes of burnout and provided a do-it-yourself quiz to help you know whether you may be suffering from burnout.

We’ve all heard colleagues or friends talk about “feeling burned out.”  You may have felt that way yourself from time to time.  Medical researchers have studied burnout for a number of years, but the concept has always been a bit fuzzy.  But that’s changed now that the World Health Organization has officially recognized burnout as a legitimate medical disorder.  Workers and employers need to reconsider the causes and dangers of burnout.

How do you know if you’re suffering from burnout?

According to the WHO, doctors can diagnose someone with burnout if they meet the following symptoms:

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  • Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
  • Reduced professional efficacy

The dangers of burnout

Whether you may have a personal concern about burnout or you’re an employer with workers complaining of it, burnout should not be taken lightly.

A CNBC report last year quoted an article in the Harvard Business Review that stated burnout accounts for an estimated $125 billion to $190 billion in healthcare spending each year.  A 2017 study in the journal PLoS One cited major health risks related to job burnout.  Risks include type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, gastrointestinal issues, high cholesterol, even death for those under 45.

High stress jobs don’t always lead to burnout.  Stress, if managed well doesn’t create a health hazard, and in fact can be a good thing. Stress can give you a jolt of energy, motivate you to accomplish tasks, even give you a short term memory boost.

Conversely, employees can still suffer from burnout in low stress jobs. Some individuals and certain occupations are more susceptible to burnout than others.

Man feeling burned out, holding his head in his hands

Signs of burnout

Burnout is avoidable and if you suffer from it, it is reversible. There are red flags that will pop up and warn you that you’re in burnout mode and it’s time to do something about it.  Some signs of burnout are subtle and others are easy to recognize.  Some examples you should watch for:

Become aware of unhealthy eating

When you are stressed, it is important to watch your diet. Stress uses a lot of energy; consequently, your immunity breaks down and your system may be depleted of many important nutrients.

Recognize weakening relationships

Personal relationships can be easily damaged when you are experiencing burnout at work or at home. Projects can be both emotionally and physically draining, and when all your energy is depleted, you have nothing left to contribute to a relationship.

Acknowledge any continual anger

Anger is often generated as a result of burnout. Listen to your feelings and assess if there is irritation just under the surface. Ask a trusted friend to give you feedback. You will find that it can be helpful to discuss the aggravations of your job on a regular basis with an objective person (usually a person who is not associated with your job or with the particular problem you are experiencing).

Look at your interpersonal investments

In order to minimize your stress at work and at home, you may try to protect yourself by eliminating any extra interpersonal investment. To accomplish this, you resort to limiting the expenditure of your energy, time, and emotional involvement. This is usually when you become brief and curt with people.

Notice emotional distance

Isolation becomes an easy solution when there is a lot of emotional stress involved. In this protective mode, you move away emotionally to guard against experiencing even more burnout that could be generated by helping other people.

Burnout can ignite like a flame in this match.

Photo by Yaoqi LAI on Unsplash

Handling burnout

CNBC asked a panel of experts  how employees can avoid — and even reverse — burnout.  Here’s what the experts said.

1. Learn your own strengths

If your job doesn’t fit your skill set, it’s easy to become disengaged.   Look at new projects or even new positions to get energized and send burnout packing.  “Workers who are truly engaged spend about four times as many hours doing what they do best every day, in comparison to doing what they don’t do well,” said Jim Harter, Ph.D., chief scientist of workplace management and well-being for Gallup. Getting involved in activities that develop your strengths further can help you feel even more energized, confident and motivated.

2. Understand your weaknesses

In order to understand what you need to work on, it’s important to figure out what, exactly, is holding you back. Self-assessment is essential; without it you can’t even begin to grow. Can you improve your knowledge or skills? Learn new ones?  There are many online courses offering management and leadership classes.

3. Develop strong partners at work

It’s not always true, but friends at work can help boost your efficiency and performance. Having friends at work can make it easier to seek advice without feeling judged, allowing you to gain access to feedback and information you might not otherwise get.  Developing strong relationships and having people you can rely on — plus being a reliable partner to others — goes a long way toward preventing burnout according to Harter.

Whether you’re concerned with burnout or not, numerous studies have shown that friends are truly good for your physical and mental health.  Adults with strong social support have a reduced risk of many health problems, like depression, high blood pressure obesity and even dementia.

4. Communicate

If you are feeling burned out, don’t try to suck it up or hide it.  It won’t work.  A conversation with higher-ups can be valuable in fostering support, ideas and feedback for everyone involved.  A good manager will be open to discussing your situation, supporting you through a rough time, and working with you to address the stressors causing the burnout. Sharing what you’re going through and feeling heard is, in and of itself, a powerful step toward improving your situation.

5. Identify a good manager

A recent Gallup study on stress and burnout at work found that employees who felt supported by their managers were overwhelmingly less likely to experience burnout on a regular basis. Employees who felt supported by their manager are about 70 percent less likely to experience burnout on a regular basis, according to Gallup.

And two additional points that we would add:

6. Keep good health habits

Though not part of CNBC’s expert feedback, we would add some basic advice that will help in relieving stress and thus burnout: eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep.

7. Consider a change

Sometimes you’re just in the wrong place – the wrong job, a boss you don’t like, a company culture that conflicts with your personal values.  You may need a change – a new position in your company, a new company, maybe even a new career direction.

About Espyr

Espyr is a leading behavioral health company offering a portfolio of coaching, training and assistance products that span a continuum of care from restoring well-being to enhancing personal and organizational potential.  Among our many training programs, we offer our clients training for their employees and management teams on how to avoid and reverse burnout. To learn more about how Espyr can help you call us at 888-570-3479.

 

 

Mental Health Disorders: Recognizing And Helping Those With PTSD

For many people, PTSD is hard to understand. Why does it happen to some people, but not to others? Does occurrence of PTSD indicate a weakness or some other mental health issue ? Are millennials more prone to mental health disorders like PTSD since we’re hearing so much more about it now than with previous generations?

Let’s set the record straight. PTSD is a real health issue. It’s not new and not happening differently or more frequently today than previously, though we may be diagnosing it more effectively today than in the past. Most frequently, we associate PTSD with veterans who have been involved in combat, but PTSD is not restricted to combat. It can occur in children as well as adults, and occurs in both men and women who have never experienced combat.

What is PTSD?

According to the National Center for PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that can trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults such as rape or mugging, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, or military combat.

First responders can develop mental health disorders like PTSD from traumatic events like 9/11

PTSD can be extremely disabling. Military troops who served in the Vietnam and Gulf Wars; rescue workers involved in the aftermath of disasters like the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.; survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing; survivors of accidents, rape, physical and sexual abuse, and other crimes; immigrants fleeing violence in their countries; survivors of the 1994 California earthquake, the 1997 North and South Dakota floods, and hurricanes Hugo and Andrew; and people who witness traumatic events are among those at risk for developing PTSD. Families of victims can also develop the disorder.

How common is PTSD?

Going through trauma is not rare. About 6 of every 10 men and 5 of every 10 women experience at least one trauma in their lives. Women are more likely to experience sexual assault and child sexual abuse. Men are more likely to experience accidents, physical assault, combat, disaster, or to witness death or injury.

  • About 7-8% of the population will have PTSD at some point in their lives.
  • About 8 million adults have PTSD during a given year. This is only a small portion of those who have gone through a trauma.
  • About 10% of women develop PTSD sometime in their lives compared with about 4% of 100 men.

Soldiers in battle can develop mental health disorders like PTSD

According to the US Department of Veteran Affairs, the number of veterans with PTSD varies by service era:

  • Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF)

About 11-20% veterans who served in OIF or OEF have PTSD in a given year.

  • Gulf War (Desert Storm)

About 12% of Gulf War Veterans have PTSD in a given year.

  • Vietnam War

About 15% of Vietnam Veterans were currently diagnosed with PTSD at the time of the most recent study in the late 1980s, the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study. It is estimated that about 30 out of every 100 Vietnam Veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime.

As media attention to PTSD has grown and employers become more attuned to the importance of holistic health, PTSD has increasingly become a focal point for workplace discussions. Historically, first responders and medical personnel have been monitored and treated for PTSD symptoms. Police officers, firefighters, paramedics, and other first responders routinely come across scenes involving violence, wreckage along interstates and highways, or the horrific devastation of natural disasters or bombings. Medical professionals are also frequently confronted with life-or-death situations in rendering emergency care.

Beyond these high-risk groups, individuals in any profession may have been the victim of an assault, rape, or auto collision and experience flashbacks or anxiety in the workplace. Recent headlines of school shootings, convenience store robberies, and construction company fatalities underscore the need to address PTSD at the workplace on a much broader basis.

How do mental health disorders like PTSD develop?

Most people who are exposed to a traumatic, stressful event experience some of the symptoms of PTSD in the days and weeks following exposure. Available data suggest that about 8% of men and 20% of women go on to develop PTSD, and roughly 30% of these individuals develop a chronic form that persists throughout their lifetimes.

The course of chronic PTSD usually involves periods of symptom increase followed by remission or decrease, although some individuals may experience symptoms that are unremitting and severe. Some older veterans, who report a lifetime of only mild symptoms, experience significant increases in symptoms following retirement, severe medical illness in themselves or their spouses, or reminders of their military service (such as reunions or media broadcasts of the anniversaries of war events).

PTSD can affect memory and negatively impact relationships with others. Normal sights and sounds can trigger an intense emotional response and mentally transport the person back to darker times.

Do other illnesses tend to accompany PTSD?

As with many mental health disorders, co-occurring mental and/or physical conditions are common. Co-occurring depression, alcohol or other substance abuse, or another anxiety disorder are not uncommon with PTSD. The likelihood of treatment success is increased when these other conditions are appropriately identified and treated as well. Headaches, gastrointestinal complaints, immune system problems, dizziness, chest pain, or discomfort in other parts of the body are common. Often, doctors treat the symptoms without being aware that they stem from PTSD. The National Institute of Mental Health encourages primary care providers to ask patients about experiences with violence, recent losses, and traumatic events, especially if symptoms keep recurring. When PTSD is diagnosed, referral to a mental health professional who has had experience treating people with the disorder is recommended.

How to recognize someone experiencing PTSD

There are a number of signs that you might observe when someone you know is experiencing PTSD:

The presence of one or more of the following:

  • Spontaneous or cued recurrent, involuntary, and intrusive distressing memories of the traumatic events
  • Recurrent distressing dreams in which the content or affect (i.e. feeling) of the dream is related to the events flashbacks or other dissociative reactions in which the individual feels or acts as if the traumatic events are recurring
  • Intense or prolonged psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic events
  • Physiological reactions to reminders of the traumatic events

Persistent avoidance of distressing memories, thoughts, or feelings about or closely associated with the traumatic events or of external reminders (i.e., people, places, conversations, activities, objects, situations)

Two or more of the following:

  • Inability to remember an important aspect of the traumatic events (not due to head injury, alcohol, or drugs)
  • Persistent and exaggerated negative beliefs or expectations about oneself, others, or the world (e.g., “I am bad,” “No one can be trusted,” “The world is completely dangerous”).
  • Repeated, distorted blame of self or others about the cause or consequences of the traumatic events
  • Persistent fear, horror, anger, guilt, or shame
  • Markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities
  • Feelings of detachment or estrangement from others
  • Persistent inability to experience positive emotions

Two or more of the following marked changes in arousal and reactivity:

  • Irritable or aggressive behavior
  • Reckless or self-destructive behavior
  • Hyper vigilance
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Problems with concentration
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless sleep

Also, clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning not attributed to the direct physiological effects of medication, drugs, or alcohol or another medical condition, such as traumatic brain injury.

What should employers do?

How can employers assist employees suffering PTSD, whether from occupational or non-occupational sources, and how can they minimize and mitigate its impact on the workplace? The Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC) is an association dedicated to providing focused education, knowledge, and networking for absence and disability professionals. DMEC offers the following advice for employers.

First, employers should make mental health resources available as part of their benefits package and employee assistance program. This can include access to mental health professionals and behavioral specialists. PTSD can be hard to diagnose and may affect individuals differently, severely impacting a person’s productivity and posing added risk to the person, coworkers, and customers. It is important to offer assistance and provide help as soon as the need is recognized.

Mental health disorders like PTSD can be debilitating at work.

Second, as with mental health disorders in general, employers can help increase awareness and understanding of PTSD in the workforce. Managers, supervisors, and employees need to know how PTSD might impact them and how to spot potential symptoms among co-workers. They need to know how to access resources and assistance in these instances.

Third, companies can educate workers about self-care techniques and ways to mitigate PTSD. These might include running and exercise, meditation and yoga, or use of therapy animals. Just as the condition manifests differently in individuals, the ways to relieve symptoms also vary.

PTSD warrants increasing awareness and attention. Elevate the conversation in your organization and offer assistance to those in need. Continue to promote the value of mental health resources in the workplace and eliminate stigma associated with mental health disorders. Effective PTSD treatments are available once the condition is identified.

How is PTSD Treated?

Fortunately, through research supported by the National Institute of Mental Health and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), effective treatments have been developed to help people with PTSD. Research is also helping scientists better understand the condition and how it affects the brain and the rest of the body.

The main treatments for people with PTSD are psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of the two. Everyone is different, so a treatment that works for one person may not work for another. Some people may need to try different treatments to find what works best for their symptoms. Regardless of what treatment option you chose, it is important for anyone with PTSD to be treated by a mental health professional who is experienced with PTSD.

Many trauma survivors do not experience PTSD, and many people in intimate relationships, families, and friendships with individuals who have PTSD do not experience severe relational problems. People with PTSD can create and maintain successful intimate relationships by:

  • Establishing a personal support network that will help the survivor cope with PTSD while he or she maintains or rebuilds family and friend relationships with dedication, perseverance, hard work, and commitment
  • Sharing feelings honestly and openly with an attitude of respect and compassion
  • Continually strengthening cooperative problem-solving and communication skills
  • Including playfulness, spontaneity, relaxation, and mutual enjoyment in the relationship

About Espyr

Espyr is a leader in behavioral health. Through innovative behavioral health and leadership development products, we help employees and organizations achieve their full potential. This includes teaching management teams how to recognize and help employees suffering from mental health disorders such as PTSD. To learn more about Espyr call us at 888-570-3479.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Time To Address Mental Health Stigma

If you’re an employer, the mental health of your employees may be costing you a lot more than you think. In fact, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services, mental health disorders are the most costly medical condition, costing businesses about $200B per year in healthcare expenditures, plus an estimated $225B in lost productivity.

One in five adult Americans – 41 million people – will experience mental health issues in any given year. What makes mental health disorders more challenging for employers – and more costly – is the fact that more than half of those with mental health issues won’t seek treatment. Employees often stay quiet due to the stigma of mental illness and concern that co-workers or supervisors will think poorly of them. There is still a perception by many that it’s acceptable and even encouraged to stay home from work if you’re physically ill, but not okay for mental illness. Concerns that having a mental health issue can affect career advancement can be very real in some companies, especially in some industries such as healthcare, transportation, law enforcement and education.

Nick Otto reporting in EBN, quoted Pamela Greenberg, president and CEO of the Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness. “The reason for these grim statistics is stigma,” Greenberg said, speaking at the World Health Care Congress recently. “People are afraid to say they have a behavioral health disorder and are scared to get treatment.”

 

What should an employer do?

Awareness and education through frank and open discussions and training is critical in removing mental health stigma, as we’ve reported previously in our blog on Removing the Stigma of Mental Health.

“Studies have shown that [more accepting] workplaces have happier employees with better productivity,” said Michelle Riba, a professor of psychiatry and the associate director of the University of Michigan Depression Center in an interview with Huffington Post.

Mr. Otto reports how General Electric took steps to ensure employees know that the company views no difference between an employee seeking help because of opioid addiction than if they had cancer.

Diana Han, chief medical officer at General Electric noted that employees engaging in mental health programs are returning to work at a faster rate than unengaged workers. “Days away from work has really been a big win for employees and our business,” she said.

 

It starts at the top

Employers need to get full support from their C-level leaders, added Don Mordecai, national leader for mental health and wellness at Kaiser Permanente.

“Having that kind of C-suite level support is important because you need to create a culture of safety,” he added. “Just going up to people saying, ‘This is ok’ is not going to make them feel safe in our stigmatized society. ”Workplace culture needs to be open to talking about mental health.”

 

Take a proactive, prevention oriented approach

Social stigma around mental health won’t go away overnight. Another way for employers to address employee mental health is to approach it proactively rather than waiting and hoping that employees will step forward and seek treatment. Espyr offers two innovative solutions that provide proactive and targeted outreach to employees with mental health issues.

Realyze™ uses an online behavioral health risk assessment to look across an employee population and identify issues like depression, anxiety, stress, PTSD and substance abuse. At-risk employees are connected with the appropriate licensed Espyr behavioral health professional, community health services, or the employer’s health plan if long term counseling is required.

An Espyr licensed health professional oversees the entire process, ensuring employees stay engaged, conducting follow-up assessments and increasing the likelihood of successful outcomes.

Realyze can complement existing employee assistance and wellness programs, increasing engagement in those programs, making them more effective and improving employers’ return on investment.

Another proactive, targeted solution is Spotlight®. Spotlight begins by putting employee healthcare claims and other third-party data through a proprietary algorithm, which identifies employees who are both at high risk of driving healthcare costs and most likely to engage in treatment. Those identified employees are connected with the appropriate Espyr licensed behavioral health professional. This one-two proactive approach allows employers to focus their healthcare spend where it can have the highest return, something not possible until now.

Spotlight also addresses comorbidity, the all-too-common occurrence of simultaneous mental and physical health issues. In fact, 29% of adults with a physical health issue have at least one mental health issue. When underlying mental health conditions are addressed, it’s easier to reduce the severity and duration of physical health conditions.

 

About Espyr

To learn more about Realyze, Spotlight or just to talk about how Espyr can help you improve the mental health of your organization, call 888-570-3479 or click here.

Employee health can be at-risk when servers have to put on a happy face with an irate customer.

Service With A Smile? I Think I’ll Need A Drink With That.

The customer is always right. Service with a smile. Those lines, or something similar, are a staple in employee training for many businesses. Turns out that putting on that smiling face might be detrimental to employee health.

A new study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology and reported on in MarketWatch, states that all that feigned cheerfulness could be linked to heavy drinking by employees after work.

Employee health can be at-risk when servers have to put on a happy face with an irate customer.

“Surface acting” creates stress

The researchers studied customer service representatives, restaurant servers, teachers and nurses.  All workers who interacted with outsiders on a daily basis. They found that employees who engaged in “surface acting” – faking positive emotions and suppressing negative ones – were also more likely to report engaging in heavy drinking according to lead study author Alicia Grandey, a psychology professor at Penn State University.

More specifically, people who frequently wore an emotional mask at work were also more likely to report frequent and heavy drinking directly after work.  That observation applied particularly to  “impulsive personality types, who were in jobs with customer and public-level interactions” like sales clerk, barista or bus driver, Grandey said.

Turns out “just put on a happy face” can be exhausting and stressful.  For workers who need to employ a lot of self-control at work, there may not be much left after work

“The argument is that drinking is an impulsive behavior.  It’s something we might do because it feels good in the moment, but we pay for it later,” Grandey said. “If we’ve been practicing that self-control over our emotional state all day, when we get home, we can let go. And one way we might let go is by drinking.”

‘If we’ve been practicing that self-control over our emotional state all day, when we get home, we can let go. And one way we might let go is by drinking.’

Alicia Grandey, a psychology professor at Penn State University

Employees’ level of personal and professional control appeared to play a role, Grandey said. People who worked in jobs that offered autonomy and who had sufficient levels of personal self-control were less inclined to be heavy drinkers.

The effect of surface acting was also less of an issue for employees whose jobs involved ongoing relationships with groups like students or patients, rather than frequent and unfamiliar one-time encounters with the general public. These workers may have more motivation to stay in self-control, Grandey suggested — after all, a hangover could have severe consequences for interactions with children or patients. Their jobs may also feel more rewarding, she added, with greater social status, typically better pay, and perhaps more of a reason to slap on a smile at work.

How can employers help?

Beyond personal concern for their employees’ health, employers have good business reasons to assist employees who have drinking problems. Employee alcohol abuse is linked to outcomes like absenteeism and increased health-care costs. Excessive alcohol consumption accounted for nearly 10% of all deaths among working-age adults in the U.S. from 2006 to 2010, according to one peer-reviewed 2014 study.

Surface acting is stressful because it creates a mismatch between outward appearance and inner feelings, which leads to “emotional dissonance,” according to Grandey. Grandey suggests an alternative she calls “deep acting” where employees work on “inner feelings to appear authentic to customers.” Putting themselves in the customer’s shoes is less stressful because internal feelings match outward appearance.

An added benefit, Grandey found that restaurant servers who employed deep acting “exceeded customers’ expectations” and received more tips.

Managers, meanwhile, can offer employees opportunities for breaks so that they can interact more effectively with customers. Companies can also invest in training their workers on strategies like deep acting, according to Grandey.

Employees can also mitigate the risk by making it harder to act on the impulse, Grandey added. For example, avoiding the route home that passes by multiple bars.  Or not leaving work with the friend you know loves happy hour.  Make alcohol less available in your home.

“Problems occur when companies don’t recognize the demands that they’re putting on employees by controlling their emotional expressions” Grandey said. “The requirement of ‘service with a smile’ removes autonomy and takes away the person’s self-control over their own emotions.”

About Espyr

As a leader in behavioral health, Espyr offers innovative products designed to proactively identify at-risk individuals and provide personalized behavioral health solutions from our national network of licensed behavioral health experts.

For more information on how we can help your company call 888-570-3479 or click here.