How can employers see signs of an issue they may not understand? Guest blogger Constance Bates outlines symptoms in order for employees to get the help they need.


By Constance Bates

Your excitement is palpable! The best talent is hired to advance your organization's strategic plan. Are you prepared to support your newest team member as they venture into their new endeavor? Are you sure? Does your company offer programming when an employee's personal life problems threaten their work productivity? If not, you may want to explore the idea.

Employees are a reflection of society and therefore susceptible to personal problems that potentially threaten workplace productivity.

Nearly 50 percent of employees admit job performance suffers with the onset of a personal crisis, according to Besinger, Dupont & Associates.

Anticipated responses to personal problems

Embarrassment, guilt and shame are typical feelings employees experience during crisis. Ambivalence toward adequate problem-solving usually results in an employee's personal problem spiraling completely out of control, despite his or her best effort for damage control.

A recent Columbus CEO guest blog by Kathleen Jones, Stress, the adrenal glands and the executive, describes the stress hormone, cortisol, and educates on a host of health issues it can cause. Impaired judgment and clouded thinking are just two examples of the effects of stress.

Red flag signs of distressed employees

Distressed employees often unintentionally exhibit signs of trouble. Decline in job performance, increase in tardiness, strained communication, inattentiveness, sleep at one's work station and neglected personal hygiene are strong indicators of personal difficulties.

The occurrence of two or three of these warning signs, occurring for at least two consecutive weeks, can be an indicator of personal life disturbances. But what are those personal life disturbances that are so common and yet so unspoken of?

Five most common employee distractions + statistics

1. Divorce

At any given time, 16-25 percent of employees in the workplace are dealing with divorce, an emotionally exhausting ordeal. The US Census Bureau and National Center for Health Statistics details the divorce rate ranges from 33-55 percent of the population (about 50 percent of these individuals are employed).

2. Domestic violence

A reported 24 percent of women between the ages of 18-65 experience domestic violence and are likely to be absent from work, according to The Centers for Disease Control Violence Prevention 2005 Report, Workplace and Domestic Violence.

3. Mental health

Mental health diagnosis plagues 18 percent of employees, with depression cited as the number one issue, followed by bipolar disorder and anxiety. If the employee is not specifically dealing with his or her own mental health struggles, the employee is likely struggling with a diagnosis of a family member, spouse or child.

The most prevalent workplace impact of mental health problems is a loss of productivity, according to Harvard Health Publications of Harvard Medical School, Harvard Mental Health Letter, Feb. 2010.

Mental health and domestic violence are viewed as unspoken stressors, complicated by the stigma of public perceptions. However, they often involve larger consequences due their complexities that further exacerbate the circumstances.

4. Caregiving

An often overlooked personal stressor that affects 17 percent of employees is elder care responsibilities, which can increase workplace absences and lack of focus, as outlined in AARP Public Policy Institute's Understanding the Impact of Family Caregiving on Work 2011 Statistics.

5. Overwhelming financial stress

A loss of job focus plagues 16 percent of employees who are consumed with money worries, according to a Kiplinger Magazine's article, The Toll of Financial Stress in the Workplace.

Program implications

The modern day workplace with widespread global outreach dictates a proactive, preventive approach to address employees in personal distress prior to negative impact on work productivity. Traditional referral programs that are reactive are no longer sufficient. Consultation with an expert in the problem areas discussed, to establish relevant service initiatives, is necessary before a big bite is chewed out of employers' bottom-line and employees' suffering increases.

Constance Bates is the owner of Take 5 Concierge, a workplace concierge service specializing in enhancing employee work-life balance through programs, coaching and seminars. Her enriching years as a private practice therapist and coach allows for an infusion of first-hand knowledge to facilitate winning strategies for employees to achieve a healthy family life and productive work focus. Learn more at: take5concierge.com or by contacting her at (513) 545-4479 or constance@take5concierge.com.