Ask Dr. Job’s chief contributor, Sandra Pesmen, is a member of the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame and author of “DR. JOB’s Complete Career Guide.”

Winner of several journalism awards, Pesmen is a graduate of the University of Illinois Media College at Urbana, and is listed in several Who’s Who editions. She also has been Corporate Features Editor of Crain Communications Inc., founding Features Editor of Crain’s Chicago Business and a reporter/features writer for The Chicago Daily News.

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EAPs Help Employer, Employee

Some employers and employees may still wonder if Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are necessary and/or helpful in the workplace.

And answers to that question are offered in "Stressed at Work: What We Can Learn from EAP Utilization," a recently-released white paper from Bensinger, DuPont and Associates (BDA).

That study found that nearly half (47%) of all employees reported that the stress from a personal problem negatively impacts their work performance. It leads to difficulty concentrating, absenteeism and poor work quality. And the overall data revealed gender differences in the influence of stress on work performance, yet variances by age were minimal.
BDA, a leading provider of employee assistance programs, examined data from 24,000 EAP participants reporting stress induced declines in work performance. These records were analyzed to uncover the most prevalent ways stress impacts work, determine whether declines in work performance differed by gender and age, and gauge the impact of EAP intervention on work performance and stress.
"EAP services are designed to address lifestyle issues and workplace stresses, and our analysis confirmed that EAP intervention fulfill these goals, with a full 94% of employees reporting improved work performance after using their EAP," says Marie Apke, Chief Operating Officer of BDA.  "The most frequently reported indicator in job performance was 'improved productivity' with 67% of males and 64% of females reporting positive results."
Among BDA's key findings: 
* Both genders reported that difficulty concentrating is the most common way personal problems and stress disrupt work performance, with nearly half of females (49.2%) and 44.3% of males citing this impact. 

* Absenteeism is also a common result of stress. Although females reported slightly higher rates of absenteeism (17.1% vs 15.8%), males on average missed more days of work because of a personal problem during the previous three months.
* Poor work quality was the third highest symptom of stress in the workplace for both males and females, with males reporting slightly higher rates (14.4% vs 12.8%). 
* The stress of a personal problem contributes to a notable gender difference in the rates of reported disciplinary action. Males were more than twice as likely as females to receive formal disciplinary action (9.8% vs 4.4%). This gender difference was visible across all age groups, with males ages 56-65 year reporting the highest rates of disciplinary action; employees ages 26-35 reported the lowest rate of disciplinary action.
BDA's findings also suggest that while EAP intervention helps employees positively address stress and improve work performance, a one-size-fits-all approach to employee stress reduction may not be appropriate. Explains Apke, "Effective prevention and early intervention programs should provide services for both employers and employees that are tailored to the unique needs of a company's employee population and that take into account the gender and age differences in the effects of stress on work performance. Research has shown that awareness drives utilization rates, and the key to building awareness of EAP services is ongoing promotion."

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