Thursday, December 3, 2015

Should We Stop Recommending Client's See a Doctor Before Starting an Exercise Program?

There is no need to tell employees to see their doctor before starting an exercise program. Research appears to show it is a harmful idea and contributes to fewer people exercising and thereby contributes to morbidity. In other words, the recommendation is a roadblock that health professionals and EAPs often mention in articles and presentations -- one medical society recommends stopping this practice. One issue they do not discuss is the litigiousness of society problem, and the desire to sue others, which I suspect is really what motivates health professionals to recommend that a client or patient or employee see their doctor before starting an exercise program. (i.e. "You told me to exercise and I had a heart attack. I blame you.") Here's a link to the study.

Monday, November 2, 2015

View a Sample of a Web Course with Explanation of Benefits and Features

Imagine giving us any PowerPoint presentation or any sort of presentation, and letting us turn it into an Online Training Program-- a Web course.  How much leverage would this give your program. What advantages. What monetary payoff? See an example of such a program below.

Online training can leverage almost every skill and ability you possess and it can lead to increased utilization, better outreach, reduced risk, better competition, more opportunity, and endless ideas for improving the value proposition of your services.

Click the Web Course Image below IF:

  • You need enhanced program/services or EAP utilization
  • You need to add value to your EAP or workplace consulting practice
  • You need to reduce costs associated with third party subscription content
  • You want the prestige of "your own stuff" on your Web site.
  • You need to improve your image with your logo on the content, not a 3rd party provider.
  • You need to reach more family members to educate them and improve access to your services
  • You need to stop the subscription fees, per user fees, licensing fees, restrictions, and rules on rented third-party content for your Web site
  • You need to stop worrying about what else you can do to add value to your services
  • You need to compete more successfully with other providers/vendors
  • You need to make more money from your program’s services, find new revenue channels, or be able to charge for more features added to your core services
  • You keep asking staff for new ideas about program improvements, but only getting blank stares.
See the Sample Web Course and link to the order form which gives you price information starting about $17 a slide -- you send your PowerPoint and we return a Web Course in three formats.
Here’s what you’ll get back below, but fill out the form to get a complete estimate.
Typically, your course can include:
  • Professional narration,
  • Animated and voice syncing of the program
  • A link to your handouts, policies
  • Special links within the program to anywhere you want viewers to go on your Website or on the Internet
  • At the end of the course, learners are forwarded to anywhere you would like them to go next.
  • Test questions of any kind—T/F, multiple choice, matching, fill in the blank, and more;
  • Your logo on your content
  • No mention of our name, our logo, or the origin of the online training program
  • Your copyright on your content
  • 100% ownership of the final product
  • Web course files that easily load to your server (restricted so learners can’t jump ahead)
  • A second form of the same course with unrestricted movement (for your use),
  • CD of the course that runs on any laptop for live stand-up presentations
  • A Web Video(movie) of your course.
If you don't have a PowerPoint topic to turn into a web course right tome about doing the same for your easel notes, sheets of paper, video of any presentation, or scratches on a napkin!
Daniel Feerst, MSW, LISW-CP
1-800-626-4327    Updated Catalog


Friday, October 23, 2015

EAP Utilization Hack #124: Create At-Risk Interview Schedules for Clients By Job Type

Don't hate me for this, but, I do not have a collected list of 124 EAP Utilization Hacks exactly, but someday I would like to go to an EAPA conference and make such a presentation. I admit, the #124 was to catch your attention, but if you read this blog regularly, you may have counted that many suggestions along the way combined with my 20 years of emailing EAPs to a list over 8,200 EAP, HR, and other workforce management professionals. Nevertheless consider the following idea.

When an employee comes to your EAP assessment interview via self- or supervisor referral, be knowledgeable about the risks that employee faces in their job. I am not just talking about stress. You will need to research individual professionals. Try the dictionary of occupational titles. Google "job risk and problems ___________. Take librarians for example. Sounds like a quiet job. Hmm. You will discover that  that they are accosted frequently by strangers and the homeless, threatened, and harassed. See what I'm saying? But they may not talk about these things. So, create mental list of specific questions to help screen these employees when they visit your office for routine personal problems to help identify any emerging problems, health crises, or ticking time bombs in their lives. By the way, sell this ability to organizations if you are an EAP vendor....and link it to cost-benefit, recovery from loss, and reduced exposure. And if you have a free time, consider how to link up with property casualty insurers...however.. I digress.

Police, truck drivers, nurses, Latino workers, firefighters, spouses of emergency responders are only a few, but there are many more professions. For example, truck drivers: 
Long-haul truck driving is one of the deadliest professions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Truck drivers are involved in an estimated 250,000 crashes each year, with 1 to 2 percent resulting in fatalities. If you are a truck driver, new research points to how they can reduce risk for a crash. The study sought to identify health and occupational factors that may contribute to crash risk. These include: 1) frequent fatigue after work; 2) using cell phones while driving; 3) having elevated blood pressure. The researchers surveyed 797 truckers who underwent a basic physical exam. Two indicators of poor health management – high blood pressure and fatigue – were highly associated with crash risk. High pulse pressure exacerbated by stress, long hours, heavy lifting, and lack of sleep, and exercise are suspected in contributing to these conditions. Now...complete my post and consider, what questions might you ask such an employee who comes to your office complaining of financial problems? A skilled interviewer could find out much more and do much more than refer such an employee to the local Community Credit Counseling Center. [search “truck drivers fatigue”]

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Should EAPs Give a Hootily about Customer Service?

If you have been reading this EAP blog for a number of years, then you know I like to discuss how to apply EAP skills, knowledge, advantage, the attractive element of legal confidentiality, leverage, relationship building, risk identification opportunity, and organizational access to reach into organizations and spot new and emerging problems and opportunities that will save more lives and deliver more black ink to the bottom line. This is how you get management tostand up and notice how the EAP core technology works. (Especially since their CFO and managed care have sold them a bill of goods that are not true EAP.) Indeed, an 800# service as a substitute for a comprehensive workplace focused program is really a farce when you consider all that EAPs do and can do. For example, take customer service training. Of course EAPs were never designed to train employees in how to deliver customer service. But let me ask you this: Is it appropriate for EAPs to deliver seminars on stress management? What about relationship effectiveness in general? Would you say that helping employees to improve engagement, attitudes, optimism, and manage conflict better are worthwhile and appropriate for the EAP role? Of course you would. So, what do you think customer service is all about? I think you are getting my point. EAPs can REACH into risk. And these sorts of services, training in this case smartly delivered, can elevate your program and give it a permanent spot at the strategic table in the employer's boardroom. After all you have a perspective that no one else can give.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

EAPs: Helping Job-stressed Employees at Risk for Stroke

People with high stress jobs have a 22 percent higher risk of stroke than those with low stress jobs. That’s what an examination of six studies concluded after following 138,782 people for 17 years. That is a big number. And that increases credibility in my view. What’s high stress? Answer: Time pressure, mental load, and coordination burdens. That's what the study focused on. Researchers to see physical labor as producing the same degree of mental stress. EAP Impact: Create services and programs which 1) give people more control over their work. Become a “control over your work expert” in your organization to reduce health problems and health risk by doing so. These at-risk jobs include nursing aides, waitresses, service industry positions among others. Anywhere people are faced with unpredictable demands and very little ability to have any control over when, how much, and the details of how they going to do that work create inordinate stress. Who in your organization matches this sort of occupational profile? There's the value added proposition. My suggestion is to forget the brown-bag seminar approach. Make it more programmatic than that. For example, invite employees into the EAP as self-referrals to discuss their job stress and discover how more control can be instituted. The answers you find may save a life.  Test your assumptions, ideas, and strategies. That is what these medical researchers are concluding. EAPs are in the most strategic place to make this difference.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Communication is the #1 problem in all workplaces. Managers continually criticize employees for poor written and verbal communication. Are you one of them? Don't be. Improve written and verbal communication skills with these five courses from - and get CEUs, PDUs, and credit toward you HR certification, EAP certification, and more.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

2015 Impact of Marijuana on Colorado Report

I for one am impressed, mostly because they used facts and more facts to assemble this 11 part report (the third one) showing what's happening to the state of Colorado since the legalization of marijuana. The report does not paint a pretty picture. It's getting pretty nuts out there.

Did you know that the interdiction of pot being shipped in the U.S. mail from Colorado to other states is up like 5000%? Did you know that suspensions, pot smoking at lunch hour, kids smelling of Pot, expulsions, hospital admissions, driving while stoned, and crime associated with minors using pot is absolutely through the freaking roof? Check it out for yourself. I don't know if you are FOR or AGAINST legalization of marijuana, but this report is pretty compelling. THC content is also rising (well of course it is--when you combine market forces with legal pot, what else is there to compete for except higher THC?). THC content average between 17-18% in Colorado pot. It was 3.4% ten years ago.

Download the report here (hang in is about 185 pages..let it load, then click save as):

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Create a Welcoming Workplace (Tip Sheet Download)

After reading, download the free reproducible workplace wellness tip sheet
at this link:

(Summary) To educate employees help them understand the following:

1) Understand how cultural differences impact work behavior. People from different cultures may respond differently to everyday work situations.

2) That it is okay to ask questions. Some cultural differences can be hard to understand. For instance, employees from certain Asian cultures find it difficult to openly disagree with a superior. Never hesitate to ask your colleague what is the best way to communicate with them without violating their cultural norms

3) Check your biases. Creating a welcoming workplace includes a good dose of self-awareness. Turn off your autopilot response to stereotypes and "impressions."

4) Communicate effectively. Ensure that your colleagues clearly understand the expectations you have of them. Some may not ask after providing them with information or instructions.

5) Focus on individual strengths, not ethnicity. Assess the strengths, weaknesses, and preferences of each individual on your team; use this knowledge when assigning tasks and divide work according special abilities and talents.

6) ) Become a mentor. Mentor your new colleague to help them feel comfortable with the change, and help them understand the politics and interrelationships.

7) ) Stand up to discrimination. All of us lose when discrimination reigns. Be a change agent and recognize it when it appears. Don’t stay silent--be a proactive change agent for a welcoming workplace.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Using Firm Choice and Last Chance Agreements Revisited

Firm choice agreements are often used with substance-abusing employees. They employ the leverage of disciplinary action held in abeyance only if there is an immediate decision by the employee to accept a exclusive source of help for a personal problem (usually substance abuse that has been documented or is overtly existent in the form of "documentable" performance issues.)

Firm choice agreements are a last chance, true, but they are not "last chance agreements." Last chance agreements do not employ immediate leverage of disciplinary action, but a postponement of it...certain and assured disciplinary action...until the very next infraction occurs. This is a recipe for disaster with addicts.

Why? Because addicts always, always, always believe that if the urgency to do so is great enough, that they can control their use alcohol to avoid problems with it. All they need is threat as a motivator. Unfortunately, the rules of the disease trump this insanity.

Firm choice agreements are the way to go with substance-abusing employees. They can work well damn well, but there are a variety of reasons they can easily fail, the most important of which is lack of EAP involvement and close monitoring by pros to help the newly recovering addict avoid relapse by staying involved in ongoing treatment and a recovery program.

Another reason firm choice agreements often fail is lack of immediacy. The employee is offered the option of being referred for help along with one last chance in terms of job performance. If he or she declines help, nothing happens except to wait for the next infraction.

Any employee with a substance abuse problem will try again to control his or her substance use without treatment, and relapse under these circumstances is virtually assured. Dismissal and loss of human capital is the outcome. This is a big "ouch" for all concerned. EAPs must understand how to consult on firm choice agreements so HR sets them up properly. It is a fantastic demonstration of EAP cost benefit that continually is ignored in the EAP literature.

The formula: Firm choice agreements require (1) immediate agreement to (2) attend an assessment, (3) accept referral, (4) enter treatment, and (5) follow through with recommendations (6) monitored by a professional with whom (7) a release is signed and kept active.

All of this is voluntary and completely up to the employee, but the leverage is so powerful that, in my experience, almost all troubled employees (with the exception of those who are past retirement age--they have a paycheck waiting if they quit) agree to it.

The bottom line is that no agreement means immediate dismissal for cause and documented performance issues (not for addiction, alcoholism, or failure to accept help).

Here's the crux: Only the employee's acceptance of the accommodation--and it is a magnificent accommodation--being offered can save the job at this moment in time. It is either a) the assessment and follow-through or b) "bye--pick up your check from on the way out."

This approach saves lives and effectively intervenes in the dynamic of addictive behavior, denial, procrastination, and manipulation common to employees with substance abuse problems. If dismissal results, it is always based on performance problems, attendance issues, or conduct, not on failure enter an assessment. This is a key point. And the organization must be at "wit's end" with the employee. If the employer is not willing to lose the worker, this approach will FAIL. It is a "he who cares least wins" model of intervention.

The opportunity to accept an assessment in lieu of termination is an accommodation for addictive illness, but it is up to the employee, not the company, to say that it is needed. No employee, unless a financial incentive awaits somewhere else--real or imagined--will decline the offer. And no employee's level of denial is so engrained that they will not be moved to accept the offer.

The employer officially doesn't care--either choice is fine. He who cares least wins in this intervention model, because it is the attitude of "detachment" that is the key dynamic driving successful intervention. There is no "next time" factor in firm choice agreements. Next time is already here.

It has been my observation that companies usually have more interest in constructing firm choice agreements with highly valued or long-term employees, but EAP involvement is essential to their success nevertheless.

This classic intervention technique was first fleshed out as a process by the U.S. federal government using guidance issued via its FPM Letters back in the 1970s, shortly after the occupational alcoholism movement began. (NIAAA was formed in 1972 at about the same time this movement took off.)

Unfortunately, the science of how to arrange firm choice agreements has gotten lost and it has become murky as the real pros of yesteryear have faded away. Part of the problem is the loss of EAP professionals inside large business with experience in consulting on these arrangements. The other is the impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

After passage of the ADA, alcoholics lost coverage and protection afforded to them by Section 504 of the national Rehabilitation Act governing handicapped persons. Surprised? It's true. They are worse off because of the ADA. Not better off. The ADA dealt with discrimination and stigma, not job security for affected addicts out of control with their disease. This made mandatory interventions (once required by OPM) obsolete, and indeed discriminatory to use with one group of people but not another. It is my argument that the ADA may killed more alcoholics than it saved, but got more employed.

Here is the long and short of this post: You'll save a ton of bucks on turnover, training, workers' comp, and EPL risk if you use firm choice agreements properly.

Remember, firm choice agreements that omit professional monitoring will fail almost every time they're tried. They always end up with the famous phrase, "Oh my, such a shame... he was doing so well, but we had to fire him...he relapsed!"

Of course he (she) did!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

EAPs Can Do More to Protect Workers and Employers Against OSHA Fines Related to Workplace Violence

When you promote your EAP (...and hopefully you are using a monthly newsletter like Frontline Employee EAP Newsletter to do it) be sure to encourage employees who are victims of workplace violence to come to the EAP for support and appropriate assessment. Remind them you are available, and here is why: You can help them deal with the traumatic stress of such incidents. And you can play an intervention role in reducing the likelihood that an employee will quit, take mental health days, or suffer the effects of acute stress in the days or weeks ahead. These reasons are obvious to good core technologists.. but of course the practical reason is to also increase your EAP utilization so you stick around. If you think a managed care 800# will do this sort of thing after you're dumped for low utilization, guess again. So increasing EAP utilization and finding awesome ways to do it that benefit everyone is always a good idea.

Now, let's give you another reason. That is helping the employer not be fined by OSHA for failure to take due care in helping to prevent workplace violence.

Oh yes, when employees get bitten, punched, stabbed, or killed...these incidents must be reported to OSHA. OSHA, then decides to fine the hell out of the employer (or not) based upon whether it discovers a lack of controls, meaning proper safeguards, training, and prevention mechanisms to prevent workplace violence. It's no different than Asbestos.

The EAP can be a canary in a coal mine for the employer and learn about risks directly from injured employees and others, and whether a larger problem of risk to the employer exists that OSHA might possibly discover. In other words, the EAP can help prevent future workplace violence incidents and do the right thing to save the employer's bacon.

Now, EAPs can't tell management how high to jump. But they can create what you have heard me describe in the past as a "Annual Risk Mapping Report". This concept entails a series of recommendations to the employer that gently, and with their invitation please--never send unsolicited--explain what the EAP has discovered in the way of important, addressable risk issues that may prevent loss in the future. No confidential information is divulged, of course. These environmental observations gathered in the course of EAP work.

These risks could be, say, perceived tension between race demographics (black and white employees), untrained supervisors ignorant of employment practices liability and improper behavior, that with education, could reduce risk of an EPL lawsuit to the organization. And, of course, communication about exposures to violence from lack of training and protective measures. Any organization should welcome such a report from the EAP, and when in writing, it becomes important stuff. The report should be written collaboratively so is not an indictment of issues management has ignored. You finesse this sort of thing, but it powerful stuff to advance your program's mission and effectiveness.

For example, here is a press release from OSHA: It describes a company fined by OSHA for employees being harmed because of Workplace Violence, one that did  not have proper safeguards in place.

An active and engaged EAP could have increased the likelihood of a program of intervention being established long before this intervention by OSHA. And the EAP could have saved employees from further injury or harm years (perhaps even death, although that is not an issue in this report) before this employer was fined.

This is how EAPs prove financial cost-benefit and worth. You do not need a research firm in Switzerland being paid $100,000 to do EAP research on cost benefit to quickly the return on an EAP investment with scenarios like this one.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Marijuana is a Gateway Drug, No Matter What Gate

Well this is hilarious research: - Researcher showed that marijuana (well this research anyway) isn't a gateway drug despite the fact that researchers admit that most people use other drugs used marijuana first. That's a fact they admit it. But you got it all wrong if you are thinking 'gateway." Huh? Yes, it's true. The chemicals in marijuana do not cause teens to go on and use other drugs in the future. (Like whoever said they did!?) The researchers instead are saying that teens use marijuana for different reasons, (and peer pressure is not one.) These reasons are boredom or seeking insight and truth and inner understanding. Those who are bored may then go on to use Cocaine! Those who seek insight and self-understanding will go on to use magic mushrooms! (They failed to say what happens if a teen is both bored and seeking insight.) So, shame on you for thinking marijuana is a gateway drug. You are just plain wrong. It's the reasons that kids use marijuana are the real gateway. So, the next time you learn of a teenager smoking pot, don't worry about it. Just find out if they are bored or looking for insight. Then worry. Otherwise back off because there is no gateway thing going on. (This is my tongue in cheek reaction to this study that SOUGHT to show us all that marijuana is not a gateway drug.) Of course it is!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Workplace Violence Prevention: It's More Teaching Signs, Symptoms, and Head for the Exit!

Conducting a violence in the workplace training program in your company is more than offering a presentation on the signs and symptoms of an employee who might go postal.

Workplace violence may have many antecedents, and signs and symptoms, although important, are really too little, too late to stand alone as a prevention strategy. While training employees hide in place or escape through the nearest exit is certainly worthwhile, and could save a life, there is a lot more to preventing workplace violence prevention if you really want to reduce risk of death in your workplace.

To put on an effective and comprehensive workplace violence prevention program, consider the following topics, and if you would like to see videos for each of these topic as part of the larger more meaningful strategy, visit this free preview library at

- Violence in the Workplace Prevention General Discussion
- Mastering the Respectful Workplace
- Avoiding Workplace Harassment
- Facing Bullying at Work--What to Do.
- Improving Day to Day Workplace Communication
- Employee Conflict Resolution: Simple Steps and Strategies
- Improving Your Assertiveness Skills
- Supervisor Assertiveness Training
- Effective Performance Evaluation of Employees that Improve Relationship with Supervisors
- How to Respond to a Disappointing Performance Review
- Valuing Diversity at Work
- Anger Management: Tips for Employees
- EAP Orientation: The EAP Can Help (for employees under stress and frustrated)
- Manager's Role in Promoting a Respectful Workplace
- Supervisor's Role in Helping to Prevent Workplace Violence
- Supervisor Training: Using the EAP in Supervision to Manage Difficult Employees

Can you see how these topics all contribute to reducing risk of workplace violence? To see any of them as videos, go to's all videos preview page.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Salvia: Tell Employees and Parents About It

Salvia (Salvia divinorum) is a plant native to the region of Oaxaca, Mexico. You should start mentioning this drug and discussing it abuse and prevalence among young employees. It is sold on the Internet as a powerful hallucinogenic drug, but it is illegal in only 21 states. At the federal level, Salvia is completely legal and unregulated, but it is beyond a doubt a substance that should be discussed and warned about. Salvia is usually smoked and creates an “out of body experience,” making it dangerous and unpredictable, and rendering the user utterly out of control of their behavior and decisions. The user may have complete amnesia from the "trip." Salvia is sold in strengths and dosages that may be 10X, 30X, or 200X in potency. Salvia is used mostly by young people ages 12 to 25. If you are a concerned parent, supervise your children, know who their friends are, and monitor their whereabouts. Talk to older teens about the dangers of Salvia and abuse of any drug, including alcohol. Signs of Salvia use may include drug paraphernalia, Internet purchases, or small butane torches used for burning the substance in a pipe. A YouTube search will show the vivid dangers of this drug in videos that have been posted online by users, people who have had bad experiences with it, and those it thought. To preview out drug and alcohol education programs, visit multiple programs preview page.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Powdered Alcohol: Will It Be Another Concern for Parents?

Parents and employers, heads up. There is a new, potentially dangerous substance of abuse coming onto the market: prepared, flavored, crystalline ethanol in ready-to-drink packets. Add five ounces of water and, abracadabra, just like Cup-o-Soup™, a flavored cocktail equal to the alcohol content of a typical mixed drink results. It’s not magic, it’s powdered alcohol. On March 10, 2015, the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau granted Palcohol, a powdered-alcohol manufacturer—the only one in America to date—approval to sell its novel product on the U.S. market. The substance may be available as early as August 2015. Learn about this substance (at least from the manufacturers perspective at Download a tip sheet for this topic at

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Best Model for Performance-based Intervention

Here is an effective workplace intervention model to help alcoholic or drug abusing workers and it succeeds almost every time it is tried, but follow up by a knowledgeable EAP pro is key. Use a provider who understands job security leverage dynamics and the core technology of employee assistance programming. Essentially, the model for performance-based intervention places the employee in the position of making a decision to accept an EAP referral or a legitimate disciplinary action for documented ongoing job performance problems. The supervisor does not accept any postponement of this decision. (This is a major Achilles heal for those who attempt this model of intervention.) The disciplinary action is held in abeyance, but the requirement is to go to the EAP now in order for this accommodation to be made. A common myth among supervisors is that this method of constructive confrontation punishes the employee for refusing to go to the EAP. Indeed, it does not. Never take disciplinary action “for failure to go to the EAP.” Instead, take disciplinary action for ongoing job performance problems. This should always be clearly stated to the employee so there is no misinterpretation. If you can communicate this much, you are home free. Drug and Alcohol DOT Supervisor Training Instructors Guide discusses this model in detail -

Monday, February 16, 2015

Understanding Mandatory Referrals