button Vol. 7
No. 1
Summer 2002


Cell Phone Liability
E-mail Usage Update
line Guard & Reserve Leave
line Useful Internet Terms
line Health Insurance Crisis
line Briefs

Braun Consulting News
News on Personnel, Labor Relations and Benefits

See our Archive Pages for Back Issues of Braun Consulting News!

button Briefs.

  • Lessons from September 11.                               (link)
  • On-line Employee Turnover COST Calculator.   (link)
  • Depression in the Workplace.                              (link)
  • Death of an Employee.                                          (link)

button Lessons from September 11.

Some analysts have said that the terrorist attacks of September 11 have had little lasting impact on the workplaces of companies that were not directly affected.

Even if this IS true, there are lessons to be learned for HR professionals and employers because of this horrific event. The attacks reminded employers of the importance of taking care of certain basic HR functions, as well as being prepared for workplace emergencies.

Here are some of the issues that gained a new relevance after the terror attacks of September 11th, 2001:

Crisis planning: It is now recommended that human resources departments should review and update their crisis and evacuation plans, and establish plans to provide employees with food and shelter for up to 72 hours in the event of a disaster that prevents them from leaving the premises.

Succession planning: The importance of succession planning and the need to have already identified leaders who can step into key roles on short notice was underscored in a frightful way on September 11th. It has became vividly clear that a company cannot afford to have small numbers of people with skill sets that are not shared by other employees.

Employee safety and security: There is a general duty clause in OSHA that says that employers must provide a workplace that is free of recognized hazards that could cause harm to employees. Since September 11th this has taken on a whole new meaning. In many job sites this may require some heightened security measures. Employees are now often much more accepting of precautions that they might have considered intrusions before, including e-mail and voice-mail monitoring, the use of security badges, metal detectors, and other monitoring devices.

Employee-assistance plans: Resources available through employee-assistance programs were used heavily in the weeks after September 11. It seems that more employees are viewing EAP services with a new respect, and those services will take on a new importance and value in days to come.

Military leave: According to law, employees who are members of the military reserve must be granted leaves of absence on request. HR must inform supervisors that employees have a right to military leave. You can see our article in another section of this newsletter for more information on military leave. (link to article on reserve and guard info)

For some time we have been advising our clients and friends that violence in the workplace was an emerging issue. Well it is safe to say the issue has emerged and is something we will need to confront as we plan for our organizations future.

If you need assistance in any of these areas to make changes that are relevant to your workplace today, please contact us at Braun Consulting Group.

button On-line Employee Turnover COST Calculator.

Knowing the cost of losing and then having to replace an employee may help you determine how much you can afford to invest in keeping them. It may also help you analyze whether your investment in keeping your employees is adding to your bottom line.

There is an interesting tool on the Internet that can help you calculate the cost of employee turnover.

The University of Wisconsin-Extension, Center for Community Economic Development developed the on-line tool, which is located at http://www.uwex.edu/ces/cced/publicat/turn.html

On this form there are 5 areas to enter dollar amounts to help you calculate the cost of employee turnover:

1. Separation Costs:             5 fields to fill in.
2. Vacancy Costs:                3 fields to fill in.
3. Replacement Costs:          8 fields to fill in.
4. Training Costs:                  3 fields to fill in.
5. Performance Differential    1 field to fill in.

There is only a total of 20 fields to enter data into, and you will get an overall calculation of the total cost of employee turnover to your company with relatively little effort.

Only tangible costs are included on this worksheet. Intangible costs are just as real but are difficult, if not impossible, for most businesses to measure. Completing this worksheet will provide only a portion of the total cost of employee turnover.

One final point, in some industries high turnover is inevitable. If this is your situation think like the military where 40 to 60 percent of new recruits are gone in 5 years. Spend your money on good, fast, effective training and then accept the fact that turnover happens.

This on-line tool may help to put this issue into perspective in a more tangible way. Take a look, and see what you think.

button Depression in the Workplace.

Depression in the US population affects about 19 million people. Of the 19 million Americans diagnosed with depression, about 70% are in the work force. Depression is evenly distributed amongst all age groups and can strike at almost any age. Women are affected about twice as frequently as men are.

According to various reports, between 5-10% of the US labor force suffers from depression, and this comes at a high cost to both the victims of depression and their employers.

* The Impact of Depression on the Workplace.

Direct Costs: In the US the treatment depression in the workplace amounts to about $11 billion annually. These costs are most often in payments to health care professionals and the costs of medications etc.

Indirect Costs: The indirect costs of depression are probably much higher than the direct costs. They are also harder to quantify and qualify.

The indirect costs have been estimated at $12 billion from absenteeism and $11 billion from decreased productivity while on the job.

Depression affects a persons desire to do their daily activities, such as sleeping, eating... and working. Because of this there are usually high rates of disability claims and absenteeism among depressed employees.

Up to two-thirds of depressed people do not seek treatment for their condition, and this means that many workers are functioning at far less than their optimal levels because of an undiagnosed condition of depression.

* Recognizing Depression in the Workplace.

Employers can use the same observations as those made by health care professionals in trying to determine if an employee may be depressed.

To blindly attribute absenteeism or reduction in performance to depression is unrealistic and unnecessary. However, depression often affects a person's ability to take pleasure from life and can lead to feelings of sadness or emptiness. This can lead to a crippling effect of the desire to work, play, eat and sleep.

Potential "red flags" for depression should include a noticeable overall decline in a persons behavior or performance, such as:

  • Marked change in sleep patterns
    (either sleeping too much or too little)
  • Marked change in appetite
    (either increased or decreased)
  • Loss of interest in usual activities, including TV, reading, sports
  • Withdrawal or shrinking from interaction
  • Low energy
  • Poor concentration
  • Thoughts of suicide

Many employees are wary to accept their diagnosis of depression, since they see it as some sort of a character flaw. Depression, like diabetes, is believed to be a chemical imbalance in a person's body that requires treatment. Acceptance of the their condition by the those in the workplace will result in improved treatment and functioning at work.

Once officially notified of an employee's diagnosis of depression, acceptance and encouragement of the employee is essential - not to mention a possible ADA and/or FMLA issue for the employer.

* Summary of Depression in the Workplace.

1. Depression is a medical illness that affects 5-10% of the labor force. Two-thirds of these depressed workers go undiagnosed and untreated.

2. Depression is a valid medical condition with a strict diagnosis. Employees with depression must be supported through acceptance of their diagnosis. Therapy may involve psychotherapy and/or medications.

3. Because of its adverse effects on productivity, depression has been estimated to cost US employers over $20 million annually.

4. Many public health programs and associations can help support those with a diagnosis of depression, including the workplace of the employee.

5. Don't play Doctor or Therapist. The employer should not get into any detail of an employee's condition except as their conduct affects the work of that employee or those they work with. If you have an EAP use it. If you don't, suggest to the employee that their performance issues may have a medical relationship, and as one of the things they may want to consider might be a general checkup with their Doctor.

button Death of an Employee.

The death of an employee can have a dramatic impact on the workplace.

Here are some points to remember in appropriately
handling this emotional issue.

  • The first important step is to notify co-workers and staff. This should be done as promptly as possible. Moving quickly to accurately inform the staff will help to avoid speculation and rumors. How people are informed depends on the company, its size and culture. We all deal with grief differently, and sensitivity is key under these circumstances.

    In some cases a follow up memo to employees may be appropriate. The more practical considerations about when and where memorial services will be held, if employees will be allowed to take time from work to attend the services, etc. can be handled tactfully in this manner.

  • The death of ANY employee, regardless of rank or status in the organization, should be treated in exactly the same way. The equality we afford members of our organization while at work applies as well to the loss of one of those members - an Equality of Respect. Surviving employees will be acutely aware of any distinction that management or HR might make in how they treat the death of different categories of employees. All deaths should be treated the same.

  • Employers, HR, and management 's sensitivity to employees needs are important steps in the ability of an organization to recover and move forward. Emotions can run high, and employees and co-workers will watch any actions or procedures taken (or not taken) by management. They will judge the organization accordingly.

    In the workplace, the death of an employee or colleague can be especially traumatic. There are often feelings of grief and loss, and sometimes on a personal level even guilt. Employees may review their relationship with the deceased through the prism of what they "should have done", or how they "should have" treated the co-worker etc. There may be close emotional ties with some, and the whole interpersonal dynamic of the workplace may be reviewed or considered by others - triggered by the shock of the death of a co-worker. Management and HR should be sensitive to these issues.

  • Providing "permission" for people to grieve through formal, as well as informal, means can help this process of loss and recovery. This acknowledgment of grieving is a tangible and visible way of showing that "this person mattered to us." A short meeting to discuss the passing of a fellow employee can allow employees an opportunity to express their feelings and share their grief.

    An organized "coffee" in a lunch room for just a short period can do wonders for the release of emotion and a reinforcement that the employer cares about the employees.

  • While letting employees know that the company is concerned about them, management should also be aware of that there is a line that should not be crossed. Business is not "family", and that boundary needs to be respected. Language like 'we're all family' or 'we all love each other' etc. may be inappropriate, whereas statements like, 'he was a valuable employee,' or 'she contributed a great deal to us' will maintain a more proper perspective.

While the grieving process is different for each individual and the length of time it takes to deal with the death of a coworker may vary, there will come a time when the practical considerations must come to the forefront. There are issues to deal with such as redistribution of work, pay-out of insurance benefits, etc., and eventually how the workplace can "get back to work" to move on with getting the job done.

For HR professionals and managers, the best response to a death in the workplace is recognizing and acknowledging the very "human" nature of an employee's passing. This means allowing employees to take the time they need to grieve, and being sensitive to the dynamics that the loss of a co-worker will have in the workplace. It may reflect on your organization for a long time to come.

If you ever face this situation, or need help in preparing a plan for the loss of an employee, you can contact us at Braun Consulting Group. We can provide you with what you need to make it through those trying times. Contact us here.

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