Bonnie Terry points out that those who spend their lives helping others sometimes don’t spend enough time looking out for themselves.
For health plan members in the Montgomery County ESC, that’s where the EmployeeCare Program comes in. This health care benefit is available to help employees better cope with life’s curveballs and stressors.
“MCESC employees work really hard to serve children, parents, teachers, administrators, schools, districts and the community at large,” says Terry, director of employee relations in the ESC’s Human Resources Department and a member of the Wellness Committee. “This is because of the nature of our business. We serve so that students can be successful.
“This may sound cliche, but those who serve others often don’t take very good care of themselves. This could mean at home, at work or both.”
Anxiety is something we all experience to some degree, and it can have a profound effect on ESC employees and their ability to perform at a high level, Terry says. While mild levels of stress at work and resulting from work are common and can help one stay focused and driven, excessive stress can negatively impact health and wellness.
“If one is anxious in our work environment, we have some serious issues because our educational community depends on our staff to be able to deal with and handle what others can’t,” Terry explains.
EmployeeCare is a comprehensive short-term counseling service fully covered by the employee benefits plan. It can help employees manage challenges at work or in their personal lives, that may affect their job performance.
The program is intended to help employees sort out feelings and better resolve conflicts. This can include anxiety, depression, financial concerns, substance abuse, stress management and relationship problems.
“We are talking about everyday issues that may have come to a climax because of other personal issues, making what might seem minute to some, grandiose to the employee,” Terry says.
EmployeeCare provides a 24-hour crisis hotline, assessment and referral, as well as on-site services. The ESC works hard to encourage use of EmployeeCare for issues such as workplace stress, Terry emphasizes.
“We share this information with our employees upon hire, during the new hire orientation, through newsletters, and by email throughout the year,” she says. “If there is an employee that we know of who is struggling, we offer the EAP services if applicable.”
The program is strictly confidential.
“They need not concern themselves as to whether we know their personal issues.,” Terry says. “We don’t. The services can be used for the employee and up to 12 persons in their household.”
Terry encourages ESC team members who have anxiety or other issues to take advantage of the resource. The program offers licensed counselors, certified employee assistance professionals, substance abuse professionals and licensed independent chemical dependency counselors who can provide counseling, referral and follow-up professional care.
“They can be trusted,” she says.
Workplace stress reduction tips:
• Experiment with blocking off certain hours daily to tackle your priorities. Put new, incoming requests and emails on the back burner, if possible.
• Commit to hours you will be “offline.” Many of us feel the need to be reachable 24 hours per day, but this is not sustainable.
• Compartmentalize. Separate your tasks or the various aspects of a project. If something is daunting and has you paralyzed or overwhelmed, try breaking it into smaller pieces.
• Delegate when you can and free yourself of the burden of trying to control everything.