Company offers assistance to employees and employers in midst of outbreak

Phil Castle, The Business Times

John Gribben

John Gribben makes it his business to help others. And from his perspective as owner of an employee assistance program, staff and companies will need a lot of help in facing the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic.

While employees struggle to adjust to working from home, they take on additional responsibilities caring for children. Those who don’t work at home faced increased risk of exposure to infection.

Business owner and managers have had to change operations even as they strive to engage and protect employees.

Meanwhile, the threat looms for employees and employers alike the pandemic could affect their livelihoods.

“The nature of doing work has changed radically and quickly,” said Gribben, owner and manager of the Triad Employee Assistance Program based in Grand Junction.

Triad EAP works with businesses and organizations to provide benefit programs that assist employees with personal and work-related problems. Those include everything from substance abuse and depression to financial and legal issues to resolving workplace conflicts.

The company also provides assistance to business owners, supervisors and human resource professionals, including consulting and training as well as help with crisis management.

Triad EAP works with clients in Colorado as well as New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. The company employs a staff of six, but works with about 350 independent contractors who provide counseling and coaching.

Since counselors deliver most services over the telephone, the coronavirus outbreak hasn’t changed that aspect of the operation, Gribben said. But training and other services delivered onsite have been affected.

Gribben said there’s been an increase in demand for EAP services in the midst of the outbreak — not only from employees, but also employers.

Increases in substance abuse and domestic violence have been reported as some employees feel trapped in their homes, he said. Others who could escape problems at home by going to work no longer have that refuge. Not surprisingly, there also have been increases in feelings of anxiety and depression, he said.

Employees with behavioral, family and financial problems can affect business operations, he said.

Business owners, managers and HR professionals have reported their own difficulties, Gribben said.

Organizations that under the usual circumstances would spend years in preparing and implementing changes have been forced to do so in weeks. Managers have to supervise from afar. Moreover, owners and managers have struggled with how to convey bad news about furloughs and layoffs.

The uncertainty of when the coronavirus outbreak will end — and what work will look like when it does — has exasperated the situation, Gribben said.

According to the results of one survey, 45 percent of adults reported the pandemic had affected their mental health. The problems could be prolonged and the response by necessity equally so, Gribben said.

There are things employees and employers can do that can help, he said.

Self-care is always important, but now more than ever, he said. Owners and managers should not only encourage employees to take care of themselves, but also do so themselves. That includes sleep and exercise as well as more intentional efforts to stay connected with others.

Employees and employers also should keep in mind that those who face adversity often emerge stronger and more capable, he said.

At the same time, another aspect of resilience is the willingness to seek out and accept help, he said.

Companies that offer assistance benefits should remind employees of the availability of those resources, Gribben said.

Employees experiencing mental health, family or financial difficulties should seek assistance. So should companies managing troubled employees.

Meanwhile, owners and supervisors struggling to manage changing operations, work practices and reporting relationships could use some help or advice, Gribben said. Employers also might need assistance in how to announce furloughs or layoffs in an effective and compassionate way.

Businesses also should start planning on what their workplaces will look like after the pandemic ends and employees return to work, he said. Operations could be different. Issues related to fear and distrust also could arise.

For more information about Triad EAP, call 242-9536 or log on to https://triadeap.com.