Feature Blog Post by Carolyn Lamparella, Ed.S., L.P.C., Program Director at Preferred EAP, which is part of Populytics, Inc./LVPHO's collaboration of employer health services
“Mental illness is the single greatest cause of worker disability in the United States."
– National Alliance on Mental Illness
Considering this startling fact, you may wonder why there isn’t more focus on mental health in the workplace. Our experience as an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)provider to hundreds of small and large businesses has helped us identify some of the most common reasons mental health is overlooked.
First, most employers have limited access to data regarding the specific impact mental health is having on company productivity. Frequently, the effects are masked by physical conditions or are underreported due to the stigma that continues to surround mental illness. Employees are often reluctant to share information about their emotional well-being which then results in a lack of awareness of resources and a reluctance to seek help.
Employers may also feel that offering an EAP program is enough as opposed to implementing a more comprehensive approach that addresses the underlying culture of the company. Real workplace solutions involve a shift in mindset from crisis intervention to prevention and acceptance of the importance of emotional wellness.In order to achieve this transformation, an employer must be ready to integrate mental health information into every level of daily operations; thereby, normalizing mental health and reducing the fears associated with seeking help.
The Link to Productivity
The facts clearly show how much the mental health of workers can impact their employers. According to the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, there are more workers absent because of stress and anxiety than due to physical illness or injury. Absenteeism has obvious significant impacts on productivity and creates a huge cost burden for the employer as a result of unemployment, disability, and decreased performance.
The American Psychiatric Association Foundation and its Center for Workplace Mental Health reports the total economic burden of depression alone is estimated to be $210.5 billion per year, representing a 21.5% increase over the last 10 years. Nearly half (48%-50%) of these costs are attributed to absenteeism (missed days from work) and presenteeism (reduced productivity while at work).*
Reversing Mental Health Stigma
Employees often comfortably talk about their physical ailments around the water cooler; “I had the flu last week,” or “Did you hear Sally is having a knee replacement?” and so on. However, we rarely hear from our colleagues about their failing relationships, bouts of depression, or debilitating anxiety because of their fear of being judged or viewed as weak or incompetent. In some cases, employees may have experienced discrimination, bullying, or rejection as a result of their mental health challenges. They may even fear losing their job if they reveal a mental health problem.
Reversing this stigma begins with conversation. In particular, it begins with leaders, managers, and supervisors talking about the importance of mental health and the resources that are available to help employees care for their emotional well-being. This creates an atmosphere of safety, comfort, and acceptance for employees who may be experiencing something similar. The goal should be to create a culture of acceptance in order to reduce the effects of mental health concerns in the workplace.
What are the Best First Steps to Take?The following three steps are recommended to begin building a culture of mental health support and acceptance.
Feature Blog Post by Carol Obando-Derstine, regional affairs director, PPL Electric Utilities
If we could harness the energy of little kids excited to trick-or-treat – or the energy of kids after a few pieces of Halloween candy – we could probably light the entire state of Pennsylvania.
Unfortunately, that seemingly boundless source of free seasonal energy hasn’t been tapped.
The good news is this: While there are no magic solutions for free energy, there are steps you can take to manage your energy use and reduce your electric bill as temperatures get colder and sunlight gets scarcer.
October is Energy Awareness Month. In some places, it’s also called Energy Action Month. That might be the better name: Awareness is a good first step, but action is needed to save.
One action you can take is to have your heating system inspected and serviced before the real cold weather arrives. If it hasn’t been looked at in a while, it might not be running as efficiently as it could be. A little attention now could save you money down the road.
Another little improvement that can pay off is caulking and weatherstripping around doors, windows and skylights. If you add up all of the hidden air leaks in your home, they can equal a hole the size of an open window. A little low-cost attention on your part can keep more of the hot air inside, where you want it.
If you don’t have a smart thermostat, now’s a great time to get on board. A digital thermostat lets you turn down the heat when you’re not at home. Some of them can also be adjusted remotely by cell phone, so if you’re coming home earlier than expected, you can have things heating up when you get home.
Unplug home electronics when you’re not using them, or plug them into smart power strips that will cut power to them. Home electronics can account for up to 12 percent of your energy bill, so saving in this area is no small matter.
PPL Electric Utilities customers can take a quick online assessment at pplelectricsavings.com that will give you energy efficiency tips tailored to your home. You’ll get a report showing where your home is using the most electricity and where you could benefit most from behavior changes or system upgrades—with links to rebates available from PPL.
And don’t forget LED bulbs, which use up to 75 percent less energy than incandescents without sacrificing light output. LEDs can last up to 20 years longer than traditional incandescent bulbs, so you save on bulb replacement costs, too. (PPL offers instant discounts on LEDs at some retailers. Learn more at pplelectricsavings.com.)
All these steps, taken together, can add up to some pretty good energy savings around the house. And that might make you just about as excited as a kid dressed up for trick-or-treating.
Feature Blog Post by Shelley Jaye, co-owner, Jim Thorpe Massage & Wellness Studio
“Mindfulness Moments,” is a monthly addition to The Jim Thorpe Current. Shared here you will find tips on short practices moving you toward a more energetic and mindfulness way of life. Learn to maximize your energy by experiencing living in the present moment. These are intended as practices, not lessons.
Have you thought about meditation or contemplated mindfulness? Did you give up because you just could not quiet your mind? We will meet here monthly with simple practices that you will incorporate into daily life. You will find these mindful moments will enhance your being present, mindful and enhance joy and clarity to your life. Like many of you, I have experienced moments of feeling totally overwhelmed in my daily routine. The moments where your chest tightens, breathing becomes shallow and a sense of fear and loathing darkens the pit of your stomach. Are you willing to try something new to open your mind and heart? I will help to show you the path as we journey together.
One of the best practices we can experience is breathing. Sounds too simple, right? Let’s explore breathing.
For the first few times I encourage you to lie down. Make or find five free minutes in your morning. Gently place your hands on your abdomen, one under your ribs the other under your naval. Allow your eyes to close. You can use an eye pillow or a cloth to cover them. Allow your breath to become deeper. Without forcing it. As you inhale allow your abdomen to rise, and you exhale allow it to fall. As thoughts come into your mind allow them to float through without judging yourself. In time less thoughts will make their way during this breathing time. You can set a timer or use an app on your smartphone; I sometimes use a free app simply called, “Calm.”
Practice this three or more times per week. If you have questions or would like to share your experience feel free to email me at JimThorpeMassage@gmail.com.
Feature Blog Post by Carol Obando-Derstine, regional affairs director, PPL Electric Utilities
It’s been a long, hot, rainy summer. But autumn is almost here, and it’s time to get ready.
For instance, you might have noticed that you’re turning on the lights earlier and earlier each night. The days, which seemed to last forever just a few weeks ago, are getting shorter.
That means it’s a great time to look into installing LED bulbs. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, LEDs use up to 75 percent less energy, and last up to 15 times longer, than incandescent lighting.
A single LED bulb can save you $55 in energy costs over its lifetime. And, if everyone in the U.S. replaced a single light bulb with an ENERGY STAR-certified LED, we would prevent nearly 7 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year, equivalent to the emissions from 650,000 cars. (That’s according to ENERGY STAR.)
LEDs might seem unfamiliar if you’ve never used one. But making the switch isn’t hard once you know a few things:
An LED bulb’s packaging has detailed information on lumens, lifespan, light appearance and estimated energy cost. Just a few seconds looking at the package, and you’ll be ready to go with the bulb you want.
To help you make the switch, PPL Electric Utilities subsidizes part of the cost of LED bulbs. That means instant discounts on the bulbs are available at some participating retailers – no coupons or forms needed. To find a retailer near you, visit pplelectricsavings.com and click Lighting.
How else can you save energy and money this time of year?
If you have a child returning to school, they may spend more time on a computer doing schoolwork. Make sure the computer’s sleep mode is enabled, which will switch automatically to an energy-saving mode when they’re away. And, of course, teach your kids to turn off the computer when they’re done using it.
You can also save in the kitchen – and out of it. Don’t put your grill away until it really starts to get cold, and you can save energy by leaving your oven off. Once the weather does start to chill out, bring your slow cooker out of storage, for another efficient alternative to the oven.
Finally, now’s a good time to get your heating system inspected, so it runs as efficiently as possible during the colder months. Sealing cracks near doors and windows with weatherstripping or caulk will also keep warm air inside, where you want it.
Saving electricity and money doesn’t take a big investment. You can get there one bulb, one homework assignment, one dinner, or one tube of caulk at a time. And when you’re done, you’ll have plenty of time for the pleasures of the season.
Guest blog post by Deb Colitas, Founder & CEO, Digital Network Superstar
Do you hear the term ‘social media presence’ as a business owner and just cringe? Know that you are not alone! Google ‘social media stress’ and you will find over 610 MILLION articles ready to confirm that your anxiety is not going unnoticed. Allow me to give you permission to relax, take a deep breath, and be reassured that you can break through your social media stress diagnosis!
Lie #1: If I own a business, my business must be on ALL social media platforms
If we were to look at the age of social media, it has only been 14 years since the birth of My Space (it still exists!) and Facebook. This means that the maturity level of all social media can be compared to a moody and sarcastic teenager. SO MUCH has changed during this time! The truth is you do not need to be everywhere, only where your ultimate customers spend their time.
Lie #2: My business is just fine, I do not need to be on social media
Do you know 66% of all purchasing decisions START online? Congratulations if you are capturing the 34% that did not need to learn something about you before making a purchase decision…. Your choice to be offline means you are missing 66% of the marketplace opportunity.
Lie #3: I do not need a personal brand
Wake up and smell the digital coffee - we ALL have a digital brand attached to us. If you have bought or sold a home, filed a public suit, or had your name printed in a newspaper, the internet has caught you in her grasp. Google your name, and you will find something. The power is in how you can take control of it all! Have a completed LinkedIn profile with quality connections, submit press releases when you and your business does something awesome, and seek opportunities to show your hard work and effort to the world.
Lie #4: I do not have the budget to invest in a social media marketing firm
There is a time and a place for everything, but if you are only just beginning to enter into the world of personal branding and social selling online, this is NOT the time to spend mega-bucks. Dive into what makes you and your business offering great. Research similar businesses to yours that are across the country to find examples of what they are doing correctly to connect with customers. Start where you are most comfortable and focus where your value can be increased the most.
Lie #5: Social media takes so much TIME, time that I do not have!
Each day that passes when not online is a missed opportunity to make a new connection, praise someone else for a job well done, and post how you could have the product or service that would make someone else’s life so much better! Social media can suck time away, don’t click on the cute kitten videos, delay catching up on ‘Game of Thrones’, and have a social media branding and selling plan. Not sure where to start? Reach out and let’s connect! I am happy to help.
Deb Colitas is Founder and CEO of Digital Network Superstar (www.DigitalNetworkSuperstar) and owner of three other Lehigh Valley businesses (The Gyro Company at Coca-Cola Park, Valley Fruits & Veggies, and Country Corn Maze at Seiple Farms). Deb works with businesses and individuals, teaching how to maximize in-person and online networks to increase sales, influence and opportunities. Connect with Deb to learn how to better maximize your digital footprint through personal branding and social selling.
Guest Blog Post by Carol Obando-Derstine, regional affairs director for PPL Electric Utilities
It might be a cold washcloth, or an ice cube against the wrist, or a tall glass of iced tea to drink in front of a floor fan.
Whatever it is, I hope you’re putting it to good use. Another hot summer is here, and it’s important for everyone to take care of themselves to avoid heat-related illness.
At PPL, we take heat-related illness very seriously. Our linemen and other employees work in the heat every day to keep your service strong. We share safety tips with them, tell them to look out for each other, and urge them to be careful.
We care about you, our customers, too. And we hope you’ll be safe and know the risks, just like our linemen do.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, people at greatest risk for heat-related illness include:
But even the young and healthy can be hit by heat illness if they work or play too hard in hot weather. Drinking alcohol and taking certain types of medication can increase the risk, too, according to the CDC.
Here are some basic tips to help you avoid heatstroke, heat exhaustion and other seasonal illnesses:
Drink water frequently. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
Avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks.
Take frequent breaks of several minutes each during physical activity. Don’t wait until you feel ill or out-of-sorts to take a break.
Get help with physical tasks. Watch your partner or co-worker for signs of heat illness.
How can you identify and respond to heat-related illnesses?
Heat cramps: Painful muscle spasms should be treated with rest in a cool place and with cool water, stretching and massaging.
Heat exhaustion: Symptoms that include cool, moist and pale skin, headache, dizziness, and nausea should be treated by moving to a cooler location, drinking cool fluids, loosening clothing and applying wet towels.
Heat stroke: Serious medical emergency involving sweating, mental confusion, delirium and possibly loss of consciousness. Seek medical attention immediately by calling 911. Until help arrives, apply cold towels to the body and expose the victim to a fan or air conditioning.
So, work safely. Take breaks. Know your limits. And we’ll make this summer a cool one in all senses of the word.
Guest Blog Post by Lynn Olanoff, Concannan, Miller, & Co.
The odds are pretty staggering – only 30% of family-owned businesses succeed in transitioning their business to the second generation.
For those transitioning to a third generation, the odds are even worse – only 10% succeed.
There’s a way to beat the odds – prepare. The best business transition plans happen over many years, both to allow the next generation to learn the family business and move up the leadership ranks and also to best prepare the business financially.
“A business needs a team of advisors to help them get through the transition,” says Tony Deutsch, CPA, MT, CGMA, a shareholder at Concannon Miller. “When developing a client exit plan, we partner with a business owner’s existing advisors, and/or bring in experienced advisors, such as Compass Point, a strategic partner of Concannon Miller that focuses on family business."
“How the business is transitioned will affect the livelihood of both the current and future owner, as well as the future success of the business as a whole, so it’s important that we start early and get it right.”
Leadership training and developing financial skills are the top two skills you need to succeed in taking over your family business.
A rising family business owner needs two types of financial training to be successful – skills that will help in the transition and sale of the business and skills you will need to run the financial part of your business.
Financial Skills for Business Transition: Purchasing your parents’ business may seem daunting unless you’re particularly cash flush. The good news is that transferring ownership of a business over time provides a lot more options. Also, selling or gifting an entire business too short of a timeframe can result in unnecessary tax implications. A good first step is obtaining a high quality valuation performed by a Certified Valuation Analyst and then working with a CPA on the most tax advantageous options for your particular situation.
Financial Skills as the New Owner: Financial responsibilities are among the most crucial to the strategic success of your company. Will you make your budget? How will you find new revenue opportunities to expand your company? What are your most profitable products or services? How do you manage cash flow cycles? How do you time strategic purchases?
Whether you’ll have a daily role in the finances once you take over as CEO or whether there’s a CFO, controller or a whole financial team to handle those duties, there’s high value in you having business financial knowledge. These skills include how to understand financial statements and weighing tax planning strategies.
Leadership can be demonstrated in many ways and no two leaders are alike nor will they drive the same results. We see time and again in professional sports, a new coach can often have vastly different results with the same team.
There are great benefits to taking an in-depth personality test such as a Myers–Briggs Type Indicator or a DISC assessment. In addition to discovering your own personality and leadership traits, these tests can tell you how you best work with others. A major part of managing a business is managing its people, and the better you are at that, the more successful your company will be.
Transition Talks with Your Family
Well before you start working with your new executive team and employees, you’ll have to learn how to successfully navigate a possibly more challenging relationship – the one with your family.
“Love, power, and money. As Dean Fowler, a leading family business advisor and president of Dean Flower Associates, points out, these three forces shape the essence of the family business journey,” notes Tom Garrity, Compass Point’s managing partner. “Only with eyes wide open, will a family business legacy pass to the next generation. If I could point to one single factor that leads to a successful family business succession it would be the ability to discuss the undiscussables – love, power, and money.”
It’s a hefty conversation to have. The most effective family business transition conversations involve a lot of pre-planning before they’re undertaken. Some planning strategies to consider include:
Gaining Experience in the Company
The most successful family businesses don’t give out CEO titles based on last name alone – they make their successors earn them.
Your position in the company should match your skillset – if you’re a recent college graduate, there is likely value in you starting in an entry-level position. If you’ve already worked in the family business for several years, moving up the ranks – especially serving in a COO or other second-in-command position – is the best on-the-job training you can get.
Some incoming family business owners find a lot of value in pursuing leadership training or even higher degrees, such as a MBA. It also can be valuable to connect with other rising family business owners, possibly through your local Chamber of Commerce or other business networking organizations.
Concannon Miller’s Next Gen Academy for Finance and Leadership for Private Businesses is another training option for upcoming business owners. During the six session academy, participants will develop the leadership and finance skills critical to their business’s ongoing success, as well as develop a network of peers in the business community. Find out more at nextgen-lv.eventbrite.com
By Dorota Gasienica-Kozak, Esq.
King, Spry, Herman, Freund, & Faul, LLC
Chair, Board of Governors, The Chamber
There is only one week remaining to register for the highly anticipated 2018 Lehigh Valley Women’s Summit. If you have not registered yet, or are on the fence about attending, I highly encourage you to join us! It is an exceptional opportunity for all Lehigh Valley women of diverse professional backgrounds and experiences to gather, network, and learn from shared experiences. The 2018 Summit partnership includes the work of The Chamber’s Women’s Business Council, the Women’s Leadership Council of United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley and Cedar Crest College. We can honestly say that it is THE collaboration of the year!
There are also breakout sessions with topics such as business synergy, education, healthcare, arts empowerment, government involvement, and much more!
The event also features two key note speakers: Dr. Michelle Rozen, nationwide thought leader on human behavior, motivation and leadership, will open the day as our keynote speaker followed by our afternoon keynote Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement and social justice activist. Dr. Rozen’s expertise in the field of human behavior and human interaction brings her audience unique viewpoints on motivation, leadership and personal empowerment. Tarana has dedicated more than 25 years of her life to social justice and to laying the groundwork for a movement that was initially created to help young women of color who survived sexual abuse and assault.
Please, join us to celebrate one of the most exciting times to be a professional woman in the Lehigh Valley. I look forward to seeing you there!
Guest Blog Post from Don Adriaansen, TITAN Mobile Shredding
The pace of defective products being recalled is climbing, according to a recent study by Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty. A review of more than 100,000 corporate liability insurance claims from over 100 countries between 2011 and 2016, found that defective products or work is the number one cause of liability loss by total value of claims. In fact, defective products account for nearly a quarter of all claims.
Today risk managers must be readily prepared for such a crisis with recall response plans that are nimble and effective. Discontinued products, manufacturing overruns, obsolete inventory, off-spec items, promotional merchandise, counterfeit products, and unused or outdated product packaging should have a destruction plan behind it. "Our clients consistently search for and adopt best practices to reduce potential liability, however challenges can persist," admits Don Adriaansen, co owner of TITAN Mobile Shredding, LLC. Adriaansen alludes to an industrial shoe manufacturer needing to destroy 5500 pairs of shoes in a matter of days. "The shoes were defective and our client's recall plan included immediate destruction with our company."
For companies seeking destruction partners, Adriaansen urges risk managers to be vigilant in seeking a reputable, NAID (National Association of Information Destruction) AAA Certified company that fully recognizes their needs. "Improperly discarded products are a source of liability if misused, and, where trade information is put at risk, it can undermine important intellectual property protections," NAID CEO Bob Johnson said. “Properly destroying outdated, defective, damaged or returned products is just as important as destroying discarded sensitive information." A uniform manufacturer for utility and oil companies had to destroy over 15,000 uniforms and jackets because their company logo had changed. "As a utility company serving homeowners, our client followed their product recall plan to ensure the outdated garments could not enter the public domain," Adriaansen said.
In an effort to better align with product destruction procedures, NAID launched a new certification endorsement in late 2017. TITAN was named the first company to receive the global Product Destruction Endorsement from NAID. Adriaansen added, "This endorsement gives our clients another layer of confidence that their branded, obsolete, defective or overstocked material is securely destroyed and disposed of properly,"
TITAN Mobile Shredding, LLC founded in 2005 and provides secure destruction of documents, records, media, hard drives and products, both with mobile destruction trucks and in their plant. TITAN provides service in eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. For more information: www.titanshredding.com, www.naidonline.org
Guest blog post submitted by Norris McLaughlin & Marcus, PA
Over the last veral months, hardly a day has gone by where workplace harassment has not been in the news. High-profile harassment scandals involving individuals in the entertainment and political arenas have led to more and more employees coming forward to share their stories. The number of harassment claims reported to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has risen sharply; we do not expect this trend to change any time soon.
Given recent developments, many employers have contacted us to see what steps are needed to ensure a harassment-free workplace and protect against potential liability. The answer is simple: educating and training employees. According to a recent EEOC task force report, an employer seeking to defend against a workplace harassment claim will need to show that it regularly trained its employees on this issue. The EEOC report emphasizes that effective training is live and interactive (rather than video or Internet-based) and tailored to the realities of the workplace. It further emphasizes the need to train supervisors, who are in the best position to address unacceptable conduct before it becomes unlawful harassment. As we discussed at our “Harassment in the Workplace” seminar last week, training supervisors is also important for the employer to avoid strict liability and for the supervisor to avoid personal liability.
In light of increased demand from employers in the Lehigh Valley and beyond, we will be offering a special training event for supervisors. On March 21, 2018, we will be conducting two, half-day sessions of supervisor harassment training at the Best Western Lehigh Valley Hotel & Conference Center in Bethlehem. We are offering these sessions as an alternative to the on-site training we are hired to do for many employers. Like all of our trainings, these sessions will be classroom-style presentations with significant attendee interaction through questions, working through hypothetical situations, and role playing. These sessions will be particularly useful for a variety of employers: those with a small workforce, those with newly-hired or newly-promoted supervisors, and those whose Human Resources or management professionals want to see what is covered in our interactive training sessions.
It is critical now more than ever for employers to engage and educate their supervisors so that they understand their critical role in preventing, combating, and eliminating harassment. It is our goal to do just that in our supervisor harassment training. We encourage you to register your supervisors for one of the training sessions on March 21, and we look forward to seeing you there. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions about this or other labor and employment training session.