Local News

Businesses 'Work First' To Improve Performance

Posted July 19, 1999

— It can be hard to keep personal problems out of the workplace. More and more companies are trying to help people cope with what is happening at home and balance it with what is happening on the job.

A new program offered throughCumberland CountyMental Health combines support, personal services and an incentive to hire Work First participants. The best part is that it does not cost employers a penny.

Carolyn Mays likes her job as a floor supervisor at M.J. Soffe Company, but sometimes it has been hard for her to concentrate on work.

She lost her father and went through a divorce and now thinks counseling could have made it easier for her to get through the difficult time.

"An outsider looking in can see a lot of what you're not realizing and what you can't let go of," said Mays.

Mays and 1,700 employees at Soffe Company will have that option. The company is taking part in a new program called Enhanced Employee Assistance Program.

"Absenteeism is one of our problems, and productivity goes down because of personal problems. If we are able to address these problems, we are hoping our productivity will increase," said David Williford, human resources manager.

Companies that hire Work First participants will get extra help. Cumberland County Mental Health Service will provide employees and their families free assessments.

The goal is to identify personal issues, ranging from financial strains to family problems, before they hurt someone's job performance. Counselors say helping people is a sound business decision.

"It would improve performance among employees, lower the absenteeism rate and improve morale among employees," said counselor Jennifer Reckley.

As part of the program, each participant is also assigned a mentor within the same company. Organizers are hoping a positive role model will help improve job performance.

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