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Beyond the Bottom Line 

It seems that everything locally is separated into two categories: pre-Katrina or post-Katrina. The way New Orleanians handle all aspects of life has drastically changed, and residents now have different stresses working on their personal and professional lives.

Business owners are no different. Companies must now adapt to a post-Katrina business climate that balances financial bottom-line realities with the increasing need to be understanding of employee needs. Employees often require additional time off to meet with insurance representatives, building contractors and governmental agencies. The stress of strange or new living arrangements and the need to decide what and when to rebuild weighs heavily on the minds of many.

"The trend we see is that workers are having trouble coping with everything at once," says Brenda Aranda, a licensed social worker with the East Jefferson General Hospital (EJGH) Counseling Center. "We feel if we can catch it before it gets overwhelming, then employees won't miss work as frequently, they may not need to go on Family Medical Leave and productivity will go up."

Employees are finding that it is not so easy to "turn off" these concerns and focus on their job. Distractions and lack of focus often lead to more accidents. Employers also carry the additional burden of staff shortages in certain sectors and must make their employees work longer hours with increased job duties. The combination of all these factors means businesses run the risk of having an unhappy, and perhaps, unproductive and unsafe workforce.

"A big problem is the staff turnover at companies," says Aranda. "For companies that need to replace experienced workers with new staff, the people who are left often have to train the new workers as well as do their own jobs. It is leading to longer working hours and a lot of irritability. Everything just becomes interrelated."

EJGH recognizes the need for companies to change their approach to business to ensure productivity. That is why the hospital is offering a free breakfast seminar to the business community to discuss post-Katrina issues. During the seminars, Beyond the Bottom Line: Employers' Responsibilities Post-Katrina, experts will outline ways to recognize the warning signs of employee stress and offer tips to maintain a safe and healthy workplace.

The seminars will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., with registration at 7:30 a.m. on Feb. 9 at the Downtown Sheraton and on Feb. 14 at the EJGH Conference Center. Speakers will include legal professionals from the law firm of Chehardy, Sherman, Ellis, Breslin, Murray, Recile & Griffith; Dr. Joseph Tamimie from the EJGH Occupational Medicine Clinic; and mental health professionals from the EJGH Counseling Center.

Seminar topics will include legal issues facing employers, including employee rights, hiring and termination practices and the importance of documented policies and procedures; maintaining a healthy workforce, exploring the psychology of employment and the need for pre-employment physicals for new hires; and mental health issues facing employees, which covers dealing with increasing employee stress levels, recognizing warning signs, and the importance of employee assistance programs.

All businesses are encouraged to attend this free seminar. For more information or to register, call EJGH HealthFinder at 456-5000.


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