Employee Assistance Program coordinator Susan Loden and co-worker

Susan Loden, Employee Assistance Program coordinator, talks with Katina Oates, Army Suicide Awareness and Prevention Program manager here, about the “Manager’s Guide to EAP” that is available for all garrison supervisors. The manual explains EAP’s services as a voluntary, work-based program that offers free and confidential assessments, short-term counseling, referrals and follow-up services to employees who have personal and/or work-related problems impacting their productivity. 

Teleworking has given assurance and peace of mind to Fort Lee employees endeavoring to stay healthy and safe in a COVID-19 world.

“Safety of the workforce is a top priority for our chain of command,” confirmed Susan Loden, the garrison’s Employee Assistance Program coordinator. “Our leaders also understand that telework comes with its own set of challenges such as the stress of change and the feeling we need to do it all – keeping up with a job, children and schoolwork, finances and relationships.”

Everyone handles challenges differently with varying levels of stress, she noted.

“For some, working from home offers flexibility while the isolation and self-management of teleworking for others can bring on a full-crisis mode. Many have made countless alterations to their routines that can make them uncomfortable, and nothing can exacerbate normal daily stressors like change. In addition, the compassionate ear of a coworker, a good supervisor who expresses concern when an employee’s behavior and performance change, and the simple motivation of getting dressed to go to work in the morning may now be missing.”   

Even the expectation that everyone eventually will be going back to the workplace can cause fear and discomfort. The EAP is aware of how difficult the changes have been and the continued challenges that are yet to come. Thus, Loden is offering employees the assurance of support that serves as the centerpiece of her program.

“Although much of the workforce is working from home, installation resources are still operating,” Loden noted. “The Employee Assistance Program is available to assist with any challenge impacting the life-work balance of all Fort Lee DOD Civilians (AF and NAF), their family members over 18 years old, active duty family members, and military and federal retirees and their family members.”

The EAP is a voluntary, confidential program that helps employees work through various challenges adversely affecting their health, personal well-being and job performance – thus benefitting their organization’s success. Some of the services offered are free and confidential assessments, short-term counseling, referrals and follow-up support. The program also actively helps organizations prevent and cope with workplace violence, trauma and other emergency response situations. 

Eligible civilians can work with the EAP to address a broad and complex body of issues affecting mental and emotional well-being. Areas of support include alcohol and other substance abuse disorders; stress; grief; family, marital and financial troubles; and psychological disorders. 

“Anyone eligible for services can access the EAP by calling 804-931-5111,” Loden said. “Don’t hesitate to reach out for support. We can get you or the person being referred to us the help that’s needed.”

Helping to sort things out and put people in contact with the right resources is what EAP can do effectively. “Knowing what’s out there in the way of helpful resources is huge,” she stressed. “Part of EAP’s purpose is to track that … the professionals in the community who are best able to guide the client who is feeling overwhelmed and tunnel-focused on their consuming concern.”

Loden said clients seek EAP services for many different reasons, and sometimes the initial concern isn’t the root problem.

“For example, a client seeks assistance with marital communication because of escalating arguments at home,” she explained. “However, after discussing the issue we recognize the arguments are centered on money troubles. We see then a financial referral is in order.”

Fort Lee has several free resources for addressing such issues, so a referral to either a financial counselor at Army Community Service or the Religious Services Office could then be a solution.

The EAP also consults with managers and supervisors to address employee and organizational challenges and needs, and they are encouraged to use EAP as a resource.

All EAP services are free for eligible clients.  After the initial assessment, if a referral is recommended to a service off the installation, the EAP can assist with finding a free resource or one covered by the client’s insurance.

Loden added, “EAP can assist you with preventing a challenge from becoming an emergency; we’re standing by to serve you.”

To learn more about EAP, contact Loden at susan.p.loden.civ@mil.mil. The EAP falls under the Army Substance Abuse Program.