Susan Loden, Employee Assistance Program coordinator, talks with Katina

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 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.

In the working world, absenteeism is a well-known term describing employee absences that can negatively impact agency outcomes.

Another word those among the workforce may be less familiar with is “presenteeism” – people who are physically at work but unable to be productive due to personal concerns impacting their ability to focus.

“They’re frequently away from their desk,” elaborated Susan Loden, the garrison’s Employee Assistance Program coordinator here. “Their mental focus is on personal matters. They may be constantly on the phone or exchanging emails trying to solve an important issue other than work.”

            This is a problem not just for achieving the mission, but also for safety reasons, especially if the employee’s job requires a high level of focus to prevent significant damage and/or injury. 

            “The statistical estimates of work time lost by an employee in crisis are staggering,” Loden emphasized. “This is why the EAP exists. It stands ready to assist during a crisis, or more importantly and effectively, before a concern becomes an emergency.”

            The EAP is a voluntary, confidential program that helps employees work through various challenges adversely affecting their job performance, health and personal well-being – 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. 

            The program primarily accommodates civilian employees, but it is also available to retired military and federal employees, Army national guardsmen and reservists when not on active duty, and adult family members of active duty military and civilian workers.

            “Anyone eligible for services can access the EAP by calling 804-734-9693 for an appointment,” Loden said. “Referrals from co-workers, managers, friends, union representatives and others are common. 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 Loden said she excels at. “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.”

            She 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 transfer to either a financial counselor at Army Community Service or the Religious Services Office for classes 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. “When an employee is recognized for superior work and elevated to a supervisory position, they don’t automatically download those higher-level skills,” Loden said. “They come from experience, exposure and training.”

The Army and Fort Lee has instructional programs to assist supervisors in acquiring needed skills, but they do not cover everything, Loden noted, and new situations arise all the time. EAP publishes the monthly ‘Frontline for Supervisors’ newsletter with scenarios and solutions to support supervisors and spark answers to their questions. 

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.

To learn more about EAP, contact Loden at 804-734-9396 or through email at susan.p.loden.civ@mil.mil. The EAP falls under the Army Substance Abuse Program, and is located in the Soldier Support Center, building 3400, Room 203D.