When employees need personal help business owners respond

NEW YORK — When David Winters’ staffers ask for financial help, advice or to borrow a company car, the answer is yes.“We have single working mothers, single working fathers, folks with four and five children,” says Winters, owner of a Screenmobile franchise in Charlotte, North Carolina. “If you don’t support the team, what’s the point?”Winters has helped his 20 staffers pay for car repairs and veterinary bills and assisted them in filing income tax returns or getting child support. He gives interest-free loans — which he often forgives.For many small business owners, being a boss means helping staffers when they struggle. Owners do it out of compassion and concern, and also to return the loyalty they get from employees. Owners realize staffers are more productive when they feel supported and aren’t worrying about personal problems. And helping staffers can make a small business better able to compete for workers in a tight job market; large companies with hundreds or thousands of employees are more regimented and often won’t bend the rules when employees are in need.Winters helps his staffers, who repair window and door screens, out of kindness but he’s also aware his help reduces their stress and makes it easier for them to be cheerful with customers and provide better service.Trivinia Barber knew that one of her staffers with young children was worried about driving them in a car with worn tires. Barber spent $300 to buy new ones.“That $300 was a drop in the bucket for me to give her peace of mind,” says Barber, CEO of Priority VA. “Her fear was taking away from her performance at work.”Barber, based in Savannah, Georgia, but with five employees and dozens of freelancers who work remotely, knows the structure of her company can create feelings of isolation, another reason to be responsive to staffers’ needs. When they’ve lost relatives, Barber has helped with practical matters.Owners who are empathic and help employees can foster a great deal of goodwill, but they should think about any problems their assistance might cause, says Rick Gibbs, a consultant with human resources provider Insperity. For example, if a boss is very selective about who gets help with financial problems.“It may feel good in the short term but it could create issues with other employees who become aware of those gifts,” Gibbs says.Bosses also need to be sure they’ll get their money back — some employees have gotten loans and left before repaying them, Gibbs says.At Foresite Commercial Real Estate, owners Bethany Babcock and Chad Knibbe have been generous with time off when staffers are ill, even one who needed major surgery right after joining the San Antonio-based company. They’ve helped pay moving expenses for a staffer with domestic problems, and bought a plane ticket for an employee who wanted to visit a nephew on life support. The rest of the staff has also pitched in, for example, with donations of frequent flyer pointsBut Babcock and Knibbe have learned some staffers might try to take advantage of them. They’ve had new employees who “seemed to develop an expectation that the company was there to solve and prevent any and all personal financial challenges,” Babcock says.She and Knibbe have learned not to offer extraordinary help until they become familiar with a staffer. But, Babcock says, “I would rather get burned 10 times than miss the one time that might have been legitimate that impacts someone’s life.”Some companies help staffers out of a business need. Reboot Online, a digital marketing company based north of London, helps staffers who emigrate from countries like Romania, Russia and Slovakia. The company recruits outside Britain because it struggles to find staffers with skills it needs. The newly arrived workers need help getting settled.“They often don’t have the credit rating to rent a house, buy a car,” Managing Director Naomi Aharony says. “So financial guarantees and personal references from us as U.K. company directors are needed.”But the company’s efforts don’t guarantee employees will stay.“In the past we have leased cars and acted as guarantors for employees and have been left to foot the bills when the employee decides to go back home after six months,” Aharony says.For Dr. Kenneth Rothaus, giving advice when staffers ask is the right thing to do. Giving advice on health is natural for the Manhattan plastic surgeon, but employees also seek Rothaus’ wisdom about apartments and cars. He’ll listen to personal problems, but doesn’t offer suggestions unless the staffer specifically asks.“There are certain boundaries you shouldn’t cross,” he says.Danielle Roberts and her husband and business partner, David Kunkle, have helped staffers struggling with some of the worst things that can happen — in one case, supporting and listening to a mother whose son committed suicide.“When it was clear she was struggling to cope I helped her research support groups for grieving parents of children who committed suicide,” says Roberts, whose insurance agency, Boomer Benefits, is based in Fort Worth, Texas.They’ve helped in smaller ways, advancing money so a staffer could go to an urgent care clinic, and paying for a car service for another whose car had a flat tire.“All employees were appreciative but the outcome or the gratitude is irrelevant. We have sometimes just done what felt right as human beings and we never regret it,” Roberts says._____Follow Joyce Rosenberg at www.twitter.com/JoyceMRosenberg . Her work can be found here: https://apnews.comJoyce M. Rosenberg, The Associated Press read more

UN health agency issues new guidelines for treating severe acute child malnutrition

“The guidelines are critical because many national health plans currently overlook children with severe acute malnutrition. This can be fatal. If these children don’t get the right medical and nutritional care, very often they die,” said Dr. Francesco Branca, Director of the Department of Nutrition for Health and Development at the World Health Organization (WHO).According to WHO, severe acute malnutrition is when children suffer severe wasting that may or may not be accompanied by swelling of the body from fluid retention. It occurs when infants and children do not have adequate energy, protein and micronutrients in their diet, combined with other health problems such as recurrent infections. It is diagnosed when the circumference of the upper arm is less than 115 millimetres or when the weight for height of a child is severely reduced.The updated WHO guidelines recommend that children with severe acute malnutrition who do not have health complications that require hospitalization, receive special, high-energy food and antibiotics to treat infection. This allows them to recover at home with their families. “It’s generally better for children and better for their families if they’re treated as outpatients,” said Dr. Elizabeth Mason, Director of WHO’s Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health. “It can be easier for families who need to continue providing and caring for other children, and it allows vulnerable, malnourished children to stay home and avoid the risk of getting hospital infections.”The new guidelines also address how to treat children with severe acute malnutrition for HIV and offer recommendations on treating severely malnourished infants under six months.They supersede WHO’s 1999 guidelines which recommended that all severely malnourished children be hospitalized, given fortified formula milk and appropriate treatment including antibiotics. While the proactive use of antibiotics is important because the immune system of a child who is severely malnourished can virtually shut down, the new recommendation advocates this specifically for children with severe acute malnutrition – not those who are simply undernourished.“Widespread use of antibiotics among children who do not need them would increase the risk of infections becoming resistant to lifesaving antibiotics – a situation that would harm the health and survival of all children,” WHO pointed out.Another new aspect relates to the treatment of severely malnourished children with HIV. The 1999 guidelines did not recommend HIV testing of children with severe acute malnutrition. At that time, there was poor availability and little experience of treating children with antiretroviral drugs. “Circumstances today are very different,” WHO noted. “We now know that antiretrovirals significantly increase survival of children with HIV, and access to these drugs is improving.”The new guidelines recommend that children with severe acute malnutrition in countries where HIV is common be routinely tested for the virus, and those who are positive should start on antiretroviral drugs as well as special foods and antibiotics to treat their severe malnutrition.Also addressed for the first time are the needs of infants under the age of six months with severe acute malnutrition. WHO recommends that all babies under six months are exclusively breastfed for optimal nutrition and protection against infections, adding that this is particularly important for babies who are severely malnourished. “If there is no realistic prospect of a severely malnourished baby being breastfed, the family may need breast milk from another woman, e.g. a family member, a neighbour, a wet nurse or a milk bank. If this is not possible, they will need infant formula and support to prepare and use it safely,” said WHO. read more