Hotline For Help with Many of Life’s Challenges

August 26, 2011

Are challenges in your personal life affecting your peace of mind or your work?

Are you finding it harder to balance work and home?

The University’s Work/Life Program can help.

Available to all University staffers—and their relatives, no matter where they live—the program provides a free, 24-hour, seven-day-a-week hotline to counselors, social workers and other professionals whose mission is to provide research and guidance regarding a wide range of problems.

You can contact the Work/Life Assistance Program by calling 800-833-8707. The service is contracted by CUNY to the private company Corporate Counseling Associates (CCA). The counselors—at a minimum—all hold master’s degrees.

“The University launched this program in November 2008 because we knew that it was something that our employees needed and wanted,” says Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Management Gloriana Waters. “To date, every single CUNY college has utilized this program. In 2010 alone, CCA held more than 60 wellness seminars and employee orientations on the campuses. There were more than 20,000 hits on the website. The program is an overwhelming success. Our employees deserve no less.”

The service is confidential. Supervisors, for example, are not notified when calls are placed to the hotline. An employee can get help for problems ranging from drug addiction and domestic abuse to finding a good child care provider or nursing home.

And for those work-balance issues, the counselors also can recommend solutions to less daunting problems—a reliable pet kennel for example, or a better gym.

Recently, a staffer called the hotline with a concern about her elderly mother who lives hundreds of miles away from New York and had moved into an assisted living facility.

While it was safe and secure, her mother needed more care than she could get on site. So it fell to the CUNY staffer’s sister—who didn’t live too far away but has a full-time job—to spend all of her free time taking her mother on excursions to lift her spirits and make sure she was taking her medication properly. The staffer needed to fly home for a week every two to four months to give her sister some relief.

The staffer, who is not named to underscore the confidential nature of the Work/Life program, says what she experienced was the kind of heavy responsibility that could affect an employee’s work. The solution was to hire people to help her mother. But there were so many agencies? Which one to pick? Who to trust? And how to do it all from afar, with her siblings scattered?

But within five days after calling the Work/Life hotline, the problem was solved. A counselor helped her identify the best-rated local agencies. As a result she was able to make a few calls instead of many. She hired a companion for her mother to drive her to appointments and take her on excursions. The program also helped her find a home health care nurse to monitor medication. “A lot of the groundwork was done for us,” the staffer says. “I was saved an enormous amount of time … And this has allowed my mother a certain amount of independence she would not have had otherwise.”

“Well-balanced employees are more engaged, productive and focused,” says Veronica Alabi, an account executive for CCA. Alabi, a social worker, was until recently a counselor who answered hotline queries from CUNY employees and their relatives. She emphasizes that employees “achieve more balance when they use our service to proactively manage their needs.” She says that in 2010 more than half of the employees who called needed help with psychological or emotional issues.

For example, one CUNY employee needed help in dealing with a family member’s suicide. “Through short-term grief counseling, the Work/Life Program provided the employee with a safe place to express feelings and to receive support and education about coping strategies,” Alabi says.

Others employees asked about work-life challenges and sought help with personal and job-related situations.

For more information on the program please see: The site also offers free webinars with assistance on a wide diversity of life-balancing subjects—even including one on the use of feng shui, the ancient Chinese system of architectural choices, to turn a home into a more soothing environment.