Sometimes, she says, it's helpful for HR to know what's going on in an employee's life. For example, if a spouse has cancer or an employee's child has a substance abuse problem, it will likely affect their performance, and it can be helpful for HR to know this information.
But what's the procedure if an employee is opening up to you and it's getting a bit too personal?
"If it was not in some way work-related, like harassment or hostile work environment—I would listen carefully, then redirect it," said O'Keeffe, adding that she would recommend the EAP in that situation.
"We go to healthcare because we care about people," she said. "We care about patients, about our colleagues and their families. But you have to have healthy boundaries—overstepping that isn't good for you or the employee."
"We're trying to walk the walk and talk the talk. We've got to be thoughtful and proactive with our employees. Make sure people are taking care of their health amidst the stress. Stress can kill you," O'Keeffe said.