July Behavioral Health Column

VPPPA has partnered with the experts at MindWise Innovations to present a monthly article addressing issues and questions that members might be hesitant to ask about. These columns will address your concerns about mental health, substance abuse, brain injuries, family issues, and more.

By: Lisa Desai, Chief Behavioral Health Officer, MindWise Innovations​​

Investing in Employee Wellness Is More Important Than Ever

Now is the time to invest in the well-being of your workforce, as many are struggling – physically, mentally, and emotionally – on the heels of an unprecedented global pandemic. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development defines well-being at work as “creating an environment to promote a state of contentment which allows an employee to flourish and achieve their full potential for the benefit of themselves and their organization.” An employee’s well-being at work is no longer optional. In a 2018 American Heart Association CEO Roundtable Report, 9 in/10 survey respondents agree that employers have a responsibility to support mental health. To perform at their best, workers need to know that their organization cares about them and supports their whole health – physical and mental.  Increased workplace wellbeing results in greater job satisfaction which can lead to better teamwork and increased productivity.

How to Show You Care

An easy way for an employer to show they care about their employees is by investing in their wellness. The Kaiser Family Foundation found that in 2019 84% of large employers have workplace wellness programs, and trends indicate that number will continue to rise. Employees often seek out companies with Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and businesses are taking notice. EAPs can help workers stop smoking or lose weight, as well as connect them to mental health care professionals. Recently, employers have begun adding more diverse options to help workers achieve an optimal work/life balance, such as offering connections to child and elder care providers and sessions with financial planners. EAPs can be an important part of an employee’s support system and their existence is a necessity for any modern business that wants the best for its workers.

Additionally, employers can show their support during the workday. Encouraging workers to pause and stretch, as well as offering guided meditation breaks are a great way to boost office morale and prevent employee burnout. When company leadership is involved in these mental health breaks, workers often feel more comfortable participating. Businesses can have difficulties getting their employees to try wellness programs, as some worry it may affect their office reputation or future promotions. Workers don’t want to be perceived as “damaged goods” after taking part in wellness programs; having the boss participate as well can alleviate some of these concerns. Leaders don’t need to be behavioral health experts but they should be able to guide their employees to the correct resources.

Benefits of Investing in Employee Wellness

Investing in employee wellness is beneficial to the employer as well as the employee. Researchers at Harvard’s School of Public Health found that for every dollar spent on employee wellness, medical costs fall $3.27 and absenteeism costs drops $2.73, a 6-to-1 return on investment. 

At the same time, the cost of NOT investing in employee wellness can be staggering. Gallup found “$20 million of additional lost opportunity for every 10,000 workers due to struggling or suffering employees.”

Additionally, Gallup reported that turnover costs U.S. employers over $1 trillion a year. There is an established link between low turnover and employee well-being. According to Mercer’s 2017 National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, employers who cultivate cultures that emphasize employee wellness see 11% less turnover than employers who do little to prioritize worker wellness. Take care of your workforce, and you’ll spend less time, money, and energy replacing people.

Fully Commit to Employee Wellness

Emotional well-being doesn’t occur overnight. It takes a lot of dedicated work, and the path to happiness is rarely easy or linear. Employee wellness is similar and requires constant commitment from company management. It is essential leadership checks in on their workers frequently, and makes sure employees are being heard. Employers need to empower their workers and watch as productivity improves. Employees should also be encouraged to create bonds with each other. If you care about your employees, they are far more likely to care about their work, their company, and maybe even themselves.

Jacqueline "Jackie" Annis is an industrial hygienist with the Office of Partnerships and Recognition, Directorate of Cooperative and State Programs in OSHA’s National Office.  Jackie’s primary responsibilities include developing and overseeing internal policies and procedures for the VPP, reviewing VPP on-site evaluation reports for process safety management information, serving as the National Office liaison for two of OSHA’s ten Regions, and facilitating the management of OSHA’s National Strategic Partnership Program.  She is an integral part of OSHA’s National Office team. 

She has served with the Agency for 36 years, including five years as a senior industrial hygienist in OSHA’s Office of Health Enforcement, Directorate of Enforcement Programs in the National Office and 17 years as a compliance safety and health officer in the Denver, CO Area Office.  Prior to her tenure at OSHA, Jackie worked as an industrial hygienist for the Department of the Navy in Alameda, California.  Jackie obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA in 1983.

Wayne Howard earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from UC Davis and has spent 12 years with Shell (at Martinez) refinery, 3 years with the consulting firm Process Safety, 15 years with Valero (at Benicia), and the last 10 years in the Corporate Process Safety Department. He is the Valero representative to AFPM's Advancing Process Safety Initiative.

Nathan Obaugh, PE is a senior engineer in the Safety and Operational Excellence Group at NuStar Energy. Nathan has over 10 years of PSM and process design experience in the petrochemical, refining and midstream industries. At NuStar, Nathan oversees all elements of the corporate PSM program and works directly on hazard analysis, process safety studies, PSM/RMP audits and provides process engineering support to the operations and capital projects groups.

Jared Teter, PhD is a senior staff scientist with a background in physics and hazards analysis. He has extensive experience in subscale testing of energetic materials and has served as program manager for several large testing and risk management projects. He has applied engineering and risk management protocols while evaluating the risk associated with propellant and explosives manufacturing, combustible dust, and other hazardous material related processes.

Tim Belitz has a degree in Environmental Health/Industrial Hygiene from Old Dominion University and a Master’s from Duke University. He has over 25 years of Industrial Health Safety and Environmental Experience and is a Certified Safety Professional. He has many years focused on Contractor Management and Process Safety programs.

Rob Walker graduated from Virginia Tech in Microbiology and Chemical Engineering. Rob has almost 35 years of experience working in the chemical plant and refining industry. His passion for Process Safety and Mechanical Integrity began very early in his career. Rob began with his current company, Honeywell, back in 2011.

Prasad Joshi has B.S. and M.S. Degrees in Chemical Engineering from two universities in India. Prasad has over 30 years’ experience in the business. He began with Honeywell in May 2022 as Principal Maintenance Engineer. He has worked internationally in Asia and Europe.