Category: Health & Wellness

Who’s Watching Your Leadership’s Mental Fitness?

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Photo by Joseph Barrientos on Unsplash

By Wayne R. Bodie, MBA, SPHR

Captains of Industry amass fortunes by increasing productivity, expanding markets, providing more jobs, despite navigating tumultuous waters. All the while, stoically stable. After all, they are ultimately responsible for their vessel, the crew, and safe navigation. However, when the ship’s captain teeters on instability, one misjudgment, and one navigational error can slam a cruise liner onto the rocks. I faced that sad reality on vacation. While combing the beach, I stumbled on a battered life ring.  Looking ahead, more maritime debris littered the sand. The resort staff let me know that was all that was left of the sunken ship El Faro.

Earlier this month, the Coast Guard said the primary cause of the sinking of a cargo ship two years ago that killed all 33 aboard was the captain misreading both the strength of a hurricane and his overestimation of the ship’s strength.  No bodies were ever recovered. It was the worst maritime disaster for a U.S.-flagged vessel since 1983.

Like any other business leader, if a Captain mismanages his duties, for sure the crew will increasingly panic and perhaps pay a heavy price.  Across all industries, a leader is appointed for a reason, and many times we may not all see the personal sacrifices made by these individuals.

They say that there are only two certain things in life: Death and Taxes. I would argue that there is a third. Life-altering personal life challenges. No exceptions, every single person on planet earth is subject to challenges, whether it is daily, seasonal or life-altering. A perfect storm of circumstances or grievous events such as an unexpected loss of a loved one, a bitter divorce, financial destruction, something will eventually come to pass that will challenge our relatively normal and logical mental state.

Employees benefit greatly from having supervisors or mentors that can identify when something is amiss. There is a multitude of indicators that even the “greenest” of a supervisor can usually identify. Whether it is attendance, work performance, personal presentation, or even more obvious indicators such suspected intoxication or illegal narcotic use. Once a problem is identified, support is usually quickly directed towards the employee in terms of a sympathetic ear, donation of resources, or referral to an Employee Assistance Program.

Here’s is a challenge. Who is watching the supervisors and who is watching your direct supervisor? In a perfect world, the individuals listed above would self-identify a problem and they would take appropriate steps to overcome whatever is affecting them. But you know as well as I do, we do not live in that perfect world. We live in the real world.

Human resource professionals are in a unique position to discern catch subtle clues in changed behavior in company leadership and both up and down the organizational ladder. Scheduling regular meetings with leaders in an organization addresses “organizational needs” and can be multi-purpose. One, it keeps the department proactive on required changes and two to keep a finger on the pulse of employee morale. If Human Resources regularly makes assessments, everyone in the organization is protected with one exception. Who is watching them? Especially those in a department of one. Fortunately, informal checks and partnering with the direct supervisor is a key advantage.  And a close relationship with a boss helps, allowing a free exchange of information in both directions. Luckily, who’s best informed about company benefits, perks, and resources. That wonderful lifeline – human resources.

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Health & Wellness: Thinking Outside The Box

By Wayne R. Bodie, MBA, SPHR

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Photo by NIDHIN MUNDACKAL on Unsplash

Not long ago, health and wellness were hot topics. You couldn’t walk anywhere without tripping over these industry buzz words. Though often discussed in meetings as a matter of policy or detailed in summary plan documents, over time many company programs honed in on employer cost savings via employee health screenings and staff virtual wellness courses.

Right now, mental health disorders and suicides are on the rise, and more common than ever before. Thus, we grapple for workplace wellness programs that can cope with today’s rising tide of stress, anxiety and clinical depression. Narrowly focused health programs must broaden their scope. If they don’t, their glory days are over. We need more than cosmetic cover-ups, where we mindlessly re-apply polish to restore our program’s original luster. Only a comprehensive retrofit with integrated solutions will do.

Over the last 30 years, anxiety, depression, and suicide have dramatically increased. No demographic has escaped this epidemic’s grip. The National Institute on Mental Health estimates that 40 million adult Americans suffer from some form of Anxiety Disorder. That’s approximately 18% of the United States population.

To complicate matters even further, most employers are ill-equipped to recognize, intervene and mitigate the full impact of clinical depression on staff performance, workplace engagement and the company’s bottom-line. So that 18% threatens productivity, workplace safety, and moral. One thing is certain. If we ignore the trend and do nothing, we will see greater numbers of mentally unhealthy employees in the workplace.

After scrutinizing the conventional methods they’ve used in the past, given the increasing prevalence of mental health problems, many employers have broadened their health management tactics. They now advocate positively managing and supporting their employees’ total well-being. It’s the only way employers can ensure their staffs perform to their potential – allowing businesses to achieve peak performance.

Considering how much time we spend on the job, it’s logical our jobs affect our well-being. Although there’s a mountain of program alternatives, I only want to concentrate on one of them:  A liberal policy allowing emotional support animals in the workplace. I bet you’re picturing a “mad house” or a “petting zoo” at work. Hang on for a minute and let me explain. Even better, hold on and enjoy the ride.

Over the past decade, the mega-shift from the physical world to the virtual reality of consuming content online, including digitally purchasing items, simulation gaming and electronic socializing compounds our isolation. In this merged reality movement, our work habits are steadily more and more computer-centric. As technology explodes and constantly deluges us with information, many of us struggle at home and at work with virtual connectivity overload.

Although there is no Ph.D. in my titles, l strongly encourage you, especially if and when you’re upset, to look at the picture below. Does that make you feel better? If not, there’s no need to read further. However, if it made you smile or feel better or at least say, “Ahhhh”, please continue.

 

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Photo by Andrew Branch on Unsplash

 

Titles II and III of the ADA regulate the utilization of Service Animals in the workplace. The Act limits the use of Service Animals to those with mental illness to those that require medication reminders or calming an individual with PTSD. While Emotional Support Animals (ESA) or Support Animals are prescribed as part of medical treatments, they are not considered Service Animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

I haven’t attached a generic Emotional Support Animal Policy since you will want to customize one for your organization’s unique advantage. Instead, my goal is to make a compelling enough case that well-intentioned key decision makers put positive reinforcement to work for them. A happy employee is a productive employee. In a world adjusting to mainstream workplace violence, assaults, and increased depression and mental illness, it would be really something if all it took was a puppy in the office to start repairing the social damage.

 

 

Sources:

https://adata.org/publication/service-animals-booklet

https://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm

https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/22/health/us-suicide-rate-surges-to-a-30-year-high.html