• Monitor for employee satisfaction.
In order for companies to be truly
innovative, they added, acknowledge
if a plan doesn’t work and use data and
metrics to move on to the next idea.
Making Well-being Stick
How do you achieve an “
off-the-charts” engagement level for
your wellness program? Micron
International Inc. Wellness Specialist
Chelsea Brown says it starts with
meeting employees where they are.
During a session titled “Micron
Takes Well-being Global,” Brown
spoke about the need to address issues
most important to employees, from
financial health to physical activity
to nutrition. Through its wellness
initiative—which deploys Virgin
Pulse’s well-being platform—Micron is
now able to address “the whole health
of team members,” she said.
Four years ago, that wasn’t the case.
Indeed, when Brown started at
Micron in 2014, the company still had a
smoking lounge. “You walked through
the cafeteria and into a large version
of an airport smoking lounge,” she
Brown knew something needed to
Micron ultimately implemented
a policy that eliminated smoking in
front of the building and in lounges.
Initially, Brown recalled, “we were very
unpopular with our smokers. But we
Today, those former smoking areas
are spaces where employees can play
ping pong, meditate or pray.
Brown, who presented her remarks
along with Virgin Pulse founder
Christopher Boyce, emphasized the
importance of leadership buy-in, but not
in the traditional sense. While Micron’s
CEO was very supportive of the
revamped wellness efforts, she said,
some of the company’s roughly 57 vice
presidents weren’t all that engaged.
“A lot of times, as we’re branching
out new programs,” Brown said, “we
can get really caught up in the few
leaders who are not thought partners.
That can be a real barrier. Instead,
we [decided to focus] our energy on
middle managers who already believed
Brown also pointed to a letter
Micron’s HR vice president wrote to
each employee. “The letter said, in her
tone and in her voice, why well-being
is important at Micron and why well-
being should be important to each of
us as human beings,” Brown said.
It was translated into multiple
languages “so every team member on
the planet” could read it.
Currently, Brown said, Micron
boasts a 71-percent “
consistent-engagement” level for its wellness
programs. It’s a metric she’d like to
have tattooed on her arm, she said, as
it means people aren’t just putting the
program on the back burner, but are
coming back consistently.
Unmasking Mental Health
The conference presented a
holistic view of well-being, as a panel
of experts discussed the prevalence,
challenges and solutions of addressing
mental health in the workplace. Nancy
Spangler, senior consultant at the
Center for Workplace Mental Health of
the American Psychiatric Association
Foundation, moderated the discussion.
Spangler said one in five adults has
a mental-health disorder and one in 10
has a substance-abuse problem. The
economic impact of major depressive
disorder and its comorbid medical
conditions, she added, in the U.S. is
more than $210 billion annually. Half of
these costs are workplace-related, such
as absence and presenteeism.
There are more reasons to address
mental health at work than the financial
aspect, and the experts were armed
with solutions, including addressing
stigma and enhancing benefits.
Kim Hauge, director of employee
wellness at Kent State University,
implemented an initiative into the
university’s five-year strategic plan
that provided employees with tools to
address mental health. She also led a
three-month campaign in which every
leader and employee was made aware
of resources for mental- and behavioral-health issues. An EAP representative
was present during all meetings to
reinforce the program benefits.
Hauge said the employee track of the
program was designed to teach workers
how to recognize depression and speak
to colleagues about concerns and where
to find resources. The leadership track
taught managers about depression,
its prevalence and what they can do if
they see a troubled employee. It also
were taught to pause and consider if
something they might normally call a
“workplace-performance issue” may
actually be an underlying mental-health
After the initiative, EAP utilization
significantly increased (from 13
percent in 2015 to 55 percent in
2017) and healthcare-claim dollars
significantly decreased—just by talking
about mental health.
The panelists all agreed that
destigmatizing mental health is key
for any successful wellness program.
Reilly pointed to a pilot program that
connected employees with an on-site
EAP clinician, instead of an over-the-phone consultation.
“The on-site clinician helps
normalize mental-health communication,
which has made it ‘acceptable’ for
employees to see her,” said Reilly.
“In just six months, the clinician has
addressed 98 percent of requests for
Habits at Work
The closing keynote speaker,
Andrew Sykes, founder and president
of Habits at Work and BRATLAB,
took well-being to another level by
explaining how business habits actually
create unhealthy employees.
The fundamental human desire is
to be healthy, happy and financially
secure, said Sykes. But the one
reason almost everyone gives for not
achieving these outcomes is work.
If employers looked at their physical
environment—from food in the
cafeteria to static work stations—as
well as employee workloads, PTO
policies and the organizational culture,
they could begin to see why their
employees are sick, tired and stressed.
Sykes said other barriers to well-
being lie within individuals themselves.
Imagine being 5 years old and belting
out a beautiful song, he said. Then
someone says you sound awful, or they
laugh at you. The story you tell yourself
is that you can’t sing well. Over time,
This mentality applies to employee
well-being—if people think, “I can’t
exercise” or “I’m incapable of losing
weight,” they’ll never participate in a
wellness program because they lack
the confidence to try.
Benefits professionals, said Sykes,
need to implore other leaders to not
only change the built-in environment of
the business but also its culture.
“Culture is nothing more or less
than the sum of the habits that we
practice as employees every day.
Culture change and habit change are
two sides of the identical coin,” he said.
Sykes also pointed out that it’s
imperative that business leaders
stop thinking about employees as
the problem. They need to take
responsibility for the design of the
business because “business designs,
not wellness programs and insurance
plans, explain whether people will
practice healthy habits at work,” he said.
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Andrew Crighton, vice president
and chief medical officer at Prudential,
said the company has also worked hard
to destigmatize mental health, so much
so that executives recorded videos for
employees about their own struggles
with substance abuse and depression,
and the eventual success they found
with the resources at Prudential. When
leaders talk about these issues, he said,
employees really listen.
At Mercer, Sandra Kuhn, principal
and lead for the behavioral-health
consulting group, said clients with
whom she’s worked often face five
“buckets” of challenges in addressing
mental health: access to care, cost of
care, stigma, quality and integration.
Access dips into cost because many
providers don’t participate in-network,
so employees are forced to look out-of-network, which dramatically increases
their out-of-pocket costs.
Kuhn said integration is important
because mental health shouldn’t
be siloed from medical coverage or
Spangler noted that, so often within
wellness initiatives, physical activity and
nutrition are stressed as preventative
measures for cardiovascular disease
or cancer but research is increasingly
indicating that both measures are also
hugely important for mental health.
“If we talk about mental health this
way, we reduce stigma automatically,”
Before concluding their session,
Kuhn discussed ways to leverage
technology and behavioral health. She
mentioned that a large client of hers
implemented text-based therapy, which
was a good fit for a big portion of the
company’s employees—no one knows
whom you’re texting, she said, so
there’s limited stigma attached to this
Mental health was also the focus
of “Transforming the Employee
Healthcare Experience,” moderated by
HRE benefits columnist Carol Harnett.
The panelists included Crighton; Janet
McNichol, HR director at the American
and Kristin Reilly, vice president of
global people experience at Walmart.
HRE’s 2019 Health & Benefits Leadership
Conference will be held April 24 through
26 at the Aria Resort & Casino in Las
Vegas. Visit www.benefitsconf.com for
Opening day of the HBLC Expo Hall