Encouraging and promoting “wellness” as an organization certainly includes things like exercise and getting proper nutrition, but wellness is also about the employees’ mental well-being. Wellness is about understanding employees from a whole-person perspective, taking into account an individual’s totality of life, and the organization’s contributions to its employees’ overall quality of life. By placing greater emphasis on these factors, a company will not only create a culture that promotes inclusion, security, openness and loyalty, it also helps to create more productivity amongst its employees through positive mental health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that mental health challenges such as depression and anxiety can affect an employee’s physical performance by as much as 20 percent. More substantial, these same challenges can impair mental tasks by as much as 35 percent.  Most employees have probably experienced presenteeism or having something on their minds that took them away from the present moment and the tasks they are doing.  Employers who are empathetic to an employee’s individual situation, and have support systems in place to help them, create workers who are more emboldened to do a better job in spite of outside life stressors. For organizations that emphasize the “people” over the “work,” the reward is in the positive outcomes of their employees. While this may sound backward, the reality is good work does not happen without good people. Taking care of your employees is how you retain and elevate those good people and your business as a whole.

Most individuals spend more of their waking hours at their workplace than anywhere else, making it increasingly important that working environments promote positive mental health and well-being. In fact, employers actually benefit in many ways from investing in employee well-being including happier, more productive employees in addition to better recruitment of top talent and employee retention. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that for every dollar that is invested into the treatment of common mental health challenges, there is a $4 return on investment (ROI) in improved health and productivity.

So, what are some ways that your organization can invest in positive workplace culture that places a greater emphasis on employee well-being? The Wellable 2019 Employee Wellness Industry Trends Report revealed among employees surveyed:

  • 67% favor employee assistance programs (EAP)
  • 46% value mental health education resources, such as access to lunch-and-learn wellness seminars or webinars
  • 30% favor flexible work schedules
  • 29% value access to digital health tools

Canopy’s executive team has elevated the importance of workplace culture and its impact on employee well-being in recent years. As an organization, we have explored what it means to be a healthy workplace physically such as offering incentives for the annual flu shot and utilizing free annual wellness visits through insurance. But we also explored what it means to be a healthy organization characterize by a commitment to: minimal politics, low confusion, high morale, low turnover, and high productivity, all of which promote trust and pride in an individual’s role and contributions to the organizational mission.

During this pandemic, where we have all seen increases in stress in life and at home, Canopy has focused our internal efforts on reminding our employees about taking care of ourselves, our teams and supporting one another so that we can continue to take care of the children and families who depend on us. This meant changing our thematic goal for the year from “Obsessed with Feedback” to “Keeping our Canopy Family Safe and Thriving.” While this certainly does not mean that feedback from our clients and families as well as from our work family isn’t important, it shows adaptation and a willingness for an organization to lean into the fears, concerns and vulnerabilities we are all facing and working together to find a solution that moves us forward. Within two weeks of COVID appearing in Mississippi, Canopy had converted more than 90 percent of our solutions to an online format, and poured additional support and resources into those solutions who were still serving children face-to-face. We are grateful to have staff who had deep concerns for what this pandemic meant for their clients and pushed forward from every level of the organization to ensure our children were cared for, and from our leadership that our teams were cared for. We have also continued to take time to engage our Canopy team with annual employee feedback surveys, CEO luncheons, listening tours and encourage a high level of honest feedback to help ensure we are addressing, as much as we can, challenges that affect the performance, health and well-being of our employees. Being intentional in receiving that feedback is a crucial part of creating an environment that will benefit your team as well as those you intend to serve.

Canopy has also continued to take a look at our employee benefits and what is available in the marketplace that can benefit our employees financially and encourage them to take the reins of their mental and physical health. Our HR team throughout the year has reminded employees about our EAP, and recently added a $0 deductible common medical procedures plan to accompany our health insurance and a diabetes care benefit. Personal well-being is important—emotional, mental, and physical.

These are just a few of the ways Canopy continues to strive to be a great place to work. A place that grows individuals in a mission greater than ourselves.

-John D. Damon, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer for Canopy Children’s Solutions