How HR leaders can help employee wellbeing

Rich Jones, executive director of Heritage CARES, discusses the steps HR leaders should take to aid employees struggling with mental health, substance abuse and other wellbeing issues

Half of employees quit their job for their mental health in 2021.

It’s up to HR leaders to curb the Great Resignation, and one of the ways to accomplish that is by offering mental health support to employees. Heritage CARES is a virtual support program that helps those struggling with mental health, stress, suicidal ideation and substance misuse. The program offers certified peer coaches who walk participants through their recovery journey, alongside an extensive educational video library and a care management platform.

In this interview with HRD TV, Rich Jones, executive director of Heritage CARES, shares tips for HR leaders to best serve their employees and their wellbeing.


To view full transcript, please click here

John: [00:00:15] Welcome to HRDTV. I'm John Corrigan for HRD America. And today I'm joined by Rich Jones, executive director of Heritage CARES, a virtual support program. Today, we're talking about mental health, substance abuse and other issues affecting employees since the COVID 19 pandemic. Rich, let's get right to it. Rich, how can HR leaders bring up the topic that an employee may need help?

Rich: [00:00:43] So I think in order to bring up those type of topics, these are tough issues to discuss mental health, substance use, taboo issues, a lot of stigma. I think what HR leaders have to do and you've got to think strategically about this, you have to start talking about these issues on a routine basis. If you do things like annual training around mental health and substance use the same way you do training for sexual harassment or workplace workplace safety, if you create this culture where it's just normalized and it's OK to talk about, then bringing it up when you're concerned becomes less of less less problematic. If you only talk about mental health and substance use when when it's hitting the fan, then of course it's going to be very hard, very hard to discuss. So what we think is bringing it up, bringing up issues of concern, it actually starts in your everyday normal practice and your normal conversations. You lay the groundwork for that type of conversation through your culture.

John: [00:01:46] Now, once the topic is brought up, how can HR leaders then actually provide that help to employees in need?

Rich: [00:01:54] Yeah, you need to. HR leaders need to be in touch with what resources they have before they even start the conversation. So do you have an employee assistance program? If you have an employee assistance program, then obviously you're going to move the person toward that service. That's what they do. They specialize in behavioral health. Maybe you don't have an employee assistance program and you have to resource local therapists or local folks to help. You have to go into the conversation, prepared with your resources. And then you can go from, Hey, I'm worried about you to. Here are some steps. Here are some things that you can do. We believe that that the more robust your services, the easier that is as well. We believe in things like peer coaching because sometimes it's easier to talk to somebody who's been there, done that than it is to go see a therapist. We believe in asynchronous kind of video content that supports people learning about these issues. So we would we would encourage HR directors to have a have a variety of tools at their ready when they go and have the conversation. But you've got to be prepared if I'm going to bring it up with John. I got to be prepared that he to send him somewhere for help in order to to go with it. You can't just say, Hey John, I think you have a problem and then not have an answer for him

John: [00:03:06] Now that we know all these resources that are available. Rich, let me ask you, how can an HR leader provide help to not only employees,

Rich: [00:03:15] But their families in need? Yeah, absolutely. It's really interesting when you look at the family stuff, we know that about this is just an example. We noted about 26 percent of employees report that they're going home to active addiction to people actively struggling with a substance use disorder. Those folks are stressed out beyond belief. They're half president work. They're at their computers or they're at their station or doing whatever their job is, but they're not mentally there. I know this, John, because I went through it. I thought I was a family expert. I thought I understood this, but it wasn't until I went through it with my own daughter that I realized exactly how it impacts the family. It takes you completely offline. So if you offer supportive services, you have to offer to the family because many times it's the family member that has your employee off his game. And if you want to get the most, I mean, even if you don't care about people, even if you don't care about their health and her mental health, if you want to get the most out of your business in terms of productivity and bottom line, you have to get support for these family members because we're just suffering in silence and it's you get 50 percent at best of the worker when they're going through something like this.

John: [00:04:29] Wonderful insight, Rich, I appreciate you taking the time. Absolutely. And thank you all for watching HRDTV.