Health and Safety Beyond the Physical

No matter what industry they are in, safety is almost always noted as a company’s core value. Nearly every company focuses on the physical safety of employees who work on their sites or in their facilities, and often that focus results in marked improvement in key safety performance indicators.

As employers continue to wrestle with COVID-19 aftereffects such as supply chain backlogs and labor shortages, a subtle, more dangerous trend is becoming increasingly evident that presents an even greater risk not only to our businesses but the communities that we live in: our mental wellbeing. The state of mental health in our country is at an all-time low, with over 40% of the American workforce regularly suffering from some sort of mental or emotional distress due to situations that have arisen from the pandemic or social events. All these added emotional factors can cause significant workplace distractions and contribute to job-site incidents; however, they often go undetected because of the lack of focus on psychological health. Creating a working environment that focuses not only on the physical aspects of a job’s hazards but recognizes employees’ mental health and wellbeing, or psychological health, is key to having a complete workplace safety program.

At Faith Technologies, staying true to our core values by keeping an uncompromised focus on keeping people safe led to recognizing the need to create a work environment that helps employees focus not only on the physical hazards of their work but their emotional health as well. Late last year, I had the honor of joining the task force created specifically to focus on the mental health and wellbeing of our employees. Our primary focus is to create an environment that focuses on the mind, body and soul, where open conversations surrounding mental health are normalized, and an environment where every employee feels accepted, respected and valued for their contributions. We are creating an inclusive, diverse environment where people feel safe and confident enough to be themselves, allowing them to do their best work.

After several months of planning, and with the whole-hearted support of our leadership team, we set the framework of our mental health plan into place and began integrating it into our health, safety and wellbeing strategies.

  • We launched the Culture of Care program by first soliciting anonymous feedback to learn about our employees’ state of mind and found that it was important to address not only their mental health but the mental health of their families as well.
  • Second, after compiling those results, we consulted and ultimately partnered with mental health experts to help guide us.
  • Third, we assigned mental health awareness training for all employees and additional training specific for supervisors and managers within the company.
  • Fourth, the task force wanted to create a peer-to-peer mentorship program to aid visibility and encourage participation across the organization. We sought applications from volunteers who have a passion for people and selected 15 Culture of Care Champions with differing levels of responsibility across the company. This group of individuals received specialized training, and members are available at our facilities and job sites nationwide to assist with identifying employees who may be experiencing mental health issues, provide additional support to employees whenever needed and encourage participation in our employee assistance programs (EAP). They’re also able to provide feedback and suggestions to the task force on what employees are experiencing and how the program can be improved.
  • Fifth, every employee was provided monthly “time to recharge” paid time off that equates to 24 additional hours in a calendar year.

A work environment with safety as the foundation not only protects lives and livelihoods but also provides a place where all employees can feel emotionally and mentally safe. Improving psychological safety encourages employees to connect with their peers. It improves our ability to speak up, share experiences, ideas and opinions, and even learn new skills. It also encourages employees to seek support through our EAP or community support groups when they are experiencing mental health issues. These factors together support the safest environment for our entire team.