Encore Electric, a leading electrical contractor in Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana, checks all the boxes.
Its workforce checks all the boxes for what the CDC considers to be the highest risk individuals for suicide and mental health issues. Males working in construction between the ages of 16-64 years old.
“We know our workforce checks all the boxes for being at risk, and if you check all the boxes on anything, you better be paying attention to it,” said Cathy Emerson, PHR, SHRM CP, benefits manager at Encore Electric.
Thankfully, Encore Electric also checks all the boxes for supporting its employees in the best ways it can.
Encore Electric has been a Certified Healthy Workplace™ through Health Links™ for six years and works tirelessly to ensure its programs and policies support the mental health and well-being of not just employees, but their families as well. In 2021, Health Links awarded Encore Electric the Mental Health Champion Award at the annual event, Celebrating Total Worker Health®.
“Mental health is our culture, it is part of how we explain and describe our culture. Its total well-being,” Emerson said. The leadership at Encore Electric is convicted that mental health directly impacts work, and vice versa.
Especially on construction sites where Encore Electric employees work, mental health can impact their safety on the job. “You can't expect somebody who's got family or addiction problems or problems with their kids at home to be a 100% focused at work, that's not going to happen,” Emerson said. “Mental health is totally involved in the safety piece of a company.”
Encore Electric offers the service TalkSpace to all employees and their immediate family members. The app provides virtual counseling with licensed therapists, and Encore Electric employees and family members have unlimited access to talking and text, as well as four virtual face-to-face counseling sessions a month through the app. For employees looking to meet in person with a counselor, Encore Electric covers unlimited in-person mental health visits through both medical insurance providers.
Communication is a key part of the company’s approach to mental health. Encore Electric sends physical mailers to employees about mental health benefits “so that not only employees know about it, but their family members know that we support their mental health and well-being as well,” Emerson said.
HR includes the resources in newsletters and mental health is discussed on the job site in daily and weekly safety meetings. Supervisors and managers bring it up in one-on-one check-ins with employees.
“Sometimes HR gets to have really open conversations about what's going on in employees’ lives. We help them look at all the resources we have in and pick the best opportunity for them,” Emerson said. “It's never-ending, you can't stop talking about it. It’s becoming more of a norm here and people aren't afraid to discuss it.”
All full-time Encore Electric employees (96% of its workforce) have paid short- and long-term disability leave, which can be an essential mental health benefit for some. “The moment we hear someone say, I need to take time off because of a personal issue, we start working with them,” Emerson said. They help employees fill out paperwork, and get ahold of their healthcare providers, a counselor, a doctor, etcetera. Emerson said that addiction problems are handled the very same way.
Encore Electric’s response to employees signaling that they need help is singular in nature – it is with empathy.
“Empathy is in our culture, it truly is,” Emerson said. “When a workmate is struggling, we don’t just expect empathy from our employees, we show it. We try to model empathy, understanding and going the extra mile to help somebody. If they need help or time off, we say go for it. If they need to go on short-term leave or even just to get away for a few days, we support that. We try to model it and then it's expected from everyone.”
Encore Electric was one of the first organizations to participate in Health Links’ Workplace Mental Health Module, launched last year. Emerson and her team especially appreciate the Health Links’ network of employers committed to worker health, safety, and well-being.
“I always like to see what other people are doing. David is always willing to share other people’s strategies and we see if there are areas we've missed or a really great idea that we can borrow,” Emerson said.
The company’s health and safety committee brings together members from all levels of the organization to inform how they approach employee support. The committee is currently working on a training for supervisors to help prepare them for conversations about mental health and to better direct employees to resources.
“We want to kindly and swiftly get someone the help they need, and that it just isn't in our culture to make light of any of those situations,” Emerson said. “We put people first. It is a community, and everybody serves each other. We're here to help each other and we do.”
Written by Laura Veith, communications and media program manager at the Center for Health, Work & Environment at the Colorado School of Public Health.