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Normalizing The Mental Health Conversation

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by Jim Dudlicek / NGA Director, Communications and External Affairs

Grocery operators are starting to focus more deeply on the well-being of their teams and engage in conversations around employee mental health in our industry.

The NGA Foundation hosted a recent webinar that explored how organizations approach their employees’ mental health to ensure their teams have the tools to be successful and productive.

Speakers included Craig Thompson, senior director of KNA Total Rewards at the Kellogg Co., and Jennifer Ricks, EVP of human resources at grocery and natural products distributor KeHE.

Here are some key takeaways from the discussion:

Mental health is the lynchpin of the work-life equation. Of the four pillars of Kellogg’s total health framework – physical, social, financial, emotional – the latter is most significant because it’s interrelated to the others and has emerged of heightened importance since the pandemic, Thompson asserted. Ricks added, “Our approach is to listen and understand their needs.”

Removing the stigma. Key to providing your employees with the support they need is making them feel comfortable talking about it. “We’re helping get rid of the stigma,” Thompson said. One way Kellogg has tried to do that is by rebranding its employee assistance program in a more positive light, under the name Find Your Wings, which Thompson describes as a “concierge for your life.” And at KeHE, Ricks noted that the company is working toward a climate in which people don’t have to be afraid to seek assistance if they need it.

Flexibility is essential to the work-life balance. “The gift of time” is warmly embraced by employees, Ricks said. Maybe that means working four 10-hour days instead of a standard schedule so you can be home when your family needs you most. “What people really want is a sense of control over their schedule and be provided flexibility as necessary,” Thompson said.

Raise awareness. Kellogg offers Lean on Me, a mental health “first aid” training program that teaches employees how to recognize warning signs in their colleagues so they can help them get the support they need. That’s in addition to broader programs surrounding World Mental Health Day. Meanwhile, KeHE hosts mental health webinars, wellness fairs, and yoga and meditation programs.

Listen to your employees. While larger companies like Kellogg and KeHE have the scale and resources to offer a broad range of support programs, smaller operators can take a step toward mental health services just by listening to their associates.

“Individualizing is easier to do for a smaller company,” Ricks said, suggesting that smaller operators investigate free or low-cost support programs available in their communities through local or government resources.

To hear all the exclusive insights in this webinar, along with all the webinars in the series, visit https://nga.sclivelearningcenter.com/MVSite/default.aspx.

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