It Takes a Village

In 2020, I accepted a new Benefits leadership role at Kiewit Corporation, which would take my family and me from Dallas to Omaha. While that change was significant on its own, COVID-19 definitely increased the intensity of this transition. My boss has been on The Wellbeing Partners’ Board (previously The Wellness Council of The Midlands) for nine years serving as their Treasurer. He is retiring and will be rolling off at the end of the year. He asked me if I would have any interest in serving on the Board. He said, “TWP has a very visionary CEO and an engaged Board, and they do some amazing work!” At first, I had some reservation as I was not sure if I would be able to serve well in the middle of this transition. After learning more about the organization, I was intrigued to learn that their big focus are mental health and mental health stigma. Even better, Kiewit had been significantly elevating its focus and efforts on mental health, making TWP a great fit.  

Total wellbeing is important for me. It started with my previous employer, Ericsson, where wellbeing is not a buzzword and much more than simply numbers and data. Wellbeing is woven into the culture to ensure employees are healthy at work AND at home. This means that a focus on families is crucial – not only for the benefit of employees’ loved ones, but also for employees’ peace of mind. I always bragged about our company receiving the Koop Award – the “Oscars of Healthcare” – but it wasn’t about our team, the real heroes are our people. We simply provided our people a path to important wellbeing resources. Our company’s success was due to our employees taking advantage of these tools and committing to a healthier life – that part is immeasurable! 

Fast forward to last year when COVID-19 turned much of the world upside down. Before the pandemic, research showed that 1 in 5 American adults reported a mental health issue each year. Those numbers have only increased the last 18 months. We are all living in uncertain times, coping with a new “normal,” and more people are faced with stressful and overwhelming challenges. Many employers are focusing on behavioral health now more than ever, and Kiewit is no different. As we all try to adjust to this current environment, there is still uncertainty lingering ahead, which make effective, available mental-health services crucial.  

Being new to the construction and engineering sector, I was stunned and saddened to learn that the highest suicide rates among men in the U.S. are in our industry. At Kiewit, our people are the foundation of our business, and nothing is more important than their safety and wellbeing. Physical and mental health go hand-in-hand when it comes to safety, yet the mental and emotional sides are often stigmatized and not discussed.  

I’m proud that Kiewit fully commits to the health and wellbeing of our people and their families. Kiewit wants to ensure our people can live their lives to their fullest by providing services for them to access the help they need. Kiewit offers many resources to help employees and their families during times of need. We strive to offer resources to reach people wherever they are and at any point they need them. We all benefit from healthier workforce – physically, emotionally, financially, and socially.  

Importantly, Kiewit is not thinking about this focus on mental health effort as a “one-and-done” initiative. It’s ongoing, evolving and growing. In keeping with our company’s safety philosophy, we have a dedicated team from Safety, HR, Communications and Benefits that works closely with our executive leadership and operations groups to focus on this issue. Among its many responsibilities, this team spends significant time on: 

– Evaluating and improving our wide array of resources 

– Identifying way to de-stigmatize mental health so people are more comfortable addressing their personal challenges 

– Increasing communication and making sure all employees have immediate, easy access to get the mental-health support they or their families need 

– Consulting with leading external experts to bring in best practices and think differently about mental health than we have in the past 

– Measuring impact and effectiveness  

There is plenty of work to be done, but we are making progress.  

As for TWP, being a committed member and intimately involved in the organization’s Board has been helpful on many fronts, from how we are increasing awareness, making important connections in the community, and identifying best practices. I’m proud to continue Kiewit’s involvement at TWP through this Board role and intend to be very active in helping both Kiewit and TWP lead the way in wellbeing in the workplace. As they say, “it takes a village to achieve any meaningful change,” and I am grateful to be a link for Kiewit and TWP. 

The coming Xchange Summit is timely and a good way for us to learn more from subject matter experts and collaborate with the community on mental health awareness. I’m excited for what the future holds.  

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Published October 4, 2021