- Heightened focus on well-being. Concerns about employee work-related stressors and general mental health issues have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Finding professional support. EAP professionals can play an important role in furthering employee health and well-being by enlarging their scope of services beyond individual counseling to address broader organizational issues that impact health and wellbeing.
- Improving the workplace. Criteria for the Carolyn C. Mattingly Award for Mental Health in the Workplace aligns with EAP best practices in supporting a mentally healthy workplace.
In 2014, an unimaginable tragic event suddenly befell Rich Mattingly, a Bethesda, Maryland resident and senior executive at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. After a disgruntled employee at the foundation was fired for unprofessional conduct, the employee drove to Mattingly’s house, brutally murdered Carolyn Mattingly, Rich’s wife, set the garage on fire and committed suicide.
Instead of sinking into a cycle of deep despair, Mattingly, along with his daughter and son in-law, decided to turn this horrendous event into a cause that would, in his words, “advance the understanding of, and treatments for, mental health issues” especially in the workplace. The family formed The Luv u Project, named after Carolyn’s iconic signature “luv u,” which she regularly included on her notes to family members and friends.
The Mattingly family decided that actions speak louder than words. To overcome the trauma, they would find ways to prevent worker mental health issues from spiraling out of control that may result in tragic events such as the one they suffered. The stressors that may provoke employees to “snap” and commit acts of violence may lie dormant in people’s psychological state of mind, upbringing, and past experiences. But they may also be triggered by organizational and environmental factors that employers can control.
Maintaining organizational health is just as important as maintaining individual health. This includes being mindful of job demands such as unrealistic deadlines; providing employees control over assigned tasks and schedules; squashing harassment and bullying by bosses and co-workers; eliminating exposures to known hazards that include toxic chemicals, biological agents, extreme temperatures; and other factors contributing to a toxic work environment.
Employers have become acutely aware of the effect the pandemic has had on their employees’ stress and anxiety levels, especially regarding employee health, safety, job security, child care needs, and work-life balance. With poor work conditions being consistently recognized as one of the leading causes of stress for working adults, pandemic related stressors and financial insecurity have created heightened emotional exhaustion and burnout.
Employee assistance program (EAP) professionals can play a vital role in ensuring a healthy company culture, especially during this period in history in which the COVID-19 pandemic has permanently altered the relationship between employee and employer. Specifically, they can enlarge their scope of services beyond individual counseling to address broader organizational factors that affect employee health and well-being.
The Mattingly experience points to several ways EAP professionals can enhance their professional profiles in a workplace setting.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted Americans’ wobbly work-life balance, the Mattingly family convened a summit at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health where experts in the field of workplace mental health came together to discuss research, practice, and evidence-based solutions for achieving a mentally healthy workplace.
Participants in the summit included academic researchers, policy wonks, practitioners and corporate medical directors. Among the many “call to action” recommendations offered by the assembled subject matter experts was to establish the Carolyn C. Mattingly Award for Mental Health in the Workplace (Mattingly Award).
EAP professionals know how important it is to recognize and celebrate workplaces with exemplary programs, policies, and organizational supports that advance the mental health and well-being of workers, especially in these trying times.
Indeed, the criteria for Mattingly Award winners are very much aligned with what many EAPs adhere to as best practices in supporting a mentally healthy workplace, focusing on:
- Healthy company culture
- Robust mental health benefits
- Availability of mental health resources
- Workplace policies and practices
- Healthy work environment
- Leadership support
- Documenting outcomes
EAP professionals and their clients are invited to apply for the Mattingly Award and spread best practices to employers and like-minded professionals.
For more information about the scientific basis of the award, see this article published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine entitled, “Organizational Best Practices Supporting Mental Health in the Workplace.”