Episode 24 of the More than Health Care: A Community Health Conversation podcast is now available on the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities’ website and on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify. Every other week, a new episode uncovers keys to collaboration and holistic health in pursuit of improved health outcomes and lower costs for all.

How do you help employees be the best that they can be? How can you create a work atmosphere where people thrive? And how can you help staff that are in mental or physical distress? Terri Howard, senior director at FEI Behavioral Health, knows that it starts with awareness, good communication, and the willingness of employers to promote both physical and mental health to ensure an optimum work environment. “In order to be ready to bring your “A game" to work, you have to be not only physically, but mentally prepared. And so, as part of that preparedness, organizational development is a key ingredient to make that so,” explains Howard. “We know that when people come to work mentally ready, they're more present, they're more productive, and they contribute more to the overall organization and its goals.”

When Howard is called-in by an organization to address a challenge, she looks at the overall environment to assess the mood of the workforce and identify all potential causes. “I don't just necessarily go in and talk about what I'm asked to talk about, but rather take some time to interview perhaps two focus groups, [hold] town hall meetings, and just put my finger on the pulse of what's happening within the climate of the organization,” she states. This method not only addresses the initial concern, but also helps lay the groundwork for the employer to institute wellness initiatives that will create a healthier, more productive workforce.

Howard points out that employee assistance programs (EAPs), which are designed to address a multitude of needs, are also a critical factor in overall workforce health. However, EAPs have traditionally has been underused. In many instances, company leaders do not fully understand all that is offered or how the services can be used to build a work environment that heads off potential problems. Howard feels that EAPs have moved beyond the clinical model of relationship and substance abuse issues to one where any concern that gets in the way of work performance is open for discussion. And because there are many more specialized services available today, EAPs can better address a person’s specific needs. This approach not only helps the individual seeking assistance, but it also allows the employer to leverage EAP programs for prevention efforts to ensure a more stable workplace.

Ultimately, an overall happy and content workforce is one made up of employees who feel supported and appreciated as unique individuals as well as for the work they perform. And Howard is diligently working to help employers understand that when an organization provides internal programs to foster this environment while also offering avenues for assistance when either work or personal problems arise, lower turnover and absenteeism and higher productivity follow.

Listen as Howard provides insight on how to create a healthy and productive work environment in Episode 24 of the  More than Health Care Podcast  available through the Alliance website or subscribe on the Apple Podcast, Google Play, or Spotify apps

About the Podcast

While many are realizing that collaboration and holistic approaches are the solution, the health care and human services sectors are struggling to find the right formula to realize the full potential. The More than Health Care podcast is designed to help organizations overcome barriers to partnerships resulting from cultural differences, financial pressures, and rules and regulations. 

In addition to showcasing inspiring examples of integration from across the country, featured experts will expose the myths, misconceptions, and shortcomings of efforts to address the social determinants of health through collaboration across sectors. 

This podcast is presented by the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, Ascentria Care Alliance, and Beech Acres Parenting Center. Cohosts Jill Huynh, vice president of new business development at Beech Acres, and Tim Johnstone, executive vice president of community services at Ascentria, work at the intersection of health and human services, bringing the expertise and practical experience to uncover key takeaways for improving health care and human services integration. 

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Learn more about the Alliance's efforts to improve population health and well-being.