State Leadership Conference

Many Americans are still feeling squeezed by the economy. A 2011 APA Stress in the Workplace survey conducted by Harris Interactive between Jan. 31 and Feb. 8 found that two-thirds of American workers say that their employers have made cuts during the down economy such as salary freezes, layoffs and slashed benefits. Thirty-six percent of employees report that they were experiencing regular stress at work and 49 percent said that low salaries were causing them stress. Other stressors included lack of opportunities for growth and advancement (43 percent), heavy workload (43 percent), unrealistic job expectations (40 percent) and long hours (39 percent).

While overloading and undervaluing employees may help an organization get through a financial crunch temporarily, cutting staff and benefits often hurt staff morale and the company’s performance in the long run, studies show.

APA CEO Dr. Norman Anderson and APA President Dr. Melba J.T. Vasquez present a 2011 Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award to Connie Roy-Czyzowski (center) of Northeast Delta Dental of Concord, N.H. (credit: Tracey Brown)Some companies are taking a healthier approach to boosting their bottom line: giving employees flexible scheduling options, leadership and wellness programs and other benefits in an effort to boost performance, loyalty and morale. APA’s Practice Directorate recognized 14 such organizations at its annual Psychologically Healthy Workplace Awards and Best Practices Honors during its State Leadership Conference, March 12–15, in Washington, D.C.

Bucking the national trend, 87 percent of employees at the companies that received APA’s 2011 Psychologically Healthy Workplace Awards reported feeling satisfied with their jobs. These eight companies also reported an average turnover rate of 11 percent in 2010 — significantly less than the 38 percent national average reported by the U.S. Department of Labor last year.

“These winners demonstrate how a positive organizational culture and a healthy, high-performing work force can promote business success and a prosperous future,” says David W. Ballard, PsyD, MBA, APA’s assistant executive director for marketing and business development.

The 2011 Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award winners are:
  • City of Grand Prairie, Texas. The city offers its employees leadership classes in management, employment law, budgeting and ethics, as well as a leadership mentoring program for those who want to move into management positions. The city’s wellness program, which includes an onsite fitness center, discounts on gym memberships, lunchtime talks on nutrition and wellness, and an onsite WeightWatchers group, also won a Best Practices honor for 2011.
  • Cross, Gunter, Witherspoon & Galchus. Unlike many law firms, this Arkansas-based firm monitors employees’ workloads for signs of overload and allows employees to work modified schedules and telecommute.
  • eXude Benefits Group. This Philadelphia-based company, which develops health and wellness programs for companies, gives employees every other Friday off during the summer and holds personal development retreats and regular 15-minute meetings between support staff and managers to address employees’ needs. The company also won a 2011 Best Practices honor for granting employees unlimited vacation once they have been with the company for a year.
  • First Horizon. The Tennessee-based financial services company pays for services or programs to help employees to quit smoking, offers compressed work weeks and sponsors an adoption reimbursement program that pays up to $7,500 per child. The company’s “myPLAN” career development program, an online tool employees use to set goals and manage their professional development, also won a 2011 Best Practices honor.
  • Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research Northwest. This Portland, Ore.-based nonprofit research institute provides a leadership development group and a mentoring program. The company also allows employees to design their own schedules, as long as they meet their deadlines.
  • The MITRE Corp. This Virginia-based company offers flexible and part-time schedules, 900 professional development courses a year and a paid day off each week for employees to pursue advanced degrees.
  • Northeast Delta Dental. This dental program administration firm based in Concord, N.H., provides a free fitness trainer in its onsite gym, flexible work schedules, and employee discounts and reserved openings at a nearby day-care center.
  • San Jorge Children’s Hospital. This hospital in San Juan, P.R., offers some employees the option of a 10-month work schedule so they can care for their children during the summers, flex schedules for all employees and onsite children’s art camps during school breaks.
The 2011 Best Practices Honorees are:
  • Beach Cities Health District. This preventive health agency in Redondo Beach, Calif., offers its employees nutrition, fitness and stress management workshops and comprehensive health-risk assessments.
  • Harbinger Partners. This information technology company in St. Paul, Minn., gives employees who have reached their five- or 10-year milestones a cash gift of $5,000 or $10,000, respectively, to spend on vacation.
  • The Minnesota Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The Minneapolis-based nonprofit asked staff for ideas on how to trim costs without cutting benefits or salaries. Employees came up with innovative cuts — such as having staff pitch in for fund-raising events rather than hire contractors. As a result, the chapter was one of only four in the country that ended the 2010 fiscal year in the black and was also able to give staff raises.
  • Tripler Army Medical Center Department of Psychology. This Honolulu-based department offers regular yoga classes for the entire medical center, helping health-care providers reduce stress and boost strength and flexibility.
  • The University of Akron. Following staff suggestions, the Ohio-based school overhauled its conflict resolution process by adding guest speakers on problem-solving and hiring on-campus mediators and counselors trained in dispute resolution. In the program’s first year, 24 faculty and staff issues were resolved outside of the formal grievance process, increasing productivity and cutting legal costs.
  • VisitPittsburgh. The tourism company adopted the Lifestyle Returns program, a five-step course that helps employees identify health and lifestyle areas that need improvement and tracks their progress online.

For more information on APA’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program, visit the website, or follow the program on Facebook or on Twitter at @PHWP_online.