Giving employees authority over hiring, allowing children in the workplace and offering massage therapy and home-cooked meals are just some of the innovative approaches of 10 companies honored in October with the APA Practice Directorate's second annual Best Practices Honors.

The Best Practices Honors is a national program that recognizes companies for particularly innovative programs and policies that foster a psychologically healthy workplace. Since 2000, state and provincial psychological associations, with support from APA's Practice Directorate, have presented Psychologically Healthy Workplace Awards to companies at the state level. The awards recognize organizations for their commitment to programs and policies that enhance employee health and well-being.

Evaluators consider companies for the state-level awards across five areas: employee involvement, work-life balance, employee growth and development, health and safety, and employee recognition. Over the past four years, participation has grown to a total of 37 state and provincial psychological associations.

Last year, APA built upon the success of the state-level awards by creating the Best Practices Honors, selecting 16 national winners from companies nominated by participating state psychological associations.

This year, APA used a more competitive evaluation and judging process, selecting the top 10 companies from a pool of more than 180 previous state-level winners, says David W. Ballard, PsyD, assistant executive director for corporate relations and business strategy in APA's Practice Directorate.

"These organizations have already reached a certain overall standard by receiving a state-level award," Ballard says. "The Best Practices Honors are designed to recognize those companies with specific workplace practices that stand out for their facilitation of a psychologically healthy workplace."

It is important to highlight these companies' efforts in this era of business challenges and workplace pressures, says Russ Newman, PhD, JD, APA's executive director for professional practice.

"Many organizations are struggling to stem the forces that are whittling away at their employees' morale, productivity and health," says Newman. "These Best Practices honorees are setting an example by creating strong, vibrant organizational cultures that contribute to both employee health and well-being and the company's bottom line."

Indeed, in a national survey, two-thirds of both men and women reported that work has a significant impact on their stress level. What's more, workplace stress is estimated to cost U.S. industry $300 billion a year in absenteeism, turnover, diminished productivity and medical, legal and insurance fees, according to the American Institute of Stress.

APA announced the recipients of the 2004 Best Practices Honors on Oct. 13 in Phoenix, during the annual conference of the Institute for Health and Productivity Management--a nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote health in the workplace. The 2004 winners are:

  • The Albany, Ore., Public Works Department. The city department improved public service by giving employees customer-service training, which provided employees greater autonomy to make decisions. It also created more positions to coordinate outreach programs with the community. The department now receives fewer complaints from residents, and employee morale is up.

  • Bank One Corp. of Ohio. As part of a pilot program, this company teaches employees how to help victims of domestic violence seek appropriate professional help. Through the Columbus Coalition Against Family Violence, Bank One presents videos, information cards and work-area posters about preventing violence. Nearly 87 percent of employees say they would use the program if faced with domestic violence.

  • Donald A. Deems III, DDS. This Arkansas dentist started biweekly lunch meetings with employees to foster their personal and professional development. Be they group discussions or workshops, the meetings focus on issues ranging from technology training to stress management to communication skills. Now, turnover is down and employee self-esteem is up.

  • Liberty Precision Industries. This New York machine-building company helps its employees develop new, versatile job skills. Liberty employees work with a consulting psychologist to identify specific areas where they can improve job performance.

  • Otsuka's Furniture & Appliances. This Hawaii-based business makes work feel more like home by offering employees home-cooked meals at work, as well as performance bonuses, 401(k) plans and profit-sharing. The efforts have boosted employee morale and customer satisfaction.

  • Silverado Senior Living at Aspen Park. This Utah senior living community encourages family members of both residents and staff to join in facility activities. One-quarter of the staff now bring children to work, where they play games, read, swim and make crafts alongside seniors. The Aspen Park branch holds the highest employee satisfaction ratings of Silverado's 14 communities.

  • South Carolina Bank and Trust. This company's employee expectations survey has cut turnover rates in half by allowing employees to anonymously voice concerns about the workplace. Management listens: It has added employee recognition programs and new stock purchase options.

  • Steelscape. This Washington state manufacturing company allows its self-directed work teams to play a central role in hiring new team employees. By promoting team autonomy, it has reduced employee turnover to just 1.6 percent.

  • Sysco Food Services of New Mexico. This company partnered with the University of New Mexico to develop a coaching skills class that taught all executives, managers and supervisors skills such as collaborative decision-making, employee development and team-building. Employees report less stress and increased job satisfaction.

  • VanCity Savings Credit Union. With crime in the banking industry on the rise, this Vancouver-based credit union established a "robbery intervention program" to help employees cope in the event of a robbery. In addition to clear, step-by-step instructions about how to proceed following a robbery, the 18-year-old program offers employees massage therapy, group meals and evening outings to build employee resilience and help them reconnect with co-workers. And it helps: Following a robbery, employees on average now miss fewer than 11 days instead of the previous average of 36 days.

"Businesses face a lot of challenges and pressures," Ballard says. "But by enhancing the health and well-being of employees as well as organizational performance, these workplace practices are good for both employees and the company."

Further Reading

For more information about the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Awards, Best Practices Honors and APA's publication highlighting the 2004 honorees, visit APA Practice Central.