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Companies offer mental health awareness and resources

By Connie Lannan

April 9, 2024

Whereas mental health was once a taboo subject at many workplaces, rental operations from around the country now realize it is a real issue that can impact the overall health of their employees along with the status of their businesses. See what steps both large and small rental operators are taking to raise awareness as well as offer vital services to help those in need.

RentalMax, Carol Stream, Ill.

Cindy Mitchell

RentalMax, which has 10 equipment rental locations throughout the greater Chicago area and one in Madison, Wis., has taken a very proactive approach to dealing with this topic.

First off, all employees have access to training on the subject through the company’s internal learning management system. “This is a virtual training that covers stress management, burnout and other crisis situations. It is for all our employees,” says Cindy Mitchell, SHRM-CP, CPSP, HR manager.

The company also offers the “Learn to Live” program through its health insurance provider. “This program is free to all employees, whether or not they have our medical coverage. It is an app that can help you find resources on how to manage your stress or anxiety. You can take quizzes that tell you where you might fall on the spectrum and gives you recommendations for how to move forward. I have found that those who use this resource are empowered to talk with someone. If they are stressed out or approaching burnout, they reach out to me. I can take them out to lunch and help them in any way I can, including connecting them to our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for a professional therapist,” Mitchell says.

As Mitchell mentioned, the company offers EAP resources. “It is free to everyone. Employees are offered four free sessions. When they call, they will be referred to a specific provider. If that person continues meeting with the therapist after the four free sessions, it is at a discounted rate or covered 100 percent by the insurance,” she says.

The company also has policies surrounding personal leave outside the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) “if they need some personal time off,” Mitchell says.

The company’s culture has helped employees feel more comfortable talking with their managers or Mitchell about issues they are dealing with.

“In our company, if we are not willing to go the extra mile for our employees, then we are doing something wrong. That could be anything like creating a food drive for someone who lost a family member or has fallen ill. It is about making sure our employees know they are appreciated and have someone to lean on in times of need,” she says.

The result is employees are talking with their managers about mental health issues or going directly to Mitchell, who is known for her open-door policy and willingness to share that she also is in therapy.

“Everyone needs help sometimes. I really care about our employees. I look at every person’s situation based on that person and what they are going through and not just based on policy. The last thing I want to do is learn that one of our employees harmed themselves because we couldn’t help them,” she says.

RE Investment Corp., based in Kalispell, Mont.

Heather Gray

With numerous equipment rental locations in several states, RE Investment Corp. “addresses this topic across the organization periodically. We also have information readily available for employees to access through our HRIS system that bundles human resources (HR), payroll and compliance,” says Heather Gray, HR manager, who also serves as ARA of Montana president.

Being in the position she is and having family who are in the mental health profession, Gray has “unfortunately seen a lack of services available for people or not enough awareness spread about mental health issues. I believe there has been a stigma for far too long surrounding people who seek help from therapists or psychologists and that needs to change,” she says.

That is why in her individual conversations with employees who have reached out or been referred to her by their supervisor, she talks about the stigma.

Gray also is a proponent for those at all levels of a company to lend their voices to this topic. “Raising awareness, educating employees about mental health and providing resources are some of the ways employers can help address this crisis and promote a healthy workforce,” she adds.

The company’s core values, “which include showing compassion, empathy and treating others with respect,” lend themselves to a culture that emphasizes taking care of employees’ needs, Gray says. “We have amazing leadership here who set this example daily and we expect that employees at all levels do the same.”

Besides the information, the company offers comprehensive health insurance to its full-time employees. This coverage “includes medical, dental, vision, life and other ancillary lines of coverage,” she says, adding that through the coverage “we have a program that offers both virtual and in-person coverage for our employees who are enrolled in the medical coverage.”

If an employee is dealing with job stress or burnout, “I have a conversation with their supervisor to figure out what the root cause is and then develop a plan to alleviate the stress or burnout and offer resources to assist them,” she adds.

Employees are appreciative of that health coverage investment. “The feedback we have received so far has been amazing. Some of the most impactful feedback has been based on their gratitude for us investing in them and ensuring they are able to not only afford some kind of coverage but that it is exceptional coverage. One of the most important things an organization can do is invest in having a healthy workforce by offering great benefits,” she says.

MK Equipment Corp., Honolulu

Michelle Nelson, ECP-ST

Even though MK Equipment Corp. is a small equipment rental operation, Michelle Nelson, ECP-ST, president, makes sure her employees receive the help they need for their medical issues, including mental health needs.

“We outsource our human resources, which helps us in providing resources. We’ll pay if they need counseling, get a massage for stress relief, etc. Anything they need, we try to provide,” she says.

Nelson says there is a strong family culture in her operation, with people watching out for each other. She also works closely with her managers to pay attention to employees’ needs.

“If they see employees becoming stressed, I encourage our managers to tell that person to take some time off. We emphasize that they don’t need to worry as they will get paid. Often our employees won’t take the time on their own, but if they are encouraged to take some time off and know they will get paid they will do so,” she says.

For Nelson it is about caring for each other and providing appropriate services that not only benefit employees but also the company overall.

MacAllister Machinery Co., parent company of MacAllister Rentals, based in Indianapolis

Amanda Cromer

In January, MacAllister Machinery Co., which offers rental operations through its MacAllister Rentals locations in Indiana and Michigan, went through a review of the company’s 2023 health claims and discovered an interesting trend.

“Even though mental health is not our No. 1 cost driver, it is our No. 1 diagnosis, meaning that many of our people are receiving treatment that falls under the mental health umbrella,” says Amanda Cromer, manager of employee benefits at the parent company.

That reality was reinforced when they looked at the number of claims going toward this area. “When we took a look we saw that mental health definitely is an area where we need to be offering more resources to our employees. That is part of our plan design as we go into the new year. We are working with our health care provider and vendor partners to see what more things may be available,” she says.

The company already offers a wide range of services, including:

Communication to employees. “We send out periodic company-wide communications about work-life balance, caring for parents and/or children, workplace stress, etc. We have a wellness consultant. If we are looking for something specific, we can reach out to them for information. Our EAP provider also sends us information,” Cromer says.

Virgin Pulse wellness program. This is a wellness program that has an app and a website. “Available to employees and their spouses, it is focused on physical and emotional health. It has check-ins, reminders, etc. It offers different campaigns or challenges where people can earn points by reading different books or look for resources they are interested in,” she says.

Health insurance, which is available to nonunion employees, includes mental health coverage.

EAP program. “This program provides resources for behavioral health and includes a certain number of in-person sessions,” Cromer says.

Walk-in clinic. “We have an on-site clinic location in Indianapolis staffed by a general practitioner and a nurse. This is for any type of issue, whether an employee hurts his arm or needs to talk with someone about mental health. Employees working at MacAllister, whether at HQ or one of our other locations across the state, can access MacAllister’s on-site clinic or one of the near-site clinics throughout Indiana if enrolled in the MacAllister health plan,” she says.

Family and Medical Leave (FMLA) policies. “People are taking advantage of FMLA for behavioral health-related needs. That speaks volumes. Our employees are utilizing this service,” she says.

Even with all these services, the MacAllister team became aware that many who were seeking services under the mental health umbrella were having difficulty getting an appointment with a provider in a timely manner.

“That is why, for 2024, we are promoting a new program called Behavioral Health Advantage, which is available through the health plan. This program is a concierge-style resource that can help employees find timely, appropriate care, whether that is an in-person or virtual appointment or a more emergent setting to make sure they get the care they need,” Cromer says, adding that a link to this program also will be available via the company’s Virgin Pulse wellness program.

In the coming year, Cromer sees an increased push for more communication on this issue and even more resources.

“We will be sending out more communications. We also plan to share more tools or resources and help train managers,” she says.

She already has seen a shift among employees in their willingness to talk about this issue. “If they have a child or sibling who has gone through it, they see it firsthand. They have been able to help communicate the message that no one is immune to mental health issues. The Indianapolis Colts also have a big campaign because their owner has dealt with issues. When our employees see football players talk about mental health, they see that it can affect people on all levels and at different degrees. It is not something to brush off,” Cromer says.

It is an issue close to Cromer’s heart. “I saw my own father struggle with depression. I have seen what can be done through therapy and/or medications,” she says.

That is why she eagerly talks about it because the goal is to continue to enhance services so employees have access to the resources and care they need, she notes.

Sunbelt Rentals, based in Fort Mill, S.C.

Kristi Vandergriff

Sunbelt Rentals offers a comprehensive approach to the physical, mental and emotional health of their team members, according to Kristi Vandergriff, director of benefits at the company.

“At Sunbelt Rentals, the health and well-being of our team members are important to us. That’s why we offer a variety of competitive health and wellness benefits to help our team members care for themselves and their families. The four major types of benefits offered by Sunbelt Rentals include health benefits, financial benefits, and work and lifestyle benefits. In this scope, investing in mental health/well-being coverage reflects our organization’s commitment to the sustained well-being as well as the success of both our team members and the organization as a whole,” she says.

Here’s an overview of what the company offers:

Mental health services through its robust benefits program.

Access to an adviser who can support them in better managing their health, including assistance from a behavioral health nurse who can help with obtaining the right care for members in need. This is through the company’s medical insurance provider.

EAP program, which provides 24/7 confidential assistance and valuable resources. These include online resources via articles, webinars, tutorials and videos as well as interactive tools.

Interact Wellbeing, an engagement program established in 2022 that is designed to help team members reach their physical, emotional, financial and work well-being goals by discovering their personal strengths as well as areas for improvement. Those who participate may earn points toward rewards and recognition.

Teladoc, which provides telehealth appointments for primary care and nonemergency care.

Support Office, which offers a state-of-the-art fitness studio and other perks, including fitness membership discounts.

Supportive Paid Time Off (PTO) policies as well as a flexible, hybrid work environment so team members can better balance work and family responsibilities.

Veterans program that is built by veterans for veterans and focused on resources, recruitment, recognition and retention.

In addition, the company makes a point to regularly address this topic through initiatives such as “encouraging regular medical check-ups, offering EAP and providing educational resources as well as fostering a supportive work environment that encourages open dialogue,” Vandergriff says.

Throughout the year, “the benefits team, in partnership with our corporate communication peers, regularly promotes mental health awareness to further advance a stigma-free environment. For example, we promote mental health through the month of May to increase awareness, reduce stigma and encourage understanding,” she says. In addition, last year the company’s HR and Veterans Ambassadors across Canada and the U.S. were qualified in mental health first aid with training throughout the year.

This is important because “our goal is to minimize stigma and foster a supportive work environment,” Vandergriff says.

The response has been well-received by those in the company. “The availability of resources from counseling to webinars and more continues to advance a supportive culture where everyone feels empowered to prioritize their well-being,” she says.

That is critical because “our team members are our greatest asset,” Vandergriff adds. “We have a responsibility to ensure they’re happy, healthy and can bring their best selves to work every day. Prioritizing mental health enhances the overall culture, which is the foundation of any organization. It influences how team members conduct themselves, engage with each other, make decisions and ultimately do their work. A strong culture fosters teamwork, improves engagement, attracts and retains top talent, strengthens brand reputation and increases customer satisfaction.”