How are organizations looking after employee mental health?

By Mike Boylan

As the pandemic affected how people worked over the last year, there began to be a new focus on the health and wellness of employees across all industries. Sports Business Journal asked executives from around the sports world how their organization has looked after employee mental health over the last year.

Kim Beauvais

Fox Sports Executive Vice President, Human Resources and Business Operations

“We have taken several steps to support our teams, first off by empowering and encouraging managers to simply be more available to just talk and be a safe sounding board for their staff. We also found new ways to stay connected through virtual events and Fox Sports ‘Off The Field,’ our employee-led learning initiative. We also continue to remind our Fox Sports staff about the benefits of our employee assistance program and the behavioral health support it can provide as needed. And finally, Fox Corporation’s eight employee resource groups have offered open forums to discuss what is happening not only inside the company but also how external factors may cause undue stress. Utilizing the group as support in getting through these difficult times. It’s a constant two-way street and showing employees that there are options to talk about what they are going through with their managers, human resources, employee resource groups, and their co-workers provides an inclusive culture that we will continue to build upon.”

Graham Walters

Chief People Officer, DraftKings

“We have added several new benefits to our existing plan including free access to Headspace, guided meditation sessions, weekly virtual yoga classes, healthy eating and Importance of Movement workshops, in addition to an added focus on maximizing benefits through our company medical plan. Our objective in providing these resources is to recognize mental health as something to be prioritized, no matter an employee’s age, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or level within the company, and to create an open community with equal access to opportunities.”

 

Sianneh Mulbah

Chief People Officer, Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx

“We’ve provided easily accessible resources including gym memberships to mindfulness and development subscriptions like Headspace and Mind Tools, but have also hosted outdoor wellness days, brought in guest speakers including Dr. Justin Anderson and Dr. Robby Sikka, offered webinars, and shared mental health and wellness literature. But the most significant step we’ve taken is empowering our employees to prioritize their mental health including taking mental health days, normalizing difficult conversations, and breaking the stigma.”

 

Brian Smith

Executive Vice President, People and Culture, Octagon

“We have launched a number of initiatives to help our team members, and we’ve worked closely with our clients and partners to further advance the positive and necessary conversation surrounding mental health and wellness. Every service business is dependent on the overall health of its people, and mental health has always been as important to us as physical health. It’s not a once a year topic like the month of May, but rather has been and will be a continued focus within our people and culture programming at Octagon.”

 

DeRetta Rhodes

Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer, Atlanta Braves

“We have an excellent employee assistance program, which we included in many communications to staff to make them aware of all resources available to them. We also let employees know that virtual counseling via Talkspace was added to our benefits package, and we encouraged employees to take advantage of that resource. We also tried to keep our engagement up over the year through various virtual staff events, staff town halls with the executive team and our Women in Baseball [employee resource group].”

 

Jason Wright

President, Washington Football Team

“Whether it’s pandemic-related stress or the considerable business and culture transformation we’re going through as a team, we recognize the need for expanded support and resources for our employees. Across the business and football sides of the organization, and with the support of WFT owner Dan Snyder, WFT co-CEO Tanya Snyder and coach Ron Rivera, we took significant steps to bolster our wellness program, including offering no-cost access to trained therapists through Modern Health, increasing paid time off with Summer Fridays, and hiring the team’s first full-time director of wellness and clinical services, Dr. Barbara Roberts, as a resource for our players.”

Mike Boykin

Chief Executive Officer, Bespoke Sports & Entertainment

“First, we tried to listen to everyone and learn what they were dealing with. There were a wide range of challenges that our teammates faced. Some were based on their own health, their kids, their parents, and other special people in their life. We provided them flexibility on where they worked. Some folks came back in the summer of ’20. Many worked at home through ’20. A couple just started coming back in the office this month. It was really a case-by-case situation. For those working remotely, (Bespoke President Greg Busch) and I would call and check on them every week or so. We would send them something special for their birthday or special occasions. We would send cards and make a donation if somebody faced a loss. We may have missed something or somebody, but it was a priority. Our insurance provides an [employee assistance program] so that folks who wanted to speak to a professional counselor could do so. Several teammates told me they did but I don’t know how many or for what, only if they chose to tell me, Greg Busch or [Bespoke CFO] Sharai Lavoie. While not perfect, we care and I think they all know that.”

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