Henry Ford Health System Employer Efforts During COVID-19

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A key partner in the Detroit Regional Chamber’s health and wellness initiative, Henry Ford Health System (HFHS) is committed to providing the best possible care for patients, communities, and employees throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

With more than 30,000 employees, HFHS leadership created initiatives to support the health and well-being of all staff during the pandemic, specifically their frontline employees. Below are HFHS’s efforts to help frontline health care workers achieve positive mental and physical health amid this public health crisis.

Often times, health care professionals are so focused on caring for others, they neglect caring for themselves. HFHS leadership consistently encourages employees to focus on, and care for themselves so they can take care of others. With the new influx of patients and uncertainty about the virus, leadership’s immediate concern was ensuring employees could still prioritize their own health, especially from an emotional well-being perspective.

Mental Health, Emotional Well-Being, and Coping

An Emotional Support Team immediately put into place an emotional response strategy that included:

  • Added capacity with an expanded virtual team to continue offering our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) with same day/immediate appointments available.
  • Added staffing to cover the 24/7 emotional hotline staffed with behavioral health therapists who could immediately assess, support and refer.
  • Standing virtual support groups via Zoom for each shift.
  • Frequent communications around tips on managing a variety of emotions.
  • Daily virtual mindfulness sessions and/or tailored support groups addressing specific issues, grief and loss, listening sessions and peer processing support groups that help teams share and understand their experience.
  • Increased promotion of WorkLife services, an online program available to employees that provides resources for childcare, eldercare, financial, legal, daily living and more.
  • Developed a peer recovery coaching program with employees trained to serve as a personal guide and mentor supporting employees struggling with substance misuse due to COVID.
  • Launched a “Be There” challenge encouraging employees to call colleagues rather than utilizing email to build social connection.
  • Created a “TRUST” (Treatment that is just; Respect; Understanding and Compassion; Supportive Care; Transparency and the Opportunity to Contribute) Program for peer-to-peer physician support following a traumatic event.

Spiritual Health

  • Pulled together spiritual leaders throughout HFHS to offer an empathic listening ear to our employees.

Sleep Management

  • SleepWell program: Sleep and stress go hand in hand. To address the numerous reports of insomnia among employees, HFHS leadership offered SleepWell, a virtual program to help employees identify sleep disorders and maintain positive sleep hygiene. This program is being updated to include HSHS sleep coaches who lead employees through three interactive sessions to discuss methods for achieving better sleep.
  • Sleepio: Lack of quality sleep can contribute to higher levels of anxiety and weakened immunity. HFHS partnered with Sleepio, an app that offers customized sleep remedies based on an individual’s personal sleep score.

Financial Support

  • Employee relief fund: HFHS employees have a long history of supporting one another during tough times. A COVID-19 employee relief fund was established to accept monetary donations for fellow coworkers in need. Senior leaders donated a portion of their salary to this fund.

Physical Health

  • Weekly step challenge: More recently, HFHS organized a company-wide step challenge. Since the challenge started, almost 200 employees formed teams to compete with one another on a weekly basis. The challenge is a healthy way to stay active and direct attention away from responding to COVID-19.
  • Smoking/Tobacco: With a respiratory illness like COVID-19, it’s more important than ever for people who smoke to quit. HFHS makes tobacco treatment counseling available to all employees and eligible dependents by phone or video visit, at no cost. · Wellness resources: The Henry Ford LiveWell blog shares helpful wellness strategies each week. While these blogs are available to the public, HFHS leadership also shares them internally. Topics include immune boosting foods, how to properly wear face masks, healthy food bank donations, how viruses can impact heart health, and why self-care is important during uncertain times.

Healthy Restart

In March, while essential employees continued to work within HFHS facilities, many others adapted to working from home. Now, as they transition back into their typical work environment, leadership is providing training for staff to keep themselves and coworkers healthy.

  • Psychological First Aid program: This one-hour virtual class is being promoted and strongly encouraged as employees return to work. Teams are attending the virtual trainings together and discussing strategies to identify stress in coworkers. The goal is to help coworkers watch out for one another by learning and addressing common stress reactions to keep teams safe and healthy.
  • The Path Forward: As employees return to work they are to attend a two-hour virtual and/or prerecorded class that addresses safety, psychological first aid and policies related to returning to the physical setting.

Frequent Communication

  • Leadership consistently promotes these initiatives through company-wide communications encouraging employees to get involved. Work-from-home strategies are included in the communications to ensure those working remotely are maintaining health, engagement, and productivity.

By focusing on employee mental and emotional health as well as sleep related issues, while strategically addressing physical health and financial well-being, HFHS is helping its workforce remain healthy and safe during COVID-19. Share your organization’s story.

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