How UP Partnership is modeling wellness initiatives in the workplace
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the need, and demand, for mental health and wellness services.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
• More than one in five adults live with mental illness
• Over one in five youth (13-18) either currently, or at some point in their life, have had a seriously debilitating mental illness
• About one in twenty-five U.S. adults live with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or major depression
The CDC, also states that poor mental health negatively impacts employees by decreasing their job performance and productivity, engagement with work, communication with coworkers and their daily functioning and physical capability.
While employees in all business sectors are susceptible to mental health issues, for nonprofit employees the possibility of burnout is markedly higher due to the nature of the work being done and the distinctive stresses that come with working in the nonprofit sector.
As the National Council of Nonprofits explains, while many employers are feeling the effects of a workforce shortage, nonprofits lack the resources to address this shortage such as increasing salaries and/or offering signing bonuses. The shortage is felt by nonprofit employees, who are generally part of a smaller team, as they must continue the work required of them, as well as the work of the vacant position.
To address this crisis, it is recommended that employers take a “person first” approach to mental health initiatives.
For UP Partnership, this is reflected in a workplace culture that not only respects, but encourages, a work-life balance.
In addition to a yearly allotted amount of paid time off (PTO), the organization completely shuts down during the week of Thanksgiving, the week between Christmas and New Years and the week of July 4. This gives employees the opportunity to spend time with their families and friends without needing to use their personal PTO. Employees also have one wellness day they can take off per month that is not a part of their PTO either.
As Kimberly Sama, Chief Finance and Operations Officer, explains, “UP Partnership recognizes the crucial importance of mental health and wellness for individuals and communities. As an organization, we are dedicated to prioritizing and investing in mental health and wellness as a fundamental aspect of supporting our employees’ overall well-being. By providing dedicated time for self-care, implementing regular wellness days and seasonal week-long office closures, we aim to create an environment where mental health and wellness are valued and supported for the benefit of our team and the communities we serve.”
For the staff of UP Partnership, monthly wellness days are one of their favorite things about working for the organization. Staff use the days for various reasons — attend doctors appointments or family events, work on their continuing education, start or extend a weekend or simply relax and recharge — without having to use allotted PTO days.
“The ability to have a ‘use it or lose it’ day each month (separate from PTO) encourages me to take advantage of this on a regular basis, and it has been exceptionally useful to me as a working mom who is also going to school full-time,” Marie Moreno, Data Manager of K12 and Youth Development explained.
For Emily Calderón Galdeano, Ed.D., Chief Impact and Strategy Officer, “Work/Life balance is a difficult thing to accomplish, but these days give us the opportunity to take the day and use it to best serve our needs in a given month,” while noting that “wellness and health mean different things to different people.”
“I love the fact that we can take a wellness day without any questions or judgment given,” added J’Shcarla Adkins, Senior Manager of Finance and Operations. “Taking these days does not count against our PTO which allows us to really plan and take time off in a meaningful way.”
UP Partnership knows the value that each employee brings to the mission and work of the organization. By supporting staff through workplace mental health and wellness initiatives, the organization ensures that the team is healthy to be able to tackle the important work of making sure that all young people in Bexar County are ready for the future.